Tuesday, February 6, 2018

1986 Monkeywrench

I am not a huge Dreadnok fan.  While Buzzer, Ripper and Torch were very nice figures with amazing gear, they never really resonated with me as a kid.  I'd use them as villains from time to time.  But, my Cobra was mostly a military organization who battled Joe in more traditional ways.  Mainly, though, my childhood Joe experience took a decidedly different turn in late 1985 as I turned more towards collecting nice samples of figures and establishing large, elaborate story lines.  As I had acquired the original three Dreadnoks in late 1984, their figures were mostly beat up and all of them had some lost gear.  This also played into the degraded role.  As 1986 rolled along, though, my Cobra forces needed a boost.  It was great to have Joe beat out Vipers and Crimson Guards.  But, Joe needed some named Cobras against whom they could battle.  As such, characters like Zandar became important named Cobras who could hold their own against the Joes, even if the figure wasn't great.  In this same vein, Monkeywrench became more important to me than his figure would ever warrant.

As a figure, Monkeywrench is fairly well done.  While he lacks some of the intricacy of the 1985 series, the mold is still rife with little details.  He has a chain around his left shoulder and his jeans are scattered with patches.  (Hasbro really wanted the Dreadnoks to wear jeans.  Which sucks now since the blue plastic they used is extremely vulnerable to heat and sun discoloration.)  Monkeywrench wears a detailed necklace and his side arm is a revolver.  All of this, though, is obscured by the five huge grenades strapped across the figure's chest.  These, of course, are meant to define the figure as an explosives expert who likes loud noises.  In that context, they work.  His countenance is dominated by the silver aviator glasses.  These convey a sense of anonymity which not requiring a full face mask or disguise. 

The Guy Fawkes reference on Monkeywrench's filecard actually spearheaded me to spend some time reading up on Fawkes at my local library.  One of the great things about both the Joe comic and the filecards were the obscure little references that were tossed into either stories or biographies.  Leon Trotsky being mysteriously stabbed on a train, the Potemkin, Guy Fawkes Day and many other throw away lines lead to copious hours searching a card catalog and then reading through books to learn more about these flippant events.  It's so much easier today.  But, that intellectual curiosity set in motion from the Joe canon is just another reason why the line still resonates with me today.

There's really only one reason for me to profile the Monkeywrench figure.  It was not his addition to my collection.  Nor his role in my Joe world.  It is his demise that holds the story.  As a kid, I didn't intentionally destroy many toys.  I had learned about collecting from my Grandfather and always had a sense that I'd regret intentionally ruining something about which I cared.  Which is why Monkeywrench's destruction sticks out in my memory.

Around 1986, my Dad decided to build a loft in our garage.  The garage was a 1940's era massive cinder block structure with a pointed, shingled roof that was easily as tall as our two story house.  Inside the garage was only the shelves my Dad had affixed to the walls.  On the wooden apex of the building, there were old glass windows to allow in some light.  As my brothers and I got older and accumulated more bikes, lawnmowers and other gadgets, we needed space.  So, my Dad bought some wood and built a huge loft over the car bays.  One side faced our neighbor's yard.  The other faced our backyard where we played all our sports.  The loft on this side became a fun place to play.  It was only accessible by a step ladder, which made the spot that much cooler.  Here, I had a few adventures with Joes.  (You may remember by story of how the 1986 Mission to Brazil Dialtone was crushed by the garage door when I forgot his sniper position on one such play session.)  As storage boxes were added, I had a little city in which my Joes could battle Cobra.

In 1987, my Joe playing days were ending.  At some point over the summer, we had managed to break out one of the window panes on the second story garage window that was accessible to the loft.  One fall day, while playing, the Joes decided to hang a captured Monkeywrench.  I affixed him to a long string and he was tossed through the hole on the broken glass to hang out in the elements against the cinder block wall several feet below.  I had left him there for a couple of days when the kids down the street came over to play soccer or football in our backyard.  They saw Monkeywrench hanging by the wall.  They also saw the ripe, felled walnuts from the walnut trees in the yard, too.  Someone thought they could hit the figure with a walnut.  They threw and missed.  So, the four of us, myself, my brother and the two kids down the block all threw walnuts at Monkeywrench.  Finally, he was hit.  The string went flailing and Monkeywrench swung like a pendulum in front of the wall.  I don't know how many hits he took, but it was a few.  When we were done, I inspected the figure to find a broken crotch, lost leg and broken hand.  Really, he was heartier than I expected.  But, Monkeywrench's days as a part of my collection were over.

