30th April 2008

Interview: Mego-Head F.J. DeSanto!

F.J. DeSanto is a film producer and certified toy geek. F.J. Emailed me a while back, inquiring about a tattered and well-loved toy he still has from childhood, which he thought might have been a Mego product. Turns out it is actually Empire Toys’ Batcopter toy vehicle (shown below, tricked out with an 8″ Mego Batman figure, from the 1977 JC Penney catalog).

F.J. DeSanto

F.J. has been involved in some very important film projects, most recently his very first co-producing effort: Will Eisner’s The Spirit.

And F.J. absolutely loves him some Mego! Discussing our shared passion, F.J. shared this amusing Mego vignette:

My aunt, who was the ‘cool’ aunt who bought all the ‘cool’ toys, once surprised me in the mall [by buying me] the Mego Hall Of Justice playset. I freaked out with the box, running around to anyone in sight yelling “SHE GOT ME THE HALL OF JUSTICE!!!!” This story is legendary in my family and one my 9 year-old nephew loves to hear. When I bought your book, I showed everyone, including my nephew, the photos of the Hall of Justice. This brought a lot of laughs.

F.J. further recalled:

Before the preceding story happened, my folks bought me a Mego Green Arrow figure, which I was very excited about, as my family and I were about to go on a trip. While at the airport, an older kid (probably late teens) was impressed with my figures, which travelled with me, of course. [The older kid] told me Mego was planning to make an 8″ Green Lantern figure. I suspected he was lying to me, but I secretly hoped he was right. I patiently waited for said figure, which never arrived. I thought that older kid was a dirty liar!!! Seems as though he was fooled by the HOJ artwork as well** (which I don’t remember cause I was probably too busy playing with it)! Poor guy. I wish I could apologize to him.

  • **Editor’s Note: F.J. was referring to a Hall of Justice mention in World’s Greatest Toys (page 186) which discusses Neal Adams’ addition of Green Lantern to the playset’s exterior artwork).

I think it’s safe to say all Mego-heads share F.J.’s Mego Green Lantern pain and disappointment. I recently sat down to talk turkey toys with F.J. and we enjoyed an… ahem… SPIRITed discussion:

WORLD’S GREATEST TOYS: You have been involved with a variety of super-hero/comic book properties, including “Batman,” “Constantine” and, most recently, “Will Eisner’s The Spirit.” What sparked your interest in super-heroes?

DESANTO: I think a lot of it had to do with the BATMAN TV series re-running when I was a little boy in the 70’s. I took it VERY seriously. That certainly led to my now thirty-five years of weekly comic buying. My mother tells me that by three, I was teaching myself to read comics; things like the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams BATMAN run, because I was so frustrated having to wait for my dad to read them to me. Around the same time, my folks bought me the Mego Super Hero toys as well as the STAR TREK toys, which I also played with incessantly.

WGT: When did your appreciation of Mego begin? Are your passions for film and toys related in any way?

DESANTO: I couldn’t even tell you when but it was VERY early on. I honestly can’t remember my childhood without Mego toys being a part of it. Both are completely related. Film and toys sparked my imagination at such an early age that I knew. Super-Heroes, Star Trek and Star Wars all converged at the right time in my life. Without these things, my life would be very different. I certainly wouldn’t be producing movies based on comic books or writing Star Trek manga stories for Tokyopop.

WGT: What are some of your all-time favorite super-hero toys? Do you collect both vintage and modern toys?

DESANTO: I loved the Mego playsets: the Batcave, the Hall of Justice (which led to a very frustrating, and ultimately disappointing, search for a Mego Green Lantern figure!), the Star Trek Bridge. I was obsessed with the Wayne Foundation and would brag about the fact that I had a black Batcycle, which no one else I knew had! I have very clear memories of playing with that as a kid. I was also very big on the Corgi Batman vehicles. But literally, until “Star Wars” came out, I didn’t play with anything besides Mego Super-Heroes. I’m a Robin/Dick Grayson fanatic, so I played with my Robin figure more than any other figure. Today, my apartment is filled with original Robin/Nightwing related art from the likes of George Perez, Nick Cardy, Alex Ross and the late Marshall Rogers. Mego toys played a big part in all this.

I really don’t buy a lot of vintage or modern stuff now, mostly because I’m a pack rat and still have a lot of stuff, but I am a huge fan of the stuff DC Unlimited puts out. I just love what they do, and they capture that same feeling I had when I was a kid. What they do appeals to that same little kid who loved Mego.

