Category Archives: Joelanta-Related

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!



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


“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.


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.”


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.”


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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Weedns Produce Promo Video For Joelanta 2016


Lisa and Tim Weedn, creators of superb 1:6 scale stop-motion videos. (Photo: Tim Weedn)

Bottom Line: Those married masters of mirth and mayhem, Tim and Lisa Weedn, have done it again. They’ve just released a brand-new video promoting the upcoming Joelanta and Great Atlanta Toy Convention. As usual, the new Weedn video is equal parts charming, creative, entertaining and informative. As The Tonight Show’s announcer Ed McMahon was fond of saying: “Everything you ever wanted to know about Joelanta 2016—is IN this video. Enjoy!

BONUS CLIP: Before you get back to surfin’ the web, take another look at the Weedn’s (21-sec) “Training Tower” music video (below). It’s friggin’ AWESOME, dude! ROCK ON, GIjOE and Jane!

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Can’t Wait For Joelanta? “First Time” Conyers Toy & Comic Show Slated For December 6, 2015

Conyers Toy and Comic Show Poster (Graphic: CTCS)

Official poster for the Conyers Toy and Comic Show (Graphic: Dutch Cummings)

GIjOE fan and collector, Marten Jallad (Photo: Marten Jallad)

Renowned GIjOE fan and vintage toy collector, Marten Jallad (Photo: Marten Jallad)

There’s still 3 long months before the hugely popular Joelanta show finally opens its doors once again in Atlanta, GA. <Yes!> But fortunately (especially if you’re having trouble waiting that long), fans in nearby Conyers, GA (only 27 minutes away) are now inviting collectors to attend their own “first time” toy and comic show this coming Sunday, December. 6th, at the American Legion Post 77. Organizers include two of the most trusted and reliable “veterans” of both Joelanta and GATS (the Great Atlanta Toy Show), Dutch Cummings and Marten Jallad. They hope to attract both buyers and sellers of vintage toys, comic books, games, action figures, dolls, trading cards and (according to Dutch’s poster) “a whole lot more!” Here are two comments from the show’s Facebook page:


“I’ll be there with a TON of vintage toys, playsets, GI Joes and games. I’ve been collecting for 30 years and I’m about ready to cut it loose. This will be a big show so don’t miss it!”
Keel Heisler


“Let’s get it off to a great start for our first event there and then we’ll see about growing it for next year!!” —Melanie Smith Cummings

An actual Huey helicopter mounted high off the ground greets visitors to the American Legion Post 77 in Conyers, GA. (Photo: ALP77)

Dust-Off! An actual Huey helicopter greets visitors to the American Legion Post 77 in Conyers, GA. The post will be the site of the Conyers Toy and Comic Show on December 6, 2015. (Photo: ALP77)

Show organizer, Dutch Cummings, of Phenix City, AL, peeks from behind a promotional postcard he designed for his upcoming toy show in Conyers, GA. (Photo: Dutch Cummings)

Show organizer, Dutch Cummings, of Phenix City, AL, peeks from behind one of the promotional postcards he’s designed for the upcoming toy show in Conyers, GA. (Photo: Dutch Cummings)

Bottom Line: This looks to be a great new event for GIjOE, comic book and vintage toy fans (residing in the Southeastern United States) to rally behind and support. And as for Joeheads who’ve grown tired of the year-long waits in-between Joelanta gatherings, this new show should provide THEM with ample opportunity to buy, sell and trade their collectibles. Admission is just $5 per person and ages under 5 are allowed in FREE with a paid admission. If you’d like to be a vendor (i.e., seller), and are interested in purchasing tables, email: Tables are sold on a “first com/first paid” basis and we believe they’re already sold out, but there may still be a sort of “waiting list” for late vendors to get on (it never hurts to ask). Our best wishes to the organizers, vendors and attendees of this “first time” toy gathering in Conyers, GA. Go, Dutch and Marten!

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KY Man Builds Real Wooden Boxes & Crates at 1:6 Scale For Use With 12-Inch G.I. Joe Action Figures


Holy Supply Depot, Joe! These 1:6 scale ammo, food and equipment crates were all handcrafted out of wood by one very talented and generous GIjOE fan—Danny Garrett. OOHrah! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

Danny Garrett

Danny Garrett in his workshop. (Photo: Danny Garrett)


For 35 years, Danny Garrett (KY) has been faithfully serving his local community as a professional nurse; spending the last 10 years in the high-pressure environment of his hospital’s “ER,” or Emergency Room. Fortunately for Garrett, whenever the daily drama of his real life becomes too stressful, he can retreat to a cozy workroom at home and enjoy—the World of 1:6 Scale!

