Cesspool started out pitched as a similarly eco-themed “Oil Baron.” I’m not sure if that was a codename (probably not) or a title, but the figure and his ilk evolved and we got Cesspool. Along the way, Cesspool dropped his earlier name, “The CEO,” and Eco-Warriors dropped its earlier monicker, “Eco-Force.” We met the Oil Baron here several years ago at A Real American Book!, in fact, another Kurt Groen drawing.
Before Cesspool became the lead villain for Cobra’s half of the 1991 Eco-Warriors subset, Kurt Groen pitched this unnamed character, a pirate oil baron.
I’m not sure what he’s dropping, something with a Joe logo — a pouch? Spirit’s ponytail? Later, when Groen colored this, he added a backpack with an oil-shooting weapon, looking ahead to the water-squirting weapons that each Eco-Warrior came packaged with.
In 1986 Hasbro revised the generic Cobra Soldier, the anonymous man in a dark blue cloth uniform, as the Cobra Viper. The basic Viper is far from basic. He has knee-high books, a beefy backpack, body armor, a bigger machine gun, and a silvery face mask that resembles Cobra Commander’s. In every way the Viper is more aggressive and cooler than the 1982 Cobra Soldier. A brilliant idea that followed a year later was to use the name “Viper” as a base, and connect it to a variety of prefixes that denote specific types of Cobra troopers — Strato-Vipers are pilots, Frag-Vipers are grenade-lobbing specialists, Astro-Vipers are, um, astronauts. And on.
1988 saw a strange debut: Toxo-Viper. (Click that link for a photo in a new window.) The garish color scheme and alien-looking helmet were seemingly not a good fit for G.I. Joe, but the concept, a soldier suited for hostile environments (fuel spills, chemical weapons) was sound. And the Toxo-Viper had a counterpart on G.I. Joe, the 1985 figure Airtight. In 1991, with environmental awareness on the rise, Hasbro introduced an entire sub-line of toxic waste spreaders and fighters, the extra garish Eco-Warriors. Toxo-Viper got a redesign:
The above pencil art and marker art are by figure designer Kurt Groen. Here’s a detail, color added in marker to a photocopy of the pencil art:
The next step would have been a larger, slightly more polished marker drawing.
I’ve always found the Toxo-Viper version 2 to be oddly restrained compared to version 1. Waist-down it’s underdetailed and undersculpted, and the helmet is much less interesting, (although at least it doesn’t look like an alien). I suppose time and money were diverted to version 2’s water-shooting canon and color-change feature. I’ve never owned this figure, so I don’t have one to photograph, but here’s a picture at yojoe.