Tag Archives: G.I. Joe turnarounds

Gnawgahyde by Pennington

The Dreadnoks are a biker gang under the leadership of Zartan and informally and occasionally on the payroll of Cobra. It’s one of the wonderfully bizarre team dynamics in the G.I. Joe universe.

When these ruffians netted their newest member in 1989, he arrived as a vest-wearing poacher, complete with bow, quiver of arrows, hunting rifle, wrist-attached machete, and a pet wild boar. And a second knife that fits in that shin sheath! And a hat.

Here’s Mark Pennington’s sculpt figure input, click to enlarge:

Above you can see an early codename for Gnawgahyde was “Wart Hog,” or perhaps “Warthog,” but that moniker ended up on a wonderful amphibious Joe tank for 1988. I certainly did not know what gnawgahyde was at age 11, and this word felt more challenging than the other Dreadnoks’ names like “Torch” or “Thrasher,” but it fit. Fun fact that will reveal I wasn’t buying luggage, furniture, or automobile seats in the 1980s: I’ve always assumed that gnawgahyde was a kind of leather or animal skin, but in writing this blog post, I’ve learned that it is not a word, but that capital “N” Naugahyde® is a registered trademark, is a synthetic, and I probably have some somewhere in my closet or basement.

I tip my hat Hasbro’s R&D and Marketing team 32 years later, your joke is still landing. In my defense, Torch torched things and Thrasher trashed things, so I wasn’t looking all that deeply. “Gnawgahyde” straddles the line with the category of codenames that aren’t quite objects, like “Zartan.”

Pennington worked on the G.I. Joe toy line for about three years, starting at Hasbro on the tail end of 1985. He’s best known as an inker in the comics biz for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and more, but had a great stint as sole artist of the Carson of Venus “newspaper” strip in 2019 and 2020. It’s behind a paywall, but here are a few excerpts — I should note these are the first panels of three different strips, so there’s no continuity here, just nice drawing and storytelling. Click to enlarge only a little bit:

(More here at the Edgar Rice Burroughs website, although the Carson strip is now in different hands.) Mark Pennington also paints and exhibits in galleries, gorgeous and utterly different than toy design and comics, but still focusing on light, form, and anatomy. Find that work at his personal website here.

Gnawgahyde really came alive for me in the 1989 and 1990 episodes of the animated G.I. Joe. There he never interacts with the Dreadnoks, he doesn’t do any poaching, and he’s an oaf, but speaks with an Aussie accent, obeys Cobra Commander’s orders, and blows up Joe tanks.

Here’s that pet:

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Iron Grenadier by Mark Pennington

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1991 Dusty turnaround by Kurt Groen

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1988 Repeater turnaround by George Woodbridge

1988 GI Joe Repeater detail

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Windchill turnaround by Pennington

1989 Mark Pennington G.I. Joe Windchill close up

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Hit & Run’s almost-1995 transformation

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run action figure photo by Tim Finn

In 1988 Hasbro released a stunning G.I. Joe figure called Hit & Run.  Here’s a not-professional photo by me for context.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run toy photo by Tim Finn

No flesh tone, just green and black camo all over — his hands, his face, and his clothing.  Fun fact:  Hit & Run is [EDIT: one of] the only Joe[s] with whites-of-his-eyes.  All other figures 1982-1994 are flesh tone plastic with a paint detail in black, brown, blonde, or red for eyebrows and retina.  [EDIT: Two others have whites-of-eyes].

Here’s his turnaround, drawn by Mark Pennington, with machine gun, duffle bag (taking the place of a backpack), and accessories.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run figure sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run weapon sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run bag sculpt input Mark Pennington

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run accessories sculpt input Mark Pennington

Many Joe fans know that Real American Hero ended in 1994, and the planned 1995 line was scrapped, although images of package artwork and product samples have circulated.  Did you know Hit & Run was destined, in a way, for a return?

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run Hasbro memo as stealth figure for 1995

Indeed!  According to this memo from Greg Berndtson, Hit & Run, whose figure was never recolored or re-released, was going to be re-used for the ’95 line as the Stealth Tank Driver!  REVELATION.  Here’s his turnaround.

