G.I. Joe First Sergeant/Field Commander
Code Name: Duke
Real Name: Conrad S. Hauser
Rank: First Sergeant (E-8; Army)
Primary Specialty: Airborne Infantryman
Secondary Specialty: Artillery; Small-Arms Armorer
Place of Birth: St. Louis, MO
Surviving Relatives: Vincent R. Falcone, aka "Lt. Falcon" (half-brother)
Essential Episodes: "The Cobra Strikes", "Slave of the Cobra Master", "The Worms of Death", "Duel in the Devil's Cauldron", "A Stake in the Serpent's Heart", "In the Cobra's Pit", "The Vines of Evil", "Battle on the Roof of the World", "Amusement Park of Terror", "The Gamesmaster", "Cobra Stops the World", "The Synthoid Conspiracy" Parts I & II, "The Phantom Brigade", "Spell of the Siren", "Cobra Claws Are Coming To Town", "The Traitor" Parts I & II, "The Wrong Stuff", "Cold Slither", "The Great Alaskan Land Rush", "The Million Dollar Medic", G.I. Joe: The Movie
Voiced By: Michael Bell
If one man properly symbolizes G.I. Joe, it's Duke. While not the original leader of the team, Duke quickly became inseparable with the role during the early days of his tenure as G.I. Joe Commander. After the G.I. Joe-Cobra conflict became known to the public, the press also became comfortable with Duke as the Joes' CO, and quickly made him a household name.
While born in St. Louis, Missouri, Duke grew up in Iowa, quickly becoming the quintessential all-American boy, defending the weak and becoming a skilled athlete. At some point, Duke's mother re-married for unknown reasons, and the result of this second marriage was Duke's half-brother Vincent, who would later join Duke as a member of G.I. Joe under the code name "Lt. Falcon". Whatever effects it had on Duke, it was offset by the fact that Duke was an excellent scholar (having become fluent in both French and German), football player, gymnast, and ladies man. At some point after high school (and possibly after a stint in college), Duke joined the army.
Duke rose quickly through the ranks, finishing first in his class at Fort Benning's airborne school, in addition to running four special forces schools and specializing in Han Chinese and South East Asian dialects at the U.S. Army Special Language School. Duke also spent time in Vietnam, although timing, dates, and purpose are in question. (Thanks for making Duke's birthdate so set in stone, Mr. Hama. =P) At some point, however, Duke's work caught the attention of newly minted Brigadier General Clayton Abernathy, who was looking for someone to lead the special missions force he had to leave behind upon being booted up to Washington. The code name for this force: G.I. Joe. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.
It was at this point that Duke was offered an officer's commission, to which Duke declined immediately. When asked by Hawk as to why, Duke simply answered, "They tell me that an officer's job is to impel others to take the risks-so that the officer survives to take the blame in the event of total catastrophe. With all due respect, sir... if that's what an officer does, I don't want any part of it." Before long, Duke was the commander of the G.I. Joe team.
In his earliest days as Joe commander, Duke was overseen and advised by General Flagg, Hawk's superior and the man responsible for creating G.I. Joe. Flagg and Duke got along quite well, not surprising given that the General liked Duke, and admired all of the soldiers in Duke's command. Flagg's easy-going attitude and informal policies encouraged the team to be open, and this suited both the General and Duke very well.
Quickly after becoming the leader of the Joe forces, Duke met and became friends with Scarlett, G.I. Joe's counter intelligence agent. Unafraid to challenge authority, Scarlett would easily become an early thorn in Duke's side, cracking wise and, in one instance, nearly killing Duke, Snake Eyes, and Stalker as she landed one of the new Skystriker jets (which were a modified version of the Navy's venerable F-14 fighters) that she was testing out. Surprisingly, Duke did not punish Scarlett, as per his promise to Snake Eyes and Stalker, although this was partly due to a Cobra sneak attack led by Major Bludd that he and Scarlett helped stave off almost single-handedly. The other reason for his leniency, however, was quite simple: Duke and Scarlett were falling in love.
