Category Archives: Famous Names in GIjOE

G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Struggling to Keep Up With Overwhelming Fan Demand For JoeCon 2018’s Exclusive Figures and (Affordable) Hotel Rooms

A Victim of Their Own Success?

Word of mouth among GIjOE fandom alluding to the fact that this year’s JoeCon in Chattanooga, TN could very well be the LAST such “national” club convention has many fans (members and non-members alike) scrambling for nearby (affordable) hotel rooms and a chance to purchase (again, what may be) one of the LAST exclusive figure sets ever produced by the GIjOE Collector’s Club.

In addition, with Hasbro largely sitting on its hands concerning all things GIjOE, collectors of all scales are seeing this year’s JoeCon as “the one” that they “must attend,” leading to an unexpectedly early sell-out for the small figure exclusive sets and an ongoing shortage of downtown hotel rooms that are priced at the club’s more affordable “discounted block rate.”

The latest confirmation of these alarming facts comes to us today “hot over the wires” and from the GIJCC’s head honcho himself, Brian Savage, who revealed the following intel about a shortage of 3 3/4″ exclusives (and provided suggestions on what be believes can be done about it):

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Brian Savage, GIjOE Collector’s Club (Photo: GIJCC)

 

“The 2018 GIjOECon Convention 3 3/4″ sets are SOLD OUT! Currently, we BELIEVE that we will be able to increase the production run for both 3 3/4” boxed and loose sets (attending and non-attending). HOWEVER, our contacts in China have now shut down for Chinese New Year. We have requested that they increase our production run (which won’t happen for another couple of months).  

It will take a few weeks until we have confirmation back from them concerning our request. Chinese New Year runs through the first week in March. Each factory has a different schedule as to when they return to work. In the meantime, if you are interested in an 3 3/4″ attending, non-attending or a loose set, please let us know by putting yourself on the wait list by sending an email to: Waitlist@funpubinc.com.  

Please DO NOT CALL about the list. We will notify you about processing your request when the additional quantities are available. You will receive a confirmation email that you are on the list. If you have already contacted us and were told that we have placed you on the waitlist, you do not need to email us. Please don’t get on the list 2x. The list will be worked in the order it was received.

Please place in the title of the email one of the following: American Hero waitlist, Homefront Hero waitlist, Attending loose set waitlist, Non-attending loose set waitlist. In the body of the email please provide your full name and phone number. Being on the waitlist does NOT guarantee that you will get what you requested, as we may exhaust the additional quantities ordered.

Do not order a 12″ attending set and hope that we will swap it for the 3 3/4″ set. We will not swap sets.”

Fortunately for attendees and non-attending collectors of the 12-inch GIjOE exclusive sets, some better news was forthcoming from Savage, who reassuringly stated:

“The 12″ attending and non-attending sets are still available.”

Finally, regarding the shortage of affordable hotel rooms, Savage offered this hopeful update:

“The Staybridge Hotel block is now sold out. We are investigating a THIRD hotel in the area, so please watch for future emails.” 

Bottom Line: Phew! This is getting exciting (and frustrating for some). It looks like we should expect this convention to be a BIG one, crowd-wise. If you plan to attend, we recommend you go ahead and reserve a hotel room SOMEWHERE nearby the Chattanooga Convention Center at ANY rate you can afford—NOW. There’s always plenty of time for you to cancel or (hopefully) get a different room at the club’s cheaper block rate—later. That is, of course, IF… Señor Savage can convince that mysterious, unnamed “third hotel” to cooperate. Good luck to us all! Go, JOE!

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Roll ‘Em!——5th Annual “G.I. Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival” to Premiere All-New Movies Based on—and Utilizing—”America’s Movable Action Hero”

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Submissions for 5th Annual “GIjOE Stop-Motion Film Festival” Now Being Accepted

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Gio Toninelo, coordinator and distributor of the upcoming 5th Annual GIjOE Stop Motion Film Festival (Photo: Gio Toninelo)

Despite Hasbro having turned its corporate back on 12-inch GIjOE action figures and their worldwide array of fans, collectors and customizers, the “most beloved toy in the last 100 years” (see HERE) continues to make its presence known to the public in ever more unexpected ways. We’re speaking specifically now, about independent filmmaking—and stop-motion animation. Cinematographer, graphic designer and festival coordinator, Gio Toninelo (shown above, right) has just announced the opening of submissions for what will become the 5th Annual GIjOE Stop Motion Film Festival (GSMFF). The GSMFF is referred to as a “travelling” film festival, due to the fact that Toninelo will exhibit the winning entries in theaters and venues all across the country. This year’s festival premieres September 27th at the Bug Theater in Denver, Colorado and extends thereafter to LA, New York and Austin (TX).

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Lisa and Tim Weedn, creators of superb 1:6 scale stop-motion animated videos, regularly premiere their work at Joelanta conventions in Atlanta, GA. (Photo: Tim Weedn)

Stop-motion animation, once championed by early effects wizards Ray Harryhausen (see bio video above) and animators Rankin & Bass (of 1964’s Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer fame), had almost become a lost and forgotten art form, but it seems to be back on the path to popularity once again. This will surprise many, because today’s CGI-dominated animators view the (much) more laborious and time-intensive stop-motion process as an unwieldy and (dare we say) “wasteful” practice from a bygone, pre-digital era. Fortunately, there are STILL some diehard (and VERY patient) individuals out there for whom stop-motion animation (and its unique results) remains a JOY to create and behold.

