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Action Force was a toyline in Europe which evolved from an entirely local creation into a renamed import of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Because of the shifting nature of the characters in the toyline, corresponding Action Force spin-off material has a very complicated continuity.
The British toy company Palitoy had had success with the larger Action Man (itself a licensed copy of the US G.I. Joe) but by the early 1980s sales were falling. At the same time the Star Wars toyline, which Palitoy was the European distributor for, proved revolutionary in popularising the smaller 3.75 inch size of action figure. In 1982 Palitoy launched Action Force with a series of contemporary and historical military figures, from many different countries. Additionally several vehicles for the figures were released as well.
Expansion and import
The figures proved highly successful and so for the following year the range was heavily expanded. This time round the figures and vehicles were given various groupings within the line, with a unified enemy in the form of the Red Shadows led by Baron Ironblood.
A significant development was the licensing of several figure and vehicle moulds from the US G.I. Joe line, released in different colours as new characters. The Action Force line continued in this vein in 1984.
In 1984 Alfred Pallett, one of the owners of Palitoy, died and the company began to wind down its operations. The company was purchased by Hasbro, who opted to continue the Action Force toyline but now import G.I. Joe figures directly. The storyline for the toyline developed - Action Force was an international counter-terrorist organisation tackling the menace of Cobra.
Although predominantly now an import of the G.I. Joe line, various changes were still made. In keeping with the premise that Action Force was an international organisation many of the file cards were amended so that the characters were given an international background. Furthermore the European releases lagged behind their American counterparts by about a year.
G.I. Joe the Action Force
The toyline continued in this vein until late 1989 when the name of the toyline was changed to G.I. Joe the Action Force. A special mini-comic available free in shops and also released as part of the UK Transformers and Action Force #245 explained that Action Force and its US counterpart G.I. Joe had opted to merge so as to better fight the menace of Cobra. The change also made the marketing easier. After a couple of years the suffix "...the Action Force" was dropped from the toyline and tie-ins and the transformation was complete.
Battle Action Force
In July 1983 Action Force appeared as a temporary strip in the British war comic Battle, published by IPC Magazines, and proved incredibly popular. From October 1983 the strip became permanent and the comic was retitled Battle Action Force. The Action Force stories would come to dominate the title and Palitoy would use it heavily as a vehicle for promoting the toys.
IPC would retain the rights to Action Force until the end of 1986, during which time the transition in the toyline from Palitoy to Hasbro would be covered in continuity, with Baron Ironblood betraying the Red Shadows and changing his identity to Cobra Commander and founding the Cobra Organisation. Similarly the Red Shadows character Red Jackal survived the destruction of the group and became Destro. After IPC lost the Action Force rights the comic continued as Battle for another two years.
Action Force weekly
Main article: Action Force (weekly)
From February 1987 the British division of Marvel Comics began publishing Action Force, a 24 page weekly comic that combined relettered reprints of the US G.I. Joe with British originated strips, fact files and humour strips, in the same vein as their existing successful Transformers comic.
Transformers was also used to promote the Action Force comic three times, with a special back-up strip in issues #99-102 (reprinting "Improvisation on a Theme" from G.I. Joe #44) promoting the new title, a mini-comic free in issue #122 (reprinting "Dummy Run!" from Action Force #18) and finally a cross-over in Transformers #125 and Action Force #24 - #27 entitled "Ancient Relics!" Conversely the US G.I. Joe and the Transformers was not reprinted at this time, as the reprints of G.I. Joe were too far behind those of Transformers for the story to make sense.
The originated stories featured Action Force as being based in Europe and led in the field by Flint (here given the name David Faireborn and being from Lincoln in the UK) under the command of Trent. The G.I. Joe reprints were often amended and edited in order to tie in with this. For instance Flint's first appearance in the US was his first meeting with Lady Jaye. For the UK comic it was rewritten and relettered so that now both were visiting the US team. Such changes make it hard to fit the original Action Force stories into the US comic's continuity. Additionally after the weekly title folded the reprints would become more and more G.I. Joe in all but name and eventually even that would change.
