When you are the archenemy of America's daring, highly trained, special mission force, you have got to employ some of the biggest, baddest and in some cases, craziest individuals and characters into your your ranks in order to have a fighting chance. Now if I were in charge of Cobra’s recruitment agency, I’m pretty sure that a biker gang wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of my to wish list of ideal recruits.
The Dreadnoks were basically a biker gang whose membership consisted of some of the meanest and most violent individuals on the planet. They were led by the master of disguise, Zartan along with his siblings Zandar and Zarana, all of whom I will definitely cover in a future entry. Anyway the Dreadnoks were first formed in Australia but eventually settled in their permanent base of operations hidden somewhere in the Florida Everglades. And while they were often associated with Cobra, they would no sooner break off from them and go off with anyone else who would pay them more for their services.
Ironically they were more often than not portrayed especially in the cartoons as bumbling idiots whose most famous episode was when they formed the 80’s heavy metal band “Cold Slither” that played hypnotic music that would brainwash their audience into following Cobra. They are also known for subsisting on a diet of chocolate donuts and grape soda.
While they eventually grew into a large organization with various chapters located throughout the United States, the original Dreadnok group actually started as a simple trio composed of Dreadnoks Buzzer, Ripper and Torch.
Buzzer, who is oftentimes portrayed as the leader of the original trio actually has quite an interesting backstory which began in England where he was an extreme left-wing sociology don who for years harbored an intellectual displeasure and extreme indignation for what he perceived as society's two-faced morality. He also had a deep fascination with biker gangs and as a result traveled to Australia in order to do extensive research on them. He eventually ended up joining one.....and went off to satisfy his desire to literally take society apart with his weapon of choice, a diamond tooth chainsaw.
Ripper, is a nasty individual whose life of crime started at a really early age when he was expelled from nursery school for extorting candy from his classmates. Ripper is your stereotypical angry, violent and antisocial individual who interestingly enough, is secretly a shrewd businessman and independently wealthy. He specialises in various edged weapons and cutting tools but his favorite would be his assault rifle equipped with an oversized bayonet.
Finally rounding up the original trio we have Torch, whose filecard basically describes him best as “an illiterate, unrepentant thug with a penchant for violence matched only by the utter depth of his stupidity”. As his name suggests, his weapon is an oxy-acetylene torch which he modified into a working flamethrower.
One thing worth mentioning is that the original three Dreadnoks have quite peculiar names, that being Dick Blinken(Buzzer), Harry Nod (Ripper) and Tom Winken (Torch) which is an obvious reference to the popular children's poem Wynken, Blynken and Nod. I find it quite funny how The legendary Larry Hama, who wrote their file cards and backstories decided to connect the trio of violent thugs to a children's poem.
It wasn't long before Hasbro would add more members to the gang.
Monkeywrench is the group's explosives expert. He started his career at an early age when he built and sold explosives to terrorists. By age sixteen he had made himself a pariah in his own hometown. He loves blowing things up so much that he would add unconventional items such as roman candles and other fireworks to add more bang to his already explosive contraptions. Aside from the various grenades that he wears on his chest, he also uses a harpoon as his main weapon of choice.
Thrasher is the driver of the Dreadnoks very own 4 wheel vehicle of destruction, the Thunder Machine. He was the spoiled child of middle class parents who never disciplined him out of fear that by doing so would “stifle energies he might need later in life". He was never denied anything no matter how many times the items he asked for usually ended up causing some type of disaster or destruction. He eventually ended up ditching them after they were injured in a car accident that may or may not have been caused by some ‘repair’ work he did on the car's brakes.
After those two, Hasbro got a little more creative with their next Dreadnok recruits….
First up is the Dreadnok “pirate” Zanzibar, whose real name, Morgan Teach is actually a reference to two real life pirates, Henry Morgan and Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Anyway Zanzibar spent his formative years living on a garbage barge making a living out pickpocketing on various docks. Later on moved on to river piracy, stock fraud and smuggling and eventually joined the Dreadnoks when even those began to bore him. Playing up to his pirate stereotype, he speaks with an excess bluster and definitely dresses up the part complete with large buckled boots, top notch pony tail and eye patch, that the other Dreadnoks suspect, like the rest of his get up is just for show.
Next is the Dreadnok enforcer, Road Pig, who when born was declared by his doctor to be the ugliest baby he had ever seen. He was expelled from kindergarten for milk money extortion. He was later dishonorably discharged from the cub scouts. Aside from excessively smelling bad, Road Pig is unique in that he suffers from a split personality, between a well spoken and intelligent Donald DeLuca and the violent and dangerous Road Pig. His weapons of choice consist of a custom sledge hammer made of a cinder block attached to a metal pipe, a “shield” constructed out of a damaged road sign as we well as a mini crossbow on his wrist.
And just as if the Dreadnok weren’t despicable enough, Hasbro went ahead and added an animal poacher to their ranks. Gnawgahyde is your typical poacher who considers most animals as lower life forms suitable only for skinning, stuffing or eating. The only exception to this would be his pet warthog Clyde. He also believes in strictly living off the land, and so refuses to use any deodorants, preferring to bathe himself in animal fat and will not eat processed food, or wear synthetic fibers. Before joining the Dreadnoks, he was run out of Africa by other poachers for cheating at cards, smelling bad and for generally being obnoxious.
Finally we have Burn Out who is the resident Dreadnok mechanic. Now this guy could’ve been an engineer if he didn’t drop out of school. He’s a natural genius at mechanics and had an early fascination with motorcycles. It was his handcrafted custom motorcycle work that got Zartan’s attention and got him recruited into the Dreadnoks….of course, it goes without saying that he also had the prerequisite, nasty personality and destructive tendencies that made him fit right in with the group.
Aside from these guys, there have been even more Dreadnok recruits throughout the years either in toy form, in the comics or in the cartoons but none of them really stand out like the members mentioned above.
So there you go, while I won’t go as far as to say that these guys made a real difference in the in battle between G.I.Joe and Cobra, they sure as hell were quite entertaining and some of the most memorable bad guys in the series.