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CUSTOM REVIEW: G.I.JOE RED SHADOW AGENTS
By Thomas Wheeler

The background of the Red Shadows within the world of G.I.Joe is a
mysterious one, and while I don't wish to step on the toes of the writers
at Devil's Due Comics, since I'm technically talking figures here more
than comics or characters, I'm going to discuss this mostly from a figure
perspective.

When the G.I.Joe line got running in Europe, it wasn't called G.I.Joe.
That's a pretty American name. It was called Action Force. And initially,
the enemy wasn't called Cobra. It wasn't called the Red Shadows, either.
They were simply called "Enemy Force". But there was a certain pattern to
them.

For one thing, the predominant color was red. For another thing, the main
enemy logo was a black trangle with a pirate-like skull and crossbones in it.

Two of the more obvious G.I.Joe recolor figures for this line were the
original Cobra Commander and Destro. Destro looked pretty much like
himself, although he was called Red Jackal, and instead of the "open
shirt" look, his chest area was painted red with the skull and crossbones.

The Cobra Commander figure was the more radically altered one. It was
remolded in red plastic, eyes of a sort were painted on the visor, and
the skull and crossbones logo was painted on the helmet. He was called
Red Laser, and came with a recolored version of the HAL - Heavy Artillery
Laser.

Over the course of my collection, I obtained two of these. They were both
"used" figures, but largely in good condition. However, as the excellent
Web Site YoJoe.Com makes reference, the skull-and-crossbones logo on the
helmet is easily scratched off. And neither of mine were quite perfect.
So, I decided to customize them into Cobras. Since they were,
essentially, red versions of Cobra Commander, I decided to turn them into
special versions of the Crimson Guard, specifically Cobra Commander's
personal bodyboards.

I removed the remaining skull and crossbones logos, put Cobra logos on
their jackets, and painted their visors, also removing the painted-on
eyeslits in the process (which I always thought looked a little silly).

But recently, something unusual started happening in the Devil's Due
G.I.JOE Comic book. A new group has emerged. They call themselves the Red
Shadows, and they've been sneaking around picking off both Joes and
Cobras. As of this writing, I don't have the final two issues of the
initial run, #42 and #43, where this will supposedly be explained. And I
have to say that I DO NOT approve of the body count that has been racked
up. Among the more troubling casualties, in my opinion have been the
"original" G.I.Joe, Joseph Colton; Tracker, just as we found out that he
also goes by the name of Action Man, a nice reference to the characters
appearance (and molds) in the Night Force set -- personally I think an
entire storyline could've been built around that; and Glenda, which was
the name given to the South American version of Scarlett, a figure molded
with blonde hair and a blue and silver uniform.

A lot could've been done with any of these characters within the pages of
the comic book, and they all have enough history and potential within the
world of G.I.Joe that they deserved better than to be shot and disposed
of in a few panels.

That having been said, I do find the concept of the Red Shadows, a
mysterious organization (?) capable of causing grief for both G.I.Joe and
Cobra a fascinating one. While there may or may not be any direct
connection, conceptually, between the Red Shadows and the relatively
anonymous Enemy group that existed in the Action Force line before they
brought Cobra in, certainly the color choice and the fact that some of
the Red Shadows agents have been seen wearing skull-and-crossbones
insignias would indicate a certain inspiration, at least.

To that end, I decided to RE-customize my Red Laser/Cobra Commander
Crimson Guards "back" into Red Shadow agents. In the comic book, three
distinct individuals have been shown. These figures aren't any of them.
While I do not know at the moment the direction Devil's Due plans to
take, in "my" G.I.Joe universe, which has more than its share of
customized figures and characters in it, these would be the "Cobra
Vipers" of the Red Shadows.

Repainting the skull-and-crossbones logo on the helmet was out of the
question. So was printing a logo and applying it to the helmet. It's just
too curved for a printed item to apply and stay put. So I decided to
develop an insignia for the flat front of the jacket, instead. This was
one time where the relatively minimal detail of first-year G.I.Joe
figures would work to my advantage.

