With multiple IDs dangling from his back pocket and an ever-present walkie-talkie clipped to his famous blue jean shorts, the GIjOE Collector’s Club (GIJCC) founder and leader, Brian Savage, looked every bit the “Field Commander” of GIjOE fandom he’d become. At this particular moment during 2015’s JoeCon (a hugely successful GIjOE convention Savage recently orchestrated in Springfield, IL), he found himself in a hallway, encircled by about a dozen 12-inch fans who were peppering him with all sorts of GIjOE and club-related questions.
Although Savage had just completed an hour-long GIJCC panel discussion in the main ballroom, these fans had remained behind with the realization that they were being given a rare opportunity to speak directly to the man who helms the longtime Ft. Worth, TX-based business that will oversee production of new 12-inch (1:6 scale) GIjOEs into the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Brian’s answers were plainspoken and specific. After almost 30 minutes of the energetic back-n-forth, his rapt audience thanked him for “all that he’s done for the hobby” and Savage thanked them in return for their continued support of the club’s efforts. Below are some quotes from that hallway Q&A:
On the Club’s 2 New Upcoming (12-inch) GIjOE Lost Talkers:
“On the 12-inch side…we had started this ‘Lost Talker’ series a few years ago. We did the Talking Action Soldier and the Talking Marine…in the old days, when these were made…around ’67, they only had 8 talking phrases. We found out that in the archive, there were actually 10 recorded by the original voice actors that were not included. What we did with these figures was, we went back…and were able to add all 10 phrases. So not only were they reproduction Talkers as they had been, but they had 2 phrases that had never been heard, not newly recorded phrases, but original, vintage ’60s recorded phrases that were—LOST.”
“We’re going to continue this series…they may hit late this year (2015), depending on production. We’re going to do a Lost Talker Action Sailor…and then we’ll round out this whole series by doing the Lost Talker Action Pilot; which again, will have 10 phrases rather than 8; 2 that have never heard before.”
“We go in and add additional art to the insert to show what the new phrases are. It’s kind of a nice reproduction item with a little bit of a ‘plus’ to it.
So, even if you already have these as vintage items in your collection, you’ll get something that you didn’t have before. And then that will round out our ‘Lost Talker’ series.”
On the Return of Mike Power, the Atomic Man, as the Club’s 12″ Exclusive for 2016:
“He’s going to be a good lookin’ dude. We’re not reusing his old namby-pamby head. We’re doing a totally new sculpt. We didn’t like the unnamed, ‘other company’s’ male pseudo-fashion figure that Mike Power always seemed to look a little bit like (That would be Barbie’s Ken, ed.). And we’re actually going to put an LED into his eye, which will work with the dog-tag when you pull it. Please don’t point this at any aircraft. Federal authorities will come visit you. We showed a photo of a mock-up and a sketch of the all-new headsculpt we’re having done in the panel discussion. There’ll also be a uniform set called ‘Field Mission Alpha’ that you’ll be able to purchase separately.“
On the Upcoming and Unusual “Dr. Isotope,” the First EVER Glow-in-the-Dark GIjOE:
‘The 12″ membership figure for 2015 will be Doctor Isotope: The Nuclear Menace. He’ll be the first-ever 12″ GIjOE action figure that will glow-in-the-dark. He’s a new foe for the Adventure Team to fight and as always, you can purchase a unique uniform and accessory set for him separately.”
For over 18 years now, GIjOE fans and collectors have watched Savage and the GIJCC grow to fill a role of ever-increasing importance and leadership among both the 1:6 and 1:18 scale GIjOE collecting communities. Indeed, without his/their tireless efforts, many wonderful GIjOE figures (of both scales) that fans now take for granted would never have been produced in the first place. Take a look at your own collection. It’s likely you own at least one of Savage’s superb creations, perhaps more. And as the years have passed, their desirability and collectibility have only increased. That’s easy to understand. Here are just a few examples:
Indeed, as Hasbro continues to step farther away from the possibility of producing 12-inch GIjOEs EVER again, Savage has begun to be recognized for his new role: that of being the sole remaining producer of officially licensed 12″ GIjOE action figures. Sideshow and others may dip a toe into the GIjOE waters now and then, but nothing with the regularity of Savage and the GIJCC.
Local fan club divisions too, occasionally produce their own exclusive figures (predominantly the Atlanta and DFW divisions), but when it comes to manufacturing hundreds of authentic GIjOE action figures in factory-made coffin boxes, there’s really only one place collectors can still turn to: Brian Savage and the GIJCC. Here’s some more Q&A from Savage at JoeCon 2015:
On How JoeCon Locations Around the U.S. Are Chosen:
“When I started this 18 years ago, my original thought was I would find an East Coast, Center of the Country, and West Coast location. I would then alternate between them. But that reflected my naivety as an event planner, because I wasn’t experienced as an event planner.
