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.” I don’t know the timeline of that name change, but I’ve seen Russ Heath animation drawings that refer to Future Force as well, so as a working title it may have stuck around longer than normal, or it may have been rejected by Legal late in the game. Battle Force 2000 always struck me as a neat idea — I loved the figures, the colors, the package paintings, the vehicles, and the whole scheme — but something about it never gelled. Maybe it was because the subset wasn’t integrated into the line, but how could it be? They were the future. Maybe it was because there was no way my brother and I could acquire all six vehicles and build that mega base. Maybe it was because even if we liked the sci-fi theme, we sensed that it pushed G.I. Joe too far out of grounded realism.
Above is original pencil artwork. It’s by… probably Kurt Groen, but slim chance it’s Mark Pennington. Undated, so I’ll guess early 1986. Below is a photocopy colored with marker.
This would have been approved by upper management, and then handed off to Bart Sears or Dave Dorman to paint a larger presentation piece, as well as being the step before the figure turnaround showed front, rear, and side views for the sculptor to interpret in three dimensions.
Something that always bugged me about the figure was its lack of paint and color detailing. It’s interesting to see that pop up even at this earlier step. That is indeed one undercolored drawing. But maybe those were the marching orders — a reduced number of paint spray ops. Blocker works well considering how monochromatic he is, but he still jumps out as needing more color, or at least more contrast. Similarly fellow future soldier Avalanche, who might get my vote for most underpainted Joe ever. Regarding other media, I haven’t read G.I. Joe issue #81 recently, so I can’t speak to how well the group fits into the comic, but I remember enjoying that issue when I first read it.
Fun personal trivia: My brother and I first spotted Battle Force 2000 at the BEST retail store behind Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD. This was neither our primary nor secondary (nor tertiary) place to buy toys, but a few action figure purchases took place there between 1984 and 1990 or so. I recall those shelves were tall and the interior of the store — the half with bikes and toys rather than the half with furniture and electronics — was dark. Kevin got Maverick, a sealed deal on sight since my brother loved the film Top Gun and was a military jet nut. I got Blocker. That clear plastic visor finally made good on the failed promise of Hasbro’s 1984 misstep on Blowtorch’s mask.
Anyway, who are you favorite underpainted Joes? Why do you think Battle Force 2000 didn’t quite work?