Tiger Force Duke (25th Anniversary)
Sometimes, figures you don’t expect to show up in your collection do. The 25th Anniversary Tiger Force Duke is the clearest example of that phenomenon in my collection. I passed on him a lot of times. The 25th Anniversary Duke mold had a lot of problems and Tiger Force Duke really didn’t do much to fix those. However, nostalgia is a funny thing…and so is the figure sitting at T.J. Maxx for a whopping three bucks easily two years after he left the standard retail shelves. Tiger Force Duke, through my brother’s collection, was my first exposure to Duke as an action figure. I have a lot of fond memories of this particular version of Duke so even though I bought him long after I had far better Dukes on my shelves, I just couldn’t help myself. The price was just so cheap I couldn’t pass him up for some reason. Plus, it turns out green meshes surprisingly well with the 30th Anniversary VAMP and I needed a couple seat-fillers so there you go. He’s definitely not the best figure that I have on display, but at the same time, they so succeeded with me on a nostalgic standpoint, I also really can’t call him the worst.
This is the first time I’ve talking about the 25th Anniversary Duke mold as a whole, so hang on tight, folks, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. Duke was almost as poorly executed as 25th Anniversary Gung-Ho was. Unfortunately for Gung-Ho, Hasbro never really got around to fixing most of his problems during the 25th Anniversary line. Duke does still have the awkward hunch that some of the earliest 25th Anniversary figures did, but they did manage to fix some of his problems. First of all, they replaced the dreaded Duke arms with something at least a little more aesthetically pleasing. They still have the terrible arthritic elbows (which can be mitigated by rotating them 180 degrees from their original packaging position but they’re still not great) but at least he doesn’t have those awful cuts in his wrists for the articulation. They also managed to fix the dreaded 25th Anniversary diaper crotch so Tiger Force Duke can actually sit down. That would have been a major drawback, especially since I wanted him riding shotgun in the VAMP Mark II. Beyond the fixes and flaws, Duke’s mold does look appropriately military. However, I find his head sculpt to be just a little bit bland. I’ve always had trouble with Duke’s exceedingly neutral facial expression. He looks more like a mannequin than a human being. Plenty of Joes have neutral facial expressions but still look like people. Duke looks more like he belongs displaying clothing in the PX rather than leading troops on the battlefield. I don’t think we need to go as far as “Singing Katy Perry Songs Loudly and Off-Key” Duke, but if our choices are no facial expression whatsoever or dopey grin like the original Duke had in 1983, give me a dopey grin please. I like my Joes to have a little bit of character in their faces and Duke definitely doesn’t have that.
Of course, I knew about all of Duke’s flaws going in, but I still bought the figure. That is almost solely because of his color scheme. They did an absolutely amazing job of taking his Tiger Force look and applying it here. It’s a little darker than back in the day, but that’s fine with me because I think it might work just a little better darker. I like brown with black tiger camo more than tan for some reason. The collar of his shirt is still red but there is a little red slop up on his neck. The military insignia on his chest (I think it’s an Airborne Ranger pin, but I’m not sure) gets painted well, but surprisingly, unlike many of the Dukes that share this mold, his shirt buttons are ignored. That isn’t a major drawback, I just find it a little surprising that so many other versions of this mold had the buttons painted but this one didn’t. My only real complaint about his paint scheme is his hair color. I know Duke has always been a blonde save in the original Tiger Force and a couple of the commemorative series in the late 90s, but darn it, Tiger Force Duke had brown hair and I was really hoping they’d do that for the update as well. That’s what I remember Tiger Force Duke looking like and they recreated the rest of his look so faithfully, I was honestly almost expecting he’d have brown hair when I got him out of the package and peeked under the helmet, but alas it was not to be. Considering everything about the line at that point was faithfully updating looks to the point of madness, I was quite surprised to find him blonde in this version.
On the accessories front, Hasbro also did a great job of fixing the errors they made the first time around with 25th Anniversary Duke in the box set. The box set Duke’s accessories were pretty generic, and while I understand that they didn’t want to over commit the money to something they weren’t sure was going to continue, the choices they made were pretty bad. Aside from the helmet, none of Duke’s accessories really succeeded at looking like his original gear. The binoculars were way too small, he didn’t have a backpack and the rifle was far too modern-looking. However, Tiger Force Duke gets a proper accessory kit and it really does help. First, he’s got a rifle that looks like his original. It’s a new piece and honestly, it looks great even in Duke’s arthritic hands. As opposed to the microbinulars that no human could look through and see anything, Duke gets a large set that he can put around his neck, again, just like back in the day. They did a great job at faithfully updating this unique piece of gear as well. I don’t remember any other Joes having binoculars back in the day, so it’s nice that they finally look as
good now as they did back in 1983 when the first Duke figure was first available at retail. His helmet looks like the original and it was used with the first 25th Anniversary Duke, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really fit all that well. It’s very loose on his head and I really don’t like that. For pieces that Duke didn’t have back in the day, he gets a removable bandolier instead of that being a molded detail. I really do like that removable bandolier. It replicates the look but at the same time it doesn’t really get in the way of the articulation like some removable webgear and vests sometime can. My only real complaint is that the grenade looks kind of undersized. Duke’s grenade was pretty prominent back in the day and this just looks way too small. He also gets a generic pistol to fill the functional holster on his right hip. Finally, this Duke also has a backpack. It’s the relatively generic backpack with an entrenching tool hanging from the back, but that’s what Tiger Force Duke had back in 1988, so I’m cool with it. It also got some attention from the paint department with a painted entrenching tool, which is not something that happened every time this mold was used.
I put off getting Tiger Force Duke for a long time. The Duke mold was dated even by the time they got this version out. However, seeing him so dirt cheap at T.J. Maxx made him really hard to resist from a nostalgic standpoint. I’m glad I have him because I now have the first Duke I remember from my childhood, but at the same time, the modern Duke figure really was subpar even when they released him. I do take solace in the fact I didn’t pay full price for him and he really does look pretty sharp riding shotgun of the VAMP Mark II and manning the forward machine gun, but honestly, if I didn’t have that on display, Tiger Force Duke probably wouldn’t be on display right now. I’m just glad he did succeed on a nostalgic standpoint even though he does have some pretty serious construction issues.