Category Archives: GIJOE Photography & Artwork

Fan Builds Life-Size FALCON “Climber” Action Figure in Commemoration of Toy Line’s 40th Anniversary

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Put ‘er There, Pal— A rather surprised looking 1:1 scale FALCON action figure (the one on the left) prepares to test his newfound “Kung-Fu Grip” on his creator, Mauricio Wendler, a VERY talented artisan residing in Brazil. Wendler created this stunning full-size replica of a vintage 1970s FALCON “Climber”—in just 4 days! That sir, is out-STANDING! (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything—you haven’t!

Today we received some amazing international intel from our highly talented “Field Reporter” down in Brazil, Mauricio Wendler, who wrote in concerning his country’s recent 40th anniversary celebration of everything FALCON. Falcon, as you (hopefully) recall, was the extremely popular version of GIjOE produced in Brazil during the 1970s and ’80s. Well, 40+ years have passed since those heady days of yore, and it appears now that Mauricio has decided to “raise the bar” of modern Falcon fandom—a wee little bit—to 6-foot PLUS!

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Who’s Got the POWER? Mauricio taunts Senhor Climber Falcon with his own formidable “Fists of Fury.” Notice too, that Wendler’s 1:1 creation is wearing a REAL jogging suit (with a handmade emblem) and a pair of REAL lace-up boots (to boot). (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge.

We kid you not—This isn’t facetious “fake news,” nor is it an egregious example of phony Photoshoppery. Rather, Field Reporter Wendler has actually created his own, FULL-SIZE, 1:1 scale action figure; specifically, a spot-on recreation of the (regionally) famous, “Climber” Falcon hero, complete with its iconic (Adidas inspired) red jogging suit, working “Eagle-Eyes,” fully flocked hair and beard, and even a solid pair of “Kung-Fu” gripping hands. WOWZA! After we had picked our jaws up off the floor, we asked Mauricio to describe his stunning new creation and he replied:

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“I’m from Brazil, more specifically from the City of Curitiba, in the state of Paraná. My brother, Marcelo, had had an article published by The Joe Report about 3 years ago; the one about the 3 posters he had produced commemorating FALCON action figures (see  HERE). I have been a fan of the FALCON action figure (the GIjOEs of Brazil) for many years now. I do not know if you knew this, but they were recently (and resentfully) reissued in 3 commemorative versions, due to the manufacturer’s (Estrela) 80th birthday.”

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Eye Can’t SEE You— The 1:1 head of Wendler’s custom is shown here prior to flocking and final paint. Note too, that he has upsized and recreated the interior “Eagle-Eyes” mechanism as well. Soon, this Falcon will SEE the world around him! (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge (and study).

“Well, it turns out that THIS year, their Falcon line is celebrating 40 years of its launch in my country and as a collector, photographer, and modeler of products (I make several parts for old Falcons), I also could not pass up this 40th anniversary without doing something really STRIKING by our beloved figure!”

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Turn your head, Please— This profile side-view provides a good look at how Mauricio’s FALCON head is constructed out of two separate sections (rear skull piece not shown), plus those wonderful interior eagle-eye mechanisms. Pretty amazing! (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge.

“I made this figure by designing duct 6 times more piece by piece. It is all made of plastics material (PVC and resin without any fiber). I also do restoration and recovery work of Falcons in 1/6 scale for collectors. And yes, as with the smaller figures, this one also has the flocked hair.”

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Franken FALCON— After each individual section had been molded, trimmed out, and tested for fit, the various pieces were carefully assembled together until soon—a towering (albeit still headless) action figure was born. It’s ALIVE! It’s ALIVE! (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge.

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Welcome to the 1:1 Scale World, Mr. Falcon— This super-closeup pic of Wendler’s finished masterpiece shows the head’s final paint job, placement of its VERY blue eyes and a full head of flocked hair. Out-STANDING work, sir! (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge (and drool).

“During the course of this year, I produced the complete and functional Falcon figure you see, giving ‘life’ to a full-size figure in 1:1 scale. Everything happened as a challenging project that took me about 4 full days total to complete successfully. This Falcon, as you can see, with its fully articulated body, is indeed, our well-known and REAL hero. Oh! I also have a blog where I show some of my restoration works HERE. And Mark, thanks again for all the work you do on The Joe Report!” —Mauricio Wendler, Brazil

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Hold up Yer Skivvies—With a Belt? This closeup reveals the weave and fibers of actual fabric, used to create the realistic pattern you see impressed into (or glued over) the waist section of Wendler’s 1:1 scale Falcon figure. (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to ENLARGE (the crotch). Schwing!

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Wendler’s  “Climber” assumes a defensive stance as he looks askance at the viewer. Is that a pitchfork in his hand, or is he just glad to see you? HA. (Photo: Mauricio Wendler) Click to enlarge.

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Whom will she choose? Sure, Mauricio’s handsome and all, but there’s something really HOT about this new Falcon dude. Hmm… (Photo: Maurico Wendler) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: This 1:1 scale custom FALCON action figure is a monumental achievement AND an undeniable work of art, earning it an immediate place of TOP honor amongst the thousands of other such creations produced by fans and customizers of GIjOE, Falcon and related action figures. This MASTERPIECE breaks ALL of the known barriers of “working large” and Mauricio’s proficiency with plastics proves that his fabricating skills know few, if any limitations. Finally, our most heartfelt congratulations go out to Mr. Wendler for all of his SUPERB Falcon-related achievements and for his very generous contributions to this article. Magnífico, senhor!

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No Collection is Too Small— 1:6 G.I. Joe Enjoys Collecting (You Guessed It)—Action Figures!

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Collecting knows no size— Joe the Adventurer shows off a new (super-mini) HALO action figure, one of many such figures displayed on shelves throughout his home. (Photo: Queli Castro)

What do YOUR GIjOEs do when they return home from a mission? Some spend days, even YEARS, sealed up in depressing, air-tight storage containers, while others dutifully stand an interminable “watch” from the inside of locked, glassed-walled display cabinets. But for those fortunate few who are given freedom of movement by their (obviously imaginative) owners, the pursuit of personal hobbies and other pastimes is now becoming the norm.

