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Official Article

Super Hero Toy Catalog 1978

Catalogs are great way to revisit products from years gone by and Sears Wishbooks in particular are very popular online for children of the 80s to remember lost playthings from Christmas morning's gone by. I recently came into possession of a catalog I don't see mentioned as often which presents the toys of yesteryear in a very unique way.


Yes, I'm talking about the Heroes World Superhero Catalogue from 1978! While this came out 4 years before I was born, many of the crazy comic book, sci-fi and fantasy themed items inside still made their way into my life as hand me downs from my older brother or garage sales. But before we get into the products ranging from DC, Marvel, Star Wars and more, let me introduce you to what makes this catalog so unique.


You see, Ivan Snyder, the proprietor of Heroes World must have had something against camera photography or maybe just liked to be different, because instead of merely shooting pics of the inventory in his New Jersey warehouse, he hired famed illustrator Joe Kubert and the students from his art school to draw each item into a comic book sized catalog. Just imagine if Sears had hired comic book artist Bart Sears to illustrate their wishbooks, they would have been even heavier due to all the ink used on muscle tone and shading.


Adding to the fun was a character called Snyderman who would guide you the mountain of toys, clothing and books available for order. The hero even had a furry, alien sidekick named "Snidey" to accompany him through this universe of licensed products. Speaking of which, let's find out what a kid could have blown his paper route money on in 1978.


This double page Star Wars spread is full of off model nonsense that I can't get enough of. Remember, Luke Skywalker and pals were only 2 years into their existence in the mind of the public so there wasn't an army of nerds to attack the artist for drawing Darth Vader in a cloak that looks to be borrowed from the Grim Reaper. I mean, was the top portion of his helmet out for cleaning and we caught him coming out of the shower? There's also another major error on this spread that is repeated later on, so I'll check back in to see if you caught it.


Remember when I said I actually had some of this stuff, well the Spidey's Web section highlights one of those items. No it's not those weird straws with Batman and Spider-Man on motorcycles, though they look pretty cool. It's something much stickier. You see, when I moved into my older brother's room, I found a tube reading "The Spider-Man Web Maker" that was sadly dried up, but now I finally know how it was supposed to work. 


You basically dragged the strand from wall to wall and then slid characters on hooks across it. The description contains the phrase, "Don't worry Mom, it's easily removed and doesn't stain" which is smart marketing. I doubt my brother ordered it direct from this catalog, but you never know, since he was big into Star Wars as well.


Now these posters are something I definitely would have adorned my walls with had I been born in 1968. Any time a hero was given that photo-realistic painted treatment in the 90s (usually by Alex Ross), I was all in. While most of these heroes maintained their basic comic book design, the Batman poster really caught my eye as unique take on the caped crusader. It looks like a movie poster for a failed attempt at a 70s film starring Warren Beatty as Bruce Wayne. You can see it can't you?


Seeing this painting in full color, that cape looks simply amazing. Further research reveals that the poster was actually painted by Drew Struzan of Indiana Jones, Back To The Future and The Goonies movie poster fame. Crap, now I wanna see that movie even more. Speaking of the Dark Knight...


"Where does he get those wonderful toys?"...The Bat-Cave! While I didn't personally own any of these bat-themed items I can absolutely tell you which one I would have gladly pulled weeds for a week to own. The Batman grappling hook! I was alway tying chunks of metal to string and trying to wrap them around tree branches in my backyard, so having an official device for this purpose would have been a no brainer. 


Plus, as you can see from this carded version, it was a wrist mounted device, so it could have doubled as a Spider-Man web-shooter in my playtime hours outside of Gotham city. Holy Bat-Awesomeness! The fact that I somehow missed seeing this on a peg in a grocery store toy aisle makes me sad for all the missed hours of fun.


Confession, I still drink out of cups with super-heroes on them. Old habits die hard and this ad features enough plastic plates and bowls to fill-up anybody's kitchen cabinets. To my knowledge at this time there were no super-hero themed cereals or pasta noodle brands on the shelves to pile on this dinnerware which seems like a real shame. I guess Superman Peanut Butter and that Dorman's Cheese featuring Spider-Man on the package would have had to suffice. Green Giant canned vegetable really missed the boat on replacing their mascot with The Incredible Hulk while his TV show was on.


