I Want Rock ‘N Roll

So I decided to take a dip into the shallow end of the figure customizing pool. And what better way to start than to do more of a “kit bash” with only a little bit of paint required, just on the head.

When it comes to G.I. Joe, my biases are firmly planted in the characters from the first few years of Hasbro’s 1982 G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero toy line and the corresponding Marvel Comics series, the latter being the basis for the canon I was partial to and not so much the narrative of the kid-friendly afternoon television cartoon series. Of the original characters from that first series of figures (and likewise the comics) one of my favorite characters was Joe team’s heavy machine gunner, Rock ‘N Roll.

The starting point was the Target Exclusive G.I. Joe Classified Series Alvin “Breaker” Kinney with RAM Cycle set. I always associated Rock ‘N Roll with the RAM motorcycle because he was the one riding it in issue #1 of the comic book. However, in the original toy line from 1982, the motorcycle toy was sold separately by itself but with the character, Breaker, riding it on the box artwork.

The Classified series Breaker is a great figure to work with since he most resembles most of the characters from the first wave of figures who had uniform green color schemes. Also, he has a beard like Rock ‘N Roll. However, one thing I found frustrating about the Classified 6-inch figures from the earlier waves were the sci-fi laser gun weapon accessories (I later discovered that they were NERF gun inspired). Happily, it seems as if Hasbro has pivoted away from that direction and have been including more real world-looking weapons with the more recent figures. Thank the toy gods because part of what made the individual Joe team members distinct were the unique weapons associated with each character.

So in my search for the .50 caliber belt-fed machine gun the vintage character came with, I discovered that someone had already beaten me to the punch and created a custom Rock ‘N Roll with the exact same recipe I imagined. Grid Iron Studios, a small company that makes weapon accessories for 1/12 and 1/18 scale figures, actually sells the exact weapon accessory I was looking for in what they call “Mission Packs”. Even better, it comes with a modern military helmet and an extra accessory rifle. Score.

Once I had all the pieces in hand, it was time to start “breaking” the figure down (pun intended). Firstly, I needed to remove the vest on the Breaker figure so that the ammo belts that Rock ‘N Roll wears across his torso sat well across the chest. In the Grid Iron Studios photos, they didn’t remove the tactical vest and to me at least, the ammo belts rode too high up on at the sides. With most of the Classified figures, the only way to remove the vests on the figures is to disassemble the body.

The best method I’ve found to disassemble G.I. Joe Classified figures (and Marvel Legends figures) is to dip them in hot water for a minute or so. I typically heat up water in a mug in the microwave and pour it into a receptacle large enough to submerge the entire figure. After about a minute, sometimes less, the plastic softens enough and with little to no effort, the arms and legs can be removed without damaging the figure.

Next was painting the head. And really, we’re mostly talking about the hair. However, I did want to try some paint wash on the face to age him up a bit. I didn’t want to create too much paint build up on the hair, so I removed a most it using Winsor & Newton brush cleaner. I learned about this watching videos by other figure customizers on YouTube.

Essentially, you use a cotton swab dipped into the liquid and rub on the areas you want the paint removed. It doesn’t come off instantly, but still, be careful not to get it on areas you don’t want the paint removed. Lastly with the head, I did a gloss varnish on the hair to give a slightly “greasy” look. I also painted the connection points of the visor to the helmet for a little more “realism”.

To reassemble the figure, I like to use a blow dryer on the connection points of the upper legs and the pegs on the shoulders. You only need to heat them up for about 10 seconds and it’s pretty easy to just pop all of the limbs back on.

I’m happy with how he turned out. It was a fairly easy challenge and a good indoctrination into figure customizing. I learned a lot and was that much more confident. Shortly after, Hasbro announced that they would be bringing Rock ‘N Roll to the Classified line. For a quick second, I was a little bummed that I’d bothered to do my own, especially with the premium-priced accessories from Grid Iron Studios. But it didn’t last long, as I was really liking how mine turned out, but also because the learning experience was priceless.

Recently, the Classified Hasbro team revealed a color rendering of what the official Classified Rock ‘N Roll would look like during they Pulse Con event. There’s a lot I like about this take. The weapons, helmet, and the bigger muscular body are all great to me. The extra hands, especially the one throwing up the horns, is fantastic. The only gripe I have is the two-tone colored shirt. It reminds me of clothes my mom would buy for me and my brother in the late 1970s and early 80s. Then again, it does make it even more different from the custom kitbash version I have, so it doesn’t cancel that one out. Still, I’ll probably buy one. I’m a sucker.

So close, Hasbro, but you’ll probably still get my money.

So I hope you found this interesting, especially if you’ve been thinking about customizing figures yourself. Baby steps are always good. Most of all, if you’re learning something new and having fun doing it, you can’t go wrong.

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