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Red Shadows

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Red Shadows
File:Red Shadows.png
Logo of the Red Shadows
Publication information
PublisherIPC Media
In-story information
Type of organizationTerrorist military group
Leader(s)Commander: Baron Ironblood
Second-in-command, head of military operations: Black Major
Chief Scientist: Red Laser
Agent(s)Red Jackal
See: Characters

The Red Shadows are the fictional fighting force originated and designed as 3 3/4 inch figures by Palitoy. They were conceived as enemies to Action Force and later depicted in the UK Battle Action Force comic books.[1] Later US G.I. Joe storylines have revived the Red Shadows as an additional enemy faction in the G.I. Joe universe.

History and characterization[edit]

Conceived and designed by Palitoy's marketing and design teams the Red Shadows were later portrayed in the British Battle Action Force comic books.[2] The Red Shadows are led by Baron Ironblood and are believed to be fanatical in their devotion to their leader and cause, as described in their comic strip portrayal:

"An Evil genius threatens the world. His name is Baron Ironblood and his twisted criminal brain dreams of only one domination. Using powerful and sophisticated weaponry, Ironblood's ruthless followers would gladly die for their master. Baron Ironblood has vowed to destroy Action Force"

The Red Shadows were an enemy force created to face a second generation of Action Force characters following the evolution of the Action Force range (see the History of Action Force).

Graphic representation[edit]

File:Red Shadows, from Battle Action Force comics.jpg
Red Shadow soldiers deployed from their hovercraft. Illustrations are from the Battle Action Force comics.

The standard Red Shadows (predominantly the infantry troops) were controversially depicted in the comic books and annuals of the mid-1980s in quasi-German military uniform from the World War II era. Their red clothing was similar in style to the World War II German military wear including long black boots, black gloves and 'Jerry' style helmets, albeit extended to cover the face.[3] In addition, the weapons they carried also included German-style stick grenades and bazookas. This was due to the Red Shadow figure being made from a modestly altered (by adding the face plate) World War II German soldier figure from the first generation figure release.[3][4]

Additional characters and vehicles also had strong associations with the German military in the World War II era - The Black Major for example (Baron Ironblood's deputy) was dressed in a similar style to an Allgemeine SS officer[5] and the Shadowtrak armoured vehicle had a German-influenced design. Indeed, one of the final storylines involving the Red Shadows had them operating alongside the Nazis in South America, including a re-animated Adolf Hitler (despite ostensibly being set in the present day). However, as the range developed, further characters were even more fantastical and included mutants,[6] krakens, and cyborgs.


Major characters[edit]

  • Baron Ironblood - Commander of the Red Shadows.
  • The Black Major - Second-in-command of the Red Shadows. Also the right-hand man to the Baron.
  • Red Vulture - Vehicle expert.
  • Red Laser - Chief Red Shadows scientist.
  • Red Wolf - Red Shadows astronaut specialist.
  • Red Jackal - Ex-Action Force soldier turned Red Shadows officer.
  • Kraken - Reptile soldiers serving under the Red Shadows.
  • Skeletron - Only available uncarded, no details of Skeletron have ever been released.

Rank and file[edit]

  • Red Shadow[3][4] - Infantry troops of the Red Shadows. Majority of them are brainwashed to serve the organisation as fanatical soldiers.
  • Muton[6] - Robotic soldiers of the Red Shadows. Mainly invincible against most small arms.


Potential candidates for Red Shadows are sent into an obstacle courses filled with traps, such as machine gun nests and anti-personnel mines with the use of other kinds of traps such as broken bridges, piranhas and grenades tied from nests above trees. Both Baron Ironblood and the Black Major weed out candidates not worthy of being Red Shadow soldiers by letting them die in the traps or shoot them with small arms.

Weaponry and vehicles[edit]

The Red Shadows weapons, vehicles and armoury consisted of:


The Roboskull was an aircraft-cum-spacecraft designed exclusively by Palitoy as representative of the Red Shadows aerial threat. Piloted by the Red Wolf character, it was similar to the Star Wars TIE fighter design built around a human skull. Its wings rotated ostensibly to allow the craft vertical-take-off-and-landing (or VTOL) capability.

The Roboskull was heavily armoured and featured in numerous Battle Action Force storylines as a formidable weapon in the Red Shadows arsenal.

The aircraft had a single pilot cockpit together with a rear-gunner site and an escape chute. It also featured brainwashing equipment and wing-tip mounted searchlights.

The Roboskull was one of the few Palitoy Red Shadows creations that survived the transition to Cobra and continued to feature (still piloted by Red Wolf and, sometimes, by Wild Weasel) in comic storylines fighting AF alongside both Cobra and Red Shadow units.

Escape Armour[edit]

Red Shadow with Escape Armour.

The Escape Armour was manufactured by Palitoy for the Action Force toyline using the same mould used for the Cobra S.N.A.K.E. armour which was released as part of the G.I. Joe toyline in the US. The only major differences between the two versions were the decals and the color, with the Cobra version being either blue or white and the Red Shadows version in their ubiquitous red. The first release of the Escape Armour was packaged with a standard Red Shadow figure. A later version was packaged with the European Cobra release and used the "H.I.S.S." tank-driver character and new decals to incorporate it into the range.[original research?]

The armour was written into at least one storyline allowing Baron Ironblood to evade capture by SAS and Z Force units. Made from unknown materials, the armour was capable of withstanding missile attacks and could respond with flamethrower or a single anti-tank rocket.

