Tuesday, February 18, 2014

G.I. Joe: 50th Anniversary - My Thoughts

"Bittersweet (adj) - arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain."

My custom 12" Joes - loosely based on the ARAH characters.
Well, I'm not "aroused" but I do appreciate the term bittersweet in relation to the news of Hasbro's offerings for the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe. Word finally spread on Saturday, February 15th, as fans who were in attendance at the 2014 Toy Fair began to share the news from the Hasbro promotion during Toy Fair.
A group shot of my original 3 3/4" collection characters
There had been a few rumors circulating around the web that there would be no new product for G.I. Joe this year. Seriously? For the 50th Anniversary of such an iconic brand? Thankfully, new product was revealed and a great sigh of relief spread across the G.I. Joe community. But was it really relief? Maybe yes, maybe no.

I think I'll start by just sharing my thoughts in regards to the "new" product that will be Toys "R" Us exclusive product. Wait, no Walmart or Target support? What the hell? As I've grown older, I'm less inclined to pursue other action figures as something to collect and spend money on. Going through some serious debt issues a few years ago helps me to be a little less impulsive when it comes to spending money. So in the terms of any extra funds that would have been distributed between Toys"R"Us, Walmart, and Target in relation to G.I. Joe, Walmart and Target can just kiss my ass.

There seems to be three different types of items that will be available for G.I. Joe - 2-packs, 3-packs, and vehicle/figure sets. the following pictures are from the Hasbro press release and I'm just going to comment based on the way I uploaded them - nothing particular about the sequence of the pictures.
First up is an arctic based 2-pack featuring Snow-Job and an "arctic" BAT. Snow Job looks to be a straight re-release of the Pursuit of Cobra figure. Awesome figure, but I never bought him the first time and I don't really want him now. The BAT is a repaint of the original 25th (ARAH) anniversary BAT. Damn fine figure, holds up very well to the most recent G.I. Joe figures, but I have a couple dozen BATs that I picked up for cheap when they were on close-out at Family Dollar several years ago. No big loss if I don't pick up this set.
Next up is a COBRA Wolf w/ Ice Viper and an arctic Sky Hawk w/ Snake Eyes. Kind of on the fence with this one. I liked the Wolf originally, but it was never a huge favorite; good opponent for a Snow-Cat, though. The Sky Hawk is just a repaint and I think there's some new stuff about Snake Eyes. Oh swell, another Snake Eyes. This will probably be a pass.
This vehicle set looks pretty decent. It's a VAMP mk2 w/ Flint and the mythical Night Landing set w/ a COBRA Eel. Flint comes from Hasbro's concept case from a couple years ago and looks pretty decent. There's been a rumor going around that this may be a Comic Con exclusive. We'll see, maybe not though.
This is pretty much a repeat of the previous set with just new colors for everything. Sigh... Couldn't there have been just a little more variation to this? Depending on how Flint dresses determines which VAMP he'll be driving tonight?
Another 2-pack - Blowtorch and the HEAT Viper from the concept case. Sorry, but Blowtorch sucks. The HEAT Viper is from the previously mentioned Hasbro concept case. I've always liked the HEAT Viper and bought a bunch of the originals back in 1989. I don't see myself troop building the HEAT Viper because I sure as hell don't want to troop build Blowtorch.
Lowlight and a Night Viper - two snipers. Nice concept, but I don't care too much. I've got this version of Lowlight and I'm not overly impressed with the Night Viper, especially in these colors.
Lady Jaye and the Baroness - pretty cool match up. Lady Jaye is from the concept case and Baroness is from the 2nd COBRA 5-pack. She was a bit tougher to find for some collectors. This version of the Baroness is probably the best version to date. Lady Jaye looks a little more combat ready and has at least buttoned up her shirt a little more.
Three-pack! Leatherneck, Destro, and General Hawk. Leatherneck makes use of the Retaliation battle-kata Roadblock body with excellent results. Destro looks to be a brand new figure featuring an angular sculpted helmet/mask/whatever. Hawk is just a re-release of the PoC Hawk - a damn fine figure, but nothing really new. I'm excited by this set, primarily for Leatherneck. The Hawk figure is a great base figure for customs as well.
Almost a troop builder set, but not quite. This version of Beach Head is another offering from the concept case and he's a great update to the character in his traditional uniform colors. Not much new to him, though - maybe a new head? So there's also a COBRA trooper and a Viper. You know, I really dig that COBRA trooper, but I've got a bunch of them. I have 18 of this color, 12 of the black uniforms, and 12 of the lighter blue uniforms from the basic assortment "Dollar General" figures. I have enough. As for Vipers, I've got 14 of them and I really don't need any more. What's up with the color choices for this Viper? Damn, he sucks.

