Category Archives: Videos

John Kolb, Retired U.S. Marine Corps Helicopter Pilot, Making 1:6 Scale Collectible “Minirounds”

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Miniature Metal Munitions Master— Retired USMC Captain, John Kolb (shown here in his workshop), holds up a piece of aluminum he’s begun shaving and shaping down into what will ultimately become one of his exclusive “miniround” miniature artillery shell collectibles. (Photo: John Kolb) Click to enlarge.

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Pop-a-Top (or not)— John’s “Mini M107” is available in two versions, standard or bottle opener. (Photo: John Kolb)

1:6 Scalers are all about realistic detail. In that regard, you won’t find more realistically detailed 1:6 scale ordnance for your GIjOE’s artillery pieces than those currently being created and sold by former USMC helicopter pilot, John Kolb. We stumbled across John’s outstanding work on the internet recently and were absolutely floored by what we had discovered—highly accurate, all-metal, perfectly detailed, 1:6 scale miniature (non-functioning) replicas of U.S. military artillery ordnance. OOHrah!

Judging by the closeup photos on John’s “Minirounds” website (see HERE), Kolb has achieved the highest possible level of realism and quality at 1:6 scale. Much like fellow 1:6 scale artist/artisan, Jonathan DeGuzman (see HERE), Kolb is also working with real metals, carefully handcrafting each and every item in his own workshop, all by hand. In the following interview, exclusive to readers of The Joe Report, John kindly “reveals all” regarding his exciting new line of “Miniround” products. Enjoy!


TJR: Hi John! Thanks so much for taking time out to discuss your work today. Please tell us all about “Minirounds,” what you do there, and how you came upon the idea to create miniature metal ordnance collectibles in 1:6 (and other) scales.

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“Minirounds is a micro company; just me actually; specializing in the replica ordnance market. I recently retired in March of 2015 from the Marine Corps where I flew CH53E/D helicopters as an Officer and worked as an electronics technician as an Enlisted man. I knew that I didn’t want to fly when I transitioned and had a few career options to choose from—one of them being research and product development and the other, dentistry.”

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Preparing to Lift a Humvee— Before John Kolb began creating 1:6 scale ordnance collectibles, he piloted CH53E/D “Super Stallion” helicopters like this one for the United States Marine Corps. Thank you so much for all of your service, John. OOHrah! Semper Fi! (Photo: DOD) Click to enlarge.

TJR: R&D and Dentistry? Those both sound like challenging and lucrative career options. So what made you decide to create a military miniatures and collectibles business instead?

“It actually all hinged on a long conversation with my wife (who is a physician). She asked one very important question, ‘Do you have a burning desire to be a dentist?’ I replied, ‘No. Not really, but it’s a good profession that pays well.’ She then asked, ‘Okay, what do you have a passion for?’ I explained this concept of product development and selling a variety of widgets. She replied, ‘Great, let’s do that!’, and that was the genesis of a significant career shift.”

TJR: Very cool! It’s wonderful that you have your wife’s full support. So, how did you get started?

“After browsing countless online forums and trying to figure out how to do ‘this,” I soon realized that I needed to purchase some modeling software (Solidworks) and machines (Haas). I called Solidworks and was very impressed with their responsiveness and willingness to help Vets out.  They actually gave me a student version for just $150.00 because I was a veteran. Great company!”

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Get Down! Those papers on your desk wouldn’t dare fly or “blow away” when being held down by a paperweight as impressive as THIS! Kolb’s larger (non-1:6 scale) products are still miniatures (approximately 12″ tall), but their larger size makes them a superb (and attention-getting) collectible for any former artilleryman or militaria collector. Out-STANDING! (Photo: John Kolb)

TJR: How did you make your decisions regarding those machines, equipment, etc.?

“I really liked what I had read about Haas CNC machines from a variety of users, so before transitioning my savings into these machines, I chose to pay them a visit.  I intentionally underdressed and feigned a level of naivety. I showed up for one of their demo days at their manufacturing plant in Oxnard, CA.  From the time I walked into the door, I was treated like I had just purchased a $250,000.00 machine, even though I was just a visitor.  I was sold on the company and since that visit, I’ve purchased a TL2 lathe and TMP-2 mill.  Once again, they are a great AMERICAN Company.”

TJR: How about ideas? What made you think of making miniature artillery rounds?

“At my final duty assignment, I sat next to an Artillery Officer.  He knew that had a lathe and asked if I could replicate a 155mm Howitzer round.  I said sure, as long as I had either a blueprint or an actual round to model.  He tracked one down for me and as they say, ‘the rest is history.’ It has been an interesting journey, both challenging and the most rewarding profession that I’ve had to date.”  

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This is 1:6 scale! (Photo: John Kolb)

TJR: Could you walk us through the process of making one of your 1:6 scale munitions?

“Sure! First, the projectile body starts as 12-foot billet of aluminum that is cut down to a 4.1-inch slug.  The first cycle cuts the bottom profile, then drills and taps a 3/8-inch x 16 TPI hole.   Next, the front profile is cut and the hole for the fuse is drilled.

The copper rotating band is turned to the correct outside diameter followed by the gas ring groove and it is cut to length.  Next, the fuze is cut from a solid billet of aluminum.  The profile is turned, followed by a grooving cycle to give the back of the fuze its shape. 

The copper ring is then joined to the body, masked and then painted. Next, the masking tape is removed and the bottle opener body is joined to the projectile body.  The fuze is epoxied into place and the graphics are printed (view our production video below).”

