Friday, August 2, 2013

The G.I. Joe Artwork of Hector Garrido

Cobra C.L.A.W., 1984

I'll never forget being a kid and looking up at toy racks in stores like Woolworths, the now defunct BEST chain, and the out of business KB Toys and trying sooooooo haaaaard to decide which G.I. Joe toy I would momentarily beg, plead, and bargain with my mom to get me!  Without a doubt it was the colorful and exciting packaging that drew me toward those toys.  In my opinion the design of the 1980's G.I. Joe toy line, from the artwork and graphic design of the packaging to the character design and sculpting of the figures (for the first several series there were very few duds!), and the thought put into each character's biography are unsurpassed in the realm of American toys.  All of those physical and intellectual details are what Larry Hama (writer of the file card biographies and the original 155 G.I. Joe comics from Marvel) calls "the little bit of information that triggers the internal fantasy machine to fill in the holes, gloss over the mold lines, forgive the compromises for the realities of manufacturing and creates that wholly personal 'state of play' wherein universes are born."*  

Toys were to me (and still are, let's face it) like a Bowflex home gym for the imagination.  They provided a little information and then you'd tell yourself a story and take your toys for a ride anywhere you wanted and for as long as you felt like (or until you had to go to bed).  As an illustrator I undoubtedly still enjoy the benefits of those moments I spent contemplatively smashing Snake Eyes into Destro and putting the bad guy into a jail made out of sticks jabbed into the dirt.

As I get older and look back more and more to those times under the trees in my yard with my tons of Joe toys (I was a lucky kid to be surrounded by so much plastic) I realise how much of an impact the art and design, especially the packaging art, has had on me as an artist.  And I only recently discovered the name of one of the artists responsible for it:  Hector Garrido.  From what I can tell Garrido is responsible for much of, if not all of, the artwork featured on the packaging of the earlier series runs.  He contributed to everything from action figure and vehicle packaging to game backgrounds and the covers for the G.I. Joe Find Your Fate book series.   I have no idea how long he contributed to the toy line but it is obvious as the series advanced the artwork was being made by someone else, but his were the best.

In my searches online for Hector Garrido's links to G.I. Joe almost  no one on Joe fan sites and message boards mention this guy at all.  A little strange and sort of sad considering that he's probably hugely responsible for a lot of folks appreciation for the toys and even for inspiring other artists.  It's also interesting to think of the impact his renditions of those characters had on the sales of G.I. Joe toys for Hasbro (and still have, for in recent years the company has reissued a lot of characters from the original line with packaging that features Garrido's old artwork but updated to accommodate changes to the figures).  After all, and at the very least, that artwork maybe more than anything else influenced the imagination of all the boys and girls who were standing there in stores just like I was, aiding them in their decision of which figure they wanted most.  Well, the artwork and how many accessories they came with.

Apart from G.I. Joe, Garrido illustrated countless book covers for Gothic romance novels (flickr page
), Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir's 1970's action adventure series "The Destroyer" (which in 1985 became the Fred Ward starring, OKish/crummy action flick Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins [it didn't continue]), Paul Kenyon's espionage series "The Baroness" (no relation to the Joe character), an awesome looking series of horror paperbacks from Avon Books (including Richard Matheson's "A Stir of Echoes"), and Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures, and much, much more.

* From the Foreword of Mark Bellomo's "Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994" 2nd edition

Anyway, here are some of my favorites:

