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My G.I. Joe-Packed Weekend!

20 March 2015 by Gnoll No Comment

So if updates have been more sporadic here lately than I had planned, it’s in part because I’ve had some busy weeks. Not just the parts of the week where I’m supposed to be busy doing the menial tasks that help me keep a roof over my head and food in my three hungry dogs’ bowls, but the part of the week where I’m supposed to be taking time to relax and unwind. It wasn’t but a few weeks ago that I headed to Con Nooga for a weekend of costumed geekery, and now I’ve just wrapped up yet another weekend of the same.

This past weekend, which was four days long thanks to my keen ability to request days off of my day job well in advance, involved another road trip: this time, to beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. As I mentioned in my Con Nooga post, My girlfriend and I are involved in a G.I. Joe and Cobra costuming group called The Finest, and we had planned to meet up with many of our fellow Real American Heroes for a photo shoot at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant.

We drove up Thursday afternoon with our three canine companions Chloe, Trillian, and Lydia in tow. Only planning a couple of nights in town and able to find a Red Roof Inn that was pet friendly, we decided that having our pups tag along was better than boarding them. We barely got settled into our hotel room before we were drawn out to a local barbecue joint for ribs and baked beans to meet up with out Finest compadres. After a hearty dinner, we visited another of our brethren (and the person who actually organized the photo shoot) at the fire station where he works, then made our way to yet another fellow costumer’s karaoke night at a local bar. I had a couple of local craft beers, played a round of giant Jenga, and belted out a rendition of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s doo-wop classic, “One More Minute.” I also took a moment to admire the rather unique indicators of which bathroom was which at the bar.

Afterward, we treated the Commanding Officer of our costuming group to her first ever Waffle House experience before heading back to catch far fewer hours of sleep than we had planned.

The photo shoot was scheduled for the next day at noon. We geared up in our G.I. Joe costumes early and met up with our friends at Hardee’s for breakfast, where we were met with some interesting reactions to say the least. After some caffeine and protein, I was ready for the shoot. Once we got to the Yorktown, we were given an introduction by one of the museum’s curators and then it was time for a bunch of grown-ups to pretend we were characters from a 33-year old toy line.

I reprised my Flint get-up from Con Nooga, while my girlfriend again wore her Lady Jaye. Many of the main Joes from the original 80’s lineup were represented: Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, Duke, Beach-Head, Stalker, Heavy Metal, Low-Light, Rip-Cord, and Snow Job, along with a few of the later characters in Helix and Bombstrike. The Cobra forces were led by Cobra Commander, who was flanked by Zartan, Firefly, and a small cadre of Vipers. We got some excellent action shots in the Vietnam battlefield area of the museum, then made our way to the flight deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown to act out the Joes fending off a Cobra invasion. Along the way, we attempted to recruit a few of the costumers we met for the first time into our fold.

The shoot lasted about 4 hours, and we wrapped up our last night in Charleston with a big group dinner and a few drinks at the hotel. I had a fantastic time with a bunch of the best people I know, who happened to have traveled to The Holy City from different parts of the Carolinas and Georgia, the Washington, D.C. area, and even as far as New York. We don’t get to hang out with our Finest brothers and sisters as often as we’d like, but we’re always thankful for the time we get to spend with them.

If you’re keeping count of days, you’ll note that it’s only Friday night at this point, so you’re probably wondering where the rest of the weekend went. We packed the dogs up and headed back home on Saturday morning, spent the afternoon doing St. Patrick’s Day weekend festivities at some friends’ house, and still had a day left to pack in more G.I. Joe goodness. So, for Sunday, we were all in for Joelanta!

I mentioned in my Con Nooga article that it’s a small con, especially compared to annual events like DragonCon. Joelanta is even smaller – it’s primarily a toy marketplace, with a focus on G.I. Joe.The classic 12″ figures from the 1960s and 70s have traditionally been the main event, but the more modern 3 3/4″ figures have make a lot of headway in recent years. I’ve been to the event the last couple of years, and even showed up in costume last year (costumes will get you in for free, and I’m always looking for an excuse to don one of my Joe getups.) Joelanta stretches over the course of two days each March, but I knew that I’d only be able to make it Sunday this year. This was the day to go, though, because the first panel of that day was one I was not going to miss.

For anyone who followed G.I. Joe in the 80s, especially the Marvel comic books, the name Larry Hama is as familiar as Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Larry is essentially the man who made the small Joe revival happen. If not for his writing the bulk of the comic series and the majority of the character biographies, G.I. Joe would never have been as successful as it was, and I would not be gallivanting about in costumes of cartoon characters today. Mr. Hama was there to discuss a particular issue of the Marvel series – issue #21, known by fans as the “Silent Issue” because of its complete lack of dialogue. I’ve studied this issue so intensely over the last three decades that I can pretty much envision every panel in my head, but hearing him explain why he made certain decisions in the artwork (Hama not only wrote this issue, but drew it as well) and learning that the entire Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow back story stemmed from a spur-of-the-moment decision to give those characters matching tattoos on the issue’s last page made the issue that much more important to me.

After the panel, we got a chance to have our pictures taken with Mr. Hama. We were again in costume, with most of us reprising our costumes from Con Nooga – Lady Jaye, Storm Shadow, and Ice-Viper, except that I dusted off the Cross-Country costume that I had debuted at last year’s DragonCon. We got lots of photo ops from a lot of enthusiastic Joe fans, and even met a young girl dressed as a mini Cover Girl, who knocked it out the park with her take on a classic Joe character. The best part was that she knew everything there was to know about her character, and was already as passionate about G.I.Joe as I was at her age.

We checked out the custom creations that Joe fans had put together, where I witnessed a 1/6 scale desert H.I.S.S. Tank and a Barbie camper turned into an Adventure Team van, among other cool creations. There were incredible artists selling their works, and we picked up a couple of propaganda-style posters featuring G.I. Joe and Cobra characters. My good friend and sometime Dork Droppings contributor The Phantom Troublemaker was also there to present a panel on classic toys from the last few decades. I sat in on what I could, but eventually had to duck out to have my weapons checked for the costume contest that we had entered ourselves into as a group.

At 3:00, the contest began. Aside from the group category we had entered ourselves into, there were categories for children, teens, and adults, with the winners selected via crowd response. The kids group was up first, and despite there being only two competitors, our mini Cover Girl friend won by a landslide thanks in part by a little help from her friends in The Finest. The teen competition had a few more contestants, and was deservedly won by a young man who had put a lot of work into his Clone Trooper costume. The adult field was larger still, and was won by a guy in a homemade Scooter getup, proving again my point that The GoBots were awesome.

As far as the group costume field went – well, we were the only group entered, so we won by default. But we got to talk about our costumes and costuming group to a lot of new people, and had a great time in the process.

By 4:00 Sunday afternoon, Joelanta was winding down, and we were ready to finally get home and have a few hours of downtime before returning to reality on Monday morning. Our big weekend of Joe-related excitement was finally coming to a close, and would likely be the last big geeky weekend until the end of Summer and DragonCon ’15 – especially since we’ve decided to forgo the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club meeting in April, although the promos that our friends in The Finest put together to promote the event, including the now-viral story about Cobra Commander getting the key to the city of Springfield, IL, is making us wish we could make it there as well.

Enjoy some additional pics from our photo shoot below:

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