Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Discuss the 5" Extreme Team and their enemies the Skar Forces here!
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jamarmiller
I am Wilder Vaughn, I am the Black Major
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Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby jamarmiller » 08 Feb 2007 07:44

This week, we have a very special interview, with Benjamin Torres, who was the lead designer for the GI JOE Extreme LINE COMICS AND CARTOON it is part 1 of 3 as its a lengthy interview so come back next week for part 2 and the following week for part 3

Even if your not a GI JOE EXTREME FAN you will want to read this! Here is the interview with some concept sketches thrown in, all provide by Mr. Torres.

Thanks Mr. Ben Torres for everything
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jamarmiller
I am Wilder Vaughn, I am the Black Major
I am Wilder Vaughn, I am the Black Major
Posts: 3918
Joined: 07 Mar 2005 15:58
Location: Fukuoka Japan---TAMPA Florida
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Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer -Extreme

Postby jamarmiller » 18 Jun 2009 04:54

Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer -Extreme

Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer –Extreme

This past weekend in the mist of a move across the country, here in Japan, I was able to conduct a interview with Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE EXTREME, Below is the interview I conducted with him. His comments are in Bold, I will be releasing this interview in 3 parts as its a lengthy interview Below is part one of 3. In the interview I will also post some concept sketches that he sent to me, so enjoy everyone and come back to read part 2 and 3 in the next 2 weeks

Hello My name is Jamar Miller and If you wouldnt mind could I take a few minutes of your time and ask you some questions from the fans on the GI JOE EXTREME series that you worked on?

BT: Sure would love to do a Q & A about Extreme. I usually get asked about Star Wars, so it would be nice to talk about Joe, thanks for appreciating the effort.

1. Thank you , Okay so First How did you find us?


BT: I was up late and came across the G.I. Joe site. Of particular interest to me was the G.I. Joe Extreme section. The reason why it was of interest to me is that I was the lead designer on that new segment of Joe way back beginning in 1994. I was surprised by the interest that that particular line still has. It still holds a fondness since it was my first major project for Hasbro and for Joe in particular . I just wanted to thank you for appreciating the work that was done way back then. I worked with a lot of talented people like Roger Slifer, Lloyd Goldfine and many others at Hasbro, Sunbow and Graziano studios, to make the show and toys a reality.Brought back a lot of memories. Thank you.

2. My pleasure , it was a great series hands down, so its easy to appreciate good work. So before we go full head into the questions anything you would like to say?


BT: G. I. Joe especially Extreme was really close to me. Matter of fact I received a special thanks ( for legal reasons) on season one when in actuality I created the design and background for all the characters after I was at Hasbro for 3 days! They threw me in a room and said CREATE ( no pressure)!


3. So you did the backgrounds for all the characters, great as I thought they had some of the best background stories in the entire JOE Mythos. So who did the Vehicle designs


BT: Nick Langdon and Dan Price created the vehicles.

4. I truly think that GI JOE EXTREME Tv series was by far the best Joe animated series we have ever gotten , do you have any comments on working with people like Roger Slifer and Will Meugniot?


BT: Thanks so much for the compliments regarding the show. Working with Roger Slifer and Will Meugniot we agreed we wanted Joe to be more sophisticated. We wanted to bring a Mickey Spillane/ Frank Miller sensibility to the Joe mythology in contrast to the RAH RAH of Real American Hero from the 80's ( which was great for it's time).

5. Was there any later uses ( left over concepts) of the extreme concepts in any future lines of GI JOE or was it completely Scrapped?


BT: If you go back and look at the story back ground in later 12 inch version of the Joe toys ( G.I. Joe 2010 ), I just extended what was working on Extreme before it was canceled.


6. How was it working with Graz studios in season one, the Gunther Wall season two.

BT: I had the pleasure of working with some of the best people in the business on this at Graz studios in season one, the Gunther Wall season two.

7. I have been in search of a series bible and cant find one anywhere, can you comment on why it may be so difficult in finding one?

BT: Regarding series bible, there were a few that existed but because of how fast we put this together the actual series was already in the orient before the bible was finished. The schedule was murder, because of that there were many mistakes in the production values. We were flying by the seat of our pants.

8. Do you still have any developmental things left over tucked away someplace?

BT: I still have a few developmental things not sure what anymore. I was working with Bill Sienkiewicz briefly on the character styling (before we scrapped it because his style was not animation friendly ) . The guy who ended up defining the character style was Carlos Huertas an incredible phenom still working in the entertainment business.