Cobra Commander, Battle Armor, 1987

Barbecue, 1985

Cobra Soldier, 1983

B.A.T.S.,  1986

Cobra H.I.S.S. 1983

Doc, 1983

Dusty, 1985

Firefly, 1984

Cobra Commander, 1984

Lady Jaye, 1985

Mutt and Junkyard, 1984

Flash, 1982

Storm Shadow, 1988

Cobra Flight Pod, Trubble Bubble, 1985

Zartan's Swamp Skier 1984

Zartan. 1984

Crimson Guard, 1985

Baroness, 1984

Snake Eyes, 1985

Tele-Vipers, 1985

Alpine, 1985

Bazooka, 1985

Beachhead, 1986

Eels, 1985

Scrap Iron, 1984

Torch, 1985

Destro, 1983

Storm Shadow, 1984


  1. nice, you read my mind. exact same scenario, and only just today finally got those paperback find your fates and saw his name on the inside. even in joe documentaries on youtube i didn't hear this name and always thought it was one of the toy designers doing the artwork. you're right, it's turning the corner of the aisle at toys r us and seeing all that colorful box art blasting out at you that played such a huge part in the experience. i'm amazed we used to just toss those boxes into the trash but space was always an issue when limited to just one bedroom. as i got back into collecting later it was the packaging that was the most essential part of the hunt. I wonder where all those originals are now? that should be a documentary in itself...thanks for posting!

  2. imagine a gallery exhibit with all the original paintings framed up...

    1. Forever kicking myself for being so harsh to that sweet packaging as a kid! I'm glad you enjoyed it, Rich! Thanks a lot for stopping by!

  3. How did you find his name? Ive been on board upon board and never heard of this artist? Was he just a contract Hasbro artist? very interesting how the g.I. Joe universe branches out. ANYWAYS! WAAAY back FireFlys card had me and my friends wanting to rob swiss banks! HA!

  4. this is my grandfather. He no longer paints as he is 86, but he was a great artist, as a kid he even painted a GI Joe on my cast when i broke my leg! =)

    1. Hello Cristina!! Thanks for writing and sharing that little story about your cast! That's so sweet! I wonder who he painted on there! Your grandfather was indeed a very talented person and I really appreciate his work. It has been very inspiring to me and I look at it quite often to get a bit of a refresher on what a real pro's work looks like. Thanks for writing, Cristina!!

    2. Christina, hello! Would love to chat with you about your grandfather some if you have a minute. He is a great artist, and I can imagine all of the doodling and sketches he did for you kids. Send me an email
      Cheers, Dan

    3. Thanks for the comment! Glad to know he's still kicking :-)

      I hope we can get more info on your grandfather, and the rest of the illustrators. For instance, was he hired by Werbin and Morrill? (Hasbro's New York advertising agency)

      I'm working on a book of Joe art and would love to properly credit him and the rest of the artists that illuminated my childhood with their amazing illustrations. Check out my posters and email me at if your grandfather would like some free copies!

    4. Do you think your grandfather would mind signing an old G I Joe box I just found in my parents basemet? What a treasure that would be for me!!!! Please feel free to email me at

    5. Cristina, please give your grandfather my very best wishes and thank him on my behalf for all the beautiful artwork he created for my generation through his work with Hasbro on the G.I. Joe line. It's an honor to know that Mr. Hector Garrido is a fellow Hispanic as well. He is truly one of the great Masters of his craft. Mi sincero agradecimiento desde el fondo de mi alma y mi mas grande estima para tu abuelo.

    6. Hola Cristina, recientemente descubrí el maravilloso arte de tu abuelo, la verdad no lo puedo creer...un genio total! te dejo mi mail, Me gustaría charlar un poco acerca de su trabajo. Por favor contactame. Gracias!

    7. Hi Christina. I would love to know if any of the original G.I. Joe art he painted is available. I would love to make you an offer.

      Kindest regards

  5. It was the artwork and overall package design that drew me to toys as a small boy. Sometimes it was the art alone that helped me to decide what to buy. I only recently learned of Hector Garridos' connection to Hasbro's G.I.Joe toy line. Thank you Alan for posting this. It truly is sad that so few Joe related websites know of his contributions. Cristina, I along with Alan and Dan would love the opportunity to speak with you about your Grandfather, his career, his life, etc. My email is Please feel free to send me a message. Kris

  6. great article! since I was a kid I wonder who is such great artist. and now I am happy to know his name is Hector Garrido.

  7. Thanks so much for the information, Alan. Mr. Garrido literally painted the things that made my childhood joyful. Up to this very day, I have been trying to find out his name. He deserves an entire hardcover artbook dedicated to his career. His G.I. Joe portfolio alone deserves to be collected as thoroughly as possible.

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  9. Thank you for the post. I am a GI Joe fan who alos loved the art on the packaging so this was a nice read. :)

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