Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
 
In Stores Now
 
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Essays > Toys > Action Figures > Superheroes > Collectibles > Pop Culture > Business > Mego 8” Super Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys (Book Review)

Mego 8” Super Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys

 

Benjamin Holcomb/TwoMorrows Publishing (Book Review)

 

 

Rating: A-

 

 

As hard as it is to believe, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars toys make, many people still think of the business and its product as “kid’s stuff” and are quick to dismiss it.  However, not only are some of the toys amazing investments, they are amazing, works of art and are some of the most important pop culture ever made.  As this continues not to become common knowledge, pop culture artists like Andy Warhol become more prominent as his works reach new record values and the same applies to toys.

 

Some of the most valuable toys are also some of the most innovative and one line that changed the course of the entire worldwide to industry was produced by the sadly defunct Mego Toy Company.  In the early 1970s, the longtime importer of cheap 88-cent pieces tried their hand at dolls and action figures.  Then they began to license characters and when they took on four DC Comics heroes, they hit paydirt, went from a small company to one of the biggest toy companies in the business and changed the whole world of pop culture forever.

 

Though they would create the 3 ¾-inch action figure and did 12” figures, their creation of the 8-inch figure was particularly amazing.  After challenging the market with their less expensive answers to G.I. Joe (in Action Jackson, no relation to the Carl Weathers film) and Barbie (in Dynamite) in the $2 – 3 price range, Superman, Batman, Robin and Aquaman launched The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes line (aka WGSH line) and the business would never be the same again.

 

Also available in the same price range, each figure came with cloth outfits, some accessories and in their size could have vehicles and playsets produced to go with them.  It is one of the most important stories not only in the history of pop culture and toys, but in business history and writer Benjamin Holcomb has pulled it all together in a remarkable large-sized book covering every version of every character ever issued in the line by Mego in his stunning new book Mego 8” Super Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys.

 

Having grown up on these action figures, living through their ad campaigns, understanding their appeal for decades and seeing a single packaged 8” figure going for prices in the $10,000 range (yes, that is four zeroes!) vindicates the enjoyment and respect many have had for decades without knowing there are many others out there who not only agree, but will put their money where their mouth is.

 

But this is more than about money; it is about the art of making inanimate materials fuse into something appealing that captures something important and even priceless.  The 254-pages are very well laid out and thoroughly detailed on every single aspect of the line and the adjacent rise and fall of the company that made them.  Way ahead of their time, they then turned around and in a one-time event we will never see again, had the exclusive license to both DC and its big rival, Marvel Comics.  To have them together is one thing, but to have all world rights to both at the same time is one of the greatest achievements in licensing history.

 

For the record and in the order the book presents them, the characters are:

 

Superman

Batman

Robin

Aquaman

Captain America

Tarzan

Spider-Man

Shazam!

Wonder Woman

Supergirl

Batgirl

Catwoman

Penguin

Joker

Riddler

Mr. Mxyzptlk

Secret Identities (Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Peter Parker)

Green Arrow

Green Goblin

The Lizard

The Falcon

Iron Man

The Hulk

Thor

Conan

Fantastic Four (Invisible Girl, Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, The Thing)

Isis

Teen Titans (Aqualad, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl)

 

 

Though most of those choices are obvious, a few need explaining.  Tarzan was in both Marvel & DC Comics and at the time, in both DC and Filmation’s animated hit TV show on Saturday mornings.  Filmation also has DC’s Shazam! in a live-action hit along with Isis, a new female hero who was a hit (now on DVD) and I am amused when younger fans learn of the original Teen Titans line-up.  They go into shock and can’t believe it, much like the reaction people who are unaware of Mego values on the market until it is explained.

 

This is not a price guide, though prices in a few cases are noted.  New records are being set all the time.  In the early characters, they all share a cherub-like look, yet remain faithful to the comic books and only later do the characters become more advanced in design, yet in this case, the earlier and simpler, the more valuable.

 

The use of space in this book is excellent, giving the artwork-decorated packaging and innovative box & card designs enough breathing room to really be appreciated; a far better approach than the “squeeze everything in” mentality too many publications and website shave today.  Color reproduction is outstanding and that alone more than justifies the price of this amazing volume, but Holcomb offers much more.

 

Besides classic print ads, catalog excerpts and highly informative text, he has a great guide to al the versions of card and boxes throughout.  At the top of the page at the end of each character, he offers a U.S. packaging checklist and postage-stamp sized representations of each package in generic form with the colors issued and information matching the list.  Priceless for collectors, it also shows the innovations and constant striving for producing better products the company pushed for and made them the best in the business in the 1970s.  This was at a time when the companies were making great action toys and even ripping off other Mego lines.

