Joecon in Retrospect: A Discussion with the Best Joe Writers from Around the Web

The GI Joe collecting community is approaching a special occasion with the upcoming Joecon. That is, this Joecon will be the last Joecon convention and mark the end of the GI Joe Collector’s Club, who’s been operating for over fifteen years now. It’s uncertain what we’ll be left with and what the future holds for GI Joe collectors, so I’ve decided to discuss the topic in the form of seven questions with five of the best GI Joe writers on the internet.

The Guests:

RTG: A GI Joe photographer who specializes in 1982 through 1984 figures. He also has recently started his blog Attica Gazzete, which has snappy profiles and top-tier photographs. Also check him out on Instagram.

CIAD: Owner of Cobra Island, an all things GI Joe news site and message board. He was also the long-time administrator of HISS Tank, and covered news there for about a decade. He also posts to Instagram.

Mike T: GI Joe blogger who has run Forgotten Figures since 1999. His long time dedication to the brand is clear in his knowledge of some of the most obscure GI Joe facts from his time collecting. He’s also on Instagram.

Dragon Fortress: Another blogger who’s site is The Dragon Fortress, a blog dedicated to the often underrated toys from the 90‘s, with a frequent focus on GI Joe. Here he is on Instagram.

Justin Bell: Owner of Generals Joes, another prolific Joe Blog that’s run since 2002, featuring reviews of current figures, his diorama comic, and GI Joe news. Here is the Instagram for his site.

I want to personally thank these guys for making this article possible with their contributions. They all run very unique and different websites I highly recommend.


The Best Joecon Figures:

GI Joe Joecon Iron Grenadiers 2005 1988 Destro Iron Anvil Convention figures Hasbro

1. So first, what are your favorite Joecon figures? And which one do you think was executed the best?

RTG: I’d say the 2007 Clutch is probably the best Joecon figure, I’d prefer him to be a swivel neck, but a good figure is a good figure. The 2007 Rip-It and 2002 Baroness are also very well done.

Though if he counts, the MOTH Shipwreck might be my favorite, as he’s well done, has the classic look without being a do-over, and doesn’t have overkill for paint masks.

CIAD: Wow, already hitting me with a tough one right out of the gate! In terms of what are my favorite JoeCon figures, I’d have to go with the 2005 M.A.R.S. Invades set. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Iron Grenadiers, so this set was a dream come true. Granted, we received an “update” in 2015, but it just doesn’t compare (well, to me at least).

In terms of best executed, I’m torn between the “Tanks for the Memories” and the Mission Brazil II offerings. Both are sets that had a great selection of figures and are in high demand (well, more for the latter, of course).

Mike T: The con stuff is a mixed bag. My favorite set was the 2007 set: just because of all the Joes. I hated the female Cobras. But, the attendee items stood out, too. In general, I’d break it down like this:

2002 – Crimson Viper was awesome for what is was. Baroness is pretty nice and the Paratrooper Dusty is awesome. Tomax and Xamot are kind of take them or leave them, though.
2003 – The Cobra Commander is spiffy and the Firefly exclusives are nice.
2004 – Rough year overall. But, it was nice to see Hardtop and the Demolishor figure is a pretty good new Dreadnok.
2005 – Probably the best overall effort. Nice, cohesive set with some interesting attendee items.
2006 – Not a great set. I actually like the Skull Squad Trooper. And, Overlord is decent.
2007 – Awesome Joes, lame female Cobras. This was the year that the convention items changed from being clearance fodder to aftermarket wunderkinds.
2008 – This set should have been SOOOO much better. But, they somehow make a Headhunter Stormtrooper repaint that no-one wanted. The arsenic color didn’t really translate well and even Gristle falls kind of flat. The attendee items were pretty strong, though.
2010 – The Red Shadows were great to see back. But, the Torches and character figures were not good. Attendee items were OK, but not spectacular.

Dragon Fortress: Since you’re not limiting me by “modern era” Joecon figures, I have to say my favorites come from the O-Ring days. I really like that repaint they did of Mega Marines Gung Ho, and the Destro with the Crimson Guard Immortal body and his mech were very cool, too. I’m also fond of Black Dragon and his troopers. I think they did a lot of pretty neat stuff back in that era– even with the disastrous roll out of Tanks For The Memories, many of those figures were quite nice, too. Especially Rock n Roll and Lt. Clay Moore. Sure, there were misses (like the bomb disposal Long Arm with exposed fingers), but I feel like I’d be happy to own most of the figures from that time period.