An Analog Technology For a 1:6 Digital World

You may already know of some fellow GIjOE fans who are also stop-motion animators. We certainly do. Two such patient practitioners of the technique (that come immediately to mind) are the talented filmmaking duo of Lisa and Tim Weedn (see above, right). The Weedns are regular attendees and popular presenters at each of the Toylanta (formerly Joelanta) GIjOE shows held annually in Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s a 2014 video they made in celebration of GIjOE’s 50th anniversary:

Is Stop-Motion Animation Merely a Fad—Or Making a Comeback?

Fortunately for stop-motion animation afficiandos, they don’t have to rely solely on the efforts of amateurs in order to get their “fix” of the technique. In fact, there are many influential showbiz pros out there who continue to utilize stop-motion in their projects. For example, Seth Rogen revived the technique for his standout animated TV series, Robot Chicken (see his HILAROUS GIjOE short below). Academy Award winner Nick Park too, used the process for his superb Wallace and Gromit shorts and features. Perhaps a sort of “tech-revolt” is underway, one that rages against the film and TV industry’s current overuse of CGI? If so, it appears that the nostalgic animation style is actually GROWING in popularity—with no end in sight!

We asked Mr. Toninelo to comment on the upcoming GIjOE film festival and he kindly replied:

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Filmmaker and Festival Coordinator, Gio Toninelo (Photo: GT)

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“Hi Mark, I’m so excited! Our GIjOE film festival is back for its 5th season! I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard about our festival. We started waaaay back when the internet was a sleepy teenager. Plus, we took a needed break since 2013. Put simply, we screen films that use G.I.JOE action figures as their main characters using the ‘stop-motion’ animation technique. We always read The Joe Report and I’ve bought some stuff from Patches of Pride (PoP) in the past as well. I’ve even listed PoP as one of our sponsors! 

There are only TWO main rules for our Festival:1- Your film MUST be shot using stop-motion technique. Puppetry, wires and live action could also be used as long as it does not comprise 30% of the entire film. 2- Your main character MUST be an official G.I. Joe action figure, created by Hasbro, Inc. or an Action Man figure, created by Palitoy. Other licensed figures are also accepted, like “Comandos em Acao” and “Falcon” (BRAZIL) or “Commandos Heroicos” (MEXICO). Other action figures, dolls and toys can be used for supporting roles.

Finally, because we are a ‘travelling’ festival, I try not to put the videos up on the web, at least not on our social media channel. We always save the BEST ones for the tour. However, some of our old trailers can still be found over on YouTube HERE. Enjoy!

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At Work in the World of 1:6 ScaleGio Toninelo, shown here in his home office and/or art studio, carefully details one of his 1:6 scale custom GIjOE action figures. Will this Joe become a “star” in one of Toninelo’s future film productions? We’ll just have to wait and see! (Photo: Jeff Otte)

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Fans of Films and GIjOEs— Is there anything better than watching “America’s Movable Fighting Man” up on the big screen? Here, fans gather at a past screening  of Gio Toninelo’s GIjOE Stop-Motion Film Festival to watch the “Best of the Best.” (Photo: Gio Toninelo) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: This looks like yet another EXCELLENT opportunity for GIjOE fans and customizers, as well as all aspiring amateur and/or professional filmmakers. For complete details on festival submission requirements, entry deadlines, etc., go HERE. Our sincerest thanks go out to Gio Toninelo and to everyone else connected with these exciting shows. Go, Joe! And… Go, GIO!

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Lock and Load! 12″ Exclusive Set For JoeCon 2018 Revealed As “Green Beret Machine Gun Outpost” Featuring All-New Box Artwork by Larry Selman

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Spray some lead, Joe! This battered (but beautiful) GIjOE “Green Beret Machine Gun Outpost Set” dates from 1965, approximately around the middle of the Vietnam War. Surviving examples are now over 53 years old and typically look like this original (found today over on ebay). Fortunately for fans and collectors of 12-inch GIjOE action figures, an all-new version of this “holy grail” of GIjOE sets will soon be produced (in very limited quantities) for attendees of the GIjOE Collector’s Club JoeCon 2018 (June 21-24) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Will YOU be there? (Photo: ebay) Click to enlarge.

Gird your loins and grab your credit cards, Joeheads!

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Larry Selman, renowned GIjOE packaging illustrator and artist of military history, will create artwork for JoeCon 2018’s 12″ exclusive figure set. (Photo: Larry Selman)

The GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC) has just announced that the 12-inch exclusive figure set for their FINAL JoeCon EVER—will be a recreation of the famed 1965 “Green Beret Machine Gun Outpost.” And just like the original version, this recreation will include TWO GIjOE action figures and a TON of 1:6 scale military gear. The main difference between old and new will be that the new box’s artwork will be created by (the one and only) 12″ GIjOE package illustrator extraordinaire, Larry “Mr. Classic Collection” Selman (read more about the amazing Mr. Selman HERE). Will THIS be the last “official” 12-inch GIjOE product ever made? If so, it will hold a VERY special place in “Joehistory.” According to the GIJCC’s official press release, the new set is described thusly:

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“This year, it’s back to the military for G.I. Joe. One of the favorite 12” figures of all time was the Green Beret. So, what could be better than two Green Berets in an updated ‘1960’s Sears Exclusive’ box adorned with art from Larry Selman?

