Interview by Scott "Madmac41" McAllister
  Images courtesy of Master Collector

Lanny Lathem Speaks, Part 2

Interview by Scott "Madmac41" McAllister
  Images courtesy of Master Collector



The Interview:

That's quite an impressive résumé. I think the G.I. Joe Club is fortunate to have you, and the Joe community as well. As you read the interview don't expect to see any secrets revealed, I didn't ask Lanny any questions that about the exclusives as I know the Club likes to save some surprises for registration night!


M.M.-Lanny the first question I have to ask you is who is responsible for this great Con set?

Lanny -These sets are carefully planned by a lot of great folks, but the basic idea for a set may come from a conversation that evolves into something else. This set and many sets over the years were thought out and planned by Brian Mulholland, David S. Lane and Terry Wheeler. These guys make the basic tool choices and then the process of confirming tool availability begins. Once the tools selections are finalized, I will do the figure decos based on the color recommendations the guys give me. Sometimes, they are fairly specific and other times I just have a color palette to follow. I get to design camo patterns as well. I’m given a lot of freedom with all of this, but ultimately it’s Brian Savage who gives the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ on a given design.

M.M. Where did Doc's head and the Night Stalker head and torso come from?

Lanny- I know this has been a subject of much speculation and some folks online have made some pretty good guesses about the origins of these parts. Doc’s head was taken from the 12” African American G.I. Jane Helicopter Pilot figure that Hasbro did some years ago. We needed a good AA sculpt and rather than re-invent the wheel, we sent that head to China and had it scaled down. The sculpt is attractive and we liked how her hair was done. It saved a little money on production costs since a sculptor wasn’t involved and we also thought it was a neat connection between the 3 3/4” G.I. Joe and its older 12” cousin.

The Night Stalker head and torso and helmet are from a design that Hasbro was going to use in their DTC line. That figure never got any further than the head and torso. In fact it was never tooled – only a test shot from the sculpts existed. We felt this was a great opportunity to offer something new. We want to thank Hasbro for letting us use that resource. Thanks Hasbro!


M.M. - Is there a chance to see more new parts in Future con sets?

Lanny- Well…yes, actually there is. We’ll have to play that by ear, though.


M.M. Will we ever see a con set using the new sculpts circa 2000-2006?

Lanny- It could happen since, the supply of RAH style tools is limited, but we know that fans really expect the Con sets to feature the classic design and construction. I think we’ve had pretty good success using some of the new sculpt elements in conjunction with old school tooling, though. It helps to extend the use of the older tools and helps the sets to be fresh.


M.M-I know that it takes time to come up with a con set. There are molds to find, color schemes to work out and so on. Can you tell us how long it takes to make a con set from idea to ready to sell?

Lanny – Usually it takes from 9 months to a year to go from concept to package pick up at Joe Con. It is a difficult process sometimes.


M.M.-How flexible do you have to be in your figure selection? Have you ever planned things around one idea only to find out that the tooling was no longer available?

Lanny- We have to be able to adjust our plans if a tool is not available and so the sets are a bit more organic from a development standpoint than one might expect. Sometimes this happens pretty far out during the planning stages. On occasion, it can get pretty hairy when a factory has confirmed a tool and then WEEKS later finds out they made a mistake and what they have is not what they thought it was. Then, it’s scramble time. I can’t convey the level of stress that can be generated when this happens. Often, details are changing just a few months before the Con. This is the main reason it sometimes takes so long before we can begin to show figure samples on the convention website. On one of the M.O.T.H. Club exclusive sets, we had China tells us that a mold for a particular set of arms could not be found after first telling us they were available. This began a scramble search for a suitable substitute. Weeks passed and we got photos of arms that the factory thought would work. It turned out that the arms they found were ACTUALLY the original arms we wanted. Groans from our offices went up into the sky that day, I can tell you! It all worked out perfectly in the end, but getting there can take weeks off our life spans. (laughs)



M.M-With all of the early excitement over this set is there a chance that we may see more of a Joe Cobra mix in future con sets?

Lanny- Of course it varies year to year, but I think the reaction has been mostly favorable to this year’s set. I think the fans were ready to see a mix of G.I. Joe characters and COBRA characters after several years of COBRA-centric sets. COBRA is of course VERY popular, but too much of even a good thing is still too much. Personally, I love having more G.I. Joe figures in the sets, but then I’m a sucker for the good guys. So, I’m sure we’ll see more of this mix in sets, but not every year. Also, we try very hard to keep the sets costs as low as we can. When you add more individual figures/sculpts/tools, this drives the cost up tremendously, so our plans are to keep the really complicated to anniversary years like this one.


