The latest in a line of Scottish nobles who have been manufacturing weapons for centuries, Laird James McCullen Destro XXIV — better known simply as Destro — continues the family tradition as the head of M.A.R.S. Industries, international weapons manufacturers and arms dealers. Destro and his company have had a long and tumultuous relationship with the global terrorist conspiracy Cobra, with the laird at times being an independent partner, a member of their organisation, and even an unwilling prisoner. Regardless, thanks to his robotics technology and cutting-edge innovations, Destro can always count on Cobra having need of him one way or the other.
Despite his lack of formal qualifications, Destro possesses a formidable intellect and a cunning mind, as well as his own sense of honour, twisted as it may be. If he has one fatal flaw, it is his pride — had he more humility, he may not have been trapped in the metal suit that he wears after a teleportation experiment gone wrong.
Last of the Clan Destro
James McCullen was the son of the Laird McCullen of Clan Destro; he grew up in the clan's ancestral home of Castle Destro, a dreary place that he hated. On one occasion, during a horse-riding lesson, the young McCullen ordered the stable-hand that was teaching him to steal apples from the orchards of the neighboring Laird of Cyear; they were found out, but James lied, claiming that the stable-hand had stolen the apples of his own volition. Though Laird McCullen had the stable-hand punished and dismissed, he was aware that his son was lying, and had him beaten for wasting the stable-hand — a potentially useful "tool" — and for lying to him. Despite the beating, James took pleasure in the last apple that he had managed to keep for himself.
As an adult McCullen, as "Destro", struck up a deal worth billions of dollars with Cobra, promising to create a working teleportation system: the M.A.S.S. Device. He also had his ancestral Castle Destro moved, brick by brick, to Patagonia.
After a weapons deal between M.A.R.S. Industries and Cobra in Istanbul was foiled by a mysterious American intelligence agency, McCullen had a machine containing several remote-controlled spider robots placed on the Badeaux Strait, using the robots to sink the ship. As he had hoped, the agency collected the machine from the wreckage, but when their scientists started investigating the device, Destro recognised one of them as Ward Michaelmas, who had been believed dead five years previously. Realising that the situation went deeper than he had anticipated, he had his assistants Glynis and Rory MacDougal keep monitoring the American base. When the robots were activated, McCullen attempted to boost their signal to bypass the GPS signal blocking capabilities of the base, but was interrupted by the Baroness, a member of Cobra who had been sent to kill him for failing to complete the M.A.S.S. Device in the promised time and for bringing attention to Cobra through his dealings with Nico Mandirobilis.
While his assistants took the spider robots on a rampage throughout the G.I. Joe base, Destro contended with the Baroness, attempting to convince her to allow him to finish the device; when she refused, he had his dog Clyde attack her, allowing him to escape into Castle Destro. In the castle's armory, Destro and the Baroness duelled with Destro swords, and though the Baroness was able to overpower him, he knocked her unconscious with the helmet from a suit of armor. Though Rory was furious that all the robots were destroyed without returning their GPS coordinates, McCullen reassured him that the data transmitted — including details on the B.E.T. and photography of the Pit's surroundings — was still valuable and useful.
Locking the Baroness into Castle Destro's "dungeon" — in reality an inescapable luxury bedroom — Destro offered the Baroness dinner and a demonstration of the M.A.S.S. Device, giving her an extravagant necklace to complete her outfit; and though the Baroness tried to kill him with a makeshift dagger anyway, Destro revealed that he had lined the necklace with miniature explosives to ensure her compliance, to which the Baroness reluctantly agreed to attend.
Using the M.A.S.S. Device to personally teleport to Nico Mandirobilis's ship, Destro attempted to kill the arms dealer in order to both demonstrate the device and eliminate Cobra's security leak; however, the assassination attempt was foiled by Snake Eyes, and upon his return to Castle Destro it was discovered that the fault in the device that led to the death of Zartan had not been corrected — the laird's molecular structure began to fall apart, requiring that Destro be sealed into a specialised suit of armor to hold his form in place until the device was perfected and a cure found. Destro was inconsolable over his imprisonment, desperately poring through his library in search of a cure.
A prison of his own making
When a team of Cobra troopers rescued the Baroness from the castle, she had Destro and his assistants tased into unconsciousness and captured to be transported to Section Zero, carried out on helicopters before being transported to the Arctic base aboard Cobra's enormous submarine, the Dreadnaught. Though Destro was to be allowed to continue his work with access to Cobra's full resources, the laird was unhappy with being robbed of his freedom, and directed the MacDougalls to work first on freeing him from his armor and then on escaping Cobra. At Section Zero, the Baroness introduced Destro to the quantum field theory expert Dr. Mindbender, but McCullen found his dreams of time travel ridiculous and insisted that he not be allowed to interfere in M.A.S.S.
