We all likely respond to Wild Weasel’s signature red flight suit. Depending on the light, it’s a little maroon, a little magenta. But overall, it’s red. Red, the color of blood, the color of rage, the color of evil, the color of the Red Baron’s plane. Much of what made Cobra stand out so much from G.I. Joe those first few years, 1982 – 1986 or so, was color: Joes were generally greens, browns, and tans. Cobra was generally blue, black, and red.
After figure designer Ron Rudat finalized each Joe or Cobra, he would color several — sometimes several dozen — photocopies of his final drawing, and with markers or ink, brainstorm a myriad of color schemes. You lose much of the effect if you see any one by itself, as the real revelation comes in seeing ten or fifteen laid out together, all the strange and wonderful possibilities that might have been.
But here’s a might-have-been for Wild Weasel.
I think he might have gotten lost against a dark blue plane had he arrived in this grey. But it’s neat nonetheless. (Perhaps these duds against a red plane!) In what colors have you wanted to see Wild Weasel?
Today’s post is a color comp of a photocopy of a Ron Rudat presentation sketch for the 1986 Dreadnok Thrasher. So this would probably have been colored in 1985. It’s pretty close to his final colors. I had no memory of the Thrasher action figure coming with a weapon, so I guess that’s a rare case of my brother and I losing a G.I. Joe accessory — and it must have been immediately upon opening the toy — and then me completely forgetting it existed. It was a mild surprise just now when I looked up the figure on YoJoe. I did recall a faint connection to sports, what with the chest pads, but it wasn’t until seeing this —
– and the red-colored glove that I see all the lacrosse uniform bits. Red would’ve stood out on the figure, and maybe it was painted black to keep costs down and not add one more color, but plastic Thrasher loses a little of that athlete-gone-bad attitude for having just a black glove. Like it could be any kind of glove.
Musing aside, Ron Rudat would marker up dozens of these copies, searching for the right color combination. I want to point out that now and then, Rudat would use a silver pen, which my scanner doesn’t quite pick up unless you see it at an angle or in close-up:
I always loved Thrasher because of his attitude and voice on the show. (“Taking a dip, love?”) While I liked the toy as well, he tended to stay in the Thunder Machine since his head was just a tiny bit too big, despite being otherwise nicely sculpted and painted.
What do you think of that lacrosse stick weapon?
You’ve all been enthusiastic in your reactions to these Mortal Kombat test shots, so here’s another one from 1994. It’s Sub-Zero. Or Scorpion, or Reptile, or Smoke. But probably Sub-Zero. Turns out they were all the same mold, with some color difference.
Interestingly, this test shot has a Cobra tampo on it. Here’s a close-up:
Sub-Zero’s arms come from another G.I. Joe figure, the 1992 ninja codenamed “Dice.” Sub-Zero isn’t a Cobra agent, and the Mortal Kombat toy line bore no “G.I. Joe” logos, names, or insignia. Adding a tampo is an extra step, so looking at this figure I thought that this test shot in fact had a set of production Dice arms on it, that someone at the factory in China pulled them off a “regular” Dice figure. But Dice has two colors on his gauntlets, black with purple details, so these are not production arms. I suppose the process of running off test shots for these arms included the Cobra tampo, even though production samples of Sub-Zero/Scorpion/Reptile/Smoke would have no such printing.
So this is a bit of a puzzle to me. Nothing epic, just a small head-scratcher. Perhaps you know, and can tell me in the comments. Also, please continue to school me in Mortal Kombat lore, as I never played the game and only saw the first film. Oh, as with the Kano test shot, this villain’s special feature, the “Spring Action Flying Dragon,” works.
GI Joe Extreme gets a bad rap. That it was a replacement for A Real American Hero at a time when ARAH was aesthetically on the mend is perhaps its biggest perceived infraction. But it had its own aesthetic problems. The toys certainly visually “popped” on toy aisle shelves, but they also were strangely exaggerated. At the time, in 1996, I was partly stunned and mostly disappointed. The show lacked the personality of the ’80s Sunbow G.I. Joe animated series, and the toy looked like a misfire at a time when whatever-G.I. Joe-was-going-to-be needed to hit the bullseye. Looking back, the show ages pretty well because the writing was strong, and with a story arc over a season or two, the animated GI Joe Extreme did something no G.I. Joe show had done before. I also thought the secret identity for the villain, Iron Klaw, was a nice touch even it pushed Extreme more into the super-hero territory it was competing with.
Musings aside, here are the model sheets, front pose only, and photocopies, not originals, of Von Rani and Iron Klaw. Unsigned, so based on the show’s end credits I would attribute these to Carlos Huante, Keith Matz, or Roy Burdine. Oh, and I added the color to the teaser image above just to grab your attention.
What do you think of Iron Klaw?
I’ve written about George Woodbridge before. Here’s something else by him, a color photocopy of Hasbro’s internal presentation artwork for W.O.R.M.S., the Maggot tank driver. The figure was released in 1987, so this was probably drawn in ’86. I’ve posted this link before, but here’s a bit about Woodbridge, from a eulogy Mark Evanier wrote in 2004. Woodbridge is better known for his military and historical illustrations, and for contributing work to Mad Magazine, but he did a bunch of internal Hasbro freelance work as well.
Sorry for the time off. Aaaaaand we’re back! With something simple, yet iconic, today. Ron Rudat’s presentation art for the 1984 Recondo figure, drawn in 1983. Ron designed the first seven or so years of figures, the sketches that turned into the sculpt input drawings, and for the first few years, he did the internal presentation work as well. This is a color photocopy, not the original.
I know you toy types want the toy dope. But I’m an animation type first, so I’m always pleased to show you something cartoon-related. Like this background key from 1987’s G.I. Joe: The Movie. Background keys are not used in the final animation. They can be without color, or fully painted, and are an overview of what a location — interior or exterior — looks like. Generally they come before the storyboarding stage, so that storyboard artists know what a location looks like before planning (and drawing) scenes and shots in and around that location. Keys are used as a reference, too, for background artists and background painters, who will fully realize in line and in color the specific backgrounds needed in every angle called for by the storyboards.
This one’s by Robert Schaefer. His credit in G.I. Joe: The Movie is “Background Art Direction.” The whole background unit on that production is one BG Supervisor, another three on BG Art Direction, one BG Designer, nine BG painters, and one BG Coordinator. Some of these folks were in the States at Marvel Productions, others were in Japan at Toei. (A few uncredited ones may have been elsewhere in Japan or Korea, subcontracted, which I would never be able to track down.) Schaefer has worked on BGs for Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, Universal, and Disney Television Animation. And, probably of most interest to readers of this blog, Marvel Productions, where he also drew and painted on G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Jem.
Here’s how this key was used — for Pythona’s infiltration of the Cobra Terror Drome — note most of all the first shot.
An additional key or two may have been painted to describe these places. And it’s worth noting that the Terror Drome, both inside and out, had already been visualized in Season 2. I don’t have information on why any of that was revised or redone for The Movie, but presumably because here Cobra HQ is bigger and more labyrinthine. But imagine a show like The Simpsons, where a key for the Simpsons’ living room reflects a “standing set” and isn’t often redone.