Thursday, May 6, 2010

Throwback Thursday 05-06-10 The Super Powers Collection

The Mego toy line had died in the late 70s, though on occasion you could find figures here and there. But for the most part, super hero toys were extinct during the early 80s. Then, one spring day in 1984, I got the new issue of Tales of the Teen Titans (issue #44, part of the now-legendary Judas Contract storyline) and as soon as I opened it, on the inside of the front cover was this ad:My prayers had been answered! FINALLY, a new super hero toy line! One more in keeping with the modern definition of "action figures" (versus Megos which, let's face it, were dolls). Not just that, but this line boasted big name heroes like Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman, who'd never before appeared as toys! I was thrilled... and MISERABLE that these toys weren't already out! I dreamed about them day and night, until one day, FINALLY I located them at the hobby store in the mall!
The first wave included ALL of the big names! You had the core of the Super Friends, Aquaman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Superman and the three most famous second-stringers from both the cartoon and comics, Green Lantern, Flash and Hawkman.
Plus you had the four biggest-name super villains in comics, The Joker, The Penguin and the recently redesigned Lex Luthor and Brainiac. (Updated for the 80s.)
Really what more could a kid ask for?!
My first acquisition from this line was Robin, while my brother got Superman.
These toys were (and still are) flawless! They looked exactly as they did on TV and in comics. No discrepancies or mistakes AND no ridiculous variations like you see today, like Scuba Batman or Arctic Superman or Drag Queen Hawkman or whatever ridiculousness they can think of! SPs were vibrant and eye-catching. And they came with perfect accessories. Hawkman came with his trusty mace, Aquaman a kingly trident and Green Lantern, his power battery. Not to be left out, The Penguin of course came with a trick umbrella with a hidden rapier inside and just for fun, The Joker swung an enormous green mace with his face on it! Once again, nowadays, every action figure has some bogus weaponry that really fires or whatever... in the 90s, there was a Flash figure with attachable armor to make him run faster. He's The Flash! He can already run fast enough to travel through time! How much faster does he need to go?!
Every figure had a "Power Action" mechanism that worked when you squeezed either their arms or legs together. Superman, Batman and Lex Luthor swung their fists, Wonder Woman crossed her bracelets to deflect bullets, Robin had a karate chop, Green Lantern aimed his power ring and The Joker and Penguin brandished their weapons. Flash and Aquaman both kicked their feet to simulate Flash running at super speed and Aquaman swimming. Brainiac is the only head scratcher.
The computer mastermind... kicked. However, looking at those sharp feet, that may have actually been the most lethal of all the Power Actions!

The first wave also included three vehicles.
The bad guys could swoop around in the Lex-Soar 7 (not sure where the name came from, but in the comics, Luthor had discovered a plant that he named Lexor, so maybe that), which included a capture claw on the bottom and a huge chunk of jeweled green kryptonite! Every super hero toy collection NEEDS a chunk of kryptonite! Prior to this, I'd been stuck with a stupid, green spray painted rock!
In the 70s, Corgi wanted to make a Supermobile, a vehicle for Superman, who... doesn't really need a vehicle. Nevertheless, someone designed this oddity, sporting a pair of extending metal fists on the sides. DC introduced the Supermobile both in the comics and on Super Friends.For the Super Powers Collection, it was redesigned, with the fists replaced by a more nondescript battering ram on the front, activated by the silver button behind the ship's fin. I dunno, though... there's something really whimsical about those two fists. Plus, the redesigned version never appeared in the comics or on a cartoon, so it's kind of like an imaginary accessory to me.

The best however was the most obvious, the stunning Batmobile:
Not only was this baby sleek and beautiful LOOKING, it had three super awesome action features. The bat silhouette on the hood's "eyes" raised up as headlights, which were raised AND LOWERED via the mechanism in the Batmobile's cockpit, however EVERY kid that I let play with it, would pop them up with the lever and them MASH them down with their fucking fingers, which eventually made it so that they couldn't raise up all the way anymore. Stupid fucking kids. I should never have let anyone touch my toys. (That's what she said.)
Not just that, but the grill of the car was a battering ram and the rear of the car concealed a capture claw!

Sadly, next to the Batmobile, the second most famous super vehicle, and logical choice for inclusion in this line would have been Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet.
In fact, a vehicle was designed and pitched, and would have featured a retractable ladder and engines that could snap off and connect together to form a flying sled. But sadly, the "girl" in any boy's action figure line was nearly always the poorest seller, so Kenner opted NOT To make a vehicle for Wonder Woman. BOO!

And to finish off the first series, the heroes converged at their Hall of Justice base! I was startled by this inclusion because years earlier, I'd realized that the Super Friends was "imaginary" and that the comics were "real" and in the comics, the Justice League's headquarters was actually a satellite orbiting the Earth. Oddly, the toy version of the HoJ is yellow, whereas it was always colored white on TV. Originally, the HoJ was designed to be a simple carrying case, but at some point Kenner decided to make it an actual functioning playset.

