Before Amazon. Before the internet. Before comic book stores became a thing. I am talking the mid to late seventies, where if you wanted something specialized you would need to go through mail order; not by going online but by ordering out of a catalog.
A friend of mine showed me a catalog, if I had to guess, in 1979. It was for a company out of Morristown, NJ and since he knew I was a fan of Marvel superheroes, he thought I would love this company and what they had to offer. I bet he never would’ve guessed that over forty years later I would be writing about it!
The company was called Heroes World and though they were based out of New Jersey, they apparently also had locations in Colorado, Florida, California, Michigan, Georgia, Connecticut and New York. I can only imagine what this store must’ve been like at the time. Though comic book stores are commonplace now, back then they really didn’t exist. A store like Heroes World would’ve been a one-of-a-kind location and one that any superhero lover would be in awe of.
Slapping the image of your favorite Marvel or DC character on anything and everything was just as popular in the seventies as it is now, especially with the resurgence in popularity of these amazing characters.
Heroes World Distribution Co., originally named Superhero Enterprises, was an American comic book distributor, founded by Ivan Snyder during the growth and consolidation of the direct sales market. Heroes World was later acquired by Marvel Comics in late 1994 to act as the publisher’s sole distributor. This ill-fated move, combined with other marketplace factors of the time, resulted in the financial failure of many other comics distributors and retailers — and the near collapse of the entire North American comic book market.
In the early 1970s, Ivan Snyder was head of licensing in Marvel Comics Group’s merchandising department. He was in charge of selling various Marvel licensed products through mail order. After a change in management in the mid-1970s, Marvel discontinued the mail order service, and Snyder purchased the business in 1975, renaming it Superhero Enterprises. Initially running the business out his basement, Snyder shortly thereafter moved into a storefront in Morristown, New Jersey, with a catalog showroom store format. A second store was later opened in a Livingston shopping mall, with DC Comics products added to their product mix.
The catalogs themselves, representing so many comic book heroes, was put together like an actual comic book. Not only was it the same size of a standard comic book, the inside was illustrated with a combination of four-color scans as well as original art by comic book artist Joe Kubert, as well as students from his School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.
In addition to everything Marvel and DC, other toy lines were also included. Toys from manufacturer Mego were very popular. Not only were their Micronauts line included, other action figure lines were included as well, beyond the World’s Greatest Super Heroes line. Other licenses could also be found as well, such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers. There was also a small offering of comic book back issues as well as books too.
Just like the toys and comic books of the day, The Heroes World Catalog, as well as its sister publication, The Superhero Catalogue, were a huge part of my childhood. I remember vividly looking through these catalogs constantly, wondering what it would be like to have so much of what was offered inside. I recently brought these catalogs back out (yes, I still have them) and it was like being a kid again looking through them. The pictures in this blog are from the actual catalogs so for those of you unfamiliar, you will get a great idea of how extensive and fun these were to have.