With the return of GI Joe to retail in 2007 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Real American Hero characters, of course everyone's favorite GI Joe Boy Scout returned. Duke was back. In those first couple of years as Hasbro was exploring this new figure construction format, it seemed to me that there were fewer hits and more misses. Odd crotch construction. Bizarre arm and hand construction. Figures may have looked pretty decent, but they were often not very playable. There were exceptions to the many odd balls. The Cobra BAT still remains as one of the best figures from those first formative years. Poor Duke, he sucked so bad those first two years.
Bring me another, I broke this one.
Until GI Joe: Resolute happened in 2009. Things changed. The figures began to change. Resolute Duke appeared and a revolution began.
This new Duke figure took the Resolute character design and became a plastic reality. There was new detail to the figure and the articulation was greatly improved. Hands were improved to allow for a much better grip on weapons. The ankle articulation had been improved, allowing for better stances. The hip articulation had been cleaned up to allow him to do just about anything. Hasbro began to turn the corner toward a path of action figure greatness.
In my mind, Duke had gone from this GI Joe poster boy to a bad ass soldier. Plus this version of Duke was just so photogenic. He's been such a great figure to photograph. Since the GI Joe: Renegades version had come out, I had used that Duke head sculpt as my default version of Duke. Rightly so, because Hasbro had improved the detailing on the head sculpts. One drawback to Resolute Duke has always been his almost cold dead stare. Didn't matter too much to me because he was such an improvement over previous figures.
Bad ass regardless of size!
I'm sure all of this has been said somewhere else in the past four years, but I've only just rediscovered Resolute Duke. The base body was so well done, I bought every one that I came across with the intention of creating customs. Hell, I even modded my 12" Duke to look more like Resolute Duke. Not too bad. I really need to keep an eye out for better web gear. Maybe something will turn up at Joelanta 2014. Resolute Duke even became the base for several more figures, primarily from the Resolute story. Flint and Beach Head made use of the legs and moving forward, PoC Hawk's torso came from Res Duke.
Duke & Stalker have a "discussion."
I was swayed by the Renegades Duke head sculpt and swapped out the cold dead stare head for this newer version, but that was only after a brief appearance by a couple newer versions of Duke. More on that later.
So Res Duke disappeared into the spare parts bin for a few years, lingering... sad and alone. I finally got around to organizing some of my figures and came across a Duke body and eventually a head. What the heck happened? Does your collection ever get like that? A little bit of organization mixed in with much more chaos?
But for a few years, especially through the ups and downs of the Rise of Cobra figures, Resolute Duke was a key component in my photos and dios. Tatum Duke was never Duke to me and still isn't. I don't know who he is; for now, he's just a GI Joe. Resolute Duke got to share some screen time with some interesting characters during his tenure as the top dog.
Even Hell Boy stopped by GI Joe command to chat with Duke.
[I'm stalling out here for a bit... I'm going ahead and publishing, but I'm not finished. To my loyal fans - (both of you? three?) - stay tuned, I'll be adding more commentary.] So do I try to keep my train of thought going as if I haven't read the comments yet? I would agree with Monte that Resolute Duke is a bit mediocre, primarily based on the lifeless head sculpt, but something about him was a little extra special than those that had come before. Change was coming for GI Joe. There have been so many great figures to show up since Resolute Duke. And yes, there have been some stinkers, too. Blowtorch, anyone?
I hate ninjas.
I previously stated that Res Duke was a subject of many pictures over the years and he also served as a teaching tool for photography as well. His pasty plain face was always getting washed out by the flash or other light sources, so I had to learn a little more about lighting. Yeah, Duke hates ninjas. The original red ninjas were some of the better offerings from the early years of the "new era" of GI Joe. Hasn't someone come up with a classification system for all the different levels of small Joe figure construction? I recall something, but I don't know how well it was received across the fan base. My 2nd comment asks what this big green vehicle is next to Duke. Any guesses? It's probably one of my favorite of the big vehicles from the ARAH era. Always reminded me of those huge firetrucks seen at most major airports. Big massive beasts. Any guesses yet? It's the Rolling Thunder! I'd love to carve this sucker up and turn it into an R/C vehicle. I'll bet that it would be possible. A lot of work, but possible. The Rolling Thunder was another prime example of play value over realism. C'mon, guys, where's the drive system to move this beast? And ballistic missiles launching out of it's guts? Whatever... It still looks cool as hell! So back to Resolute Duke.
