GI Joe Jetpack V2.0 – The Evolution of the Cotswold Heli-Pack


My latest project for Cotswold Collectibles is one they have been after me to do for a while now, ever since I showed it to Greg Brown at the Dallas GI Joe Convention.

(Cross-eye stereo pic)

But I was very concerned that certain aspects of the design were fine for me, knowing what I know about it, but I was very hesitant to sell it to others due to extreme fragility in more than one aspect of the design.


Breakable Design


The harness, which is a hard pipe harness that hinges down over a body and clips into place using two swing-arms and c-clamp clasps, is very clever, and works perfectly. But unless you are very careful, it can break incredibly easily.


Then the clips that hold the engine housings onto the body are also relatively breakable. It might take some force, but they could break because they were printed vertically.

When you print a thin cylinder on a layered 3D printer, the layers fuse, but those layers are never as strong as a single layer is. A cylinder printed upright will snap like a twig very easily. The same cylinder printed sideways will be very hard to snap but will also not be very round.


It’s a trade-off. I created the first jetpack to look good, and not be terribly strong.


How To Fix It So I Could Sell It

How could I change the jetpack to make it so that I could confidently sell them without worrying someone would easily break it?



First, I harkened back to the Backpack Drone Carrier which I designed a couple of years ago. It held my aerial drone, and was a solar charging base as well as a launch pad for it. This used a harness made from elastic straps, and 3D printed connectors and strap adjusters. When I designed that, I wanted nothing to do with sewing. A complicated elastic harness might mean sewing strap bits together. I came up with a way that does the whole thing with one continuous length of elastic strapping with no sewing at all. Just heat-fusing the ends so they don’t fray.


The jetpack was in itself an homage to, and a continuation of, the backpack GI Joe Action Pack sets of the past, especially the Turbo Copter. Those used straps as harnesses, either flexible plastic or elastic, clipped to a chest piece with metal clips.

Since that worked rather well, I thought I might be able to get away with that for the jetpack. So when I began work to completely redesign the jetpack, I had this new harness in mind from the beginning.

I created holes in the body that the strap would go into. I also designed it to screw together with 3 simple screws, but those screws would also clamp the elastic in place. I used a sawtooth strip on both the cushion seat and the front of the body piece to sandwich the elastic tightly, and it would not slip. Screws then go through the elastic to hold it in place on the body. Where the elastic folds in half, it fits into the chest harness piece and is clamped in place again by two screws.

PIC OF INTERIOR SHOWING TOOTH STRIPS AND HOLES FOR STRAPS – apologies. I still don’t have this pic!

The ends of the elastic are then fed into the strap adjusters and strap clips which fit nicely into the chest piece for an adjustable – and practically unbreakable – harness that I could now be confident could be sold to collectors without fear.


Engine Housing Clips

The original design printed the rotating engine arms upright, which makes for a perfectly smooth cylinder for easy rotation. However, that meant the clips that held the engine housings in place could be broken if enough force was applied. The layers could snap, breaking the clips.

So the solution was easy. Print the arms upright as usual, but make the clips separate pieces printed sideways. Sideways, the layers are both flexible and very strong. It would be practically impossible to break these new clips. They would get glued into the arms for a solid hold, and again, this makes the design much harder to break.


Complete Redesign


My original jetpack was bulky and clunky and not terribly smooth. This was fine for a prototype or proof of concept, and it served me well. But again, not something I thought was aesthetically pleasing enough to sell. So I came up with a new concept which was much smoother in overall design, a bit smaller, and would have smaller engines, and would fit into the Adventure Team Vehicle without the racks I had designed, (though a quick redesign of the racks made those useful again anyway.)


I began with tessellated cubes and used lattice deformers to warp the shapes into something cool and resembled my concept.

I soon had this ready:


I was able to take the functioning part of the thumbwheel and arms directly from the old model without much alteration, except to make them a bit smaller.

I redesigned the engine housings just a bit to allow for the hub and spokes to work better. Those were incredibly hard to assemble as they were, and were not feasible as originally designed.

I was going to print the struts (spokes) flat in order to make a stronger central hub overall, but I didn’t want to lose the smoothness. So I deepened the slots the struts fitted into on the hub, and then created sliding slots for the assembled struts into the housings so they could slide into place, rather than be snapped into place awkwardly and with some danger of ruining the parts.


Why The Hub Bub?

Why the hub at all, you say?


The engine housings themselves were designed to mimic the Dyson concept: air being pushed into the housing, and then pushed out through a ring around it, using an aerodynamic shell to funnel the air into a stable column. This, exaggerated to jet power, would provide enough lift for a human. It does not require that hub or struts.

The hub is there so when you remove the housings for storage or carrying, those can clip to the body. They are completely non-functional, though I did put a jet intake vent on it for looks.



Problems With The Thumbwheel

The thumbwheel provided an issue. Originally designed to snap together very tightly, and not easily comp apart (so you could pull the engine housings off without fear of pulling out the rotator arms) this new version was giving me difficulties in assembly which involved a clamp to push the arms onto square posts on the thumbwheel.

However, I found that the thumbwheel bent during assembly and the arms would never snap fully onto the posts.


