I’m the world’s biggest fan of artist/illustrator, Larry Selman. His work on Hasbro’s “Classic Collection” line and more recently, the national GIjOE Collector’s Club’s convention exclusive figure sets, is largely responsible for breathing life back into the 1:6 scale hobby we enjoy today.
Selman’s stunning paintings have adorned Hasbro’s GIjOE boxes since the ’90s, and were largely responsible for attracting buyer’s attention, generating excitement in stores, and increasing sales across the board for “America’s Movable Fighting Man.”
The success of Selman’s efforts are undeniable. His artwork now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with both of the earlier great GIjOE illustrators; original ’60s artist, “Super” Sam Petrucci and the ’70s Adventure Team Artist, “Dangerous” Don Stivers.
Most GIjOE collectors display an assortment of Selman’s boxes throughout their own “Joe Rooms,” while some have even framed package fronts on their walls as “fine art.” That’s understandable. Larry’s artwork features highly accurate details, is historically authentic and inspirational to behold. Fortunately for his fans, Selman is scheduled to appear at this year’s national GIjOE Convention in New Orleans (June 28-July 1). When I learned he was going to be there, I started kicking myself for not being able to attend. But thankfully, hundreds of other fans will be on hand and have a chance to meet “Amazing Larry” in person. (If you can, don’t miss it!)
I wrote to Larry recently, hoping he’d share some additional information on his past working history with Hasbro, GIjOE and the national fan club. He quickly replied, offering these intriguing personal insights…
The Classic Collection
“How many GIjOE paintings have I done altogether? I’m really not sure. At one point, I had counted 125 pieces of art for Hasbro’s Classic Collection and the Club Convention exclusives. Obviously the majority of them were for box covers, but I also created insert illustrations for some packages that required 3 separate pieces (usually the vehicles). There were some that were, to my knowledge, never used.
I’ve been an illustrator and fine artist for 30 years. GIjOE came around at the best time for several reasons. The first was the changing book cover market. I was getting out of that, so it was good timing to have another well-paying line of work.
The second reason was that it granted me the opportunity every illustrator wants to have; as much artistic freedom as you want and still get paid regularly. Most of the time, my sketches were accepted by Hasbro’s art directors with little problems. There were a few problems with marketers, but as a whole, it was all a great experience for me both professionally and personally.
My first couple of years illustrating for GIjOE opened up the possibilities of big, sweeping, epic pictures. That wasn’t possible with my other illustration assignments, especially book covers, because they are small and you have a lot of type to work around (or in).
By contrast, the artwork and construction of GIjOE’s packaging was designed to stand out on a very crowded and busy toy shelf. The action, details and color would entice the customer into picking up the box to look at it and to open the front panel of the box to see what was inside: the toy.
There were a few paintings I thought actually changed my career—George Washington was one of those. George was a 4th of July GIjOE Special. That package was the pinnacle of this early package design style the Classic Collection. I worked longer and harder on that one painting than any other, and also spent more money on props, models, horses and reference photography than anything before. The bill for all of those materials cost me well over $1,000, but the effort shows in the painting’s final composition, perspective, and details. It even won a prestigious award for art and package design!
Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the end of this approach of selling GIjOE. Wal-Mart was starting to call the shots more and more on the packaging for all sorts of products, particularly toys. They are the number one toy seller and when they say jump you say, “how high.” Over the next several years, they shrank the box size more and more and beat Hasbro up on cost. These factors meant that space for the artwork was reduced to a small back section of the box.
I’ve also had a great time working with Brian at the GIjOE Club. He brought me in a few years after Hasbro had closed down the 12″ Classic Collection line, and since that time, I’ve illustrated seven of the 12″ figure convention boxes and one for the 3 3/4″ line.
The first painting I did for the club was for the Unknown Heroes of WWII exclusive, which is still one of my favorite box covers. The idea and design worked out well for both figures. There was a different feel for the two illustrations as it needed to be but they worked well side by side which doesn’t always happen.
The Battle of Britain set had a different goal which was to show the two combatant’s point of view of the same action. A difficult set to work because aircraft cockpits are very cramped. Getting a good feel for the whole thing was hard.
Terror on the Sea Floor was a fun picture to work on and rigging up the props was interesting and of course there was no underwater photography. For the wet suit I used close-fitting thermal underwear and the air tanks were two fire extinguisher bottles strapped to a Vietnam ruck sack frame.
Sometimes making up the props is very time-consuming, like Eight Legs of Danger. For that one, I used the fire extinguisher tanks again but made the fire suit out of tin foil and a paper paint suit. I went to a paint store-bought a cheap paper suit and sprayed glue all over it and then the tin foil to join them. It worked out well and then came building the spider cave and Spiders.
I went to a craft store that and bought a rubber spider with poseable arms and some pipe cleaners. The rubber spider only had moveable middle legs and I needed the all the legs to move. I clipped the front legs off and attached pipe cleaners for the front, posed and light it the way I wanted and boom you get spider reference that works. A lot of work but it was the most fun picture I worked on. It had the 1950s monster feel that Brian and I discussed at the outset.
Escape From Spy Island, Drive Into Danger and Last Man Standing all had the prop and modeling process as the previous boxes. Last Man Standing is the heavy weapons assortment to the vehicle in Drive Into Danger. I guess the question it’s trying to answer is, is this the last man standing going to be the last of the line or will there be more? One always like to wonder about a line like GIjOE and where it might go in the future.
Its been a lot of fun to work with Brian and Lanny on these sets because they are different from my normal course of work and we have a good working relationship. Aside from the working part we get along well and the conventions for me are always great fun. I’m looking forward to the convention in New Orleans and seeing all of my friends from past shows!”
Bottom Line: Larry Selman’s work speaks for itself, but I’ll offer a few more words of my own. SUPERB. TIMELESS. FANTASTIC. And I could go on and on. Thank you Mr. Selman for all of your contributions to the GIjOE hobby and for your help with this article.