This year’s 12-inch Convention Set is a recreation of the ‘Sears Exclusive’Green Beret Machine Gun Outpost Set. It comes with: 2 Painted Head Figures and each figure has a Camo Shirt and Pants; Green Beret; Tall Brown Boots; Dog Tag; Belt with 2 Cartridges.

In addition, the set comes with: 12 Grenades; Bazooka; 6 Bazooka Shells; Field Telephone; .30 Caliber Machine Gun and Tripod; M-16 Ri e; Ammo Box; Camouflage Netting; Plastic Foliage; Tent Poles; Tent Stakes; and 10 Sand Bags.

All of these items are in a box adorned with an updated painting of the Green Beret Outpost, painted by Larry Selman. Watch on-line at GIJoeCon.com for product reveals.” —GIjOE Collector’s Club

Bottom Line: If this is indeed to be the FINAL set from the FINAL official GIjOE Collector’s Club JoeCon EVER, then those facts alone will undoubtedly make this exclusive a very hot commodity among 1:6 Joe fans and collectors. Stay tuned. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any further JoeCon 2018 intel and/or updates and pass them all along to you here ASAP—on The Joe Report!

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After 80 Years, UK Community Designates Palitoy’s “Old Toy Factory” (The Birthplace of Action Man) As a Revered “Green Plaque” Commemorative Site

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Three Cheers for Palitoy! Former employees of the beloved UK toy company raise a rousing “Hip, hip, hooray!” at the site of their former business, whilst receiving the Leicestershire County Council’s honorific of “green plaque” commemorative status. (Photo: Leicestershire County Council) Click to enlarge.

Our good buddy, Bob Brechin, wrote in to us again today to share another tidbit of good news from that “old country across the pond.” Bob was clearly (and rightly so) bursting with pride, as he told us all about the recent Leicestershire County Council’s (LCC) decision to commemorate the site of the original Palitoy toy factory building, known to millions of fans around the world, as the “birthplace” and former home of —you guessed it—Action Man! According to the LCC website:

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“A former factory in Leicestershire which created popular children’s toys such as Action Man, Tiny Tears dolls and Star Wars figures was honoured with a green plaque. On Thursday, 2 November, the plaque was installed at the Coalville Business Park, in Jackson Street, Coalville, where the toy factory once stood. The company manufactured some of the most popular toys in Britain from 1937 to 1985 – before it ceased trading. Palitoy not only helped to stoke children’s imaginations with its classic toys and figures it also helped to put Coalville on the map.”

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“Two Bobs” for Action Man! These two talented gentlemen have every reason in the world to be proud of Palitoy’s newly acquired “green plaque” status, and of their own individual accomplishments as well! From left we have Bob Brechin, former chief toy designer, and on the right, Bob Simpson, the company’s former managing director. (Photo: LCC) Click to enlarge.

It’s obvious to fans living here in the U.S. (and elsewhere around the globe), that local UK community support (and thanks) for the men and women who helped bring Action Man and other great toys “to life” remains very strong. And while those lucky few in attendance at Palitoy’s recent green plaque ceremony may now largely be members of the “silver-haired set,” it’s good to know that their children and grandchildren will be able to look up at that plaque and remember all the wonderful toys created there (by their loved ones) for many generations to come.

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Pam Posnett, Leicestershire County Council (Photo: LCC)

womancomment“It is fantastic to see that 80 years on, there is still HUGE support from the people of Leicestershire.” —

It should be no surprise then too, that Bob Brechin, ever the promotor of all things Palitoy and Action Man, was the man originally behind all of the efforts required for gaining the beloved Palitoy company its esteemed honor of “green plaque” status. According to Brechin:

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“It is 80 years since Palitoy toys were first made in Coalville and I thought the famous toy company should be celebrated with a green plaque at this special time.” —Bob Brechin

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and congratulations go out to Bob Brechin for his heads-up intel on this story, and to the wonderfully generous Leicestershire County Council for their excellent photos, and to all of the other past employees of Palitoy. You’ve all done so much—to bring so much joy—to so many people. Go, Action Man! And… Hip, hip, HOORAY for Palitoy!

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Rudy Panucci’s Video Recap of 2017’s Kentuckiana GIjOE Toy Expo Held August 5th in Louisville, KY

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Toy Expert and Pop-Culture Blogger, Rudy Panucci (Photo: Rudy Panucci)

Bottom Line: Here’s another great video from the MASTER of pop-cult videos—Mr. Rudy Pannuci! Our sincerest thanks to Rudy for taking the time to cover this year’s EXPO and for his production of yet another superb video review. Be sure to leave any comments or compliments you may have for this famous “PoPCulteer” on his blog found HERE and keep up-to-date with future Rudy videos by subscribing to his YouTube channel HERE. Go, Rudy! Go, JOE!

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FLASH!———JoeCon 2017 12″ Convention Set Box Art Finally Revealed: Larry Selman Strikes Again!

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TWICE as NICE— As this photo of page 3 of the May 2017 issue of the GIjOE Collector’s Club magazine excitedly reveals, fans can expect to receive two more Larry Selman masterpieces on the box made for the JoeCon 2017 12″ convention exclusive 2-figure set. Click to enlarge.

