REVIEW: G.I JOE DREADNOKS BATTLE SET
Something that I've always gotten a kick out of within the world of G.I. Joe are the Dreadnoks. Yes, they're mean, vicious, nasty -- they're the bad guys -- they're a villainous biker gang and I am well aware of the fact that in real life, biker gangs can be highly dangerous. But the way these guys have always been portrayed in both the comics and the animated series, it's hard not to like them. Liking the Dreadnoks is sort of the "guilty pleasure" of the G.I. Joe universe.
The Dreadnoks were first introduced in 1984. They turned up in the second G.I. Joe animated mini-series, "The Revenge of Cobra", and the three initial Dreadnoks -- Torch, Buzzer, and Ripper -- made an early debut at Sears stores before becoming part of the general release of individual G.I. Joe action figures at all retailers later on.
The Dreadnoks are the minions of Zartan, a mercenary employed by Cobra. Very quickly, it was apparent that the Dreadnoks were not soldiers. These guys aren't uniformed troopers, not by a longshot. They were members of an Australian-based motorcycle gang with a decided penchant for violence and chaos. This made them a different sort of enemy for the G.I. Joe team to face.
Cobra, for all its villainy, was run like a military organization. Its soldiers received orders and they were expected to carry them out to the letter, in the fulfillment of the plans of Cobra Commander. Cobra soldiers would not, for example, stop along the way to use flamethrowers and their cutting equipment to tear apart planes at a local Air Force base just for the heck of it. The Dreadnoks would be more than willing to do this. They'd knock hay bales off the back of a truck on the freeway and set them on fire just for laughs. Even Zartan had trouble controlling them sometimes.
From a military standpoint, it's difficult to plan actions against an enemy like this. They're so unpredictable, you never know what they're going to do next.
Now, admittedly, this doesn't make the Dreadnoks sound especially entertaining. So what was it? Well, there was a certain "silly" factor about the Dreadnoks. Their favorite foods were grape soda and chocolate-covered donuts. And none of them were especially intelligent. In the animated series, when Storm Shadow delivered a message to the Dreadnoks, one of them replied, "Aw come on, Zartan knows we can't read!"
During a recruitment drive which opened the second season, the -- well, let's call it the qualification test -- consisted of a knock-down, drag-out brawl between about two dozen wannabee Dreadnoks, which was won when the won named Monkeywrench lobbed stun grenades into the mix. When the other Dreadnoks accused him of cheating, Monkeywrench replied, "Of course it's cheating. What did you expect -- sportsmanship?" He also proclaimed his hobbies to be "Heavy metal, mayhem, and explosions -- loud explosions."
That's not to say they weren't dangerous. In the comic book, the Dreadnoks attacked a National Guard convoy -- apparently just for amusement -- and made off with a crate that contained a wire guided missile, which they very nearly used successfully -- after getting over the disappointment that the crate wasn't filled with chocolate-covered donuts...
The Dreadnoks have been a presence in the world of G.I. Joe ever since. They've appeared in every incarnation of the comic book that's come along, and they've maintained a presence in the action figure line throughout its run. They were even the focal point of the 2004 Convention Set at one of the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Conventions in Florida.
Naturally, the Dreadnoks were part of the 25th Anniversary line, when the format of G.I. Joe figures was altered into its current form. Torch, Buzzer, and Ripper, all turned up here. A fourth Dreadnok, Monkeywrench, appeared in a special set spun out of the line based on the first live-action movie. An all-new Dreadnok character, Storm Rider, made his debut with the Dreadnok Doom Cycle, which was part of the post-movie line.
But that still left a good number of Dreadnoks that hadn't been introduced into the current format. Of course, Zartan had been, and his sister, Zarana, was offered at the 2011 San Diego Comic Convention. But there were still a good number of characters.
So an online retailer named BigBadToyStore came to the rescue. In one of two special seven-figure Battle Packs (the other one devoted to "Slaughter's Marauders", also featuring Slaughter's Renegades), the population of Dreadnoks in the modern G.I. Joe action figure line has finally been brought up to far more appropriate levels. The set includes ZANDAR, Zartan's brother, Dreadnoks THUNDER, formerly known as Thrasher; GNAW, formerly known as Gnawgahyde; ROAD PIG, BURN OUT, ZANZIBAR, and the first-ever figure of Zartan's daughter, ZANYA!
