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Botcon has come and gone, a couple of weeks back, and devoted G.I. Joe fans James Kavanaugh, Jr. and Patrick Stewart were there to not just get us some Transformers intel, but also give a little perspective on what’s coming for JoeCon and what the future may hold for Fun Pub and JoeCon.

James’ dialogue can be found in bold, with Patrick’s in standard font.

James: Hi all!  I am excited to write my first report for General’s Joes.  He must be desperate for contributors.  But I didn’t feel right flying solo on this mission and asked Pat Stewart to join the fun.  Pat did the full BotCon journey from Thursday to Sunday.  While Pat is hands down one of my go-to guys for a second opinion on G.I. Joe, it’s lesser known that his Transformers knowledge is valued as well.  I made a point to hit up BotCon 2016 because it was close and because of the closure. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to try and write a little more informal so maybe envision a scenario where we’re hanging out over coffee or maybe a beer.  If you’re envisioning hanging out over four or more beers, just light the seat next to you on fire. 

Patrick: James, I don’t drink coffee or beer.  Can we hang out while I just have some sweet tea?  This is seriously your first report for GeneralsJoes?  Well welcome to the cl—-wait a minute….I haven’t ever done a report for GeneralsJoes either.  And I don’t think this counts as it is more your report while I just toss in another view from time to time.

Wow, whoda thunk with this pairing, I would play the straight man? 

For simplicity sake, I refer to myself as a “Joe Collector” and I tried to take in the fun that is BotCon while also trying to “butt out” of “their” thing.  Fun fact for any Trans Fans or Crossover Collectors reading this, I have a pretty complete TF comic collection and try to stay hip.  Don’t let WOJM’s Gary Godsoe find out MTMTE is, in my opinion, the best comic out there.   One more fun fact, this was my third BotCon, I try to do any 80’s toy show within a few hours of me and BotCon was close.  Anyway… This write up is written with the facts and insight pertaining to BotCon.  Obviously, Joe Con and BotCon are owned by Fun Publications and I think it’s safe to assume that this year’s clubs’ procedures will be identical, but want to clarify that we won’t know exactly how Fun Pub will be handing the Joe Club until Joe Con (unless they choose to announce things sooner).  I do, however, think it’s safe to assume you, the reader, can extrapolate from my report and assume the next eight months will be the same for both.

Gary tends to come up a lot when Joe fans start talking Transformers.  I think by now we all know it’s because of his secret love for everything that has anything to do with shape-shifting robots.

While I definitely go much more in-depth with collecting Joes, I have also been a collector of Transformers from the beginning.  So while I was using the experience to prepare myself for what to expect in Loveland, I was also just there to take in the BotCon experience one more time.

So, prelude to BotCon, the Joe Club and TF Club were renewing their subscriptions until Dec 31, 2016.  They will not be valid Jan 1, 2017.  The club also sent out two different emails thanking the fans for their support.  See Gen Joe’s archives for details.  The club is known for their copy ‘n paste (I jest with love), so that told us something. 

Now, BotCon.  At 2:00 p.m., I arrived to make the 3: 00 p.m. BotCon Club panel.  Pete, Lanny, and Brian gave a retrospective of the club’s offerings from day one to now.  They left the TF FSS 3 and 4 images at home so I was not able to get the TF fans’ reaction to Serpent O.R. ( a personal curiosity).  They reaffirmed the trials and tribulations of a small business turning the 50 some odd total toys both clubs provide within a year’s time and repeated their overall love.  I’m not going to comment on the b.s./believability many fans have always had on this point but I will say they were somewhat teary.  I think this panel showed their love for the product as they did not have their “business-like tone” they typically have at shows.  The shows are a major part of their jobs after all.  This was my first inclination of the show’s overall tone and more on that later.

The club showed the BotCon FSS5 figures but for “us,” the big reveal was the Joe/TF cross over pack.  Justin covered the set but if it wasn’t said, the Cobra Commander is dark blue, the Megatron is translucent and emulating a hologram, and the Rat Bat is a REALLY.  BIG.  DEAL.  The mold was only released in Japan and the handful of Trans Fans I talked to said with certainty the set would sell out.  If they said the price, I did not catch it.  Oh, it’s a loose crossover so don’t get caught in the minutia.

