1983 Black Major (Action Force)

1983 Black Major

Thinking about it, there’s only two things that come from Britain that I think I really like: the first being the USA, and the second being the Action Force toy line. I don’t think Action Force has the same enduring charm as GI Joe, but I think the fact that I’m even interested in a series of forty-year-old action figures from another country that I’d never heard of until I was mostly grown speaks to their quality. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for toy commandos with mostly realistic guns.

The Black Major is a pretty popular character with Joe fans, and also probably the most popular Red Shadows villain. I learned this by conducting a survey that consisted of one person, and I asked myself various questions, so now I can project whatever vague notions I have onto anyone else who’s apart of any group I associate with. Anyways, most of that popularity probably stems from his appearances in the Action Force comics, which did a good job of fleshing out his character. A lot of his popularity is also probably owed to being a figure that vaguely looks like some kind of Nazi. For a villain’s design, it’s a little on the nose, but at the same time it’s much less silly than the disco guy. The overall Red Shadows aesthetic is charming in the way that it mixes bits of Nazi Germany and a few Soviet visual cues.

The Black Major strikes me as a figure that’s full of imperfections, yet somehow by virtue of modern GI Joe’s sheer incompetence, remains the best figure ever made of the character. I don’t mind that he’s done in Kenner Star Wars style 5-POA, but given the relative popularity of the character you’d think at some point he’d have gotten his own, proper GI Joe figure. The only Black Major made after this one was the 2010 convention figure, an abominate mix of M. Bison, Thunder and Action Marine parts that resulted in a figure far too ugly to justify a few extra points of articulation.

action force black major gi joe 1983Sadly given that the Black Major himself is a repaint of the Action Force Commander (and similarly, the Z-Force Commander), he doesn’t have all that sinister of a face. Instead he just looks like any friendly ol’ Action Force commando, which I don’t think really suits the character all that well. From what I understand, Action Force didn’t really have all that much of a budget, so the short line is filled with curiously recycled sculpts. Having a villain who looks like a normal person really isn’t such a bad thing though.

For accessories, the Black Major included the Cobra Officer’s AK-47, and a code sheet that corresponds with the Cyrillic-like letters on the Red Shadows vehicles. The figure’s pose makes a pistol a bit more of an appropriate weapon, which again, is probably a side-effect of being an Action Force Commander repaint. As it is, I think he looks weird with an AK since he has to hold it with his arm extended. The code-sheet’s also pretty neat, though it seems like the kind of thing that wouldn’t hold your imagination very long as a kid. As a cheap toss-in though, it’s a nice bonus.

Action Force figures aren’t worth a lot despite probably being a lot more scarce than GI Joe figures. A Black Major figure complete with his AK and code-sheet runs around $30 as a BiN, but incomplete figures in good shape can be had for around $10, and it’s pretty common to get him in lots too. Judging by how common he is, I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say he’s the most popular Red Shadow, which is reasonable given that he’s probably the coolest Red Shadow too.

action force black major gi joe 1983action force black major gi joe 1983

1983 Black Major Links:

Forgotten Figures

Blood For the Baron

Joe A Day

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4 Responses to 1983 Black Major (Action Force)

  1. Mike T. says:

    The AK-47 isn’t bad when you consider that his next most common weapon is the Kenner 4-LOM figure’s rifle. Though, maybe that would work since it’s just so out there.

    On one hand, I’m glad some Action Force showed up in the repaint era. But, being Club releases meant poor parts selection and an overall vibe of trying just way too hard to be cool. I’d love the newly resurrected Red Laser Army would take on real takes on characters like Black Major. You don’t have to recycle ’82 heads and could do something neat. Now that he’s got the experience of Hidden Force sculpting under his belt, maybe he’ll take on more ambitious projects.

    Now that I’m more OK with 5POA figures, I’d buy these if they were as cheap and common as they were 10-15 years ago. A set would look neat on display. But, the real value of the entire line was in the vehicles and the accessories. Some of the AF exclusive weapons are better than Hasbro designs of the same era. And, they work great with Joes. Most still aren’t too hard to find, though, so that’s nice.

  2. A-Man says:

    Not an Anglophile. LOL. I’m not an anyplace-phile, as in “I prefer that culture to mine” or “I’d like to move there and live there…forever.” That all seems like a lot of work, especially if you had to learn a new language.

    I had one Action Force figure that I improbably got at a flea market that was part of a car show in Arlington, TX. That alone is strange. I had no idea what it was when I got it. It was one of the space guys.

    I never understood “Red Shadows” but skull and crossbones logo.

    Black Major the bootlegger makes a lot of “additions” but the more Cobra repaints you add the more it dilutes anything special about the Red Shadows.

  3. Mr. Acer says:

    If I remember right, the 2010 Black Major’s figure build was the M. Bison head, ‘88 Hardball torso, ‘92 Headman arms, and the Action Marine waist and legs.

  4. R.T.G. says:

    I think of all the 5 POA Action Force figures, Black Major is my favourite, and the one that blends into a photo with O-Ring figures the best.

    He’s a dynamic looking figure, and one that is possible to re-create as an O-Ring figure, to varying degrees of success. I did one which was just a TBM Black Firefly/Snake Eyes build from 2020, with a TBM Starduster head and a red helmet. It’s better than the Convention one at least!

    In the AF Comics, he was supposed to be a former Action Force guy, probably to clarify the reasoning for the shared mold.

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