Duke's next mission entailed having Stalker, Snake Eyes, and Scarlett break into the military installation which held the experimental Relay Star, at the request of General Flagg himself. The three succeeded, further proving that General Flagg's defense at the base was solid: there was no way that commandoes could smuggle out the Relay Star, something that only a large force could possibly do. Unfortunately, the liaison from the Pentagon accompanying General Flagg, Major Juanita Hooper, was actually the Baroness in disguise. Planting a homing beacon on the Relay Star (which was cleverly disguised as one of her earrings), the Baroness gave Cobra Commander and Destro the means to pinpoint the position of the satellite so that Destro can transport it to Cobra Headquarters using the MASS Device-a large energy device that can transport any object from one place to another.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, Destro was unable to take the Relay Star directly, and sent in a large Cobra force led by Major Bludd. After a skirmish, Destro mastered the controls, beaming back the entire Cobra force, in addition to Duke, who had tried to nab the Baroness before escaping. Despite having to face the entire Cobra army unarmed, Duke tried valiantly to fight off the Cobra forces, but was grabbed by a number of Cobra Officers, and knocked out. Upon awakening, Duke found himself in the slave pens, wearing an odd headband, much like the other slaves. He was soon taken to the Arena of Sport to face a giant opponent, but not before being noticed by a young and sympathetic slave girl.
At first, Duke was losing his battle (which was being fought for him by Destro, using the mind controlling properties of the headbands), but gained the upper hand as Destro allowed him to fight his own battle. After a break (caused by the need for a strategy session when Cobra spies report that the world was resisting the Cobra ultimatum for world domination), Duke overcame the control of the headband (thanks to the slave girl, Selena), and escaped Cobra Headquarters (again with the help of Selena). Before leaving, Duke gave Selena his ring-which would later allow the Joes to locate the Cobra base and destroy Cobra's MASS Device. Unfortunately, Duke's memories of his time at the Cobra Headquarters were rendered murky by both the influence of the headbands and the ordeal of his escape (which included a Viper Glider chase, a HISS chase, and an escape from a fall into some quicksand). Doc was able to coax the memories from Duke, but not before Duke took part in the operations to acquire both the heavy water and meteoroid fragments needed to make the Joes' MASS Device functional.
After the success in the MASS Device crisis (which saw all the major Cobra leaders, save Destro, apprehended), Colonel Sharpe replaced General Flagg as Duke's liaison to Washington. While not as loose and easy-going as the general, Colonel Sharpe was lenient enough to allow Duke to continue his relationship with Scarlett, which became a tight friendship as 1983 settled into 1984.
The next major Cobra assault involving Duke began as the Joes were bringing a new main cannon back to headquarters. Of prime importance to Cobra was the Laser Core, which Destro sought to use as a component for his new superweapon: the Weather Dominator. Unfortunately, Duke and Snake Eyes were abducted with the Laser Core, and brought to Cobra Temple, a remote base somewhere in the deserts of India. After another daring (yet rash) attempt at escape, Duke and Snake Eyes were put into the new Arena of Sport, where Duke was forced to fight Snake Eyes to the death. Fortunately, the two learned the location of Cobra's next Weather Dominator strike (Washington, D.C.) and were able to send the data to Joe Headquarters using one of the arena's power poles and Snake Eyes' utility belt communicator. The two were quickly subdued (again), and more or less ignored by the Cobra forces until Roadblock and a civilian named Honda Lou West were captured after thoroughly embarrassing the Commander, and causing a brief ruckus. As the four exchanged pleasantries, Cobra Commander again became fed up, and ordered Scrap Iron to unleash the Endgame program, which the four were able to eliminate by reversing the polarity of the two power poles. Eventually, the four would escape the arena, go through Cobra Temple's sewer system (but not before activating Duke's homing beacon, allowing the Joe forces to detect where Cobra Temple was located), and reach Destro's lab, where Roadblock took some of the shriveled Strangler Vines, which were used to capture Cobra Commander and de-activate the deadly effects of the Weather Dominator, ending the menace once and for all.
Next, Duke was tapped to lead a number of Joes at Space Station Delta, orbiting miles above the earth. However, Cobra again struck, as Zartan and the Dreadnoks, with the help of the deceptively evil Fatal Fluffies, took over the space station and threw Duke in the brig as the other Joes were put to work preparing Delta for use as the control circuit of Cobra's Pyramid of Darkness, the first scheme funded by the corrupt corporate conglomerate, Extensive Enterprises. Once Mutt, Junkyard, and Dusty upend the Dreadnoks (who had double-crossed Zartan at the behest of the Crimson Guard Commanders, Tomax and Xamot), Duke shut off the cube circuit, temporarily ending the danger until the earthbound Joes could cause the Control Cubes to self-destruct, ending the major threat. To top things off, Duke and the other Joes on Delta quickly constructed a proton beam, which they used to destroy a massive Cobra rocket, and end the Pyramid of Darkness threat. Unfortunately, all the major Cobra leaders got away, scot-free.
