Category Archives: G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes

G.I. Joe Yearbook #3 by Ron Wagner

G.I. Joe Yearbook 3 pg 4 Wagner DeMulder

“Silent Interlude” gets a lot of attention. People who’ve read comics, but have never read G.I. Joe, and who don’t like G.I. Joe, have heard of that twenty-first issue of Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe, with its wordless tale of action and rescue. And all that attention is deserved. But what never gets mentioned alongside this comic that Larry Hama wrote and drew (at the same time — it was a single step), is the other two silent stories published in the original Marvel run: “SFX,” issue #85, April 1989, penciled by Paul Ryan and Randy Emberlin; and “Hush Job” from Yearbook #3, drawn by Ron Wagner and Kim DeMulder.

Let’s take a look at page 4 of “Hush Job.”

G.I. Joe Yearbook 3 pg 4 Wagner DeMulder

To repeat: This is a silent story. It’s not that the word balloons fell off. There aren’t any.

Ron Wagner, a graduate of the Kubert School, really knows how to draw. Look at those two 3/4 rear views on Storm Shadow. And one is an up-shot. Look at that jaw in panel 4! Look at the intensity of Storm Shadow’s expression in the final panel!

Ron Wagner draws some of my favorite comics ever, and his work here, under DeMulder’s inks, really shines. Note that wonderful negative space treatment on the trees in panel 2. They’re left out, so color and the hatching at that edge creates the night sky. Wonderful depth in panel 1 — foreground, middle ground, background. Also note the storytelling. Silent stories are hard. (If you want to see Marvel stumble, check out the “‘Nuff Said” month of silent comics from 2002.) Here Ron Wagner pulls if off deftly — Storm Shadow and Timber at rest, yet we see the sky, so we’re ready for something to appear. Up-shot, and Scarlett does appear. Touchdown, and Storm Shadow is up. Scarlett shows a photo of Snake-Eyes, captive. Storm Shadow sees it, and is surprised and concerned. Every panel a strong composition, and the whole page has a great balance with darks at top and bottom, with horizontal panels bracketing three tall ones. Great!

Here’s a detail, click to embiggen:

G.I. Joe Yearbook 3 pg 4 Wagner DeMulder

Ron Wagner drew Marvel comics for years: G.I. Joe, Nth Man, Excalibur, Punisher. And at DC, he drew a forgotten “event,” Genesis. Later, he storyboarded for various WB cartoons, where his storytelling skills undoubtedly made him shine but presumably the demands of animation timetables meant more focus on shapes and angles and less on lines and details. And in recent years, he’s drawn a few issues of G.I. Joe — yes, the Larry Hama series that continues the original one that you all ignore — and Wagner is about to draw four comics for DC as part of its “Convergence” event, one with Green Lantern (image below reposted from Wagner’s tumblr) —

Ron Wagner Bill Reinhold Convergence Green Lantern

— and the other with the Teen Titans. Wagner’s art has changed since 1987. In the 2000s, it’s streamlined, and there’s no feathering. That may be down to inkers, but I suspect that he’s saying more with less, as many of the best artists in comics tend to do.

What’s your favorite work by Ron Wagner?

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Windchill turnaround by Pennington

1989 Mark Pennington G.I. Joe Windchill close up

I had a thing for arctic figures. Even though my brother bought Snow Job, the tooth fairy brought me Iceberg, and from then on, it was quietly understood that I would get the arctic figures (or maybe I announced it?) — Blizzard with his many accessories, Sub-Zero with his giant machine gun. Except for the Stalker remake — Kevin had had the original ’83 Stalker, so he got dibs on any revisions. And ’89 Stalker was a tundra soldier, which is not quite arctic. I realize here I’m misusing the word “arctic.” I should just be writing “cold weather” — I got all the cold weather Joes — since an antarctic figure would be a different category. Anyhoo, I skipped Avalanche because he was underpainted and looked silly.

1989 Windchill and his crazy vehicle, the dragstrip racer-like Arctic Blast, was the one that got away. Never bought him, and the tooth fairy had moved on to other, younger kids. But I enjoy peaking behind the scenes at this Mark Pennington sculpt input sheet for Windchill.

1989 Mark Pennington G.I. Joe Windchill

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Wild Weasel color study circa 1983

84 Wild Weasel color study close up

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.

84 Wild Weasel color studyI 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?

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Dreadnok Thrasher color comp

1986 Thrasher sketch color comp Ron Rudat

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 —

1986 Thrasher sketch color comp 2– 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:

1986 Thrasher sketch color comp 3

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?

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Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero test shot

G.I. Joe Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero test shot detailYou’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.

G.I. Joe Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero test shot detail

Interestingly, this test shot has a Cobra tampo on it. Here’s a close-up:

G.I. Joe Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero test shot detail

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.

G.I. Joe Mortal Kombat Sub-Zero test shot detailSo 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.

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GI Joe Extreme Model Sheets – Iron Klaw

GI Joe Extreme model sheet TEASEGI 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.

GI Joe Extreme model sheet Von Rani

GI Joe Extreme model sheet Iron KlawWhat do you think of Iron Klaw?

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George Woodbridge WORMS Presentation Art

George Woodbridge WORMSI’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.George Woodbridge WORMS

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