The Power of Packaging: 1984 Duke

Love or hate Duke, you can’t help but admire a nicely done 80s Joe cardback. Some might say this should have been an action shot like his team mates, but I like the simple and heroic pose. Boys want a leader in their play patterns, and Duke filled the bill. Sure, Hasbro could have done another Hawk, but looking at the refreshed specialties going forward from 1983, it’s obvious that the focus was on creating new characters to take the place of the originals.

I was jazzed to get Duke back in the day, since he looked the part of field leader. Was I seduced by the Sunbow toon and the allure of a mail-in exclusive? Of course. If impressionable kids like me hadn’t been taken in by the Real American Hero mystique, the diabolical minds of the Joe team’s marketing point would have failed in their mission. I say well done, from a Duke fan.


  • ”Leader of The G.I. Joe team ,until General Hawk (1986) showed up.”

  • His filecard paints a little different character than seen in the ‘toons, eh? The cardback art is great, even if it feels a little less “hands-on sergeant” and a little more “here to save the day”!

  • I like Duke better as a Sunbow character–where he premiered a whole year before the comics. Very different from Hawk. Wish he came with the XLMR laser rifle like the card art. As a kid I spent hours staring at the Tiger Force version of this art and tried to redraw it with my Crayola colored pencils.

  • His head was deliberately styled to be He-Man-like, IIRC. “Mattel’s got a leading blonde hero, we gotta have a lead blonde hero!”

    Hasbro was gonna make Duke a Colonel (or was it major?) but Hama talked them out of it since GI JOE was a small team and already had colonel. Hasbro went with Hama’s suggestion that time .So all those comic fans who dis the cartoon for Duke being leader from 1983-1985. Hasbro made up their minds Duke was the leader, officer or not.

    Do I like DUKE? Let’s just say I see that cardback and I see the Cobras, Duke and some useless profiles. *Duke’s 1992 file card quote “I’m going to rush that machine gun nest, and when I get there, all you useless profiles better be behind me!”

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