SCARFACE-COBRA SQUAD LEADER v1
I’ve mentioned my trip to Hal-Con in my last couple of posts and I figured it’s time I tell you a little about my experience. For those of you that aren’t aware I live in Halifax which is in Eastern Canada. Canada is a huge country so allow me to give you a brief tour: On the west coast of North America, hugging the Pacific Ocean is the province of British Columbia. There you’ll find the snow peaked Rocky Mountains and large cities like Victoria and Vancouver (who hosted the Winter Olympics not too long ago). Then we’ve got 3 prairie provinces full of grassy flat lands. There isn’t much to see out there except cowboys; or so I’ve been told, I’ve never ventured over that far. Then we get to Ontario which is our most populated province and is home to large cities such as Toronto and Ottawa. These cities host international events all the time, concerts for every major international act, and are home to some very large sci-fi/comic conventions. Ontario even hosts an annual G.I. Joe specific Con with exclusive figures. Then we’ve got Quebec, our largest province and the one that’s always trying to jump ship. It’s a primarily French speaking province and is home to one of Canada’s best cities, Montreal. And then there’s us, the dinky maritime provinces on the East Coast. (I should mention that we also have 3 territories north of all of this. I’ve never been to them but any stereo-types you have about Canada, like igloos and Eskimos, are the stereo-types that we Canadians have about our own territories.) The maritimes consist of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. None of us get much attention on an international level. We hardly get any good concerts, rock stars only seem to come here after their prime and we’re definitely not the type of place where you would expect to find a big newsworthy convention. And to be honest I’m okay with that. Sure I wish bands would come here but I never fancied myself a convention guy. No matter how big a fan I am of a particular artist or actor’s work I don’t feel the need to stand in line for 45 minutes waiting to get their signature. I would always check out convention coverage online but other than the hot girls dressed in sexy super hero outfits I never really saw the appeal.
Well a couple of years ago Halifax got its own sci-fi/comic/fantasy/whatever convention called Hal-Con. When I first got wind of this I groaned. I imagined it to be a pretty ghetto version of a real convention. Getting a bunch of local artists, actors and retailers together in one room just to give uber-nerds an opportunity to dress up like Warcraft characters did nothing to excite me. Plus they hold the event on Halloween weekend, a time when I usually have other plans. So I skipped the first couple of years. But this year the guys at my go-to comic shop, Strange Adventures informed me that they were getting Larry Hama to come to this year’s Hal-Con. This was actually somebody I’d be interested in seeing. For those of you who don’t know Larry wrote nearly every issue of the original Marvel G.I. Joe comic and he wrote all of the figure’s file cards on the backs of the packages. Larry played a huge part in making G.I. Joe what it is today. Sure the brand name and character designs were already there but Larry infused them with life and made me fall in love with them.
I’m by no means a Cos-player but since this was my first con and it was on Halloween weekend and Larry Hama was going to be there I figured I’d better dress up, after all I had a pretty good costume on hand. You see a couple of years ago I bought a Cobra Commander costume online. It came with a full reflective plastic face mask which was a pretty decent representation of the Commander’s helmet. Unfortunately it got pretty steamy in there after a few breaths and it was near impossible to drink with it on so I had to ditch the faceplate. (somebody later stole it from its resting place which I am still super pissed about but I’ll resist the urge to rant). To avoid being a Cobra Commander with his face exposed, which is a no no, I cut the sleeve off of a black t-shirt, pulled it over my face and instantly became a Cobra trooper. This alteration allowed me to breath more comfortably, see where I was going and sneak a beer more easily. I really liked the costume and I paid more for it than I had ever spent on a costume before but like a wedding dress it seemed doomed to spend the rest of its days in the closet because I didn’t want to repeat myself and wear it again. Well meeting Larry Hama seemed a justifiable reason to pull this bad boy out of storage. Most people wouldn’t have appreciated this but I did make a few quick changes to the costume with Larry in mind and to avoid repetition. I cut the sleeve off of a red t-shirt this time and had Vanessa give me a long scar over each eye. Now I was no longer just some nameless Cobra blue shirt, I was Scarface.
