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

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

6th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular! (Part 4)

Having published Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, here’s the 4th installment of our ongoing series:

Mike Armes

In 1976, Mike and his little brother took a little break from Mego, asking Santa for the most popular toys offered that year, instead: Kenner’s Stretch Armstrong and Stretch Monster!

Mike Armes

Such great toys! I love Mike’s brother’s “House of Frankenstein” shirt, but how about Mike’s W.C. Fields shirt?! Mike, you are one eclectic cat!

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, Mike Armes, Vintage Toy Photos | Comments Off

5th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular! (Part 3: 1975)

Having covered 1973 and 1974 in previous Blogs that begin to reveal Mike Armes’ wondrous family photos, we skip forward yet another year. 1975 was a stellar year for Mego.

In World’s Greatest Toys! I discuss the success Mego experienced that year, and the impact it had on the company. Here’s a snippet from the book (page 145, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Along with the new Fist-Fighters, Mego introduced two new vehicles during 1975: the Mobile Bat Lab and the Joker Mobile. According to Sol Harrison, then Vice President of DC Comics, the Joker Mobile was developed in the pages of Batman comics with an eye toward toys and merchandising. “I’ve been able to talk to the editors and get them to think in terms of products for merchandise using our characters,” said Harrison in a January 1976 interview. “The Joker Van was created and Mego Toys [sic] made a vehicle similar to it.” Mego sold the Joker Mobile for three consecutive years before cancelling it in 1977 and reintroducing it in 1979 (see price sheet, below right). “We are now working on a Wayne Foundation building, which could become a playset,” Harrison concluded. Later that year, his prediction came true; the Wayne Foundation was first available on December 16, 1976, and nationally solicited at Toy Fair in February 1977.

According to Mego warehouse manager Ray Demato, 1975 was the year that the WGSH exploded. If 1974 was lucrative (it was the first year the revamped Mego was in the black), 1975 was colossal. Mego’s third quarter net earnings vaulted from $1.9 million (in 1974) to $4.5 million by the same period in 1975. Mego, publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange (AmEx), sold at 3¾ per share at the beginning of 1975. By February 1976, the price jumped to 14 ⅝.

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

World's Greatest Toys!

Mego’s tremendous success is largely attributable to families like the Armes. Today, Mike is an avid monster/horror fan. I think his choice of Halloween costume that year provides a little insight into his adult tastes, so let’s get this picture party started in October 1975:

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike (right), dressed as the monstrous shark, JAWS, while Mike’s little brother (left) makes cool like coooool, as Fonzie from Happy Days)

By the time Christmas rolled around, Mike had evidently compiled a massive Wish List for Santa… who delivered. Big time.

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike cracks a minty fresh, Mego Star Trek Spock from its Mego Mailer Box)

Mike Armes

(Above: Needing a play environment for his new Spock figure, Mike cracks a crisp Mego Star Trek Enterprise playset from its Mego Mailer Box, which is visible in the lower right corner)

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike with his little brother, father and grandfather, enjoying some quality time with the freshly opened Mego Star Trek Enterprise playset. Is that Cookie Monster chillin’ on the couch?)

Mike Armes

(Above: Later that Christmas morning, Mike mugs for the camera with his Planet of the Apes mask and generic Tommy Gun.)

The incredible photo above reveals all kinds of Mego goodness, including:

Mike Armes

(Above: Details of Mike’s MIB Shazam, MIB Mad Monster Castle, loose Mobile Bat Lab and loose Joker figure)

Mike and I laughed at the fact that, just like his MIB Robin from Christmas 1974, the Shazam box insert is already missing! We were also intrigued that Shazam has a Mego mini-catalog stuffed into the front of the box. Commenting to Mike that I have never seen that particular packaging variation (the 5-digit/Old Logo) with a Mego mini-catalog, Mike theorized that his father may have taken the mini-catalog included in the Mad Monster Castle playset, and tucked it into the Shazam box. It’s interesting to note, regardless. And you’ve gotta love that poor Joker figure, just slammed face-first into the righteous, ’70s earth-toned shag rug!

Even more Mego goodness from 1975:

Mike Armes

(Above: Presents all opened, the Armes boys dig into the spoils of the season)

This final picture from 1975 is incredible. It’s a shame that it’s torn, but closer inspection reveals some wonderful visual treats, including:

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike prepares his Mego Batman and Robin for adventures in the Mego Mobile Bat Lab)

Mike Armes

(Above: Now we know what happened to Shazam’s blue box insert. At this point, the insert hadn’t been discarded… but it was well on its way to a trash bag)

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” entry. 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, Book Status, Christmas Memories, Mailer Boxes, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mike Armes, Vintage Toy Photos, Window Boxes, 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

4th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular!

In the spirit of yesterday’s Blog about Christmas catalogs and Mailer Boxes, I have a wonderful opportunity to continue discussing Christmas memories. Back in the 1970s, Christmas was a rare opportunity for most kids to finally get the toys they’d been pining over — and begging for — all year long.

I devoted an entire chapter of World’s Greatest Toys! to Christmas catalogs, this wondrous time of year, and the joys-’n-toys the season brought. Here’s a snippet from the book (page 54, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Mego World’s Greatest Super-Heroes toys appeared in a variety of Christmas catalogs between 1973 and 1981. 1976 marked the last time a retailer promoted new characters; Montgomery Ward added Green Goblin and Lizard from the 3rd Wave, but passed on any of the 4th Wave heroes, including Thor, Conan and the Fantastic Four. Introducing Isis as a “special” in 1976, Montgomery Ward opted against promoting the Teen Titans in 1977. While no American retailers promoted the line past 1980, the Canadian arm of Sears featured four of the remaining characters in their 1981 catalog.

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

Christmas Catalogs

I think it’s safe to say that all Mego-heads have vivid memories of Mego and Christmas. However, few of us actually have childhood photos to supplement our recollections and collections. Mego super-collector Mike Armes is incredibly fortunate to have both memories and pictures! As you will see in the forthcoming series of Photo Blogs, Mike enjoyed a particularly Mego-centric childhood. When Mego implored consumers to “Collect ‘em all,” Mike’s parents really took it to heart!

Without further ado, I present Part 1 in a series (woo-hoo!) I am calling:

Mike Armes

The Mego book includes three photos from Mike’s family photo album, including this shot of Mike holding his RC Batman on Christmas morning in 1973:

Mike Armes

Here’s a detail of Mike’s Mego goodness:

Mike Armes

What the book didn’t include is a picture from the night before this picture was taken… Christmas Eve 1973. Mike’s parent allowed him to open one toy that night. Mike chose wisely, but before going to bed, he put the toy back in its original packaging and placed it under the tree, to enjoy on Christmas morning:

Mike Armes

Dig that vintage Speedaway sled! Here’s a detail of the Mego goodness underneath the Christmas tree, an RC Batman in the 2nd Version box (issued shortly after the original Solid box, which Mego revised to add an acetate window):

Mike Armes

I want to thank Mike for sharing these incredible mementos with us.

Mike and I were intrigued by the large, yellow price sticker afixed to the box front. Mike’s father told him the toy was likely purchased at either “Weston’s” or “Jamesway” in upstate New York. I have no memories of either retailer, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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 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 and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

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

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