For example, we recently caught up with one such fortunate 1:6 soul, a tiny toy collector known simply as “Joe,” whom, it turns out, is himself a 12-inch tall “fuzzhead” Adventurer! According to his owner, Queli Castro, of Chicago, Joe truly enjoys getting out of the house and visiting local stores to browse their aisles for the latest SUPER-MINIATURE action figures. Castro reports:
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“Hello Mark, Long time no chat. Yes, Joe collects action figures, and lately he’s added quite a few to his collection. I asked him if he’d pose alongside his collection for a few pictures and he kindly obliged (see attached images). In the wide view of his study (shown below), this is only PART of his growing collection. He’s always ‘rotating’ pieces in and out.”
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A flair for decorating— Joe’s study reveals an obvious talent for tasteful decoration. That mid-century modern coffee table, the high-back chair, and those attractive display shelves are ALL superb 1:6 scale furnishings. What a wonderful room. Go, Joe! (Photo: Queli Castro)

“Superman is Joe’s favorite. That one he’s pointing to (see below) is a actually a nano metalfig (.99 cents) from Walmart.”
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Great Caesar’s Ghost! Such amazing detail at such a small scale. (Photo: Queli Castro)

“Joe also collects Star Wars memorabilia and he just got this super-miniature x-wing fighter from Walmart on Force Friday. The two military HALO figures (behind the x-wing) are by Mega Construx. They have 11 points of articulation(!) and come with lots of detail, display stands, and extra pieces. They are wonderful!”
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WHOOSH!!! Joe’s mind is racing with all the possible Star Wars scenarios he could act out—in his imagination. He clearly believes in taking off his shoes, surrounding himself with his favorite toys, and having a GREAT time! (Photo: Queli Castro)

“Here (below), Joe poses with his new Alice in Wonderland and Buzz Lightyear figures. While both are very cool, these particular figures are for his children and he plans to put them both under the Christmas tree this year.”
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‘Tis the Season— Joe knows that the true meaning of Christmas is to GIVE, LOVE, and SHARE with others. We’re sure Alice and Buzz WON’T disappoint! (Photo: Queli Castro)

“All the figures in Joe’s display are about 2” high and were bought at Walmart, with the exception of the three up there on the top righthand shelf (i.e. Batman/Robin/The Flash) which all came from our neighborhood WalgreensI’m also providing some photos of the action figures in their packaging (see below) because things look a lot different after they’ve been taken out of the box. And finally…

Mark… I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and thank you for The Joe Report. 
I look forward to every ‘issue’ and you do a wonderful job with it. Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!” —Queli Castro, Chicago, IL

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Sergeant Forge HALO action figure (Photo: Queli Castro)

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Superman die-cast metal figure (Photo: Queli Castro)

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The FLASH action figure (Photo: Queli Castro)

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An Endcap Full of Ships— Star Wars mini vehicles for sale now at Walmart. These make out-STANDING miniature toys for GIjOE! (Photo: Queli Castro)

Bottom Line: We absolutely LOVE how this Joe decorates his 1:6 scale home with “super-mini” collectibles. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Queil Castro for providing all of these excellent photographs and for his very generous “field reporting” here at The Joe Report. You are the BEST, sir!Mark Otnes, Editor TJR

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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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Fan-Created G.I. Joe Ephemera—Picking Up Where Collector’s Club Leaves Off, James Kavanaugh Jr. Heads Up a Talented Team of Graphics Experts to Produce Exclusive Posters, Cards, and Boxes To Be Given Away Every Year at JoeCon—For FREE!

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Utilizing Vintage Design to Promote RAH GIJoes— At first glance, you’d think this professionally created mini-poster is one of the original product brochures produced by Hasbro back in 1964 to promote its new line of 12″ GIjOE action figures and accessory sets. But you’d be wrong, my friend. In actuality, this masterpiece depicts GIjOEs of the more modern-era (3.75″) RAH variety. Produced by a team of graphics professionals spearheaded by James Kavanaugh Jr., this limited-edition (300) fan-produced poster is a superb example of how far some die-hard fans will go to further expand upon and refine GIjOE’s “universe.” (Framing by Sam Sears. Photo by: James Kavanaugh) Click to enlarge.

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Incognito Imagineer?— Apparently a man of many faces and talents, James Kavanaugh is also the chief designer of some of the world’s greatest GIjOE “faux ephemera.” (Photo: James Kavanaugh)

Bumping Into a Graphics Guru— When we first met James Kavanaugh Jr. at JoeCon 2015 in Springfield, IL, he was surrounded by about a dozen wide-eyed fans. They were all eager to get a closer look at James’ offering of expertly created GIjOE fan-graphics; including such nifty items as mini-posters and 3.75″ mini-boxes. Surprised by the professional quality of the items arrayed on his tables, we were sure they would be priced accordingly (i.e. expensive) and were stunned when he informed us that they were actually being given away to JoeCon 2015 attendees—for FREE!

If you know anything about the high costs of producing and printing quality graphic projects (and we do), then you’ll know we’re talking about some serious money here. For example, individual copies of James’ RAH posters could easily range upwards of $30 apiece (if outputted with high-end plotters or printers). Such JoeCon “freebies” can actually be very expensive to make (and very valuable to collect).

Clearly, this segment of GIjOE fandom isn’t a cheap corner of the “sandbox” to play around in. The large amount of time required to produce such quality pieces can ring up a hefty tab, and we were eager to learn what sort of “madness” drives Kavanaugh in this regard. Thankfully, he kindly assented to the following exclusive interview—for faithful readers of—The Joe Report!


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TJR: Thanks for speaking with us today, James. As fellow graphic designers and “brothers-in-arms” in the visual and communication arts profession, we’d love to hear the story behind your amazing GIjOE print projects; especially that stunning RAH mini-poster (shown at top).

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With a Wink and a Nod—GIjOE fan, collector and graphics expert, James Kavanaugh Jr. continues to produce and distribute GIjOE graphics at each JoeCon—for FREE! (Photo: James Kavanaugh Jr.)