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Real Metal is Unmistakable— This super closeup of one of John’s minirounds reveals the real copper ring section. Absolutely stunning realism! (Photo: John Kolb)

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Miniature Metal Masterpiece— John even creates tiny screw-in, screw-out detonator fuse tips, or ogives, for each of his excellent “minirounds.” Great for your GIjOE EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) squad! (Photo: John Kolb)

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Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em— John also offers a 1:6 scale version of the 155H Smoke Projectile. On a real-life battlefield, these babies are great for creating huge volumes of smoke, providing visual cover for the movement of advancing troops. This 1:6 scale version…will look good in your diorama. Hey, it’s non-functional! (Photo: John Kolb)

TJR: Wow. Your work is mind-boggling. All the steps required and the level of detail you achieve—your products are clearly the best of the best. How about custom work? Are your designs customizable in any way, or are they all set in stone, so to speak?

“I’ve made modifications of the original bottle opener design to accommodate the model industry for different applications.  I try my best never to say no, because you never know where the next day will take you. If there is anything you need, please contact us and I’ll do my best to make it happen. Semper Fi!”
John Kolb, Minirounds

Bottom Line: John Kolb’s new “Minirounds” have clearly raised the bar of 1:6 scale achievement as high as it could ever possibly go. Many of his products may be too large for use in GIjOE-sized dioramas, but his smallest, the shells shown in this article and their bottle-opener counterparts, would make absolutely fan-TASTIC additions to any artillery or ammo dump diorama. At $20 a pop, the price, as they say, is right.

Also, our sincerest thanks go out to Capt. Kolb for his service to our country and for his contributions to the 1:6 scale collecting and customizing hobby. It’s our considered opinion that no collection or display of GIjOE or Action Man artillery soldiers (or Marines) would be complete without at least 1 or 2 of John’s miniature masterpieces completing the scene. We highly recommend that you pay John a visit at his website and contact him personally with any questions regarding his fine products. Go, John! Go, Minirounds! 

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Reality in Miniature Doesn’t Come Cheap— The price list on Kolb’s “Minirounds” website proves you’re getting what you pay for; handcrafted, all-metal, highly detailed, professionally created (non-functional) replicas of U.S. military ordnance at various scales. GIjOE fans will be most interested in the 1:6 scale “Mini-Mini M107” and the “Mini-Mini M110A2,” costing $20 and $25 each, respectively. You can even get them made as bottle openers. Out-STANDING! (Photo: John Kolb) Click to enlarge.

 

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1:6 Customizer, Gary Stair, Inspired By the Work of Wayne Faucher, Creates His Own Versions of Captain Action Battle Armor and 1960s Jet-Packs

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Creative Minds Think Alike— Inspired by the masterpieces of 1:6 scale wizard, Wayne Faucher, fellow customizer, Gary Stair (of Pennsylvania), combined another assortment of unrelated parts (including a set of Hulk Buster armor, a plastic Easter egg, a Star Wars figure and a Classic Collection GIjOE headsculpt) to create his own unique “B.A.D.A.S.S.” custom toy for use with his favorite hero—Captain Action. Out-STANDING work, Actioneer! (Photo: Gary Stair) Click to enlarge (and drool).

Like birds of a feather, customizers of 1:6 scale do indeed, “flock together.” In today’s exclusive, generously penned and provided to us by 1:6 customizing expert, Gary Stair (PA), we learn exactly how the work of one creative genius can quickly influence the work of many others. In the following two examples, Stair reports how his own custom work (as of late) has become greatly influenced by that of fellow customizer, Wayne Faucher; even to the point of requiring him to jump in his car and race over to Walmart, just to buy an Iron Man toy that was going on clearance. According to Stair:

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Gary Stair (PA) (Photo: Gary Stair)

“I want to be Wayne Faucher in my next life. I LOVE his 1:6 scale custom stuff! So much so, I often try to emulate him in my own 1:6th creations. The recent Joe Report article describing his amazing Hulk Buster figure (HERE) had me out of my house in minutes and ZIPPING over to the local Walmart; where low and behold—I found one LAST Hulk Buster (HB) figure still sitting on the clearance shelf. Thanks to Wayne’s tip, I snagged it for a mere $11 bucks—with an additional 10% off!

The HB was missing its helmet, but that didn’t stop me. I found a plastic easter egg (clear on one side, yellow on the other) to serve as a replacement, leaving only a few additional items to make it complete. (Hey Wayne—Can you tell what I did over the weekend?) After multiple hours of painting and assorted customizations that utilized all sorts of miscellaneous parts and “do-dads” (to create self-balancing rockets and heat-seeking missiles), I’d soon created my very own Captain Action B.A.D.A.S.S. (short for what else?): the BATTLE ARMOR DEFENSE AIRBORNE SURVIVABILITY SYSTEM. I also intend to install an Iron Man-esque chest light, utilizing one of those 1:6 scale desk lamps I’d purchased previously at a Dollar Store (see HERE).”

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EGGX-cellant! Gary’s superb solution to his missing helmet dilemma was to create one of his own using a 2-piece plastic Easter egg. Absolutely ALIENS-inspired! (Photo: Gary Stair)

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Custom Armor-O-ACTION! Gary’s decision to go with a metallic blue paint job gave his custom creation a definite Captain Action twist. Sweet! (Photo: Gary Stair) Click to enlarge.

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Built For Battle— The back view reveals there are few if any weak spots in the Hulk Buster armor. The possibilities for customizing this “suit” are practically limitless! (Photo: Gary Stair) Click to enlarge.