WGT: Why do you think the Mego line continues to enjoy such popularity? I work in Burbank, CA (home to numerous studios), and I’ve noticed that a lot of hipsters in the film industry have a particular fondness for super-hero toys, and Mego specifically. Presuming you agree, why do you think this is true?

DESANTO: I think it’s very simple. The Mego toys influenced an entire generation of kids who, in the last few years, have become the adults making waves in the entertainment industry. The Mego Generation was able to play with a lot of their favorite heroes for the first time and take them on unique adventures. It had never happened before on that level. There was nothing like the Mego figures and I am sure they inspired many creative people and have provided many wonderful memories to people everywhere. There are probably hundreds of writers, directors, artists, etc. in the entertainment industry who grew up with Mego super-hero toys.

F.J. DeSanto

WGT: Your latest film project is “Will Eisner’s The Spirit,” which comes out on January 16, 2009 and already has fan-boys frothing at the mouth. What is your involvement in the project, and can you tell us why you, personally, are excited about the movie?

DESANTO: I’m a co-producer on the movie and what excites me most, besides the fact that movie is turning out wonderfully, is being able to work with people who truly love, respect and understand the world and characters that Will Eisner created.

WGT: Frank Miller is linked to two of the most unique, highly stylized films I’ve ever seen (”Sin City” and “300″). Can you reveal anything about his aesthetic or stylistic treatment for “The Spirit?”

DESANTO: I can’t reveal anything specifically, but I can say that people are going to surprised and excited by what Frank has done with this movie. He’s a true artist both in comic books and in cinema and “THE SPIRIT” is going to blow people away.

WGT: Do you have any exciting plans or promotions for Comic-Con in San Diego this year?

DESANTO: I think it’s going to be a very spirited convention this year…

WGT: Where can WGT readers learn more about your upcoming projects?

DESANTO: Stay tuned….

WGT: (Laughs). “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel,” eh…?

Many thanks to F.J. DeSanto, for taking time out of his incredibly hectic schedule to speak with us, and best of luck to the highly anticipated movie, Will Eisner’s The Spirit!

RELATED LINKS: Colouring Book Theatre: Will Eisner’s The Spirit at Plaid Stallions

posted in Acknowledgements, Batcopter, Film & Television, Green Arrow, JC Penney, Mego Questions, Pop Culture, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

29th April 2008

Aquaman Shrine: Rob Kelly on Planet Comic Book Radio!

For Friends of Aqauaman (AKA “F.O.A.M.“), there is no better treat in the world than Rob Kelly’s incredible Aquaman Shrine, a “daily devotional” blog dedicated to the proverbial King of the Seven Seas.

Aquaman Shrine

Rob recently appeared on Javier Hernandez’ internet radio show, Planet Comic Book Radio. This is the same radio show that I was a guest on, back in December 2007. Rob’s interview is a fascinating discussion between two hard-core comic book nerds. Check it out here, broken up into three parts:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Benjamin

Blog Credits and legal stuff: Blog masthead © 2008 Rob Kelly. Mego Aquaman ©2004 Tom L. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

posted in World's Greatest Toys | 2 Comments

29th April 2008

Vintage Photos: Mego Christmas 1976

Our collection of Mego Christmas photos is growing!

Scott Tipton is an author and scholar — a life-long comics N’ toys geek — who operates Comics 101, which includes his amazing “Comics 101 with Professor Scott Tipton” blog. These fun, informative sites are definitely worth bookmarking, if you haven’t already.

Thanks to Scott Tipton, we now have these wonderful memories of his Mego Christmas in 1976. Below, we see Scott (with red hair), holding the Mego Supervator playset, the Mego Robin box and the Mego Batman box, while his brother, Dave, opens Kenner’s Six Million Dollar Man and a Mego Spider-Man box.

Scott Tipton

Scott Tipton

Scott Tipton

Scott Tipton

Scott Tipton

When Scott sent these photos, he wrote:

“The great thing was, my entire interest in comics and toys was all kicked off by my getting the Mego Batman and Spidey, and the fact that it was captured on film is amazing.”

Indeed.

I like the fact that Mego’s Supervator playset, issued in 1974 only, was still hanging around toy stores in 1976. I guess it really WAS a peg-warmer toy!

Thanks for the great memory pics, Scott!

posted in Batman, Captain America, Christmas Memories, Mego Memories, Robin, Scott Tipton, Spider-Man, Vintage Toy Photos, Window Boxes | Comments Off

28th April 2008

The Silence Ends Soon…

I’ve been working on some comprehensive blogs recently, thus the quiet Blog. Plenty of great stuff is coming soon, though, so please stay tuned!

posted in World's Greatest Toys | 0 Comments

18th April 2008

Mego Price Stickers: JC Penney!

