Mission to the Isle of Doom – A New GI Joe Set

Earlier this year, Greg Brown of Cotswold Collectibles contacted me to put together a new set. The idea would be to make a new SCUBA set with a black neoprene suit, flippers, mask, air tank and sea sled. Greg would have the suit and flippers made, and wanted to use the backlog of orange SCUBA hoses he had in stock.

The ask was to reuse the Sea Sled from the Catastrophe in the Gulf set we had done in 2021. Reprint the Sea Sled in orange and black to complement the black suit and orange hoses.

But he also wanted a new air tank, unlike the one I made for the Gulf set. And he sent me some images of existing high-tech SCUBA tanks to prod me.

I ended up making one that both fit the original ideas, as well as complemented the Sea Sled, so the two together looked like a cohesive set.

(Scout is helping)

The Catastrophe in the Gulf Sea Sled was using an existing third-part battery-operated motor, very similar to some original GI Joe gear. Back in the 1960s and 1970s many toy used motors much like this, attached to boats, submarines, and even GI Joe sets. So it was fitting.

However, for the new set, Greg didn’t want to add a blue motor, so I came up with the idea of a spear gun, slung in its place, fitting to the very same peg that was already modeled into the Sea Sled.

(Early version shown before I figured out the spring trigger.)

This Spear Gun would have to be large enough to house a spring, a firing mechanism, and to fit spears. I came up with a pretty cool design using the springs I had previously used for the detonator for the Spy Island set. To make that work I had to make side slots to fit the spear in so it would fire properly, and to do that I had to add fins to the sides of these spears. The fins are what the spring pushes against. Without them, it would not have been possible. But since fins would naturally help guide a missile through water, it seemed fitting. Unique design, probably not seen before.

I made two spear heads, one an explosive tip, and one a missile tip. I have a few other designs in the wings I can use for expansion sets or new sets if I want.

The mask was a challenge. I was going to go with the same mask I had used for the Gulf set but that one was an “innie”, it had holes to fit paracord. This one had to be an “outie” to fit into the existing hoses. And also, the original face breather had paddles on the side to fit into the thick blue head cover. It was clear early on that the new black suits were not as thick, and that would not work, so Greg asked for a full face mask, and it was a bit of a daunting task. It took a while to design and get working, and in that scale, it really should be printed in resin on my resin printers, which can only operate from May to October, as I have to print in an unheated garage.

So it took a while, but I eventually designed a face mask that is quite modern and quite nice if I do say so myself. I modeled a slot all around the eye opening to fit a clear plastic visor. And since it was a 3D model, I was able to take the shape of that slot, separate it out, and straighten it (since it was modeled on a curve) and then use that line image to move to a vector program to create a file to cut on my Cricut desktop cutter. I bought some light filter plastic film and cut out the mask visors.

Snapping them in place was a bit challenging, but once they got into place they fit perfectly.

I found some small gauge elastic (harder than you’d think) and epoxy-cemented them into place for a nice fit.

I have to say it is a pretty impressive set as a whole. It came together perfectly and the elements all look like they belong.

Some have compared the set to James Bond or original Adventure Team, and I ain’t mad about that. Clearly Adventure Team is my main inspiration, but in this case Bond came to mind. And while the inspiration is visible, these are entirely my own design.

When I was done I created a version of the set in red and black (with red visor) and it will go with my Spy Island set as a further addition. A one-off for me.

Skunkworks YouTube channel reviewed this set. Check it out.

 

Huxter Labs FAQ: “Do You Do Custom Orders?”

I made his blog originally to talk about 3D printing. The truth about 3D printing. Here’s some brutal truth:

I do this for fun.

Ever since I was a kid breaking apart my cool toys to see how they worked, I was fascinated with toys and how they worked. I started out as most do, playing with Corgi, Husky, Dinky, Hot Wheels, Johnny West, GI Joes, View Master, Billy Blastoff, Major Matt Mason, Big Jim… anything really.


Me with my View Master and Corgi Batmobile


Here with my aunt Patricia playing with my cool Hot Wheels track set with the Sizzlers charging “gas” tank.


Here’s me with the toys I got for Christmas. Yup. Those were all mine. Two wire-remote walking and hissing light-up Dinosaurs that battled each other; A Western cap-gun pistol set (it was the 70s. Everything was about the Old West); My Lite Brite; Johnny West on his horse; a Crazy Carpet; Hot Wheels Sizzler set; Noah’s Ark set; Etch-a-Sketch; Plasticine modeling set; an SSP vehicle with rip-cord.


My cousin Mike, my sister Deidre, his sister Shean, and me playing with the GI Joe Adventure Team Headquarters and Desert Jeep.


Me playing with a wonderful toy that I wish I remembered the name of. My mother brought it back from Toronto for me.

Those are just some pics of me as a wee kiddie playing with my toys.

More of my history can be seen here.

That last one shows an amphibious remote controlled vehicle that I have never been able to find any modern reference to at all. It was amazing. It had sealed hollow wheels so it could float on water. It had multi-arm suspension so it could travel over any terrain. It had a remote control handle with a squeeze trigger and a dial on it that moved as I squeezed, so I knew what I was trying to get it to do. And I wondered how this all worked, as the remote was not attached by a wire, but by a hollow hose like an aquarium tank hose.

So naturally I took it apart. Inside I found a small concertina-like air bladder that was also sealed. When I squeezed the remote, it filled this concertina bladder with air, moving its end, which was connected to a control lever which told the machine what to do inside the vehicle itself. So I would squeeze the handle and it would, by air pressure alone, physically move a lever inside to various positions on a switch plate. I was amazed. The batteries were inside the vehicle, and were solely for motor power.

And if I had had 3D printers back then, I would have been making toys back then.

Not having a 3D printer didn’t stop me of course. I made toys, but I wasn’t much into carving. I certainly built more than my share of model kits. I would also make toys out of other toys. Not all that long ago, I had a project in mind where I took the beautiful Sigma Six DragonHawk Flying Vehicle and cut it up to make a 1:6 scale GI Joe Backpack Jetpack. Kinda criminal when I think about how beautiful this toy was, and I just hacked it to pieces. But huzzah! I bought a second one which is still in its box.

