Jack Walsh is a gifted television producer and director. His work in the Atlanta market covers the oddball and the interesting. His credits include “Get Delicious,” “This is Atlanta,” and the nationally distributed “Four Days at Dragon*Con.” When I first met Jack, he came across as a competent professional, whose enthusiasm for his craft was obvious. What I only found out later was that he loved GI Joes and was heavily involved with the recent event, JoeLanta. I had a chance to interview him about his passion.
What differentiates JoeLanta from other fan based conventions?
I’m not a very experienced con-goer, but I’d say one of the things that might impress an outsider about Joelanta (or any Joe con for that matter) is the niche nature of it. I’d imagine they’d say, incredulously, “There’s a convention devoted to THIS?!” Everyone knows about Star Trek Conventions…but GI Joe?
Toy shows are famous for their vendors both large and small. What would you find at a Joe Con that you wouldn’t find at other conventions?
The number of vendors who specialize in re-flocking fake hair onto old GI Joes: that’s something you don’t see at most cons.
When did you first get involved with JoeLanta?
I got involved with the local GI Joe club, and thereby Joelanta, when I did a segment on them for PBA’s “This is Atlanta.” I had recently rediscovered my love for GI Joe, and thought it would be fun if I could combine my work as a TV producer with my interest in GI Joe. I showed up for a Joe club meeting with a camera and I’ve been coming back ever since.
What is the appeal of GI Joe?
The base appeal? I couldn’t tell you, but it probably has something to do with heroism and American idealism. GI Joe is like a whole team of Captain Americas.
But, the thing that first grabbed me was something more concrete: the elbows and knees. As a little kid, I dug Star Wars, but when Hasbro came out with these 3 and 3/4 ” Army men with limbs that actually bent instead of extending in awkward stiffness? I was hooked.
So you were primarily a toy fan?
GI Joe became something more. It was my Gateway to Geekery (to steal a phrase from the avclub.com). For me, GI Joe figures led to reading the GI Joe comic, which led to other comics. And that wasn’t just my childhood. It happened again as an adult. In my mid-twenties, I reconnected with GI Joe, probably as an escape from the stresses of adulthood.
And, once again, Joe comics led me back into comics in general, and from there into the larger world of geekdom. Now I film geekdom for a living. The connection back to getting my first GI Joe in 1982 is pretty certain in my mind.
What was your favorite activity this year at JoeLanta?
As crass as it sounds, I enjoyed the shopping. I’m pretty spartan with my Joe spending throughout the year, but I kind of cut loose at Joelanta. I would use a “kid in the candy store” simile if it wasn’t so cliched.