The war between DC and Marvel Comics was never limited just to comic books. The battle for supremacy has toppled over onto television, movies, apparel, Halloween costumes, and even those stupid radio dramas they sell in the hidden aisles of book stores. And yes, toys.
You might think Marvel cornered most of that market, but a long time ago, DC actually was ahead of things with their 8" Mego line. Sure, there were Marvel Megos too, but they just didn't meet with the same degree of success. It wasn't until the 90s with the surge of Marvel trading cards did the company really start feeling some major cross-promotin' success, and the Marvel action figure line, which spawned off more lines than I can count, surely did better than the 2,500 variations of Batman available.
But back in the mid-80s, DC did put together a pretty cool but not entirely successful line of figures called DC Super Powers. Don't confuse this with the later, lamer DC Super Heroes line...this set had way better figures than a stout Lex Luthor and Mr. Freeze. Speaking of Luthor, check out how he aged for the worse over the years...
This is a prime example of why Super Powers was a much better line. Sometimes you sacrifice realism to make a cooler figure. Back in the good old days, Lex realized that walking around toy aisles wearing a lame suit wasn't going to rack up his sales and fund his world domination plots, so he hatched the brilliant scheme of stealing Mantis' costume and firmly announcing that he came equipped with the dreaded nuclear punch. He also cohersed Kenner into slapping a fan club offer onto his package, thus ensuring the sales. Unfortunately, by the time 1989 rolled around, Lex was getting on in his years, and didn't pay much attention to the multitude of marketing reports given to him. In essense, he became one of those few true action figures that made a kid upset to receive. Its not quite like an aunt giving her nephew a Barbie doll, but few kids can truly appreciate the wonder than is a bald guy in a purple suit doing half the Macarena. He's also downplayed his special feature: its no longer the nuclear punch...it's the power punch. I don't know about you, but I'd piss myself with a lot more stealth if I knew I was about to get hit by something nuclear.
Meanwhile, Batman, in my view, was also much prettier the old way...
And let me tell you why. In the Super Powers line, you know that's Adam West under the mask. Its not clearly stated, but you're not going to lie awake sleeping at night wondering what Batman looks like...you could be satisfied in thinking its Adam West. But in the second one, that can be everyone from Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer, and in the worst possible case scenario, George Clooney. I don't care what kind of things happened to you at Boy Scouts, no little kid wants to walk around at their freind's house heralding their George Clooney figure. Besides, Adam West did so much more with the Batman character...remember that scene in the old Batman serial movie where he drifted in and out of consciousness for 15 minutes remembering old times with Catwoman? And you're gonna tell me that Michael Keaton would be able to figure out a way to turn red piles of sand back into the distinguished representatives of the United Nations? Ha I think not.
Even the secondary figures were cooler in the Super Powers line...
Here's two for comparison. With the Super Powers line, all senses were shattered with the inclusion of Plastic Man. That's right, you finally got a chance to buy your very own Plastic Man figure. He didn't have much of an offense, since he came with no weapons and all he could do was make his neck larger and thus more vulnerable to attack, but check out his competition: Two-Face. Through the years, DC's various media forms could never quite gage if Harvey Dent was caucasian or not, a problem magnified 1000x over after the first Batman movie came out and people refused to let go of the idea that Billy Dee Williams was part of the DC universe. Still, the figure presents another problem. Like I've said before, I'm not a huge comic fan, and when I was, I was mainly seduced to the Marvel side of things. But if memory serves, Two-Face's infamous flip coin wasn't the size of his head.
It was a pretty colorful line, and definitely is a nice representation of the generally good natured comics of old. They managed to sneak in some characters that you'd think never would have gotten their own toy...such undeniable stars as DeSaad and Steppenwolf. Here's how the world found out about Super Powers while watching Saturday morning cartoons...
Darkseid's head is looking particularly ominous this evening, a sure calling for every hero who happens to have an action figure to form an army! I don't know much about Darkseid other than the fact that he somehow manages to rip off Star Wars and Thanos in the same breath, but I've always thought he at least looked cool. And yes, I know he predates both Thanos and Star Wars, but with his powers, he just travelled into the future to get some ideas. Sure, for a guy with pure red eyes, his success rate sucks, but look at the bright side: he gets to wear a cape and somehow managed to father a son.
It didn't take long for trouble to rear its ugly head. Hot-headed Hawkman takes off without any backup and immediately gets overtaken by the bad guys and their dreaded cage of unforgiveness. It amazes me that a guy like Hawkman survived so long in a comic world where the continuing trend is to create characters that at least show some semblence of being interesting. The name says it all. Hawk. Man. There must be a way they could've spruced him up. They should've made him the rappin' good guy... 'Da name is Hawkman, and I be here to say...I got a big helmet and mah wings be grey.' In any event, someone needs to save the poor guy.
