Happy 50th Anniversary Jonny Quest!

Jonny Quest

Happy 50th Anniversary Jonny Quest!  That’s right– it was 50 years ago today in 1964 that animated action/action series from Hanna Barbera made its debut on ABC and sparked a cult following that lasts to this day.

With its combination of action and science fiction, Jonny Quest took audiences by storm in the 1964 – 1965 Fall season.  The series featured grim action, frequent character deaths, and a much more realistic tone and visual style than anything previous developed by Hanna Barbera – a studio better known for series such as The Flintstones and eventually Scooby Doo. It was comic artist Doug Wildey that gave the series its distinctive style.  The artist took inspiration from then-cutting edge technology featured in magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics as well the comic series Terry and the Pirates and even the first film in the James Bond franchise Dr. No.  Villains and menaces were presented in a realistic fashion and the action was far more cinematic than other animation at the time.  While there were a few exceptions, the series treated its subjects and its stories as seriously as possible and avoided many of the cartoon cliches that were often played for laughs.

Jonny Quest balanced action and humor through the use of its multi-generational and multi-ethnic cast.  While Jonny may have been the title character, the focus of the series was divided up between this genius scientist father, quasi-mystical childhood friend Hadji, and coolest bodyguard ever Race Bannon!  When the series called for dark action, the focus shifted to Dr. Quest and Race while Jonny and Hadji were stars of the more lighthearted adventure sequences.  Last, but not least– there was Bandit, Jonny’s trusty dog whose bark was always more prevalent than his bite.

The “Quest team” faced menaces from lost species to sinister secret organizations to an extra-dimensional energy creature that evoked memories of the classic film Forbidden Planet!  Mummies, Nazi criminals, and even a pterosaur were all menaces that were overcome by this fearsome foursome and their trusty dog!

It wasn’t just the visual style that made Jonny Quest unique.  One has only to watch a few minutes of the series before the distinctive musical style of Hoyt Curtin finds you tapping your fingers to the cool beats of the jazz orchestra.  Rather than the bombastic marches of the Hollywood series, the Adventures of Jonny Quest had a decidedly cool and modern feel that sets the series aside from its peers to this day.  Sadly, an official soundtrack album to this series has never been released, although a solid bootleg album of Curtin’s music can be found through “other means.”

Wait a minute– what does Jonny Quest have to do with G.I. Joe?  One has only to look at the 1970 launch of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team to see the connections.  A daring team of ex-soldiers and scientists turned adventurers and explorers travel the world to avert natural disasters, confront nefarious villains, and even save the occasional endangered species.  Sound familiar?  The G.I. Joe Collector’s Club must think so; the next time you call up their office just listen carefully to the hold music.  (Not to mention several mentions in the Adventure Team newsletter comic and bios.)

The series lasted for only one season on ABC but it returned to the airwaves a few years later on CBS and then a few more years later on NBC making it one of the only series ever to air on all three major networks.  It has served as an inspiration for countless television, comic and movie series over the intervening decades and is still shown on sporadically on Cartoon Network.  Not bad for a half-century old series.  Sure, there were a few follow-up movies and an attempt to modernize the series in the late 90’s but none of these captured the same spark and flair of the original 1960’s series. Now if only we could get some decent 1:18 scale figures of these characters!

Why was Jonny Quest so popular?  Why has it endured for a half century?  I think it’s the fact that Jonny Quest embraces so many genres in one convenient package.  It’s horror, science fiction, spy thriller, and adventure series all rolled into one package.  The stories combined so many elements from 60’s super-science to pulp era villains that its almost hard to drop JQ into one single category.  If you took James Bond, Indiana Jones, Reed Richards, Jack Armstrong, Nathan Drake, and MacGyver and threw them all into a centrifuge the resulting combination would be Jonny Quest!

Happy anniversary, Jonny Quest!  You’ve been often copied but never equaled!

