Super Powers redux?
December 17, 2007

Over the past 15 or so years every new superhero toyline that springs up has been anointed as "the new Super Powers" by someone or other. I’ve always argued against it in every case, or just plain laughed it off. While Super Powers might not be able to compare to today’s manufacturing techniques that allow more detailed sculpts and paint jobs, and single figures might pale in comparison to a single modern sculpt, as a whole the line has never been surpassed in my eyes.

Because the whole line has always had as its key strength one characteristic that has been unmatched since: consistency. Consistency in scale, consistency in style, consistency in features and articulation. More than most line, you immediately know when you see a Super Powers figure just what collection it is part of.  And then you have the fringe benefits of the line being well thought out: every character can easily stand on it’s own, the action features make sense and are hidden, and pretty much every major character was included before the line’s untimely demise. Top it off with the added bonus of no variants and all new crazy characters added to the mix, and Super Powers was the proverbial lightning striking.

And as we all know, lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. And up until now, no other line has come close to matching these criteria. Yes, I said up until NOW. But now, after all these years, I finally do think we’re seeing the true successor to Super Powers: Mattel’s DC Universe Classics. True, Mattel has stumbled around with the DC license for the past few years (they’re really stretching out that learning curve!) but after finally landing the master toy license they seem to have hit their stride. Although we won’t discuss the JLU line, which people somehow equate to Super Powers greatness based on depth of character alone. But I digress…

So why DCUC? Well, a huge part of the reason is the sheer greatness of the driving force behind the line: the Four Horsemen. We all already know that the Horsemen do a great job on everything they touch, but this line looks to be their crowning glory. How much of the direction being taken is their doing, and if Mattel plots out every little detail or just stands back and gets out of their way I don’t know. And to be honest, I don’t care as long as the direction seen so far stays that way! In any case, even if we didn’t know that the Horsemen were huge Super Powers fans, their work surely tells us this fact: the versions of Lex Luthor and Brainiac that have been released in the earlier Superman line are sporting their Super Powers togs. And of course we know that Mattel’s DC man on the scene, Scott "ToyGuru" Neitlich keeps a Super Powers checklist at his desk for comparison. And really, that new Hal Jordan Green Lantern figure sealed the deal for me. The Super Powers Green Lantern has always been (in my mind) the perfect realization of a comic character in figure form. It just stick outs from the pack for some reason. But the new DCUC Hal is just…awesome. If the final product looks like the prototype, it may be my new favorite figure.

And speaking of the character selection, with 15 characters down and only 19 more to go they are nearly halfway through the Super Powers roster with only the first 3 of 5 waves for 2008. And it’s doubtful that they can/will make Samurai, Golden Pharoah, or Cyclotron due to licensing issues so they really have only 16 more characters until they match exactly the Super Powers line-up. But outside of that line-up they’ve already produced iconic versions of many, many characters that Kenner never came close to touching, like Clayface and Etrigan. And dare I hope one day the Horsemen are given free reign to insert their own characters into the line from time to time? Probably not. But by the time the license expires in 2012 (if it isn’t renewed for some reason) we’ll have seen 150+ unique figures in this line. All in scale. All in the same style.

All completely consistent.

And that, my friends, is why for the first time I look forward to having a unified display to rival the only one that has been near to my heart for almost 20 years. God bless you, Four Horsemen. God bless you, Mattel. Now hurry up and fix JLU, you bastards!


Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer
AFi Editor-In-Chief Jason Geyer has been part of the online pop culture world for nearly 20 years, having founded some of the very first toy sites on the web including Raving Toy Maniac, ToyOtter, and now Action Figure Insider. Along the way he helped pioneer online coverage of industry events such as San Diego Comic Con, E3, Toy Fair, and CES. He is also a former toy designer who is now a marketing genius. If he does say so himself. And he does.
Read other articles by Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer.





  • DC Biased says:

    Toyotter, you and I share the same enthusiasm and unhealthy worship of Super Powers. What a great article! Although, I will disagree with you on one point. JLU is pretty close to Super Powers 🙂

  • MoMoney says:

    Otter, you are dead-on. I was too young for Super Powers, and I agree that the sculpts are nothing compared to what we’re seeing today, but it was the benchmark for all future DC toy lines.

    Until now.

    ¡Viva la DC Universe Classics!

  • Erik superfriend says:

    TO – Did the 4H make that Joker?
    DCB – JLU handles the chaaracter selection, but fails the standing test, the scale test (Amazo smaller than everyone), and has no action features. Love the SP too.

  • Poe Ghostal says:

    Great piece, TO. I agree with all your points–there has never been a true successor to DCSP until now. And the consistency is what seals the deal.

  • DC Biased says:

    Super Powers also wins in the vehicle/playset category, too, superfriend. Was there anything cooler than the Hall of Justice? How about the Batmobile, Batcopter, Supermobile, etc. JLU will never catch up with that! You’re totally correct about the stand test, too! Ugh!

  • Rann says:

    Kenner Super Powers (KSP) figures initiated my toy collecting in the 80s. For a few bucks, I picked up KSP Green Lantern on a whim, and it was all downhill from there. I would have killed to have had these as a 10yo…Captain Action notwithstanding. By today’s standards KSPs were a bit stiff (but nowhere as bad as the Secret Wars or Star Wars toys of the day), and I’ve never been a fan of cloth capes, and KSP “Action Features” struck me as just plain silly, but I still feel that KSPs were/are a superior experience to DCUC figures in a number of ways:

    1. Although certainly not hyperarticulated, KSP figures had very subtle joints, with no evident pins. DCUC guys have HUGE, distracting joints. IMO, the size and number of joints ruin the 4H sculpts, making the figures look robotic. (Hyperarticulated figures do not have to look like robots. Many Japanese-made figures today are very poseable, but simply have better designed/engineered/concealed joints.) DCD figures are far from perfect, especially when it comes to consistent scale, but DCDs have that on-model, just-stepped-out-from-a-comic look that I prefer.

    2. I bought 99.99% of my KSP figures at local toy stores, in those pre-Internet, pre-scalper days. DCUC figures continue to be very difficult to find at retail. I could find & buy them online, but frankly don’t find them worth the effort…not when I can find DCDs at my local comic shop, and don’t have to hike through (and subsidize) WalMart, dodging screaming toddlers while they roller-skate down the aisles.

    Again, in terms of distribution, with DCDs I know exactly, to the day, to the hour, when new figures will be available at my comic shop. I don’t have the time anymore to haunt WalMart on the off-chance that something new will be hanging from the pegs.

    3. Paint. KSP figures were well-painted and sported bright colors. I have never liked washes, which dull the bold, bright colors that super heroes should wear. Most washes look overdone and poorly applied to me.

    4. Price. DCUCs cost 3x more than KSPs did. Yes, inflation is up and the US dollar is down, but come on…DCUCs are toys for kids. DCDs are only slightly more expensive than DCUCs, but are designed for the adult collector.

    Just my opinion, mind you. DCUCs aren’t terrible, and are evidently well-liked by many. For what it’s worth, I prefer DCUCs to Marvel Legends, which look even worse, and are just as hard to find in brick & mortar stores.

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