Monday, January 2, 2012

G.I. Joe collection

First of all, happy new year. 2012 looks just as promising as any previous year, and while I'm cautiously optimistic as usual, it did feel like a good start to the year. Just before Christmas, I got back my G.I. Joe collection. It has been at a local museum for the better part of two years. I will simply start the new year by letting you see how the exhibition looked like. I will also admit that I missed my toys. Most of them are connected to good memories spanning two decades. While those memories will be saved for Figure Fridays, I will tell a bit about how it was to make an exhibition at a museum.

Read on for many pictures.

Some time in 2009, I got in touch with the Norwegian Children's Museum. They needed something new for their themed, rotating section called "The Collector". Up until then, I had seen everything from collection of firetrucks to glanzbilden (glossy colored prints) in this section of the museum. My sister mentioned to the people at the museum that I had a rather large collection of action figures from my childhood. They were interested in having my toys on display, and I was more than willing to share them. After all, what point is a collection if no one sees it?

I did how ever have an issue with how it would be displayed. I said that I wanted to make the exhibition myself instead of handing my toys over to let them do it for me, and the manager at the museum was naturally a bit skeptical. The thing was, I saw a potential for something more than just placing the toys statically around in the displays. I also wanted to show off as many aspects of G.I. Joe as possible. I had an idea of showing the toys in different environments: desert, sea, snow, space, city. As  you will see, I didn't manage to make room for space or city, but I feel the point came across: these area diverse toys.
I had some experience with customizing Joes, as well as building small dioramas. But nothing on this scale. So yes, the manager had every reason to be skeptical.

I got some assistance from my sister, and I called a good friend and asked if he wanted to help. Both are of creative breed. The museum gave us a small budget, and a date for the opening, and we went to work.

We had five glass display cases to use. Three of them were around 4 meters long and rather high. This was a bit tricky, but proved to be beneficial to at least one of the environments. Then there was one display that was a bit shorter and flat, and the last one was identical to the high ones, only half the length.

This last one was the first you'd see when you entered the museum.
I had the thought of including a bit of everything in this display. Sort of an introduction to everything G.I. Joe:
Loose figures of different styles, some vehicles, comics, filecards and maybe some vehicle boxes.
Most of the toys in the exhibition are from my childhood collection, but some are obviously more recent, both to me and in terms of release date. I picked up quite a few pieces in Kansas City during the G.I. Joe collectors club convention, including the 6 inch figures (Baroness and two Crimson Guards) you see in this introduction display.
I was a bit scared that the toys, like the F14 Skystriker here would get sun damaged, yellowed. But no such thing. The toys have no discoloration. Except for the two Crimson Guards. Their red jumpsuits are slightly lighter than they used to be. I expected some casualties, and I'm kinda glad it happened to those guys and not my carded figures or the Skystrikers.

Here is a selection of both Norwegian and American comics. The same with the filecards.
As this was a display that could be enjoyed from either side, I tried to have a few figures facing the other way as well. 93 Snake Eyes and the Hyena with Destro and the Iron Grenadiers to one side. The Star Brigade mechs to the other side. Behind the box of the Skystriker, one could find a handful of Dreadnoks. I have them all in my collection, and I had initially intended for the three original ones - Buzzer, Ripper and Torch - to be displayed in seclusion. But I just couldn't find Torch. Zandar and Zanzibar steps in.
I also disassembled a Joe to show how it's constructed, and a small promotion of my second home from home when it comes to G.I. Joe -
The dude with the Fantastic Four t-shirt is my self custom. I've made better self customs since then, but at the time, many thought it was cool.
Those small white cards contained relevant information about what was displayed. And for the displays with a bit more action, I wrote a small story about what was going on.

The second display was the flat one. A lot simpler to work with, and we immediately saw an airfield taking shape. I'll admit we took some simple ways out on this one, like using electrical tape for the airfield markings. In hindsight, we should have painted them. I initially had two Phantoms on display here, but switched one out with the Crusader space shuttle. I also had my Tomahawk in here for a good while. A thing that was really cool (at least I think so) was that every vehicle in this display had the markings "Action Force" - meaning they were early releases from Europe. That changed when I placed the Crusader though, as I got that from a friend in the US.

Notable figures on the airfield was 1984 Storm Shadow, UK Quarrel (repaint of Scarlett), Hardtop, silver pad Grand Slam. Inside the hangar I tried to make it look like a mission briefing was taking place.

Right above the hangar display I placed a drawing I got from Larry Hama in Kansas City. _As one of the creators of the franchise, he liked the idea of a national museum having a G.I. Joe exhibition.

We split the third display in two parts. Initially, I wanted a moon landscape in the other half, but I decided to show off some carded figures instead. The arctic display is ok, but I wish I had some details in the background. My sister painted some gorgeous endpieces for two of the displays, and I kinda wish I got her to make some background for the entire arctic display.

Worth mentioning here is that the big Joe vehicle, the Avalance, is a totally bad ass toy. I'll do a feature on it soon. Notable figures in the arctic display include Scrap Iron, Baroness, Snow Serpent, Snow Job, and no more than two customs. One of arctic Snake Eyes, and a mountaineer (the one behind the Avalanche).

