A Year in the Life: 2021 Edition

So here we are again! One more year down, celebrating my second Christmas as a toy blogger. A lot has changed since December 2020…

Well, I’m still in my basement working every day, waiting out this damn pandemic before returning to the office. But me, my wife and kids are all a year older, so that’s something. And you’re a year older, too! I’ve acquired some new toys and I’ve improved the set-up in my office, so I get to enjoy my collection just a little more than the year before.

I posted 37 blogs in 2021, including posts on some of my all-time favourite toys. I had been hoping to post every week, but I’ve also been writing a novel so that has drawn a bit of my attention away. I should write shorter posts to get more out, more quickly, but I know that each post might be the only time I get to reflect on any given toy, so I try to cover everything. It means that most of my posts are at least 1000 words, and my MSV post was nearly 4000! I respect the toys too much to shortchange them, but it means I’m not producing as many posts as I want… It’s hard to compromise quality for quantity, and even trying to be succinct is extra work. I haven’t quit my day job, yet, or retired, so two or three posts per month seems to be my current capacity.

I want to thank you for being patient, and especially for reading.

I started this blog to celebrate the toys and reminisce over my childhood, and if it wasn’t for the people reading my posts, liking and retweeting my tweets, and leaving comments on the posts, I wouldn’t be doing this anymore. I love the toys and I love writing, but I need feedback, and all the feedback I’ve received so far has been positive. I love the regular readers and I hope you get as much out of my writing as I get from your enjoyment.

At this point, I want to personally thank some of my favourite people:

  • Mike at Forgotten Figures continues to be an inspiration. Although you are such a gatekeeper to the GI Joe community, you are also gracious and welcoming.
  • RTG at Attica Gazette is such a talented photographer, and the same figures through his lens are so much more emotive than through anyone else’s lens. The GI Joes and Cobra operatives live through you, and you’re a damn double threat, since your writing is also strong.
  • Dustin at Dragon Fortress is one of the good guys in this biz and he keeps bringing it every week, even though he’s been going through a rough time, and we’re damn lucky to have him.
  • General Liederkranz is an amazing photographer and storyteller, a trendsetter, and the first person to like anything I post. He might live on Twitter and I appreciate that immensely!
  • GI Canadian is the only person I ever talk to on the phone – that old relic! – and another Canadian brother, who will someday send me that damn package he keeps telling me about (ha!).
  • Sintechness has been great, very supportive, and puts a unique lens on GI Joe. I want to say he’s got an “arthouse” style but I also think his work defies categorization. They should teach classes about his photography.
  • Sam Smith has been leaving some of the most insightful comments lately, and I think someone needs to give him a blog, stat! (Kidding, blogs are free.) Just get on with it, Sam, we need to hear more from you.
  • I feel blessed to have connected with Richard Van Camp, one of the top indigenous authors in the world, who is not only my favourite writer, but is somehow a fan of my writing, too. Mahsi cho, brother!
  • I should throw in a plug for Cherry Bomb Toys, an incredible vintage toy store in Victoria, BC, and to my buddy, B, who runs the place. He’s way more active in Facebook and Instagram – places I don’t exist – but a tireless toy enthusiast and a damn nice guy. If you stop by, just tell him I sent you, but please leave some of the Joes for me to buy, too.

In no way is this an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. And it’s an acknowledgement that we’re a community and there are just so many people that make it better in different ways.

What follows is a list of 10 highlights or lowlights from my blog in 2021.

If this is as far as you scroll, I want to express my appreciation before you go. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season, hope that you’re happy and healthy, and wish only the best for you and yours in 2022!

One love.

