Heavy Duty (2002)
Here began Hasbro’s infatuation with Heavy Duty, which continued until the GI Joe: Retaliation film pulled Roadblock back to the forefront of the brand as the team’s heavy machine gunner. Some fans at the time surmised that Hasbro was having some sort of rights issue with the name a la Hawk and others, but Roadblock appeared (alongside a later version of Heavy Duty) in the next year’s assortments. Actually, Heavy Duty’s specialty is more generic, being a heavy ordnance trooper. I guess he can handle any sort of large caliber weapon.
The figure typifies the style that o-ring Joe collectors of the time would come to despise, and that another toy company, Lanard Toys, would cop in its own continuation of classic military action figures. The sculpt is closer to a comic look or cartoonish style, although exhibiting a more subdued look than the mid-90s Kenner-ized characters of GI Joe Extreme. Comic book style art is all over the packaging, from the logo to the file cards. There’s even a comic packed inside! Did I mention comics? To further illustrate the connection to a comic style, the first series relaunch packages featured comic-style background inserts behind the figures. Again, comics. It wasn’t a bad choice in terms of marketing, and the illustrations are quite dynamic and well done. Say what you will about the effectiveness of the approach, but the line definitely distances itself in terms of branding from the days of the Real American Hero.
On the accessory front, Heavy Duty is provided with the armaments of the former premier heavy machine gunner (Roadblock, of course) and the Range Viper’s gargantuan backpack.
Almost fifteen years after their release, you can still find carded examples of the 2002 figures on the cheap. Will anyone ever care about these guys, beyond the curiosity of some of their classic o-ring mold pack mates? Who knows–but then again, there was a time when few collectors cared about Super Joe, either. Maybe the 2002 series’ day is coming.