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Burnin’ ’em Back to Hell— This Marine Jungle Fighter is clearly taking no prisoners tonight. But who’s that angry guy behind him? Absolutely SUPERB artwork by Larry Selman. Click to enlarge.

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It’s his, AT LAST!— This scene of the Jungle Adventurer, clearly thrilled at his discovery of the mystical Serpent Scepter, is wonderfully brought to life by master artist, Larry Selman. WOW! Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: We couldn’t find any images of this new box elsewhere online, so we just snapped some quick pics of the club’s magazine page (p.3) that shows the artwork. And yes, once again, Classic Collection master artist, Larry Selman, has produced two exceedingly wonderful paintings for yet another exciting set. Are you planning to attend this year’s convention? If not, you can still order one of these sets online HERE, to be mailed to you after the event. Go, Joe! Go, Larry!

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Stan Weston, The Inventor of G.I. Joe, Dead at 84

It Was His Idea— Stan Weston (at 82) holds up a copy of Hasbro’s original 1964 GIjOE Action Soldier, a product line produced from Weston’s original concept which he created and sold to the company in 1963. When the copyrights to GIjOE expired in 2020, Weston hoped to reclaim control over his creation in a court of law. It is unclear whether or not the lawsuit will continue. (Photo: Stan Weston)

As reported May 8, 2017 in the Hollywood Reporter:

“Stanley Weston, inventor of the G.I. Joe action figure and a pioneer of the licensing business, died May 1 in Los Angeles, his daughter, Cindy Winebaum, announced. He was 84.

Weston was born in Brooklyn in 1933 and served in the Army shortly after the Korean War ended. When he returned home to New York, he found a job with the advertising agency McCann Erickson and enrolled in night courses for an MBA at New York University, where he had studied as an undergraduate.

Weston soon discovered a talent for the up-and-coming licensing and merchandising industry, and he struck out on his own to found Weston Merchandising.

When Mattel’s Barbie dolls were introduced in 1960, Weston realized boys were an untapped market for the doll industry after noting that many of them played with Ken dolls. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. The runaway hit would go on to be one of the most enduring toy lines in history, spawning hit TV shows and films as well.

Weston later renamed his company Leisure Concepts, which would represent clients such as Charlie’s Angels-era Farrah Fawcett, Nintendo and the World Wrestling Federation, as well as TV shows including Alf and Welcome Back, Kotter. His other notable achievements include helping create the 1980s animated phenomenon ThunderCats.

In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson.

Weston is survived by his brother, his three children and five grandchildren.”

Bottom Line: Stan Weston came up with the original idea for the GIjOE toy. He quickly sold the rights to Hasbro. Don Levine (see Levine’s obituary article HERE) took the idea and made an American toy icon that will probably live forever in some form or another. At this moment, we’re not sure whether Weston’s lawsuit to recoup trademark rights to GIjOE (see that article HERE) will continue in the courts, but whenever those plans are made public, we’ll pass the information on to you ASAP. Our sincerest condolences to Stan’s family. Rest in Peace, Mr. Weston and THANKS!

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U.S. Army Paratrooper Who Modeled For Photos in 1962-63 Believes the Images Taken of Him Were Used To Create the Iconic Headsculpt of G.I. Joe

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Well, Hello Joe! At first glance, Phil Iverson’s resemblance to the original (1964) GIjOE headsculpt seems obvious—even strikingly so. It should be no surprise to learn that the former US Army paratrooper firmly believes the iconic action figure’s “first face” was based on photographs taken of him in 1962-63 by a representative of Hasbro. As fans well know, theories have long postulated that the original GIjOE’s face was an almagam of various Medal of Honor winners—not based on the likeness of any one individual. Unfortunately, the head’s sculptor (subcontracted by Hasbro) provided inconclusive comments about the use of reference photographs before passing away in 1996. (Photo: Courtesy of Phil Iverson)

Did a Signed Contract Enable Hasbro to Legally Recreate Soldier’s Visage in 1:6 Scale?

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There Was Something About His Face— As kids, we all knew IMMEDIATELY that GIjOE was a tough, good-looking dude, and that his sublimely heroic countenance was perfect for untold adventures of imagination. With or without that facial hair, GijOE was definitely ‘da man. HOOah! Go, JOE! (Photo: Sears Roebuck & Co.)

For over 5 decades now, GIjOE fans and collectors around the world have been asking the same question: Did some unknown individual’s face serve as reference (or inspiration) for the original ’64 GIjOE headsculpt? Or, was Joe’s famous noggin (as many still believe) actually a magnificent mélange of various Medal of Honor winners? Depending on how one views the newly uncovered facts, photos, and first-person account of former U.S. Army soldier, Phil Iverson, the truth may now be a little more…


plau·si·ble

ˈplôzəb(ə)l/
adjective

 1. (of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable. “a plausible explanation”


When PFC Phil Iverson was first told by an unknown U.S. Army sergeant (in 1962-63) to report to HQ and have his picture taken in khaki uniform and cap, he replied, “Yes, Sergeant!” PFC Iverson’s photographic mission seemed simple enough, but unbeknownst to the 21-year-old paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, he was (possibly) being tasked to be an artist’s model who’d provide reference for a sculptor creating the most popular toy soldier face ever—G.I. Joe.

