I set out to write this article, and was immediately surprised by the fact that there was actually some stuff happening with the G.I. Joe brand in 2014. I know the fandom is eager to jump and say that G.I. Joe was high and dry in this momentous year, and from a practical perspective, it was, but even so, there were lots of things happening this year worth exploring. Not on any grand scale, however.
I suppose that’s a commentary on the state of G.I. Joe these days, where it remains somewhat relevant, but just barely. And one is forced to ask what’s worse? Being totally irrelevant, or being just relevant enough to cling around, but not relevant enough to try and push harder. It’s like the brand is stuck in this murky middle ground where it’s got the slightest hint of popularity enough for Hasbro to keep it hanging on, but not enough to get a real push. Yet, until it fades away completely, it likely won’t get a full rejuvination either.
All that being said, there were still some discussion points throughout 2014, and here are my top 10. I’m going to try very hard to maintain a sense of positivity and optimism, because dammit I still love G.I. Joe, even if the rest of the world currently couldn’t give a crap.
Check out the list after the break.
10. Kindle Worlds Acquires G.I. Joe license, enabling fanfic writers to leverage G.I. Joe stories
To many fans out there this might not be that meaningful, but to those of us who have spent years writing fanfiction that was kind of a big deal. Especially folks like me who are aspiring authors in other realms. It’s a small thing, but to have my own Amazon Author page and to actually be making some kind of money for the writing work I’ve done is an amazing step forward for me personally. Amazon takes their fair share of the cash, and it’s not like I’m raking in money, but this was a really big thing for me this year, and I think for G.I. Joe fanfiction writers in general. Not only that, but it made some of this work more accessible to Joe fans and readers, which is only a good thing.
9. Sideshow Collectibles gives G.I. Joe a dishonorable discharge
I’m trying to at least stay a little positive throughout this list, but I can’t hide the impact of Sideshow Collectibles stepping away from the G.I. Joe world. Over the past several years they’ve done some inspired work bringing many characters to life, and especially lately with their Cobra Commander, Baroness, Destro, Major Bludd, and Storm Shadow, we seemed to be hitting a fantastic sweet spot between vintage inspiration and new design. Body styles had improved dramatically, and the overall quality of work was at an all time high, in my opinion.
Maybe when the third movie hits, interest will kick back up, but judging by what they have left in stock (not to mention the Retaliation Hot Toys items that don’t seem to be flying off virtual shelves) the future doesn’t seem too bright for high end 12″ Joe toys not made by Gentle Giant.
8. Gentle Giant releasing jumbo versions of classic o-ring characters
…and speaking of Gentle Giant.
Going in a completely separate direction compared to Sideshow, Gentle Giant is taking their Jumbo figure formula and applying it to a Real American Hero, giving us scaled up versions of our classic o-ring greats.
Somewhat curiously, they’re starting with the Original 13, which are not the most well known characters (and also have that pesky non-swivel arm battle grip articulation), which may impact how these sell through. Time will tell, but in a year where it seemed like folks were running away from the G.I. Joe license, it was good to see someone embracing it.
7. G.I. Joe: Battleground Fades Away
Like Sideshow Collectibles, the folks from Mobage/DeNA seemed to take a pass on continuing their work with G.I. Joe, though there is some question about whether or not it was truly their decision. Their farewell letter appeared heart felt and made it seem like perhaps the ball was out of their court.
Regardless what drove the decision, the fact remains that our monthly update with new cards and really fun new artwork is no longer happening going forward, and whoever made that call, it just kind of sucks for the rest of us.
6. G.I. Jeff Brings Sunbow love to Community
Mixed among some of the dreary G.I. Joe news of the year came a bright and shining star of 22 minute entertainment. Popular sitcom Community devoted an entire episode to an animated adventure of G.I. Jeff, an alcohol-infused fever dream that took the Sunbow G.I. Joe universe and turned it on its ear. With some fantastic new characters based on the old school Joes, some PSA’s, and even some toy commercials worked in, this half hour episode was a huge highlight of the year and brought some awesome positive attention back to the greatness of 80s pop culture.
It was a great example of how the world views G.I. Joe, not as the ultra-realistic military operatives that so many adult fans do, but as those colorful wacky guys dressed in crazy uniforms who shoot lasers and have fun.
5. Transformers Collectors Club bridges the Transformers/G.I. Joe gap with SerpentOR and Marissa Fairborne
Whether you like the idea or not, it’s tough to argue that any kind of link between G.I. Joe and Transformers isn’t big news. Granted, the link is somewhat tenuous and it’s being funneled through the Transformers Collectors Club, but still, it’s something that the fans have really been asking for over the years.
The Collectors Club is doing a tribute to the Devils’ Due G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers series with their SerpentOR offering in the FSS, but going even one step further and bringing Flint and Lady Jaye’s daughter (from the Transformers animated series) to action figure form. Marissa Fairborne is a member of the Earth Defense Force, and a pretty creative way to bridge the two properties. Time will tell if this sort of thing continues.
