Hello, and welcome to another week of me sprouting off about Super Powers awesomeness to no one in particular! Today the Super Powers Highlight focuses on all the figures released at retail on the offer-less, comic-less 33-back card design.
To many SP collectors, the 3rd series card back redesign is known as both a step back for the overall line and a huge step forward as far as visual presentation. No included mini-comics, no artwork behind the figure and no special offers meant that cost-cutting was taking place behind the scenes, and as a result the line would not be long of this Earth. However, it also meant a wonderfully crisp and clean card design that showcased the amazing sculpts of the figures and the industry-leading artistry of The Masters…Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, George Perez and Jack "The King" Kirby.
For the bulk of those brave enough to take on a carded Super Powers collection, the 10-character populated 3rd series is the final hurdle…usually more of a financial strain than even a full set of 12-backs. It’s also something not instantaneously achieved, since carded examples of all 10 pieces aren’t usually available at the same time even when haunting eBay. Factor in a somewhat nice condition desired and you have a true challenge before you.
One of the things that seems nigh-impossible to find on some figures are entirely clear bubbles and trays. Kenner was at that point in its production of action figures where they were switching to a different (read: lesser-quality) plastic that seemingly is more susceptible to yellowing as the years go by. A lot of their other lines bear witness to this, most notably Star Wars. A large percentage of Return of the Jedi and Power of the Force examples that remain carded have yellowed (and sometimes even browned) bubbles. Not all of them, but most. Those figures were released during the same period as the Super Powers 33-backs.
Before I get to the pictures of the ten 3rd series characters, let me address something I’ve figured out about rarity in today’s collector market. First off, Cyborg is NOT the rarest character overall to find carded…nor is he even the rarest from the 3rd series. I would put Shazam ahead of him, and possibly even Cyclotron as far as series three. Overall? Don’t get me started on that damn 23-back Flash. Also keep in mind I’m talking about United States releases only (the less said about Kenner Canada the better…heh).
Here are the 10 characters who had their initial release in Super Powers series three :
For those hardcore (read: obsessive) Super Powers collectors that desire more…there’s no need to stop there. As most people delving into this line may know, it was canceled while still in production and greater things were on the horizon. Every character that was previously released was planned to be put in a "transition" type dual case pack assortment on a 33-back card. Proofs have turned up for all characters not accounted for here, but production was stopped before those assortments could be produced and sent to retailers. One new addition to one of those two case packs was to be the former mail-in Clark Kent, released carded for the first time.
As such, that leaves what was actually produced incomplete. The characters that only made it to hand-carded 33-back samples and never to retail are : Brainiac, Lex Luthor, Penguin, Flash, Green Lantern, Joker, Aquaman, Mantis, Parademon, and Dr. Fate (kinda…read on). Dr. Fate is the oddball of this group, since less than a handful of 33-back Dr. Fate production quality (read: not carded samples) card backs have surfaced with Golden Pharaoh figures attached to them. What purpose they served is unknown as of this time.
Of the figures actually released, the rarest is Red Tornado. Three have shown up, all originating from the same seller in Spain. Batman is next with seven examples doumented, and then Firestorm. I’d put Kalibak next, then Superman and Green Arrow. The rest turn up somewhat often on eBay, and Darkseid leads the pack there…he’s easily the most common. Again, yellow bubbles and trays seem to plague a few of these.
Here are the 11 characters that were re-released on 33-back cards. Will others surface? Only time will tell!
Here’s the Dr. Fate I was referencing earlier. I did a blog on this piece when I acquired it, and you can read that here if you’d like more (vague) information and hypothesis.
Lots of light box maneuvering, lots of writing and lots of wine consumed. Thanks for reading my blog…I appreciate you taking the time. Any questions, comments or insults…feel free! Until next time!