I knew why. The post that goes “through” the thumbwheel actually was not a solid post. It was a shell and a part of the thumbwheel. So when you pushed hard on both posts, the thumbwheel itself collapsed a bit and the clamping process could not get the arms fully onto the wheel.

I could fix this by printing the thumbwheel with denser support, but I think there’s a better solution: Design the post solid, and make it exactly the same size as a hole in the thumbwheel. The 3D printer would see these as two solid walls and not make a solid of them, but print them almost as if they were two parts. This would mean clamping the arms onto the posts would be easier because the post would be solid, and not just look solid. It should work.


Sellable Product

With these changes made, tested, iterated on and approved, I was able to start printing.

One of the other original reasons I was a bit hesitant was that this thing took a long time to print. Scaling it down a bit helps, and having two printers certainly helps. And having a fairly nice lead time before they would be needed helps. I believe printing 30 of these won’t be too bad. It may take more than a month, but would be worth the time.

I’m eager to get these into the hands of collectors and gauge their reactions. I anticipate a quick sell-out of the first run.



I sent the jetpack, along with a dark green ATV rack-mount for it, (along with some color swatches I printed along with my own designed carabiner) to Greg for approval. The upper brass liked it apparently, but liked the rack mount so much they wanted to offer it up at the same time as an optional companion piece. So now I have to print some of these as well.


Luckily there are only three individual parts, each have to be printed twice, and the pins four times each, in order to make one working rack. The two main parts are symmetrical so they work on both sides of the vehicle cargo bay, but with one part’s leg reversed. It’s quite a clever design if I do say so myself. The same legs work on either side of the tilted bay, but each one angled upward and the platforms snap to the legs.



Of course the finished rack will not be in green, it will be in black to complement the ATV and the jetpack.


It Ain’t Always Easy

I was once intereviewed by an Afinia PR person. We chat on occasion and she loves it when I show her my latest 3D printed thing. She once asked me how often I get failed prints. I replied “Almost never.”

And that’s true. Sure, it happens sometimes. I’ll wake up, check the printer and find a huge hairball, but that is remarkably rare. Just a shade more often, I may get a print that has somehow caught on the print head and forced the print bed to skip, causing an offset.

The most frequent issue (and this happens more than I’d like, but still fairly rarely) is stress cracking. This is when the layers don’t fuse as strongly. I get it on some filaments even at my highest heat setting.

So it was frustrating to find out that when I had printed about a dozen of the body fronts for this project, a closer inspection showed me that I only had 3 good prints. Sigh. And it seems to happen mostly on my H480. Less so on my H479. The H480 just had its print head replaced a few months ago. You’d think it wouldn’t lose heat.

Anyway, it’s all part of the 3D printing process, and I’m just glad it’s a rare event.

ADDENDUM: On stress cracking. Yes, I sometimes get some depending on heat, but the frustration I was experiencing printing these jetpacks, I now realize, had to do with me buying a batch of old, outdated filament. I bought a 3 pack of yellow Afinia Premium ABS filament from a third party vendor on Amazon. It was when I was using that that I had so many jetpack bodies with stress cracks. I should have known there was a problem. These reels did not come in boxes, but in their mylar sleeves, which were scuffed up and buckled badly like these reels had been sitting in someone’s warehouse for a loooong time. I then ordered some fresh ABS from Afinia and did not experience that stress cracking.

I felt I should clear that up.


Final Words

Cotswold released the catalog, and here it is.



I created 30 jetpacks and 25 ATV racks, my thinking was about half the people who buy the jetpack would have a vintage ATV in their collection, so I figured 15. We kept getting orders, so Greg Brown at Cotswold kept upping the order until we got to 25, almost a 1:1 ratio.

Not bad.

We are currently working on future projects! Keep your eye on this space.

UPDATE: I created a blueprint and instruction sheet for the Heli-Pack:



Working Winch – For Cotswold Collectibles

Last year I worked on a second project for Cotswold Collectibles. The first one was the smaller aerial drone, which they wanted to fit in their lovely cloth backpack, for a Deluxe Midnight Mission Set.

The second one had to do with retrieving lost treasures from a buried tomb in a set called Descent Into Danger. Here are photos shot for the catalog:


My part of the project involved creating a working winch and hook. So I did some research and saw that modern winches have motors attached, so I opted to create a working winch, with ratchet gear, and the winder (which works by hand) winds what looks like a motor, but is actually a crank.

Greg, my friend at Cotswold, wanted it to mount on top of a table-top camera tripod, which is coincidentally perfect for a GI Joe-scaled winch tripod. It tilts, has extending legs, and screws on using a standard mounting screw.

So I designed the base of the winch to hold a nut that would fit that screw tread, so it could be screwed on tightly.

12459954_10205464997251456_1594099390_n 1931944_10205464996891447_1768960341_n 12483497_10205464997451461_485078390_n 12467892_10205464997171454_787790447_n

The ratchet works by a springed gear stop (in red) which was printed to be flexible. You turn the motor (the blue piece) and the winch cranks upward, and doesn’t go back down unless you press on the red lever, which frees the winch gear.

I confess I was a little surprised how well it all worked.

Drop Canisters – Cotswold Collectibles

My latest project for Cotswold Collectibles: A Drop Canister.

The concept is simple: A canister that can be dropped by parachute into a mission area.