The package the figures come in is a lengthy box that presents the figures all in a row. The basic package design is identical to the package design used for the 30th Anniversary product. The original Dreadnoks emblem is on the front of the package, and is also used on their file cards in place of individual portrait shots. This latter is a little disappointing, as I have been extremely impressed with the quality of the artwork on the packages and file cards in recent times, and would have loved to have seen the Dreadnoks rendered. I'll also admit I've tended to prefer the modern Dreadnoks emblem which was introduced during the "newsculpt" era, but it appears on a couple of the figures, so I'm okay with that. But it would've been nice to see some artwork.
The amount of newly-sculpted pieces on the figures, especially all-new heads, the number of distinctive accessories, and other similar factors, and the fact that the "BigBadToyStore Exclusive" marking on the box is a sticker and not actually part of the box, really has me thinking that these Dreadnoks were originally intended for a wider retail release, but for whatever reason, simply didn't make it. It happens. Fortunately, there are decently large online retailers around these days that can provide Hasbro with enough business to keep cool sets like this from vanishing into obscurity and never happening at all. And so, we get to enjoy this new Dreadnoks set. Let's consider the characters and figures individually.
ZANDAR - If one character has ever, rather unfortunately, lived up to his own character profile, it would have to be Zandar. His character profile has always indicated that he had a knack, a gift, or a curse, for going unnoticed. No teacher ever called on him in school. He always won at hide-and-seek. And when he was first introduced in the G.I. Joe comic book, Dreadnok Buzzer nearly sat on him, simply because he somehow didn't notice that the chair in which Zandar was seated was already occupied.
A funny thing happened after that. After a few meager appearances in the comic book, Zandar pretty much vanished, while his sister, Zarana, sailed to new heights, eventually even leading the Dreadnoks for a time in Zartan's absence after Zartan more or less reformed. Zarana would also prove to be a fairly constant thorn in the Baroness' side, as well.
In the animated series, it was much the same story. Zarana would be fairly prominently featured on several occasions, including developing a sort-of relationship with the G.I. Joe named Mainframe, while Zandar seemed restricted to cameo appearances at best. He had all of one line in the animated movie, three words, "You know us?" -- and it wasn't even his original voice.
The closest Zandar came to a high point was during the days of the Devil's Due comic book, when Zandar decided to abandon Cobra and take up with Serpentor's new COIL organization. And those stories have since been considered "Disavowed". This poor guy just can't catch a break.
Zandar's file card lists his real first name as "Zachary". This is interesting, in that I believe it is derived somewhat from yet another of the "Disavowed" stories (which is almost required since we have Zanya in this set as well), in which the origin of Zartan and his siblings is presented. Here, in very basic terms, the three spent some unfortunate time as street children, later street thugs, ultimately going their separate ways. Once Zartan had become a professional criminal and ultimately become involved with the Dreadnoks, his brother and sister quite coincidentally turned up. Zartan did what he could for them until gaining control of the Dreadnoks' organization, at which point he was in a better position to look out for them to some degree.
The modern file cards are shorter than the originals, but there are some details supplied. Zandar's reads: Zandar is a master of camouflage and covert movement. In other words, he's good at hiding and sneaking up on people. And, of course, he doesn't behave this way to do anything good for his target. Like his brother Zartan, he can disguise himself as anyone. He's also an expert with silent weapons and can remain motionless for long periods of time.
So how's the figure? Really very nicely done. I suspect that quite a few of the figures in this set use previously existing parts, but as I am not the expert with modern G.I. Joes that I am with the originals, I would be hard-pressed to determine whose parts might have previously belonged to whom, so I'm not going to get into that. What I can say is that the modern Zandar is a good modern representation of the original character.
For someone so good at covert operations, Zandar doesn't exactly have a subtle color scheme. His hair is bright orange, he's basically shirtless, he has bright blue shoulder armor and other details, and he wears a pink neckerchief around his neck.
Actually, the original Zandar wore a neckerchief, which was of course molded as part of his torso. The new Zandar has such a huge piece of pink "fabric" (plastic, of course) tied around his neck and draped partway down his chest and back, molded as a separate piece, that it looks more like he's wearing the remnants of one of his sister Zarana's shirts -- which is really pretty creepy if you think about it.