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The Likeness is VERY Close— As these side-by-side closeups help confirm, it seems quite likely that freelance sculptor Phil Kraczkowski utilized the reference photos he (or a Hasbro rep) had taken of Phil Iverson. Even GIJOE’s iconic facial scar was placed on the same cheek (right-hand side). Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not! (1:6 scale paratrooper cap patch courtesy Patches of Pride.) Click to enlarge.

exclusivebannerAn Exclusive Interview With the Man Who May Be the “Original Face” of GIjOE—Phil Iverson

In the following exclusive interview, Phil Iverson relates exactly how he was photographed and why he believes his 21-year-old face was ultimately utilized as visual reference/guidance material by sculptor, Phil Karaczkowski, during the latter’s creation of the iconic, 1964 G.I. Joe headsculpt.

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Senior Citizen Joe— Phil Iverson (76), is considered by many to be the model used for the “original face of GIjOE.” He’s shown as he appears in 2016. If  you’ve ever wondered what GIjOE would look like as a senior citizen…here you go! (Photo: Phil Iverson)

“I enlisted in the service in 1961, went through basic training, MP school, and was sent to Fort Campbell, KY, to go through paratrooper jump school with the 101st Airborne. Sometime in 1962-63, a sergeant I had never seen before came into our barracks and told me to put on my uniform and double-time it over to the headquarters building to get my picture taken. 

So… I went over to HQ and up to an empty 2nd floor office that was not being used. I remember it had a reception counter in front and empty office space in the back. I went in and there was a man sitting next to a camera. I don’t know who he was, but he had black hair and looked to be about in his 30s.”

(The man Phil refers to here was most likely Hasbro’s Don Levine or the largely unsung sculptor of the original ’64 GIjOE head, Phil Karaczkowski. For more information on Mr. Karaczkowki and his hugely important role in GIjOE’s early history, please watch the video clip provided below. —Ed.)

“He looked me up and down for a moment and said (pointing), ‘You have to sign that release, right over there.’ He was referring to a form he’d placed on the left side of the counter. So I did as he said,. I went over to it—and I signed it. What it said, I have idea. I didn’t read it. In the Army, you’re trained to do what you’re told. 

As I was signing the form, I laughed and said, ‘Sure! I’ll sign. Nobody will ever want to use MY picture.’ That seemed to get his attention and he gave me sort of a double-take, you know, like he suddenly had a much greater interest in me.

He said ‘Stand right there’ and I did. I remember I was standing in front of a plain backdrop. He took a couple of pictures, front and side stuff, you know, and that was that. I walked out without any further comment from either of us.”

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The Artistic Genius Behind GIjOE— Freelance sculptor, Phil Karaczkowski, was the largely unheralded creator of the iconic, world-famous 1964 GIjOE headsculpt, receiving only $600 for the assignment. Here, he stands next to some life-sized examples of his work, bronze busts of other famous Americans. Was THIS the man who took reference photos of Phil Iverson back in 1962-63? (Screenshot taken from a video produced by DoubleACS TV, Attleboro Access Cable System, Inc.) Click to enlarge.

“The next day, while I was sitting on my bunk relaxing in the barracks, another sergeant (that I’d also never seen before) came in and said, ‘Here’s a copy of one of those pictures they took of you yesterday.’ I took it, said, ‘Thanks,’ and he left. The next time I went home on leave, I gave the photo to my parents.

Well, I didn’t see that photo again until 2002. My mother had just passed away and we were going through her belongings. When I saw the photo again, I thought to myself, ‘Boy, that sure looks like GIjOE!’ A lot of other people I’ve shown it to also agree that it was probably used for GIjOE, but I don’t have a copy of the release I signed or any other definitive proof.

I am reminded of another occasion, long ago, just a little after 1964. I had gone to a birthday party for some kid, and at the party he received a new GIjOE. Everybody was standing around looking at it, because it was a new thing at that time, you know…and they were all saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, Phil. That’s YOU!‘ 

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A Real GIjOE On Duty— The only other photo Phil Iverson owns from his time in the Army is this rather dramatically lit nighttime image taken while on guard duty at the entry gates of the base. It confirms Iverson’s PFC rank and position as a Military Police (MP) officer and 101st Airborne Division paratrooper (see 101st AD helmet emblem and basic jump wings pinned above left pocket). The mystery is, Phil has no recollection of when this photo was taken by the Army (understandable, since he was on duty at the time), nor of how it came to be in his possession. Cue the Twilight Zone music! (Photo: Phil Iverson)

By this time in Phil’s story, our curiosity was well piqued. We began to dig deeper for more facts:

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Author-GIjOE historian, John Michlig. (Photo: John Michlig)

TJR: Most fans believe the definitive history of GIjOE was detailed in a book authored by John Michlig entitled, GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action. After checking through its pages, we were unable to locate any mention of you, or of any reference photographs being taken (of anyone) for use in creating the original 1964 GIjOE headsculpt.

“No. Well, that’s probably because he (Michlig) wrote that book before he knew anything about me, my story, or the pictures. But with GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary approaching, I looked Michlig up on the computer and found his website and phone number. I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and I called him. I told him that I thought my picture was used for the ’64 headsculpt of GIjOE and he seemed kinda bored, sorta like he didn’t believe me. 

