Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

The PopCult Toybox

Going To JoeLanta!

This week’s PopCult Toybox is going to be a short one. Y’see, this weekend I am going to be able to do something that, for a long time, I never thought I was going to be able to. I’m going to a GI Joe Collectors convention.

JoeLanta, held at the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta, is one of the largest conventions devoted to 12″ (or 1/6 scale) action figures. Here’s a video clip about the show…

From the website, “For more than a decade, JoeLanta has been an annual event bringing toy collectors and pop culture enthusiasts from across the country together in Atlanta to celebrate the joys of toys and friendship! Not only will you find vendors selling a variety of vintage and modern toys such as GI Joe, Barbie, Mego, Transformers, Star Wars, Super Powers, Masters of the Universe, a wide variety of 1:6 scale figures and accessories plus magazines, comic books & lunch boxes; but you’ll also have an opportunity to meet celebrities, see costumers and check out a variety of toy dioramas!”

Not only do I get to go to JoeLanta this year, but I also will be a featured panelist, discussing the future of the hobby. This is really a dream come true for me.

For years, when I was caring for my ailing parents, the idea of travelling to an out-of-town toy convention was just a pipe dream. It was rough just getting a couple of hours away to review a movie for the Gazette. An overnight stay was out of the question.

When my mother passed away in 2006, it was right when I was in the process of reviving Radio Free Charleston. Since then, life has been a barrage of professional, personal and family committments that kept pushing a GI Joe convention just out of my reach. I was able to make to a Marx Toys Collectors convention, and I’ve been to the last three MEGO Meets, but being in Wheeling, those are practically local. It seemed that the stars would never quite align in the right configuration for me to make it to a Joe con.

Until this year. My schedule for the dates of JoeLanta was clear, and money isn’t too tight. I mentioned the possibility of being able to go on Facebook, and the next thing I knew, Buddy Finethy, one of the organizers of JoeLanta (and a helluva artist) asked if I wanted t be on a panel. So, the bags are packed, writing completed ahead of deadline, the car checked out for the trip, housesitter hired, and route planned through AAA. I will be there!

This is a big deal for me because I am a proud member of The Sandbox. Originally an alt. newsgroup, now mostly migrated to Facebook, The Sandbox was a collection of afficiandos of GI Joe and other 12″ action figures, and as an unmoderated newsgroup, it was a wild internet gathering place. Arguments were loud, entertaining, sometimes bloody and usually ended with mutual respect. I have dozens of friends from The Sandbox, but I’ve only met a couple in the real world.

That’s going to change this weekend.

I will finally get to put faces with names. I’ll get to come face-to-face with people who have been names on a screen, or voices on the phone to me.

A few years ago in the Sandbox I wrote a post about how, if I ever got to go to a Gi Joe convention, the main attraction would be buying plenty of action figures. I said that meeting people in person wouldn’t be that big a deal.

I was immediately called on the carpet. The consensus was that I was full of crap.

You know I’m bringing one of these home with me.

That was not an unusual occurance in the Sandbox, but in this one case I actually WAS full of crap. I was in denial. Basically, my method of coping with having no real-world social life for the near-decade that I took care of my mother at home was to keep saying that it didn’t matter.

It did. One of my ulterior motives for reviving Radio Free Charleston was to get to hang out with old friends from the Charleston Playhouse days. Meeting an explosion of new friends through the show has been an amazing and unexpected bonus. Truns out I am a “people person” after all.

So this weekend is all about finally meeting people with whom I have been friends, some of them, for nearly two decades. If I come home empty-handed, it won’t matter one bit.

Well, actually, that would really suck, but it’s not going to happen, so don’t worry about it. There’s no law that says I can’t meet my online buddies and buy more toys at the same time.

Don’t expect much out of the regular PopCult features until I get back. I’ll tell you all about my trip next week.


  1. Tanker

    We have been friends for more than 16 years and now I finally get to meet the one person I haven’t met yet! I’ll be there Friday!

  2. Scott45

    Hey, what happens in Atlanta stays in Atlantis!

  3. Elvis Capone

    What’s Joelanta all about? Is it a comic book convention or something? I didn’t read the whole article.

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