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“The poster is a long answer to a short question. I pigeonhole myself as a RAH (Real American Hero) collector and since the 2005 convention, I’ve been making and handing out free custom file cards and package card backs.

They were originally designed to supplement the GIjOE club’s membership figures because the club was only providing a quick bio on the back of each membership card.”

TJR: What a excellent idea! And you still give all these cards and posters away for FREE?

“Yes, that’s right. Every year I make 300 for JoeCon and an extra (exclusive) 100 for the awards dinner as a token of my appreciation to all the wonderful people I’ve met at the shows.”

TJR: That’s very generous. You have some serious “Joe Karma” coming your way. Do you work on these projects all alone, or do you enlist the aid of other talented Joeheads?

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GIjOE Fan and Expert, Gary Godsoe (Photo: Gary Godsoe)

“Gary Godsoe is my right-hand man in these projects, and Ace Allgood was my go-to guy for reference photos, accuracy, and overall expert vintage opinion. I’ve also utilized the amazing skills of John Jett, Troy McKee, Andrew Hall and Todd Weinzeirl.”

TJR: That sounds like an “A-Team” of GIjOE experts. Are you a big fan of both the RAH and 12″ GIjOEs?

“Honestly, I was born in 1977 and grew up in an almost childless neighborhood with no older relatives, so  I knew nothing about 12” GI Joe. I assumed that he was just Barbie’s ‘Army boyfriend.’  And sadly, certain aspects of the 12” figure as a whole are simply lost on me. Nonetheless, I wanted to work backwards and explore GIjOE’s 12” history by undoing the RAH line. 

It began one day when I was thinking about the TV series ‘Gotham.’ I assessed that the show took the core of the Batman story, pulled it apart, and reassembled its disparate pieces into a new configuration. That made me wonder, what if the RAH line had been released back in 1982 with a more 12” style approach?”

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Giving Proper Credit— Contributors to each of Kavanaugh’s projects receive official credit bylines such as those listed in the corner of Jame’s RAH poster. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Where did you take the project from there?

“Over time, the project evolved into various interpretations of the RAH portion of the GIjOE hobby, each a reflection of the current time. For example, in 2009, I inducted Bullet-Man into the ‘Crappy Figure Brigade.’ And in 2010, I did a Ted Williams card back for the love-to-hate-to-love subgroup of fans that support, shall we say, the more ‘unique’ G.I. Joes ever produced.”

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Packaging Fans Take Note— The classic GIjOE designs from the 1960s hold up VERY well today, as this closeup of James Kavanaugh’s poster clearly reveals. Hello, Hasbro? Are you seeing this? Here’s a great way to bring all GIjOE fans together under one “visual umbrella.” (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: What did you decide to produce for GIjOE’s 50th Anniversary?

“For the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe, I wanted to do something more dynamic and more in tune with the roots of G.I. Joe, not a RAH ‘off-year,’ so I developed the 4-inch boxes. They were designed to assume the role of a vintage package for the modern visage of G.I. Joe. They were also designed to emulate the vintage packaging as closely as possible, while fully selling the more ‘realistic’ aspects of the RAH.”

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Realistic Detail on Every Panel— The attention to detail on Kavanaugh’s projects is stunning; UPC codes, fine print, choke warnings, it’s all there. Look closely at this GIjOE “Infantry” box— there are even pictures of its related uniform and accessory sets depicted on the side panels at barely 1″ high. Get out your magnifying glass, because you’ll need it to read it! (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

TJR: You’ve made mini-boxes, posters, and even authored books on RAH GIjOEs. But your new poster seems to be targeting fans of the vintage 12″ GIJOEs. What inspired the change?

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Debonair Author— James Kavanaugh Jr., renowned RAH GIjOE expert and “Human Chameleon,” demonstrated yet another of his handsome and distinctive “looks” while discussing his new book, “Rank & File, a Guide to 4″ GIjOE Action Figures,” at a convention held in the UK. (Photo: Tree-Bot)

“I wanted to do something a bit more abstract in relation to my previous work and also do something for a wider audience than RAH collectors. My RAH research showed me that, in many ways, early RAH was still thought of in terms of small 12” figures with names and an enemy.  This poster gave the RAH figures height, removed the names and gave them the interchangeable dynamic that was left behind in the transition. My goal was to also simulate a marketing approach to ‘higher ups’ so that the viewer feels like they’re looking at a conceptual pitch.”

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Collect ‘Em All— Kavanaugh’s wide variety of GIjOE-related creations have become a new collecting segment all of their own and it’s easy to see why. The cover of his new book, Rank & File, utilizes design inspired by the ’80s RAH comics. Get your copy HERE today!

TJR: Your poster is a superb demonstration of how Hasbro could have brought fans of both eras together by appealing to the heart-strings of older collectors while reviving vintage packaging design. What did your A-Team of experts think of your unique retro-poster concept?

“The early idea was difficult for me to convey, I had a hard time articulating my thoughts to my core consultants. They kept simplifying it as a 12” Grunt (like the figure in the 1994 Hall of Fame). The base figure is the Action Soldier male, not ‘Grunt’ as the RAH guys know him. The vintage RAH art is familiar to RAH collectors and was used to help accentuate the packaging while guiding the viewer to its hybrid conclusions.

I then divided the 82-84 line into Basic and Deluxe package options and used almost the exact character themes given to us in those respected years. I stripped away the unique shades of green that each RAH character is typically assigned (ex. Zap was light green while Grand Slam was dark olive) and tried to create as many reusable plastic parts a possible.

Customizable variations of the core product were also paramount.  The human essence of both lines was diversity so I wanted to assume the base figure was ‘available’ in various hair colors and skin colors.  But to take it a step further, the consumer could mix and match figures with outfits as they choose.”

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A Face All Fans Can Love— Whatever the scale, GIjOE’s “first face” was an iconic design that continues to resonate strongly with collectors worldwide. (Character art: John Jett/Andrew Hall) Click to enlarge.