The design was fairly simple too. The canister would be about the size of a soda can. Two handles, one on each side, for easy carrying, and a handle on top of a twist-cap. I designed the cap to twist into a slot and the closure is nice and snug and feels great. The cap is made from two pieces: the main cap and the top.

They are designed (in this case) in Adventure Team colors: Yellow, black, red.

Here are the printed bodies:


Here are the printed caps in two pieces:


And the completed order. I did 30.


Here’s the ad as it appears in the Cotswold Collectibles catalog:


Adventure Team Backpack Surveillance Drone – Now in AT Colours

Last year I posted an article about my 3D printed Adventure Team set, the Action Pack Backpack Drone Surveillance. I designed it and 3D printed it on my Afinia H479 printer. Originally the drone was white with black structure and red highlights. The backpack was orange and black. These are acceptable Adventure Team colors.


But I decided I wanted to see how it looked in the more typical Adventure Team colors of red and yellow. I bought some Afinia Premium Red filament for the first time. (I had some Afinia Premium Yellow before, and I printed my Backpack Jetpack with that material.)

The result is pretty nice:


Note: To apply my laser-printed water-slide decals I had to do some experimentation. These decals do not stick to ABS plastic. I discovered that spray-painting the top part with a satin clear coat paint, the decals would stick pretty well. Another spray coat over it and it should seal them down nicely. (Of course rough treatment may still make them come off.)

The Parts and Assembly

You saw how the drone was assembled (though in a slightly smaller scale it is an identical process) in my post about the Cotswold Deluxe Midnite Mission set.

The backpack frame, legs and screws:

The legs form the side of the backpack when being carried, and support the frame as a launch platform for the drone when in use:

Next, the harness. It is comprised of a 22-inch strip of .375 inch wide black elastic. First, I fold the elastic in the middle and place it into the space modeled into the harness bracket front half. While this picture does not show it, the red half has a channel modeled to fit the elastic on a folded angle.


Then the two short, stubby screws are screwed into the black back plate through the elastics to hold it firmly:

Here are the four black strap brackets that will hold the elastic harness in place on the frame:

The elastic is carefully placed so there is a 7cm distance between the top bracer and the harness chest piece. A screw holds the elastic and the bracer in place firmly. Then the elastic is stretched somewhat (consistently) to the lower bracer and that is screwed onto the frame. There is equal tension between the two bracers for a purpose:

Next the strap adjuster and harness clips are placed onto the elastic strips:

The completed harness:

Next, the solar cell (which charges the drone’s recharging batteries when it is in the air) is glued to the circular aperture:

On top of this the drone’s holding tray is glued: The drone fits perfectly between the three clips, and the top clip is used to free it by pressing gently until the drone is released from the grip of the tray.

Here you see the touch-screen tablet used to fly the drone, and to monitor the drone’s camera capturing ability. This is a single printed piece with clear-coat and a glossy printed screen spray-glued (with permanent glue hopefully) to the surface:

Ok, I’m going to claim some cleverness now. This tablet stores perfectly flat in the backpack frame in a cavity modeled to fit it, held in place by the harness straps:

Here it is, stored fully:

Lastly, for the backpack, these four black “bolts” are glued onto the legs (so as not to interfere with the screws) to finish off the look:

Et voila:

Cotswold Collectibles – Deluxe Midnite Mission Set


At the GI Joe Convention in Dallas in April I met Greg Brown of Cotswold Collectibles. I had sent him some of my 3D print samples some months earlier and he expressed interest in doing some project work together for Cotswold Collectibles, which had recently begun to issue mail-out catalogs in full color again, featuring some Adventure Team-themed outfits and full sets

He showed me plans he had for a complete stealth set which harkens back to the good old days of the GI Joe Adventure Team. Here was a modern take on the Spy Island set, and it included a black and silver version of my AT Surveillance Drone which I had designed last year and 3D printed. The drone featured in one of my diorama entries at the Convention, seen here:


The drone, printed in white, hovers above the scene, suspended by a thread on an armature.

I began work immediately. First, the construction of my drone was a bit flimsy, especially the working camera head which pivots around a hub using a tenuous connector that was easily broken and came loose easily. I opted to fix that by using a screw. Second, the struts that hold the central hub to the outer ring were individually printed and had to be glued together in another relatively tenuous

My first improvement was to combine the three struts with the central hub for a single, strong part. Then I created notches in the ring and pins in the struts so the hub part could snap to the body accurately and strongly. The rest remained relatively unchanged; the legs (not seen in this photo) which form the bottom segments of each strut hinge down as landing gear.

But the drone had to fit into an existing Cotswold backpack which Greg sent me. I found that I had to scale the drone down to 75% of the original. This meant that moving parts may not work, since tolerances at that scale would be different.


(I test print in neon yellow to make sure I don’t confuse them with final parts. And I have a lot of neon yellow with not much use for it.)

To my surprise, I printed three test drones. One at 50%, one at 66.66% and one at 75% of the original size. To my utter shock and astonishment, each one functioned perfectly when printed. Even the 50% scaled version had working legs that folded without an issue.

The 75% version fit the backpack perfectly.


I began printing a couple of test models, sent them to Greg for approval, then began printing in earnest.

