For the longest time, The Black Major produced factory customs that were either COBRA operatives, or army builders. There was the occasional blip on the radar, like the under-publicized Black Major style Bombardier, but the first true Joe style Factory Custom by The Black Major were his various versions of the Steel Brigade.
The Steel Brigade figures were quite popular, and so it wasn’t incredibly shocking to see the next G.I. Joe produced be Star Duster. The first wave was fairly interesting, there was a good take on the classic ’87 (That proceeded to cause so many meltdowns amongst collectors that stockpiled Star Duster at a time it was easy to.) However, the wave also included three other interesting takes on the mold, Night Force, Sky Patrol and Tiger Force. It seemed like that was the end of the Star Duster repaints, as there really wasn’t much else that could be done with a popular, yet niche character.
Quietly, two more repaints came about. These were A LOT different than the first batch of Star Duster figures. While the first wave had reversed rivets and painted flesh, the final two had molded flesh and correct rivets. Both of those changes were for the better, and while I understand why reverse rivets happen, it’s a thing where I really am not a fan of the shoulder rivets being reversed. It’s antithetical to the way the shoulders were designed.
Of the final two Star Duster repaints, one of them was a design I’d have never thought of, myself. It was done up in bright red with the choice of making the figure either a Red Shadow or COBRA, based on which helmet and Jet Pack you adorned the figure with. I personally thought that Star Duster in red and black was almost as unorthodox as some of the Action Force repaints of G.I. Joe figures, so I went with the Red Shadows gear.
Each Star Duster came with the basic figure, a second Duke torso, two helmets with visors, two jet packs, the grenade launcher and a JUMP laser pistol and power cord. These were all done up in a red that matched the figure perfectly. I can’t remember what the selling price for the figure was, but it was definitely a fair price, considering how much stuff you received.
My views on the Red Shadows are that they were the premier terrorist organization of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as things closed in on them, and they were undone by Baron Ironblood’s madness, a lot of the Red Shadows operatives wound up being absorbed into other terrorist groups, specifically the burgeoning COBRA Command, who’s leader saw an opportunity to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Red Shadows.
One thing I really enjoyed about the Action Force comics, was the stories after it switched over to using G.I. Joe characters, and how they’d occasionally bring back the Shads, as a third entity in the story, who were against both AF and COBRA, and only really allied with a resurrected Hitler. So this Red Shadow Star Duster figure (Who I’ve never been able to decide on a codename) is one of the very few terrorists still operating as a Red Shadow, in a time when the organization has ceased to exist. It’s a role that gives the figure a little bit of extra depth, as he can be used going up against anybody. It also allows for the Red Shadows idea to exist in the G.I. Joe vs. COBRA conflict, without it either subjugating the Shads to something too explicitly connected to COBRA, or as a third party in the conflict, that really doesn’t have the depth or strong enough characters in it, for it to be a thing other than a pale imitation of COBRA Command.
Despite the unorthodox colouring, the mold is solidly military, which gives some legitimacy to some nutcase operating in the auspices of a defunct terrorist organization. The fatigues look is good, and works well, and if the jet pack is a little far-fetched or too much of a reminder of Star Duster, the figure works well as just a typical ground based combatant.
In the end, this is a figure, that I didn’t think much of when it came out, and I ordered it mainly just because it was a swivel neck, at a time when a lot of Night Vipers and Alley Vipers were coming out. Luckily it was a different enough looking figure, and the red was a bright one, that was a better match for the Red Shadows than some of the earlier Factory Customs, so it wound up giving this figure a lot of life, and a fairly interesting role he could play, since the number of O-Ring Red Shadows figures isn’t particularly high.