ToyLanta happens this weekend at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast in Atlanta, Georgia, and for only the second time in eleven years, your PopCulteer won’t be going.
Nothing drastic or dramatic has happened. Last year ToyLanta, which started as “JoeLanta,” a GI Joe-centric toy show, spun off JoeLanta as a separate show once again, this year happening in August, and since I couldn’t fit last year’s JoeLanta into my schedule, that meant I had to miss it.
So for 2023 I planned to skip ToyLanta and will instead make it to part of JoeLanta before splitting the weekend with PowerCon in Columbus, Ohio. Instead of ToyLanta, this weekend Your PopCulteer and his lovely wife will be in Lexington at the Lexington Comic and Toy Show, where ironically, we’ll probably see Larry Hama, the legendary writer of the GI Joe: A Real American Hero comic book, and somebody we first met at JoeLanta ten years ago.
But ToyLanta is still one of the biggest toy shows in the Southeast and it’s loads of fun, so if you’re anywhere near it and into cool toys, you should make last-minute plans to attend.
As a bit of a preview, today I’m going to re-present an annotated and updated index to the coverage that we’ve provided for JoeLanta/ToyLanta in this blog since 2013. Photos are all taken from previous year’s coverage.
As I mentioned, ToyLanta began life as JoeLanta, which was originally inspired somewhat by The Official GI Joe Club Convention. Over the years the Official GI Joe Club (which shut down in 2019) shifted their focus from the original 12″ GI Joe from the 1960s and 1970s, to the “Real American Hero” Joe of the 1980s.
This left a lot of collectors of the original GI Joe feeling disenfranchised, so in 2000 they decided to put on their own show, based in Atlanta, that would provide a more intimate and more affordable gathering of collectors of the larger GI Joe, with a focus on custom figures and outfits, and elaborate dioramas.
JoeLanta quickly gained a reputation as the most fun toy convention in the country. JoeLanta eventually became a fundraiser for the non-profit Cody Lane Foundation (named after a young fan who had passed away) and is now focused toward raising money to build a toy diorama museum. In 2017 JoeLanta became ToyLanta.
Longtime PopCult readers may recall that, for the first several years of this blog, I was not able to travel. I’d been a full-time caregiver for my mother until her death in 2006, and rather than get a reprieve from caregiving, I was almost immediately pressed into service managing my uncle’s healthcare, and eventually becoming his chief caregiver.
Because of this, I could not travel to toy shows, despite being fairly well-known for writing about collectible toys since 1996.
By 2009, I had some help taking care of my uncle, and was able to get away for day trips to The Marx Toy Convention and MEGO Meet when both shows were in Wheeling. In 2013, Buddy Finethy, from JoeLanta, got in touch with me and persuaded me to make the trip to Atlanta for my first big toy collectors convention.
I’m always going to be grateful to Buddy for that.
Later in 2013 my caregiver responsibilities ended, and for the first time in over twenty years, I was really free to travel. JoeLanta became an annual trip and Mel and I always have a blast going down there for what became week-long visits that included shooting locations for The Walking Dead and lots of fun shopping in addition to the best toy show in the country. JoeLanta became ToyLanta a few years back, to reflect the expanded interests of the convention-goers.
At this point, I’m going to turn the story over to the links below, which will give you a chronological portrait of PopCult going to ToyLanta.
This is not a complete list of every post I’ve made on the subject. Many of them were redundant, just re-posting previous years worth of material to plug an upcoming show, so this index will just focus on the meaty, original content.
Let’s start in 2013…
I did announce my first trip to JoeLanta in advance. This was risky, since my uncle’s relatives had a nasty habit of trying to create emergencies to disrupt any trip I took out of town, but I did indeed mention my trip to JoeLanta in advance, and it’s in this post, which includes a dead video I need to edit at some point.
We made a short visit that year driving down Friday and back Sunday, but hadn’t quite unpacked on Monday, so I ran this as Monday Morning Art. The following Friday I had a brief photo essay ready to go. Later that day I posted video of the State of the Hobby Roundtable, which I also participated in. A few days later I finally had my first JoeLanta wrap-up video ready, which included interviews with Buddy Finethy and David Lane, and my old online friend (who I’d met in person for the first time), Dave Matteson.
In 2014, freed from my caregiver obligations, we made a longer trip to JoeLanta, which included our first visit to Senoia. I previewed that year’s show HERE. I had also prepapred a PopCulteer column to run on the first day of the show in case I didn’t have time to report from the road, but it turned out that I did have time to get some photo essays online. This turned out to be the day with four PopCulteer columns. We covered the Walking Dead tour of Senoia, which took place on the Thursday before the show, and that bus trip also included trips to see the collections of Tim Merrit and Bryan Tatum. The Sunday of ToyLanta we brought you a Studio Joe video from Tim and Lisa Weedn, who have become good friends and are hilarious filmmakers.