And then after Rise of Cobra, these two guys showed up... and the game changed...
Did Jungle Duke show up first? Maybe Rocket Back-pack Duke showed up first. Either way, both of these Duke figures worked so well with each other primarily because the head sculpts were so well done and so close to each other. You knew that both figures were Duke. Both of these guys were bad asses. Duke had been reborn again and those creepy figures from 2007 and 2008 faded into distant memory. So both of these guys replaced Resolute dead-face Duke and relegated him to storage and I was okay with that. Until Renegades Duke showed up... I really didn't like the body that Renegades Duke came with. Yeah, it was pretty close to his animated version, but it just didn't work for me. Initially, I went with a Res Duke body and that worked fine for a while. I eventually switched to an extra PoC General Hawk body (kick ass custom potential) with a Steel Brigade vest. So this guy here is my default Duke. I don't know if he'll be replaced. I really like the head sculpt because he looks intense and there seems to be some age to him. He's an older troop, battle hardened, but still with plenty of fight left in him. Wait, what about Retaliation Duke? Nope. No Tatum Dukes allowed! Even the "Ultimate" Duke figure doesn't work as Duke for me. Oh, the horror! Dr Syn's comment about putting Ren Duke's head sounds interesting. I think I tried it and it worked out pretty well. Loose, but that's an easy fix. I'm just not over-excited by the newest Duke figure, primarily because of the arm/vest conflicts with holding weapons. I've got three of them and I just consider them as soldiers for right now. One day, I'll have to post about them again; they are still pretty cool! It's been fun digging out Resolute Duke and thinking back to how cool he was and how cool he still is, but his time has passed.
Who doesn't love to army build? Seriously, buying all those extra Cobra soldiers? Just creating a massive Cobra army! Awesome stuff! Right? Well, maybe... maybe not.
I'm running on memory here, so my numbers may be a little off. Of just the modern era figures, here are my estimated numbers of the figures that I can think of at the moment. Cobra Viper - 15 Cobra Trooper - 18 (original POC/30th) Cobra Trooper - 12 (Blackshirts - DG) Cobra Trooper - 8 (Blueshirts - DG) Cobra BATs - 28 (original, Resolute, & Jungle) Cobra Trooper - 12 (Resolute) Desert-Viper - 8 (Rise of Cobra) Elite-Viper - 9 (Rise of Cobra) Dr Rex Lewis - 8 (customs) Helix - 6 (customs) PIT Commando - 4 Shipwreck - 6 (green DG) Shipwreck - 4 (blue DG) Snake Eyes - 6 (PoC - customs) GI Joe Trooper - 8 (Retaliation) Steel Brigade - 8 Red Ninja - 4 (Retaliation) Dark Ninja - 3 (Retaliation) "Ultimate" Duke - 3 (Retaliation) Cobra Combat Ninja - 3 (Retaliation) Storm Shadow - 5 (black & white - DG) Storm Shadow - 3 (orange & white - DG) I know that there are more multiples of figures, but I just can't think of any more at the moment. Of course, all of the individual characters and their multiple versions have to get added into the count. It can be easily assumed that I have a pretty big collection of figures and it may be actually a pretty small collection when compared to other collectors. So what's the point of this post? I wonder, if we, the collectors who have disposable income to buy these toys, have ruined GI Joe in the market place. Well, maybe not ruined, but severely damaged the line at retail. Just look at my list. Did any kid have a chance at buying these figures? Well, if I didn't buy them, some other collector (or scalper) may have swooped in and snatched them up. Maybe that's the problem. Adults who played with the figures as children and fueled by nostalgia and money probably bought a large percentage of the product. Have you ever seen any of these figures at a garage sale? Maybe kids didn't have any to get tired of and sell off at the family garage sale. I just wonder if adult collectors have damaged GI Joe's presence at retail by not allowing kids to buy the bulk of the figures. Maybe I'm just crazy, maybe I'm just getting older, maybe I'm just seeing the burden of this growing ridiculous collection. "Support the brand!" - the cry rings out across the collector/fan-boy landscape. Where are the kids who should be loving GI Joe? My hope is that Hasbro does a nice decent tribute to GI Joe next year for his 50th birthday and then just radically revamps the concept with the original target audience in mind - the kids! Hopefully, collectors will see it and both support it and reject it. By that I mean, with an attitude of "Yeah, it's pretty cool, but not my thing. I'll leave it for the kids." If Hasbro has to rely on the collectors market to keep GI Joe alive, GI Joe will die as the collectors die off. Harsh, but true.
