16th June 2008

New Article: Mego Retailers!

Today, we gather the collective knowledge of Mego Museum members, who contributed their memories in an effort to catalog every retailer that sold Mego toys back in the day! Sadly, most of these stores are long-gone, but that’s partially what makes visiting the past so much fun… it’s the only way we can go back in time.

I recently blogged my compilation of Mego WGSH Item Numbers, which is a helpful resource for collectors, fans and historians alike. While that article may be interesting only to hard-core collectors/historians, I believe this new article is fun for anyone (those raised in the ’70s, at least) to browse.

Without further ado, I present:

Mego Retailers: Stores from the Good Ol’ Days!

Retailers

You can read the article here.

Post your comments below. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Benjamin

Exclamation Want to learn more about Mego and the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes?
Pick up a copy of Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys from Amazon.com today! All sales support the author and help finance the blog. How cool is that?

posted in Daily Mego Adoration, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego Retailers, Price Stickers, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

21st May 2008

Mego Price Stickers: Simpsons

Simpsons was a Canadian retailer. After merging with U.S.-based Sears, Simpsons became Simpsons-Sears LTD. In 1978, the retailer was further modified, becoming Sears Canada. Here’s a cool shot of a Simpsons price sticker (from the pre-merger days), affixed to a 3rd Version (4-Panel) Spider-Man box:

Price Sticker

The sticker reads:

  • SIMPSONS
  • 158-6
  • A9
  • $2.49

Post your comments below. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Benjamin

Exclamation Want to learn more about Mego and the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes?
Pick up a copy of Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys from Amazon.com today! All sales support the author and help finance the blog. How cool is that?!

posted in Daily Mego Adoration, Price Stickers, Simpson's, Spider-Man, Window Boxes, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

16th May 2008

Strange Mego Logo!

While Mego was world-renown for shameless self-promotion to the toy industry (have you heard about Mego’s extravagant Toy Fair parties for retail buyers?), Mego was very poor at self-promotion aimed at its end-users… also known as ‘kids’.

How many of us, as kids, knew that a company called “Mego” manufactured our favorite action figures? Sadly, very few.

While 1970s Christmas catalogs are filled with recognizable logos from larger manufacturers such as Kenner (the ‘Stretch Armstong’ and ‘Star Wars” dudes), Hasbro (the ‘Super Joes’ dudes) and Mattel (the ‘Barbie’ dudes), Mego logos and/or attributions rarely appear in 1970s retail Christmas catalogs.

That’s what makes the 1977 Aldens catalog particularly special. Not only does it feature a Mego ‘logo’ attribution, it is not actually a Mego logo. But it is cool, and it properly credits Mego for making some hot toys:

Mego Logo

This strange Mego logo appears twice on the same page of Aldens’ 1977 Christmas catalog, which offered a Batman & Robin 2-pack ($6.99 for both!) and the Mobile Bat Lab ($13.99)

Aldens

Holy Zap!

Did you grow up in the Chicago area? Do you remember shopping at Aldens or perusing an Aldens Christmas catalog? Post your comments below. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Benjamin

Exclamation Want to learn more about Mego and the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes?
Pick up a copy of Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys from Amazon.com today! All sales support the author and help finance the blog. How cool is that?!

posted in Aldens, Batman, Christmas Memories, Daily Mego Adoration, Robin | 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

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

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

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

10th March 2008

Vintage Mego Photos: Circle-Suit Spider-Man

One of my favorite aspects of Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! is its documentation of vintage photographs of Mego figures in the proverbial wild.

On the heels of blogging the six-part series of vintage, childhood photographs from Mike Armes, I want to continue by discussing one of the vintage pictures that appears in the book… along with one that does not appear in the book.

Andi Jones is one of my oldest and dearest friends. I met Andi while I was still in high school, and he inspired me to pursue my creative interests and join him at the University of Michigan School of Art. Many years later, while working on the book, Andi mentioned that he probably had childhood pictures of himself with Mego figures. Sure enough, a few days later, Andi sent me two incredible photos:

Andi Jones

The image of Andi holding his RC Batman in 1973 (right) does not appear in the book, but it is a wonderful picture. The picture of Andi holding his Spider-Man (left), however, does appear in the book. Not only is it a great photo (that’s a Big Wheel steering wheel in the foreground, by the way), it is highly unusual documentation of one of the four, scarcest Mego Spider-Man costume variations, known as “Circle-Suit” Spider-Man costumes.

I talk about the “Circle-Suit” Spider-Man (or “CSS”) outfits in World’s Greatest Toys! Here’s a snippet from the book (page 81, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Among the numerous patterns, the most desirable and fascinating are the four “Circle Suit” designs. The earliest product photography, appearing in Captain Company (Warren Publications’ mail order division) and Marvel Merchandise (which ultimately became Heroes World) ads, suggests a Circle Suit preceded all others. The design in Captain Company ads is likely a never-produced prototype, since no specimens have surfaced. The other three designs were demonstrably produced, as there are known specimens for each pattern. Produced only on Type 1 bodies, Circle Suits are quite rare and mysterious to collectors.

