Super7 Spotlight: Michael Gulen / G.I. Joe
With the launch of Wave 5 of our G.I. Joe ReAction Figures, we spoke with Senior Product Design Manager Michael Gulen about his history with G.I. Joe and his role with this latest release.
How long have you been at Super7 and were you familiar with the company before starting?
I've been working with Super7 for about 5 years. I was very familiar with the products Super7 created as I've been a longtime fan.
What is your favorite part about working on G.I. Joe?
G.I. Joe is fantastic to work on! It really takes me back to my childhood when I used to play with the figures and watch the cartoon. I vividly remember playing with them out in the yard in dirt piles right after I watched that days' episode. Working on G.I. Joe almost every day is pure nostalgia.
What was your first G.I. Joe project?
I was hired as the lead designer for G.I. Joe, so I've been art directing the Joe series since almost the beginning for ReAction Figures, ULTIMATES!, and Super Cyborg.
How were the Wave 5 characters of the G.I. Joe ReAction Figures selected?
The Wave 5 line-up is great. I worked closely with Brian Flynn deciding which core characters and ancillary characters to include. Wave 5 has a mix of everything from episodic specific characters (Duke and Snake Eyes) to deep cuts (Raven) to never before produced characters (MP), to vintage homage (Red Laser) and the introduction of more original Super7 designs (Camo Cobra Soldier).
G.I. Joe Wave 5 pre-production digital sculpts
Are there different challenges with creating each release wave?
Every wave presents its own challenges. With Wave 5 in particular, it was, how do we bring back some core characters that we've already done in a standard look, but update them in a way that will be appealing to the collector that may already have those earlier figures. For example, with Duke and Snake Eyes, we were able to play on the episode The Revenge of Cobra: The Vines of Evil and have the figures equipped with their duel gear. We were able to include the glow-in-the-dark sword and trident as seen in the episode as well as it gave me an opportunity to include a soft-goods net for Snake Eyes which screams vintage Joe to me. We also resculpted Duke's head for Wave 5 so he looks more like the cartoon version compared to his previous ReAction Figure.
Is there a specific era that Super7 focuses on for G.I. Joe?
Super7 G.I. Joe designs are definitely focused on the 1980's cartoon show. We are really striving to embody that aesthetic which sets the ReAction Figures apart from the vintage figures, both with design and color choices. With Wave 5 specifically, I really made sure that Mutt and Junkyard mirrored the cartoon look. as well as the Crimson Twins, as opposed to just redoing the vintage design.
How much do vintage G.I. Joe toys inspire the Super7 G.I. Joe figures?
For the ReAction Figures, we've been touching on vintage figure designs that may not be as easily accessible to the collector, such as foreign recolors. For Red Laser specifically, instead of just recoloring our Wave 1 Cobra Commander, we revisited the sculpt and detailed it to match closer to the vintage figure.
We've also been building an army of Ninjas with our Target exclusives, such as Red Ninja, Ninja Ku, and Ninja Viper (coming late-February 2023).
For the ULTIMATES! Figures, I've been trying to enhance the figures with vintage style accessories that may not have appeared in the cartoon. Duke, for example, comes with his SMG, backpack, and helmet inspired by the vintage figure.
What has been your favorite G.I. Joe project so far?
My favorite Super7 G.I. Joe project so far has to be: **Not yet announced** - something great for 2023. If you are a robot fan, you will not be disappointed. COBRAAA! I also really enjoyed working on the Pyramid of Darkness box set since it contained almost all figures that have never been created before.
Is there anything that you want to add?
I can't wait to continue to bring more awesome G.I. Joe designs to the fans!
Senior Product Design Manager at Super7