Mego 8” Super Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys
Holcomb/TwoMorrows Publishing (Book Review)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
record and in the order the book presents them, the characters are:
Identities (Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Peter Parker)
Four (Invisible Girl, Mr. Fantastic, Human Torch, The Thing)
Titans (Aqualad, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
directly from the publisher, you can go to their website at this link:
- Nicholas Sheffo