PopLurker would like to thank the SoCal Joe Show and Toy Convention for providing Press Passes in exchange for event coverage.
On December 2nd, 2018 I attended the SoCal Joe Show and Toy Convention, a small toy expo that occurs twice annually in Temecula, California. While the show focuses on toys, collectibles, and even boasts some show exclusives, art and comic books are never discounted. Among the three special guests at the show were artist Jay Sullivan, who is well known in the community for his work on the G.I. Joe comic books from IDW Publishing, writer Buzz Dixon who has written for a whole host of different cartoons including many episodes of G.I. Joe, the G.I. Joe movie from 1987, and comic book writer Aaron Sparrow who (more specifically) wrote the cards for the exclusive action figures touted at the show.
The SoCal Joe Show and Toy Convention is a one day event that’s seriously lots of fun. It’s run by a group of gentlemen/avid G.I. Joe fans and toy collectors named Eben, Robert, Drew, and Ron. Together, they go by the name The 4 Joe Men.
Early bird doors opened at 8am (general public was 10am) and there was a line of collectors ready for their early access and chance to purchase their show exclusives.
While the show did not have any programming like panels, I did have time to interview all three guests. As previously mentioned, The SoCal Joe Show is twice annually. So while this is the show’s second year, it was the third time the actual event was taking place.
There were lots of tables present. Admittedly, the vendor hall was as full as it could be, hence for the next show (which will be held on Sunday May 5th, 2019), the gentlemen are upgrading their space to a considerably bigger location. This will not only allow for more vendors and toy sellers to be presents, but will allow for a larger variety of toys those exhibitors will carry. While the words ‘Toy Convention’ graced the name of the event, G.I. Joe toys reigned supreme at this little expo.
However, there were a few Transformers, Robotech, and Masters of the Universe items scattered around the various tables. This Megazord collector would have loved to see a few more mecha lurking in the shadows, or even some vintage ‘girly’ toys like some Spectra dolls (my next grail items), Golden Girls, or other classic toys, but it was still very exciting to see everyone’s booths packed with awesome playables ready to sell.
And hey– you know your show is a hit when the cosplayers want to join in the fun, right?
One really neat aspect of the show came from the presence of home made and custom action figures. There’s an entire community of people who collect various parts of a host of figurines and they build new figures all together. Or, they will sculpt and paint new heads that fit on certain lines of toys and now you can remove the old one and have a brand new figure with a specialized noggin. It was one of the things special guest Aaron Sparrow was doing at the show, and I snagged a quick interview with him.
Hey Aaron! Thanks for giving PopLurker this interview. So, you are one of the special guests here at the SoCal Joe Show. Tell me a little about your contribution and what you’re up to here today.
Well, I wrote the file cards for the exclusive figures, which I do for every show. But I’m also here as a hobbyist. I’m painting cast heads for people to customize their action figures with. You’re going to match them to whatever body you’re going to choose. But they fit on figures that are already out there. Wolverine fits on a Wolverine body. The Carnage head fits on the Carnage body. But people get creative and figure out new ways to use these heads for whatever they want.
How deep are you in the custom action figure community?
Pretty deep! I’m in a lot of the Facebook groups and I used to be in a lot of the forums before forums died out. I also post a lot of them on Instagram.
Are you working on any new writing?
See, this is why this is a terrible interview. I’m not working on anything. But I do have some pitches out there that I sent to a few comic book companies. Right now, I’m just waiting to hear back about that. I feel like the comic book industry is in a weird place and getting through the door isn’t based on merit anymore. It’s all about who you know. That’s why I’m getting aggressive with my pitches. I’m showing them that I have books out there that have been successful.
Tell me about your books!
I’ve done work for Blizzard. I worked on their Warcraft manga through Tokyo Pop. It was pretty serious when I pitched it, but they kept asking for it to get more and more over the top and pushed it until it was this big, crazy thing. I ended up writing the craziest dialogue, stuff like ‘The heavens will tremble at my fury’. Just no subtlety whatsoever.
Let’s talk about your fandoms. What are you really into?
I’m a super action figure junkie. I mean, of course I played with them as a kid. I got older and kind of just got out of it. But I have a younger brother who was still playing with Ninja Turtles, and I was always on the hunt to find him the new figures. And this was before the internet, so you never knew what was coming out. You’d just walk into Toys R Us and there’d be new product on the shelf. So, I’ve always hunted the stores looking for stuff for him. Then came the 90s, and I got really into the X-Men action figures. Finally, Toy Biz started their Marvel Legends line, and I started collecting those. I’ve continued through Hasbro getting the license. Then I moved onto creating these little cast heads and customizing for figures.
I got into customizing was because of my brother. He came to me complaining that he couldn’t find a Red Skull for his Captain America figure to fight. So, I took an animated series Nick Fury body and a Ghost Rider head, shaved the flames off, sanded it down, repainted it, put it on the Nick Fury body and repainted the whole figure. It made him a really nice Red Skull. That was my introduction and I never really stopped. I made figures for him and myself and I just really enjoy it.
You have other ties to the toy business, don’t you?
I do! I worked for an online toy retailer and got to help design a lot of exclusives and design feedback. The biggest one was when Jazzwares had the Mortal Kombat license I basically worked with them to create an exclusive Goro figure. And up until Storm Collectible’s recent release, it was the only six-inch Goro figure on the market. I’ve done a bunch of various freelance work with toy companies here and there. It’s just nice as an action figure fan to be part of the process.
I take it you’re very present when it comes to toy shows like these, right?
I think these shows are great! Any way to get great toys out there. I’m such a toy collector and I collect everything; Marvel, DC, Storm Collectibles’ Street Fighter line…and even though I’ve never played a Tekken game in my life, I’m collecting those because they just look so good. As toys become higher end, it’s more appealing for collectors. Right now, the toy industry is exploding. It’s opposite of the comic book industry, which looks to be shrinking.
Before I let you go, do you have any fandoms or hobbies that people might not expect?
Oh, that’s a good question. You know what…I’m a sucker for cheesy Christmas movies.
There it is!
It’s true—and they can be the worst. Just absolutely sappy, cliché, Hallmark-esque movies. But when Christmas time rolls around, I want those on my TV. There’s one, I can’t remember the name, that Amy Acker did. I love her because I watched a lot of the shows she did for Sci-Fy and stuff. If I ever meet her, she’ll expect me to talk about Angel or Cabin in the Woods, but I’m going to bring up that Christmas movie and hope she doesn’t slap me!
You can follow Aaron on Twitter as well.
The SoCal Joe Show was really fun, intimate, cozy, and exciting! Everyone was super friendly and enthusiastic. The show runners chatted with patrons, there were raffles done every hour, all of the vendors were excited to buy from each others’ booths, and everyone adorned their best G.I. Joe or army print apparel. I can’t wait to see how this show grows and what the 4 Joe Men have planned for the future. I think by the next show, it will easily be on par with Power-Con, the He-man and She-Ra convention.
PopLurker’s SoCal Joe Show and Toy Convention Gallery