I need to talk to my siblings to find out if the demand for belt buckles in the 70s was a large as comic book ads have led me to believe. Granted, I wore a vintage 1978 KISS belt buckle from 1996-2000, so maybe the fad never truly died (at least that's what I told myself). But what exactly is a "Belt Badge"? Also, I love the idea of those super-hero ponchos doubling as Ben Cooper style Halloween costumes. Just slap a mask on and you were ready to hit the trick or treat circuit like a boss!
 

Before finely sculpted action figures hit shelves in the mid 80s, we had Mego to keep our toy boxes full of comic book heroes. I personally owned Spider-Man, The Hulk and Ponch from the C.H.i.P.s TV show (he was a hero to me). It cracks me up that Wonder Girl and Isis are the great new additions to the line and yet, Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy is the one showing the most leg. Look at those meaty thighs, yikes! Also, Conan looks like he is about to dig his double bladed axe into the skull of The Invisible Woman, so The Thing better quit chomping that cigar and rescue her.


Now you'll recall I teased another major error on the Star Wars page at the top, well here's where I drop it on you. But first, take a minute to soak in these awesome vintage t-shirts. That cobra is killer and just look at all the naked women in the Frank Frazetta inspired designs. I guess if you couldn't afford to paint it on the side of your custom van, you just wore it on your chest, but were people really comfortable sporting that kind of imagery back in the day? All that however, is besides the point.


All the snakes and topless heroines were meant to distract us from the fact that these guys didn't know how to properly spell the name of the Emperor's right hand man. You see, their t-shirt declares "Darth Vadar Lives". First off, it's "Vader", but I love the idea of someone claiming to have "Vadar" inferring that they can detect when your arch-nemesis is secretly the father you never knew. Second, where in Star Wars would we have assumed that Darth Vader died? Was that a fan theory after the first film came out? Weird.


Keeping with the Star Wars theme, the back cover promotes masks and helmets that are "Totally Authentic In Every Detail". I feel like here is where they really should have splurged on color photographs. How are we supposed to trust the claim of their authenticity without a clear visual? I'll tell ya one thing, those Chewbacca masks do not age well.


So you remember back when I was introducing you to Snyderman? He pulled some Kryptonite out of his utility belt to save the day (doesn't that technically mean he was being chased by Kryptonians?), well here is the promised follow-up where he tells you how to order your own. But this is blatant false advertising. 


Aside from just being plain rocks painted green, the Kryptonite chunks were nowhere near as big as portrayed here, in fact they could fit in one hand. Still, this art makes it abundantly clear that Snyderman was indeed a super-villain who financed his evil schemes through mail-order merchandise.


Finally, we have an illustrated reproduction of what your room would have looked like if you had ordered all this stuff. But sorry, the Superman bean bags are Sold Out. As much as I would have killed for Spider-Man bed sheets as a kid (I had Pound Puppies instead), I think the truly essential items are those DC Super Heroes WALLBUSTERS stickers where they are actually breaking into your room. That's epic. But runner-up is definitely that Superman alarm clock that shows Clark Kent transforming in a phone booth. Couldn't find a picture online, but maybe it's better that way.


So there you have it, a small glimpse into the Heroes World Superhero Catalogue from 1978. Apparently they produced these things for quite a few years and a lot of these items had individual ads in comic books as well. As a result, there is so much more merchandise contained within these pages, but only one more item you really need to see.


Yeah...some of this stuff was weird. Batman was so ashamed of the pose they picked that he didn't even wear his suit with the emblem on it when modeling for this toothbrush holder, which looks to be made out of Play-doh.

Did you own any of these items back in the day? Which of them would you buy right now?

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Superman Posted on Sep 16, 2018 at 11:00 PM

I think I saw some of that kryptonite for sale when I visited the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL several years ago. If not this specific version, it was definitely similar in that it was just some regular rocks painted green. I considered buying it for a souvenir but rethought it since they were, after all, just painted green rocks. The paint was even coming off already.

jkatz Posted on Aug 08, 2018 at 03:55 PM

I've seen some of these ads and similar ones in vintage comic books, and I think the reason they went with illustrations was that photographs didn't come out good with the type of printing old comics used. That and it was probably cheaper/quicker to have a guy draw everything instead of meticulously photographing hundreds of items.

I want that Darth Vadar shirt badly. Wouldn't mind some of those posters either...

Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 06, 2018 at 03:52 PM

Holy Cow! Can you imagine how much such a magazine would cost nowadays, with every item having to be illustrated and colored? Ridiculous!

I wonder how often they had to make returns because the customer felt that the artistic rendering of the item constituted false advertising or poorly represented?

Also, which film featured Darth Vader's brother, Darth Vadar?

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