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Taking a Second Look at GI Joe Double Duty

As noted in the article on The Adventures of GI Joe 2010, Hasbro viewed Joes as only for collectors.  The 2010 figures were strategically released to dilute the excitement of Mattel’s Max Steele launch – but they actually outsold Max Steel. To keep that momentum going, GI Joe Double Duty was designed specifically for kids. This segment used the basic focus to appeal to kids “camo, lots of gear and a big gun.” 

While many of the GI Joes I worked on were later finished by another designer, GI Joe Double Duty and the Adventures of GI Joe were 100% Greg Autore. I was thrilled beyond belief to be designing GI Joes specifically for kids.  Yes, there was the GI Joe Hall of Fame line.  But compared to what we grew up with (vintage GI Joes), the HOF figures were really just large action figures with very little articulation and chunky gear.  That being said, like many of my readers, I did buy every HOF.  But it never had the full fun of GI Joe that the classic collection could offer.

I created Double Duty the same way I played out my own back-yard-battles in the late 60’s early 70’s – pull out ALL the gear to equip Joe for the mission of the day, then play. Each figure had a specific mission designated by the two-word code name describing both facets of the mission. The back of each package had an illustrated mission similar to the original Adventure Team books.

When I suggested this concept, the current manager of the GI Joe team was very skeptical I could pull it off for the price point it needed to be.  I had to convince him, “Just give me the chance to make one great figure and get it through costing.  I will show you that this really can be done.”  And… I did!

One of the other fun parts of this project was writing out the adventures on the backs of the packages and the descriptions of each of the panels. They were intended to convey the fun of the vintage AT comics. With very few edits, those are my original words and how I presented them (played them out in front of Upper Management.)

Operation Mountain Eye

This is a mission where Joe would scale a cliff, then blend into the terrain with a unique green camo poncho to take out a target at the right time. His helmet repeated the unique camo pattern. Joe wore unique, soft goods climbing harness that also held his poncho rolled up. The figures all had the muscular arms, and Mountain Eye had hands painted with black gloves. Joe’s gun was a Hall of Fame assault rifle with the spring-loaded missile launcher that snapped on as a grenade launcher. His other gear included a face shield and climbing ax also from earlier HOF Joes.

The Operation Gator Blast

This mission started in a scuba mode with a unique blue buoyancy vest that reversed into a green flack vest to help Joe remove a land target with grenades. The figure was molded all in black except for the hands, feet, and head as if he was wearing a wet suit. For the underwater part of the mission, he also had blue fins, mask with painted on heads-up display and a projectile shooting weapon not used on any other Joe.  His pants had a jungle vine camo. Joe wore a HOF molded gear belt that held his pistol and knife.  To make sure his target would be destroyed, he carried six grenades. One other unique feature was the green camo face paint only found on this Joe.

The Operation Jungle Shield

This mission had Joe making his way through jungle terrain with a black jumpsuit, machete, flack vest, beret pistol, and diagonal belt with holster and sheath.  His mission – to eliminate a chemical weapons facility. In keeping with the transformation theme, this set had a unique, striped camo vest which reversed into a black chemical protective vest. The other chemical warfare gear included gloves and helmet with hose/oxygen-tank. His weapon was a futuristic plasma missile launcher which shot a projectile. 

Operation Tiger Hawk

This is the deluxe Double Duty mission with bigger gear for bigger fun.  In his first mode, Joe wears a black jumpsuit, a flying backpack with non-firing guns and glasses with the respirator.  Once his target was spotted, he upgraded with more firepower and armor.  There were two large missile pods which each shoot four foam-tipped projectiles that snapped onto the backpack. This backpack was originally used in a rare HOF accessory set.  Inspired by the vintage Joe Heavy Weapon’s Expert, he had flack vest of striped camo. That same camo print was repeated on his boots and helmet.  For battle mode, his helmet has a visor with extended eye-scope that would slide up and down. Originally, this figure had a land, air and space mode, but one of the upper management team did not think “GI Joe,” and “Space” went together (they obviously did not grow up playing with the Mercury capsule…).

Thematically, Double Duty fits in the gap between Classic/Military GI Joes and Adventure Team.  That leads to a detail many collectors may have missed. There were actually 6 Double Duty Joes released… The last 2 Midnight Scorpion and Stealth Shot were re-themed before release to become Dusty and Grunt.  These final figures had exciting new-tooled weapons with multi-functions.

GI Joe vs. Cobra Dusty (Operation Midnight Scorpion)

This is a desert adventure with a reversible uniform and a take-apart RPG launcher, so the obvious RAH character was Dusty. For the night mode, we wore a black sleeveless jumpsuit and a black helmet with flip-down night vision goggles. His weapon was a 2-piece rocket-propelled grenade launcher that shot a projectile with a high-tech grenade tip. This weapon was not used again for Joe but did appear with an Action Man without the back tube section. For infiltration or escape, Joe wore desert camo shorts with matching face and chest paint. His desert gear included a pistol, knife and sunglasses/communicator which all came from Action Man figures.  His last unique accessory was a soft goods backpack that would actually hold all his night gear. The figure had the separately-molded finger hands with black biker gloves.

GI Joe vs. Cobra Grunt ( Operation Stealth Shot)

This is a sniper mission with an 8-piece weapon that reconfigures for different mission modes – so Grunt became the right choice. His day time mode was a ghillie poncho to hide as shrubbery.  In his twilight mode, he wore a blue sleeveless jumpsuit with a high-tech helmet used on this Joe. The weapon started as an extreme sniper rifle with silencer and scope. For escape mode, the weapon reconfigured to an assault rifle with a banana clip.  The center unit of the weapon was designed to be used by itself as a pistol. (Obviously, I had a little too much fun as a child rearranging my Marx Mike Hazard gear…).

With the strong sales on both 2010 and Double Duty, Joes for kids would continue.  With the successful re-launch of the 3 3/4” GI Joe – Real American Hero, Hasbro decided to target all RAH Joes to kids. The Joes for the collectors would continue as mostly military with few Adventure Team sets. I don’t think this was a bad plan, but I would have enjoyed making more Double Duty figures. 

If you have never looked into these, I hope this article will convince you to take a closer look.  For what they achieved in the way of play-value for kids, I still think they are some of the finest GI Joes I designed.

Do you have a favorite Double Duty set?

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