After hours spent cutting, sanding, shaping, gluing and detailing a variety of tiny wooden boxes for use with 12-inch action figures, the cares and pressures of his real-life work day begin to melt away. Turning his talented hands from patient care—to creating 1:6 scale accessories—is clearly beneficial to Garrett as an individual both creatively and therapeutically. But the very same thoughtful and giving personality that’s served Danny so well throughout his career in nursing, also prevents him from keeping (most of) his amazing creations. That’s right. Danny GIVES AWAY his superb miniature masterpieces to fellow fans and collectors of GIjOE. We asked Danny to elaborate and he replied:


Ding Dang It! I'm going to GIVE THEM AWAY if I want to! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

He’s Determined— Danny’s going to GIVE AWAY his creations—and dude, YOU can’t stop him! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

“I received my first GIjOE back in 1965. I was soon making scenes with him and his friends, Stoney Smith and Johnny West. Now I make dioramas with Joe and all his friends. I find myself being absorbed with dioramas as a release from the crazy world of the ER. It’s also a good way to support the GIjOE hobby and my fellow ‘Trenchers.’

My wife’s grandfather taught me to do wood-working, so I use the same techniques in making my boxes/crates. His advice was, once you set up a jig or pattern, it’s just as easy to make a dozen as it is to make one. So, I make more and bring them to Joelanta and give them away.

Now I have the whole family involved in building and finding objects to use in the next one. The grandchildren come over to see what ‘PawPaw’ is making now and give their suggestions. 

I first started giving away wooden boxes at Joelanta back in 2011. I’m always glad to see a smile whenever someone gets something free. So each year, I bring the fruit crates and something new to give away. The best is when you give one to a kid and see their smile. Thanks for your interest!” Danny Garrett, KY

Garrett's work is SO much BETTER than than any cheap plastic versions mass-produced over in China. In the photo shown above, Danny carefully "reimagines" numerous raw pieces of wood into all-new accurate 1:6 replicas of munition boxes, crates and loading pallets. SUPERB! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

Danny’s work is SO much BETTER than any cheap plastic versions mass-produced over in China. In the photo shown above, he carefully “reimagines” numerous raw pieces of wood into all-new accurate 1:6 scale replicas of munition boxes, crates and loading pallets. SUPERB! (Photo: Danny Garrett)

EXCLUSIVE JUMBO PIC— Garrett graced us with these superb samples of his work at Joelanta 2013. The fit, finish and quality are all TOP-NOTCH. For a super closeup of these intricate boxes, crates and pallet, click to enlarge. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

EXCLUSIVE BONUS “JUMBO” PIC— Garrett graced us with some superb samples of his work at Joelanta 2013. Their fit, finish and quality are indeed, TOP-NOTCH. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Depending on their contents, some of Danny’s creations receive added details such as labels, rope handles and even custom paint jobs. (Photo: Danny Garrett)

Bottom Line: It was a pleasure to meet Danny at Joelanta 2013. He certainly surprised me when he reached out for my hands and then loaded them up with the FREE swag shown in the photo above. What a talented and generous guy! The patients at his Kentucky hospital are certainly lucky to have such a caring and thoughtful person looking after their needs. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes go out to Mr. Garrett for his assistance with this article and for all that he’s doing (and done) for the 1:6 scale collecting and customizing hobbies.

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“The State of the 1:6 Scale Hobby” Discussed By Panel of Experts at Joelanta 2015 in Atlanta, GA

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

Bottom Line: If you love GIjOEs and 1:6 scale action figures, but were unable to attend Joelanta 2015 earlier this month <D’oh!> then you’ll be THRILLED to learn that renowned pop-culture commentator, Rudy Panucci took his camera along to the event. As you may already know, some of Joelanta’s most anticipated activities actually take place away from the dealer’s room and outside its vaunted “hall of dioramas.” In fact, a variety of hobby-related meetings and seminars are regularly held and draw big crowds that are eager to display, demonstrate, discuss and even debate assorted 1:6 scale topics. This year was no different. And fortunately—Rudy was there!

Greg Brown of Cotswold Colletibles (Photo: DFW GIjOE Club)

Greg Brown of Cotswold Colletibles (Photo: DFW Club)

One of this year’s most anticipated panel discussions was the annual “State of the Hobby” commiseration. Thanks to Panucci and his video, you now have a front-row seat worthy of Don Levine himself. Enjoy as Joelanta host Buddy Finethy moderates an exceptional panel of experts including the aforementioned Panucci, 3D printing expert, Keith Holmes, Trenches founder/moderator Scott Beckmann, SA female figure expert Chung Kim and the well-known representative of Cotswold Collectibles, Greg Brown. Stick with the video to the end and you’ll be rewarded with Brown’s adamant declaration (which was met with thunderous applause):


“As long as you guys keep supporting what we’re manufacturing, I will do my damnedest to make sure we’re making what you want.” —Greg Brown, Cotswold Collectibles

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Joelanta 2015 Releases New Promo Commercial

GIjOE fans and video producers, Lisa and Tim Weedn (Photo: Tim Weedn)

GIjOE fans and animated video producers, Lisa and Tim Weedn (Photo: Tim Weedn)

Bottom Line: Every year at Joelanta, thousands of fans gather to celebrate everyTHING that’s wonderful about GIjOE and the action figure and toy hobbies in general. One subset of fans who attends also arrives bearing freshly pressed DVDs loaded with entertaining “Joe Videos” they’ve produced over the past year, eager for their official worldwide debut at the famous Joelanta Film Festival. One such filmmaking couple is Tim and Lisa Weedn, whose delightful animated video projects never fail to amuse their audiences. If you haven’t seen their work before—hit the play button above!