And that's it... Just these few offerings to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe. Well, there's some new Kre-O toys coming out, but Kre-O is a non-issue to me. Kre-O is Hasbro's answer to Lego and there's a line featuring G.I. Joe characters and vehicles. They look cool enough, but I'm just not going there; I'm just personally sticking with the action figures. But if G.I. Joe's success lies in the world of Kre-O - that would be excellent. As long as G.I. Joe is out there in some form, I'm happy.

Maybe there is more to come at Joecon this year. I'm hopeful, but doubtful.

So there are a few gems in this "exciting" line-up of product from Hasbro celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the G.I. Joe brand - the brand that may have saved their asses, not once, but twice. I get it, the original 12" G.I. Joe is probably gone and may never again be on toy shelves. That's fine (kind of), kids have changed, costs have risen, and boy's toys have changed drastically since the original G.I. Joe.

This 50th Anniversary series just seems to be an act of laziness on the part of Hasbro. All of this crap that I'm writing is largely my own opinion, maybe with a little bit of influence from other online sources. I've really tried to limit myself to other fan's thoughts until after I get my own thoughts down here in my blog of little consequence.

A couple months ago, I stumbled across Oreobuilder's Blog and was simply blown away. I don't know who the guy behind the name Oreobuilder is, I only know that he's a customizer from the Joecustoms website. I think... Anyway, he showcased his work for a salute to the 50th Anniversary of G.I. Joe that was just simply amazing. I actually had to go through every single post in his blog just to marvel at his quality work. I would encourage my faithful reader(s) to go through OB's blog and just enjoy. My point in discussing Oreobuilder's blog is that he did an extraordinary amount of work in creating a tribute to the original G.I. Joe that could have been duplicated by Hasbro had they really put some thought and planning into the anniversary of such an important piece of Hasbro's history.

Sure, Oreobuilder went huge and covered vast amounts of the history of the 12" G.I. Joe, but Hasbro could have easily done something much more simply by just recreating the original G.I. Joe head sculpt in the 4" figure scale. That's all that was needed. Based on Oreobuilder's work, there's enough body types and styles that could have easily been translated into maybe a modern update to the G.I. Joe 30th Anniversary sets from 1994. Just one five pack of figures that hearkened back to the original G.I. Joe. Was that too much to ask? Apparently so.

My limited understanding is that the G.I. Joe design team at Hasbro is practically wiped out. That's too bad and it's a damn shame. I know the world has changed since the huge green G.I. Joe valley in the Sears toy departments from the 1960's and the massive wall of G.I. Joe product at Toys"R"Us in the mid 1980's. Those days are gone and G.I. Joe may never again rise to such prominence, and that's okay, I guess. 

But G.I. Joe needs to be somewhere. G.I. Joe represents so much that is good and noble about courage and honor and the service and sacrifice of those serving in the military. Maybe there's just a larger cultural issue at play here in which children are being dumbed down in regards to courage and honor. In an entitlement society, courage and honor have no place.

I really don't know where I'm going with this whole post. I guess I'm just rambling about - hence the blog's name? I'm just disappointed in Hasbro for this half-assed (my opinion) attempt at G.I. Joe's 50th Anniversary. Sure, collectors are the key driving force behind G.I. Joe's success right now, but I just wonder how many more G.I. Joe fans could have been brought on board through a series of figures that connected back to the original G.I. Joe?

So what's your spin on this whole G.I. Joe 50th anniversary deal? Well thought out, pro or con comments are encouraged, bullshit nonsense comments will be ridiculed.


Kirk said...

Wonderful and thoughtful analysis by someone who understands everything GI Joe . Oreobuilder deserves our respect. The future of Joe rests in the hands of fans like him.

Fred Meyer said...

Agreed 100%.

While I'm primarily an ARAH era fan I find it particularly sad that the only salute to anything prior to 1982 is found in two single-packed Kre-O figures. Even in 2007, Walmart carried Adventure Team reissues. (Which is where I purchased my first 1:6 Joe and began my fascination with the AT.) To omit everything from 1964 - 1981 is the ultimate in laziness in my opinion and almost an insult to all of those fans who helped put the original Joes on the map in the first place.