Friday, February 14, 2014

Geek Memories #2: Mego's World's Greatest Super-Heroes!

My favorite action figure line of all time has to be Mego's World's Greatest Super-Heroes line. Sure, other lines had better articulation, or just plain looked better, but these will always have a special place in my heart.

I probably first saw them on display at Kmart, which was a regular shopping destination for my mom when it came to getting clothes and household items. This was where I bought my first cassette tape recorder (purchased on layaway – remember that?). Kmart was, back in those days, was a treasure trove of toys for the young geek... GI Joes galore; AHI carded toys like Batmobiles, parachutists, friction powered stunt cyclists, and more; and of course, Megos!

I know I was familiar with their Action Jackson line, especially the TV commercials with the animated opening and catchy theme...

Once you hear it, you can't forget it, eh? Obviously, Action Jackson was Mego's answer to G.I. Joe, but in a less expensive 8” scale. Famously, Mego would reuse many Action Jackson accessories for later lines, and even the Astronaut from the Planet of the Apes line would basically reuse Action Jackson and the pilot's jumpsuit. Of course, this meant that they already had molds for 8” male figures, and doing anything different would just mean a few new molds, like for heads and the occasional hand. They would do some different bodies, but that's for later discussion.

The first figures in the World's Greatest Super-Heroes line were Superman, Batman, Robin, and Aquaman. Batman and Robin were originally released with removable cowl and mask, and these are some of the highest-valued Megos. This was the 1972 line, and in 1973, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Tarzan were added, while in 1974, they added Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Mr. Myxzptlx, The Riddler, the Joker, the Penguin, and Captain Marvel (although he was called “Shazam” on the packaging).

Now, you would think, wouldn't you, that as much as I was into comics at a fairly young age, and that also the fact that my brothers also liked super-heroes a lot (we'd all watch Batman and would pretty much faithfully watch Super Friends; we were also great fans of The Fantastic Four and Spiderman animated series) that we would've got those Megos when they were first released in 1972, right?

Oh, my friend, you would be wrong. We didn't get them until Christmas of 1974. But it was worth the wait, because we got Superman, Batman, Robin, Tarzan and Spiderman, all at once! We would get the male Bat-Villains later, but that's another tale.

So it was Christmas, 1973. I was 11 years old, and the family was getting ready for Christmas Eve services at the church we went to at the time (coincidentally, the same church that had a rummage sale where I bought my first-ever Beatles album, but that's another story for another time). Dad had gotten my brothers and sisters out to the station wagon, but my mom wasn't quite ready... and she asked me to stay behind for a few minutes.

Our stockings were dutifully hung on the wall (we didn't have a fireplace at this house), patiently waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus. And once my mom and I were the only ones in the house, she came out with a bag from Kmart, out of which she started pulling those Megos, all taken out of the packages, and told me to help her put them in the stockings.

I was shocked, to be honest... I mean, I don't think I really still believed in Santa Claus at that age, but I think I still wanted to believe, just like I wished that there were really superheroes out there who would save the day when trouble reared its ugly head. I'd certainly never said anything to my parents about not believing in Santa any more, so I'm not sure why mom chose that year to let me in on things. At least on some level, I had to have figured that if I at least acted like I still believed, I'd still get Santa loot.

So my mind was awhirl as I dutifully put the figures in the stockings. I have no idea what went into my sisters' stockings, mind you... that is long lost from my memory. So the joy of knowing we got the superheroes was tempered with the irrevocable loss of part of my childhood innocence.

Mind you, I did not let this get in the way of enjoying the action figures. I'd had GI Joes for some time, and the biggest disappointment was that they were of different scales, so they were incompatible for play, of course!

As I implied above,we did get the Bat-Villains, male contingent, later, but those were the last of the 8” figures we'd get (when I was in junior high, however, I did buy a set of the original figures in Mego's later Star Trek line, as well as the bridge set).

A few years later, my brother Jeff got the magnetic Batman and Robin 12” figures, and still later, I bought the Hulk Comic Action Hero, but that was it for off-the-shelf Mego purchases. All the other superhero toys we got as kids were those afore-mentioned AHI toys, and I specifically remember having a friction-powered Batcycle with Batman figure, as well as a Batman parachutist. Another AHI figure I recall getting was the Star Trek phaser flashlight.

We did get other 8” figures... the Famous Monsters figures of the Abominable Snowman and the Fly. But those were the only other ones.

Oh, I knew of the other figures... one couldn't help but notice them on the racks, as well as the commercials as well as the ads in the comics themselves, but I didn't get them. The best I was able to do was to make costumes for my 12” GI Joe figures (I used to be into puppetry, where I learned how to sew by hand, a handy skill when our Riddler figure's seams came loose on his costume).

But in the late 1980s... ah, that was another matter. I'd started getting interested in recapturing not ony my childhood, but also for what I'd wanted in my childhood. After dabbling a bit in Super Powers figures, I made the leap to collecting Megos and Mego-like figures. I went to toy shows, initially as a buyer, and then later as a seller (although I did my share of buying as well). I managed to get nearly all of the Mego superheroes and villains, although some were missing accessories (yes, including all the Teen Titans), some of the 12” figures, the Planet of the Apes figures, some of the monsters, and then the Remco monster figures after that... among many other things. I had only a few of the accessories.

Well, come the 1990s, when I was out of work and needed to raise funds to pay rent (and later, to afford a move to Wisconsin to be with my first wife, Barbara), I had to start selling all my toys. Gone were the Megos, Secret Wars, Super Powers and other figures, never to be replaced.

And now, as I look on eBay for pictures of cool stuff to share here, I occasionally see the prices being asked for Megos and wince... if I'd only been able to hold on to them, until eBay came along, I could have realized at least four to five times the price I sold them all for... even better, if I didn't have to sell them at all, I would have need for a lot more shelf space in my office. But that's the way these things seem to go in my life. I accumulate cool stuff for a few years, then things go bad, and I have to sell stuff off... collect and sell, collect and sell. And I bet I'm not the only one who's had that happen, eh?

But the Megos... those were the items I wish I had, of all the collectibles I've bought and sold, most of all.

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