I am disappoint... So the next two GI Joe Club FSS figures have come in. From all appearances, I figured these two would be the first ones that I would open. Never really a big fan of Skull Buster and the original Wide Scope figure was a new sculpt era odd ball. So, yeah, let's open up these rascals and see what we've got.
Oh boy, here's Skull Buster, looking so cool in his nice package. i was a fan of the Range Viper when they came out. I never got any of the RV's from the Defense of Cobra Island set, but I did get a couple from the Whirlwind/Range Viper "Ross exclusive" Rise of Cobra set from a few years ago. Hasbro did a decent job on those figures, so I figured the Club was just reusing the mold. Not so fast... Stay tuned...
Wide Scope - a Shockblast, no, a Shockwave knock-off that had a nearly horrific figure back in the new sculpt era. Such a disproportionate mess! But it was still cool to see a new character introduced into the GI Joe mythos and I'm glad that the Club took a chance on him. so is he any good?
There's not much new sculpt with Wide Scope. He's just a straight re-use of the awesome Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper body and vest. I don't recall where the head sculpt came from, but it is a reuse. Is the dog new? Maybe? I think the hat may be new, I don't recall the bend in the brim in other caps.
Here's Wide Scope next to another straight re-use of the Shock trooper body - the Retaliation Cobra Combat Ninja. What the hell? Okay, whatever with the ninja stuff. So the biggest issue that I have noticed with commentary online is that this basically re-use figure costs so much more as a Club exclusive. Well, no shit. The Club is making figures at a much lower production run than Hasbro, so, yeah, their figures are going to cost a bit (much) more. Tough shit. If you don't want to pay the price, don't buy the figures! Deal with it! Overall, I'm pleased with Wide Blast, no, Shock Scope... Oh yeah, Wide Scope. The Club did a decent job of recreating this new sculpt era character. Am I really thrilled about him? Not so much, but he's pretty cool. Maybe a strong 3.75 out of 5. Don't like the decimals? I'm a math teacher, deal with it!
Okay, on to Skull Buster. Like Wide Scope, he's pure reuse of parts and I'm okay with the Club for doing that and I understand the pricing issues. Fine. Whatever. But those damn forearms just don't work. They used everything from the Range Viper except the forearms and hands. I get it. They wanted to add the new swivel hands. Cool. But they got the forearms from Shadow Tracker, a taller figure. So now the arms almost hang down to his knees. Damn...
I just don't know about this guy. Sure, I opened him, but I carefully opened him. Do I repack this guy and try to make back some of my money? Are there enough shitty reviews about this guy where no one will want to buy him? Based on the first four releases, this guy is the stinker. So far... And actually, I hope he'll be the only stinker. It wasn't until it was pointed out on Joebattlelines.com about the height differences just between the 25th/RoC figures and 30th/RET figures. Huge differences in height. Not too bad, the Range Vipers can work as smaller body types, but SB is just too short to be the leader of the Range Vipers.