Thursday, January 19, 2017

GI Joe Memories, Part 1

GI Joe has been a part of my life for almost my entire life. I played with the 11.5" GI Joe in the late 60's, early 70's. The 3 3/4" troops arrived in 1982 and I've been a fan of the small scale figures pretty much ever since. There have been a few years periodically that I drifted away, but I've always found my way back.

I thought that I would write out a few of my various GI Joe memories from across my 54 years. 

  1. Thoughts as a Kid - I had some amazing adventures with the big GI Joes when I was a kid. I've got a cousin, Randy, who lives in Massachusetts and we played everyday when I would visit from South Florida. His mom used to go to the Hasbro employee store and buy him some awesome equipment for his GI Joes. He had these huge dirt hills in his backyard and they were constantly under assault from our troops. I also have vague memories of the Sears toy department and the famous "valley of green," full of a huge assortment of GI Joe troops and equipment. I remember having the Five Star Jeep with the trailer, the Mercury Space Capsule, and that glorious yellow Adventure Team Helicopter. I think I'm going to need to write another post detailing these memories.
  2. 1982 - K-Mart - I'm pretty sure the GI Joe comic came out first, with the new line of action figures following soon afterward. Now I was 19 at the time and still interested in action figures. I had been collecting the Star Wars and a few others, so it was very easy for me to transition into this new size for GI Joe. K Mart and Lionel Playworld were the only toy options in the area. Walmart and Toys R Us had not yet arrived in the area. Lionel was an awesome store, but K Mart was the first place that I found the new GI Joe figures. I remember seeing the figures in the store and I think that I bought Rock n Roll, Stalker, Flash, and the RAM first. I promptly went out my car and opened them up, fiddling about with these new GI Joes and this new vehicle. So cool! I'm not sure which figures were still in the store, but I went back in and bought one of each of the rest of them. Hooked on the small scale GI Joe ever since.
  3. 1983 - Lionel - Lionel Playworld/Lionel Leisure City was an amazing place. When my family moved to Georgia from Florida around 1972-73, Lionel was the place for toys and hobbies.They had a huge model department that was just phenomenal. As I got older and got my drivers license, Lionel was a frequent place for me to visit, especially when GI Joe showed up. I made the note of 1983 as a key moment for Lionel because I remember the huge endcap of the new (2nd wave) of GI Joe figures. I think nearly all of the Joes were out in that first wave. Destro was not out yet, but he would be soon! To this day, at least when GI Joe had a retail presence, there was something magical about thumbing through the carded figures, making sure you saw each character that was available.
  4. 1984 - Tollbooth - Some of my readers may be familiar with my story about Tollbooth. Here's the thing, I was 19 and unattached when the ARAH line appeared. Despite being a toy nerd, I actually did find a girlfriend who would become my fiance. I think we got engaged in 1984, she would remember, I don't remember exactly. I do know our anniversary date, so my memory isn't totally shot. We got married in September of 1985, and my girlfriend/fiance bought me an awesome gift for the Christmas of 1984. This was way before the internet and finding out what new figures were coming out for the new year. Much to my surprise, Lisa had bought me the Toss n' Cross Bridgelayer with Tollbooth. I had to marry her, right? She's been stuck with me and has stuck by me ever since!
    1. 1985 - First Wave with Swivel Necks - My girlfriend worked in the evenings at one of the department stores at the local mall, so I would often visit her at work. Back then, Kay-Bee Toys was a pretty cool toy store. Still over priced compared to Toys R Us or Lionel, but still a toy store! I first spotted the new figures for 1985 at Kay-Bee. I'm pretty sure that Flint, Shipwreck, Airtight, and the Crimson Guard may have been some of the first figures that I bought that year. When I opened them up, I was quite surprised by the new neck articulation. The swivel arm grip had been out for e couple years and this new innovation was such an improvement on the figures.
    2. Terror Drome - Fast forward a little to 1987, my now wife and I were living in Jacksonville, FL after transferring with an airline job. The Terror Drome came out in 1986 and was slowly making its way out of stores for the next couple of years. I happened to pick one up at the Lionel Playworld in Jacksonville on clearance. I don't recall the price, but it was marked down enough that my new bride was okay with the purchase. Such an awesome piece of GI Joe history! Sadly, I no longer have it. I sold it in one of those years where my interest in GI Joe had faded a little. I wish I still had it...
    3. Defiant - The Defiant Complex has a little bit of personal tragedy behind it. When I first saw it in the catalogs in the new vehicles for 1987, I knew that I wanted it, but it was unlikely that I would ever get one. It was pretty expensive back in 1987. Then the giant boxes started showing up at Toys R Us! Holy crap, that box was huge! But it was still out of my price range. Fast forward to late 1989 and the tragic death of my mother in September of that year. We had an infant son added to our family in 1988 and had moved back to Georgia in early 1989. Horrible event surrounding my mother's death. Maybe I've written about it before in the early days of this blog. Maybe I'll write about it again one day. Eventually her estate was settled and my siblings and I got a small modest sum of money. I used a portion of that money, probably in early 1990, to buy a clearanced Defiant Complex at the local TRU. I had a Toyota pick up truck at the time and that beast of a box nearly filled the entire bed of the truck! It took me a few days to build it. Family stuff, infant son, a job, those sorts of things. It was amazing! But it was so dang big. I never really had a place to properly display it. Eventually, as we moved, the Defiant took a few hits here and there and began to suffer with age and neglect. The fate of the Defiant wound up that it was taken apart and sold piece by piece. The whole Complex had suffered enough that it wouldn't bring the kind of money that I was hoping to get. Parted out, as well as selling the two drivers, gained me a whole lot more money. By selling off chunks of the Defiant Complex, I was able to finance one year of the FSS and buy some of the late wave Retaliation figures. Not a bad legacy for the Defiant Complex, I suppose.
    4. Keel Haul
    5. 12" Modern Figures
    6. New Sculpt Era
    7. 25th Anniversary boxed set
    8. Zombie Viper Wave
    9. BATs at Family Dollar
    10. Dollar General figures
    11. 50th Anniversary
    This post is getting a bit bloated. I'm going to wrap up this post and continue on with the rest of the list in a later post.

