Tag Archives: G.I. Joe turnarounds

Iron Grenadier by Mark Pennington

In the ongoing story of G.I. Joe, around six years in, “Destro goes it alone,” as the TV ad says, and starts his own army to fight both G.I. Joe and Cobra. Bold move. My brother and I loved it, even if Destro’s characterizations hadn’t hinted at such aspirations. “The Iron Grenadiers” were both the name of the entire faction, and the main cadre of soldiers, these guys in black and red:

That sword is missing a piece, by the way. The hoop was for hanging the sword on the Grenadier’s waist hook (visible above) — my brother and I found a sheathed sword useless, so we cut off the hoop and pretended the sword was drawn.

Here’s what the sword, plus those two fun firearms, look like in Mark Pennington’s original sculpt sheet:

But at the same time Pennington had designed a different helmet than what ended up at toy stores:

This design puzzles me. I can’t quite make out what the shape and the details mean. It’s certainly goggles and a gas mask, but the crosshatching is nebulous. Fellow Boys Toys member Bart Sears rendered this design into the final presentation painting (which I don’t have to share, sorry), so Pennington penciled it, R&D approved it, Marketing approved it, and the design went up the ladder to the VPs. Somewhere, someone decided that the helmet needed revising, and so five weeks after the initial drawing Pennington took another swipe:

Which is what ended up in toy stores.

It’s a handsome take. I’ve always preferred the neutral face plate of the 1986 Viper or the evil bank robber look of the ’82 Cobra Soldier. Here the Iron Grenadier looks like he’s always ready for a gas attack, and I’d prefer such a specific role, guy-who-enters-gas-attack, not go to the “regular” legions of Destro’s soldiers. I’d rather there have also been an Iron Grenadier somehow crossed with a Toxo-Viper, and then this plain Iron Grenadier have less technology on his face plate. (The 2008 recreation does a nice job dialing this back while still retaining the feel of Pennington’s original.) But with that black, red, and gold color scheme, and some details that nod to the regal and noble quality of the Destro character, the 1988 Iron Grenadier is a handsome action figure.

What do you think about the Iron Grenadier’s helmet?

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1991 Dusty turnaround by Kurt Groen

Dusty was a great character. He gets a two-parter in the animated series nearly to himself, the dramatic “The Traitor,” written by Buzz Dixon. Issue #13 of Special Missions is another great showcase. His action figure is unusual in that the face is obscured by tiger camo, and his costume is partially soft goods — actual cloth. The 1980s were good to Dusty. He even got a new color scheme when his action figure was re-released in green as part of Tiger Force. The ’90s weren’t so good to Dusty. In animation, voice actor Neil Ross was no longer at the mic, lending a thick twang to the character. Now it was Maurice LaMarche, who would go on to be a favorite of mine, but though he attempted a southern accent, the DiC version of the Joe’s desert warrior just didn’t sound adequate.

So by 1991, I lost interest in Dusty. This was especially down to the character’s new duds. Control art by Kurt Groen.

It’s a fine looking design, but I’d always wanted a similar vocabulary to carry over from version to version as Joes got remade. ’85 Dusty had that signature hat and neck guard, and baggy clothes. This new one was in form-fitting pants and showed off a lot of skin with that tank top. He’d never worn a beret, so this felt like Flint or Dial-Tone had fallen into a vat of yellow paint. In terms of fashion, I don’t love V-necks. Plus that V-neck skintone paint looks more like the clothing color. And while I loved the Joe pets, again, Dusty hadn’t shown an inclination to animal companionship, so that coyote “Sandstorm” was arbitrary. (An issue or episode wherein the pair meet for the first time would have gone a long way to alleviate this.) Overall ’91 Dusty is under-decorated and under-detailed compared to his earlier appearance.

Again, it’s a fine looking toy, and a worthy addition to Real American Hero, but I have no emotional attachment to this incarnation.

Here’s a nice pic taken by one Mr. Tim Meece, with permission from YoJoe.com.

How do you relate to ’91 Dusty?

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1988 Repeater turnaround by George Woodbridge

1988 GI Joe Repeater detail

My brother always got the big Joes, the heavy machine gunners. He got Rock ‘n Roll (both!), Roadblock (both!), and later, Salvo. To my delight, I finally “called” a Joe who was beefier, and came with a big weapon — steadi-cam machine gunner, codename: Repeater. Here he is in scale, plastic glory.

1988 Repeater action figure

But you came here for art, not well-disguised photos of my kitchen counter.

George Woodbridge, master illustrator! Did much of the ’88 turnarounds.

1988 Repeater turnaround Woodbridge

Mark Pennington, a big part of the Joe team at Hasbro. Did much of the ’88 accessories. And ’88 figures. (Later inked a lot of “X-Men.”)

