Are you ready for a blog crossover of epic proporations?
Today I and a metric pantload of other blogs are banding together to not only fight the forces of boredom but to also the 25th Anniversary of the Super Powers Collection! Because of my known man-crush somewhat small attachment to Superman I was asked to handle his end of that toy line.
And here we go.
I can state without any hint of hyperbole that the Super Powers line of action figures and accessories are my absolute favorite when it comes to translating super-hero characters into molded plastic form.
I mean I liked Megos when I was very little and I still think they are kind of keen. Kenner and Mattel have produced some pretty kick ass figures as well. DC Direct, at times, has been sixteen pounds of awesome stuffed into an eight pound bag, but none of that changes the fact that the figures produced by Kenner (that name again) between 1984 and 1986 not only looked good but had a great concept behind and had the best hook you could expect from a toy; they did things. Squeeze the legs and the figures punches. Squeeze the arms and the figures kicks. As a kid (I was aged 8-10 between ’84 and ’86) that was really cool and I still feel the same way as an adult.
(Keep in mind that none of this comes from any kind of rational argument and that I am biased as hell.)
One of the things that did change from childhood to adulthood is who my favorite figures were. When I was younger it was hands down the Batman related figures because up until age 11 I was a huge Batman fan. Nothing was cooler on Christmas morning in 1985 that not only getting Batman, Robin, the Joker and the Penguin but also getting the Batmobile. In all honesty the Batmobile is still my favorite piece from the set, but as far as figures go it is the Man of Steel and his secret identity and villains that comprise my current favorites of the line.
To Be Continued Under the Cut, Because This Bad Boy is Chock Full of Pictures
Superman was well represented in the Super Powers line. When you count the total number of related figures and vehicles Superman is only behind Batman for Super Powers supremacy. For a while there Superman was definitely the leader but then that third wave came along with the Batcopter and Mister Freeze and suddenly the Dark Knight comes out as the winner.
I would make some kind of disparaging comment here, but I still like Batman so there you go.
As befits the first super-hero Superman was in the first wave of figures that were released in 1984.
In all honesty I wanted to have pictures of my Superman, Lex Luthor and Brainiac figures to go along with this but I could never take a picture I was happy with, so here are scans of the front and back to the file cards as well as the instructions on how to activate the figures “super power”.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero set the trend for file cards on an action figure package and Super Powers definitely picked up that ball and ran with it, which was kind of cool. I liked and still like the listing of powers along with other bits of trivia and on a practical level if this was a kid’s first exposure to the characters it was nice to have an idea of who these heroes were, what they could do and who their enemies were.
Superman was joined by two of his main villain in the 1984 line. There was Lex Luthor…
Both Luthor and Brainiac had received makeovers the previous year in the comic books and those new looks were represented here, which is probably a good thing because while Lex Luthor would have been fine in his previous incarnation Brainiac…well, short pants never really flew with me.
(Quick self-pimpage; if you want to read what I think is a pretty decent little article on the makeover check out Back Issue #35 from TwoMorrows Publishing. I wrote an article on the subject and since it is my first published work I am quite proud of the thing even if I think I could have done a much better job on it.)
Both Superman and Lex Luthor had their own vehicles as well, which, again, was awesome.
Superman had a redesigned and sleeker Supermobile.
Seriously. It was a lot better than the first look.
The vehicles that were part of the line also had their own “super powers” and in the case of the Supermobile there was a battering ram on the front and little hooks that you could stick a figure’s hand in to give them a ride under each wing. I have no idea how that would work in reality and it never really worked when I would play with my Supermobile as a kid because if you went too fast the figure would just plummet to their death to the floor.
(Also it was a really bad idea to tie one end of a length of string around a figure’s waste and the other end around the blade of a ceiling fan. I mean it was fine at first but after a few rotations they would fly off the string and go whizzing through the air. Thank God nothing ever got broken.)
Lex even had his own vehicle, which had some really boss features. Mr. Luthor has the Lex-Soar 7, which leads me to believe that there were six versions before it and that this was the latest and greatest version of the ship that was designed to kill Superman. Not only did it have pincers on the bottom to grab another figure with and not only did it have a chunk of Kryptonite in the back that you could actually remove but it also had these little “tubes” that you could hook into these little holes on Lex’s armor to recharge the suit between battles. That makes me smile even today. This was the one vehicle that I really wanted as a kid and never had, which is why I made sure to buy it as an adult.
And Who Disguised As…
During the second wave there was a mail-in offer for a Clark Kent figure that my mother sent off for me and I had that thing for years. It is the only figure related to Superman that I have not bought off of eBay or at a convention because that thing is freaking expensive. It was a really neat little figure though and a great concept for a mail-away figure. He wore the then traditional Clark Kent attire; blue suit, black and red striped tie and white shirt. The figure even had a super power, though I have no idea why because the Clark of that era doesn’t strike me as a guy that would want to engage in fisticuffs. Clark got a traditional release in the third wave, which was common at Kenner as they did that numerous times with the original Star Wars line and Hasbro did the same thing with their G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line.
I still need to get that figure. Someday, when I have the money.
Hey, Kids! Comics!
