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I figure there are lots of folks probably doing the whole “Best of” lists for 2011 (myself included eventually!) so I figured I’d take a somewhat different approach.  Rather than considering only the “best” or “worst” I figured I’d take a look at significance.  And because I’m wishy washy, I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, I had to sneak an 11th in there just for discussion purposes.

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Think for a minute about 2011.  Two years removed from the Rise of Cobra, and with an animated series that seemed destined for obscurity, the G.I. Joe property was in a sort of limbo.  Yet for being in such a strange place conceptually, there were a lot of great events in 2011, or even if not great, they were at least significant, not only for the G.I. Joe world this year, but potentially going forward into 2012 and beyond.

This was certainly a strange place for G.I. Joe, yet I think we came out of it with a very positive outlook for the brand and the future.

11. G.I. Joe: The Pursuit of Cobra is extended with two more “bonus” waves

It had long been assumed that Wave 4 would mark the end of G.I. Joe: The Pursuit of Cobra and we would suffer a several month wait until the G.I. Joe: Renegades line took over.  However, not only did we get treated to a terrific 30th Anniversary line in 2011, but the Pursuit of Cobra (one of the most popular Joe themes with collectors) got extended with two more waves of product.

Certainly, it was obvious these two waves were meant as bonuses, as they used all existing parts, but Hasbro designers really hit their creative stride with figures like Cobra Trooper, Cobra Viper, Steel Brigade, and one of the most unsung favorites of the entire Pursuit of Cobra line, Crazylegs.  Certainly some decisions were head scratchers (Croc Master or Blowtorch anyone?) and no one quite knows what happened to the superior repaints of those two figures, but by and large these extra two waves gave us some quite clever and welcome product.

  1. Big Bad Toy Store goof reveals more 2011 Product
  2. Next two bonus PoC wave assortments ironed out
  3. G.I. Joe: Pursuit of Cobra Wave 6 hits mass retail
  4. GeneralsJoes Pursuit of Cobra review page

10. IDW Re-invents their G.I. Joe comic universe with Cobra Civil War and Real American Hero title

True, the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Marvel continuation hit shelves in 2010, but in my mind it didn’t start hitting its stride until issue #161, which was released at the tail end of 2011, letting the title really pick up a full head of steam in 2011.  Many times folks have tried continuing the Marvel universe with mixed results, and in fact, IDW’s first handful of issues left the same sour taste in my mouth, but once they got SL Gallant on board and once Hama got through the ubiquitous “G.I. Joe as fugitives” story, things really got on a roll.

But that wasn’t even the most significant comic event of 2011 as IDW turned the G.I. Joe universe on its ear with the death of Cobra Commander and their comic universe being thrust into the middle of the Cobra Civil War.  This event didn’t sneak up on us, it exploded onto the scene with the literal force of an atomic bomb, resulting in the death of not only Cobra Commander himself, but the very popular hero of the Cobra mini-series’, Chuckles.  The ensuing roller coaster ride only barely reached its climax with Cobra agent Krake claiming the role of Cobra Commander and prepping the terrorist organization for a rocky and bloody 2012.

  1. IDW Rocks the comic world with the Cobra Civil War
  2. GeneralsJoes reviews G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #162
  3. The new Cobra Commander is revealed by USA Today

9. 2011 G.I. Joe Convention modern era set sells out

As much as I’ve loved JoeCon sets in the past, none of them had quite the fever and furor that the 2011 set did.  The Mission: Brazil theme with the Python Patrol worked in seemed to go over like gangbusters with the fandom, selling out briskly at the show itself, and still going for very inflated prices across the online spectrum almost a year later.

Items like Claymore, Sparta, Cobra De Aco and the Python Patrol Stinger still go for a premium and really seemed to hit the fans where they lived.  But the biggest shocker of the weekend was the carded Dial Tone which not only showed that MOC collectors are still a force to be reckoned with, but just might have set the baseline price for future carded 25th homage items like the upcoming subscription figures.

More on the subscription later…

  1. Full list of 2011 Subscription Items and Production Numbers
  2. Exclusive 2011 Freebie item revealed
  3. JoeCon 2011 Full Recap and countdown
  4. GeneralsJoes reviews the 2011 Convention Set

8. G.I. Joe: Renegades toyline gets real and catapults 30th Anniversary onto retail shelves

Does everyone remember that Hasbro Q & A where they said the Renegades figures would be more animated and wouldn’t fit seamlessly into the current realistic design?  That was awesome.

Yeah, not really.  Well, not for most fans, who threw conniption fits when they heard the news that the ever-popular Pursuit of Cobra line was going to be overshadowed by animated styled figures to run alongside the Renegades cartoon.  It didn’t take Hasbro long to backtrack and in 2011, they revealed the new Renegades line to mixed response, taking a lot of existing parts and pretty nicely blending the series designs into a realistic uniform.

