Friends, it was in 1978 when Kenner toys managed to change the history of action figure and toy lines after securing the license for the first Star Wars film the previous year. Much has been written about how the toy company found itself completely caught off guard by the success of the film as well as the demand for the toys in ’77, although some sources claim the company was hamstrung by Lucas not providing reference material in time for he design of the toy line. Personally I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle, especially if you take a gander at this Nashua Telegraph article from December 17th of 1977. However I firmly believe that Kenner also made history when it released the first 12 figures in the still-impressive Super Powers Collection in 1984.
In a roundabout way the Super Powers Collection came about thanks to the success of the Star Wars line of action figures, vehicles, and playsets. But as Return of the Jedi marked the end of the lucrative line (although they would produce the Droids and Ewoks toys in ’85) and with rival toy company Mattel making a splash with Masters of the Universe, Kenner needed a new concept. And what better concept than one that already had years of mass market appeal – the legion of characters from the pages of DC Comics. After all the likes of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and others had been a staple in Saturday morning cartoons since 1973 with the various Super Friends animated series.
Now I personally didn’t get into the Super Powers Collection until the second wave had been released and that was thanks to Kenner producing a figure for none other than Darkseid, which among other Fourth World characters were designed by their creator Jack Kirby. This was also the time I was becoming educated on the history of many of the DC Comics characters thanks to the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe.
As I understand it, most fans of the Super Powers Collection feel that it was Kenner not sticking with the more recognizable characters that caused the line to peter out after three waves. That might be the case but it would appear that in 1988 the toys were still popular enough to receive four Super Powers cup holders from Burger King.
In closing out this article I can only say how much I truly adored the Super Powers Collection, especially because they were making action figures for the likes of Dr. Fate, Martian Manhunter, Mr. Miracle, and Cyborg. I think it is easily one of the greatest toy lines ever produced, but I would love to hear your personal memories of the toys or the Super Powers cup holders from Burger King in the comments section.