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Remembering the Amazing “History of Joelanta”

Today, we turn over the reins of The Joe Report to Marten Jallad, a longtime member of the Atlanta GIjOE Collector’s Club and one of the chief organizers of its upcoming Joelanta GIjOE and Action Figure Show (being held in Atlanta, GA, this coming March 13, 14 and 15th). Today, Marten’s going to reflect on the origins and history behind this incredibly popular GIjOE event. Take it away, Marten!


GIjOE fan and collector, Marten Jallad (Photo: Marten Jallad)

Marten Jallad, GIjOE fan and co-organizer of Joelanta 2015 (Photo: Marten Jallad)

The History of Joelanta
by Marten Jallad, 2/27/15

Why start a toy show anyway?

Well, back around the late 1990s, GI Joe fans Buddy Finethy and Brian Becker realized that there must be more than just buying GI Joes off the shelves, so they decided to start the Atlanta GI Joe Club. By setting up at local toy shows and word of mouth, membership grew. Buddy also realized that so many of the local members may never be able to have the ability to attend one of the yearly national shows, so together with Jim Marianetti and Lanny Lathem they put on the very first Joelanta in May of 2001.

I don’t think that any of us who have been involved actively in its organization or who have attended as a patron every year could have ever imagined what the event would grow to become. Joelanta has not only grown to be the largest one sixth scale vintage GI Joe show in the country, but now it offers so much more. For example:

The Joelanta Film Festival

The Cursed Chest from artist Adam Hughes was one of the first entries into what has become the Joelanta Film Festival. Each year, many (often hilarious) action figure fan films are submitted and shown at the show. Some favorites including 2006 winner Plastic Chef  and All My Li’l Ninjas (shown above) by Jack Walsh. Government Issue Joseph episode #20, The Revenge of Sarah, films from Tim Weedn, Mike Trout and countless more. One year, we even debuted a seldom seen (ahead of their time) show called Pak Rats, that featured both Buddy’s and David’s collections!

E.J. White (l) charming an attendee at this year's Joelanta event in Atlanta, GA.In honor of the show's "Chronus Adventurer" exclusive, E.J. was sporting an 1880s top hat with exotic, "steampunk" goggles.

E.J. White (l) charms an attendee at Joelanta 2013. In honor of that show’s “Chronus Adventurer” exclusive, E.J. was sporting an 1880s top hat with a pair of exotically styled “steampunk” goggles. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

E.J. White’s World Famous Lobby Swap

You really have to experience this in person to see what all the fuss is about, but I’ll try and describe the event. As the momentum builds on Friday, as folks who have purchased Commander’s packages prepare for registration, the excitement is palpable. Everyone wants to start buying toys! Around 6pm-ish, all Commanders and dealers will start to bring down a tub of stuff for sale—and it begins! As the MC, EJ (one of Joelanta’s original members and founder of this event) will open the Lobby Swap up. Some dealers will set up displays in their room and make $1000’s before the show even starts. The event has spurned a couple a couple of T-shirts and Lobby Swap tote bags. This year, EJ is cooking up something extra special with a very limited run (20) Lobby Swap exclusive figures. (You may want to get on the list for this one!)

Bryan Tatum, mans his wares at 2013's Joelanta Lobby Swap event. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bryan Tatum, selling some of his Joe-stuff at 2013’s Joelanta Lobby Swap event. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The Joelanta Parachute Drop

The parachute drop is a MARVEL as the atrium turns into this huge frenzy of kids of all ages hurling their favorite Joes off any one of the 15 floors. It’s always fun to see the reaction of other hotel guests as they observe in amazement at the spectacle. Everyone is always holding their breath that none of the parachutes will fall down the elevator shaft, which a number of them have over the years (see 2012’s video below).

Bambi Lynn of Radio Cult (Photo: D. Glen McNeill)

Bambi Lynn of Radio Cult (Photo: D. Glen McNeill)

The Radio Cult Concert

There’s nothing like enjoying great music with your friends but that gets even better when your friends become part of the act. There’s always a rendition of Crocodile Rock by Captain Fantastic himself Mr E.J. White or David Lane and Mike Gardner jamming out, Don Coffee belting out Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” We really didn’t know how it would go over the first time but everyone had such a great time that it has now become a mainstay event .

Joelanta’s Custom Figure, Vehicle and Diorama Contests (with PRIZES!)

There has been such an amazing array of talented creators over the years and although largely one sixth scale, a surprising variety of items have been featured recently including some amazing Monster High customs. This part of the show is growing and we will be displaying all of this year’s entries in their own room for Joelanta 2015.

