Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The story of Alex Armstrong.

So I've been reading all these cool websites about customizing toys and getting all into it and did my first project (the Coyote - a few posts back).  And after that first taste of customizing toys, I realized I really liked it, and wanted to do more of it.  Walking through the toy aisle at Target a few weeks ago, I saw the Captain American Hydra: Dark Threat deluxe action figures.  Just looking at them, I thought they could be made to fit into my G.I. Joe collection universe.  I figured I would grab a few and think up something to do with them.

Stage 0: figure in the package.
A few days later, inspiration struck.  I would paint one red and black, and turn in into a crimson guard-esq heavy weapons type soldier.  I figured for this first project, I was just going to work on painting.  Actually xacto knifing a set of action figures and putting the pieces together would need to come later.  Baby steps.

I took my figure out of the package and took him apart as best I could.  He was so beefy I named him Alex Armstrong, after the character in Full Metal Alchemist, a series my friend Matt is a huge fan of.  In the show, Lt. Armstrong is a ridiculously over muscled and overly emotional agent of the government and ally to the two main characters of the series, the young brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric.  There was something in the figure's sculpt that struck me as a little flamboyant (especially if it was painted red) and that a character like this might himself too seriously, and that made me think of Lt. Armstrong.

Stage 1: figure disassembled.
Well, as in the case of the Coyote, I didn't know where to start, really.  Spray paint worked pretty well the past time, so I decided I would try with it again.  I split the figure into parts:  I stuck the figure in a cup of water I had microwaved for 2 minutes to heat up the plastic in the head so it was flexible, and popped the head off.  I unsnapped his belt and then I removed his webgear.  His guns/fire/ice blasts I decided to leave alone.  No painting for them.  So far so good.

And then I got out the spray paint.  This did not go as well as I had hoped.

Step 2: not the look I was going hoping for.
I found a red Krylon brand Fusion For Plastic line can of spray paint at the store, set up a little spray paint spot in the backyard with an old cardboard box, and slowly and carefully went to town.  Unfortunately, the paint pretty much all pooled in the lower areas of the figure and did not apply themselves to the raised sections of the figure's exterior at all.  I posted some help requests on various action figure customizing forums to see if anyone had any advice, but I didn't get any posts back.  I had read about using short, smooth motions with the can, but it didn't seem to be doing the job.  The the paint left the figure looking like a mess, and I worried that by the time I used enough paint to cover the raised elements of the figure, all the shapes and details of the sunken aspects of the figure would have down out and covered over by the paint.  I needed a new approach.

I went to the hobby store and purchased some acrylic paint and some brushes.  I had read online about doing a base coat of a light or dark color to make things really stand out, but I wasn't sure which way to go- light or dark.  Since the figure was already red to begin with, I thought I would just keep that up and painted the entire guy, his head and his webgear red.

It didn't look too cool.

Done! Paint applied and ready to go.
It looked kind of lame, actually.  But it was time to add the accents.  I painted the boots black, as well as the straps on the action figure itself.  Now it started to pop.  I used tiny brushes to try to get the details in correctly.  It took a *long* time to paint, and to make things harder, I actually only have one eye.  My right eye was lost in an accident when I was an infant, (today I have a fake eye in my right eye socket) and this made it pretty difficult to get the tiny brush exactly where I wanted it, and it also led to some frustration when I would dab a bit of black on a well painted red section, or the other way around.  I figured out a way to watch the shadow my brush cast on the figure I was painting to determine how close the tip was to the place I wanted to paint.  I don't have the steady hands of a surgeon however, and mistakes were made (over and over and over again), especially right at the edges of where I wanted one color to stop.  Straight edges are hard to accomplish with a paint and brush.  I'm not sure if I should have used paint tape or not- does that work with action figures?

When I was happy with how things looked, I spray painted it with clear spray paint.  I had read on the web that this would protect the painted colors from wear over time.  However, about 24 hours after spray pointing the figure, I noticed that a lot of the black layers had cracked a bit, resulting in red from below showing through.  I did some repainting and fixed it up.

I was also worried about heating the head up again with hot water to make it flexible enough to pop back on the body.  My acrylic paints, when wet, we water soluble.   Would they stay on if the paint was dry?  Did it make a difference if the water was hot?  I did more research and found out the hair dryers also do the trick.  I propped the head on the end of a pencil and held it in front of my wife's hair dryer for a minute or two, and it softened up perfectly, and fit right back on the body.  No need to worry about messing up the paint job with water.

I was not thrilled with the final result, but I was proud of the effort I had put into it. I wish it had turned out better.  Many of the custom figures found on websites like and are clearly built and painted by people who have substantial skill, knowledge and experience in the art of painting things; far more skill, knowledge and experience than I have.  My figure does not hold a candle to theirs, but as I said, I'm proud of the fact that I tried something new, the effort I put into it, and the fact it didn't turn out awful.  I am working on another custom project, this time a small vehicle, but a post on that will have to wait until later.

Until next time, have a good one.

