Tag Archives: Kurt Groen

Cesspool by Groen

Cesspool turnaround TEASE

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.

Groen was primary figure designer in 1990. Here’s a color copy of his presentation art for Cesspool. 1989 and 1990 were the transition years where Hasbro stopped hiring outside artists to paint fine art renderings of each character that made it to internal final approval — not package artwork that would be seen by the public — and it’s here that instead of seeing Dave Dorman, George Woodbridge, and Bart Sears paintings, we see Kurt Groen drawings. These are often blown-up photocopies of his final pencil studies, colored in with marker. (And this is a photocopy of the marker original.) Click to enlarge!

Cesspool XEROX color presentation art by Kurt Groen

(Note the blade in the back of Cesspool’s boot under my watermark.) Groen drew Cesspool’s turnaround, his sculpt input drawing. This was handed off to a sculptor.

Cesspool 1991 GI Joe turnaround photocopy art by Kurt Groen

The blade is now a part of the boot, and not a hinged piece or a clip-on. These kinds of small details got absorbed and costed out all the time, often with sidearm holsters and grenades getting kind of mooshed into a figure’s torso or legs so that the piece would properly pop out of the mold in the factory during production. Any anyway, we lose the sense of these vertical details as blades and metal when they were painted black, the same color as Cesspool’s boots in the final figure, so they just become a decorative architectural structure for his boots. Instead of stompy boots, Cesspool gets really stompy boots. Here’s a tiny, crummy photo that you can’t enlarge:

Groen also drew breakdowns on Cesspool’s accessories, the backpack and the chainsaw.

1991 Cesspool GI Joe accessories chainsaw Kurt Groen

I’m missing a photocopy here, as there would be one more drawing to show the inner pouch of the backpack (the squishy part where you push your thumb to make the water shoot), the hose, and the squirt gun. While I didn’t love the bright colors and oversimplification of a complex political and societal issue in the form of the Eco-Warriors (Cobra wants the pollute! Joes shoot their own anti-sludge to clean up the environment!), I liked Cesspool. His uniform feels appropriately regal and flamboyant as a leader in Cobra and business, his scar makes him a cartoon villain, and as a CEO, he offered much to the ongoing story of Cobra’s business ties with fictional companies like MARS or Extensive Enterprises, although these links weren’t explored. As a fad character, Cesspool’s days were likely numbered in the ongoing story of G.I. Joe from the start.

What do you think of Cesspool?

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1991 Dusty turnaround by Kurt Groen

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Kurt Groen’s Cobra Zombie

Kurt Groen 1990 G.I. Joe Cobra Zombie pencil detail

Hey, all.  Sorry for the delay.  End of school and store events.  But, hey, G.I. Joe!
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1992 Duke alternate colors

Detail of 1992 G.I. Joe Duke art by Kurt Groen in alternate colors

Here’s Kurt Groen’s presentation art (marker over photocopy, not paint) for 1992 Duke in green, brown, and black, as opposed to the beige and red that made it to market.

1992 G.I. Joe Duke art by Kurt Groen in alternate colors

What other colors might that trash can have been?

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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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Eco-Warriors Pirate Oil Baron

Unproduced Eco-Warriors Pirate Oil Baron detail by Kurt Groen

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.

Unproduced Eco-Warriors Pirate Oil Baron pencil art by Kurt Groen

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.

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Toxo-Viper v2 presentation sketch and comp

Detail of Kurt Groen 1991 Toxo-Viper v2 color comp

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:

Kurt Groen 1991 Toxo-Viper v2 pencil artKurt Groen 1991 Toxo-Viper v2 color sketch

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:

Kurt Groen 1991 Toxo-Viper v2 color sketch detail

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.

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