It is only toward this particular audience I can relate the following anecdote and have it be not (at least immediately) taken as my being dirty: I had one of those “toy dreams” last night.
Yep, you know the ones. You drive off to an unfamiliar (yet somehow known to you) store. In my dreams, this is usually some strange bastard K-Mart or Woolworth’s my subconscious has thrown together. Once there, you make your way to a toy aisle, and you come across something incredible. Something that doesn’t exist. You might even realize it, and so in a vain attempt to break the barrier between sleep and reality, you hurry away with as much of it as you can carry, only to wake up pissed off cuz your bag of imaginary toys didn’t make the jump back into awake-land.
You know what? These dreams f**kin suck, man. I haven’t had one in a while, but this one crept up on me. And the sneaky shiv it jammed into my neck were GI Joes, in neat black boxes, in that holy grail 6-inch scale.
Much like other fantasy dreams do to you, yeah, I woke up pissed off. And you’re left with this feeling of irritated wanting, like an itch you can’t scratch, or a Kate Beckinsale you can’t get to scratch it for you. Luckily, while laws, logistics, and a whole host of other things keep you from acting on those other ones, this particular irritant I can can help soothe by pissing and moaning to like-minds. So, here we are.
The Star Wars 6-inch Black Series is one of the few toy lines you might be able to get away with calling a “game changer” without folks rolling their eyes at you. It’s not surprising that it’s gotten that old wish-machine in my brain pumping again like it was the early 2000s because it is the very nature of Star Wars to cultivate that kind of wide-eyed wonder and idealism of what just might/could happen. But as I’ve said before, I was a bit of a latecomer to Star Wars, only really getting into it in the mid-’90s when it experienced a sort-of soft revival. I was a child of the ’80s, and while I certainly wouldn’t begrudge a Han Solo or a Luke Skywalker in their midst, I fought my backyard battles with the likes of the Autobots, the Ninja Turtles, a little Justice League via Super Powers, and with America’s elite highly-trained special missions force.
That’s right, Millenials. Before Captain Price, before the Ghosts, there was Duke. And Snake Eyes. And Flint, Roadblock, Stalker, and sometimes the Fridge. And, naturally, this 3rd generation of GI Joe was spawned in no small part by the introductions of Star Wars. As Mark Twain allegedly said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme …
The concept of a 6-inch Joe line is almost old news. You might even be pissed at reading this because you were assuming this was a formal announcement or something. Sadly, it isn’t … at least not yet. Because scale changes, anniversaries, shifts in demographics, price points, and Hasbro’s very aggressive new direction with their lines is brewing into the perfect storm — the kind you need a heavy ship, like the USS Flagg, to punch through. Hell, I’ll drive this metaphor a little more and say the course has already been plotted — all you gotta do is just what you did in 1982 and follow the wake of that damn Star Destroyer.
Some of you newer Fwooshers might not know of these, but in the Glory Days of customizing, a fella named Doubledealer cranked out some of the most impressive-looking customs anybody had ever seen. And then he did some 6-inch Joes. If I had any of that level of skill, those puppies would’ve been in a box labeled “RESUME” and shipped off to Hasbro because his customs illustrate perfectly how much the Joes could benefit from larger sculpts and accessories. They’ve always had some of the best articulation and pack-ins in the industry, but things only get better with bigger. Functioning holsters and sheaths. Collapsible stocks, folding bi-pods, movable visors. Removable helmets, grenades, berets? Yes sir, there is much that has been done, but much more that can be done if they were just a couple inches taller.
I’m also really beginning to see the wisdom of the current Hasbro 4-figure assortment system, and I could see it working damn near parallel to the Star Wars ones. You have your main crew of heroes, you have army-building villains aplenty, and various mercenaries, MARS employees, and so on to fill in wherever needed. I wouldn’t even object to the occasional movie-based figure, especially if mixed in with the classics, like Spidey and Cap are doing. And the collector market is very similar as well — despite a very expansive and firmly entrenched 1/18 collection, the few other scales Joes venture into, like the back-to-source 1/6 Sideshow figures, are a fiery sellout with every release. It ain’t just kung-fu grip nostalgia that get folks to pump out a couple bills (at least) for those …
And on the movie front, GI Joe has an advantage that nearly no other property can claim: In addition to GI Joe-branded movies, damn near every action movie in Hollywood is a damn GI Joe movie. Politics aside, that town has never met a soldier or a gun they didn’t love. And GI Joe is covered in both of ’em. So, while it might not have quite the same brand recognition as something the sheer size of Star Wars, it can tap into a mythology that has permeated American culture since at least the ’80s. And not just America’s forces, either. There was the Russian Oktober Guard, and the elite British SAF that augment their ranks. I’m already writing the “Plastic Armory” features in my head …
The gaps that GI Joe can fill in a 6-inch collection is mind-numbing, even if you’re not a fan of the property. How about some Police-types for your Gotham Rogues to mess with? Guys like Shockblast and Law & Order are happy to oblige. Need some slightly smaller scale colonial Marine types? Give old Hi Tech or Sci-Fi a call. Ninjas? I’m sure there’s some around here somewhere … and that still leaves plenty of candidates for some good ol’ High Speed, Low Drag, Dynamic Operator Operating Operationally types for some Call of Duty-type front-room action. Like I said, screw Captain Price. Beachhead eats Cap’n Price for breakfast. Or something like that.
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