Mego 8" Super-Heroes: World's Greatest Toys (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2007
With only a week until Christmas I was literally like a kid in a toy store as I perused this book. TwoMorrows Publishing has long been one of my favorite publishers. Their books and magazines on comics are the best in the business. Yet here is a toy book…granted its about comic book heroes but I was surprised to see this offering coming from TM as opposed to someone else. Before Star Wars changed action figures like we know them today, the figures of the 60’s and 70’s were pretty similar in their design. They had joints, which moved on pins or with elastic of some kind, and they had costumes, which were made of cloth and removable. One of the few real challengers to Hasbro’s stranglehold on “boy toys” came from Mego. The company was founded in 1954 and while they put out a variety of toys it was their figural toys for which they are best remembered.
Mego produced all sorts of figures from movie characters such as Planet of the Apes, to TV personalities like Sonny & Cher and Charlie’s Angels. In an ironic bit of fate, Mego turned down the chance to license toys for Star Wars in 1976, which eventually went to Kenner. The rest is history as Kenner and now Hasbro have made a zillion dollars off the franchise while Mego went out of business in 1983. While Mego made figures in all sorts of sizes, this book focuses solely on the 8” super-hero line, a line which is filled with seemingly endless variations to the figures as well as the packaging. While cornering just this one line from Mego, TwoMorrows has delivered the most detailed and visually dynamic look yet at the World’s Greatest Super-Hero line. The book is packed with hundreds of color photos, which not only show the figures and packaging, but also zoom in to show intricate details such as the variations in stitching in the costumes, and changes in molding on boots and different paint schemes. It’s remarkable, really, the amount of detail that Holcomb has uncovered. This isn’t just a book filled with pictures but a true guide for hardcore Mego collectors. To prove this further, this isn’t a price guide, although the book does note some values on rare figures. This book concentrates on information. It features interviews with former Mego employees and vendors. Would you like to know how Mego figures were shipped from the factory, to the distribution centers and then on to the stores? Well it’s all here.
The meat of “Mego 8” Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys” lies in its exhaustive coverage of the figures themselves…each year, each wave of figures, and each figure and it’s myriad variations. As show in the first Batman section, the figure’s cape was made with a variety of materials from nylon to vinyl, all with unique textures and color differences. One of the most helpful tools for collectors is a U.S. packaging checklist. For example, from 1972 until 1979, the Batman figure appeared in 18 different packaging styles from cards to boxes, often with only minor changes to the graphics or placement of the blister pack or box window. It’s almost like looking at one of those picture puzzles where you have to spot the differences in two nearly identical pictures.
Mego started out strictly on the DC Comics side of things with Superman, Batman & Robin, Aquaman. Batgirl, Catwoman but expanded to Marvel characters very soon with Captain America and Spider-Man. Mego was always very cost-conscious and re-used molds over and over and freely substituted a Shazam head to be used for a Peter Parker Montgomery Ward’s exclusive figure. This cannibalizing of the line is what allowed Mego to sell these figures so cheap…usually for around $3 or $4 bucks, and sometimes even less when a Kresge store tossed them into a discount bin for as little as .99 cents. Boy, wouldn’t you love to be able to go back in time and scoop some of these up for a buck! Eventually Marvel figures began to dominate by the mid to late 1970’s with figures added for Iron Man, Thor, Conan, the Falcon, Green Goblin, The Lizard, The Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. I have a Conan and its truly one of the ugliest action figures ever made. Poor Conan is grimacing like he’s constipated but I still love him.
This is a wonderful book for collectors. It pictures a multitude of variations and accessories that will help build your own collection. There are also dozens of pictures of companion pieces such as vehicles, playsets, and examples of carton styles. It’s a true treasure trove for the Mego fanatic.
Mania Grade: A+
Benjamin Holcomb: Benjamin Holcomb
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing