Sigma Six Tutorial
Vanishing Point shows us how he transforms some Sigma Six figures into a really cool custom figure.
While short lived and not widely accepted by many in the GI Joe collecting community, there are many devoted fans to the Sigma Six series of figures. I grew up on the ARAH GI Joe 3.75" series and scoffed at the 8" anime styled figures when I first saw them. I didn't buy one until the second wave had came out, and that was because I needed the visor from Snake Eyes to finish a custom Transformers Hotshot. I was impressed with the toy's articulation, ability to hold a pose and all the little details you could work into this scale. A couple of fellow Transformer customizes turned my attention to a site devoted to Sigma Six customs. I saw, in action, the range and potential the line held. I was struck in awe of the line and haven't stopped yet. Unfortunately not very long very abruptly the series was cancelled… official Hasbro dialog is on hiatus. Like many, I was upset about the loss but in time realized this opened the door for my customizing to flourish, I was no longer waiting to see who or what Hasbro was releasing. That brings me to the point of all this, I am going to go over the general details on how I customize Sigma Six GI Joe figures.
Inspiration for figure choice
The first thing I do when I decide to do a specific figure is I look for inspiration. I get references often using the internet to look for appearances in cartoon format, comic, and my best reference center is [url=www.yojoe.com yojoe.com] for actual toy images. With all the different teams, sub groups, factions on both sides, variants and versions you can go in any direction you want with any character. My subject this time is going to be Scoop. One thing I have done for many of mine is made Spy troop style dual identity figures. In the Dragonfire miniseries that took place after GI Joe the Movie Scoop was a major player in the storyline, one that incidentally introduced the Python Patrol. In this series Scoop was played out as a Crimson Guard that infiltrated the Joe team. I want to incorporate that element into my custom, as well his part in the creation of the Python Patrol. His primary design is yellow fatigues and a green vest assorted recording gear and a green helmet, his alternate will be the Python Patrol Crimson Guard, whom shares the yellow dominant pattern. Weighing the options the base figure body is going to be Scoop's head on a Crimson Guard body with a green vest to cover the top and yellow pants to cover the bottom.
Items you will need
For this figure I will be using several parts from different figures. The short life of the line does make for short supply of both parts and styles to work with, the style of the line did leave for many many different characters to be made from them by interchanging and accessorizing to accommodate them. Unlike the majority of 3.75 figure there are no screws in the construction of these figures, they are all solid construction, heat weld and glued in place with peg and plug articulation on ratchet joints. To deconstruct the figures there are many ways, the most common is known as "the boil pop." Using either stove top or microwave heat a bowl of water to a boil then submerge the jointed area you want to remove. The "pop"-able joints are the elbow, wrist, knee and head of all the figures. Ankles and boots of some of the figures. There are three types of plastic used in the figures construction, the hard plastic torso, the rubber like plastic of the head and limbs and the composite resin plastic used for the joints and neck post. These different plastics soften at different exposure to heat. The softest of them is the rubber plastic limbs and head. Do not try to pull them apart too soon after putting them in water, if not warm enough to just pull part then let sit in the water longer. It is best to hold the joint you are separating, too much stress on the plastic will cause rubber rip or snap the composite rings. If left in the high temp water for too long, the composite posts, specifically the neck post, will stretch or rip, both of which render the neck useless. When heating the head you want to avoid letting the neck post get heated directly, by submerging the face and holding the figure at about a 45 degree angle you can avoid damaging the neck post, once the head is soft enough pivot the head back and the post should just pop out of the head.
Using the Boil Pop you can interchange the lower arms, hands and lower legs of most figures. Unique constructions include Heavy Duty/Grandslam/Backblast's Arms where the arms are posted through the bicep, and the Air razor Storm shadow/Yakuza Ninja Storm shadow/commando Snake Eyes/helicopter pack snake eyes have double joint articulation in their elbows knees and ankles, Destro's hard plastic vacuum chromed head is on a plug that is then attached to the neck post, Lt. Stone's cybernetic hand has a ridiculously long post that can be seen rotating through the clear portions of his forearm when you pivot his hand and Metal Mayhem Snake Eyes shoulders and hips are on ball joints, his elbows have no articulation. Some of the posts and pegs need to be shortened to fit in the holes. For instance the arctic Duke wrist post are much shorter than the HiTech ones I will be using and thus they needed treatment.
Enamels do not bond well and are often left tacky long after you would figure them to have cured. Acrylics such as Model Masters, Apple barrel and folk art work very well with practice. I have had a lacquer mar the rubber plastic on one occasion. As a preparation step I use Onyx brand acetone and q-tips to remove paint on areas I plan on painting or sculpting over. It is important to not use too much acetone on the hard plastic as it will soften and mar the surface. Single direction strokes rotating the q-tip with each pass prevents smearing and paces you , preventing the before mentioned marring.
