Yeah, I Cosplay: Making A Cobra Commander Costume Part 2

Wearing Finished Pepakura Cobra Commander Helmet

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.

Cobra Commander Helmet Pepakura file

I searched for days to find a Cobra Commander Pepakura file. I almost resorted to using a kid's bike helmet as a form. And I may still if this project is an abject failure.


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.

Cobra Commander Helmet Printouts

Printing this helmet costs more than I'm worth.


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.

Pepakura Outlines

Not only will turning off the textures save you a small fortune in ink, but the cut lines and edges are much easier to see.


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.

Cobra Commander Helmet Cutout

A piece of the helmet. I had to write the edge numbers on the white parts because my printer ran out of black ink. Costco refused to refill a generic ink cartridge (thankfully my color cartridges were Canons) and nobody except Amazon sold this particular one. Curses!


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.

This is how you fold Pepakura print outs

You fold the mountain fold down and the valley fold up. Be prepared. There are millions of these things. Give or take.


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.

Glue Boogers

Glue boogers. My clothes, hands, and workspace were infested with them.


Cobra Commander Helmet Partially Assembled

The inside of the helmet as I was assembling it. A growing mound of glue boogers lurks in the backdrop.


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:

Finished Pepakura Cobra Commander Helmet

Here's the end result of the Pepakura file. A point that sticks out on the right side of the helmet is driving me nuts, but I figure I can sand that out after the resining and bondo-ing stage.


Wearing Finished Pepakura Cobra Commander Helmet

It fits! It looked way too big until I glued on the final pieces that wrapped it together. If it didn't fit? Re-scale the bitch and start over.


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:

Cobra Commander Helmet V2 Pepakura

I'm guessing this helmet is from the cartoon also. I've watched a few episodes recently and have only seen the first helmet, though. Regardless, this one looks pretty rad, but I want to see how it fits with my costume.


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.

To Do List – Cobra Commander Costume
  • Build Pepakura
  • 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
Comments (6) Trackbacks (3)
  1. I like it….so much work you put in it !!

  2. That’s awesome dude. I’m putting together a cobra costume too~ I’d never have the patience to actually build the helmet myself though, you’re one dedicated cosplayer! do you know if Pit viper studios is selling the helmets again anytime soon, or any other good places that have them?
    cheers! and good luck!~

    • Kat, I’ve heard that pit viper studios is on hiatus. They were my backup plan if everything fell through. I see helmets pop up on ebay from time-to-time. You might also try http://www.therpf.com‘s Junkyard forum. Other than that, go with the blue hood!

  3. The forums at http://www.therpf.com. There’s a guy there who sells them for $15 (see my 1st post in the Cobra Commander series).

  4. I know, but I think his thread is closed cause I cannot find it. If you by chance still have the file I would be glad to pay you the money for it. I really want this or I may result to your plan b with the bicycle helmet.