RECORD STORE TALES #889: The Dreadnoks
I’ve always had trouble letting go. Even though rock music was my true obsession, there was some overlap. Even into grade nine, I still bought GI Joe comics and figures. It was always hard letting go of an obsession. My “favourite things”, in order of discovery were:
- Star Wars until its natural end in 1983-84.
- GI Joe/Transformers from 1984 to 1986-87.
- Rock music from 1984 to present.
- WWF Wrestling from 1985 to 1990.
You can see how the evolution of this worked. A GI Joe figure was in the same scale as Star Wars, but with far more articulation well suited to an older kid. The first wave of figures even featured real-world accurate weapons. They were a natural step for a kid still wanting that action figure experience, but geared for someone older. Transformers went hand in hand, since Marvel were producing a comic line to go for each. Transformers resembled the die-cast cars that older kids (and adults) collected and displayed.
I discovered heavy metal music on December 26, 1984. A few months later, wrestling appeared on my radar with the very first Wrestlemania. A lot of those guys looked like rock stars, with crazy costumes, long hair and male bravado.
As my interests shifted and evolved, so did my collections. The Star Wars toys were put into storage in the crawl space. I was given tape boxes, Christmas after Christmas, to store my growing music collection. A typical Christmas would see me receiving some new tapes and action figures. I’d sit in my bedroom reading GI Joe comics while rocking out to Long Way to Heaven by Helix. I was a weird kid but I liked what I liked and didn’t much care.
The Joe characters diversified along with me. In 1984 they got a little more outlandish with the introduction of Zartan and the Dreadnoks. Zartan, the master of disguise, was a deluxe action figure whose skin colour turned blue in direct sunlight. This gimmick only worked outdoors, which meant we played with Zartan outside in the summer while giving him a rest in the winter. His backup didn’t arrive on toy shelves until 1985. They were three bikers named the Dreadnoks: Buzzer, the Brit with a ponytail and a chainsaw, the mohawked Ripper, and the flamethrower Torch who had a bit of a Lemmy beard going on. Their Mad Max inspired outfits would have allowed them to fit into a rock band quite easily, if only they came with musical instruments instead of weapons. They’d make a cool punk trio.
The Dreadnoks expanded their lineup the following year. On explosives came Monkeywrench, bearded and obsessed with Guy Fawkes. Then in a deluxe set came the vehicle driver Thrasher, and his definitely Mad Max inspired Thunder Machine car. Made of bits and pieces of scrap, it hit the same post-apocalyptic notes as the other Dreadnoks, as well as rock bands like Motley Crue, Kiss, and Armored Saint. Thrasher had a punk rock streak of green in his hair. And now they were a quintet. They were literally begging for me to make them custom musical instruments.
There were always wooden match sticks in the house, so I used them for guitar necks, drum stands, drumsticks, and a microphone. Cardboard boxes were cut up to make the bodies of guitars and a few drums and cymbals. Black electrical tape held them all together. And so the Dreadnoks became a five piece band, and I put them on display in my bedroom on a shelf with my Kiss cassettes.
If only I had a picture of my Dreadnok band. Not everybody had a camera back then. Even if you did, it seemed film was always out! You can imagine what they looked like!