Before you can start even the most basic of customs, you have to understand the way an action figure is made. Luckily, when Hasbro created G.I. Joe, they chose a construction method that would make our work much easier.
- A small screwdriver - Most people report that what are often sold as "Glasses Repair Screwdrivers" work. Find a size that fits well into the figure screws and tightens/untightens easily. A magnetized tip helps to pull out screws.
Before You Begin
First, it is important to recognize that there is more than just 1 type of body construction. Figures such as Deep Six (v1), Golobulus, and many of the figures from the later years of G.I. Joe have rather unique constructions. This article will cover the construction types that the majority of figures share. The best way to tell if you'll be able to take apart your figure by this guide is to flip it over and look for a hole in the center of its back. Looking into this hole, you should be able to see a screw. If you do, then you're ready to proceed.
Removing the Screw
Here you can see the screw located in the back of most G.I. Joe figures.
This process, for the most part, is extremely easy once you know about it. Problems come up only if the screw is rusted, stripped, or otherwise stuck. Simply insert the screwdriver into this hole and loosen the screw. Something to learn now if you don't already know; turning a screw in the counter-clockwise motion (or turning your wrist to the left) loosens it, turning a screw clockwise (or your wrist to the right) tightens it. You should feel the screw loosen and come up out of the hole as your work, until you can turn the figure over and let the screw fall out with a little shake. Now, using the head or an arm as leverage, pry the torso open. Note that if you're attempting this on Zartan(v1), Zarana, or Zandar, you'll have to use an alternate method.
This figure has had its torso disassembled.
Now you're left with the 7 parts of body construction, and the screw. From top to bottom, you've got the figure's head, front and back torso pieces, arms, waist, and legs (including the rubber band and connector, or "metal hips"). As you're taking the figure apart, notice how the legs are connected to the figure by the thick black rubber band that hooks onto the metal hips and goes through the waist piece. From the top of the waist piece, it loops around the screw peg in the back of the torso to hold the figure together. Just a little more work and the figure will be completely dismantled. Look on the inside of the figure's thighs. There, you should find another screw on each leg. Untighten each one just like the main screw, and the thighs will come apart.
The legs are made up of six parts, in addition to the rubber band and metal hips. Each leg has a right and left thigh piece as well as foot. Keeping track of which foot is left and which is right can be difficult if your parts get jumbled, something to keep in mind. So now, we have a total of 12
figure parts: the head, 2 part torso, 2 arms, waist, 2 thighs (2 parts each), and the 2 feet. We also have 5 other pieces: 3 screws, the rubber band, and metal hip. Thighs and torso are usually only useful as a whole, and often considered as one part because of this. The key to customizing, though, is understanding that there ARE no absolutes or concrete rules... and if you can make the back of one torso work with the front of another, by all means do it.
Putting it Back Together
If you've got 2 disassembled figures, you're ready to start the most basic of customizing skills... part swapping. Many customizers started this way, mixing and matching figure pieces for years before they got into painting and more. Many 'experts' still just like to go through pieces, randomly putting them together, for inspiration for their next project. Simply follows the disassembly steps backwards, keeping a few things in mind. The figure doesn't NEED its screws to stay together for a short period of time. The rubber band can hold the torso in place most of the time, and usually the thighs are tight enough to hold together for viewing without the screws. Obviously a figure isn't complete and isn't going to hold up for long without these screws, but ignoring them while you're part swapping saves a good deal of time (and sanity).