8th November 2009

Mego Memories: Scott Neely’s 1974 Christmas!

My publisher recently received an Email from the very talented Scott Neely. Scott is an approved “Scooby-Doo” and Cartoon Network artist, working on such licensed properties as “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Cow and Chicken,” “Johnny Bravo,” “Courage The Cowardly Dog,” “The Grim Adventures of Billy And Mandy,” “Powerpuff Girls” and “Ed, Edd, and Eddy”. He has also worked on “Pokemon,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Strawberry Shortcake,” “Bratz” and “The Lil Learners Club.”

Scott wrote:

When I was down in Baltimore for the con I bought a bunch of books from Eric at the booth and got this INCREDIBLE Mego Toys book by Benjamin Holcomb. What a tremendous book it is! I scanned these pics of myself from pics at Christmas time in Dec of 1974 when I got the batcave and quite a lot of figures from Santa. I though Benjamin might like to see them since I also work for DC Comics on the side as well. Ha! I’ve attached them so you could see them.

Here are his FANTASTIC images depicting vast Mego Super-Hero goodness, including Batman, Robin, Superman, Spider-Man, Penguin, Joker and Riddler, as well as the Bat-Cave, Batmobile and Batcycle. Quite the haul, but Scott! No love for Aquaman or Mr. Mxyzptlk? Hey, you weren’t the only one. Heh.

-b

posted in Batcycle, Batman, Batmobile, Christmas Memories, Joker, Mego Batcave, Mego Memories, Penguin, Riddler, Robin, Spider-Man, Superman, Vintage Toy Photos, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

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

7th March 2008

Mike Armes 1970s Christmas Spectacular! (Part 5)

With Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 under our collective belt, here’s the 5th installment of our ongoing series:

Mike Armes

The year is now 1978, and “Star Wars” has gripped the imaginations of children throughout the world. The licensing explosion, advanced exponentially by Mego’s merchandising efforts, is in full swing. Before Mego blasted onto the scene in 1972, Disney was one of the few companies to fully capitalize on licensed merchandise.

I discuss this in the “Introduction to Mego” chapter of World’s Greatest Toys! Here’s a snippet from the book (page 6, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Mego made its most significant contributions to the world of toys when it established itself as a leading manufacturer of licensed dolls and action figures. By the time Mego secured its first character license, the practice existed for nearly forty years. Herman “Kay” Kamen created the licensing business as we know it when, in 1932, he was hired by Walt Disney as the merchandise licensing representative for Walt Disney Enterprises. In the 1970s, Disney was the largest licensor in the world, with Licensing Corporation of America (LCA), through whom Mego would acquire many licenses, following closely behind.

At that time, it was typical for a licensor to take five percent off the top, as well as a percentage of sales. Mego routinely avoided that paradigm and as they grew larger, they were granted licenses for very little, if any, advance against royalties. With astonishingly successful licenses such as Cher and Planet of the Apes, Mego became the premier manufacturer of licensed toys by the mid-1970s. In 1981, for example, Mego bought the rights to “The Dukes of Hazzard” television show (from LCA, incidentally) for a pittance of $2,500.

Want to read more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $32.97 (save 34%)

World's Greatest Toys!

How appropriate Mike Armes and his little brother embraced the two companies that dominated the licensing world during the ’70s, as evidenced by this Armes family photo from Christmas 1978:

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike wearing his “Star Wars” pajamas, right, while his little brother, sporting Disney wearables, proudly displays his Gabriel Lone Ranger toys)

Did you catch the Mego goodness in the background? It’s Mego WGSH vehicles galore, with a loose Spidercar and a MIB Batmobile!

Later that morning, Mike and his brother gather ’round the latest gift, a pristine Mattel “Shogun Warrior” Mazinga:

Mike Armes

Once again, there’s plenty of Mego eye-candy in the background (and foreground!), including:

Mike Armes
(Above: The aforementioned MIB Batmobile, and a sweet little Sesame Street vehicle)

And then there’s this pair of Mego WGSH goodies:

Mike Armes

(Above: The drool-worthy MIB Mego Wayne Foundation and a case-fresh ©1976 Superman card. Wow!)

But wait! What’s that in the foreground, buried beneath the wrapping paper?! Why, it’s Mattel’s Pulsar, the “Ultimate Man of Adventure!”

Mike Armes

Very cool stuff. Mike’s family photos capture so much of the toy goodness available to us in the 1970s. We’re really lucky to have his memories and photos.

Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have more great blogs lined up for the near future, including at least one more “Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular” entries. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

Blog Credits and legal stuff: Images published by Benjamin Holcomb, Mike Armes, Mike Armes, Sr., Jeri Lyn Armes and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

posted in Acknowledgements, Batmobile, Book Status, Christmas Memories, Mego Ancillary Toys, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mike Armes, Vintage Toy Photos, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

4th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular! (Part 2)

Mike Armes

We now continue our series of Mego Memories blogs from yesterday, which revealed pictures of the Armes family Christmas in 1973. Today, we skip forward one year, to 1974.

In the book, there are three photos from Mike’s family photo album, including this one:

Mike Armes

The caption in the book reads:

Young Mike Armes enjoys the spoils of a Mego-centric Christmas morning in 1974. Mom Jerri Lyn proudly displays boxed Batman and Robin figures (note the box variants and the mini-catalog inside the Batman box) while Mike prepares to open the boxed Batcave behind him or the Platform carded Batmobile in front of him. Mike confirmed he never owned the Batcopter or Batcycle, the only other vehicles Mego distributed on the scarce Platform card.

Here’s a detail of that photo:

Mike Armes

The third and final photo in the book:

Mike Armes

The caption in the book reads:

Late Christmas morning 1974, and Mike has already manged to lose the green cardboard insert to his boxed Robin figure.

Want to read more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $32.97 (save 34%)

Here’s a detail of that photo:

Mike Armes

Later that same day, Mike changed out of his pajamas and into a blue NASA-style jumpsuit. Mike, who is now a professional musician and television editor, demonstrated an early aptitude for guitar:

Mike Armes

Mike also displayed an early passion for Mego packaging, as evidenced by this photo of Mike and his little brother. While Mike’s brother enjoys his loose, Kenner “Duke The Super Adventure Dog” toy, Mike is content to keep his Mego Robin mint in box!

Mike Armes

Of course it wasn’t ALL Mego for Mike that year. Earlier in the day, he opened his Playskool “Familiar Places” McDonaldLand playset.

Mike Armes

In the foreground, note the super-cool Amazing Spider-Man playset, which featured cardboard stand-ups of Spider-Man characters.

Mike Armes

I think the Spider-Man playset was manufactured by either Amsco or Milton Bradley Ideal, but I’m not sure (UPDATE: Mike tells me it was manufactured by Ideal, in 1973). If you have anything to add, please post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have more great blogs lined up for the near future, including more “Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular” entries. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

Blog Credits and legal stuff: Images published by Benjamin Holcomb, Mike Armes, Mike Armes, Sr., Jeri Lyn Armes and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

posted in Acknowledgements, Batmobile, Book Production, Christmas Memories, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mike Armes, Vintage Toy Photos, Window Boxes, World's Greatest Toys | 0 Comments

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