The Red Shadows – A Forgotten Enemy
Palitoy was a British toy company who licensed and manufactured American toys for the UK market. In the late 60’s, they licensed 12″ G.I. Joe from Hasbro and created unique British variations. The line was called Action Man.
In 1982, Action Man would be scaled down to 3 3/4.” These new figures would be called Action Force. The first wave consisted of basic British military and a nazi stormtrooper.
The Stormtrooper would be modified to create Red Shadow and Red Vulture infantry figures.
Their leader – the evil genius, Baron Ironblood.
His 2nd in command – the ruthless, Black Major.
Red Jackyl (repainted Destro,) Red Wolf and Red Laser (repainted Cobra Commander.)
Cobra S.N.A.K.E. armor was reproduced as Red Shadows Escape Armor.
And of course, they had comics!
Action Force “micro-comics” were included with various vehicles.
The first appearance of Action Force and the Red Shadows would be in the British newsprint comic – Battle 422, June 4th, 1983.
The first solo Action Force comic would be a mini, included free with Battle 428, June 16th, 1983.
By 1985, Palitoy ceased creating original figures and instead packaged American G.I Joes on Action Force cards.
Battle would begin phasing out the original Action Force team and begin incorporating Hasbro’s G.I. Joe characters.
But the popular Red Shadows would continue to make appearances.
There was an attempt to merge continuity between Action Force and G.I. Joe. A story about Baron Ironblood’s transformation into Cobra Commander was created.
In 1987, Battle lost the Action Force license. Marvel UK began publishing a new Action Force title, exclusively using Hasbro characters.
The terror of the Red Shadows would fall into obscurity. With their simple five point articulation, most American Joe collectors did not consider them part of the same universe, if they knew about them at all.
In May of 2005, the Red Shadows would rise again in G.I. Joe v.2 issue 42 from Devil’s Due Publishing. It is debated among fans whether this series is officially cannon as G.I. Joe creator, Larry Hama was not affiliated with this series.
In 2010, Hasbro released Vacation in the Shadows. A limited figure box set for the International G.I Joe Convention.
And this staff car. These exclusives would introduce Red Shadows to many American fans for the first time. It would also officially bring them into the G.I. Joe universe.
Presently, Hasbro has refused to create classic rubber o-ring body Joes. This has given rise to a community of customizers (or bootlegging outlaws, depending on what facebook group you read.) Red Shadows have become a huge inspiration to this part of the collecting community, whom are looking to create unique but classic style variations.
In March 2013, Larry Hama finally incorporated The Red Shadows into his G.I. Joe universe. Issue 188 of the IDW series.
As time passes, these Red Shadows have been gaining in popularity. Especially as more collectors complete their American Joe sets. These long ignored vintage UK figures currently have a huge demand. Whether this can translate into future interest for the comics is hard to say. But, they exist and now you know the keys…..and knowing is half the battle.
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