In the late 80s and early 90s, Hasbro licensed their G.I. Joe line to several Nordic European countries who had various regulations against showing a toy using a weapon. In these instances, countries like Sweden and Denmark got the same G.I. Joe figures as we did in the U.S. (under the Action Force brand) but with variant artwork. I haven’t been able to find every variation but below are several. It makes for an interesting comparison. You can see that sometimes the artwork is just slightly modified while other times completely new artwork has been created and the overall style is a bit different. Above is the back of a card that shows small thumbnails for several figures I could not locate the full artwork for such as Bullhorn, Metal Head, Pathfinder, Range Viper and S.A.W. Viper who are illustrated without weapons.
This is 100% new card art. It’s more of an illustrated style than the usual detailed paintings G.I. Joe uses. I’d call this some of the weaker artwork in general. Not that Budo was the best figure, but this art does not make him look cool. He’s just waving his hands in a non-threatening manner.
COBRA COMMANDER (BATTLE ARMOR)
It looks like this may have used the original art in some way. Because it doesn’t really look copied. The fine details like reflections on the shins or shading on the belt look identical. But they have redrawn the arm on the right-hand side to simply be holding his belt instead of holding a sci-fi gun. Looks pretty good, still.
This is completely new art although the pose is certainly inspired by the original. But Hardball’s whole gimmick is having his grenade launcher. So if he’s just standing around he mostly looks like a guy begging for a pick up game of softball.
This artwork is interesting because it’s clearly been copied in some way. It’s the exact same pose. But it isn’t modified from the original – it’s completely redone. The details are slightly different for all the textures. I’d say he still looks good because of the mask and the fists at the ready. Looks like the artist did forget to color the red padding on the ribcage red, though.
This one cracks me up. He looks like such a wimp kneeling down with his hand up, like he’s begging for mercy or maybe playing crossing guard at a miniature train convention. That said, I actually think the painted artwork on the Nordic card is stronger than the original. There’s more depth and better shadow on across the torso. The helmet looks more solid and real, even if it is sci-fi. The Nordic painting is better but the pose with no weapon looks bad.
Same pose but completely repainted because now they can’t show the reflection of the laser fire. At least they still have him wearing his signature accessory. It’s just pointed backwards, which the toy could actually do. It’s not too bad.
It is interesting how the characters can all have weapons on their body. Guns in holsters, grenades across the chest. He just can’t be aiming a weapon. I’d say the Nordic artwork is much worse. Everything has less depth and texture even though it’s copied from the same pose. And his forearms look minuscule. He looks like he’s either throwing a tantrum or using all his muscles to hold in a fart. Not great.
Same pose, but simpler art. Yet I don’t think it’s bad. I actually think the face looks better on the Nordic art, even though the U.S. art has better detail on the body. The Nordic art doesn’t have too bad a pose. He’s reaching for his weapon. Not a bad compromise. Surprised they didn’t do that more often. It’s interesting to note that several of these Nordic card art pieces feature their main weapon as an outline behind them.
Oof, the Nordic art looks significantly worse. I think the U.S. art here is some of the stronger artwork of its time, regardless of how you feel about the figure. The painting on the right makes the armor and suit look very functional. The Nordic one on the left is like the cosplay version. And then the pose is SO boring. Totally mundane. Okay for an officer, perhaps, but not an evil ninja. Couldn’t he at least look like he’s sneaking around?
At first glance this looks very similar, with the exception of the missing gun. But it is redrawn. The Nordic version has harsher lines on the muscles and hair. It’s not quite as good there, but the backpack might be a slight improvement. I think they should’ve just dropped his weaponless arm to be behind his leg. He looks odd having his arm tucked in close to his body.
The Nordic card art legit made me laugh the first time I saw it. The thumbs up is hilarious. In every other example the hand is a fist, but this guy is giving a thumbs up. To who? Too funny. It’s an interesting piece of art to compare. Obviously the Nordic art copied the original U.S. art but that made me realize how much more illustrated the U.S. version looks than usual. Most G.I. Joe art leans towards a painted style but look at how crisp the detail on Psyche-Out’s chest piece is on the U.S. artwork. The Nordic version seems to actually get the chestpiece quite wrong. It’s missing the gun holster. It’s also missing the antenna on the back of Psyche-Out’s headgear. Not great attention to detail.
This might be the most subtle change of all the artwork. It looks like they have the exact same artwork for almost everything except for Road Pig’s left arm, which has been repainted to remove his mini-crossbow. It’s done in a very faithful style. Makes me wonder if the same artist made this variation. Only odd thing for me is that the fist is facing us. You’d think it would be turned in, towards the body. Instead it looks like he’s making some sort of salute. Both versions are missing Road Pig’s one black glove on his left hand.
The Nordic version features a very similar pose but it isn’t the same. I don’t think this was lightboxed or anything. It’s simpler art but it’s okay. His left leg looks too short – the foreshortening there isn’t great. And they probably should’ve made more of an effort to make his pants look brown and yellow instead of orange and dark orange. The outlined weapons on his back don’t quite make sense. We see a single tripod leg and his heavy machine gun. No idea how that would strap to his back.
The original U.S. art is so far superior on this one. The Nordic version without a weapon still looks good but it’s because it’s copied a really fantastic pose with a pretty well-designed action figure. If you start to examine the detail on the version on the left it’s very simple compared to the great detail on the right. I think the U.S. version is among the best card art on G.I. Joe action figures, period.
SNAKE EYES (VERSION 3)
The Nordic version of Snake Eyes here just looks weird as he appears to have had every single weapon removed. No grenades or knives or swords or guns or anything. Looks more like a robot learning to say hello with that strange chest piece they made up to replace the knives.
In some ways I think the artwork itself is better on Spearhead in the Nordic version. It’s a very bland pose so that’s too bad. But I think he looks a lot closer to the action figure than the U.S. card art. The U.S. card art did a better bobcat face but the body is not good at all on that animal. And the U.S. Spearhead head looks tiny. It’s also too colorless. I’d give the slight edge to the Nordic art.
The Nordic art makes the ninjas look so bad. This version looks like a teenager saying “Hi Yah!” in his Halloween costume. Give me the U.S. version any day.
I don’t think the Nordic art repainted the whole figure. The colors look a little different but I think it could be the lighting on the packaging or the inks that were used in the printing process. The texture and detail looks really, really similar. Either way, it looked a bit odd to me and then I realized that they didn’t just remove Zandar’s speargun – they also removed his shoulder armor. Why? How could that be perceived as a weapon? I really don’t understand that.
Wow, they removed Zarana’s shoulder armor as well. I don’t get it. The artist at least seems to have had fun giving her a tattoo. They also colored her leg flesh-colored where the U.S. version gave her pink underneath, implying she was wearing some sort of leggings under her jeans. The European version could get a little sexier but they didn’t want to fetishize any violence. Gotta say, this is probably the most awkward pose when you remove her weapon. Look at how her left hand is illustrated as though it’s holding an invisible hot dog. Weird!