David D.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Big Unboxing

It seems Destro got a box this week from the folks over at Kokomo Toys!  You see, between running MARS and trying to come up with ways to take over the world through running guns, Destro is always on the lookout for a base of operations that meets his high expectations for quality and awesomeness.  Hollowed out volcanic islands are out of style, and he didn't know about the retired nuclear missile silo on eBay a few years ago until after it was over.  Since then, he has kept his eye on the online auction site.  Last week, his prayers were answered.  Lets watch!
It says sky striker, but there better not 
be any sky strikers in there!

Just shooting away the backing tape with a chain gun...

Ok!  The tape and two flaps are gone.

All four flaps are open!  Time for one of Destro's
patented Pimp Daddy Destro Dance Party moments.

Gotta shoot away some packing paper...

All the paper is gone! Just there are some
plastic bubble packing force fields.  The chain
gun will make fast work of those.

Gotta take a breather after all of that shooting. 
Destro's arm is throbbing from the vibrations
of the the minigun.

Now he's gotta pop open the fortress's regular packing...

Destro figures this is what it must feel like for one of his customers
when they open up their first shipment of his massive and powerful weapons
that in no way compensate for shortcomings in other areas.

Ok Charley, have the crane pull the packaging UP!

Thank goodness, the instructions to put together
the new modular fortress as still intact.

Dear Insane Person: Congrats on your purchase of
this premium Tower of Doom(tm) model Super Villain
Headquarters and Lair!  Your Tower of Doom(tm) Super
Villain Headquarters and Lair can be assembled in seven steps with
tools found in any hardware store or prison shop facility.

1. Remove cardboard/steel protective

2. Place laser gun turret atop tower.  Feel free to
rotate it from side to side while making "baCHEW!
baCEW!" or "kaPOW! kaPOW!" sounds and imaging
death of your enemies, boss, or difficult clients.

"BaChewbaCHEWbaCHEW!  The check is in
mail?  I got your MAIL right here!!!!

3. Construct Command Chair truss assembly.

4. Attach Command Chair to Command
Chair truss assembly.  For your comfort and  convenience,
the Command Chair has been equated with several knobs
that can be used to adjust chair height and lumbar support.

4.1 Feel free to try out the Command Chair and
Command Chair truss assembly sliding
action while saying "wheeeeee!"



Destro knows that Cobra Commander
is going to be so jealous he  doesn't
have a Command Chair or
Command Chair truss assembly over at the

5. Become familiar with the Computerized Data Kiosk.
Decals of computers, screens and readouts will need to be
applied before Computerized Data Kiosk can be brought
fully online.

6. Valuables, such as suitcases of cash made from
illegal arms sales, can be safely stored in one of several
reinforced vaults found throughout the facility.

Holy crap, this thing looks awesome!

Hello???  Helllllllo?  Is anyone there? 

Please step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.

7. To activate Trap Door feature, pull the Trap Door Latch
up and away from the wall. Keep pulling until the
Trap Door Feature fires.

Best base EVAH! 
::Pimp Daddy Destro Dance Party Time::

Its still
::Pimp Daddy Destro Dance Party Time::

"Hey!  This use to by MY Tower of Doom," said Dr. Doom.
"I'm sure we can work something out," said Destro. 
"Messa wanna get outta heeah," said Jar Jar.

"Your MARS Industry Time Share Agreements seems quite reasonable," said Dr. Doom.
"We are MARS Industries are always happy to work with intelligent dictator tyrants bent
on world domination," said Destro
"Annie!  Padme! Somebody HEEEEEELP me!" said Jar Jar.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Post over at

The Black Dragon VTOL: the most fun you've ever
had  with a toy plane that has a flip out chain gun.
Hey, I know I haven't posted in two weeks, but I've got some stuff cooking that will be posts soon.  Think more actual customs. I'm also working on finishing up an unboxing post for a really cool item I've wanted almost as long as I wanted the G.I. Joe Whale.

In the meantime, I did an "In Hand Review with Pictures" of the new G.I. Joe 30th Anniversary Line Cobra Black Dragon VTOL aircraft over at  Check it out, and come back soon.  I should have at least one newsie and interesting post (to me, at least!  And hopefully, to you) up in the next few days.

-David D

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coyote Follow up

Sorry officer. I did not realize gatling guns
are forbidden in school zones.
Just a quick post to point out a few other folks online have published content online their experiences customizing the Iron Man Rolling Battle Headquarters, the toy I used to create my G.I. Joe Renegades inspired Coyote and deserve mention.  Dark Lord Dungeon has a fantastic review of both the toy itself before he customized it and photos of his very nice gun metal blue paint job, which makes the thing look more like the GI Joe Rise of Cobra R.H.I.N.O.  Check out his blog for more cool pics and a very nice write up.  He did some really nice work there.

I should also mention ArticulatedComics version of the Coyote, which got me started on this little quest in the first place. There are no photos that I know of online, but here is the movie he made. He did a great job both with the custom and the film itself. Here is his youtube clip:

AC wasn't finished after that project. He customized a second Iron Man Mobile Battle Headquarters to make a cobra vehicle as well. This time, he added some parts from the Pursuit of Cobra line Cobra Fury to really snap the thing up. Again, I could not find still photos of the project, but here is a movie he made featuring this item, and its just as good as the previous one:

Clearly, the Iron Man Mobile Battle Headquarters has lots of customizing possibilities for whatever toy line or group faction you would like to incorporate it into. It is hard to find on the shelves these days since it has been on sale for almost 2 years, but I just checked and found it on for $12.00. $12.00!!! If you are looking for a first custom project or want to practice your painting skills, this is a great piece to work with.

*UPDATE* I found another cool custom projects built from the IMMBH: a new ride for Destro.  Dake on uploaded some really nice pictures to a custom thread there and gota good reaction.  In addition to the tight paint job, Dake did some nice work with the decals.  All in all, a really nice project.

Until next time,

David D.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Custom Project Part 2

So when we last left off, I had my toy disassembled and on an old bed sheet used as a cover in painting projects around the house.  Things were going pretty well.  I followed [|Articulated Comic]'s advice and used a short, flowing motion with my spray paint with the intention to do a few thin layers instead of lots of paint in long, heavy bursts.  I did have some dripping out of the can; this may have been because I didn't shake it up enough. (Man, shaking a spray can for two or three minutes when you haven't done it for a while is enough to make you nuts.  Those little ball bearings inside the can are *loud*.) It may have been the angle I was holding the can, since the objects I was spraying were on the ground and the can was above them, or it could have been the heat. It was about 90 degrees outside the day I did this, and the can warning said the paint should be used in temps between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Looks great until you try to pick up the pieces.
But it didn't look bad.  After a two passes over the course of half an hour, the red color in even the deepest red parts had gone away.  I decided it was time to flip things over.

And therein laid the problem.  Because I had used a bed sheet, the paint had seeped into it, and the fibers from the bed sheet had adhered themselves to the paint. Disaster.  My parts looked fuzzy.  Which is not the look I was going for on the coyote, an urban assault SUV/APC crossover designed to strike fear in the hearts of cobra aligned action figures near and far .  Thank goodness, a small amount of rubbing my fingers over the dry paint was all it took to remove the cotton from the paint.  Better yet, it didn't leave marks or imprints on the paint itself.

So now what?  I didn't want to put the pieces down on the dirty garage floor, and I didn't want to put them back down on the sheet.  Thank goodness we had some plastic sheeting in our yard shed from a retaining wall project from a few years ago.  I washed the dried dirt off with the hose, let it dry for a bit, and made that the new sheet for the project.  I did another four or five coats on both sides, which was also a bit of a mistake.  Problem number 1: the toy would smell like paint for at least a week.  Problem number 2: paint was think in some of the hinge spots and places where the toy comes together, such as the elevator folds in to the back of the vehicle when the toy is in vehicle mode, making for a tight fit.  But it looked pretty good.

I had been thinking about straying everything with a clear paint to keep things from rubbing off, but for whatever reason (laziness?  Not knowing if it would actually work?) I decided not to do this.  

My wheels!  My beautiful wheels!  They look horrible!
After letting everything dry, I brought all the parts back into the house for reassembly. When I pulled the tape off, I saw that there were several places the paint had gotten in- the wheels did not look nearly as good as I would have hoped they would.  I didn't know what to do, but I improvised.  I got a small cup of mineral spirits and some q-tips.  Harkening back to days of yore when I had to clean the connectors on my original 8 bit Nintendo, I dabbed the q-tips into the spirits and then rubbed them over the paint on the wheels.  Back in those days I used rubbing alcohol instead of paint thinner, but this worked just as well here as it did back then: the paint came right off.  After a few minutes on each wheel, it looked like there had never been any paint on them at all.  I used a paper towel to dry off the paint/thinner fluid mix from the wheels.  It looked much better.

The right lane is for passing.  Or else.
It didn't take long to screw all the parts I had taken off back in and to reassemble everything back together, and I gotta say, it looked nice when I was done.  I threw on some of the stickers (I put on the Start Industries sticker, and decided Stark Industries was a contractor for GI Joe equipment and vehicles in my little toy world) and it looked even better.  I also threw on some additional stickers that I had left over from some of my other joe vehicles, and they made it look even MORE better.  It really is amazing how much stickers add to the visual effect of an action figure scale toy.

Over all, I was really happy with the experience of working on this first custom project.  It wasn't nearly as hard as I initially thought it would be, and all the problems that came up could be solved with very little extra work and no additional cost, which was a big plus.  And it looked good when I was done.   This is a cool looking toy, and a great addition to my collection.  I know that Hasbro is going to release Renegades themed Joe action figures.  I was disappointed when I saw that they are not planning on releasing a Roadblock action figure, because I would love to put him in the driver's seat. At the moment, I have Beachhead driving the thing and have made my Coyote the primary APC of my urban commando GI Joe unit.  More about them in a future post.