Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Action Force (1982 - 1992)

In 1982, after Palitoy's Action Man had slowly died off and the success of the smaller scale Star Wars figures, the company decided to shrink Action Man down to a Star Wars scale of 3 3/4" inches and release them into the market.

The initial wave of 1982 figures kept with the theme of Action Man and had a mix of contemporary and WW2 themed figures, such as a WW2 german trooper, an Australian commando, Some of these figures would be repainted into other ones in the same line, like the WW2 german trooper being repainted into the paratrooper. The Action Force Headquarters playset was even redeco of the 1977 Death Star Playset, using the same plastic frame and cardboard interior, just with new designs printed on them. Like Action Man, they were kept different to the US released GI Joe figures, as they had a construction similar to the Star Wars figures and were primarily British and Commonwealth troops.

By 1983, the line had sold over a million units and was expanded to feature a whole boatload of new teams and figures. It now had gone into a G.I. Joe style universe in which Action Force fought the Red Shadows,a group of terrorists lead by Baron Ironblood. Action force was broken up into smaller units which consisted of Z-Force (Infantry), SAS. Q-Force (Aquatic) and Space. The figures utilised repaints of existing figures, but also bought in some of the early waves of GI Joe toys, repainted and recycled into new figures. Destro became Hyena, Steeler became a part of Z-Force. Scarlett was repainted in Quarrel and Short Fuse was repainted into Dolphin, they were mixed in with the Star Wars style figures that were still common in the line.

At the same time, Action Force were seen in the UK Comic "Battle", published by IPC publications. It started as a guest strip and then soon evolved into a series of 5 mini comics and then became a full time part of the comic and eventually the comic was renamed to Battle Action Force.The comics provided more of a back story to the characters and proved insanely popular, especially since it had annuals, main ins and more.

In 1985, things changed. The death of Alfred Pallet and the closure of the Leicester factory caused Palitoy to sell everything to Hasbro, who took over the factory, copyrights and molds, which they still own now. They bought over the 1984 and 1985 GI Joe toys and repackaged them under the Action Force brand. They tweaked the bio cards as well, as rather than being from the USA, they were now Commonwealth and British born. Breaker was Italian, Doc became Jamaican, Mutt was Spanish, Torpedo became Dutch, Cutter was from New Zealand, Roadblock was French Congolese, Stalker became French, Duke, Ace and Gung-Ho were still American, but were now from Chicago, St Louis and Florida respectively.

The toys were still GI Joe and marketed under GI Joe - The Action Force until 1991, when Hasbro dropped "The Action Force" from the title and they were marketed solely under GI Joe. 

The comics introduced these new characters alongside existing ones and showed the transition from Red Shadows to Cobra. It was also at this point that in the UK, we got the GI Joe cartoon under the name of Action Force and it was redubbed, removing YO JOE! as the battle cry and replacing it with a redubbed FULL FORCE!

The intro to the 1985 Action Force cartoon, which in my opinion is actually much better than the US version

The movie's intro was also redubbed for the UK.

In 1986, the Battle Action Force comic was finally cancelled after Hasbro acquiring the rights to all of Palitoy's Action Force Material. Battle was folded into the Eagle. The following year, Marvel UK relaunched the comic under the name of Action Force. It had it's own UK continuity. while reprinting US material, which was considered to be it's own continuity as well. It was cancelled after just 50 issues and replaced with Action Force Monthly, which was also cancelled after just 15 issues. By 1989, Action Force had been folded into Transformers, where it ran under the name GI Joe - The Action force until 1991. 

The toys are collectible these days, with examples ranging from £6 carded figures, all the way up to rarer example toys such as the Tri-Fighter going for £400. You can find them very easily on the secondary market, especially the mid-late 80s toys, which are considerably a lot easier to find than the 1982-1983 toys.