Still in March, 2014, I posted a photo essay of my haul from Joelanta. Someday I’ll get around to unpacking and displaying all this stuff. Our next post included three videos, two of which are still online. This had a new Studio Joe film and the 2014 Walking dead panel from JoeLanta. We then posted our take of The Walking Dead tour, The “Joe at 50” panel, The 2014 State o the Hobby, The Marx Action Figures Panel with Scott Stewart and Tom Heaton, video of Tim Merrit’s collection, video of Bryan Tatum’s collection, Monday Morning Art based on Mike Gardner’s “Zombie Horde at Yellow Creek” diorama, and our big 2014 JoeLanta wrap-up video.
Mike Gardner’s epic diorama was so huge that it took two more photo essays, posted almost a month later, to cover them. Here is part one and part two.
We kicked off our 2015 JoeLanta coverage with a preview post that included Tim and Lisa Weedn’s preview video for the show. We managed to get a photo essay online for day one of the show that year. We also got a photo essay of dioramas and custom figures posted while we were still on the road, too. After we got back home, I had a photo essay of the dealer’s room for everyone to see. Later on, we revisted the diormas with another photo essay.
2015 was the year we really went overboard on the videos, preserving many panels from the convention. Larry Hama gave a detailed breakdown of his famous GI Joe comic book story, “Silent Interlude.” There was The 2015 State of the Hobby. The Phantom Trouble maker from The Needless Things podcast and Ricky Zhero from Radio Cult hosted a panel on character toys. There was a panel devoted to Monster High. Speaking of Radio Cult, we featured the band, performing at JoeLanta, on The RFC MINI SHOW. Don Teems joined Mel Larch and Mike Gardner on The Walking Dead panel. Almost two weeks after the show, I was able to finish the big 2015 JoeLanta wrap-up video. A post that compiled other 2015 JoeLanta videos also included a musical tour of the dealers rooms, set to the music of Chuck Biel. A few days later I posted raw video of the dioramas, set to more music by Chuck Biel, along with an extra photo essay. Then, from our extended trip, we had Mel’s video of Senoia, and The Walking Dead Shoppe. Filmed on the floor of the convention, our next RFC MINI SHOW showcased The Possum Kingdom Ramblers.
2016 was a bit of a strange year for your PopCulteer. For the second year in a row, Mel and I had gone to New York for the International Toy Fair just a few weeks before JoeLanta. I had tons of photos and video from Toy Fair to edit and post, and didn’t get it all done before it was time to leave for JoeLanta. At the same time, my hands were getting increasingly weaker, and I was having trouble keeping my eyes focused. We took Lee Harrah with us to JoeLanta, and he was a huge help, because by this point, I couldn’t even open a water bottle by myself. I managed to keep my weakness fairly well-hidden, but I knew something serious was going on with me. A month after we got back from JoeLanta, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, which was a life-changing revelation, but was also a huge relief, just having a diagnosis.
Still, we managed a lot of coverage that year. Our preview post kicked things off. After we got back, I managed this first recap post, before diving head-first into coverage. We offered up The 2016 State of the Hobby panel a few days later. In 2016 we had two panels from Larry Hama, one just of the artist/writer doing a Q&A session, and one talking about his experience storyboarding Boardwalk Empire. Mike Gardner’s diner diorama was featured in a photo essay. We also had video and more photos of the 2016 dioramas HERE. Lee Harrah was a guest on the Needless Things podcast’s Toy Stories panel. We crossed over with the other “RFC” and presented the Radio Free Cybertron Transformers panel. We also caught up with the Earth Station One podcast for a Star Wars panel. We also had a panel devoted to Big Jim, and a revival of the classic action figure that, sadly, did not happen. In happier news, we decided to do a video devoted to The JoeLanta parachute drop.
2016 was also the year that, due to my diagnosis and the lovely hurricane of meds that followed, I didn’t get the wrap-up video finished until November. I was appropriately mortified by this.
To make up for that, in 2017 I went a bit overboard and ran previews for two weeks ahead of the event. I’m not going to post links to all of those, because most of the previews just re-posted stuff that you can see in the links above. However, the first one is filled with pertinent new info. Our first post during the convention that year covered the name change from JoeLanta to Toylanta. and sprinkled in a few early photos. I also managed to post photos of Mike Gardner building his epic Avengers diorama. As soon as we got back, I posted photos of my haul from the show. Photo essays from the show were posted HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
A word essay with photos was posted HERE. Having learned my lesson the previous year, I made it a point to do the wrap-up video first in 2017. Then we had panels with Felipe, from Louco Por Bonecos and James Wozniak from Classic Recasts. We also posted panels devoted to Monster Toys, The Walking Dead, MEGO and The Needless Things Podcast’s Playing With Toys. In addition, we had a panel devoted to Super Joe, and this was the year that Larry Hama, having exhausted much of his GI Joe material, spoke at length about his experience creating a role in a Sondheim musical. I have a feeling he got the idea for this topic from a conversation he had with Mel when we first met him a few years earlier.
