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Inside the Anthill – Super-Hero Planters


TheManInThe Anthill is back with another trip down memory lane. He’s got something a bit different to show you this time, so check it out.

As a kid who grew up in the 1970s I can safely tell you DC Super Heroes were everywhere. If you were anything like me, you woke up wearing Aquaman Underoos, carried your peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school in a Super Friends lunchbox, and played with Mego figures while watching the old Adam West Batman show on TV until dinner was ready. Wonder Woman was on in prime time, Superman was in the theaters–it was a Golden Age for DC Comics and you couldn’t throw a (pet) rock without hitting one of their properties. Merchandising was in full swing and our favorite heroes ended up in the strangest of places…

“SUPER PLANTS!”

Manufactured by Mar-Lyn, 1976

What we have here is a complete set–12 to a case–of 3” white ceramic pots. For a start, it is amazing that every single one of these is intact. Bear in mind, these little ceramic pots are over 30 years old–yet, not only are they unbroken, but they remain bright and vibrant as the day they were manufactured. How someone could resist the allure of growing these “super plants” is beyond me, but it’s nice that they did, as we have a clean set to review.

The item’s cardboard shipping crate folds out into a display case, revealing all four heroes on an eye-catching yellow background. The little shelves that hold the pots in place are quite sturdy, and it is this solid construction that has protected the delicate ceramic all these years. The art on the pots is nicely displayed, alternating between the featured character and their corresponding logo.

I would assume this was sold at the local hardware store, or perhaps the home and garden section of K-mart, although the target audience is something of a mystery. Is this meant to get kids into gardening or grandma into superheroes? The world may never know.

The really weird part about this whole thing? The set contained no seeds, which I’m willing to bet was a HUGE disappointment to kids who pestered their parents to buy the set. Though it being the mid-1970s I suppose you could’ve found something else “super” to grow in them…

The OUTER-FLAP BOX ART:

I decided to try and trace the box art back to its creators. Over the years these particular images have become iconic representations of the DC characters, gracing Bronze-Age relics of all shapes and sizes; it’s good to devote a few moments to their origins and the reasons why they continue to remain popular today.

SUPERMAN from the Super Hero Planters Box:

And the original:

Illustrated by Curt Swan. A classic piece of stock art used on several items of this time period, including the popular Pepsi “Moon” drinking glass:

BATMAN from the Super Hero Planters Box:

And the original:

Illustrated by Carmine Infantino. This image originally appeared on posters in 1967. It was later modified and used as card art for early Batman Mego figures.

WONDER WOMAN from the Super Hero Planters Box:

Illustrated by unknown. I’m not sure what the source of this picture is. As this image is repeated in this switch-plate design I’m fairly confident this was from an early DC Comics style guide…

SHAZAM! from the Super Hero Planters Box:

Illustrated by C.C. Beck. I was unable to find the original image this was derived from. A cover or pin-up from the Good Captain’s DC revival of the ’70s, perhaps? This image has been around. As a kid I had it on a beach towel, but you may remember it from the Pepsi “Moon” series of DC Heroes drinking glasses:

On the whole, these are some doughy super-heroes. Superman isn’t so much muscular as inflated, with more torso per square inch than any three other heroes. SHAZAM! is built like a lady wrestler. Batman, while not as wildly bloated as his companions, has the face of an AARP member; his costume appears to be filthy as well. One might argue the stains are meant to be the representation of musculature, but it really just looks like Alfred’s been sending Bruce out in dirty pajamas. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is in great shape, making her tragic horse-face even more unfortunate. Her head is completely misshapen, with one eye comically bulging out. Oh, yeah, and the guy drawing this picture couldn’t remember what kind of nose Wonder Woman had–SO HE DIDN’T GIVE HER ONE! She ends up looking a bit like Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera, although he was much less terrifying.

The PLANTERS:

SUPERMAN: Win Mortimer is my guess,but I was hoping it was Dick Sprang. Now that’s a name you can get a lot of comedic mileage out of–sounds like a Don Martin sound effect… SPRANG!

SHAZAM!: Hmmm. I’m going to say Beck again, although the softness of the line leads me to believe this is one of those badly-traced images DC was sometimes forced to give manufactures when no other art was available. It’s said many of these tracings were done by the company’s secretary: imagine, on top of answering the phone, scheduling appointments and the 500 other things your job entails, you also have to trace over art by some of the foremost comics artists of the day. A daunting task indeed!

BATMAN: Just a repeat of the Infantino art turned sideways. Still cool, but it would have been nice to get something a little different…

WONDER WOMAN: …like this. Here, Diana is copied from a panel by original artist Harry G. Peter. It’s interesting that this image was chosen; sure, it’s iconic but it’s also clearly of an older vintage than the others.

They’re weird. They’re wacky. They’re the SUPER HERO PLANTERS and if you have any interesting facts to share about them please drop us a line!

Thanks to Chip from Action Figure Insider for the great pics!

 

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