Patches of Pride was one of the sponsors of the Custom figures and Dioramas competition at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark OTnes)

Patches of Pride is one of many sponsors that provide prizes for the winners of Joelanta’s custom figure and diorama competitions. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

For King and Country! Customizer extraordinaire, Mark Cole, created this outstanding custom British Soldier for the competition at Joelanta 2014. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

For King and Country! Customizer extraordinaire, Mark Cole, created this outstanding custom British Soldier for the competition at Joelanta 2014. OutSTANDING work in every way! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Mike Gardner discusses some of the techniques and methods he uses to create his 1:6 scale masterworks. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Mike Gardner discusses some of the techniques and methods he’s used to create 1:6 scale dioramas during a special panel discussion held at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Joelanta’s Annual “Large Diorama”

Steve Bugg, Mike Gardner, Caleb Brown and Eric Nowles have been wowing the crowd with such notable dioramas as The Battle of Stalingrad, Wild West Ghost Town, a War of the Worlds-inspired Martian Walker, a Medieval Castle with a battle between knights and a skeleton army, Frankenstein’s Windmill, a Civil War train called “The General,” and the list just goes on and on. These spectacular dioramas are one of the main reasons why the show has become a leading supporter of the Cody Lane Foundation, a 501©3 non- profit organization with an ultimate goal of having a Toy and Diorama museum to preserve and share these magnificent works of art. The creators of these works also host special panel discussions to reveal their building and customizing “secrets” and answer questions from fans interested in building their own 1:6 scale dioramas.

Master diorama builder Steve Bugg (above) debuted his astonishing 1:6 scale "Battle of Atlanta" diorama at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Master diorama builder Steve Bugg (above) debuted his astonishing 1:6 scale “Battle of Atlanta” diorama at last year’s Joelanta 2014 event. Look at those spiked barricades. OUCH! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

It's a Feeding FRENZY! As this closeup of master diorama builder Mike Gardner's tribute to the TV series, The Walking Dead

Feeding FRENZY—Joelanta 2014’s large diorama” was created by master customizer, Mike Gardner, who orchestrated this astounding tribute to AMC’s The Walking Dead. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Atlanta GIjOE Club logo

Atlanta GIjOE Club logo

The heart of Joelanta is—and will always be—the camaraderie between all the folks who come from all over the country to visit with friends. Joelanta has become one large family gathering that continues to grow with new members, as the show has now morphed with the addition of The Great Atlanta Toy Convention to include special guests, a pop culture car show and many special panels throughout Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit and like us on Facebook at Joelanta and The Great Atlanta Toy Convention HERE. Thanks—and GO JOE! —Marten Jallad

Bottom Line: We’d like to thank Marten for providing all the text and intel for this article and for all the hard work he continues to put into organizing and hosting Joelanta. A quick shout-out of thanks should also go to Jim Marianetti, Lanny Lathem, Buddy Finethy, David Lane and all of the other wonderful members (and families) of the Atlanta GIjOE Collector’s Club. Without their combined efforts, hard work, volunteer spirit and gung-ho enthusiasm, there would be no Joelanta. You’re all the BEST!

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G.I. Joe Fan Sets New (Unofficial) World’s Record By Building World’s Tallest 1:6 Scale Fire Tower

Chris Rowland's unbelievable 1:6 scale fire tower (well, half of it anyway) dominates the entryway to Joelanta 2013. If you look carefully, you can see a few 12-inch GIjOEs placed on the tower for a sense of size and scale. OutSTANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is only the top HALF of Chris Rowland’s incredible 1:6 scale fire tower (yes, you read that correctly). There are 2 larger bottom sections that normally go below these levels. Even at only half its full height, Rowland’s structure clearly dominated the entryway at Joelanta 2014. Look closely and you can see a few 12-inch GIjOEs placed on the tower to provide a better sense of its immense size and scale. Absolutely Phenomenal! (Photo: Mark Otnes)


Chris Rowland, master carpenter and customizer. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Chris Rowland, master carpenter and customizer. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Blurring the Line Between “Real” and “Miniature”

GIjOE fan and collector, Chris Rowland of Macon, Georgia, strode purposely down the wide hallways of the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta. It was almost time for the world-renowned, 3-day Joelanta 2014 show to begin and Rowland was clearly a man on a mission. His mission? To set up one of the world’s largest and most detailed hand-built structures ever created—for use with 12″ GIjOE action figures.

A carpenter by trade, Rowland looks every bit like a man who works outdoors all day with his hands. He’s tall, fit, rugged and muscular, embodying the same sort of physical attributes one might also apply to his most recent custom creation: an astonishingly accurate 1:6 scale “Fire Tower.” Utilized in forests throughout the world, fire towers enable park rangers (as well as military and civilian “fire spotters”) to climb high above canopy level and sight smoke or forest fires in every direction (Smokey the Bear would be VERY proud).

A closeup of this section of the tower while still under construction reveals how the knowledge and skills gained being a real-life master carpenter can come in VERY handy when building such an intricate structure as a fire tower at 1:6 scale. AMAZING work, Chris! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Like a GIANT Puzzle—This closeup reveals how the knowledge and skills Rowland acquired as a master carpenter came in VERY handy. The extremely complex 1:6 structure required the precision-cutting and custom-fitting of hundreds of different pieces and sizes of wood, painstaking assembled with wood-glue and tiny (scale-correct) nails and screws. After that, it would all be painted and then finished out with windows, furniture and miniature equipment. Absolutely AMAZING! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

The expression on Chris' daughter's face reveals her surprise as she poses next to the tower during its construction. NOTE: The top-most level and "Spotter's Shack" is still missing and would add even more height to Rowland's construction. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Beauty and “The BEAST”—Posing next to the tower during an early phase of its construction, Rowland’s daughter expresses obvious surprise and disbelief at its size. NOTE: The uppermost (4th level) “Spotter’s Shack” is still missing in this picture and added even MORE height later. WOW! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Has a World Record Been Broken—or Set?