Daily Mego Adoration Here’s our Daily Mego Adoration for Friday, April 18, 2008:

Mego Price Stickers - JC Penney!

This week is all about vintage 1970s Mego price stickers, so today we keep on rockin’ memories of retail toys in the good ol’ days.

Courtesy of extraordinary Mego-head Don Cassetori, we have this vintage JC Penney price sticker, which is affixed to a “4-Panel” 1st Issue/3rd Version Batman box (for more information about this Mego packaging variation, please see page 61 of World’s Greatest Toys!):

JC Penney

The sticker reads:

  • JC Penney
  • 655 2B
  • 15869-1
  • 3630 144
  • $2.99

I don’t know much about Penney’s internal item code nomenclature, but I noticed the price sticker illuminates one interesting fact about catalog sales during the 1970s:

Retailers felt compelled to offer products at reduced prices in their Christmas catalogs.

In other words, in the ’70s, it was actually cheaper to purchase a product through a retailer’s Christmas catalog than from their actual ‘brick-and-mortar’ stores.

I find this selling paradigm eerily consistent with today’s internet sales. Jeez, I desperately miss those big, fat printed Christmas catalogs, arriving in my mailbox every winter. But I suppose the internet is the new Christmas catalog.

Sigh.

It’s just not the same thing. At all. Anyway, I digress. I discuss this issue on page 52 of World’s Greatest Toys!, in an interview with Linda McNett, who was Mego vice president Neal Kublan’s Personal Assistant during the 1970s:

Working directly for Kublan, McNett had plenty of experience working to appease each store. “Everyone hated doing catalog items,” she declared in a 2006 interview with the author. “Retailer demands would often force Mego to minimize regular items, in order to sell them at a price in the catalog that allowed retailers to maintain their margin. Sometimes a plain brown package could be enough to make the difference. More often, pieces or equipment from the original retail items were subtracted until the cost came out to what the buyer expected.”

“So how, exactly, does this price sticker illuminate that little factoid?!” you might ask.

Simple: Mego issued this particular box variation around Fall of 1973, and the price sticker reads, “$2.99.” However, JC Penney didn’t offer any Mego WGSH toys in their catalog until the following year’s Christmas catalog (distributed in late 1974):

JC Penney

The price of a Mego Batman in the 1974 JC Penney catalog shown above?

$2.77 ea. figure, any 2 for $5.00

If anything, Mego prices should have gone UP between the Fall 1973 release of this packaging style and the Christmas 1974 JC Penney catalog… but, in fact, JC Penney reduced the price by $0.22!

Cool stuff!

Incidentally, JC Penney was actually pretty expensive at the time! Future blogs will demonstrate that several of Penney’s competitors offered Mego Super-Heroes in the same “4-Panel” box for much less money: West-coast department store chain Mervyn’s offered Tarzan for $1.88 and Canadian retailer Simpson’s offered Spider-Man for $2.49.

Big thanks to Don Cassetori (AKA “DCSting” on the Mego Museum message boards)! More great “DCSting” price sticker blogs are coming soon.

I am actively seeking more contributions to my Price Sticker Library, so if you have access to vintage price stickers affixed to Mego toys, I want to hear from you! Please post in the comments below, or send me an Email.

Benjamin

posted in Batman, Christmas Memories, Daily Mego Adoration, JC Penney, Mego Retailers, Price Stickers, Window Boxes, World's Greatest Toys | 2 Comments

17th April 2008

My R2-D2 Trash Can!

R2-D2My brother and sister sent me the coolest birthday present: an R2-D2 trash can!

You step on his… ummm… ‘third leg’ to activate the lid.

Just too cool, and looks great in the office.

Thanks for the awesome present, guys!

Benjamin

posted in Pop Culture, Random Musings, Star Wars | 1 Comment

17th April 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: Mego Price Stickers - BEST Products!

Daily Mego Adoration Here’s our Daily Mego Adoration for Thursday, April 17, 2008:

Mego Price Stickers - BEST Products!

Continuing this week’s examination of Mego price stickers, we turn our attention to BEST Products, one of the last-standing catalog showrooms in America. I really miss the catalog store business model, but I guess shopping malls and the internet rendered them obsolete. Sigh.

