Tag Archives: Russ Heath
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.
Ho boy. It’s difficult to discuss the 1989-1991 G.I. Joe animated series without stirring up strong emotions. Pop culture recognizes the fun of the 1983-1987 series, whether it be Cobra Commander’s voice, the Public Service Announcements, or all the property damage. And dig a little deeper, and you get superb voice acting, smart writing, and strong characterization. And of course, action! But these are not as present in the later episodes. Artist extraordinaire Russ Heath, who designed the animation character models for the Marvel/Sunbow episodes, did come back for most of that second round, but the change in tone and lower production budget didn’t treat his design work as well. The DIC run is hard to watch. 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
In this Ted Pedersen-written episode of G.I. Joe from 1985, “Satellite Down,” the Joes track a lost satellite to somewhere in an “unexplored region” of Africa. There they meet a tribe of primitives called Primords, who worship the satellite as a god. And Storm Shadow and Spirit fight!
Here’s Russ Heath’s original artwork (pencil on animation bond — I cropped out the punch holes) for one version, unused in the episode, for the Primord Chief.
I don’t recall when this generic trooper (version two) appeared within the 1984 G.I. Joe animated miniseries, “The Revenge of Cobra,” (feel free to chime in in the comments), but here’s a little art of him. (Version one, not pictured in this post, is sans camo.) First up is a black and white photocopy of the model sheet, with cel paint color codes written in pencil.
And here’s the color model sheet — cel vinyl (like acrylic paint) on the back of an animation cel. Two or three of these were painted for every single character that appeared (standard for animation, not just the G.I. Joe production). One or two stayed in the States, and one or two went overseas with all the scripts, storyboards, and background keys to the animation studio that would produce the bulk of the show, in this case Toei in Japan.
This art is likely Russ Heath, since he’s the main designer credited on “Revenge,” but I should point out that eight other artists appear in the end credits of these five episodes. They did costume changes, props, and lesser background characters so there’s a chance one of them took a Heath drawing of Generic Joe version one and added a few details.
I don’t know if the term “greenshirts” came about in early Joe fandom, or in 2000 when Devil’s Due Press published its G.I. Joe comic book and canonized the term, but I’ve never liked the word (even though it’s wonderfully accurate) because it represents the animation’s misunderstanding of the Joe concept from almost year one. With generic soldiers running around in the background of every episode, G.I. Joe becomes a stand-in for the regular, larger armed forces, rather than Delta Force, (what it’s actually a stand-in for), akin to the A-Team or the Mission: Impossible folks. It’s not hundreds of men and women, it’s five or ten or 20 on smaller missions.
But seriously, I don’t recall when this guy shows up. Do you?
Today’s art peak brings you several photocopies of Russ Heath’s model sheets for the 1985 season of the animated G.I. Joe. While the Snake-Eyes action figure was iconically all black, the TV series had previously shown him in dark blue. (All black doesn’t “read” well in animation.) For 1985, SE went dark grey, which to my eye reads better than the dark blue and works better as a stand-in for black since dark blue is already associated with Cobra. Russ Heath’s front view:
Clearly based, as many of his drawings were, on Hasbro’s internal presentation artwork:
This one, a black and white photocopy, doesn’t have a signature, and I’ll admit I don’t know who painted it. To my eye it’s not Ron Rudat — the proportions and clothing folds don’t match with work that I know is Rudat. The anatomy is tight, which says George Woodbridge, but his Joe work was colored and black ink, not rendered paintings. Maybe one of you eagle eyed Joe collectors can correct me in the comments. There is a slightly better reproduction of this image, still a black and white photocopy of a color photocopy, though, in Vincent Santelmo’s Official 30th Anniversary Salute to G.I. Joe.
Two more views by Heath:
And SE’s undercover disguise, drawn by Bruce Timm, from the beginning of “Battle for the Train of Gold.” To give you a sense of the timeline, this was drawn in August 1984, and the episode aired 14 months later.
And what appears to be an unused alternate from same.
I’m not sure where in the storyline of “Train” there would have been an opportunity for SE to wear this, but there is a horse farm in act 3, so who knows?