Sgt. Slaughter to Appear at Retro Con 2014

sgt slaughter

The fan-run convention Retro Con gets better and better with each new announcement. First, the event for 2014 has been extended to two days.  Next Zack Hoffman (the voice of Zartan from the Sunbow animated series) is added to the guest roster.  However, yesterday Retro Con pulled out all the stops– wrestling legend and “real life” G.I. Joe Sgt. Slaughter is now scheduled to appear for both days of the nostalgia event!   You can read the original announcement here.

Autographs or posed photos will be available for $20 with a discount being available for both. So grab your vintage Sgt. Slaughter file cards and make plans to head to Oaks, PA!

Long-known to fans of G.I. Joe from his appearances in the second season of Sunbow’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series, Sgt. Slaughter joined WWE (then WWF) in the early 80’s and quickly achieved celebrity status.  Brandishing his signature move “the Cobra Clutch”, he delighted wrestling fans each week with his hard-nosed drill sergeant persona.  Yet it may be his appearance in the animated G.I. Joe: The Movie that permanently endeared him to Joe fans around the world with his leadership of the Renegades and his “itty bitty ditty bag.”

Retro Con 2014 will run from September 27 – 28 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA.  To keep up with the latest on Retro Con 2014, keep your eyes peeled to JBL and follow them online on Twitter at @Retrocons and at www.RetroCons.com.

Zack Hoffman, the Voice of Zartan, Will Be Attending Retro Con 2014!

Zack Hoffman voice of Zartan

Retro Con 2014, the annual celebration of all things 80’s, has just announced that Zack Hoffman, the voice of Zartan in the Sunbow animated series G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, will be appearing at the two day event!

We’re happy to announce the addition of Zack Hoffman to our guest list! Zack is best known for giving voice to master of disguise ‘Zartan’ on the original 1980′s GI Joe cartoon created by Marvel Sunbow Productions!

Zack has also recorded hundreds of commercials throughout a career spanning over 30 years in the industry. In addition you may recognize him as the movie director in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, when Pee Wee reclaims his bike after briefly impersonating a nun!

Most recently Zack has created his own One Man Show call Tuxedo Man, with another entitled The Last DJ coming soon! Check out his website to follow all his works past and present!

Zack will be on hand all weekend to sign autographs free of charge. We only request you limit your items signed to 2 or 3. We thank Zack immensely for agreeing to come out for the show!!

He joins fan-favorite author Mark Bellomo, renowned voice actor Larry Kenney (Lion-O, Thundercats), and internet movie host Mr. Lobo on the guest list.  For its third convention, Retro Con will expand to a full two days to September 27 – 28 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA.  Last year’s guests including Sunbow voice actor Neil Ross and the “godfather of G.I. Joe” Larry Hama!

For more information, visit RetroCons.com or follow them on Twitter at @Retrocons!

Meet Larry Hama and Neil Ross at Retro Con 2013 this weekend!

Looking for something to do this weekend in the Philadelphia area?  Check out Retro Con 2013 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA!

Chock full of 80’s goodness, Retro Con has grown even larger in its second year!  Featuring a plethora of exciting guests, over 150 dealer tables, classic “star cars” (weather permitting), and even a special screening of Back to the Future on the big screen it’s bound to make fans of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, classic video games, etc feel like a kid again.

Organized by uber-fans Tony and Rosemary (Ward) Tuski and featuring a door ticket price of only $14.00, it’s an affordable and fun way to indulge your inner nostalgia child!

Just check out this guest list:

  • Larry Hama – writer,artist for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel, IDW, Devil’s Due) and writer for Hasbro’s file cards
  • Bob Budiansky – writer for Transformers (Marvel Comics) as well as author of Hasbro’s Tech Spec cards
  • Neil Ross – voice actor for G.I. Joe, Transformers, Voltron, InHumanoids and more! (Shipwreck, Dusty, Slag, Springer, Keith, Pidge, etc)
  • James Rolfe – the “Angry Video Game Nerd”, internet game reviewer
  • Don Fullilove – mayor “Goldie Wilson” from the Back to the Future trilogy
  • Mark Bellomo – author The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe: 1982 – 1994, Transformers: Identification & Price Guide, and Totally Tubular 80’s Toys!
  • Doug Walker – the Nostalgia Critic from www.thatguywiththeglasses.com
  • Mr. Lobo – host of the nationally syndicated Cinema Insomnia!
  • The Cobra 1st Legion – the ever-growing G.I. Joe costume organization! www.Cobra1stLegion.com
  • The Mandalorian Mercs!
  • And many more!

