According to Wikipedia, the term “eating crow” is defined as follows:
Eating crow (archaically, eating boiled crow) is an English-language idiom meaning humiliation by admitting wrongness or having been proven wrong after taking a strong position.
I’ve never read a more apt description for what I’m about to write in my life. You see, for the past year I’ve been quite the out-spoken critic of most things related to the Stephen Sommers’ film “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”. Like so many personas on the internet, I used my keyboard to loudly and proudly decry the fact that I wasn’t going to participate in the hype that was surrounding what was sure to be one of the summer’s biggest bombs. I was drawing a line in the sand and I would be passing on the entire line, hype, etc.
One small problem with that: I’m a life-long Joe fan.
Much of my problem and initial prejudice against the RoC phenomenon comes from the fact that I’ve never been a rabid fan of the 25th Anniversary line of G.I. Joe figures. Yes, they were modern-sculpted updates of classic characters from the 80’s toy line but in my eyes they were never as functional as the originals. To me, G.I. Joe has always been a toy line first and foremost. When the re-launch of the line occurred back in the early part of this decade, I was excited. Sure, I didn’t care for all of the designs and the t-crotch figures from the first few waves still leave me scratching my head but they were still TOYS. I was able to purchase them for the children of my friends and know that a new generation would be taking these figures out into the sandbox, playground, backyard and toy box and that they would take any abuse that their new owners dished out. When the O-ring made its return in the line it seemed to me to be the best of all possible worlds. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was back and a whole new generation would be hooked!
Flash forward a few years and things weren’t so happy for my favorite childhood heroes. Comic sales were plummeting, the toy line wasn’t moving, and America in general was moving away from a favorable view of the actions of the US Military. It wasn’t a good time to be a toy line associated (even remotely) with our ongoing military operations overseas and so G.I. Joe was reinvented in the Sigma 6 line with mixed results. As toys, the figures were amazingly detailed and loaded with fantastic accessories that, to my eyes, rivaled those of the early Adventure Team days. (I’ve just committed blasphemy in the eyes of some fans but I’ll continue.) However, they weren’t compatible with my existing collection in their towering 8″ form. Combined with the fact that I found the animated series about as pleasurable as having a railroad spike driven directly into my cerebral cortex, this new line started to leave me cold.
Enter the 25th Anniversary collection.
To some fans, this line is the second coming of all things G.I. Joe. Fans flocked to embrace this new line with its “no-ring” construction, selling whole collections of GvC and even ARAH figures online just to fund the acquisition of these new finely sculpted figures. It seemed the best of all possible worlds-insanely detailed sculpting, classic card art, single-carded Joes back at retail! Yet, as I wrote reviews of this line two things bothered me. First, while these figures (in most cases) looked better than anything we’d had in a while they didn’t move as well. Some figures could barely bend their elbows much further much further than I could flex a steel I-beam and others sat as if they’d had a severe pelvic injury. The poor Baroness couldn’t assume ANYTHING even remotely resembling a lady-like position, much to Shipwreck’s delight. (See my review of this figure.) One of the things that drew me to G.I. Joe as a child was the fact that these figures were so insanely poseable! The old Kenner Star Wars figures might have been stone idols compared to the early ARAH Joes! While the 25A line looked good to me it wasn’t as functional as what had come before-and that was the real tragedy of the line. As the 25A line progressed (I refuse to call it “Modern Era”-what will we call the next line- “Post Modern”?), more and more repaints and parts reuses emerged w/o correcting the design flaws of the first few figures. Eventually these flaws were fixed but only after multiple versions of the figures had been released. To me, it was lazy-something that should have been fixed coming right out of the gate. How could Hasbro, the company that created the greatest action figure line ever in the form of ARAH, have grown as lax as to allow these flawed figures to hit shelves? Even worse, the figures were much flimsier than their ARAH or even GvC counterparts. The figures that I’d passed on to my friends kids just didn’t hold up and neither did my enthusiasm for this line.
