In my last review I covered an unconventionally sized G.I. Joe figure who was a bit bigger than your average Joe. Well today I’m covering another oddly shaped Joe, only this time I’m going smaller. This is the Joe team’s first sergeant Conrad “Duke” Hauser in what I guess you could call his SD mode. SD is short for “super deformed”, a term often used to describe Japanese anime properties when big mechs are condensed down into adorable little versions of themselves so that they fit into vending machines. The vending machine craze is apparently huge in Japan. Their vending machine toys, known as Gashapon, are far more advanced than the junk we tend to find in our vending machines. But in recent years the Japanese trend of buying inexpensive “blind” figures from vending machines has caught on in North America in a big way. Although the toys tend to show up less in vending machines over here, and more in hobby shops and comic stores. The glass counter of my local comic shop is filled with a variety of blind boxed figures that are usually priced around 5 bucks a piece. Kids buy up the boxes, unaware of what character waits for them inside, and if they end up with a double they trade it with their friends. The check-0ut aisle of my Toys R Us has dozens of blind packed block figures available as impulse buys including Legos, Kre-Os and Mega Bloks. It all seems a little weird to me as I like to know what I’m buying but I suppose it isn’t all that different from me buying up packs and packs of hockey cards back in junior high. But if you’re going to produce and sell mystery blind boxed figures I think that $5 should be about the maximum price point. So you can imagine my surprise when I found these blind boxed Joe figures, produced by The Loyal Subjects, to be priced at $14.99.
I first saw these super-deformed Joes online a few months ago. And while it’s hard for me to resist buying any figures associated with my favorite toy line I made up my mind then and there that I would not be collecting them. Sure they were cool but I had recently begun collecting the cute little Kre-O versions of America’s daring, highly trained special mission force, and I already owned a few of the Joe Mighty Muggs from a couple of years back. Between those two lines and the standard 4” line, which beats my wallet to a pulp each month, I had to say “enough is enough”. If I didn’t stop somewhere I would be destined to rebuy the same characters over and over again for eternity as toy companies found new shapes and sizes in which to construct them. This is also why I bit the bullet and DID NOT pre-order the amazing looking 12” G.I. Joe: Retaliation dolls from Hot Toys as much as I wanted to. Every now and again I need to prove to myself that I control my toy collecting and not the other way around.
So when I first saw the case of blind boxed Joes on the counter at Strange Adventures a few weeks ago I was already equipped with the tools I needed to pass them by. The shocking $15 price tag reaffirmed for me that I had made a wise choice in avoiding them. However, the guys and gals at the shop know me well and Nathan waved one of the boxes in front of me as I tried to pay for my stack of comics.
“Aren’t you going to pick up one of these? If anyone was going to I would have thought it was going to be you.”
“yeah, but the price…”
“Don’t you at least want to see what they look like?”
“Goddamnit man, ring one up.”
I told myself buying just one wouldn’t hurt. I actually used you people to justify it, telling myself that I should buy at least one to review for my loyal readers. I ended up with Snake Eyes. Most people would have been excited by that but I was hoping for Snow Job or Destro. I placed the figure on my work desk but I already had my Mighty Mugg Snake Eyes there and it just looked weird, like Snake Eyes had a mini me. I told my brother Doug in an email that I bought a box and ended up with Snake Eyes. He told me that he had bought a couple of the boxes for his son, Alex, and that they were hoping to get a Snake Eyes but didn’t (He actually got Snow Job and Destro) so he offered to buy him off of me the next time we saw each other.
The next time we saw each other was a surprise visit the following weekend when Doug and Alex came into town so that Doug could pick up his comics from Strange Adventures. They called me to see if I was willing to part with my Snake Eyes as Alex was excited to get his hands on him. Unfortunately my Snake Eyes was still on my workstation and I couldn’t get to him on a Saturday. I accompanied them to the shop anyway and while I was there I decided that maybe I should buy one more of these blind boxed Joes. After all, I hadn’t yet gotten around to reviewing Snake Eyes for you and I was now poised to sell him off. So I purchased a box and ended up with…Snake Eyes. Damn these blind boxes. Doug agreed to buy another box on the spot and trade me whoever he got for my new Snake Eyes. Doug’s box contained Duke and that is how he came into my possession. Now lil’ Duke and lil’ Snake Eyes both adorn my desk in the shadow of the towering Mighty Mugg Snake Eyes and President Obama.
Okay, now let’s get to the review. Truth be told, this is probably one of the best Duke figures I own. This figure looks more like how I see Duke in my mind than any of the 4” Dukes in my collection. It’s a great representation of how the character appeared in the old Sunbow cartoons. He’s got a good stern look on his face as opposed to the aloof grin of the original 1983 figure. His blonde flat top looks great and I like the added detail of the scar on his cheek, a detail introduced in Rise of Cobra I believe. The uniform has everything it needs to say “Duke”, from the tan shirt to the bandolier with grenade. The accessories are pretty decent as well. The gray machine gun looks awesome and the green backpack fits snugly into the hole on his back. As I wrote this I think I convinced myself to buy a couple more. Damn it. 7 out of 10