G.I. Joe 1995 Stealth Tank driver, sculpt input reused from 1988 Hit & Run, Mark Pennington

You’ll note it’s just a photocopy of Hit & Run’s, although a few specs have changed, which I have highlighted for clarity.  This looks to be early enough in the process that our new tank driver doesn’t yet have a codename, or if he does, as of June ’94 that’s happening in Marketing and Legal and the R&D guys don’t have the final name.

So what would he have looked like?  Kurt Groen’s breakdown tells us, even if it doesn’t show us:

G.I. Joe 1995 Stealth Tank driver color breakdown

Using these codes as a guide, I’ve taken the liberty of coloring that sculpt input myself.  So here for the first time ever is what the unnamed Phantom X5-3 Stealth Tank driver would have looked like:

G.I. Joe 1988 Hit & Run as unproduced 1995 vehicle driver

I’ve taken a small liberty here.  For clarity I used a dark grey rather than black, and I’m approximating “LT YELLOW GRN.”  “IVY,” as well, but that’s less up to guessing.  After the sidetracks and excesses of ’91 – ’93, the ’94 line was getting back to basics and ’95 would have only continued the trend.  That it never happened has always been a little sad, although the Real American Hero line certainly surpassed all expectations by lasting twelve years.  I hope you’ve enjoy this look behind the curtain at what may have been.

Fun fact:  Hit & Run is the only Joe [EDIT: one of only two] with an ampersand in his name that doesn’t denote an animal companion.  Law & Order was Law, the MP, and his K-9, Order.  Spearhead and Max is the point man named Spearhead and his bobcat, Max.  Well, that’s the word “and” rather than an ampersand, but you get my drift.  Hit & Run is this guy’s whole name, ampersand-ed idiom and all.

[EDIT: Thanks to Tolan, who caught my two errors, as noted in the comments below.  -Tim]

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Budo 1988 turnaround

G.I. Joe Budo 1988 action figure turnaround

Having a ninja commando on the team was just the start.  In 1988, G.I. Joe got a real-life samurai in the form of Budo.  Here’s his action figure sculpt input sheet.

G.I. Joe Budo 1988 action figure turnaround art by George Woodbridge

Figure art, above, by George Woodbridge.  Accessory art, below, by Mark Pennington.

G.I. Joe Budo 1988 accessory input art by Mark Pennington

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Behind the scenes of G.I. Joe – Hydro-Viper

Today’s art post is the complete sculpt input (i.e. “turnaround”) for the 1988 Hydro-Viper.  Again for casual or non-fans, let’s start with a photo (by me, not my fancy book photographer) of the production figure for a baseline comparison.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper figure

Here’s George Woodbridge’s turnaround.  Such a crisp and clean line, and a deft spotting of blacks.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper figure turnaround

Note that the figure is referred to as “Cobra Frogman,” so “Hydro-Viper” hadn’t yet cleared Legal.

Woodbridge’s association with G.I. Joe is limited. He drew most of the ’88 inputs, and did many of the Hasbro-internal figure presentation paintings that Dave Dorman and Bart Sears didn’t around 1988.  Writer Mark Evanier wrote a short biography of Woodbridge in 2004 when the artist passed away.  You can find it here, but if you want a shorter version, I’ll just throw out the terms “Mad Magazine” and “military and historical illustration.”  In the near future I’ll show a few more pieces like this here, and in the not-near future I’ll have Woodbridge’s Crazylegs (a Joe paratrooper) color piece in my book.

Here are three sheets of the Hydro-Viper’s accessories, drawn by Bart Sears.  In toys, Sears is known for designing Hasbro’s C.O.P.S.  In comics, Sears drew Justice League Europe and has recently penciled some Conan and Indiana Jones for Dark Horse.  Of note here is the ray, the most bizarre of all animals that any G.I. Joe figure came packaged with.

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper backpack turnaround

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper weapons turnaround

G.I. Joe 1988 Hydro-Viper manta ray turnaround

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