Below is a conecpt sketch for Wreckages updated outfit . This is what Wreckage would have looked liked had the series continued. Makes me wonder if he would have been a GI Joe later on, as is hinted at ,as a possibility, in Season 2 episode Wreckage Revenge


Image


9. Again I think this was the most mature and cleverly written Joe series , however largely because of the toyline, this series was ignored by many of the long time GI JOE FANS from the Real American Heroe Era, and unfortunetly most totally missed the great stories that you guys did. Were you disapointed that the series did not meet a better reception from the Fans


BT: Thank you so much for the compliment! You are correct. Because of the toy line it was ignored. The series actually gets a better reception than the toys! The toys upset many many collectors, because we changed the scale, the articulation on the figures, and changed from the traditional Joe and Cobra from the 80fs.

10. How did you come to work on GI JOE Extreme?

BT: I was hired at Hasbro / Kenner in 94. My first major project was to revamp G.I. Joe due to my past work on the Aliens and Predator toys line. My emphasis was the smaller scale figures but I also redesigned the 12 inch figures as well. Within the week after my being hired I was literally locked in a room and told to create the new Joe. I was responsible for all the character designs. Dan Price and Nick Langdon were responsible for the vehicle designs. The whole process on my part took about a week. What was on the show was what I designed that week.

11.. How much did you know of the previous series of GI JOE, were you a fan?

BT: Huge fan of the show and the comic books. Was a huge fan of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team in the mid 70fs with Eagle Eye Joe, Atomic Man, and Bullet Man. It was dream come true to work on Joe.


12. . How did you feel about starting over with all New Characters and leaving all the original characters behind ?


BT: There was much debate about that even before I was hired. The debate still continued after the characters we saw in Extreme were designed. We went back and forth about continuing on with Real American hero or just saying that these were the new Joefs for the 90fs. The team decided on the latter and when we presented it to the owner of Hasbro he was on board. It was a big deal at the time. I still feel as though we made the right decision.

13. I was told that at one point early in the developmental stage that it was being considered to have some of the characters actually be updates of characters from the RAH series, such as Duke being Lt. Stone, do you remember anything like this?


BT: Yes, true. The main reason we walked away from it was because sales for RAH were in decline and we wanted to distance ourselves from RAH a bit and add a new mythology to Joe. In addition the Sgt. Savage line tanked so we as a team felt as though cutting ties and starting a new would be best. Plus our test markets indicated that the interest aside from hard core RAH had waned and awareness wasnft strong anymore. It was a gutsy move, but sometimes you roll the dice.


14. Buzz Dixon said in my interview with him ( which you can find here at the realm at this link:


that he originally intended for General Hawk from the original series to start this new team up instead of Clancy, and that he has written it to be like that. Why was this changed ? one of the things long time fans complained about was thier was no connection to previous incarnations of Joe ( They obviously miss the SGT SAVAGE LINK I know but this is a common complaint )


BT: Many decisions were sales based. Savage bombed horribly. War was not cool and patriotism was dead before 9/11/01. So we decided to add a new wrinkle to the Joe mythos. Savage was added for the reasons that you stated, it provided a link and to add a more hardcore military figure to the group. Dixon was correct, I remember our meeting with him and the script we reviewed, ultimately it was a marketing decision. Clancy was added to make the new Joe series feel more like X- Files, he was inspired by Cigarette Smoking Man and Deep Throat. To my knowledge having created the character, he was NOT inspired by Tom Clancy although the connection makes sense.


15. I would love to get my hand on one of the bibles of this series and was wondering if you had one for sale or a copy of one to sell or view ? Even a digital copy of it would be awesome and a treasure for us fans to find.


BT: We were flying to get the series done, I didnft receive a copy of the bible until the second season from Dave Simon. I have the original development work buried somewhere.


16. Black Dragon, the resident Ninja on the team is the only character not to get a episode spotlighting him. All of the other characters got at least one episode with some getting more than one. Why did Black Dragon not get a specific episode dedicated to him?

BT: I donft know. He was supposed to. I thought he did.


17. Since you did all the background character info and since there was never a episode spotlighting him can you tell us ANYTHING/ EVERYTHING about him LOL?


BT: Originally we were trying to play against type. They wanted Black Dragon to be Asian, which was too obvious. So I thought originally, letfs make him a blonde surfer type with a Keanu Reeves attitude who just really kicks butt. I thought the contrast would be really effective and funny (which it was in the Matrix). Dragon idolized Bruce Lee and was supposed to change from laid back surfer guy to intense martial arts master when he went into action then after he kicked butt return to laid back surfer dude. Since we were flying many subtleties were lost. Plus certain writers came along and had better ideas.

18. Did you work with Dark horse at all when they were doing thier comic book on GI JOE EXTREME?


BT: Initially yes, choosing the writers and artist. I lobbied for Frank Miller to do the first cover to establish the new theme of the series. I was honored that Miller did the cover since I am a huge Miller fan. Wayne Losey and Kurt Groen handled those responsibilities as my responsibilities began to include Star Wars and some other lines.

