House ad for Super Powers v1

House ad for Super Powers v1

In 1984, DC comics published a 5 issue mini-series to accompany the Super Powers Collection toy line released by Kenner that same year. The characters featured in this mini-series are coincidentally the 12 action figures released for the 1st wave of the toy line – which leads me to believe that the main goal of this mini-series was to act as a cross-promotional strategy. This makes sense since G.I. Joe and Transformers both had Marvel comics publishing a series for them and their toy lines were both quite successful. This mini-series manages to tie a few pieces of silver-age DC history into the storyline leading the reader to wonder if it’s part of DC continuity (pre-Crisis). For example, several characters held onto their silver age origins, yet Lex Luthor and Brainiac were completely redesigned by George Pérez and Ed Hannigan for the toy line (as they appear in this mini-series). Additionally, certain elements of the Super Powers universe were “borrowed” from the Super Friends cartoon that ran from 1973 to 1982 (the Hall of Justice, which started off as the main HQ for the Super Friends, makes an appearance). The whole story has a “Silver Age” feel to it and comes complete with a big reveal at the end in regards to who the mysterious antagonist is.

A second 6 issue mini-series occurs in 1985 and is set after the Hunger Dogs graphic novel. The second mini-series was illustrated by Jack Kirby. Like it’s predecessor, this mini-series takes special attention to spotlight the new characters (and a few vehicles) being released in the wave 2 of the toy line. This second wave of the toy line was notable for including re-designed versions of Kirby’s Fourth World characters (Darkseid, Desaad, Mantis, Parademon, Kalibak, Steppenwolf) and Kirby manages to stay faithful to their toy line appearance throughout the mini-series*. Each issue ends with a bio of the characters who appeared in the issue, so once again I’m going to assume that this series was heavily marketed towards consumers who would be buying the toys. If you have no other reason to check out this second mini-series, do so because this is the closest thing you will ever see to a Kirby-illustrated Justice League of America story (really, the Super Powers team IS the JLA, just under a different name).

A final Super Powers mini-series was published in 1986, and takes place sometime after the second mini-series. By this point, it’s safe to say that the comics were separate from the rest of DC continuity. The 3rd mini-series was written by Paul Kupperberg and henceforth has a bit more ‘depth’ to it. Kirby did not pencil this mini-series, but Carmine Infantino did. The Fourth World characters are once again faithfully drawn as they appear in the toy line (Orion looks ridiculous) and the series features gratuitous appearances of the vehicles from the toy line (look up the justice jogger if you ever get a chance – totally worth it). By this point, new characters specifically created by Kenner for this toy line are beginning to appear – including one named ‘Janus’ who is never released as a figure. Rumor has it that by this time the toy line was struggling and a Darkseid-themed play set was also in the works but was never released, so there’s a good chance an extra character may have met this fate as well. Kenner ceased the Super Powers Collection toy line after 1986 and no fourth mini-series was ever published. You can read more about the history and final days of Kenner’s Super Power Collection at: http://kennersuperpowers.com/.

*Jack Kirby received royalties for his redesigned Fourth World characters. This is notable because Kirby was always getting shafted for royalties on all of the other Marvel comics characters he co-created (Fantastic Four, Hulk, original X-Men, original Avengers, etc…).

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