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

23rd March 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: DC “2nd Issue” Cards (part 3)

Here is our Daily Mego Adoration for Monday, March 24, 2008.
Let’s finish up with these lovely 2nd Issue DC Cards!

This post wraps up my 3-part series of Daily Mego Adoration blogs about Mego’s “2nd Issue” DC cards. Today I want to show ‘detail’ photos of each card’s distinguishing features, which I discussed in yesterday’s blog.

On the front of each card, Mego printed a “Country of Origin” statement, a legal requirement for all goods manufactured outside the United States. These statements comprise some of the packaging distinctions, as demonstrated below. Most notable is Mego’s cessation of the phrase “THE BRITISH COLONY OF” from later cards.

Note, too, the ©1977 Wonder Woman’s “Country of Origin” statement; the typography is unlike any other card! Incidentally, the trademark (â„¢) on the Mego logo helps chronologically place the mysterious Wonder Woman card before the ©1979 card.

2nd Issue DC Card-Front Variations: Country of Origin
Above: ©1976 “Country of Origin” Statement
Above: ©1977a “Country of Origin” Statement
Above: ©1977b “Country of Origin” Statement
Above: ©1977c “Country of Origin” Statement
Above: ©1977 2nd Issue Wonder Woman “Country of Origin” Statement
Above: ©1979 “Country of Origin” Statement

On the back of each card, there are three areas of distinction: Batgirl’s purse, the WGSH masthead and Penguin’s coloration. Following are pictures that demonstrate the differences between Batgirl purses and WGSH mastheads.

Batgirl’s purse started out yellow-on-gray. The ©1977c card is red-on-black, while both the Wonder Woman and ©1979 cards are black-on-red.

The trademark (™) on the WGSH mast started out white. On the ©1977c card, it is black, while both the Wonder Woman and ©1979 cards replace the trademark with a white registration (®) mark.

2nd Issue DC Card-Back Variations: Batgirl Purse and WGSH Masthead
Above: ©1976 card
Above: ©1977a card
Above: ©1977b card
Above: ©1977c card
Above: ©1977 Wonder Woman card
Above: ©1979 card

The Penguin illustration in the lower right corner on the back of each card also changed along the way. With the introduction of the ©1977c card, Mego finally added the character’s skin color that is missing from earlier packaging variations:

2nd Issue DC Card-Back Variations: Penguin Coloration
Above ©1976 card Above ©1977a card Above ©1977b card
Above ©1977c card Above ©1977 WW card Above ©1979 card

Want to learn more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $49.95

Benjamin

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

posted in 2nd Issue Blister Cards, 2nd Issue DC Cards, Batgirl, Batman, Copyrights and Trademarks, Daily Mego Adoration, Mego Corporation, Mego Packaging, Mego Questions, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Penguin, Robin, Wonder Woman, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

21st March 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: DC “2nd Issue” Cards (part 2)

Here is our Daily Mego Adoration for Friday, March 21, 2008.
Let’s continue talking about 2nd Issue Cards!

Expanding on yesterday’s Daily Mego Adoration Blog, which shows the front and back of every Mego “2nd Issue” DC card, I want to discuss the elements that distinguish each variation. The next blog will show photo details of each distinction, but for now I want to compile the information that is scattered throughout the (chronologically ordered) book into one place.

“1976″ 2nd Issue/1st Version (DC) Card—Spring 1977 (c2-DC-76)

DC 76 Mego created this new card, consolidating their entire DC offering onto a uniform package design. This card is marked “1976,” the most recent year DC updated their copyrights. As with all the window boxes that preceded this packaging style, the copyright information includes the phrase “in the British Colony of Hong Kong.”

Mego discontinued both Wonder Woman and Tarzan prior to releasing this package. Every other 8″ DC character is available on this card.