Best Products

Do you remember BEST Products? I loved that store as a kid.
From Wikipedia:

Best employed the “catalog showroom” concept for many of its product offerings. Although some product categories (such as sporting goods and toys) were stocked in traditional self-serve aisles, the majority of products (notably consumer electronics, housewares, and appliances) were featured as unboxed display models. Customers were permitted to examine and experiment with these models, and if found to be desirable, they could be purchased by submitting orders to store personnel. Saleable versions of the merchandise (typically boxed and/or in its original packaging) would then be retrieved from storage and delivered to a customer service area for subsequent purchase.

As a cost-saving measure, Best jointly published its catalog with Service Merchandise and Modern Merchandising, and had regional non-compete agreements with those chains.

BEST Products, well-known for avant garde store architecture, used several different corporate logos, including the ‘escalating letter forms’ and the “USA” map that appears on this ©1975 Spider-Man card, which Mego issued after February 1977:

Best Products

The sticker reads:

  • Best Products
  • CATALOG NUMBER
  • 694843
  • BUYER’S CODE
  • 397
  • REFERENCE RETAIL
  • $4.95

Pretty cool! During the late 1970s, Mego figures definitely started climbing in price!

I am still actively seeking contributions to my Price Sticker Library, so if you have access to vintage price stickers affixed to Mego toys, I want to hear from you! Please post in the comments below, or send me an Email.

Benjamin

The Best Products Catalog Showroom (pictured above), formerly located in Langhorne PA, was decorated by Venturi Scott Brown and Associates, back in 1978. Store photo © Tom Bernard.

Link - VSBA: http://www.vsba.com/projects/
Link - Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Products

posted in 2nd Issue Blister Cards, Best Products, Daily Mego Adoration, Mego Packaging, Mego Retailers, Price Stickers, Spider-Man, World's Greatest Toys | 2 Comments

16th April 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: Mego Price Stickers - S.S. Kresge!

Daily Mego Adoration Here’s our Daily Mego Adoration for Wednesday, April 16, 2008:

Mego Price Stickers - S.S. Kresge!

Continuing yesterday’s examination of Mego price stickers, we turn our attention to S.S. Kresge, one of the most significant U.S. retailers of Mego products.

Skipping past the original Kresge-branded “1st Issue” cards that feature pre-printed price stickers, we instead look at the “1st Issue” card variation that marks the end of Kresge’s history of ordering ‘owned-brand’ (i.e. Kresge-branded) Mego packaging.

Neither of the final two “1st Issue” card variations are marked with Kresge branding (see page 149 of World’s Greatest Toys! for an explanation and additional information). Despite this, Kresge — which evolved into Kmart — continued to sell Mego figures packaged on Mego’s original card style. This shift resulted in different (affixed, rather than pre-printed) Kresge price stickers.

Today, we compare two different examples of the 5th Version “1st Issue” card (depicting Shazam in the masthead), each featuring unique, affixed Kresge stickers. As mentioned before, I discuss this particular packaging variation on page 149 of World’s Greatest Toys!

Here are two different specimens of the Superman card, which Mego started distributing (approximately) around Spring 1975:

Price Sticker

On the left, the original price sticker, reads:

  • KEY 1
  • 2-75
  • $2.47

This sticker utilizes Kresge’s original “date code” scheme, suggesting Kresge expected delivery by February 1975 (2-75). Presumably, this particular toy hung, unsold, on Kresge’s peg-display for some time, since the retailer ultimately added a reduced-price sticker (actually, they accidentally affixed two of the same sticker), which reads:

  • KEY 1
  • 49-52
  • $1.68

Judging by the price of the second specimen (pictured above right), it’s safe to assume Mego sent additional quantities of the identical packaging style before Kresge sold out of the original run! The sticker on the later-issued specimen (above right) reads:

  • KEY 1
  • 1 4 75
  • 4367
  • $1.68

While the nomenclature does not match typical Kresge “date code” schemes, it’s possible the “1 4 75″ refers to “April 1975″. I’m not so sure about that, but it’s a plausible assumption. I know that Kresge eventually abandoned the “date code” scheme, I just don’t know exactly when they did so.

However, understanding that retailers only ever marked products DOWN (they never RAISED product prices), coupled with the differing sticker codes, it’s safe to assume that the first specimen (above left) was marked DOWN to meet the subsequently released specimen’s (above right) price of $1.68.

Pretty cool!

By the way, I want to thank Mego-head Don Cassetori, who already sent me several amazing price sticker photos for my Price Sticker Library! I will post those pictures in a future blog. You rock, Don!

I am still actively seeking contributions to my Price Sticker Library, so if you have access to vintage price stickers affixed to Mego toys, I want to hear from you! Please post in the comments below, or send me an Email.

