First and foremost, a huge thanks to Russ Sheath who had the opportunity to attend MCM (London ComicCon) and check out the latest Hasbro news and intel live and in person. Russ kindly volunteered to get some face time with Emily and provide GeneralsJoes the unique opportunity to post that interview for the G.I. Joe audience!
Russ Sheath here reporting for Generals Joes, where I ventured to London for MCM-CON and the opportunity to sit down with the one and only Emily Bader, Hasbro’s Brand Manager for, amongst other things, GI JOE.
You will know Emily from Hasbro Pulse Con, numerous live streams. and as the face for all things GI JOE, coming from Hasbro.
Along with lead designer Lenny Panzika, Emily brings us the news and reveals for the entire GI JOE line. At MCM-CON’s Hasbro panel Emily has revealed that the UK’s own ‘Big Ben’ will be joining the Classified line and showed digital renderings of what the figure will look like. Emily also shared the first images of the previously revealed ‘Female Cobra Trooper 2 Pack’…and in a reveal that kept the JOE fans in the audience guessing….Emily teased something called… ‘Mole Rats’. Another name-only reveal was Shadow Tracker, the legendary COBRA hunter from the Pursuit of COBRA line, a potentially amazing addition to the Classified roster!
Fighting jet lag like a trooper, Emily took the time to sit down with Generals Joes to offer insights into the past, present and future of GI JOE Classified.
Russ Sheath (RS): I thought we’d start with a ‘state of the union’ official line from Hasbro. How’s the GI JOE brand doing?
Emily Bader (EB): From an official Hasbro perspective we are doing great. I really don’t think that anyone anticipated what the Classified series had the potential to become when it launched, back when we were were originally bringing GI JOE back to support the Snake Eyes movie. Classified has grown so far beyond that at this point. It helped that Classified is the first time that GI JOE has been available as a 6 inch line which gets people excited, but I’d say that the success of the Haslab HISS Tank is the embodiment of the state of GI JOE right now.
RS: I was excited to see the reveal of the female Cobra Trooper images at the GI JOE Classified panel today, which made me realise that GI JOE was pretty diverse as an 80s boys toys, in an era where there was maybe a single token female character in traditional ‘Boys toys’ lines. From a toy perspective the line has covered pretty much all of the female characters from the existing JOE catalogue of characters, how will you keep the line’s diversity moving forwards?
EB: When we sit down and plan the line for the year we look at what the gender and racial split is, we want to make sure everybody is being represented and can see themselves in GI JOE. Right now we are looking at what the era split is too, so how many 80s, 90s, or 2000s era characters we include in the line. So it’s really become a ‘beautiful mind’ exercise by Lenny and the team, which is really fun. One of the ways we will start sneaking more female characters into the line, is as we saw with the render reveal of the female cobra trooper two pack.
Cobra is an equal opportunities employer for the people they send into battle, so making sure we represent that is important to us. We are so lucky to be working on JOE and to be able to keep trying new things, the further the line goes the deeper dives we get to do. With the exception of the Snake Eyes movie line our figures aren’t screen accurate, they are an amalgamation of the different iterations that have been around for the last 30 or 40 years, and that’s one of the ways to make this a fun thing to do.
RS: Do you have more freedom with JOE than with other brands at Hasbro, perhaps to do things that’s are a bit out of left field?
EB: At Hasbro we have licensed brands such as Marvel, Star Wars etc. We then then have brands which we own and operate, such as GI JOE and Transformers. With Transformers there is so much entertainment that comes out and that we have to represent, but with GI JOE we get a lot more freedom to design the figures how we want and to say that we like different elements from Sunbow, from the Marvel comics, or from other different iterations, and combine them. We are in the process of working out the percentages of what can be kept retro for people to be happy, and then what needs to be upgraded to a modern interpretation so that it feels like a modern toy line while still having call backs to it roots. Those interpretations have been really helpful to us, as it allowed fans to say, for example, that the original Gung Ho camo pattern wasn’t working for them, so it allowed us to say that main line would become more of a modern era look, while the retro card back line would have more of an 80s accurate vibe. That has offered a nice distinction for us and has allowed Lenny to push the modern look a little bit further that he might have originally.
RS: One thing that interested me was the move away from the sci-fi orientated approach of the original releases from the Classified line and more towards a modern era look and feel. Can you talk to that? EB: It was an evolution of the brand. When you bring something back you never quite know where it’s going to go. Based on feedback the fans were excited, but it was a bit too much of a swing. Of the looks we had, we had retro, modern, and future, fans wanted us to pull things back from future to the retro and modern eras. Over the course of the line it’s all an evolution and it will continue to evolve and to be exciting. RS: We know the GI JOE comic book is no longer with IDW and there are plenty of rumours about where the comic might end up, with one being Robert Kirkman’s ‘Skybound’ entertainment at Image Comics, the home of The Walking Dead. Can you tell us whether a change of comic publisher might influence anything to do with the toy line?
EB: Hasbro PR Says I can’t comment, but I would be really excited to do that. We haven’t been part of those conversations, but I think that with any new iterations of things there is amazing potential.
RS: Let’s talk about the HISS Tank. I got the impression that the success of the project that the was a to everyone, not least Hasbro?
EB: We knew that the Haslab HISS Tank was going to do well and that it was the right choice to start Classified in Haslab, we knew that people would love it. What we didn’t anticipate was that it would be the fasted Haslab project ever, funding in 8 hours and 41 minutes. That caught us all off guard, especially as it was a different kind of offering for JOE fans. We knew there was an interest in vehicles but we didn’t know how far to push it, for example would the electronics or the characters be too much? We didn’t know how people feel about the offering in general. What we found was everybody really liked it and It’s been so nice to work on the project, and especially to have the fan sentiment. With the Haslab Skystriker we were getting feedback from fans saying ‘I don’t need this, I already have the one from 1983, and I have the figures. I am backing the Skystriker to show Hasbro that there is interest in GI JOE, we want you to evolve the brand, and that the thinking is that if I back the Skystriker it will get me a Classified Series Haslab in the future’. That worked and upper Hasbro saw that the Skystriker campaign did great, so let’s run another one for Classified. It’s an honour to have the fasting funding Haslab in GI JOE, especially given how many amazing Haslabs there have been, and how wonderfully they have been run.
RS: Does this mean we might see more Classified Haslab projects down the line?
EB: I feel that there is a relatively strong degree of confidence about that.
Again, huge thanks to Russ for giving me the privilege of posting this fantastic interview. An equally big thanks to Emily for her time and the honest transparency of her responses– always great to hear directly from the Hasbro team! Check out the gallery below of some of the images captured from the convention floor and of the panel recap itself.