Action Force

Action Force

Action Force was a range of comic book characters and action figures initially based on Action Man.


First generation (1982)

First produced in 1982 by Palitoy Limited and released in two waves, the action figures were a response to falling sales of the company's larger Action Man range and the comparative success of the smaller Star Wars action figures which it was licensed to sell in Europe. [ The Action Force collection] at Leicestershire County Council Museum]

Called "Action Force" the figures were a mixture of historical military figures (for example a Desert Rat and German Stormtrooper) and more contemporary soldiers (for example Arctic and Naval Assault characters). The range was kept international, in contrast to G.I. Joe, including British, Australian and United States soldiers. However, unlike later releases the figures were not accompanied by file cards on the reverse of the figures' packaging giving the figures back-stories nor were they featured in comic books, other than a series of mini-comics that were packaged with some of the vehicles (notably the AF-3 and AF-5, see below)

List of figures

*Arctic Assault
*Australian Jungle Fighter
*British 2 Para
*British Commando
*British Royal Marine
*Commander (available by mail in offer only)
*Deep Sea Diver [ [ Deep Sea Diver] figure at Leicestershire Council Museum Collection]
*Desert Rat
*German Stormtrooper
*Ground Assault
*Helicopter Pilot
*Mission Pilot
*Mountain & Arctic
*Naval Assault
*Night Patrol [ [ Night Attack] figure at Leicestershire Council Museum Collection]
*S.A.S Frogman
*S.A.S Trooper
*US Paratrooper

Vehicles, weaponry and armour

*Action Force Bsae(a cardboard headquarters with zip-line feature)
*AF-3 (a Jeep-style patrol vehicle) [ [ Mini-comic storyline related to the AF-3 vehicle] courtesy of [ Blood for the Baron!] ]
*AF-5 Multi-Mission Vehicle (a wheeled patrol vehicle with extendable wings for flight and a detachable flotation collar for amphibious use) [ [ Mini-comic storyline related to the AF-5 vehicle] courtesy of [ Blood for the Baron!] ]
*AF-7 Deep Sea Diver Platform
*AF-9 Mountain & Arctic (a snowmobile-style vehicle)

econd generation (1983)

Following the success of the first range of figures, a second much larger range was launched in 1983. Action Force sales figures were in the region of almost one million over six months in 1983 and the range was further expanded with a second wave of releases in 1984, adding new figures and vehicles.


This second range of figures took a different approach by grouping the allied action figures and enemies each with accompanying weaponry and vehicles (see below).

At this stage the figures were given comic book identities by a new range of stories featuring in the "Battle Action Force" comic (see Battle Action Force tie-in below). The toys were also supplied with file cards giving a brief profile of the character. These profiles were in turn expanded in "Battle Action Force", often for key figures, with their own multi-issue storylines (for example The Black Major [ [ The Black Major] storyline courtesy of [ Blood for the Baron!] ] )

Z Force

"See Z Force"
*An allied infantry and artillery-based unit

AS Force

"See SAS Force"
*An allied special operations team

Q Force

"See Q Force"
*An allied ocean-based team

pace Force

"See Space Force"
*An allied space operations team

Red Shadows

"See Red Shadows"
*The unified enemy force known as the "Red Shadows" and led by Baron Ironblood


Both action figures and vehicles themselves borrowed elements from the first generation models and also new casts licensed from the G. I. Joe range from Hasbro in the United States.

At this time the Action Force range was marketed heavily and branched out into Atari video games (see "Action Force (video game)"), audio stories on cassette tapes, stationery and toiletries. There was also an Action Force fan club promoted both on the figures’ packaging [ Carded Red Shadow figure] , part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum, describing promotional packaging] and in the "Battle Action Force" comic book.

In 1984 additional figures and vehicles were cast, borrowing more heavily from the G. I. Joe and Cobra ranges.

Third generation (1985)

"See also AF (Action Figures)"

In 1985 Palitoy ceded control of the European market to Hasbro following the death of one of Palitoy's owners (Alfred Pallett) and the winding-up of operations at their Leicester factory. Hasbro purchased the Palitoy factory, copyrights and moulds [ History of Palitoy] at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London] and began to package G.I. Joe figures under the Action Force brand. In characterisation terms, this move marked the end of the sub-grouping of the Action Force team and a new unified Action Force (or AF) also faced a new enemy in the name of Cobra.

The parallel comic book storylines also maintained continuity with a number of plotlines that blended elements of the second range of figures with the third, featuring the new characters as an international elite anti-terrorist unit of a wider Action Force still backed up by the Z Force, SAS and other units fighting Cobra, the Red Shadows and even a re-animated Adolf Hitler and the Nazis [ [ Death in South America] storyline courtesy of [ Blood for the Baron!] ] (despite being ostensibly set in the present day). Over time however the range melded into an unreconstructed G. I. Joe force and its enemy Cobra.

