Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Behind the Scenes of GI Joe – Atlantarctic Action!

I just thought it might be fun to detail the process of creating the GI Joe thing from last week. If I’m wrong, well – that’s what the comments section is for.
I think we all saw the whole Hothlanta thing from Facebook last week and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t immediately jealous of the guy that did it. Granted, I was trapped at work, but if I’m going to be totally honest I’ve got to say I doubt it would have occurred to me anyway. But it did inspire me, so I put the ol’ hat rack to work trying to come up with something at least equally, if not slightly more cool.
I considered a scene with Mister Freeze and some Batman: TAS figures, but that didn’t seem big enough; even considering I have a cold weather-themed Batmobile. I thought about some shots of a few Conan figures in the ice. And then it hit me: I’ve got a huge GI Joe collection and a decent portion of that is Arctic stuff. The COBRA cold weather set sprang to mind, as did the Snow CAT (or whatever they’re calling it now – a new version just got released and I don’t have one) and last year’s TRU exclusive Doc and Shipwreck figures. And of course, the Weather Dominator.

Unfortunately, none of this occurred to me until after I got home on Tuesday. Which meant I had just passed on a Arctic Threat Destro at Walmart (granted, I passed on everything at Walmart – the lines were just too damned long; I went to Kroger instead). I also haven’t bought an Ice Cutter yet, though I’m going to rectify that situation today on the way home if the good Target still has them. For some reason I’m having trouble with that $16.99 price point for the small vehicles.
So I had my plan. In retrospect, I can see about 800,000 ways I could have made the post better and I’m sure you can come up with a few of your own. But if you read through the process, I think you’ll understand a few of the decisions I made a little better.
When I got up on Wednesday I told the wife that I had something I desperately needed to do if Lil’ Troublemaker took a nap. She knows me, and she knows that the only time I desperately need to do something is if it’s something stupid. Or if I need to poop. I told her my plan and she rolled her eyes good-naturedly and went off somewhere to try and not think about what a dork she married.
Eventually our son laid down for a nap (which never actually happened) and my awesome wife told me to go and do my thing. I went down to the Man Room to see what I had to work with. I was already lamenting the lack of Destro and the Ice Cutter. But I still had a good selection of cold weather Joes and Cobras. It hit me while I was piling everything into a storage bin that Hasbro had also released a cold weather H.I.S.S. tank that I had passed up. Dammit. Still, I had enough to do what I wanted to do.
The problem that came up once I had all of my props gathered was that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do. I had no script, so to speak. As often as I just wing it, though, I wasn’t worried. I knew once I started standing those little 3 ¾” warriors out on the frozen lawn inspiration would strike.
The first problem that occurred to me – thankfully before I started positioning the troops – was footprints. Nothing is going to spoil the illusion of tiny, warring armies faster than a giant footprint beside the comm station. I knew my back would end up killing me from leaning over, but I would not accept a single print in my diorama. This is also the reason that the story is told using basically two setups (not including Snake-Eyes side adventure – whatever that was) and eight pictures.
The next problem was the layer of ice on top of the snow. The comm station (that’s what the blue thing in the COBRA camp is)
and the H.I.S.S. tank just kept sliding away. I had a feeling the figures would be even more of a problem once I got to them. Some prodding with my finger showed that not only was the ice to thick to poke through, but that even if I could my finger would freeze off within about five minutes if I kept trying. I think it was about 29° outside. I went back inside and got some hedge clippers that ended up being an even better tool than I thought they’d be. They were perfect for poking holes to stand the figures in, but also smashed pretty well for the larger stuff. I was ready to set up.
I did COBRA’s camp first because that was the main plot point, what with the Weather Dominator and all. I figured if it just got too damned cold or if the wind started blowing everything away, I could at least get my COBRA shots. I didn’t want everything all clumped together, but it had to be as close as it was because of the footprint thing. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, especially the Buzz Boar coming up out of the snow. In my mind, that’s Cobra Commander’s vehicle of choice and I’m glad I thought to work it into the scene. I also had to do two sets of photos because of the damn sticker things that I somehow failed to notice:
Nobody really gave me any trouble standing up, but the Snow Serpent on the far side of the comm station did pitch headfirst down his tiny hill about halfway through the shoot (that's actually what inspired the carnage scene).
I think a snow ninja got him. Oh, you didn’t see a snow ninja? That’s because he’s a ninja.
By the way, unless you’re Gnoll you’re probably questioning the lack of Storm Shadow. I didn’t see a specific need for the guy and I don’t have the Arctic one they did that doesn’t make sense anyway because he doesn’t have a shirt. And yes, I know I used Quick Kick but that’s because it was funny and his character never makes sense to use.
Okay, so COBRA was set up to my satisfaction. And it took kind of a while, what with all the leaning and figuring out how to position people and moving stuff to fit the stories that were starting to form in my head. I went ahead and took some pictures because the wind was picking up a bit and I also wasn’t sure how much longer Lil’ Troublemaker would stay asleep. His naps run between an hour and six hours and you never know what you’re going to get.
I also wanted to go ahead and get some pictures of radioactive Snake-Eyes.
I happened to notice him at the last minute as I was doing a final visual sweep for snow-related Joes. He’s such an obvious choice and was just begging for some random shots around the yard. I wish I had gotten more than I did. And I even accidentally used this one twice:

