In 1984 Kenner got a license to produce action figures based on the villains and heroes from DC Comics in the Super Powers toy line. With Toy Biz acquiring the Marvel license, it was a smart move on DC’s part to compete with the other comic company. The figures that came out of the Super Powers series became memorable and instant classics, as they were the only DC toys offered to fans (including this collector) from 1984-1986. The toy line is either praised for its work, or over looked for its strong appeal to children. Whatever your opinion was on the line, this is a look back at the action figure series that arguably spawned every toy in the DC Direct line today.
Kenner launched the line in 1984 with each figure having a “power action.” Nearly every figures power action involved squeezing the legs together to deliver a punch. Although simple in design, the power action is what kept these figures different from other toys on the market. Marvel’s Secret Wars line from Mattel did not have any action functions, nor did Hasbro’s G.I. Joes, while the Masters of the Universe line was still a year away from Thunder Punch He-Man. Speaking of He-Man, the Super Powers line also came with a mini-comic book much like MOTU line did. The only difference was that the toys in this series actually looked like the drawings in the mini comic, as the art in the He-Man mini comic looked like something from Conan the Barbarian. The Super Powers line clearly made itself different from the other toys on the market at the time, not to mention it had a huge roster to pull from.
In its three year run, Kenner released 33 figures including Superman, Dr. Fate, Batman, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, Darkseid and the very first action figure of Plastic Man. Fans were ecstatic to get their hands on more of these toys. With the popularity of an action figure line, of course come the play sets and vehicles.
Although the majority of the vehicles were Batman’s (Batmobile and Batcopter) there was also the Delta Probe One—the vehicle for the heroes that didn’t fly and the very awesome Darkseid Destroyer. A total of nine vehicles were made for both heroes and villains. As for play sets, the heroes had the Hall of Justice, which was equipped with prisons for villains, working elevators, hidden trap doors and a slew of other cool gadgets. As if that’s it awesome enough, it was the same Hall of Justice that was featured in the mini comics, and of course the same HOJ from the Super Friends animated series (I can hear the Wonder Twins activating now).
The villains had their own play set with the Tower of Darkness, but due to the line losing popularity it was only featured at a Toy Fair in 1986 making it an outstanding collectible in this series. The Tower of Darkness was just as well equipped as the Hall of Justice. The Tower had cannons a prison cell and a few trap doors as well.
In 1986 the series ended only after 3 waves of figures. It was three years before Tim Burton’s Batman film would be released creating a revival in the superhero toy department. Ironically in 1989, Toy Biz picked up the DC license and produced Batman figures based on the film. They also decided to make other DC figures in a whole new line, DC Comics Super Heroes. The figures in the Super Heroes line closely resembled the Super Powers figures so much, that even I have trouble distinguishing them in my own personal collection. Toy Biz ended up using some of the same molds from Kenner’s work, despite that the line was seen as a second rate series and was quickly discontinued.
The Super Powers from Kenner was a great toy line and compared to its competition at the time, it delivered great memorable figures and it was given an undeserved death. It arguably helped launch DCD, which now gives us the same characters from the Super Powers line that we grew up. It offered fans something a little different in action figures with power action functions and a mini comic book. It’s a series that’s often time overlooked, but should be seen as a classic line that shaped the world of action figures that we know today.