"Battle Action Force" tie-in

"See also Battle Action Force"

The Action Force characters initially guest-featured in a comic strip serial in "Battle" for four weeks in July 1983. The strip proved to be so popular that a further five promotional mini-comics were included free with every IPC publication in the weeks to follow. [ Mini-Comic scans] at [ Blood for the Baron!] ] On October 8 1983 Action Force joined the pages of "Battle" full-time and the magazine was retitled "Battle Action Force". The comic took on the role of providing back-stories and plotlines to the popular action figures and helped to maintain the continuity of Hasbro’s move to marketing the G. I. Joe range in Britain. In addition the yearly annuals, mail-in offers, advertisements and free gifts were all focused towards adding detail and context to the Action Force universe.

Following the closure of Palitoy in 1986 and Hasbro acquiring the various intellectual property rights to the Action Force toy line, the "Action Force" strip was cancelled. The "Battle Action Force" magazine was subsequently merged with "Eagle".

Marvel UK's Action Force comic

Following the demise of the "Battle Action Force" strips, a weekly "Action Force" comic was launched by Marvel UK in 1987 consisting of reprints of the U.S. G.I. Joe comic book (which were adjusted to fit into the UK strip's continuity and had all references to G.I. Joe replaced with Action Force) and new UK-exclusive short strips which maintained a separate continuity from the U.S. G.I. Joe comic. The "Action Force" comic was cancelled after fifty issues due to low sales and was replaced with "Action Force Monthly", which was itself cancelled after fifteen issues. The "G.I. Joe" story reprints were then continued in the UK "Transformers" comic until they were dropped in 1991. [ Action Force] at "JMM's G.I. Joe Comicbook History"]

Distinction from G. I. Joe

The characters created by "Battle Action Force" and detailed on the file cards were more international in their nature than their G. I. Joe equivalents. Character file cards and comic book storylines in both the second and third generation were altered in the European market to have mixed nationalities in contrast to the US-centric G.I. Joe characters.

Action Force Canon

Due to its disjointed comic book heritage and the volume of backstory material that supported the toy range, there are some difficulties with the continuity of Action Force storylines. [ What comic fits where?] from G.I. Joe Action] The comic book stories struggled to keep pace with the retconning that was required around the time of the transition to G.I. Joe-influenced characters and vehicles that were at odds with the first wave of Palitoy releases and characterisations(see above).

As a result, several attempts were made to establish an official Action Force canon, building on accepted official works (such as the "Battle Action Force" publications and Palitoy-endorsed releases). The most comprehensive of these to date is the Action Force Datafiles. [ Action Force Datafiles] ]

Action Force in Germany

The second-generation Action Force figures were also released in West Germany during the 1980s, albeit without the benefit of a comic book tie-in. The German releases went under the title of Action Force who fought the "Terror-Bande" (roughly translated as "Terror Gang"). The German release only extended to the first wave of second-generation figures and characters (some 30 figures and vehicles) however the characters and vehicles were still grouped in their sub-units: anti-terror team (or ATT) corresponding to Z-Force; the special anti-terror team (or SATT) corresponding to SAS Force, the deep-sea anti-terror team (or TSATT) corresponding to Q Force and the space anti-terror team (or WATT) corresponding to Space Force. [ Action Force in Germany] at [] ]

Without comic back-stories, the figures were given context by the following statement (translated) which was retrospectively attached to the German packaging:

"The world of Action Force. The story of Action Force takes place in the year 2011. The world population has for a long time lived in peace and liberty, united under the rule of a democratic world regime. Baron Ironblood, the last criminal, strikes terror with a gang of enslaved adventurers, with intelligent robots and the world's most innovative weapons. His goal: to take over the world. Action Force was set up by the world government and fights this dangerous enemy with various special units: ATT, SATT, TSATT and WATT. Their orders: all terrorists must be captured, no one shall be killed."

In a country still concerned by its destructive past, German toy distributors modified certain aspects of the Action Force range to appear less violent. According to researchers of the German Palitoy range, most of the guns supplied with the figures were replaced by "less violent" stun-weapons, laser-weapons or knives. Also the human skull on the Red Shadow (or Terror-Bande) figures was removed from the toyline.

Devil's Due revival

During 2005 and 2007 Action Force characters were partially revived. The Red Shadows organisation was featured in the two part "Dawn of the Red Shadows" storyline in "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" (vol. 2) #42 and 43. [ [ Dawn of the Red Shadows - Part 1] and [ Part 2] from the G.I. Joe comic book archive at [] ] [ [ Union of the Snake - Part 6] from the G.I. Joe comic book archive at [] ] Then, toward the end of 2007 the characters Quarrel, Moondancer, Hunter and Blades made a cameo appearance in issue 30 of the Devil's Due "America's Elite" series. [ [ Action Force Forum Announcement] and example comicbook art from issue 30]


External links

* [ "Blood For The Baron!!!"] Action Force Website
* [ "Battle Action Force"] Battle Action Force comic scans
* [ "MUK Action Force"] Marvel UK Action Force comic scans
* [] figure and vehicle archive
* [ A short history of Action Force] from []
* [ G I Joe - Action Force] Website covering both G.I. Joe and Action Force

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