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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the more controversial teams within the G.I.Joe line was Star Brigade. Some people hated it, claiming that it went too far beyond G.I.Joe's military roots. I disagreed with that assertion. By the time Star Brigade and other special teams had come along, the G.I.Joe concept was more about the characters, and the conflict between G.I.Joe and Cobra, than it was about maintaining a strictly military appearance. So I felt there was abundant room for a decently-done concept like Star Brigade.

One of the teams within Star Brigade was called Armor-Tech. These stretched the envelope even further, and admittedly were unusual looking figures. They were characters suited up in massive space battle armor. Granted, the proportions of the figures stretched plausiblity. But the basic designs were actually pretty cool.

There were seven figures in total -- Duke, Rock & Roll, Heavy Duty, Robo- JOE, Destro, and the Cobra B.A.A.T., the extra "A" standing for "Armored". These were the six carded figures. The seventh, General Hawk, came with the massive Armor-Bot.

Given that the entire assembly structure of the figures was different than a typical G.I.Joe, it might have seemed like customizing them wasn't all that possible. The bodies were sealed together. There was no back- screw that could be removed for disassembly. However, it was possible to unscrew and remove the lower arms and lower legs, and although there was some common part use between figures here, it was possible to switch these parts around a bit. So, I ultimately decided to customize a few additional Armor-Tech figures. I review them herewith.

ARMOR-TECH BIG BEAR: Well, I really felt I had to put at least one Oktober Guard character on the team, and this one was the easiest of the lot, because for the most part, it was a straight repaint. The head sculpt for the Armor-Tech Rock & Roll looked enough like Big Bear so that all that really needed to be changes was the hair color. I repainted the armored body in copper and red, a far cry from the metallic blue that had been used for the bulk of Rock & Roll. It was amazing to me how different it made the figure look.

For a finishing touch, an additional "plate" on the armor was added. A friend of mine at the time was working with resin molding, and this was a good chance to get some practice in on small parts. So he molded a small part for Big Bear that was a rectangle with a star embossed on it. I painted the part copper, and the star red, of course, and glued it to the chestplate. Thus did Big Bear sign up for the Armor-Tech Team.

ARMOR-TECH COBRA COMMANDER: Really, is Cobra Commander going to leave something as important as the conquest of space to Destro? Granted, there was an extremely impressive Star Brigade Cobra Commander figure made in 1994, but what's a spacesuit compared to an armored battle suit? I figured CC needed to get in on Armor-Tech.

Once again, the Rock & Roll body was used, but with far more modifications than turning Rock & Roll into Big Bear. For starters, the head had to be switched out. Remember that Star Brigade Cobra Commander I mentioned? His head was used for this. This head sculpt was actually first used for the 12" Hall of Fame Cobra Commander, but was scaled down for use in the 3-3/4" line. I painted the face mask metallic red, instead of its original black. Next came the tricky part -- the head swap.

Since there was no way to open the figure, Rock & Roll's head had to be cut off (*ouch!*) at the neck, keeping enough above the armor to attach the Cobra Commander head, once its original neck-base had been reduced to a proper size. A very narrow hole was drilled into the bottom of the Cobra Commander head, and into the neck, and a piece of metal from a paper clip was glued in, for a little extra strength. Then once the Cobra Commander head was glued to the Rock & Roll neck, a bit of putty filled in any gaps, and I veeerryy carefully painted some flesh-tone paint around the neck. That was probably the trickiest aspect of the entire procedure.

I swapped out the original Rock & Roll lower arms and legs for ones from a Cobra B.A.A.T., after painting them metallic burgundy, which was a color that hadn't been used on any other Armor-Tech figures. I added some of this paint to the trim of the figure elsewhere, as well. Finally, the same person that molded the "star" for Big Bear, molded an additional plate that had the Cobra insignia embossed on it, as well as some ridged shoulder pads. These were glued into place, painted the same metallic blue as the amor, and the Cobra insignia was painted red. Beware! Cobra Commander has joined the Armor-Tech forces!

ARMOR-TECH IRON GRENADIERS DESTRO: Let's assume that ol' Chrome-Done isn't going to be very happy about Cobra Commander taking over the Cobra contingent of Armor-Tech. He decides he's going to re-form the Iron Grendiers. Well, his armor should look the part, right?

This one was fairly easy. I popped Destro's outer helmet in place, removed the lower right arm and lower legs, masked off the left missile- firing arm, spray-painted the entire body metallic black, and then painted the removed lower arm and legs, and the missile firing arm, in gold.

This did no favors for the outer helmet, I'll admit. However, once it was popped off, an interesting effect had resulted. Since Destro's "standard" uniforms have tended to have a red collar, and since the Armor-Tech Destro had a mostly metallic red armor, the outer helmet had blocked the black metallic paint from getting into the area around Destro's head, leaving a metallic red "collar" of sorts! It looks cool and I didn't even plan it that way.

If I could figure out how to print a metallic gold "Destro" logo small enough, I'd probably try to place one somewhere on the armor. But I don't think it looks that bad as it is.

And that's how Big Bear and Cobra Commander joined up with the Armor-Tech forces, and Destro brought his Iron Grenadiers motif into the space race! I hope you have enjoyed this custom review. YO JOE!