Top 10: Brands for Super7’s Ultimates by Jerry Whitworth
2021 is proving to be the year for Super7 and its Ultimates line. Built off the back of its iconic Masters of the Universe Ultimates, the line went on to adapt the likes of Ren & Stimpy, Toxic Crusaders, ThunderCats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Andre the Giant, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Conan the Barbarian, Disney, Voltron, and the Major Wrestling Podcast. Alluded to earlier, this year alone added the Good Brothers, Transformers, SilverHawks, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and Godzilla to its ever expanding licenses. The question remains what could be next for the company with the likes of licenses such as the Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Predator, Terminator, Arrowverse, Hellboy, Capcom, Alien, Robotech, Universal Monsters, Shogun Warriors, Legends of Lucha Libre, Robocop, Jem, Army of Darkness, G.I. Joe, and the Munsters having already passed through its doors. It should be mentioned, the likes of Marvel Comics, Wizarding World (Harry Potter), Middle-earth (Lord of the Rings), Jurassic Park/World, WWE, and AEW seem unlikely as they already have a number of toy distributors in place. Lets take a look at what could be coming to the Ultimates line.
One of the biggest brands on the planet, Nintendo is best known for its video game franchises counting among its number Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Pokémon (with Game Freak and Creatures), Metroid, Donkey Kong, Kirby (with HAL Laboratory), Fire Emblem (with Intelligent Systems), Punch-Out!!, and Kid Icarus. While the company is no stranger to the action figure market, its prominence has not lived up to its potential. Seeing what Super7 has done with Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats, and Disney Ultimates figures, their Nintendo offerings would undoubtedly be remarkable. Given their affection for accessories, figures for Mario and Link could allow collectors to depict virtually any scenario limited solely by their imagination. Nintendo, though, is such a big fish and a foreign company they might be challenging to get on board but given Super7’s history with Capcom and Disney, it could be in the cards.
Telling the tale of the Dinosaucers and Tyrannos whose civil war on the planet Reptilon spilled over to Earth, Dinosaucers tried to capitalize on the success of Transformers but with dinosaurs in place of robots. Sadly, there’s came at a time when the action figure market bubble burst and the likes of juggernauts such as G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and the aforementioned Transformers were struggling on shelves. Galoob acquired the license to produce the series’ toys but when the show produced low ratings and given the state of the toy market, the figures were pulled before production. Brazilian toy company Glasslite acquired the molds and manufactured five of the eight figures Galoob created. Simply put, the character designs were cool and the figures would have been awesome but it came at a time when the market was fatigued from a glut of content. Super7 takes something like this artistic exceptionalism and turns it up to eleven. The only real issue is that Dinosaucers is so obscure, even its limited production run business model might be a bridge too far for the toy company.
One of the most influential works on science fiction and fantasy in the modern era, Barsoom refers to the Mars series of stories produced by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Best known for Tarzan as well as his series featuring Pellucidar and Caspak, Burroughs also produced the Barsoom series featuring the adventures of John Carter of post-American Civil War Earth who is transported to Mars (called Barsoom by the planet’s inhabitants). Therein, its lower gravity saw Carter wield superhuman capabilities he used to become a hero for the alien world. In addition to Carter, the series featured Princess Dejah Thoris, Tars Tarkas of the Tharks, Kantos Kan of Helium, and Woola (as well as their assorted offspring) as they combated the forces of Zodanga, Tharks, First Born, Holy Therns, Okarians, and the white apes. With the acquisition of the Conan license, it likely means Super7 is taking a look to seminal works of sword and sorcery/science with Barsoom certainly high on the list.
Initially intended as an animated sequel to the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman franchise, Bionic Six featured the Bennett family. Following an avalanche that exposed them to radiation, the Bennetts were left in a comatose state whose lives were saved using cybernetic enhancement. Featuring newfound abilities, the family became superheroes to combat the malevolent Dr. Scarab and his forces. Sadly, the show emerged at the time the action figure market bubble burst and only one wave of toys landed on store shelves from LJN. Bionic Six has acquired something of a cult status with its impressive animation from Tokyo Movie Shinsha. Still, it remains nonetheless obscure hurting its chances of being adapted.
On the planet Symbion where insects and arachnids grew to massive proportions, the Shining Realm of Prosperon and the Dark Domain of Synax are at war. Combining elements of science fiction and fantasy, Sectaurs was a toyline from Coleco in 1985, arguably the most decadent year in the history of American action figures before the bubble burst of the market. As such, the argument can be made Sectaurs couldn’t get a fair shake in the face of such competition, much of which being previously established. Supported by an animated mini-series and limited comic book series, the brand simply lacked the kind of presence of its neighbors on store shelves. As a sign of the underground appeal the obscure brand wields today, ZICA Toys successfully crowdfunded figures from the franchise in 2018 but failed for a subsequent wave a few months ago. Super7, with its influence in the industry today, could take Sectaurs to the next level.