What’s happened is, we’ve continued to grow…We’re not in that facility ‘footprint’ size anymore. There are a lot of facilities out there with 12,000 sq. ft. ballrooms. However, they do NOT have another 8,000 sq. ft. ballroom sitting next to it where we can do break-outs (i.e. panel discussions, film festivals, etc.) or dinners.
For JoeCon, we’re now at 25,000 square feet (gesturing to the dealer room upstairs). To do BotCon, I need 35,000. There are very few facilities out there that have that size space. And oftentimes, you can’t get into a place you’ve already been because they don’t have your dates. Costs, rates and availability are always changing.
I also try to move it around it the country because I always hear people say, ‘It was never near me before. But this year I could drive to it and had such a great time; I’m going to go WHEREVER you are next year!’ For all these reasons, choosing a location for JoeCon is often a lot more magic—than it is science.”
On Working With Hasbro and the State of the GIjOE Brand in 2015:
“The Joe people, because it (GIjOE) hasn’t been in the retail stores, they pretty much let us run amok (in picking sets, teams and themes) for a lot of it now…They do work with us. There’s nothing heavy-handed…They’ve been trying as a company, for the last 4 months, to integrate us better on both sides. The GIjOE brand just isn’t there, because they (Joes at retail) are in such an anemic state right now. And you know, you couldn’t ask for two better people to work with than Derryl (DePriest) and Mark (Weber).” (He goes on to explain that there is just not enough demand or resource for both sizes.)”
“In my opinion, they blew a whole opportunity to artificially (because of the 50th Anniversary) recreate GIjOE and drag it (the 12″ GIjOE brand) up from the depths again. But the company decided not to emphasize the anniversary. If WE (the GIjOE Club) were supposed to head up the 50th anniversary celebration, then that’s kind’a sad (as there is no way they could do with the brand what Hasbro can).”
“It’s all strange and wondrous (the last 18 years)… I don’t even remember the names of all of the people we’ve worked with there (at Hasbro). I’ve been working with them for 18 years. I’ve got more time on the brand than anybody that’s there at Hasbro, except maybe Derryl (DePriest)…There’s a lot more phone calls and stuff now that he and Mark are on the brand.”
Above: The parachute drop at the 2009 JoeCon in Kansas City, MO, was one of the last truly big “media event” drops hosted by the GIjOE Collector’s Club. Sadly, since that time, the activity seems to have lost its focus, forcing the club to shelve future drops while reconsidering its purpose.
On the Evolution and Disappearance of the Parachute Drop at JoeCon 2015:
“The parachute drop (has) become something totally different than what it was designed to do in the beginning. It was designed to #1: Stop 12-inch collectors from throwing parachute figures off the building at night. And #2: So that we could have an event for the media, to get on TV.
We used to sell the extra figures to cover the costs of the free ones we were throwing off the building. But now, the parachute jump has kind of devolved into this ‘extra collector thing I have to have.’ So we need to go back and rethink what we’re doing, because it’s not serving its original (media event) purpose anymore.”
On the Day-to-Day Difficulties of Dealing With Dissatisfied Club Members:
“What we find on the web is that people often go to non-related forums or contact Hasbro to ask a question or complain without ever contacting us. If you have a question or concern, you can email or call our office. We want to help you get the correct answer.”
“I answer almost every email, and if not, we’ll put something out that has the information on it. That’s why we put out a newsletter and a website. Sometimes I get so many emails from the same people. I don’t mind answering one or two, but when you’re sending me one every three or four days, it becomes overwhelming. If I have 3,000 people in each club (GIjOEs and Transformers), sending this many emails we won’t do anything except answer emails.”
Finally, in a previous interview over on joecustoms.com (HERE), Savage cleared up the differences between Fun Publications, the Master Collector and the GIjOE Collector’s Club, saying:
“Fun Publications, Inc. is our company. Master Collector is one of our websites and was the classified ad publication for trading toys. We ceased publication of the print version of MC a year ago. The G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club and the Transformers Collectors’ Clubs are officially licensed by Hasbro and are business units of our company. That means every figure or accessory we produce are officially in the cannon of G.I. Joe.”
After thanking Savage again for his years of hard work, the hallway O&A group slowly began to disperse; but before they did, Brian politely and thoughtfully thanked them in return, saying:
“I sure appreciate y’all coming, and taking the time to listen, and the feedback—and all that stuff!”
Bottom Line: Savage and his GIjOE Collector’s Club have certainly earned their place at the top of the GIjOE collecting pantheon. There’s an undeniable “sense of historic occasion” to each of Savage’s JoeCons; and while they may not all be successes, when they do “hit,” they typically hit on all cylinders, providing 3 days of fun and opportunity for thousands of fortunate fans. After all, many collectors remain GIjOE brand purists, demanding only Hasbro-stamped butt cheeks and Hasbro-branded coffin boxes. For them, nothing else but official Hasbro-licensed GIjOE products will do. And for them, Brian Savage remains solidly in business. He and the GIJCC are probably the last, BEST hope for such products in the future. Remember: Only GIjOE—is GIjOE!