As for the modern stuff, I think they did a nice job on guys like Ozone and the Toxo-Zombie.

Justin: Even after all of these years, I still maintain that the best JoeCon Boxed Set was the 2005 M.A.R.S. Invades set. The expansion of the Steel Brigade into an International Peace Keeping force, the first time we got Dragonsky in action figure form, as well as taking a much maligned 90s figure (the COBRA Viper) and giving it vibrant new life with an exciting paint scheme. In those days the Collectors Club was diving into new concepts and new ideas and not just retreading days long ago.


Joecon Through the Years:

2007 Tanks For the Memories Claymore Viper Pit 2006 HISS DTC Cobra Joecon

2. What’s been your view on Joecon and the Club over the years?

RTG: I can’t pass judgement on the actual convention, as I never attended, and frankly it strikes me as a thing that could either be a lot of fun or you might find yourself in the valley of the wastoids.

The Club itself, I don’t think much of the way they’d run things, there was lots of fudged numbers, that led to inflated aftermarket prices, the Firefly 2 Pack is an example.

They also appeared to either completely misread a lot of fan requests, or would intentionally do unpopular things, with popular molds.

The 2003 convention set was terrible, however the mold choices there were never ones people were clamoring for a retail appearance of. Afterwards, the Club tended to use molds from the Funskool return, where people were actively seeking. Ugly repaints of Muskrat, Beach Head, and terribe repurposes of the CGI and Night Viper molds, weren’t what people had in mind.

CIAD: I won’t pull any punches here – During my tenure at, I was rather vocal in terms of JoeCon and the Club. JoeCon was always great but I haven’t attended one in years. The Club has always had its faults, but ownership on that falls on us, the consumer. We never voted with our wallets, as we needed our Joe fix. After the “Tanks for the memories” scenario, I was very..sluggish in terms of Club support. Truth be told, I didn’t join the Club again until this past year.

Mike T: The club has always been a divisive force in the community. They did not like 3 3/4″ collectors and only warmed to them when our money outpaced that of the 12″ collector crowd. They treated collectors with contempt for many years. They drove lots of people out of the hobby. It seems people kind of liked JoeCon. But, those who liked it almost always mentioned that it was the meeting of other collectors from the forums and boards of the day that made the experience. The club offered little other than a venue and often was more of a hindrance to a good time than an enabler.

Dragon Fortress: I haven’t had much of a view, just because it’s been out of my budget and unrealistic for my schedule. I’ve always enjoyed seeing photos and reviews of the toys, but that’s about as far as it went. I think the strongest opinions I’ve had are pretty recent– I thought a lot of the Sky Patrol figures looked pretty bad. But, at the same time, I think the Con itself looks like a fun experience. I actually hope to go this year, if only to have drinks and muck around with other GI Joe fans I’ve met on the internet.

Justin: This is a complicated question. The Collectors Club has, from day one, had some unique challenges to deal with when it comes to appeasing their Hasbro bosses, working with Chinese factories and trying to balance what Collectors want and what they can afford to produce. Early on, it felt like they were doing great things, maintaining an decent balance between cost, new concepts, parts selection, and weaving an interesting story, all the while managing to keep collectors (relatively) happy and work within Hasbro’s confines.

However, it feels like, especially in recent years there has been a drastic reduction in investment, both emotionally and financially, from the Collectors Club all the while prices continue to rise while quality and ingenuity swirl downwards. It’s not all their fault – the recent desire from the Collector crowd to just relentlessly seek homages to the past has thoroughly dampened their ability to be creative, however they’re also not taking advantage of their position and trying to strike a decent balance between the two (as Pursuit of COBRA did so well). We are seeing continually poor parts selections, and a refusal to invest financially in getting the right people on board with figure design and construction and the results are, unfortunately, a massive decline in quality and interesting themes, again, while costs continue to rise.

