Gnawgahyde by Pennington

The Dreadnoks are a biker gang under the leadership of Zartan and informally and occasionally on the payroll of Cobra. It’s one of the wonderfully bizarre team dynamics in the G.I. Joe universe.

When these ruffians netted their newest member in 1989, he arrived as a vest-wearing poacher, complete with bow, quiver of arrows, hunting rifle, wrist-attached machete, and a pet wild boar. And a second knife that fits in that shin sheath! And a hat.

Here’s Mark Pennington’s sculpt figure input, click to enlarge:

Above you can see an early codename for Gnawgahyde was “Wart Hog,” or perhaps “Warthog,” but that moniker ended up on a wonderful amphibious Joe tank for 1988. I certainly did not know what gnawgahyde was at age 11, and this word felt more challenging than the other Dreadnoks’ names like “Torch” or “Thrasher,” but it fit. Fun fact that will reveal I wasn’t buying luggage, furniture, or automobile seats in the 1980s: I’ve always assumed that gnawgahyde was a kind of leather or animal skin, but in writing this blog post, I’ve learned that it is not a word, but that capital “N” Naugahyde® is a registered trademark, is a synthetic, and I probably have some somewhere in my closet or basement.

I tip my hat Hasbro’s R&D and Marketing team 32 years later, your joke is still landing. In my defense, Torch torched things and Thrasher trashed things, so I wasn’t looking all that deeply. “Gnawgahyde” straddles the line with the category of codenames that aren’t quite objects, like “Zartan.”

Pennington worked on the G.I. Joe toy line for about three years, starting at Hasbro on the tail end of 1985. He’s best known as an inker in the comics biz for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and more, but had a great stint as sole artist of the Carson of Venus “newspaper” strip in 2019 and 2020. It’s behind a paywall, but here are a few excerpts — I should note these are the first panels of three different strips, so there’s no continuity here, just nice drawing and storytelling. Click to enlarge only a little bit:

(More here at the Edgar Rice Burroughs website, although the Carson strip is now in different hands.) Mark Pennington also paints and exhibits in galleries, gorgeous and utterly different than toy design and comics, but still focusing on light, form, and anatomy. Find that work at his personal website here.

Gnawgahyde really came alive for me in the 1989 and 1990 episodes of the animated G.I. Joe. There he never interacts with the Dreadnoks, he doesn’t do any poaching, and he’s an oaf, but speaks with an Aussie accent, obeys Cobra Commander’s orders, and blows up Joe tanks.

Here’s that pet:

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

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