Thursday, September 01, 2005

Thursday Retro-Toy Flashback # 8: Power Records



In the 1970s and 1980s - the age before DVD box sets - young fans of movies and TV shows had a different outlet to explore their favorite franchise. To wit, there was Power Records, a division of Peter Pan Industries, which released a bevy of full-color comic-book stories to go with 7 inch (45 rpm) audio albums. Here, you truly got two toys for the price of one.

At home, you could read along to the soundtrack on the record player, and on the way to Grandma's house, you could just read the comic book in the book seat. These Power Record items were called "BOOK AND RECORD SETS" and were advertised with the line "It's fun to read as you hear!" Or, to put it another way (as the comic book covers did...) "The Action COMES ALIVE As You Read!!" Or, as the backs of the books read, these are adventures that are "fun AND educational."

The great thing about these American-manufactured toys (from 145 Komorn Street, Newark, N.J. 07105), was the variety of adventures you could purchase. In fact, there were several distinct series from which you could choose a Book and Record Set. You could read from "THE ADVENTURE SERIES," or "MONSTER SERIES," which included tales of Dracula ("Terror in the Snow"), Frankenstein, The Wolf-Man ("The Curse of the Werewolf") and the comic-book character, Man-Thing ("Night of the Laughing Dead.")

Or, if you were so-inclined, you could choose "THE SUPERHERO SERIES" ("Crime takes a beating...") with the stars of both DC and Marvel Comics. Among the choices in this category were: The Amazing Spider-Man (The Mark of the Man-Wolf!") , The Incredible Hulk ("At Bay!"), The Fantastic Four ("The Way it Began"), Conan the Barbarian ("The Crawler in the Mists!"), Captain America & The Falcon ("Who is the Phoenix?") and even Batman ("Stacked Cards" and "Robin Meets Man-Bat!")

If you were more into the TV/movie arena (like myself as a kid...), you could choose to bring "HIGH ADVENTURE AND SPACE EXCITEMENT TO BREATHTAKING" life with adaptations of four of the most popular Apjac Planet of the Apes films (Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), and books from Star Trek ("Passage to Moauv") or from - you guessed it - my personal favorite, Space:1999.

In the world of Space:1999, you could read the adaptation of the first episode, "Breakaway," describing how the moon was torn out of orbit, and then read (and listen to...) the entertaining second installment, "Return to the Beginning," which crossed Moonbase Alpha with the Biblical story of Noah's Ark. It was all great fun, and the art work was really very good overall.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Power Records was that they only cost $1.49. Talk about a deal!!! Today these items are highly collectible; some lines more than others, and if I'm not mistaken there may be more TV/movie characters too, including Kojak and The Six Million Dollar Man. But I'm not a hundred percent sure about that, so don't quote me. I credit these Power Records with - like colorforms and Little Golden Books - making reading a part of the "TV" and "movie" adventure; a nice ancillary product. I also remember thinking that the audio productions (like radio shows...) were well-cast and overall, very ably performed. I know for some people, these Power Record versions of superheroes rank very highly in their memory/affection.

For more information on Power Records, check out "The Power Records Project" at This is Pop. They're trying to record some of these albums for posterity and history, and I wish them all the best with the effort. These Power Records are gems of the 1970s, and that's why I'm celebrating them today in this eighth Thursday toy flashback.

Enjoy here some images from my personal collection. I have the Batman "Stacked Cards" one hidden away with my superhero collection in storage, but - as you can see - I own Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Space:1999 Return to Beginning and Breakaway (the latter not pictured), and at least one Star Trek adventure. Please write in and leave comments if you recalls these great record/book toys. I'd love to share your memories of 'em! Which ones did you have? Do you still have 'em? Why did you like them? Do you remember who did the voices? Let me hear from you...

2 comments:

  1. Howard10:31 AM

    John,

    As you know, I have a large number of Power Records, many of which I've aired on "Destinies-The Voice of Science Fiction" in the past.
    I don't know about Kojak, but there were at least 3 albums of "Six Million Dollar Man" adventures, including a Christmas one; a Bionic Woman LP; and a Christmas with the Super-Heroes LP, featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
    Additionally, some of the Book and Record sets were compiled into full-length LPs without the books.
    The most amusing memory of the Power Records books is in the Star Trek sets. The art, by a variety of talents, including Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, and John (and maybe Sal) Buscema, is interesting (although a bit jarring when styles change from page to page), but is notable for the depictions of Sulu as a black man with an afro, and Uhura as a blonde-haired white woman.

    Best of All possible Destinies,
    Howard

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  2. It's interesting to note too that Peter Pan Records dropped the "Power Records" label and released a series of "book and record" sets in 1979, ones based on the designs/concepts of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There was "Dinosaur Planet" and "The Robot Masters" to name two that I have in my office.

    These books & record sets also give an idea of some of the other titles, which included:

    Superman/Man from Krypton
    Superman/City Under Siege
    Wonder Woman/Magic Tiara
    Amazing Adventures of Holo-Man (Anybody know what THAT is?)
    Robin Hood
    Moby Dick
    Huckleberry Finn
    Davy Crockett
    Robinson Crusoe
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    The Last of the Mohicans
    Gulliver's Travels.

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