I've long been adamant that the later years of the Joe line were every bit as good, figure wise, as the early years. Time and time again, I've profiled figures from the latter half of the line in an effort to showcase the quality of those later years that is often overlooked. That does not mean, though, that I can not appreciate those figures who were truly ground breakers. While I'm kind of an anti-1985 collector who is somewhat sick of all they hype surrounding that year, I can not deny that the figures who were introduced 19 years ago still stand as major turning point in the line's long term success. As such, many of the '85 figures have withstood the test of time better than even those figures released in 1986 or 1987. Among these classics is the 1985 Dusty.
Back in 1985, I was heavily into Joe. Star Wars figures were a thing of the past for me and I was concentrating on Joe, solely. My two best friends were also Joe collectors and we had an informal competition among us as to who could find each new figure first. For some reason, I was won most of the races that year as I had my own disposable income and parents who shopped at stores that stocked toys frequently. I had been the first to get Airtight, Footloose, Snake Eyes (That was a BIG one!) and many other figures. Among the last figures for any of us to find, though, was Dusty. For some reason, none of us found him until the late spring. (Lady Jaye and the Snow Serpent, though, were the last figures that any of us found.) I found a lone Dusty figure in a KB Toy Store in the mall. My mother didn't want me buying the figure as I had spent a lot of money on Joe toys in the previous weeks. (While the money was mine, I was also only 11, so my parents still had some influence in how I spent it. Plus, my younger brothers had no money so when I bought something for myself, my parents often ended up buying them something, too. To this day, I'm not sure how that was fair....) I convinced her, though, that I wanted this figure and that I wouldn't buy any more Joes for a month. (That came back to bite me about 2 weeks later when I did find Lady Jaye and Snow Serpent and the hasty promise I had made kept me from getting either of them.) The end result was that I bought the Dusty figure and added him to my collection.
Almost immediately, I could tell that Dusty was special. The complex desert cammo pattern, the intricate gun with the cool, removable bi-pod, and, of course, the signature cloth head piece made for a figure that, despite his somewhat limited specialty, quickly became a cornerstone of my Joe missions. He joined with Flint, Snake Eyes, Alpine and Footloose to become my primary mission team. They battled Eels and Crimson Guards on the front steps of my parents house (I pretended it was a giant waterfall with mountains on both sides.). They fought Firefly and Scrap Iron in the jungles that were my parent's backyard. And, they patrolled the floor of my room atop the Bridge Layer so they could see Cobra attackers approaching from the dark green carpeted hallway. Really, 1985 was, for me, the last year that Joe was simply just fun. In 1986, I entered Junior High and things like Joe toys were no longer cool. While I still collected, I was much more sub-rosa about it. That left me with a sense that the sheer innocence of the year before was now gone forever.
I think that one of the reasons I've so long campaigned against the greatness of 1985 was due to the situation above. While I had great fun with Joes in 1985, it marked the turning point in my collecting life. That, I think, has sullied the year for me in a way that transcends the toys and has left me with the notion that I don't really like that year. Now, almost two decades removed from then, I can better see 1985 as a Joe year for what it was: one of the best Joe years ever. I was fortunate to have been able to buy and play with those figures when they were fresh on the retail shelf. And, this profile has brought back many fond memories associated with these figures. But, I suppose, this profile is already sappy enough.
As far as Dusty goes, this is the definitive mold. However, that is not to say that the later Dusty figures were bad. The 1991 Dusty, which is kind of hard to find mint and complete, is also a nicely done figure. He lacks the definitive characteristics that are the hallmark of this mold, but is still a great desert figure who offers collectors a little diversity in their desert ranks. The later repaints of Dusty, though, move away from his desert theme. The figures are still nice, but are not in line with the specialty that made Dusty famous. They do, though, give collectors a chance to use the character outside of desert settings. The new sculpt Dusties are also nice. They show an homage to this original mold, but have an updated look that makes the figure more modern. Going forward, I would suspect we will see Dusty in another new sculpt mold at some point.
Like many of the earlier Joe figures, Dusty has lost much of his prominence in my collection. I simply don't use the figure that much, anymore. I think this is mostly due to the fact that this mold saw so much use back when I was a child that I have "played him out" so to speak. As such, I just don't have much left to do with the mold. There are later desert figures who I never had the opportunity to use all that much who I want to take Dusty's place. That doesn't mean Dusty is irrelevant, it just means that he is somewhat "retired". Now that I again live in a desert setting, perhaps this Dusty will get some more use.
The Dusty mold appeared in the U.S. twice: as this figure and the Tiger Force Dusty. From there, he was shipped to Brazil. Around 1991 or so, Dusty was released in Brazil in colors similar to his American Tiger Force outfit. The figure was named Felino and he joined Marujo (Tiger Force Shipreck) Ar Puro (Tiger Force Airtight) and Duque (Tiger Force Duke) as part of the Brazilian Tiger Force. This figure was distinct, though, in the fact that the trademark cloth headpiece that was Dusty's calling card was missing. It gives the figure a different look, but, in my opinion, makes him less desirable than even the common American Tiger Force Dusty. I'm not sure of the mold's whereabouts now. Both Airtight and Shipwreck were sent from Brazil to India where both of those figures were produced in the mid to late '90's. The Duke mold somehow made it's way back to Hasbro prior to 1994 when it was used for the Chinese exclusive figures. As such, Dusty's mold could be in Hasbro's hands (though I find that unlikely as we have had several ARAH-style mold Dusty figures released since 2000 and none of them have been this fan favorite mold), it could still be in Brazil, or it could be in India. At this point, the mold has not appeared for well over a decade so it is difficult to track down. This version of Dusty, though, is one that I think collectors would welcome back and it would be worth Hasbro's time and effort to unearth it.
Dusty figures aren't too hard to find. Mint and complete, though, they can be a bit pricey. Dusty's tend to have broken crotches and the bi-pod from his gun is almost always missing. So, you'll have to spend a bit more than you might otherwise have liked in order to get a nice one. As far as desert figures go, though, Dusty is still the best representation of that environment. No later desert themed figure has even come close to matching the originality and distinction of Dusty. That alone makes him one of the key figures in the Joe line. It is an honor I find fitting for a figure of this quality.
Were Hasbro able to re-acquire this mold, would you like to see this version of Dusty re-released? Let me know.