Monday, March 25, 2013

GI Joe Week Day 1: Joelanta 2013

Welcome to GI Joe Week here on Needless Things!
I hate to do another theme week so soon after Predator Week, but that’s just how things shook out. I had enough Predator material and desire to write about Predator-related things to fill out a week (and more), so I decided the Friday before to do so.
Now GI Joe: Retaliation is (finally) coming out and if there’s anything I can do for a whole week it’s talk about GI Joe. So I kind of had to do a GI Joe week. Not only that, I hosted an episode of Earth Station One that is all about GI Joe! I did an awesome job and we all had fun with it. Me, Mike Faber, Bobby Nash, Mike Gordon, and JD spent a couple of hours talking about the history of GI Joe and our personal feelings about it. I could have gone on a lot longer. Please give it a listen, it’s a good one.
But before I get to the usual reminiscences, reviews, and whatnot I want to talk about the GI Joe convention we went to a week ago.
            Like most folks I had to work the morning of March 18th, so the Troublemakers’ St. Patrick’s Day celebration consisted of a visit to Joelanta at the Marriot Century Center. Which was just fine by me.
Joelanta is a local GI Joe-centric toy convention. Toy dealers from all over the Southeast converge on the Marriot to set up tables and sell their stuff. There are also guests and artists and apparently for a premium you can attend special events on Saturday, which I did not know. They have a parachute drop where exclusive figures are dropped on the con goers and (band) played on Saturday night. I can definitely see this thing getting a little bigger with the right kind of events and promotions, all it will take is the right leadership and Joelanta could be another vital, signature Atlanta con. It kind of already is.
So anyway, I knew I was going to be off for this one and we’ll go to pretty much any local con when we can. It’s nice to get out and do stuff as a family. Mrs. Troublemaker took Lil’ Troublemaker a couple of years ago when I had to work. She got me this awesome sketch of Firefly from Larry Hama because she is the best wife ever:
Last year was disappointing because I missed out on a great deal on Wun-Dar (the only MOTUC figure I am missing that I really want) by three seconds. After that I was pretty much done. I don’t get pissy very often, but when I do it’s usually over stupid shit. And I definitely got pissy that day. I think there were other factors as well – my job is the drizzling shits, so that seething frustration is always lurking just beneath the surface – but that Wun-Dar fail was the catalyst. This year I was ready to go back and just have fun. We weren’t exactly flush with coin anyway, so there were going to be missed opportunities regardless.
I’m getting to the point where I feel I need to represent my brand. If I’m going to be at a con or other dork-oriented experience I think I should be there as Phantom Troublemaker, ready to hand out business cards. But for Joelanta I wanted something different. Sometimes it’s okay to wear the mask with a t-shirt and cargo pants, but I felt the need for an actual costume. So I wore a t-shirt and cargo pants. But not just any t-shirt and cargo pants! I have a Cold Slither shirt that I got from one of those shirt-a-day websites a few months ago. You know, Cold Slither:


