Whenever a new version of a GI Joe toy line is released, you can’t hit the toy aisles without running into a Duke figure. Love him or hate him, the team’s top sergeant is ubiquitous. Heck, the guy can get offed five minutes into a feature film and still get prominent place on the movie poster. That’s staying power.
It’s hard to believe over ten years have passed since Joe’s retail rebirth in the 2000s. As much as those first non o-ring figures were (and are) reviled, there was a retail presence for GI Joe beyond toys. I recall board games, coloring books, and even a modern version of Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots featuring Duke and Cobra Commander battling it out. While the GI Joe line of that era wasn’t the juggernaut of the 80s, it was nice to see crazy ancillary products on the shelves. Too bad that isn’t happening today.
When viewed alongside his early revamp brethren, Duke doesn’t fare all that badly. The sculpt is very detailed, and I enjoyed seeing a new interpretation of the character, even if he was missing the beloved o-ring. Even if you don’t like the 2000s figures, the weapons were a definite highlight. At the beginning, repurposed vintage weapons were the norm, but as the line wore on, many modern armaments were released. I was pretty jazzed back in 2002 to get a new black version of the old Firefly field phone, and a rerelease of ’91 Dusty’s rifle.
The new sculpt figures in general have a charm that I still find enjoyable, and every time I pull them out, I remember a fun and promising time as a GI Joe collector. The brand had been reinvented and aimed squarely at kids, and I got to be there at the start of it. While the toys didn’t climb to dizzying heights of 80s popularity, and each successive year had its share of style and functionality issues, the brand was at least to some extent back in the public eye. That’s never a bad thing.