So making toys has been in me from the start.

And now I make much more elaborate toys for GI Joe, for Space: 1999 Dinky and Konami Eagles, and other toys that interest me. I make UFOs, Robots and Rockets. If you want to see more, just search around this blog by using the Search bar at top. I have now had 10 years experience making toys by 3D printing.

So back to the FAQ question:

Do You Do Custom Orders?

This is my hobby. This is fun. But it’s also a small personal business.

There are two huge lies people get told often:

1 – “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.”
2 – “If you are your own boss, no one gets to tell you what to do.”

Lies.

If you do what you love, you work every day of your life. If you let it get away from you.

If you are your own boss, you tell yourself what to do every day of your life. If you let yourself order you around. Which happens a lot.

So I do this for fun. Not for work. I have a job. A really nice one. A fun one. In which I make virtual toys. I work 5 days a week, with vacation days and days off more or less whenever I feel like it.

“But you want to make money, don’t you?”

I make what most people would consider a very good living. I don’t need the money I make from making 3D toys.

I do this for tun.

When it stop being fun, I stop doing it.

“But you make stuff for Costwold Collectibles right?”

Yes, I do. I approached Greg almost a decade ago now, with interest in selling toys to people who love them as much as I do. And I have made MANY toys for Cotswold Collectibles. Greg and I are a very effective team. We toss ideas at each other like spaghetti on a wall. Some stick, some don’t. But in the end we get something that we both like, and we get to produce toys that didn’t exist before. And that excites me. My motto (as seen etched on the back of the very first iPad I bought) is:

Always Remember: Put Something Out There.

Greg knows my limits, and knows what I am willing to do and not do. He takes care of marketing, selling, distributing. I just make toys in small batches (sometimes big batches) and send them to him. I make enough money to keep buying supplies, printers (to replace ones that sometimes refuse to cooperate) and other stuff to keep my interest up and to keep me having fun.

But I do it for fun.

If it stops being fun I stop doing it.

I once attended a Toylanta show several years ago. It was my first, and I was psyched!

I was hoping the show would invigorate me and spur me on to make more toys. However, instead, the show overwhelmed me and burned me out.

I stopped doing any 3D work for a year.

I still trickled out some stuff. Even though I had no inspiration to do so. This was the part where my boss ordered me to push on even if I didn’t want to. And it also had me working on days I didn’t want to.

Then this past Toylanta in March (on my birthday) I came back fired up! I jumped in with both feet. I was designing, printing, assembling (the hard part) and I put together some very very cool stuff, like the Aerial Platform Mark II, and gear for for upcoming Cotswold sets, including Spy Island: Aerial Assault, and The Hunt for the Pygmy Wolf, which included a Net Blaster that I had designed a bunch of years ago and sat around because I didn’t want the hassle of making a net, as cloth products are not of much interst to me. (Until Greg found the perfect net material, and then we were on!)

Plus more gear and cool that you don’t yet know about. Things that have been in the works for years, waiting on the perfect thing to complete it, or just on hold because some scumbag decided to change the circuit board inside the Santa Noses I got at Dollar Tree, so it no longer fit inside a thing I needed it to fit inside, meaning I would have to compromise my design completely – and I really hate compromising when I created what I think is the perfect thing.

So I’ve been busy since March. Very busy. Too busy for any custom orders.

That doesn’t mean I won’t do custom orders. I sometimes do.

Usually I prefer to design stuff and let someone else take the reins on the rest.

Shapeways, for example, has a whole catalog of my toys and people are free to order those, and I don’t even have to know about it until the thin margin of profit (usually a buck or two on any item, or even less) comes my way. Shapeways does all the rest including manufacture, shipping, and profiting.

My Shapeways store is called fourthd and that’s meant to indicate that while the item is printed in 3 Dimensions, the fourth D is Time, or in this case – Play Time. YOU provide the 4th Dimension.

And I have some Etsy stores. Most were experimental, but one is active: Moonbase Beta.

I was originally intending to provide a Print-On-Demand service for any of my designs, since the design work was done, I simply had to take orders, pump out some stuff on my 3D printers, and assemble them and ship them. Ah, there was the rub. Assembly is hard. And time-consuming. And it hurts. Physically. If you saw how many times I cut myself on the sharp plastic, and the sharp tools required… you’d wonder why I even bother.

So right now, my ETSY store is only selling things I pre-printed in a big batch last year. And when that backlog of stock runs out, I will either shut down my ETSY store or print another batch. But I am not open to doing on-demand orders like I originally started out doing. It’s too much for me to take.

“But do you still make things?”

Absolutely. I do. And I do it a lot.

Because it’s fun.

And when it stop being fun, I stop doing it.

But yes.

“So, Do You Do Custom Orders?” – (again)

I sometimes do Custom Orders. But only when I want to.

So if you ask me if I will do a custom order for you, please don’t take it personally when I say “I usually don’t. I work almost exclusively through Costwold, so keep your eye out for their announcements.” That’s my polite way of saying “Right now – RIGHT NOW – I don’t want the extra work. Tomorrow I may feel different. (But please don’t ask the same question tomorrow – that’s bound to get a no on principle.”

And if I say “Sure. What do you want?” it means I’m in the mood to do a custom order.

Please don’t take either response personally, because it’s never about you. It’s about me. Every time.

Do I want to? Am I up do it? Am I currently overwhelmed with the work I am already doing? Is it still fun? Am I in the middle of a few good books? Are my printers acting up and causing me problems? Do I want to take the time to figure out why and fix the issues? Do I want to sit in my cramped hot print room (in summer) hurting myself and making myself bleed? Do I want to take this Saturday and go to the Mystic Aquarium and Museum with my family? (Which is what I did yesterday instead of working on an order.) Do I want to sit and veg on the couch flipping through shows I don’t even care about for a few days? Am I just really really tired???

Sometimes I do want to do custom orders.

Sometimes it’s mercenary. Sometimes I think “Man, I’d love get that new New Wave’s Arcade 1:6 Replica. and if someone would pay me some cash, I could just do it without having to use my own money. And those things aren’t cheap.

So sometimes it’s about that. On rare occasions.