TJR: What else should fans (of both eras) know about the content depicted in your poster?

“The versatility of the 12” line was there for the consumer to choose. So showcasing the iconic vintage 12” head was paramount in order to drive home the idea that this concept was 12”.  John Jett was the artist that nailed the various looks. The verbiage used in the poster derives heavily from the vintage RAH catalogs, and the fictitious Asst. #’s are based on the original Asst. numbers used in the original 1982 products (the ‘H’ is fake in all the numbers and the ’15’ is just the convention year).  My projects always have Easter Eggs in them.”

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Gutsy, Not Glamorous— Kavanaugh’s poster also features a GIJane action figure. Never meant to be a “pin-up” girl, the various depictions of Jane depict determined looking, capable fighting women instead. Out-STANDING! (Character art: John Jett/Andrew Hall) Click to enlarge.

TJR: Tell us about that GIJane figure. She’s a great addition to the poster!

“The real ‘twist’ with this poster’s concept was the inclusion of a female soldier. This fictitious, femme-fatale figure would’ve been sold separately—but equally—with the male. This led me to make the female look more in sync with the male figure, while still retaining female features. I will apologize beforehand when I say the female nurse isn’t the most attractive female action figure representation (in my opinion). Thus, John Jett was tasked with developing a more striking female. But hey, don’t get me wrong, she’s not posing for a glamour shot.  She’s here fight for freedom!

She’s obviously (to RAH guys) an abstract notion of Lady Jaye. However, the reason why I gave her a javelin thrower is not for RAH accuracy. I would’ve been inclined to give her a rifle like her male counterpart (though I’m sure some market research would’ve resulted in girls wanting some sort of ‘non-rifle’ weapon) but it hit me that GI Joe reflects contemporary pop culture and Hunger Games is a huge hit right now. The female star is called Katniss and fights with a bow and arrow. Of course, a traditional bow and arrow would’ve looked awkward compared to the male’s rifle, but a javelin shooter bridges that military gap and still gives girls the sort of heroine they’d want.”

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A GIJane With a Bow— Katniss from The Hunger Games inspired and impacted Kavanaugh’s depiction of the GIJane action figure shown on his poster. However, the movie character’s bow-n-arrow had to go and was replaced with a rocket-propelled “javelin” (instead of a rifle). (Photo: Lion’s Gate)

I asked John to produce a woman that looked like she means business, yet wouldn’t scare away female consumers.  The goal was for her to have an assertive demeanor. Then, females could utilize the basic accessories like the male, yet have their own exciting ‘looks’ that filled all roles.”

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Words to Live By— Real American Heroes need real mottos to steel their nerves in battle. The copy on James’ poster reminds kids and adults to fight the good fight—with GIjOE! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

TJR: Any closing thoughts on this poster and/or your reasons for creating it?

I believe vintage GI jOE could use as much attention as possible and I just wanted to do my part. Hopefully, this poster showed commonalities between both lines and illustrates how, with some minor changes, Hasbro could’ve painted a totally different picture of the brand’s landscape. With the proverbial product ‘well’ running dry or at least tapering off, maybe collectors who prefer one line over the other will decide to cross over into new territory so to speak, and further round-out their own perspective of the hobby.”

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Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to James “the Chameleon” Kavanaugh Jr. for all of his generous contributions to the GIjOE collecting hobby and to this article. You can reach James on Facebook HERE and find his books on Amazon HERE. Go (or Yo), JAMES!

 

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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.

It’s So Ugly, It’s GREAT!———John Barton Creates New Dead-Eyed “Zombie” Action Man Sculpture

John Barton's outstanding "Zombie Edition" Action Man sculpture, was (sadly) produced only as a VERY limited-edition—of 1. (Photo: John Barton)

Creepy In-Action Man— John Barton’s outstanding “Zombie-Edition” Action Man sculpture, was (sadly) produced in a VERY limited-edition—(just this ONE). Boooo!!!! (Photo: John Barton)

It’s may seem a tad late for a Halloween-related story, but we felt we HAD to share this particularly “gruesome” art news with you here today, nonetheless. It concerns everyone’s favorite Action Man sculptor, John Barton, of the UK, who had sent in some photos of his latest work back in October (yes, we’ve been busy), hoping that we would share them with the rest of the 1:6 scale collecting world (our belated pleasure, Mr. B!). We were both shocked and delighted by his latest bizarre take on UK’s favorite hero; this time, as a truly one-of-a-kind, “Zombie-Edition” Action Man. After all the laughter and exclamations of praise had subsided in the newsroom, we gathered around the conference table and read Barton’s descriptive letter aloud, revealing the following:

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Artist John Barton (UK) poses with two of his previous creations. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

 

“Further to the Man Of Action sculptures I’d produced earlier in 2015 (for which you very kindly provided coverage), I have produced something even more unique. In the spirit of the ‘witching season,’ I wondered, what would an eagle-eyed, zombie-edition Action Man have looked like? In my eBay listing, I described this piece as mixed-media kitsch, retro-POP; a unique wall-sculpture inspired by the iconic Action Man action figure. Measuring 185mm wide (7¼”)
, 260mm high (10¼”), 
170mm deep (6¾”) it’s almost life-size! 

This piece is a one-off and no others will be made. Hand-cast from resin, with exposed inset skull top, jaw, teeth and cheek bone (where a scar would normally be) with repositionable eyes. The eyes can be adjusted so that they look in any direction. Upturned zombie stare, fixed dead ahead, or cross-eyed – it’s up to you.

The sculpture is hand-painted and includes an internal hanging loop, so it’s ready for display. This is a unique take on what the iconic Action Man Eagle-Eyes head could have looked like if a Zombie-Edition had been produced in the 1970s/80s.” —John Barton, UK

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Take a BITE Outta THIS— The ghoulish green skin color, the missing chunks of flesh, the exposed jaw and teeth, and the discoloration of the hair are all DEAD-ON. (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

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Anatomically Correct Action Man— This closeup reveals more details including the detailed teeth, jaw bone and realistic cracking along the skull. Superb! (Photo: John Barton) Click to enlarge.

