Category Archives: G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes

Russ Heath – Vindicator model sheet

FutureForce2_TEASE

Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster did a great job putting together two books of G.I. Joe animation model sheets – must-own for Joe art fans.  (A parent was browsing in the “Action” section of my comic book store, pulled from the shelf volume 1 of G.I. Joe Field Manual, and sort of thought it was a coloring book.  I would have spoken up, but it was clear from their casual browsing that they weren’t that interested, and I didn’t want to come across as an aggressive sales person.)  Animation model sheets started out in black and white, and that’s mostly how they were seen by many of the artists who worked on the shows.

FutureForce2_1Or in this case, commercials, since animated Battle Force 2000 only appeared in G.I. Joe advertising.  And I should say that artists tended to see photocopies of them in very-actual black and white.  Rarer is seeing the original art, here, pencil on paper, dark grey on off-white.  Russ Heath, who’s gotten some attention here at A Real American Book, drew today’s post:  Three views of the “Vindicator” hovercraft.    FutureForce2_2This is before Hasbro settled on the name “Battle Force 2000,” when the line was still “Future Force.”  (I’ve seen some Hasbro paperwork with “Future Force” on it.)  What makes these interesting is that they are early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts.  I’m not sure why, and it’s hard to tell from the ad since that only has four seconds of animation.  To my eyes, these models are clearly drawn from photos of toys (or toy mock-ups) or drawn from objects Heath had in front of him.  So maybe that’s it, maybe they’re referenced from mock-ups.  Not sure how that would have helped the animators, as they’d still need the final model sheets.

FutureForce2_3

Perhaps of note, or not, is that these three drawings weren’t done on the same day.  The top one is dated 9-9-86, the middle one is four days earlier, and the lower one ten days after.  That may not mean anything, as Heath had stacks of drawings to do for any Joe commercial or episode, and was working for multiple productions at any one time.  The other “Future Force” vehicle drawings I have are dated between August 5 and September 19.  That’s a big range for what was all going to appear together in one ad, but maybe it was a package deal — several ads and all their materials (script, boards, designs, sound) going overseas at the same time.  This is all conjecture.

But going back to “early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts,” you might be hoping for a side-by-side.  So here’s an excerpt from Sorenson and Forster’s book on the left (pg 125), with the comparable pencil drawing on the right.

FutureForce2_2compareSo today we have our usual kind of mystery — discrepancies in design — with some dates and guesses.  Makes you wonder.

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Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade test shot

Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade test shot

Some characters I have simply no attachment to.  That goes for the entirety of the 1994 Mortal Kombat line, and for several reasons:  1) I wasn’t a fan of fighting games.  2) Even if I was, I gravitated towards the drawn style of a Street Fighter II over the photo-realism a Mortal Kombat or Pit Fighter.  3) These aren’t great representations of the characters since they involve so many re-used G.I. Joe parts.  4) Oh, they’re not even in the G.I. Joe line. Continue reading

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Kurt Groen’s Cobra Zombie

Kurt Groen 1990 G.I. Joe Cobra Zombie pencil detail

Hey, all.  Sorry for the delay.  End of school and store events.  But, hey, G.I. Joe!
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Toy Trade News – Feb 1982

Toy Trade News, 17 Feb 1982

This industry publication is a fun time capsule because it was published after G.I. Joe debuted at Toy Fair 1982, but before the product really started hitting shelves.

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Russ Heath “Cubby” model sheet

Cubby animation model detail by Russ Heath, GI Joe "Cold Shoulder"Ho boy.  It’s difficult to discuss the 1989-1991 G.I. Joe animated series without stirring up strong emotions.  Pop culture recognizes the fun of the 1983-1987 series, whether it be Cobra Commander’s voice, the Public Service Announcements, or all the property damage.  And dig a little deeper, and you get superb voice acting, smart writing, and strong characterization.  And of course, action!  But these are not as present in the later episodes.  Artist extraordinaire Russ Heath, who designed the animation character models for the Marvel/Sunbow episodes, did come back for most of that second round, but the change in tone and lower production budget didn’t treat his design work as well.  The DIC run is hard to watch.  Continue reading

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Merrill Hassenfeld Obituary, 1979

Merrill Hassenfeld obit detail

Here’s an item that’s a little different than the art artifacts I usually show…  Continue reading

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1992 Duke alternate colors

Detail of 1992 G.I. Joe Duke art by Kurt Groen in alternate colors

Here’s Kurt Groen’s presentation art (marker over photocopy, not paint) for 1992 Duke in green, brown, and black, as opposed to the beige and red that made it to market.

1992 G.I. Joe Duke art by Kurt Groen in alternate colors

What other colors might that trash can have been?

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Star Brigade Cobra Commander by Ron Rudat

Star Brigade Cobra Commander detail, drawn by Ron Rudat, colored just for this blog by Tim Finn

While Ron Rudat is best known for designing the G.I. Joe figure line (and a few vehicles) from 1981 to about 1987 (for the ’82 to about-the-’88 lines), what’s less well known is that he continued to contribute after that.  Case in point, Star Bridgade Cobra Commander.  Remember when Cobra Commander was an astronaut?  You don’t?  Oh, that’s because you perhaps stopped paying attention to the Real American Hero line before its end in 1994.  Well, to catch you up, those final two years had a bunch of favorites (Duke, Roadblock, Destro) in astro-gear.  And some aliens.  (A topic for another day).  Anyhoo, full disclosure, I added the color above.  Today’s art is a black and white photocopy. Continue reading

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G.I. Joe original comic art by Lee Weeks

G.I. Joe 107 page 3 detail, Lee Weeks and Randy Emberlin, with color by Tim Finn

In 1990 Lee Weeks had recently finished at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (now just “The Kubert School”) and was regularly drawing Daredevil for Marvel.  Before that job started, fellow alum Andy Kubert had helped get him a cover job on G.I. Joe, and in the middle of that 10-issue cover run, Weeks drew a fill-in issue as regular artist Mark Bright’s time on the series was winding down. Continue reading

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Rock & Roll Hasbro development sketch

Detail, internal Hasbro pencil sketch design of 1989 Rock & Roll by Bart Sears and Ron Rudat

As I’ve noted here, when R&D was concepting a G.I. Joe figure, that character would go through quite a process.  A multitude of pencil sketches, input from other members of R&D, line reviews for higher ups, and even a rendered, full-color painting, all before sculpting commenced.  As fun as it is to see proposed designs of toys that didn’t make it, it’s also fun to peak behind the curtain on favorites that did.  Like ’89 Rock & Roll here. Continue reading

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