Few foreign G.I. Joe concepts are as popular in the collecting community as The Red Shadows. This isn’t surprising, as they’ve got quite a few things going for them, they’re army builders, they have a unique and well thought out appearance, and similar to the Oktober Guard, they’re an idea that allows an expansion of the G.I. Joe mythos past the traditional G.I. Joe vs. COBRA conflict, which the line likely needed to do.
One of the more popular fan ideas to work in the Red Shadows is to use them as the European contingent of COBRA Command. That doesn’t work for me, as it doesn’t expand the universe any more and I can’t see TWO global fanatical terrorist organizations run by Anglos co-existing at the same time. I see the Red Shadows as the terrorist group du jour of the early-to-mid 1970s, who were likely composed at the higher levels of hardline SS types who fled Europe and never wound up in either the US or Soviet intelligence apparatuses.
The Shadows were defeated prior to COBRA Command becoming a major player in the terrorist scene and they’re failures and defeat provided COBRA Commander insight on what not to do, and also allowed him to scoop up numerous battle hardened warriors when the remnants of the Red Shadows were scattered to the four winds.
Of course that whole concept is all because there isn’t a particularly useful Red Shadows action figure. The Palitoy Red Shadow is a 5 POA action figure with sculpting on par with Empire Strikes Back figures. They’re fun toys, but aren’t the best when paired up with G.I. Joes. The Shad is a repaint (with a new head sculpt) of the Action Force series one figure, the Nazi Stormtrooper. The first Action Force series were 4 inch representations of popular 12″ Action Man designs.
The figure is bright red and a lot of his details are painted on, so his shoulders, web gear, eyes, and his forehead emblem can be heavily worn. The plastic quality reminds me of Star Wars figures, though the hands have much thinner fingers and thumbs than SW. The Red Shadow has a German variant as well, where he didn’t receive the logo on his forehead, as it’s awfully similar to the totenkopf , the Red Shadows team was called the “Terror Gang”, too!
Red Shadows figures, like all Palitoy Action Force molds, can be worked in with G.I. Joe, but aren’t the greatest mesh, the construction styles are too different, even if the sculpting is actually fairly reminiscent of each other in the early years. It would be nice to work the Red Shadows into the traditional G.I. Joe style, there was the Convention attempt, but that much like many other convention figures is an overly expensive, over-used 1990’s mold, repainted into a footnote of the late 2000s. It would be nice to see one of the factory custom makers take a stab at a traditional Red Shadow, maybe using the COBRA or Officer mold in bright red with black highlights and painting the flesh of the head black with little white dots for eyes. I can dream right?