Bottom Line: A ghoulishly GREAT masterpiece. Thanks for sharing your latest art project with us, John. It’s good to know that even after he dies, our beloved Action Man will continue to “live on” as one of the Walking Dead! Hey, we know where he can get some free brains… They don’t seem to needing—or using—them over at Hasbro or Palitoy these days. Bwa-ha-HA!!!

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A Ride With Greatness———Chung Kim’s Exclusive In-Car Interview With “Classic Collection” G.I. Joe Artist-Illustrator Extraordinaire, Larry Selman

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Ready to Fly— GIjOE B-17 Bomber Crewman (Art: Larry Selman)

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath, sit back and just CHILLAX. Even with yesterday’s jarring news that the GIjOE Collector’s Club and its “JoeCons” will soon be no more, there’ll still be a plethora of GIjOE-related shows for fans and collectors to attend for the foreseeable future, especially in fan-rich, high-population states such as Georgia, California, Ohio and Texas. In addition to those events, GIjOE “expatriates” and Action Man fans living in countries such as the UK, Mexico and Brazil have long proven that they can survive (and yes, THRIVE) without control from a so-called “official” GIjOE or Action Man fan organization, and that they will continue to do so for many years to come.

So… Let’s all just take a moment to regroup, relax and enjoy some insightful “insider-intel” from ace TJR field reporter, Chung Kim, who graciously provided the following exclusive interview with GIjOE Classic Collection artist, Larry Selman; conducted interestingly enough, during a car ride through the streets of beautiful downtown Atlanta, GA, in the waning hours of Joelanta 2016. Enjoy!

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Intrepid TJR Field Reporter, Chung Kim (Photo: Chung Kim)

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“I attended JOELANTA 2016 this past weekend. I enjoyed myself. I experienced a truly one of a kind moment when I (and my friend Scott Norris) had the opportunity and pleasure to ride with Mr. Larry Selman. He is the artist responsible for the painted artwork used by Hasbro for their line of GI JOE Classic Collection figures. After the show ended, a number of attendees usually go out to a nearby restaurant as a post-show ritual for dinner, conversation, and to also watch THE WALKING DEAD. I’m not that familiar with the Atlanta area, so Buddy Finethy arranged for me and Scott to ride along with Mr. Selman.

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Larry Selman, renowned GIjOE packaging illustrator and artist (Photo: Larry Selman)

He drove us to the post-show dinner at Mellow Mushroom Pizza. During the ride there, I apologized in advance to Mr. Selman for going into fanboy mode and asked him some questions about how he came to the opportunity of creating some truly memorable artwork on the GI JOE Classic Collection box covers.” He told me prior to his involvement with Hasbro, he was primarily known for doing western-themed artwork and the opportunity presented itself for him to create a variety of painted artwork used for the GI JOE Classic Collection boxed figures. This was during a time when Hasbro had an actual art department dedicated to the GI JOE product line. His personal favorite GI JOE Classic Collection artwork is the one used for the Blue Angels Pilot figure. In addition, when he did the artwork for the series of Classic Collection figures based on real life Medal of Honor recipients, he told me that the artwork used to portray the real life HOH recipients had to be approved by the actual recipients (who were still alive at the time) or through their estate/family.”

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Whoosh! Selman’s outstanding artwork for GIjOE’s Blue Angel Pilot box. (Art: Larry Selman)

“In particular, he told me how he spoke with Audie Murphy’s son and the discussion they had with regards to appearance and depiction of Audie Murphy used on the box cover for the figure as well as some historical references and research he performed to capture the action moment that earned Audie Murphy the MOH.”

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This will BLOW YOU AWAY— Can you imagine a better way to decorate the wall of your Joe Room than a new 2016 calendar (available HERE) from famed GIjOE artist, Larry Selman? His stunning painting of MOH recipient, Audie Murphy (above) was featured for January. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“Given how my collecting niche is 1:6 scale female figures, I asked him about the background behind the artwork used for the GI JANE figures produced by Hasbro under the Classic Collection line. It turned out he used a variety of female models. In particular, he told me how he used a number of female models carrying a guy on a stretcher a number of time in order to capture the visual used for the artwork on the GI JOE Vietnam Nurse figure.

On the flip side, around the time the Vietnam Nurse figure came out, the focus on artwork presentation on the box packaging was beginning to change to a marketing perspective in terms of product packaging, size, and display visual, where the artwork was no longer a concern. This was primarily due to retailers requesting greater display and packaging efficiency.”

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The Beginning of the End— According to Selman, Hasbro’s desire for GIjOE paintings was “beginning to change” around the time he completed this masterful depiction of US Army nurses in Vietnam. As a result, many of the pieces he created for the toy company were (sadly) never used. (Art: Larry Selman)

“I asked Mr. Selman if doing artwork for toys like GI JOE and others from that period is now a ‘lost art;’ because nowadays, the display box and packaging for most toys found at large mass retailers are usually devoid of any real and true artwork and simply a clear packaging that shows the toys with very basic and minimal visual graphics and not any true artwork. He agreed, because back then, the artwork used on the GI JOE Classic Collection figures was also a visual, attention-generating selling point of the figure as well.

Mr. Selman attended past JOELANTA conventions where he is a featured guest. He autographs the GI JOE Classic Collection boxed figures featuring his art. In addition, his table features a variety of prints featuring his artwork, of which he’ll also autograph. I found him to be very approachable and his experiences and insight with Hasbro were very enlightening.” —Chung Kim

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Chung Kim for his excellent reportage today, and to Larry Selman (once again) for all of the superb artwork he’s created utilizing military and western subject matter and themes. If you’re a Selman fan (and who isn’t?) HERE again is Larry’s official website.