Characters Issued
  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Robin
  • Aquaman
  • Shazam
  • Penguin
  • Joker
  • Riddler
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Supergirl
  • Batgirl
  • Catwoman
  • Green Arrow
Instant Identification
  • Front features “1976″ DC artwork
  • Copyright year below WGSH masthead reads “1976″
  • Penguin has no skin tone, colorless face and wrists
  • Batgirl has light gray outfit and purse with yellow Bat symbol
  • Country of Origin reads “in the British Colony of Hong Kong”

“1977a” 2nd Issue/2nd Version (DC) Card—Summer 1977 (c2-DC-77a)

DC 77a This card was produced between the ©1976 and the ©1977b card, which includes more characters. The card has a 1977 copyright and new illustrations, but bears the same Country of Origin statement as the ©1976 card. The graphics on the back of the card remain identical to the ©1976 card. These elements suggest it preceded the more common ©1977b card.

This variation has several striking differences from every other 2nd Issue card. First, the card stock is glossy only on the front; the back of the card has an uncoated matte finish. This card also boasts a peculiar “butterfly” peg hole not seen on any other WGSH package. The die cut shape is different than the Teen Titans’ butterfly peg hole.

To date, only four characters are confirmed to exist on this variation: Batman, Robin, Shazam and Green Arrow. Presuming these are the only characters produced on this card, one guesses Mego issued these cards to fill an immediate need for those characters. For this to be true, it would mean that inventory of the ©1976 cards was depleted. This is not unreasonable, given the relatively low production quantities of both Shazam and Green Arrow. The existence of Batman and Robin is surprising, but could reflect the immense popularity and constant demand for them. Only time will tell if other characters appear on this extremely rare card.

Most of the new “1977″ artwork is redrawn from the work of legendary comic book artist Neal Adams. A testament to his popularity, this is among the most popular artwork used on Mego packaging.

Characters Issued
  • Batman
  • Robin
  • Shazam
  • Green Arrow
Instant Identification
  • Front features “1977″ DC artwork
  • Copyright year below WGSH masthead reads “1977″
  • Country of Origin reads “in the British Colony of Hong Kong”
  • No copyright text in white stroke around card
  • Peg hole is unique “butterfly” shape
  • Card stock has glossy front, matte back

“1977b” 2nd Issue/3rd Version (DC) Card—Fall 1977 (c2-DC-77b)

DC 77b This is the primary 1977 DC card, as Mego issued eight characters, compared to four for the preceding ©1977a card, and just three for the subsequent ©1977c card. All artwork is identical to the ©1977a, except for Batgirl, whose card uses the “1976″ artwork. The Country of Origin statement reads “…Hong Kong” instead of “…British Colony of Hong Kong.”Prior to production of this card, Mego cancelled Supergirl, Catwoman, Mr. Mxyzptlk and Green Arrow.

By this time, Mego secured a distribution deal with Harbert, based in Milan, Italy. It is unknown what happened to Baravelli, the Italian company that distributed Mego figures in the mid-1970s. Over the next several years, Harbert purchased massive quantities of WGSH. In fact, their inventory was so large, they still offered figures in their 1983 sales catalog, more than a year after Mego discontinued the line.

To accommodate Harbert’s immediate inventory needs, Mego sent an unknown quantity of the most popular characters in the line (including Superman, Batman, Robin and Spider-Man) to Italy, with a Harbert sticker covering the WGSH masthead. These rectangular stickers are white and feature the character name, Harbert’s item number and logo. There are also examples of round white stickers (see ©1975b Spider-Man card on page 83), which are considerably scarcer than the rectangular stickers.

Characters Issued
  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Robin
  • Shazam
  • Penguin
  • Joker
  • Riddler
  • Batgirl*
Instant Identification
  • Front features “1977″ DC artwork*
  • Copyright year below WGSH masthead reads “1977″
  • Country of Origin does not include “in the British Colony”
  • No copyright text in white stroke around card
  • Card back artwork is identical to the ©1976 Card

* Batgirl has “1976″ artwork on the front


“1977c” 2nd Issue/4th Version ©1977c (DC) Card—Spring 1978 (c2-DC-77c)

DC 77c Mego only issued Superman, Batman and Robin on this 3rd Version of the ©1977 Card. Large quantities of ©1977b cards went to Harbert for distribution in Italy. Superman, Batman and Robin were top sellers in the line, and it’s possible there weren’t enough ©1977b cards produced to satisfy both Harbert and U.S. retailers. Another contributing factor could be the ©1978 Hulk and Spider-Man cards produced at the same time. Additional quantities of the equally popular DC character would add variety to casepack assortments.

