The character of Superman was created in and sold to the future DC Comics in 1938. He was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Superman has not been out of publication since that time and has had as many as four comic books running each month and appeared regularly in the Justice League and with Batman in World’s Finest Comics or later in their own dual named title. He is considered the first true superhero in comics and is now seen as a cultural icon. The Superman “S” is one of the most automatically recognized images in the world. Superman has been merchandised into everything from tee-shirts to cereal. And of course, Superman has had a large number of action figures and statues over the years. In fact, Superman probably has the second most figures of any character, with Batman-related figures being the most. Here are five of my favorite figures from throughout the years.
World’s Greatest Super-Heroes Superman 8-Inch Figure released By Mego In 1976
The figure comes with an illustrated cardboard card with a window box holding the figure. The figure is plastic and wears a removable cloth costume and hard plastic removable boots. It was part of a series called the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. This is the iconic figure of the early 70s and probably graced the homes of many early comic book fans. I actually had this figure as a child. My aunt made a little blue suit for him and I made glasses from a wire bread tie so he could be Clark Kent some of the time.
Super Powers Collection Superman 5-Inch Figure released by Kenner In 1984
The figure comes on an illustrated cardboard card with a plastic window and includes a mini-comic book inside. The figure is a tie-in to the Super Friends animated TV show that ran from 1973 to 1986 and specifically applies to the 1984-1985 season called Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Team. The figure is hard plastic with a cloth cape that is held on the neck with a “c” shaped piece of plastic. The figure has “Power Punch Action”. This is achieved by squeezing the legs and causing the right arm to punch upwards. I also had this figure as a teenager… and still, do.
Silver Age Superman and Lois Lane Deluxe Action Figure Set released by DC Direct In 2001
The figures and their accessories come in a box roughly the size of a cereal box. The figures are dressed in their early Silver Age attire. Both figures have multiple points of articulation. Superman comes with two removable capes (one for standing, the other for flying), two sets of hands and a chunk of Kryptonite. Lois Lane comes with two sets of hands, a cloth skirt and removable handbag. The set also includes an American flag that fits into a hole on the pegged display base. This is the first Lois Lane figure ever available.
First Appearance Superman released by DC Direct In 2004
The figure comes in a four-color and three-window blister box with a reproduction of Action Comics #1 and a base for the figure. The figure is in the original “strongman” inspired costume from the early Action Comics, features multiple points of articulation and a cloth cape.
Superman vs. He-Man Released By Mattel In 2010
The figures are in a larger than normal four-color blister pack with a reproduction of the comic that spawned the idea. Both figures are highly articulated and He-Man comes with his battle ax, shield, and removable chest armor. Superman comes with a removable cape. The highly contrived pairing is part of five sets that include members from each universe facing off.
Before I Go…
I’d be remiss in this list if I didn’t mention the very first Superman “figure”. The Ideal Novelty and Toy Company 13 ½ inch, wooden jointed Superman figure has painted features, costume and an emblem with a hand-sewn cloth cape. It debuted in 1940.
It is amazing the sheer number of ideas and ideologies that have been placed on Superman over the years. He is the all American boy and yet the ultimate immigrant. He was created by two Jewish kids but is seen as a Jesus allegory. He classically fought for “the American Way” but belongs to the world. He is the best of humanity but he is completely alien. He is the aryan ideal but the nazis called him a “Jew”. He has been both cool and a square, akin to Moses and a regular farm boy. All this and so much more, which probably explains the character’s 75+ years of popularity. He can hold, on his very broad shoulders, anything we want to attribute to him that makes us feel like he is speaking for all of us.