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By Thomas Wheeler

I've always gotten a kick out of the Dreadnoks. There was just something amusing about them. Basically, they were portrayed in the comics, and for that matter the cartoon series, as too over the top to be plausibly compared to some of the real-life, and truly dangerous biker gangs that exist in this world.

And yet you still had to wonder how, within the G.I.Joe universe, the Dreadnoks presented any sort of threat to the Joes. Put their minds together and you might get half a brain between them, one admittedly awash in grape soda and chocolate-covered donuts. But their limited intelligence and predilection for violence is what made them dangerous. They were unpredictable. They weren't a conventional military force, or even a somewhat unconventional one like Cobra. They had no real tactics and strategies. They got by on pure nastiness and access to the advanced weaponry of Cobra. That's what made them a threat.

So when a Dreadnok set turned up in Wave 2 of the Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) G.I.Joe offerings, I knew I had to bring them into my collection.

The set includes Dreadnoks BUZZER, RIPPER, and THRASHER. These are not the original three Dreadnoks, but as I understand it, the molds to Torch are no longer available, and Thrasher does play a role in the storyline showcased in the comic book that's included in the set, which is issue #75.

This tale takes place during the Cobra Island Civil War, which saw Serpentor and the false Cobra Commander going against each other with whatever reasonably loyal troops they could muster, for the control of Cobra. Before the story was over, everybody this side of the Oktober Guard would be embroiled in it, including the Joes, and Destro's recently formed Iron Grenadiers, who showed up solely for the purpose of retrieving the Baroness.

The figures are not significantly different from their originals from the mid-1980's. All three have new head sculpts, all of which are moderate improvements over the originals. They all use the same body molds as their originals, all recolored to some degree, in keeping with the comic book color scheme. Buzzer's formerly tan vest has become olive green, for example, and their jeans are all somewhat darker.

It's worth noting that Buzzer and Ripper both have 2005 copyright dates on their inside legs. I'd have to check to be certain, but I think this is the first time the year 2005 has turned up on a traditional-style G.I.Joe. Thrasher, for some reason, has his original 1986 copyright date.

The painted details on all three figures are superb, and quite complex. Small buckles, grenades, and metallic insignias are all nicely painted. It's unusual to see this level of detail on G.I.Joe figures these days, outside of Convention and Club exclusives. Even the buttons on Buzzer's shirt have been painted. That's never been done before. And as far as I can tell, none of the details have been HAND-painted, with the possible exception of Ripper's brass knuckles. Thank you, Hasbro, for this. Even better, no one in the set that I received has any mold-creases in their head. This was probably either pure luck or divine grace, but whatever the case, I'll take it. I'd like to think that this is a problem that Hasbro is dealing with to eliminate.

About the only detail area that doesn't seem as well painted as one might hope are Thrasher's boots, but this isn't a complaint. Given the overall detail level on the other two, I can hardly complain.

Also worth mentioning is the abundance of accessories, as well as the fact that, at least in the case of Buzzer and Ripper, it appears that their original accessories were rounded up and redone for this set. Given the very strange weaponry the Dreadnoks were often known for, this is a treat.

Let's take a look at these Dreadnoks individually, shall we?

DREADNOK RIPPER - The original Ripper had a very distinct Mohawk in his hair. This was, for whatever reason, toned down somewhat in the comic, and is reflected here in the figure. There's still a distinct ridge of hair over the top of his head, but it blends in a little better with the rest of his hair. The head sculpt is a definite improvement around the chin, as well. The original Ripper had this narrow beard that looked as though he had virtually no chin. The new headsculpt is a little smaller, but really, it works. The original Ripper, and Buzzer, for that matter, had rather large heads, even by the proportions of Joe figures in the 1980's. The facial expression is nicely sculpted and entirely appropriate. Whoever is doing the new headsculpts, occasional "pygmy problems" aside, is really doing an excellent job for the most part, and certainly has done so on all three of these Dreadnoks.

Ripper always struck me as the most brutal of the Dreadnoks, the most eager to cause damage and the least -- finessed -- at doing so. Probably how he got his name. His file card reads as follows:


File Name: Nod, Harry

Primary Military Specialty: Demolitions

Secondary Military Specialty: Civil Disturbance

Birthplace: Grim Cape, Tasmania

Anti-social and proud of it, Dreadnok RIPPER has been taking out his anger on the world since he was espelled from nursery school for bribery and aggravated assault. Black-listed from every outlaw biker gang in his native Tasmania for excessive nastiness and inadequate personal hygeine, he sought our Zartan at his secret swamp hide-out and joined the Dreadnok forces, who overlook his bad points since he pays his dues on time and doesn't spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Dreadnok Ripper hates everything and everybody. He likes nothing better than ripping things to shreds with crude sharp-edged tools. After he tears things apart, he enjoys jumping up and down on the pieces while wearing his big hob-nailed engineer boots and shouting naughty verses at the top of his lungs.

"It ain't true that I hates everything. That's a load o'rubbish. I likes grape soda and chocolate-covered donuts, don't I?"

That's the other great thing about the Dreadnoks. You can put just about any insanity on their file cards that you want and get away with it.

