Five DC Comics Action Figure Lines That Ended Too Soon

No matter how long an action figure line may run, there are always a few more characters that could have been produced that end up haunting collectors for years to come. Here are my picks for most tragically truncated DC Comics action figure lines:

Let’s start with the granddaddy of my youth. These were the figures (and playsets) that I wanted every Christmas for years when I was but a tot. Eight-inch highly articulated figures with cloth and plastic character-accurate costumes, the Mego Corp era set a high bar for my collecting fever - but there were a few mainstream characters that were never produced: Green Lantern, Flash and Lex Luthor, to name a few. While Mattel did a nice homage series some years later (Retro-Action Heroes) and Figures Toy company currently produces a massive line of World’s Greatest continuations, that didn’t help way back then. Mego shuttered its doors far too early for the tastes of a boy of eight.

Super Powers was a major marketing push that included comics and cartoons in the mid-80’s, but the highlight was Kenner’s line of Super Powers action figures. Working from designs by legendary DC artist Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, these 5-inch scale figures each had their own action features (you’d squeeze Flash’s arms and he would ‘run,’ for instance) and came with a mini-comic in each package. The line of vehicles and a Hall of Justice playset only added to this line’s brilliance. However, after thirty-some figures and only three waves, it was cancelled even though they’d barely scratched the surface of the character pool. In recent years, plans for a fourth wave with John Stewart, Man-Bat and Blue Devil have surfaced, but such figures were relegated to pipe dream status when Super Powers ceased production.

Batman always seemed to have the upper hand during the Hasbro era when it came to action figure lines. Sure, he had the movies and the animated series - but I was always dying for more Superman. And they gave it to me with the all-too short-lived Man of Steel line, which focused on the era shortly after his death. With strange choices like Conduit, Massacre and King Shark, it always seemed inevitable that they’d make a Supergirl or a Bizarro to expand the roster. But it was never to be.

Likewise, Hasbro’s mid-90’s attempt to create more ‘extreme’ versions of DC characters ended far too quickly for this collector’s tastes, despite awesome sculpts of characters like the Huntress, the Peter David-era Aquaman and the first-ever Hal Jordan/Parallax. But even a few exclusive figures available through this new thing called ‘the internet’ (like Blue Beetle and Dr Polaris) just weren’t enough to round out a roster that sported less than two dozen DC characters.

Most recently, DC Collectibles decided to cancel their DC Icons line. This was an awful blow, as they had finally discovered the perfect balance of articulation, sculpt and character selection (for my tastes at least). Though more than a half dozen new Icons figures were teased at Toy Fair a few years ago, DCC opted to pull the plug after the magnificent Superman/Doomsday two-pack in order to start a new line of slightly larger (and cheaper) figures with DC Essentials. C’est la vie.

Action figure tragedies, to be sure.

Anything missing from your collection?

  1. Kenner’s Super Powers Collection. A brilliant line in every possible way. The line seemed to have alot of promise based on what’s been revealed over the years in various toy magazines and websites. Too bad it ended after only three series of figures. One of the best Kenner toylines ever (DC or otherwise).

  2. Superman: Man of Steel. I love this line, its one of my favorites from the Kenner/Hasbro era. I’m happy we got some never before made villains in the line via Conduit and Massacre. The irony is that they’ve never been made by anyone else since 1995. A Four Horsemen sculpted Conduit from Mattel would’ve been great.

  3. Total Justice (aka Super Powers For The 90’s): Begun ten years after Super Powers ended, this line was also rife with promise and also ran for three series. I love the charm of the figures with their fun Fractal Techgear armor. It was also the line that gave us the very first harpoon hand Aquaman, Kyle Rayner GL Despero, Black Lightning, Connor Hawke Green Arrow, Parallax, Huntress and (via ToyFare magazine as a mail-in item) Reverse Flash action figures.

  4. Superman: The Animated Series: I like what we did get from this line, but there was room for alot of improvement. In place of Superman figures that weren’t show accurate are where we should have had The Flash (who was going to be in the line, but was cancelled), Kalibak, a Parademon Soldier, Dan Turpin (kids love to play as cops and he stood up to Darkseid and other villains; he’d sell), Orion, Granny Goodness, Parasite, Livewire, Steel, Aquaman, Sinestro and Green Lantern.

It’s my belief that if the above mentioned characters had made their way into the STAS line, it would have had a far longer shelf life. Thankfully, Mattel picked up some of Kenner’s slack by producing STAS characters in the Fan Collection segment of theirJustice League Unlimited line.

  1. Hasbro’s DC Super Heroes: this is a line that was better in theory than execution when it came to some of the figures within it. I love the Superman Blue and Red figures, but the regular Superman is nearly impossible to get into a sustainably good looking pose. His proportions are all kinds of awkward as well.

Joker’s glued in scepter and sculpted cards hurt his accessory/poseability functionality and the less said about the regular Batman the better. On the flipside, the Shazam and Knightfall Batman figures were very well done.

Series two was said to include (among others) the Tim Drake Robin, Catwoman and The Flash. If this series had managed to come out, I can only hope the design flaws from series one would have been been improved upon.

That’s my list. There’s other lines from different companies that had room for improvement, but the above are my quintessential Top Five.


Is DC Collectibles doing any more Designer Series figures? I see all the new statues, but no figures. That line would be my pick. I love how DCC is always able to capture an artist’s style in three dimensions. Lee Bermejo Superman and Batman are begging for a Wonder Woman on my shelf.

Not that I’m aware of moro. The Capullo stuff did well, but other artist inspired figures seemed to do hit or miss business.

Did you see the thread in Random where Applejack had proposed an Ask Me Anything session with Jim Fletcher of DC Collectibles? Your question about the Designer Series segment would be a good one to ask him if the AMA happens.

Ah…usually the case with me…personal taste not always in sync with the mainstream. Will look for that thread @Vroom

@moro I bumped the AMA with DC Collectibles thread in Random for ya.

I have to agree 100% on DC Icons. The line started with some scale issues but near its end it was cranking out some of the definitive high articulation 6” versions of its characters. And despite being a collectors market item, you could actually buy them!

Of topic is anyone else suddenly wondering about how their collection is gonna look after Todd gets the line? I assume they will be doing figures at the 7” scale instead of the 6”

@KouPilot I’m not concerned about scale from McFarlane. I think he said or it was said in their press release that they’d be producing product in multiple scales, including 6".

Even if the scale isn’t 6", I’m still curious to check out his stuff.

The only thing I’m really worried about from McFarlane is the length of the contract - there’s no way he’s building an entire universe of figures in three years. Hopefully the figures will be awesome and the contract will get extended.

Here’s to hoping that the line lasts long enough for me to finally get my full Infinity Inc. lineup.

I think things with McFarlane will be fine. The three year license is likely McFarlane’s initial agreement with WB Consumer Products and will likely be subject to renewal/extension upon WBCP’s evaluation of McFarlane’s performance with the license in 2023.

When Mattel got the DC license, it initally only covered:

-the Justice League TV show
-anything Batman related
-anything Superman related

That was it. Mattel didn’t get the full master DC toy license until around late 2006 (three years later) or so. I imagine their license extension at that time was due in part to their performance with the DC brand from early January 2003 (when their Justice League line debuted at retail) until whenever their performance evaluation came along around 2006, as their first product line after getting the master license was DC Universe Classics which debuted at the very end of 2007. That’s just about the time needed for products to go from concept to retail.

Anyway…hopefully that all makes sense (it’s late and I’m tired :slight_smile: ). The point is, McFarlane’s license should be fine and I imagine they will do well enough with it to eventually go beyond 2023.