Come midnight, moviegoers across the country will hit theaters to take in Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s new reboot of the Superman franchise. But this isn’t just a mega-budgeted summer superhero movie; it’s also a marketing opportunity, with everyone from the National Guard to Gillette razors (launching a ridiculous campaign that assumes anyone’s ever wondered how Superman shaves) clamoring to attach themselves to his big red S. The toy stores, meanwhile, are flooded with new Superman/Man of Steel toys, which is (don’t forget) a big chunk of how these movies make money. But what of those toy makers and dealers of slightly lesser repute who’d like to hitch their wagon to the Superman train without shelling out the cash for those lucrative merchandising rights? Well, if history has shown us anything, it’s that the inventive entrepreneur will find a way.
A tip to knock-off toy makers: it helps to familiarize yourself with the basic elements of the superhero in question. For example: Superman can “fly ‘em high” on his own. With his superpowers. HE DOESN’T NEED A PARACHUTE.
This bootleg dates back to around 2006 — which you can tell not by doing an investigating or mining of data, but by noting that ’06 was the year that Superman Returns was released, and this Superman-on-a-robot-dinosaur-WTF toy is helpfully labeled Superman Come Back.
Yes, kids, thrill to the adventures of Superheroic Man, riding around Metropolis on his trusty steed, wielding his bullwhip. Wait, what?
Um, this Specialman isn’t very special.
Yes, late one night on the set of Boston Legal, renowned actor James Spader was bit by a radioactive spider, and was reborn as SPADER-MAN. His primary superpower: advising Blane not to ask Andie to the prom.
Ah yes, the “Super Change” multipack, which allows you to change from one Spider-Man to another… and um, back again, and back again.
Little did you know, on the weekends Bruce Wayne dresses up like a the hero of a Lucha film and rides around on horseback as his alter alter ego, Silverbat.
Moviegoers and toy collectors loved The Avengers for assembling their favorite Marvel superheroes in one big movie. Bootleg toy makers loved it for giving them a way to unload their leftover standalone toys–compatibility be damned. Take, for example, this rip-off of the Justice League of America, the “Justice Heroes League,” which features that weird Superman-on-a-dinosaur-robot, Hulk (in some kind of a banana hammock), Batman, and what appears to be the black-suited Spider-Man.
Here’s another, more entertaining iteration of the Justice Heros (sic) League, featuring Superman, Spider-Man, not one but two Batmen, and… yep, Mr. Incredible.
Quick, what do you call an even more desperate knock-off of the Justice League? Folks, meet the “Sense of Right Alliance” (yes, seriously), the most popular of the knock-off superhero groups. Here you have some sort of silver Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, The Thing and (redheaded) Reed Richards from The Fantastic Four, and (of course) the Yellow Power Ranger.
This may be the funniest variation on the Sense of Right Alliance. From left to right: a CAR (presumably from that superhero smash Cars), the Blue Power Ranger, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and… well, everybody liked Hulk in The Avengers, so in his place, how about Shrek?
OK, one more iteration of the Sense of Right Alliance: Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, the Yellow Power Ranger, redheaded Reed Richards, and… wait, is that King Kong?
Another low-rent rip-off, this time dubbed the Super Heroes Justice League, starring Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, and (because this one wasn’t random enough) the Japanese manga character Naruto Uzumaki.
And finally, the “SuperMan Big Alliance,” featuring two Power Rangers, black-suit Spider-Man, Thing, Shrek, and a Ninja Turtle. Notice who’s not in the “SuperMan Big Alliance”? Um, Superman. Bit of false advertising there, bootleg toy makers.