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A Look Back at Kenner's DC Super Powers Toys

By Tim Mitchell ⋅ Posted on January 27, 2015 at 8:53pm

With superhero movies dominating today's box office, superhero toys can be found at toy stores everywhere. Yet for a geezer geek like me, I remember a time in the early '80s when that wasn't the situation at all. Mego's line of DC and Marvel superhero action figures, play sets and vehicles that were popular during the '70s had largely disappeared, and Mego itself was on its way to bankruptcy. In 1984, DC awarded the toy license of their characters to Kenner, and the result was one of the best superhero toy lines ever to hit the shelves: the Super Powers Collection.

Kenner produced the Super Powers line as a way to compete with Mattel's He-Man line. The novelty that Kenner emphasized when it initially launched the Super Powers Collection was that each action figure had a "super power" that kids could activate by pressing together the figure's arms or legs. For example, Superman would make a punching motion when his legs were pressed together, the Flash would make a running motion when his arms were pressed together, and so on.

Kenner's Super Powers action figures.

Yet what really made the Super Powers line stand out--both in the '80s and in decades since--was its diversity of character selection. In that sense, Kenner's approach to making DC action figures matched its approach to making Star Wars action figures: Just as its Star Wars line included figures of main characters, supporting characters, and characters who were nothing more than set decoration, its Super Powers line included DC characters that were very popular (Superman, Wonder Woman) and characters that were more obscure (Red Tornado, Mr. Miracle).

With its total of 34 action figures, 7 vehicle toys, and a Hall of Justice playset, the Super Powers line presented a significant portion of the DC universe that kids could add to their toy collection. Fans wouldn't see such a diverse selection of DC characters in single toy line until the Justice League Unlimited line, which didn't arrive in toy stores until 2003--almost 20 years after Kenner launched the Super Powers Collection.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits about the Super Powers Collection and its place in comic book history:

Cyborg's early promotion to the Justice League.
Mattel's Secret Wars action figures.
The Bat-Claw, for dragging villains through Gotham.

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