So, has your depression about the last JoeCon been alleviated?
Well STOP IT. Time to jump back in and relive the thrills and excitement of Chattanooga, TN. The Full Force podcast has posted the full JoeCon Debrief as only the Full Force can with TONS (tonnes?) of special guests, interviews, and G.I. Joe fans far and wide reliving the joy of victory and the agony of hotel lobbies at five in the morning…
This one has it all, including yours truly along with Derryl DePriest, Mark Weber, Bobby Vala, WordBurglar, GI JoeBurg, Kate McLeod, Adam Riches, Patrick Stewart, Gray Childs, Eddie Inman holy crap something for everyone.
I mean, who are we all kidding? This is what JoeCon is all about. Even with a nearly non-existent toyline, a lack of official reveals at the convention, and the wind down of Fun Publications as a whole the entire JoeCon weekend was an absolute blast. A whirlwind of activity, both convention related and not, and a reminder of just what these shows are all about.
It started the day I got there, Thursday, when I told myself I wasn’t going to wait in line. I went as an Aide specifically so I could enjoy myself and not feel hamstrung by product to buy, money to spend, or lines to wait in. Yet, still, that first night, I found myself waiting and walking through the line because so many of my friends were there. For at least four hours I stood in lines even though I didn’t have to, just to say hi and see what I’d missed over the past few years.
Thursday night, me and a few friends went to the incredible WordBurglar show at a local improv, which was terrific as well. WordBurglar is a legit G.I. Joe and 80’s fan, and he killed it both with his skills on the mic, and with his knowledge of G.I. Joe (and Nintendo for that matter). I believe “Long Pour” himself took video of nearly the entire show…
Friday I had a nice breakfast at the rocking City Diner (open 24 hours), and while I unfortunately missed the parachute drop because of it (well, maybe not so unfortunately based on what I heard about it) it was totally worth it. That night was spent in a friend’s hotel room, talking about Japanese imports (long live Diaclone!) and introducing former Hasbro employee Mark Weber to the more intricacies of JoeCon tradition. We also spent some time in the hotel lobby drinking beers (huge thanks to code name “Long Pour” for his constant stream of quality beverages) and just talking. Friday also gave us our first sneak peek at the sales floor when I basked in the glory of Complex and fainted dead away when one of my buddies told me what he spent in the first fifteen minutes of the show.
Then there was Saturday. I opened Saturday at the diner again with another good friend, talking hobby stuff (and business stuff!), then moved to the sales floor to try and get even more facetime with the product, with friends, and with familiar vendors. We were treated to the now infamous “Behind the Scenes of the first G.I. Joe Micro-Movie” panel and I was able to spend some serious time on the sales floor, which was great.
Saturday night brought us Casino Night, which I spent playing bingo (BANGO!) with more friends, enjoying the cosplay, and even some facetime with YoJoe admin Terry who broadcast all the way from Seattle via a telepresence robot and was able to join us all for dinner. It was a truly fantastic moment and one of those small things that makes this show great.
The best thing about Saturday, though, happened after Casino Night when I got a chance to hang out with some long time friends at a few separate establishments in the greater Chattanooga area. We checked out two different places, the Honest Pint and the Pickle Barrel (we had one hell of a view at the Pickle Barrel) and ended up closing both of them down. We returned to the hotel lobby where we shut down JoeCon after hours as well, finally retiring at right around 5:00 o’clock in the morning. Hey, at least I didn’t have to drive home on Sunday or anything… oh, wait. Yes I did.
I think by now we all know what Sunday was like. It was odd, though, there wasn’t really a feeling of melancholy, it was a mostly fun, exciting day punctuated by bouts of emotion. The real struggle came during the last panel, when folks were gathering to say good-bye afterwards, promising each other that this wouldn’t be the last time we all saw each other, promising that there were other regional shows and we’d all meet again somewhere down the line.
Yes, this is true. There are regional shows, and many of them, and they all have a ton of promise. Assembly Required, Coil Con, JoeFest, each of these gatherings promise to be fun. But will any one of them capture the breadth of attention that JoeCon did? Will any one of them draw in so many disparate collectors under one roof?