Aside from the Circle Suit patterns, several significant variants exists among the more common outfits. Earlier versions of the Type 1 suit feature very tall boots, reaching the knees. Subsequent boots are much shorter, reaching only the calves. The spider emblem on the chest can also be one of many different designs. Some spiders are solid black while others are hollow, revealing the base blue color (particularly on Type 2 outfits). Earlier suits tend to have spiders with short legs, while later designs usually feature long-legged spiders. The webs may be thick or thin. Around the abdomen area, the red dickey may taper toward the belt or flare out from the chest. The reality is that there are too many variants to properly catalog.

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

World's Greatest Toys!

The CSS outfits are truly unique and incredibly rare. Here’s an enlarged detail of the four chest patterns that define each Mego Spider-Man costume variation:

CSS
(Above: Circle Suit details, left to right: the “Warren Prototype” pattern, the extremely rare “Diamond” pattern, the “Broken” pattern and the “Standard” pattern.)

The “Standard” pattern earned it’s pedestrian name simply by being the most common of the four patterns; the “Warren Prototype” pattern, for example, has never been seen outside the black-and-white Warren Publishing ads that appear in magazines such as Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella, wherein toys were sold (via mail order) under the name “Captain Company.”

The Comments section is now open! Feel free to post your thoughts and memories, by clicking on the “comments” link below.

Benjamin

posted in Acknowledgements, Book Status, Captain Company/Warren Publications, Christmas Memories, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Retailers, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Vintage Toy Photos, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

8th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular! (Part 6)

This is the final installment of our ongoing series:

Mike Armes

If you want to catch up on prior posts before reading this installment, you can do so here:

Past Installments of “Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectular”

The year is now 1979, and “The Hulk” is the hottest property in licensing. Kids clamor to capture the excitement of TV’s “The Incredible Hulk” (starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno), while manufacturers scramble to fill the market demand.

In today’s marketplace, such a popular TV show would create a financial windfall for the master license-holder; In 1979, that would have been Mego. However, licensing was much different back then, and Mego struggled against the undefined ‘rules of the game.’ With a Hulk toy license from Marvel (for four years running, back in ‘79), Mego should have been free to print their own money!

However, the relatively new world of licensed merchandise was rife with malleable, unclear rules. Non-exclusive contracts allowed multiple manufacturers to cash in on toys that Mego, alone, should have been free to produce and capitalize on.

I discuss the resultant issues, several times, in World’s Greatest Toys! including this snippet from the Hulk chapter of the book (page 180, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Originally, Mego did not heavily promote Hulk in any country. Aside from Heroes World, mail order companies generally passed on the figure. Only JC Penney sold Hulk in their 1975 Christmas catalog, dropping him the following year. For the next few years, Mego produced the figure with lukewarm results. Once the TV show aired, things improved. During this period, Mego sub-licensed the character to Palitoy, who issued Hulk in the UK.

In America, Hulk grew wildly popular, and retailers scrambled to offer Hulk merchandise. Sears introduced Hulk in their 1979 TOYS catalog, carrying him over to the 1979 Christmas catalog. By that time, Montgomery Ward added Hulk to their Christmas catalogs, and JC Penney reintroduced the character. The following year, public interest sufficiently diminished to the point that only the JC Penney and Sears TOYS catalogs offered Hulk. In 1979, upstart Tara Toys produced the “Hulk Hideaway” playset exclusively for Sears, and Empire Toys produced the Hulk Van, both designed to fit Mego’s 8” Hulk. While Hulk was sporadically offered through mail order companies, no mailer boxed Hulk figures have surfaced.

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

World's Greatest Toys!

The overwhelming success of ABC’s CBS’ “The Hulk” TV show is evidenced by a full page in the 1979 Sears Christmas catalog, which features a variety of Hulk merchandise. The centrepiece of the catalog page is the “Hulk Hideaway” playset, manufactured by Tara Toys. Also prominently displayed is Empire Toys‘ “Hulk Van.” Both toys were produced primarily for interaction with Mego’s 8″ Hulk, and other 8″ WGSH figures.

Today, comparatively small companies like Tara and Empire would not be allowed to produce ancillary toys that intermingle with the master license-holders’ products.

Can you imagine some upknown company producing a “Wayne Foundation” playset or “Bat-Boat” vehicle for Hasbro’s Batman: The Animated Series line, back in the ’90s?!

No friggin’ way!

