Michael Heddle Interview
Michael Heddle aka The Mike
Do you remember your first custom?
Besides the odd swapping of parts, or replacing of O-rings? Yep, I do. Snake Plisskin from Escape from New York. It involved a 1981 Mego Luke Duke head (eye patch panted over the eye with a black marker), 1983 Gung Ho arms, 1983 Snake Eyes chest, and I think Luke Duke's legs. I remember needing to borrow my dad's x-acto blade to make Luke's head fit correctly. I no longer own it, and have no clue what happened to it. I also have no plans to make another.
What prompted you to start the Canadian Joe Convention?
A thread on JoeCustoms.com about meeting people in your local area and helping each other find items, trade, etc. Since I had a toy store at the time (Bounty Hunter Toys), I had already introduced many locals around Southern Ontario to each other through that. We tried to organize a night for us to all get together, and a mere handful showed up. During dinner that night, we talked about doing something larger. I'm not sure how I became the person in charge of it all, but since then I took the ball and ran with it. Now we have hundreds of people attending from literally worldwide. I'm sure the exclusives we've had contribute to the attendance somewhat, but the people attending and staying throughout the entire event are obviously attending for more than just toys. They're attending because it's a cheaper alternative to the U.S. Convention, with just as much (or more) fun! Please don't take that as a knock at the Master Collector produced conventions. I've heard good and bad about them each year. I've never attended one so I can't give any basis on my thoughts until I do, which will be in 2010.
How do you keep the Canadian Joe Convention from ever feeling like a knock off of the GI Joe Collectors Club Conventions?
Apple and Oranges. They're the official G.I. Joe Convention. They have to answer to Hasbro and run a multi-day event. The Canadian G.I. Joe Convention is a fan-produced Convention. We keep in touch with Hasbro about things we want to do along the way, and last year (2009) they were great enough to allow us to make a 2nd version of Back-Stop and "play" within the G.I. Joe Universe a little bit. That's why we had such an impressive convention set and comic book that detailed the story so well. Having great guests like Mark Bellomo, David Willis, Jason Loo, and Larry Hama attend, along with events like Speed Painting, Hasbro Q&A session, and a freebie table at it, all play into a fun-filled day. For 2010, we're looking at more guests, more activities, and a two day event so dealers can set up a day early, and guests can pick up the exclusives the night before as well.
Which exclusive for the Canadian Joe Meet or the Canadian Joe Convention are you most proud of?
Well firstly, I need to make it clear that none of them have been done 100% by me. Each one has had help from someone in some fashion. Painting, casting, artwork, parts, and even suggestions have all been given when I was stuck or stumped on what to do. I did do most of the work for each one, true, but without help along the way, none would of been made. So I need to give thanks to each person that has helped along the way. Having said that, I think Black Ice put the Canadian Joe Meet (as it was known) on peoples radars, but the 2009 HATE Convention set without a doubt put the Convention "on the map". The self-leaked images and promoting the Joe-sites did for that thing was amazing. So I'd have to say both the HATE and Black Ice are about equal in my eyes as personal favorites. Then again, you don't know what I have planed for 2010 yet.
Besides GI Joe, what else do you collect?
I think it's just easier if I name off what's currently on display in my "toy room". Dukes of Hazzard items, Boba Fett items, Joker items, WWE Classic Superstars figures, vintage Star Wars figures, Super Powers figures, Spider-man and his villains, Batman and his villains, various movie figures, a set of figures (with ship) from each incarnation of Star Trek, some G1 Transformers, and Masters Of The Universe. I also collect comic books, certain records, video games and systems. You know... most of that is more in depth than what it seems, but we don't have the space for a full listing of each item I'm sure.
What is your favorite custom?
A custom made WWE Classic Superstars Owen Hart figure. It was very obvious to me that none would be made due to his death, so I took it upon myself to search out the correct parts to make my own. To date, I've yet to see one that looks more like Owen, but I have seen many copies of the one I first made years ago. As far as my favourite G.I. Joe custom, that would have to be Alpine from the Traitors to the Cause group project a few years back.
What advice would you offer to the next generation of GI Joe fans?
Enjoy G.I. Joe in whatever "version" of it that you enjoy. Whether it's the excellent Marvel comics written by Larry Hama, the original cartoons, the movie, Sigma 6 or even Sgt. Savage. Collect what you like, and don't hide your hobby away from your friends or people you know. Have fun with it.
If you had Bill Gates kind of money, what dream project would start right away?
My own toy line that could be incorporated with any other 3 3/4" line of toys. That's kind of what I think of when working on each years Canadian Convention items. In my mind, each character and vehicle is a small portion of a larger story. While I have "that" story in my head, I do find it interesting the stories others come up with when making customs based on those past Joe Meet items.
If someone made a documentary about the history of GI Joe and included a segment on you, what would you like them to show?
The Canadian Convention. It started out as just a couple of guys getting together for a few hours, and now it's grown tremendously into an event that people plan vacations around. I'd like that "segment" to be about the fans that attend the convention and the fun they have. I'm just a small...very very very small, footnote in the history of G.I. Joe.
If you could only show one GI Joe item to kids who have never seen or heard about it before, what would it be?
If by item you mean "toy", then the Skystriker. I had so much fun with that as a kid, I can't see any child not getting hooked on G.I. Joe after playing with one. But if you mean "any" item that is related to G.I. Joe, then I would show them the first mini-series of the G.I. Joe cartoon. That in itself should hook anyone to into growing up Joe. Lord knows it worked on me.