I'd like to point out here that we used a weekend making this entire exhibition, me, my sister and my friend. Some parts I wish I had better time to make, but I do think that with the time and resources we had, it turned out good. The response has been great, and somewhere between fifty and sixty thousand people have seen my action figures.
The museum moved to a new location this winter, and has now a cute little display of vintage Star Wars toys in the section "The Collector". Obviously a bit different than what I made, but it was definitely a good selection of the toys that revolutionized the 3 3/4 inch toys.  

The display with the carded figures has to be my favorite. I made an effort to include as many nations as possible. As you can see, here are figures from both US, UK, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, India and even Norway.

The fourth display proved to be tricky to make. I had an idea of how to make ocean in a simple way, but I also wanted to show of some of the submarine vehicles and figures. The result turned out to be plexi glass with blue clear foil. The plexi glass rested on clear tubes. Over the course of two years, the sand used for the ocean floor has been blown a bit all over the display, and as you can see there's quite a bit of sand on the ocean surface. But let me tell you that the effect of the plexi  glass with the blue foil was a lot better than any of my expectations. The divers hanging from fishing strings bathed in deep blue light from the spots in the roof, as the light passed through the foil.

Worth noting here is one of the few non-Hasbro toys in the exhibition: Firebomb. The red repaint of BUGG driver Secto Viper. Almost right after we opened the exhibition, his o-ring snapped. If it was any of the other displays, it would have been simple to just open it and replace the o-ring. But because the ocean was made like this, we just couldn't justify opening it. He's the casualty of war.

Notable vehicles here: The two Hydrofoils, both convention exclusives. Amazing toys. The two submerged ones are BUGG and Hammerhead. Equally amazing.
Over where the Joes are, we can see the hovercraft  WHALE, and the delightfully insane MANTA (the wind surfer). My buddy went to work on the sunken Cobra Stiletto, making sure it looked like it had been lying on the ocean floor for a while. The idea was that the Joes were salvaging it, just as the Cobra army enters the scene.
I do not own the massive carrier FLAGG, but if I did, there wouldn't be room for it here anyway. In fact, none of the displays would have room for either of the big G.I. Joe playsets (FLAGG, Terrordrome, Defiant, Mobile Command Center).

Figures worth mentioning in the ocean scene are plenty. As you can see, I army built Wet Suit for the Joes. In essence, he is a unique individual, but since his face is obscured, I figured it made sense to have plenty of divers for the Joes. I also managed to include 1986 Hawk (the leader of the Joes) in all the four action displays. He's commanding the WHALE in this one. Can you find him in the others?
Over on the Cobra side, I must admit I really like Secto Viper. Over the years, I got my hands on several examples, and it's such a fun sculpt. With the domed helmet, he looks like a retro space adventurer. I also have the Crimson Twins, Tomax and Xamot driving the orange hydrofoil. Cobra Commander in his armor suit - is that the proper attire during open sea combat? I'm not sure...

The final display is an oasis bordering the open desert. I'd like to point out the two end pieces painted by my sister. Absolutely gorgeous oil paintings made specifically for this exhibition. The idea behind the display is that Cobra has a device hidden in the oasis that can change people's thoughts. Sort of like they did in the comics with the Terrordrome.

There are several random characters on the Joe side. I included them a bit for fun, but as you can see, guys like Quick Kick, Scoop and The Fridge are along for the ride. Luckily desert specifics like Dusty and the Desert Fox (driven by unfortunately named Skidmark) are brought into the battle.
I'm really satisfied with the tiny outpost where I placed Sonic Tunnel Rat and Bullhorn. The pile of damaged B.A.Ts are clearly a result of their effort.

Both me and my buddy made stuff we had never tried making before. How do you make a palm tree? Well, I figured I'd use bamboo sticks and just trow some paint on them. Stick some plastic leaves on the top, give them a round with a scissor.
I am glad the museum had several bags of sand.

Some things to take note of here: The Fang hovering over the battlefield. Thunderclap clearly aimed for a target beyond the Cobra base. The ruined building near the Joes. The destroyed Hiss tank with a Viper soldier stuck in the canopy. The tracks in the sand. I like the details in this display.

All in all, I was able to cram in roughly 300 figures and around 50 vehicles in the entire exhibition (haven't counted, it's just an estimate), which count for around half my G.I. Joe RAH collection. Most of the Cobra army builders in this final display came from my buddy.

Both me and my friend agree that this was the pinnacle of collecting G.I. Joe toys. Not only did we have an amazing time making these displays - which was basically a kid's dream, but I also got to show these fantastic toys to a new audience.


joerdie said...

This brought back so many memories from my childhood. My collection was never as big as yours, (I only had one B.A.T. for example,) but those G.I. Joe figures were the most played with toys I owned. As a long time lurker, I just wanted to tell you that this was another great post. Thanks.

Jon said...

Thanks for the comment, joerdie. I also had one single B.A.T. One of my favorites back then, as well as now.

fighgtingphish72 said...

I love the way you set everything up,Good Job,Hope my set up is half as nice as yours.

Bill Delehant said...

Really enjoy your Joe write ups! They being me back to being a kid. What did you use for your arctic Snake Eyes? I recognize version 2's head, but nothing else. I want one!

Jon said...

Hey Bill. It's a repainted Iceberg body. A very simple, but effective custom. Add some light gray to his visor for details maybe.

Unknown said...

Great article and especially love the above/ underwater display.

Matt said...

That is just amazing! I love the various scenes.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love reading about 80s gi joe toys. I had a very modest collection back when i was a kid but lost them. I'm back to collecting now.

Ryan from Manila

''Raven'' said...
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