Action Force was a 1980s range of European action figures initially based on Action Man, and later used to introduce G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toys to European markets. Several publishing companies have produced comic books based around the figures.
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 October 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 plot-lines to the popular action figures and helped to maintain the continuity of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe release 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, Hasbro acquired the various intellectual property rights to the Action Force toy line but not the comics. Therefore the Action Force strip was cancelled and the Battle Action Force magazine was merged with Eagle.
Marvel UK's Action Force
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. These issues were adjusted to fit into the UK strip's continuity and had all references to G.I. Joe replaced with Action Force. They also released new UK-exclusive short strips which maintained a separate continuity from the U.S. G.I. Joe. The Action Force comic was cancelled in 1988 after fifty issues, due to low sales. It was later released as Action Force Monthly, which was also cancelled after fifteen issues. The Action Force Monthly printed new stories as well reprinting stories from the weekly title. The magazine was re-released in the US under the title G.I. Joe – European Missions.
The G.I. Joe story reprints were continued in the UK as Transformers and Action Force (#153-182) Transformers and Visionaries (#183-189) Transformers and Action Force (#190-248) & Transformers and G.I. Joe (#249-305) until they were dropped in 1991.
In 2005 and 2007, the Action Force characters were partially revived. The Red Shadows organization was featured in the two part Dawn of the Red Shadows storyline in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #42 and 43, following a series of mysterious attacks against both G.I. Joe and Cobra. This Red Shadows organization was led by Wilder Vaughn, a British military officer gone rogue. He viewed organized governments as corrupt and in need of removal. After this appearance, The Red Shadows were not seen again; however Vaughn did make an appearance as the Black Major in a later storyline, stating Cobra had decimated the organization.
The Action Force characters Quarrel, Moondancer, Hunter and Blades then made a cameo appearance in G.I. Joe: America's Elite #30, as representatives of NATO.
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 story lines in both the second and third generation of figures were altered in the European market to have mixed nationalities in contrast to the US-centric G.I. Joe characters.
Due to its split comic book heritage, there are some large difference regarding the continuity of Action Force storyline. The Battle Action Force universe should be regarded as an Alternate Universe, while the Marvel UK stories were designed to coincide with Marvel US continuity.