Category Archives: Talking Joe podcast

A Real American Book! 2022 in Review

For more than a decade, I’ve counted my book-writing year to run from February to January, because of school break. And it’s late February, so it’s time to update you on what I’ve done all year.

I’ll start by noting that 2021 wasn’t great for writing, and my last year in review in fact arrived here two months late. You may have noted in the photo of me at the header of that blog post, I wasn’t even working on my book. Symbolism!

That sort of means that the “2022” book year was actually only 10 months.

Anyway, last year I noted that I needed to take a break from teaching, that there wasn’t enough time to do that and my other projects and also to write. I still was teaching in the spring when I stated that, so you might think the big time off would start as soon as that spring semester ended. But school is involved enough that it takes several weeks to unwind even in a normal year. The last day of classes isn’t the end of it, nor is filing final grades a few weeks later. I spent some of the summer and the fall managing syllabi and course assets for the people who were taking over courses that I had taught for many years. And there’s a big field trip the Animation department takes each September, and I did a bunch of work on that. I’ve long been involved with that project. Unfortunately, in the pandemic there were fewer people at school to help organize that trip, so yes, even though I wasn’t teaching, I was around a bit. This amounted to just about no writing in summer or fall.

That’s embarrassing. To step back from this job at the end of May and still not open up the ol’ laptop through December, basically. But there was a lot of the other normal stuff going on. And it was, somehow, a great year for writing. Here’s the breakdown:


Some days I’m at my shop, and every day I do something for it at home sitting at my computer. Plus we had four in-person events, each of which takes time to promote, set up, and run. If you’re curious, that’s Free Comic Book Day, a signing, a reading, and a party for a convention. I also took some initial steps to replace our computer and POS software, which meant research and Zoom meetings, to be continued in 2023.

And while the renovation of the shop is done, there was some construction-type work that took place behind Hub Comics that required attention. That’s done, and all good.


Every Tuesday or so, I direct, write (or co-write), star (or co-star) in, edit, render, and post (or co-post — so many social media outlets) a one-minute video. I find that calling them “short films” is much more impressive than “60-second ads.” Here’s one with Darth Vader:

I realized after going overboard on costumes and make-up that I was definitely spending too much time on them, time better spent writing my damn book, so most of them are just me and an employee telling you about a few graphic novels. Here’s one that’s straightforward, and the right kind of silly:

These are a lot of fun to do, but I’m not sure they translate into many additional books sold, which may suggest slowing down the output or taking a few months off.


My creative partners in New York and a few freelance editors are more involved in the day-to-day, but I’m Executive Producer, so I get to make comments on all rough cuts. The black and white logotype below is is just a jpeg.

Rather than distract you with a live link to our winning combination of smart/funny, I’ll just state here in not-hyperlinked wording that we make video essays about film and television. I mean, you’re here for G.I. Joe, right? These are definitely not about G.I. Joe. Okay, okay, I’ll put some links in the first comment below, but if you’re wasting time on my G.I. Joe blog, shouldn’t you look at the Ice Viper painting or something? But the team researched, wrote, edited, and posted over a dozen videos, and our YouTube channel got 2.2 million views in actual-calendar year 2022. Plus two short films from earlier finished out their film festival runs and won some awards, although we’re focused on social media rather than festivals.


Along with host and social media beast “No Last Name” Mark, I participated in I-believe-it’s 41 episodes of the Talking Joe podcast. (Again, this is mid-April to now.) That’s about 3720 minutes of talking about G.I. Joe. Most episodes were audio-centric (but still listenable on YouTube) reviews of new IDW issues of Real American Hero or 2004-ish Devil’s Due arcs. But a bunch were interviews that “Jingle Machine” Mark set up with a killer variety of Joe alums, past and present. Highlights include (these are all YouTube links, audio-only ones are available if you’re willing to scroll) Marvel EIC Jim Shooter, writer Larry Hama, toy designer Ron Rudat, writer/artist Tim Seeley, Hasbro VP Michael Kelly, cover artist Freddie Williams II, cover artist Jamie Sullivan, voice actor/poet Bill Ratner, the entire creative team of Saturday Morning Adventures, toy marketing VP Kirk Bozigian, and more.

I do wish to point out that with several guests who have granted many interviews over the years and appeared at many conventions, like Hama, Rudat, and Bozigian, we endeavored to ask questions you haven’t heard and cover less trodden material.


