Home > Weekend Asides > Weekend Aside: The Super Powers Collection

Weekend Aside: The Super Powers Collection

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

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So my mom’s finally moving out of the house she’s lived in for nearly twenty years – I think I was twelve when we moved there – and I was faced with the daunting task of cleaning up all the toys I’ve accumulated over the years. Although a good bunch of those were the result of my frequent trips to Toy Liquidators while attending Law School in the U.S., I also had to dig through the older stuff. So we might as well talk about the greatest mass-market super hero toyline in history, the Super Powers Collection, specifically the stuff I had.

We’ve briefly touched on the history of this line in the past when talking about Jack Kirby, who did some design work on the series (as after the original series of figures, the line got into Kirby lore in a bit way). However, the one thing I know I had but couldn’t find was that very poster above, which was offered as a mail-in bonus by Kenner. The art isn’t Kirby, but rather Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, one of DC’s great unsung artists. JLGL, while not doing many interiors, might have been the most influential artist in comics in one point, as his ‘DC Style Guide’ was deemed to be the definitive models for licensors of DC products to use on everything from lunchboxes to the artwork on Kenner’s cards in this toyline.

To say that this line was a holy grail is understating it greatly. Although the Total Justice line in the mid-late 90s came close to duplicating the number of JLA members in a line (especially with the conversion to a pure JLA line in its final stages of life), until the current DC Universe Classics nothing has ever come close to duplicating the sheer variety of Super Powers. Just look at that top row; it’s not only the Big Seven, but also includes just about every significant member of the JLA aside from Black Canary and Zatanna (neither of whom even made it to the prototype stage in this line, interestingly enough). And although the New Gods focus prevented a similar assemblage of top-tier bad guys, Darkseid, Luthor, Joker, Brainiac (yeah, he looked like that for a while in the 80s), Penguin and, later, Mr. Freeze isn’t a bad selection from DC’s top tier.

So, which figure do you think I got first? C’mon, guess.

You’re stunned, I’m sure. This one didn’t survive until the move, as I broke Barry’s leg a while later. Although I have quite a few Flash figures now as an adult, this still holds a lot of nostalgic charm, and like most of the figures, is remarkably on-model. This was long rumoured to be getting a repaint as a release to coincide with the Flash TV series, but that died before it could happen.

I’m not the biggest Hal Jordan fan in the world, but even I have to agree that this is one of the greatest action figures ever made. It’s actually much cooler-looking than the GL of the comics or TV series was at the time, since the shade of green they chose was so good.

I got these two together, obviously; even mom knew that you can’t get Batman for a kid without getting Robin at the same time (their ride would come shortly thereafter). One thing to note is that Kenner took the time to properly scale everyone in the series; Robin’s shorter than Batman, and Hawkman – who I didn’t buy – is one of the taller JLA members, just like he is in the comics. Of course, I think they made Wonder Woman much shorter than she’s supposed to be, but I never owned her.

Although the capes were goofy – you can’t really see in these pictures, but there’s a plastic ring at the top that weakly held them on the figures – I still think that cloth capes look better on action figures than sculpted plastic, largely thanks to these two. Naturally, as an 80s kid, I also maintain that Batman should wear blue and have the yellow oval on his chest. However, Robin’s costume thankfully only lasted another ten years or so after this. This is also a bit of a robbery, as I think it might’ve been Jason Todd in the Robin costume by the time the line came out.

John Byrne will make me interesting again about two years after you buy me.”

I actually grew up terrified of the Batman live-action series, which is funny to think now. But even back then, I loved the Joker. Not shown in this picture is his awesome mallet, which he could wear over his head as a mask, with the handle serving as a nose. The most recent DCUC Joker is an obvious tribute to this one, my second-favourite figure of the line.

As much as I don’t want to complain about George Perez’ design for this suit… it’s still got way too much pink on it. Even though Justice League’s swap of the pink for purple made Lex look like a Constructicon, he’s still much better looking. Note the holes in the armor; those are so that Lex can plug into his vehicle, the Lex-Soar 7. The armor comes off, leaving you with a slightly more down-to-earth Lex. This is easily my figure in the best condition, largely because I didn’t really have much use for a bald guy in a goofy battle suit.

This picture doesn’t do Darkseid any justice, as he’s huge. I don’t know exactly why Kirby designed him with a cape for this line, but it does give him a bit more of a regal appearance. Naturally, I quickly tossed that aside and commenced him clubbing people with his legitimately powerful arm-swinging action. He’s got a second action feature as well, via a lightpiping gimmick that causes his eyes to light up with the Omega Effect. I still say that this is the definitive Darkseid action figure.

Never let it be said that cartoons don’t influence a kid’s tastes. I didn’t know anything about Firestorm, but when the new season of Super Powers debuted, he was suddenly the focal character of the team, with a full origin story and everything. Sure, the costume looks weird now, but this is a great figure. Sadly, his powers don’t really translate into any decent action gimmicks.

And the last figure I ever bought ties in neatly with the next batch of episodes we’ll be covering. I’m sure I had no idea who Dr. Fate was when I bought this; heck, it’s possible that my mom, who worked as a retail manager at the time, picked him up on sale without my input. But I took a liking to him immediately, largely because I’ve always been a fan of the blue-and-yellow colour scheme. Another one whose DCUC figure couldn’t really improve on this version.

After this, I faded away from the line, as the third series didn’t really have any figures I wanted; I hated all the ‘fake’ heroes in Super Friends and Mr. Freeze was still very lame in 1986. ‘Sides, by then Hasbro had won back the action figure aisle with the Joe / TF double-shot.

So, while there were still figures I wish I’d have owned – I always wanted Penguin but could never get him, and in retrospect that J’onn figure is really cool since he’s still not gotten a figure in DCUC, and of course a Cyborg would probably pay my cable bill for a month, my parents did pretty well in getting me all the great figures for the line.

It’s a shame the line never went any further – there were plans on the books for a return to more normal figures, such as Supergirl, Kid Flash and Metallo, as well as some very out there characters like Blue Devil and Paul Kirk, Manhunter – but Super Powers deservedly had a place as one of the greatest action figure lines of the 80s. And considering that decade was known for great action figure lines, that’s saying something.

But, lastly, my pride and joy…

[Insert angelic chorus]

THE definitive version of THE definitive Batmobile. You can take your freakshow Corgi versions and your four hundred dollar Hot Toys Tumblers, but just look at this thing. Custom hubcaps, two seats, a battering ram, pop-up headlights, the capture claw out the back… and it’s perfectly on-model to the comics version of the time.

Next Time: Seeing Doctor Fate triggered this… and he’s the star of the next episode that will be reviewed, “The Hand of Fate”

Categories: Weekend Asides
  1. February 23, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Great article and great points about Firestorm. The Super Powers cartoon is how I originally found the character too!

    The Irredeemable Shag

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