But it’s never about you. It’s not that I don’t like you, or I do like you, and if I like you I’ll make you some stuff. It’s about me. And how I feel in the moment.

I still like you. Don’t worry about that.

My interest in this hobby is to make things for the people who will truly appreciate them the way I do. Cool fun new GI Joe toys. Fun accessories for the Dinky Eagle they’ve had since they were kids but they don’t have the cool Freighter Pod as it appeared in Space: 1999, or the Lab Pod they never made, or the Jet Booster they never made for it. So I made it, and I made it available to people… when I feel like printing and assembling them.

I do it because I love toys. And I love that you love toys. And I want you to have the toys you love.

But I’m only one person, and I have only so much time. And the money is not why I do it.

So all this is the most long-winded way to answer the simple question:

Q: Do You Do Custom Orders?
A: Sometimes.

But don’t resent me when I don’t.

 

 

Huxter Labs Net Blaster – Hunt for the Pygmy Wolf

For Joelanta, August 11-13, 2023, Greg Brown of Cotswold Collectibles was creating a new set. It would feature a hunt for a Pygmy Wolf. This harkens back to the old Adventure Team days when Joe hunted the Pygmy Gorilla, which really was an excuse to use a hilariously small gorilla in a set back then. But that was pretty normal for GI Joe. He also hunted a White Tiger that was soooo small.

So Greg approached me for a Net Blaster to capture the wolf.

 

Net Blaster

Years ago, not long after I created a Spotlight that would fit Dollar Tree flashlights onto a pillar with swivel features for the RACCS system I created, Greg and I began discussing the idea of a net gun for trapping animals.

I immediately jumped at it, and made it to fit the same clip as the Dollar Tree flashlight, so we could reuse the Search Light RACCS set, shown here.

The RACCS Search Light connects to the RACCS platform with tabs, like all RACCS gear. But it also came with a cup mount to fit onto the Adventure Team Training Tower.

Here is the Search Light attached to the RACCS platform that came built-in to my ATV Trailer:

So I made a net gun with a barrel size equal to the flashlight’s width, so it would also fit into that pillar.

So I set out to model the Net Blaster. Seen here in an early form, with the gas propellant tanks forward instead of aft.

And so this project sat for years on my shelf, without a net. I did print the missiles I would use, but never did find netting good enough to make it real until this year.

Greg wanted a jungle or forest themed color palette, so instead of using the Adventure Team themes I had been using, I went with olive green, tan, black and silver. With orange propellant tanks.

Another requirement was that the gear be packable into one of my Drop Canisters.

So the Net Blaster had to come apart, given that it was a bit too tall, as it was, to fit into the Drop Canister comfortably.

So I decided to make the rear power cylinder and pistol grip removable. With 3D printing, it’s easy enough to make the fit tolerances work so you can friction-fit something into place, but it’s a delicate balance, and variations in printing and materials, and even which printer does the work, can make it inconsistent. So instead of just relying on that, I came up with a tab/slot system, with an arrow indicator.

The rear cylinder can only go in one way, and you rotate it to click into place, and the handle is pointing directly vertical.

 

Missiles

To fire the net, I came up with a four-barrel system, each of which would fire a gas-powered missile with the net attached, so the net would spread out and capture the target.

Easy enough. I just made a red and yellow missile that would connect to the net using jewelry hoop rings.

These fit into the barrels like so:

 

The Net

I had figured Greg would get someone to make the nets just like he gets someone to make the outfits. But nope.

And over the period of years, we tried many different net materials, and until June 2023 I really hated them all. Too flimsy, the wire rings on the missiles I was planning on attaching to the netting would tear the netting far too easily. Until Greg sent me the perfect material. Strong, looked good.

But it was a bit too bulky to fit into the original barrel so I enlarged it. (Oh well, there goes the re-use with the Search Light.)

After finally settling on a netting of suitable material that would not likely break when pulling hard-ish on the missiles, I cut one 8×8″ net and it seemed a bit small. So I increased it to 9×9″ and even though it was just one inch larger, it made a world of difference.

Let me say that we could easily have faked it and left the net out of the actual gun, and let the player imagine the firing of the net, but that’s just not me. It had to fit. So that’s why I increased the barrel diameter.

And when the first net was finished, with missiles attached, we tested it against the very small wolf figure that would come packed with the set:

Success!

But it was kinda bulky at 9×9″. I could jam it into the blaster, but that would not be a great idea. So I came up with a folding method that worked rather well.

See below for folding instructions.

 

Production

Often, I get orders for 12, or 20 of a thing. Sometimes 24. Once I think I did 60 drones. Let me tell you that prototyping a thing is easy. Making dozens of them is very hard, laborious work, and I cut my hands so often on the sharp plastic and chisel tools that I’m surprised I’m still alive. (I would not be doing this if I didn’t love it.)

Greg needed 50 sets. That’s 50 Net Blasters, 50 nets, 200 missiles, and 50 Wrist Control Cuffs. Oh, and 20 NEW Drop Canisters

Here are just over 50 Net Blasters, fully constructed:

This is what 200+ missiles look like:

Here are only about half of the 50+ nets I made:

 

Control Cuff

Of course the set would need a Control Cuff. We opted to go with the olive cuffs I had already been producing.

But I wanted it to be different, so I made a unique screen sticker for it that would evoke a jungle hunt with tracking information (dots)

 

Drop Canister

As mentioned earlier, the Net Blaster had to fit into a Drop Canister, so I made that happen. However, Greg did not have parachutes for this set. I knew just what to do. It would be incredibly easy to adapt the cover of the Drop Canister to have retro-rockets to guide the Drop Canister down to the ground and land it softly, even softer than a parachute would, if it was computer controlled.

So I set out to update the Drop Can. I added the quiet retro-jets to the can without the need to alter the lid much, other than cut slots in it so the engines would align properly.

Here you see the ducts under each engine:

And I could have left it at that, but I never liked the rather unfinished look of the Drop Canister bottom, so I added a retro-landing system:

These Drop Canisters would be sold as add-ons to the full set, so only 20 were made.

Net Folding Instructions

The netting we chose is fairly robust, so of course it takes up room. If I had known earlier exactly what the folded net would feel like and measure, I might have expanded the barrel just a bit more. But this folding system works, as long as you follow directions correctly.

