G.I. Joe Adventure Team Artist’s Legacy Lives On

Don Stivers (r) presenting one of his paintings to West Point. (Photo: Don Stivers)

Years after his passing…

Renowned illustrator Don Stivers’ high-energy artwork is still affecting people all around the world. As a fan of GIjOE, Action Man or Geyperman, you probably remember Don best as 1970’s “Artist of the Adventure Team.” During that exciting period in “Joe History,” Stivers was the primary artist entrusted with creating all-new artwork to adorn the packaging of America’s favorite action figure.

Don’s exciting artwork had the pulses of young adventurers racing worldwide. Oftentimes, the artwork on his boxes was more exciting than the actual contents.
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Don’s aggressive, painterly style, utilized bold brushwork and a bright, colorful palette. His strong, artistic approach proved to be the perfect choice for moving GIjOE from his military origins to a new Adventure-themed era.

It was amazing how Don could give a flat, 2-dimensional medium such vibrancy and LIFE. His characters weren’t lifeless comic book figures. Quite the contrary. They looked and seemed VERY real. Their faces showed raw emotions, full of determination and focus. And above all, they communicated ACTION! Thanks to Don, GIjOE’s new packaging had become bolder and more attention-getting than ever.

The iconic AT Commander box. Don’s artwork breathed LIFE into the leader of the Adventure Team.
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His A-T figure boxes would go on to become iconic among collectors. Their individual faces forming almost a “Mount Rushmore” of GIjOE imagery. For example, Don’s artwork on the Talking Commander box practically makes it jump off the shelf and into your hands, yelling “I’ve got an EASY assignment for you! BUY ME NOW!”

Don’s effective artwork adorned most of the packages in the Adventure Team line. How could any kid resist this?
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Subsequent work on the the Adventure Team Helicopter box, the massive A-T Headquarters box, all of the vehicle boxes such as the Mummy’s Tomb, Shark’s Surprise, Troubleshooter and others, also seemed to promise “an adventure in every box.” In hindsight, all of those paintings represent some SERIOUSLY good work. Hasbro had clearly chosen the right man for a VERY tough job. But this was only an inkling of what was to come…

Sometimes, even the product itself featured Don’s artwork, as with this A-T HQ. Superb!
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Flash forward to the present day. Sadly, Don is no longer with us, but thanks to the hard work of his daughter, Tracy Stivers, and the new online art print business she operates, his amazing work and legacy will live on. In fact, a whole new generation of militaria fans and history buffs are being introduced to this amazing man’s talents–all over again. According to Tracy:

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(Photo: Don Stivers)

“Before my Dad passed away, I made him a promise. He was very proud of Stivers Publishing, which my parents started when it was virtually unheard of for an artist to publish their own work. I promised to keep it going for as long as I could.

In those first few weeks after his death, I stumbled across an auction website that had sold two of Dad’s original oils from the 1970’s that I had never seen before. Looking at these images, painted over 30 years ago, I was particularly struck by the preciseness of the style. The illustrative quality made the subjects appear to jump off the page. I felt compelled to hunt down these seemingly forgotten works. I believed that collectors would be equally enthralled by them.

His original works can now be found on display at Forts Belvoir, Drum, Wainwright, Benning, Hood, Meade, Leavenworth, Sill, Riley, Campbell, the Army War College, the Pentagon, and are the pride of many public museums and countless private collections.” 

If you saw this toy in the store…YOU BOUGHT IT! Thanks primarily to Don’s amazing artwork on the box.
Click to enlarge.

What an amazing legacy! Most illustrators toil away their entire careers in relative (or complete) obscurity and anonymity. It can be a tough, unrewarding profession where the artist burns the midnight oil for years to produce artwork for advertising or other such materials that most people rarely give a second thought.

Bottom Line: As an artist and contributor to the GIjOE hobby, Don Stivers will always hold a special place in the hearts of fans. He also helped bring Hasbro some much-needed financial success during the sluggish economy of the 1970s, and ultimately brought the Adventure Team itself to life—FOREVER. Thank you Don and thank you Tracy! If you’d like to own one of Don’s masterful creations, we highly recommend you visit the official Don Stiver’s Publishing website FOUND HERE.

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One thought on “G.I. Joe Adventure Team Artist’s Legacy Lives On

  1. kneonknight says:

    What a pleasant surprise! I saw prints of many of the historical paintings at various posts during my military career, and always felt a nagging sense of familiarity with the style, posing and , above all, the feeling of being “in the moment” with the subjects.. Well, no wonder…much of it was the companion of my youth, in the form of the few AT sets I owned, at least as far as composition and the sense of immediacy. The AT illustrations were simpler in detail, yet held all of the key elements that this man mastered. Alongwith the late Frank Frazetta, he is one of my favorite artists of the 20th century, and I never even knew his name. Now I do, thanks to Mark.

    I’m not an art critic, but I know what I like. And THIS is decidedly it.

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