Here, I assemble the drones:

The bodies are split into an upper half and a lower half. The lower half has spaces for the legs to hinge down.

Small pegs align the upper and lower halves. The legs are held in by square blocks that, when pushed into place, form a perfect hinge space.cots-drone-leg-assembly-02

The pegs are put in place, and the top glued to the bottom, clamped down by six strong clamps.cots-drone-body-clamping-01

Next the hub gets snapped in place and glued.

Then a small screw is used to screw the camera head to the hub.cots-drone-camera-assembly-01

Then (not shown here) the camera is placed in the camera head by friction so it can swivel on its axis freely.

Then the repulsors are glued in place and a jet vane is glued to the top of the hub.

And after a heck of a lot of work, I had 30 ready to go:

Then I had to design the arm controllers. I had a simple idea in mind and wanted it to be a single piece. But the design made me want an accent color so I made the control pad red on a silver cuff that can snap to a GI Joe’s dressed arm.


The space below the control pad in red is reserved for a sticker which will show the view as seen from the drone’s camera.

So here are some pictures Greg posted featuring the finished prototype:

cots-midnight-mission-set-01 cots-midnight-mission-outfit-05 cots-midnight-mission-outfit-04 cots-midnight-mission-outfit-03 cots-midnight-mission-gear-01

And here is the catalog, which I got in the mail a couple of weeks back:


P.S. I am currently at work on my second Cotswold set. News on that as I am allowed to post it. Stay tuned.


2014 GI Joe Convention – Dallas and Back Again

This is going to be a long post, guys. Take it in stages. But it has lots of nice pictures to keep you entertained, and will include photos of diorama entries, convention sets (for 12″ collectors anyway) and just lots of generally cool stuff! It’s worth sticking with it!

I just got back from the 2014 GI Joe Convention in Dallas Texas. This is an annual event held by the GI Joe Collectors’ Club where thousands of fans of GI Joe gather to buy cool, exclusive GI Joe toys made just for the event, and in this case, to celebrate GI Joe’s 50th Anniversary.


The 50th Anniversary of GI Joe And How To Handle It Badly

GI Joe was first introduced to the world at Toy Fair in 1964. He and I coincidentally share a birth year, and when I decided not to go to this convention, Carol and Charlotte thought it would make a very nice birthday gift to send me. So I went.

First, let me say this: Here’s what Hasbro, the owners and creators of one of history’s most iconic toys did to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their signature brand – the brand that made them rich and famous:


Ok, so perhaps not nothing. Here’s what they did do. The put out two Kre-O figures honoring the GI Joe Adventure Team. These are little Lego-sized figures, and here they are:

2014-kre-o-talking-commander-01 2014-kre-o-mike-power-01


Yup. That’s it. That’s all they did for the 50th Anniversary of their signature line.

Which prompted me to post this to the Sandbox, facebook’s prominent GI Joe collectors’ forum, (which morphed from the old newsgroup


The 50th Anniversary of GI Joe And How To Handle It Properly

However, thankfully, the GI Joe Collectors’ Club seems to think a bit more about Hasbro’s famous action hero. Every year when you join the club, or renew your membership, you get a free figure, or figure set. For the 12″ collectors like myself, here’s this year’s figure:


Also, each year the club puts out an add-on accessory set for the free figure, which normally costs in the range of about $40 or so, depending on complexity. This is the accessory set that goes with this year’s figure:


It is an homage to the 50th Anniversary that Hasbro couldn’t even touchthis year. It also completes the GI Joe Adventure Team reproduction line the club was doing. Their past figures can be seen on this page I wrote up some years back.

So that’s not a bad homage to the 50th.

Convention Exclusives – A Resurgence of the Adventure Team

Each year, too, the club creates exclusive toy sets for the convention attendees that members (and non members) can purchase after the con if there are any left. The last few years saw some wonderful 12″ Adventure Team-themed convention sets. I am proud to own several of those, and am envious of those who own them all.

In 2005, the club re-cast the recently-re-released dog sled, and made a two-figure set using, (if I’m not mistaken) the original GI Joe body, and a new Super-Articulated body versions of the Land Adventurer, along with a plush wire-articulated polar bear. Fight For Survival: Polar Bear Attack!

06_12inchBOX(I do NOT have this set)

Their second AT themed Convention Sets was Terror on the Sea Floor, made for the 2007 Convention.

terrorseafloor500px (I do NOT have this one)

This set reprised a vintage Adventure Team set, bringing back the yellow Undersea Explorer, and replacing a giant clam with a genetically manipulated venus flytrap-like plant, and a great diving suit.

In 2008, they did Search for the Sasquatch.

2008-gi-joe-convention-sasquatch-pic (I have this one. Got it for Christmas thanks to the Club’s Thanksgiving sale of 2013.)

This one reprises the Adventure Team “Search for the Abominable Snowman”, moving the search this time to a bigfoot Yeti. This one makes a brown version of the white Yeti done a few years back.

2009, Eight Legs of Danger:

2009-convention-set-pic(I do NOT have this one)

Cutely, this set took the name of a set that originally included a deep-sea diver and octopus and morphed it into a set about giant spiders.

