At any given time throughout 2015 it felt like a pretty slow news year for G.I. Joe, but as always, when you stop and look back, suddenly things don’t look quite so small.
Granted G.I. Joe product at retail was pretty much focused to a singular burst in late summer as the 50th Anniversary exploded, then faded, even though we got Convention product and FSS figures earlier in the year. With all that being said, it still feels like there were plenty of “banner moments” in G.I. Joe news for the year that was.
News was breaking right up until the last moment, and I’m actually a bit worried that if I post this prior to December 31st I might end up missing something!
Click the “read more” link below to check out the full list!
To date we’ve gotten guides for all era’s of G.I. Joe, yet interestingly the one era that seemed to bring a wealth of collectors back to the fold, the so-called “Modern Era” had yet to be represented in guidebook form. Until 2015. Noted author James Kavanaugh started his run of updated guidebooks with a look at the 25th Anniversary line, covering the gamut from 2007 – 2009, including Hasbro’s big splash back to retail. This book is a must read for any G.I. Joe fan, and if you don’t own it yet, go get it.
Over the past couple of years, it’s been somewhat uncertain who was steering the ship at Hasbro for our favorite brand, but early in 2015 the G.I. Joe Collectors Club broke the news that Mark Weber was the new “go to guy” at the helm of G.I. Joe. Fresh off some incredible success with the Transformers line, Joefans everywhere were enthusiastic about the potential fresh start and a new look at different ways collectors and the brand we love can interact. With the whole Kindle Worlds event and the evolution of Hasbro Pulse, things certainly seem to be moving in a good direction.
Speaking of Kindle Worlds, at JoeCon this year it was announced that the fans would be able to vote for their favorite Kindle Worlds character based on books written by myself, Jim Beard, Bill Nedrow, and Troy Osgood. This was a great way to bring fans and writers together and helped forge a bond between myself and the other three members of the contest. While Bill Nedrow’s Stilleto ran away with the prize, I think I speak for most collectors when I say that I hope Hasbro finds a way to get more new characters out to retail shelves. The fact that collectors, fans, and authors are the genesis of this foray into new avenues is a great thing.
The reaction has been mixed online, but you can’t overstate the impact of the Death of Snake Eyes in Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comic book from IDW Publishing. Yes, the character was somewhat replaced by Sean Collins, but that doesn’t change the fact that the core hero at the center of G.I. Joe’s comic book mythology was killed off, and Hama doesn’t seem to be in any rush to revive the man himself. Whether you agreed with the decision or the execution or not, the importance of the event is clear.
This certainly took many folks by surprise, myself included. We’ve been clamoring for a G.I. Joe themed video game for many moons now, but I don’t think any of us anticipated seeing our actual vintage action figures come to life and wage war across the bedroom floor…especially not waging war against He-Man and the Masters of the Universe! In a strange licensing move, Ubisoft acquired the rights to represent G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero in their Toy Soldiers video game, and the results are pretty neat. Seeing those o-ring figures, shoulder screws and all, come to life is a really cool aspect to the Toy Soldiers game, and merely getting some Joe representation in mass media is a great thing.
05) FSS 4.0 Billy
For what seems like forever the fandom at large has been demanding a figure of COBRA Commander’s estranged son Billy. Funny that now that the character has been killed off in the IDW Comics, Hasbro and the G.I. Joe Collectors Club finally find a way to get him released to fans. Using the Devils’ Due look as an inspiration, Billy is an entry in the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club’s FSS 4.0, and will hopefully be making his way to display shelves everywhere soon. Over the past several years, Dr. Venom, Kwinn, and now Billy have filled some pretty large slots in many fans’ collections and it’s a great thing to see, making for a pretty big news story for the year.
Speaking of big news stories, if the endeavor is successful, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. In fact, the only reason it’s not higher on the list is because it still seems like somewhat of a pipe dream and the challenges of a successful execution are clear. Still, just the fact that Hasbro is bringing together a collection of writers to attempt this massive, challenging feat is a big step in the right direction. Even if the end result is dubious, the fact that people are actually talking about it is a great thing, and we can all hope the project is a success. It remains to be seen just how they can possibly integrate all of these different properties into any kind of cohesive story, but personally I think it’ll be pretty fun to watch them try.
If there was a single character that fans have demanded more than Billy, it would be Pythona. Actually, I’d wager that the two characters are neck-and-neck for fan desirability, but considering the aesthetic challenges that Pythona presents, I think the fact that the Collectors Club is making her happen is a larger story than COBRA Commander’s angry offspring. The actual execution of the Pythona figure remains to be seen, but early Photoshop mock ups are looking really good, and the design choices are solid. A removable hairpiece to allow for the full hooded look is a terrific aspect of this figure, and the fact that the fourth piece of the COBRA La puzzle is only a few months away is a fantastic thing.
This one threw my list for a little bit of a loop, as I’d developed the majority of this article ahead of time, however, this news is striking enough that it belongs here, even without confirmation. I know there have been significant issues with particular methods that Fun Publications has used in recent years, especially as far as registration, etc… but looking back over 13 years of product and thinking back over 13 years of Conventions, and it’s very fair to say there were certainly plenty of good times as well. The real question hanging over everyone’s head right now is “what next”? That’s something that will likely hit this very list around this time NEXT year.
01) Rest in Peace Gary Head – G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Sightline Gary Head homage
How could any list of 2015 events be complete without a mention of Gary Head. Even aside from the fact that he was a very close friend of mine, his impact on the hobby was something that can’t be overlooked or overstated, and he had a unique voice that will truly be missed.
He passed away in February of this year and it simultaneously feels like just yesterday, and like a whole generation ago, and I’m completely depressed over how hard it is to remember the last conversation we had, the last comiserating phone call, talking about the direction of the brand and the current state of the fandom.
Gary had that unique ability to be sarcastic to the point of physical injury, scathing, abrasive, all while being utterly faithful, loyal, and appreciative of everything that came before. I have attempted, and am utterly failing to pick up his mantle with G.I. Joe DeClassified, and the void he has left in this hobby is physical and palpable, something that stands much stronger and larger than any other singular story on this list.
I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. So as we think about what Hasbro is doing and what they’re not doing, and how we, as a fandom, are somehow owed something, let’s at least spend a few moments thinking about three small children who have to celebrate their first Christmas without their father and realize how fortunate we are all to be here talking and reading about G.I. Joe at all.
The fact that Hasbro was able to turn around an homage to him in action figure form so soon after his passing is a testament to the impact he had in the fandom and how much he was appreciated, not just by friends and fans, but by the engineers of the brand he so admired.
Thanks, Gary, for everything.