It seems now, more than ever, the Collectors Club has fully embraced their position as a “lame duck” and are doing what they can to (barely) satisfy the fandom on their way out, and the result is an exceptionally disappointing final few years of product and attitude as they wind down towards the end of their contract. They are, it seems, leaving with a whimper and not with a bang, which is quite unfortunate.


Python Peril: Marauders to the Rescue! Convention Set:

2018 Joecon Exclusive set Slaughters Marauders Python Patrol Sgt Smasher Hardball HEAT Viper Major Bludd Lamprey Laser Viper Spirit Mutt and Junkyard

3. What’s your opinion on this year’s convention set?

RTG: Honestly, the whole concept is fairly ridiculous, though it seems a lot of modern era fans seem to want the entire vintage line, re-done in the modern construction.

The way they introduced “Sgt. Smasher” kind of sums the whole Collector’s club up. Sgt. Smasher being the foreign release name for the Sarge, and then having a figure that doesn’t even USE any Sgt. Slaughter parts, isn’t particularly cool.

It’s kind of a shame though, as the Club did some fairly cool, Modern sets, where the real gems were the additions to the usual “here’s 80% of the ’88 subteam”

CIAD: I know many don’t like it, but I really dig it! I love both sub teams, so having additional characters added to the ranks is a win for me. Oddly enough, I tend to go against the wave when it comes to club offerings – What a lot of folks dislike, I tend to want to add to my shelf immediately.

Mike T: I’m not a big anniversary figure collector. (I don’t collect them at all.) But, this year’s set seems like a bit of a dud. I don’t see the enthusiasm for the figs that I’ve seen in past years. The set sold through. But, I suspect there’s higher attendee numbers due to it being the last convention and that’s driving the sales moreso than the quality of the set. We’ll see how the aftermarket treats it. But, it’s not going to be another Oktober Guard set.

Dragon Fortress: Some of the individual figures look cool. I love the Air Commandos/Maruaders hybrid look for Spirit, and both Bludd and Laser Viper look great. Hardball and Sgt. Smasher are also above average, even though that’s not what I collect. I think the designers put some solid work in, and they are talented people. But Slaughter’s Marauders vs. Python Patrol? It’s just a lazy idea. This is the last Joecon. I really wish they’d done something more creative. Then even people like me who don’t really collect the modern era stuff might be more interested.

There’s already been so much SM and PP stuff in the modern Joe era. Why not find a way to do a “more realistic” take on something like Star Brigade or Mega Marines? Or even re-examine the Flaming MOTH stuff in modern style? Or, hell, even do a Funskool theme and make it Special Mission: India or something. I know so much goes into these things and it’s way beyond my understanding, but the concept this year just makes me go “huh, okay. I guess that fills some collection holes for some people.”

Justin: How’s the saying go? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? As the final convention run by the G.I. Joe Collectors Club, it felt like a good opportunity to do something really special. Something many fans have been asking for, and something truly unique to cast a final “good-bye” to the collectors. Instead we just get another repeat/retread of past themes with Slaughter Marauder figures that nobody asked for (many of which use dated, disappointing 25th Anniversary parts). Now, I love the Toys “R” Us Python Patrol figures, but there was zero need to have them done in a modern format, other than the fact that they’re easy and mindless and leverage new figures that are easily accessible.

Just one more example of a lack of creativity and lack of desire to do something new and different, and a final lame good-bye gesture to signal the end of the contract.


The Future After Joecon:

GI Joe subscription Dice Retaliation Slice Joecon

4. With the Club going away, do you think GI Joe collector’s are losing an important venue for figures? Do you think we’ll have something to replace them down the road?

RTG: I think they are, considering that G.I. Joe is a fairly moribund franchise. One thing I’ll give the club credit for was the fact they were able to get Joe fans to go for their subscription service.

However, if nothing replaces the Club, I don’t see much of an exodus from the community. G.I. Joe may be a small scene, it is however notoriously hardcore. Though I assume that Hasbro will come up with some product at some point.

CIAD: I do believe that we, the collecting community, are indeed losing an important venue for figures. Whether or not Fun Publications was/is the right entity to manage the aforementioned venue is a different debate all together. As for whether or not we’ll see something down the road, I’m sure we will. There’s money out there, so it’s doubtful that Big H won’t try to do something to capitalize on that.