Duke's relationship with Scarlett further blossomed as Cobra unleashed a cloaking device in an attempt to cut off all exports of petroleum to the U.S.-in effect stopping the world. Duke was captured, along with Ace, by Major Bludd, but foiled the diamond-gathering operation the major was running, and helped turn the tide in the air battle at Cobra's Patagonian base. After failing to capture Cobra Commander, Duke's spirits were lifted when Scarlett suggested that the two go out for dinner and a movie. They did, and the only problem they had was finding a parking spot for their Skystriker.
For their next mission, Duke and Scarlett (along with Recondo and Rock 'N Roll) travelled to India, where the four met up with the Dr. Shakoor, inventor of the Vulcan Machine (a device capable of harnessing energy from molten lava). Unfortunately, Cobra captured the doctor in an attempt to possess the machine. Duke, Scarlett, Rock 'N Roll, Snake Eyes, and Recondo rescued Dr. Shakoor, and destroyed Cobra's base, preventing them from using the device on any cities, particularly Los Angeles, California.
Duke was off base when enterprising reporter (read: sensationalist ratings whore) Hector Ramirez arrived to dig up dirt on the team, but had to clean up the mess when Shipwreck got angry at Ramirez's producer (who was actually a disguised Baroness), and had stumbled upon the Cobra plot in the Rockies. Cover Girl, Gung-Ho, Spirit, and Alpine followed after him, and somehow were able to foil the plot just as Duke arrived on the scene to find the Joes, Ramirez, and the cameraman in hysterics from the effects of the various gasses that had been unleashed during the battle.
Next, Duke provided backup for Flint and Lady Jaye's mission to the aurora borealis after Dr. Entwhistle (one of the scientists tapped to assist Flint and Lady Jaye) appeared and let Duke know that the Baroness had trapped her in her hotel room and taken her place on the expedition. Despite Firefly's sabotaging of the Skystriker fuel supplies, Duke was able to get the Joes up to Cobra's base and help stop them from melting the polar ice caps. This, however, was child's play compared to Cobra's next plot, when Duke dealt with one of G.I. Joe's greatest challenges ever.
Cobra replaced the army's General Franks, General Howe of the US Air Force, USS Flagg commander Admiral Ledger, and Colonel Sharpe with synthetic humanoids called Synthoids. The four doppelgangers slashed the Joes' budget in half, causing severe problems in morale for both Duke and Scarlett. Duke's problems only grew as he, too, was captured and replaced. Gloating, Cobra Commander showed Duke the disbanding of the Joe team by the Synthoid General Franks, and once they had returned to Cobra's island base, he told Duke all about his plan, enraging the Joe leader until he had to be knocked out by Crimson Guardsmen. Duke was carried off, but awoke and broke out of the base by himself before he could be tossed into the Cobra cell block with the other captured soldiers. Duke eventually met up with Mutt and Junkyard (who had been deposited on the island by an angered Destro), and the two rescued their colleagues. Duke met up with his double and Scarlett, saving his lover from the Synthoid. After a brief brawl, Scarlett picked out the real Duke using Junkyard, who despised the Synthoids every bit as much as he liked Duke and the real officers. The Synthoid escaped, and Cobra Commander mistakenly destroyed all the Synthoids when he was approached by Duke's double. G.I. Joe was quickly reinstated, and each member of the team received the highest commendation possible from the Pentagon.
Rest being rare for the weary Joe leader, Duke followed the Synthoid crisis with a mission which was originally intended to transport supplies to a military installation in what was historically Transylvania, turned into a battle to save three lost souls from the clutches of Cobra Commander's maniacal designs. Upon saving the objects of affection once owned by the three warriors, Duke gave each a proper and respectful burial. Particularly meaningful to the team, including himself and Scarlett, were the lost loves of the young World War I pilot and the Mongolian warrioress, which easily illustrated the power and timelessness of true love.
