My article for TheFw is up. Read it here!
Category Archives: G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes
As previously mentioned here, in the mid-’80s freelance artist Dave Dorman painted fully rendered presentation pieces of characters already sketched out by figure designer Ron Rudat. These were internal-only to Hasbro, and not intended as package art or for public consumption. Even at this stage, a Joe or Cobra could still get nixed. From 1986, here is an idea for a Dreadnok that didn’t make it further. Note the misspelled name.
I’m not sure what that weapon is on the left. If you know, please reply in the comments. Dave Dorman’s art book has this and seven more presentation paintings, his “G.I. Joe: Frontline” covers, along with a chunk of Star Wars art and the like.
There’s some nice texture in the paint on the tree, click to enlarge:
Andrei Koribanics freelanced for Hasbro in the mid-1980s. Besides today’s Borer art, I’ve also come across a figure concept by him (that may end up in Chapter 14 of my book) and the presentation painting of Sgt. Slaughter’s Renegades (in Chapter 6). Leaky Suit Brigade has a tiny interview with Koribanics, and should have a longer one up at some point.
For those of you who note Cobra’s heavy use of drill tanks in the weekday cartoon, it’s interesting to note that toy-wise, the Joe team may have wound up with a fleet of personal ones. I can just imagine the ads — this toy popping through a wall of mulch laid in a brick pattern, ’88 Joes stopping Destro’s Iron Grenadiers from some nefarious subterranean plot.
Based on the scale of the cockpit and the figure in it, this unproduced vehicle would have been a little under $10, I think. What I don’t know, however, is how much input other designers may have had. Koribanics might have concepted this all by himself and drawn this with little outside input, or the idea (or a sketch) may have started under someone else’s pencil. Regardless, this are nice illustrations of what might have been.
And what might R&D and Marketing have come up with for a name? What acronym says little, one-man drill tank? DART, for Drill Attack Retrievable Tank? PBD, for Personal Borer Drill? What would you name this vehicle had it made it to market?
More storyboards from writers Steve Mitchell and Barbara Petty’s “The Rotten Egg,” this time pages 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24. Sorry, I don’t know who boarded these, but when I do I’ll update this sentence.
Steve Reiss attended CCS, the College for Creative Studies, before it had that name, back when it was called Society of Arts & Crafts in Detroit. It had long been a school with a reputation for vehicle design. After Reiss joined Hasbro in 1985 he was soon designing G.I. Joe vehicles, like the stunning 1986 Cobra Night Raven, based on Lockheed’s also-stunning SR-71 “Blackbird.” For your reference, here’s the real thing:
For play value, Reiss added a one-person drone that latched onto the top of the larger jet:
And here’s the parts breakdown.
The final toy is black with opaque red accents, and the clear red cockpit windows are a lovely, extra detail. The Night Raven is also quite long, and I recall always needing two hands to support it. It’s one of the most attractive products in the entire Real American Hero product line — elegant, sleek, and aggressive.
Told at many conventions and in many interviews is the prehistory of G.I. Joe, how Larry Hama pitched a military comic to Marvel called “Fury Force.” He sketched out six heroes — covert military types — along with a motorcycle, a van, and a secret base underground base. And later grafted it onto Ron Rudat’s G.I. Joe action figure designs, and made it the through line for the monthly G.I. Joe comic book.
Fury Force had a helicopter, too.
Sorry for the delay in posting. School starts and trips accrue in September. To get back into it and take a break from “The Rotten Egg” and my exciting internship today we’ve got Rich Rossi’s color rendering of a vehicle concept, the Towed Artillery Missile System, which I’ll call the TAMS for short. In all honesty I don’t know anything about it, so we’ll play the reasonable assumption game.
Drawn in ’84, it would have been pitched for ’86 or ’87. But often concepts would get shot down, only to resurface later, or inspire a later idea. In 1988 a different vehicle showed up, the similarly monikered RPV, or Remote Pilot Vehicle — boy did the names not flow for these two.
I don’t wish to draw a straight line between them, that one inspired the other, but it’s safe to say they both filled a specific price point, play pattern, and concept. But notably the TAMS seats no driver and carries no figure, even by precarious foot peg. And to further differentiate it from the RPV, by ’88 scale, detailing, and concepts were getting exaggerated and moving away from strict military realism. The structure of the TAMS more resembles the detailing on earlier vehicles like the FLAK and the ASP, shown here.
There’s a stronger sense of parts and bolts and hardware, whereas the late ’80s styling smoothed out edges and surfaces. Since these catalog scans aren’t too enlightening, here are links to much nicer photos of each, from the fine folks at yojoe: the FLAK, the ASP, and the RPV.
One thing’s for sure — Real American Hero had no shortage of small artillery accessories. These were great for populating a small-scale battlefield with variety, even if they weren’t as much fun as “regular” vehicles like Jeeps and tanks, or as story-driving as a headquarters playset.
Something that simultaneously delighted and bothered me as a kid watching G.I. Joe was how obvious certain traps were that the Joes walked headlong into. Whereas in Larry Hama’s comic-verse, a Cobra military academy in the next state over would have felt right at home with Broca (note the anagram!) Beach and the Cobra Consulate Building. But here CEC was trying to have it both ways — secret and yet in plain sight. So it bothered me then, though amuses me now, that Leatherneck tools over on the Silver Mirage, outnumbered a thousand to one, and is actually surprised when what are clearly bad guy cadets turn out to be bad guys. But Barbara Petty and Steve Mitchell crafted a strong script with great characterization, that delivers something new for the series — a rivalry begun in the past — and manages to be filled with tension and action — mostly sans weapons, while eschewing the “regular” Cobra Command. No small feat. Clunky animation, yes? (See still above, YIKES) But great boards, of which here are five more pages: