Joe prides himself on being one of the few men to have the privilege of traveling the world.
Joe has been to places most people can only dream about. Joe was able to swim through the waves in the Pacific Ocean, the Amazon Rainforest to discover new species, and the Sahara desert to walk through the sands. Of course, Joe is no ordinary man … in fact, technically speaking, he is not a man at all.
He is G.I. Joe, the fictional U.S. soldier, is a beloved character who has inspired many movies, cartoons, toys, comics, and most importantly, fans, since his introduction by Hasbro, Inc. on February 2, 1964 as a 12-inch figurine.
As the first “action figure”G.I. was the first toy to hit the market. Joe has seen many different versions over the years in terms of design, size, and accessories. Even though the character is fictional, his spirit is alive again this weekend thanks to Joelanta, an Atlanta-based artist.Convention and toy show for military, action, and adventure figuresHeld at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast, Peachtree Corners.
Buddy Finethy is a Marietta resident, toy collector and artist who founded the event. It has been around 22 years and continues to unite toy lovers from all over the country. They share a passion for recollecting their pasts and collecting new toys, as well as building new relationships for the future.
“G.I. Joe was about the individual struggles about those team members and it was a dynamic that taught teamwork and imaginative thinking, zeroing in on your priorities,”Finethy said. “That toy carried so much energy and vibrancy and became such a medium for the imagination. How can it not be something that someone within the creative field wouldn’t want to espouse?”
Finethy, a collector of toys and action figures for over 30 years, saw Joelanta a way to share his love of collecting vintage toys with a wide range of collectors, from the serious to the beginner.
The event is focused on the iconic toy icon, but there are many toys and designs that are not related to the G.I. Joe universe. All of the Joe universe toys will be represented and sold throughout the convention.
On top of featuring a variety of cosplayers and celebrity guests, such as professional wrestling veteran St. Slaughter and “Deadwood” actor Keone Young, Finethy has kept an open door available for vendors of artists, diorama builders and painters searching for a place to showcase their talents.
“We have seen through filmmaking and visual arts … people customizing their own figures … the art of diorama is our prime medium, its the slice of the mountain, beginning, middle and end,” Finethy said. “We’ve gotten to know some of the greatest craftsmen of the diorama arts. We’ve had so many great artists join us from every walk of life … every walk of creativity and involvement.”
“More of us have become interested in the creative aspect, building environments, building vehicles, building accessories to go with our Joes, watching how people learn skills … learn how to paint, learn how to sculpt, get into 3D printing … I get it to watch their mistakes, they get to watch my mistakes, and we get to grow together,” Steve Charlton, an Arizona resident, said that he has attended almost every Joelanta since its inception.
“A few of our vendors do small scale manufacturing on the side, you have some doing medium scale production of certain accessories. It’s always fun to watch and see what will pop up and arrive.”
“For some time, the toys were not only the things that I played with but were also my friends,” Charlton said. “After we settled down, I was able to find friends and play with them, but I’ve always had an appreciation for the models, for the figures and the accessories because they were a thing that I was able to focus on and enjoy even when there was nobody else around.”
Charlton, a Joelanta board Member and a collector who has over 1,000 action figure figures, credits the nostalgia for bringing forth many of his contacts with vendors and collectors over the years.
“Kids today want to play video games, or be on social media, but with G.I. Joe, there’s an aspect that there’s no story behind it, you have to use your imagination.”
Alex Massey, Joelanta Atendee/Board Member
“You’ve got people in my age group who were born in the late 50s to 60s, who were playing with the 12 inch G.I. Joes, military themed ones, the adventured themed one … those same kids played with the Marx’s ‘Best of the West’ action figures or Marx’s ‘Knights’ … there’s a population within the collection community that relates to those memories,” Charlton said.
Finethy and Charlton want to inspire younger toy lovers to get involved in G.I. Joe and other toys can help to increase imagination’s power and influence, especially in a time when youth are captivated by social media and digital entertainment.
“This is a medium for storytelling … where toys are proxy actors for any story that you want to tell,” Finethy said.
This appeal was what first brought Alex Massey, then 10, to the convention. It hasn’t stopped him from returning over a decade later.
“The further we get with technology, the farther we get with being able to use our imagination,” Massey said. “Kids today want to play video games, or be on social media, but with G.I. Joe, there’s an aspect that there’s no story behind it, you have to use your imagination. As a child that was very important to me, it was like Joe was my buddy, even with it was just me in the house.”
“In your mind, you’re making up a story for those figures, going through the forest, fighting enemies, finding lost treasure,” Charlton said. “That aspect, no matter what the toy or its size is, has never changed, and still continues today. It’s just some of us who are older now maybe have a little more trouble bending over in the backyard and have to stick to playing on the tables.”
Massey, a native of Tennessee, has been to Joelanta and the companion show in March, Toylanta for the past 13 year. Massey, now 23, is taking on his first year of service as a board member for the Joelanta convention.
“It’s just a lot of coordination working with the hotel, working with the dealers … working to get the celebrity guests, and of course advertisements,” He was excited about his new role. “There have been people from all over the world, every continent who have appeared, many of them were not able to attend throughout the past years due to the pandemic, so it will be very exciting.”
“This is a medium for storytelling … where toys are proxy actors for any story that you want to tell.”
Buddy Finethy, Founder of Joelanta
Although he enjoys catching up on the latest model of toys featured, it has been the chance to reconnect with old friends that has made Massey see each convention more and more meaningful.
“At first, when I was a kid, around 10 or 11, I was coming just for the toys,” He said. “Now, the more that I grow, I’ll buy a couple of things for the collection but it’s all about the people. The community that we have here is very strong.”
“There have been a large number of children that I have seen grown up … friends who’ve had kids who bring in their children,” Charlton said. “I’ve seen those kids grow up and get married, have careers of their own, kids of their own, yet many of them still come back to the show time to time … and some of them bring their kids. It’s as though I have an army of nieces and nephews.”
It is this strength in numbers and comraderies that Finethy, like the many incarcerations of toys and models and action figures that he holds, hopes will grow with each new year that the Joelanta crew returns for a new adventure.
“The world is a tough place, everybody searches for a moment of connectivity and the commonality of these toys through our lifetime has given us a lifeline ourselves to each other,” He said. “People are able to come in and connect with fellow collectors across the country and have really created a community in a sense of mission and fun … it makes a great atmosphere that everyone can be proud to be a part of.”