I hope so. I really and truly do. I’ve been going to JoeCon off and on (mostly on) since 2003, and in spite of a fifteen year run, I’m not ready to say good-bye to these people yet. I’ve seen a pregnant woman in 2003 raise a child, who is now entering high school. I’ve made new friends and I’ve lost friends along the way. JoeCon, at least the attendees of JoeCon, have become a part of my extended family in a way that my real family will never quite know or appreciate. It was a good run, I met some great people, and my world was made better by the folks I’ve come to know and love through JoeCon.
So, when Hasbro has very little presence at JoeCon and there’s no real new product reveals, beyond the toy dealers, what is there on the sales floor to garner the interest of the fandom?
Turns out, there’s a whole bunch!
The sales floor this year was pretty amazing, actually, with a plethora of excellent dealers and a TON of G.I. Joe product (among other things). As always, I didn’t get a ton of time to walk around, but the time I did spend was pretty incredible. Chris Neal’s booth was astounding as usual, and I got a chance to have great conversations with Robert Atkins, Marauder John and Carson from 3D Joes.
Perhaps the most welcome and pleasant surprise, though, was the new product reveals that WERE there. No, nothing G.I. Joe related, but several companies had a presence on the floor, introducing new product and upcoming releases. Even if Hasbro themselves had little to share, for fans of 4″ scale action figures, there was still a LOT to love.
RagingSpoon had their brand new Complex base building kits on display and available for purchase, and by all accounts, they were exceptionally popular. I saw folks buying all weekend long, putting things together, and really loving what they’re doing. The diorama was amazing, and they also introduced a new “catwalk” addition that is in production phases now for a series 02 release. Complex base building kits are still available for pre-order on SmallJoes.com and should be shipping within the next few weeks! You can also check out my review of the Complex building kits right here on GeneralsJoes.
Yes, it’s been a while since their Kickstarter was funded, but I’m happy to say things are moving right along for Eagle Force. They had paint masters on display at the Dime Novel Legends booth and they’re looking pretty awesome! I don’t have a precise time table for shipping yet, but it’s always cool to see the physical product out there in front of you. It makes it a little more real.
Marauder Task Force
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to talk with Marauder John for a few minutes at the booth, and it’s always a huge pleasure. He also had his amazing JoeCon exclusives on display along with test shots for the Exo-Suit, the K-9’s and some of the upcoming World War II Kickstarter figures! Always a highlight of JoeCon to me.
Dime Novel Legends
Some physical samples of the upcoming Dime Novel Legends cowboy figures were also on display at the Chicken Fried Toys booth, and things look like they’re coming along very nicely there, too. Things are still in the midst of the production process but it seems like they are moving right along.
Animal Warriors of the Kingdom
Also at the Chicken Fried Toys booth was the latest samples from Animal Warriors of the Kingdom (Deluxe Wave up on Kickstarter now!) which featured a nice mix of samples of their Deluxe product as well as more regular releases as well. Great stuff for 1:18 scale fans.
Okay, this blew me away! An amazing project that looks to take a well-designed schematic and make “build to order” sets for the Venomous Sea Serpent, a COBRA-themed aircraft carrier/attack boat. It looks like a spectacular display piece and it was great talking to the folks behind it. More information can be found right here as well as in the Facebook group.
I need to take a moment to talk about JoeDeclassified as well, even though I couldn’t take any pictures of their fantastic booth. Pete Hubner was there with his 2-up collection and it was IN-SANE. Dude even had a Hit & Run 2-up. As always, the DeClassified guys were very awesome, had a fantastic freebie, and always a steady stream of people in and around their booth. One of the highlights of JoeCon for sure.
All things considered, the sales floor was pretty amazing this year, full of great product, access to awesome Joe-lebrities and some really cool new reveals to keep things interesting.
I will admit it up front – I enjoy the seminars and panels, but they’re not necessarily always my priority. There are so many friends to catch up with and so many things to do, that sometimes panel attendance is sacrificed to make room for other things.
