Friday, 10 May 2013


This is the US launch ad for Kenner's SUPER POWERS COLLECTION action figure line, based on the DC Comics characters, from late 1984.

The Super Powers brand was created for the toy line but - in that clever toy marketing way - expanded to encompass numerous products and manufacturers.  It probably did a lot to bolster the public profile of DC's characters at a time when Marvel's heroes were still struggling to gain traction despite the odd animated series and the late-seventies live-action shows.

The collection did reach the UK but didn't seem to have anything like the same impact.  The Hanna Barbera animated show (a rejigged version of the long-running SUPER FRIENDS franchise) didn't cross the Atlantic despite the success of SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS on the BBC and THE HULK on ITV.

Marvel may have played a part by nobbling the success of a British Super Powers comic.  Around this time, the Annex of Ideas acquired certain rights to reprint DC strips.  This deal, which fandom initially anticipated would see a number of regular DC comics issued under the Marvel banner, never actually amounted to much and - as far as I know - only spawned the 1985 MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE SUMMER SPECIAL and a solitary SUPER POWERS ANNUAL (which I'll cover in more detail in a future post) which seemed to suffer from very limited distribution at the time (I never saw a copy) and rarely turns-up today.

Whether Marvel or DC suddenly grasped the implications of the deal and terminated it or whether the early ventures were deemed a value and the venture ended is unclear but both the DC and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE licenses eventually landed at London Editions (despite the fact that Marvel US took over the US MOTU strip license, through the Star Comics line, in the States).

The most likely explanation is that Marvel UK were also publishing a British edition of MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS, loosely based on the Mattel action figures (Mattel only did the deal with Marvel to act as a spoiler for the DC/ Kenner tie-up) and - understandably - favoured supporting their own characters and licensing deals rather than simultaneously publishing a rival title promoting a rival (and - frankly - superior) toy line.


  1. I got a copy of the Super Powers Annual back in the day, and was a bit perplexed by the Marvel/Grandreams connection at the time, obviously given this was a DC franchise!

    The Super Friends/Super Powers cartoon never seemed to fare too well on UK television, which I always thought was particularly odd since the series featured some universally well-known characters.

    As far as I know, no episodes were ever shown on ITV beyond 1980, and other than sporadic broadcasts on early satellite/cable, the series' presence in the UK was marginal at best. It was never even shown by Cartoon Network UK, despite being a mainstay on the US counterpart.

    I think it had something to do with the various Super Friends/Powers series being distributed directly by Warner Television Distribution, and not one of the dedicated cartoon syndication divisions they had that specifically dealt with the rest of the Hanna-Barbera library. Warner weren't the best at distributing any of their DC-based animation in the UK, such as what happened with Superman: The Animated Series.

    The ill-fated 1996 proposal for The Warner Channel UK listed Super Friends in their initial schedule, but of course ironically never materialised at all.

    1. Hello there! Thanks for such a comprehensive post!

      I'm amazed you even found a copy of the annual, I certainly don't ever remember seeing one at the time and - until I finally found a copy recently (for £1) I was still open to the idea that it was just an urban legend. I always used to take the time to fully explore the (often large) displays of annuals in WH Smith, Martins (when they still had big stores... including standalone book outlets) and John Menzies (when they still existed) and it never surfaced in any of those. I also recall the one-and-only SECRET WARS ANNUAL was similarly elusive and only surfaced after Christmas in a remaindered book store in Colchester.

      I must admit that I don't think I EVER saw SUPER FRIENDS on British TV which means I either missed it entirely or it never reached the Anglia TV region. You would think it would be an easy sell to a British broadcaster thanks to the success of the WONDER WOMAN live-action show, the SUPERMAN movie and - of course - the perennial reruns of the live-action BATMAN show. I do have vague memories of seeing the animated BATMAN show (with BATMITE) so that must have turned-up somewhere at some point.

      I had forgotten all about THE WARNER CHANNEL. I remember reading some of the pre-launch publicity at the time in Jon Abbot's AMERICANA TV newsletter and being surprised when they pulled-the-plug. Having been involved (far more recently) in a few TV channel launches myself (albeit with a far greater proportion of in-house production than Warner were planning) it's amazing that they can progress so far down the line.... and then pull-the-plug. Presumably someone in accounts re-ran the sums or it didn't fit with the overall corporate strategy.

    2. I *really* must have lucked out, as I also got a copy of the Secret Wars Annual too! Both annuals were contemporaries, as far as I remember. Must have been a quirk of the distribution system!

      Information on ITV's Superfriends broadcasts is understandably scarce, so I don't know if it did indeed air in Anglia or not. As far as I know, the episodes chosen were from the first and second seasons of the show.

      I don't know for certain, but I suspect the first-season episodes were the half-hour re-edits that aired in the U.S. in 1976. The U.K. broadcasts of second season material (from The All-New Super Friends Hour) seem to have been restricted to the main 20-minute stories, not including the three mini-episodes that made up the full "hour" on U.S. television.

      As a rough timeframe, first season Superfriends episodes aired in late 1976 as part of the "Supersonic Saturday Scene", and the second season episodes in mid-1979 on Sunday afternoons and mid-1980 on Saturday afternoons.

      As KlownKrusty says below, it was indeed The New Adventures of Batman that had a networked broadcast on BBC1 in the late 70s.

      The Warner Channel situation was indeed very puzzling, and it's a virtual certainty the truth about what really happened has never been publically revealed. That populated listings for the channel were being published the week before the plug was pulled implies something catastrophic must have occured - enough for them to axe the channel completely.

  2. Superfriends certainly ran in ITV London (LWT) on Saturday or Sunday mornings for a while in the mid/late 70s.

    And I believe that Batman cartoon with Batmite ("The New Adventures of Batman") was on BBC-1 on Saturday early evening in (or perhaps running before) the old Dr Who slot. I recall some creepy opening credits with the Joker laughing maniacally.

  3. By way of an update to the previous posts and comments:

    I bought several turn-of-the-nineties copies of the British fanzine SPEAKEASY last week and whilst flicking through one I saw a mention that SUPER FRIENDS was part of the kids' line-up on the short-lived British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) channel GALAXY.

    Hardly anyone was able (even if they were willing) to watch BSB at the time thanks to a shortage of kit.

    Some BSB-purchased programmes survived on Sky channels, notably SKY ONE, after the services merged but the rights to many former BSB programmes were negotiated specifically for the UK whilst Sky's services were visible across Western Europe (with the right dish and box) which meant they couldn't continue to show them.


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