After we got back, an installment of Monday Morning Art was inspired by the custom figure and Bryan Tatum’s cool cave diorama piece.
In 2018 I did another week of preview posts for the show that used material from previous years, but among those posts I also had a new GI Joe-centric Monday Morning Art, with a digital painting that I had printed on canvas and donated to the ToyLanta auction. I had a placeholder post set to publish on the first day of the show, but I also managed to sneak in a quick set of photos of the pre-show trip and activities. I also edited a quick trailer for the show on the road, just to see if the laptop was capable of rendering video.
The reason I wanted to see how well the laptop handled video was because I got the crazy idea to do a video each day while I was there, so that I wouldn’t have so much video editing to do once we got home. This didn’t work out too well because people watched the first day, then didn’t bother watching anything else. Also, I didn’t get a chance to start on the video until after midnight, and wrapped it up and posted it about six hours later, which meant that I was operating with about 90 minutes of sleep on the second, very long and busy, day of the convention. I was too wiped out to do any more videos while we were on the road. In fact, I spent much of Saturday hallucinating that I was being followed by cows.
2018 was also the year that…SURPRISE…the hotel was being renovated AND a water-main break meant that nobody could drink tap water or take a shower. I whined a bit about it in this post. However we did manage to have a good time despite all that, and I brought you a taste of the ToyLanta Film Festival from Tim and Lisa Weedn. I also showed off my toy haul from 2018, but you have to scroll down past a depressing essay about Toys R Us first. I re-edited much of the “Day One” video and combined with everything else I’d shot to put together a longer wrap-up video.
My allergies took a real beating on this trip, and we returned home to Arctic weather, and that combined with audio issues due to the renovations and breaking news about Toys R Us, meant that a lot of stuff from ToyLanta 2018 didn’t get posted for quite some time. To be honest, I still have a ton of stuff from 2018 sitting unused on one of my external drives. However, I did manage to get two panel videos done…just in time to promote ToyLanta 2019!
First I put together two short promos for ToyLanta, 2019, using footage from previous years. You can see those HERE. Then I posted toy designer, Greg Autore, and his panel on GI Joe toys he designed that never made it to retailers. After that, I posted the 2018 Space Toys panel, with Carlos Morrison, Clay Sayre, Terry Stair Jr. and George Felix. Tim and Lisa Weedn also made a cool trailer for the 2019 show, even though they couldn’t make it that year. Another preview for 2019 was one more GI Joe-inspired Monday Morning Art piece that I had printed and donated to the annual ToyLanta auction for the Cody Lane Foundation.
2019 was a bit of an unusual ToyLanta for your PopCulteer because we made plans to do something on the trip for Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, who is a huge fan of The Walking Dead. For a very brief and limited time, the studio where they shot TWD was giving tours of all the places that were normally forbidden for the general public. I told Mel to book us on a tour during the trip, and the only day they had open was Sunday, the last day of ToyLanta. My plan was to shoot tons of video and photos on Friday and Saturday, pull an all-nighter on Satuday night (after the Radio Cult show, which ran really late that year) and get up Sunday and check out and head to Senoia. In previous years, the only thing happening on Sunday was great last-minute deals from dealers who didn’t want to have to carry stuff back home.
However, after we booked the tour, we discovered that every single one of the GI Joe panels had been moved to Sunday. So I didn’t shoot any video of the panels that year. But since they never offered that studio tour again, and it had Mel beaming with joy, it was worth it.
I did have the wrap-up video posted before the convention was over. After we got back, I posted a photo diary of our trip down and then the show itself.
Amid another MG flare-up, I posted the raw video of the dioramas from 2019, and photos of my toy haul from that year. Much later, I was able to post photos of the diorama and custom figures HERE, HERE and HERE. I also snuck in an abstract painting of Bambie and Ricky from Radio Cult jamming at Buddy Finethy’s restaurant, Hawg ‘n’ Ale.
In 2020 there was no ToyLanta. I covered its cancellation in real time HERE. I was able to bring you that year’s planned Film Festival, compiled by Tim and Lisa, HERE. In 2021 it was still too soon for my immuno-compromised butt to go to a toy convention, so we sadly had to miss the show for the first time since we started going.
We did return in 2022, and I devoted several posts to ToyLanta. A few days after returning, I teased several photo essays from our trip, and the following Sunday I shared a cool walk-through video by Ricky Zhero, one of the organizers of the show.
In the week after that, I brought you photo essays devoted to The Toys, The Big Diorama, the stuff I got at the show, custom figures and vehicles, the Star Wars diorama, video of the dealer’s rooms, and a Monday Morning Art with video of a sunset, filmed at the hotel.
I’m sure it’ll be a great show this year, and if I didn’t have to choose between ToyLanta and JoeLanta, we might’ve done both this year, but knowing that I’ll see all my ToyLanta friends at JoeLanta in August takes the sting out of it a bit.