Dreadnok Ripper, Dreadnok Thrasher, Dreadnok Buzzer
It’s hard to go wrong with the Dreadnoks—they’re one of the most distinctive Cobra-allied factions from the classic Real American Hero line. What started out as a trio of Tom Winkin, Dick Blinkin, and Harry Nodd eventually evolved into a biker gang with chapters all over the world. Yet, at the heart of the organization, the old favorites still remained. When Hasbro announced that they would be releasing a Dreadnok comic 3-pack, my excitement was boundless. After all, Torch, Ripper, and Monkey Wrench had all seen new sculpt updates, but Buzzer was still conspicuously absent. My excitement at owning a set of the original trio with updated head sculpts was boundless. However, Hasbro had a curveball thrown to them in the fact that the original Torch mold seems to have been lost. So, rather than getting a comic pack of issue #30, #32, or even #35, the team at Pawtucket had to reach a bit later into the run—all the way to the Cobra Civil War. So, does this pack work without my favorite Dreadnok Torch? Read on…
I understand the need to slither around copyright issues when it comes to the names of various characters but I’m not going to refer to this figure as “Dreadnok Ripper” for the rest of this review. I get it—he’s a Dreadnok so let’s move on. I’ll be honest—of the original three ‘Noks, Ripper was my least favorite. I don’t know whether my ennui toward him came from his bland color scheme, or his enormous aged noggin but something about him just never sat well with me. Combined with the fact that he seemed to be the “least intelligent” of the original trio, he was forever the “Shemp” of the group. So, now he’s back in a comic pack and my opinion of him has changed. First off, Hasbro has done something completely out of character with their other comic pack releases. If you look carefully at the comparison picture you’ll notice that Ripper is actually painted in DARKER colors than his original figure! Imagine my shock as I’ve been complaining since the comic packs began that Hasbro was using too light of a color palette on most of the figures. In this case, Ripper’s jeans, jewelry, shades, and skin tone are all darker than the original! The only exception to this is his pair of boots, which are now a charcoal gray in color. Still, the darker colors work for this mold; Ripper comes across as a more threatening figure, as opposed to some old guy in old jeans. The mold itself is still pretty dated—very early 80’s punk and Ripper still looks a bit old to be dressed the way he does, but that’s been an issue since the original figure was released in the 80’s. I’ll be blunt—I prefer the more recent Spy Troops Ripper body to this one, but this is definitely a worthy re-release of a classic 80’s character.
Comparing the head sculpts of the RAH Ripper and the comic pack Ripper is akin to comparing those of the comic pack Cover Girl and the RAH version. Someone at Hasbro back in the 80’s really had a “mad on” for gigantic heads. Seriously, Ripper’s noggin was ENORMOUS. You’d think with a cranial capacity like that he’d be the smartest of the ‘Noks instead of the one who was constantly fascinated by Pop Rocks. The new sculpt improves over the old in two areas: it’s significantly smaller and it gives the impression of a much younger man. The original Ripper always reminded me of some burnt-out punker who was way past his prime. The sheer gaunt nature of the head, combined with the amount of wrinkles on the forehead, seemed more like the remains of Keith Richards (I’m convinced he’s an animated corpse!) than a hard-edged criminal. The new head is more streamlined with less severe features; in other words Ripper now has a human-sized head as opposed to an enormous noggin’ his mother must have hated. This is an update that remains true to the original while fixing many of the design issues that have plagued the figure for years. In fact, I’ll argue that this head sculpt is superior in every way to the Spy Troops update of the figure. (That figure looked way too much like Burt Gummer from “Tremors” for my taste.) Ripper comes with all of his original gear—including the hoses for his “jaws of life”. (Not pictured)
Who can forget Thrasher—the chubby-faced ‘Nok with the green stripe in his hair? The original Thrasher was the first Dreadnok to deviate from the standard “blue jeans” uniform that so the other original ‘Noks seemed to favor. Thrasher instead looked like he stepped off of the set of “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”, complete with Tina Turner bellowing out “We don’t need another hero” in the background. Clad in a ripped green shirt, football pads, and black pants, Thrasher was the first of a new type of Dreadnok—a vehicle driver and a more extreme look. This figure, like most of the comic pack figures, maintains the original mold but has a completely updated color scheme. However, this color scheme actually improves the character in my eyes. First off, his skin tone is actual a real flesh tone instead of a pale white. Secondly, the basis for his lower torso is a light blue similar to Ripper and Buzzer. As such, he now fits in more with the other ‘Noks instead of standing apart from them. His gloves are now blue and green and these lighter colors actually bring out more detail in the mold than the black and gray combo of the original. The only area in which the torso truly suffers is that there are actually fewer paint applications on the shoulder pads in the reissue than there are in the original. This unfortunately causes some detail to be lost which is a shame as this is a fairly detailed mold. My only other real grievance with the color scheme is that Thrasher’s boots are now molded in the same color as his pants—almost giving him the appearance of wearing “footie pajamas”. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Had Hasbro used the darker blue/gray that is found on the gloves for the boots, this minor issue would have been corrected. As it stands, this is a solid repaint of another dated 80’s punk mold but it’s a repaint that works and that breathes new life into a character that I never had much use for.