After sending Cover Girl to Hollywood to act as den mother to Shipwreck and a number of the team's "odd balls" (all of whom were inexplicably chosen as advisors for a movie based on the Joe-Cobra War), Duke had a brief respite which ended when he and Lady Jaye escorted Airborne's kid brother Tommy to be tested for his psi powers, only to have the boy captured by Cobra. In addition to Tommy, Cobra had captured at least two other civilians, all of whom had various mental powers (Tommy's was that of telekinesis). Duke led the final assault on the Cobra base at K-12, but it was Airborne who helped his brother break Cobra's control.
Shortly afterwards, Cobra regrouped to attempt one of their boldest heists ever: the gold located in the famed military base at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The foiling of the gold heist was difficult and noted by the near deaths of Duke, Scarlett, Gung-Ho, and Snake Eyes as the Cobra Bullet, Cobra's massive bullet train (which was being used to transport the gold away from Fort Knox as quickly as possible), exploded during the last portion of the battle. It was much more straightforward, though, then Duke's next mission, when he had the unique and strange challenge of working with Cobra to save Flint, Lady Jaye, Cobra Commander, and the Baroness from the Gamesmaster, a child-like madman obsessed with having fun, and playing games-on a disturbingly grand scale. After being alerted to the location of the Gamesmaster's Candy Land-like island, the two forces narrowly destroyed the overgrown toy armies, and left the island for good (albeit much later than expected, thanks to the verbal sparring of Flint and Cobra Commander).
A short time after the mission, Duke and Scarlett would have to act as skeptics, as Quick Kick's new girlfriend, Amber, inadvertently became a suspected Cobra spy. She was later cleared of those suspicions, and helped Quick Kick foil Cobra Commander's egotistical plans to have his face engraved on the surface of the moon (using a high-powered laser). Duke offered Amber a membership with the Joe team, but she declined, having learned that being a Joe was much harder than she had earlier thought.
Next, Duke would enter one of his busiest stretches as Joe leader taking part in a whopping seven missions before the end of the year, with only two missions off. He was present to defend Barbecue's new apartment from what turned out to be a mere window washer, and then, along with every other male Joe on base, was turned into a zombie by the Baroness, who had discovered the legendary Conch of the Sirens at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea. Taking temporary command of the team, Scarlett, Lady Jaye, and Cover Girl led an assault on the Baroness' mountain base, using information culled from Xamot (who had been off base when the Baroness put the bulk of Cobra's leaders under the Conch's spell) and a sonic pulsar developed by Dr. Blackstone to free the men and end the Baroness' brief reign of terror. Once the ordeal was over, Scarlett and Lady Jaye mercifully destroyed the Conch of the Sirens, making the world safe for men everywhere.
After a brief respite, Duke again drew a mission that saw Cobra at its worst. After a Cobra experiment backfired and caused the accidental formation of a growing cluster of highly unstable crystals, the Baroness decided to recover the crystals using family members of some of the Joes. After Storm Shadow's attempt to retrieve the entire list of names failed (recovering only those names that were listed as being on shore leave), the Baroness continued undaunted as Duke called back the Joes whose families the Baroness was planning to capture (Scarlett, Quick Kick, Thunder, Spirit, Shipwreck, and Barbecue), in addition to Gung-Ho (whose family the Baroness decided against going after). As Scarlett and the others tried to save their families, Duke had Gung-Ho drive the ATV carrying the crystals, which they barely survived. However, the Baroness eventually led her captives (now totally without their own wills or thinking ability) back to the ATV, and had Shipwreck's nephew Jesse pick up a rock in preparation of throwing it at the crystals just as Scarlett's team found the bunker where Dr. Marx's mind-control computer was located. The civilians wills' were freed, but the Baroness made a last-ditch attempt to capture the ATV, but let it fall to its doom when one of the grappling lines from her super carrier was cut. The blast should have killed Duke, but merely left him with some bruises as the families were freed. The Joes had to go after the Baroness again, though, since they knew well that the Cobra vixen would try to capture Gung-Ho's family. Problem is, the Baroness severely underestimated Gung-Ho's family, and the crisis was finally ended.
