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


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

11 responses to “Behind the scenes of G.I. Joe – Hydro-Viper

  1. Ralph

    This is amazing stuff! As a looooong-time collector, I love seeing such behind-the-scenes items. Thanks for the blog, I can’t wait for the book! Yo Joe!

  2. Thanks for your support, Ralph. I just hope I don’t run out of fun stuff to preview before the book is done!

  3. Andrew Hall

    I have a question that maybe you can answer…was the Hydro-Viper originally designed for the Cobra-La faction? The timing, and look for that figure would have fit nicely into that theme. Whereas (in my opinion) he kinda stuck out in that ’88 wave…

    • I don’t think so, Hydra. Since the Cobra-La figures are ’87, and as characters they were being developed by the writers before being visualized by the animation folk or the toy people, they are removed from the Hydro-Viper in terms of the timeline. It’s possible some of the organic, monstrous attributes of the Cobra-La trio indirectly inspired the Hyrdo-Viper, and certainly later figures were developed to be in a sub-line that then got reabsorbed by the main line (Law and Mace in the DEF-less ’93 line) but I assume the Hydro-Viper feeling like Cobra-La is a coincidence. You know, you make the Eels, and you want to amp it up three years later, and the line is moving towards more fantasy or future tech anyway, and you might just start designing a scuba guy with webbed hands, right?

  4. Nate

    I can sort of see where Andrew Hall is coming from with observing some similarities in aesthetics between Cobra-La and this Hydro-Viper; while I don’t necessarily agree and don’t think there’s much there aside from sheer coincidental aesthetics, I think it has more to do with the fact that the sentient beings of Cobra La were “mutants” or some sort of hyper evolved organic matter, but not *human*. Whereas the Cobra Hydro-Viper is admittedly a human in a snazzy and functional scuba gear disguise or “costume”. Also, being removed by time from one line doesn’t necessarily preclude the continuation of the theme–as you pointed out with Law and Mace, I’d also point out DeeJay (’89?) who was removed chronologically from the rest of BF2K (’87).

    And speaking of ’87, I CANNOT WAIT to see that Crazy Legs artwork!!!!

  5. I love the detail they highlighted in these turn arounds. They are amazing pieces of art!

  6. Andrew Hall

    We can’t forget that Nullifier (from the
    Iron Grenadier subset) was originally designed to be a Cobra La toy that was intended to come with a motorcycle that looked like a insect cocoon. Because Cobra-La tested/performed badly, the rest of the line was scrapped and Nullifier became the AGP pilot. I’ve often believed that to be the case with Hydro-Viper–but cant find any evidence to support my theory. I believe the Hydro-Vipers alias ‘Demon of the Deep’ was actually intended to be his Cobra-La name, and further, I believe that Hydro-Viper is the first Cobra trooper to share a speciality with another Cobra trooper (I.e. Scuba Troopers–and that excludes vehicle drivers). It stands to reason that the ‘Demon of the Deep’ was intended to be Cobra-La’s go-to Scuba trooper (as Undertow is to the IG’s).

  7. Fantastic write up!!!

    The hand sculpted 2up pattern that was sculpted using those images still exists for this character and was never broken down like a lot of 2ups were. A casting was done but because of the materials Bill Merklein used (epoxy instead of clay) they didn’t have to break it down to create a mold. And the 2up paintmaster was at the Declassified booth last year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sculpture sheets before now but if anyone wants to see the presentation art for Hydro-Viper it’s here in this thread.:

  8. Andrew Hall

    Yeah. I was pretty shocked when I found that out as well!

  9. Very cool, this is one of my favorite characters. It’s interesting to note that the vest looks more tactical and less scale-like in the sculpture sheet. I imagine there was a last minute change to the vest detail (or perhaps a misunderstanding between artist and sculptor?) I’d think that if the artist went to the trouble of drawing all the litts bumps on the feet, head, etc… he wouldn’t skimp out when it came to the vest

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