25 years ago, Kenner launched a line of DC super-hero action figures under the name Super Powers. Today, Crisis on Earth-Blog unites fourteen sites in celebrating this landmark toy line. In particular, check out Crimson Lightning’s week-long coverage, starting with a review of the Flash mini-comic. (“Mini-comic,” you ask? Read on!)
The Super Powers figures were 6″ toys with a twist — sometimes literally. They really were action figures. Each figure would perform an action if manipulated, usually by squeezing the arms or legs. Squeeze Superman’s legs and he’d throw a punch. Hawkman’s wings would flap. Robin would do a karate chop, and Wonder Woman would lift her bracelets to block bullets. If you squeezed Red Tornado’s arms, his lower body would spin.
Naturally, if you squeezed the Flash’s arms, he would run.
Each figure starred in his (or her) own miniature 16-page comic book, around 4 inches high. To keep things readable they typically had only one or two panels per page. Villains and other heroes were pulled from the rest of the toy line, along with a couple of playsets and vehicles.
The Flash (Barry Allen) appeared in four of the mini-comics.
- Flash (of course) – in which he single-handedly rescued half the JLA from Braniac (Reviewed at Crimson Lightning).
- Green Arrow – in which the Scarlet Speedster and Emerald Archer teamed up with the Martian Manhunter to fight Darkseid’s son, Kalibak (Scanned and reviewed at Dispatches from the Arrow Cave).
- Aquaman – in which the speedster and King of the Seas fought the Penguin (Read it at Aquaman Shrine).
- Hawkman – in which the Flash, Hawkman and Green Lantern team-up against Lex Luthor (Reviewed at Being Carter Hall).
While reading these it really struck me how heavily Jack Kirby’s New Gods were involved with Super Friends and Super Powers. Certainly in the later seasons, and the toys, and the Super Powers comic books that spun out of the series, Darkseid and his allies on Apokolips were major villains. Considering that the characters were created in the 1970s, that meant they had only been around for 10-15 years at the time. (For comparison: Bart Allen appeared as Impulse roughly 15 years ago.)
Something else I found interesting was the effort made to work the vehicles into the comics. Why would Superman need an aircraft to fight Lex Luthor? The Supermobile blocks Kryptonite beams. Why, in the Green Arrow comic, would Flash run out and hop in the “Delta Probe” instead of punching Kalibak 1,000 times a second?
Um….let me get back to you on that one.
In organizing this event, Shag provided some reference links including a site covering the unproduced fourth wave of figures in the line. Among the proposed figures were Kid Flash and the Reverse Flash, which would have rounded out the major Earth-One speedsters. To the best of my knowledge, neither Kid Flash nor Professor Zoom appeared as an action figure until the late 1990s.
Oddly enough, even though I was in the prime demographic, I don’t remember having more than one or two of the toys. I would have been eight years old when the first wave hit, and had been watching the Super Friends cartoons on TV. The Super Powers toys first hit in 1984, the same year that I got hooked on The New Teen Titans — my “gateway drug” to the wider world of DC Comics. I was very excited to learn that one of the Titans, Cyborg, was going to appear on TV in new Super Friends episodes.
For whatever reason, the only Super Powers figure I remember for certain was Robin. It wasn’t that I didn’t have many toys at the time. I had a collection of Star Wars figures (helped along, no doubt, by my parents’ Star Wars fandom), and Masters of the Universe, and Transformers. But only the one DC figure. (G.I. Joe is another one I almost missed. I only remember having Zartan.)
I might have had Lex Luthor too, but I’m not sure.
Maybe it was that, until the Cyborg figure appeared in the third wave, Robin was the only Teen Titan in the set, and that was where my main interest was.
By the time I started reading The Flash in 1987, the Super Powers line had shut down. By the time DC started licensing new action figures a few years, I’d stopped playing with them, and I didn’t start collecting them until the launch of DC Direct.
I did eventually track down an unboxed Flash figure from the line, though it’s in storage right now with a lot of my random memorabilia.