Ahem… Certainly they did not get the idea from my 2003 photo story: “Black Spider Rendezvous“, right? :-)

When I attended the convention in 2010 (because it was in Providence, Rhode Island, an easy 40 minute drive away) I got the Escape from Spy Island Convention Set, and it rocked my world. It was beautiful!

eightlegslogo(I do have this one, thankfully! Got it by attending the convention.)

This set has it all – a red/black colored Undersea Explorer, a great diver, with a Spy Island commando outfit as well, a box full of scuba gear and an inflatable raft, a radio, dynamite, and to top it all off a mechanical shark missing only a frikkin’ laserbeam on its head. (And if you attended the con they gave you a black version of the shark for free.)

The Add-on figure was a MARS Henchman.

2011 – Drive into Danger:

2011-drive-into-danger-pic(Got this one during the 2014 Spring Club Sale)

This one is a yellow cast version of the black Desert Patrol Vehicle Hasbro released a few years back. Gorgeous vehicle. The first AT Vehicle in many years.

The Add-on figure for this was an astronaut with a red space suit, black helmet and gear, and a parachute. In the comic book that comes with the set, he space-dives from a satellite in time to stop a nuclear reactor from exploding.

Then in 2012 they did Last Man Standing:

2012-last-man-standing-pic(I do NOT have this one, but as you will see later, I have some vital pieces of it!)

This set, interestingly, contained add-ons for the previous year’s set, including a winch, and cage top (with gun mount) for the yellow Sand Rail vehicle. Centered around MARS, a Cobra pre-cursor organization (like the Escape from Spy Island) it dealt with baddies masquerading as mummies. It included almost every heavy weapon made for the modern GI Joe era, and a beautiful reproduction of the rifle and scope set from Magnum Power, a rare vintage GI Joe set.

I do not know if this set had an Add-On figure.

And finally (and I’ll explain why “finally” shortly), in 2013, Secret Mission to Dragon Island, a very James Bond theme including tuxedo-wearing agent, and Nehru-jacket-wearing bad guy:

2013-gi-joe-convention-dragon-island(And sadly, I do not (yet) have this one.)

The Add-on figure for this one was a Laboratory Guard, wearing a blue version of the yellow Haz-Mat suit.

In previous years, the club also produced add-on figures for the 12″ set.

This year, 2014, there was nothing extra at all for the 12″ set, and it irked many collectors.

Here are some of the club exclusives from the past. This image includes the club freebie figures with accessory sets, as well as one-off figures the club created, and a couple of Convention add-ons.


Anyway, the reason I said “and finally” is that the 2014 GI Joe Convention Exclusive was not Adventure Team themed. In fact, that’s completely appropriate for this year since it is the 50th anniversary, and GI Joe did not begin in 1964 with the Adventure Team, it began as a military figure, and this year’s club exclusive set pays homage to him.

So, 2014 – Codename: GI Joe:


This set includes GI Joe (rectonned as Joe Colton some years back) in three forms: His original Military incarnation as a Green Beret, as an Adventure Team Commander, and in his 3.75″ Real American Hero incarnation, as civilian head of security, Joe Colton.

As for next year, my gut tells me that will be the last year they do a 12″ set, since the number of 12″ collectors is dwindling, and the number of 3.75″ collectors are vastly outnumbering us.

But I have no insight into that, nor into what next year’s set may be, but it seems they have plumbed the depths of what Adventure Team themes they can apply. Still, you never know.

And Now On To The 2014 Convention

I arrived in Dallas on Thursday afternoon and began to set up my dioramas.

I set up the Test Flight diorama and while I was doing that, the guy next to me was setting up his Tattoo Parlor, and I knew I had stiff competition. Mine was clearly showing a toy, and that was its intent. It was very Adventure Team-themed, with a blue tower with a red top, orange jumpsuit, yellow jetpack, and then below, some reality injected – the Adventure Team Oversight Comittee member meeting with the Adventure Team Commander, poring over blueprints.

(From here on, cross your eyes to see the image in 3D. Click on it to make it larger.)


Then I went to set up my Save the Endangered Pygmy Rhino set.


Diorama Entries

Here are my competition. However, these photos only represent ones I thought were interesting. I missed some that were very nice, but mostly because my battery was running low. No offense to anyone whose entry is not here. One winning entry by none other than Kurt Bozigian, the man who brought the 1981 Real American Hero revival to life. His entry was one of the winners and I’m sorry I have no picture of it.

Here we go:

gijoecon-dio-01 gijoecon-dio-02The tattoo parlor won Third Prize in the Medium Diorama competition.

gijoecon-dio-04 gijoecon-dio-05 gijoecon-dio-06 gijoecon-dio-07 gijoecon-dio-08 gijoecon-dio-09 gijoecon-dio-10 gijoecon-dio-11 gijoecon-dio-12 gijoecon-dio-13 gijoecon-dio-14 gijoecon-dio-15 gijoecon-dio-16 gijoecon-dio-17 gijoecon-dio-18 gijoecon-dio-19 gijoecon-dio-20 gijoecon-dio-21 gijoecon-dio-23 gijoecon-dio-24 gijoecon-dio-25This ADS Diver was one of my choices for a prize. I loved this one.

gijoecon-dio-26Apologies for the blurry image. gijoecon-dio-27 gijoecon-dio-28 gijoecon-dio-29 gijoecon-dio-30Can you please tell me how this didn’t win ANYTHING? This should have won Best In Show (not a real prize). It was 3D printed, except for the figures, and some details. My god, what a piece of art!

