- Depending on the Writer: Just about everything. Who is in charge? Are they an Ancient Conspiracy, or a relatively new kid on the block? Are they a third party faction that threatens G.I. Joe and Cobra alike, or are they a Private Military Contractor augmenting Cobra's ranks? The answer varies across continuities.
- Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!: Their troops are occasionally augmented with killer robots who can shrug off bullets. The Muton and the Skeletron are the most prominent examples.
- Kill It with Fire: Their pyro troop variant, the Shadow Torches.
- Putting on the Reich: The Shadowtroopers bear a resemblance to the Wehrmacht stormtroopers. They wear stahlhelms with a "Jerry helmet" design, and wield MP-40s, panzerschrecks, and stielhandgranates (stick grenades) as weapons. And while the Skull and Crossbones logo is often associated with pirates, it was also a notorious symbol of the Totenkopf armored division.
Real Name: Marcus Kassells
- Bad Boss: He takes his anger of defeat on his men.
- Brainwashed: He has hypnotic control over his men.
- Cop Killer: During his service in the British Army's Parachute Regiment, it's implied he killed a fellow officer by pushing him out of a plane after an argument. But nothing was proven.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": He's known as "The Baron" during his mercenary days.
- Evil Genius: His toy bio describes him as a "Genius of Evil".
- Take Over the World: His "twisted criminal brain" dreams of it.
Real Name: John Shepherd
- Ace Pilot: He can drive or fly pretty much any Red Shadows vehicle, but he takes a particular liking to the Roboskull flight pod.
- Appropriated Appellation: During a mission in Latin America locals called him "Commandante Negro" (Spanish for Black Major). He took a liking to the name and decided to roll with it.
- Badass Longcoat: Wears one in the comics.
- Bad Boss: In the IDW ARAH comic. While generally braver and tougher than Cobra Commander, he still shares the Commander's tendency to throw his troops under a bus to save his own ass.Black Major: I saved myself for the good of us all, to ensure quality leadership in this time of peril.SAW-Viper: That was very noble of you, Black Major.
- Dragon Ascendant: After Baron Ironblood's betrayal, the Black Major reunites the remaining Red Shadows and becomes their leader.
- FaceHeel Turn: Was a loyal British soldier before the Red Shadows brainwashed him.
- Putting on the Reich: He looks like an SS officer, save for his cap being red instead of black. His personal sidearm bears a strong resemblance to the C-96 Mauser.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Likely a result of his brainwashing, he shows no emotion on the battlefield.Black Major: Wipe out the Americans! Raise the Black Flag. No quarter, and no prisoners!
- Ace Custom: The Laser Exterminator, the Evil Counterpart to Joes' Heavy Artillery Laser.
- Bomb Throwing Anarchist: While he was a student at Tokyo University he was involved with some local extremist groups.
- Insufferable Genius: In the IDW ARAH comic.Red Laser: It's not my fault if my superiors in the planning stages did not see the scale of the opposition's weapon.
- King Mook: He wears the same helmet and mask combination as the standard Red Shadow stormtrooper, but a custom uniform otherwise distinguishes him from the rank and file.
- Mad Scientist: Picture an evil version of Q who likes to field test his inventions himself.
- Palette Swap: Of Cobra Commander.
Real Name: Anton Nobokov
- Ace Custom: The Hyena assault tank.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Part of the Red Shadows' senior leadership, also one of their best hand-to-hand fighters.
- Badass Driver: Has a natural talent for high-speed driving.
- Cyborg: The immuno-compromised burnt flesh of his head is covered by a bio-mimetic "smart metal". He also has robotic hands and eyes.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Thanks to his cybernetic eyes.
- Palette Swap: Of Destro. In the Battle Action Force continuity they're the same guy.
- The Quiet One: Even before being brainwashed by the Red Shadows, he was a loner with "an aversion to comradeship".
- Russian Guy Suffers Most: Actually Latvian, but nevertheless, life has not been kind to this guy.
- We Can Rebuild Him: And Baron Ironblood does.
Leader of the Red Shadows in the DDP comics. His purpose is to finish the established government he sees as corrupt.
- Evil Brit: Was an MI5 operative before he went rogue.
- Expy: Loosely based on Golobulus from the movie.
- We Used to Be Friends: With General Colton.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist
- Wild Mass Guessing: There's the theory that he could be the Black Major.
A ruthless female member of the Red Shadows.
- Bald of Evil
- Expy: Loosely based on Pythona from the movie.
- Hero Killer: Lady Jaye's murderer.
- Pretty in Mink: Wears a stylish mink coat.
Artur KulikA feared enforcer and assassin.
- Bald of Evil
- Composite Character: Loosely based on Nemesis Enforcer from the movie, and also a Russian member of the Red Shadows like Red Jackal.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Has some rather ominous scars from previous battles.
- Husky Russkie: A big Russian who serves as the Sledgehammer to Dela Eden's scalpel.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: After his attempt to assassinate Hawk fails, Kulik becomes obsessed with redeeming this failure from his record.