As I get older the way I celebrate and appreciate my nostalgic memories changes. Back in my mid-twenties, broke and living in a two-bedroom apartment I really didn’t have the means to procure or display any sort of vintage collection. I spent hours scouring eBay for deals on Garbage Pail Kids, old toys, and albums on vinyl. I very rarely pulled the trigger on any of these auctions, but I loved looking and hope that I’d eventually be in a better position to finally pick up and display some of these treasures. At the time I kept wishing that there was more of a market that catered directly to fans like me. People who wanted to endless flip through pictures of nostalgic treasures without having to wade waist deep in the expense of investing in a collection. I used to daydream about coffee table books that collected nice scans of all the Garbage Pail Kids, reference books that cataloged all of the toys I used to love, or art books that featured vast collections of album cover and skateboard deck art. Slowly, as my generation has come into its own and started infiltrating publishing houses and coming on board with the same companies and brands we used to be the target audience for, my dreams have begun to be realized. A few years ago we saw the Abrams company team up with Topps to start releasing awesome collections of Wacky Packages, Garbage Pail Kids, and Star Wars trading cards. Then came a series of really cool toy identification guides for Transformers and G.I. Joe toys by 80s toy guru Mark Bellomo. More recently we saw the release of a couple of awesome books chronicling the brand artwork of Masters of the Universe and the box art packaging of all the Generation 1 Transformers toys. Add to this a couple of wonderful books that focus on 80s era 45rpm cover at (Put the Needle on the Record by the supremely cool Matthew Chojnacki) and skateboard deck art (The Disposable Skateboard Bible by Sean Cliver) and I am pretty much in heaven.
But this is just the beginning and there are a lot more books I’ve love to see. This is where independent publishing and the fans have come to the rescue to start filling in the gaps where the larger companies are dropping the ball. For instance, this past year we saw the release of a badass little Visionaries Toy and art guide thanks to Kickstarter. Speaking of Kickstarter, my bud Philip Reed has almost funded his new book project, Action Figure Carrying Cases, a Photographic Overview!
This leads me to another huge gap in the 80s toy art book landscape, the Art of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Though we’ve seen some really awesome new vintage-style G.I. Joe toy lines from Hasbro in the last decade, they really seem to not understand the power of the brand they hold. They are so focused on trying to produce lucrative new movies that they undermine the vintage brand consistently, focusing less and less time and money on the property which is a shame. The Transformers: Legacy box art book, though delayed for almost a year and not as entirely complete as it could have been (both art and artist recognition-wise), was a great release and it would be a no-brainer for them to compile and release a very similar version for G.I. Joe. But they haven’t and from what I can tell, they don’t plan to either.
That’s where the exhaustive work of Carson Mataxis and his site 3D-Joes comes to the rescue. Mataxis has been putting a metric ton of work into an online 3D gallery chronicling the entire G.I. Joe toy line. In order to pay for the software licensing fees and hosting he’s been creating some beautiful giant poster/prints of mint on card G.I. Joe figure collections, the sales of which directly fund his site. I have a few of these posters, and they are magnificent to say the least.
Well recently he’s decided to go all out on acquiring a ton of vintage packaging and merchandising that features all of the 80s era G.I. Joe artwork from the likes of Earl Norem and Hector Garrido just to name a couple. He’s been meticulously restoring the artwork in photoshop in order to create a series of prestige floppy books that collect all of this art. I finally got around to picking up the first three books that collect a good portion of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero art from 1982-1987…
Though these books are a little pricy at $35 per volume, for the collector of G.I. Joe art these are a must buy. Each book features an absolutely stunning 11″x16″ wrap-around, enhanced, foil cover that’s printed on very heavy cardstock. The interiors are all full-color and feature every single carded action figure, vehicle box, and play set package, not to mention covers for all of the Find Your Fate and floppy kid’s books, as well as a bunch of other products. Each book also features an introduction by Kirk Bozigian, the original G.I. Joe brand manager from 1982-1994 who was also the inspiration for the likeness of Law, the MP (who also came with sidekick dog Order.)
Volume One concentrates on all of the toy releases from the 1982-1983 lines, and is the sparsest volume at 62 pages (including inside front and back covers.)
Volume Two contains all the toy releases from the 1984-1985 years and clocks in at 78 pages (including inside front and back covers.)
Finally the newly released Volume Three collects all the toys from the 1986-1987 releases and is also 78 pages (including inside front and back covers.)
From what I understand there will be at least one more volume produced that covers the 1988-90 years, with a potential follow up that will cover the remaining years worth of releases. For my money these first three volumes cover all of the toys that I had as a kid and they’re the perfect way to sit back and appreciate all of the amazing artwork and design that was put into the G.I. Joe toy line. I can’t thank Carson enough for all the time and work he’s put into his site and these amazing books!
If you swing by and pick up copies of these, be sure to tell him Branded sent ya, thanks!