The “Cobra Assassin” post from earlier today had some factual errors, so I’ve taken that down and am putting up this one it its place!
Bill Merklein sculpted around 65 G.I. Joe action figures in the 1980s.
He was freelancing for Hasbro, mostly on Joe but also on other lines, like Visionaries and Air Raiders, as well as work outside of the toy industry. Plus he taught, and teaches. Here’s a photo of us chatting in October of 2014. Anyway, in the mid-’80s, the G.I. Joe line exploded, and with the company’s in-house sculpture department not big enough to handle the huge workload, Hasbro hired several freelance sculptors. Most of Merklein’s Joe work included the whole of a figure — head, torso, waist, arms, legs, and weapons and accessories. Occasionally he was fixing someone else’s work or just sculpting a head, and not starting a figure from scratch.
In 1986, the Joe team gained its second Navy SEAL in the form of this guy:
The above photo is just for reference and comparison, a 1986 production Wetsuit action figure. Nothing special about this — my brother bought this toy and I snapped a pic today with my phone. Here’s a photo taken in probably 1985 of Bill Merklein’s wax sculpt of Wetsuit:
What appears as white is [CORRECTION] epoxy [not wax], and the dark grey is the buck, the armature or skeleton onto which the wax is put for each Joe figure. [Thanks to Peter in the Comments, that “epoxy was Merklen’s medium of choice. You see actual wax starting to be used for 2-up sculpts around the 1990 line… And after then wax became favored by a lot of the sculptors.”] Of note, this is at 2-up, so twice the size of a regular Joe figure that kids were buying at toy shops. Yes, the Wetsuit sculpt is 7.5 inches. This photo was taken by Merklein to send to Hasbro’s sculpting department, not as a record for Merklein’s portfolio.