Most of the other details are as they were before. Zandar has orange hair -- which for some reason was always colored the same shade of pink as his sister's in the comics, but it's supposed to be orange. His hair is somewhat longer and more unkempt than it was on the original figure, and he has a blue headband to at least try to keep it out of his face.
He has a rather grim facial expression -- I have to say that the headsculpts for most of these Dreadnoks are excellent and very highly detailed, and very expressive. And Zandar has several streaks of red "warpaint" on his face, matching the original.
Zandar isn't wearing a shirt, and he has three red lightning bolts painted on his chest, just like the original. He is wearing segmented shoulder armor, just like his siblings, except Zandar's is blue. He has a pistol holster strapped across his chest, with a removable pistol, and it does a capable enough job of concealing the mid-torso articulation point.
Zandar has light gray trousers, with a blue knife sheath on the upper right leg, and a yellow belt, gold knee pads, and brown boots and gloves with dark gold trim. Although certainly not an identical match in all respects to the original Zandar, it's a more than capable modern rendition of the figure. His main accessory is a multi-arrow crossbow.
GNAWGAHYDE - I'm sorry, but I can't quite bring myself to call this guy "Clyde 'GNAW' Hyde", which is his "official" name listed on the package and file card. Obviously there are some sort of legalities involved here where they couldn't refer to the character by his original name, or even anything all that close to it, but we all know which Dreadnok this is supposed to be, so for the purposes of this review, that's what I'm going to call him.
For that matter, this "Clyde Hyde" name is something entirely new, since the original 1989 file card doesn't even give a real name for the character. There's no reason to assume it isn't his real name, though.
The original file card describes Gnawgahyde as more than just a Dreadnok, he's a Dreadnok poacher. The card states that Gnawgahyde could have singlehandedly decimated the herds of all the endangered species of Africa if his fellow poachers hadn't railroaded him off the continent for cheating at cards, being generally obnoxious, and smelling bad. He was subsisting on his earnings as a freelance fur stealer when he was recruited by the Dreadnoks at an all-night grape soda and donut shoppe.
Gnawgahyde is one of the later Dreadnoks, and wasn't introduced into the toy line until 1989. He never appeared in the original comics, which seemed content to conclude Dreadnoks recruitment with Road Pig, and obviously Gnawgahyde was a little late to be part of the original animation.
However, he was just in time to be very prominently featured in the 1989 return to animation, "Operation Dragonfire", and arguably got one of the funniest lines in the history of the series, when at once point, he took over the weapons controls of a G.I. Joe Conquest plane that was parked on the ground, and basically started shooting everything in sight, proclaiming, "I haven't had this much fun since I mowed me lawn with a flamethrower!"
The modern file card incorporates many of the details of the original, in a simplified form. It reads that Clyde "Gnaw" Hyde is a poacher, hunter, and trapper. In other words, he's a lethal threat to every living creature on the planet. This alone would have made the Dreadnok gang greet him as one of their own. He's also a thief, card cheat, and he always smells like the rancid hog-fat he covers himself in when he hunts. To the Dreadnoks, these are truly prize-winning qualities.
So, how's the figure? Really extremely impressive. In a number of respect, it's an improvement over the original, and those improvements are not based specifically on the structure of the figure.
The original Gnawgahyde had a headsculpt that was almost too exaggerated. It presented an individual with a ferocious snarl of a mouth, and a bald head but with a mustache that merged with sideburns. It was a capable sculpt, but it bordered on the cartoonish. The new headsculpt, while maintaining those qualities, is a good bit more realistic.
The original Gnawgahyde wore a pale tan hat, and a yellow "furry" vest with black spots on it. Now, admittedly, by the time Gnawgahyde entered the line, brighter colors were becoming increasingly common, and for the most part, I didn't object to this. But it did make for a pretty brightly-colored Dreadnok.
The new figure is wearing a brown hat, with a spotted brim, and what looks like a tan leather vest with a furry collar. It really is a lot more reasonable looking, as well as more plausible for someone who's going to be out in the jungle hunting various animals.
Gnawgahyde also has blue trousers, dark brown fingerless gloves, brown boots, and silver knee pads. The figure really is very impressive, looking like some sort of arch-enemy to Crocodile Dundee or some such. He comes with an impressively detailed rifle, and a small knife which can fit in a sheath on the back of his vest.