I told him I also had a facial scar—on my right cheek. That fact seemed to pique his interest. Then I asked him to take a look at my photos on Facebook. He did, and while he was looking, I could hear him in the background going, ‘Whoa!’ Finally, he said, ‘Send me ALL the stuff you’ve got! I did, and he called me back later to say, ‘Oh yeah. That picture of you was definitely used somehow for GIjOE.'”

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Derryl DePriest. (Photo: Derryl DePriest)

TJR: Interesting! Has anyone else in the GIJOE pantheon agreed with your supposition?

“Well, I called the GIjOE Club a few years ago. They agreed totally that the picture had to have been used in some way for GIjOE. But they also advised, ‘Let’s keep this confidential.’ Then I called and spoke with Hasbro’s Derryl DePriest. He was also very nice, but mostly noncommittal, and only said, ‘We don’t have any information that goes back that far.’ That’s about all I have right now.”

TJR: Okay, so while many people agree there’s a strong resemblance and a high likelihood that the photos taken of you were used by Hasbro or Phil Kraczkowski, there’s still no definitive written or oral proof (other than yours) to attest to that fact. No contracts. No testimonials. Nada. Did you ever consult a lawyer about this matter?

“Yes. A lawyer I consulted asked me if there was any kind of heading on the release form I signed and I told him no; not that I knew of, or remembered seeing. I read about Stan Weston in the California Daily News. He’s in his 80s now, and I understand he’s still trying to recoup some copyright possession of GIjOE (see The Joe Report’s coverage of that story HERE). But I have no goals or ambition to gain financial benefits from Hasbro. They’ve made about a billion dollars on GIjOE, but I’ll never see any of it. I’d just like to get this historical information out there. I’m sure most fans and collectors have never heard about these early model photos before.”

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Comfortable Working at Any Scale— GIjOE’s sculptor, Phil Kraczkowski, working in his studio. (Screenshot taken from a video produced by DoubleACS TV, Attleboro Access Cable System, Inc.)

TJR: Did you ever try to reach the actual sculptor of that first GIjOE head, Phil Kraczkowski?

“Yes, I did. But he had already died and his girlfriend has sold off everything he had. His records are all gone now. I know this, because I also talked to his nephew.”

TJR: That’s a shame. Tell me, do you remember how you got your own facial scar?

“Oh yeah. I was in 8th grade. They were making a ball field in the back of the grade school. We got a bunch of people together and they gave us all shovels. I was standing there and this kid picked up a shovel of dirt, swung it and hit me right in the cheek. I had to have about 20 stitches! After 50+ years, you’ve got to look really close to see that scar now, but I still have a Selective Service card (from 1958) that says ‘Identifying Marks: Scar on right cheek.’ HA!”

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You May Fire When You Are Ready, Gridley!— Indeed, like the famous US Navy quote, a few years later, Phil Gridley Iverson would indeed be firing weapons for his country—but not for the Navy. Iverson enlisted in the U.S. Army instead. Intriguingly, his 1958 selective service registration card already mentioned the defining physical characteristic of any true GIjOE, his “scar on right cheek.” Coincidental? Yes. Fascinating? OH, YES! (Photo: Phil Iverson) Click to enlarge.

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That Famous Scar— You can’t miss it on this page in a 2014 issue of Boy’s Life magazine. (Photo: Carin Reddig)

TJR: Very interesting. And actually, that little card is yet another tiny bit of evidence supporting your story. Of course, we all remember Don Levine’s account regarding the addition of a scar and reverse thumbnail to the original GIjOE. It was done so that Hasbro’s new action figure would have unusual physical characteristics that would help strengthen its copyright protection.

“Yes, that’s right. And the scar is visible in the photo (of me) that I believe Hasbro and/or Kraczkowski used. If you look at that photo and then at a ’64 GIjOE—they’re identical. Funny thing, I have another photo of me, taken by the Army, where it’s obvious that they chose to airbrush-out the scar. But to me and to everyone else I’ve ever shown this material to, the conclusion remains obvious. They all say the same thing. That original GIJOE ’64 headsculpt—is ME!”

TJR: Your theory seems to be, at the LEAST, quite plausible. And it does appear that you were unwittingly immortalized in plastic. Whether or not any of it was Kraczkowski or Hasbro’s intent remains to be determined. What have you been doing since those bygone days?

“Well, I was in the Army for 3 years. I’m as patriotic as anybody who’ll ever walk the face of the Earth, but I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. So… after I got out of the service, I first went to work in a steel mill, then two years in a police department, then on to Commonwealth Edison electric utility for 30 years, and finally to a grocery store where I worked as a maintainance man for 14 years. I retired at 70 and am now 76. Oh! And I just had a heart-attack.”

TJR: Oh, No!

“Yeah, I’m afraid so. And I’ve lost 30 lbs since then. I got some stents and then I had to go to rehab at the local hospital. When I was there, they interviewed me and asked if anything interesting had happened to me in my life. I told them about GIjOE. The next day, everybody at the hospital knew about it. The nurses said their kids and some adults with GIjOEs wanted to bring them in for me to sign!”

