I’ve had a strange history with G.I. Joe to be honest. I know it’s massive in the US but here in the UK I was always a bit confused. Allow me to explain… Below is what I believe to be correct about the G.I. Joe v Action Force relationship but if I get anything wrong then feel free to let me know in the comments.
We had Action Man 12” ‘dolls’ in the 60s and 70s which was a version, licensed from Hasbro by Palitoy, of the original G.I. Joe which then became developed further in the UK with more outfits and new action features. Then, in 1982, following on from the success of the 3.75” Star Wars figures and the decline of the Action Man brand, Palitoy developed a 3.75” line of figures called Action Force. I have a vague memory of these and I believe they were just nameless military figures such as British Commando, Frogman, German Stormtrooper, US Paratrooper etc. I do remember having a couple of these and I remember they seemed quite intricate and well made to me with pretty cool accessories. But I don’t think I really got into them very much because there were no characters, backstories or accompanying comics or cartoons. They just didn’t really do it for me.
Then, however, in 1985 Hasbro bought over Palitoy and introduced their 3.75” G.I. Joe figures into the UK but still under the name Action Force. There was also eventually a UK dubbed version of the cartoon with all the spoken references to G.I. Joe changed to Action Force but there were still lots of instances of the G.I. Joe logo plastered over vehicles etc in the cartoon. Very confusing. At that point I still had no idea what G.I. Joe was. In 1989 the name was changed to ‘G.I. Joe the Action Force’ and finally in 1991 it was just ‘G.I. Joe’ in the UK but by that time I had moved on.
But, to cut a long story short, for me, from all the above, the one line of merchandise I got into and really, really loved was the Marvel UK Action Force comics in 1987. These were a reworking of the US G.I. Joe comics but with some exclusive UK stories added. It had most of the same main characters and character bios (although some nationalities of people were changed to make it more international).
They also had some really great stories, as well as cool personal bios and weapon stats (not to mention some great adverts for other toy lines!).
Here are a few links to some seriously good GI Joe or Action Force websites.
Blood for the Baron – Fantastic site which has got everything you would ever want to see to do with Action Force. All the comics and toys and loads of other interesting stuff.
Action-Force.dk – Great Action Force site from Denmark
The Full Force podcast – Great podcast by some guys who really know their stuff.
3d Joes – This isn’t an Action Force site. It’s an American G.I. Joe site but I just had to include it because it is so awesome. The work that has gone into this site is astounding.
And here are other posts from the League on this week’s topic.