Okay that concludes part 1 of 4 of the interview!

Part two


19. There are character names that appear in the scripts of the show but never show up .they were obviously changed at the last second who were they suppose to be ?
[center]
These names are :

BT : Grey Ghost: He was a character that we had developed and had a prototype executed for him. He essentially was a Lone Ranger type of mystery man who had served in WW1 and WW2 and would show up at key moment when the Joes were in danger but then disappear. Prompting the in joke question, “ Who was that man?” ala the Lone Ranger’s, “Who was that masked man?”
Steel Talon: I think this was developed after I began splitting my time.
Nelson: Don’t know
Sawsad: Don’t know


20. My favorite female villain in the entire Joe mythos was Steel Raven , she appeared first in the end of season 1 but become the main villain along with Iron Klaw in season 2, can you share more light on this character ? character wise, design wise? Did you write a character background for her as well?


BT: I almost forgot about how mch fun Steel Raven was, I was reading your bio of her ( which you can find here: and pretty much everything on the site is what I remember us brainstorming, She was pretty cool. Roger and I think Will made the suggestion that we needed a female counter part to Mayday. She was to be even more vicious than Iron Klaw. She was to eventually turn on the Iron Klaw and cause division in the ranks of SKAR. The writers really developed her from there. I remember we needed a design to send to Will and I just hashed one out really fast and faxed it over (when we still used faxes). Honestly I have yet to watch an episode with her in it. From what I hear they developed her really well.

21. What are you currently working on?

BT: A number of things actually. Between some major licensed toy lines, and a few tv shows I am pretty busy with my own company.


22. Is thier anything about the GI JOE EXTREME series that you would like to add?

BT: Yes! My only slight disappointment in the show was how the Iron Klaw was portrayed. They have it about 60 percent correct. The Iron Klaw comes from a royal line and he needed to act as such. He was to never raise his voice, swing his arms, and act the way Cobra Commander acted. I think the portrayal on the show did not communicate that. Although he was flamboyant in dress, he was supposed to very understated and sinister. In combat he was supposed to use minimal movement to subdue an opponent think M. Bison (a.ka. Vega in Street Fighter classic anime movie) or Kenshiru (Fist if the North Star). He wasn’t supposed to be a brute his movement were to be powerfully elegant. He was NOT supposed to be called Iron Klaw his title was The Iron Klaw (The Batman as opposed to Batman) to make him more mysterious and sinister. He was really inspired by James Earl Jones and his vocal portrayal of Darth Vader. With a bigger budget and more time I think we could have accomplished the desired effect.
Also the live intro ideas were not liked by anyone on the team. They were all shot in a day I believe. They were shot to capitalize on the feeling of the Power Rangers.
In addition, Harthingy was Hispanic and Rampage was inspired by Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde.


Image


23. Sgt. Savage had a previous 1 year line with a one Direct to video episode produced. What are/were your thoughts on including Sgt Savage into the Extreme line?

BT: My initial feeling was that if we were going to start fresh then let’s start fresh. Management decided otherwise. In the end they were right. Savage added the needed depth.


Okay Next we have a Question from Jason, AKA Snake-Eater

24. Were there any characters that were only designed but never made, such as Tracker or Skar Troopers?

BT: Yes. Grey Ghost, Tracker are the two that come to mind. The Silencer was not released as a toy.


Good question Snake-Eater now back to one of my questions:

25. Was a general idea of what season 3 of GI JOE exteme would be ,ever discussed briefly? or had a general idea?

BT: Yes there was, but before we moved forward with that management wanted me to focus on Star Wars the re-release version, and Mummies Alive. So I never got a chance to be involved plus the toy line was not well received by the Joe fans. The show was dependent on the success of the toy line. Roger and I really wished it would have worked out.

Image

26. Season 2 took a slighly more military approach to GI JOE EXTREME than season 1 , was this intentional? As Peoples uniforms were slightly modified to look more military and the just overal writting just took on more of an military feeling.


BT: Yes very intentional. The core to Joe is military plain and simple. To deviate form that was a mistake. IMO the first season was a little too paramilitary, which believe it or not is really limiting. Whereas if you make it military there are certain questions you don’t have to answer like where do they get there technology from, etc. Also Roger, myself and the team of taking a more authentic approach ala Michael Crichton to the writing (it worked in ER). We wanted things to feel more authentic and less fantastical. In terms of design. you have to have design cues that are military. We wanted to avoid the path of RAH and really make it more sophisticated.

Also Roger had great writers contribute to the series who were military historians. The approach I thought proved effective. I think my favorite if season two is when Metal Head became a traitor and Wreckage began to solve his past.


27. The new incarnation of GI JOE, is Sigma Six and in the second season they have introduced a character by the name of Lt. Stone However he has no resembalance or connection to the Lt. Stone of GI JOE Extreme. How do you feel about this since you are the one who developed Lt. Stone?