One of neater aspects of the Super Powers line in general was that for the first two waves the figures came packaged with a mini-comic. This was another element that other toy lines had done, most notably the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe set, but with Super Powers it felt more natural. These were figures that in most cases were lifted directly from the comics design wise and were even up to date at the time with the “new look” Luthor and Brainiac. The stories were not epic in the slightest but at the same time they had a certain amount of charm about them and it was really a best of both worlds type of situation because not only did you get a toy but a comic as well. I really have to hand it off to the people at Kenner. They certainly put some thought into these figures.
Superman, Lex and Brainiac all had their own books. In Superman’s comic he fought Lex Luthor. Lex Luthor had to contend with Superman and Wonder Woman in his as well as an Aquaman cameo. Brainiac fought both Superman and Batman. In addition Superman made an appearance in the comics belonging to Wonder Woman, Flash, Dr. Fate, Firestorm and Kalibak’s comics. Luthor, meanwhile, fought Hawkman and Brainiac was in Wonder Woman’s comic.
What Might Have Been
As great as the Super Powers line was it is worth mentioning that the original pitch had some concepts that would have made the line even more epic than it already was. Some of the ideas were a little sketchy. The original Supermobile, for example, was closer to the comic book version. However one of the early ideas was to have sub-sets of figures and vehicles for the main characters and one of the other vehicles that was in the original pitch was a Supercoupe for a proposed Supergirl figure that would have come out during the second wave. While the Supergirl idea was great I am a little curious as to why she needed a vehicle. At least with the Supermobile you can say, “Well, he rides in that when Kryptonite is about because it protects him.” Still, it wasn’t the worst idea I have ever seen and Kenner would eventually give Clark Kent a coupe in the 1995 Man of Steel line.
Lois Lane was going to have a sub-set as well. Actually Lois is one of the more curious elements in the original pitch. Supposedly she would have had a figure in the first wave but there was also this off-shoot of the Super Powers line that would have had 12 inch dolls that you could dress up. Supergirl was going to be part of that line and there are sketches of Lois in a few different outfits so it is possible she could have been part of that too, which is interesting because it seems like Kenner wanted to make this line accessible to both boys and girls, though from the women I have known in my life I have anecdotal evidence that some girls of my generation just wanted the action figures and to hell with the Barbie type dolls. Lois would have gotten her own vehicle as well, which was called, I kid you not, the Reportair 1.
Other oddities from the original pitch included a Junior Super-Heroes line with kid versions of the main super-heroes and a DC Micro Collection that would have had a Fortress of Solitude play set, though on a smaller scale.
There was also a proposed fourth wave of figures that would have expanded the Superman end of the Super Powers line and this had a lot to do with the fact that in 1987 DC was gearing up for Superman’s 50th anniversary and between that and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace coming out (when it wasn’t accepted that the movie was really bad, though I like certain parts of it) it makes sense that the powers that be would want a heavy Superman presence on the toy shelves. Bizarro might have had his own figure as well as Supergirl, Metallo and Mister Mxyzptlk had designs as well. There was something called the Power Plus line which would have had a Superman variant. A few more vehicles might have been had as well including the Super Glider and Brainiac’s Brain Ship. The most interesting new toy was a gold version of both the Superman figure and of the Supermobile as well in addition to a carrying case.
Sadly this was not to be. The line died with the third wave leaving behind 34 figures, 1 play set, 9 vehicles as well as 3 comic book mini-series and 2 seasons worth of an animated series.
Not bad for a kid’s toy line. And at the very least I have some of the figures today. In fact Superman, Brainiac and Lex Luthor are standing on top of the DVD player that is a few feet away from me and they are joined by the Supermobile and the LexSoar 7.
Hopefully they will be joined by more of the Super Powers Collection at some point.
Crisis on Earth-Blog
As I mentioned at the top of this post I am not alone in my fight for truth, justice and bad ass action figure lines from the eighties. Below are links to the other blogs participating in this event.
- Shag of Once Upon a Geek is handling Dr. Fate and the proposed Blue Devil related figures.
- Shag (him again) of Firestorm Fan is handling the Nuclear Man.
- Rob of the Aquaman Shrine is showcasing the King of the Seven Seas.
- Frank at the Idol Head of Diablolu is making sure Martian Manhunter gets some screen time.
- Tommy of the Bat Blog is taking on the other half of the World’s Finest heroes with Batman and his crew.
- The Clowny Princess is highlighting the Joker at her blog, the awesomely named Love Dat Joker.
- Kelson of the Speed Force and Dixon of Crimson Lightning are both giving the Flash his due.
- Frank is looking over the figures that might have been involving Justice League Detroit.
- Luke has put Hawkman in a cage at Being Carter Hall.
- While Doug normally produces a Doon Patrol blog he is looking at Red Tornado today at My Greatest Adventure 80.
- Adama is targeting Green Arrow at Dispatches from the Arrow Cave.
- Finally, Frank is looking at a whole buncha mini-comics at his blog …nurgh…
Give everyone some love today and I appreciate their linking to this blog.
And a Happy 25th Anniversary to the Super Powers Collection!
Wait…25 years? Great.
Now I feel old.
More to follow…