I decided to invert the triangle. That is, the "flat" side of the
triangle was at the top. I just thought it would look a bit better that
way. Finding a skull and crossbones logo wasn't too hard. I own the Corel
graphics system, and it includes a large supply of "importable" graphics.
Including a lot of flags. Including, amusingly enough -- a pirate flag.

I brought the flag onto the page, and then separated the skull and
crossbones from the flag background, and then shrunk it down in size to
the triangle I had drawn, a tiny little thing which I had measured to be
the right size for the figure jacket. It took my printer about two
seconds to shoot out those two logos, which I then covered with clear
packaging tape for protection.

Then it was time to work on the figures. For starters, they both needed
new O-Rings. I think they still had their originals, and they'd weakened
so much that the figures couldn't even stand up after all this time. So I
removed the backscrew, pulled the legs away, and installed the new O-Rings.

Now it was time to paint. I'd originally customized these figures with a
rather bright yellow visor, in keeping with the Crimson Guard Commander
figure that had been introduced in 1993. This would obviously not do for
the Red Shadows, and I didn't want to do a silver logo, because it would
look too much like Cobra Commander's original helmet. As it was, I knew
I'd have to make some mention of the uniform resemblance on the file card.

I still painted the visors silver, mostly because I knew a metallic color
would cover up the bright yellow better than anything else. I used
Citadel Colors "Mithral Silver" for this, and I recommend Citadel paints
for all G.I.Joe uses. It's a good acrylic paint, and many of the colors
are excellent matches for colors used on G.I.Joe figures. The paints are
especially good for touch-ups.

But once the silver was dry, I went over the visors with a semi-
transparent metallic red, being careful to pop any small "bubbles" that
developed along the way. This gave the visors a proper "red" look, in
keeping with their new identity, but also made the visors look distinct
from the rest of the helmet.

Then I added a little additional silver to the collar, buttons, and belt
buckle. My RED SHADOWS were finished! Here is their file card:

==========

RED SHADOWS

The Red Shadows have been hinted at for decades. Apparently originating
in Europe, this clandestine organization, far more secretive than Cobra
or any other global terrorist organization, was thought to have been put
out of business years ago by G.I.Joe operatives and allies in Europe
operating under the name Action Force. But recent incidents have
suggested their return, as both G.I.Joe and Cobra forces have faced
agents bearing the name and symbols of the Red Shadows, generally with
disastrous results. The Red Shadows seemingly come out of nowhere,
strike, and then vanish without a trace. Their leadership remains
unknown, but there are descriptions of encounters with Red Shadow
Troopers, for lack of a better term, garbed in a red uniform that bears a
strange resemblance one of Cobra Commander's earliest uniforms, although
given that his forces have suffered as much as anyone elses in the recent
assaults, it is unlikely that he is in any way responsible for the return
of this mysterious organization. The Red Shadows are not soldiers. They
do not fight openly on the battlefield. As to their overall agenda - no
one knows. Their logo speaks of pirate origins, but that's far too easy
an explanation. Ultimately, all that's known is this: there's no question
that there's a new player on the field, a deadly one, and everyone should
beware.

============

These figures, in their "normal" form, are not easy to come by, so I
don't necessary recommend customizing one if you happen to own one, or
spending the money to get one just to customize it like this. But mine
had already been customized once, years ago, and they weren't entirely
mint when I got them in the first place.

I imagine that over the next few issues of the comic book, we may learn
precisely what the Red Shadows are up to. But I don't know for sure.
Meanwhile, while I don't like the body count that has been amassed, I do
like the ides of a mysterious organization with an unknown agenda, and I
don't mind at all being able to add a couple of Red Shadows to my
collection. And I hope you enjoyed learning about them. YO JOE!