?In the amazing world of a child’s imagination, belts can transform from the weapon your angry father occasionally threatens you with to a fantastical utility belt, full of weapons and gadgets that enable you to fight crime, explore other planets or lead a space rebellion.
The toy utility belt has been a staple of toy shelves since Batman first wore one in the 1940s. You’d think that it’s a pretty easy recipe to follow — belt, a few appropriate items, etc,. — but like a lot of things, you have to stay within the lines of logic and use some basic care, or else you end up with a utility belt whose pouches only contain embarrassment and shame. Here are the five best and five worst utility belt sets — none of these are available in adult sizes, sadly.
5) The Shadow Crime Fighter Detection Belt
?The Shadow crime-fighting set falls in the worst list entirely due to its timing, for this wasn’t released in his radio and pulp magazine heyday of the 1940s but in 1976, a year or so after DC comics failed to resurrect the character with a (pretty amazing) comic title. With almost zero media backing for over a generation, the question isn’t so much “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men” as it is “Who the @#$% is the Shadow”? Fortunately, two decades later, the Alec Baldwin movie would open and engulf the world in “Shadow-mania.”
4) Buck Rogers Official Utility Belt
?Buck Rogers was a series so popular with children that it became something of a merchandising whore that kept kids mollified in the years between Star Wars movies, so it’s not much of a surprise that Remco conceived such a set in 1980. It’s more a matter of the execution; the set, with its repurposed Trek phaser, obvious Batman rip-off communicator (a noticeable sign of any poor quality role-play set) and the bizarre red goggles never worn by the titular hero in any incarnation indicates that nobody put much faith or thought into ol’ Buck. Biddy-biddy-shame on you!
3) Mickey Mouse Utility Belt
?It’s not really known what exactly Mickey Mouse needs with a utility belt, but that question is set aside by the even more disturbing sight of Mickey in his generic JC Penney “mom jeans” on the package. There is just so much we don’t’t want to know about what this guy does on his weekends.
2) The Incredible Hulk Utility Belt
?Marvel Comics’ master of the tantrum isn’t exactly known for his fashion sense, let alone his use of gadgets. So this poorly thought-out 1979 set from Remco made almost no sense to even the simplest child. What are the wrist gauntlets for? Why does the Hulk need to modulate his voice? Wouldn’t the gamma ray detector just, you know, keep on beeping? Even the Hulk would yell “Puny Cash Grab” upon sight of this mess.
1) Darth Vader Utility Belt
?Kenner thought to cash in on the new fangled Star Wars license in 1978 by using some refurbished parts from other sets and quickly throwing these together. The results were then tossed into flimsy packaging with as little care as possible. The Dark Lord of the Sith’s pistol and silly truncated lightsaber allegedly made George Lucas fire off his force lightning (a.k.a. lawyers) and production was halted on these babies PDQ.
The best is yet to come. Mostly because it’s on the next page.
5) Shogun Warriors Official Utility Belt
?Okay. Admittedly, giant robots don’t wear pants, therefore they have no need for a belt. That’s a given. However, this cool HG Toys set from 1979 is loaded with so many axes and other weapons of mass destruction that it truly doesn’t matter. Scatter some cardboard boxes to simulate buildings and you have yourself a memorable, destructive afternoon at any age.
4) Wonder Woman Utility Belt
?This ’70s Remco set contains all the essential elements for young girls to play Wonder Woman, a rare high-quality attempt to get girls interested into superheroes. For making comic conventions more diverse (translation: less creepy) we salute you Remco, wherever you are.
3) Gatchaman Belt
?This 1973 Japanese utility belt is most likely a re-purposed belt for Kamen Rider, seeing as it lights up and spins exactly the way Kamen Rider’s belt should, but who cares? Rather than give you a gun or other sundries you would either lose or break, this amazing toy gives you special effects. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
2) Star Trek Utility Belt
?The crew of the USS Enterprise actually used utility belts on the series, although they lacked the boss Star Trek logo. Unlike a lot of sets from Remco, none of the pieces are recycled from other things. The phaser, communicator and tricorder are as screen accurate as you were gonna get in 1975. As a bonus, the phaser fires plastic disks, guaranteeing an upset house pet or sibling every time you go on an “away mission.”
1) Official Batman Utility Belt
?The platonic ideal of the utility belt toy is, of course, the Dark Knight’s version. Since 1966, there haven’t been many years that you couldn’t find a toy version of his most essential tool in his war against crime. Pictured above is the 1967 Ideal Toys bat belt, complete with Batarang, grappling hook, flashlight, Bat-cuffs, and more. We’ll ignore Batman’s oddly placed luger, if only because this thing is worth more than many of our cars.