Even though I mentioned that the netting we used was strong, it is still mesh made of thread, so it is not iron. Pulling on the missiles when the net is stowed inside the barrel should be done carefully, and folding the net and prodding it inside should also be done carefully.

So here is the best way I came up with to fold the net so it fits inside the barrel nicely:

1 – Lay net out flat, missiles to the corners

 

2 – Fold net over so two opposite missiles meet

 

3 – Fold net so one single missile meets the other single missile

 

4 – Fold net so all missiles meet in a corner

 

5 – Fold the far net corner over until it meets the missiles

 

6 – Starting with the netting corner, begin folding very tightly towards the straight edge

 

7 – Grip the wadded net by the end

 

8 – Gently push it into the body with a finger, until the four missiles are dangling outside the barrels

 

9 – Fit each missile into its closest barrel

 

10 – Very gently nudge the rest of the netting into the body until the missiles tighten, but do not over-push, or you my tear the netting where the metal rings connect!

To “fire” the Net Blaster, gently pull the netting out from the body. You can tug gently on the missiles, but be careful that they don’t tear the netting. It is best to hook out the netting with tweezers or pull on the netting itself in the middle of the body between the four barrels.

 

Huxter Labs Super Joe Unlimited – Arctic Danger

In 2021, Greg Brown of Cotswold Collectibles put together a new set for GI Joe – except this one held a bit of a twist. He had been working on ideas for Super Joe, a 9-inch figure that Hasbro produced after the 12″ GI Joe line petered out. Super Joe was not quite as world-popular as the original GI Joe line, but people did enjoy the figures and the wonderful gear sets that were produced at the time.

Greg’s idea was to continue the Super Joe idea, but in 12″ scale.

So he had planned an Arctic Set, partly surrounding a blue Arctic dragon-like monster creature from Safari Limited.

 

The Set

The set would include a figure with flocked hair, a white snow suit with blue striped accents and fur-lined parka hood, white Kung Fu Grip hands, white boots, a white mask against the sheer arctic cold, a futuristic rifle. The box art was by David Howard.

He also wanted a revival of my Communication Backpack, which was repurposed from a metal Lowe’s Gift Card holder, that I had done some time earlier. Only this time it would hold a drone. With it, he wanted the extended Wrist Cuffs I had made for a space set some time before.

I also provided a blue clear resin eye piece for the face mask, which had no visor, but was open, which for an arctic set, was less than ideal. I can’t fault that mask, though. I’m not sure who made it, but it was very nice.

Mattsquatch Customs made the rifle, and a clever twist was that each boxed set would come with a randomly packed futuristic rifle, from, I believe, 3 options.

 

The Drone

Greg wanted a drone to fit into a backpack, and he wanted the backpack to be a slight revision of the Lowe’s Gift Card pack Communications Backpack we had done a year or so earlier. He and I both had a small stock of those backpacks left, (and Lowe’s was no longer selling them) so we thought we would use the remaining stock in this set.

The original: This one came empty and was used only to store gear.

First, I needed a new drone. I wanted a new version that had fewer parts and was easier to assemble, as well as, I was kinda getting tired of the old one.

So I created this new drone and tried a few sizes:

It turned out that the biggest one was too large, the smallest one, but as is often the case with stories, the middle one was just right.

To make this fit into the backpack, I created an insert that would fit the drone, but also the two antennas that slot into the top of the backpack have slots for storage too.

I created a new cover for the Lowe’s logo at bottom right (here, covered by a widget), and made a screen for it.

A problem with the last batch of Communicator Backpacks always bothered me. I tried gluing the harness braces to the back of the aluminum pack, but I always worried it would not be strong enough to hold permanently. Experiments with Super Glue and Binary Epoxy both yielded iffy results. It may never be an issue, but I was able to pull them off with some force. Likely no one else ever has, but that’s just me.

So I went the extra step of updating those braces to hold a rivet. And I bought a rivet gun, rivets and rivet washers, to make damn sure these would never come off. In addition to the Super Glue (which was actually quite strong) I riveted the upper and lower braces onto the box.

The top one here is covered by the standard Huxter Labs harness, but you can see the rivet in the bottom brace. Both braces are identical parts, flipped.

 

Drone Control

Greg saw a cuff I had made previously for an Astronaut set I worked on. I extended the arm cuff to contain a screen that fits over the back of the hand. We used this for the Drone Control Cuff for this set, rather than going with the original.

 

With this equipment, the Arctic Danger set was complete.

Huxter Labs – Spy Island – Aerial Assault Superset

For Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo in July, 2023, Greg Brown, owner and operator of Cotswold Collectibles wanted to put together a Spy Island-themed super-set that would have some very cool gear in it.

The History of Spy Island

Back in the original Hasbro GI Joe days, even before the Adventure Team, there was a GI Joe set called Secret Mission to Spy Island which featured a black suit, black stocking cap, a grease gun, flare gun, binoculars, spotlight, wrist flashlight, inflatable raft, a pack of dynamite and a detonator, and a box-radio, and more. It was a very popular set and exploited the 1960s Cold War spy themes, movies like James Bond, TV shows like Danger Man (Secret Agent) and others.

The set was revived during the Adventure Team era to include almost exactly the same gear, but with a black Adventure Team stealth suit.

Peter Pan Records did a story book and record of The Secret Mission to Spy Island, which you can see here, and even listen to the audio files I had converted from the original records long ago.

In the late 90s through the mid-2000s, Hasbro revived the GI Joe line in an excellent series of different era reproductions, and one was the Timeless Collection. It was during this time that they revived the Secret Mission to Spy Island theme with a set that, while it did not reproduce the original exactly, did reproduce several important pieces, and the general idea, and even threw in a Crocodile to add to the play value. It included a repro of the vintage hard-hands GI Joe, with camo outfit and all the gear needed to infiltrate Spy Island.