The real news of the 2011 toys was that G.I. Joe: Renegades would sort of fuse together with the Pursuit of Cobra and evolve into a short-lived but excellent 30th Anniversary line.  This run of figures provided exceptional releases such as Airtight, Storm Shadow, Scarlett, Firefly, Sci-Fi, Lifeline, Zombie-Viper, and many, many more.  For a toy run happening between media events, everything about 2011 came up roses.  We even received the long awaited Skystriker re-issue, something that made many long time fans very happy.

  1. Toy Fair 2011
  2. Hasbro Roundtable at JoeCon
  3. SDCC Preview Night
  4. 30th Anniversary Figures hit US retail
  5. GeneralsJoes first thoughts on G.I. Joe: Renegades action figures

7. Clement Sauve, primary artist for G.I. Joe: Renegades dies of cancer

I still remember reading this in January, and immediately feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.  I don’t think anyone out in the public world really knew that Clem was that ill, and it hit many of us Renegades fans quite hard.

He had a very unique and gifted artistic style that many would argue may not have been perfectly suited to the G.I. Joe aesthetic, but I think once the cartoon got rolling, most folks were able to get over the design issues as the story built and the universe took over.

There are still folks hypothosizing that Clem’s passing may have played a role in the demise of G.I. Joe: Renegades, but I don’t believe that for a second.  It doesn’t change the fact that the world lost a great artist that day, and hopefully these events reminded some fans online that there are actual living, breathing people behind the pictures, and they suffer from the same maladies as the rest of us.

Rest in Peace, Clem.

  1. Clement Sauve succumbs to Cancer

6. For the first time in almost 30 years, a Kwinn figure in jungle fatigues!

I tried to avoid a focus on singular figures in this list, just because there were so many great ones, they would have dominated the list and pushed aside other worthy events of the past year.  But I just couldn’t help put at least some major attention on the infamous Eskimo mercenary Kwinn.  Such a popular character to Marvel devotees for so long, I think many of us had almost given up ever getting our hands on a well done Kwinn in his jungle fatigues.

But JoeCon hit in 2011 and the cheer went up from us Marvel purists…Kwinn was HERE.

…and we’re still waiting.

However, we’ve been promised several times through different means that Kwinn is definitely being released, they just need to find a time and place, and I think just the fact that the figure was revealed is worthy of a spot in this list of significance.

  1. Intel from JoeCon 2011 Hasbro Roundtable
  2. SDCC Update – Kwinn is still on tap

5. G.I. Joe Collectors Club Subscription Service is announced and figures are revealed

Folks who have been sitting back and watching Mattel have their own share of luck (as well as issues) with their subscription service were probably wondering “what about us?”

Well, the Collectors’ Club answered that question with the reveal of their own FSS (Figure Subscription Service) which has been met with mixed reactions online.  Without the financial resource of a large scale company like Mattel has (no the subscription is not being financed by Hasbro, it is JUST the Club) the GIJCC has relied on a lot of existing tooling with some new head sculpts and some out of the box character choices.

As of this point, 12 out of the 13 figures have been revealed with shots of card art and many close ups, and things are looking pretty cool.  The figures themselves won’t get in our grubby collector hands until 2012, but the announcement of the sub is a big deal and could provide collectors with a great resource for obscure or previously unreleased items.  Here’s hoping it’s successful!

  1. My take on the G.I. Joe Collectors Club Subscription Service
  2. G.I. Joe Collectors Club reveals subscription details on Facebook
  3. News archive for G.I. Joe Collectors Club with FSS images and card art

4. Jon Chu announced as the director for G.I. Joe: Retaliation

In the interest of total transparency, I will admit, my reaction to the announcement of Jon Chu as the director for G.I. Joe: Retaliation was somewhat mixed…well, not it was not mixed.  I wasn’t a fan of the choice.

But I was willing to give him a shot, and so far I have not been disappointed.  Certainly the film is still six months away, but his investment in the property, his apparent joy to be working alongside the stars and production teams, and his enthusiastic Twitter fascination have all combined to give us a really fun roller coaster ride through the early production process of the G.I. Joe Hollywood sequel.  Obviously his final grade won’t be given until June 29th, 2012, but obviously the announcement of him as director of the film is significant to say the least.

  1. Three directors on Paramount’s “short list” for G.I. Joe 2
  2. Jon M Chu in line to direct sequel to G.I. Joe
  3. Jon Chu talks about a “Down and Dirty” G.I. Joe sequel

3. G.I. Joe: Renegades is canceled

No, this list isn’t all a happy one.  Just as G.I. Joe’s best animated series since the 80’s was gaining steam about halfway through Season One, word came down that there was a “hiatus” looming, and the wind literally flew out of our sails.  For many of us, Friday and Saturday nights had become an awesome ritual of soaking in the latest episode, desperately hunting for a promo for next week’s episode, and investing in conversation throughout the entire weekend with comments about the latest guest star, where we thought the universe was going, and how this new take of G.I. Joe was treating us.