Next up was a truly bizarre mission involving a giant "sea serpent" that Cobra created to terrorize boaters (and make some scratch on the side, naturally). When Cobra inevitably lost control of their newest toy, Duke led the mission to stop the monstrosity from wreaking havoc in New York. However, it was Bazooka, who had first seen the creature, that saved the day and earned credit for the biggest catch anyone has ever dared to claim.
After a mission to install an anti-Cobra radar system, and taking part in the clean-up from the Matter Transmuter debacle, Duke ended 1984 with one of Cobra's more sinister plots-on Christmas Eve, no less. With Duke in command of a small group of Joes (himself, Dusty, Cover Girl, Shipwreck, Polly, Mutt, Junkyard, Blowtorch, Roadblock, Wild Bill, and Tripwire), Cobra used a molecular reducer/enlarger developed by Destro to shrink themselves and hide in a batch of toys for the annual Toys For Tots drive that was placed by Firefly in the final load of goodies. Cobra's scheme, to take over Keystone City using the Joes' weapons (and a taped "betrayal" by "Duke", actually Zartan in disguise) nearly succeeded, if not for Cobra Commander's ridiculous gag gift-the keys to the Joes' handcuffs, placed in the meat locker that all the Joes (save Duke, who was riding shotgun in the Commander's Skystriker) had been imprisoned in. This, plus the backfiring of Destro's new "pop gun" (which had been damaged in the initial attack on Joe Headquarters) caused Polly to grow to a huge size, allowing him to tip the tides of battle, if not the scales. And, in the spirit of the season, Cover Girl gave Duke two gifts: a kiss, and the key to his handcuffs.
Duke's first mission of 1985 involved a journey into the afterworld, this time in a tomb (if not the tomb) of Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god. (Whether or not this was his karmic punishment for effectively cheating on Scarlett with Cover Girl during Christmas is unknown.) Cobra Commander desperately wanted the gold within upon being informed of the discovery by Dr. Marsh, and even made a deal with Set himself, as the Joes proved their hearts worthy on the other side. Thankfully, the Joes were able to convince Osiris and Anubus that they could stop Cobra Commander as he crossed the threshold of the temple, and were able to keep the world from falling into the hands of the evil Set.
Next, Duke led the search for the Nirka, a U.S. naval sub that had been captured by Cobra. Adding to the difficulty of the mission was Shipwreck (again), but for different reasons: upon discovering Cobra's involvement in the Nirka's disappearance, Shipwreck saved an ex-Cobra operative, Mara, who had been genetically altered, so that she was closer to a fish than an actual human being. Shipwreck's love for Mara made things difficult, but Mara was able to free the crew of the Nirka and save Lady Jaye from sharing her fate.
Duke would have a heavy hand in concocting (and, indirectly, extending) Dusty's run as a triple agent after the desert trooper's mother became ill, and was approached by Tomax and Xamot in a plot to extract secrets (specifically, a new armor treatment that the Joes had developed) from the Joes in exchange for the money that Dusty desperately needed. Dusty, however, spoke with Duke, and the two invented the "traitor" scenario. Unfortunately, Duke was put in a coma when an attack (purposely pegged to be botched by Duke and Dusty) on an abandoned Cobra oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which had been booby trapped and blown up. Before slipping into his coma, Duke tried to explain the nature of Dusty's "betrayal"-only to end up appearing to say that Dusty was the traitor, and nothing more. An enraged Flint nailed Dusty hard, and put him in Fort Wadsworth military prison for a life sentence of hard labor. Dusty later exonerated himself, and was fully reinstated by Duke once he came out of his coma.
Following Dusty's "traitor" incident, Cobra took over TV. Not just one network, but all of it. After a first attempt to take out Cobra's satellite failed, Duke had Ace put any volunteers (which was comprised of every Joe present) through NASA-style training. Duke, along with Flint, Cover Girl, Gung-Ho, and Mutt failed the centripetal force test. Much to Duke, Flint, and Cover Girl's dismay, Scarlett and Lady Jaye made the team, and TV (such as it is) was saved from Cobra's "pro-social" programming.
For his next mission, Duke led a chase after the Crimson Guard Commanders, and encountered the Soviet Union's answer to G.I. Joe-the Oktober Guard. The chase was ended when an apparent space alien landed in front of all three groups, and abducted Tomax and Xamot for research. In reality, the "space alien" and "space ships" were ruses devised by Cobra, in an attempt to incite World War III. The plot was a total failure, as even the stubborn Gung-Ho, and his Russian counterpart, Horrowshow ended up sharing a few laughs after nearly wanting to kill each other throughout much of the affair.
