Christmas is a day that is looked forward to the whole world over by people of all walks of life, and this is certainly no different for young superhero fans. You don’t need to be a genius or market analyst to know that superhero characters and their worlds are very ripe material for the creation of toys, and every Christmas as a child I would anxiously wait for these toys above all else. Once I got through a small layer of presents like shirts, pants and underwear (oh, Grandma), I would anxiously eye the bigger boxes under the tree, hoping they’d be a new playset or vehicle that I could then take my favorite heroes and villains to in awesome moments of play.
So, I thought it might be fun for this edition of Comics on Film to take a look at the top five superhero toys of my generation (the late '80s-'90s), and hopefully take a few people down memory lane with me.
5) Bruce Wayne Custom Coupe (circa 1992)
Released as part of the toy line from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, the Bruce Wayne Custom Coupe came with its own action figure of Bruce Wayne (with Michael Keaton likeness) and was designed to work in tandem with one of your Batman figures. The idea was that Bruce Wayne would be driving his crazy, kooky custom car while minding his own business. When trouble breaks out in Gotham, all he needs to do is flip a switch: the car becomes a pseudo Batmobile, and Bruce gets a Batsuit automatically put on him.
The way that the toy worked was by pulling a handle on the back, which then opened up two massive guns on the sides, and pulled up a hidden Batman figure while then hiding the Bruce Wayne figure behind it, giving an illusion that Bruce changed into his crime-fighting getup. I used this thing a lot in the Batman adventures I created with my toy collection, and they even reissued this same toy later under both the Batman and Superman animated toy lines (as if Superman needed a car).
4) Kenner Super Powers’ Hall of Justice (circa 1985)
This came out a little bit before my time, but I had an older friend that my parents always visited, and he let me go to town on his entire army of Kenner’s DC Super Powers line from the '80s. The Hall of Justice was probably the single best playset that the line ever produced, with a full computer for the League to use, working elevators, transporter pads (yes, the Justice League uses transporters from Star Trek), a cool trapdoor, and a jail cell to hold some of the nefarious members of the Legion of Doom.
I always wondered why they never made a full Justice League toy line during my heyday, and now when I wander department stores, I largely find myself wondering the same thing for today’s youngsters. For a young DC fan, it was hard to get any better than this.
3) X-Men Headquarters Playset (circa 1995)
Chances are that if you ask people in line at the Days of Future Past movie next year what got them into the X-Men, more than a few of them would answer that the culprit was the 1990s animated series. It was certainly one of my absolute favorite shows to watch when I got home from school, and the toy line certainly made it very easy to immerse yourself in the world created by that show. The imaginative scenarios played out in the Danger Room, and the sometimes scary infiltration that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants might pull off in the X-Mansion made the show exciting, and definitely made kids want to re-create it themselves.
The X-Men Headquarters Playset from Toy Biz certainly helped us pull that off. It included a Danger Room alcove, an awesome ejector platform, a control center for Cerebro (so your Professor X figure could have something to do), and other cool traps and tricks to make those mutant square-offs all the more fun and interesting. When I got this under the Christmas tree one year, I was more than happy to make my Wolverine skewer Sabretooth inside the Danger Room.
2) Daily Bugle Playset (circa 1994)
This is definitely one of the coolest playsets I ever received as a young superhero fan. Right alongside the awesome X-Men animated series was the 1994 Spider-Man series, which I enjoyed even more than the former. This was the series that truly showed me what an awesome character Spider-Man is, and also showed off just how awesome his cast of villains are in the entirety of superhero fiction. The Daily Bugle Playset, when fully put together, was massive in and of itself, and gave a great skyline for my Spidey to swing through. What more could a kid want?
It was basically its own comic book city for your action figures to inhabit, and it had a rope to swing Spidey from, a dumpster to throw your enemies into, a Doc Ock hideout with one of his large mechanical arms to contend with, and it even came with a water tower that you could make some slime to dump on your figures! This set had everything, and was absolute joy to play with.
1) Batman Forever Batcave (circa 1995)
When it came to the playset that got the most time under my busy little hands, though, it was this one. The Batman Forever Batcave was a three-stage masterpiece, with a Batmobile platform that rotated, a middle security section that you could trap your villains on, and a top section with a Batsuit vault, the Batcomputer, and even a large back frame that you could hang your Batwing vehicle on. I staged more Batcave breaches by the Joker and the Penguin than you could possibly imagine, and each one was more fun than the last. When I opened this thing up on Christmas morning in 1995, it was love at first sight.
The inclusion of using vehicles certainly made it better, but I have even more fond memories of just putting the thing together alongside my Dad. Unfortunately he’s no longer with me, but superhero toys and Christmas morning gave me some of my most prized memories of him. Not to mention the fact that these toys helped let my imagination run wild, and probably none of them more than this one right here.
Photos from The Redwood Connection
Those are the top five superhero toys from one childhood, but what were yours? Can you remember waiting anxiously for Christmas morning to arrive and to open a big box with one of these inside of it? Leave a comment below, and everyone have a merry day today and a great rest of the holiday season!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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