This is the final installment of our ongoing series:
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 â€œHulk Hideawayâ€ playset exclusively for Sears, and Empire Toys produced the Hulk Van, both designed to fit Megoâ€™s 8â€ Hulk. While Hulk was sporadically offered through mail order companies, no mailer boxed Hulk figures have surfaced.
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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:
(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:
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.
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