ROAD PIG - Easily the most prominent of the later-year Dreadnoks. Although he received a moderate amount of time in the second animated series, mostly as one of Cobra Commander's more brain-dead flunkies, Road Pig's finest performances were those in the comic book, thanks to the attention given to the character by Larry Hama.
Although not specifically cited on the original file card, Road Pig was a classic example of an extreme split personality. Sometimes, he was the relatively calm, erudite "Donald" -- and in fact Road Pig's real name is Don DeLuca. But make him angry, and his personality turned into the stuttering, not so articulate Road Pig, who could basically demolish an entire bar -- and its patrons -- in less time than it takes to say, "Hulk Smash!"
One tends to get the impression that it was the Road Pig side of the personality that made most of the fashion choices and career decisions. Both sides of the character also had a serious crush on Zarana, which wasn't entirely reciprocated except as needed to keep the behemoth in line. One might well believe that Road Pig managed to make even Zarana just a little nervous.
The original Road Pig figure was huge, and turned up twice, once as a standard Dreadnok, first introduced in 1988, and again a few years later as part of the Super Sonic Fighters special team, which is how he found his way into the second animated series. There was a third Road Pig planned, that would have been part of a special team known as the Ninja Commandos, but the demise of the original Real American Hero prevented that figure from ever coming out. And I think that's a darn shame. If nothing else, I would've loved to have read the file card. How in the world this brain-dead ape could have possibly become a ninja...!
The new Road Pig figure is similarly massive. He stands about 4-1/2" in height. This for a line where the height is somewhat more variable than it was in the original G.I. Joe line, but seldom gets over 4-1/4".
The headsculpt is superb, easily one of the most detailed, and manages to make Road Pig look both mean and stupid. If he looked any more stupid, he'd probably be drooling, but he's mean-looking enough that you wouldn't really want to point it out to him.
Road Pig has white hair, with a red stripe dyed around his head from one temple to the other. It's been painted very interestingly on this figure. Instead of a solid stripe, it's made to look like it matches the texture of the hair.
Road Pig isn't wearing a shirt, but he does have what looks like a highly modified set of football shoulder pads. This largely matches the ones provided with the original figure, which was a separate piece then as well, but the new version is much more detailed. Both sides have painted armor plating, and take special note of the chain mail hanging off the right shoulder. Really extremely impressive.
Road Pig is wearing fingerless black gloves, black trousers, and very heavy black and gray boots with steel tips. He also has silver-gray knee pads. Please take special note of the belt buckle on his brown belt. It bears the modern Dreadnoks emblem, the stylized version of Zartan's hood.
Road Pig's new file card reads as follows: Road Pig was kicked out of every low-life, outlaw biker gang from one coast to the other for smelling worse than was acceptably by even their standards. He joined the Dreadnoks as a probationary member. They're still making up their minds about him, even though his brute strength makes him useful to the gang and he'll willingly stomp anything to pieces with little or no provocation.
His accessories are certainly among the more amusing, including a huge cinderblock hammer and a shield that is formerly a street sign for what I am certain is a charming locale called "Alligator Alley".
THUNDER - Formerly known as the Dreadnok named Thrasher. Made all the more confusing since there was a G.I. Joe team member known as Thunder in 1984, admittedly not one of the better-known characters. Obviously there were some legalities involved here once again, but since Thrasher was the driver of the Dreadnok Thunder Machine -- obviously not included in this set -- I'll let it slide, and call him Thunder for the most part.
Thunder, as Thrasher, first came on the scene in 1986, with the Dreadnok Thunder Machine, a ramshackle pile of spare parts that looked like something out of a Road Warrior movie, but according to its package, had Destro as one of its designers, so it was bound to be more impressive than it looked. Never mind the fact that it almost had to be, since it looked like it had been on the wrong end of several demolition derbies.
The only recognizable part of the thing was the front end, which appeared to have been extracted from a sports car of some sort. The rest of the vehicle was welded together from whatever scrap metal was lying around, armed with a huge double-barreled machine gun up front, a siren and light system on top of what laughably passed for the roof, and an apparent jet engine in the rear. It's just as well the Dreadnoks were outlaws, because I'd hate to see what would happen trying to get a license and insurance policy for this thing.
