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 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 #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 #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 #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.