At its fully assembled height (including the spotter’s shack) of 17′, Rowland’s amazing 1:6 scale fire tower is, indeed, an awe-inspiring sight. And we’re not sure, but we also believe that he may have unknowingly set a new world record for the tallest hand-built structure ever created for use with 12″ or 1:6 scale action figures. (Anybody have a Guinness book handy?)

Unfortunately for attendees of Joelanta 2014, the lower ceilings of the Marriott restricted the display of only 2 of the fire tower’s 4 sections, shortening it to half of its normal size. To assuage his obvious disappointment, show promoters decided to award Chris their highest possible honor—allowing him to display his massive creation at the event’s primary focal point, the “visual nexus” of Joelanta itself—the Main Entry Hall. It was high praise from his peers that Chris well and truly deserved.

Besides his obvious high accumen as a carpenter, Rowland also proved himself to be extremely knowlegable about his other passion—GIjOE—by winning the always ardous GIjOE Trivia Contest at Joelanta 2014. Here is poses with fellow contest winners,

Flexing Their “Mind Muscles”—Besides the obvious strengths and acumen he possesses as a carpenter, Chris Rowland (far right, above) also proved himself to be extremely knowledgable about his other great passion—GIjOE—when he became one of the top winners of Joelanta 2014’s famous “fan face-off” known as the GIjOE Trivia Contest. Here Rowland poses with fellow 2014 winners (from l) Robert Browning, Jack Hall, Doug Gamble, and Alex Massey. (Photo: Jack Hall)

He's going to need a bigger ladder—In this pic, Rowland takes a breather to show off additional progress and the completion of the tower's zig-zagging staircase. INCREDIBLE! (Photo: Chris Rowland)

He’s Going to Need a Bigger Ladder—Rowland and his tower’s “zig-zagging” staircase. (Photo: Chris Rowland)

Indeed, after enduring months of arduous construction, the enormity of such a LARGE custom project surprised even its creator. In an exasperated update posted on Facebook, Rowland admitted:

“I finally finished all the stairs! Over 150 steps. Glad to be done with that. Today I’ll put the tower back up to check how everything fits and I have some minor adjustments to one section. Considering math wasn’t my strong suit in school, it could’ve been a lot worse. The only bad thing about the build thus far is that I’m learning better ways to do things as I get closer to the top. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I have to agree. There’s going to be a lot of tedious measuring and cutting in my future.”

Getting His Exercise—Joe begins his 170-step climb to the top of Chris Rowland's 1:6 scale fire tower, aka the world's best 1:6 scale "Stair-Master!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Let’s Skip the Gym Today—Joe begins his 150-step climb to the top of Chris Rowland’s altitude-challenging fire tower, aka the world’s greatest 1:6 scale “Stair-Master!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How DId He Do It?—We're always interested in how these "Master Miniaturists" produce their handiwork. In this extreme closeup (taken from 3 inches away), you can see that Rowland has actually assembled some of the tower using tiny screws painted to match the tower's beams for a realistic metal effect. Superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

How DId He Do It?—We’re always interested in how “Master Miniaturists” produce their handiwork. In this extreme closeup (taken from just 3 inches away!), you can see that Rowland assembled sections of the tower using real screws painted to match the tower’s beams, creating a realistic metallic effect. Superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Rewarding Hard Work With Honor and Praise

Although Rowland was only able to display 2 of the tower’s 4 sections at Joelanta 2014, his one-of-a-kind handiwork was breathtaking nonetheless. After setting up, as a final touch, he carefully posed 3 GIjOEs along its railings and staircases to illustrate its 1:6 scale perfection.

Then, stepping back to take it all in, Chris crossed his arms in satisfaction and breathed out a long sigh of relief as fans began to slowly and respectfully gather around him. At that early pre-show hour, only dealers and event coordinators were allowed in the area, but to a man (and woman), they found themselves stopping dead in their tracks, eyes agog, and grinning uncontrollably at the sight of it all.

The comment heard most often was, “Can you imagine how big the entire thing must be?” Indeed. Heads shook in disbelief. Whistles of admiration echoed down the hallway. Envious murmurs, followed by repeated offers of congratulations, respect and outright astonishment were proffered to Rowland, as the reality of what we were witnessing sank in. We knew we were seeing something truly unique. This was a record-breaking MASTERPIECE of miniaturization!

Joe Scans the Horizon Looking for Smoke—The "gem" of Rowland's fire tower has to be its intricately detailed "Spotter's Shack" at the very top. Yes, it also features a fully decorated and realistic interior. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Joe Scans the Horizon Looking for Smoke—The “gem” of Chris Rowland’s fire tower has to be its intricately detailed “Spotter’s Shack” set atop the mammoth structure. And yes, the shack features a fully decorated and realistic interior. GIjOE is always prepared! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is AMAZING, isn't it?—Joe ponders the immensity and realism of his new fire tower while he looks down on attendees of Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A View From Above—Joe ponders the immensity and realism of his new 1:6 scale fire tower while looking down towards attendees of Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

The Story Behind the Tower

We asked Rowland to recount the inspiration for his masterpiece and any additional insight he had about its construction and possible future. He kindly replied:

“As far as WHY I built it, let’s just say that I remember one near my house as a kid and thought it was UNBELIEVABLE. I’m a carpenter by trade, so finding the materials was no problem, and I’d been wanting to build one for a few years now. I’m always making things and I decided to combine my love for GIjOEs with my creative side. That’s all it took to get started!

