Tag Archives: G.I. Joe toy development

Rudat Serpentor Air Chariot sketches

Serpentor Air Chariot sketch detail by Ron Rudat

We had this tradition, in my family, that on my brother’s birthday, or mine, one of our presents — a small one — was hidden under our beds. Or each others’. Or my parents’. I distinctly remember lying sideways, pulling up the dark brown bed cover from the white shag carpet in my parents’ room, that July morning in 1986, to find a small, wrapped present. I had already looked under my own bed — nothing there. My mom had already left for work. My dad was probably somewhere behind me, shaving or tying his tie. In front of and above me, past the bed, Charlie Gibson and Joan Lunden’s calming voices were probably transmitting from the television.

This small birthday box wasn’t the right proportions for a Transformer, and it didn’t sound, when shook, like LEGO. To my delight, it was a G.I. Joe toy. Cobra Emperor Serpentor and his Air Chariot, to be precise. This was important. My brother and I divided up each year’s worth of Joe product. He could buy (or receive as gifts) certain figures, and I could get others. It was an even split. In our stories Kevin had claimed most executive decisions regarding that ruthless terrorist organization because he had Cobra Commander. (Both of them.) While I had Destro, we were starting to understand that the TV cartoon had invented Destro’s role as second-in-command, so I didn’t have much power. But now I had the Emperor, who was by definition, higher up than a Commander.

A few months later, I would try to consistently match Dick Gautier’s aggravated tone in all my scale role-play Serpentor dialogue. Our games, Kevin’s and mine, found a new dynamic, inspired by the power play on display in the animated series. Cobra Commander was still around, but he wasn’t in charge any more. But he was still important. And Duke’s incredible grenade-inspired dispatching of Serpentor’s Air Chariot in 1987’s G.I. Joe: The Movie was mimicked dozens of times in our games.

I’m most fond of Serpentor, and what he represents. Much of that is in the details — his costume, his color scheme, and that wonderful Air Chariot. Let’s take a closer look at that little flying vehicle. It was designed by Ron Rudat (as was Serpentor himself). It’s snake-shaped, and perhaps the most organic-looking of any G.I. Joe or Cobra vehicle. And it went through the same development process as every other figure and vehicle — a price point, sketches, more sketches, and color comps. Let’s look at four of Rudat’s ideas.

Serpentor Air Chariot sketch 1 by Ron Rudat

Serpentor Air Chariot sketch 2 by Ron Rudat

Serpentor Air Chariot sketch 3 by Ron Rudat

Serpentor Air Chariot sketch 4 by Ron Rudat

Of note is that three of these are dated. Rudat usually did not date his work. That there was such a huge volume of sketches, drawings, comps, and occasional paintings, it’s no surprise. But with these ones, we get a glimpse into the timeline of when a mid-1986 figure was in development.

What did Serpentor’s Air Chariot mean to you?


Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

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


Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

1993 Leatherneck test shot

Test shot of GI Joe 1993 Leatherneck figure

While I was glad to see my favorite Joe Marine, the ’86 Leatherneck, get an update in ’93, I wasn’t thrilled by the color scheme.  It’s interesting, but it doesn’t say “Marine” to me.  But it’s unfair of me to want that since this update isn’t a Marine, or just a Marine, but an Infantry/Training Specialist and Marine Drill Sergeant.  And maybe such a person would wear burnt ochre, yellow, and teal.  So while the G.I. Joe line was moving back towards realism in the Battle Corps subset in ’93 and ’94, that wasn’t a guarantee that Leatherneck, one of the more realistic-looking figures of the ’80s, was going to stay realistic.  To be clear, though, I do like the design, just not the color choices.  My first reactions are the words “giraffe” and “banana,” and I’d only want to have that for some fanciful Jungle-Viper.

Which is why I was so struck by this test shot. Continue reading

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Unproduced Cobra sketch

detail of unproduced G.I. Joe Cobra character, probably from the late 1980s

Here’s an unproduced Cobra I don’t know anything about. Continue reading


Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Battle Force 2000 Blocker sketch

GI Joe Battle Force 2000 Blocker Color detailYikes, has it been a month since my apology?  Here’s another:  Sorry!  Movie review coming soon.  Honest.

Dipping my toe back in the blog pool, here’s Blocker as a just-about final design, before he was “Blocker” (one of Hasbro’s least inspired codenames), when Battle Force 2000 was still “Future Force.”  Continue reading


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Unproduced G.I. Joe Vehicle – Borer

G.I. Joe Unproduced Borer by Andrei Koribanics close-upAndrei Koribanics freelanced for Hasbro in the mid-1980s.  Besides today’s Borer art, I’ve also come across a figure concept by him (that may end up in Chapter 14 of my book) and the presentation painting of Sgt. Slaughter’s Renegades (in Chapter 6).  Leaky Suit Brigade has a tiny interview with Koribanics, and should have a longer one up at some point. Continue reading


Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art

Cobra Night Raven designs by Steve Reiss

Cobra Night Raven by Steve Reiss tease image for Tim Finn's G.I. Joe blog

Steve Reiss attended CCS, the College for Creative Studies, before it had that name, back when it was called Society of Arts & Crafts in Detroit.  It had long been a school with a reputation for vehicle design.  After Reiss joined Hasbro in 1985 he was soon designing G.I. Joe vehicles, like the stunning 1986 Cobra Night Raven, based on Lockheed’s also-stunning SR-71 “Blackbird.”  For your reference, here’s the real thing:

SR-71 NASA photo by Judson Brohmer as comparison to Steve Reiss G.I. Joe Cobra Night Raven toy for Hasbro    And here are Steve Reiss’ six pages of designs, the basis for a rough, three-dimensional model.

Cobra Night Raven design pg 1 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

Cobra Night Raven design pg 2 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

Cobra Night Raven design pg 3 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

Cobra Night Raven design pg 4 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

For play value, Reiss added a one-person drone that latched onto the top of the larger jet:

Cobra Night Raven design pg 5 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

And here’s the parts breakdown.

Cobra Night Raven design pg 6 by Steve Reiss for G.I. Joe 1986 toy line

The final toy is black with opaque red accents, and the clear red cockpit windows are a lovely, extra detail.  The Night Raven is also quite long, and I recall always needing two hands to support it.  It’s one of the most attractive products in the entire Real American Hero product line — elegant, sleek, and aggressive.


Filed under G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes, Toys and Toy Art