In 2010 at the Providence GI Joe Convention, the Convention Set was, in my opinion, the finest Convention set ever produced: Escape from Spy Island, and contained so much gear I can’t even imagine the creation process. Though much of the gear was recast from previous sets, including vintage items like the Underwater Explorer now done in black and red (wow!) the sensor from the Classic Collection Save the Tiger set cast in yellow, and a metallic robotic shark that was originally part of an unreleased Sigma Six set, this was an amazing set to own. Thankfully as of this writing, I still own it, (plus the add-on convention exclusive of the black version of the mechanical shark)

Note that in this set, the theme of red and black emerges quite emphatically. In the original set, due to its stealthy nature, of course, the overall theme was black, but with red binoculars and red dynamite, it already hinted at a black/red theme.

With the lamentable end of the GI Joe Collectors’ Club, the Spy Island story was officially dead…

 

Spy Island Revival

…until 2023.

When Greg approached me to help create a set based on the Spy Island theme, I jumped at the chance.

This would be for the Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo in July, 2023, and it would feature three GI Joe Spy Island sets.

One that I know about is Spy Island Invasion – Sabotage:

This one will feature a lovely box with art by Doug Fakkel who is a friend I haven’t seen in many years. He used to be in a GI Joe collecting group with me long ago until he left the area. (Doug has made some of the finest repro GI Joe boxes and new boxes to fit modern era GI Joe sets.)

So far I have only seen this image of the third set: Invasion of Spy Island; Underwater Infiltration from Wetsuitman Exclusives.

 

Spy Island – Aerial Assault

For this set, Greg envisioned an aerial attack on Spy Island to take down an imminent threat. He liked something I had done years before, which was part of an incomplete set I had planned, called Cyber Counter-Attack, and wanted to carry this forward to his Aerial Assault on Spy Island.

 

Air Transport

First, we needed a way to fly to Spy Island.

It was an obvious idea to use my original Heli-Jet Pack but in a black/red theme. We had created a few black stealth versions of this before, but this would have red accents as well to fit the theme.

 

Aerial Drone and Controller

You will also note that in the photo is a wrist control cuff that I sell through Cotswold in a variety of colors, and also include in other sets where appropriate. Usually it is used to control a drone or some other equipment, as it is kind of like an arm-worn control tablet. Above, it is shown without sticker for the screen. Here is what it looks like complete:

Also, I repurposed my most recent drone which was originally created for an arctic themed set we worked on a couple of years ago, called Super Joe Unlimited – Arctic Danger. The original was in white and blue colors to fit the arctic set.

This is a departure from my previous drone which I had used in multiple sets. This one would be easier to assemble (in theory) and not have moving parts, but still be a cool, high-tech drone.

Using the idea of the Dyson-like propulsion that the Heli-Jet uses, it has four bladeless props, an intake vent and a camera lens underneath. I printed those intake vents and camera domes in transparent red resin on an Anycubic Photon resin printer. If you hold one up to the light, you can see through it.

At this point we had transport, we had an Aerial Drone for recon. Now we needed a weapon system.

 

Electromagnetic Mine/Grenade

This spy would carry no heavy weaponry, just a pistol. His mission is to disable a Cyber-terrorist server farm (or whatever the user dreams up. In the comic book image below, a mine is used to take out a jet), so he needed something to take down a bunch of computers.

The idea I had years before was for an Adventure Team Cyber Counter-Attack set that would feature an EMP Cannon for aiming at electronics and emitting a burst of magnetic energy to fry the equipment, as well as EMP Grenade and Mine to plant around the facility which would deliver a centralized EMP burst powerful enough to take out electrical equipment in the vicinity. It also had some stuff we would not use, such as a satellite uplink, a control pad (we now use a wrist cuff) and cybernetic VR goggles.

This set would be all about using Electromagnetic Pulse weaponry and monitoring to shut down a Cyber-Terrorist threat, and included an EMP Grenade/Mine.

This is something I modeled and prototyped nearly a decade ago. It contained 3 magnets per grenade/mine. One in the base cup to let the mine attach to a metal surface, and two in the grenade portion. The grenade comes out of the cup and can be thrown, hence grenade. But mainly it was intended to sit in the magnetic cup as a mine that could be planted. Inside the grenade are two magnets. One is dual-purpose: It attracts to the base, but is also used to repel a very small magnet in the trigger plunger, which made it behave like a spring without using an actual spring.

For Spy Island, Greg recalled that mine prototype and wanted to use it, and I thought now was the perfect time to resurrect it and theme the assault as a counter-attack to a Cyber threat.

To detonate the 3 included mines, I created a Detonator, in the general idea of the original Spy Island detonator plunger. In this case I did use a spring. I also created a locking mechanism inside so you can only push the plunger when the handle is turned perpendicular to the box.

At the last minute, I added an arrow indicator to show the Spy that they needed to turn the handle first:

 

Getting the Gear to the Mission Site

How would the Spy transport the drone? And how would he get the EMP Weapons to the site? Hold them in his hands as he flew in? NO. His hands would be filled with two joysticks for the journey.

We had used a Drop Canister for mission gear in the past. However, the Drop Canister would have to be redesigned to be made larger to fit the drone, if we wanted to include it. I thought that unnecessary.

We would definitely want to fit the mines and detonator in a Drop Canister, which would be sent on ahead by parachute drop to the Spy Island mission site.

So I thought of a way to snap the Drone to the Heli-Jet. A simple clip that would attach to the back of the Heli-Jet with clip tabs for the Drone, so the Drone can be carried without issue by air.

Thanks to 3D printing, I was able to use the actual body model for the Heli-Jet as a base to create a clip that would snap to it perfectly, contour-for-contour. To make it reusable, I created a slot, rather than adding the drone clip directly to it. This way, I could repurpose it for any gear I wanted, that would attach a second piece to the slot on the Heli-Jet portion of the clip.

Two tabs fit into two opposing propeller holes on the drone, for a very secure connection. Simply thumb the tabs together very slightly, and pop! The drone comes off easily.

See how it works in the image at thet top of this article.

 

Completing the Super Set

Greg would supply the figure, the outfit, boots, equipment belt, a wonderful headset, a great pair of goggles, a shoulder holster and pistol, as well as the parachute for the Drop Canister.

Prior to the show, Greg released an image to be used with the set:

And with that, Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo will see quite a spirited revival of the Spy Island lore that dates back to the early days of GI Joe, all thanks to a group of very dedicated fans who love GI Joe and love what we do.

