The Ultimate Guide to
The first deluxe release was the Ultimate Superman, a 10" molded plastic figure. It came in an open-front box with an "S" shield stand (in all red plastic). This figure had limited poseability, limited even further by a somewhat awkward pose. This was the basic Superman (albeit with longish hair). Not a great seller, but it did eventually disappear from the retail shelves in most locations.
The next deluxe releases came as a surprise since they were released after the announced cancellation of the SMOS line. Most people assumed that these deluxe figures would be cancelled as well. But, with little fanfare, the Deluxe Steel and Deluxe Heat Vision Superman figures showed up in stores at the end of 1996 and into early 1997. It's a safe bet to assume that many of these figures were purchased simply because the SMOS line had been cancelled (with speculators assuming that these last releases might appreciate in value, though this remains to be seen).
The Deluxe Steel was a vac-metallized version of John Henry Irons. Contrary to what many people believe, it is not simply a re-issue of the first series Steel figure with added vac-metal. It is actually an entirely new sculpt. The figure comes with two hammers (that can be launched from the wrist-launcher) and a large shield. All in all a pretty nice figure (if slightly overpriced for what you got; considering that there were no light-up or other electronic effects).
Carded Deluxe Steel and Ultra Heat Vision Superman.
The last item to be released in the entire SMOS line (to date) was also the most ambitious. In early 1997, Kenner released the 12" K-Mart exclusive Superman doll. Earlier, Kenner had created an exclusive "History of Superman" 3-pack for FAO Schwarz. The K-Mart exlcusive doll was the 1990's version released in the "History" pack with some minor differences. Most notably, the FAO exclusives all had embrodiered "S" shields on the figures chests. Presumably to reduce costs, the embrodiery was replaced by an "iron-on" type decal. Nonetheless, the result is still fairly impressive. The figure comes in a window box with a flap cover (in the same color scheme and style as all the other SMOS releases. It also came with the same stand that was included with the 10" Ultimate Superman, only this time, it was appropriately decorated in both yellow and red (as opposed to the all red design for the Ultimate Superman).
The figure itself had limited articulation (similar to recent 12" G.I. Joe figures) at the knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and neck. Unfortunately, the figure is sewn into his clothes and the boots are not removable (rather they comprise the lower half of the leg). Thus, customizers are deprived of an easy way to make a custom 12" Clark Kent figure. In my opinion, Kenner missed the boat with this strategy. They could have easily upped sales with an accessory pack of Clark's clothing (perhaps a hat and glasses as well).
Many people were disappointed by some of the detailing of this last SMOS figure. The hands are molded as solid fists and can not hold any accessories (though none were included). Additionally, the connection of the head and neck is a bit awkward when the head is facing front (due to Kenner's reuse of existing body molds presumably). This problem abates somewhat when the head is turned at an angle, though it remains somewhat ill-fitting at best.
Despite its shortcomings, the 12" Superman was, for many collectors, a fitting farewell to the SMOS line. I can't imagine a much better way for the line to end. Better to go out with a bang than with a whimper.