The two scientists continued to quarrel over the M.A.S.S. project, with Destro believing Mindbender's equipment to be insufficient; though the Baroness was unimpressed with their arguing, Destro managed to secure the release of Glynis and Rory to assist him.However, McCullen still met with repeated failures, and in order to convince the Baroness to give him another chance, he was forced to offer a "show of loyalty" by killing Rory — something, as he explained to Glynis, done as part of his promise to Rory to protect her.
In order to salvage the M.A.S.S. Device, Destro planned to kidnap Dr. Gerald Orizama of Robillard University, an expert in particle physics who he believed would be capable of solving M.A.S.S.'s re-integration problems. As a peace offering, he also offered Cobra the approximate location of the Pit, taken from his robots' photography of the area surrounding the facility. At Destro's behest, the Baroness had her agent, Blacklight, capture Orizama despite G.I. Joe's efforts to prevent it; Destro was left thoroughly embarrassed when Orizama was immediately able to solve the problems with the M.A.S.S. Device upon seeing the plans, and angry when the Baroness refused to allow Destro to cure himself of the molecular destabilisation. When Cobra Commander reviewed the state of the M.A.S.S. project, Destro tried to bargain for more authority and better conditions, but was undermined by Glynis, angry over the death of her father. The Commander had Destro sent to the Section Ten gulag as a prisoner of Major Bludd.
In the gulag, Destro befriended fellow prisoner Vaclav Borchak, and beat a man who antagonized him in the prison yard to death. Over the following days, Destro investigated the workings of the prison, learning that any guard who allowed a prisoner to escape or die would become one himself; for Destro's murder, the guard Yubov was imprisoned. Though the other prisoners, including Borchak and Yubov, assumed that Destro's investigation was part of an attempt to escape, the Laird eventually revealed that he didn't plan to escape the gulag: he intended to take it over. With Borchak and Yubov's help, Destro used the barrels of oil stored at Section Ten to cause an explosion that killed seven prisoners; when confronted by Bludd and his guards, Destro pointed out that one fifth of the guards would need to become inmates to keep the prisoner numbers steady, prompting the guards to turn on Bludd and side with Destro. Contacting Cobra Commander, Destro informed him that he was the new warden of Section Ten, and laid out his terms: freedom first from the gulag, and then from the metal armor that encased his body.
When the Baroness attended Cobra Commander's quarters to meet with him, Destro was also present, to the Baroness's surprise. (He also provided Clan Destro's family vinted wine, which he was willing to admit was "swill".)On seeing Destro, the Baroness bludgeoned him with a wine bottle before threatening to pull him out of his armor, but their fight was broken up by Cobra Commander and his Viper guards, who ordered them to put their personal differences aside rather than force him to choose between them. After Cobra Commander was forced to destroy Section Zero and the M.A.S.S. device within, Destro pledged to rebuild it alongside the Baroness. The Baroness, however, was furious at its destruction, and believed Destro could not rebuild it without Orizama and was working entirely in his own self-interest when he promised to do so.
Later, after Cobra Commander was killed and his replacement appointed, Destro had constructed a teleportation chamber intended to free him from his armor at Cobra's science facility Section X; but though the machine performed as expected on test subjects, using it on himself instead fused his armor to his skin, turning him into living metal.
Destro must die
During the new Cobra Commander's invasion of Nanzhao, Destro and M.A.R.S. Industries provided Cobra with its machinery of war. Destro was present in the country to observe video footage of G.I. Joe ninja Snake Eyes destroying a Cobra base full of battle mechs produced by M.A.R.S.; Major Bludd took the opportunity to insult their craftmanship, infuriating Destro. In response to the mechs' destruction, Destro began to design improvements to the armor suits, but stopped at the order of Cobra Commander, who wanted his attentions ocused on the final phases of the invasion. Destro oversaw the landing large amounts of troops and armor, including Buzz Boars, in the country, and sang the praises of the machinery. Later, Destro was in Pthao to deal with the six nuclear weapons that Cobra had obtained from the People's Republic of China.
In the later stages of the invasion, Cobra deployed M.A.R.S.-built B.A.T.s in Nanzhao, using them to chase the last refugees and United Nations troops across the eastern border. Destro observed over a video link as a group of B.A.T.s engaged a G.I. Joe squad led by Hawk, and when Cobra Commander contacted him, Destro suggested that Cobra commission additional B.A.T. units to act as an occupation force in the soon-to-be irradiated Nanzhao, a suggestion the Commander agreed to. However, the Joes were able to destroy the B.A.T.s with the help of the Royal Canadian Navy, leading the Commander to order that M.A.R.S. share in the cost of the destroyed androids.