    Share your GI Joe memories in a comment!

    Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    Snow Day!

    Back when we lived on the south side of Atlanta, snow was a rare occurrence. Now that we're on the north side, it seems like snow will be more of an issue to deal with. A couple weeks ago, as you may know, a big storm swept across the country, swinging down into the southern states. It swept across the northern portion of Georgia, barely brushing Atlanta and the southern suburbs.

    But we got some snow in Cherokee County! It was enough snow and ice to shut down schools for a couple days. Yeah, don't laugh, northern readers, we don't get snow very often!

    When it snows, it's time to bring out the arctic related toys and get some pictures! One drawback... I'm older and don't feel like putting up with the cold weather for too long, so there's just a few pictures.

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    FSS 5.0: Cobra Viper & Charbroil

    The first two figures from the GI Joe Collector's Club FSS 5.0 have been shipped!

    If you don't know which figures have been released, you obviously aren't very active in any of the GI Joe pages on Facebook. Besides, what's the big surprise? Two of the previously announced figures have arrived in your mailbox. I suppose the only surprise is the order in which the figures come out and the identity of #13.

    Oh, wait... I gave it away in the title of the this post... Dang it...

    First up, I'll take a quick look at the Cobra Viper. Once again, the Club went with a troop builder as one of the FSS figures. I can't really blame them because named specific characters are much fewer on the Cobra side versus all of the individuals on the GI Joe team.

    Honestly, when the o-ring figure that this troop is based on came out back in 1994, I wasn't very impressed. I've always been a Viper fan, but a fan of the original Viper from 1986. They rocked! I had about a dozen of those guys and I've got a dozen or so of their modern PoC/30th updates.

    I'm afraid that I just don't like this guy enough to keep him. There always seems to be a few figures from each FSS that just don't get to stay. FSS 5.0 may only have this guy and one more; we'll see how Guacho turns out. Basically, I'm just not impressed with this Viper. I'm usually a strong supporter of the Club's efforts, but they don't always hit the mark. This troop misses the mark for me. Off to the secondary market; somebody out there is going to want to troop build this figure.

    Next up is Charbroil. The Club previously released Charbroil as a part of the 2013 Nocturnal Fire convention set. All of the other Joes from this set were released in prior FSS sets. Charbroil finally makes it out in his original colors.
    I'm quite pleased with how Charbroil turned out. He's pretty much a straight reuse of the figure that the Club came up with for the convention set, with one exception. His head.

    In terms of the original o-ring figures, I was more of a fan of Blowtorch than Charbroil. Blowtorch just seemed to work better with all of his bits of gear. Charbroil just didn't work for me. The head sculpt was goofy looking, and the gear was just clumsy to me. Now with the modern figures, they've switched places. I like what the Club did to come up with Charbroil over what Hasbro did to recreate Blowtorch in the modern format. 
    The Club used the Retaliation GI Joe trooper body as the base with the same web gear. The flame projection unit comes from a Torch figure from 2005. I think that was the first use of that weapon. I was away from GI Joe for a few years back then.
    I suppose the drawback to this version of Charbroil is his head sculpt, or the lack of his head sculpt. The Club chose to go with the head originally used for the Para-Viper figure rather than the head sculpt they used with the Nocturnal Fire version. Damn you , Club!!! Why you no?!?!?

