So when I kicked off this nearly month-long review fest, I posted a public plea for any guest reviewers who wanted to pitch in…and someone has stepped up in a big way.
Although not a traditional review necessarily, Gyre-Viper took this opportunity to do something very cool. Through his time as a Joe fan, he’s made some connections, and one of those connections was with Bill Merklein. Bill Merklein is probably not a name most folks know, but believe me, you absolutely know his work. This is the man who sculpted somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 2-ups of some of the most treasured figures and characters in the vintage G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line up.
Probably one of his most infamous works, though, was a sculpt that he did for Rocky Balboa, another planned mail away exclusive that never came to pass.
Well, just for GeneralsJoes, Gyre-Viper called up Bill Merklein and spoke with him about his experience with Hasbro, and specifically his experience with the Rocky Balboa project, and he has decided to share this with the audience here. A very, very cool move, and one that I’m happy to be able to spread the word about.
Sometimes I don’t feel like there is enough appreciation of the “time gone by” and the history of G.I. Joe or the people involved. It is so awesome to get a behind the scenes look like this, and I really want to thank Gyre-Viper for making it happen. Click the “Read the Rest of this Entry” link below to check it all out, YouTube links and all. Just as a note, the YouTube videos are audio only, but still crammed with very cool information.
I could listen to this over and over…a huge thanks to Gyre-Viper and especially to Bill Merklein for not only taking the time here, but for lending his awesome talents to sculpting and designing some legendary toys that have created a devoted following nearly three decades later.
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Review by Bill Merklein and Gyre-Viper
As most of you know, I’m relatively new to Joe collecting. I’ve always loved G.I. Joe… as far back as I can recall… but didn’t start collecting it until May of ’09 (give or take). So I’ve never really done a ‘review’ per say as I’m still in my “ah okay so that’s what that is” and “oh… so those are Duke’s arms… gotcha” stages. But what I lack in technical wield and overall trivia, I do try and make up for via digging up and bringing forth preproduction items or canceled items… or in this case… something that is both a preproduction item… that was eventually canceled. So I thought since Justin was on this big review kick, I’d review something for once, but with a little help. So I called up Bill Merklein who is responsible for sculpting about 60 2ups in the 80’s for Hasbro, from Recondo to I believe either Windchill or Sub-Zero (all he can recall is that one of his last pieces for GI JOE was an arctic themed figure). Mr. Merklein also sculpted the canceled, unfulfilled Rocky Balboa concept. He sculpted two of them in fact. One had a headband… and this headband version as a full 2up was sculpted and sent off to Hasbro… and either hides in a private collection somewhere OR was manipulated and mutated into Big Boa, at Hasbro’s end, from the neck down (whether or not the head with the headband still exists anywhere is a mystery)… and then there’s the version without the headband, the original sculpt, which never made it to the fully realized head-to-toe 2up phase and was never sent to Hasbro… and this is what I’m (well, actually Bill’s) “reviewing” today, the original ‘bust,’ pre-headband, and the only GI JOE sculpt Bill Merklein preserved over the years (as all the finished items were sent off to Hasbro). So this Rocky sculpt (as pictured) is kind of an oddity. It’s a canceled take on what would later be a canceled concept all together. It’s like a prototype of a prototype, if you will.
My recording equipment is packed away so I went low-budget and recorded Bill phone to phone video. It’s not the best audio quality but if I’ve listened to it twice and so I know it’s at least audible to some extent. heheheh. So there’s no visual… just audio. It’s split into two parts. You’ll hear my cat’s bell collar. This was a last minute idea so it’s nothing fancy but I hope (and Bill hopes) you find it interesting and insightful and fun none-the-less.