Scarface was a named Cobra Officer who appeared in the early issues of the G.I. Joe comic written by Hama. When the comic first started there weren’t a ton of G.I. Joe characters to write about like there are today. The Joe team was still a small elite unit back then. But even the original 13 Joes provided Larry with plenty of good-guy characters to work with. The bad guys weren’t as established as the Joes in those early days though. Only a couple of Cobra figures were available at that time so in order to pad the Cobra ranks Larry made up some new characters, not based on existing toys. He took one of the generic Cobra Officers and gave him distinguishing facial scars instantly transforming him into a “named” character that readers could latch onto. For year fans wanted figures of Hama’s original creations like Kwinn, Dr. Venom, Billy, the Soft Master and the Hard Master . I’d still like a figure of Ripcords girlfriend Candy myself. Many of these characters still have not received action figures and it’s been 30 years now. A figure called Scarface has never officially been released, I imagine the name is probably trademarked anyway, but two unofficial figures of the character have been released in recent years. In 2004, during the new sculpt era, a Cobra trooper 6 pack was released. This pack was awesome as it allowed fans to easily army build their cobra troopers for the first time and it also added some diversity to the ranks. In the old days army building fans would just buy the exact same figure multiple times over. But this pack provided us with a white haired trooper, an African American trooper, and yes a scarred trooper. Casual Joe fans and kids probably wouldn’t have even noticed the subtle pink paint applications on the figure’s face but to hard core Joe fans he was instantly recognizable as the dearly departed Cobra Officer. All the figures in the 6 pack, with the exception of Scarface, all shared the same body which was made up of parts from the original Cobra trooper and officer figures that were released way back in 1982. The only new piece was the head. It’s a good head sculptand features more detail than the heads of the original troopers. The different colored eyebrows and skin tones really make this pack a must have. Scarface’s red face mask and the added straps on his chest help to differentiate him from the other troopers in the pack. Each figure comes with a display stand, a big stupid gun and a bigger stupider backpack.
So while my costume wasn’t homemade and was far from an exact replica I was hoping Larry would appreciate the extra effort I took. I’m not sure he even noticed as I only talked to him very briefly but I’ve got to send out a huge thank you to my friend Dave Howlett who moderated Larry’s panel. When Dave took my question he said “Looks like we have a question from Scarface over there.” I really appreciated him pointing out that I was not just a generic cobra trooper to the man who created the character. Larry was very cool and he told some interesting stories. After his panel he was doing sketches of Joe characters for the fans. I had him draw me a Zarana and my brother Doug had him draw a Snake-Eyes. While I was waiting on my sketch from Larry I met a new friend named Katie. I just had to meet this chick because she was wearing a custom made Cobra De Aco costume! It was balls to the wall cool and she gets mad props from me for spending so much time on such an obscure character. De Aco is so obscure that I’m betting even Larry Hama didn’t know who she was supposed to be. I got a picture with Katie but I had some sort of mental lapse and forgot to get my picture taken with Larry. Friend of the blog Glenn was there though and he wasn’t so forgetful. Hopefully he doesn’t mind me posting his pic here.
Overall the con was a pretty good time. I was only there for one afternoon of the three day event and I was very impressed. Even though it was my first con I would bet that it would not be considered ghetto by any standards. There was 3 floors of activity, gaming, retailers, signings, and panels; not to mention a ton of impressive costumes. I’ll be buying the weekend pass next year for sure. If you’re interested in taking a further look at the Con go to youtube and look up “Andrew Vaughan at Hal-Con” to see coverage of the 2011 and 2012 event in a videos starring none other than my best pal Andrew and directed my another friend , Matt. And oh yeah, I give the Scarface figure a 7 out of 10.