RIP John Stephenson – voice of Hawk, Dr. Quest, and more

George Stephenson

Rest in peace, John Stephenson.

General Hawk, General Franks, Dr. Benton Quest, Doggy Daddy, Mr. Slate– these are all characters that were brought to life by the incredibly talented John Stephenson.  The voice actor passed away on Friday May 15, 2015 at the age of 91.

His career spanned an impressive 57 years in the entertainment industry with his first credited role listed in 1953 and his last in 2010.  Before his move to voice acting he was a prolific character actor in the early days of television with appearances on notable series such as The Lone Ranger, F Troop, The Beverly Hillbillies, Get Smart, Perry Mason, and even Hogan’s Heroes. He was also the voice that announced the verdicts at the end of episodes of the popular series Dragnet.

Later, he moved to voice acting and was possibly the most-used talent at Hanna-Barbera Studios providing voices for Fred Flintstone’s boss Mr. Slate, Doggy Daddy, and was the original voice for Dr. Benton Quest on Jonny Quest before the role was assumed by the late Don Messick.  His IMDB page lists over 230 acting credits.

Eventually John Stephenson went to work on many of the Sunbow animated series that fans of JBL are familiar with– providing the voices for such characters as General Hawk (substitute in “The Spy Who Rooked Me”), General Franks, General Flagg, Dr. Lucifer, Granak, Kup, Thundercracker, and Huffer for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Inhumanoids, and The Transformers.

In his final years he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had been living in a retirement home.

Rest in peace, John.  Thank you for all the hours of entertainment you’ve given us. Your talents will be missed.

G.I. Joe Complete Series Now 50% Off!

g.i. joe complete sunbow series

Do you miss having the Sunbow G.I. Joe Complete Series on your favorite streaming service?  Well, now you can pick up the classic animated cartoon saga for 50% off!

That’s right, it’s every single episode of the classic G.I. Joe Complete Series that ran from September 1983 to November 1986 in first-run syndication.  All 95 episodes are presented in this single slim pack case collection; everything from Fatal Fluffies to Cold Slither to Excalibur to the window cleaning services of “The Viper.”  Even better, it’s in a nice case that stores better than the previous footlocker edition. Continue reading

Hasbro shifts digital content to Vimeo

Vimeo logo

Hasbro animated series are coming to Vimeo!

As reported yesterday by Wired.com, Hasbro Inc announced yesterday that they were partnering with video sharing site Vimeo to be the exclusive online host for many of the toy-maker’s animated series.   Currently available are Transformers (Generation 1) and Jem & the Holograms with other series including G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and My Little Pony to follow later this year.

Per the announcement, episodes of the Hasbro series will be $.99 to rent for 24 hours or $1.99 to purchase individually.  Entire series may be purchased for $40.00.

Is this a good move for the Pawtucket-based Hasbro, Inc?  By the numbers, it means that Hasbro’s animated properties will be delivered to a significantly smaller audience.  As of Q1 2015, subscription-based Netflix had an audience of just over 60 million global subscribers. As of December 2013, Vimeo was sitting at 22 million subscribers.  It’s not a strict apples-to-apples comparison as far as the dates go but it indicates that Vimeo doesn’t quite have the reach that content posted on Netflix does.

There’s also the issue of the the pricing model.  Increasingly, more and more digital content has gone “pay-to-play” requiring viewers to either rent or purchase episodes on a platform-to-platform basis.  Vimeo follows that model meaning that fans will have to pay around $40 to own a full season of their favorite nostalgic series.  This puts it on par with the cost of owning the content on DVD and Blu-Ray from retailers such as Amazon.com but it leaves casual fans a bit out-of-the-loop.  Rather than being able to randomly browse through a few episodes of a series before getting hooked, viewers will be have to pay to rent or view episodes on an series-by-series basis.  This could limit the Hasbro content’s overall reach when it comes to new viewers rather than diehard fans who most likely already own the content in tangible form anyway.

What do you think?  Is the move to Vimeo better for Hasbro?  Will is help grow the audiences for their animated properties?  Will you be making the jump to the new video-sharing service in order to follow the adventures of your favorite characters?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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!

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!

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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

Netflix: EVERY Sunbow episode now on Netflix Streaming

What a whirlwind this past weekend was!  From the insane awesomeness that was The Avengers on the big screen to Free Comic Book Day, most genre fans were enjoying a pretty booked schedule.  However, once again Netflix manages to be the icing on the cake for a near perfect weekend.

As of last night, all 65 episodes of Sunbow’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero animated series are available on Netflix Streaming!  That’s right– from the first episode of the MASS Device to “Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep”, every animated adventure from the first series is available by PC, Xbox LIVE, PS3, and Wii.

If that doesn’t make a lot of Joe fans happy I don’t know what will…

Netflix G.I. Joe A real american hero