When I was a kid, I would often spend a lot of time and imagination playing with toys. Inside. Outside. In the car. Playing in the snow in the backyard. In the living room. Heck, even in the tub! I still have many of these toys from back in the day. They are mostly down in the mancave. Why should you keep your old toys? Sure, you can look at your old toys in this collectable commodities driven era as the boring-never-played with- still in the box-mint on card toy as a future investment; or…you can keep them as mementos of your childhood – something that you can rediscover and recollect in the future. That future where you are at a much older time of your life and that you could very easily forget some of these happier childhood memories as you grow older. Plus, everyone has at least one cherished and fondly loved toy or plaything from when they were kids.
My Jouet de Choix was the SUPER POWERS Collection by Kenner toys. The. Greatest. Superhero. Action Figures. Ever! And I can tell you the origins and fates, of each and everyone of those figures in my collection. I know what order I got them in. I know who bought me which ones and I can recall what was happening in my life when I got each one. I keep these toys as wonderful reminders of a special time in my life and I proudly display my figures in my nerdly-man cave.
It all started when I was 8 years old and my parents would send me to the store to buy them smokes. It was the early 1980’s and that kinda stuff was still accepted in my neighbourhood. Now, it’s…frowned upon. My parents would give me five dollars and tell me to keep the change. That’s a whole buck! Awesome! I would use that change and buy comics! I loved them! I would go to the store almost everyday and get two comic books with my Cigarette Honorarium. Some weeks I would also have 3 or 4 750ml Pop bottles to return and that would add more to my 4-Colour Literary Fund. All was well with my enterprise. Until one afternoon after school whilst watching “Super Friends” on T.V. with my dad, I saw an animated Superman burst through a brick wall and then reveal a whole bunch of other cool super heroes…and then…there was this…awesome commercial voice-over:
A BUNCH OF KIDS: [“…Aquaman!”]
THUD. (Sound Effect)
A BUNCH OF KIDS: [“…Aquaman’s DOWN!”]
GLORIOUS ADMANS: voice over:…[“…who will help now?…a power ring? Or a power action punch? You decide?”]
GLORIOUS ADMANS: voice over:…[“…It’s the SUPER POWERS COLLECTION!”]
*See the super-awesome-rad-righteous (and any other 1980`s euphemism) commercial here:
Cut to picture of all the characters available in the collection.
“Did you see that dad? Those guys are cool?” My dad smirked casually.
I was 8 years old. To me that commercial WAS WAY cool!. Those are my favorite characters from the recent comic books I’ve been reading…and from that Super Friends cartoon! And now there’s action figure toys of them!!
Mom bellowed for us from the kitchen to come into the dining room for dinner. Some nights after dinner, my parents would go through any flyers that may have come in with the mail. On the very same evening that I saw the SUPER POWERS commercial for the first time…I saw the very same toys in the Canadian Tire flyer! Now I know where I can buy them! My dad tells my mom that he has to go to “Crappy Tire” to pick up a part for his car. This was something my father often did because the man loved working on cars. I pointed to one of the figures in the flyer and asked my dad if he could buy me one of these figures (for the record, I think I was pointing at Lex Luthor). He said “we’ll see”…and that was that.
I went to bed that evening excited about getting one of the figures.
The next day I couldn’t wait to get home from school. It was a Friday, and on Friday’s my dad always got off early from work. I knew that he would have already gone to the store and been back already…and hopefully with my desired “Bon Homme” as my frenchy french papa used to refer to action figures. It was really grey, dark and snowy outside when school had let out and I dredged through the snow to get home as quickly as I could — the anticipation was overwhelming! When I finally arrived at home, my dad was laying down on the couch napping with my older sister, Rita, sitting close by on the recliner watching “General Hospital” on the T.V. Bursting with impatience, I eagerly woke my dad up. “Sorry, Mon Ti Garcon, but I didn’t go to the store today” my dad said in his gruff Acadian accent. Oh no! How could this be? I wasn’t going to get my figure! I was incredibly sad and cooly played it off as though it was nothing and started walking out of the room. “Arret pour une second” my dad said and he pulled something out from underneath the couch and handed it to me. My dad pulled a fast one on me…he had gone to the store and purchased a figure for me. It was the Green Lantern and it featured a power ring action punch. That particular figure started a collection craze for me that originally lasted 3 years but resumed again when I was much much older. I still have that very same figure. Mint. It’s the pride of my collection.
It was March Break. Just a week or so after my dad had bought me my first SUPER POWERS figure. Somehow, I had to go with him when he went to Canadian Tire again for yet another car part. I went to the toy department and picked out a figure and asked my dad if I could get it. He got it for me. This one was the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker! But watch out! Squeeze his legs together and he bashed you on the head with his power action madcap mallet!