Before beginning, I thoroughly researched fire towers online (to find a design that I liked) and then started in on all the math. The tower is about 90 ft. at 1:1 scale and is a little over 17 ft. at 1:6 scale. I’m not a modeller, so I’m sure I might offend some purists out there, but I built this thing to have FUN, not to win any awards.”

You Won't See THIS Anywhere Else on the Web—It's a very rare sight indeed, to look down upon the roof section of Chris' tower. Fans normally see this part of the structure only from below. Notice how even here, a place no one even sees, Chris has taken the time and effort to create a realistic metal roof with all the correct details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

You Won’t See This Anywhere Else on the Web—It’s a very rare sight indeed, to look down upon the roof section of Chris’ fire tower. Fans would normally never see this part of the structure, but we caught this exclusive shot of it while Chris was disassembling and returning the sections to his U-Haul trailer. Notice how even here—a place no one even sees—Chris took the time to create an accurate, realistically peaked “metal” roof with all the correct details. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“The lookout building sits in the middle of the top platform and has a railing going all the way around. That was the trickiest section to build because the last section of stairs had to go through the tower and to the outside. I must say again that I wish I would have paid more attention in math class!

The handrails were a major pain to do too, but definitely needed. It’s all made entirely out of 90% recycled wood materials from a local sawmill, and held together with wood glue and 23-gauge brad nails. Before I built the little building on the top, I put all the sections together so there wouldn’t be any ‘bad surprises.’

Now that it’s completed, I’ll probably set up scenes and take more pictures. I also plan on having a zipline coming off of it somewhere and make a short video of Joe taking the plunge. Beyond that, I haven’t really given much thought to what else I’ll do with it.

I would probably give it away if it went to the right place. For now, it’ll just go back in my basement. It’s built in 4 removable sections that mortise together, so it stores away fairly easily. 

Finally, I remember that I couldn’t stop laughing as I stepped back and looked at it all for the first time. Yes, 17′ sounds tall, but standing right next to it is a whole different story. It…is…TALL. Now the fun really begins!” —Chris Rowland, Macon, GA

Bottom Line: Since “official” records are not actually kept regarding such things, we don’t really know if Chris Rowland has broken or set a new World’s Record with his fire tower, but it’s more likely than not that he has. Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed hundreds of customizers around the world creating 1:6 scale trains, rail guns, aircraft, bunkers, vehicles and other GIjOE-related items of all sizes and types, but NOTHING quite as tall, elegant and intricate as Rowland’s tower. Our sincerest congratulations to Chris on his amazing achievement and our thanks too, for his generous contributions to this article. Absolutely SUPERB work, Chris!


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Joelanta 2014’s Indoor “Parachute Drop” A Popular Event For Fans, Families and Friends

Passing the torch— GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Ryan Bonavia (r), with his children Logan (11) and Ella (6), waiting for the beginning of Joelanta 2014's "Parachute Drop." (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Passing the torch—GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Ryan Bonavia (r), with his children Logan (11) and Ella (6), wait for the beginning of Joelanta 2014’s “Parachute Drop” in Atlanta, GA. This year, Bonavia chose to “sit this one out,” preferring instead to allow his children to perform the drops. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Ryan Bonavia, bears more than a passing resemblance to the Simpson's "Dr. Nick Riviera," but both categorically deny being an "inept, quack physician." (Art: Matt Groenig)

Ryan Bonavia, bears a striking resemblance to The Simpsons character, “Dr. Nick Riviera” (above). But both men categorically deny being “inept, quack physicians.” (Art: Matt Groenig)

“This was Ella’s first parachute drop and Logan’s fourth. They had a blast and told me they can’t wait for next year. I’m a toy dealer, so I have to set up and work most of the time at these events, but they still love ‘coming to shows with Daddy.’ Gabriel and Logan just met here at the ‘drop’ but then hung out playing and customizing their figures. Joelanta’s always a fun show and we love attending!”
—Ryan “Dr. Nick” Bonavia

March 15th, 2014: In years past, grown men eagerly jockeyed for elevator space at the Marriott Century Hotel in Atlanta, GA, tightly gripping parachute GIjOEs in their hands and mentally rehearsing various “toss-n-release” techniques they hadn’t used since they were kids. Why? Because any chance to participate in a Joelanta “parachute drop” was a unique and special opportunity, and they weren’t going to miss it.

By contrast, at this year’s extravaganza, while (some) adults were participating, for undeclared reasons, the majority in attendance elected to “sit it out” and act instead in a supervisory role—for their children. Perhaps many (adult) “jump veterans” of past conventions had grown tired of the up-and-down elevator rides, or now simply preferred to watch from below. Whatever the reasons, it was obvious that an unofficial, unspoken “passing-of-the-torch” was underway.

