Tag Archives: G.I. Joe toy development

Torch by Rudat

It is in 1984 and 1985 that the G.I. Joe toy lines gets really fun.

’82 is great, but straightforward — all that green. A year later the color palette expands, but there’s still a lot of business. ’84 feels like my G.I. Joe, because those are the first figures I bought. And honestly, there’s a lot of mixing up of who and when, because I obtained several 1983 figures in their second year of availability, and key 1985 characters debuted on television in 1984.

But with the arrival of more flamboyant characters like Tomax and Xamot, and costume designs that were less formal like Bazooka and Quick Kick (or lack of a costume, as the case may be!), G.I. Joe found that right mix of serious and silly.

The Dreadnoks are a big part of that. For all of Zartan’s calculating performance, he’s still got these greedy bozos working for him. (Well, most of them are bozos.) I think much of the Dreadnoks’s popularity comes from their behavior in the Weather Dominator TV miniseries — they don’t fear Cobra Commander — but also how real-world and approachable their costumes are. They’re wearing blue jeans. And in an era when cool icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise were wearing cool sunglasses, there’s a small link to these biker thugs doing the same. Toy-wise, the Dreadnoks were also a trio. That was a team that was obtainable. A kid maybe couldn’t afford the full line of 20 open stock figures in 1985, but that could could probably get Torch, Buzzer, and Ripper and complete their sub-team!

So let’s look at Ron Rudat’s lovely character presentation artwork for Torch, my favorite of the original three Dreadnoks. Click to enlarge.

Rudat’s lines are lovely, with subtle feathering in his brushwork. The leather sure looks like leather, and while we’re a step away from this because it’s a color photocopy with those NTSC-like vertical lines, this piece still communicates care and skill.

And here’s Rudat’s sculpt input drawing via a photocopy, gorgeous in a different way. Click to enlarge.

I’ll never get over looking at this kind of drawing, that it is certainly a small consumer product, a toy, whereas the color piece is a person, a real guy.

Rudat draws a cocked brow here, and maybe the slightest smirk on Torch’s face. That does not carry over in the final sculpt, to the production figure that arrived at retail — Final Toy Torch has a neutral, more symmetrical expression. That’s fine, as in my mind he was always smirking, guffawing, pushing back at Zartan, at Cobra Commander, at the Joes.

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Mestophoni by Groen

 

Around 1994, Kurt Groen was sketching a bunch of super-heroes for possible inclusion in the G.I. Joe line.

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Wetsuit original sculpt by Merklein

The “Cobra Assassin” post from earlier today had some factual errors, so I’ve taken that down and am putting up this one it its place!

Wetsuit_sculpt_TEASE

Bill Merklein sculpted around 65 G.I. Joe action figures in the 1980s.

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Cobra Piranha model by David Kunitz

Close up of grey model GI Joe Cobra Piranha Kunitz

I often forget that half of the G.I. Joe line was vehicles.

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Rudat Serpentor Air Chariot sketches

Serpentor Air Chariot sketch detail by Ron Rudat

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Rock & Roll Hasbro development sketch

Detail, internal Hasbro pencil sketch design of 1989 Rock & Roll by Bart Sears and Ron Rudat

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

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1993 Leatherneck test shot

Test shot of GI Joe 1993 Leatherneck figure

While I was glad to see my favorite Joe Marine, the ’86 Leatherneck, get an update in ’93, I wasn’t thrilled by the color scheme.  It’s interesting, but it doesn’t say “Marine” to me.  But it’s unfair of me to want that since this update isn’t a Marine, or just a Marine, but an Infantry/Training Specialist and Marine Drill Sergeant.  And maybe such a person would wear burnt ochre, yellow, and teal.  So while the G.I. Joe line was moving back towards realism in the Battle Corps subset in ’93 and ’94, that wasn’t a guarantee that Leatherneck, one of the more realistic-looking figures of the ’80s, was going to stay realistic.  To be clear, though, I do like the design, just not the color choices.  My first reactions are the words “giraffe” and “banana,” and I’d only want to have that for some fanciful Jungle-Viper.

Which is why I was so struck by this test shot. Continue reading

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Unproduced Cobra sketch

detail of unproduced G.I. Joe Cobra character, probably from the late 1980s

Here’s an unproduced Cobra I don’t know anything about. Continue reading

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Battle Force 2000 Blocker sketch

GI Joe Battle Force 2000 Blocker Color detailYikes, has it been a month since my apology?  Here’s another:  Sorry!  Movie review coming soon.  Honest.

Dipping my toe back in the blog pool, here’s Blocker as a just-about final design, before he was “Blocker” (one of Hasbro’s least inspired codenames), when Battle Force 2000 was still “Future Force.”  Continue reading

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Unproduced G.I. Joe Vehicle – Borer

G.I. Joe Unproduced Borer by Andrei Koribanics close-upAndrei Koribanics freelanced for Hasbro in the mid-1980s.  Besides today’s Borer art, I’ve also come across a figure concept by him (that may end up in Chapter 14 of my book) and the presentation painting of Sgt. Slaughter’s Renegades (in Chapter 6).  Leaky Suit Brigade has a tiny interview with Koribanics, and should have a longer one up at some point. Continue reading

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