Destro, Duke, & Roadblock
There are certain issues of the original Marvel Comics series that have always stood out in my mind; issue #5 with the MOBAT in Central Park, #21 aka “Silent Interlude”, #36 with Cutter and the hydrofoil vs. the morays, and #24 with the rescue of Cobra Commander from the prefabricated fortress among others. Each of these had some story element that just stayed with me over the years as an example of darned good comic writing. In #24, we have some brilliant ties to the toy line (turning the headquarters into the prefabricated fortress), some great character development, and plenty of insight into just how valuable Cobra Commander is to his organization. While I don’t entirely agree with the character choices included in this pack, I can’t fault the figures too much.
Okay, I’m a bit puzzled as to why Destro is included in this issue considering just how little “frame time” he actually receives. Despite this oversight, it’s good to see James Cullen Destro receive the comic pack treatment. For this figure, Hasbro chose to reissue the Destro v3 body; you might recognize this as the mold that generated the infamous “Pimp Daddy Destro” variation. As this issue is set in the early issues of Destro’s affiliation with Cobra, the mold works rather well. All of the “classic” Destro elements are present—the red collar, the medallion around the neck, the black pants and jacket, and the silver mask. The mold is however quite barrel-chested and this does throw Destro off a bit when compared to other RAH figures. Maybe he’s been hitting Gold’s Gym a more than normal but I never really saw Destro as being that… beefy. Still, it doesn’t diminish the overall impression of the figure so I can chalk this up to me being a bit nitpicky. One unfortunate disparity in this figure versus his comic appearance is that there are no wrist rockets molded onto the arms. The signature wrist rockets were found only on the original Destro mold and as such are conspicuously absent. Hasbro did try to make the hands more distinctive by painting the gloves white but it doesn’t quite work. The result is “surprise inspection Destro”—the figure that unexpectedly shows up at Iron Grenadier barracks and checks to see how well the troops have been keeping up with the housework. Hasbro could have simply omitted this paint application and left the figure’s hands entire black.
One nice touch on the figure is the addition of a brand-new head sculpt. The expression on the head is bland and cold—which makes sense when you take into consideration that it is a metal mask. I’ll be honest—I’ve never been a big fan of Destro having a tremendous range of facial expression. After all, he’s a man wearing a big metal mask on his face and last time I checked metal masks weren’t all that malleable. I realize that the Devil’s Due comic series explained that Destro’s mask was full of all sorts of high-tech wizardry that not only enabled it to allow for expression but also could mask the wearer’s voice. I just prefer the old-school explanation that Destro is wearing an antique mask—and therefore doesn’t have the full range of expression. The mask itself is well done and even features a riveted collar around the neck. The head doesn’t have the greatest fit with the torso but it’s good enough for me. One thing to note: the head is sized as if it were a normal head. This means that if Destro were to remove the mask he would have a head the size of a Joe-scaled softball. It’s an annoying little oversight as the original v1 & v2 Destros didn’t have this issue but it is something that I’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to with Hasbro in the past few years. Overall, this is a pretty solid figure.
Poor Conrad. Ever since he started appearing in reissue sets, Duke has gotten the shaft on shirtsleeves. I get it—the original mold’s arms have been lost. This is the only explanation I can fathom for why Duke keeps getting stuck with truly atrocious arm choices. The Anti-Venom Task Force version had extremely skinny arms and now this very has—old man short sleeves! You know what I’m talking about—those short-sleeve dress shirts that are usually only worn by older men and that look utterly ridiculous when worn with a tie. Apparently Duke is taking fashion tips from Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” as he’s sporting the short sleeve look on an otherwise terrific body sculpt. Please, Hasbro, stop this insanity. Find some molded shirtsleeves to use for these figures! Okay, rant aside; this is a solid design and one that has stood the test of time since the original Duke figure was released. My only other grievance with this figure comes in the colors chosen but more on that later.