Multiverse of Viewpoints
But wait! There’s more! A whole slew of blogs, organized by Shag of Once Upon a Geek, are also writing about the Super-Powers action figures today. Stop by and see what everyone else is saying about Super Powers! Collect the whole set!
- Aquaman Shrine dives with the King of the Seas.
- Bat-Blog covers Batman and his villains.
- Being Carter Hall handles Hawkman.
- Crimson Lightning is going all-out with a Flash extravaganza.
- Dispatches from the Arrow Cave aims at Green Arrow
- Love Dat Joker brings in the laughs with the Clown Prince of Crime
- Justice League Detroit follows a set of knock-off figures from the era.
- The Idol-Head of Diabolu has only begun to cover Martian Manhunter
- …nurgh… reviews the entire series of mini-comics
- Doom Patrol Blog takes a spin with Red Tornado
- Fortress of Baileytude – Superman
- Firestorm Fan follows the Nuclear Man.
- Once Upon A Geek covers Dr. Fate and the unproduced Blue Devil & Shockwave figures
- Update: Legion Omnicom has joined the event in with a page on Tyr.
Thanks to Shag of Once Upon a Geek for organizing the event and providing scans of the minicomics. Thanks also to Toy Otter’s Super Powers Archive for the images of the figures themselves.
I’m pretty sure that by the time they added Cyborg to the cartoon franchise the name was changed to The Super Powers Galactic Guardian Show. The Cyborg action figure was always a pain and a half to find. I still have all the ones I bought as a kid…
I wish I’d been paying more attention to the toys when the Cyborg figure finally came out.
Here’s a hilariously-bad bootleg of Mirror Master, based on the Super Powers series.
*snrglt* Wow. Hilariously bad is right!
Hehe! Rob owns the Firestorm one! Picked it up at SDCC for like $7 I think. 😀
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Flash, the Fastest Levitating Power-Walker Alive! See, you had to dangle him above the ground so his legs could move, such as it was. Superman’s power punch was way cooler. (He could knock over other figures.)
Despite the lame action, Flash really was one of my favorites. Must have been the lightning bolts.
The lamest action feature has to be that Lex Luthor figure (not in the Super Powers line) that punches himself in the head. I mean, wow :>
LOL! Action fail.
(Normally I’m not big on the term “fail,” but in this case it seems appropriate.)
I sent away for the Clark Kent figure… still have it.
I ate the Super Powers stuff UP. Loved it. I just watched an episode recently, in fact. I think it aired on Cartoon Network or Boomerang, but was available on YouTube. Great stuff for its time. I still get a kick out of it.
I only remember having the Superman action figure, but I squeezed the heck out of him. I think I had him fighting He-Man characters, though.
Speaking of: anyone remember those Superman/He-Man crossovers in DC comics, back in the day?
.-= West’s latest blog post: SkyFire is a bad mutha… =-.
I have some cool flash items, such as the mini comic described above, and I’m looking to sell it. Any ideas on where is the best place to sell this stuff?
Kelson – We were a lot alike as kids. I was a big fan of the Super Friends/Super Powers TV show, and I read DC Comics. I was 12 years old in 1984 and had a massive collection of Kenner’s Star Wars figures. I was THE target market for Super Powers action figures, and yet the only one I had was Firestorm. Odd.
Great write-up! Thanks for joining in on the crossover!
The Irredeemable Shag
.-= The Irredeemable Shag’s latest blog post: Crisis on Earth-Blog – Super Powers 25th Anniversary =-.
A fun read, I need to hit the other sites for the other reviews. Two things you might want to correct, Super Powers was a 4 1/2″ scale line, not 6″, and Mego made a Kid Flash figure as part of the Teen Titans sub-line of World’s Greatest Super-Heroes (the figures were 7″ tall to be “kids” to the 8″ adults) in the mid-70s, mind you those four figures are a sort of holy grail to Mego collectors. Teen Titans archive at MegoMuseum.com
I have a couple of the “super powers” range of action figures but not sure how i can find the value of such toys. Is it worth me speaking to the guys at the comic shop?
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