Accompanying the Thunder Machine was Thrasher, described on his original file card as the stereotypical spoiled brat who was never denied anything by his parents, even though most of what he was provided with resulted in disaster and chaos.
Thrasher may have changed his name to Thunder, but the tune remains the same. According to the file card, Thunder was spoiled rotten as a child, but getting everything was never enough to satisfy him. When he was in his teens, he stole a motorcycle and hit the road to corruption. He ended up in the swamps, where the Dreadnoks welcomed him into the fold and channeled his destructive tendencies into profitable acts of sabotage and chaos.
So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done, and a more than suitable tribute to the original. The new headsculpt -- to be perfectly honest, it looks like a normal-skinned version of Commander Data from Star Trek the Next Generation, with an Elvis hairdo. I'm not saying it's a bad headsculpt. It's not. It's very nicely done and well detailed. I'm just saying that's who I think it looks like.
Thunder has his hair somewhat slicked back, and up, and has two bright green stripes on the left side. As with the original figure, he is wearing a torn green half-shirt with armored chest and shoulder padding, looking somewhat footballish in origin. Although a separately molded piece, it doesn't appear intended to be removable, and not surprising, it's designed to work with the mid-torso articulation point.
Thunder has arm bands around his elbows, one black glove and one gray glove of different designs (this is also in keeping with the original figure), black trousers, and dark metallic gray knee pads and boots.
While he is perhaps not one of the more outstanding figures in this set, he's definitely an extremely well-rendered modern incarnation of the original character. His equipment includes a sword, of all things, as well as a spiked ball on the end of a long, flexible handle.
BURN OUT - Here's an interesting entry into the set. Burn Out was the only NEW Dreadnok character to come along during the "newsculpt" era, and he was originally part of the "Spy Troops" concept, which meant that he originally came with equipment to disguise himself as a G.I. Joe.
He's also the only African-American Dreadnok. There always seemed to be a certain reluctance in the original line to put much racial diversity into the bad guys. I suppose there were concerns about a reaction over that. Fortunately, by the time of the "newsculpt" line, such concerns were set aside. There were African-American Cobra Troopers in certain sets, and we also got Burn Out during this time.
Obviously, Burn Out has never been featured in any animation, but he did turn up from time to time in the Devil's Due comic book. I always sort of had the impression he was a little more intelligent than most of the other Dreadnoks, but this is mostly speculation on my part.
His modern file card introduces him as one Walter O. Jones from Catskill, New York, and explains that Burn Out is a mechanical genius and could have been an engineer if he hadn't dropped out of a top technical school during freshman orientation. When he's not doing some mechanically destructive job for Zartan, he builds custom motorcycles. He can also assume another person's body language and speech patterns with amazing perfection.
So, I think that's where my assumption of higher intelligence came from. He at least made it to a technical school, even if he didn't hang around all that long. The reference to "assuming body language and speech patterns" is clearly a holdover from the Spy Troops concept. And I can't really see the other Dreadnoks building custom motorcycles. Trashing them, maybe...
So, how's the figure? Very nicely done. The headsculpt is interesting. The original Burn Out figure had very long dreadlocks. Dreadlocks on a Dreadnok -- it needed to happen sometime. The modern Burn Out still has dreadlocks, but for whatever reason, he's tied them up in a cluster on the back of his head that looks like he was worked over by a bunch of Boy Scouts during knot-tying practice. At the very least, it's an amazingly detailed sculpt. Burn Out also has a mustache and goatee.
The original Burn Out wore a dark gray tank top with brown camouflage on it, and copper colored barbed wire wrapped around it. Somewhere along the way, Burn Out decided that barbed wire wasn't the best fashion accessory in the world, and is now wearing a lighter gray short sleeved shirt (there probably wasn't much left of the old one), with brown camouflage and a black harness.
One thing I do miss from the original Burn Out is that he was wearing a black armband with the modern Dreadnok emblem on it. The new Burn Out doesn't have this, although there is evidence of a tattoo, which appeared to be a red and yellow blazing sun, on the upper left arm, partly concealed by the sleeve. Burn Out is also wearing very heavy gloves, much like the original.
Burn Out has dark gray trousers, silver gray knee pads, and heavy boots. He comes with some impressive accessories, that look similar to Torch's flamethrowing equipment. Apparently trying to live up to his code name in more ways than one.
