Category Archives: Toys and Toy Art

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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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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Ron Rudat Recondo Presentation Art

Recondo resentation art Ron Rudat

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.

Recondo resentation art Ron Rudat 1983

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Mortal Kombat Kano test shot

Mortal Kombat Kano test shot That Sonya Blade post got a lot of nice feedback, so let’s dip our bloody, broken toes back in the Midway pool and take a look at another test shot.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotAgain, I don’t know anything about MK (although I did see the first film when it was released), so feel free to educate me in the comments about fatalities and the live-action TV show and oh-there-was-probably-a-sanitized-kids-cartoon-on-USA-Network and such.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotKano here has the same body as 1993 Dice, part of Ninja Force.  Everything is the same neck down.  But Kano gets a new head.  Here’s a link to him fully painted.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotNote in this test shot that Kano’s arm still has the Cobra logo.  But since Dice’s arms have purple paint, this led me to that one G.I. Joe figure that was recolored from 1993 Dice — 1993 Red Ninja(s).  The Red Ninja arms have the same dark blue as my Kano test shot, so I think that someone at the factory in China pulled the arms off a production Red Ninja and attached it to the otherwise white body and maroon head of test shot Kano.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotMy test shot Kano has the same “Real Ninja Action/Spring Action FLYING DRAGON” arm thingee movement as Dice and Red Ninja.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotI think Dice/Red Ninja/Kano had the biggest knee pads of any G.I. Joe toy ever.  That would be quite a Fatality, suffocating an opponent pinned under Kano’s knee.

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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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