Undaunted, Cobra tried to take over the music industry (and the minds of the general populace) after being bankrupted by a Joe raid of Cobra's vault with Zartan and the Dreadnoks, or, if you will, Cold Slither. After Shipwreck, Polly, Breaker, and Footloose went AWOL thanks to the hypnotic suggestions in the Cold Slither song, Scarlett, Cover Girl, and Lady Jaye did the dirty work of distracting the Dreadnoks and shutting down the hypnotic device. Duke was ready to get the Joes home, but someone in the crowd (read: Polly) demanded music, and Duke delivered, forming the Average Joe Band on a moment's notice, with himself as the front man (and lead guitar), Footloose and Rock 'N Roll playing the rhythm and bass guitars (respectively), Shipwreck on drums, Breaker on the keyboard, and Lady Jaye, Scarlett, and Cover Girl providing backup vocals.
As 1985 drew to a close, the Joes again met up with the Oktober Guard as Cobra tried to pull off another huge hoist, this time it was the entire state of Alaska. After stealing a file detailing former U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward's purchase of Alaska from Russia, Tomax and Xamot verified the claim of one Gerky Potemkin, who claimed to have the Seal of Alaska, which was supposed to have finalized the sale, but was lost at sea before it could be delivered. Cobra then took control of the state in Potemkin's behalf, and the Joes and Red Oktober groups chased after the real seal, finding both it and the descendants of the crew that was charged with delivering the artifact, stuck in the frozen tundra as a result of their ship being stuck in an ice floe. After a battle for the artifact with Cobra, Oktober Guard commander Colonel Brekhov turned the seal over to the Joes, and Alaska was restored.
1986 would see the end of Duke's run as leader of the Joe team, as another promotion would allow Hawk to assume full command once again. Before then, however, Duke would be part of the force that levelled Destro's ancestral home during a rescue of Lady Jaye (who was drawn in to a revenge plot by the Baroness against Destro due to her distant family ties to the weapons dealer) just before Christmas of '85. Upon returning, Hawk shook up the power scheme, putting in the cranky Beach Head below Flint, pushing Scarlett, Stalker, Gung-Ho, and Snake Eyes one more step down the chain of command. In addition, Hawk allowed Beach Head's favorite type of environment to thrive-a strict military environment. While this meant that Flint and Lady Jaye had to continually keep their relationship a "secret", it practically buried Duke and Scarlett's relationship, which had been progressing at a slower, but equally noticeable rate (so noticeable, in fact, that Cobra had "married off" the two in their fictional Synthoid town of Springfield, which was created in their elaborate attempt to extract Dr. Mullaney's formula for weakening the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen in water from Shipwreck's mind), was all but put on hold. Also, Sergeant Slaughter joined the Joe team after helping to stop Cobra's new Battle Android Troopers from overtaking Joe Headquarters, taking a position in the chain of leadership just above Beach Head, further separating Duke from Scarlett and the rest of the Joes.
Not long after the Sarge gave the Joes a little refresher course of boot camp, Duke led missions to defend the tombs of Ivan the Terrible (with the help of the Oktober Guard) and Genghis Khan, respectively, from Cobra, who began raiding the tombs for then unknown reasons. As time progressed, however, the Joes discovered that Cobra was building a new leader with the genetic material from the leaders (minus Sun Tzu, whose DNA sample was trashed by Sergeant Slaughter) and Sergeant Slaughter, who was meant to replace Sun Tzu in the DNA mix (but thankfully, did not), to create Serpentor, the Cobra Emperor. Like all the Joes, Duke took part in the battle to free Washington, D.C. from Serpentor's invasion army, christening the beginning of Serpentor's fanatical leadership of Cobra.
Duke took part in the effort to destroy Cobra's Vortex Cone before supervising Mainframe's reprogramming of the Joes' remote control submarines, which had been fouled up when they were used to fend off a Cobra attack. Unfortunately, Zarana posed as Sergeant Carol Weebler, and reprogrammed the subs (which were designed to extract a space probe containing an antimatter power cell) to work for Cobra. Although she was supposed to kill Mainframe, Zarana did not. She fell in love with him. After the antimatter, the U.S.S. Flagg, and one of Cobra's many aircarriers had sunken to the bottom of the sea, Duke comforted the computer specialist, fully knowing how painful a forbidden love can be.
