Category: Other Stuff

Kenner DC Super Powers Collection

Kenner DC Super Powers Collection

The DC Super Powers Collection ranks as one of my all-time favourite toy series. It was a relatively short-lived line, lasting only three years (from 1984 to 1986) but made a significant impression on a lot of kids.

From the late 1970’s onwards Kenner had a fantastic run with the Star Wars license and their innovative figures and vehicles changed the world of toys forever. But by the mid-eighties their popularity started to slip, Kenner knew they needed something new – something that could compete with Mattel’s Masters of the Universe figures which had become the number one international toy line for boys.

Kenner went to DC and, thanks to a colourful pitch where they talked about how unique their toys would be, they were given the license to make figures based on DC heroes and villains – all of which had previously been in the hands of the folks at Mego.

All About Action

The first Kenner DC Super Powers figures set the tone for what the series would be all about. The big selling point was that each figure would have their own super hero special move – Batman could do a bat punch, Aquaman a deep dive kick and The Flash could run fast thanks to his lightning legs. This made each figure unique and was a way to show that Masters of the Universe was not the only toy line had action features.

The action features were pretty neat and a really smart marketing strategy but there was more: the first series featured twelve characters and all but two of them (The Flash and Brainiac) would come with an accessory. To name a few: Superman had his cape, Wonder Woman her lasso and The Joker had a mallet. You certainly got a lot of bang with your buck with the DC Super Powers line.

Fantastic Packaging

The packaging really stood out, proudly displaying an image of the character with exciting details of their super power move. The series even included a comic book, which helped add to the sense of value.

Only Three Series

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Robin and Aquaman were all featured in the first series as well as classic villains The Joker, The Penguin, Brainiac and Lex Luthor. That is one star-studded lineup for a first series which made it very hard for Kenner with the next two series.

Series two included Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Red Tornado, Fire Storm and Dr. Fate. It also showcased some super villains including: Darkseid, Desaad, Steppenwolf, Mantis, Kalibak and a Parademon. That represents a solid line up for fans of DC comics, but lacks the star power of the first series. Still, from a personal point of view, I would actually say that series two is my favourite and, as an adult collector, tracking these down became one of my main collecting goals.

The third and final series (released in 1986) comprised of ten figures: Shazam, Cyborg, Plastic Man, Tyr, Samurai, Mr. Freeze, Orion, Mr. Miracle, Golden Pharaoh, and Cyclotron – the last two being created specially for this line. While it is great Kenner resisted doing a ton of character repeats, it is fair to say that even a diehard DC fan would struggle to describe this line-up as stellar.

One weird thing about this line is that three non-Kenner figures were released overseas. These were The Riddler, Captain Rey and the Abominable Snowman. These figures can be pretty hard to come by these days and though not “official” are something that I and many other fans would love to have in their collections.

Super Heroes On The Move

While vehicles were not a focus for my childhood collecting, Kenner actually supported the DC Super Powers Collection very well with cool range of moving mechanicals. In total, they would release eight vehicles including such classics as the Batmobile and the Batcopter. The Hall of Justice playset was a lot of fun and the hard-to-come-by Darkseid Destroyer has become a holy grail for Kenner collectors.

Untapped Potential

There has been rumour and speculation about figures, vehicles, and playsets that were planned, but never released. The most notable of these is the huge Tower of Darkness playset – something any kid would have given their Power Ring for! Many characters such as Man-Bat, Reverse Flash, Deathstroke, Super Girl, Kid Flash and others were said to be planned but ultimately never appeared. It is said that Kenner actually had series 4, 5 and 6 in the pipeline!

Pop Culture Phenomenon

Despite its short life in stores, the Kenner DC Super Powers collection was a pretty big deal at the time. DC actually created a short series of comic books based on the figures, there was a couple of parallel TV shows and Burger King had a major kids meal promotion. So though it never lasted long, it did have a significant impact.

How It Shaped The Future

It is easy to look at this line and say it was a flop. The figures failed to fly (no pun intended) off store shelves and production only lasted a few years. But I think there’s an argument that this line of figures was hugely instrumental in shaping the way toys based on super heroes should be. In fact, over the years many figures have taken inspiration from the DC Super Powers line. An example is the movie inspired Robin Hood line that Kenner made. It reused parts from both Star Wars and the DC Super Powers line. Mattel even got in on the fun by making some classic figures in the Kenner style (but bigger) and putting them on a DC Super Powers card 20 years after the line first launched.

Personally, I love this line and the toys are great for any cash conscious collector as many figures from the excellent first series can be picked up fairly cheaply. I have come across a few unopened figures and paid less than ten bucks for them. It’s a fun line and one that really captures the feel of the key 1980’s DC characters. But I can’t help feel that if Kenner had spread the A-list characters a little better then the line might have not died the way that it did. Just saying.