The Super Friends cartoon was revamped to promote the toy line, changing its title to Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, which depicted Luthor and Brainiac adopting their new souped up looks and introducing cosmic uber-villain Darksied along with his minions, his brutish son Kalibak and the twisted scientist DeSaad. These characters (plus a slew others, collectively known as the New Gods) were originally designed by legendary illustrator Jack Kirby, who'd since fallen on hard times, so Kenner hired him to revamp the look of some of his characters, thus paying him royalties, since he'd never been paid any when he first deigned these characters for the comics.
All three new villains were included in the second series of Super Powers figures in 1985, along with newly-redesigned cohorts Steppenwolf (who'd been issued early, as a mail-away figure, before being released in stores normally), Mantis and a Parademon. To bolster the ranks of the god guys, Kenner brought in JLA comic stars Firestorm (who'd also been introduced in the cartoon), Red Tornado, Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow, plus frequent guest-star Dr. Fate. This basically rounded out the male members of the Justice League, with two exceptions, the Elongated Man and the miniature Atom. Elongated Man was probably just too obscure and maybe even too hard to pronounce. The Atom is normally about six inches tall in "real" life, so they probably didn't know HOW to market him, which is too bad because since he appeared in the Super Friends and was therefore one of the (no pun intended) bigger name heroes.
A sleek and cool Batcopter was added to the heroes' arsenal, with a spinning propeller and pop off battering ram/grappling hook with a retractable cord.

Unfortunately, rather than produce Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet or even made up vehicles for other heroic characters (a couple of Green Lantern items were designed but never produced), Kenner simply opted to make up new vehicles, Kalibak's Boulder Bomber, The Darseid Destroyer for the bad guys and for the good guys, a generic vehicle called the Delta Probe One.

Despite the second series not selling as well as the first, Kenner released a third, including: Captain Marvel/Shazam! and Plastic Man, both of whom had previously starred in their own Saturday morning cartoons; two heroic New Gods, Orion (once again revamped by Jack Kirby) and Mr. Miracle; Cyborg of the Teen Titans (Kenner had at one point, planned an entire wave of Teen Titans Super Powers including a Titans Tower playset, but Cyborg was the only one that made it to the actual line); and Super Friends perennial Samurai. In a surprising move, Kenner also added two all-new, Kenner-invented characters that weren't tied to either DC Comics or the Super Friends, The Golden Pharaoh and Cyclotron. They also added Batman's enemy Mr. Freeze in an extremely detailed suit of armor and Tyr, a one-armed, red-skinned alien marauder from the 30th Century-based Legion of Super Heroes comic (like the Titans, Kenner had at one point, planned to make an entire Legion SP series, but once again, Tyr was the only figure to make it to the actual toy line).

A ridiculous final vehicle was produced, the Justice Jogger:
Two additional items were pictured on the toy packages and solicited to buyers, but were never released, another generic hero vehicle, the All-Terrain Trapper and Darkseid's Tower of Darkness villain's playset.
Prior to the cancellation of the line, Kenner was already at work crafting an extensive fourth wave. My biggest complaint about the line, prompting me to send my first letter to a toy company, was the scarcity of females. Wave 4 would have seen Supergirl added to the series, alongside a number of additional characters from the comics and cartoon, including El Dorado, Black Vulcan, The Wonder Twins and newer comic heroes like Obsidian and Blue Devil. It looks like Kenner had realized they could reuse some of their existing molds and repaint them to produce newer characters, like The Reverse Flash and John Stewart, the black Green Lantern. Also, Kenner would have continued adding all-new creations like the four armed Quaddrex (alternately known as Bio Bug and Insecta Six), Silicon, who'd have been molded out of translucent see-through plastic and Howitzer who carried a big gun. They also planned to produce new deluxe armored versions of older characters like Superman, Batman and Robin, as well as small vehicles for other characters like Cyborg, Brainiac and Plastic Man.

Sadly, the line was officially canceled just as the third wave was reaching stores, so only a few of these even made it to the prototype stage. Most are known to have been considered simply by production drawings that were found.

This line is my SECOND favorite toy line of all time, just after Megos. It really was a perfect line. They characters were depicted EXACTLY as they appeared in the comics and on TV. The weapons and power actions were likewise taken directly from the source material. And while the character selection in the later waves may have been too obscure for the uninitiated, it was a dream come true for comic fans. Beyond that, and what makes this wave "better" in my opinion than newer lines, is that they are so vibrant and colorful. They look like cartoons come to life, whereas nowadays, I think toy companies try to make their action figures too realistic with darker paint hues and black washes for shadowing. They're TOYS! They should be bright and colorful! Not drab and dour! There's enough of that in the real world!

Ahhh memories!

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