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“G.I. Joe Repair Shop” Owner Hopes His Business Will Help Revitalize “Empty” Downtown of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma———Daughter Paints G.I. Joe Murals

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The Last Place You’d Expect to Find a G.I. Joe Museum— If you don’t take your foot off the pedal, it’s all too easy to zip right through the small town of Lone Wolf, OK, little realizing you’re also passing by one of the SWEETEST little museums ever dedicated to America’s Movable Fighting Man. So, SLOW DOWN, pahduh! Maybe if they painted their water tower Adventure Team yellow..? (Photo: Nick Vitale)

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Neil Vitale, owner, operator and curator of the GIjOE Repair Shop (and museum) located in Lone Wolf, OK (Photo: Nick Vitale)

Living’ the G.I. Joe Dream—In Lone Wolf, OK

Sometimes we come across fans or collectors who are truly living the “GIjOE dream.” Typically, they’re the sort of individuals who, through a combination of hard work and dedication, are now able to comfortably display, professionally repair, and profitably sell—GIjOEs. After years of effort, they’ve finally achieved 1:6 fandom’s most highly sought-after “collecting trifecta,” and now own and operate a GIjOE-related business.

Indeed, even after decades of diehard collecting, many collectors continue to dream of a well-appointed “Joe Room,” or the space required to simply de-crate and display a burgeoning collection. Many others yearn for the knowledge and/or talents required to repair, reflock or repaint, old or broken action figures. For most of us though, it’s TIME and money that remain the most restrictive factors, and so it’s always heartening to learn when another fan has broken through those barriers; purchased his own building, and is now refurbishing it into a growing, downtown Joe-business. We’re referring (of course) to renowned GIjOE expert—Neil Vitale.

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Welcome to Neil’s Place— You’re looking at the Main Street entrance to an actual “brick-n-mortar” GIjOE store now located at 1107 Main Street in downtown Lone Wolf, OK. If you love Joes, this is THE place to hang out on weekends, get something repaired, or buy-n-sell. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Formerly of Connecticut, Neil recently moved his family (and impressive vintage GIjOE collection) to the far-flung reaches of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. A pediatrician by profession, Nick commutes daily to the nearby Air Force town of Alton for his practice, before returning home again to his family and favorite hobby—GIjOE. In the following interview (given exclusively to The Joe Report), Vitale reveals the full “inside” story behind his exciting new “GIjOE Repair Shop.” Enjoy!

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TJR: Thanks for taking time to talk to us today, Neil. Please tell our readers how you came up with the idea for your GIjOE business and how you got the ball rolling on such an ambitious project.

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Dr. Neil Vitale, Pediatrician and GIjOE businessman (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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NV: “The GIjOE Repair shop was an outgrowth of my ebay store. I started putting together vintage GIjOE sets in 2009 and have sold over 500 in the last 7 years. I did this in my basement in Connecticut. We had recently moved to Lone Wolf, Oklahoma from Connecticut to be closer to my wife’s family and during the transition, I had all my Joe stuff in storage for about a year. While working in Oklahoma (I’m a Pediatrician), it became clear that there were a lot of empty buildings in our downtown area that people were only using for storage. Lone Wolf is a farming community of about 450 people and the downtown area is dying. So I purchased the old Flower Shop and decided to use it for Joe storage and a place to build and sell my Joe’s.”

TJR: Fascinating! What happened next? How does your new business work?

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“I found a few display cases in the surrounding communities to temporarily display the Joe’s before I sold them. It was great, because I was able to have an enormous space for my Joe’s and my wife was happy to get them out of the house. I call it the “GI JOE Repair Shop” and we buy pieces and parts off of ebay and then complete the sets to resell them, just like I did before in Connecticut.”

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Main Street Visitors— Fans and customers browsing Neil’s new store/museum. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

TJR: What was the inspiration for the way you’ve decorated your business’ interior and exterior?

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“In Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma (about 120 miles away), there’s The Action Figure Museum. They have a special section on military and GIjOE figures. We went in there and it turned out to be a pretty cool museum. Their GIjOE/military section had some neat dioramas, but not many actual vintage GI Joe’s. So, I decided that Oklahoma needed a stand alone GI JOE display.”

TJR: Sounds cool! What sort of plans do you have for future displays, etc.?

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“I shifted from selling Joes to creating a GIjOE display for Vintage 1964-1969 Joes. I still sell the 1970-76 figures to help with funding, but my goal is to have one of each Joe from the original vintage era and put them on display in one part of the shop. I have 75 on display so far. The missing Joes are the the rare and expensive ones (i.e., the Nurse, Jungle Fighter, later MPs etc.) I’ll eventually get to them!

The other part of the shop will be a 150 square foot diorama of the Normandy invasion with about 40 vintage Joes (American and German) and only genuine Hasbro equipment. I hope to have it ready for our town’s Fourth of July parade. We had nearly 100 people come in the shop that day last year and that was before the diorama! The name of the shop will be changed to The GI JOE Repair Shop and Museum this Spring.”


THIS JUST IN—THIS JUST IN—THIS JUST IN—THIS JUST IN

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Art Major, Rosie Vitale, blocks in colors as she begins work on the door-sized GIjOE mural for, appropriately, the front door of her Dad’s “GIjOE Repair Shop” in Lone Wolf, OK. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Beautiful Art Major Making Beautiful Murals in Oklahoma

In a related story, we were understandably curious as to the identity of the talented individual or individuals responsible for all the wonderful GIjOE artwork and murals seen inside and outside of Neil’s new store and museum. We asked Vitale for further intel on the matter and he replied:

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“My daughter, Rosie Vitale, is an art major and she was recruited to paint our three murals. The first is the advertisement for the talking GIjOE. The second is a mash-up of Action Sailor box art. The third is the Action Soldier Box that we used for our front door. She’d blocked out the pictures first, then use acrylic paints and let her talent take over. The two wall murals took about a week each to complete and the door, 4 days. They look AMAZING in person!”

