Fans of the iconic Hasbro action figure series G.I. Joe have witnessed the franchise expand over multiple platforms throughout the years, ranging from movies and comic books to video games and even record sets. Now, the brand is entering the sneaker world by way of ASICS and the good people over at Foot Locker.
Taking on the GEL-Lyte III silhouette, skilled graphic designer Anderson Bluu was tapped to retell the classic story of Storm Shadow vs. Snake Eyes through a special edition capsule collection that officially arrives at retailers today. Bluu incorporated all parts of the shoe to illustrate the comic arch properly, from contrasting “East meets West” colorways on the upper to a translucent outsole that reveals an even bigger surprise, ultimately giving us a collab that’s truly “Cloaked In Shadows.”
We got a chance to chop it up exclusively with Anderson Bluu on how he came about crafting up the collaboration, his early start in the art world and how a longstanding love for the G.I. Joe series led to an opportunity of a lifetime:
The Source: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get started in art and what made you decide that it was something that you wanted to turn into a career?
Anderson Bluu: Honestly, I was just always into comic books — that was just something that I grew up with. I was really always into superheroes and comic strips as a young kid. If you would’ve asked me growing up what I wanted to do, I would’ve either told you to be “like Mike” or work with Disney as an artist. Back when I was a kid, for some reason art was just something that you were blessed with and not something you practiced. I thought sports would’ve been the avenue, but after college I did a few things and continued to do art. I just stuck to it from there.
Given your prior love for comics, especially in terms of this G.I. Joe collab, were you already a fan of the series or did this opportunity just come about coincidentally?
Growing up as a kid, I always had toys around me and G.I. Joe was always one of my favorites. I loved, loved, loved the packaging. For those that aren’t familiar, it looks almost like a video game. On the front it has a character busting out as if it’s an explosion, and on the back it gives you like a storyline of who the character is and what he does. As a kid, when you’re reading that you kind of pick your favorite characters and try to play towards that storyline. As far as this project goes, Foot Locker reached out after hearing about my sneaker art print series. They told me to come down [to meet] and I brought all of my artwork. I showed it on the showroom floor, and people just started interacting with it. From customers to employees, everybody was asking where they could get the art prints. When they saw that energy, [Foot Locker reps] said, “Hey, we have this project with G.I. Joe and we want to know if you’d be interested,” to which I said most definitely.
“The storyline we’re going with [is made to] to show this brotherhood that kind of reflects something that would happen in real life; you have a friend, you guys grew up and something happens that makes you guys split. We kind of talk about the Yin & Yang effect of these characters having this strong bond and then trying to find out who killed their master.
— Anderson Bluu, illustrator/graphic designer
Very dope. Now, this collection focuses on a specific story arch in the G.I. Joe series. How did you incorporate the colorways to match up with that theme and even the specific parts of the GEL-Lyte III silhouette?
Before I did anything, I was told that they wanted to stick with the storyline of Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes — two characters that came up together in the army and had a strong bond, almost like a brotherhood, and after the army ended they join a ninja clan. That’s where they pretty much hone their skills and fighting talents from a mutual sensei, which is Storm Shadow’s uncle. To make a long story short, Snake Eyes becomes number 1, and while he’s being trained the master gets killed. The big confusion was that people thought it was Storm Shadow, which Snake Eyes believed as well, and that’s where everything falls apart. The storyline we’re going with [is made to] to show this brotherhood that kind of reflects something that would happen in real life; you have a friend, you guys grew up and something happens that makes you guys split. We kind of talk about the Yin & Yang effect of these characters having this strong bond and then trying to find out who killed their master.
Of the two colorways, which one is your personal favorite and for what reason?
That’s a tough one [Laughs]! It’s almost like comparing apples and oranges. For me, I’m more of a pattern person, so naturally I lean more towards the “Storm Shadow.” I actually put a sort of camo pattern on there that I got from an original toy from Hasbro. It’s like a secondary outfit they did, and I just fell in love with the pattern and decided to use that for the sneaker. I also like the “Snake Eyes” though, especially because you can’t go wrong with a nice black silhouette. The textures give it a nice pop, and that little hit of red with the speckles just makes it an all-purpose shoe.
As we wanted to tell the full story through the sneakers, the person that actually killed the Hard Master is Zartan, so what we did was put him under the sneaker. It basically says that the person that you’re really looking for is literally underneath your shoes. It was a nice little nod we did for true G.I. Joe fans.
For people who aren’t comic book fans, how did you design this collection to cater to the sneakerheads and ASICS aficionados in specific that just like a good colorway?
Honestly, I just kept it to my taste. I like sneakers, but I like comic books also. When I did this project I definitely wanted to do something where people who know G.I. Joe can see this and say, “Hey, this is a lot of the property that I enjoy,” but also make colorways that were slick but not too much so that sneakerheads can feel like this is a genuine product.
Pick up both the “Storm Shadow” and “Snake Eyes” colorways in the ASICS GEL-Lyte III “G.I. Joe” collection designed by Anderson Bluu right now exclusively at Foot Locker. See more pictures of the sneakers below: