I’m not entirely sure why I decided on a Cobra Commander costume for Dragon*Con. While I liked G.I. Joe and owned a bunch of the toys, the show didn’t even rank among my Top 5 favorite childhood cartoons. That would be, in order: Mysterious Cities of Gold, Transformers, M.A.S.K., TMNT, and He-Man. A few others such as Tranzor Z (a.k.a. Mazinger Z), Robotech, and both flavors of the Ghostbusters also rank ahead of the Joes.
Cobra Commander is probably the most common G.I. Joe costume at conventions. So, it's not like I'm aiming for obscurity. I guess it’s simply that he looks cool and serves as a great introduction to aspects of cosplay that I have wanted to attempt for over a year now.
Now I have this bizarre fear of being exposed. I’m invading territory that I’m not fanatically nostalgic about. If I run into a gang of Cobras or Joes, I won’t know anybody outside of Destro, Duke, or Storm Shadow. My plan is to use mysterious silence as a cover for my ignorance. Or I’ll yell out a slithering “COBRAAAAA!” and run determinedly in the opposite direction.
Cutting and Gluing a Pepakura file
As I said in my last post, Pepakura gives you the ability to print out 3D models and assemble them in real life. The first hurdle was actually printing these files. I rarely use a printer and my Canon Pixma has been dry for months. Did you know that, drop for drop, the price of inkjet printer ink sells for almost four-times that of Dom Perignon? It’s true. I read it on the internet. The big box store wanted $70 for new ink cartridges. You see, the greedy ass printer company's profit model is to sell you a cheap printer with 1/3 filled cartridges, then jack you every few months for new ink. $70 my ass! I found out that Costco refills ink cartridges for $8 a pop. Easy choice.
Of course, the printed Pepakura file drenched my cardstock with about $50 worth of ink. On the second model (more on that later), I discovered the “Turn Off Textures” setting. This setting removes the colors and prints out the sheets in a simplistic, economical, easy to cut, black and white outline with clear edge labels.
Cutting out the parts requires an X-Acto knife, a shit-ton of blades, and the patience of Nik Wallenda tight-roping the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t exactly timing myself, but my guess is it took about four or five hours to cut the pieces out. A lot of Pepakura tutorials recommend using a ruler to help with the cuts. Fuck that. Unless you want to tack another two hours on to your cutting time. I found that just free-handing the X-Acto knife was quicker and actually a little more accurate. I never could find that sweet-spot along the ruler to place the knife and cut exactly on the line. I ended up only using the ruler for some of the impossibly tiny cuts that Pepakura slapped on to the printout.
Once you have cut all the solid lines, it’s folding time. Pepakura printouts show you where and how to make the folds. Dashed lines, called “mountain folds,” require you to fold the paper in an “A” shape. Like a mountain, see? Dash-dotted lines are “valley folds.” You fold these the opposite way to form a “V” shape. Accurate folding is very important for the shape and structure of the model; the method I used was to score each fold. I gently ran the X-Acto knife along the fold-line to slice a single layer of the cardstock. This gave the tabs a clean, sharp fold that made my life slightly more pleasant during the next phase: the gluing.
To glue the Pepakura model, match up the edge number to another piece, place a little glue on the tab, and press the tab underneath the other piece. In other people’s tutorials, I’ve seen recommendations such as a hot glue gun, super glue, Elmer’s, even DAP Contact Cement. I highly recommend using a hot glue gun.
In all my cosplaying days I’ve somehow never used a hot glue gun until this project. As a noob, I scalded my fingers so often that I eventually lost the will to sing my screeching songs of pain and meekly accepted my torment. This helmet took 8 hours to assemble—eight hours entangled in a web of glue strings and rolled-up glue boogers.
Hot glue, however, has one feature makes all the messy anguish worthwhile: a built-in Undo button. If you screw things up, fear not. You can just rub the hot tip along the tab to liquify the glue and pull it off. This move saved my helmet. I was watching The Hobbit while gluing and, inadvertently, got sucked into the movie. I stopped looking at edge numbers and nonchalantly glued a whole side to the wrong piece. I didn’t even notice until my helmet folded into horrifying cube-ish shape.
After subjecting my household to a parade of expletives and threatening to punt that bitch across the so-called lake in my backyard (it’s a ditch), I calmed down and began undoing all the tabs. Another ten minutes later, all was right in the world. I was never satisfied with my gluing, so I constantly used this Undo technique.
Here’s my current Cobra Commander helmet in all its glory:
I have another version of the helmet that’s a bit more complicated. I can’t decide if I like it more just from the 3D viewer. As an act of self-flagellation for my indecisiveness, I printed it out and I’m in the midst of assembling it. Another weekend of my life and I’ll be able to make a proper comparison. Here’s how the other Cobra Commander helmet looks in Pepakura Designer:
Next time, I’ll cover the fiberglass resining, rondo, and bondo-ing of whichever helmet I choose. If I don’t just resin them both.
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 1: Introduction
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 3: Fiberglass
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 4: Bondo and Sanding
- Making a Cobra Commander Costume Part 5: Painting, Installing Visor, The Gun
- The Cobra Commander Staff
- Resin, Rondo, and Bondo the helmet
- Sand, sand, and uh sand some more
- Primer and paint helmet
- Beg father-in-law to donate a strip of white vinyl for the glory of Cobra
- Create form for visor
- Build vacuum-forming machine (Shyeah! Right!)
- Purchase sheet of plexiglass and mirror tint
- Shape and tint visor
Procure NES Zapper
- Build gun from deadly combo of styrene, Worbla, and NES Zapper
- Paint Cobra Commander-fied NES Zapper
Get black leather gloves
- Get holster for weapon