Colin

Most viewed posts on colinsjoes in 2021:

  1. Alpine. As everyone expected! I think Alpine might be enjoying time in the sun thanks to being an unheralded beauty from 1985. We all talk about Snake Eyes, Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, the Dreadnoks and Cobra’s four solid troops. But it’s clear that Alpine, Footloose and Dusty are long overdue in getting some spotlight.
  2. The Sharc. One of the more underwhelming toy acquisitions of my childhood, and so much missed potential, but also proof positive that Hasbro was firing on another level in 1984. Drop the Sharc into another toyline and it would be a standout.
  3. Saw Viper. My most negative review for obvious reasons (I hate the figure!) but his notoriety made for a popular profile. I also got a bit of a bump from my buddy, GI Canadian, who parodied me on Twitter. But the real reason it was so well read was my references to the OC (obviously!).

Least viewed posts on colinsjoes in 2021:

  1. Mirage (Transformers). This is the post that convinced me to focus almost exclusively on GI Joe, as I had been posting more blogs about Star Wars, Visionaries, Lego and Transformers in 2020. Not every GI Joe fan loves Transformers as much as I do. But I will say that the final sentence in this post is among the best things I’ve ever written.
  2. Eels. Both Eels and Bats surprised me, since I expected huge growth in views from the posts on the Cobra troops that everyone collects and loves. I was also flying under the radar more at the beginning of the year, as the views of later posts continued to grow, but I would have thought a review of Eels was something fans would seek out. I might have done too many troop builders, too early, though, since I’d already covered Snow Serpent, Viper and Bats. Great figures, but not many pageviews.
  3. Flash. I hadn’t posted about any of the original Joes for months when Flash came up on my randomized list. He’s one of the top figures from the first year, and I was gaining readers at the time. I had pulled solid numbers from the previous four posts (Python Officer, Alpine, AVAC and Snow Job), but Flash proved more like a flicker. Too bad – I really enjoyed writing about him.

My favourite posts of 2021:

  1. Airborne. Favourite Joe. Favourite post. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Snow Job. Second favourite Joe. Second favourite post. I wanted to do something special for my 50th blog post, so I chose the Joe I have the biggest personal connection to, given that his Canadian version was born in my hometown. This was pure indulgence and I loved doing it. I wonder what I’ll do for #100. Stay tuned.
  3. Cobra Combat Set MSV. This was my white whale, the most intricate Canadian-exclusive GI Joe toy. It continues to be my white whale, as I’m still missing the steering wheel, cannon mount, computer stand and one gas can. But it’s close enough to complete that I can live with it, now, as is.

Plus one more for good measure:

  1. Toxo-Zombie. Life is short. Appreciate the things you enjoy and the people that are close to you. Also, pink Cobra zombies will make you feel better, any day.

6 replies on “A Year in the Life: 2021 Edition”

I got a shout out? *honored* 2021 was the year I really let my nerd flag fly, and got back into vintage Joes in a big way.

It more-or-less started (restarted?) in January 2021 when I dug out my o-ring Joes from the Harry Potter closet under my stairs and took inventory of what I had amassed in the early days of Ebay and smalljoes.com (i.e. the late 90s and early 2000s). I took inventory of everything: figures I thought I had, but couldn’t find; figures I thought were complete, but weren’t; figures I thought were in near mint condition, but actually had broken thumbs and crotches. I jumped on Ebay to see what it might cost to fill some holes in my vintage collection – and then promptly gasped: “It’ll cost me how much to buy a new left arm for Annihilator?!? That figure is uuuugggglllyyyy! Why are the prices so high? Why did twenty-year-old Sammy buy Annihilator in the first place?!” [Oh right, it’s because I had him as a kid, and I was trying to recreate my childhood in my early 20s.] So, at the start of 2021, I wasn’t yet in the mind space to dump money on vintage figures. I did, however, start peeking around looking for decent deals on vintage vehicles and playsets.

