Collector blog on “33-back” 3rd series cardbacks

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Would you like to be a member of the Fan Club?  What about a Superman Cape or a free Steppenwolf figure?  Well if you started collecting Super Powers after 1985 then you missed out!  Several cardbacks boasted these offers, as well as the mini-comics inside the 1st and 2nd series bubbles also gave you a shot at becoming a charter member of the Super Powers fan club.

In the Fall of 1986, Kenner released Series 3 of the Super Powers, the third and final wave.  But in this final year, no promotions or mail-aways or other opportunities were being offered.  Not even mini-comics!  These offerless cardbacks are often referred to as “33-Back” due to the number of figures (33) that show up on the back of the card, encouraging you to Collect Them All!  The Series 2 figures (“23-backs”) had 23 figures on the back of the card, and the 3rd series added 10 more figures to the line-up:  Cyborg, Cyclotron, Golden Pharaoh, Mr. Freeze, Mr. Miracle, Orion, Plastic Man, Samurai, Shazam, and Tyr.

With these extra 10 figures, they also re-released other popular figures that were previously released in Series 1 and Series 2, but this time on Series 3 (33-back) cardbacks.  That meant along with the 10 new ones, these re-released figures also did not have a mini-comic or any kind of promotional offer.

1st Series re-released:  Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman

2nd Series re-released:  Darkseid, Desaad, Firestorm, Green Arrow, Kalibak, Parademon, Red Tornado, Steppenwolf
(Also Dr Fate cardback, but packaged with Golden Pharoah.  Details below.)


Sure, the kids in the 80’s may have felt a little let down, but today’s collectors are strongly drawn to this variation for several reasons.

Cleaner look:  Without a Clark Kent sticker or a yellow banner featuring an offer littering the cardback, there’s a nice clean shot of the cardback artwork.  Without the mini-comic behind the figure, it cleans up the look of the cardback tremendously.

Glossy cardback:  Series 3 cardbacks (as well as large Canadian cardbacks) feature a more glossy and durable cardback than the previous series cardbacks.

Considerably more rare:  While rarity isn’t a factor for everyone, it’s still a factor to some.  And chasing down that elusive 33-back variation of a figure you’re wanting to add to your collection increases demand and desirability for that particular figure.  While not all of the 33-back variations are the harder to find versions of the figure, for some figures it’s in fact the hardest to find variation.

I’ve separated the 33-back figures into groups based on my opinion of rarity based on my experiences collecting them.

Very easy to find:  Darkseid, Cyclotron, Orion, Wonder Woman, Desaad, Plastic Man, Tyr

A little harder to find:  Steppenwolf, Samurai, Green Arrow, Robin, Mr. Freeze

Tough to find:  Cyborg, Golden Pharaoh, Mr. Miracle, Shazam

Very tough to find:  Kalibak, Superman

Ok, this is getting ridiculous:  Red Tornado, Dr Fate/Golden Pharoah

My OCD is killing me:  Batman, Parademon, Firestorm


I’ve managed to track down all known variations of the 33-back Super Powers figures, including the 1st and 2nd series re-releases, as well as the Dr Fate/Golden Pharoah factory produced miscard, shown below.  Enjoy!

US carded Super Powers, 33-back

Batman batman_us_33 batman_us_33_back
Cyborg cyborg_us cyborg_us_back
Cyclotron cyclotron_us cyclotron_us_back
Darkseid darkseid_us_33 darkseid_us_33_back
DeSaad desaad_us_33 desaad_us_33_back
Dr Fate Cardback
Golden Pharoah Figure
goldenpharoah_us_drfate33miscard goldenpharoah_us_drfate33miscard_back
Firestorm firestorm_us_33 firestorm_us_33_back
Golden Pharoah goldenpharoah_us_ goldenpharoah_us_back
Green Arrow  greenarrow_us_33 greenarrow_us_33_back
Kalibak kalibak_us_33 kalibak_us 33_back
Mr Freeze  mrfreeze_us mrfreeze_us_back
Mr Miracle mrmiracle_us_ mrmiracle_us_back
Orion orion_us_ orion_us_back
Parademon parademon_us_33 parademon_us_33_back
Red Tornado redtornado_us_33 redtornado_us_33_back
Robin robin_us_33 robin_us_33_back
Samurai samurai_us_ samurai_us_back
Shazam shazam_us_ shazam_us_back
Steppenwolf steppenwolf_us_33 steppenwolf_us_33_back
Superman superman_us_33 superman_us_33_back
Tyr tyr_us_ tyr_us_back
Wonder Woman wonderwoman_us_33 wonderwoman_us_33_back



One oddity about the 33-back cardbacks is the common misprint of the Lex Luthor proof of purchase on the back.  Batman, Cyclotron, DeSaad, Green Arrow, Golden Pharaoh, Plastic Man, Shazam, and Steppenwolf all have Lex Luthor Proofs of Purchase seals, even though Lex Luthor wasn’t released on a 33-back Cardback.

An odd variation on the 33-backs is Cyclotron.  While the cardback’s action feature instruction guide is printed on the card, there is a variation where they changed it and applied a sticker to show the correct action feature.  It’s very subtle and hard to spot at a glance, but you can see the sticker placed over the original spot in the picture below.  The difference being the text that says “Turn torso to the right to wind up for spin action” now reads “Turn torso to the left”.