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Remembering Petrucci— In her left hand, Rosie holds a color print of the original GIjOE Action Soldier box artwork created by famed illustrator Sam Petrucci (in 1964) and refers to it for guidance and inspiration while creating her own, greatly enlarged copy. Absolutely AMAZING! (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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Vintage VICTORY— Rosie’s finished painting, ready to greet customers. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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Action Sailor Artwork— Rosie Vitale continues to adorn the walls of her father’s store with additional murals. This one was also inspired by the 1964 paintings of Sam Petrucci. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

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Go, NAVY! Rosie’s completed Action Sailor mural is an undeniable eye-catcher and one of the three that fans will see when they visit Neil Vitale’s GIjOE Repair Shop. (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Finally, Neil offered the following hopes for his business’ effect on downtown Lone Wolf, saying:

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“We are now one of the few businesses on main street in Lone Wolf. And I’m pretty sure this is the largest collection of vintage GIjOEs on display ANYWHERE in Oklahoma. With the addition of the the diorama, I am hoping to attract some attention and maybe get a few people to come by and stop in Lone Wolf, rather than just drive on through.” —Neil Vitale, The GIjOE Repair Shop

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The Doctor Will See You Now— Neil Vitale poses alongside the “first four” of his many vintage GIjOEs in a photo taken exclusively for The Joe Report. Neil’s got the prescription—for FUN! (Photo: Neil Vitale)

Bottom Line: We were THRILLED to learn of Neil’s success and the creation of his all-new GIjOE-related business in Lone Wolf, OK. Imagine if this sort of business model was copied in other towns and cities across the country (and around the world!). How cool would that be? We also want to thank Neil and Rosie Vitale for their generous assistance with this article, and wish them both all the best in their future endeavors. Go, Neil! Go, Rosie! Go, JOE!

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G.I. Joe “Classic Collection” Artist Releases New Military Art Calendar For 2016 Holiday Season

This will BLOW YOU AWAY— Can you imagine a better way to decorate the wall of your Joe Room than a new 2016 calendar from famed GIjOE artist, Larry Selman? Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This will BLOW YOU AWAY— Can you imagine a better way to decorate the wall of your Joe Room than a new 2016 calendar from famed GIjOE artist, Larry Selman? Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: Heads up, GIjOE and military history fans! A great new 2016 calendar has recently been released by Classic Collection artist extraordinaire, Larry Selman, just in time for this holiday shopping season. Much to our surprise, Selman sent us a free sample (THANKS, Larry!) and we have to tell you, it is freakin’ AWESOME! What better gift can you give a Joehead (or loved one) than a calendar ($20) that’s chocked full of iconic GIjOE packaging artwork? And who better to purchase one from than the artist himself? Here’s the link to get one for YOUR Joe Room. Enjoy!

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Collector & Customizer of 1:6 Scale Reveals Methods Used in Action Figure Photography

Steve Benson, former Army WHATEVER, poses with two of his subjects in his backyard training grounds. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Steve Benson, a lawyer living in Colorado Springs, CO (and a JAG officer in the Army Reserves), poses with two of his 1:6 scale grunts training on his backyard obstacle course. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson)

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Super Soldiers— Each of Benson's figure have been carefully and accurately outfitted for the most realism, right down to the smallest details, including tiny PT patches from Patches of Pride. EXCELLENT! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Super Soldiers— Benson’s action figures are realistically outfitted, down to the smallest details including ARMY t-shirts and reflective belt. Some even sport 1:6 scale cloth PT patches from Patches of Pride. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Customizer Puts “ACTION” Into 1:6 Scale Action Figure Photography

We’ve been admiring and following the work of 1:6 scaler, Steve Benson, for quite a while now, and thought that this would be a good time to share some of his recent figure and diorama photography with the rest of the world. In the following exclusive series of images, Benson utilizes a superbly hand-picked and hand-customized squad of soldiers; each carefully selected, dressed and prepped for the day’s main activity—outdoor PT.

Playing with GIjOEs and other action figures in the great outdoors is one of the most enjoyable activities fans can participate in AND capture in their own photographs. After all, GIjOEs are TOYS and they were meant to be played with in largely outdoor-based action scenarios, settings and environments. As a result, backyard play allows our imaginations to run free (see Tom RazoolyHERE).

Steve Benson’s action figure photography stands apart from others we seen by (somehow) putting LIFE into the figures themselves. You can almost feel their muscles straining and hearts pumping as they tackle various obstacles put before them in Benson’s backyard training course. We asked Steve if he would share some of his “secrets” for creating convincing ACTION photos with GIjOEs and he kindly replied:

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“My secret is a lot of patience, a lot of swearing, and a weekly therapeutic massage! I use figures with stiff joints and continue to work with them until they are posed exactly how I want them. Balancing them takes a lot of time and they try to fall over a lot in these gusting Colorado breezes. I hate setting up formations because if one falls down, half the company goes down with him! My back is usually plenty stiff after a detailed session like the ‘Tough One.’ Fortunately, I have two (10 and 14 year-old) daughters to assist me.”

Fall in! Eyes Front! Benson's squad prepares for a rigorous session of PT with a mohawked paratrooper drill sergeant. Notice the diversity of characters and attention to detail. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Fall in! Eyes Front! Benson’s eager squad of 1:6 scale soldiers prepares for a rigorous session of PT led by their (mohawked) paratrooper drill sergeant. Notice the diversity of characters and their accurate attention to detail. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

“My 17 year-old son has refused to participate until we switch to male soldiers engaged in combat operations. That will be coming reasonably soon, but I have to get O’Mara and Devereux (the two women) through Ranger School first, which I plan to have done by the end of July. After that, it will start getting rough with operations in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Sudan. I’m looking forward to it.”

Hit the dirt and gimme 25! The drill sergeant wastes no time in getting the soldiers warmed up and working. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Hit the dirt and gimme 25, maggots! Benson’s Army drill sergeant wastes no time in getting the other soldiers warmed up and working hard. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

“I only photoshop to change facial expressions (eyebrows usually) and to remove imperfections like dog hairs from my beagle or stray uniform threads that sneak into the photo. So far, I’ve never had to use any wires or special posing aids, except for the Littlebird chopper and the deployed parachute. I did use wires to hang those pieces and photoshopped them out of the pictures later.” —Steve Benson

Here then, is a sample sequence of some of Benson’s recent action figure photos. Enjoy!