Phil Iverson, Manteno, IL

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GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action (Photo: Chronicle Books)

Does Iverson’s theory about Hasbro sending someone to Fort Campbell, KY to take reference photographs for a new GIjOE action figure ring true to you? Well, there’s a lot of established precedent to back up his account. Many of Hasbro’s subcontracted artists, such as the famous Sam Petrucci and Larry Selman, were well-known for taking numerous resource photographs in preparation for their GIjOE-related art projects. It’s easy to conceive then, that Iverson’s mysterious “dark haired, 30-something” photographer was indeed Phil Kraczkowski. Sadly, the sculptor passed away in 1996 and didn’t mention taking (or using) reference photographs in John Michlig’s book:

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“People ask where my ideas come from. I say ‘from living so long.’ I’ve observed an awful lot of people, and I draw from that. In the case of GI Joe, I never sketched anything and I couldn’t use myself as a model because I’m not that handsome. Like a lot of the things I’ve sculpted, GI Joe came from within…Does GI Joe look a bit like John Kennedy? I’d done the Kennedy medal in 1961 and other full busts of him preceding the GI Joe project., so maybe the resemblance got in there subconsciously. I was thinking of a composite of people I know.”

Phil Kraczkowski, as quoted from John Michlig’s book, GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action

Bottom Line: The truth is out there…and probably rests somewhere in the middle. The idea that Kraczkowski created GIjOE’s 1964 headsculpt completely from his own imagination is certainly conceivable and believable. But taking reference photographs has been and will always remain a tried and true practice that commercial artists rely upon when facing impending project deadlines.

Whether or not Karaczkowski mentions the use of reference photos in Michlig’s book, Iverson’s interpretation of the events that occurred at Fort Campbell in 1962-63 fit perfectly within GIjOE’s early timeline. And SOME civilian clearly took reference photographs of Iverson and other soldiers on that day 50+ years ago. We have the physical proof staring back at us from Phil’s photo.

Nevertheless, pending any further clarification, conclusions drawn by anyone regarding the photographer’s actual intended purpose or use of his images remains (for now) mere speculation. Hopefully, someone out there will see this article and write in with further insight or intel. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Phil Iverson for his generous contributions to this article.

James DeSimone Make Guest Appearance on A&E’s “Storage Wars” As a G.I. JOE “Super Collector”

Bottom Line: In this 2-minute clip from an episode of the A&E program, Storage Wars, one of the show’s contestants(?) purchases a storage locker for $750, then discovers it contains a 1985 GIjOE USS Flagg aircraft carrier. She then takes it over to James DeSimone for his professional, expert estimation of its value. There are some quick, fleeting views of the assembled ship, plus a few shots of James’ RAH figures placed atop its deck and arranged around it for maximum display effect (making this an official “Joe Sighting”). The Flagg’s box is included as well, but it appears to be pretty banged up. Was this particular Flagg worth what James declares? YOU be the judge. Enjoy!

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Everything Must Go (Again!)———G.I. Joe’s “#1 Fan,” James DeSimone Will Definitely “Sell it All” at One Final Estate Sale to be Held at His CA Home

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The more you look, the more you’ll want to buy— There are literally piles upon PILES of vintage toys, action figures, vintage cereal boxes and much more, crowding the Burbank, CA home of renowned pop-culture collector, James DeSimone. Dedicated fans will have a rare opportunity to paw their way through this “Mecca of Merchandise” during his May 1st estate sale. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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A Lifetime of Collecting— DeSimone’s passion for toys began when he was a child (above). Now, it’s time to let it all go. (Photo: James DeSimone)

If at first you don’t succeed in getting rid of your life-long GIjOE and vintage toy collection via local toy shows, online sales or auctions, then try, try again; this time with an estate sale held—at your own home! Yes, once again, the man whom Hasbro deemed “GIjOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone, is preparing to put (what remains) of his massive vintage toy collection up for sale—at an estate sale—on May 1st, 2016.

Buyers and collectors will have to travel to James’ home in Burbank, CA, but this time they’ll be rewarded for their efforts by being allowed to dig through decades of collectible treasures, piled high up to the sky (or at least to James’ garage ceiling), and inspect each and every item up close and personal before deciding on a purchase. But remember, estate sales are “first come, first served,” so you better get there early (with cash in hand) if you want the best chance at snagging those long, lost toys of your childhood. According to the sale’s information page HERE, this is what to expect:

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“GIJOE and Vintage Toy Estate Sale!! Featuring the sale of the collection of James DeSimone, consisting of GIJOE plus thousands of other TOYS from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, including: 1000s of 1960s GIJOE accessories. 1000s of 1980s GIJOE accessories. 1000s of 1960s Ken/Barbie accessories. 1/6 scale vehicles, 1000s of VINTAGE toys by Gilbert, Marx, Tonka, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Topper, Kenner, Ideal, Hasbro, Mattel, Mego, Aurora, Batman, James Bond, Captain Action, Space toys, GIRLS toys, tools, Playsets, all kinds of TV/movie character toys and figures, toy cap guns, models, food and advertising toys, games and the list of different stuff goes on and on! NOTE THE DIFFERENT LOCATION FOR THIS EVENT: 1524 Broadway Burbank, CA 91504 Hours are 8AM to 5PM. Come take pictures with a replica 1966 Batmobile! This is a special one time event held at this location, don’t miss it!! The show will return to the Ramada Inn for the December show.” If you have any questions, please email: jamesdesimone@hotmail.com

exclusivebannerWhat we’re observing is that a collection as large and diverse as DeSimone’s is proving to be quite the challenge for him (or anyone) to disperse. In the beginning, James utilized his CA GIjOE shows, then held an auction (see HERE) and now, will try selling the remainder of his 1950s, ’60s and ’70s vintage toys at his upcoming estate sale. Regarding this unique event and its impact on his life, James graciously provided the following insights—exclusively to readers of The Joe Report:

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“GIJOE’s #1 Fan,” James DeSimone (Photo: James DeSimone)

“Hi Mark (et.al), Forgive me. I just don’t have the ability to do much anymore, including long responses. But I owe you at least that for all your support. It may take a few hours to write this all to you. The doctors are telling me to handle my affairs, and my body agrees. I want to live long enough to see my daughter (shown below) graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 7 weeks.