But that’s exactly what happened to Mego, in 1979:

Sears

(Above: Hulk merchandise dominated the 1979 Sears Christmas catalog, including toys produced by Empire (the Hulk Van), Tara Toys (the Hulk Hideway playset) and Mego (the figures for which the aforementioned toys were produced))

Ever the arbiter of hot toy trends, Mike Armes and his little brother must have been on top of Tara Toys’ hot Christmas item, which was a Sears catalog exclusive in 1979, right?

Yep, they sure were:

Mike Armes

Way to go, Mike! Your parents are just about the coolest parents in the world!

This concludes our time-machine romp through the heart-warming Christmas’ of the 1970s. Thanks for reading, and thanks again to the Armes family for this joyous experience.

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, Book Status, Christmas Memories, Mego Memories, Mego Retailers, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mike Armes, Sears, Vintage Toy Photos, World's Greatest Toys | 0 Comments

3rd March 2008

Mego Mailer Boxes: 1975 JC Penney Super-Gals

Among the different packaging styles Mego produced, I have a strange, particular fondness for the plain brown Mailer Boxes utilized by annual Christmas catalogs that retailers distributed throughout the 1970s.

Lacking graphics (beyond boring legal text and item numbers), these utilitarian boxes — designed for direct-to-consumer shipping — were typically discarded, rendering many of them rare and fascinating today. Mego’s factories wrapped each figure in a ‘wrinkly-crinkly’ plastic bag, and the bag is often more scarce than the shipping box itself.

I discuss these ephemeral, vintage collectibles in World’s Greatest Toys! Here’s a snippet from the book (page 52, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

In the years before online stores and shopping malls — before many stores maintained year-round toy aisles, even — mail order was a vital tool for manufacturers and retailers to reach consumers. Each year, stores like Sears and Montgomery Ward offered giant, product-filled Christmas catalogs, a source of tremendous joy for children of the 1970s; Kids spent countless hours poring through each catalog’s toy section, circling items on dog-eared pages and compiling a Wish List for Santa.

Mego did a lot of business with catalog-producing retailers, called “catalog houses” by Mego staff. The business was cutthroat, each seeking an exclusive Mego item, such as the Secret Identities and Isis, to differentiate them from the competition.

Linda McNett, administrative assistant to Mego vice president Neal Kublan, recalled the push-and-pull of negotiating catalog placement. “The catalog houses liked their special items, because they were more profitable than a non-special item,” she explained. “Mego could offer them a ‘different’ product with a different stock number, [allowing the retailer to] avoid the legal problems of offering special deals on the same item to select customers.”

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

World's Greatest Toys!

While staple characters like Superman, Batman, Robin and Spider-Man benefited from consistent Christmas catalog inclusion (1973-1981), the four Super-Gals (Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and Catwoman) were less fortunate in garnering the massive exposure these Christmas catalogs provided.

For example, Supergirl was never once offered in any major U.S. retailer’s Christmas catalog! It’s unlikely Supergirl was offered in catalogs other than Heroes World and the “Captain Company” mail-order ads that appear within the pages of Warren Publishing’s Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and related magazines.

The other three Super-Gals fared nominally better. Wonder Woman was available through JC Penney (in 1974 and 1975), Aldens (in 1974) and Montgomery Ward (in 1975). Catwoman was available through JC Penney (in 1974 and 1975), Sears Canada (in 1974) and Montgomery Ward (in 1974). Batgirl was granted slightly more exposure than the others, as JC Penney offered the figure in 1974, 1975 and 1976, while Aldens also offered the figure in 1974 (incidentally, a prototype Batgirl figure is depicted in that particular catalog).

1975 was a banner year for Mego and the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. The line was at its peak in popularity, and retailers fell over themselves promoting the line.

JC Penney

(Above: 1975 JC Penney Mego Super-Heroes Christmas catalog page)

In this magic moment (1975), some retailers willingly promoted new, unproven Mego offerings such as the “Fist-Fighters” and two of the six “3rd Wave” Heroes (Hulk and Falcon). Even the Super-Gals got the attention they deserve. Well, most of ‘em, anyway:

JC Penney

(Above: detail of 1975 JC Penney Mego Super-Heroes Christmas catalog page)

The figures look so immaculate in catalogs! Every once in a while, these gems appear on the market, and a handful of collectors, like myself, beat each other up trying to acquire them… gems like the Super-Gals figures pictured below — all from the aforementioned 1975 JC Penney catalog — that were auctioned on eBay (Catwoman in 2005, Wonder Woman and Batgirl in 2006).

Super-Gals

Oh, I miss childhood!

I love this packaging style because it is tied to such vivid, happy memories of my youth. If you have any Mego Mailer Boxes you wish to sell, please Email me. I’m always looking to buy, and I pay top dollar.

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: 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 Aldens, Batgirl, Captain Company/Warren Publications, Catwoman, Heroes World, JC Penney, Mailer Boxes, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego Retailers, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Super-Gals, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

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