All the way up, and all the way down! There's no substitute for proper form when doing pushups the ARMY way! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

All the way up, and all the way down! According to the Drill Sergeant, there’s no substitute for proper form when doing push-ups the ARMY way. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Leg scissor kicks work the abs and turn wimps into warriors! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Leg scissors work the abs and turn wimps into warriors! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Learning to work as a TEAM is essential in the military. GO, girls! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Learning to work as a team is essential in the Army. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

“Sgt T” instructs Chief Warrant Officer Devereux how to do a proper Army chin-up. And no, they’re not going to be easy, soldier. So… GET UP THERE! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

CWO Devereux show Sgt. T she's got what it takes and maxes out each rep. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

CWO Devereux show Sgt. T she’s got what it takes and maxes out each rep. HOOah! You GO, girl! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Devereux's determination is clear to those around her. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Devereux’s determination is clearly making her “ARMY STRONG!” (Photo: Steve Benson)

Hit that Wall! Devereux continues her way through the course and

Hit that Wall! Devereux continues to the next obstacle of her “Tough One” training (taking place in Benson’s backyard). Note the realistic stride in this pic. WOW! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

WOW! This is a very difficult pose to capture realistically, but Benson does so masterfully. Great job, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

This is a perfect example of the athletic and physical realism we were describing earlier. It’s very easy to believe this figure is actually jumping onto this obstacle. You can almost sense and FEEL her musculature making the effort. Such moments in time are VERY difficult to pose and capture in a way that convincingly “fools the eye.” Excellent work, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge (and STUDY).

Get up there! Go! GO! GO! Devereux refuses to quit. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Get over that obstacle—NOW! Devereux struggles but refuses to quit. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Almost...Don't Stop! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Almost over…Don’t Stop! Get off that obstacle! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Success! (Was there ever any doubt?) (Photo: Steve Benson)

Success! (Was there ever any doubt?) HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson)

What's next, Drill Sergeant? On to the rope and net climbing obstacle, of course! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

If you build it—they will TRAIN. What’s next, Drill Sergeant? Benson’s handcrafted climbing tower obstacle is an ominous 1:6 scale masterpiece. (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Heads up! When the Drill Sergeants go over the basics of rope and net climbing, you'd better pay attention. They will NOT repeat themselves! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Heads up! When the Drill Sergeants go over the basics of rope and net climbing, you’d better be paying attention—they will NOT be repeating themselves. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Now, GO! GO! GO! Get up that rope! (Photo: Steve Benson) Click to enlarge.

Not ready? Too bad. Get up that rope NOW, maggot! (Photo: Steve Benson)

If you slip, it's a long way down. Keep going! (Photo: Steve Benson)

If you slip or fall, it’s a long way down (and embarrassing). So keep going! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Excellent! Devereux continues to excel on the course. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Excellent! Devereux continues to excel on the course. Go! Go! GO! (Photo: Steve Benson)

What's next? The course only gets more difficult! (Photo: Steve Benson)

What’s next? Failure is NOT an option, soldier! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Look out! One misstep and you'll pay for it in the field hospital for weeks. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Look out! One misstep and you’ll pay for it in a field hospital for weeks. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Now up the slanted ladder obstacle. Don't slow down! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Up the slanted ladder obstacle. Don’t look down! (Photo: Steve Benson)

You're at the Top! Now go over and start down the net -climb. Hurry! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Yes, you’ve reached the top! What do you want? A medal? Get over yourself and climb down off of the obstacle, soldier. MOVE IT! MOVE IT! MOVE IT! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Watch it,

Watch out, “Spiderwoman.” If you get tangled up in THIS web, it’ll make an easy target for an impatient Drill Sergeant to “pick you off” like an enemy sniper! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Good job! Now suit up and MOVE OUT to the next obstacle. (Photo: Steve Benson)

Good job, soldier! Now jump off and MOVE OUT to the next obstacle. Notice the natural, realistic posing of the action figures in Benson’s photos. He clearly has a GREAT “eye” for this type of 1:6 artistic pursuit. (Photo: Steve Benson)

That's right,

That’s right, soldier You’re going to learn to rappel—like a RANGER! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Remember what your Drill Sergeant told you and get down off of this obstacle—NOW! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Sgt. T’s eyes bore holes into Devereux’s skull as she prepares to step off the obstacle. Remember what your Drill Sergeant taught you soldier—and get off of this obstacle—NOW! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Rappelling requires training. And the Army is training soldiers to LEAD and WIN. Now MOVE OUT! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Rappelling requires training. And the Army trains its soldiers to LEAD and to WIN. Anytime, Sweetheart. We’re losing daylight. Now, MOVE!!!!! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Devereux and another soldier move over the side and begin a series of short hops, working their way down the obstacle. We love the upward angle you've chosen for this shot, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Devereux and O’Mara move over the side and begin a series of short hops, working their way down the obstacle. We love the upward angle Benson chose for this shot. (Photo: Steve Benson)

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Letting out lengths of line, the soldiers carefully focus on keeping correct rappelling postures so as to quickly and safely descend the obstacle. And take a good look at their highly accurate and realistic 1:6 scale harnesses and gear. Superbly staged photo, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

In the Army, fellow soldiers always

Good job! Soldiers always “have each other’s back” in the Army and are trained to keep a sharp eye out in case someone needs help. It looks like these two soldiers did just fine. HOOah! (Photo: Steve Benson)

1:6 scale photo Wiz, Steve Benson, poses next to some of the equipment he's built for his backyard

1:6 scale photo Wiz, Steve Benson, poses next to some of the equipment he’s built for his backyard “training” photos. This shot helps give a sense of scale. He’s even installed a RANGER plaque at the very top to provide inspiration to his rope climbing soldiers. Fan-TASTIC work, Steve! (Photo: Steve Benson)

Bottom Line: Who knew that an Army JAG lawyer would also be a natural photographer of 1:6 scale ACTION? If you’d like to see more of Benson’s work, we highly recommend the new Facebook page he’s created for his miniature heroes found HERE. It’s chocked FULL of great pics and adventures. Our sincerest thanks go out to Steve Benson and his daughters for their generous contributions to this article and for sharing these exclusive and wonderful photos. Go, ARMY!

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