Yes, everything is going. Fortunately, I dont need the money. I need peace of mind, knowing that my family doesn’t have to deal with all this. It’s interesting you should mention Hasbro’s #1 fan. I was just wondering about that. It has the prototype 12″ Duke body and a custom head Hasbro made and gave me, a hand-cast prototype 3 3/4″ Duke, a #1 production 3 3/4″ Soldier; both of which Hasbro gave me. In addition, a Hasbro employee watch, ring and a gold dogtag, all of which Hasbro gave me. I think I would like to sell it all as a set (as it was presented to me) to one person who will appreciate it and won’t use it for target practice! (lol)”

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Proud Papa— DeSimone in a recent photo with his son, daughter and wife. (Photo: James DeSimone)

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“As for how I feel… I once wrote a story about Artie Rickun, a friend and toy dealer from Milwaukee, at one time had 10,000+ packaged GIjOE items! He told me that once I had kids, nothing else would matter to me. Having died once already, I consider myself fortunate to have had a little time to plan. So no, it is of no great loss to see it all go. Very little matters to me anymore. Hopefully, I will get some joy out of seeing someone buy something from me, like that all too familiar feeling of finding a GIjOE at a garage sale!”

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James with “The King”— DeSimone (left) poses for a quick pic with fellow toy dealer, Artie Rickun, at a toy show in the early 1980s. Rickun had just purchased a warehouse full of over 15,000 vintage boxed and packaged GI Joes and accessories. Holy inventory, Batman! (Photo: James DeSimone)

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“All of my toys used to be upstairs on the second level. For the past couple of months, volunteers have been helping me bring it all downstairs so that it will be accessible to foot traffic. Right now, its all a mess. I thought I would have a couple months to sort it all out, but my energy level is non-existent now and I haven’t been able to do very much. Thankfully, I’ll have volunteers helping the week before the sale to set it all up in my home.”

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Horses, Horses, Horses— Johnny West and MARX fans take note… There will be a LOT of vintage “Best of the West” for sale at DeSimone’s estate sale. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Oh, Ken. You’re such a DOLL— There will also be boxes full of vintage Ken dolls, carrying cases and related ephemera. Study these photos carefully! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Beam me up! What set did this interesting Star Trek bridge come from? It appears to come with railings and perhaps chairs, as well. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Dusty but DELICIOUS— That vintage “Bop-a-Bear” target set is certainly dusty, but we bet if you took a vacuum cleaner with a brush hose attachment, it would clean up like new in seconds. We also see GIjOE, Major Matt Mason and more in this pic! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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You want more? James has MORE! Vintage toy-aholics will be drooling at this estate sale. How much of this wonderful stuff do YOU remember? (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Lookie there! There’s a Sky Rail set! Boy, those are getting hard to find. Enlarge this pic and start hunting for YOUR childhood favorites! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Take your covered wagon to the Beauty Parlor— Whoa… check out those cool, retro Barbie beauty parlor hair dryers and chairs. Or, are they space helmets? Or…? You’ll only find out if you’re there in person! Too cool for school, dude! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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All will be revealed, May 1st! Remember that vaunted (haunted?) secret shelf James built in his garage to house his overflowing toy collection? What did he store up there? At one time it held parts of his massive GIjOE diorama. Now, it looks like there’s some vintage missile launcher sets from REMCO. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of this sale! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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On and on it goes— Click each pic to enlarge and DROOL. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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How keen is YOUR toy eye?— We spy a 60s “Tiger Joe” tank, an in-the-box Rockem’ Sockem’ Robots game, some vintage Transogram games and much more. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Put ’em up, Pahdnuh!— A tub full of vintage cap pistols and their VERY rare holsters is sure to get cowboy/cowgirl hearts a-beatin.’ Yeeee-HAAAAA!!!!!! (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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Toy Heaven is (apparently) a dusty garage— Vintage Barbies, ’60s space toys and much more will be sold at James DeSimone’s house on May 1st, 2016. (Photo: James DeSimone) Click to enlarge.

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“GIjOE has provided me with a great life; a life that most people could only dream of. But, GIjOEs are only toy possessions, none of which matters anymore, simply because I cant take them with me. I have raised 2 of the greatest kids a man could ever hope for. I share a love with a woman which is the stuff epic novels are written of. And I have made my peace with God. —James DeSimone

Bottom Line: This certainly sounds (and looks) like “no-miss” event, especially if you’re within driving distance of southern California. Our sincerest thanks (again) to James DeSimone and his wonderful family for all of their contributions to the vintage toy and GIjOE collecting hobbies. Take care and We wish you all the BEST!

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