Huxter Labs Lunar Hopper – One Man Moon Vehicle

One of my most ambitious toy designs so far is the Lunar Hopper, based on NASA concepts that were never fully developed.

As often happens, this came from a years-long discussion between myself and Greg Brown of Cotswold Collectibles.

He wanted to make a boxed set around this lander, complete with a foil-cloth astronaut suit and helmet.

 

Concepts

Based on concepts such as these:

(See more concepts at the bottom of this post.)

 

Design Challenges

The first thing I wanted to achieve was a basic core shape that would invoke the actual Eagle Lunar Lander used to land on the moon. So I used some sharp angles in the main platform body similar to the Eagle.

Note also that I used a main central thrust engine cone, and on each leg, attitude thrusters for steering. These small thrusters are on blocks that act as connectors for the spindly legs.

Speaking of legs, this was a big challenge as I could not really print thin cylinders (dowels) that would be both strong and look good. So I had to do some searching for materials.

I found plastic cake dowels. It was far too easy to find compressed rolled paper cake dowels, but as they were paper, they would be useless. It was much harder to find plastic dowels, but I did.

 

The Seat

The next challenge would be how to fit a 12″ GI Joe onto the lander and not look dumb. Clearly he needed a seat, and I used a seat design that was not far from the idea of the Adventure Team Escape Car, but also might actually work on a one-man real lunar hopper, which meant a lot of empty space, not a solid block of material, for weight, but also for strength. (Theoretical weight on an actual space vehicle – I was not worried about toy weight.)

So I modeled a seat that had a back that slots into the base.

I first printed it in white, but Greg and I decided to go with a theme of red/white/black to suit the astronaut suits he was having made for this set.

I wanted the seat to slide, but not freely. I needed it to lock in place, so the bottom of the seat has notches, and I created a sliding seat lock on the main base, to slip into these notches and hold the seat at various positions without slipping.

 

Flight Controls

It also needed reasonable controls. So I thought of a helicopter control, as well as looked into real Lunar Lander controls. To me, a human on a chair can use two controls, and it made sense that one be for main thrust (up/down) and the other a joystick for attitude control.

So I created a ball-jointed joystick with my 3D printers that I was actually surprised worked really rather well.

The joystick sat in a bottom cup, with rounded interior, and that fitted up into an exterior housing which completed the spherical space. When assembled, the joystick rotates very nicely.

I used my standard control handle for both controls, each slightly modified for the purpose.

The altitude control was a single lever with a horizontal control. The inner cylinder needed a cap so I added my Huxter Labs logo to it.

For toy flexibility, I wanted the seat to slide back and forth on the base platform. There was a reason for this other than just adjustability.

 

Cargo

We wanted to carry cargo. And to do that, I needed a way to attach a tray that could carry a specific small third-party storage container that Greg had purchased for this set.

Here is the tray attached to the hook at the back of the seat bottom, that holds the cargo tray in place. The cargo tray slips along the same grooves as the seat, so both the seat and cargo can slide backwards and forwards.

 

Lunar Seismic Experiment Module

But also, I had already created a set that another person asked me to create for a convention set that never panned out. But I had done a lot of work on it, and I thought it perfect to include it in this set, and Greg agreed.

In investigating what equipment the Apollo astronauts brought to the moon, one stood out, not only because there were good pics of it, but a toy set I had of the Apollo Landing included a small version of it, and I thought it was cool. It was the Lunar Seismic Experiment package, meant to detect lunar tremors.

The clever thing about this is that it all folded up into a small package for space, and ease of use for astronauts to deploy. So I created mine to have the solar panels angle outward on rails, but also collapse back in on the carry-case-sized payload. Hence:

For the solar panels I bought shiny blue card stock and printed blocks of varying gray scales over it. The black handle is identical to the handle on the cargo tray. I added a control panel and the cylinder actually stores the antenna in two separate pieces, and the lid screws back on. To add verisimilitude, I wanted the cylinder to be covered in the same kind of reflective foil used on a lot of space gear. The foil is chocolate Rolo foil:

Which meant buying a bunch of these, just to get the foil. But did I mind?

I did not. (yum)

The Seismic Experiment package fits into the hook at the back of the chair, and is designed to touch the rear of the platform with the seat pushed back a bit.

Of course this opens up possibilities for future cargo modules as well.

 

Fuel Cells

Next thing to tackle was fuel cells. I originally used ping-pong balls, but we both considered them to be a bit silly looking. Too small.

So I began a search for spherical things that I could use. Yes, of course, I could print some, but printing rounded spheres is not a strength of 3D FDM printers. As you approach the top of the sphere, the layers get very visible.

And an ingenious thought hit me: Ball Pit Balls. I knew they existed in a myriad of colors, as anyone who’s ever been to a McDonald’s knows… but I wanted them in White. Amazon to the rescue.

Then I made rings to attach to the side of the main platform, and originally those were white too, but in an homage to the Adventure Team Escape Car, I was trying to put as much red on as possible without getting obnoxious about it. So I made them in red. (I still have a lot of white ones printed, which sit in a box… oh well… Red is better for this version.)

Here, you see my mostly white version with copper feet, and my “Escape Car” version with blue feet.

 

Feet

I modeled the feet to loosely resemble the Eagle’s landing feet. These could be printed in any color I had, but for this model, we chose copper. My first prototype, in homage to the Adventure Team Escape Car, were blue, as the Escape Car’s wheels were blue.

 

Our Astronaut Needs To Breathe

We were going to use these beautiful red helmets for the Astronaut figure, but we needed a breathing apparatus. Given that we were seating the astronaut on a chair with a back, it made less sense to put a big oxygen pack on his back. Rather, we opted for a chest piece that was reminiscent of Space: 1999 Alpha Astronaut suits.

But rather than mimic that design, I looked through other Adventure Team sets for inspiration, and it hit me:

This is the chest piece of the Adventure Team Sonic Rock Blaster.

And here is my Lunar Hopper Chest Ox Pack:

But the problem solving didn’t end there either. We needed a coupling mechanism for the helmets. Greg said he didn’t mind gluing a piece to the red helmets, so I designed an add-on for the helmet, but since I had already printed all of the chest ox packs, I had to make an add-on for that too, where normally I would just add it to the model and print it as one thing.