BT: Really? Oh believe me there is probably a connection some where. All that stuff is archived and brought back later. Plus the guys responsible for Sigma 6 were around when Extreme was being developed so I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t an in joke. With that said, I thought Sigma 6 from what I saw of it was very cool. My close friends developed the toy line and aided with the show. It’s nice to be included in the continuity.


28. In one of the episodes it says Lt. Stones "next of Kin" is Sgt Savage, was there any back story to this?

BT: I do remember that but I can’t recall the details. Sorry.


29. You mentioned Star Wars earlier, can you elaborate?

BT: Yes, I was the figure designer on Star Wars for about 3 or 4 years. Also as a designer at Hasbro when dealing with a major license like a Star Wars, you would also be involved in in developing concepts that could cross pollinate. These concepts would be developed to show how they could be used in the movie as well as in the creation of the toy. So ultimately you would go through these iterations then present them to the decision makers at the studios (in this case Lucasfilm). It was and still is a standard development path. So for instance when you see a Star Wars figure, that figure has been created as a conduit to merge the fantasy of the movie to the toy. In addition, any toy feature is to parallel and reenact scenes from the movie (i.e. the authentic light saber sound effects in the toy is the actual sound effect from the movie).


30. You also mentioned to me that you like Tokyo, have you been here on business or pleasure? or both?

BT: Business. Love Hong Kong and parts of China too.

Next we have a few questions From: hawk sanders" aka koldrof
31. How did Iron Klaw come about?


BT: Well we needed someone big, strong, and exuded evil. I wanted someone who would not be a parody of a bad guy the way Cobra Commander ended up being. My original inspiration was James Earl Jones voice. Other inspiration includes Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List and Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men. I figured if I could come up with a style and a character that reflected that majesty and intimidation of these men, I would be on the right track. I remember Klaw being the easiest one to design. I wanted a skull and skull design cues to immediately make a statement that this guy is one scary SOB. I wanted him to have a striking silhouette so I added a cape for dramatic effect. It was a little out there but we wanted to push a few things for dramatic effect.
He remains my favorite character along with Wreckage. I really enjoyed the villains because you could add more depth to them. In addition I wanted to create someone who would be visually as powerful as the original Lt. Stone drawing I had done to set the tone of the line.


32. Where was the line going to head in the following years?

BT: Honestly, I wanted it to be a mixture of hard core military meets James Bond (with a little bit of X Files conspiracy thrown in for good measure). We had discussed things like heightening the espionage/conspiracy/ adventure aspect of it. The best example that I can think of is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. That’s the feel Joe should have IMO.

Part 3 of my Interview with Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Here are a few more questions From: Hawk Sanders" aka Koldrof


32. Where was the line going to head in the following years?

BT: Honestly, I wanted it to be a mixture of hard core military meets James Bond (with a little bit of X Files conspiracy thrown in for good measure). We had discussed things like heightening the espionage/conspiracy/ adventure aspect of it. The best example that I can think of is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. That’s the feel Joe should have IMO.

33. How much freedom did you have in the line?

BT: A lot believe it or not. There were some changes but for the most part if we could justify we could do it. My only concern for the first year was that it was a little too paramilitary. I felt as though we needed to be careful since there was a proliferation of these kinds of groups in Image Comics. The first year of Extreme, management decided to go with a less traditional military color palette, which I felt hurt us a bit in the transition from 3 ¾ inch to this new scale. Then again if you look at RAH, most of the colors were nontraditional. The second year we purposefully designed the characters in such a way where if we had to have non traditional colors then the design cues would make up the difference. Other than those things management was open to anything that made sense. When working on Joe you had quite a bit of autonomy especially on the 12 inch line. Joe is considered to be like the faithful old dog at Hasbro. People love the line so you can try different things with it, it helps that we had two scales to work with. Also there were no licensor approvals. At the time I was low man on the totem pole so if I came


34. Was any one apposed to the articulation of Extreme in the office?

BT: Oh yes!!! Articulation was Joe’s tradition. I didn’t want to lose it. Since we were going to a larger scale and these figures had to fit in vehicles we came to a compromise. It came down to costs and the current trend in action figures at the time. The only figures that we I felt did not need the articulation were the Stone vs. Klaw 2 pack. The idea behind that was to create a display (think model kit). The two pack came out a little different than the concept, the details looked a little futuristic on Stone but overall the piece captures the original drama especially with the nifty molding and paint operations we did with Klaw’s cape.

35. Is any of the figures based on living people?


BT: Harpoon is loosely based on me. Quick Stryke is loosely based on my best friend Chris Woods who was one of the main designers on Sigma 6. Red McKnox is loosely based on Kurt Groen the lead designer on most of the 12 inch Joes from the mid to late 90’s. Groen was also responsible for supervision of the comic book. Both Woods and Groen would kill me for revealing this. Woods is a force in the children’s entertainment business, Groen is an executive for a major company.