This variation is the most common ©1977 card for Superman, Batman and Robin. It is unlikely other characters were issued on this variation.This card represents the first appearance of a Registration (®) mark within the WGSH masthead of a DC card, replacing the Trademark (â„¢) symbol used on all previous packaging. The printers filled the white Trademark symbol with the red background, printing the black Registration mark on top. The black Registration mark is significant, as it helps determine the chronology of other 2nd Issue cards, such as the ©1978 “Marvel” Card, and various foreign cards. Additionally, Mego added the licensor copyright information within the white border on the card front.

The card back exhibits two minor modifications. Mego finally added flesh tone to Penguin, and Batgirl features a black costume (instead of gray) and a black purse with a red Bat symbol.

Characters Issued
  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Robin
Instant Identification
  • Front features “1977″ DC artwork
  • WGSH masthead has Registration mark printed in black
  • Copyright below WGSH masthead reads “1977″
  • Penguin has skin toned face and wrists
  • Batgirl has black outfit and black purse with red Bat symbol
  • Licensor copyright information printed within white border on card front

The ©1977 Wonder Woman Card— (Spring 1978-Spring 1979)

2nd Issue Wonder Woman The mysterious 2nd Issue card combines graphical elements Mego used between 1977 and 1979, but never simultaneously. The front character illustrations match the ©1977 cards while the coloration on the back matches the ©1979 cards, in particular, Batgirl’s red purse. Unlike other ©1979 cards, however, the Wonder Woman card back includes the word “Official” above the masthead. Also, the registration mark (®) is printed in white ink, a distinction Mego did not introduce domestically until the ©1979 cards.


“1979″ 2nd Issue/5th Version (DC) Card—Spring 1979 (c2-DC-79)

DC 79 This was the last official card issued for DC characters. It came out sometime between fall 1978 and spring 1979, and was produced until Mego cancelled the line in 1982. The copyright year is 1979 on all cards, except for Batgirl, which is incorrectly marked “1977.”

Along with the updated copyright year, the Batgirl illustration features inverted colors on the purse (red purse with a black Bat symbol). Additionally, Mego changed the color of the Registration mark in the masthead from black to white. Incidentally, the packaging for the mysterious 2nd Issue Wonder Woman card exhibits design elements placing its creation directly before this card.

Incredibly scarce today, this is the first Aquaman package Mego issued since the ©1976 card. Unlike Thor and Conan, who were featured in the Spring 1979 Mego catalog, Aquaman was not included. Mego issued all three characters in limited quantities.

Mego discontinued Riddler around this time. Their inventory of ©1977b Riddler cards lasted through the production of this card. While unconfirmed, a yellow ©1979 Riddler card may exist and would be extremely rare. Mego later packaged unsold Riddlers on generic Red cards, alongside remaining Aquaman, Batgirl and Green Arrow figures.

Characters Issued
  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Robin
  • Aquaman
  • Shazam
  • Penguin
  • Joker
  • Batgirl*
Instant Identification
  • Front features “1979″ DC artwork
  • WGSH masthead has Registration mark printed in white
  • Copyright year below WGSH masthead reads “1979″*
  • Batgirl has black outfit and red purse with black Bat symbol

* Batgirl has “1977″ marked year of release.


Want to learn more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $49.95     Â

Stay tuned: In Monday’s “Daily Mego Adoration” blog, I will post a pictorial blog, detailing the distinguising aspects of each “2nd Issue” DC card!

Benjamin

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

posted in 2nd Issue Blister Cards, 2nd Issue DC Cards, Aquaman, Batman, Copyrights and Trademarks, Daily Mego Adoration, Mego Corporation, Mego Packaging, Mego Questions, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Robin, Superman, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

28th February 2008

Let’s Talk 3rd Wave Mego World’s Greatest Super-Heroes!

Wait. Before we talk about the 3rd Wave, let’s take a minute to admire the 3rd Wave.

Green Arrow

(Above: Mego Green Arrow MIB and MOC)

Green Goblin

(Above: Mego Green Goblin MIB and MOC)

Lizard

(Above: Mego Lizard MIB and MOC)

Falcon

(Above: Mego Falcon MIB and MOC)

Iron Man

(Above: Mego Iron Man MIB and MOC)

Hulk

(Above: Mego Hulk MIB and MOC)

OK, enough drooling over the goodies. Let’s talk Mego.