A closer view. (3D a bit weird due to reflection in the glass front)


This is by a guy named Andre Bynoe, who runs His stuff is very very nice.

The Contest Winners

For boring, flat images of the winners of the Photo Contest, Small Diorama Contest and Franken-Joe Contest, see the Club’s Page of Winners. Note, as of this writing, they do not include photos of the Medium Diorama winners. I’m sure they’ll fix that. (Lanny!!!)

Here are some that I shot in 3D. (Again, I was not completely comprehensive.)

Franken-Joe (3.75″ figures only)




Small Diorama


gijoecon-medium-dio-2 gijoecon-medium-dio-3

I didn’t get any photos of the Medium Diorama Winners either.   Mostly they were packed up when I got down there to pack mine up.

A Better Prize

When I went to pack up my Save the Endangered Pygmy Rhino diorama, there was a note tucked in under the playmat:


Thank you for this diorama in name of the 1004 rhinos killed illegally on S. Africa in 2013, in name of all the rangers that combat and lost their life against poaching and in name of all people that fight to stop this carnage.

I will share this photo on the facebook page “Grupo de Madrid WWF” in Spain

Thanks again



Sadly, I never met Gerardo. But apparently my diorama had a great effect on him, which to me is far better than winning a prize.

During the show, I had about 20 or 30 copies of the comic book I made for the diorama, and I gave a lot of them away. I left the few I had left on the table with a note that they were free to take.

The Coin

For $135 extra, each attendee could get a silver and gold coin. Real silver, with real gold on the surface. The coin commemorates the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe.

On the night of the dinner, each person got a brass version of the same coin.



The Cake

At the dinner, an amazing cake was unveiled, and each person got to take photos of it.


The Takedown

On Sunday I went to take down my dioramas and the Regular Joes were doing shenanigans, setting up some of their hero characters on my Test Flight diorama, as well as the Tattoo Parlor next door:

regular-joes-at-my-dio regular-joes-at-my-dio-upright

The Parachute Drop

On April 11 was the official Parachute Drop. This is an annual tradition that happens at any con with a hotel with an amenable atrium. Luckily the Hyatt Regency in Dallas has a gorgeous 16 storey (or more) atrium.

Here, then, is the official parachute drop. (I apologize for the lack of sound. My phone’s front camera has a malfunctioning microphone. It’s probably a mercy. All you would have heard was crowd noise.)

The figure was a 3.75″ character known as “Crazy Legs”. The chutes are dropped to the floor below. If you catch one, you can keep it, I believe. The hope is mostly the kids get them. Cordoned-off areas below are manned by Club volunteers who gather up those that land in those areas. Those get sold.

When I was going down to the show floor afterwards the lineup to buy one was hundreds of people long.

I have seen these on eBay for as much as $175. No idea how much they are actually selling for. Probably a bit less, but not much.


The Clandestine Drop

Now I have no idea who did this or how or why or anything else. Let me make this clear: I had absolutely nothing to do with this rowdy crowd of Joe fans who chucked five 12″ GI Joes over the 16th floor balcony into the deep, deep atrium. But I happened to be on the 10th floor looking up when I saw the first Joe take the plunge.

The first one hung on the restaurant sign (later to be retrieved safely.) You don’t quite see him hang on in the video, but when the camera pans down for the second one (which ends up in the elevator shaft) you can clearly see the first one (black chute) hanging on the restaurant sign.

Rest assured, all five Joes were rescued, including the one that took a dive into the elevator shaft, though I have no idea how they managed to get him back.

Gives me an idea for an exclusive figure “Elevator Diver” – A figure dressed in grubby, oil-stained jumpsuit, with parachute, and elevator repair gear.


My Convention Purchases

I didn’t spend a ton of time or money on the sales floor. During one of my brief passes through, I met Haz Ardis and Karl, two well-known Joe fans, who had a booth there. I was happy to browse through a bin of Sigma 6 stuff, but didn’t buy much.

The next morning, Barry Kay piled some stuff on me – stuff he and the Regular Joes found at the Let’s Make A Deal table, and I was thrilled.

I found the table and found myself some nice deals too.

Here, then, is the total of my haul from the convention:

con-toys-ness-chopperThis is the first thing I bought – An Arlen Ness metallic blue motorcycle. I saw this in Walmart several years ago and really wanted it, but money was tight at the time and I couldn’t justify the $18.00 they wanted for it at the time. I was crazy! This was one of the things I regretted for some time. Even though it’s missing a few pieces, I can 3D print them easily.

con-toys-cratesThis is a crate from the 8 Legs of Danger convention set, empty. The black crate is from the Escape from Spy Island convention set, packed with SCUBA gear and grease gun. Thanks, Regular Joes!

con-toys-equipment I found these at a table in a bin of small bits and pieces. I pored through the bin and came up with just a few cool items including a great tool box with insert tray, bolt cutters, short-handled cutters, a die-cast Mag-Light and a GI Joe briefcase. I liked this briefcase enough that I wanted a second one. There was one next to my AT Commander at the Test Flight diorama at the same time.