4. G.I. Joe Kre-O finishes 2014 off with a bang
Unfortunately the biggest Kre-O news of the moment is that Toys “R” Us stores nationwide are closing out the line at basement prices. That doesn’t bode well for the potential future of G.I. Joe Kre-O, but those price cuts aren’t indicative of the quality of what we were getting, particularly in the latter half of 2014. Waves 4 & 5 were some of the greatest looking mini figures Hasbro has developed, and between the Wolverine/Firebat and the mammoth Terror Drome, Hasbro’s Kre-O engineers were hitting on all cylinders.
It would be a real shame if the future of Kre-O was in doubt, as we’re getting some of the best building block toys ever, and it’s turning fringe build fans (like me) into devoted brickheads (is that even a word)?
3. G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary surprises fans at Toy Fair
I think most of us weren’t anticipating much at Toy Fair 2014. I know I really wasn’t. Honestly, we really didn’t get much either, but the fact that we got some sort of 50th Anniversary line was a site for the sore eyes of G.I. Joe fans.
The highlights of the assortment were definitely former concept case prisoners Flint, Lady Jaye, Destro, and Leatherneck, and even though the quality in the end left a bit to be desired, there was product on shelves, and at least some fandom excitement. At the end of the day, I think most folks were glad to see this stuff released, even with some QC problems with face paint, loose joints, and somewhat cheap plastic.
It is food for thought, though, as we all look onwards towards what might come next. A third G.I. Joe film is on the horizon, and one has to wonder just how much more cost cutting can these toys afford? Are we destined to get cheap feeling figures for the next film, or even worse could we be looking at action figures in a 2.5″ scale like Guardians of the Galaxy? There is a lot of uncertainty going forward, but in a way we fortunate as well. We at least have the G.I. Joe Collectors Club still available and some kind of product in the works.
2. Nobody really knows what the heck is going on with G.I. Joe 3
As I mentioned above, there is a third film on the horizon…
I think. Well, I’m pretty sure, anyway.
Standing back at the end of 2014 and recapping the news about G.I. Joe 3, you can’t help but smile a little. Even in pre-production there doesn’t appear to be a consistent direction that the film might be taking. A new writer was announced, Johnathon Lemkin, the writer behind Lethal Weapon 4, Shooter, and Red Planet. Then both Lorenzo DiBonaventura and The Rock himself seemed to confirm that Jon Chu would not be attached to the product… a fact that Chu himself appeared to deny. Then we heard that Martin Campbell was perhaps on DiBonaventura’s shortlist, until he wasn’t.
As things stand now, G.I. Joe 3 is slated to shoot in 2015 for release in 2016, and The Rock is still attached to the project. Beyond that, nobody really knows, and we’re not likely to know until later this year. One would think if the film is being planned for a 2016 release, shooting would have to start pretty early in 2015, so hopefully news will start emerging soon.
As for who will be in the directors’ chair, until we hear otherwise, I’m assuming Jon Chu will return. There was concern that Jem and Now You See Me 2 might interfere, but Jem has been done for a few months, and he’s a good way through the other film as well, so his schedule might just free up just in time for work to begin on the third Joe film.
Hope everyone’s ready for the roller coaster to begin again. At this point I think many of us are beyond hoping for a good film, and are just hoping for something that isn’t delayed almost a year. The bar has truly been set.
How is it even possible that a third Hollywood feature for G.I. Joe isn’t the most important story of 2014? How is it even possible that the most important G.I. Joe story for 2014 isn’t even about G.I. Joe?
1. Kickstarter Rampages through the 1:18th action figure community
That’s right. Kickstarter.
It feels like that word hasn’t been mentioned in a long time, but believe me when I say the first six months of the year it got heavy use in the G.I. Joe community. Between the Marauder “Task Force” and Boss Fight Studio’s Virtuvian HACKS toys, Kickstarter became the go-to place for 4″ highly detailed, highly articulated action figures. That doesn’t look to be changing either, with Eagle Force already in the near future.
But why is this the most important G.I. Joe story?
I don’t know, maybe it’s not. But as more time goes on, it becomes evident that major companies are unable to provide collectors with the product they want. As plastic is getting thinner, points of articulation are getting reduced, and paint applications are going all sideways, the discerning G.I. Joe fans are almost being forced to look elsewhere for their highly articulated 4″ action figures.
Heck, I’ll admit it.. Joe fans are kinda snobs. We had the best damned action figures ever made in the 80s, and Hasbro went and set their own bar pretty damned high. Between the scale, the detail, and the articulation, Hasbro gave kids everything they could have wanted back then, but now we’re in a position where their past marketing muscle wrote checks that current retail presence cannot cash. So where does that leave the collectors? For many of us, it left us looking to Kickstarter, where fandoms that have been called frugal at best and downright cheap at worst managed to throw well over half a million dollars at two massive action figure Kickstarter campaigns in the first part of 2014.
That’s big news.
Will it shape the future of the G.I. Joe brand as we know it? Eh, I’m not totally convinced.
But for us action figure snobs who demand a lot out of our toys, it gives us another avenue with which to get what we want, especially when Hasbro can’t seem to deliver it.
So, here we are, the 50th Anniversary of the greatest (and first) action figure ever made, and the most important story of the year doesn’t even involve G.I. Joe.
Story of our lives.
Here’s to an action packed 2015. Happy Holidays and Yo Joe.