New friends Gabriel Cauthen (l) and Logan Bonavia (r) discuss the best ways to hold and toss their GIjOEs to ensure they have a full 'chute deployment and a safe descent. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

New friends Gabriel Cauthen (l) and Logan Bonavia (r) debated the best ways to hold and toss their GIjOEs to ensure they had a full ‘chute deployment and a safe descent. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

All around us, “Elder” GIjOE fans (fathers, uncles, grandfathers, etc.) were handing over their beloved parachute Joes and reassigning the majority of the evening’s upcoming “drop missions” to a younger generation. Among the children especially, a palpable excitement and anticipation began to grow. For many of them, this would be their FIRST parachute drop, and the fact that their parents were letting them ride up and down the elevators unsupervised was also a very BIG deal.

La Familia Bonavia

The family of Toy Federation head honcho, Ryan Bonavia (see photo at top), was a perfect example of the evening’s more youthfully skewed dynamic. Ryan’s son Logan (age 11) and his daughter Ella (age 6) ran up to us, plaintively asking a variety of questions including, “How do I throw this?,” “How high up should we go?” and “What if the ‘chute doesn’t open?” We calmly answered their questions, and tried to reassure them of the likely results. Satisfied with our answers, they looked up to the top of the atrium again in eager anticipation. This was going to be COOL!

Similar to a fireworks display, as the Joelanta 2014 parachute drop commenced, fans turned their eyes skyward and "oohed and aahed" over the different shapes, sizes and colors of parachutes falling down around them. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Much like watching a fireworks display, when the Joelanta 2014 parachute drop commenced, fans turned their eyes skyward to “ooh and ah” over the different shapes, sizes and colors of parachutes falling down around them. It’s clearly a prime “photo-op” for everyone as well! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is the vertigo-inducing view fans have when they look up in the triangular atrium at the Marriott. If you look carefully, you'll notice a yellow-parachuted GIjOE is drifting perilously close to "the void" of the three elevator shafts. This Joe did indeed, go into the void, and ended up snagged up on a cable. His ultimate fate remains unknown. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This is the vertigo-inducing view fans have when they look up in the triangular atrium at the Marriott. If you look carefully, you’ll notice a yellow-parachuted GIjOE is drifting perilously close to “the void” of the three elevator shafts. This Joe did indeed, go into the void, and ended up snagged on one of the cables. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A Perfect “Drop Zone” for GIjOE

Over the past 10 years, the Marriott Century Hotel’s massive indoor atrium in Atlanta has proven to be an excellent and (mostly) safe “drop zone” for the tossing of GIjOE USMC paratroopers, Army Golden Knights, and a wide assortment of Adventure Team and Action Man skydivers. Other than an occasional unopened parachute, or lost figure in an elevator shaft, hotel security has had little to complain about.

When tonight’s event was finally given a “GO!,” fans sat back and watched as elevators quickly filled up with happy children (and some adults), destined for the hotel’s top floor. Soon, GIjOEs of all sorts began drifting down, some snagging on plant boxes or wall sconces, but most successfully reaching the lobby floor where they were caught by some helpful fan, child, or hotel employee. Ryan and I smiled at each other as his children came back down and fed us continual updates on their success. Ella’s smaller parachute-toy had required some untangling and an occasional “search party” to find it, but otherwise, all went very smoothly.

Joelanta regular, Jack Hall (center), untangles the cords of an Adventure Team GIjOE parachutist he had just caught, so as to prepare it for return to its rightful owner. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Joelanta regular, Jack Hall (center), untangles the cords of an Adventure Team GIjOE parachutist he had just caught, so as to properly prepare it for return to its rightful owner. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: As usual, a few errant figures disappeared into the hotel’s elevator shafts, but after an hour of safe, silly fun, most were reunited with their owners, and Joelanta’s 2014 parachute drop was declared to be an unqualified success. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to Ryan Bonavia and his wonderful family for their participation and contributions to this article. After 10 years in the same location, Joelanta’s parachute drop has set the standard and become one of the hobby’s grandest and most enjoyable spectacles. If you’ve never experienced the simple pleasure of tossing, catching or watching a “flock” of parachute GIjOEs in free-falling action, then you need to get yourself out to next year’s Joelanta. GERONIMO!

All-Volunteer Group of G.I. Joe Fans Combine Forces To Create A “Dirty Dozen” at Joelanta

PoP's "Dirty Dozen" at Joelanta 2014 consisted of (from r to l): Bryan Tatum, Haz Ardis, Brad Curry, NAME, Keith Mayo (back), Chung Kim (front), Terry Lee Stair Sr., NAME, Kids name, Jim Moore and NAME. The final member, NAME, is not shown. Each generous member gave freely of his time to assist sole-proprietor, Mark Otnes, hand out free candy, business coupons and gift buttons. Whatta group! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