So I made a coupler for the chest pack and the helmet, and needed a hose to connect them.

Luckily I had this amazingly flexible clear plastic filament.

So I connected the chest oxygen pack to the helmet using this clear hose, seen here in the overall shot of the completed astronaut:

I think it worked rather well.

 

Wrist Communicator/Controller

Wait, what’s that on his wrist?

My communication cuffs have been very popular at Cotswold. Cheap, available in a variety of colors, it’s the one thing I see most when people post images of their figures on forums. But for this, we needed something a little different.

I extended the screen section over the hand itself.

 

Construction and Assembly

So man, this was a lot of printing. But whoever thinks the printing part of a 3D printed project is hard, they are wrong. The printing is done by machines while I sleep (usually).

No, the hard part is cleaning up the parts, removing raft, supports, using a heat gun to clean up the discolored plastic fatigue where supports are ripped from viable part. And then a lot of gluing and clamping.

And let me tell you that printing, cleaning up, assembling a single prototype is easy.

Printing, cleaning up and assembling 24 of anything is hard, hard work. Tedious hard work. And I don’t have any assistants or assistance.

Here are only a small number of parts in partial assembly:

^ I had to make 96 of these!!!

 

Instructions

Understandably, this had to ship as a kind of kit. So I created instructions.

And a parts sheet:

And I even put together a YouTube video to explain to anyone who needed help constructing their Lunar Hopper:

 

Blueprint

And of course what Huxter Labs major project would be complete without a blueprint:

 

More Concepts That Inspired Me

More concept images that I looked at when trying to create a workable version of my own.

Huxter Labs Aerial Reconnaissance Platform Mk II

For 2022, my biggest project so far was a flying vehicle Greg Brown (of Cotswold Collectibles) and I have been discussing for years. He has been wanting a vehicle based on the Hiller Flying Platform, a prototype that actually got off the ground and flew rather well.

I had no particular plan for how to make this on my smaller printers. And I wasn’t sure fitting together a lot of pieces would look good enough. But undaunted, I finally decided to pursue the project.

It just so happened that around fall of 2022, I was thinking of Major Matt Mason, since we had done the One Man Lunar Hopper in the previous year. I had the idea to extend my space designs into an homage to Major Matt Mason toys, which were another mainstay of my childhood.

I was going to start by making a 1:6 scale version of Mason’s Space Sled, accurate as I could, in white with black accents, just like the original.

I knew I couldn’t do the base in one piece, given the dimensions of my 3D printers, so I knew I would have to come up with ways to make it out of multiple pieces, but fit together as seamlessly as I could. Not an easy feat. There would be seams. Just where best to put them?

And then I realized I could do my original hover platform, based on the general idea of the Hiller Flyer, and I could do it by cutting the bell up into 8 pieces and fitting them together. Seams would be inevitable, but I could make it work.

In November and December of 2022 I sat down to design a version of this that would evoke my own design aesthetic, as well as a call-back to the Adventure Team line. I knew I wanted it to be mainly yellow, with red, black or blue highlights, to evoke the AT theme. I knew that I was not going to go with the double-rotor blade of the original Hiller design, not since most of my flying vehicles rely on a system similar to a Dyson fan. That is, air forced into a hollow bell shape, with an opening at top to force air down in a stable column. My Helijet Pack uses this, as do my Drone models. So I literally took the 3D model of my Helijet Pack and cut it into a cross-section, and re-lathed it around a larger center, and that would be my lift body.

Here you can see that the circular engine bell housings translated into a larger one for the Aerial Recon Platform:

To better hide the seams, I put rivets along them, to make it look like a natural join, as you would clearly see on a real aircraft where plates join.

I had to add landing feet, so I extended out egg-shaped housings for rather utilitarian-looking landing feet. I used rivets to make those look like they were naturally attached too.

Now I had to design a steering column like the one from Major Matt Mason’s Space Sled. But I knew that taking that idea too closely from the original would not fit my own design aesthetic, so I showed Greg two options: A round, curvy pillar, and a hard straight pillar. He thought he saw a resemblance to the original GI Joe Adventure Team Aerial Recon Platform:

This is a bit of a silly design, but hey, it was for kids. Adult collectors today affectionately call it the “lawn mower”. You can see why.

Notice the control pillar, though. It is a hard-edged straight red pillar, with a sharp angle in the middle, topped by a control box with handles and a camera. Greg and I agreed that this would be the best way to go for this vehicle. And I wanted to retain the camera from this one, but to give some homage to Major Matt Mason’s Space Sled by using two cameras, each could serve its own unique purpose.

So I modeled the pillar, the control box, the handles are printed horizontally for strength.

The center standing section would fictionally house the powerful jet turbine that sucks air up from below, into four tubes that push the air into the hollow engine housings, forcing the air out an open ridge at top, forcing it down into a stable column of air, strong enough to cause lift.

Which meant I needed a way for a figure to stand without falling off, and a grill to show the turbine’s intake.

Foot cups are used by many toys to keep a figure standing on a surface, and this would be a perfect way for a figure to be held in place. Note that I used a diamond plate for the surface, because a flat surface was just – boring:

And the grill is a hex pattern, a favorite of mine. I use it wherever I can:

While I was at it, I saw the perfect opportunity to add the Huxter Labs logo to the grill.

I also put hex-pads on the bottoms of the feet.

Then it was prototype time.

To start, I usually print a model in colors I have but don’t use much. Prototyping in black, red or silver is harmful, since I use so much of those colors in production work. But I have several colors I use only rarely, but I need from time to time, and as I have full spools of those colors, I use them to prototype.

I call this my “Sherbet Model”, because of the colors:

Construction went well:

Once a prototype was assembled, I could begin testing the flaws in fit, in design, in anything like how the feet fit into the cups using standard GI Joe boots, etc.

I soon found the pillar needed a way to stay in place that was not friction, and I did not want it to be glued into place. So I came up with a clip that snaps the pillar down to the base.

Construction proved to be a challenge. How to get 8 pieces on a round to glue together with a strong fit was not easy. I bought a band clamp, which is just a strip of strapping connected to a clamp. I could wrap the 8 rounded pieces in this, and twist the clamp, pulling the band tighter and tighter. But even then I had issues. First, I had to glue the four arms to the base, then the arms to four of the eight sections that had slots for them.

