I’m just going to come right out and say it: I think the Toy Biz DC Superheroes figures are great.
I know this may not be a popular opinion. I’ve seen fights break out over it. Internet fights, so as far as I know no fisticuffs were involved, but fights nonetheless. I hesitate to call it a hot-button issue, but it’s at least a topic for discussion in certain circles.
I’m certainly not saying that the Toy Biz DC figures are better than Kenner’s Super Powers figures. I’m not interested in comparing the two, to be honest. Well, some mild comparisons, similarities and differences, might be made, but that’s not my goal. I’m saying that – looking at the Toy Biz DC Superheroes figures strictly on their own – they’re great.
I was six in the summer of 1989 when Tim Burton’s Batman was released. I honestly don’t remember which came first, the movie or the Toy Biz toys, but it really doesn’t matter. What I do remember is eating breakfast one Sunday morning, sitting at the kitchen table with my parents and older brother, me still wearing my Superman pajamas, munching on cereal while my dad looked through the sale catalogs in the Sunday paper.
I don’t remember what drew my attention to the Hills ad, but I’ll always remember one of the things that was being advertised: a sale on Toy Biz DC Superheroes figures. I’m sure I begged and whined to go to the store – after all, I was six, so that seems pretty standard – and whatever I did, it worked. Or maybe my parents were feeling charitable. Whatever it was, soon I was on my way to Hills on my first ever genuine Toy Hunt.
The figures were on an endcap, and they were all there, all of my favorite superheroes – Batman, Superman, Robin – and supervillains – The Joker, Bob The Goon, The Penguin, The Riddler, Lex Luthor. Okay, maybe Bob the Goon wasn’t one of my favorite supervillains, but he was there. They had a few others – The Flash & Wonder Woman were both there, I think– but those were the ones I was lucky enough to leave the store with that day. My brother even got some, even though he was 14 and obviously too old for action figures. I think he thought of them as an investment, though.
I had a few Super Powers figures as a kid – all of wave 1 minus The Penguin, plus Darkseid, Firestorm, and Red Tornado from wave 2 – but the DC Superheroes line from Toy Biz was the first toy line that I would say that I loved. I loved the packaging, with the art of the characters on the front and the file cards you could cut out and collect on the back. I loved the figures themselves, endlessly playable, even if they did have buttons and levers on them. Eventually I would receive the Batmobile, the Batcave, and a few more figures (Mr. Freeze, Two-Face) for Christmas, which just opened up whole new possibilities for play. I’d used Lincoln Logs to build houses for my Super Powers figures, but now Batman and the rest of his friends had an actual playset in which to have adventures, and he and Superman could tool around in the two-seater Batmobile after Superman had been weakened by businessman Lex Luthor’s giant Kryptonite ring. With He-Man or GI Joe toys I tended to act out episodes of their cartoons, but with these toys I imagined my own adventures, as infinite as the Multiverse I would eventually learn they inhabited. I didn’t care that, compared to the Super Powers figures, they were kind of clunky. Sculpt meant nothing to me, only character and creativity.
I still have a few of my original DC Superheroes figures – Superman, Batman, and Robin for the heroes, The Joker, Bob, and Two-Face for the villains. These six figures have managed to survive garage sales and basement trash days, and I’ll always hang on to them. Sure, they might not be as slick as their Kenner predecessors, but they’ll always have a place in my heart as the first toyline to capture my imagination. I think everyone has a story like this about something from childhood that has a similar effect (at least, I hope everyone does, for I can hardly imagine what childhood would be like for anyone without the unfettered, no-rules-allowed creativity that comes with it). For me, it was DC Superheroes, and for that, I will always think that they’re great.
So why tell all of this? Other than pure self-indulgence, of course. Mostly it’s for background, though. There’s a lot of information out there about the Super Powers Collection and how magnificent it is (and, truly, it is). I’m sure I’ll talk about that at some point, but in the meantime, I prefer to focus on what the Super Powers Collection hath wrought. In my adult mind, every DC toyline since the end of the Super Powers Collection has strived to live up to the standard that Super Powers set, and for as much as I’m interested in the figures themselves, I’m also interested in that standard, that legacy that the Super Powers Collection left behind. And what better place to start looking at that legacy than with the line’s immediate successor?
I hope you’ll join me in examining the legacy of the Super Powers Collection. I’ll have a few old friends with me along the way. Watch out for the guy on the far left, though. He’s a kicker.