Such a critical part of a successful toy launch and marketing blitz is the packaging style and the artwork on those packages. Ever since 1982, the G.I. Joe line has put a huge focus on the artwork that adorns their packaging, and the Sigma 6 toyline was no different. If anything, it put an even larger emphasis on package design, especially on the 2.5″ line.
For this celebration, I took some time to talk to Chris Lie. Most folks may not know his name, or may know him better from his comic work, but Chris Lie (who is probably most well-known for his amazing all-encompassing cover to G.I. Joe: America’s Elite #25) also did the artwork for the entire 6-issue Sigma 6 limited series, as well as the art for the 8″ Commando scale figures from the Sigma 6 line. Chris was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule and talk to me, so please click the link below to read that interview:
GeneralJoes: How did you get involved in the design process for the Sigma 6 toyline?
Chris Lie: It was back when I was an intern at DDP. Hasbro asked DDP to do some sketches for the next GI Joe toyline. I did some sketches and they liked it. Maybe it’s because my Asian-influenced drawing style was what Hasbro’s looking for. The next day I started drawing the turnaround for Heavy Duty, Duke and Snake Eyes based on inputs by Hasbro.
GJ: Was the anime influence something you were instructed to incorporate, or was that just a natural progression of your style of art?
CL: At that time, I didn’t know what exactly that they’re looking for. But I remember that Hasbro mentioned something about Japanese influence to the proportion and design.
GJ: Did you do the art for all of the 8″ figures?
CL: Not all of them. The first wave weren’t mine. I started to draw the packaging art somewhere in the middle of wave 2. I think it might be the Heavy Duty with the Flame Thrower.
GJ: The 2.5″ figures had a much different art style. Did you have any input into those pieces, or was it purely the 8″ figures?
CL: No. I only did the art for the 8″ figures.
GJ: Were there any improvisations you did with the art for the figures that ended up getting incorporated into the final product?
CL: I don’t remember it. It was quite a while ago.
GJ: Did you do full body art for every character on the package art?
GJ: What really influenced the art style that you have, and how much did that come into play with drawing the Sigma 6 art?
CL: The reference art from Gonzo Studio Japan and my drawing style were quite similar, so I didn’t have to alter my style.
GJ: Did you have any input into the actual designs of the figures, or did you just get the inputs and draw the figure based on the existing design?
CL: I think mostly the designs are from Hasbro.
GJ: What was your favorite character to draw?
CL: Tunnel Rat, Snake Eyes, and Heavy Duty (with his big guns) and Aero BATS.
GJ: Was there a lot of art that you did for figures that never saw release?
CL: All the packaging art that I did were printed but I’m not sure about the style guide artworks.
GJ: Which was your favorite piece for something that never saw the light of day?
CL: There is a drawing of Spirit aiming with his bow and arrow that I like a lot.
GJ: You also worked on the Sigma 6 comics as well as the package art. Which did you like working on more, the art or the comic itself?
CL: Both of them. The comic gave me more opportunity to understand how the characters act and move, while the art for packaging gave me more opportunity to draw characters with different costumes and weaponaries that are not in the comic. It’s also kind of refreshing for me in the middle of drawing the comic.
GJ: What kind of restrictions were placed on you by Hasbro or Devils’ Due when working on the package art or comic?
CL: The only one thing I remember is not drawing their guns pointing at the viewer.
GJ: You’re also pretty famous for doing the cover art for America’s Elite #25 featuring the full complement of the G.I. Joe team. How hard was it to produce that cover? What kind of research did you have to do?
CL: It’s pretty hard and took me 2 weeks to finish it. I penciled and inked it on 20″ x 28″ size.
Thank God that my beloved editor, Mike O’Sullivan was the one who did all the research and collect the reference. He provided me with everything I needed. He’s the best.
GJ: Do you prefer drawing the more vintage “Real American Hero” style of G.I. Joe, or the more modernized “Sigma 6″ versions of these characters?
CL: I’ve done both of them, but I have to say I prefer to draw the Sigma 6 version, but hopefully one day I have chance to draw GI Joe with the Metal Gear Solid game style (not the brushy style artwork of the design’s concept). It’s more towards painted, detail, and finished style artwork.
GJ: Can we expect any more G.I. Joe work from you in the future?
CL: I’m still working on GI Joe related stuffs regularly until today, but maybe people didn’t know it since I drew with many different style to match the art direction. I definitely would love to do GI Joe comic again one day if I have a chance.
GJ: What are you working on now?
CL: I just finished Return to Labyrinth volume 3 from Tokyopop last month. Beside working on illustrations for card games, me and my studiomates are doing some concept designs for toys and PS3 video games. You can check some of our previous works and portfolios at www.caravanstudio.com.
GJ: Where can we see more of your stuff?
CL: Drafted from DDP and Return to Labyrinth volume 3 (Tokyopop) and Drafted volume 2 TPB should be out.
GJ: It says on your site that you do commission work…do you do Sigma 6 related commissions as well?
CL: I’ve been limiting my commission work in the last 2 years because I’m concentrating to run my studio, but I’m open to do Sigma6 commission at conventions.
I would just like to give Chris Lie a big thanks for taking some time out to answer some fanboy questions about a toyline that died a couple of years ago. He certainly had no obligation, but was nice enough to answer my questions. Return the favor by checking out his website chriscomic.com! As a special bonus to this article as well, I’m showing below a nice sized gallery of a bunch of the character art from the packaging that Chris did while doing work for Hasbro. These are NOT just the “waist up” views seen on the box, these are full-figure drawings that are pretty damn cool. Enjoy, and be back here tomorrow for Day 3, the Unproduced! I’m going to be posting a page linking what Sigma 6 style unproduced items have been dug up online, centralized in one place here.
Chris Lie’s Artwork for the 8″ Package Art
Artwork for the 2.5″ Mission Scale Packages