Part of me still can’t get my head around this, even as I try to vocalize what I’m feeling.
Yesterday, Gary Head, one of the pillars of the online G.I. Joe community, passed away far too soon at the age of 35.
I felt like it was very important to post some sort of memorial to the life of Gary, but honestly I feel like whatever I put up here won’t quite encapsulate what he meant to me and to the G.I. Joe hobby at large.
Gary was a very polarizing figure in the G.I. Joe community, with folks who loved him and many who hated him. I won’t get into those relationships or the reasons behind them here, but will only say from my personal exposure to the man, I can’t think of many folks out there more giving, more driven, or more emotionally invested in the well-being of G.I. Joe. He wasn’t a collector…labelling him as such would be a disservice to what he did throughout his time in the online community. Most of what he acquired he ended up giving away or selling, never holding on long to the physical items, feeding instead off the emotional and intangible greatness of the online community as it absorbed everything that was great about G.I. Joe.
His overt and obvious excitement for the toys reached its peak during the Pursuit of Cobra era, but even as the modern toys moved to a place where he wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, he directed his energy towards G.I. Joe history, and through his work and the work of JoeDeClassified as a whole, the entire historical landscape of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has been irrevocably altered, and in the best way.
Through his contacts with former Hasbro employees, and work with the G.I. Joe Discussion Facebook Page he exposed the historical landmarks of G.I. Joe, and brought things to light that may have been forever locked away in obscurity. For this and this alone he deserves the respect of the fandom.
At JoeCon every year, he would take expensive convention items and hide them throughout the hotel for folks to find, and sponsored huge contests for collectors, and more importantly for kids, at various regional shows throughout the country. He did everything he could possibly do to spread the love and enjoyment of the G.I. Joe brand from 1982 to the present, and was one of the most visible and enthusiastic ambassadors for the brand.
Beyond that, he was a deep and personal friend of mine. Our friendship started rather selfishly on my part, as he offered to send me some pre-production items for review. I, of course, enthusiastically accepted, and ever since, have been working hand in hand with him to bring early looks at pre-release G.I. Joe items, that have been appreciated and consumed by the fandom at large. But it went so far beyond that. We shared our family events, our musical tastes, our personal lives, and of course, would talk endlessly about where G.I. Joe has been, where it is, and where it might go. I only wish he had lived long enough to see some kind of cultural resurgence in the brand that he loved.
The G.I. Joe community at large has suffered a major blow with Gary’s loss, and I hope we can all come together and overlook our personal differences to appreciate what he contributed. Even if folks had questions about the messenger, we owe him the appreciation of the message, and I’d hope every one of us can recognize what he brought to light.
I can barely bring myself to think about his wife and three kids, who he left behind way too early than what is right, and realize that G.I. Joe was only a small piece of his personality. He had sent me a wonderful Christmas card this past year (and once again I didn’t send him one, a failing that I will not soon get over) and as my five year old looked at the three beautiful kids on the card, she asked me why their Dad had to die.
With the 2015 G.I. Joe Convention coming in just a couple of months, I look forward to many of us coming together to celebrate Gary’s life and legacy, which was large and impactful, especially for only having been in the community for a handful of years. I can’t imagine who will take up where he left off, and the community will have a Goggles shaped hole in it for years to come.
I love you, Gary. I hope you’re in a better place.