Some years I list books I’ve read that relate to toy history, animation, and comics, and we can pretend they helped my G.I. Joe book. I did read this year, but nothing that quite connects. Oh, David Bianculli’s The Platinum Age of Television and American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason by Brett Dakin were great.


Along with Claudia Covert, Special Collections Librarian, and Bill Adler, Music Journalist and Hip Hop Documentarian, I participated in a panel at the Fleet Library at Rhode Island School of Design called Collecting Comics. I definitely mentioned G.I. Joe (also, spot the G.I. Joe book in the photo), but this connected more with teaching and selling and curating comics than with toy/comics/cartoons trifectas.


Let’s get back to things related to G.I. Joe. I posted 7 articles here at A Real American Book! That’s not many, but once again, I’m counting the year as a 10-month span. Ideally I’d post every two or three weeks, with a mix of art you’ve not seen and musings on G.I. Joe. I like how that last one, about final issues, turned out. A medium-length opinion piece that doesn’t require too much managing of scans and jpegs and fact checks made for a nice change of pace.


I attended Assembly Required and wrote all about it.


Separate from Talking Joe, I conducted one interview with that guy who helped build that particular website. I need this for Chapter 13 (or 14?). Indeed, one interview is a tiny number, but that’s been the natural trend the last few years: more writing based on existing interviews, less need for new interviews.


At last! A lesson I needed to relearn is that I need to get out of the house. Home is where I order books for my shop, or post to social media, or get distracted by a dozen things that aren’t writing. Most weekdays since the new year I have gone somewhere, most often a cafe a few subway stops away, opened my laptop, and worked on my G.I. Joe history book. Some of those sessions involved checking transcripts, which isn’t dramatic, but is important. For example, that sculptor I visited some years ago. I already had a draft of the paragraph on him that I wanted to add to Chapter 6 or so, but at his home I turned on the recorder and let it run for five and half hours while we chatted and looked at toys and paperwork. Will any of this make it into my book? Probably not. Did I need to make sure? Yes.

More importantly, two interviews that “Funky Bunch” Mark and I conducted for Talking Joe turned out to fill in gaps, so I had those episodes transcribed. But the meat of this entire blog post is the new writing and rewriting I’ve been doing.

For many years, when people have asked “how is the book going?” or “when is the book coming out?”, my reply has been that in addition to finishing the final chapter, I also need to revise the first ten. They were written so long ago that A) some new information has surfaced that needs to be incorporated and B) I wrote the back half of the book with more detail, and wanted to bring up the first half to match that. I’ve been intimidated about doing this, because I’ve been saying that Chapters 1 through 10 are “finished” for a long time — finished text and finished layouts. But that’s not true. They were never finished. They were finished enough for a first pass of the book while I was still writing the final chapter, not exactly knowing the shape of the whole thing. They were “finished” for 2009 or 2012, and it’s hard to go in and alter something actually finished or merely-in-quotations “finished.” But were always going to need more work. And that has finally started.

Anyway, what have I done all year? Added that art director guy to Chapter 1, a full new page. Added a new paragraph to Chapter 2, better introducing that figure designer, and another paragraph introducing that comics editor. Chapter 3 got a whole page on packaging and package art and a whole page on that jingle writer. Added two-thirds of a page to Chapter 4 on that theme song, and four paragraphs on the early issues of the comic, and paragraphs on video games. In Chapter 5 I highlighted a paragraph that may need to be cut down or moved earlier, and added a page on video games. Added and changed a few paragraphs on that comics editor and comics writer and some early/middle issues and the company that owned that company in Chapter 7. Found that place in Chapter 8 where that director’s quote needs to go. Added a paragraph on that comics writer’s philosophy in Chapter 9. And dramatically, I’ve gone back into Chapter 20, which was always missing a key voice. It’s the big wrap up, and now I have that material, so I’ve added many paragraphs and am hammering it into a first draft.

Also, most of these chapters have a few notes-to-self in them, like “MOVE TO PREVIOUS CHAPTER?” or “IS THIS WHERE YOU BRING BACK IN [SO-AND-SO]?”, so I’m starting to manage those.


More writing. Sending out forms to nice people who’ve lent materials. Getting published. But 2022 was good for writing.


