In May and June of 1981, Ron Rudat was sketching up a storm.
Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster did a great job putting together two books of G.I. Joe animation model sheets – must-own for Joe art fans. (A parent was browsing in the “Action” section of my comic book store, pulled from the shelf volume 1 of G.I. Joe Field Manual, and sort of thought it was a coloring book. I would have spoken up, but it was clear from their casual browsing that they weren’t that interested, and I didn’t want to come across as an aggressive sales person.) Animation model sheets started out in black and white, and that’s mostly how they were seen by many of the artists who worked on the shows.
Or in this case, commercials, since animated Battle Force 2000 only appeared in G.I. Joe advertising. And I should say that artists tended to see photocopies of them in very-actual black and white. Rarer is seeing the original art, here, pencil on paper, dark grey on off-white. Russ Heath, who’s gotten some attention here at A Real American Book, drew today’s post: Three views of the “Vindicator” hovercraft. This is before Hasbro settled on the name “Battle Force 2000,” when the line was still “Future Force.” (I’ve seen some Hasbro paperwork with “Future Force” on it.) What makes these interesting is that they are early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts. I’m not sure why, and it’s hard to tell from the ad since that only has four seconds of animation. To my eyes, these models are clearly drawn from photos of toys (or toy mock-ups) or drawn from objects Heath had in front of him. So maybe that’s it, maybe they’re referenced from mock-ups. Not sure how that would have helped the animators, as they’d still need the final model sheets.
Perhaps of note, or not, is that these three drawings weren’t done on the same day. The top one is dated 9-9-86, the middle one is four days earlier, and the lower one ten days after. That may not mean anything, as Heath had stacks of drawings to do for any Joe commercial or episode, and was working for multiple productions at any one time. The other “Future Force” vehicle drawings I have are dated between August 5 and September 19. That’s a big range for what was all going to appear together in one ad, but maybe it was a package deal — several ads and all their materials (script, boards, designs, sound) going overseas at the same time. This is all conjecture.
But going back to “early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts,” you might be hoping for a side-by-side. So here’s an excerpt from Sorenson and Forster’s book on the left (pg 125), with the comparable pencil drawing on the right.
While Ron Rudat is best known for designing the G.I. Joe figure line (and a few vehicles) from 1981 to about 1987 (for the ’82 to about-the-’88 lines), what’s less well known is that he continued to contribute after that. Case in point, Star Bridgade Cobra Commander. Remember when Cobra Commander was an astronaut? You don’t? Oh, that’s because you perhaps stopped paying attention to the Real American Hero line before its end in 1994. Well, to catch you up, those final two years had a bunch of favorites (Duke, Roadblock, Destro) in astro-gear. And some aliens. (A topic for another day). Anyhoo, full disclosure, I added the color above. Today’s art is a black and white photocopy. Continue reading
In 1990 Lee Weeks had recently finished at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (now just “The Kubert School”) and was regularly drawing Daredevil for Marvel. Before that job started, fellow alum Andy Kubert had helped get him a cover job on G.I. Joe, and in the middle of that 10-issue cover run, Weeks drew a fill-in issue as regular artist Mark Bright’s time on the series was winding down. Continue reading
As I’ve noted here, when R&D was concepting a G.I. Joe figure, that character would go through quite a process. A multitude of pencil sketches, input from other members of R&D, line reviews for higher ups, and even a rendered, full-color painting, all before sculpting commenced. As fun as it is to see proposed designs of toys that didn’t make it, it’s also fun to peak behind the curtain on favorites that did. Like ’89 Rock & Roll here. Continue reading
Season 3 of G.I. Joe, or as the Shout! Factory DVDs call it, Series 2 Season 1, is a mixed bag. Lots of returning writers, characters, and voice actors, but the show is a different tone. It’s funny, or tries to be, and there’s not much sense of danger. I’m never worried for the Joes. But Russ Heath was on board again drawing model sheets, so that’s a bright spot. Today’s artwork comes from a ridiculous episode called “That’s Entertainment,” where Cobra Commander kidnaps actor/comedian Jackie Love and decides he wants to make movies. Really, the less said, the better. Continue reading