When many collectors think of vintage action figures based on DC Comics’ characters, they immediately turn their attention to Mego. While Mego can easily be considered the Holy Grail of superhero action figures, there is another beloved toy line featuring the “World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” – Kenner’s Super Powers Collection.
Unlike their much taller Mego counterparts, the Super Powers line was produced as 4.5-inch figures. Super Powers figures were designed using all-plastic bodies and offered up decent articulation for the time.
The first series in the Collection made its debut in 1984 and consisted of 12 figures, three vehicles, and one playset. Kenner populated their initial release with some of DC’s most iconic characters, including Superman, Batman, Joker, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. The initial wave proved to be quite popular with consumers, allowing Kenner to release the second series of 10 figures in 1985. Lesser known characters like Red Tornado, Firestorm, and Dr. Fate were joined by Green Arrow, Darkseid and other Fourth World characters from DC artist Jack “King” Kirby, like Dessad and Steppenwolf. The third and final wave in the Super Powers Collection was released in 1986. Among the ten figures released to the public were Cyborg from DC’s popular New Teen Titans comic book series, Plastic Man, and Shazam!. There was even a mail-away offer for a Clark Kent action figure.
With the Super Powers line, Kenner wanted to emphasize the “action” in action figure, and that’s just what the company did. In addition to limited joint articulation, each figure was endowed with a unique “superpower” that children could activate while playing. For example, squeezing Superman’s legs together activated his Power Action Punch while pressing Aquaman’s arms together activated his Power Action Deep Sea Kick. Even the action figures in Kenner’s Star Wars line didn’t boast these features!
To add more play options, Kenner developed several complementary stand-alone vehicles and a Hall of Justice playset. Well-received versions of the Batmobile and Batcopter were joined by some odder selections, including Superman’s Supermobile, the Delta Probe One, and the Justice Jogger.
DC Comics supported Kenner’s toy lines with a series of product tie-ins that contained Super Powers Collection branding, including lunchboxes, clothing, bedsheets, coloring books, and more. From an advertising perspective, many fans were first introduced to the toy line via a series of ads placed into DC’s comic book titles.
After a short three-year run, the Super Powers Collection was canceled in 1986. Kenner’s innovative use of the characters in the DC Universe produced a total of 34 action figures, eight vehicles, one playset, and one carrying case. The line remains a highly sought after one with collectors, even today.
Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this article, the Super Powers line was incorrectly described as being 3 3/4-inch figures. This has been corrected to reflect their true size of 4.5 inches.
Ed Lute is an educator, geek, and freelance writer. He is a fan of comic books and vintage comic book based action figures and lives in southern New Jersey with his family.
Special thanks to Brian Adams of Cool & Collected for supplying the photo used in this article!