In addition there will be door prizes, a costume contest, and a chance to have your picture taken with such “star cars” as K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand), Black Beauty, a Jurassic Park jeep, a full-size TARDIS, the Delorean from Back to the Future, and more!

Seriously, this is the kind of event that makes me wish I wasn’t living in Central Illinois.  It promises to be a fun-filled day for all.  Plus, while you’re there, stop by and say hello to the cast of The Breaux Show, a weekly internet radio show covering genre news, movie reviews, and Deer Park Water.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)

For more information, check out www.RetroCons.com!

 Retro Con 2013

G.I. Joe Retaliation meets DiC in this video mash-up!

g.i. joe retaliation flag

I make no bones about the fact that I loved G.I. Joe Retaliation.  The film dropped in theatres a few days before my “milestone” birthday and complete washed away the bad taste that was left by G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.  This was how a G.I. Joe SHOULD have been done and it succeeded in spite of the fact that it had to acknowledge the missteps of its predecessor.  Months later, my review of Retaliation still stands and I cannot wait to  snag the film when it hits Blu-Ray and DVD later this month.

I’ve also made it known that when it comes to G.I. Joe animation I’m a fan of Sunbow over DiC.  (As is MOST of the fandom.)  However, sometimes in life you stumble across a combination that is so different that it just works.  Much like the whole “you got your peanut butter on my chocolate…” ads from years ago, I saw this on Facebook earlier today and thought “Hey, you got your DiC on my Retaliation!”  Yet, the combination really really works.   So, while you’re waiting for Retaliation end up legally in your video collection in just 18 days, check out this awesome video mash-up!

G.I. Joe Retaliation hits stores on July 30, 2013!

2013 JoeCon: Sunday voice actor panel with Bill Ratner and Mary McDonald-Lewis

Wow– one of the single greatest events of JoeCon 2013?  That would be the Sunday voice actor panel with two of the greatest stars of the Sunbow G.I. Joe animated series– Bill Ratner and Mary McDonald-Lewis.  That’s right, the voices of the original Flint and Lady Jaye were on stage together and they didn’t disappoint!

dscf3654

To open the Sunday panel, Bill and Mary took the stage and performed an impromptu script reading with a little help of Fun Publication’s own Pete Sinclair.  The story was entitled “Flint & Lady Jaye Have a Baby” and detailed the events of a G.I. Joe mission in which Lady Jaye reveals that she’s expecting.  After foiling the efforts of Cobra and returning to headquarters, they decide upon a name for their daughter– Marissa.  It was a nice homage to both the Sunbow G.I. Joe and Transformers animated series and marked the first time that the two had performed their respective signature characters since production on the original series ended.  Honestly– it was a fan written script performed at a convention and it still caused me to grin from ear-to-ear when two of my favorite animated characters seemingly returned to life in an auditorium in Indianapolis.  In many ways, it was like being a kid again and rushing home from school to catch the animated adventures of Flint and Lady Jaye each weekday afternoon.

Following the performance, the two took audience questions and related a number of anecdotes about the production of the original Sunbow series.  (Who knew Michael Bell carried a “man purse” or that Chris Latta was always late coming back from lunch?) Mary Mac and Bill both discussed the differences between voice acting and stage acting as well as their fondness for the days of radio performances.  In the end, the hour went by far too quickly  and the audience gave these two a standing ovation.  2013 marks the first ever JoeCon appearance for either of them and it would be fantastic to see their return in the future.

To catch-up on what these two talented voice actors are working on currently, visiting the following links:

Check out a few images from the panel below:

G.I. Joe Con 2013: Bill Ratner joins the guest list!