It is that memory that forever haunts Monkeywrench.  (Well, that and the fact that I thought he looked a bit like my uncle, only with brown hair.)  The figure has never mattered to me since then and it's only been in recent years I've actually acquired a new one: just to complete my collection.  It's not that Monkeywrench is bad.  The fig is one of the less outlandish Dreadnoks.  But, I'm not a Dreadnok fan and seeing Monkeywrench just recalls that fall day in 1987.  And, that's unlikely to change.  I don't see this figure joining in on a great deal of photos.  He's nice to have to complete my 1986 series.  But, that's about the extent of his value to my collection these days.

The '85 Dreadnoks were famous for their gear.  As such, it was quite a disappointment to see Monkeywrench with just a single weapon.  And, the gun really wasn't that great.  Monkeywrench includes a harpoon gun.  As an idea, it could be useful.  But, since the harpoon doesn't come apart and the winch doesn't work, it's a fairly lame piece of equipment.  As a kid, though, I saw Monkeywrench's harpoon more like Neptune's trident.  It could shoot blasts of energy and was a somewhat effective weapon on the battlefield.  It made Monkeywrench a bit more useful to me.  The weapon, sadly, kept appearing in neon colors with 1993 and 1994 figures, too.  So, it's a rather ubiquitous look for Joe accessories.  I'd love to know why Hasbro chose this weapon, from their entire catalog of guns, to remake into '90's neon weapon trees.  There were so many other weapons that were better sculpted.  So, was this someone's favorite?  Or, was it just the right size for a tree?  It's little details like this that I'd love to unearth about the line and to see how some items came to be reused time and again while others that I consider far better were never touched upon again.

Monkeywrench didn't see much use.  The American figure completed his retail run in 1987 and then disappeared.  A few years later, Monkeywrench was released by Estrela toys in Brazil.  This figure, a Cobra explosives expert, is also named Monkeywrench.  He has a bright red vest and is very distinct from the American figure.  Most of Monkeywrench's Brazilian contemporaries were later released by Funskool.  But, Monkeywrench never appeared anywhere after the Brazilian release.  It's somewhat surprising that the bright red Estrela version doesn't get more press since Dreadnok variants tend to be somewhat popular.  It's an obscure but somewhat affordable figure if you can find it and is at least one alternative look for Monkeywrench.

Monkeywrench, for some reason, is fairly popular.  Mint and complete with filecard figures routinely sell in the $12-$15 range.  You can get them a little cheaper with some luck (and, if you don't want the filecard).  But, for a figure that no one really cares about and who has just one, rarely lost, accessory, he's rather pricey.  But, being a Dreadnok definitely plays in Mondeywrench's favor.  There are tons of collectors who specialize in Dreadnoks and who acquire every member of the gang, regardless of their other collecting focus.  For me, this figure isn't worth that kind of money.  His nostalgic bent is limited and he's not otherwise cool enough to justify that kind of money.

1986 Monkeywrench, Dreadnok, Funskool, Cutter, STUN

1986 Monkeywrench, Dreadnok, 1985 Ripper, Thunder Machine

1986 Monkeywrench, Dreadnoks, VAMP, 1982


  1. A figure very prone to broken crotches, unfortunately.

    The catalog show his vest (upper arms, really) with very short sleeves. I think even there, his sneering teeth are unpainted, though.

    As a character he gets overshadowed by Thrasher (it's the car) and the original 3 and even later entries like Roadpig, too. In the comics he seemed one of the saner Dreadnoks, despite his supposed love of explosives. In the cartoon he feared spiders and cheated on his entry to the Dreadnoks (by letting everyone else duke it out, then gas bombing the last ones.)

    I do think the lack of accessories pertaining to his specialty has a lot of to with it. A few sticks of dynamite, T-Rat's explosives satchel, Big Ben's grenade satchel...those sort of things are what he needed. But he and Iceberg got shafted on accessories in 1986.

  2. He's OK. His outfit is a little more timeless than some of the other 'Noks, and his head sculpt is pretty good. Plus those arms can be used for customs pretty well, which may be why he has a higher resell value. His weapon is, indeed, garbage though.

  3. Last I checked, Monkeywrench’s weapon was only reused three times:
    -The 1988 Cobra Battle Gear Accessory Pack in brown.
    -The 1994 Battle Corps Cobra Viper’s weapon sprue in red.
    -A figure from the 1994 Stargate movie’s toyline, in silver with a thicker grip.

    1. I had a couple of '94 Vipers back then. So, it must have felt more common than it actually was. I just hate it so much!!!! :)

  4. I always thought the gun was an electric trident cattle prod type thing. And the spool of the harpoon was a coil of wire that generated the electric shock. There's a sunbow episode where Crimson Guards use a similar weapon to prod the cloned dinosaurs on Cobra Island, that must be where I got the idea.