Mego Corporation

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Mego Corporation
Fate Bankruptcy
Successors Abrams Gentile Entertainment LLC
Founded 1954
Founders D. David Abrams and Madeline Abrams
Defunct 1983
Headquarters New York City, United States
Key people Martin B.[1] Abrams, Neil Kublan, Vincent Baiera
Products dime store toys, action figures, celebrity dolls, 2-XL robot

The Mego Corporation was a toy company founded in 1954. Originally known as a purveyor of dime store toys, in 1971 the company shifted direction and became famous for producing licensed action figures, celebrity dolls, the Micronauts toy line, and the 2-XL robot. Their line of 8-inch (200 mm) scale action figures with interchangeable bodies became the industry standard.

The company dissolved into bankruptcy in 1983; today, Mego action figures and playsets are highly prized collectibles, with some fetching thousands of dollars in the open collectibles market.

History[edit]

Mego was founded in 1954 by D. David Abrams[2] and Madeline Abrams. The company thrived in the 1950s and early 1960s as an importer of dime store toys,[2] until the rising cost of newspaper advertising forced Mego to change its business model. In 1971, the Abrams' son Martin, a recent business school graduate,[2] was named company president.[3]

Under Martin Abrams' direction, the company shifted its production to action figures with interchangeable bodies. Generic bodies could be mass-produced and different figures created by interposing different heads and costumes on them.[1] Mego constructed their figures primarily in an 8-inch (200 mm) scale. Sixty percent of their products were manufactured in Hong Kong.[4] Mego began to purchase the license rights of motion pictures, television programs, and comic books, eventually producing action figure lines for Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and the Wizard of Oz. Mego also obtained licenses from Edgar Rice Burroughs for his creations, such as Tarzan.

In 1972 (represented by Howard L. Mann of Schwartzman, Weinstock, Garelick & Mann, P.C.),[citation needed] Mego secured the licenses to create toys for both National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) and Marvel Comics. (Mego later relinquished their rights and surrendered the trademarked name to both DC and Marvel Comics to maintain licensing privileges.)[citation needed] The popularity of this line of 8" figures — dubbed "The World's Great Super Heroes" — created the standard action figure scale for the 1970s.

Beginning in 1973 Mego released the Planet of the Apes action figures, the first such toys sold as film tie-ins. The Planet of the Apes figures proved popular and inspired the rise of action figure series based on popular culture franchises.[5]

During this period, Mego was known for the lavish parties the company threw at the annual New York American International Toy Fair. In 1975, Mego launched its Wizard of Oz film dolls with a gala whose special guests were every surviving member of the film's main cast. Mego's party at the Waldorf-Astoria with Sonny and Cher introducing their dolls drew a thousand people.[1][6] Both dolls were formally unveiled on The Mike Douglas Show.[7] The Cher doll was the No. 1 selling doll in 1976,[8] helping to make Mego the sixth-ranked American toy manufacturer, based on retail sales.[4]

In 1976, Martin Abrams hashed out a deal with the Japanese toy manufacturer Takara to bring their popular lucite 3" fully articulated Microman figures to the United States under the name "Micronauts." David Abrams, meanwhile, rejected a deal to license toys for the upcoming motion picture Star Wars, reasoning that Mego would go bankrupt if they made toys of every "flash-in-the-pan" sci-fi B movie that came along. This decision seemed of little consequence to Mego at first, because the Micronauts figures initially sold well — although the Star Wars film was extremely popular and competitor Kenner Products sold substantial numbers of Star Wars action figures.[citation needed] Following Star Wars' great success, however, Mego negotiated licenses for the manufacturing rights to a host of science fiction motion pictures and television shows, including Moonraker, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Black Hole, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Although these lines of Mego figures were of much higher quality than Kenner's 12" Star Wars figures,[citation needed] none were as successful.[2]

Around 1980 Mego was betting heavily on electronic toys like the 2-XL toy robot and the Fabulous Fred hand-held baseball game, but sales were not commemsurate with the company's investment, and they went into deep debt.[4] In the fiscal years 1980 and 1981,[9] Mego reported combined losses of $40 million.[4] In fiscal year 1982, the company reported losses of between $18 and $20 million.[9]

In January 1982,[1] Martin Abrams and a few other Mego executives were indicted[1] on charges of wire fraud, tax evasion, and defrauding the company of more than $100,000.[1][10] Abrams ended up serving four months in prison.[1][11]

On June 14, 1982,[1] Mego filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy;[9] the company went under in 1983.[1]

In 1986, Martin Abrams co-founded Abrams Gentile Entertainment (AGE),[12] and in October 1995 AGE attempted to reclaim the Mego trademark.[13] In March 2002, they abandoned the effort.[13] In early 2009, Martin Abrams announced that AGE had reclaimed the rights to the name Mego;[citation needed] no specific future plans for Mego products have been disclosed to date.

Products and product lines[edit]

Action Jackson[edit]

Main article: Action Jackson (toy)

One of Mego's first toys under Martin Adams was an original character, Action Jackson, meant to compete with Hasbro's popular G.I. Joe line. Heavily promoted on television commercials and in newspaper advertisements, the Action Jackson line was a big seller on its 1971 launch, but soon faded in popularity.

Film and TV licenses[edit]

Mego produced popular action figure lines for Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and the Wizard of Oz.

World's Greatest Super Heroes[edit]

Beginning in 1972 Mego released the first comprehensive line of DC Comics and Marvel Comics superhero and villain action figures, coining the term "World's Greatest Super Heroes!" (WGSH) as an umbrella title for all the figures released in this line.