Mike T: I’m glad to see them go. I believe they were bad for the overall community and we have suffered great attrition due to the their actions. I don’t think we’ll see anything replace them, per se. However, I do think that the demise of TRU may open Hasbro to new avenues of distribution. I could see DTC type items offered exclusively through Hasbrotoyshop. Though, I think those will only occur as a precursor to a new movie or as the dumping ground of the last waves of figures post movie. Hasbro might be receptive to large, online toy dealers getting an exclusive figure. But, with Joe, I’m not sure anyone would put up the money for a production run big enough to get Hasbro’s interest.

Dragon Fortress: I don’t think we’re going to see anything replace it until the next GI Joe movie comes out. You might see more people turn to Lanard (and they’re doing excellent work right now), see people invest in the military Mega Bloks themes, or even see modern era collectors snapping up more factory customs from Black Major and Red Lasers Army. But nothing is going to replace GI Joe for now, so I think you’ll just see a lot of folks call their collections “good enough” and then get really into Star Wars or Marvel.

Justin: If you’d asked me this five years ago, I would have been extremely upset about the fate of the Collectors Club and very concerned about what it meant for G.I. Joe product going forward. But the truth of the matter is, we’ve explored just about everything we can possibly explore as a retread from the vintage era, and at this point I’d almost rather just see Hasbro and the G.I. Joe brand focus their energies on something new rather than a continual visitation of days of old. The FSS and the Convention sets have been the source of a vast majority of our figures for the past few years, and yes, in a way, it’s a shame that those avenues will no longer be possible, but when you find yourself buying something simply because it’s there perhaps it’s a good time for that avenue to go away so folks can adjust their priorities and go back to buying things that they are truly invested in.


The Convention Figures You Always Wanted:

GI Joe convention figure 2005 Iron Anvil Iron Grenadier Destro

5. Was there something you always wanted, or hoped they would do for a Convention item or set?

RTG: Up until 2010, I would’ve said a set featuring Jungle and Desert COBRA Soldiers. The Black Major took care of that.

I also would’ve liked to see a set that filled in a lot of the characters that were missed, such as Dr. Venom.

Though the actual Dr. Venom figure they made, suggests I would’ve been disappointed.

CIAD: I was hopeful that we would’ve seen a modern era DEF or Star Brigade (I know, I’m the worst!). If there was anything I would’ve liked to have seen more than figures themselves, it would’ve have been a cost adjustment/correction. Our community can be economic at times, so folks shelling out $25+ on average for figures was bound to take a toll.

Mike T: So much. I found most of the sets rather lame. The Crimson theme was boring, but made sense in 2002. 2003 was just a hot mess. 2004 proved that Dreadnoks weren’t as popular as some people thought they were. 2005 was pretty strong. 2006 was another mess. 2007 had the Joes. But, the Cobras were just a way to get a mold out. 2008 was a solid theme, as was 2010. I’d have personally loved Star Brigade. But, that was never going to happen. Eco Warriors done right could have been really cool. We could have gotten some rusted out BATs, repainted Toxo Vipers and Zombies and some cool Joe molds in non neon colors. But, again, in the 2000’s, that was never going to happen.

Dragon Fortress: So many things! I mentioned this above, but I think revisiting Funskool, Star Brigade or Mega Marines would be great. They could even do Sgt. Savage and I’d think it was great. But, of course, I’d like to see some of those 1993 and 1994 o-ring molds redone in different colors. But that’s not very realistic at all, even though there’s so much potential there.

Justin: For the past several years I’ve been asking for a 4″ modern era format Sigma 6 revisitation, and I’ve always wanted The Plague from the Devils’ Due days as well. I thought, with the reveal of Guillotine in FSS 7 that maybe it was a possibility for the final Convention set, but it was not to be.


The Worst Moment:

Club Exclusive Membership Heavy Water gi joe spy troops

6. What do you think the worst or most regrettable moment was with the Club?

RTG: There’s a few regrettable moments. There’s the Maulers, the fact that we, the collectors didn’t buy enough M.O.T.H. sets (even though the figures totally weren’t army builders!) therefore they’re not finishing the 5th set (a vehicle I think)

The one that’s forgotten, was the Cobra Diver 2 packs! Hydro Vipers colored like Eels would’ve been a hit, and the Action Sailor done up as the cartoon/25th diver would’ve done well too. They showed images of them, and then we never heard a peep about them again. C’est le vie.