    I have no idea why they went this route, I'm guessing it may have had to do with what parts were available, or maybe even a cost factor. I would image that a full face sculpt might cost a little more to produce over a masked head sculpt. Few paint apps needed?
    I don't really care that much about this masked head. I think it looks pretty cool with the uniform. Here's a guy with tanks of jellied gasoline on his back and he wears a flame retardant hood under his helmet. Makes sense to me.
    This flame projection unit is so much more superior to Blowtorch's clunky gear.
    I'm quite pleased with how Charbroil turned out. The Club earned a solid hit with me for this guy. Not so much for the Viper. But here's the big question and it really goes back to Hasbro. Why have flame projection specialists? The U.S. Department of Defense pulled the flame thrower from its arsenal back in 1978. The argument that it was not as effective a weapon on the modern battlefield was one issue. With more conflicts being televised, this weapon would cause quite a bit of terror in the public eye.

    I suppose Hasbro included it with several of their troops was because that, regardless of the carnage it caused, shooting out massive amounts of flame towards the enemy is pretty bad ass. 

    ...those zombie vipers aren't going to burn themselves! Light 'em up, Charbroil!

    Woo Hoo!! FSS 5.0 has begun!! Gimmee' moar figures!!!

    More FSS 5.0 reviews headed your way!

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Six Months Out

    Six months ago,  my life changed in quite a dramatic fashion. If you are one of the regular readers of this goofy blog, you already know what I'm talking about. 
    My wife had some pictures of me on her phone that I had not seen before. This first one is pre-op and I'm ready to head into surgery.
    This picture is still during pre-op, but a closer look at the IV going into my neck. This IV was in case the team needed to push a large volume of fluids into me. I suppose if things went in the wrong direction, they would be ready. Fortunately, everything went quite nicely. I also do not recall when they put this thing in my neck, I do remember being told about it and that they would medicate me so that I would be able to get through it easily. Thank you!
    Post surgery and it's time to rest and begin to recover.

    So what's happening now that I'm six months out from my open heart surgery? That's still weird to say and wrap my head around. I had a quadruple bypass! Don't get me wrong; I'm not crippled by post surgery anxiety. It's just... weird.

    I look at life a little differently now; I've been given a reprieve of sorts. Prior to that test last year, I had no idea about what was going on in my chest. Eventually something would have happened to set this whole surgery situation in motion. The only thing that makes sense that would have set off the surgery would have been an actual coronary event. Would I have survived that event? Who knows? All I know is that I dodged the "heart attack bullet". At least for now. I hope my heart remains strong and the plumbing keeps on flowing properly.

    Physically I feel pretty good. There's some physical issues related to the surgery. The sternum has healed nicely and the scar is slowly fading, but the left pectoral area is a little tender due to rerouting the mammary artery straight back to my heart. The left leg has issues at times. My saphenous vein was removed and put back to work on my heart. So that means there are circulation issues with my left leg. After long drives, my leg is stiff and achy, but it works itself out easily.

    Mentally I feel fine, maybe a bit too fine. Sometimes I think about the fact that I didn't really have any serious coronary issues prior to the surgery. Something was going on, but it was relatively minor on the scale of coronary events. I find myself too easily dropping back into those old crappy dietary habits. Too much fast food and too many sugary soft drinks. I'm not planning on going cold turkey on my diet and forgoing all the stuff that's bad for you, but I can certainly do much better.

    I just need to gather the necessary mental fortitude and ease up a whole lot on the junk food. It's just the right thing to do. I can still have a Mountain Dew... once in awhile. I've also got to get out there and get some regular exercise going. Walking in the neighborhood, light weight training at the school gym, there's plenty that I can do for myself.

    So what's the point of all this nonsense? I suppose it's just to publicly shout out in celebration for my good health after frikkin' open heart surgery! Life is too short as it is and I have, perhaps, been given a few extra years after having one simple test. Well worth it.

    Through a cool series of events, my wife and I had a chance to go to Las Vegas in early December. We were able to visit the Hoover Dam and spend a couple days in Vegas. We also made a point to take a day trip to the Grand Canyon. We have never been, so it was quite an experience. The Grand Canyon is quite breathtaking and I'm so pleased that I was healthy enough to go five months after my surgery.
    One day, we would like to return, but if we don't... 
    We made it once, and it was amazing.
    Life is amazing; take care of yourselves.