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Whatever you think about the state of G.I. Joe throughout 2012, I don’t think anyone can argue that it was a slow year for news.  Quite the opposite!  Going from nearly daily reports of movie updates, to the downward spiral of G.I. Joe: Retaliation confidence, and finally finding some middle ground with the great regional gatherings of Joe fans and the countless great independent projects.

It was quite the interesting year for G.I. Joe, and in celebration of 2012, I’m picking the top 12 news stories for the year.  They may be good, they may be bad, but the end result is a collection of events throughout 2012 that paints a pretty cool picture when we look back on it.  Click the Read the Rest of the Story link below for the run down.

12. overhauls G.I. Joe archive navigation

I don’t know if you fully realize or understand just how much this redefined the way G.I. Joe fans use the archive until you actually get in there and have to do it.  Since this massive G.I. Joe database came together in the 90’s, it’s been a huge collection of static pages, making updates and navigation a literal nightmare.  The technical expertise required to overhaul the entire database and greatly improve the navigation interface is considerable, and the execution of this is a testament to the dedication of YoJoe’s fantastic admin staff.

11. G.I. Joe: Attack on Cobra Island fan created video game

Sometimes when official branded merchandise is lacking, the fans step up and fill the void.  That was certainly the case in 2012 with the various regional gatherings, but it was especially evident with this fantastic 16-bit era side-scrolling G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero video game scratch built over an emulation system.  The end result is retro greatness, a very cool old school arcade style game that immediately throws you back 15 years.  Great stuff.

10. surprise release of G.I. Joe: Renegades 4-Pack

With G.I. Joe: Retaliation toys on the horizon, we all figured we were destined for movie world toys for the next 12 months at least…  but then surprise!  Gyre-Viper dug out some box images, which clearly showed G.I. Joe: Renegades artwork on them.  Not too long after that, pre-orders showed up, and then the toys were shipping to eager Joe fans everywhere.

The truly intriguing thing about these toys was that they featured some significantly new tooling, including some revamped hip articulation, which delighted some, but left some others cold.  This was also the only place you could find that great Snake Eyes in a trench coat.  In a world where we know what toys we’re getting 12 months in advance, it was a pretty huge surprise to see something completely out of left field, and as such, it makes for a pretty big story.

9. G.I. Joe: Special Ops Social Media game launches

I don’t think many folks would argue that G.I. Joe has left a large void in the video game world, with very few notable installments into electronic gaming.  While I personally loved the old school 8-bit Nintendo games, we really haven’t had much to celebrate since then.  The G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra game offered some small bursts of fun, but essentially we haven’t had much to be excited for there.

When SyFy announced an upcoming Facebook-based social media game “Special Ops” it sounded like our prayers might have been answered!  Classic homages and an interesting play dynamic made it look like something that could catapult G.I. Joe into the online gaming venue.  The end result, unfortunately, has been somewhat lackluster, but I applaud them for trying, and keep my fingers crossed that the game might grow and evolve over time.

8. G.I. Joe Collectors Club revives the Oktober Guard for 2012 Convention Set

Fans have been clamoring for a revisit of the Oktober Guard pretty much ever since the modern era style began hitting retail.  With such a tight collector niche market, however, it was tough to see how Hasbro could make it work.

Enter the G.I. Joe: Collectors’ Club.  For the 2012 Convention’s return to New Orleans, the Collectors’ Club went back in time, going into the archives and giving us one heck of an update to the venerable Oktober Guard.  With some interesting parts choices, some great story elements, and a nearly flawless integration with the Iron Grenadiers, the Collectors’ Club gave us what we’ve been asking for…and did it spectacularly.

7. IDW Publishing Announces 2013 G.I. Joe comic revamp

No longer can we expect a 12 year marathon of consistent themes and ideals when it comes to comics these days.  Everything seems to be chopped up into smaller, more digestible chunks, mostly for Trade Paperback purposes.  IDW seems to be going one step further with G.I. Joe and is practically doing annual “revamps” to the title.  That being said, in 2012, while they went into Cobra Command mode, they didn’t do a whole lot with the actual themes of the books themselves, instead just electing to go back to issue #1 with the changes.

Not so in 2013.  For next year, IDW has announced that they are completely revamping the flagship G.I. Joe title, bringing in Fred Van Lente and replacing Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow with a new Special Missions book written by Chuck Dixon.  Cobra is essentially morphing into the Cobra Files, and thankfully, the Real American Hero book is retaining the status quo.

