In the development process at Hasbro, every G.I. Joe figure that made it to retail (and some that didn’t!) got a fancy drawing or painting whereby the higher-ups could see the character as a bold, dramatic illustration. This wasn’t the package art that we all saw on toy store shelves, but rather, internal only to Hasbro. A pencil turnaround of the figure from front, side, and rear views didn’t offer enough punch, nor did a sculpt or a casting. George Woodbridge, better known for military history books and Mad Magazine, was one of the eight or so artists who created these. (He also delineated most of the 1988 turnarounds.)
Here’s a color photocopy of Woodbridge’s presentation art for Sgt. Slaughter version 3, driver for the 1988 Warthog. His work resembles that of noted G.I. Joe designer Russ Heath, with a clean precision of line and spotting of blacks, but Woodbridge only worked on the toys and Heath only worked on the TV show and the comic book. And unlike many of the other internal presentation paintings, Woodbridge didn’t paint, but rather he created a color line drawing. Click to enlarge:
My brother and I were pretty dazzled by the Sarge getting a new figure. While we were not fans of wrestling, we knew of many of the major wrestling characters. Video games, toys, and TV animation expanded their reach far beyond the actual wrestling TV shows that aired weekly, and we had friends who were fans. But the G.I. Joe brand worked hard to place Slaughter in a role of importance, with two mail-away figures, prominent appearances in Season 2 and the animated movie, as host of the TV show and commercials, and after this piece was drawn, a role in the later DIC episodes.
The Warthog was a great addition to the Joes’ armory. It had room for several guys, two big missiles, was both a water and land vehicle, had more heft than the taut Snowcat or the lithe Desert Fox, yet wasn’t too big for a ten-year olds’ hands to handle. It wasn’t sexy and it wasn’t cool, but it was beefy, fun, and was elevated in its importance because it came with a new version of Sgt. Slaughter whose costume shed its wrestling cues in favor of more military detailing.
Also, version 3 came with a removable hat!