The 2015 G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention (aka “Joe Con”) was held in Springfield, IL at the Prairie Capital Convention Center from April 9 – April 12, 2015.
Like many Joe fans I was a bit surprised at the choice of venue. However, the reason for this was different than for most fans– JBL HQ is situated just under an hour north of Springfield, IL. In fact, the state capital was a frequent field trip destination while I was growing up and I’d been to many of the tour sites multiple times over the years. As such, while some Joe fans complained about the “lack of anything to do” in the area, I knew that those attending the tours would be in for a treat. If Illinois is the “Land of Lincoln” then Springfield is the heart of that region.
There’s also the matter of the convention set– an odd pairing of the Tiger Force vs. the Iron Grenadiers that had little to do with the choice of convention venue. After all, the Tiger Force theme had been used in 2004 at the first Orlando convention and the Iron Grenadiers had appeared twice before at the G.I. Joe Collector’s Conventions in 2005 and 2012. Was there really enough left in Destro’s army to explore once more time? As was the case with 2003 and then again in 2009, the Club chose to revisit previously used characters and “what was old became new again.”
It wouldn’t be a G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention, however, without some difficulty with registration and other supply issues. This year registration was delayed time and time again until just two scant weeks before the convention was scheduled to open. In addition, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club announced significant price increases on the Joe Con souvenir times due to “complicated deco’s” and “air freight shipping” concerns.
- Registration Updates
- Registration “Several Weeks Away”
- Registration Delayed Again
- Registration Coming Soon-ish
- Registration announcement
- Price increases and no parachute drop
Ultimately opening night for the convention came and fans from across the globe descended upon Springfield IL. Souvenir items were revealed and registration was filled with long lines. However, a positive side effect of those lines is that many Joe fans made new friends of a common interest as they patiently waited their chance to snag some of the limited edition souvenir items. On a personal note, I was attending this year with my good friend Mike Breaux of TheBreauxShow.com who I’d not seen in nearly 11 years The registration night lines gave us a great time to get caught up!
Lastly, I was able to connect with old friend James Kavanaugh and pick up a copy of his latest publication: Rank & File vol 1.
However, enough about registration! Day one marked the opening of the convention floor, the beginning of panels and all manner of G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention goodness! There were dioramas, custom figures, and dealers galore! Oh yeah, and some very courteous voice actors in the form of Zack Hoffman (Zartan), Brian Cummings (Dr. Mindbender) and the ever gracious Morgan Lofting (the Baroness)!
Day Two (Saturday) was the “Big Day” as is the case with most Joe Cons. This year it marked the return of the Hasbro panel as well as the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club round table which featured the reveal of the 2016 membership figure (PYTHONA!!!) as well as the announcement of the FSS 4.0 roster.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself here. The biggest reveals at the convention this year came from Hasbro. The team’s presence may have been small, consisting of new brand manager Mark Weber and VP of Global Brand Development Derryl DePriest but the information they conveyed was anything but tiny! First off, 1:18 scale Joe would be returning to Toys R Us shelves with new product hitting on August 1, 2015. This would be an extension of the 50th Anniversary line and would feature more concept case releases (GUNG-HO!!!!) as well as re-releases of figures that were previously hard-to-acquire. (25th Alpine, Rock Viper) In addition, G.I. Joe would have two SDCC exclusives this year– one at HasbroToyShop.com and a second being an expanded version of a set available at Toys R Us that would be at the Entertainment Earth booth.
Throughout the weekend, JBL staff were able to have several impromptu discussions with both Derryl and Mark regarding the state of the brand, its future, and other miscellaneous topics. Both of these individuals are passionate about seeing G.I. Joe continue forward into the future as a viable boys brand. However, both of them also realize that for Joe to connect with the next generation of fans, it has to evolve and there is apparently a great deal of discussion and thought right now at Hasbro as to what that next evolution will be. This year’s line is a stop-gap– something to fill in the blanks while the next team gets to work on conceiving, designing, and producing this next phase of Joe.
It’s important to note that this next phase doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to the “A Real American Hero” mythos that dominated toy shelves from 1982 – 1994 and that has influenced the brand ever since it’s retail return in 2001. It was mentioned several times that the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club will continue to exist as an outlet for the ARAH nostalgia which frees up the retail aspects of Joe to explore new territory. Personally, I think this is a brilliant strategy as the current concept of ARAH just isn’t as relevant to today’s kids as it once was.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention one other key event from Saturday and that’s Dave Tree and Chris McLeod’s ever-informative panel on the UK Action Force and their foes the Red Shadows. My pics of the session didn’t turn out but thankfully the good folks at Toy World Order recorded the panel which I’ve embedded below! You might know G.I. Joe but some of the concepts from Action Force are out of this world! (Pun intended)
That wraps it up for the bulk of JBL’s event coverage! I’ll try to add in a few more random convention floor shots below as time permits. It was great to have the G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention back within driving distance of JBL HQ this year and it was great to see so many old friends as well as make several new ones this year. Joe Con isn’t just about the toys– it’s also about the people and forming new friendships over a common love of “fully poseable modern army figures”.
Until next year, “YO JOE!”