It was a blast.  And unfortunately short lived.

I am absolutely ecstatic that a film is coming, but a film is pretty “one and done”.  The movie comes out, fans go nuts, the movie goes away.  Sure, there is all the lead in and the follow up, but there isn’t the same sense of constant, vested interest and conversation like there is with a weekly show that provided 26 separate valid discussion points over a period of several months.  Some good, some bad, but all fun.  G.I. Joe: Renegades got a bum rap, and it’s something that will take me a long time to get over, because I don’t think the G.I. Joe universe gets treated that well in mass media very often.  We lost something great.

Here’s hoping the next film is wildly popular enough to give us another high quality animated series, but considering we’ve only gotten one over the past 25 years, I’m not exactly holding my breath.

  1. G.I. Joe: Renegades hiatus confirmed after a single season
  2. JoeCon 2011 G.I. Joe: Renegades Recap
  3. Final days of G.I. Joe: Renegades
  4. G.I. Joe: Renegades Episode 26 and reflections on the series
  5. GeneralsJoes G.I. Joe: Renegades SuperSite

2. G.I. Joe: Retaliation casting announcements, in particular Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis

Significant?  Do ya think?  Yes, we had heard shortly after the first G.I. Joe film that a sequel was already greenlit, but based on the lukewarm critical response and the healthy, but not dramatic, box office returns, there was some lingering doubt, I think.  Not everyone was convinced it was happening.

But we got the announcement.  We got the director.  We got some snippets from Brian Goldner and Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, and it was all well and good.

Then came The Rock.  The game was changed.  It almost seemed like the minute Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was announced as the lead in the film, things just kept on getting better.  Enthusiastic Twitter updates, a big name star, some great images from the set of the movie…suddenly the vibe was, dare I say, optimistic?  Each name announced revealed a new reaction, from Blind Master confusion to curiosity about Cobra Commander.  Significant event after significant event came down the pipe and they all centered around the sequel film.

When filming wrapped in New Orleans a month or so ago, the updates sort of slowed to a crawl, but you can’t argue that for nearly the entire last seven months, G.I. Joe: Retaliation has owned the community and in a good way.

  1. Cobra will Rise Again August, 2012
  2. Cast changes in the works for G.I. Joe sequel
  3. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to star in G.I. Joe sequel?
  4. Does G.I. Joe 2 have it’s Flint and Blind Master?
  5. G.I. Joe sequel adds Cobra Saboteur Firefly to the roster
  6. Yippe Kay Yay, Mother Flocker!  Bruce Willis is Joe Colton in G.I. Joe: Retaliation

1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation Trailer

Three words that pretty much exemplified the last month of 2011.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer.

I’m sure there are folks there who will say this is just the most recent thing in my mind, which is why it earns the #1 spot on the list, but I beg to differ.  My website traffic begs to differ.  With three minutes of neatly cut footage and an awesome remix, Jon Chu and the G.I. Joe: Retaliation editing and production team have put G.I. Joe back on the map.  Not just for us fanboys, but for everyone.

Earning nearly 7 million views on YouTube and catapulting to the #1 watched video on the massive video hosting site, the G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer earned rave reviews all across the board.  Nerds of all shapes and sizes are now suddenly enthusiastic and impressed with the G.I. Joe brand as a whole, and that’s not something that would have even been considered possible two years ago.

With that short snippet of film and the weeks that surrounded it, I gained a new found respect and love for the online Joe community through the various forums across the net and on Twitter, and the trailer has not only made a mainstream impact, it has totally changed the way many Joe fans are communicating online, at least in my opinion.  As great as the 30th Anniversary line was, as thrilling as the IDW comic was, and as much as I’m looking forward to the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club subscription service, I cannot think of anything that came close to the sheer impact of the G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer.  Yo Joe indeed.

  1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer already getting rave reviews
  2. Ten reasons to be optimistic about G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  3. The G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer is HERE.
  4. G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer, quick thoughts and screen caps
  5. Better, high resolution screen caps from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer
  6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer – 10 Questions and/or answers revealed
  7. Three minutes of video made G.I. Joe cool again

Yes, 2011 was supposed to be a “down year”…funny how these things work, huh?

Regardless, I continue to be impressed with how Hasbro has responded to the Rise of Cobra aftermath, and even with a lukewarm retail presence, G.I. Joe seems poised to launch with a renewed fervor in 2012.  I’m thrilled to be a part of the process, and continue to be humbled and appreciative of all the folks who read the site and take time out of their busy lives to comment, Tweet, or email.

2011 was a fantastic year to be a G.I. Joe fan, and something tells me 2012 will rock our worlds as well.  I greatly look forward to sharing it with all of you!