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As seen from the side— Gary’s Hulk Buster armor sports one of Cap’s logo stickers (just so Dr. Evil knows who’s about to deliver the HURT on his squishy-brain head) and you can also see how Stair’s unique “Easter egg” helmet was painted and utilized. COOL! (Photo: Gary Stair)

“To further demonstrate how Wayne’s creations have been keeping me up at night, I tried to replicate his outstanding Lost in Space jet-pack (shown in a previous Joe Report article HERE). I also really love the scene in Thunderball where Bond uses the same jet-pack system to make his getaway from SPECTRE bad guys (see video clip above). Thanks largely to Wayne’s inspiring examples, I now have a Sean Connery 007 figure flying high in my toy room with a Wayne Faucher-esque jet-pack (or at least my version of it).”
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Do you own a 1:6 scale jet-pack system for use with your custom Lost in Space or James bond figures? If not, WHY not? Just like Wayne and Gary, you can make one yourself! Hey, Gary, where’s the helmet? (Photo: Gary Stair)

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Prepare for Takeoff— Gary Stair’s custom jet-pack was created from an assortment of, as he likes to call them, “odds-n-ends.” WOW!!!!! (Photo: Gary Stair) Click to enlarge.

“I want to give major KUDOS to Wayne Faucher for all the inspiration he’s provided to me and other 1:6 customizers around the world. I hope The Joe Report will continue sharing examples of his amazing work of 1:6 seale ART well in the future. I know they’ve inspired MANY customizers to strive for greater achievements and help keep our beloved 1:6 scale “vision” ALIVE!” —Gary Stair, PA

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Wayne Faucher (Photo: WFT)

Bottom Line: Gary mentioned that he had grown up watching ARK II. We had never seen (or heard of) “ARK II” before, so we decided to check it out on YouTube today where we found the entire first episode (see link above). If you jump ahead to the 5:49 minute-mark, you’ll see the very same jet-pack system that Wayne and Gary have recreated so perfectly in 1:6 scale.

Wayne and Gary are both outstanding customizers and are leaders by example in our wonderful hobby. We hope these two “wizards” will stay in touch often, and that YOU too, will write in to us here at The Joe Report so that we can share YOUR creative projects with the world. Finally, a special note of thanks to Gary Stair for all his generous contributions to this article. Go, GARY!

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“Scale Model Expo” in Ohio Provides Affordable Alternative For Fans of 1:6 Scale Who Are Unable to Attend This Year’s JoeCon 2016 or Joelanta

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Aching! Lock unt Load! This screenshot from a Fox19 News video reveals a closeup of Dick Schauerte’s outstanding 1:6 scale WWII German anti-tank gun, just one of many inspiring pieces fans can see on display—FREE of charge—at this weekend’s Scale Model Expo in West Chester, OH, March 5 & 6, 2016.

Let’s face it… This year’s location of JoeCon 2016 in Loveland, Colorado, is a going to be a lonnnng haul for many of us, and Joelanta, as great as that show is (and it IS great!), can also set fans back a fair amount of change, simply to attend. When you factor in hotel stays, food, fuel, entrance fees and other related expenses, going to our hobby’s “main events” each year can put quite a dent in a collector’s wallet. But do those financial realities mean fans have to sit on their hands, year after year? Absolutely not!

There are always ways Joeheads and 1:6 scalers can save money and make hobby-related excursions more affordable and “attendable.” Carpooling, for example, can save fuel expenses. Shared hotel rooms (do you snore?) can cut back dramatically on lodging. And low-budget meals (yes, we mean McDonalds) or “brown-bagging it,” can really streattttch your convention dollars.

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He’s Gettin’ the Word Out— In this screenshot, fan, collector, customizer, and “Scale Model Expo” organizer, Keith Davis, discusses the creation of 1:6 scale custom projects during an exclusive interview with Fox19 News. Working with local media outlets is a proven way to boost show attendance.

Fortunately for fans on a budget, alternatives to expensive shows abound. The best, of course, are the ones that don’t charge ANY attendance or dealer table fees. Are there such events? Indeed! One such stellar (and affordable) example is this weekend’s Scale Model Expo located in West Chester, Ohio. According to the Expo’s page on Facebook:

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“FREE ADMISSION to the Scale Model Expo! Regular admission rates apply to the Train Journey and the A-Maze-N Funhouse. Exhibiting Large scale models of R/C Steam and Electric Boats, G-Scale Live Steam Trains, R/C Airplanes, Automobiles, Military Vehicles and Equipment, Military Figures, Large 1/6th Scale WWII Military Dioramas, Stationary Steam engines and much more.

Participating Groups: Cincinnati Scale Modelers; Cinder Sniffers Inc.; Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society; Sixth Scale Collectors Club of Cincinnati; Sycamore Modelers; Maritime Modelers and more. Representatives of the Veterans Administration will be present to provide assistance to veterans in reference to available benefits. 25 cent hotdogs (all through March at EnterTRAINment Junction!”

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Shows are Great For Recruiting— In another interview with Fox19, SSCC member, Dick Schauerte, expressed his hopes that the show would help “draw more people into our club and get younger people involved,” to help grow the hobby in general and to support Entertrainment Junction.

Bottom Line: As well as the various show-saving methods discussed above, we also suggest you keep your eye on hobby magazines, Facebook, and online fan forums. All of them typically contain “upcoming event calendars” that provide VERY handy information. Our own Joe Report calendar (see at the bottom of this page) is a great place to start. And don’t forget to check your local newspapers for toy and “model shows” in your area. Hopefully, you’ll be able to attend either the Scale Model Expo, Joelanta, or JoeCon in 2016, to help you get your 1:6 scale “fix.” Our best wishes go out to the organizers of this weekend’s show in Ohio. It sounds like you’ll have a BLAST! To view the entire Scale Model Expo interview video on the Fox19 News website, go HERE.

