Its Friday, Its Vintage Vault, and its time for some more 80’s AD&D goodness from LJN. This time we’re checking out the Evil Fighter, Warduke.
It may surprise some to learn that I place him up there as one of the most iconic action figures of the 80’s. It helps that I was really into the AD&D game at the time and there’s no better way to say it: For me, Warduke was the Boba Fett of the AD&D universe. I didn’t know much about who he was, but he was a mysterious masked guy and in my mind, he was an utterly evil badass. And I clearly wasn’t the only one, because Warduke enjoyed his own little line of merchandise at the time, which included everything from pencil sharpeners, stickers, and even a Halloween Costume. He even appeared in the Saturday morning cartoon and in the official TSR game canonicity.
And there he is in all his badassery. Despite being classified as a human, Warduke’s head suggests otherwise. He wears a blue helmet with a crystal in the top center and those iconic antlers on the sides. His face is blacked out, all except for his glowing red eyes that peer out menacingly from the helmet’s cutout. You know he’s a tough dude, because he fights with very little armor. His chest is mostly bare, except for some criss crossing straps, and his right leg and right arm are bare as well. He has a little magical bling around his neck and a cool demon skull motif on his gold belt. His right leg and arm feature blue textured chainmail, a silver gauntlet on his hand, and a spiked leg brace just above his boot. Its a great sculpt and like I said, totally iconic for me. The paintwork is very clean and makes for a really colorful figure.
While Warduke was originally released in a regular version, LJN re-released many of the figures with a couple different kinds of play gimmicks. You could get some with shields that shot their spring-loaded fronts, and then you could get the Battle Mattic (also sometimes known as Battle Masters) versions, like Warduke here. The only real difference between the two versions was that this guy has a lever on his back that works his sword arm, moving it in an up and down slashing motion. It doesn’t really impose on the figure much and its a cool little gimmick. One of my favorite things about the Battle Matic version is it confirmed the idea that Warduke was left handed. I’ve often seen him posed with his shield an his left hand and sword in his right, which makes no sense given his left side is armored and his right side is bare. Logically, his right side should be protected by his shield, and by putting the sword slashing gimmick in his left arm, I was vindicated in many a schoolyard debates, even if his appearance on the cartoon had it the other way around.
Despite his action feature, Warduke still has the same level of articulation as most of the LJN poseable figures. You get ball joints in the shoulders and hips and a head that turns 360-degrees. The action gimmick includes a ratcheting joint in his sword arm’s shoulder, but it doesn’t inhibit the articulation in any way.
Warduke comes wtih two accessories. You get his iconic skull shield and his magical sword, Nightwind. The shield is a very cool piece and has a handle for him to hold it. I remember my original Warduke’s shield lost the handle and so I had to put a piece of modeling clay in there and stick it onto his hand. I’ve since replaced that figure with this fresh minty, like-new Battle Mattic one. Nightwind is also a cool little accesory. The hilt is slightly ornate with a yellow paintjob and the blade is slightly leaf shaped.
If you can’t tell by now, I absolutely adore this figure. The design is great and the attention paid to the sculpt and paintwork really reflect the love that LJN often vested into this line of action figures. Its somewhat uncommon when a mere action figure becomes so popular that he creates his own lore, but that’s exactly what happened when LJN created this guy and he eventually found his way into the cartoon, and thus the rich fiction of TSR’s official canon. If you happen to just want one figure that represents this line so well, be sure to pick up Warduke. He’s surprisingly easy to find in great condition and even with his weapons, he shouldn’t set you back that much treasure.
Dungeons & Dragons cartoon image borrowed from The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Encyclopedia. Your one-stop source for everything and anything related to the classic Saturday morning cartoon.