DUKE v29 (2008)

G.I. JOE

I have reached nearly 300 posts on this blog (this is 291) and I can’t believe I’ve made it this far without reviewing a Duke figure.  Not because Duke is such a great figure that warrants being talked about but just because I have so many damn Duke figures.   Other than Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander Duke is probably the character of which I have the most different versions.  Hasbro loves this guy and insists on cramming him into our collections every chance they get.  It gets kind of old seeing new Duke figures released constantly but I guess somebody needs to be the face of G.I. Joe and who better than this blonde haired pretty boy.  Snake-Eyes being a wicked cool ninja dressed all in black seems the obvious choice but the problem with Snake-Eyes is that he doesn’t talk.  His muteness and facelessness do not make him a  good candidate for spokesman.

Duke first appeared in 1984 as the Joe’s field commander.  I was luke-warm on him from the get go.  I don’t hate Duke but I never much cared for him.  It didn’t help matters that I never owned a Duke figure as a kid, Doug did, so I don’t have any real sentimental attachment to the character either.  He always seemed to hog all the air time on the show while other favorites of mine were relegated to background shots in battle scenes.  Would it have been too much to ask for to have Lightfoot save the day or to have Spearhead get thrown into the arena of sport?  I also didn’t like how Duke was portrayed as Scarlett’s love interest in the cartoon when every real Joe fan knew that she was Snake-Eyes’ girl. 

I never heard of a Joe fan loving the character of Duke.  He’s nobody’s favorite; he’s just kind of there.  In fact I’ve grown to like him more over the years out of pity since I’ve heard him dumped on so many times.  My abundance of Dukes mostly comes from the new sculpt era of the early 2000s.  In those days figures came in 2 packs and Duke was often packaged with other characters I wanted.   Despite the sheer number of Dukes being released I never found any of them all that appealing.  They were always kind of boring.  It wasn’t until 2009 that a Duke figure that I genuinely think is cool was released.  This isn’t him.  The one I like was based on the animated film G.I. Joe: Resolute.  I’ll get to him another time.  This Duke is just one of the mediocre ones…or is he?

version 1. 1984. pic from yojoe.com

The first Duke figure released in the modern era was a disappointment.   He had his original outfit on which I appreciated because none of my 2000 era figures had that classic tan shirt look. But the color scheme was just as bland as the original.  The figure had a little pin head, pretty dull accessories and some serious articulation issues.  In fact the arms used on that Duke figure have been re-used several time on other characters and every time they re-appear the internet is flooded with nerd rage rants about those hated “Duke arms”.  Hopefully Hasbro has retired them for good by now.

This figure was released in a DVD Battle Pack in 2008.  There were a 5 Battle Packs released that year and they were a great bang for your buck.  Each pack contained multiple figures, usually some repaints of previously released toys plus a new character, and a part of the infamous MASS device.  Once you purchased all 5 packs you could assemble Cobra’s ultimate teleportation weapon.  The Battle Packs also came packaged with a DVD containing 5 episodes of the 80s G.I. Joe cartoon. 

Duke came in a pack with Alpine, Cobra Commander, a Cobra Paratrooper, a Cobra Claw glider, the MASS device component and the “Best of the ‘80s Episodes” DVD.  Alpine was the real draw to the set for me but the whole thing was pretty great.  I can always use more Cobra blueshirts so the Paratrooper was welcome, the Cobra Commander was the first of the modern era to have a chrome faceplate, and the CLAW is a great little vehicle.  The whole set was clearly inspired by the opening credit sequence of the animated movie.  In that sequence Cobra is attacking the statue of liberty.  Cobra paratroopers are everywhere and the Commander is strapped into his fang glider.  Then from out of nowhere the Joes swoop in on jet packs lead by Duke.  Duke announces the Joe’s arrival with an energetic “Yo Joe!”.   After the Joes save the day they stand atop the statue of liberty with the American flag waving behind them.   It’s a fantastic sequence, go check it out on youtubehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN034sBeF4c