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Weedns Produce Promo Video For Joelanta 2016

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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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Sonic’s New “Corndog Costume” TV Commercial Features Vintage ’60s G.I. Joe Silver Space Suit

We see it here, we see it THERE. Now GIjOE fans can see Joe Zeta's old spacesuit EVERYWHERE on TV as it features prominently in the latest commercial for Sonic Drive-In's corndogs. (Screenshot: Sonic)

Earth to Joe Zeta—We See Your Spacesuit! And now GIjOE fans all over the world can see Joe Zeta’s old spacesuit featured prominently in a new TV commercial for Sonic Drive-In. (Screenshot: Sonic)

This Just In: Sonic Drive-In’s latest TV commercial (for its corndogs) features a vintage 1960s GIjOE silver spacesuit sold to the commercial’s production company by none other than world-famous GIjOE fan, collector and historian, Joe Zeta. Upon seeing the new spot for the first time, a surprised Zeta revealed the following intel in a post over on the Sandbox Facebook page:

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“Omg. Guys, I sold the Astro suit/gear to them. I had to overnight it. They told me to watch for a Sonic commercial. Pretty cool.” —Joe Zeta

Bottom Line: Pretty cool indeed, Joe! Your former spacesuit has now become part of both Sonic’s and GIjOE’s advertising histories. Click HERE to see Joe’s space suit and it’s 15-seconds of fame.

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Possible Record Setting 1:6 Scale Action Figure Collection Captured in New High-Def Club Video

In this screenshot taken from the video, retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant, Jamie Jennings, of Zion, IL, waves to the camera from the cram-packed full

Surrounded by G.I. Joe—In this screenshot taken from the video, retired U.S. Army Sergeant FC, Jamie Jennings, of Zion, IL, waves to the camera from the cram-packed-full “Joe Room” in his home.

The World’s LARGEST 1:6 Figure Collection?

At a GIjOE Collector’s Club meeting held this past June, members of the Central Illinois local division were treated to a firsthand closeup look at what may well be the largest, privately owned, 1:6 scale action figure collection—in the world. The collection in question belongs to retired U.S. Army Sgt. FC, Jamie Jennings, of Zion, IL, and is comprised of hundreds of action figures (sorry, no official count has been made) and is shoe-horned into a series of bedrooms spread throughout his home. In order to show the entire collection to his visitors, Jennings had to create a pathway into the main room so they could stand amidst the impressive display.

Fortunately for fans around the world, Jennings’ massive and impressive 1:6 collection has been captured for posterity in an all-new, high-def video; filmed and edited by Mark Otnes from Patches of Pride (PoP) and then given a home over on the PoP Video Channel found HERE. At almost 20 minutes in length, the video is a carefully paced, loving tribute to one man’s obvious and undying passion for the hobbies of collecting and customizing at 1:6 scale. (Editor’s Note: In a series of intriguing “Fun Facts,” the video also reveals that after 28 years in the Army, Jennings became a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician and hopes to open his own salon in 2016).

Bottom Line: Videos like this provide unique insights into the private minds, homes and personal collections of GIjOE fans around the world. Jennings is a super-great guy, and he kindly shared the wonders of his collection with us so that others might become inspired and excited about the world’s greatest hobby—1:6 scale collecting! Our sincerest thanks go out to Jamie and May Jennings for their generous contributions to the hobby, the video, and this article. Go, JOE!

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Shout it Out Loud! 2 More “Lost Talker” Repro G.I. Joes Are Now Available For Pre-Order From the (Ft. Worth, TX) G.I. Joe Collector’s Club

The new 2015 "Talking G.I. Joe Action Pilot," available only from the GIjOE Collector's Club. (Photo: GIJCC) Click to enlarge.

Oh, Major Nelson!—This all-new (2015) “Talking G.I. Joe Action Pilot” is now available for pre-order only from the GIjOE Collector’s Club. WHOOSH! (Photo: GIJCC)

Final 2 Figures Will Complete the Club’s Popular “Lost Talker” Series

Say what you will about finding an original, vintage GIjOE “talker” figure on eBay, these brand-new reproductions are freakin’ SWEET. Compared to their “marble-mouthed” predecessors, these new versions speak with crystal clear authority and will leave no doubt in your troop’s minds as to what orders are being given. Produced and sold exclusively by the GIjOE Collector’s Club, these two new figures will complete the series of “Lost Talkers” that fans have already proudly added to their collections. First up, the new Talking Action Pilot, which is described by the GIJCC’s website as:

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This ‘TALKING’ 12-inch figure features two voice phrases that were recorded back in the 1960s but were not included on the original figure released in 1967. With a meticulously reproduced long box and uniform, you will hear the original ‘voice of G.I. Joe’ as never before with crystal-clear clarity. The figure features the original 8 recordings you recall from your childhood and 2 that were never heard until now. Don’t miss this opportunity to own a piece of action figure history with our new ‘Lost Talker Action Sailor.’ Includes: figure, dogtag, batteries, cap, pants, shirt, boots, insignia, mini-comic, boot removal instructions, and instruction sheet. Available only from the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club!”