CIAD: Eesh…Too many to name, to be honest. Sure, the Club did what they could, where then could and when they could, but there just always seemed to be an “eff you” kind of sentiment to any feedback. A Club is only as good as its membership, so if members are paying a premium, they should have a right to share their feeling as to how the club operates.

Mike T: There are just so many. From the mysterious overstock Fuchsia figures showing up at specific dealers a few months after the 2002 convention to the infamous “leak” of the 2005 convention set, through the “they’re not army builders, here’s Frag Viper Steve!” debacle to the missing Maulers, the club had one misstep after another. They never understood 3 3/4″ collectors. I remember them getting pissed at collectors and saying, “fine, we’ll give you a bag of 100 army builders with one paint application each” and collectors loved that idea. It was so absurd to the club that they threw the idea out in contempt and it was so well received they had to backpedal. That was them in a nutshell. They didn’t realized we didn’t want to pay $20 for a box. They never understood why we didn’t just buy everything they made like the 12″ collectors did. Had they been more open to the community from the start, the collecting world would be very different. But, that was never their model and the people who run would never have accepted a role where the community had a voice.

Dragon Fortress: It was probably when they failed to release those tanks for the Tanks For the Memories sets, which is something I just learned about recently.

Justin: Honestly, I think the most eye-opening regretful moment was a complete refusal by Brian Savage to understand or appreciate the artistic talents of folks who have a role in making G.I. Joe what it was and what it is today. A few years ago he made an off-hand derogatory comment pretty much negating any artistic skills that a particular subset of designers had…designers who did fantastic things for the G.I. Joe brand, and helped salvage many of the Club’s mistakes a few years ago. Instead of appreciating the contributions of designers like that, he basically said it didn’t really matter they were all just working and doing a job and that more or less anyone could do that job.

Interestingly, ever since those designers stopped working with the Club, the quality of the toys that collectors are expected to spend hundreds of dollars on has gone precipitously downhill. This isn’t a coincidence, just another example of the Club cutting corners and expecting to be rewarded regardless.


What You’d Do Differently:

Flaming MOTH Chuckles ARAH Vintage action figure GIJCC Cobra Hasbro 2007

7. If you could design a GI Joe Club replacement service, how would you offer it differently?

RTG: This is something I’d try either 2 ways.

First would be to do a lot of research and studies, to find out where fans interest lies and what/how they’d like to see figures produced.

The second, and more likely scenario, is to assume I’ve got decent enough taste and ideas that I could come up with things people would entertain buying. Assuming it was possible to do it O-ring style, I think enough of a finger on that pulse!

CIAD: I would take it back to the DTC plan that wasn’t too successful back in the day. Internet shopping was in its infancy and many at that time didn’t feel comfortable with shopping online. Now, from Kickstarter to eBay, it’s hard to find someone that doesn’t shop online, so Hasbro could theoretically say “Hey fans, here’s an assortment of X figures. If we hit X amount of money by date X, then they’ll get produced”. Basically, similar to the way the FSS operates now.

Mike T: At the end of the day, the club offered two things: the convention and new figures. It seems the convention is going to be replaced by HasCon (at least in Hasbro’s eyes). But, we’ll see how long that lasts. The figures could easily go into a service from HTS. I think they’d be able to do some larger production runs. But, I would assume that some of the collector quality in terms of paint applications and accessories would diminish. The upside is that Joe would have a wider audience. The club was never big on being inclusive in the community. So, they might get some casual, new collectors. But, even with those, I’m not sure there’s enough of a market for Hasbro to really pursue it unless there’s a movie to promote.

Dragon Fortress: I’m not a business person, even though I run my own business. I have no concept of the money or time that goes into these things. But I would look at value. It seems like a $40 figure, which is mostly reused parts that may not work well together, is not a good value. If Lanard can sell you a high quality, nicely articulated and accessorized figure for $5 (that also includes 2 others figures and a motorcycle), then there has to be some way to get those prices down to $25 per figure, or maybe include something that seems a bit more valuable– or at least something creative or thoughtful. I’d also decrease the amount of hoops you have to jump through to buy into the whole thing. But, again, I am a terrible business person. So please bear that in mind.

