A Real American Book! 2014 in Review

Tim Finn GI Joe book

Running this blog is strange. It’s great to be able to have a place to post images that won’t fit in the book that I’m writing, but there’s still a nebulous disconnect that I can’t shake — only a handful of people have seen the book-so-far, and maybe everyone else abstractly figures I’ll never finish or never quite started.

Tim Finn GI Joe book

Above: printouts of chapters 2 through 8, researched and written and edited and designed. The good news is that they’re finished, and were finished in 2011. The bad news is that in the past year I’ve learned more about several important moments in G.I. Joe history, and scanned or photographed some key pieces of G.I. Joe art, so chapters 2, 3, 6, and 8 need revisions. But the good news is that I learned those facts and saw those images, so the book will be more accurate, and more interesting.

Tim Finn LUCAD Hub Comics

The other bad news, I write half-jokingly, is that I still teach and I still own Hub Comics, so there are many days where there isn’t time to write. School vacations are wonderful, though. May and September are not — end of the semester, Free Comic Book Day, start of the semester, field trips, grades. This summer was to be a return to form, like the year or two before I bought a comic book store, when I seemingly wrote every day for weeks on end. Then, unexpectedly, my father died, which meant taking time off from writing. He was also one of my two editors. (And a very good writer.)

Dad Xmas 2010 TRU framed

In practice, however, not having him around to read and comment on each chapter doesn’t hurt the book. Other-editor Nick Nadel is up to the task of helping me whip this into shape. I’ve been leaning on Nick since 2001, or 1990, depending on how you count. I’ve posted this photo before on my website, but not here, so this is what it sometimes looks like when we get together twice a year.

Tim Finn Nick Nadel

But most of the time we’re on Skype, so imagine that same photo with a split screen down the middle and the New York City skyline behind Nick.

So what did I do this year, anyway?

-Started a Twitter for the book
-Added 23 posts to this blog
-Edited a G.I. Joe podcast (and recorded a second one, stay tuned).
-While in Los Angeles, met with two gents I’d interviewed years back and had coffee with a new interviewee
-Flew to Chicago so a knowledgeable fan could read chapters 1-10 and offer feedback
-Drove to Connecticut for an interview
-Drove to Rhode Island for a follow-up interview
-Trained to New York for an interview
-Telephoned New York for an interview
-Found four people online who had small but important contributions
-Wrote and edited and rewrote significant portions of chapters 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and X. Yes, there’s a “chapter X.”

(And all while teaching two classes, running a store, and hosting two art openings, two events, and four signings there. Phew!)

(Also, I’m cheating with that tally by including these first two weeks of 2015.)

And the interviews listed above represents a variety of contributors — toy alums, comics talent, animation people, and film folk. What didn’t work out? Unfortunately, three people politely declined to be interviewed, two more didn’t respond to requests, and there’s another person out there that I just can’t find. There are enough facts and recollections in the 190 interviews that I do have to reasonably fill in those gaps, but a few sentences here and there will be vague and a few points of view are under-represented. But the book is interesting, accurate, and fun.

What’s in store for 2015? I think I can…

-With my photographer visit a collector in Texas to shoot his collection, which will help me write chapter 15.
-Attend JoeCon 2015
-Finish chapters 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.
-Figure out where chapter X goes, or if it needs to be broken into thirds and spread across chapters 13, 14, and 15.
-Send the finished text of chapters 9-13 to my book designer.
-Set up a shoot with my photographer for the picture that heads chapter 11.
-Start and finish writing chapters 16 and 17.

Which gets me pretty close to finishing.

That would leave my designer laying out chapters 14-17, and X, and another photoshoot or two. And getting the book published. Which is a long way of saying I think I can just about finish writing this in 2015. But getting it published is a whole other project, and at least a whole other blog post.

So now you now where I am. Please feel free to spread the word — Like A Real American Book! on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, and tell your friends and family that are interested in popular culture about this. Google “Tim Finn book” or my name and “gi joe.” That’s always welcome.

IMGP2827alt_35p_sfw

But I’d like to say thanks to three key people: To Gary Goggles-Head, for spending a weekend offering feedback, for keeping me in the loop, and for running the G.I. Joe discussion group on Facebook; to Clutch, for being this blog’s most dedicated commenter; and to TV writer/producer/editor/funny person Nick Nadel, for smoothing out the clunkiest of sentences.

Also a helmet-tip to Nate and JMM, who get the silver and bronze medals for commenting here at the blog, and all the interesting and patient fans in the aforementioned G.I. Joe discussion group on Facebook. I don’t often ask questions or chime in, but it’s great having access to such a knowledge base. And to those fans who occasionally send an e-mail saying “I’m really digging the blog, keep up the good work, can’t wait for the book!” That means a lot.

Back to writing for me.

Tim Finn gi joe

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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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Russ Heath Crimson Guard Immortal

Russ Heath Crimson Guard Immortal model sheetRuss Heath, comics artist and animation character designer extraordinaire, makes a return appearance here at A Real American Book! Here’s his model for Cobra’s Crimson Guard Immortal, from DIC’s first season.

Russ Heath Crimson Guard Immortal model sheetThe line is impeccable as always, and Heath packs in more detail than any animation studio would want to reproduce. (But that’s why he was hired.) Interesting to note the word at the bottom, “Android.” I thought that meant this sheet was for the episode “A is for Android,” but CGs don’t appear in that episode. So I guess someone along the way thought that one or all of the Crimson Guard were not people in costumes, but robots. (Like me and Stormtroopers when I was 5.)

Also, I’ve never been sure what “Immortal” means here. Is that a military term? Like “corps”? Did Hasbro make it up? Is it like “Batman Forever,” it just sounds good?

As a kid growing up with G.I. Joe, I was always thrilled by the Crimson Guard, how their uniform elevated them above rank and file Cobra Troopers — that fancy brocade, their black gloves, the knee-high boots. And was disappointed that this update lost all that fanciness. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good looking Cobra, but it feels more like a shock trooper or urban warfare specialist than the guys who’d get to guard Serpentor in the Terrordrome. Even if that’s not what they’re supposed to do.

Either way, what do you think of the Crimson Guard Immortal?

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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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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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