Duke had an increasingly rare chance to go on a mission with Scarlett (ironically, just after Shipwreck parodied Duke as an Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque mother hen and Scarlett as a fairy princess who found the sailor's hero, Ship Shape, irresistible in a tale he told to some orphans) as Cobra targeted the Van Mark family (particularly the childish Bree, who had become smitten with Lifeline), whose many holdings included a defense company that Cobra wanted for their own (partly as an alternative to Destro's MARS). It was a frustrating mission (for Lifeline, who had to deal with Bree's persistent come-ons, and Scarlett, who wanted to be done with the Van Marks, especially Bree's foolishness), but Lifeline's "creative nonviolence" saved the day.
Soon afterwards, Duke led Mainframe, Beach Head, Cross Country, Sci-Fi, and Lifeline on a recon mission, and discovered data and signal descramblers related to Cobra's scheme to hold a "Cobrathon", so as to pay for (with a substantial profit) a computer virus that would lay waste to the computers used by all INTERPOL agencies, such as Scotland Yard and the FBI. Sci-Fi and Lifeline were captured, but Duke decided to bring back some of the data, plus a descrambler back to Joe Headquarters. Thankfully, That info led to where both the virus was being sent from, and where Sci-Fi and Lifeline were. Duke led the assault of the Cobra computer, and Mainframe was able to "deflect" the virus, right back to the originating computer, causing it to blow up.
For the rest of 1986, and into 1987, Duke spent much of the time in a less active role, taking part in fewer missions. However, he personally led the entire Joe team as it staved off a Cobra attempt to destroy the Statue of Liberty (a full year after the celebrated 200th Anniversary of the monument's construction). Also, it was at this point that Duke's brother Vincent joined the Joe team as "Lt. Falcon". In fact, if nor for Duke's influence, Falcon would have likely been thrown out of the military for gross insubordination, or one of his many other violations of conduct.
Regardless, Duke left with Scarlett and a moderate-sized force to test out the BET, or Broadcast Energy Transmitter, a billion dollar machine that, if functional, could all but end the energy crisis. However, Serpentor wanted the device, after being informed of it by a mysterious intruder to Cobra Island, for unknown reasons, and attacked after the first test was a success. Duke helped to stave off the attack, taking on Serpentor himself, and throwing the genetically engineered despot into the Transmitter, electrocuting Serpentor enough to knock him out. Unfortunately, a unit formed by Roadblock quickly turned up missing (until they were later freed in the final assault on Cobra-La), causing the speeding up of the new recruits' training, which included Falcon. Duke was forced to admit his ties to Falcon when the brash lieutenant shirked his guard duty responsibilities, allowing Zartan, the Dreadnoks, and two of the new foes to free Serpentor. Falcon was sent to the Slaughterhouse instead of having the book thrown at him, which both worried and angered his half-brother.
Duke led the ground forces during Cobra and Cobra-La's all-out assault for the BET, and the team was beaten back as the bizarre biological weapons perplexed just about everyone, including Duke. Sgt. Slaughter, his Renegades, and Falcon arrived late, but they were only able to blow up Serpentor's Night Raven, trapping Falcon, Serpentor, and Duke in a wall of fire caused by the explosion. An angered Serpentor wanted Falcon's life, but instead ended up stabbing Duke in the chest with one of his snakes, which the Cobra Emperor had stiffened into a makeshift spear. While it did not kill Duke, the wound was very serious, bringing him close to death. Duke himself thought that it was the end, and told Falcon to shape up before falling into a coma. This brought Falcon into a blood lust, wanting only to have at it with Serpentor. Scarlett, on the other hand, was in a state of near shock, and outside of taking out the Baroness, was a non-factor in the successful battle to stop the mutating Spores from turning all of humanity into mindless beasts.
