23rd February 2008

Mego Mad Monsters: The Creature (From the Black Lagoon)?

We had a lot of fun discussing the mysterious “Webbed-Hand” Aquaman (if you’re interested in Mego’s Aquaman, I encourage you to read the related Mego Museum thread, which is filled with interesting thoughts and ideas, well beyond my original blog), so let’s talk about another web-handed character that Mego considered manufacturing.

You already know this thread is about The Creature, but allow me to set the stage first.

In World’s Greatest Toys, I discuss Mego’s introduction of the term “Official,” an attempt to differentiate Mego products from their competitors’ similar products. Here’s a snippet from the book (page 91, for those reading along):

Mego Ad“With the introduction of the Super-Gals, the toy line received a revised name. “World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” became “Official World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” (the Super-Gals were called “Official World’s Greatest Super-Gals.”) This amendment surely happened as a reaction to other companies’ relentless mimicry of Mego’s licensed properties. Tomland, Lincoln, AHI and Remco (which was acquired by AHI in 1974) were very effective at producing ‘knock-off’ figures. The particularly blatant AHI even issued their “Official World Famous Super Monsters” on blister cards nearly identical to Mego’s 1st Issue card. AHI also issued ersatz Western Heroes and Apes figures, looking to win the proverbial race for second place.

There was little flattery in the shameless imitation by its competitors, and it caused endless grief to Mego executives. But Mego did have a good sense of humor about it. When Mego introduced the Micronauts’ principle ‘bad guy’ character, Mego Director of Design John McNett named him “Baron Karza”. McNett recalled, “Karza is [Mego’s primary competitor Marvin] Azrak spelled backwards. I cooked it up as a joke but Neal and Marty loved it. They quickly trademarked Nivram, Smarba, Nalbuk, Ytram, Laen, and many other backward names to forestall any retaliation from Marvin Azrak.” Records confirm that Mego filed to trademark the name “Baron Karza” on July 21, 1977, then filed to protect the name “Ogem” (’Mego’, backward), on September 1, 1977.

In promoting the Super-Foes, Mego placed comic book ads [shown above] exclaiming, “Look for this emblem for the real thing” next to the new masthead. Inexplicably, the 1st Issue cards for the Super-Foes, released around the same time, do not feature the word “Official”.

Mego did not hesitate to file lawsuits against those who infringed upon their licenses, and doing so apparently solved the problem.”

Between January 1974 and January 1976, Mego submitted paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in an effort to protect their line of “Mad Monsters” line of characters, including Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolfman. Mego created these generic toys without a license from Universal Studios, widely recognized as the Intellectual Property owners of these famous characters. Following are Mego’s USPTO submissions:

Dracula
Frankenstein
Mummy
Wolfman

As discussed in the book, Mego fought a constant battle with competitor Azrak-Hamway, Int’l (also known as AHI, which Mego-Heads pronounce AH-HEE). The struggle is best exemplified by AHI’s “Official World Famous Super Monsters” packaging design, a blatant rip-off of Mego’s 1st Issue blister card design.

AHI Monsters

AHI CreatureI don’t know the exact chronology of Mego and AHI’s respective Monster lines, but given the AHI Monsters’ use of the term “Official,” I’m guessing the AHI Monsters were intentionally designed to mock Mego’s attempts to protect the words “World” and “Super” in the action figure trade. And yes, AHI president Marvin Azrak and Mego president Marty Abrams were mortal enemies on a professional level. They really did ‘duke it out’ in the toy industry…

… a lot.

Throughout the entire 1970s, in fact.

The order in which the Mego and AHI toys were distributed is potentially important, because AHI also created the (particularly rare) “Creature” figure [shown at right].

Why is it an issue? Because Mego submitted — then subsequently abandoned — a fascinating trademark request: The Creature

Mego Creature

I created the ‘artist’s rendtion’ pictured above, by altering a Star Trek “Neptunian” figure (a character Mego invented, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain inhabitant of a certain Black Lagoon). I removed the wings, changed the tunic color and added a “Creature” head from a wholly different toy.

But you get the idea.

So, what’s the deal here?

Did Mego intend to create a fifth character for their Mad Monsters line? Did Mego scrap the idea because AHI beat them to market with the same character? Had Mego already done some development on this toy? If so, did Mego re-work the existing toy into a brand-new Star Trek alien?

Benjamin

posted in Book Status, Copyrights and Trademarks, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, Random Musings, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off