Next we have a few questions from Fatherlove from the DDP boards


36. Was there any connections between Iron Klaw and Cobra? If so, what ?

BT: No.

37. Was Black Dragon meant to be related to Snake Eyes?(cousin, etc) Was Mayday meant to be related to Scarlett?(cousin, etc)

BT: Dragon was the ninja guy, that’s all because we needed a ninja guy. Mayday hair color was just a nod to Scarlet.


38 What time period was the Series set in?

BT: The series was set in the not too distant future. I think it was set 15 years from when we initially conceived it so that would be 2009. The idea was for the series to be placed in a time period that was recognizable. From the initial concept it may have changed but I am not sure.


Next up are a few questions by Charles Silbernagel

39 . What was the biggest factor in the decision to move Joe Extreme into a different scale than both the 3.75" Real American Hero line, and the brief 4" Sgt Savage line?

BT: To be competitive we had to analyze the market at the time. The trend was for larger grittier figures. So we made the decision to move in that direction. Also the fondness for 3 ¾ inch scale had died. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started the decline in the interest in the scale, then Power Rangers killed it. So we had to be competitive. Also the majority of sales for Joe RAH was in the vehicles so our main concern in scale change was not the impact in figures it was the impact in vehicles sales. We were concerned about making vehicles that would accommodate the figures as well as have comfortable shelf space in the store. It was a challenge because the bigger you make the figures the bigger the vehicles would have to be thereby increasing the retail of the vehicle. A 3 ¾ inch that would retail for 7.99 - 9.99 back in 92-93 would now retail at a higher cost due to our figure scale change. The vehicle would now cost 14.99 due to size difference, while only a few dollars this bump up can decimate you at retail. So we had to offer extra play value and fire power. Hence the team invented the Nerf fire power play for the line, which I still believe was and is extremely innovative. The play value was tremendous and ahead of it’s time.

40. With the bigger scale we also ended up with less articulation and action features in a lot of the figures. Were the features included at the cost of removing articulation?

BT: We had to walk a fine balance. We deleted articulation so we had to play value. The beauty of RAH 3 ¾ inch was the articulation and pose-ability. With that now gone we gave real thought to the features. For instance one of the most impressive features was LT. Stone gatling gun. If you have never taken it out of the package and played with you are missing out. The Extreme features for all of the toys were well executed by our engineers. So yes, we sacrificed articulation to be competitive but also to provide better play value for the kids. I still believe the line is not appreciated for it’s innovations. Many of the features we developed in Extreme were used in other Hasbro lines in different variations.

41. Why a whole new team and concept for GIJoe and the new villains SKAR?


BT: We wanted to start fresh and create a new buzz for Joe. Kids sensibilities had also changed from the slick 80’s Reagonomics to gritty grungy Gen Xer values. So we had to take all of this research into account. . In addition, it’s hard to believe but RAH sales were really dismal so we needed to try something new.

42 . If the series had run longer, is it possible that we could have seen any integration or guest stars from the earlier RAH lines?


BT: I would have like to have seen that. I believe Roger Slifer and I had thrown that back and forth.

43. Which Joe and SKAR characters were your favorites, vs. your favorite RAH Joe and Cobra characters?


BT: Extreme: The Iron Klaw, Wreckage, The Silencer, and Quick Stryke, and Freight were my favorites. RAH: Snake Eyes, Destro, Major Bludd ( great name) Cobra Viper Corps ( most of them) and Baroness.

Here are some questions from markatisu


44. How much freedom did you have in creating the Extreme characters? Were you instructed to stay away from Real American Hero/Previous GI Joe characters and ideas?

BT: Plenty of freedom they just had to look contemporary. I looked at RAH and deviated just slightly. If you really look at the corps of RAH, it was transferred to Extreme because the core concept of RAH worked well. We just slightly re-imagined it that’s all.

45. Was Extreme designed to be just 2 seasons?

BT: LOL!!! No, but the hard core RAH collectors panned everything about Extreme that it never picked up steam. I have had more people tell me that once they got to view the show and really examined the toys they enjoyed them immensely.

46. That is so true in my experiences as well in running this part of the board here at the realm. Lots of people who have never seen it, take a look at it and then say HEY that was good! Anyway What was the biggest hurdle you faced in the show?