The all-new "Talking G.I. Joe Action Sailor" from the GIJCC is sure to be hit with all fans and collectors of GIjOE. (Photo: GIJCC)

Anchors Aweigh!— The all-new “Talking G.I. Joe Action Sailor” from the GIJCC is sure to be hit with all fans and collectors of 12″. Pre-orders are now being accepted. (Photo: GIJCC)

Second up on deck, is the club’s new Talking Action Sailor. This guy looks just as sharp as his Air Force counterpart and will surely make a wonderful addition to your repro-talker figure lineup. The club describes this new stalwart defender of freedom in a similar manner, saying:

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“This ‘TALKING’ 12” figure features two voice phrases that were recorded back in the 1960s but not included on the original figure released in 1967. With a meticulously reproduced long box and uniform, you will hear the original ‘voice of G.I. Joe’ as never before with crystal clear clarity. The figure features the original 8 recordings you recall from your childhood and 2 that were never heard until now. Don’t miss the opportunity to own a piece of action figure history with the ‘Lost Talker Action Sailor.’ Includes: figure, dogtag, batteries, cap, pants, shirt, boots, insignia, mini-comic, boot removal instructions, and instruction sheet. Available only from the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club!”

Bottom Line: These two new repro figures “sound” and look GREAT to us. We own the others in this highly collectible line-up, and can’t wait for the moment when we can afford to pick these up as well (they’re $67 each, OUCH!). If you’d like to place your pre-order now, jump to THIS PAGE.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the club’s cool new sales video below. Go, JOE!

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Target to Further Diminish Allure of Toys With its New “Gender Neutral” Aisle Decor Strategy?

Are toys losing their allure? When children walk the aisles of Target, Toys 'R Us and Walmart, are they even interested in what they see? Will the gender-neutralification of aisle colors and displays further reduce the allure of toys for upcoming generations? What is THIS little boy thinking about all this? (Photo:

When children walk down the aisles of Target, Toys ‘R Us or Walmart, what do they see? Will Target’s “gender-neutralization” of toy aisles negatively impact overall sales—or boost them? (Photo: myyp.com)

Stores Becoming Reluctant to Differentiate Between Boys and Girls; Fearing Online Backlash

targetlogoGoodbye “Barbie Pink” aisles. Adios, “GIjOE Green” aisles. As far as execs at Target are concerned, there’s no longer a need to differentiate between humanity’s two sexes with such pejorative color decor schemes. In a timely follow-up to our recent story on the dwindling appeal of Barbie (see that story HERE) and Mattel’s once-famous “pink aisles,” Target recently announced that they’re going to remove all gender-indicative backing papers from their toy aisles and replace them with “gender-neutral” (wait for it…) wood paneling. <yawn> Here’s how the top minds at the store explained their thought processes behind the decision:

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“…Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not.”

Whoa. Before we proceed any further, let’s pause for a moment to ask a reality question: exactly how MANY “guests” are we really talking about here, Target? One? Two? Or were hundreds (or thousands) of color-possessed consumers losing sleep over this subject? Target continued:

“…we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”

How insulting! Toys 'R Us dared to go all pink in this aisle of toys, a move that apparently offends...someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

Is THIS Insulting? In this undated photo, Toys ‘R Us clearly dared to go “all pink” in its decor strategy for this particular aisle of toys; a move that will certainly offend…someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

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The “Tweet” that started a color-revolution at Target showed a sign that indicated both “Building Sets” and “Girl’s Building Sets.” Does this bother you? (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

So…let’s get this straight:

The grouping together of toys that are likely to be of greater interest to one market segment than another via color-unifying backing panels is now considered to be “unnecessary?” If so, are product display strategies, window decorating traditions and store product “flow” analyses also now considered to be passé? Or is it just the use of COLORS that some see as offensive and outdated? If not, where will this all end?

For example, in the near future, is it possible that products placed on higher shelves will somehow offend shoppers who deem such placement as showing preference to “taller guests?” Of course we’re being facetious here (or at least trying to be), but Target goes on to explain how it intends to “help” beleaguered customers with the matter of offensive aisle colors, by revealing:

“We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance… In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”

Abi Bechtel, the Tweeter who targeted Target for their encamps and aisle colors. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

Abi Bechtel, the Twitter Mom who targeted Target for its “Girl’s Building Sets” aisle endcaps. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

A Twitter Tweeter Targets…TARGET 

This all began when one woman, Abi Bechtel, posted a “tweet” about Target on Twitter. As we all know, millions of individuals take to the blogosphere or “Twitter-verse” daily to speak in favor of (or against) whatever they find to be laudatory (or offensive). It’s everyone’s right and free speech in its most basic form. Bechtel’s tweet (with the aisle sign photo) read as follows:

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“Don’t do this, @Target”

Whenever ANY comment or tweet goes “viral” online, the results can often become a public-relations nightmare for the specific person, business or institution being discussed. With the power of the internet behind a comment, a high-tech “blacklisting” of the person/business/institution can also occur, with the offended parties refusing to patronize said establishments until their feelings have been placated and/or their demands met. For Bechtel, her tweet was largely met with support, but a backlash also occurred, and she found herself the target of angry and derisive personal comments.

Do kids REALLY care about colors used in store displays? Or are toys—just TOYS? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Subliminal or Superfluous? Do today’s kids care—or even THINK—about the colors used in toy aisle displays? Or is that something only parents are concerned about? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Whenever retail stores find themselves in the crosshairs of negative social media, they often find it easier to deploy the standard compensating strategy of a corporate apology followed by a store-wide policy change that accommodates the accuser. When Target ultimately removed the offending signage and aisle colors, a clearly relieved Bechtel told the StarTribune (see HERE):

“That’s fantastic. I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing. I didn’t expect it to become the center of this entire discussion about gender and the way toys are marketed. But Caitlyn Jenner’s pictures had just come out. And the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage came out soon after. So there was a whole lot of discussion about gender and gender roles anyway. The tweet just landed at the right time.”