The final straw came in the form of the early news of the long-awaited motion picture. G.I. Joe was no longer going to be American but rather G.I.J.O.E – the Globally Integrated Joint Operating Entity based out of Egypt. It would be an international team of specialists rather that crème de la crème of the US Military that I had grown up with in both comic and cartoon form. Not only that but Stephen Sommers, a director who showed such promise with The Mummy and then proceeded to process less and less satisfying films like Van Helsing was to be the director. The film was going to be less military and more fantasy with Thunderball cited as an inspiration for the film’s climactic finale. (For the record, Thunderball is my LEAST favorite Bond film. Okay, maybe after the train wreck that was Die Another Day.) That was the last straw! When combined with the fact that my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and my relationship of 8 years was on the verge of ending, this new G.I.J.O.E wasn’t bringing me the joy it used to. In fact, even the simple fact of updating the Daily News at JBL was work for the first time since the site became mine in 2003. I needed a break and I was out.
So, what changed? Why the sudden need to write a testimony the length of War & Peace to explain why I’ve bought a few figures?
I guess it’s to say that I was wrong when it came to pre-judging RoC. No, I’ve not seen the movie (although I have read the 2007 script with clenched teeth) and I’ve not been given any “insider access” to the production process. No, it took the very thing that got me into G.I. Joe back in 1982 to bring me back to the fold twenty-seven years later. See, even though the figures are not the easiest things to find at retail here in Central Illinois I made the trip to Target to check them out. Oh no, I wasn’t going to buy any-I was just going to look. I picked up Lt. Stone and Shipwreck and I looked. I grabbed Reactive Armor Heavy Duty and Accelerator Suit Ripcord and I looked. In fact, I looked all the way to the checkout lane- snagging Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow figures in the process. I looked at them later that evening after I’d opened them and set them on my coffee table. These were durable figures loaded with gear. Even better-all of the design issues that I’d had with the 25A line seemed to have finally been fixed. Better yet, the reuse of parts that choked the 25A line was kept to a minimum. Sure, I wasn’t 100% sold on all of the designs but I liked what I saw.
Later that night I sat down and started looking at pics of the movie figs posted on the JBL forums. The more I looked the more I liked what I saw and it hit me. For years I’ve complained about the lack of “new” in the brand-new characters, new concepts, and new designs. The 25A line was an extended rehash of a line that I’d already collected to near completion almost 20 years before but these RoC figures were the very thing I’d wanted from Joe since it returned to store shelves in 2000. They were modern Joes for a modern era and they were something that I’d feel comfortable giving to a child to play with. For the first time in nearly two years, I was feeling truly excited about new Joes. When combined with the fact that Hasbro seemed to be taking an active interest in the brand again with comics, a film, and a video game all on the way, I realized that G.I. Joe never left me but rather I left it.
So, what’s the point of all of this? Why do I feel the need to write a long self-indulgent rambling tangent about the sudden re-awakening of my “inner fan”? Simply put: I know that I was not alone. There were a great many fans out there that were disappointed by the handling of G.I. Joe over the past 9 years. There are fans who actually don’t think the 25A line is the greatest thing ever. There are fans out there that have prejudiced themselves against this film without ever having seen it. I was very nearly one myself. Granted, I don’t think this movie is going to be the greatest cinematic masterpiece to hit the big screen. However, I am going to give it and this line a chance. I’m going to go to the theatre on August 7th, snag a bag of popcorn and a large Dr. Pepper and I’m going to plop by 36 year old keester into a chair and wait for the credits to roll. This movie doesn’t take away from the memories I have of A Real American hero and I’ve got the comics and the DVD set to prove it. However, this RoC era is just that- a new era for a franchise that would otherwise fade into oblivion if all it did was cling to the past and keep rehashing old concepts and old ideas. Fans tend to forget that the Joes released in 1982 were a radical departure from what had come before just as, in some ways, RoC is a radical departure from the Joes that many of us grew up with. However, this new era offers something that the 25A line and its endless series of reissues of old characters didn’t-a future. If this movie does what Hasbro hopes it will, G.I. Joe will see a bright future with a whole new generation of fans getting hooked on the “original action figure”. I know that, as of today, I’m along for the ride.
Who’d have thought that eating crow would be so tasty?
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