BT: The biggest hurdle was time! The show was done in a speedy 6 months. By the time we got our legs under us with Graz animation, we switched animation companies and moved to Gunther Walls. That really hurt us because we had to start all over.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE FINAL INSTALLMENT NEXT WEEK

Part 4 of My Interview with Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme


47. What is the 1 thing you would like the Extreme fans to know


BT: That much thought went into Extreme. We wanted to respect what came before us with RAH and I think we did a fairly good job given the time frame. All the members of the team love Joe, from the original 60’s version to Kung fu Grip, to Action Team, to RAH, to Extreme and beyond. We were all fans of Joe and it mythology. We took a risk with Extreme and while I am still proud of the effort and execution, I believe that hard core RAH lovers wrote it off too fast as an aberration. It wasn’t. It was a different approach due to market demands. I know we stayed true to who Joe was in the past.

Next up is some Questions from Matthew Boresi

48. The Extreme figures are much blockier and more muscular in design (both literally and figuratively) than previous incarnations of Joe, and the same can be said of the cartoon. Who came to this decision and how?


BT: We wanted the Joe guys to be ripped. Again this was in response to the trend at the time. The idea for the toys was that we would pull back and normalize them in year two. If you look at the Star Wars re-launch you will see the same philosophy, in the first generation SW figures a Luke was ripped. This was due to market trends. Eventually we pulled back in year 2 of SW. For the cartoon the same designer who designed the proportions for Sgt. Savage worked on Extreme so there was some continuity there. We were trying to create a Frank Miller Dark Knight Returns/Sin City feel for the characters. Also the angular fuller proportions were successful with the animated Batman so we tried to apply that Joe as well. My preference was the longer skinner proportions of Aeon Flux, we did a round of those but due to time we agreed to proceed forward with that style.


49. What were your/the influences when designing the look and feel of the Extreme world and it's characters?


BT: The influences were many. I admired what X-Files was doing with lighting and character depictions, Frank Miller’s Sin City high contrast style and first person narrative, John Wayne, Guns of Navarone, many, many influences that just spilled over into the show ( and those were just mine!)


50. Were previous incarnations of Joe taken into account when designing Extreme, including the Sunbow cartoons or the Sgt. Savage cartoon?


BT: Yes most definitely. We wanted to pay respect to what had come before Extreme, even with Savage ( Declassified Thread here: ). We understood what the core of Joe was and is especially in the smaller scaled figure. The core of what makes Joe in the 12 inch scale is slightly different but not much. Patriotism, authenticity and realistic peril is what makes Joe intriguing. We wanted to build on what had preceded us by adding new wrinkles in the mythos.

51. The Extreme figures involved a dramatic and controversial change in the scale and articulation in Joe figures - how was that decided on?


BT: Yelling and screaming … just joking. From a previous answer:
“ To be competitive we had to analyze the market at the time. The trend was for larger grittier figures. So we made the decision to move in that direction. Also the fondness for 3 ¾ inch scale had died. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started the decline in the interest in the scale, then Power Rangers killed it. So we had to be competitive. Also the majority of sales for Joe RAH was in the vehicles so our main concern in scale change was not the impact in figures it was the impact in vehicles sales. We were concerned about making vehicles that would accommodate the figures as well as have comfortable shelf space in the store. It was a challenge because the bigger you make the figures the bigger the vehicles would have to be thereby increasing the retail of the vehicle. A 3 ¾ inch that would retail for 7.99 - 9.99 back in 92-93 would now retail at a higher cost due to our figure scale change. The vehicle would now cost 14.99 due to size difference, while only a few dollars this bump up can decimate you at retail. So we had to offer extra play value and fire power. Hence the team invented the Nerf fire power play for the line, which I still believe was and is extremely innovative. The play value was tremendous and ahead of it’s time.


52. In the cartoon, there is a lot of marked use of thick, blocky, black shadows on the characters and backgrounds. Where did that come from?

BT: LOL!! Long story! Again we wanted a Sin City feel to this but after I had seen the use of it on the Savage cartoon I felt as though we should have walked away from it due to time. When executing those kinds of techniques you have to think these things through and have ground rules in animating them. Due to the rapidity of the schedule we did the best we could do. In addition, certain people liked the use of the shadows on Savage so we ended up with it on Extreme.