Among questions I’ve gotten about the book, one of the more prevalent issues has to do with the 3rd Wave of Mego World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, which included Green Arrow, Green Goblin, Lizard, Falcon, Iron Man and Hulk. What seems to surprise people most is the fact that this wave of gorgeous action figures did not sell well, compared to other figures and waves within the WGSH line.

I touch on this in World’s Greatest Toys (Amazon pays me for purchases made through my Blog, so I thank you in advance for purchasing my book through links on this site). Here’s a snippet from the book (page 146, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited spread:

The 3rd Wave is comprised of one DC character, Green Arrow, and five Marvel characters: Green Goblin, Lizard, Falcon, Iron Man and Hulk. Mego did not heavily promote the wave to the industry, and it had a clear impact on sales. Granted a promotional feature in the February 1975 Toy Fair issue of Playthings, Mego announced additions to Planet of the Apes, upcoming Star Trek figures, and other lines such as The Waltons and Wizard of Oz. The solitary mention of Heroes makes no reference to the 3rd Wave. “Mego continues to build its Super-Hero line of basic action figures by adding new Fist Fighting Action to Batman and Robin, and the Joker and Riddler, the all-time favorites in this category.”

It is important to understand that the entire 3rd Wave of Super-Heroes performed terribly in the marketplace. Even Hulk, the only successful character in the wave, did not gain popularity until the CBS TV show gained momentum three years after the figure debuted. The wave’s failure impacts collectors today. Aside from Hulk, the other five 3rd Wave characters comprise many of the scarcest packaging variations today. The supply and demand is directly proportional to the relatively few specimens sold during the 1970s.

Perhaps contributing to the diminished support of 3rd Wave of heroes, Mego was aggressively adding new products in an attempt to find the next ‘big thing.’ While the line was ultimately abandoned in the planning stages, Mego even developed a “Doc Savage” line coinciding with the doomed film project. Drawings, models and prototypes still exist in the collections of a select few. It is unknown if these characters would have been promoted as World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.

1975

Eagle-eyed Mego-heads will notice that the pictures atop the Blog depict the 1st Version (Old Logo) box and the 1st Version (©1975a) 2nd Issue card for each character…

…except for Hulk! (shown instead is the ©1975b card)

I wish I could show the same iteration of each packaging style, but I am unable to do so. There are two reasons for this: 1) There is only one 2nd Issue card design for Green Goblin, Lizard, Falcon and Iron Man (proof these characters sold poorly, resulting in discontinuation) and; 2) I have not yet tracked down a specimen of the extremely rare ©1975a Hulk packaging variation!

“Wha…?!” you sputter. “But I thought Hulk was the most common Mego figure out there?!” you insist.

Well, yes and no. I discuss this in the book, too.

Here’s a snippet from World’s Greatest Toys (page 182, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited spread:

Hulk holds the distinction of being issued on every 2nd Issue U.S. Marvel card, along with a Canadian Parkdale Novelties card in 1978 that was created specifically for Hulk and Spider-Man. Likely due to the abundance of ©1978 and ©1979 Hulk cards, many collectors are unaware of the scarcity of the ©1975a and ©1975b cards. The ©1975a, in particular, is a rare find.

Hulk

The 3rd Wave of Mego super-hereos brought us some amazing figures. Sadly, the wave underperformed, which helps explain the scarcity of several of these characters’ packaging variations.

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. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

Blog Credits and legal stuff: Mego boxes courtesy of Benjamin Holcomb and Charlie Balicki. 2nd Issue Mego cards courtesy of Dan Crandall and Scott Adams. Images published by Benjamin Holcomb and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

posted in Book Status, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, Random Musings, World's Greatest Toys | 0 Comments

25th February 2008

Mego Bizarro: A Mr. Mxyzptlk Trick?

Bizarro

“Bizarro want make Mego marketing decision today!”

For years, vintage super-hero action figure enthusiasts have engaged in heated-but-healthy discussions surrounding Mego’s decisions regarding the characters included in their magnificent World’s Greatest Super-Heroes line, especially within the wave of World’s Greatest Super-Foes, which gave us Penguin, Joker, Riddler and Mr. Mxyzptlk in 1974.