Filed under Behind the Scenes, General Musings, Talking Joe podcast

A Real American Book! 2021 in Review

It’s been a full and yet challenging year. Ha! Even the fact that this post is two months late is a commentary on that fact. But a remnant of the school-teaching calendar is that I consider February 15th to February 14th, rather than Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, to be my book-writing year, and here we are. Were. Are.

In December 2020 — that is, a little over 12 months ago — I was interviewed by “Funky Bunch” Mark for the Talking Joe podcast. He was interested in my book. I admitted the previous year hadn’t been great for writing, as pandemic challenges, teaching, and my shop renovation took up much time and mental space. But I was certain that 2021 was going to be different! But those three elements have continued, and in terms of just researching and just writing and just editing, I don’t have much to report.

It’s striking to see the great strides that a few hard working peers have made in the realm of G.I. Joe publishing. And I’m encouraged by the positive responses their various outreaches and crowdfunding campaigns have netted. Maybe that bodes well for a book like mine. Certainly the 40th anniversary would have been a good year to launch A Real American Book! into the world, but there’s still a chapter to write, several chapters to edit, and several to redesign. But something has shifted that will make part of ’22 better for sitting at the computer and flicking my fingers across the keyboard. More on that below.

A G.I. Joe Thing I Did This Year: Posted 10 articles here at the blog. That’s an okay number. To my eye, there are three glaring omissions, interview excerpts with and remembrances of a few important G.I. Joe alums who passed away. I just didn’t get around to banging those blog posts into shape. Maybe in this new year. (I keep trying to post short articles, like one rare image with a 50-word paragraph, but as you can see from the Rob Liefeld tome or the Marie Severin thing, it’s difficult to not expand — more context, more examples.

Non-G.I. Joe Things I Did This Year That Are Good or Interesting-

I finished the 16-month renovation of my comic book store. You know this part already, but the pandemic shutdown and the slowing of in-person commerce right after that offered a window of time to rip out some walls, floors, windows, electricals, and everything-elses. A year ago in the ’20 Review, I was only halfway done.

I shot, edited, uploaded, and posted 55 short films. To keep customers, as well as family, friends and internet well-wishers up to date on the renovation, I made use of my phone, Premiere, and social media. This was nice, because I got to scratch that filmmaking itch, plus my acting itch, and also to put on a different hat and be dumb on camera. By contrast, teaching and comics retail are serious. These video works are all one-minute in length, and by “short films,” I really mean “ads,” but they are informative ads with little to no hard sell. Posting these to YouTube, Facebook, the shop website, and then handing them over to an employee who runs our Instagram meant that merely rendering a final mp4 was never the last step on a Tuesday night, but we get nice reactions so it’s worth it. Here’s one from April ’21:

And all of them, in order, are here.

Re-opened my store. The renovation basically ended in mid-August, and we moved and unpacked 180 boxes and set the shop for the not-so-grand reopening four days later. As this is a G.I. Joe blog and not a Hub Comics blog, I’m keeping these non-RAH paragraphs short, but you probably know that everything is harder in the pandemic. Ordering merch, communicating with customers, wrangling employees, it’s all slower, more expensive, and/or heavier. We said goodbye to a wonderful staff member (who is fine, thanks), and have contended with Marvel and Penguin Random House and DC and so-and-so-Distributor and what you might call Distributor Wars Two. (Remember 1995?) But the customers have been kind and enthusiastic, and notice the great work by our contractors and their sub-contractors.

Almost capital “F”-finished the renovation of my store. That reopening date of August 14th, 2021 was also Free Comic Book Day, but we’d only actually gotten to “92% finished.” The fall and winter involved many punch list items and filled the progress thermometer up to “98% finished.” That’s new seating, reworking our internal forms, window blinds, fixing some water damage, rehanging the TV and resetting the A/V, cutting three inches off a table and putting it on casters, installing bookcase end caps, and more. The punch list continues. Even as I write this, today I’m coordinating with our electrician for next week and our handyman for the week after.

My company produced 27 video shorts. Most of the credit goes to partners Nick Nadel and Kevin Maher. If you want to see two of our two best bits, here’s a local TV ad gone off the rails. And you must like the ’80s if you’re here, right?, so here’s a video essay on an ’80s show that didn’t make it. Also, our marquee animated short got into 15 or so film festivals. It’s three and half minutes long and funny.

