So at some point in the early 80s, Jack Kirby was asked to do some concept drawings of his New Gods characters for the Super Powers toy line. He obliged with some cast drawings…
…albeit mostly of the bad guys. Which makes sense. The Super Powers line was based largely on the Superfriends cartoon show, which already gave them a large cast of heroes. Also, to be honest, the New Gods villains are better than the heroes, for the most part, so concentrating on Apokolips was probably a good idea.
Darkseid, of course, got his own concept sheets to himself.
I really like the emphasis on character in that second drawing. It shows that Kirby was thinking deep, trying to give the toy people a good grounding in who his main villain is. Of course, that’s sort of how Kirby was, especially with the New Gods: form followed concept, and he was forever thinking about the concept. He also thought big, so when he got down to business on possible toy designs, he really went to town.
Which looks and sounds like it would make a pretty great toy. In reality, however, the Super Powers line was a bit more… shall we say… basic.
Cheap works, too.
So there was a bit of disconnect between what Kirby THOUGHT he’d been asked for, and what they actually made. And all the designs are like this! Cool and super-fun-looking and probably impractical. Lord only knows what the design folks at Kenner thought when they saw these drawings. But it clearly wasn’t, “Let’s make the toys Jack described!”
Ah, well. At least the drawings are fun to look at.
I love, for instance, that Kirby spent so much time thinking of ways for Desaad to torture other toys.
Then there’s his ideas for Mantis, which is one of the more nightmarish toy ideas I’ve ever seen.
“He looks like a quadruple amputee! But then… SURPRISE!”
I also love that Kirby put so much effort into making Metron (an almost wholly cerebral character) into a children’s action toy. Though, admittedly, the accessories would have been AMAZING. It especially tickles me that he replaced the more sedate Moebius Chair with the more action-ready Moebius SLED…
Kirby did toss in designs for two New Gods heroes, as well, and I believe both of them got made (albeit in much less interesting forms): Mister Miracle and Orion!
Orion came out particularly bad on this proposition, getting one of the ugliest helmets I’ve ever seen:
I AM impressed that they gave him “Face-Flipping Action,” though. That’s a nice bit of character stuff that was generally beyond what they went for in this toy line. Of course, considering what the “evil” face looked like…
…maybe I shouldn’t be so impressed, after all…
But let’s not end on a sour note. Here’s one last Kirby Apokalips sketch, this one done not for a toy company, but as a gift to a fan. The ideas aren’t as wild in it, but the artwork is considerably more beautiful, showing off an illustrative delicacy that Kirby didn’t always indulge in: