James A. Payette made an important but limited contribution to G.I. Joe. His is not a well-known name like that guy who writes all the comic books, or the fellow who designed the first seven years of action figures. Payette likely sculpted military and fantasy miniatures for a variety of companies separate from Hasbro, and for two or three years he painted a lot of G.I. Joe art that we never saw. That includes 1988, ’90, and ’91 figures Downtown, Sub-Zero, Ambush, Hawk, and Snow Serpent. These are the internal presentation paintings used to help pitch characters to upper management in line reviews. If this sounds familiar, I’ve posted such art here at A Real American Book! by artists like George Woodbridge and Bart Sears. Again, these where not the Hector Garrido or Doug Hart renderings that adorned every G.I. Joe toy package, but rather, paintings seen only by R&D, the sculpting department, Marketing, and a Vice President or three.
Payette’s work is more mannered than all the rest. Whereas Dave Dorman slightly cartoons and there’s a silky quality to his cloth textures, or Sears is channeling anatomy books even down to facial musculature, Payette is elsewhere on this Venn Diagram. His characters’ proportions make them a little taller, their eyes set closer together, their clothes fitting a little tighter.
Here’s a detail, click to enlarge:
These presentation paintings tended to have no background, or just a sketch of one, and so the pieces with more information behind the character are particularly interesting. As Rampart is a Coastal Defender, let’s see some coast and some defense, right?
Rampart as a design was quieter at a time when many other figures were getting louder. As a kid, I never fully understood what his specialty implied. I suppose now I do! In a few 1990 animated episodes, Rampart’s schtick of talking like everything is a video game is a bit much, but I was excited when any character from the toy line got a speaking role.
Click to enlarge James A. Payette’s Rampart presentation painting: