Duke (2004 Walmart)
A while back I talked about the famous early 80s tan repaints of Grunt and Clutch. Here’s another continuation of the venerable desert repaint theme, along with a bit of new sculpt era Frankensteining.
Duke was a member of one of three Walmart exclusive Valor Vs. Venom two packs. Each pack had an urban camo Cobra and a desert tan Joe. Duke was the only figure of the set to feature parts switching. He’s wearing Snake Eyes’ outfit! This is more than a little of an odd look for the team’s top sergeant, as the Snake Eyes uniform doesn’t translate all too well when given to other characters. I just can’t picture Duke going for the skin tight look. I think he later adopted a slinky black number in the Devil’s Due comics, but I still found it weird. On a positive note, a simple head swap can create a new sculpt styled desert Snake Eyes.
These repaint figures showed up and were quite the surprise. I remember the figures not scanning or being listed in the computer when I bought them. My local store ran through them fairly quickly, an odd occurrence during the early to mid 2000s. There didn’t seem to be much competition for the toys when it came to other collectors. Many folks weren’t drawn back into Joe until the 25th Anniversary series. As such, most of the figures were easy pickings, even when the first shipments showed up.
The accessories were also a bit of strangeness, with Duke being armed only with a Sound Attack version of his 1992 rifle. I get the link to an old figure, but the Sound Attack gimmick is a mystery for a Valor vs. Venom figure. The missile launcher that came with all three desert Joes is another question mark. With no mount, and no way for the figure to hold it, I’ve never understood this strange weapon. It almost looks like it was attached to part of a vehicle, but I haven’t ever checked to see what its origin is. Maybe someone out there knows.
The Cobra troop builders in the packs were pretty great in the deco department, especially the Iron Grenadier. The back of the package depicts Duke with a desert camo on his uniform. It’s unfortunate that the Joes didn’t get the same detailed paint apps as the Cobras. I think a nice pattern of more contrast would have made this figure a little more interesting beyond its status as a Duke/Snakes hybrid.