This set is already a win.  For Joe fans who are not interested in the Transformers, I would bet that the offerings will have a solid resale value.  While the plethora of bootleg Ratbats have driven his price down, this one is a unique color scheme that many people will want.  If the comic-inspired Masterpiece Grimlock is any indication, this comic-inspired Masterpiece Ratbat should sell quickly.

The Club panel did give us these answers, starting with the big one:  All products must be sold and shipped by Dec 31, 2016.  If that doesn’t say finale, I don’t know what does.  Another big club answer clarified, if your membership expired in April and beyond, (past the March 31st deadline), you cannot renew your membership (by their contract with Hasbro) and thus, at this very moment, not sign up for TF FSS5 or buy other items.  This is an internal system error (maybe “complication” instead of error…I don’t think they ever planned for this) but there is a way to look up those who were members within the last year and something manual will be done to allow those to buy product.  They absolutely do not want to limit the number of customers.  So, if you are being a bum and only hearing you “not sign up for TF FSS5 or buy other items,” you are short sighted and could probably use some timeout in your life.  There will be a solution.  TF FSS’s come in all at once (for clarity, this should probably say “arrive to FunPub from China all at once”), each month takes only a few days to mail out.  There was no clear statement if they will ship them all out at once and a payment plan will still be available.  They will probably, at one point, ship them in larger groupings. 

Fun Pub owns the name BotCon.  It is just ambiguous enough to let slide.  After the non compete expires, they could do unofficial shows but experience has taught them it’s not worth the hassle without exclusive toys available to back it up.  Any more official 2019 plans will require a DeLorean, Libyan plutonium and a flux capacitor.   They did not say that.  If there was any doubt, they Officially announced Joe club stops at the end of the year unless something changes via Hasbro.  Fun Publications will not be involved.

So what’s up, why the split?  Hasbro simply decided to go in a different direction.  Hasbro even went so far as to put out an open letter to the fans that was readily available on various tables.  I did talk to the TF design team and, for those who want to go down memory lane, this year’s offerings are very retro.  Again, I came down with my Hot Rod (TF, not Piper) t shirt on but assumed the mantel of Joe Fan so I’m not going to go into action figure minutia.  Suffice to say, the team was only able to publicly say things next year will only go onward and upward.  They said they weren’t really aware of the details and, as of the show, the only ones in-the-know were the higher ups.  Don’t read into any of that more than what it is, the team was super cool, super fun, and, I get it, it is business and I’m coming in as a nerdy fan boy.  Time will tell. 

That was a Hot Rod t-shirt?  I thought you were following up the infamous Pythona costume with a Road Rage shirt.

For the guests, the show seemed to be a lot of fun.  I think, based on the above, they know the show isn’t over, just changed.  The show wasn’t even technically “BotCon” until FunPub started running the convention.  So, uh, what’s in a name?  I love the name BotCon for that show but we all know the spirit will carry forward and they are a very loyal, family-like group.  If you buy into that five steps of grief, they were all clearly in acceptance.  Like I alluded to earlier, the team was a lot more casual than they were at the thirteen Joe Cons I’ve so intimately attended.  The show apparently went real smooth so maybe it was easier to be nonchalant but I can’t help but think the transition played a role.  Don’t get me wrong, as far as I could tell, the business aspect was conducted appropriately; I felt it appropriate to try and convey the tone of this show in my informal writings.

The show had a slight carnival tone to it as well.  The costumes were huge (to reflect the notion of giant robots), the international presence was larger (the line does originate from Japan), and it was just a simple reminder that the property is more robust than Joe currently is.  In my opinion, I think Joe Fans are more unilaterally focused on the toys and then branch out into other IP while Trans Fans are more diverse.  One path is no better than the other, just fun insight.

Agreed.  While the bulk of Joe fans are focused on the toys, there is a much greater percentage of Transformers fans who are more focused upon the story and characters.  It is pretty common that people at the show are passionate about the comics and cartoons but really don’t buy the toys.  Because it has been a long time since I have been able to make it to BotCon, I was somewhat surprised that there was almost no presence of the movieverse designs.  The work I saw in Artists Alley seemed mostly inspired by G1, Animated, and the current IDW comics.  A fan of the Bay movies would have also been doing some digging on the showroom floor to find their figures as the bulk of the room was Masterpiece, Combiner Wars, G1, and Beast Wars.