Much harder than it looks… trust me.

Once two opposite ones were glued, I was able to then glue one half of the rest of the circle, and clamp it together with the other half not glued, but held in place. Then when that dried, glue the other half.

And as the foot cups made it impossible to put the rounded bell down on a flat surface, I had to make a platform on which to assemble these. It had a hole drilled in it so I could overturn the assembly, and put it together, pushing to fit tightly and accurately. Between each two parts was a rectangular peg holding each piece into a correct position.

During construction phase, I had printed other colors as tests, and I put together a video on the entire process from start to finish:

Whew.

Here you see the platforms well into production:

Now on to details.

For the control box, I created a sticker for the control screen, and two “lens” stickers for the two individual cameras. To get these to stick to ABS plastic, I first had to spray paint them with a satin clear-coat spray paint. Then I could cut and apply them.

(Feel free to download these images and print them yourself if your sticker ever gets worn)

Note to self: Avoid round stickers in future!

But what about other colors?

Well for the first version, we were going with the homage to the original Adventure Team Aerial Recon Platform, and even called this one the Aerial Reconnaissance Platyform Mk II.

But I was also printing other versions already. A military version, several space-themed versions, and even brought a few to Toylanta in March of 2023 to auction off for charity.

I printed a white/gray/orange version to go with a common space color scheme, but also this World Peacekeepers Astronaut that I got a couple of years ago. But also my idea of making one for a Major Matt Mason themed 1:6 scale figure was on my mind. So I made several variants:

Here, I took a failed print, and made the best of it. The Huxter Labs logo stopped printing part-way up because of a printer issue, so I created a yellow capper for it to fit over the almost-printed logo part.

This marks the largest vehicle I’ve created to date, for GI Joes.

And I still intend to do the 1:6 scale Major Matt Mason Space Sled.

 

 

 

 

GI Joe – New Set – Fright In Flight

The third box-set I contributed to for Cotswold Collectibles was Fright In Flight.

Greg Brown wanted me to reproduce a version of the GI Joe Adventure Team Jetpack, used in several sets during the Adventure Team’s original run in the 1970s.

We call it the XP-1 Personal Rocket Pack

Based on a marketing photo which showed the jetpack with moving joysticks and cables from the underside to the jets, in white and black, I reproduced this as accurately as I could.

Hasbro did produce this jetpack as the Rocket Pack, but with much fewer parts, and less color. The engines, for example, were a single color (white or silver), and the platform was a single color (black or red), and the joysticks did not move. The cables were never added.

I added cylinders under the white deck, secured by black panels, which held nails to strengthen the joysticks. Thin 3D printed cylinders tend to snap like twigs. Without the reinforcement, this never would have been possible.

I also used white cording to act as power cables, leading from just below the joysticks to a place on the deck that was just next to the rockets. The rocket pieces were made of 3 separate parts in black and white, and slotted into the flight platform. The unit secures to the pilot with a waist strap and straps to secure the engines to the legs.

Cotswold added a figure, Pterasaur, a red jumpsuit, white helmet with red visor and boots. It comes packed in a box with original art.

I also produced a set of blueprints as I do with a lot of my toys. They act as instructions, collectible, and just a nice piece of verisimilitude.

TRON – My Obsession

When I first saw the movie TRON in the 80s, when it first came out, I was in love.

When TRON Legacy came out, I was a huge fan. This was likely the second most beautiful movie I have ever seen. Blade Runner comes first.

When the first TRON came out, I never had access to the toys. There weren’t many, but there were 3 Light Cycles with ripcord and heavy flywheel based on the concept of the SSP toys from the early 70s. And each could hold a figure. They made a few figures. But not many.

These exploded in value to the point that owning them was out of the question.

But when TRON Legacy came out, the toy stores were flooded with great toys, and man, I bought them.

I missed out on a few, but here’s a selection from my collection.

First is the Recognizer Carry Case for the die cast ships and cycles. Seen with the Baton.

Open it up and spill the contents:

This is the set of die-cast ships and bikes from the film, stored lovingly in zip-loc bags to prevent damage, inside the Recognizer Carry Case.

There are a few interesting ones here. Included in this Cycle collection are a few exclusives. I’ll shoot better pics of them at some point.

One is a Walmart exclusive (a turquoise highlight bike) that came with a DVD set.

Two are from figure sets, one is sem-transparent, showing the transformation from bits to the fully-formed cycle. Another shows a streak from its back.

But the coolest: Two USB Thumb Drives. Each one has a swing-out USB connector, and when connected, they light up and make sounds from the film.

The Baton holds a spring-launched Light Cycle with little metal roller wheels. You pull open the baton which locks the spring, then close it to compress it and launch the cycle from one end, which is a hinged door. Pretty cool.

In a later post I will post pics of the larger Light Cycles that came with 4″ figures, and some of the figures I have, as well as the Light Jets, and even some larger figures, including two 12″ figures with light-up faces which switch expressions. Those come with die-cast metal accessories which are top-notch.

I also got two FLYNN’S ARCADE tokens from Disney, on eBay.

Over the years I stumbled upon a couple of interesting oddities.

The first is an Atari joystick designed for the TRON game, and designed after the joystick from the TRON Arcade Game:

And here’s a figure from TRON put out in limited edition of 1600. Packaged in a fairly decent replica of an arcade cabinet, the figure inside lights up:

The dark cylinder cover also comes away, and you can see the figure much better without that heavy tinting.

Here are the larger Light Cycles from TRON Legacy, along with one of the NECA Light Cycle Reproduction with figures that came out around the time of Legacy’s release. The ripcord is in a bin with the others.

Faithful reproductions of the original fly-wheel cycles.

Also, hard to see here is a small figure set of Sam Flynn flying into a TRON Arcade Cabinet.

Also, there you can see Sam Flynn and CLU as 12″ figures. Their accessories are metal, and the baton sticks to the thigh by magnet. No batteries right now, but their faces light up when activated, and we see the faces change through some kind of flip-projection tech. Not sure quite now, but it’s cool. Will replace batteries and shoot some video later.