PoP’s “Dirty Dozen” actually consisted of 13 volunteers at Joelanta 2014 (11 of whom are shown here), including (from l to r): Bryan Tatum, Haz Ardis, Brad Curry, Chet Peters, Keith Mayo (back), Chung Kim (front), Terry Lee Stair Sr., Tearle Ashby, Michael Dickey, Jim Moore and John Keater. (Scott C. Stewart and Gordon Mayfield are not shown). Each member generously gave of his own time to assist sole-proprietor businessman, Mark Otnes, hand out free candy, savings coupons and free gifts including 50th Anniversary GIjOE buttons, t-shirts and action figures. WOW! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Carlos Morrison, holds up the MIB "Sergeant York" action figure he had just won as one of Patches of Pride's "instant winners" at Joelanta 2014. Free packets of "PoP Rocks" candy were handed out by members of PoP's elite "Dirty Dozen" volunteers, and on the back of Carlo's pack of candy was a sticker declaring him as an "instant winner!" After showing the candy wrapper to one of the Dirty Dozen, he was awarded his free gift. Now THAT'S "Joe Karma!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

GIjOE fan and toy dealer, Carlos Morrison, holds up the MOC “Sergeant York” action figure he had just won from Patches of Pride at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Spirited Group Donates Time and Effort To Help Sole-Proprietor Advertise His 1:6 Business

“This guy came by my booth handing out free packets of candy and saying, ‘PoP Rocks! PoP Rocks!’ At first, I thought he worked for a candy company or something, but then he said he was helping out with something called, ‘PoP’s Dirty Dozen.’ I turned my packet over and on the back it said I was an ‘instant winner!’ That was pretty cool.” —Carlos Morrison

The “Spirit of Joe Karma” was clearly alive and well at last month’s Joelanta GIjOE and Action Figure Show held in Atlanta, GA. During that event, 13 diverse individuals came together in the spirit of helpful camaraderie and selflessness to aid a man most of them had never met, fellow “Joehead” and 1:6 scale entrepreneur, Mark Otnes of Patches of Pride (PoP).

Lucky attendees at Joelanta 2014 received free packets of PoP Rocks candy from volunteers of PoP's "Dirty Dozen." On the back were stickers with "lucky prize numbers" and notifications of "instant winner" status. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Fans who received free packets of PoP Rocks candy noticed that on the back were stickers designating either a prize number or instant winner status. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

A month earlier, Otnes had placed a straightforward want-ad on Facebook asking for volunteers to help him distribute prizes and promotional materials to guests and attendees of the show. Much to his surprise, a large group quickly stepped forward offering their assistance, free of charge and without hesitation. Otnes quickly dubbed his gung-ho assistants “PoP’s Dirty Dozen,” and promised each that he would receive a free 50th Anniversary GIjOE t-shirt as a show of thanks for their assistance.

This closeup reveals that each member of PoP's "Dirty Dozen" received a free "unofficial" 50th Anniversary GIjOE t-shirt, a special "Dirty Dozen" button, and one of the ultra rare-n-square 50th Anniversary pin-on buttons. Sweet! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

This closeup reveals the nifty 50th GIjOE t-shirt each member of PoP’s “Dirty Dozen” received, along with unique Dirty Dozen and “rare-n-square” 50th Anniversary buttons. Sweet! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Patches of Pride was one of the sponsors of the Custom figures and Dioramas competition at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark OTnes)

As one of the official sponsors of Joelanta’s custom figures and dioramas competition, Patches of Pride posted its impressive banner nearby. As always, the quality of the entries was superb! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

During the show, each member made their way around the showrooms, handing out the free 1:6 gifts, candy and PoP promotional materials, providing Otnes with an extremely valuable “person-to-person” workforce that normally would have cost him a small fortune. Afterwards, an obviously ecstatic Otnes couldn’t stop praising his illustrious team of volunteers, expressing his sincerest gratitude time and time again:

“These guys were Heaven-sent! I mean, for the entire weekend my business’ labor force jumped from just one person (me) up to twelve! Thirteen actually, when you count my ‘unofficial’ extra helper, Chung Kim. I can’t thank them enough for all their generous help. Usually it’s just me doing all of this promotional work, trying to spread the word about my business, So I was THRILLED to have so much help at Joelanta!” —Mark Otnes, Patches of Pride

There was even a special sign set up at the entrance to Joelanta, welcoming the attendees and urging to "Look for the fans wearing THIS button!" (Photo: Mark Otnes)

There was even a special sign set up at the entrance to Joelanta, listing all the members, welcoming show attendees and urging them all to “Look for the fans wearing THIS button!” (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Dirty Dozen member, Brad Curry, looks through bins for German uniform pieces while taking a break from handing out free samples of PoP Rocks candy. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Dirty Dozen member, Brad Curry, looks for German uniform pieces at Joelanta 2014. (Photo: Mark Otnes)

Bottom Line: It’s wonderful to hear of such a clear-cut example of “Joe Karma” and to learn that in this day and age, there are still so many helpful fans willing to selflessly come to the aid of a Joehead in need.

As the sun began to set on the final day of the show, Otnes gathered his team of volunteers together outside by the hotel swimming pool for one last vital and important mission: to pose for a group photograph (see that pic at top of this article).

Afterwards, instead of hurrying back to the show, many of the members simply lingered in conversation, clearly in no hurry to leave one another’s company, preferring instead to share some rare quality “Joe time” with their new-found friends, while relishing in their mutual satisfaction of a job VERY well done.

Go, JOE! Go, Dirty Dozen! Go, PoP!