Another coloring technique is dying. Dying make for more durable color protection, however require more patience and preparation. I use RIT dye, available in both liquid and powder form, and am satisfied with the uniform results. The sealant used by Hasbro on the painted portions of the figure prevent total saturation of pigment by the figure. For best color get the dye to a simmer, not a boil, if you boil or expose the figure to too much heat the shoulder and hip joints become loose and swing happy, place your pieces in the mixture, I use chopsticks, cheap and disposable, to keep the pieces moving and below the surface to avoid a tie-dye look on the plastic. Again… Uniform. Also, the dye will only take where it is in direct contact , It is best to boil pop the parts and dye them separate in the same batch. This will allow the pesky joints that usually show paint ware immediately to have the same color treatment and give all the parts a uniform color. Be careful when dying to make sure not to get the dye on you directly or on anything of value, mothers, Significant others and roommates are notorious for leaving something important on counters when you are working with things that will ruin them…. To seal the dye you can either let the project sit in water for 72 hours or boil it for 5 minutes in white vinegar and just water wash it until the smell is gone enough for your taste. Sealing prevents other dyed items from rubbing off on each other. The cloth goods that came with the Sigma's are not of standard cloth blends and do not bleach or color fade well, they actually keep their color remarkably well, They do take dye well but again the heated dying treatment is needed for full effect. You can use the dye cold in a large coffee can or preferably sealable container you can place the dye and the parts in them and shake them up and over a week get results. I will stress this highly, if you use the dying technique buy pans, glasses and tools for dying only do not use them to eat or prepare food in or on, just to be safe.
Next is Sculpting. For almost all my sculpting I use Tamiya smooth surface two part epoxy putty. I have tried others and either the surface or the prep work takes too much for my style or the active work time was too short before it'd harden. I had already trimmed the hair on this head for another project that got scrapped and so Scoop is going to use the head from HiTech. To cut the hair and do most of the sanding I use a dremel with the polishing wheel bit. It offers control and doesn't rip the plastic like a sanding bit would, often leaving a smooth work surface. Mixing some of the putty I added the curls to the front of his hair line to separate him from his original mould, since he will be wearing a helmet most of the time you should put the accessory on to insure you are not building the head up to the point it won't fit. I also used the putty to smooth out the sigma suit zipper to give the dress panel of the Crimson Guard Uniform. The tool I use to shape, cut and smooth is a stainless steel scrye it has a hooked side I use for detail and getting to crevices and the rounded flat bladed side I used with water to smooth out the surface of the putty. It doesn't take long for the putty to harden but I would still let 24 hours pass before you paint over the putty.
Painting and detailing
Dying is best for large and uniform portions, however the best details come from painting by hand using acrylics. Between his gear and dying Scoop's image is finished, now to make the man and the snake inside. I use Model Master for the most part. Flats to simulate skin tones and cloth, gloss for leathers plastics and metal. I lay down the base color for his pants and chest panel, then mix a lighter shade of grey for the python camo. The buttons are iron on studs I have glued in place using locktite.
I have yet to find a brush on silver paint that doesn't take forever and a day to dry. If you have a lot of detailing in silver I suggest Rustoleum's mirror magic silver chrome spray-paint, the finish is excellent and doesn't rub off when allowed to cure for a week preferably in a warm or hot area. Then paint your other colors over the silver, makes the whole process so much easier. To avoid paint wear on joints you can either sand down the joints then paint them. I usually thin the paint mixture, paint the joint then move the joint to spread the paint all along the joint inside and outside. If you luck out and the joint needs to be black the best thing for that is a black sharpie, permanent and resilient. The larger scale allows for more detail to be made, however the anime style of the series isn't overly detailed, leaving it wide open to interpretation to the customizer.
Accessories and finishing touches
Accessories can be taken from many different scales and still work. Scoop's hand gun is a Cobra Commander Pistol, again hinting at his Cobra roots, his vest is from Arctic Snake Eyes with the additional ammo clips trimmed off, then dyed green, his helmet is a Lt Stone cobra disguise helmet with the cobra sigil removed and the visor painted red. The overlay mask to make that helmet into a crimson guard helmet is the face mask portion from Lockdown's helmet, a scrap saved from another project, fodder and bits left from other projects are an excellent source of parts for the next one, out side of out and out unusable trash parts all my scraps are saved from project to project. To finish the uniform off A Cobra Sigil from a sheet I bought from a repro site a while back. 1/6 or 12" scale weapons and some gear work well and often fit well with the sigma style. Other series are good sources of gear as well. I haven't found them yet but somewhere I have a Video Camera accessory from a Spice Girls 12" doll, as well as Peter Parker's 35 mm camera accessory from Toybiz first spider-man movie toy line Scoop's transmitter pack from a Sea Quest figure that was 5" tall and made by playmates. Repaint the parts as needed, and the figure is now gone from a combination of shelf warmer parts to a custom character. Thanks for your interest and time, I hope some of what I have detailed here makes you want to try your hand at making your own or helps you on some other project.