At one point I felt very old.  I was in a small group of people and the ice breaker was to just tell about your first Transformer.  The youngest person in the group said his was a Fast Action Battler from the 2007 movie.  He looked to be about 13, so it seemed right but then he added that he had gotten it when he was four years old.  As we talked I was happy to hear how much that toy really inspired him to dig deeper into the characters and now he has a love of all sorts of Transformers.

If it’s any consolation, Pat, I’ve always felt you’re young at heart.

To wrap up the melancholy, Pete hosted an informal BotCon wrap up.  It was neat to see someone put on a panel that started as a diehard attendee to one of Fun Pub’s bigger shot callers for Transformers.  They shared memories and personal growths as this family of like minded individuals grew together over the twenty-two years of BotCon are transitioning into something undocumented.  I think I’m spoiled to have attended this because, in a sense, it will help me prepare for Joe Con’s Sunday when the proverbial doors close.

My Joe Fan role did take me to one interesting turn, Mark Weber was in attendance.  If there was ever a Hasbro employee to win the award for “Fastest to Become the ‘People’s Champ,’” it’s Mark Weber.  He was gracious enough to take pictures for the fans and answer questions about a property he is no longer working on.  But the big news to come out (and possibly the only reason why you read this) is that, when asked if he was attending Joe Con, he said his “official” response (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) is he is, Hasbro will have a booth, and fans will be either “pleased” or “excited,” (I don’t remember the exact word because BotCon and Joe Con Saturday nights are apparently very similar).  Suffice to say, the one was exuberance.  There is no way you could convince me that his statement insinuated zero product.  This does not say that it will be 1985 all over again either.  He left us in suspense for a reason. 

I think I was a little bit surprised at BotCon.  We had been told via club email, “Hasbro looks forward to sharing new plans for the Collector’s Club with you in the future” yet I am still wondering exactly what those plans may be.   I think many took this to mean that we would receive some kind of announcement during or on the heels of BotCon.  BotCon is over, some time has passed, and still the only official word I have seen was in the form of the memo to fans distributed at the show. It consists primarily of information we already knew while also stating that 2016 was the “last BotCon in its current format” and the statement “We look forward to sharing updates with you as our future plans evolve.” While the gesture was nice and the tone positive, we didn’t receive any new information.

The two most pressing questions Joe fans have when attending Joecon 2016 are “What is the future of the brand at retail?” and “What is the future of Joecon?” If BotCon is any indication, I think we need to be braced for the possibility that these two questions will be left unanswered as we head home with what will most likely be our last 15-figure set.

Plus the other yearly extras.

Fans who came on during the celebration that was the 25th line may not recall, but I feel that this simply puts us back in the driver’s seat. We are a passionate fan base and even if G.I.Joe is not at retail, that doesn’t mean G.I.Joe is dead.   I would encourage everyone to remain respectful in the way you voice your concerns.  We want to have Joes at retail and we want to have a great annual convention.  But with FunPub departing, they won’t have answers and to use a word from Hasbro’s statement, plans may still be “evolving.”  We need to do what we can to show Hasbro that our excitement for G.I.Joe is still very present and that we are ready to be a part of their brand-building future.

So that’s a “Joe Fan’s” report.  It was a lot of fun.  Two things I failed on, there was no good way to disrupt the causal tone to learn the future of Joe Con.   And, on the immediate front, what is the state of Heartwrencher and the Dreadnok 4×4.  Joe Con is only two months away and something tells me they’re going to go fast.  Let’s hope we get as good of news (as good of news as it’s going to get, given the situation) as BotCon got this weekend.  Sorry I this was so long, if we’ve talked, you know I ramble like this in person.  If the next chapter of TF cons is anything like this BotCon, I encourage those close to do it for a day.

The club mentioned at BotCon that two of the Transformers they had planned were cancelled due to the change in license.  I think it goes without saying that we should be cautiously optimistic regarding what time they have left for G.I. Joe.   I would have liked to have asked about those items as well, but the weekend was all for the Transformers fans and we will have our time in June.

Oh, and p.s. the really scoop from BotCon, Brian Savage now has a rockin’ Rikeresque beard!!

And here I thought he was preparing to join the Adventure Team.

Huge thanks to James and Patrick for taking so much time out of their busy schedule to do a BotCon/Fun Publications recap.  Lots of great information here, and stuff to look towards as JoeCon comes at us in June.