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?


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

2 responses to “Iron Grenadier by Mark Pennington

  1. Clutch

    I love the Iron Grenadiers but I do agree that the weak link here is the gas mask-like face plate. A red balaclava might have worked better. I also agree that the 2008 version looks nicer, but this is still easily a classic army builder.

  2. A-Man

    Strange original design, like some bird robot with a mushroom hat.

    The Iron Grenadier gas mask looks odd if you stop to focus on it. Maybe it should’ve been black and the visor red?

    His laser pistol looked a lot like some electronic laser gun toys from the early 80’s.

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