In late 1984, some friends of mine told me they had found the Dreadnoks figures. Of course, I didn't believe them. We had all seen the Dreadnoks in the comic, but they weren't released in 1984. I went over to these people's house and we sneaked into their parents' bedroom and pulled out the bags of Christmas presents that were under their bed. Imagine my shock when they pulled out all three Dreadnoks! It appears that Sears had gotten the Dreadnoks early. I finally convinced my Dad to take me to Sears and I found all three of the much maligned bikers. I bought myself a Torch, since I liked his accessories, and had my Dad buy me the other two for Christmas and Birthday presents.
Originally, Torch was my favorite Dreadnok. As Buzzer was fleshed out in the comic, though, he became far more interesting. While Torch and Ripper are illiterate thugs, Buzzer is a highly intelligent, ambitious villain who is the type of character around whom you can actually base a story. Buzzer was a former Cambridge Sociology Don. You don't get to that position unless you've got some extensive grey matter upstairs. (On a side note, I've actually rowed down the River Cam and can't understand how someone who would have lived in such a magnificent place could suffer from "intellectual displeasure".) As he began to be utilized in the comic, my Buzzer figure found more and more use. I liked Ripper's gun, and his jaws of life are a neat accessory to have around, but Buzzer's chainsaw and blade on a chain were much better weapons to play with. Soon, Buzzer found himself getting use along side my favorite Cobras while the other two 'Noks were hardly ever taken out of my toy box. The figure you see below, my original, shows his heavy use. Someday, I hope to upgrade him and allow this guy to enjoy retirement. Until then, you can see my point about these guys being hard to find in pristine condition.
The original three Dreadnoks were awesome. (They were also originally intended to be teddy bear type creatures that were loosely based on the Ewoks. No, I'm not making that up. Larry Hama, the comic writer and huge creative influence on the Joe line, has said in many interviews that the Dreadnoks were going to be sci fi creatures that would capitalize on the popularity of George Lucas' loveable little bears. Hama, fortuneately, suggested that they be "bikers or something" and the Dreadnoks, in all their glory, were born.) The later Dreadnoks were kind of parodies of themselves. Monkeywrench, Gnawgahyde and Thrasher were worthless, while Zanzibar had potential. Road Pig, well, I've already made my feelings about him known. The whole biker image was a perfect element to bring against Joe. Once again, it was the great villains that made the line memorable. Had these guys been Ewokesque furballs, you can bet Joe's popularity would have been short lived. (Though it did survive the Cobra-La fiasco.) My only lament was that they never released the Dreadnoks motorcycles. I remember, when I was a kid, people talking about how the cycles were released in Canada. How rumours like this spread in the days before instant messaging and graphics capable browsers is testament to Joes' unique popularity. Everyone had at least a few Joe figures and everyone knew at least some element of the storyline.
Buzzer, it seems, also suffered from the wrath of the file card censor brigade. Originally, Buzzer had "repressed psychotic anger". This line was later deleted. You can view his original filecard here.
After his release in the US, Buzzer was sent on to India. There, Funskool released him throughout the '90's in various color schemes. (There is a red vest version of Buzzer that is one of the harder figures to find in the entire Funskool figure line.) In 2002, Funskool brought Buzzer back into production and thousands of the figures were imported to the US. Sometime in 2003, Hasbro reacquired the Buzzer mold. It was quickly used in a 2004 Convention set and then again in a comic book pack a few years later. These molds showed the limitations of the Buzzer figure mold and have pretty much quelled any market desire for additional Buzzer figures.
Buzzer's, like the other two Dreadnoks, isn't all that tough to find. He was very popular in his day, and most people had him. Finding him mint and complete, though, is a challenge. My Dreadnoks got lots of use. They also had paint that easily rubbed off, small accessories that were easily broken or lost, and plastic that is subject to drastic sun fading. All that adds up to tons of Dreadnok figures in really bad condition. Pristine copies of these figures will cost you a couple of bucks. They are, though, very fun figures to own. I've picked up a couple of beat up specimens that I use as custom villains and criminals for the Joes to chase down. A collection really can't be complete without, at least, the original three Dreadnoks. If you only get one, though, Buzzer would be my recommendation.
Do you have Buzzer's original chain axe for trade? If so,email me.