 

A few hundred cards and boxes in various forms are also shown throughout, including special update sections as the book runs chronologically and many foreign-produced cards are also included.  Besides playsets, each character is introduced with a big picture page, then the pages that follow show off and break down each figure.  One way this is done is by showing each costume and accessory, the latter of which gets their own section on the page (like shoes, belts, etc.) to explain their origins, variations intended & unintended, then Holcomb offers fair criticism pro and con of each piece.

 

The biggest surprise is showing a prime, complete, mint, loose example in a pose and with eight stills across the bottom of each character section page shows the figure at what amounts to a 360-degree look at the final product.  Holcomb loves this collection and that shows on every single page.

 

The book is so good that even children and readers unfamiliar with the line will find this amazing reading and after years of seeing magazines, price guides and other toy magazines even offering multi-part/multi-issue articles on Mego itself, this is the best piece ever done on the company and will hold up for a very long time to come.

 

Of the few things the book misses that diehard fans might notice, there is no mention of the TV commercials despite the many print ads shown, which are considered all-time classics in the field.  I was hoping for a listing of all the many ads filmed, but it is not here.  Though Holcomb notes some other Mego Superhero action figure lines, he misses explanations of The Super Softies that were an interesting larger off-shoot (cloth and including ones that talked!) and even coin banks in the image of some of the characters.  When he explains that the 1978 Superman – The Movie had a related 12” line that did not directly license the film to cut royalty costs.  He does explain how the 8” Wonder Woman was cancelled when the 12” figures for the TV show were made.

 

Then there is a point on Aquaman I was surprised Holcomb missed, staring on the introductory page (43) on the character where he seems puzzled it was made describing it as “an odd choice in the first place, given his relative unpopularity.”  The fact of the matter is that the character had already been the star of its own hit animated TV series in the late 1960s from Filmation (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and was a very logical choice since he was one of the four male heroes in the original line up for the Superfriends TV series that was arriving at the same time.

 

I am always amazed how fans of the toys sometimes miss the pop culture connections, but Aquaman lasted for the whole run of the line and despite the long run, the figures are very valuable.  He also skips the speculation that the Iron man head might have been an abandoned head design for a too-expensive-to-produce Dr. Doom for the Fantastic Four line and suggests the Sue Richards/invisible Girl head might have been from another line never made.  That kind of suggestion will keep you speculating and play detective.  The back of the head has a Marvel copyright, but who knows if that was before or after this was the final Richards face.  If before, could this have been meant to be Spider-Woman, Medusa or another Marvel female great?

 

Mego actually invented and licensed the term Super-Hero (or Superhero) and eventually gave it up to DC and Marvel to continue their relationship with the companies.  The result was that their stable of heroes outlasted all the competing comic book companies rendering other heroes “old hat” unless they appeared with one of the DC or Marvel line (as The Shadow, who would have made a stunning Mego figure, did by being at DC and appearing with Batman (who was inspired by The Shadow) in print twice) and both companies can thank Mego for a once in a lifetime boost from Mego before new characters in their companies and from new competing companies surfaced.

 

With other extensive lines Mego did for Star Trek, The Wizard Of Oz and Planet Of The Apes, I would love to see Holcomb do similar volumes for those series.  If this book is the hit it deserves to be, maybe that will happen.  In the meantime, if you like toys, pop culture, superheroes and/or collectibles, Mego 8” Super Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys is a must-own book.  Once you pick it up, you will not be able to put it down.

 

To order directly from the publisher, you can go to their website at this link:

 

www.twomorrows.com

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


Marketplace

 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com











WARN [viewer.cgi:main:78 t0=0.008844 t1=0.008848]: base= at /home/www/fulvuedrive-in.com/www/viewer.cgi line 78.
WARN [viewer.cgi:main:80 t0=0.008895 t1=1.8e-05]: (essay)->('6524', 'Mego+8%u201D+Super+Heroes:+World%u2019s+Greatest+Toys+(Book+Review)')
WARN [viewer.cgi:main:618 t0=0.016086 t1=0.007188]: select * from reviews where id=? ('6524') got 0 at /home/www/fulvuedrive-in.com/www/viewer.cgi line 618.
WARN [viewer.cgi:main:342 t0=0.016679 t1=0.000574]: genres: Toys->Action Figures->Superheroes->Collectibles->Pop Culture->Business at /home/www/fulvuedrive-in.com/www/viewer.cgi line 342.
WARN [viewer.cgi:main:618 t0=0.033443 t1=0.016747]: SELECT * FROM reviews, comingsoon
		      WHERE reviews.id=comingsoon.id LIMIT 15 ('') got 0 at /home/www/fulvuedrive-in.com/www/viewer.cgi line 618,  line 438.
WARN [viewer.cgi:main:618 t0=0.034267 t1=0.000804]: SELECT * FROM reviews, instores
		      WHERE reviews.id=instores.id LIMIT 15 ('') got 0 at /home/www/fulvuedrive-in.com/www/viewer.cgi line 618,  line 438.