Yeah, I Cosplay: Making A Cobra Commander Costume Part 1

Cobra Commander

I figured I’d bust my 19-month blogging hiatus to document the process of putting together my Dragon*Con 2013 costume. For my fourth Dragon*Con I’m going all out: my goal is to create an O.G. Cobra Commander costume, from the 80’s cartoon, G.I. Joe.

For the record, I’m not at all an advanced cosplayer. This will be my first time messing around with advanced shit like Pepakura files, fiberglass resin, bondo, and vacuum-forming. So, you’ll be learning right along with me. Only you’ll have the advantage of not scalding your fingers with heat guns, whiffing toxic fumes, or stuffing your pores with fiberglass shards. Cosplay is a dangerous game, kids.

Here are a few of my previous Dragon*Con costumes:

Billy Butcherson and the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus

Billy Butcherson and the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers

Jason Stackhouse from True Blood

My wife put this Jason Stackhouse costume together based on a scene from the previous season of True Blood. She made the He-Man jammies from an old pillowcase she found on eBay. I

Neo from the Matrix And Arlene from True Blood

Neo from The Matrix and Arlene from True Blood.

These were a blast to cosplay, but I’m pretty lousy at costuming follow-through. Take, for example, my Fawkes costume from last year. My tribute to Wil Wheaton sits in our junk room, a sad heap of vanquished hopes and ultimate despair. My hope is that blogging about my costuming trials and tribulations will push me to actually finish and also prime the pump of my dusty, old blog. This place has been so neglected. I just spent 15 minutes sweeping out over a year's worth of SPAM comments.

Fawkes Costume

Here lies my Fawkes costume.

It was the sewing part that killed my momentum on the Fawkes costume last year. My previous sewing experience encompassed hemming a Jedi robe with a line as jagged as the Mexican border. I was in way over my head with Fawkes' ludicrous cape design. I couldn’t even grasp the concept of sewing patterns, much less make modifications. I ended up dropping some serious coin on fabric that was too small. This, and the time-crunch of the looming Labor Day weekend, spelled the tragic death of that whole project.

My Dog Ate My Costume!

Oh, and my dog ate a piece of Wonderflex I was gonna use on my staff

On the plus side, I got an awesome Matrix costume out of the deal that I'm wearing again this year. The Neo coat was supposed to serve as the base for my ill-fated Fawkes costume. The Matrix is one of those franchises that's on the cusp migrating from Played Out to Nostalgic Gem. Last year I was the only Neo in sight, but, unexpectedly, the costume got a lot of love. The best moment was when some little kid outside the con got all excited and said, "Mom! It's Neo!" I also got this snazzy contact juggling ball that was going to be the red globe on my staff.

Neo And Juggling Ball

This could actually be a thing. Adding Neo Juggling Ball Act to my To-Do list.

You don't know what contact juggling is? Think of all those smooth criminal moves that David Bowie pulled off with his crystal ball in the glorious 80's fantasy epic, Labyrinth. Perhaps one day, I'll sit down with a few YouTube tutorials and learn some new party tricks. Hey, that's exactly how I learned to swing the chucks.

Since I identified sewing as a skill I won’t take with me to the zombie apocalypse, I went ahead and purchased a Cobra Commander uniform tailored by the lovely hunny_lee. I have to anthropomorphize hunny_lee out of a sincere hope that she isn’t a euphemism for a Chinese pre-pubescent sweatshop forced to sew bullshit costumes for 10-cents a day. I prefer to imagine hunny_lee as eBay’s master costume-maker, thriving in an old temple high in the mountains, taking simple delight in bestowing her talents upon sew-a-phobic, American geeks. Please don’t crush my dreams.

I purchased the Neo coat from hunny_lee last year. I was really impressed with her work, so I hit her up again this year for the Cobra Commander costume. The uniform arrived earlier this week and, once again, hunny_lee knocked it out of the ball park. It’s very close to the cartoon version and comes with a whole assortment of belts, pouches, pins, and whats-its. I could bitch about the painted-on Cobra logos, but why split pubes? I love this costume!

Cobra Commander Uniform


So my part in all this is to make the crown jewel pieces: the helmet and the gun. Seriously, these two items will make or break the costume. My backup plan was to pick up a helmet from Etsy or eBay. However, the guys that make a sweet Cobra Commander helmet, Pit Viper Studios, are apparently on vacation. So, the pressure is on.

The first step in my evil plot to rule Cobra is to procure a Pepakura file from a 3D modeller on the forums at www.therpf.com For those that don’t know, Pepakura is a program that unfolds 3D models so you can print them out on cardstock and glue them together. This will serve as the base of my helmet. Forum dude charges $15 for his Cobra Commander helmet model, which I figure is worth it. I don’t know jack about 3D modeling; replicating this file would take me hours, if not days, and probably look like dogshit. Time is of the essence here, people.

My next post will cover the printing, cutting, and gluing of the Pepakura file. If it looks dumb, then my backup plan is to use a kid-sized bike helmet as a form. Then I'll use either paper mache or Worbla to construct the base helmet. And if all that fails, I’m buying a scrap of blue fabric, cutting eye holes, and drawing a Cobra logo on it with a red Sharpie.

Hooded Cobra Commander

Must...not...take...easy way out

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 (4) Trackbacks (5)
  1. Wow.. this looks like quite a project! I’m glad you decided to start the blog back up.. I’m looking forward to watching the progress (or lack thereof) over time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rAHnwWfsaY

    • Thanks Ben. Yeah this thing has been cobwebbed for too long. And wow my writing is rusty, but hopefully this jumpstarts both the site and the costume. Got my pepakura files today from forum dude, so I should have another update early next week.

  2. Hey, I went to the website that you said you grabbed the pepakura files from and I can’t seem to find them anywhere. Might you be able to email me the file for the Cobra Commander Helmet, I’d love to make one for my son.

    Thanks in advance,