Such an exciting comic-based announcement is certainly worth a mention in the top stories of the year, and things are looking bright for next year with a quality guy like Fred Van Lente now involved.

6. G.I. Joe Convention 2012 Reveals Concept Case and 2013 Product

The film was delayed.  Toys were vacant from retail shelves.  What could we possibly experience at the 2012 JoeCon to overcome the collective feeling of malaise that Joe fans were experiencing with a rocky road in 2012?

Hasbro ended up knocking us all on our respective butts with a slam-dunk display of Concept Case items, with product that (unfortunately) was not guaranteed to be released, but was still incredibly awesome to look at.  G.I. Joe: Renegades vehicles and figures, 30th Anniversary overhauls, and Pursuit of Cobra evolutions, these concept case items were fantastic glimpses into the design process.

Hasbro then totally blew us away with debuts of some absolutely stunning 2013 G.I. Joe: Retaliation product.  Reactions to the 2012 product was mixed to say the least, but Hasbro is making up for it with some stellar offerings in the next year.  Debuts of “Ultimate” Duke, “Ultimate” Roadblock, “Ultimate” Firefly, as well as a Sunbow influenced ’85 Snake Eyes, Cobra Trooper, movie accurate Red Ninja, and many other potentially fantastic figures coming next year.  Even among a somewhat dire atmosphere in the G.I. Joe community JoeCon was a spark of fire that still burns, and still drives Joe fans to look forward to next year.

5. Dollar General figures surprise G.I. Joe fans everywhere

Along the same lines as the 4-Pack, we are used to knowing what’s coming out months, if not years in advance.  Well, like the Amazon packs, these repaint figures took everyone off guard, simultaneously elating us for their great design aesthetic and affordable price, while also infuriating us with their weird distribution and difficulty in release.  As of this writing, distribution has gotten 100% better, so the only thing left is to marvel at how great these figures are and how impressive it is that such simple repaints have generated such fandom excitement.

Not to mention those odd repaints that have filtered out there in images, and made many of us wonder just when these “running changes” might be seen.  In a year that could have been totally devoid of 3 3/4″ Joe product in the back half ended up at least having some excitement for toy hunters out there in the wild, braving the Dollar Generals in all corners of the world.  Perhaps if more main line G.I. Joe product had been available in 2012, this might have been a smaller story, but combining this with other toy woes this year, the magnifying glass only focused much tighter on this one.

This was another in a long line of Gyre-Viper discoveries in 2012, and it’s always cool to see the fans making an impact among their peers, digging this stuff up from those obscure contacts.

4. G.I. Joe Collectors Club Figure Subscription Service launches

The announcement came in 2011 and the excitement built, but the actual Figure Subscription Service launched in 2012, and as of this writing, the first installment has already shipped!  It felt like a very, very long time, but that is to be expected with built-to-order product like this, but seeing early images from the first two releases, it’s looking like the wait has been worth it.

Best thing about this experiment is that so far it seems to be successful, which bodes well for potential future releases.  As a huge fan of the product that the GIJCC puts out, I am ecstatic over the idea of a 13-figure annual subscription from them to go along with the other great figures they offer, and I am giddy in anticipation with what we might see going forward.  This was a pretty huge story, especially in a year with a drastic lack of product, and we’ll be reaping the benefits going into 2013 and beyond.

3. G.I. Joe: Retaliation figures revealed and related controversy

Good friend of GeneralsJoes and USA Today correspondent Brian Truitt blew away the G.I. Joe community when he revealed the debut of the G.I. Joe: Retaliation figures early this year!  However, the revelation was somewhat short lived as the fans were quick to complain about non-movie accurate designs and what looked to be…  *gasp*… reduced articulation?!?  Deth of teh line!11!

In all seriousness, these concerns were found to be validated in future images, as several figures were victimized by single-joint knees, no ankle joints, no wrist joints, and even some permanently attached play features.  This is nothing compared to the vehicle drivers which were subjected to limitations of 5-points of articulation.  It was a blow to the confidence of Joe fans everywhere, especially as we were just coming out of the 30th Anniversary line, which presented to us some of the most fantastic G.I. Joe toys in the past 10 years.  How could things have changed so dramatically?

Turns out, some cost concerns, some timing concerns (the movie had been moved up several months, greatly compressing the timeline for toy production) and some general industry chaos all came together to create a whirlwind of perceived mediocrity in the first wave of G.I. Joe: Retaliation toys…an viewpoint that I share to some degree, but not nearly as intensely as others might.  There were still quite a few things to love about Wave 1, which got unfortunately over-shadowed by some of the issues folks liked to dwell on.