1988 Repeater backpack PenningtonAnd that wonderous weapon!

1988 Repeater steadicam Pennington

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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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Hit & Run’s almost-1995 transformation

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run action figure photo by Tim Finn

In 1988 Hasbro released a stunning G.I. Joe figure called Hit & Run.  Here’s a not-professional photo by me for context.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run toy photo by Tim Finn

No flesh tone, just green and black camo all over — his hands, his face, and his clothing.  Fun fact:  Hit & Run is [EDIT: one of] the only Joe[s] with whites-of-his-eyes.  All other figures 1982-1994 are flesh tone plastic with a paint detail in black, brown, blonde, or red for eyebrows and retina.  [EDIT: Two others have whites-of-eyes].

Here’s his turnaround, drawn by Mark Pennington, with machine gun, duffle bag (taking the place of a backpack), and accessories.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run figure sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run weapon sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run bag sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run accessories sculpt input Mark Pennington

Many Joe fans know that Real American Hero ended in 1994, and the planned 1995 line was scrapped, although images of package artwork and product samples have circulated.  Did you know Hit & Run was destined, in a way, for a return?

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run Hasbro memo as stealth figure for 1995

Indeed!  According to this memo from Greg Berndtson, Hit & Run, whose figure was never recolored or re-released, was going to be re-used for the ’95 line as the Stealth Tank Driver!  REVELATION.  Here’s his turnaround.

G.I. Joe 1995 Stealth Tank driver, sculpt input reused from 1988 Hit & Run, Mark Pennington

You’ll note it’s just a photocopy of Hit & Run’s, although a few specs have changed, which I have highlighted for clarity.  This looks to be early enough in the process that our new tank driver doesn’t yet have a codename, or if he does, as of June ’94 that’s happening in Marketing and Legal and the R&D guys don’t have the final name.

So what would he have looked like?  Kurt Groen’s breakdown tells us, even if it doesn’t show us:

G.I. Joe 1995 Stealth Tank driver color breakdown

Using these codes as a guide, I’ve taken the liberty of coloring that sculpt input myself.  So here for the first time ever is what the unnamed Phantom X5-3 Stealth Tank driver would have looked like:

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run as unproduced 1995 vehicle driver

I’ve taken a small liberty here.  For clarity I used a dark grey rather than black, and I’m approximating “LT YELLOW GRN.”  “IVY,” as well, but that’s less up to guessing.  After the sidetracks and excesses of ’91 – ’93, the ’94 line was getting back to basics and ’95 would have only continued the trend.  That it never happened has always been a little sad, although the Real American Hero line certainly surpassed all expectations by lasting twelve years.  I hope you’ve enjoy this look behind the curtain at what may have been.

Fun fact:  Hit & Run is the only Joe [EDIT: one of only two] with an ampersand in his name that doesn’t denote an animal companion.  Law & Order was Law, the MP, and his K-9, Order.  Spearhead and Max is the point man named Spearhead and his bobcat, Max.  Well, that’s the word “and” rather than an ampersand, but you get my drift.  Hit & Run is this guy’s whole name, ampersand-ed idiom and all.

[EDIT: Thanks to Tolan, who caught my two errors, as noted in the comments below.  -Tim]

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Budo 1988 turnaround

G.I. Joe Budo 1988 action figure turnaround

Having a ninja commando on the team was just the start.  In 1988, G.I. Joe got a real-life samurai in the form of Budo.  Here’s his action figure sculpt input sheet.

G.I. Joe Budo 1988 action figure turnaround art by George Woodbridge

Figure art, above, by George Woodbridge.  Accessory art, below, by Mark Pennington.

G.I. Joe Budo 1988 accessory input art by Mark Pennington

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Behind the scenes of G.I. Joe – Hydro-Viper

Today’s art post is the complete sculpt input (i.e. “turnaround”) for the 1988 Hydro-Viper.  Again for casual or non-fans, let’s start with a photo (by me, not my fancy book photographer) of the production figure for a baseline comparison.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper figure

Here’s George Woodbridge’s turnaround.  Such a crisp and clean line, and a deft spotting of blacks.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper figure turnaround

Note that the figure is referred to as “Cobra Frogman,” so “Hydro-Viper” hadn’t yet cleared Legal.

Woodbridge’s association with G.I. Joe is limited. He drew most of the ’88 inputs, and did many of the Hasbro-internal figure presentation paintings that Dave Dorman and Bart Sears didn’t around 1988.  Writer Mark Evanier wrote a short biography of Woodbridge in 2004 when the artist passed away.  You can find it here, but if you want a shorter version, I’ll just throw out the terms “Mad Magazine” and “military and historical illustration.”  In the near future I’ll show a few more pieces like this here, and in the not-near future I’ll have Woodbridge’s Crazylegs (a Joe paratrooper) color piece in my book.

Here are three sheets of the Hydro-Viper’s accessories, drawn by Bart Sears.  In toys, Sears is known for designing Hasbro’s C.O.P.S.  In comics, Sears drew Justice League Europe and has recently penciled some Conan and Indiana Jones for Dark Horse.  Of note here is the ray, the most bizarre of all animals that any G.I. Joe figure came packaged with.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper backpack turnaround

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper weapons turnaround

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper manta ray turnaround

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