Transition to Cobra[edit]

In later editions of the Battle Action Force series, Ironblood betrays the Red Shadows, leaking information about their bases and intentions to the UN. As the Shadows are under attack, Ironblood goes into hiding and constructs a new identity for himself, becoming Cobra Commander, and creating Cobra as a new enemy force.

The continuity of the storyline was maintained as the Black Major (a former traitor from Action Force), Red Laser and Red Vulture re-grouped the Red Shadows and sought revenge against Cobra Commander and the newly amalgamated 'AF' whilst prominent Red Shadow character Red Jackal was given his own storyline, transforming to Destro and joining Cobra. Additional storylines saw the Red Shadows fighting alongside the Nazis against both Cobra and Action Force. In Showdown for the Shadows, the Shadows make their final appearance.

Devil's Due Publishing[edit]

Towards the end of the original Devil's Due G.I. Joe comic series, the Red Shadows were officially incorporated into the U.S. G.I. Joe canon. The Devil's Due incarnation of the Red Shadows organization bears little resemblance to the Red Shadows organization that fought the UK Action Force. The Red Shadows are portrayed as an independent paramilitary organization that has no ties to Cobra, and is devoted to unseating the world order with advanced science and technology.[7]

Led by Wilder Vaughn, a former MI-5 agent who had served alongside General Joseph Colton, the group attempted to destroy both Cobra and G.I. Joe by targeting key members of both organizations. A Red Shadows operative named Mars Harring also assassinates The Jugglers, a group of generals who had been manipulating G.I. Joe from behind the scenes, and had been hiding Serpentor's recovered body. Hawk is targeted, but is rescued from the Red Shadows by Scarlett, Snake Eyes and Kamakura. A G.I. Joe informant is also assassinated by Red Shadows operative Dela Eden, who escapes from Duke and Flint. Dela spies on G.I. Joe, and follows Flint and Lady Jaye home to their off-base residence. Dela attempts to kill Flint, but is stopped by Lady Jaye, who is then stabbed by Dela Eden and dies. Other G.I. Joe and Cobra operatives killed include Tracker, Hardball, Glenda, Rampart, Big Boa, and Asa Negra. Xamot is thrown into a coma.[8] Dela is captured by Scarlett, who forms a plan with Flint and Hawk to investigate the Red Shadows organization, while Duke and General Rey interrogate Dela. The Red Shadows rescue Dela, and Scarlett tracks them to New York, where Flint has taken it upon himself to get revenge. Flint is captured, but uses a tracker to lead G.I. Joe to the Red Shadows headquarters. Flint refuses to kill Dela, even though he has the opportunity, and Wilder Vaughn escapes.[9]

In G.I. Joe: America's Elite, the Baroness pursues her campaign of revenge against her betrayers, Cobra Commander and Wraith. During her quest, the Baroness finds Wraith in Prague, and shoots him in the head. She then trades his armor to the Red Shadows, in exchange for information on the whereabouts of Cobra Commander.[10] Flint, who is tracking Red Shadows' leader Wilder Vaughn, spots the Baroness with Vaughn and alerts G.I. Joe.[11] During the "World War III" storyline Cobra Commander recruits Dela Eden away from the Red Shadows, and has another high-ranking Red Shadows operative, Arthur Kulik, killed when Cobra invades "The Coffin" prison facility.[12]

2010 G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention[edit]

In 2010, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club held its annual G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention, and the exclusive set of figures for that year featured the Red Shadows, offered for the first time in the classic G.I. Joe figure format, rather than the less-articulated format in which they had originally appeared in Europe in the early days of Action Force.

The set included the Black Major, six Red Shadows, and six Red Torches, an entirely new division of soldiers who were flamethrower troopers for the Red Shadows. The set also featured a figure of Cobra Interrogator, who was acting as a go-between of the Red Shadows and Cobra, and G.I. Joe Team member Flint, who in the comic book included with the set was captured by the Red Shadows.

Additional Red Shadows items available at the Convention included a Red Shadows Bunker, which was remade from a Star Wars toy, and a Red Shadows Jeep, which was remade from an Indiana Jones vehicle, both Hasbro products from figure lines of the same scale.

The storyline in the comic book made no reference to the Devil's Due incarnation of the Red Shadows, and indicated that it had been believed that the Red Shadows had long been defeated.

IDW G.I. Joe Real American Hero comic[edit]

The "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" comic book, an extension of the original Marvel comic, and written by original series writer Larry Hama, has introduced the Red Shadows into the storyline continuity. Little is known about them to date, but they seem to be an independent enemy faction led by the Black Major. There is apparently no connection storywise to either the Devil's Due or Convention continuities.


  1. Bob Brechin Chief Designer Palitoy 1967-1984
  2. Bob Brechin Palitoy Chief Designer 1967-1984
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Loose Red Shadow figure Archived 2007-12-16 at the Wayback Machine, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Toy Figure, 1983". Leicestershire Councy Council Museum. Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  5. Black Major Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine figure, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
  6. 6.0 6.1 Muton Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine figure, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
  7. Hidalgo, Pablo (2009). G.I. Joe vs. Cobra: The Essential Guide, 1982-2008. New York: DelRey/Ballantine Books. p. 109. ISBN 9780345516428. Search this book on
  8. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vol. 2 #42 (May 2005)
  9. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vol. 2 #43 (June 2005)
  10. G.I. Joe: America's Elite #22 (April 2007)
  11. G.I. Joe: America's Elite #23 (May 2007)
  12. G.I. Joe: America's Elite #30 (December 2007)

External links[edit]

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