It is in 1984 and 1985 that the G.I. Joe toy lines gets really fun.
’82 is great, but straightforward — all that green. A year later the color palette expands, but there’s still a lot of business. ’84 feels like my G.I. Joe, because those are the first figures I bought. And honestly, there’s a lot of mixing up of who and when, because I obtained several 1983 figures in their second year of availability, and key 1985 characters debuted on television in 1984.
But with the arrival of more flamboyant characters like Tomax and Xamot, and costume designs that were less formal like Bazooka and Quick Kick (or lack of a costume, as the case may be!), G.I. Joe found that right mix of serious and silly.
The Dreadnoks are a big part of that. For all of Zartan’s calculating performance, he’s still got these greedy bozos working for him. (Well, most of them are bozos.) I think much of the Dreadnoks’s popularity comes from their behavior in the Weather Dominator TV miniseries — they don’t fear Cobra Commander — but also how real-world and approachable their costumes are. They’re wearing blue jeans. And in an era when cool icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise were wearing cool sunglasses, there’s a small link to these biker thugs doing the same. Toy-wise, the Dreadnoks were also a trio. That was a team that was obtainable. A kid maybe couldn’t afford the full line of 20 open stock figures in 1985, but that could could probably get Torch, Buzzer, and Ripper and complete their sub-team!
So let’s look at Ron Rudat’s lovely character presentation artwork for Torch, my favorite of the original three Dreadnoks. Click to enlarge.
Rudat’s lines are lovely, with subtle feathering in his brushwork. The leather sure looks like leather, and while we’re a step away from this because it’s a color photocopy with those NTSC-like vertical lines, this piece still communicates care and skill.
And here’s Rudat’s sculpt input drawing via a photocopy, gorgeous in a different way. Click to enlarge.
I’ll never get over looking at this kind of drawing, that it is certainly a small consumer product, a toy, whereas the color piece is a person, a real guy.
Rudat draws a cocked brow here, and maybe the slightest smirk on Torch’s face. That does not carry over in the final sculpt, to the production figure that arrived at retail — Final Toy Torch has a neutral, more symmetrical expression. That’s fine, as in my mind he was always smirking, guffawing, pushing back at Zartan, at Cobra Commander, at the Joes.