Co-hosted the long-running Talking Joe podcast. It turns out that “Funky Bunch” Mark was in need of a new on-air partner right when he was interviewing me. It was the pandemic, and so making internet friends from home made sense. Further, reading and then expounding on G.I. Joe comic books new and old was right up my alley. Two or three locals sure know about my strong feelings on printed Joe tales, and now the whole internet can, too! Plus I can get my name out there to a different audience, and bring in my own to Mark’s existing pool.

While I habitate the role of grump in our duo/trio — two hosts for current comics, three for older ones — most of the credit should go to Mark as well as “Disavowed” co-host Jay Cordray. It’s one thing to show up with a microphone and Talk Joe. That’s easy. It’s another to wrangle the audio feed, invite and manage guests, and to edit and post a two- to three-hour episode every week! Mark does that. Additionally, episodes also now have a bit of a visual component, our YouTube videos in case you like watching a podcast. Not us gesticulating to the camera, but graphics and comic panels that correspond to our chatter, and Mark edits and posts half of those! And Jay does the other half! You think editing a 60-second film every week is fun-but-tiring, man, think about content that’s 120 times as long! And on top of alllll that, Mark and Jay share and post all this to social media. I am grateful to Mark for the opportunities, both to explode my strong feelings about comics to a wider audience, but also for connecting us with killer guests, both current and retro. I take the art (and commerce!) of comics seriously, and it’s lovely that Mark and Jay are willing participants when it comes to construction, analysis, design, history, and context. An issue of G.I. Joe is not just an issue of G.I. Joe.

We’ve never met in person, so therefore we’ve never recorded in the same room, but you might pretend it looks like this.

I’ll post a separate blog “article” here with images and marquees for each of our episodes.

But to put a fine point on it, on the subject of G.I. Joe and with Mark and Jay, I recorded about 5,580 minutes of audio this year. Plus a few hundred more for when we continued to chat with guests after hitting “Stop.”

I read a book. In previous yearly Reviews, I’ve often recounted several pop culture histories that could directly or indirectly benefit A Real American Book! But it was just one in ’21. Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels doesn’t mention G.I. Joe, but it does mention Transformers, so it almost counts.

I taught History of Animation each semester. I had handed off my other classes recently, but this one is vitally important to me, the course I could not drop. I didn’t originate it, but I do think I evolved it and it evolved me in the last decade and a half.

But while my connection to this university where I’ve worked for 17 years is strong, I also need some time off, so this will be my last term teaching, at least for a time. I’ve thought about this a lot, and there are many feelings about being available to pursue other jobs and projects, yet feeling a tad bereft about leaving important moments, connections, and lessons behind. Yet it is time for something else. I may return, or teach elsewhere, but to loop back to the opening paragraph above, for now I need more time and mental space to work on my G.I. Joe book. And so this summer and fall look and feel open and sunny and wonderful for staring at a monitor and pounding the keyboard.

And so: A month back marked the actual anniversary of Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe issue #1, and more recently saw the 40-year date for Hasbro’s first Real American Hero toys arriving. I appreciate that many G.I. Joe-friends marked these passages on social media. I thought of commenting, or making my own post. Then I thought I should turn that into a proper, full-blown blog post here. Then a few days went by, and the moment had passed. Plus there was this blog post to finish, and that Part Two post about Marie Severin, and three others I’ve started on. And then I needed to grade some school work, or format the weekly comic book store email to customers, or something like that. Which loops back to the beginning, that this has been a difficult year. Oh, it’s been a great year for my store, and satisfying for the educator in me, but I’ve talked a lot with my therapist about writing my book, or not writing my book. And now it’s time to get back to it, not just “working on” but actually finishing.

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Livestream! Also: Podcasts

*** Links for the last two months below the fold! ***

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Now Co-Hosting Talking Joe podcast

After my big interview with Mark “Funky Bunch” for a special episode of Talking Joe (between episodes 103 and 104, December 2020), Mark told me that the podcast was at a crossroads. After two years of hard work, founder Chief Stride was retiring, and Mark was considering a change in format or was a looking for a new co-host. And would I be interested? I’ll go into this more in a week or two in my big A Real American Book! year-in-review post, but the answer turned out to be yes.

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