Let's consider DREADNOK BUZZER now. Again, we have a much better headsculpt. The original had almost no neck, and a chin as wide as Jay Leno's is long. His features were more plausible in the comic book -- depending on the artist -- and the artist in issue #75 was Marshall Rogers, who gave Ripper much more reasonable features. The headsculpt looks as though it might have been based on this very artwork.

Despite his current activities, Buzzer is probably the most educated of the Dreadnoks, and comes from England. And while I'm a little reluctant to make a comment like this, the new headsculpt for Buzzer somehow manages to look rather distinctly British. I'm not sure why I feel that way, but it does look the part.

In keeping with the comic book colors, Buzzer's formerly tan vest has been recolored olive drab, and it looks good. Although I would recommend to Hasbro that they need not adhere QUITE so closely to the comic book color schemes. Remember, these books were printed roughly 15-20 years ago. Comic book coloring has advanced considerably since then, and I think that collectors would readily forgive Hasbro if they wanted to use a somewhat broader color palette at times, and some of the figures in other sets would have definitely benefited from this.

Buzzer's file card reads as follows:


File Name: Blinken-Smythe, Dick

Primary Military Specialty: Demolitions

Secondary Military Specialty: Civil Disturbances

Birthplace: Cambridge, England

Dreadnok BUZZER fell in with biker gangs while on a sociological research assignment for Cambridge University in his native England. He soon enjoyed the same lifestyle he was studying, and now thrives on the anarchy that comes with being a Dreadnok member. Anything with a sharp edge is his friend. His skill with a chainsaw is legendary and his creativity in its use is frightening. Zartan recruited him instantly when he saw the glowring youth swiftly and expertly turn a lorry into several neat pules of metal. He has a large collection of chainsaws and is never without one. The Dreadnok forces have learned to keep scrap metal and abandoned cars nearby for Dreadnok Buzzer to slice into, if they want to keep their own rides in one piece.

"Nothing's as sweet as cutting into a G.I.Joe vehicle and sending it back to them in pieces."

Finally, let's look at DREADNOK THRASHER. This character was originally a vehicle driver, and came with the DREADNOK THUNDER MACHINE, which figures heavily in this comic story. The Thunder Machine was a seeming junkpile of metal and used car parts, but thanks to Destro, the thing was far more powerful than it looked and as strong as a tank. Unfortunately, the comic set doesn't include the Thunder Machine. Thrasher manages to get himself a nice pistol and knife, but he's still probably a little disappointed.

Again, the headsculpt is an improvement for the most part. The original Thrasher headsculpt didn't have the "too big" problem of Ripper and Buzzer, but it did have this weird grin on it that almost made him look friendly. This Thrasher headsculpt is a good size, and has a very nasty scowl in it. About the only thing missing is the weird green stripe through the hair that the original Thrasher had, but for those so inclined, that's nothing that can't be remedied with some bright green acrylic paint and a narrow brush.

Thrasher always came across, personality-wise, as one of the more lunatic of the Dreadnoks. A relative measure, I'll grant you, but put him behind the wheel of the Thunder Machine and he'd pull off moves that even drivers within the most wild and vicious video games would react to by saying, "What was that!? Is he crazy!?"

As an example within the story, when Thrasher's Thunder Machine is knocked on its side by one of Destro's tanks, Thrasher uprights it by throwing a handful of grenades at it, and is then surprised when it doesn't want to run as well as it used to, but figures it's nothing a little sawdust and grease in the transmission can't fix.

Thrasher's file card reads as follows:


File Name: LaCrosse, Bruno

Primary Military Specialty: Demolitions

Secondary Military Specialty: Civil Disturbances

Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium

Dreadnok THRASHER was spoiled rotten as a child by his nice middle class parents in their nice middle class neighborhood. He was never disciplined, since his parents believed that this would "stifle energies he might need later in life." Dreadnok Thrasher was never denied anything he asked for, even though everything he asked for wound up causing destruction or minor disaster. He got everything he wanted, but that was never enough to satisfy him. He was in his teens when he stole a motorcycle and hit the road to corruption. Eventually, he ended up in the swamps with Zartan, who welcomed him into the fold and channeled his newest member's destructive tendencies into profitable acts of sabotage and chaos.

"What's wrong with slashing people's tires? I'm doing them a favor. Just think how boring their lives would be if I didn't add a little excitement."

On the whole, this is really a superb set of figures, quite probably the best to come out of G.I.Joe since it became an online exclusive, and it would easily stand alongside most of the three-packs that came out prior to that with the possible exception of the Oktober Guard, which in my book obviously remains unmatched. This Dreadnok three-pack could have easily been put into the stores and it would've flown off the shelves faster than some of the merchandise that did end up there.

The figures are good, the headsculpts are improvements over the originals, the color choices are excellent if slightly limited, the details are well-painted, I see no significant sign of mold-creases on the heads, except for a few on Thrasher's forehead which are negligible compared to some of what I've encountered, and the accessories included are just what they should be.

G.I.JOE COMIC SET ISSUE #75, starring the DREADNOKS, has my highest and enthusiastic recommendation. Now head on over to HasbroToyShop.Com and get yours!