Regardless, the exciting debut of the initial release of figures, compounded by the controversy about the articulation, and ending in the whole recall vs. non-recall, vs. expunged until 2013 debate made for one heck of a roller coaster story throughout 2012.

2. G.I. Joe: Retaliation Super Bowl spot and Theatrical Trailer debuts

It was the best of times…  a movie was impending, we were within months of release, and it seemed like daily we were getting reports of new footage, new images, character posters and plot details.  The fandom was raving.  Even from the small sampling of footage that we’d seen so far, nearly every person in the G.I. Joe fandom seemed convinced that this film would eclipse the previous film in every way possible.

The Rock was an action film megastar…Bruce Willis a brilliant edition to the cast.  Cobra Commander actually looked like Cobra Commander, and Jon Chu was interacting directly with the fans via Twitter.  There were more vehicles, more action, and London was completely annihilated.  Holy crap was this year going to ROCK.

In February, the Super Bowl teaser brought the fans to their feet, and every second of new footage from there on was grasped tightly as if our lives depended on it.  Perhaps the apex of this fandom excitement occurred in April, when Machinima announced they would debut the new theatrical trailer at midnight PACIFIC TIME and some insane people (like me for instance) woke up at 2:00am to report on it.  I was thrilled to do it.  Analysis was flowing, footage was flying like bullets and throwing stars slamming together in an Asian dojo.

This was what being a fan and running a G.I. Joe news site was all about…

1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation film delayed

…until it wasn’t.

Being a fan means not just  celebrating the good times, but also understanding and living with the bad times, and the G.I. Joe: Retaliation film delay was about as bad as it gets.  In the grand scheme of things, 9 months isn’t a really long time, except it took a geek-friendly fan based property like G.I. Joe: Retaliation and suddenly made it a laughing stock.  With one fell swoop a film that many people seemed to be excited about was turned on its ear and once again, fingers pointed, accusations flew, and the rumor mill began to churn.

Screen reports claimed that the film was terrible…  audiences were rejecting the rumored death of Channing Tatum’s Duke character, lamenting the fact that he and Roadblock didn’t have more scenes together.  Too many comedic asides…a lack of flow, and rumors of a dispute between Jon Chu and Paramount.  What seemed like a potential summer hit and well-oiled machine was now a chaotic mess that needed repair.

Of course Paramount claimed it was due to 3D conversion and nothing else, but would any of us expect them to admit to any of the rest of the rumors?

The good news is, footage has been shown in the past few months, most notably at Butt-Numb-A-Thon 14, and the response has been very good.  But the truth remains that the G.I. Joe: Retaliation rep took a solid hit that day, and while we can all hope no long term damage was done, I think we’d all be naive if we thought this move wasn’t going to cost the film a segment of its audience.  Time will tell, and if the film is better for the move, then I’m happy for it.  But if the move makes the film less financially viable, then the fact is the idea was a failure, and we will just have to see how it recovers.  I will say, I still have a lot of faith in Jon Chu, the cast, the crew, and the story, and I remain confident the film will be exciting and satisfying for the G.I. Joe community, I just worry what the external perception will be for the film and for the brand.

No matter what the end result, I don’t think there can be any debate that this was far and away THE story of 2012, which is a shame, but it is the truth.  I can only hope that at the end of 2013 when I’m writing my 13 for ’13 post, there is happier news to look back on.

So there you have it.  I found that putting this list together was considerably more difficult than I thought it might be.  I’m sure folks will notice that I didn’t mention G.I. Joe Kre-O, but only because it was an announcement with some images, and I’m trying to refrain from talking too much about it until I get a better look and feel of the product.  While there has been some talk about Kre-O, I think most of the talk will heat up post Toy Fair and into next year.

I was also very tempted to mention the fact that a fully tooled version of Kwinn appeared in the wild, because I think that’s a very interesting and intriguing story, but in the end, a figure not available to everyone.  Heck, I was tempted to talk about G.I. Joe: Renegades on DVD and Blu-Ray, but I’m not convinced everyone else would care so much.

In the end, I expected this to be a short and sweet article just recapping the year, but it turned into something much more, which is testament to G.I. Joe’s staying power, even when half the year is spent with no product and no film.  Here’s hoping the 2013 recap is more upbeat!