The Making of G.I. Sajjan : A Real Canadian Hero

With every political election no matter what side you favor for, your party of choice is the target of jokes. Jokes come in all forms whether it’s a writing team for a late night talk show host. Television shows like Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Last Weekend Tonight, the local up and coming comedian at the comedy clubs (shout out to @PotGeek). I’ve had my fair share of submitting witty-comments, but it’s nothing “ha ha” to that level. For me I’m more of a visual joke guy, and my weapon of choice is through Photoshop.

With the aftermath of the recent federal Canadian election, came the international love for Justin Trudeau. It was on Facebook I had saw my friend Lawrence post an article about dressing up the sexy Justin Trudeau paper doll courtesy of New York Magazine. It was funny, and the then the discussion lead to who deserved to be dolled up? It was new Minister of Defence, Harjit Singh Sajjan that deserved an action figure.

Rightfully so the stories of Harjit Singh Sajjan were true, he is a badass.

Sajjan spent time as serving as a detective for the Vancouver Police Department. He worked in the gangs and organized crime unit for 11 years. Later on he went on to join the Canadian Army reserves, serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later on 3 tours of the in Afghanistan, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After entering the world of federal politics and winning his seat in Vancouver South, Justin Trudeau appointed him Minister of Defence. With an impressive list of credentials, this badass deserved the best military action figure treatment, G.I. Joe.

Being an 80’s kid, I grew up on an after school and Saturday morning diet of 2 things, Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons and action figures. There’s also Thunder cats, Visionaries, He-Man, Brave star, etc. etc. etc. but that’s for another time. 🙂

It was a literally a quick Photoshop composition of taking the vintage cardstock with the J hook of old G.I. Joe action figures, creating a vector logo for the new rebranding G.I. Sajjan, adding a badass picture, and then an action figure. Unfortunately I don’t recall there being an East Indian character in G.I. Joe.  So searching for a tanned colour action figure lead me to use

Snake Eyes with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock in G.I. Joe Retaliation

If you may recall the movie G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the sequel to Rise of Cobra, Johnson played Roadblock. With any new movie release comes merchandise. So of course Hasbro, maker of G.I. Joe action figures came out with one. I just did a simple head swap, slap on a Liberal party logo and gave him the codename of Van South (homage to his riding of Vancouver South). The tag line of G.I. Sajjan now read as “A Real Canadian Hero”. The total time I put into this was around 30 minutes. I honestly could have cleaned it up to make it more legit, but it was meant for the web, not Toys R Us.

The 1st post was to my friend’s Facebook comment chain. Instantly the “likes” were coming. Afterwards Lawrence then shared the post onto Facebook for more of his friends to see. Here comes so more “likes”. Normally I do not flood my social networks with these kinds of political images, but with Sajjan trending online, it was a 50/50 chance the image would go viral.

The next posting I attempted was on Twitter, mentioning Justin Trudeau and Harjit Sajjan. I didn’t expect any type of acknowledgement from them since they were probably busy. I’m sure they have a communication team that vents and checks their social accounts.

The retweets and favourites (now called “Likes”) on my Twitter started off very slow. That can all change when someone with a large following, a political tastemaker with a large following simply retweets it. It wasn’t until the weekend when Minister of Veteran Affairs Kent Hehr made a comment and shared my tweet. That morning my phone wouldn’t stop with the likes, retweets and comments. The likes came from people in the Liberal party, people in the media, and random people. Some people got a good giggle, some were not happy, and some really wished they could get an action figure.

G.I. Sajjan - A Real Canadian Hero
G.I. Sajjan – A Real Canadian Hero

I thought now after the weekend that would be it. That the viral flow would have slowed down. The statistics I saw in my tweet were astounding. While the likes and retweets slowed down, G.I. Sajjan was still being seen. However the news cycle kept going with the emphasis now focused on Remembrance Day, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France. So as long as the Defence Minister was trending in the news, my G.I. Sajjan got some attention along the way. It wasn’t until November 22, that I found out that CTV news program W5 was doing a feature on Defence Minister Sajjan. I was just going to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs game, but I decided to tune in. Luckily I did because not only were the badass headlines shown, but also my comical salute was shown to a worldwide audience. I immediately burst out laughing and rewind and watched it again and again just for those 2 seconds of fame. Thankfully I PVR’d a later showing so I could show my family and friends. I instantly shared a screenshot to Facebook and took a small video clip. More likes and more comments of awesomeness came.

My only disappointment from G.I. Sajjan from being shown on CTV’s W5 was that there was no proper acknowledgment or credit given to me. Normally on news broadcasts you’d see the a person’s username or handle on a social media clip. I then watched the W5 credits to see if any mention of the image usage’s for that segment. I didn’t see any mention of my name or Twitter. It wasn’t until later I checked Twitter and Instagram that G.I. Sajjan was shared a few times without acknowledgement to me. That’s one of the drawbacks of sharing things online especially on social media. You never know where memes originate from, they just start and spread like wildfire. I would have thought a news program like W5 would have taken the time to really do their due diligence to follow the breadcrumbs back to me. CTV literally had at least 2 weeks to track me down and give credit where credit is due. I’m reminded by Brian Altano, a comedy writer for IGN and The Comedy Button. Brian had mentioned before how some aggregator news feeds would pull tweets and images and then big news outlets would scoop up those. Thankfully not all is lost as I did watermark the image with my information and thankfully most outlets didn’t cut it off. Maybe you can spot the Easter egg?

I hope this blog sheds some light on the process and how G.I. Sajjan came to be. I’m not sure if I’ll do more political commentary in terms of memes or jokes. I’ve done some in the past during the Federal election so I might revisit them and give insight into what I was thinking.


Note – After posting this blog on to Twitter on Wednesday November 25 2015, CTV’s correspondent and host of W5 Kevin Newman reach out to me. On behalf of the W5, Kevin apologized for the missing citation on the image’s usage during the original broadcast of W5. You can see my G.I. Sajjan properly cited now live on CTV News’ website along with the original W5 segment Battle tested: Canada’s new defence minister is a street-smart, combat-hardened soldier. I appreciate and thank Mr. Kevin Newman for reaching out to me to correct this minor oversight.