Bill Ratner

If you’re a fan of the Sunbow G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series you’ll want to be at this year’s G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention!  Just added to the guest list is Bill Ratner- better know as the voice of Flint, the team’s premiere warrant officer!  Ratner will be joining Mary McDonald-Lewis (Lady Jaye) for what is sure to make for some exciting panels and fan interaction!  I mean– who didn’t like Flint?  (Plus, some of us remember Mr. Ratner from the Variety Arts Radio Network productions of The Adventures of Doc Savage!)

Check out the official announcement from the Club below:

01/28/2013 – We are thrilled to announce an additional guest to the GIJoeCon line-up. On hand for the entire weekend will be Bill Ratner, voice of Flint from the G.I. Joe: A Real American Heroanimated series!

Check out our special guest showcase and read their project bio’s…Click here! All will be scheduled for discussion panels and autograph sessions over the convention weekend.

Mr. Ratner was a guest on the popular What’s On Joe Mind podcast– featured in Episode #70!

For more information, visit GIJoeCon.com!

Merry Christmas from JBL, G.I. Joe, and Cobra

Cobra Commander Christmas

Merry Christmas from Cobra Commander

To all of the G.I. Joe fans around the world, the staff of JBL would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and blessed New Year!  2012 has been a year of challenges for the brand with the film delayed and merchandise absent from stores, but 2013 promises to be a strong year with a revamp of the comics and a brand-spanking new film hitting just in time for a certain admin’s birthday.  Plus, JBL will be back on schedule next year– having survived a fairly disastrous year of house-hunting and moving.

I look forward to returning with reviews, news, and more random G.I. Joe insanity in the new year and hope that JBL will always find a place in your internet browser favorites.

And let’s hope Scarlet doesn’t find out about Duke and Cover Girl!

Duke Cover Girl G.i. Joe Christmas

Cover Girl wishes Duke a Merry Christmas!

Remembering Chris Latta

Today would have been Chris Latta’s 63rd birthday.

Chris Latta

Chris Latta

Born on August 30, 1949, Christopher Charles Collins was an actor, comedian, and voice artist whose talent breathed life into countless characters.  Among his most famous were the Sunbow animated versions of  Cobra Commander and the treacherous Decepticon Starscream.   Other characters included his first voice role Sgt. Knox (Starblazers), Wheeljack (Transformers), Gung-Ho (Duh!), D’Compose (Inhumanoids), and the debut appearance of Montgomery Burns (The Simpsons).    Other live-action appearances include Road House, Married… With Children, and Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot!

Chris Latta died on June 12, 1994.

Happy birthday, Chris.  You’ve touched countless lives through your performances.

William Shatner introduces Chris (Latta) Collins at the Improv

 

Starscream Cobra Commander

DVD: G.I. Joe Series 2 season 2 hits shelves TOMORROW!

Just a reminder in the midst of all of the pre-SDCC hype that G.I. Joe has a new DVD dropping tomorrow!  Fans of the DiC animated series will soon be able to complete their collection as Shout Factory releases G.I. Joe Series 2, season 2 on July 10, 2012!

G.I. Joe: Series 2, Vol 2

Let’s be honest– when compared to the Sunbow series, the DiC episodes of the 90’s left a lot to be desired.  The plots in season 2 of the second series were– well, let’s just say that “Kindergarten Commandos” sums it all up.  However, this series is also the only time that certain characters and character designs were ever featured in animation.  Characters like Pathfinder, Metalhead, Salvo, Bullhorn, Iron Grenadier Destro, and even the Ninja Force all made their first and only appearances during DiC’s tenure.  Plus, this volume has a short special feature with members of the Hasbro design team discussing their recollections of the series as well as the origin of the Python Patrol!

Check out this promo video for volume 1 and snag your copy at a local retailer tomorrow!  (Just don’t walk around chanting “Brainy Bradley!”  Seriously– not cool.)

Check out these recent reviews of the Season 2 release:

So, what do YOU think of Series 2?  Has it aged well?  Is it good cheesy fun or the abomination some fans claim?  Sound off!