29th June 2006

An Open Letter To Nikon

For those who read the previous blog about my camera problems, I excitedly announce that the issue has received favorable resolution. I sent this letter to the good folks at Nikon, and thought I would share with my fellow geeks who are curious about the production of the book.

Dear Nikon,

You really had me scared there.

When my camera died, my heart sunk. About a year ago, before I committed to a camera for my photographic book, I did a lot of research. Heck, I even got a 1-year subscription to to Consumer Reports just to get their take on the best digital cameras on the market.

At the time, your Nikon D70 was the clear winner in its class. There were several strong competitors, but no one could match the most vital criterion: picture quality. Thus far, I have spent over $3,500 on camera equipment. The photography in this book is critical to its success, and I have spared no expense. Granted, I have taken a lot of photographs. Thousands of photographs, in fact. But when the camera died, I was horrified.

Upon learning that the store where I purchased it would require five weeks for repair and return, I was willing to drive to your corporate facility in El Segundo, CA. There, I was greeted by a very pleasant young lady who assured me that Nikon was already aware of the symptoms I described. Better yet, I was told it might take only a week to get it back.

I came home tonight to find a letter from Nikon, detailing that the camera was undergoing a “No Charge/Good Will Repair,” and that I would need to submit approval of the estimate. By the time I logged onto the Nikon USA Web site, I discovered that my camera was already in the UPS system, on its way home.

Better still, I answered the door within the very same hour, finding the UPS delivery man holding my revitalized camera. Superbly packed, my camera had been fully cleaned and detailed. The tech crew even replaced the protective view-finder cover. I immediately set up a shoot for the book (note to Mego heads: the 1976 Penguin pictured below was the first subject), and was very pleased to find the camera performing as new. Perhaps even better. I would swear the response time is improved, as is the downloading.

Your “good will” has made me a very happy man, and I will continue to recommend Nikon as the unparalleled leader in imaging technology… and Customer Service.

Yours truly,

Benjamin Holcomb
Author, World’s Greatest Toys: Mego 8″ Super-Heroes

Here is the first shot taken with the repaired camera. I’m very pleased with the results.

Penguin

Back in business and very happy,

Benjamin

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28th June 2006

Photography Standstill

I have a Nikon D70. It’s a great camera.

Camera

At least it was a great camera, before it died.

It started acting up at Mego Meet, when I was trying to shoot some pictures of amazing Mego toys that attendees brought from far and wide.
Mike Jimenez
At right is the amazing Mike Jimenez, who brought his astonishing set of mint Montgomery Ward Secret Identity outfits, still in the original packaging.

After Mike had done a couple of posed set-ups (group and individual) of the outfits dressed on nice Type 1 figures, he asked if I’d like to shoot them in the packaging.

“Are you asking me if I’d like you to recreate Christmas 1974 for the book?” I stammered.

“Ummm. Yes…?”

I was shocked that he was even offering. The outfits are so pristine that I was actually afraid to handle them. Without hesitation, Mike set forth disrobing the figures and repackaging the gloriously dated polyester suits.

Luckily, the camera was still working while Mike was helping me photograph them for the book. But it was during that shoot that the camera started acting funny. The first indication that something had gone wrong was the camera’s sudden inability to expose properly. I’d shoot a picture, and the shutter would just open. And stay open.

By the time it would release, the stored data was a blast of overexposure. Pure white.

Other strange things started to happen, but I managed to shoot everything that people brought with them for the book. By the way, I just want to say thanks again to everyone who did this. It is amazing to me that people were willing to travel with these precious collectibles, and I’m just thrilled that the book will benefit from everyone’s selfless generosity.

When I got home and tried to do a set-up for some 2nd Issue carded figures, the camera just up and croaked. I took it back to the store where I bought it, and was told it would take 5 weeks to get it repaired. My only option was to drive it directly to Nikon in El Segundo and hope they could expedite.

When I got there, I told the woman what was happening and she immediate wrote up the order saying “We’re already aware of this. We’ll take care of it.” Curious about this “awareness” I did a little googling and found out that my camera is a problem child.

According to a quiet statement from Nikon:

“It has come to our attention that electronic components related to exposure control in some D70 cameras may, on rare occasions, fail.

Should you experience this problem with your D70 camera, Nikon will replace the associated components free of charge even if the camera’s warranty has already expired. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may have suffered because of this problem.”