Duke, like a great many comic pack figures, receives an entirely new head sculpt and I feel that it is a real improvement. Let’s be honest—the major detractor of the original Duke figure was that goofy grin he was sporting. It was hard to take the man seriously as the top-kick of the Joe team when he looked like he was posting for a Crest commercial. Honestly, Duke was just too happy back them to be taken seriously. The new head almost works as Duke in my eyes. The expression is much more severe and yet the defining characteristics of the original are still present. I especially enjoy the cleft in his chin—the defining characteristic of a “man of action” according to Hollywood. The head does make Conrad S. Hauser look a bit older than I might have expected, but otherwise it serves its purpose. Finally, Duke fits the description of the soldier described on his file card.
One of the nice things about the comic packs is that collectors are given an opportunity to obtain a new tooling of an original mold. As such, a great many Joe fans have been able to acquire their childhood favorites in fresh new figures as opposed to having to search for good-quality vintage versions. The only difference seems to be that as the comic pack figures are based on issues of the comics the color palette is also influenced by the source material. Figures like Duke and Roadblock therefore suffer a bit because of the insanely bright colors that are chosen. Case in point, Roadblock seems to be a member of the “Banana Pants Brigade”. The original mold for Roadblock is classic—simple yet functional. A tank top, a pair of pants, and a combat harness with a grenade are all that make up this basic design. However, in this particular version, Roadblock’s olive drab pants have been replaced by a color akin to the skin tone of Twinkie the Kid. While I appreciate the attempt to faithfully recreate the colors used in the comic issue, I would have much preferred that Hasbro instead base their color palette on the cover art. If this had been done, we’d have a Roadblock that was wearing olive drab as opposed to “shoot me in the leg” yellow. Both Duke and Roadblock suffer immensely from this color scheme and suddenly it’s like I’m looking at the Mega-Marines colors all over again. So in the end it’s “great mold” but “bad colors”.
As a child Roadblock was one of those figures that forced me to accept the fact that his figure didn’t much resemble the source material. Okay, he had the goatee and the right uniform but his head was sorely lacking the definition that made Roadblock--- well, Roadblock. In fact, the original Roadblock head seemed to be designed around the fact that he could wear a helmet—which was fine except that in both the cartoon and the comic he rarely wore one! As such, I left his helmet in the parts bin and simply accepted the fact that I had a fairly egg-headed heavy machine gunner. This new head, however, delivers in spades. First off, it’s a much more stern expression which fits his character in the Marvel Comics series. Roadblock wasn’t mean but he had one of those serious expressions that could make R. Lee Ermey back down. Secondly, his head is much more proportionate to the rest of his body. The original Roadblock head always seemed too thin and too bulbous (especially along the back) to be taken seriously. This head is completely solid—and actually reminds me a bit of Evander Hollifield. This is the face that Marvin S. Hinton deserves to be wearing and I applaud Hasbro for their sculpting work!
In the end this is a pack that is full of good character choices but awful colors. Honestly, it’s as if you took one of those annoying Fry Guy characters from “Rainbow Bright” and used him to make the paints for this set. Actually, I’d be willing to bet that a few of those annoying puff balls were harmed in the design process as that is the only way I can reconcile poor Duke and Roadblock. It’s a shame that the colors for these two are so awful as the head sculpts really are terrific. However, there is no way that you could display these two “day-glo warriors” with anything other than the comic pack figures as they will end up standing out like two big toes at a sore thumb convention. Destro is a great update as well but just doesn’t grab me like he should. Aside from the lackluster Comic Pack #21, this may end up as my least favorite of all of the comic packs. It’s not that the figures are bad it’s just that they could have been THAT much better. If you’re a hard-core Joe fan, then you’ve already got this set. If you’re on the fence, buy the set and then obtain a vintage Roadblock and a vintage Duke figure. With some head swapping and some repainting you’ll be able to cobble together some really terrific figures.