The good and bad guys start doing their pointless battle. They've got all these super powers and weapons, but opt for the 12 second slugfest before someone reminds Hawkman that he's strong enough to lift the cage. Meanwhile, the Green Lantern looks on with much angst. Nobody's quite sure who's winning the battle, a problem I attribute mainly to the fact that the kids cast in this commercial thought that a battle between good and evil action figures consisted of making them dance into each other.
Uh oh! Darkseid is here! Darkseid's an interesting fellow really, never one to use the vast powers he's sure to announce he has when other, far more idiotic alternatives are available. In this case, Darkseid decides that instead of just zapping all the good guys, a better method of action would be to hover over them in his ship in the hopes to scare them to death.
Yes, it's the Darkseid Destroyer. The box refers to it as the flying flagship of the ultimate evil, a name somehow even more redundant than even Hawkman's. Likewise, while it might seem that a big purple ship with a pink canopy could inspire evil, Mantis rejects the idea completely and decides its wings are better suited as chairs. Still, it is a ship that could potentially swing the balance of power to the bad guys, so its time for the forces of good to stop kidding themselves into believing there's anyway to defy defeat without the son of Krypton himself, Superman.
If interested, click on the Superman picture above to hear the song all the good guys hum when he arrives. Hell, they've proven totally ineffective in battle, so they gotta do something. The commercial doesn't decide everyone's fate...that's your job. But considering that the bad guys weren't able to defeat the good guys using cages and giant warships, I hardly doubt they'll sneak a victory now that Supes has arrived.
Anyway, speaking of Superman, the Super Powers line gave us one of the only representations of his alter-ego to date, albeit in mail-in form...its Clark Kent!
As a former dealer, I can tell you that this one fetches a pretty penny nowadays, and its easy to understand why its so rare. DC really overestimated Superman's popularity if they thought that many people were going to send in mail order forms for a useless figure from a fledging toyline. I managed to sell mine off for around 60 bucks a few years ago...its value has gone down a bit and you can fetch one for around 25, but even so, that's 25 dollars better spent towards the true central piece of this line, The Hall of Justice!
Now this thing was massive. Its one of the toys that managed to elude me both during childhood and my collecting years, but one of my friends at school had it, and I'd often suggest enjoying his company just so I could play with the thing. This one's definitely from the they don't make 'em like they used to department, and let me show you why...
At first glance, the place looks like one of those alternative clubs on Christoper Street, but there's more than meets the eye here. The color scheme doesn't do much to disattract bad guys, but I guess the heroes were pretty confident that Superman would take care of things.
A closer look reveals a bunch of doors that lead to rooms large enough for one action figure. It would appear that whomever designed this thing lived under the notion that there were only three good guys, but that idea gets shafted once you take a look at the playset's greatest feature...
Screens of identification! A fairly odd method of interior decoration, but it really helped out guests to the Hall of Justice who didn't want to fuck up by calling people Eagleman and Jade Lantern. I'm not exactly sure what other purpose it serves...the only picture I'm getting in my head are Robin and and Aquaman slapping five after seeing that they got their names next to each other. But in keeping with the DC tradition of old, shitty plots, it'd make perfect sense for a villain to walk in and write obscentities over everyone's name plate, a sure sign of impending doom and a clear reason for all the heroes to congregate and decide what plan they'll fail miserably trying to implement before calling Superman this time.
The doors open to reveal the secret control room. I say secret because its the only feature of the Hall of Justice not clearly marked by a colorful sticker. The joke's on you though, there's really no room behind it, just a little plastic island filled with various bumps and sonic stickers suggesting that it does indeed do something.
As for price, this one costs up to a hundred and higher for a complete set. If you can't see the sense in spending that much on a playset that you'll have to hide whenever a girl comes over, you can still get your Super Powers fix to a lesser degree by picking up two of the greatest, most honored vehicles ever created...
The Super Espacionave! Mmm hmm, and if you're feeling particularly spendy, lay out some cash for what has to be the most ridiculous vehicle ever created: Superman's Justice Jogger. A vehicle that presents a lot of problems: first and foremost, its a chair. You've got to wonder why anyone would go through all the trouble of building a craft shaped like a chair, but more importantly: why does Superman need a vehicle? The sum'bitch can fly fast enough to travel through time, surely getting around on a walking chair would've only served to kill time. If you'll look at the box, you'll notice Wonder Woman waiting for her turn, altogether forgetting that she has an invisible jet, which is five times less embarassing than crawling around Metropolis atop a red and blue chair. If Hawkman was around, he'd probably forget he could fly and make a bid to ride the chair too, but as some of you know, it was somewhere around this time that Hawkman got involved in other, far more degrading activities...
I won't say a word. Just click here to find out what Hawkman was up to.