I also wanted to have Alpine and Bazooka making a snowman. That’s the whole reason they’re out there, was to make that snowman. But I quickly realized that making a 3 ¾” scale snowman with the stuff outside my house was going to be impossible. I also realized that I really didn’t have time to do a Joe camp, and that the convoy was more important to me.
Honestly, the Joes were so easy I should have gone back and done their camp. The only issue I had was that Doc kept falling off the damn Ice Dagger. Well, that and the Snow CAT I have is actually from the older line and the foot pegs don’t fit the Anniversary Joes. That’s why Alpine and Bazooka are risking instant, fiery death by sitting behind the rocket launcher instead of standing on the running boards.
By the time I had the Joes set up and had gotten some shots of Snake-Eyes I realized that no battle scene was going to happen. Not only would it have taken forever to reposition the Joes several times over; it would have been almost impossible to accomplish without leaving a visible footprint somewhere. But I was suddenly struck with inspiration. There was one thing that would make the lack of a battle scene acceptable to me and, hopefully, my readers. Blood. Lots of blood. COBRA was going to get absolutely slaughtered.
I had some water that had been dyed red in a bottle from Halloween. Now all I needed was a method of applying it. I couldn’t pour it directly from the bottle – this wasn’t a Tarantino movie. I also didn’t want to go upstairs and raid the kitchen for a medicine dropper or something equivalent. You would think that after twenty-plus years of toy collecting I would have a billion different toys gimmicked to squirt water. Spider-Man has done it, I know there’s a GI Joe packed away somewhere that does it. I even have an R2-D2 that squirts water. I’m just not sure where it is. So I had to risk sullying one of the prize figures of my collection – the Batman: The Animated Series Mister Freeze. His backpack squirts water (or an icicle) and does it very well. I just hoped the red food coloring wouldn’t stain his nice, clear, blue backpack. It aimed and dispensed very well and the tank held enough for a few troops at a time. I’m impressed not only that it worked so well, but that it worked so well after almost twenty years.
So, with the blood applied to the battlefield I took my final round of pictures. I really wish I had gotten one shot of the COBRA camp minus Destro and the Commander - with a hole where the Buzz Boar had been - before I bloodied it up. I would have had a shot of Ted the Viper turning to ask the Commander what to do and noting his absence, likely with a colorful metaphor.
I thought about just standing Snake-Eyes in the middle of the COBRA camp in lieu of a battle scene, but then I realized he was off wandering around with the radioactive coffee or whatever. And yeah, the guy in the Ice Dagger turret is also Snake-Eyes; just not in my narrative. I have a plan if I get around to future installments.
God forbid.
All that was left now was cleanup and a final sweep to make sure I didn’t lose any of those damn snow shoes; as well as a little light wordsmithing. I knew time was running out, but I had come up with most of the gags while I was setting up. I just had to paste the pictures into Blogger and type the lines. This, unfortunately , is a big pain in the ass. I write everything in Word and then do a little editing in Open Office (it’s free and it’s great!) when I get home. Blogger is a big pain in the ass to type in and doesn’t even move to the next line when you press “Enter”. I suppose I could’ve done it in OO, but I honestly thought it would be quicker to input it directly into the blog. I’ll know better next time.
So there you go. That’s what goes into a one-off gimmick post that twelve people will read. As The Roots say, Do You Want More? I had fun doing it even though I had to rush and it would be a whole lot easier to do without the snow. The whole thing made me realize that I never take my toys off the shelf. I may be creeping up on 35, but something about that seems like a bit of a shame. If you guys enjoyed it enough, I could see making this a regular thing – certainly not weekly, maybe not even monthly; but I think I could give you some chuckles. Let me know what you think.
Oh, and my favorite bit was the Snow Serpent/Ice Viper interaction. Those Ice Vipers think they’re so fucking cool. Dicks.

Until next time, stay creepy

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