Logo of the Red Shadows
|Type of organization||Terrorist military group|
|Leader(s)||Commander: Baron Ironblood
Second-in-command, head of military operations: Black Major
Chief Scientist: Red Laser
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. 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
Conceived and designed by Palitoy's marketing and design teams the Red Shadows were later portrayed in the British Battle Action Force comic books. 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 thing.......world 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).
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 WWII German military wear including long black boots, black gloves and 'Jerry' style helmets, albeit extended to cover the face. 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) WWII German soldier figure from the first generation figure release.
Additional characters and vehicles also had strong associations with the German military in the WWII era - The Black Major for example (Baron Ironblood's deputy) was dressed in a similar style to an Allgemeine SS officer 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, krakens, and cyborgs.
- 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 Skeltron have ever been released.
Rank and File
- Red Shadow - Infantry troops of the Red Shadows. Majority of them are brainwashed to serve the organisation as fanatical soldiers.
- Muton - 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
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 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.
The Escape Armour was part of the toy line manufactured by Palitoy. The Escape Armour itself was made using the same mould used for the Cobra S.N.A.K.E. armour which was released as part of the G.I. Joe range in the USA. The only major difference aside from decals between the two versions was the colour with the Cobra version being either blue or white and the Red Shadows version in their ubiquitous red.
The first release of the Red Shadow Escape Armour came packaged with a standard Red Shadow figure however the difference in moulding from the Red Shadow (fixed-limb) action figure and the multi-jointed Cobra action figures, caused some difficulty in the using the toy.
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.
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
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 Red Shadows
The Devil's Due incarnation of the Red Shadows organisation bears little resemblance to the Red Shadows organisation that fought the UK Action Force. The organisation is portrayed as an independent organisation that has no ties to Cobra.
Led by Wilder Vaughn, the group attempted to destroy both Cobra and G.I. Joe, ultimately killing G.I. Joe member Lady Jaye in the process of their attempt to wipe out both sides by way of eliminating key members of both organisations. Other Joe and Cobra Operatives killed include Tracker, Hardball, Glenda, Rampart, Big Boa, and Asa Negra. Xamot is thrown into a coma. Colton was shot by Vaughn but recovers. A Red Shadow named Mars Harring infiltrates the Jugglers, ultimately killing them and the resurrected Serpentor.
During the World War III storyline in America's Elite, 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.
2010 G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention
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 between 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.
- Bob Brechin Chief Designer Palitoy 1967-1984
- Bob Brechin Palitoy Chief Designer 1967-1984
- Red Shadow toy range Palitoy promotional material from Blood for the Baron!
- Loose Red Shadow figure, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
- Carded Red Shadow figure, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
- Black Major figure, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
- Death in South America storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Muton figure, part of the collection at Leicestershire County Council Museum
- Codename Kraken storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Red Jackal storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Attack! storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Roboskull Datafile graphic representation in Battle Action Force courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Codename Moondancer storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Venom of Cobra storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Roboskull blueprints datafile courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Escape armour picture used on Action Force page at Pyros's Toys website
- Escape of the Baron! Combat Story from Battle Action Force, courtesy of Blood for the Baron
- World Enemy No. 1 storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Showdown for the Shadows! storyline courtesy of Blood for the Baron!
- Dawn of the Red Shadows - Part 1 and Part 2 from the G.I. Joe comic book archive at YoJoe.com
- Union of the Snake - Part 6 from the G.I. Joe comic book archive at YoJoe.com
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vol.2 #42
- Blood for the Baron!, a Battle Action Force fansite.