Honestly, I'm sincerely pleased that this particular Dreadnok was included in this collection. Given the time frame in which the original version was released, he's a little more obscure than the others, and this was likely his only shot at entering the modern figure line, and I'm glad he got it.
ZANZIBAR - First introduced in 1987, Zanzibar was billed as a "Dreadnok Pirate", and certainly looked the part. With a real name of "Morgan Teach", based off of the names of two notorious pirates, Zanzibar wore an eyepatch, had a real-hair topknot, an appropriately piratical mustache, and dressed fairly ornately -- for a Dreadnok, wearing a brown half-shirt, a fairly ornate silver necklace, silver shoulder pads with purple trim, highly ornate gold wrist bands, and green trousers with black boots that definitely had a pirate flair to them.
Zanzibar saw quite a bit of time in the comic book, although he never turned up in the animated series, and he also came equipped with a remarkable vehicle called an Air Skiff, which was a small but impressive hovercraft capable of a fair amount of flight.
Zanzibar saw a second figure release, a recolored version of the original, during the 2004 Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention, where he was offered in a two-pack of "Dreadnok Drivers" alongside a recolored Thrasher.
Of course, it would be expected that Zanzibar would be included in a set like this. His file card maintains much of his piratical background, and reads as follows: Zanzibar was raised on a garbage scow and spent most of his youth picking pockets on crowded piers. He's tried river piracy, stock fraud, and smuggling, but they were too much like real work and not nasty enough for his tastes. His lucky break came when he delivered bootleg gas to a filling station owned by Zartan and was immediately invited to join the Dreadnok gang.
So, how's the figure? Well -- hmm. You'll likely hear other collectors say that Zanzibar is the least impressive figure in the entire set. Unfortunately, they're right. Charitably, I would have to call this figure "uninspired". At worst, I'd have to say there are some aspects that are just plain careless, the most glaring of which is the fact that his eyepatch is on the wrong side.
Now, I understand the fact that the original Zanzibar figure was a spectacular figure. I also understand that we're not going to see the likes of real-hair topknots again. It's also clearly evident that most of the attention to this set went to some of the other characters, such as Road Pig, Gnawgahyde, Thunder, Zanya, and Zandar. Burn Out clearly uses previously established body parts. But I do have to wonder if Zanzibar had to come up quite this short.
Th headsculpt is nicely detailed for what it is, but I'm not quite sure what to make of the hairstyle, which seems to come to a crest on the top, and taper fairly long in the back. The facial expression is odd, looking more confused than vicious. The original Zanzibar looked capable of cutting you down for the slightest infraction. This one looks more like he got hit by Road Pig's hammer and is still getting over it.
The shirt is gone, as is the necklace. Zanzibar has gold wrist bands, but there nowhere near as ornate as the originals, nor are the shoulder pads, which I am fairly certain came from someone else, and have only a hint of purple trim.
Now, there are some high points to the figure nevertheless. There's a clever tattoo on the upper left arm, a skull with crossed swords over them, and Zanzibar's trousers and boots are derived from the Iron Grenadiers' version of Destro, an excellent choice if you're looking for an ornate and somewhat piratical image, and they've been recolored extensively enough so that they're not going to be all that directly comparable to Destro himself. And indeed, they have a color scheme of green akin to the original, and the paint detailing is excellent. For that matter, from the waist down, I'd be prepared to call this Zanzibar an improvement over the original. Accessorywise, he comes with a very cool pirate-type sword, and a pistol that looks like an antique from pirates times. These, at least, are nicely impressive.
However, I will still agree with those who say that Zanzibar is the least impressive figure overall in this set, and somebody really should've caught the switched eyepatch. One could argue that Zanzibar doesn't really have a bad eye at all, and wears the patch as he pleases just for effect, but still...
ZANYA - And here we come to one of the real highlights of the set! The one character who has never before been rendered as a figure.
Zanya was introduced during the Devil's Due comics, and although as I said earlier, those stories have since been "Disavowed" by official canon, there was nevertheless some extremely cool stories in there that I enjoy reading to this day.
One of the new characters that was introduced during this time was Zanya, Zartan's daughter. Boy, talk about one man's family. Zanya, not surprisingly, was a brat and a punk, fully devoted to the Dreadnoks, hostile to her Aunt Zarana (about whom she frequently made rude age comments), and just as capable of mayhem and chaos as anyone else.