Bottom Line: The power of a simple tweet in this age of the internet is not to be underestimated. Bechtel’s timing was indeed fortuitous, and the resulting effect of her statement has resonated throughout many retail chains. Target VP, Kathleen Waugh, confirms Abi’s victory, stating:

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“There are no gender-specific toy sections in our stores. Toys are merchandised by product category, so customers can easily see the breadth of assortment.”

What (if any) effects Target’s toy aisle changes will have on actual toy sales (good or bad) remains to be seen. But for Bechtel, that was never the point. It was always about how toys were being marketed to children. Do you approve or disapprove with Target’s response to Bechtel’s tweet? Regardless, please let Target and the world’s toymakers know YOUR thoughts by leaving a comment to this article below. Thanks! PS…Perhaps the best-known “rant” against color-coding toy aisles came from little adorable “Riley” in her famous video over on YouTube. Take a look:

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Vintage AM Equipment Sets Opened at VAME Meet 5

Imagine the THRILL of being the first persons to open sealed 1970s shipping cartons packed full of NMOC (new mint on card) vintage Action Man Frogman suits. Well, that thrill was realized recently by two of Action Man’s “founding fathers,” Bob Brechin (the former chief designer at Palitoy) and famed Action Man packaging illustrator, David Barnacle.

The two hobby giants appeared together at the recent VAME Meet 5 (held in the UK) to carefully open two of these precious “time capsules” from Action Man’s venerated past. Fortunately, Action Man fans around the world can now share in the thrill of those exciting moments by watching the video captured at the event (see clip above).

We’ve also received a wonderful “after action report” from VAME 5 representative, Michael Acton, who penned the following exclusive intel for readers of The Joe Report. Enjoy!

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Michael Acton, UK Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Michael Acton)

Michael Acton, UK Action Man fan and collector (Photo: Michael Acton)

“Just a postscript to this after the event: VAME Meet 5 really was extraordinary this year and was hectic from start to finish. We were quite taken aback by the numbers of collectors that came and supported the event, so thanks to all, including some that had travelled very long (by UK standards!) distances to make it.

Too many highlights to mention here, but it included a display of Dave Barnacle’s original AM art work by the man himself, Bob Brechin joining us for the day and patiently answering all those questions and Vectis auctioneers bringing along items from the recent sale of newly discovered unopened Palitoy Action Man stock hoarded by a former salesman. The BBC film crew were very unobtrusive and commented on the sheer enthusiasm of the collectors they spoke to.

We had a bit of fun at the end of the day when a couple of trade boxes of AM frogman sets from the 1970s, that were found untouched and still sealed, were opened by Bob Brechin and Dave Barnacle. There’s a video HERE (or see it above).

The suits were as fresh and supple as the day they left the factory and not perished at all (even though the glue had dried on one or two of the cards so that the blister covering had detached from the card). It’s going to be a challenge to beat this for Action Man’s 50th in 2016, but we’ll try!” —Michael Acton, UK

Bottom Line: Sounds like a great time was had by all. And yes, Action Man fans here in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere around the globe are all VERY jealous. Thanks for the regular updates, Michael. Our best wishes to everyone in the UK who helped make VAME 5 such a ripping success!

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Captain Action Exec Responds to Fan Queries Regarding Uncertain Future of 1:6 Products

Go, Captain Action! Despite his popularity, ol' Cap faces an uphill struggle to remain relevant and profitable in the future. (Art: Jusko/CAE)

Fighting For His 1:6 Future— Despite Captain Action’s popularity among collectors of a certain age (50+), ol’ Cap faces an uphill struggle to remain relevant and profitable at 1:6 scale. (Art: Jusko/CAE)

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“We need to show the depth of this license. Captain Action cannot survive as a one-trick-pony, 12-inch action figure.”
Joe Ahearn, Captain Action Enterprises 

This odd little Lego-ish rendition of CA is yet another example of a product that many fans simply could care less about. And what's with the Mickey Mouse ears? (Photo: CAE)

Captain Action for Today’s Generation— This odd little Lego-ish rendition of CA is yet another example of a multitude of recent CA licensed products that fans of 1:6 scale could simply care less about. And what’s with those Mickey Mouse ears? (Photo: CAE)

We’ve already reported on Captain Action Enterprises’ (CAE) current controversial efforts to expand the appeal of the iconic Captain Action (CA) brand though licensing and the release of a plethora of non-1:6 scale products (see full story HERE). CAE reps, Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, have also confirmed (to The Joe Report) many times, that they believe their business strategy remains the best hope for capturing a younger market and repositioning the 49-year old brand towards a more profitable business future.

Predictably though, their plan has met with open derision from many 1:6 collectors who lament the loss of additional 1:6 scale CA product. Others have grudgingly accepted CAE’s plans as necessary steps that must be taken if ANY beloved CA brand toys are to survive and/or remain relevant to current and future generations that know little (to nothing) about Captain Action and his schizoid superhero proclivities.

As with Hasbro (and their GIjOE brand), CAE is now openly admitting concerns that its original fan base is clearly aging. And the sad truth is, both of these toy companies have begun looking at adult-aged toy collectors as customers of their past, rather than of their present—or future.

Prototype photo of a proposed 1:18 scale version of Captain Action and his Silver Streak. Is THIS the future of CA? (Photo: CAE)

The Future is Looking… Smaller— A rendering of ZICA Toy’s prototype for a 1:18 scale version of Captain Action and his Silver Streak vehicle. Pretty nice, but is THIS the future of CA? (Photo: CAE)

In our recent interview with Hasbro’s Derryl DePriest, many GIjOE fans were stunned to learn that Hasbro now openly disdains its original “razors and blades” marketing strategy (see story HERE). Captain Action, by comparison, was a toy line heavily advertised on that self-same strategy. It was predicated on the idea that a child needed only ONE CA figure and that he (or she) could then change that ONE figure into a wide variety of superheroes simply by changing its costumes. Indeed, Ideal’s original CA became better know for its costume sets than its figures (see commercial below).

