Fun Publications is ending its relationship with Hasbro in 2016. This has been rumored for some time based on the changes to memberships for both the G.I. Joe and Transformers Collector’s Clubs. While nothing official has been stated regarding this from either the folks on Cattle Barron Drive or Hasbro, a recent email to all Transformers Collector’s Club members offers us our most concrete evidence to date:
“All memberships will end December 31, 2016. Hasbro looks forward to sharing new plans for the Collector’s Club with you in the future.”
Okay, let’s read that again.
“Hasbro looks forward to sharing new plans for the Collector’s Club with you in the future.”
Did you notice something? Nowhere in that statement does it say “Hasbro is ending Transformers and G.I. Joe forever.” It does, however, indicate, that Hasbro will no longer be relying on Fun Publications to administer the Transformers Club and, by implied association, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club.
I’m aware that there’s a movement out there right now among some fans to #SaveGIJoe. I get it– some fans are running scared because the old familiar standby of Fun Publications who has run the annual Joe Con every year since 1997 is no longer going to be a part of the official brand. As such, it’s very tempting to think that the world is ending, the sky is falling, and that G.I. Joe as we know it is going to end forever and ever.
That could potentially be the case, but, let’s be honest– it’s highly unlikely. Why would Hasbro utterly destroy an intellectual property that they own outright? It’s like any one of us going outside and burning our home to the ground because we don’t like the color of the shingles.
What’s more likely to happen is that the G.I. Joe brand is undergoing a moment of transition, just as it has done many many times before. The current model for G.I. Joe isn’t working. The fan base isn’t growing and the toys aren’t selling. Sorry kids, but that’s pretty much the state of the franchise right now. The two movies didn’t exactly light the world on fire and ignite a G.I. Joe Renaissance as Hasbro might have hoped.
As such, it’s time to move on and evolve and part of that means letting go of the past. You can’t advance the brand if you keep clinging to the old images with the tenacity of remora attaching itself to a shark.
As far as the rest, I do want to address something and it’s not going to be pretty for some folks to read. However, based on some of the comments I’ve read on the various Facebook groups this morning, I feel that it needs to be said– even if it’s just here on JBL.
- Hasbro owes you nothing.
- G.I. Joe always has been and always should be a brand directed toward children.
To the first point, Hasbro owns the brand G.I. Joe. It’s their property to do with as they will. While we, as fans, may have invested countless hours/days/weeks/months/years of our lives dedicated to promoting and celebrating the brand, it still belongs to Hasbro. If Hasbro wants to change G.I. Joe then it is Hasbro’s right and privilege to do so. It doesn’t matter how many Joe Cons you’ve attended or how many versions of Snake Eyes you’ve purchased over the years. Ultimately, while you’ve helped to support the brand, you do not have any control over what the brand owner actually does with it. Accept this fact and you’ll be a lot happier. I’ve seen comments to the effect of “Mark (Weber) has a lot of guts if he’s going to host a panel at Joe Con this year” and “Hasbro better be ready to deal with an angry mob.” Really? Seriously? I’m sorry but over-react much?
As for the second point, I’ve said it time and time again— if G.I. Joe is to survive, it needs to hook a new generations of fans. It needs to appeal to children first and foremost, period. I’m sorry if this isn’t what collectors, who want “grim & gritty” video games and television series and comics want but collectors never should be the sole focus of the brand, unless those collectors are so myopic in their view that they believe that they, as individuals, are representative of everyone in the market. Sorry kids, that just ain’t going to happen and it’s that level of short-sighted hyper-nostalgic thinking that has led the G.I. Joe down the road that it finds itself on today. Our beloved brand isn’t growing and it hasn’t been in any meaningful fashion for some time.
Hasbro IS trying to evolve not only G.I. Joe but many of their brands. They’re trying to develop a brand-new cinematic universe to try and appeal to new audiences. In many ways, the best way to do that is to start over 100% from the ground up and build a NEW G.I. Joe, just like they did with the Adventure Team in the 1970’s and with A Real American Hero in the 1980’s.
Hasbro is going to have a presence at this year’s Joe Con 2016. I have the feeling that we, as fans, will receive some clarification about what the company’s plans for the brand are at that time. Do I think that they’re going to unveil a five-year plan complete with merchandise release dates and creative designs? Absolutely not– but I do feel that it’s a bit early to start storming the gates of Hasbro in Pawtucket Rhode Island demanding that Hasbro saves G.I. Joe. Let’s not panic yet– and instead be patient and vigilant. Let’s wait and see what Hasbro reveals in the coming months regarding their new plans rather than come across as a reactionary rabble that is jumping the gun on what we perceive to be the “deth of teh line!1!!!”
As with all things, let’s look to the future and see what it holds for G.I. Joe. This is a moment of transition and great strides forward can be found in such times.
Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.