This year, the G.I. Joe Collectors Club (and, more importantly – the fans) really pulled out all the stops to put together some amazing panels, many of which made the trip worthwhile.
I’ll say this up front – if you didn’t make it to JoeCon, do not despair! The Full Force has the hook up for pretty much every single panel that happened at JoeCon. Hit up The Full Force Facebook Page to check them all out. The YoJoe.com Facebook page also has the majority of the panels available for viewing as well.
On Friday there were a number of panels, and Phil over at YoJoe did an AMAZING job chronicling them with images over on the YoJoe Facebook Page. Definitely go check that out.
Panels on Friday included ’95 and Beyond, which gave us a really fantastic look at what was planned for G.I. Joe’s future after its demise in 1994. We got some great perspective on art and concepts from Battle Corps Rangers, Star Brigade, Manimals, X-Soldiers and more, and as a huge fan of the 90’s, I was eating this up. Perhaps the best perspective came from Kirk Bozigian, who advised that their strategy in the 90’s was to combat any potential competition. They truly saw G.I. Joe as an “umbrella brand” of sorts, which could do battle with any other action figures on the shelves, whether it was Star Wars, Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
We also got a great look at the history of the G.I. Joe Collectors Club Comic with a look back at the ongoing storyline from its start, all the way up through present day. While I was a little put off that the Club neglected to mention the three-year Dio-Story that I wrote which appeared in the newsletter as a precursor to the actual comics, what the presentation contained was very informative and it was really interesting to see the way the comic evolved over the years.
Saturday is always full of panel-related excitement and this year was no different. By far the highlight of the Saturday line up was Behind the Scenes of G.I. Joe’s first Micro Movie, which was simply amazing. Never before seen behind the scenes footage of the 90s commercials with captivating perspective from Kirk Bozigian and flawless presentation by Carson from 3DJoes. I will remember this panel for a very, very long time. Thankfully Carson also posted it up on his 3DJoes YouTube Page.
This panel was simply amazing. Every single minute was filled with joyous nostalgia and some awesome nuggets of information (when Kirk was brought back to the Joe line in the late 80’s it was because Hasbro was concerned that sales of Real American Hero had dropped to EIGHTY-NINE MILLION DOLLARS). Yes, DROPPED to 89 million. Kirk was able, with the help of these landmark live action commercials, bring sales back up closer to 120 million dollars, numbers that are, frankly, staggering to me considering the landscape of today’s action figure world.
Seeing Wren Roberts and all of the other live action contributors jumping around through awesome sets, riding shotgun on a life sized Battle Wagon, with COBRA Commander screeching into the camera while squeezing slime was just way too cool, and I can’t give Carson and Kirk enough props for bringing that to the masses. Pure gold.
Saturday was also filled with panels about the Adventure Team, Classic Collection 12″ figures as well as some terrific insider knowledge on vehicle prototyping and design work. In the afternoon, I also joined Bill, Don, Jim and Derryl in the Kindle Worlds panel, talking about being a G.I. Joe author and how that has changed my life, allowing me to dovetail my love for G.I. Joe with being an independent author and creator.
Day two of JoeCon was a whirlwind as it always is, running from one event to another, trying to consume as much raw energy as possible, and this year really did not disappoint in that regard.
The third day of JoeCon in any given year is like day two, only with two less hours to cram it all in. Again, this year was the same deal. There were a handful of great panels to round off the final convention, including IDW artist extraordinaire Adam Riches talking about his artistic endeavors, and WOJM co-host (and cosplay wizard) Joe Colton talking about the beauty of G.I. Joe cosplay. There was also a 12″ oriented panel and of course… the already infamous “Last Panel”.
The last panel. Saved for the end of the final day of JoeCon, Brian, Dave and Lanny hosted one final panel that was a mixture of everything. They launched the panel by announcing some new figures they hope to release before the end of the year (you can see my recap of that information here) which elicited a terrific response from a certain British person in attendance. Plus – TIGER FORCE HIT & RUN. BOOSH.