Merger with Transformers
Main article: Transformers (Marvel UK)
After fifty issues Action Force came to a close. As was the standard practice in the British comics market at the time the title was nominally merged with Transformers, which now had the cover title Transformers and Action Force from issue #153 onwards. In practice the effect was that the G.I. Joe reprints now took over the back-up strip slot in Transformers on a permanent basis, although the Action Force comedy strip Combat Colin replaced the existing Transformers comedy strip Robo-Capers.
Action Force would take two brief breaks from Transformers, between issues #183 & #190 and again between #213 & #219, on each occasion being replaced by Visionaries. The G.I. Joe the Action Force name change took effect on the strip from issue #248, although the cover did not change until issue #249. From issue #306 G.I. Joe the Action Force was dropped from the title altogether.
Separate Action Force annuals and specials were also released by Marvel UK from 1987 onwards, with the title changing in line with that of the toyline. In addition there was a weekly comic launched in autumn 1989 called The Incredible Hulk Presents which contained further amended reprints of the G.I. Joe strips. It lasted just twelve issues.
Action Force Monthly
Main article: Action Force Monthly
The British originated stories did not disappear either. Marvel UK was in this period experimenting with a series of monthly books in a smaller format, in part to help break into the US market. From May 1988 Action Force Monthly was launched, containing full length stories. The stories were also written so as to be easier to fit into US continuity. The series was also released in the US but under the title of G.I. Joe: European Missions. The series lasted fifteen issues.
- Note: G.I. Joe went by the name 'Action Force' in Europe. They were a similar outfit to G.I. Joe in every sense. The name Action Force: International Heroes referred to the team consisting of soldiers from around the world. In the United Kingdom certain figures had there filecards altered to include international birthplaces in order to appeal more to a UK market, such as Lady Jaye, whose UK filecard was amended to show that she was from Cork, Ireland, and Ripcord, whose filecard stated he was from Manchester, United Kingdom. Falcon who was released in 1987 was from Glastonbury, Somerset, United Kingdom.
The early release Action Force figures were released by Palitoy and were repaints of US released figures. They included:
- Blades: A repaint of the US Tripwire (1983). Released in 1984, Blades was the Action Force SAS Hawk Helicopter Pilot.
- Dolphin: A repaint of the US Zap (1983). Released in 1984, Dolphin was the Action Force Q Force Sealion Commander.
- Gaucho: A repaint of the US Gung-Ho (1983. Released in 1984, Gaucho was the Action Force Z Force Mechanic and was supplied with the Z Force base (G.I. Joe Headquarters repaint).
- Hunter: A repaint of the US Cobra Officer (1983). Released in 1984, Hunter was the Action Force SAS Wolverine driver (G.I. Joe Wolverine repaint).
- Jammer: A repaint of the US Stalker (1983). Released in 1984, Jammer was the Action Force Z Force Communications Engineer and was supplied with the Z Force Base (G.I. Joe Headquarters repaint).
- Moondancer: A repaint of the US Short-Fuze (1983). Released in 1984, Moondancer was the Action Force Space Force Triad Fighter Pilot.
- Quarrel: A repaint of the US Scarlett (1983). Released in 1984, Quarrel was the Action Force Z Force RAM Driver (repaint of the US Release RAM).
- Red Jackal: A repaint of the US Destro (1983). Released in 1984, Red Jackal was the Enemy driver of the Hyena Tank (H.I.S.S. Repaint).
- Red Laser: A repaint of the US Cobra Commander (1983). Released in 1984, Red Laser was the Enemy Operator of the Laser Exterminator (HAL repaint).
- Stalker: A repaint of the US Snake Eyes (1983). Released in 1984, Stalker was the driver of the Action Force SAS Panther (V.A.M.P. Repaint).
- Steeler: A repaint of the US Steeler (1983). Released in 1984, Steeler was the operator of the Action Force Z Force M.O.B.A.T. (G.I. Joe M.O.B.A.T. Repaint).
- Blood For the Baron!!! - extensive website about the various incarnations of Action Force