Benjamin

posted in 1st Issue Blister Cards, Daily Mego Adoration, Mego Corporation, Price Stickers, S.S. Kresge, Superman, World's Greatest Toys | 0 Comments

15th April 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: Mego Price Stickers!

Daily Mego Adoration Here’s our Daily Mego Adoration for Tuesday, April 15, 2008:

Happy Birthday To Me!

It’s my birthday today, so I’m writing a Blog that is probably only interesting to me. That’s my prerogative, right?

I adore vintage price stickers. A veritable time capsule to better days, I especially love price stickers that adorn my beloved Mego toys. I’m not as crazy about price stickers that cover ‘important’ packaging design elements — such as those that cover the character logo — but I love them all.

For several years now, I have been collecting and archiving images of Mego price stickers. I get tremendous satisfaction from comparing printed prices to particular packaging variations, studying the evolution of Mego wholesale-versus-retail pricing.

A self-styled Mego archaeologist, I also find myself trying to decipher each retailers’ unique (if utilitarian) item codes, intended to define each product.

By the way, I am actively seeking contributions to my Price Sticker Library, so if you have access to vintage price stickers affixed to Mego toys, I want to hear from you!

This blog, surely the first in an ongoing series, focuses on Mego’s original packaging style: The “Solid” Box design, discussed on page 16 of World’s Greatest Toys!

Here are two different retailers’ Solid Box price stickers, each issued in early 1973:

Barkers

Price Sticker

The Barkers price sticker above, affixed to the front of a Solid Box Batman, reads:

  • Barkers
  • DP 77 373
  • 021 1310
  • $1.99

Note the recognizable “1310″ citation, denoting Mego’s original assortment code; the “1310″ assortment included Superman, Batman, Robin and Aquaman… I have no idea what the “021″ refers to.

BIG D

Price Sticker

The BIG D price sticker above, affixed to the top panel of a Solid Box Superman, reads:

  • BIG D
  • $2.19

What’s interesting to me is the $0.20 price difference between Barkers and BIG D; clearly Barkers ordered larger quantities, ensuring better wholesale pricing, which is notably reflected in the final retail price. Fascinating!

I’ve heard of Barkers before (though I don’t think we had them in Michigan, where I grew up), but I’ve never heard of BIG D… perhaps a small regional store?

Do you remember either Barkers or BIG D from your childhood? If so, how would you classify each retailer (i.e. “Department Store,” “Five-and-Dime,” “Drug Store,” etc.)? If you know, please post in the comments below.

Also, I look forward to hearing from fellow Mego sticker-heads. Please send me pics of your Mego price stickers!

Benjamin

p.s. It’s not only my birthday, it’s also Tax Day. Don’t forget to tip Uncle Sam for letting you live in this glorious-yet-troubled country! If you are one of the many ‘International’ Mego Collectors not beholden to our tax system, take a moment to send me good birthday wishes. I could use it.

posted in BIG D, Barkers, Batman, Mego Packaging, Mego Retailers, Price Stickers, Superman | 6 Comments

11th April 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: Mego Spring 1975 Catalog (pp5-6)

Daily Mego Adoration Here’s our Daily Mego Adoration for Friday, April 11, 2008:

Mego Spring 1975 Catalog (Part 5 of 5)!

All week, we have been revealing pages from the scarce Spring 1975 Mego Catalog, which comes courtesy of the Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) estate’s private Mego archive.

In revealing the catalog pages all week, I’ve repeatedly mentioned the fact that when Mego produced the Spring 1975 catalog, they lacked the requisite production samples to properly depict all of the toys they planned to introduce at Toy Fair in 1975. Accordingly, Mego granted Evel Knievel a fake product mock-up, and they used illustrations to promote the forthcoming Bend N’ Flex Super-Foes and Bend N’ Flex Super-Foes.

By this time, Mego had production samples of Bend N’ Flex 1st- and 2nd-Wave figures, but they hadn’t yet completed their line of plastic banks! With Superman, Batman and Spider-Man banks ready to go (dare I say “in the bank?”), Mego was forced to ‘photo-illustrate’ the proposed Joker and Penguin banks:

Spring 75 Catalog

I cannot figure out how Mego created the above images in a pre-digital world! Clearly, the images are based on the 8″ figures, but how did they illustrate the folded arms?! It’s pretty cool, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen Mego produce.

Below are pages 5 and 6 of Mego’s Spring 1975 catalog (click images to embiggen):

Spring 75 Catalog Spring 75 Catalog

Benjamin

Blog Credits and legal stuff: Images published by Benjamin Holcomb, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

posted in World's Greatest Toys | 3 Comments