So when I put that together with some black cargo pants, combat boots, gloves, and a couple of holsters; I got a reasonable facsimile of a costume:
I told people I was working security for Cold Slither. Obviously the mask didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but 1) I don’t care, and 2) As I’ve said before, when I’m in costume I’m Phantom Troublemaker in a costume. For all intents and purposes that mask is my face. And nobody questioned it anyway because I was one of two or three people that actually wore any kind of costume. I had more people ask to take their picture with me in my thrown-together costume at Joelanta than I ever have at Dragon*Con or anywhere else in a full costume.
Right as we got out of the car we met a couple of nice folks hanging out in the parking lot. They were having some adult beverages and preparing to go back in. We chatted a little bit while I put on my mask and holsters – didn’t want to get pulled over while I was dressed like a terrorist – and they didn’t question the appropriateness of the mask at all.
Once inside we checked in at the registration table. People in costume got in free and kids got to pick out a free toy.
Joelanta is held in the same general vicinity of the hotel as Atlanta Comic Con, but takes up so much more of it. Every ballroom and hallway of the area was full of dealers’ tables. Obviously the bulk of the merchandise was GI Joe stuff from every era of the line, but a good bit was from other lines. I was actually a little nervous that I’d find somebody with a whole bunch of Inhumanoids stuff. That itch just keeps getting worse.
The thing that amused me was the sheer volume of parts for 1/6th scale Joes. There was table after table full of tiny little loose boots, fatigues, helmets, rifles, pistols, holsters, web belts, and every other kind of accessory you could imagine. It was like a thrift store for tiny people except that you could buy real clothes for less than what these tiny clothes cost. And that was my biggest problem with Joelanta – all of the prices seemed incredibly high. And a lot of guys had a lot of un-priced merchandise. I really can’t stand that. This one guy had a Zombie Viper – an admittedly difficult figure to find. I’ve been wanting one for a while. He told me it was twenty bucks so I put it back in the box. We realized later that this was the same guy from last year that was visibly gauging Lil’ Troublemaker’s excitement over loose action figures while quoting prices to my wife. She and I both realized this at the same time and told him we weren’t going to buy anything from him. What makes this guy such a reprehensible shitbag is that he is using our son to make us spend money. Obviously Lil’ Troublemaker was upset that we weren’t going to buy any of those figures and we had to deal with that. And this guy was counting on it. Fuck that guy.
Side Note: I don’t actually know if $20 is reasonable for a Zombie Viper or not, but it is more than I wanted to pay. And it was stuck in a box on the floor with a bunch of old, worthless figures. Nothing had a price on it.
Just to go ahead and get the negative out of the way, there was another guy with some of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. While me and the missus were discussing something else, Lil’ Troublemaker walked over and picked up April and a Kraang. The guy asked if he wanted them and of course he said yes and the guy said they were fifteen apiece. I told my son that it was too much and we weren’t there to buy stuff we could still get at retail anyway. I told him we could go to Target and get those for nine bucks. The guy said that those were special and that we wouldn’t find them at Target.
Oh, really, buckaroo? Obviously you don’t know who the fuck you’re talking to.
I just stared at him for a second and told him that yes, we could find them at Target and that I write about toys just about every day of my life.
I know toys,” I told him, very conscious of the ridiculous combination of menace and dorkiness I was projecting.
We moved on and that was the end of any negativity whatsoever at Joelanta. The rest of our visit was great.
There’s this guy named Joe that deals toys and is always at ACC, Joelanta, and lots of other cons. I end up talking to him every time. He’s the one that had the Wun-Dar last year that I just missed. He’s a nice guy and always asks what I’m looking for. He keeps forgetting to bring another Wun-Dar, but that’s okay. Dude’s got a lot going on. Which did not stop Mrs. Troublemaker – who has known Joe for years – from stomping up and asking if he brought her husband’s toy this time. He hadn’t but he did even better. He pulled out two huge Ziploc bags full of Marvel Adventure Heroes – the chunky 6” figures for kids – and told Lil’ Troublemaker to go through them and pick out which ones he wanted and he’d give us a deal. That was awesome.
Just to be clear, I don’t expect this sort of thing. I want to pay a fair price for a good toy. I’ll certainly take a deal when it comes up, but I’m not even good at haggling, so don’t think I’m some crazy skinflint. If that first guy had said fifteen for that Zombie Viper I probably would have paid it. But twenty was too much.
Anyway, Lil’ Troublemaker picked out some figures and we got a deal. Joe didn’t have anything else I needed, but I’m definitely going to make a point of buying from him in the future. Because that’s how business should be done.
There was also a guy who had some pretty neat wire sculptures:
Another big part of Joelanta are the custom GI Joe figures and dioramas.
This year had some cool figures:
And a couple of outstanding dioramas: 
As well as some smaller pieces:
We wandered around some more and I chatted with the extremely talented Tom Feister. He told me about meeting Larry Hama when he was nine and how that had spurred his desire to have a career in comics. It’s a cool story. You should ask him about it some time.
Speaking of Larry Hama, I finally got to meet him!:
I kind of geeked up a little bit. The guy is one of my Big Heroes of the Comic Industry and I actually got a little nervous. Also, I think he was kind of dragging because it was towards the end of the day. But I got my picture and it’s one of my favorites.
Finally, while I was posing with Larry Hama, my wife and son were perusing Raven’s wares. Raven the professional wrestler.
Raven is often at these shows and I like to think that he just shows up with his own table and some boxes of toys and statues and stuff and just sets up shop. Nobody says anything to him because, quite frankly, the guy is terrifying. They just act like they don’t notice him and he sells some figures and signs some 8x10s and there you go. Or even if somebody does say something he just ignores them. That’s what he did to me.
It was at a TNA meet and greet before Bound For Glory in 2007. Me and a buddy of mine had paid to get in and then paid to get 8x10s for the wrestlers to sign. Every single one of them was beyond nice. Hernandez was cool as shit, Christian was friendly, Kurt Angle seemed doped out of his mind but was nice. Samoa Joe was super cool and I actually talked to him about video games for a while:
That’s my elbow in stead of the picture of me talking to Samoa Joe that I wanted because my friend Neal was an idiot.
Mike Tenay and Don West were two of the nicest guys ever and I’ll savagely titty twist anybody that says anything against them.
As nice as all of those guys were, I was most excited about meeting Raven. He had long been one of my favorites. From the little bit I had seen of his ECW work to his time in WCW and WWF right up to the then-current run in TNA, even if the guy wasn’t giving one hundred percent – which even he will admit he often wasn’t – he was fascinating. Regardless of the amount of effort he was putting in, his matches always made sense and hit all the right notes. And his mic work was unassailable. Out of everything the guy had done, his feud with DDP over the WCW United States Championship was my favorite. To this day that feud is still one of my favorites. And when I stepped up to his table and told him this, he quickly signed the 8x10 I had handed him and turned away. I made another attempt to engage him and the dude just wasn’t having it.
I can’t honestly say I was disappointed. I had heard stories of Raven not being the most hospitable representative of his chosen profession. So I moved onto Kevin Nash, who was so nice I honestly thought he might just take us all out for dinner.
But I’ve gotten way off topic. I suppose I should write about that experience in more depth at some point.
So Raven had his table at Joelanta and my wife and son were looking at his stuff. I walked over and Lil’ Troublemaker was holding onto a fairly large Underdog action figure – really more of a vinyl toy. 
Raven was smiling at them and thanking them and I overheard the price as five bucks, which was more than fair for the item. When I got to the table he looked up and asked how it was going. I said it was going alright and then we left.
Baby steps with Raven. Maybe four or five cons from now I can finally ask him about that feud with DDP.

-Phantom

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