Its origins tied to a reinvention of G.I. Joe in Japan and shares a heritage with Transformers, it makes sense that Hasbro acquired the American rights to Micronauts. Originally, the franchise was an American re-branding by Mego of Takara’s Microman. Largely an assortment of miniature figures, the Micronauts look generally was defined by a comic book adaptation by Marvel (initiating a wave of the company partnering with toy companies to provide background for their products). However, this advent created a legal quagmire as much of the iconic elements of Micronauts are owned by Marvel and the owners of the license have had to dance around its rich mythology. Several attempts have been made over the years to resurrect Micronauts, its acquisition by Hasbro prompting its inclusion in a so-called Hasbroverse with the likes of G.I. Joe, Transformers, M.A.S.K., and Rom. Ideally, Super7 would pick up the license and seek permission from Marvel to use their iconic reinvention of the figures. But even not, Super7 has a known love of Micronauts and it’s surprising they haven’t yet picked up this license.
Before you get your hopes up, I’m not talking about making figures of Drizzt Do’Urden, Raistlin Majere, and Count Strahd von Zarovich (as awesome as that would be). I’m referring to the animated series from the early 1980s. Therein, a group of young friends take a ride on an amusement park roller coaster and are transported to a world of sword and sorcery. Provided wondrous magical items by the mighty Dungeon Master, the youths must fight for the sake of this alien land if they hope to return to their home. Dungeons & Dragons is perhaps one of the greatest missed opportunities in the history of action figures. LJN produced an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toyline that had virtually no connection to the show (save a few characters that crossed over, none of which were the primary stars) at the height of the greatest time in the history of American toys. And before this mistake could be amended, the popular television series was taken off of the air because it was considered the most violent kids show of its time. These elements are so deep in Super7’s wheelhouse to take advantage of, it’s virtually unimaginable they haven’t pursued this license yet. The six protagonists (with their items and those they picked up in the Dragon’s Graveyard), Dungeon Master, Venger, Shadow Demon, and assorted prime characters (Warduke, Strongheart the Paladin, and Kelek from the LJN toys, Lolth, Beholder, Darkling, Dekkion, Kareena, etc): there’s a ton of characters to fill out an Ultimates run. A massive Tiamat figure will be extraordinarily expensive but absolutely glorious to behold (and if we’re dream pitching, a massive Nightwalker figure while we’re at it).
One of the most successful animated brands in history, the Simpsons have been immortalized in plastic time and time again. Unlike many of the other properties ranked here, the Simpsons are not a toy line struggling to find its way into collectors’ hands. To put it another way, if Super7 can produce Ultimates figures for Ren & Stimpy and Disney which share characteristics with the Simpsons designs, then they can eventually acquire the rights for the Simpsons to maintain its seemingly unending production of toys. Certainly, this isn’t the type of entry to necessarily make people excited (although, for Simpsons’ fans, it should), the likelihood of this alliance necessitates its inclusion with a high likelihood.
From the minds of Ruby-Spears, Nippon Sunrise, Jack Kirby, and Gil Kane, the Centurions took place in the near future where cyborg scientist Doc Terror sought to conquer Earth. A fighting force emerged to combat him in the Centurions, initially a trio of experts in combat on land, water, and the sky (respectively) under operator Crystal Kane. Based out of the orbiting space station Sky Vault, Max Ray, Jake Rockwell, and Ace McCloud (later Rex Charger and John Thunder) are equipped with incredible weaponry via teleportation by Kane, able to be dispatched anywhere on the planet. Kenner produced a toyline in 1986, noted repeatedly as being the year in which the American toy market bubble burst. The toys were, quite simply, gorgeous and brilliant. Featuring exo-suits covered in peg holes, multiple weapon configurations were produced to be attached to the figures, allowing creativity in mixing and matching the accessories (which was even depicted at times in the brand’s animated series). Centurions was a brand and toyline largely produced a year too late to see some semblance of its full potential realized. Plans for multiple waves were made with new weapon systems, variants for the figures, and another Centurion in Ace’s brother Vic. The Centurions is a brand begging to be brought back and Super7 is the ideal entity to achieve that end.
1. THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS
Based on one of the most beloved movies in American history, the Real Ghostbusters became one of the most profitable brands of the 1980s. Kenner produced toys based on the property for six years (weathering the toy market bubble burst) and Trendmasters made toys for its sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters (which proved to be considerably less successful). In the years since, toys have been produced time and again of the Ghostbusters film series but little to none for its animated adaptation (save for some offerings from Mattel, Diamond Select, and Hasbro). The line has a wealth of figures to pull from: the original four Ghostbusters, Slimer, Janine Melnitz (who suited up in the cartoon), Louis Tully (who suited up in the films and then the show), and the Extreme Ghostbusters for the protagonists. Regarding ghosts, you have the likes of the Boogieman, Samhain, Sandman, Grundel, and the Peoplebusters. If giant figures can be included, you also have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Cathulhu, and Wat. Super7’s dedication to nostalgia and a toy brand of massive wealth left relatively untouched, Real Ghostbusters maybe the only megabrand the manufacturer has yet to tap.
Honorable mentions: Dragon Ball, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, Stardom, Inhumanoids, Battle Beasts, Castlevania, Battlestar Galactica, TigerSharks, COPS, Street Sharks, M.A.S.K., Visionaries, BraveStarr, Defenders of Dynatron City, GoBots, Thundarr the Barbarian, Elric of Melniboné, and the Mighty Orbots.