And then, in early February, I saw something I could not pass up: A really good deal a boxed, complete ’83 headquarters from an Etsy seller whose son had long abandoned it and left it rot in her attic. I never had the HQ as a kid. (I was too young when it was released, and my family was too poor anyway.) When I put the HQ together, something changed. Dormant parts of my brain fired up for the first time in decades. A sense of imaginative wonderment washed over me. Immediately, I filled the HQ with guys and vehicles. I ordered new stickers from ToyHax (which are excellent and a major improvement). Then, I started filling out the grounds around the HQ. I bought two 84 Watchtowers, two 85 Missile Defense Units, one Checkpoint Alpha, and as many incomplete mortar and machine gun defense units as I could find for cheap – all to surround the base with tank traps and sandbags. A few months later, I bought an 85 TTBP to expand the base footprint. (It looks a little funny – because the colors aren’t a perfect match – but the TTBP works well when placed against the back of the HQ and gives the entire playset the look of a full-blown military installation). When I was done, my dining room was filled with a massive GI Joe diorama.

I was hooked. Again.
And fully back into vintage collecting.

But alas, I can’t dump endless amounts of money on vintage toys. So I made some effort in the summer and fall to slow my spending and find other ways to enjoy the hobby. I began wondering if there were others like me out there. Yes, I knew about HCC788 and FormBX257, but 2021 was a quiet year for them. Somehow, I learned about the Dragon Fortress (from a GIJoburg podcast, I think) and, from there, I started finding and reading other GI Joe blogs: Attica Gazette, Viper Pit, Forgotten Figures, and also this one: Colin’s Joes.

Each of these blogs has its own flavor. The Dragon Fortress oozes style, frivolity, and humor. Forgotten Figures is the OG; he’s been blogging for decades and has entries about the rarest upon rare stuff. The Viper Pit examines vintage Joe product from the perspective of a kid who entirely missed the ARAH era – because he’s hella young – and blogged about his fall down the rabbit hole. Attica Gazette is a photo blog with commentary; his “Great Moments in GI Joe History” segments are some of my favorite content out there (all of which are low key hilarious).

But, Colin, your blog is unique and irreplaceable. You write about how/when you first got these toys as a kid. Your entries are peppered with old family photos. You remember the names of your old childhood friends and what you got each other for gifts. You know the stores from which you or your family bought each toy. I remember a lot of this stuff things too. So, when I read your entries, I’m transported back in time to all those mornings (and afternoons) (and evenings) (and weekends) I spent playing Joes with my friends. No other author that I read regularly has been imbued with the same time-warping powers.

My life has been enriched in 2021 for having discovered you and your blog. Here’s hoping for another 37 entries in 2022.
Keep up the excellent work.

Auld Lang Sine,
-Sam

P.S. I somehow missed your SAW Viper entry. I have thoughts! 🙂 Expect a comment in the near future.

P.S.S. I forwarded your recent Transformer entry to a friend who loves TF more than Joe. Hopefully, he becomes a regular reader.

See, you just wrote your first blog! Kidding, kidding.

I think that’s how a lot of us start into it. Collecting is *a bit* of an addiction. The 1983 Headquarters was one of my first purchases when I was getting back into it! You’re set up sounds awesome, by the way. Hope you took lots of pictures.

I’m glad that you mentioned HCC788, FormBX257 and Viper’s Pit. High quality content and highly recommended!

Thank you so much for the kind words. That is totally the vibe I’m going for, so I’m happy it’s striking a chord with you! I once had a blog about my life as a writer and this is 1000 x easier and 1,000,000 x more fun.

If you keep coming back I’ll keep writing, buddy.

Have a great new year!

Oh, and thanks for forwarding my Omega Supreme post. It had more views than I expected so I might just have a few more Transformers posts in me yet!

Great work! I’m amazed Flash didn’t do better. I especially appreciated your SAW-Viper post, as it got me thinking about him again. He was big in my childhood but you got me thinking about how he fits into my more adult vision of the GI Joe universe, and that gave me some picture ideas. The Toxo-Zombie post was another highlight, along with the MSV of course. It’s fun hearing about your collecting journey and the twists of fate along the way.

It’s always amazing to me to see what posts do well and what doesn’t. Oddly enough, the 1984 Deep Six is one of my most viewed profiles. So, people love the SHARC…even if I don’t.

I find that writing about Joe gives me a deeper connection to my childhood. But, it also gives me a chance to write down my memories and keep a record of childhood events before they slip away forever.

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