Several months went by before I got my next figure. I had gone to an overnight summer camp for 10 days in July and my parents had just picked me up from where the bus dropped me off. Mom had some errands to run and so after they picked me up we stopped at Shopper’s World on the Danforth in Toronto and I went into the store with my mom. Big Mistake! As soon as I saw that the Zellers there was selling SUPER POWERS figures I took a temper tantrum until my mom agreed to buy one for me to shut me up. What can I say? I was a little shit. I’m sure one day my daughter Kenleigh will pull the same stunt with me, and just like my mom, I will probably fold in a Flash. Which just so happened to be the exact figure I got that day.
1985. For some reason, this was the summer that my mom shuttled me off to summer camp three times. As a child I started to wonder if my parents loved me anymore because they kept sending me away to these camps! I mean don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun with activities while I was there, but I had difficulty with going to the bathroom — mostly because the restrooms were a disgusting cesspool of heaving and overflowing excrement and at one point I “held it” for almost 10 days. Not one of my brightest moves to be sure, but needless to say, everytime I was told I was going back to camp after that I would cry and beg not to go. Hey, I was 9 years old and apparently was a princess about where I took a shit. What was I gonna do? Years later, I realized why my parents kept scooting me off to camp. It was because my sister was getting married at the end of August and everyone needed me out of the way so they could focus on planning and preparing for her wedding. It was during my third and final stint at a summer camp that I traded one of my Dinobot Transformer toys (Grimlock, I think) to this kid Clifford for two SUPER POWERS figures. Robin and Lex Luthor. Sadly, those two toys met tragic ends several years later when I was a teenager and too cool for toys. I put Robin on the Street Car tracks and watched him get run over and shattered into dozens of pieces. While Lex Luthor had a more fiery and explosive demise involving a coffee mug and some cherry bomb fireworks. A few years ago I picked up a Robin figure at a yard sale, and recently I ordered Lex off of E-Bay.
One a random weeknight a family friend came over to the house to visit my dad. He gave me $5 to go and buy some candy. I kept the money and bought the rotund umbrella spinning villain, the Penguin, with the cash instead. And that’s somewhat how it continued for the longest time. Every time I got money for something, I would buy a figure. Next was Aquaman and his ridiculous feet flipping power action. Squeeze his arms together and his legs emulated a swimming motion. This all but gauranteed that the only time I would play with the figure was in the bathtub. That was followed by the purchase of the even more ludicris power action figure of the kicking robot Brainiac. A kicking robot? Really Kenner, you couldn’t think up a better gimmick then a kicking robot? Extremely lame power action. But at least it looked cool.
One by one I was collecting them all. Eventually, there was a second series released. Then a third series. There ended up being 34 figures in total for the collection including the mail away offer for Clark Kent (I almost performed my own power action summersault when that figure arrived in the mail for me). By 1987 I was the proud owner of 33 of these figures. As my best man, Mark, stated so eloquently at my wedding only the elusive figure Cyborg escaped my collection clutches. That was due to the fact that the toy line had been cancelled and only a very limited run of the figure was ever produced. It fetches for several hundred dollars online and at trade shows today. But I digress.
I don’t think I need to continue describing EVERY single character I ever got, but there are a few that make for some highly memorable stories. One such occasion was about 2 days before my sister’s wedding and I was with her at Towers department store (the store is no longer around, but it was highly regarded for its kick-ass assortment of toys back in the day). My sister was running some last-minute errands before her big day and unfortunately she was saddled with having to take me along because there was no one to watch me while my parents were at work. I was well behaved that day so my sis wanted to treat me with a figure. I was torn. I couldn`t decide between Superman and his power action punch, or Hawkman. Those were the two that I really wanted but I just couldn’t decide which one to get. I opted for Hawkman because I thought that his flapping wings action was pretty cool. My soon to be brother-in-law, Eddie showed up at that instant and joined my sister and I in that toy aisle of the store. My sister said that she wanted to treat me with a figure for being well behaved and I showed him the one I had selected. Looking at the shelves, Eddie reached over and grabbed another one — Superman — and told Rita to get me that one too because “You Gotta have Superman!”
The first time I ever took public transit all by myself, was to go and buy Red Tornado.
I still have most of these figures. As I said earlier, when I was a teen I destroyed a few of these toys because I was dumb and had outgrown them at the time. But the older I get the more I cherish them. Not just for their collectability and monetary value, but more for the priceless memories of my youth that are so intertwined with them. Perhaps that`s one of the main reasons why we keep toys as adults.
Oh, and one more thing faithful reader…if you ask nicely…or if one day we should meet…ask me about the time I treked across Toronto on foot in search of Firestorm. It involved a stack of comics, a miserly used bookstore owner, a rash and blisters, a missing dollar bill, and a wash basin!
Cheers! Thanks for reading!