M.M.-I know you can't tell me who the additional figures will be but can you tell me how many there will be?

Lanny-Well, of course everyone knows about the Roddy Piper figure. In addition to that, there is a two figure pack and on top of that, there are couple of ‘something else’s’ that come with a couple of other ‘something else’s’. Was that vague enough? (laughs)


M.M.-Can you tell us how much all of the additional 3 3/4 sets will cost if we purchased one of everything? (This will help let us know how much cash to bring!)

Lanny- To be honest, I haven’t really had a conversation with anyone about pricing as yet. What we expect is for this year to be just slightly over previous years in terms of money needed to get everything. There are some really cool things cooking which I think will make fans very happy, but they have incurred a little more cost on our end than in previous years. It’s the 25 th Anniversary and we wanted to pull out all the stops.


M.M. - Assuming there is a tank available in the “Tanks for the Memories” set (lol) can you tell us its color and how many other tank molds were combined to make this tank?

Lanny- There’s a tank in the set? (laughs) Well, we certainly can’t get a tank in the box with the figures. A far as color for a potential vehicle, I can’t promise anything as a few things are in flux right now. I CAN say that the tank depicted on the Con set box art is blue. And… the ART is based on one particular mold.


M.M. - There seems to be a little confusion about the cost about 8 inch parachute figure. Do we pay to drop the figure or to try and catch one? Can you explain how this is going to work?

Lanny- The final details are not set, but here is what I do know. 300 figures will be dropped from the 47 th floor. No one will be allowed in the drop zone during the drop due to safety issues. Those 8” figures are heavy, you know. If someone manages to get a hold of the figure if they drift out of the drop zone, so be it. We won’t be trying to take them away from folks who might catch them. I hope everyone will defer to any kids who are there and give them first crack. I’ve seen grown-ups snatch parachute figures out of the air before a kid could get to it. I’ve seen kids crying at parachute drops because of that. I hope everyone will give kids first shot at any figures that might drift out to where they can be caught.

Also, the para-drop figure will be for sale at the Club store on Thursday night. So, the drop is not the only way to get one by a long shot. Hopefully, the store availability will avert a ‘stampede’ at the drop. Safety will be the primary consideration during the drop.

M.M.-With the popularity of the 8 inch line and Sigma Six, is there a possibility that G. I. Joe Club may make an 8 inch Con Set available in the future?

Lanny- I don’t think we would do an entire Con set in the 8” format, but it’s not unthinkable that we could do a souvenir figure at some point.


M.M. Finally can you share some tips for first time attendees to help make their experience more enjoyable?

Lanny- My first suggestion would be to read all the information that is provided about the Con. Read the entire brochure either online or download the PDF. When you pick up your package, take time to read through the program that is included. This has a FAQ section. Soak up as much information as possible before the Con begins. This won’t solve every problem or answer every question, but it should make the experience a better one for anyone that attends. In addition, the Con schedule is printed on the back of the membership badges. That’s a great reference for knowing what’s going on and when, all weekend long.

Also, sometimes the lines can be long. Bring something fun to do to help pass the time. We have a new credit card system that we used for the first time in New Orleans and it worked REALLY well then, and at this past BotCon as well. We try to process everyone as quickly as is possible at registration, but it’s not a bad idea to have a hand held game or a book along to make the wait not so boring.


M.M. - Lanny how long until we see some pictures of Rowdy Roddy Piper?

Lanny- We received two sample figures just the other day. Some changes need to be made, so we’ll have to play that by ear. Hopefully, by the end of August or the first of September, we’ll have some pics up on the website.


M.M. - I would like to thank you for your time. I know you have been very busy since Botcon I hope you get a chance to kick back and relax a little before the Joe Con.

Lanny- I hope so too! It doesn’t seem to usually work out that way, though. I really think this is the best job I have ever had, but it is not the easiest. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though – except maybe a winning a jackpot lottery ticket! (laughs)

I really love G.I. Joe. I am very lucky and very blessed to be able to work on something that I am so very, very fond of. I’ve seldom gotten more joy out of something than working on a figure that a fan really likes. It makes the hard parts all worthwhile!


This has been Mad Mac 41 see you all at the Con!


For more information on the 2007 Collector's Convention or for information on how to join the GIJoe Collector's Club, click the image below.



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