I’m still waiting to hear back from Nikon, but I’m hopeful that my camera will get fixed. And more importantly, that they won’t tax my ass like the government.

In the meantime, I’m at a photography standstill. I have a bunch of amazing toys that collectors have mailed to me, and yet I can’t shoot the damned things. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Benjamin

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16th June 2006

The Tale of the Last Mego at Heroes World

Heroes Word

Order FormHeroes World. Venerable purveyor of Super Hero goodies throughout the 1970s. Proud producer of comic book-style kid catalogs. With humorous copywriting like “send us your hard-earned sheckles” (sic), publisher Ivan Snyder and company were responsible for countless afternoons spent drooling over every conceivable Super Hero goodie imaginable. The catalogs were never condescending, treating each kid as a viable customer, despite the fact that most of us would require parental assistance to place an order.

I still have the crumpled copy of my favorite issue: September 1976. My oldest brother Matt bought it in December 1976, at The Eye of Agamoto, a kooky, psychedelic comic book store in Ann Arbor, MI. That place used to scare me when I was a child. Perhaps I was intimidated by the continual presence of stoned high schoolers with dingy jean jackets covered in Van Halen and Aerosmith patches. But Matt, being several years older, was undaunted and dutifully let me tag along with him in order to give the old lady some breathing room.

I cannot underscore the power that catalog held over me. It was absolute magic. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I never asked my parents to buy me something from Heroes World.

…At least not during the mail order company’s heyday.

Flash forward exactly ten years. By the end of 1986, I was rediscovering Mego and was simply voracious to find them. I remember buying a boxed Tarzan and boxed Catwoman from a nice “doll lady” in Michigan (ah, sweet Lee… I may have to post that story in a future blog). I recall buying a MIB 12 inch Magnetic Robin from a toy show in Cincinatti, OH.

But these were the days before eBay — heck, before nationally distributed collectibles magazines! Finding a Mego was a romp in the proverbial haystack.

September 76

Even at that point, that ratty old Heroes World catalog was my beacon. It was the gloriously illustrated proof that a Mego Lizard existed! And Iron Man! I’d never seen either figure as a kid, and I was determined to find them.

On a lark, I decided to dial the phone number printed in the catalog, fully expecting a pre-recorded “The number you have dialed…” disappointment.

“Heroes World,” the woman’s voice announced.

Stunned, I collected myself and mumbled something along the lines of, “Ummm… HI! Um… I’m calling from Michigan… Um. How’s it going? Do you have any Megos left?”

“The Super-Heroes?” she asked. With my confirmation, she said something that still gives me goosebumps:

“Actually, I have one left. It’s a Hulk.”

Completely blown away, I furiously took notes on what I needed to do to get that puppy into my desperate little grubbies.

“OK, then,” she concluded. “When I get your check, I’ll mail it out.”

I was 16 years old when I placed that call. I think I had a savings account (based on the paper route my older brothers and I shared, from before I can remember). But not a checking account. Off to mom I went, asking her to write a check. She naturally obliged (ain’t moms great? They just never judge you!).

Several months passed and I had completely forgotten about this major coup. I was back in the game of listening to Sigue Sigue Sputnik and trying to figure out how to ask Christie Miller out on a date (”Should I take her to the deli on State street, or should I ask her to the movies at Briarwood?!”).

I turned 17 on April 15, 1987. I don’t remember that birthday at all. But a couple of weeks later, I got this letter in the mail:

Letter

The letter was from the woman to whom I’d spoken a few months earlier. It reads,

4-21-87

Dear Ben,

I found this note today under a pile of correspondence.

I remember the phone call.

I would have taken the Hulk + put it away until the check came in. Well I don’t have the figure. I’m assuming that I’ve already sent the figure to you. If I’m wrong, please let me know + I’ll correct this for you. I’m waiting to hear. I’m very sorry for this extreme delay.

Sincerely,

Gail Janz

The letter is self-explanatory, so the only thing I’ll add is that I never received the figure.
I’ll also say that I am actually grateful that she didn’t send me that Hulk figure.

This letter is priceless to me. An instant time capsule to my salad days. I have since collected Mego Hulk figures in a variety of packaging variants. But this letter is a wonderful reminder of the time I almost got the last Mego at Heroes World!

Benjamin
p.s. I love reading your comments, so please take a moment to share your recollections about Heroes World, or just drop a general comment about the Blog.

________

posted in Mego Memories | 1 Comment

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