Whether or not CAE’s efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate the CA brand succeed still remains to be seen. Meanwhile, its existing customer base of “maturing” collectors, will continue to stand by patiently waiting, money in hand, and hoping against hope for the release of ANY new 1:6 scale products. (Remember the highly anticipated Rocketeer, Batman and Superman costume sets?)

In this closeup of a package mock-up for an upcoming CA Batman set, assorted DC Direct parts and simple cardboard cutouts are used to indicate the sort of contents fans can expect to see. (Photo: Toygodd)

Don’t get your hopes up, Bat Fans— In this closeup of a package mock-up for a proposed 1:6 scale Batman costume set, assorted DC Direct parts and simple cardboard cutouts were used to indicate what fans might expect to receive. Sadly, this set is now on indefinite HOLD. (Photo: Toygodd)

In a recent face-off with fans, CAE executive, Joe Ahearn, responded (once again) to comments from discouraged fans in a revealing back-n-forth online discussion that proved quite illuminating. It’s wonderful what we can learn when a bunch of well-educated toy executives and collectors all get together in the same place online. In this case, the discussion in question took place over on the CA Yahoo fan forum found HERE and began with a heartfelt post left by nevergrewup_90:

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“I won’t make assessments regarding anyone’s efforts. I’m sure that a lot of hard work has been done to get us to this point. I’ll just state my interests. I’ve been a Captain Action fan since the beginning. I have all of the original costume sets and enough Captain Actions, Action Boys and Dr. Evils to wear them all. I even have Captains wearing a jet pack and a parachute. I have all of the Playing Mantis and Round 2 costume sets and figures as well.

I’ve never had any interest in owning a Silver Streak, even as a child. Comic books were never an interest either. My only interest for the future would be in the form of 1:6 figures and costumes. I would include Lady Action in that, but the Phicen-based Lady Action is well beyond what I would be willing to spend. Besides, with the various incarnations of Captain Action being slightly less than 1:6, I would imagine she would be noticeably out of scale there.

Smaller figures and novelties don’t interest me either. My fear is that the 1:6 line has already reached the end without the beloved Batman and Superman costumes, along with an Action Boy to sport a Robin costume.” —nevergrewup_90

Fortunately, CAE’s head honcho, Joe Ahearn, saw the above post and offered this candid reply:

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Joe Ahearn, founder of Captain Action Enterprises (Photo: CAE)

Joe Ahearn, founder of Captain Action Enterprises (Photo: CAE)

“Gentlemen, I would like to just say a couple of things. As far as 1/6 scale product is concerned, we of course would love to have all the stuff we all want to see out there. But due to circumstances beyond our control, it has not been able to come to pass. 

We are trying to look into a lot of different options, but all of these things take a lot longer than we would like them to. As soon as we can get some more 1/6 scale product out there, we most certainly will. It is certainly not a dead line for us by any stretch of the imagination.

We have tried to keep 1/6 items out there through our convention variants, the new Lady Action figure, the footlockers and most recently, custom heads from Marshall Made Collectibles. In the meantime, as businessmen, we need to keep the Captain Action brand moving forward in other ways to keep it growing and viable.

Do you need to like all of those other things? No you do not. If they are not your cup of tea, that’s cool, but we need to keep doing these things. Because otherwise, if we have NOTHING going on, no one will see Captain Action as a viable property, and any negativity about these other things also reflects back to our ability to do 1/6 scale stuff as well.

We need to show the depth of this license. Captain Action cannot survive as a one-trick-pony 12-inch action figure. We are still also working very hard on the animation side and are hoping to have a NEW ANNOUNCEMENT to share in a couple of weeks at SDCC.

I hope we get some Bad Guys Customs for our figure contest from a lot of you out there who are so hungry to play in the 1/6 scale sandbox. It would be a great show of support for 1/6 scale  that we can use to help move things forward! Thanks always for your support of Captain Action.”Joe Ahearn, CAE

CA fan and collector, Al Hartman, represented fans who choose to remain optimistic, stating:

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Al Hartman, Captain Action fan & collector (Photo: Al Hartman)

Al Hartman, Captain Action fan & collector (Photo: Al Hartman)

“I want to add this to what Joe just wrote… Please don’t assume that the current state of the 1/6th line is going according to some purpose and plan by Joe and Ed. The first two people who want to see the DC wave on store shelves are CA’s premiere fans; Catto and Ahern (notice the first two letters of their names? huh? huh?).

They are not playing ‘keep away.’ They want to move forward, but are depending on R2 and the factories in Asia. We have to be patient and hope that the sets we want will show up under our trees someday.

Until then, they are trying to bring us other goodies. I appreciate that. Thanks guys! —Al Hartman

CA collector, Paul Dodd, represented frustrated fans with such questions and comments as:

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“Al, I appreciate your opinion, and for beating the CA bandwagon drum. But, unless you work for R2, how do you know any of this to be true? It’s been a very long time since the DC license was announced, and a very long time since Wolverine & Iron Man.

And since then, we have heard from Joe & Ed several times, (and seriously guys, I’m not calling you out here) and the story has been the same. Never anything concrete, just a lot of dancing around the issue, without revealing the real meat & potatoes of the problem.

Have the licenses expired? Has R2 severed its relationship with CAE? (or vice versa)Is there some sort of stalemate between the two? Is it a production issue? Or, POS problem?

