As a daring, highly trained special mission force, the G.I.Joe team is chalk full of soldiers who specialized in various types of combat environments. You’ve got your snow operatives, underwater combatants, jungle warfare experts and of course you’ve got your desert troopers…actually for some reason despite having a number of different guys for the other types of environments, the Joes seemed to have only one main desert trooper…and that would be refrigeration and air-conditioning maintenance specialist, Dusty.
I know I say this a lot when describing my favorite G.I.Joe characters but as part of the 4th wave of Joes released in 1985, Dusty truly stood out for 2 specific reasons. First, he was the first G.I.Joe to sport camouflage facial paint.. And second, he was also the first Joe figure to have soft goods. As a desert trooper, he sported a protective cloth hanging from the back of his helmet that was actual….cloth. I know these two details seem very minor now, but back then, it made all the difference in making the figure look more legit and badass.
Like many Joes not named Duke or Snake Eyes, Dusty wasn’t featured heavily in the cartoon or the comics, but when he was featured, he managed to make quite the impression. His most memorable moment in the cartoon was in the two part episode, “The Traitor”. As the title suggests, Dusty seemingly switches side when he accepts financial aid from Cobra to pay for his mom’s medical bills. It turns out however that his “defection” was actually under orders from Joe leader Duke in order to infiltrate Cobra. Unfortunately, Duke gets injured in a botched operation and slips into a coma so Dusty is actually thought to be a real traitor by the rest of the Joes. In the end, Dusty manages to complete his secret mission and helps his fellow Joes defeat Cobra. Then Duke conveniently wakes up and clears Dusty’s name and everyone lives happily ever after. Ah the beauty of 80’s cartoons ☺
In the Marvel comics, Dusty actually features in a more poignant and memorable storyline called the “Invasion of Benzheen”. Under a lot of criticism that the G.I.Joe comic wasn’t too realistic, main writer Larry Hama set out to prove everybody wrong. The “Invasion of Benzheen” is infamously known as the first storyline wherein actual Joes that had real toys…DIED. Yup they were killed off, blown up, and in some cases unceremoniously executed.
Anyway, a sub plot of the Invasion focuses on Dusty’s friendship with another fellow Joe, Sneak-Peek. In a flashback, he is shown visiting Sneak-Peek’s family back home and during the visit, Sneak-Peek’s mother secretly asks him to look after her son, and makes him promise that if anything unfortunate should happen to him, to bring his body home. So I’m sure you know where all this is leading to. During the invasion, a bunch of Joes including Dusty and Sneak Peek are pinned down by Cobra forces. In order to draw them out, the Cobra troops use a civilian and shove him into the middle of the crossfire. Sneak-Peek instinctively reacts and makes a run to save the civilian. He succeeds but ends up being badly injured. As the Joes fall back, Dusty, determined to keep his promise, disobeys a direct order to retreat and risks his own life to rescue Sneak-Peek. Luckily he manages to do so without getting killed and carries Sneak-Peek’s body over his shoulders for many miles back to Joe camp. By the time they arrive, Sneak-Peek is dead, but Dusty keeps his promise.
Aside from these 2 instances, Dusty is mostly relegated to background character, luckily despite that, Hasbro managed to put out a good number of Dusty action figures through the years.
After the original toy, he was re-released in 1991 with a new more generic looking design…but, he now came with a pet coyote Sandstorm. By this time I had stopped collecting so I never got this version. No big loss.
Thankfully, Dusty was included in the modern 25th Anniversary line in 2008. While he lost his faithful coyote sidekick to an unfortunate incident involving faulty ACME products (I kid…), he got his iconic classic look back, which was perfectly fine with me. A cool detail they also added to this figure was that they actually included his surname “Tadur” printed on his chest. I guess they wanted to call to the fact that his fictional civilian name, Ronald Tadur was actually based on an anagram of Hasbro artist Ron Rudat.
Anyway, it got even better in 2010 when another version of Dusty was included in the Pursuit of Cobra line which in my opinion is the best G.I.Joe toyline ever released. Dusty was re-imagined for a new generation, and thankfully he looked better than ever. Despite loving the original design, I have to say that THIS is my favorite version of Dusty out there. I love that fact that the designers modernized him by leaps and bounds but kept the soft goods detail of the original figure and expanded it to a protective cape. I also like the fact that they gave options of a traditional helmeted head and a more distinct hooded masked head.
Finally as part of the 50th Anniversary, another version of Dusty was released. Based on the last version of Dusty, with a few twists including a new color palette of dark blue. Now I’m not quite sure if wearing blue in a desert environment is the smartest idea but he looks cool. And I guess it could work for desert warfare at NIGHT. Can’t blame a guy for being well equipped for both day and night.
So there you go, everything you need to know about the Joe’s best (or is that only) desert specialist. Yo Joe!