Laboratory Guard figure. This is a near-complete one Tod handed me. It is missing only the white hip holster with red tie, and pistol. I have seen two variants on the actual figure on eBay. The Asian flocked head (Man of Asia) and the Foreign Adventurer head. Note the two right hands. That’s why this was a second. Easily fixed. But on the other hand (pun intended) if I pose him with gloves on, no one will ever notice.

con-toys-lets-make-a-deal-hazI found this guy in Haz and Karl’s bins among MANY Fraken-Joes. He appears to be the “Man of the Sea” Club Exclusive head and uniform, but with a CC body with black gloved hands. What a great find!

I found the red/black Underwater Explorer (from the Escape from Spy Island convention set) and the Desert Patrol Vehicle (from the Drive into Danger convention set) winch which came with the Last Man Standing convention set. Though not pictured, I was smart enough to grab a bag with a white net in it, because that also had the winch line carriage and stop peg that go with the winch. (These are now installed on my yellow AT Desert Patrol Vehicle.)

Also there are three “Man of Evil / Lost Adventurer” jumpsuits and two yellow jackets.

The gun is a Sigma 6 piece that I quite liked.

con-toys-mars-guardThis was in a poly bag all together. Most of it, if not all of it, is from the MARS Guard which I believe was a Convention Souvenir the year they did the Last Man Standing Convention set. I did not have this guy, so getting this uniform set was fantastic. It’s only missing a blue helmet. Again, Thanks, Tod, Barry and Dave for this one.

con-toys-variousI know the AT flag and Shark came from the Regular Joes. I believe I found the rest of this stuff at the Let’s Make a Deal table: A blue Laboratory Guard glove (there was only one) a “Comrade of Action” jacket and double red shoulder holster, two Laboratory Guard guns, a “Man of Evil” gun set which includes a .45 and holster and Lebel pistol and mini dog tag, and also one extra Lebel.

Note: Not shown here, but I will photograph later:

The roll cage roof for the yellow AT Desert Patrol Vehicle; green weapons crate, stuffed with weapons; and net. That’s all on my vehicle at the moment, and I haven’t photographed it yet.

GI Joe Convention 2014 – Contest Entries

I entered two contests at the 2014 Dallas GI Joe 50th Anniversary Convention. I’ll put those at the bottom of this post. This post is to showcase some of what I thought was the most impressive work at the table. Please forgive me if I didn’t include yours. It’s not that it wasn’t good. If it was on one of the tables, I can assert it was good. There were no un-good entries. I was short on battery space, and had to pick and choose.

However, that said, here then are some of the fine entries in this year’s diorama competitions and Franken-Joe. (I didn’t photograph the photograph competition entries.)


IMG_1189 IMG_1185  IMG_1180 IMG_1178 IMG_1176 IMG_1172  IMG_1168



















More later, including my own. And when I get home, I will set up 3D cross-eyed versions. But for now it must be flat.


And here are my dioramas:

I entered two in the contest to win, and no pun in ten did. Or something. No prize for me. But my predicted winner in the medium diorama is the tan HISS tank seen in my diorama picture below:






This morning I went to dismantle my dioramas to pack them up in a suitcase when I saw a note next to my diorama:

(I will post an image of it later when I’m not cobbled together in hotel Wi-Fi sitting on a futon in a lobby, but the text reads:)

Thank you for this diorama in the name of the 1004 rhinos killed illegally on S. Africa in 2013, in name of all the rangers that combat and lost their life against poaching and in name of all people that fight to stop this carnage.

I will share this photo on the facebook page “Grupo de Madrid WWF” in Spain.

And they told me I didn’t win any prizes! I’ll prize this over any award any day.

Adventure Team Dog Tags

GI Joe comes with a dog tag. Almost always have. It’s part of being a GI Joe. Hasbro began by mimicking dog tags used by soldiers during World War II, slightly oblong tin things with a small dent in them.


Then when the Adventure Team came about, this continued, but they changed the dog tag to be a circle with the AT logo of the Adventure Team. The back side had the GI Joe logo with bearded face over the J.

Here are a line-up of the dog tag as it has been used over the years since the originals (I regret I can’t show a photograph of an original, mine are all in storage. And I’m not even certain I have any vintage dog tags):


Left to right:

  • Counterculture GI Joe 2003
  • reproduction GI Joe dog tag used in the past decades in sets such as their revised Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb set
  • metal 30th Anniversary version used in the Timeless Collection and some of the Club exclusive Joes
  • the 35th Anniversary one (these two had a thicker circle border)
  • the smaller Sigma 6 AT dog tag
  • the metal real-scale club exclusive dog tag

Left to right:

  • Full-color peace symbol
  • accurate reproduction with bearded head over the J on the GI Joe logo used in the reprised Adventure Team sets
  • 30th Anniversary metal
  • 35th Anniversary plastic (these also come in metal)
  • Sigma 6 (with what looks like a stylized version of the cobra snake that comes with the set)
  • the blank back of the club exclusive mini dog tag

When Hasbro brought out the 30th Anniversary figures, they reproduced the original AT dog tag for the 12″ figures. The back of these had 1970-2000, 30 Years of Adventure on them.

Then when they brought out their Timeless Collection Adventure Team sets, many of these had a metal version of the dog tags.