Having regained control of Castle Destro, the Laird had it relocated once more, from Patagonia to Section X in the Archangel oblast; the castle was rebuilt in an oversized "greenhouse" facility, surrounded by artificially-created, paradisical gardens. He also made some upgrades to the metal armor he was sealed into, rendering it bulletproof.
After G.I. Joe emerged into the public eye, they sent their unit of "celebrity soldiers" to the Cobra-controlled Warrenton, Ohio; when the Joes were shot down and Duke was captured, Destro oversaw the transmission of a faked video of a G.I. Joe raid on their chemical weapons plant, created by Cobra. When G.I. Joe and the Ohio National Guard mobilized on Warrenton, Destro notified the Baroness. The Baroness wondered why he was warning her instead of letting her fall and claiming Cobra's highly desired Manhattan Bureau posting for himself, but Destro had no interest in it, instead having his eye on the Baroness herself, something that she was "interested" in discussing.
Using funding from Cobra, Destro developed a new series of cyborg B.A.T.s at Castle Destro, capable of mimicking humans. Though Cobra Commander was impressed with a test run of the cyborgs in the Vyburg district of Saint Petersburg, he felt that they were still not entirely convincing, and so agreed to Destro's requests for more funding to discover the "human factor" that eluded him. As part of his experiments, he had his soldier Urso converted into a cyborg, not caring about the intense pain Urso suffered or his potential insanity and merely caring about his use as a living weapon. However, Urso proved uncontrollable, and despite Destro's attempts to reason with the cyborg — claiming that it was G.I. Joe that left him for dead, and that Destro merely restored him — Urso would not calm down, and Destro was forced to sedate him. Destro was unwilling to give up on his experiment, however, and believed that Urso merely needed to be properly trained.
Destro implanted a remote order system into Urso's head, but this proved ineffective during a demonstration for Cobra Commander and two Russian generals, and Urso continued to prove impossible to control, destroying a H.I.S.S. tank with his bare hands and killing the drivers before Destro subdued him, using the implant to torture him into submission. With his guests unimpressed, Destro attempted another demonstration at the nearby NKVD-built fake town Beaver Falls. Both Urso and the human-imitating B.A.T. Katrina were deployed to the town, where they engaged G.I. Joe's Special Missions unit and Glynis MacDougal, aka "Copperback", in combat; however, Katrina was destroyed by the Joes, and Urso ended up agreeing to help them if the Joes disconnected the implant connected to his pain centers. The generals were angered by his inability to provide a successful demonstration, but Destro blew them off, instead ordering a unit of Vipers to target the Joes; however, the Joes were able to disrupt his communications with the unit, and soon deployed Urso themselves to attack the castle and attempt to kill Destro. Destro had his men defend the castle, and was given carte blanche to do so by Cobra Commander despite the generals' anger; he managed to kill Urso and apprehend Copperback, but in the process Cobra was "invited" to depart Russian soil, a disaster that Cobra Commander laid at Destro's feet.
Forced to leave Russian territory, Castle Destro was moved from Section X back to its original position in the Scottish highlands. Destro invited the Baroness to the relocated castle for dinner, and over the meal they discussed the appointment of Michael Monk to the Manhattan Bureau, something Destro was concerned about. Aware that Monk ranked as a "1" on the Lome System, Destro believed that Monk and the Commander's faith in him were dangerous, and asked the Baroness to help him shake that faith. The Baroness stayed the night in Castle Destro, and joined the Laird when she awoke in the castle's grounds, where Destro was partaking in a macabre parody of skeet shooting: taking executives from M.A.R.S. Industries' Stuttgart branch, who had sold B.A.T.s to Monk against Destro's express orders, and launching them into the sky for him to shoot. The Baroness happily joined him in his chosen morning activity. That evening, Destro called Duke, leader of G.I. Joe's field team, and informed him of Monk's identity and location, though Duke was suspicious and unsure why Destro would help him; the Laird then began to partake in a steamy romantic evening with the Baroness, but was interrupted by another phone call... from Michael Monk, who was aware of Destro's actions and reported them to Cobra Commander. At that moment, the castle came under attack by Cobra Commander and an armed platoon of Cobra forces, with the Commander himself confronting Destro in person. Destro tried to convince Cobra Commander of the threat Monk posed, but he would not listen, and ordered the Baroness to return to the Cobra fold. Destro was forced to flee, using an army of B.A.T.s to cover his tracks; the Baroness secretly helped him to escape, promising to help persuade the Commander that Destro did what he did with good intentions for Cobra.