Now while this Duke shares many of the same components of his less than stellar predecessor  there have been some improvements made.  First off his color scheme is much more “animated” and not nearly as bland looking.  His tan shirt is now a bright yellow.  The second and most obvious change is the head sculpt.  No longer meek and pinheaded, this Duke is ready for action.  Never before has a Joe figure appeared in mid battle-cry.  I kind of love that they gave his this crazy yelling face as it separates from the pile of other Dukes I have.  Lastly there’s his awesome accessories.  His silver display base has an American Flag on it.  Why don’t all Joes have this?  And the man has a frig’n jet pack.  How cool is that?  He’s not the first to have one but how can you go wrong with a jet pack in your arsenal.  I wouldn’t want this day-glow testosterone fueled flyboy as the only Duke in my collection but seeing as he’s just one of many I think this is a pretty sweet figure.  7 out of 10.

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About mike's collection

I'm a dude that collects toys and writes. I figured I'd combine my hobbies.

Posted on August 23, 2012, in G.I. Joe. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I used to like Duke, we had him in the UK too but what with the constant inclusion of the character along with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow in newer waves I am sick of the guy. I much prefer Hawk as seen in the original Marvel comic – true leader, not a poster boy.

    • I always preferred Hawk too. As for the constant Dukes and Snake-Eyes figures it just seems to be par for the course these days to include them in almost every wave. I just skip over them most of the time. Those were the only 2 figures I didn’t buy when i scooped up all the Retaliation toys a little while ago.

      • Yes, me too. I skip Duke, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander figures if the designs are rubbish or constantly included. The final wave of Pursuit of Cobra had a terrible Cobra Commander in my view so I skipped on him. I don’t like any of the Retaliation product I’ve seen – its lazily put together, compare it to The Avengers toyline – thats very accurate and they pumped a lot of cash into it. Can’t say that with Retaliation at all especially the reuse of old molds for vehicles and the initial figures looking nothing like the movie – which will be a mess too. Won’t be buying them, maybe the movie accurate Cobra Trooper though.

      • I’m keeping my hopes high for a good movie this time. Though there was some real crap in the first wave of retaliation there were a few gems as well. The Storm Shadow is quite nice and warranted me buying the character yet again, the new version of the cobra trooper is pretty cool, the generic Joe trooper was well sculpted and loaded with accessories, and the new Cobra Commander design is pretty rad (far superior to that crappy POC version) though it is lacking in the articulation department.

      • Na, appart from the accurate Cobra Trooper from the 2nd wave its all bad imo…I wish they’d simply apply the marketing / design ethic they do with Star Wars on Joe – a classic line base on the originals with updated sculpts ongoing, basically the 25th and 30th lines continuing on and other sculpts based on the Renegades line – accurate cartoon like i.e. look at Clone Wars sat on the same shelves as the classic SW’s trilogy movie stuff; the Joe line needs proper focus and being sold both in the UK/EU and US/CA then it’ll sell – basically, with lines based on each entity i.e. movie line, cartoon line based on whatever the cartoon looks like and a classic line, they should just cease a line for a new design every so often as fans get narked – I did. Btw, check out my new design website http://stanfernando.weebly.com/

  2. I actually happened to like Duke in the cartoon, probably because he had a pretty impressive voice in the Italian dubbing (the same guy was doing Shredder in TMNT, Batman in Batman TAS, and quite a few other cool characters). Guess it’s also because I always felt the need to own each side’s leader for an accurate playtime.

    But Duke is fond memories especially because here in Italy he was available exclusively as mail-in through a coupon inside the G.I. Joe Panini stickers album. Not many kids got him in the end.

  3. “I never heard of a Joe fan loving the character of Duke. He’s nobody’s favorite; he’s just kind of there.”

    Well, I`m a Joe fan and Duke is my favorite. By the way, your website is very cool, I really liked it.

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