The 35th Anniversary editions had 1970-2006, 35 Years of Adventure on their reverse sides. Some club exclusive figures came with a metal version of this one too.

The GI Joe Collectors Club created a smaller version of the AT dog tag to proper scale with the 12″ GI Joes. Those had the AT logo on one side, and the obverse was blank.

But what I find interesting is the Sigma Six Adventure Team line (three sets produced a few years back) had its own AT dog tag. It’s about 2/3 the diameter of the original, and the one I have here has a symbol on the back that may represent the cobra snake in the Snake Eyes “Pyramid of Peril” Sigma 6 Adventure Team set.

And for further fun and joy, the club created a very special figure in 2003 for the convention that had an Adventure Team GI Joe dressed as a hippie with bell-bottom jeans, platform shoes, a dashiki, a white T-shirt with shoulder holster and pistol. He was the Counterculture Joe, operating undercover.

One side of his AT dog tag was a beautifully colored (for the first time) AT logo, and on the obverse, a peace symbol.

This figure was making a number of inside jokes about GI Joe from the two-finger (toke) grip to the longer fuzzy hair (a ‘fro) to the idea that the AT logo was intended to look like the iconic peace symbol from the hippie years.

And now for the 50th Anniversary, the Club is creating a gold version of the miniature AT dog tag for the 12″ Adventure Team figure in the set.


In the 1970s joining the GI Joe club (then run by Hasbro itself) could get you this special-edition dog tag. It is a child-sized dog tag and measures approximately 2″ across and was meant for the kid to wear.


And last, this piece is a bit of a mystery. I can find no reference to it online but I managed to get my hands on it. This one measures just over 4″ in diameter and has a very large metal ball-chain.


It’s next to a metal 35th dog tag for scale.

Joseph Colton – The Original Retconned GI Joe

GI Joe is of course one of the most iconic toys in history. He has some competition, but not much when you consider just how many toys there are in the world.

But what is the story of GI Joe? And how did his origins as America’s Fighting Man morph into his history as the Adventure Team? And how did he then become the Real American Hero?

It started out in 1964 with the introduction of a very risky toy. At that time the general wisdom was “boy will not play with dolls”. So Hasbro did something very clever. It coined the term “Action Figure” and the first Action Figure was born with GI Joe.

It being just 20 years after World War II, America had military accomplishments to be proud of, and many kids grew up knowing their fathers had been in the war. Honoring them by playing soldier with GI Joe was something many kids thought was cool. With the glut of Hollywood movies about the war, war comics being popular, there was a lot supporting the sale of GI Joe.

With the Viet Nam war, however, everything changed. It was a war that became so hated that the soldiers who came back were often shunned when they returned, if they returned. War was no longer popular.

Hasbro switched gears and created the Adventure Team, a globetrotting group of heroes who hunted white tigers, or searched for the Yeti, or dealt with dangers in the depths of the ocean.

By 1976 GI Joe, at least in his 12″ form, was no more. An attempt was made to bring back Mego-scaled (8″) SuperJoes, but that didn’t take off either.

In 1980 Hasbro brought Joe back to immense popularity with a new 3 3/4″ line of figures that were doing rather well in the Star Wars line, and so GI Joe, the Real American Hero was born with some very cool equipment, lots of figures, this time with real names and identities kids didn’t have to infuse into their toys themselves, with real villains and a comic book series that sold the toys perfectly.

But the connection between the original 12″ GI Joes, at least back-story-wise, was tenuous at best.

So the writers of the comic book “rectonned” (retcon: (n) a portamteau of “retroactive continuity” – deliberately changing previously established facts in a work of serial fiction) Joe Colton into the story to link the current line to the original, and not many people complained about it.


In 1989 in issue #86, “Not Fade Away”, of GI Joe: A Real American Hero, (reproduction cover seen above) featured a battle against Cobra inside the Chrysler Building in New York. Inside, the GI Joe team meet the head of security for the building, and a female psychologist. His is not revealed until the end, when one of the GI Joe crew says he looks familiar, and was good enough that he should join the GI Joe team. The psychologist, named Jane, laughed, telling the newcomers that they were talking to the original GI Joe, Joe Colton.


Joe Colton would later be solidified in the lore by being in the second GI Joe movie, as played by Bruce Willis.


To honor GI Joe in all of his most successful incarnations, the GI Joe Collectors Club has previewed images of its Convention Exclusive 12″ figure set for the upcoming 50th Anniversary Convention in Dallas, Texas.


The set will come with a 12″ Green Beret figure to commemorate the original 1964-1970 military GI Joe, a 12″ Adventure Team GI Joe to commemorate the Adventure Team era, from 1970-1976, and as a special treat, a 3 3/4″ Joe Colton figure to commemorate the Real American Hero figures that have been so enormously popular.

Joe Colton is designed to look like the character revealed in the comic book.

And in honor of that 50th Anniversary, and now very real connection between the original GI Joes and the subsequent lines, I have created a custom 12″ Joe Colton myself.

Here is my custom Joe Colton. I used a reproduction Land Adventurer, dressed in a Donald Trump suit, with shirt and tie from an Unknown Soldier figure. He’s wearing Neo’s twin shoulder holsters, though you can’t really see those in the picture, and is carrying one of his two .45 pistols.