53. What character were you most fond of and why?

BT: The Iron Klaw was my favorite ( Declassified link here : ). The way he was originally envisioned he drew inspiration from Doctor Doom, V for Vendetta, and Batman in terms of personality. He had political power in addition to having his mysterious alter ego who people spoke of in hushed whispers. Originally he was supposed to be more shadowy figure. In reality the Count Von Rani disguise is not his real identity. In truth no one knows who the Iron Klaw really is, we were still trying to determine it. He assumes many identities as he did by assuming Clancy’s identity. The idea was that we would try and involve the viewer in guessing who the Iron Klaw really was. I remember we were discussing stories as to maybe the Joes piecing together that the Iron Klaw was part of an ancient secret society that had been responsible for some of the greatest political and social upheavals in world history. His Count Rani disguise was just a small piece of a greater puzzle. We really wanted to use him to be the catalyst for conspiratorial theories. Things definitely changed as we proceeded so we just didn’t have to explore those options. Although, if I remember correctly, The Klaw does take Clancy’s place at some point and time. I believe Roger, myself and Wayne Losey really liked the idea. I have yet to see the episode. The Iron Klaw had so much depth as he was originally envisioned so we had to pick and chose what we did with him but the tremendous back story was there for us to further develop if we did a season 3.
Wreckage was another favorite ( Declassified Thread here: ). Wreckage was inspired by the scene in the Frankenstein 1931 movie where the monster is playing with the little girl then he accidentally throws her into the water. The other inspiration was Of Mice and Men’s Lenny. That was Wreckage. He was this created thing, who didn’t ask to be that way, didn’t understand why he was that way and ultimately didn’t understand what a destructive force he was. He had a lot of depth and it was unfortunate we never got to explore it further because you would have found out that he was this outstanding soldier, really likeable guy, who had a family, kids and led a normal life before this he was abducted by SKAR and experimented on.
The Silencer was my third most favorite. ( You can find his Declassified Link here: ) I came up with the design and name and when we did legal search for the right to use the name I was relieved when the name was open. If he wasn’t named the Silencer the character IMO would not have worked. He never changed design from my sketch to the screen. He was how I first presented him umpteen years ago.
I think they came up with an origin for him, but originally he was just a hit man plain and simple.



54. What about Joe Extreme were you most proud of, and what, if anything, would you have done differently?


BT: Well as a fan, I am blessed and proud to have been the character and figure designer for Joe. I am proud of most that the character, the bios, and overall design remained very true to what was originally envisioned. That the characters had enough depth at the core that other creative’s such as Roger Slifer, Will Meugniot, Wayne Losey, Kurt Groen, and all the others who contributed in writing and designing Extreme where able to build on it and expand it to create great stories. Also that this was done with care and great respect to the history of Joe. The stories hold up well, the characters hold up well.
The only thing I wish was different was time. I started development on this in September 04. The rest of the team had been working on it I believe in June 04. Our schedule was super aggressive between the toys and the show. I remember working on the toy schematics AND show designs at the same time running from my office to get Will and Dave updates and corrections.
I also wish we could have had the second year at Graz but that was out of everyone’s control. Gunther/ Wall was great but we had built momentum at Graz and everyone was in a groove. We were fortunate to retain Roger Slifer in the process.
Other than that how many people can say that they worked on G.I. Joe. It’s an American icon. I feel truly blessed for the experience



Next are some questions from GI JOE HEAVEN :

55. Do you believe that something on the series could have been done differently to result in a longer "life"?

BT: For the toys definitely yes! More time to develop the show and the toy line. Meaning after RAH we should have rested a year really let the line cool down. Rather than transition straight from RAH to Extreme. Regarding the show, I was really please with the direction of the stories. I think we had the core of the universe nailed down. I think with the writers Roger was bringing in and planning on bringing in, to develop the series it would have been even better. The only issue was the animation. More time would have helped it, plus a bigger budget. The budget for the show was less than the norm and in certain spots it showed. Plus, I would have liked to have gotten rid of the black shadows on the animation. The way I had envisioned the animation was somewhere between Street Fighter the Movie (the anime version) and Macross, I knew I was dreaming but that is the standard I would have liked to have shot for. In addition, in order to have a successful show you have to create awareness through advertising campaigns, and be in a good time slot. We had an OK time slot I can’t remember what time it aired anymore, but I remember the slot being OK.

56. Do you have a "Holy Grail" episode which represented the best of best?


BT: Believe it or not I have yet to watch an entire season. However, out of the first season my favorite was the Wreckage spot light, “Crawling from the Wreckage.” I was a fan of Len Wein’s writing and enjoyed what he did with the character. Also, Coup of the Claw by Mark Edens and episode 2 written by Julia Lewald. Had the pleasure of working with and reviewing their scripts when I was on Mummies Alive.

Some more questions from Jamar Miller

57. There were three comic book Characters that were exclusive really to the comics and all 3 died in the first miniseries
these were the Dutchess , who was the leader of Skar until Iron Klaw poisoned and killed her, and then there was the two Joes Tall Sally and Shortfuze ( who both Died) whos idea was it to make these characters or designed them ?

BT: I designed The Iron Klaw, the rest was designed by Kurt Groen, I believe. Kurt was directing the comic book efforts. The writer on the series Mike Barr, had a love for Joe and had some great ideas, so they developed those characters and storylines.

58. I've seen pictures of unreleased figures of Wreckage, Mayday, and a few others. Were these ever produced in any kind of quantity?


