It seems like lately my life has not allowed me the time to participate as heavily in the G.I. Joe community as I’d like. It’s been a long time since I could help out with the Full Force podcast (sorry, Chris and Pat!) and even longer since I produced regular content for GeneralsJoes.
For that reason I was pretty ecstatic that I actually had some free time that coincided with a Hasbro G.I. Joe Fan Roundtable and was able to dial in. As always, Emily, Lenny, Dustin and the others were incredibly gracious and accommodating to our litany of questions, most of which seemed to revolve around the HasLab HISS Tank (for good reason).
If you want to watch the video of the Roundtable in its entirety, Chris from The Full Force Podcast has it on his YouTube channel. I’ve also broken down some of the highlights below.
We started the conversation with Chris asking about the lack of a developmental update from the last live stream, in which Emily and Lenny typically reveal the names of a couple characters in the development pipeline. After some back and forth, Lenny revealed those two names: Ripper and Firefly!
In my mind, the inclusion of Firefly represents the Hasbro design team’s focus on vintage inspiration, as the COBRA Island Firefly was a pretty significant modern overhaul (and was somewhat limited by Target exclusivity). For the record, I did ask if Firefly would be neon green and was gently told no, though they were sure to elaborate saying that “nothing is off the table” and actually specifically identified Battle Corps Beachhead as a personal favorite. Never say never! To see my thoughts on the COBRA Island Firefly, check out my review!
Many of the questions throughout the conversations orbited around the hugely successful HISS Tank HasLab, talking about how HasLab has its own dedicated team, separate from the design team which makes things a bit more efficient (though Lenny did do the design work on the HISS Driver). From a design perspective they focused a lot of attention on the “real world aspect” of the vehicle, adding small details like the side mounted ladders and additional “greeble” to fill in some of the empty spaces. There was confirmation that (at this point anyway) there are no plans for tiers above the fourth stretch goal, though obviously the speed and level of funding might alter those plans. They also designed the HISS around a larger base figure to ensure that the vast majority of figures could fit. Lenny indicated that Roadblock, Gung Ho, figures of that sized “buck” should be able to fit, and that the HISS Driver was also one of those somewhat larger base figures. Speaking of size, Emily was sure to share a comparison photo–
Another interesting point of the conversation was the delicate balance between product and cost, finding the right middle ground where collectors feel like they’re getting a premium product while it still being at least moderately affordable. They also kept troop builders in mind, though admitted doing so might be cost prohibitive for some. It was interesting to hear also that their first iteration of the HISS was too elaborate and expensive to consider as the final product.
They were also quick to point out that it’s not just about price, but also about providing something that can comfortably exist in our homes. Emily jokingly made reference to a USS Flagg saying that it would be close to 20 feet long and 5 feet high which simply isn’t a realistic expectation for people own and display.
Lenny also mentioned that they’re not really focused on “budget items” they would rather build something right for a little extra money than push through substandard product just to meet a price point. G.I. Joe has always focused it’s attention on quality and ingenuity and Classified is taking up that mantle.
One thing that I specifically wanted to ask unrelated to the HasLab was about the Classified aesthetic and how it’s shifted since it’s inception from a more modern tech-based look to something more beholden to the vintage designs. Lenny confirmed that this was a conscious choice and while at first he indicated it was more related to the arrival of the 40th Anniversary of A Real American Hero in 2022, he did admit that we should be expecting a similar approach going forward. With each figure they plan on looking at their designs and making subtle modern updates where it makes sense, but by and large the beginning template will reflect a vintage inspiration. While I understand this approach and it seems to be working for them, I’ll be whining until I get my GIJoe.Com Storm Shadow I’ve been dying for since the line started.
I also prodded them a bit about an ongoing “narrative” for G.I. Joe: Classified and was told that’s not really in the works at the moment beyond some snippets on packaging as well as the diorama photos that they use to promote each release. Those are the only current plans for story elements based on this new Classified universe, which isn’t necessarily a surprise, though as a writer myself, story is very important to me so this was at least a bit disappointing to hear.
Last but not least there was (obviously) some conversations around the release cadence of figures this year and the fact that there was this huge gap in US distribution. Emily confirmed that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, though there are still pretty significant supply chain challenges. While she wasn’t sure if anything would get back to “normal” any time soon (what the heck is normal?) she did specify that going forward, we should not anticipate the large, six month gap we saw in 2022 from a release perspective. Already figures that were supposed to hit in April are slated to hit in the next few months and if anyone is like me, they just got a barrage of email notifications this past week about Spirit, Storm Shadow, Croc Master and COBRA Officer.
Now– about those Target exclusive Tiger Force and Python Patrol figures…
Once again, I want to give Emily, Lenny, Dustin and the whole Hasbro team a huge thanks for including myself and a plethora of other fans to participate in this roundtable. It’s been a while since I’ve been on one, but it was great to get a chance to participate again and to feel the emotion in the virtual room in the wake of the HasLab success and being on the precipice of a G.I. Joe: Classified resurgence! Yo Joe!