Okay, I have to say it—the only word I can use to describe the original Thrasher head sculpt is “doofy”. Seriously, between his chubby cheeks, “doofy” grin, and his pompadour, I never could take the original character seriously. Considering that he drove the Thunder Machine—a vehicle designed to overcompensate for all sorts of male shortcomings—poor Thrasher never really stood a chance. This new head sculpt fixes all of the issues I had with the original design. Whereas the original Thrasher looked insufferably happy, the new sculpt looks cold and hard. His jaw is now more firmly set, his eyes are grim, and his features are no longer soft. This is the face of a killer—or at least someone who finds tossing sacks of kittens into chipper shredders a fun way to spend a weekend. In other words, Thrasher comes across as the type of loose cannon that his file card has always indicated. He’s that spoiled rich kid who got into trouble at age 12 because he was “bored”. He’s the one who had his first arrest for robbery at thirteen because life held no spark for him. In other words, this is the head of a dangerous sociopath for whom life only has meaning when he’s causing pain and destruction. Thrasher is now a real Dreadnok instead of a colossal joke and has now solidified his place amongst my Dreadnoks. Thrasher comes armed with a long knife and this suits his new countenance just fine.
As character designs go, Buzzer was always the Dreadnok with the most normal appearance. Wearing a sleeveless tan shirt, jeans, and boots, Buzzer is someone who you could pass on the street and not think too much of it. Sure, he looked like someone who might be in the front row of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” holding a giant foam finger with “Larry the Cable Guy” written on it but his overall appearance didn’t stick out too much in the real world. As such, Buzzer was always the Dreadnok least in need of an overhaul. The single biggest improvement in this comic pack figure is found in Buzzer’s skin tone. Like all of the other comic pack figures, Buzzer now has a more flesh tone color as opposed to the “pale peach” that most of the classic RAH figures sported. It might be a bit too heavy in the red spectrum but overall it’s a color that blends in quite well with the newer sculpted figures. (It also indicates that Buzzer goes out in the sun once in a great while.) However, aside from the flesh tone, the rest of the color scheme isn’t any real improvement over the original. Buzzer’s shirt is now the same green as was used in both Thrasher and Ripper, and his pants are also the same color. The pads on his jeans are now dark blue rather than black, and his medals, dog tags, and belt buckles are now all gold. This isn’t a bad color scheme but it just doesn’t come together as well as the original did. In a set where Thrasher and Ripper are dramatically improved by the “comic pack treatment”, Buzzer simply rates an overwhelming “meh” from me.
If the body for Buzzer proves under whelming then the head sculpt redeems the figure almost entirely. Buzzer, like Ripper, suffered from “enormous head syndrome”. (Must have been something in the water back then.) Buzzer was the most educated of the Dreadnoks, and I always thought his face should have belied some of that intellect. Instead, his original head reminded of a giant beaver—the appearance of buckteeth and all. Between his receding hairline and his prominent cheekbones, Buzzer never worked for me. However, this comic pack head looks as though it literally stepped right off of the Marvel page and into the real world. Significantly smaller than the original, Buzzer’s new head carries with it an almost “snooty” disdain for those around him. With his round glasses and his ponytail, Buzzer would almost fit in at a coffee house poetry reading rather than with a bunch of “tough as nails” bikers. This new head brings back the original dichotomy that was Buzzer—educated at Oxford, yet found in the company of thugs. It’s a fantastic sculpt and one that fans have waited years for. The only problem with the head is that it seems a rather ill fit when placed on the RAH era body. Instead of blending seamlessly with the neck, his head now remind me of a turtle’s—sticking out of the shell that is his torso. This is a problem with many of the comic packs given the nature of how the “pre-ball joint” heads fit with the classic torsos only it seems more pronounced in Buzzer’s case. I have the feeling that with no new sculpt Buzzer on the horizon, many customizers are going to simply use this head for a modern-era Buzzer and toss the body into the parts bins. (Hmm… one of my 10,000 surplus VvV7 Gung Ho torsos should work quite nicely.) However, Buzzer is still a great comic pack update—and one that many fans will be happy to own. The original longhaired Dreadnok comes with all of his original gear including the bizarre “axe head” nunchucks.
So, the original ‘Noks are back—mostly. Ripper no longer looks like a burnt-out forty-something trying to recapture his youth. Thrasher reminds me less of Chumbley the Walrus and more of someone seen on “America’s Most Wanted”. Buzzer has had “head reduction surgery” and finally resembles his comic book representation. All in all, it’s a solid comic pack; it successfully updates the characters while remaining true to the original versions. Sure, I wasn’t terribly excited about Buzzer’s uniform color scheme, but the head more than makes up for any deficiency that I found. I can now take Thrasher seriously for the first time ever and Ripper, in spite of an extremely dated mold, carries a dangerous malevolence about him. So, at the end of the day, I can recommend this set in good conscience to all who have been considering it. True, I wish that Torch’s mold hadn’t been lost but Hasbro did a terrific job with the molds they had access to. If you’re a Nok fan, this is one set you’re not going to want to miss.