At some point over the next five years, Tomax Paoli took control of Cobra, and shortly afterwards, Destro was ambushed and arrested by Interpol and the Mounties in British Columbia. Eventually, however, Tomax sent his newest asset — the ninja Snake Eyes, now an agent of Cobra — to rescue Destro during a prisoner transfer, leading him back to an extraction group of Vipers and Crimson Guardsmen. Still believing that Tomax had been the one to have him imprisoned in the first place, Destro executed one of the guardsmen as a message to Cobra's leader.
Destro set himself up in Steelhead Bait Shop in Alaska, from which he sent Snake Eyes on his first mission for him: locating and retrieving Billy Kessler-Latta, son of the original Cobra Commander. Despite the interference of Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes managed to retrieve a pin from Billy's leg that was encoded with huge amounts of data on Cobra, and returned it to Destro. Unbeknownst to Destro, however, Snake Eyes was secretly a deep-cover agent for G.I. Joe, and the pin he had brought back was a fake encoded with junk data cooked up by Chameleon.
When the remains of the Transformer Astrotrain crashed on Earth, Destro hired V.E.N.O.M. to retrieve the body parts. Escorted by Annihilators, Destro met up with Miles Mayhem in Alice Springs, Australia to pick up Astrotrain's head, but the meeting was interrupted by Scarlett and Matt Trakker. While the G.I. Joe leader engaged Cliff Dagger, Destro ordered the Annihilators to load the head onto his plane, only to be stopped by Joe sniper Sci-Fi. With Mayhem distracting Sci-Fi, Destro decided to cut his losses and retreat, boarding his plane and jetting off.
Some time after their alliance began, Baron Ironblood — in actuality, former hero "G.I. Joe" Colton — visited Castle Destro through the M.A.S.S. device to try and persuade the arms dealer to join his "Iron Ring" for his attack on Cybertron. When Colton arrived, Destro, unaware of his secret identity as Ironblood, directed his B.A.T. guards to kill Colton, but was persuaded to have the androids stand down when Colton made him an offer of the advanced technology to be found on Cybertron, noting that Destro's teleporter, combined with the Cybertronians' space bridge signal, could get them to the alien world. Suitably intrigued, Destro agreed to the alliance. Destro was present when the new Cobra Commander — the former Baroness — formally declared the reformation of Cobra.
Destro joined the Iron Ring when they attacked the ceremony for Earth's initiation into Cybertron's Council of Worlds, bringing with him an army of robotic Iron Grenadiers. Destro transported Storm Shadow through Iacon in a Razorback, using the vehicle's missiles to blast past Optimus Prime and Windblade, and pacifying Storm Shadow (who was angry that they were leaving their enemies alive) with the thought of future bloodshed. After Shazraella Enerchanged with an unwilling Cybertronian to carry the Talisman, Destro joined the other villains in heading into Cybertron's depths. When Shazraella activated Metroplex's security systems to prove how easily she could destroy them, Destro shot at the laser cannons to try and disable them; later, he expressed annoyance at Miles Mayhem's casual misogyny. When Windblade located the villains, Metroplex opened up his floor panels to drop them, but Destro was caught by Storm Shadow thanks to her Dire Wraith DNA enhancements. Destro then escaped out of the bottom of Metroplex and into Cybertron's tunnels with the other villains.
As the villains neared the core, they were set upon by a swarm of Insecticons, forcing Mayhem and Destro to try and hold them off. On reaching the core, Destro was dismayed to find that Scarlett's team and Optimus Prime had beaten them there. In the ensuing fight, Destro clashed with Optimus, quipping about wanting to kill a "god" like Optimus was said to be to his people. When Starscream, Elita One and Obsidian joined the fight, Destro was caught in the beam when Mayhem used his "Python" Mask to attack Lady Jaye. The battle was cut short, however, when the villains' ally Garrison Kreiger — secretly the Prysmosian wizard Merklynn — activated the Talisman, transmuting a portion of Cybertron into a replica of lost Prysmos. Destro was magically cast out of "New Prysmos" along with the other combatants, and imprisoned in a Cybertronian prison cell. It evidently didn't hold him for long, though, as soon after he was on Earth once more with the rest of Cobra; Destro asked after V.E.N.O.M.'s agents, who had been arrested while working for Cobra, but accidentally referred to Cobra Commander as "Baroness", enraging her.