After the battle, Duke came out of his coma. However, it is unknown after this point whether or not Duke, or Cobra for that matter, returned to fight another day. What is certain, however, is that Duke has a great deal of questions in his life: What is his role, if any, to be in G.I. Joe, having suffered his worst injury as a Joe? What role does he have in making sure that Falcon keeps being a "credit to his country", as opposed to a total screw-up? Most importantly, Duke has to fully address his relationship with Scarlett, which he has never spent all of his energy pursuing. Duke's latest injury has made his mortality very evident, and the effects on Scarlett were very clear as she saw the love her life nearly slip through her fingers. One can only hope that Duke finds the happiness he so richly deserves.
Garrett's Opinion: Simply put, all great TV series, live action or not, need one central, dynamic hero. For G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, that hero is Duke. While certainly not perfect (in fact, some of the series' best humor is at the expense of its leader), Duke does OK. And that's why the cartoon is so much more enjoyable than the comic: the focal point is always engaging, never dark, and rarely a mystery. Larry Hama hates Duke, but it's pretty obvious why: Steve Gerber's team of writers made Duke better than Hama could have ever wished to: they made him a hero, and an icon of the entire toyline. In the first year of the line, Grunt, the selfless infantry soldier who stayed behind in "Worlds Without End", was the "poster boy" of G.I. Joe, which is to say that his figure art was the most ubiquitous with the line, and all items related to it. On September 12th, 1983, the new "poster boy" for G.I. Joe became Duke. This is because, quite simply, Duke ushered in the Golden Age of the Real American Hero, and became an integral part of the series and toys from that point on.
However, it is with Scarlett that Duke truly shines. While she is emotional and yet somehow purely efficient in battle, Duke is emotionally stable to a fault, but yet is completely able (and all too willing) to rush into battle half-cocked and fully alone, no matter the odds. These inner contradictions are what makes Duke and Scarlett such a perfect match, and allow for the banter that began in the series' very first episode, and continued through most of their joint appearances from that point on. It's also why comic book scribe Larry Hama is such a colossal failure with both Duke and Scarlett: he doesn't understand them, not a single damn bit. Hama has stated that his series is not about the leaders, but the everyman, which for some reason is Snake Eyes (whose good name is utterly destroyed by his comic persona, btw). Furthermore, Mr. Hama considers Duke to be a clone of Hawk, the original leader of the Joe team. Problem is, when Sunbow let Ron Freidman craft the character of Duke, the studio made sure to emphasize the difference between Hawk, a by-the-book officer, and Duke, an NCO (non-commissioned officer) who is determined to be with the men he leads, no matter the odds. Duke never tries to create the divide between a leader and his men that Hawk does (and, for that matter, Beach Head, who is the requisite asshole leader), and in doing so, creates a bond with his men that few officers or NCOs could ever have, in either the fictional military of G.I. Joe, or the one that inhabits our world.
Since Duke is an "everyman" in all senses of the word, most everyone on the show likes him. Women like him. Men like him. Pets like him. Hell, given his behavior in "The Gamesmaster" (that is, flirting with Scarlett), it seems that Zartan wouldn't mind being in Duke's position for at least a little while (or at least taking Duke's place in Scarlett's bed..... ;)). It's the same technique used by Filmation to make He-Man more "normal", although most of the writers for that series had a lot less success. Luckily, this is not so with Duke. His writers include some of the industry's finest, and it's supplanted by Steve Gerber's (and later, Buzz Dixon's) story editing. What they (Ron Freidman, Christy Marx, Steve Gerber, Paul Dini, Buzz Dixon, et al.) do is the most telling of Duke's traits: his penchant for doing what no one else would do themselves, as opposed to having someone else do it.
Think about it. Over the course of G.I. Joe's 95 episodes and feature-length film, Duke is captured a whopping six times (to say nothing of his being captured by Pokemon during Joe Land's "Duke Month" in the summer of 1999), and he is sent into a coma twice, to say nothing of the minor (and not so minor) scrapes and bruises that he chalks up. If your CO is willing to go through that, then you sure as hell want to serve under him (or run from him, as the case might be). Duke does the ugly jobs himself, no matter the difficulty (or danger), and he's fully able to demand the same as a result. Naturally, he gets just that, even from "oddballs" like Shipwreck. And, with Scarlett as his girlfriend, can one seriously argue with the grin that adorns his figure? Duke's a self-described "man of action", and a Real American Hero in every sense of the word. And it is for that reason that I cherish the character, and continue to enjoy the cartoon and toys that he commands to this very day with the battle cry, "Yo Joe!"
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