Duke (2002)

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.

9 comments

  • I would mainly use this figure for customs–the head for something else, but the lower arms would be part of a custom of my own devising: a much better new sculpt Flint, consisting of
    -The BTR Flint’s head, torso, upper arms, waist, and upper legs.
    -This Duke’s lower arms.
    -The lower legs of an extra Spy Troops Chief Torpedo–or something similar.
    The Dusty rifle would be good to give to the 2000 Dusty, or the 2002 convention Dusty.

  • I was busy selling my entire comic and toy collection back in 2002 but i remember the furor on the USENET G.I. Joe group which had fans berating each other. The paint wipe debacle of 2000 and 2001 gave way to the o-ring’s demise. “Worst Duke Ever” was the headline on many a post. The abrupt o-ring retirement pretty much killed the Corps! line as well in terms of articulation.

    G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe were both resurrected in 2002 but since I was on my way out the revolving door again, there’s zero nostalgia here to salvage this guy in my eyes.

  • I think the T-crotch should stay in star wars I’d rather have snapped thumbs and broken o-rings rather then these ugly things. A vender offered me a set of these at a collectors fair. Bought D.E.F Muskrat instead.

  • An interesting time for me as a collector. To budget better, I would often not even consider characters or vehicles I already had one of unless an item was on sale.

    Regardless, I did end up with a ton more of ‘Joes from this period than I anticipated (and I couldn’t hardly give them away!).

    The tan version of this Duke vs. Cobra Commander, along with the Moray vs. Wet-suit were my first tastes of this particular figure style.

    What separates some of these intitial T-crotch figures is there semi-sculpted action poses. Duke isn’t as obvious here, but Wet-suit is a good visual for one to see how the legs are off-set just a bit for a more dynamic pose.

    “Heck, the guy can get offed five minutes into a feature film…”
    I’m not sure if this is in reference to the 1987 movie, or Retaliation. If it is for Retaliation, that was a spoiler for me. But, at the same time, this is a spoiler, where if it is true for Retaliation, and Duke is dead and gone….(for good?!), I’ll be even more excited to get into theaters and see this now. (Stalker could step up and get his due then!)

  • Steven B. Williams

    Good grief, he looks like he’s wearing football shoulder pads. o.O

  • It’s like someone customized a ToyBiz Cable… ::shudder::

  • I have this one and the tan repaint. I traded out the torsos between the 2 for a little bit of color but there wasn’t much help for this guy. The sculpted on helmet was a major disappointment too.

  • This figure sucks but I quite liked some of the other figures from that wave. Neo-viper, claws, and moray were all cool additions to cobras ranks. I have a soft spot for these t-crotch era figures

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