These stories took place during the "newsculpt" era of G.I. Joe action figures, and there were frequent cries from the fans for a Zanya action figure, but none ever materialized.
Zanya's origin was finally given considerable attention in a two-part story in the comics, where it was revealed that she was the daughter of Zartan and a woman with whom he had clearly had a very brief relationship before becoming prominent in the Cobra organization. Zanya's childhood was, shall we say, distinctly troubled, and as a teenager she finally fled home with a boyfriend, with only a vague notion of tracking down her father, causing no small measure of trouble along the way.
Ultimately, she arrived at the Dreadnoks' compound, going so far as to challenge Zartan himself. Zartan dismissed this, but allowed the young woman to stay, later privately questioning her about her background. He accepted the fact that Zanya was indeed his daughter, and explained that she was under no obligation whatsoever to stay, and that he would support her in whatever decision she chose to make. At the same time, he told her that if she did choose to stay, she could not expect any sort of special treatment because of her familial bond, and that in fact it would probably be harder for her because of it.
Zanya did choose to stay, and proved herself to the rest of the group during a mission by turning on her boyfriend, who was seen as a liability. This gained her acceptance among the Dreadnoks, to everyone except Zarana, who would continue to regard her with hostility. Need it be said the feelings have been mutual ever since.
Given a full two issues to develop the character, it's staggering that the character was never made as a figure, but Zanya never was -- until now. And I'll be honest, she was one of the main reasons I wanted this set, although of course I'm pleased to have all of the others as well.
So, how's the figure? Really outstanding. Zanya has an entirely distinctive and appropriate headsculpt. The facial expression manages to be both hostile and dismissive. It's the look of someone who is mean for the heck of it and doesn't care about much of anyone or anything along the way. She has several small piercings, which is interesting in and of itself, since this wasn't something that had really become trendy during the original run of the line. It's not something you would've seen at that time. She has green lipstick, which nicely matches her green-tinted hair, which has been done up in a mess of long dreadlocks that even Burn Out would envy.
The upper body is the same as that of the Zarana figure -- no big surprise there -- but substantially recolored. There's no pink here. Zanya's shirt is dark gray, just as it was in the comics, and the front of it is imprinted with the modern Dreadnok emblem, which I'm very pleased to see. The back of the shirt has the words "For Life" printed on it.
Zanya's armored shoulder pads are silver with a black overwash, which in this case is a bit of detail that works. She's wearing dark gray gloves, and above these there is some printed mesh on her lower arms.
Her trousers are dark olive green, again in keeping with how she usually dressed in the comics, and in this case, I don't think they're from Zarana. There's pouches on the legs. I don't think Zarana has pouches. The boots are dark gray and black with some scuffed trim.
Zanya's file card reads as follows: The daughter of Zartan is tough, tenacious, and never gives an inch. That's how she can more than hold her own in the dangerous Dreadnok gang. She stole and panhandled to get by as a child, and learned how to take down opponents twice her size in hand-to-hand combat. She never knew her father until she found her way to the swamps and revealed her identity to him.
For accessories, Zanya comes with a rifle and a knife. Nicely made, if nothing all that outstanding, but the real treat here is obviously getting a figure of this character in the first place.
Of course, all seven figures are superbly articulated, fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles.
So what's my final word? I'm highly impressed. I've always gotten a kick out of the Dreadnoks, and while I may be a traditional G.I. Joe collector first and foremost, I must acknowledge that the current figure format is the standard for G.I. Joe today. If I wish to continue to enjoy the new products in the collection, which I do, then this is where and how they are to be found.
And I'm certainly pleased that the previously unmade Dreadnoks have finally found their way into the line. The only two Dreadnoks left unmade at this point are the two that were introduced in the 2004 Convention Set, Crusher and Demolishor -- and to be honest, I'd be sincerely surprised to see them turn up. Zanzibar may be a mild disappointment, but I have no complaints about anyone else, and any disappointment is more than mitigated with the presence of the first-ever, and long-overdue, figure of Zanya! If you're any sort of fan of the Dreadnoks, you will certainly want this set.
The G.I. JOE DREADNOKS BATTLE SET featuring seven of the nastiest, and yet most entertaining, enemies of the G.I. Joe team, definitely has my highest recommendation!