Thursday, April 6, 2017

Action Force Comic #9

The neighborhood in which I grew up had a comic book store that was within biking distance of my house.  Between 1984 and 1992, I visited the store multiple times per week.  Usually, to pick up the new comics I knew I wanted on Thursday and then again on the weekend after I had been paid from mowing lawns to get other comics that looked interesting.  The store, Comic Carnival, was set in a small shopping center, next to the post office.  Down the street, there was an independent toy shop that stayed in business until 1988.  For a kid who loved toys and comics, it was a pretty good place to grow up.  

The store was laid out pretty simply.  You walked in the front door which was off to one side.  The check out counter was in front of the door, so the clerk could see anyone coming in or out.  It also allowed the kids to lay their bikes down in front of the store and the clerks would keep an eye on them so you didn't have to lock them up and didn't have to worry they'd be stolen.  The store was packed with shelving in the middle which held graphic novels, books and roll playing games.  The back walls were lined with boxes of back issues from pretty much every title imaginable.  The new comics were on the wall on the side with the door, on the other side of the counter.  So, when I went in, I'd head straight for the new comics and then meander around the back issues, looking for something interesting.  I rarely looked at the random comics they would have stacked on thin shelves behind the main entrance.  But, one day in 1987, as I was checking out, something caught my eye.  Clear as day, there was a large magazine with Zartan on the cover and a title in the classic G.I. Joe style lettering.  Only, it wasn't G.I. Joe.  The title was Action Force.

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force Issue #9 Front Cover
Immediately, I grabbed the comic and asked the manager what it was.  He explained it as a comic from the UK.  It was the first issue they had gotten.  I paid the whopping $1.00 price tag and took the book home to read it.  The comic began with a partial reprinting of the classic G.I. Joe #25 from 1984.  There were a few changes to the text that I noticed.  But, those were only mildly interesting.  The real surprise was a new story in the back of the issue.  It was a UK exclusive adventure using some non-familiar characters.  

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force #9 - Holding the Baby Title Page
The story revolved around Lady Jaye holding a bomb.  Flint takes a Cobra prisoner and locks himself, the prisoner and Lady Jaye inside a blast shield to get the prisoner to divulge which wire defuses the explosive device.  I found the story fascinating.  First, it was a showcase of my favorite character in Flint.  But, it also was very different from the American comic.  There was this stark intensity to the story where Flint was risking not only his life, but that of his love interest.  I found it a refreshing take on the characters.  The best part, though, was the cocky Flint ending where he revealed that the decision he had made in the event the prisoner didn't talk would have resulted in all their deaths.  

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force #9 - Holding the Baby Ending
Aside from the story, though, there was another aspect of the comic that captured my attention.  In the middle of the book was a full two page for G.I. Joe toys.  Not the toys that were easy to find on American toy shelves.  No, these were older, out of U.S. circulation toys.  The toys that I had mostly destroyed or lost by early 1987.  Plus, the creators used the toys to tell a quick story.  I've often wondered if the Joe collector notion of dio-stories has origins in these toy ads.  Maybe not.  But, they left an impression on me that lasts until today.

Action Force Comic #9, Zartan
Action Force #9 Full Page Toy Advertisement
After buying this issue, I was hooked.  Action Force became one of my routine comic purchases.  Over the next year or two, I got most of the issues.  There were a couple that my store didn't get.  But, I was able to mostly keep up.  There were good original stories in the comics and some pretty bad ones.  Some non Joe stories started appearing in the comics, too.  The toy ads continued, though, and showcased more old toys I wish I could have acquired.  

As a kid, the exoticism of owning a comic meant for sale in England was exciting.  It gave me an insight into Joe in other parts of the world and made me realize that kids in those countries could enjoy the toys and stories in a slightly different way than I did.  Really, it was these comics that started my fascination with foreign Joe items that, 30 years later has lead to an entire month's worth of content regarding G.I. Joe items released outside of the U.S.  This issue is a central part of why I still collect G.I. Joe so many decades later.  So, I appreciate having a means by which to showcase it.


  1. Nice to read about your childhood comic haunt, Mike. I felt the same thrill when I started getting the short-lived European Missions series in the late 80s. I quickly realized that they were actually Action Force stories from the United Kingdom since most mail order comic ads pointed out that the AF comics were "hot" when the domestic comic was at its sales peak in the mid-80s. The UK stuff featured cool plot variations, such as Trent being the team leader before the '86 version of Hawk was introduced. G.I. Joe Comics Magazine (the reprint Digest title) also featured a couple of AF stories. Too bad that "Holding the Baby" never made it over to these shores. You don't see Crankcase featured very often on either side of the pond. I'm probably gonna track down the entire series now, lol.

  2. I remember seeing European Missions for the first time and thinking it was another spin-off of the US comic. They made use of Copperhead, Big Boa and Hydro-Viper (who only had a helmetless cameo in a comics) in the AF comics and even Cobra-La in a prequel story to the animated movie!

    Interesting for the Action Force launch by Hasbro they went with 1985 mostly. A solid year for Joes, but a weaker one for main Cobra characters, so they reissued Destro and Storm Shadow that Palitoy already made in Europe. Surprisingly reissued Cobra Trooper, too, who looked a bit dated compated to 1985 Cobras. Of course, the cartoon reruns probably had something to do with what was in the Hasbro Action Force launch.