There has been multiple crowd funding efforts for other non 1:6 C/A figures. Why can’t something like that be done for a DC uniform/equipment set? There is a reason, we just don’t know what the big secret is.

Me personally, I would like to know more. But I know these things are not my business. What I do know is other similar superhero lines are being produced on time, and with pretty high standards. Even the little GIjOE Collectors Club produces new, classically styled 1:6 product a couple of times a year. (Did you see their ‘Fantastic Freefall’ convention set?)

There is way more to this than just ‘circumstances beyond our control.’ And to me at least, it’s a cryin’ shame.” —Paul Dodd

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

Toy Expert and Pop-Culture Blogger, Rudy Panucci (Photo: Rudy Panucci) Click to enlarge.

Toy industry expert, Rudy Panucci, offered his own professional viewpoint of the current CA dilemma, stating:

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“I might be able to shed a little light on this as an impartial observer who’s offering educated guesses. In order for Captain Action to have DC and Marvel costumes sold, they have to be in the mass market at an affordable price, or be premium-priced low-production run items. Obviously the goal is to hit the mass market. In order to sell to the mass market, there have to be retailers willing to sell the costume sets, as well as a supply of figures. They have to be willing to sell these items at a price that allows everyone to make aprofit.

Due to the toy licenses held by Mattel and Hasbro, DC and Marvel costume sets can never be sold in the same package with a figure. In essence,they are “model kits.” Retailers would prefer dressed figures. They are running away, screaming, from the “razors and blades” concept. It’s even hurting Mattel’s Barbie line. Costume sets are a hard sell. The license to sell DC and Marvel model kits (and other items) is held by Round2. For CAE to produce DC and Marvel product, they have to go through Round2 to piggyback on their license. Effectively, Round2 is licensing from DC, Marvel and CAE to produce their figures. CAE is shouldering some of the risk, in order to get the product made.

The license has not expired. There are no production issues any tougher than any other small toy company experiences. The problem is finding a retail partner. Round2 is willing to go back into production as long as CAE has retailers lined up. They’re still working on that. TRU has had a management and philosophy change. They are no longer open to the idea of carrying Captain Action (at least not right now, maybe in a year things will change). Walmart would be perfectly willing to carry Captain Action if they could buy them at a wholesale price that would be slightly below the cost of production.

Target is gun-shy on exclusives from smaller companies these days. They’d be interested in online-only sales, but they don’t want to give up shelf space. Sears and K Mart are barely in the toy business at all anymore. Diamond Select is not only a distributor, but also a manufacturer, and their customer base is comic book shops and TRU. If they try to sell Captain Action through DST, and every comic shop orders two of each item–that will only amount to five or six-thousand orders. That’s not enough to turn a profit due to the license fees.

Remember that, in the case of Superman and Batman, DC gets paid first.Then Round2. Then returns and defective units are deducted. Then CAE gets whatever’s left… if there is anything. If they go through Diamond, the wholesale price is probably 40% of theretail price. Then the licensors get paid. Then the manufacturer. If they crowd-fund, they may not be able to go through Round2 and use thelicense. Even if they did, you’re still looking at comic-shop numbers.

To be honest, I’m surprised that Ed and Joe are still managing to keep the character viable. By dealing with smaller licensees like Marshall Made Collectibles, 3rd Son Books, Airship 27, Dynamite Comics, Zica and the other folks who have ‘borrowed’ Captain Action for various figure lines, they’ve managed to keep Captain Action alive as a property that more and more people know. You’d never see Hasbro or Mattel invest this much time in a revival of a toy from fifty years ago. Just look at how Hasbro bungled the fiftieth anniversary of GIjOE! Mattel only keeps the Major Matt Mason trademarks because they hope someone will make a movie someday.

This is obviously a labor of love for Ed and Joe, and I think us fans need to realize that and be patient. They’re working hard on this in an industry that is more secretive than the military industrial complex. They can’t tell us every detail of every ongoing negotiation because that would probably kill any deal that they’re working on. They can’t really risk complaining in public about retailers when they’re trying to convince them to carry their product.

My advice to Ed and Joe is to maybe look into less conventional retailers. Cracker Barrel Restaurants (630 stores) have large “general stores” loaded with retro toys and 1960s TV shows on DVD. They may beopen to a fiftieth anniversary product, if the price is right and the right characters are involved. That one deal won’t be big enough for a whole line, but it could attract the attention of a larger retailer. Just my two cents.” —Rudy Panucci

Cracker Barrel's toy shelves are nothing to sneeze at. Take a look at this recent photo. WOW! (Photo: wideopencountry) Click to enlarge.

A Future Home for Captain Action? Rudy Panucci’s idea of slotting CA products on the shelves at Cracker Barrel restaurants is nothing to sneeze at. Take a look at this recent photo of some of the chain’s great “retro” toys for sale. WOW! (Photo: wideopencountry) Click to SUPER enlarge.

In closing, CAE’s Joe Ahearn sought to reassure fans of 1:6 scale Captain Action by saying:

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“We are certainly not dancing around the issue. I’m sure you can understand that as businessmen under contract with different project partners, we are not always at liberty to discuss things in exact details with the public.

I tried my best to give an overview to give everyone the gist of the current scenario. It shouldn’t really matter what the exact details are, rather knowing that we are not giving up on getting new 12-inch stuff out to you guys should be the big take away. When that will be, we cannot say. But it is still on the table.” —Joe Ahern

Bottom Line: An emotional tug-of-war continues to be waged between frustrated collectors and manufacturers of 1:6 scale Captain Action products. Our sincerest thanks to those who continue to keep Cap’s legacy alive through such well-informed discussion. Let Justice Be Done!

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