But perhaps the most impactful moment of the entire weekend came in that final hour when Brian went through a presentation of every single JoeCon from start to finish, showing cascading images of attendees, which brought back some really terrific memories. He also brought up some long time attendees to speak to the crowd, which included two of my co-hosts from What’s on Joe Mind, as well as folks from the 12″ and 4″ crowd.
It was an emotional moment for sure, an emotional moment that built upon a weekend full of them. You can check out the full video of the last panel at both The Full Force Facebook Page and YoJoe on Facebook (Part 01, Part 02, and Part 03) as well.
I’ll be honest – there have been times at JoeCon when the panels didn’t necessarily “wow” me. A lot of it is information I’ve heard before. But this year, the presenters really killed it and provided a wealth of terrific content that added both knowledge and emotion to the entire JoeCon experience.
As I’m writing this from a hotel room in Roanoke, Virginia, running on about 10 hours of sleep over three nights, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts together as I decompress from another three days of JoeCon whirlwind. Add that to the fact that there’s some emotional residue from this being the final JoeCon and this is an incredibly difficult recap to write.
I’d like to say that this year I performed some social experiment (rather than the fact that I just didn’t have the funds) but I made a conscious decision this year to go to JoeCon for the specific purpose of enjoying the people and enjoying the content. I purposefully did not buy a boxed set nor any exclusives, not only because money is a little sketchy at the moment, but also because I was determined to enjoy JoeCon without the hassle of waiting in lines or the stress of trying to budget $1,000 for toys I don’t necessarily need. That left the event a bit more “pure” where I could focus just on the people and the event itself, and I have to be honest – it was the right decision (for me).
One recurring theme throughout this final JoeCon was that these events are supposed to be about “people, not plastic” yet routinely, every year, it seems the acquisition of collectible figures is the primary goal for many in attendance. So much so that they risk knocking over children in order to get a rare figure. The despicable nature of that specific act aside, not feeling committed to buying things went a very long way towards making this whole event far more enjoyable, at least for me.
But at its core, this was still being billed as “The Final JoeCon” which automatically made it a significant event in G.I. Joe history. Counting what has come before it’s been over twenty years since there was no G.I. Joe convention held every year and when you plan your yearly schedule around an event like this, its loss will leave a void.
Over the next few days I hope to break down the different elements of this final JoeCon and explore what made it memorable, and use this as a forum for decompressing and understanding where G.I. Joe was in 2003 compared to where it stands now.
The years 2002 and 2003 felt like the beginning of a bright era of G.I. Joe history. Joe Vs. Cobra had morphed into o-rings (plus we were getting classic figures via Toys “R” Us), we were fully immersed in a new Devils’ Due comic, and life certainly looked to be good. Now, things don’t feel quiet as rosey.
But in spite of that, for one extended weekend at least, G.I. Joe fever was in full effect and the brand we all love was at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
I’ve been going to JoeCon for a long time. My first visit was in San Francisco in 2003, and I’ve been going, more or less, ever since (besides three or so shows that I missed along the way).
The panels and panelists all deserve a huge amount of credit for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to fans and provide information that isn’t always available elsewhere. Every once in a while, too, a panel appears at JoeCon that completely changes my perspective and entertains me in a way that I haven’t been entertained recently.
The Behind the Scenes of G.I. Joe’s first Micro Movie was one of those panels. Carson from 3DJoes spent the entire panel with G.I. Joe marketing guru Kirk Bozigian, showcasing never before seen behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the 1990’s live action commercials, all interspersed with other information about the commercials, while making sure to show the actual commercials along the way as well. The result was a panel chock-full of laughs, cheers, and a real appreciation for the work that went into making G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero the landmark, retail-altering brand it was back in the 80’s (and 90’s).
There was fantastic insight from Kirk Bozigian himself, unbelievable behind the scenes footage, and so much great stuff along the way. I can’t give Carson enough props for what he worked hard to put together. This was one hell of a way to celebrate JoeCon’s last harrah, and I truly hope there’s more to come. Carson has put a terrific video up on YouTube. You need to stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now. It’s just incredible.