Mr. Mxyzptlk One of the more controversial figures in the entire line is Mr. Mxyzptlk, particularly since the underutilized DC character ended up being the only 8″ Superman villain Mego ever produced.

Fans may not be crazy about Mr. Mxyzptlk (either the character or the Mego figure), but Mego clearly put a lot of effort into developing Mr. Mxyzptlk, ultimately sculpting two different heads (shown at left) for the character.

Note to collectors: Mego produced the “Smirking” head (far left) first and it is considerably scarcer than the revised version (near left).

I discuss the issue of Mr. Mxyzptlk, in relation to other Super-Foes, in the book, World’s Greatest Toys! (currently in-stock and available for purchase through Amazon.com; Amazon pays me for purchases made through my blog, so I thank you in advance for buying it here).

Here’s a snippet from the Mr. Mxyzptlk chapter of the book, followed by a scan of the spread (starting on page 136, for those reading along):

Collectors question Mego’s decision to produce Mr. Mxyzptlk, a relatively minor character. Mego clearly sought to capitalize on kids’ interest in Superman; the original packages proclaim “Superman’s Arch Enemy” in large type. Still, the character seems an odd choice compared to better-known Superman villains, including Lex Luthor and Brainiac. When pressed for an explanation in a 1998 interview, Neal Kublan offered “The [1978 Richard Donner] film had Lex [Luthor], but the comics had a lot of [Mr.] Mxyzptlk. The comics had a lot of it. And we did Superman before the first film.” A salient point, as Mego’s choice of Superman villain debuted four years before the movie opened.

Mr. Mxyzptlk

On a side note, the snippet above bothers/intrigues me, because my original manuscript cited Bizarro instead of Brainiac. Yet somehow, through myriad edits, Bizarro was replaced with Brainiac. I have no idea how or when this happened. The revision is unfortunate because, even while working on the book, I was aware of the fact that Mego once submitted a fascinating trademark request: Bizarro

Following is Mego’s canceled USPTO submission, along with a clever “Superfriends” custom:

Bizarro

Bizarro

As referenced in my recent Mego copyright and trademark Blog, Webbed-Hand Aquaman: Search for Atlantis?, which details a fleeting interest in all-things aquatic, Mego apparently also discussed the idea of a World’s Greatest Super-Hero Bizarro figure, possibly on several occasions. At least once during the 1977/1978 production meetings documented in Brian Heiler’s amazing interview with Mego artist Vinny Baiera, Mego considered expanding the original wave of four Super-Foes… as evidenced by Baiera’s own 30-year old meeting notes (shown at right).

It’s interesting to note that Baiera jotted these concepts and ideas at least two years after Mego submitted the trademark request for bizarro!

What could this mean?

Bearing in mind that Mego often submitted trademark applications well after a toy was produced (sometimes years later), this could suggest that Bizarro — presuming the trademark referenced the DC Comics character (and what else could it be?!) — had also been considered for the original wave of World’s Greatest Super-Foes!

Surely this is a trick perpetrated by that vengeful, arrogant little bastard imp from the 5th Dimension! (By that I mean Mr. Mxyzptlk, not me. I was about 3 years old when this Queen-Mother-Of-All marketing travesties occurred).

As a collector today, what amuses me is that, had Mego known about the inferior materials they used toward the end of the line — resulting in the dreaded, grey “Zombie” head — they were but a sticker and revised blister card-back away from issuing a Bizarro Superman anyway (below)!

Bizarro

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. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

posted in Book Production, 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

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

21st February 2008

Webbed-Hand Aquaman: Search for Atlantis?

AtlantisOne of the great Mego Mysteries is the origin of Mego’s fascinating and unique “Webbed-Hand” Aquaman figure.

Only one specimen is known to exist today, but the figure (perhaps the same specimen) features prominently in Mego’s own 1978 product catalog, not to mention a hand-drawn appearance in the Fall 1978 “Heroes World” catalog (shown at right).

In both catalogs, the bizarre hands are attached to an 8 inch Mego Aquaman figure, ostensibly sold in conjunction with a battery-operated toy shark, under the title “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” (alarmingly, no Webbed-Hand specimens have yet surfaced in “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” playsets, to corroborate Mego’s intentions). Mego’s “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” is a fascinating toy that continues to garner heated discussion and speculation among collectors.