BT: Wreckage and Mayday were produced but not released. Quick Stryke I believe made it to the shelves. Mayday was a wonderfully sculpted figure. It was a shame she was never released. Her facial features were inspired by Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley. I thought the sculptors did a magnificent job on her.


59. Was there any prototypes ever made for characters like The Silencer, Tracker, Steel Raven, Clancy?


BT: Yes The Silencer and Tracker made it all the way to initial production in the Orient with first shots of the toys being produced. Steel Raven not sure, Clancy not to my knowledge.



60. Okay so, during your time at Hasbro and on GI JOE, did you ever work on any 3.75 inch Joe stuff during that time ? and if so can you share a little about it ?

BT : We were going to relaunch the 3.75 inch in 1998 and I have work from that period as well.

61. Can you add / remember anything else?


BT: Yes, after Extreme tanked. Hasbro focused on the collector based 12 inch line ( which was fun). Then I believe in early 98 or 99, we had developed some new sculpts for the 3.75 inch line. Our goal was to improve upon the previous sculpts. The lower torso on the RAH was referred to in house as the Atomic Diaper. So we had some sculpts developed to solve for the problem. I remember the results being quite good. We had a great sculptor on the project who really emphasized the musculature and realistic proportions.

Also I was responsible for developing the new look of Joe. We had some early preliminary work done on it by Dave Johnson who is an outstanding comic book artist. Great guy.



62. After Extreme and Sgt Savages dissapointing sales, what was the take this time on the new 3.75 inch line that would have been different from RAHs last few years , Sgt Savage and finally Extemes years and concepts


BT: My focus at the time was the aesthetic of the characters. The thing I was focused most on was how do we do a better sculpt at that scale. At the time I was involved on other lines like Transformers, Batman, etc. so from a conceptual standpoint my involvement was limited.


63. What characters, if any, would be coming back? any classic Joes? Extreme Characters? Sgt Savage characters?


BT: Not sure anymore but I remember having the brainstorms for this. From what I remember we were just going to update all the classic RAH characters.


64. Was any of the concepts you were working on with the new relaunch of the 3.75 inch line for 1998 ever used for the Toys r Us exclusive A REAL AMERICAN HERO Collection in the early 2000's?


BT: I really don’t know. I do know that the discussions and work that was done was handed off to the new team, so what if anything was used I am not sure.

65. So Why didnt we see the relaunch in 1998? what was the reason it was decided against on ?

BT: Well the re-launch was seen. It wasn’t decided against. I was just involved extremely early in the process. Ideally you have 12 months to develop a toy from ideation, internal approval, manufacturing to shipping to the stores. So a lot of the initial exploration done in 98 legitimately moved full steam ahead in 99 with a team designated for Joe.


Well that's it, I cant express my thanks enough to you for going through this interrogation LOL ! Thank you so much for your time, there were a lot of questions LOL and thank you also for checking out the site. The fans of this GI JOE SERIES really want to just Thank you for your work on this great series that still has its fan base growing and rediscovering it every day.

Yo JOE
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jamarmiller
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Re: Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby jamarmiller » 16 Sep 2009 07:28

Jamar Miller : Hello Mr. Torres I just wanted to see if you knew about the Iron Klaw figure planned for the 25th line ? Pictures of the Prototype has surfaced in the last few days.

Benjamin Torres : Yes I was aware last year, I`m thankful that my old buddy is directing this whole effort.

P.S. Here's some stuff I was working on
http://www.coroflot.com/public/individu ... _id=365778
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Re: Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby The One and Only » 04 Nov 2009 05:12

On the subject Iron Klaw. I had read this little bit about that character was intended to be a member of Cobra originally. And on top of that his original name was supposed to be Vendetta. Is that true ,or just the usual internet claptrap ?

By the way jamar, great interview. And thank you Mr. Torres for doing it. As a fan, it's very appreciated.
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Re: Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby jamarmiller » 04 Nov 2009 05:19

ya internet gabb

if you read the interview I think its Father love that ask that question and Ben answers No he never was intended to be a part of cobra----thank god!
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Re: Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby Road Bullet » 04 Apr 2017 05:55

What an awesome interview, jamarmiller.

I've read it here before but lately I've been hungry for GI Joe Extreme and these interviews always satisfy. Mr. Torres was obviously very fond of the property and it's too bad the toy line and cartoon didn't continue on. I think he did a great job with It.
We will be VICTORIOUS!!!
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Re: Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby jamarmiller » 04 Apr 2017 05:59

thanks! He was indeed GREAT to talk to, he was very very helpful and gracious of this time, sometimes answering the same question ( but worded differently ) multiple times LOL
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Re: Interview: Benjamin Torres, lead designer of GI JOE Extreme

Postby Road Bullet » 04 Apr 2017 06:27

For a fan of GI Joe Extreme, information on this forum is really invaluable.
We will be VICTORIOUS!!!

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