Justin: This is an almost impossible task, because there is a certain mentality around “Clubs” vs. “Businesses” and if you’re marketing yourself as a Club it’s tough to also market yourself as company in business. I think ultimately what I’d do is scale it down somewhat. As wonderful as it is to have 50 – 60 new figures per year, we’d have to understand the limits and constraints, and in reality I’d rather produce 10 – 12 fantastic figures a year for collectors than 50 haphazard ones. Perhaps develop Convention Sets of 6 figures, with an FSS of 6 figures or something like that.

I would try to take steps to appeal to a broader audience, and try to take a broader audience and turn them into collectors and fans. I’d also surround myself with skilled people and pay them what they’re worth rather than cutting corners, again keeping in mind the potential need for scaling back the items produced.

I’d love to create some new ideas as well, take the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero core and branch it off into more obscure corners and begin writing some new adventures without just constantly diving back 30 years in the past.

Granted, all of these are far easier said than done, but it just feels like, in recent years especially, there has been a drastic reduction in emotional involvement and in financial investment, and the results are clearly visible.

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9 Responses to Joecon in Retrospect: A Discussion with the Best Joe Writers from Around the Web

  1. It was an honor to sit down and share a few thoughts for this piece. Even more so in seeing the caliber of writers that I shared thoughts alongside. Thanks again!

  2. djv says:

    I’m pleased as punch you asked me to contribute, NM. This turned out great and I feel honored to be in such fantastic company.

  3. Yt says:

    Interesting to see people letting it fly now the club is done for. I’m grateful for the positive experiences I’ve had because of Fun Pub and sad for all the missed opportunities. Hubris ruined a lot.

  4. R.T.G. says:

    Thanks for having me involved, as well. I never figured I’d be beside the heavyweights of 2000, General Hawk & Mike T.

    The fact everyone’s opinions were diverse, but the overall sentiment is fairly consistent, shows that if Master Collector had; A. Treated 3 3/4 collectors with some dignity, and B. Continued to do sets that were innovative on existing concepts, they’d likely have maintained a far better position in the community.

    In regards to the 3rd comment, people have been talking this way about Master Collector for 15 years. I remember Mike T. first mentioning the Firefly 2-pack ‎snowjob in the chatroom in either 2004 or 2005‎, whatever year the DTC thing was bandied about.

  5. Yt says:

    My hubris comment was directed towards the club and their business practices and overall disposition in regards to members. Seeing someone who was frequently (jokingly) called a club apologist let them have it shows the toll their attitude took on the community. It’s a sad note to go out on. Like I said there has been a lot of good along with the bad.

  6. A-Man says:

    Regarding the club’s Long Arm repaint, actually, it’s not odd at all for a bomb disposal guy to have exposed fingers/hands, because if a bomb goes off that close to him, odds are he’s losing his fingers anyway, gloves or no gloves. His manual dexterity is more important for defusing explosives than what minimal protection the gloves offer. You can google images and see gloveless EOD type in real life.


    • djv says:

      Oh for sure. I know it’s realistic. But, for me, it completely ruins the look of a figure who was never a bomb disposal guy anyway. He’s a heavily armored door kicker type guy, and they should have stayed with that concept. But I’m probably one of the only people who loves Long Arm enough to care.

      • A-Man says:

        I liked Long Arm back in 1993, orange and all.

        I don’t care they change his specialty that much because I could never rationalize buying a con set anyway, so I never owned that version.

        Also, his code name makes little sense as an EOD.

  7. Mike T. says:

    It was a lot of fun to be a part of this. I thought I’d be the nay sayer for the Club. (It’s a role I’m used to….) But, seeing how others feel the same way, now, it really looks like it’s time for them to end. There are so many well run regional Joe shows, now, too, that there’s options for many collectors if they don’t want the official convention.

    It’s really too bad that a collector focused group never even got a chance to bid on the G.I. Joe license. I think fandom would be a LOT different had they been able to secure it and follow through on their plans. But, there’s a lot of examples of where if things had gone a little differently, collectors would be much better off today.

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