According to Brian Heiler’s amazing interview with Mego artist Vinny Baiera, the concept of underwater-themed toys came up several times during 1977/1978 production meetings, as evidenced by Baiera’s own 30-year old meeting notes:

Vinny Baiera

Note the highlighted areas, including references to TV’s “Man from Atlantis,” (DC’s) Aquaman and (Marvel’s) Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner.

I discuss this subject in World’s Greatest Toys! several times, including the Aquaman chapter:

Aquaman

And here is yet another Mego factoid to confound the issue: A mysterious United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) submission from Mego: “Search for Atlantis”

With a Filing Date of November 4, 1976, Mego claimed a ‘First Use’ date of July 26, 1976 (falsely, since it was never produced), under the category of “Dolls, Doll Clothing, Playsets and Equipment Sold as a Unit for Playing a Game.”

Even more interesting is the trademark citation, “Registered November 29, 1977,” which places the mysterious toy well within the chronological boundaries established by Mego’s 1978 distribution of their “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” playset.

Atlantis

Does this USPTO submission have anything to do with Mego’s mysterious “Webbed-Hand” Aquaman figure? Does it explain Mego’s creation of a strange, battery-operated Shark? Or does it simply corroborate the fact that Mego was interested in underwater themes at the time? 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 several similar blogs lined up for the near future. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

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

19th February 2008

The Toy (1982)

If you’re a die-hard Mego collector, you’ve probably spent nearly as much time pausing your DVD of Richard Pryor’s 1982 epic “The Toy” as much as your favorite… well, any other DVD. I am talking about, of course, the infamous “Wonder Wheel” scene in the movie, wherein Richard Pryor first meets his new “Master Bates.”

The back-drop for much of this scene, which takes place inside a Chicago department store’s toy department (Update: Mego Museum member TheAntiqueTiger reports the store was actually “Godcheaux’s, in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana”), is a positively jaw-dropping array of 2nd Issue Mego World’s Greatest Super-Heroes cards.

I have attempted to document the entire contents of that marvelous end-cap. Here are two screen captures, courtesy of Mego Museum curator Brian Heiler:

The Toy

I have included details of each image, broken apart by top and bottom shelves. Here is the top shelf, in black-and-white, and in color:

The Toy
The Toy

Here is the bottom shelf, in black-and-white, and in color:

The Toy
The Toy

From these images, I have been able to identify a few of the specimens. If you can illuminate more items, using the DVD or any other screen captures, I’d be much obliged! Send your findings to: benjamin@worldsgreatesttoys.com.

The Toy UPDATE: Thanks to Dr. Geektarded and his fabulous Blog, GEEKTARDED, we now have these two excellent screen captures (shown at right) to assist in the identification.

With the addition of these new images,
here’s what we have thus far:

TOP SHELF

1st ROW

01. 12″ Spider-Man
02.- 12″ Spider-Man
?
?. 12″ Spider-Man
?. 12″ Spider-Man

2nd ROW

01. 1977 Batman
02. 1977 Batman
03. 1977 Batman
04. 1977 Batman
05. (year?) Superman
06. (year?) Superman
07. ?
08. ?
09. ?
10. 1977 Robin
11. 1977 Robin


3rd ROW

01-15. Spider-Man Web Shooters

BOTTOM SHELF

5th ROW

01. 12″ Spider-Man
02. 1979 Hulk
03. 1979 Hulk
04. Spider-Man Web Shooter
05. Spider-Man Web Shooter
06. Spider-Man Web Shooter
07. ?
08. 1979 Hulk
09. AHI Parachuting Batman
10. AHI Parachuting Batman

4th ROW

01. 1976 Shazam
02. 1975 Thor
03. 1976 Isis
04. 1976 Isis (?)
05. 1975a Conan
06. 1975a Falcon
07. 1975a Conan
08. 1975a Falcon
09. 1975 Thor
10. 1977 Robin

3rd ROW

01. 1979 Hulk
02. 1979 Hulk
03. 1979 Hulk
04. 1979 Hulk
05. 1979 Hulk
06. 1979 Hulk
07. 1979 Hulk
08. 1979 Hulk
09. 1979 Hulk
10. 1979 Hulk
11. 1979 Hulk

2nd ROW

01. 1976 Shazam
02. 1976 Shazam
03. 1977 Batman
04. 1977 Batman
05. 1977 Batman
06. 1977 Batman
07. 1977 Batman
08. 1977 Batman
09. 1977 Batman
10. 1977 Batman

1st ROW

01. 1976 Shazam
02. 1976 Shazam
03. 1976 Shazam
04. 1976 Shazam
05. 1976 Shazam
06. 1976 Shazam
07. 1976 Shazam
08. 1976 Mr. Mxyzptlk
09. 1976 Mr. Mxyzptlk
10. (Year?) Superman
11. (Year?) Superman

Here is the breakdown of toys by character and type:

8″ DC MEGO CARDS
Ten (10) 8″ 1976 Shazam cards
Two (2) 8″ 1976 Isis cards
Two (2) 8″ 1976 Mr. Mxyzptlk cards
twelve (12) 8″ 1977 Batman cards
Four (4) 8″ Superman cards (year unknown); could be as many as seven (7)
Three (3) 8″ 1977 Robin cards; could be as many as six (6)

8″ MARVEL MEGO CARDS
Two (2) 8″ 1975 Thor cards
Two (2) 8″ 1975a Conan cards
Two (2) 8″ 1975a Falcon cards
Fourteen (14) 8″ 1979 Hulk cards

OTHER MEGO TOYS
Approximately six (6) 12in. Spider-Man cards

OTHER TOYS
Eighteen (18) “Fun Stuf” Spider-Man Web Shooter cards
Two (2) “AHI” Parachuting Batman cards

Not a bad score! Now if we could just track down that leftover stock….

Any additions? Let me know!

posted in Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, Random Musings, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

7th February 2008

Mail Bag: Reader Questions

Since the book was published, I’ve gotten some amazing Emails and feedback about the book. In keeping with the spirit of this Blog, I want to document the entire process. Accordingly, I will post questions and answers here. If you have a question about Mego or the book, please Email me: benjamin(at)worldsgreatesttoys.com

On January 31, reader John asked the following:

Question: Wasn’t there a package or catalog that showed a super-heroes that were planned but never made? I’m thinking it was Green Lantern. Wasn’t this mentioned in a Museum thread last year?

Answer: No. Green Lantern is depicted on the Hall of Justice, and I discuss that in the book. There is very little documentation of planned or unproduced figures; it is mostly speculation and wishful thinking on the part of collectors.

Question: Why not a section on rejected heroes or heroes that got only as far as planning stages? Was this not included because no art or prototypes exist to support the text on it?

Answer: I do mention Doc Savage, but as mentioned above, there is little documentation of other figures not created.

Question: Everyone seems to lament the lack of Flash and Green Lantern. It’s nearly the first thing they ask when they join the museum. Why not address that topic in the book?

Answer: As previously mentioned, I discuss Green Lantern, but not Flash. What’s the point? You could have asked why I didn’t discuss Doc Oc or Doctor Doom or countless other characters Mego never produced. But to what end? The book is a careful documentation of what Mego DID, as opposed to what they did NOT do.

Question: There was a sculpt of Joanna Cameron’s face for the ISIS figure. It probably does not survive but I would have loved to see an example of it.

Answer: Yes, and the Cameron sculpt is in the hands of a well-known collector, who was not willing to share it for the book. I have seen pictures, but was not allowed to include it in the book.

Question: I was under the impression examples existed of the Greatest American Hero figures, Ralph, Bill and Pam. They did appear in some advertisement tho the heads have not surfaced to my knowledge. Why not include that in the last section? Could not the GAH figures in 8 inch have been seen by Mego as a return to Super-Hero figures in the 1980’s?

Answer: Not really. Since the packaging prototypes are known and documented, we know that GAH was NOT to be branded as “WGSH.” I did include Isis and Teen Titans, despite their lack of WGSH branding, but again: I chose to focus on what Mego DID produce, rather than dwell on that which they did not produce.

I look forward to more questions and comments. As you read the book, make a note and send ‘em in!

Benjamin

posted in Book Status, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

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