To start the line, Mego produced Batman, Robin, Aquaman, and Superman figures. The earliest Batman and Robin figures had removable masks, but these were easily lost, and Mego noted that it was less expensive to create a new sculpt for Batman with a molded-on mask; similarly, they began painting on Robin's mask.

The complete offerings of WGSH were:

DC Heroes: Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Isis, Joker, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Penguin, Riddler, Robin, Captain Marvel (for legal reasons labeled as "Shazam"), Supergirl, Superman, Tarzan,[14] Teen Titans (Speedy, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl), and Wonder Woman

Marvel Heroes: Captain America, Conan, Falcon, Green Goblin, Hulk, Human Torch, Invisible Girl, Iron Man, Lizard, Mr. Fantastic, Spider-Man, The Thing and Thor.

For the South African market a local radio play superhero, Jet Jungle, was included in the series.

The earliest figures were released in a solid box, but these boxes were often damaged by shoppers who wanted to see the figure inside. The design was quickly changed to a "window" style box. The WGSH line was offered from 1972 until 1983.

Carded figures[edit]

Mego created the first carded packaging for action figures. Initially, Mego figures were released in boxes but S.S. Kresge's did not have shelves on which to place them, so they requested that something be designed for their "peg board" displays.[citation needed] To satisfy the need, Mego created a card which is referred to as a "Kresge-style card" (named for the Kresge—later Kmart) store chain. The earliest style of card placed the clear plastic bubble containing the action figure in the center of the card (as opposed to subsequent cards, which placed the bubble toward one side).

Secret Identity figures[edit]

In 1974, Mego offered the first exclusive figures for Montgomery Ward due to a relationship Mego founder David Abrams had with Wards.[citation needed] These figures featured superheroes' secret identities, including Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Clark Kent, and Peter Parker. The figures feature the same heads as the corresponding superheroes that Mego produced, but because the run on these figures was separate from that of the hero figures, there is a bit of a color shift on the heads of several known examples that is unique to the Secret Identity Figures, distinguishing them from the superhero figure. The heads are known to exist with or without copyright information imprinted on the back of the neck. These figures are now among the rarest of superhero action figures.[citation needed]

Celebrity, fashion, television, and movie dolls[edit]

Mego first attempted a fashion doll line in the early '70s to compete with Mattel's Barbie: "Maddie Mod," who had an extensive wardrobe, and her boyfriend "Richie." The line was not a success. They also created a poseable eight-inch (203 mm) scale of a Barbie-like doll, 1973's "Dinah-Mite."[citation needed]

In 1976, Mego launched a highly successful 12½ inch celebrity doll line. The first dolls were Sonny and Cher,[15][7] with famed fashion designer Bob Mackie designing an extensive wardrobe for Cher.[16][17] Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Diana Ross, Fonzie from Happy Days,[1] Suzanne Somers, The Captain and Tennille, and Kiss celebrity dolls followed in 1977 and 1978.

The company's Dukes of Hazzard figures sold well in 1981, but the company failed with its CHiPs and Dallas dolls.[1]

Superhero TV and movie figures[edit]

1976 Nubia doll from the Wonder Woman series

Mego introduced a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman doll line in 1977. The first edition of the Wonder Woman dolls and accessories included:

  • Wonder Woman (factory-painted bustier top with cloth star-spangled bottoms, bracelets, golden lasso, tiara, and red boots), as well as a Diana Prince Navy Yeoman outfit, featuring black glasses and black high-heeled shoes
  • Nubia, Wonder Woman's super-foe
  • Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman's mother
  • Major Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman's best friend and boss

For the second-edition Wonder Woman doll, which appeared in 1978, Mego recycled their Farrah Fawcett doll's extra bodies in neutral skin tone, added a one-piece Wonder Woman costume, tiara, golden lasso, bracelets, and red boots, and then removed Lynda Carter's photo from the box. This version came with a pink halter gown (recycled from their Cher doll) and a blue wraparound dress for Wonder Woman's alter ego. Mego stopped production on the Nubia, Queen Hippolyta, and Steve Trevor dolls after the first edition line.

The third and final version of the Wonder Woman doll re-used extra Cher doll bodies in tanned skin tone, kept the one-piece wonder suit, and this version also came with Mego's "Fly-Away Action" accessory. The alter-ego outfits with this version vary, depending on the Mego factory which made the doll, as Mego used the generic outfits available — Cher's original pink halter gown, the "Growing Hair Cher" black gown, or the Farrah Fawcett white jumpsuit; and the second outfit was always the blue wrap-around dress. Some of the neutral skin tone Wonder Woman dolls were also issued with the Fly-Away Action device, again depending on the Mego factory from which it was issued.

Mego added 1212" figures from the Superman movie in 1978, which included Superman, Jor-El, Lex Luthor, and General Zod.

Micronauts[edit]

Main article: Micronauts

From 1976 to 1980 Mego produced a licensed line of Takara's Microman figures under the name Micronauts. The toy's popularity led Marvel Comics to launch a Micronauts comic book in 1979, which ran until 1986.

Elastic line[edit]

To compete with the popular Kenner product Stretch Armstrong, from 1977-1979 Mego released a series of similar stretchable action figures, including Mego Elastic Donald Duck, Mego Elastic Batman, Mego Elastic Incredible Hulk, and Mego Elastic Plastic Man.

2-XL robot[edit]

Main article: 2-XL

In 1978, Martin Abrams took a chance with inventor Michael J. Freeman's toy robot, the 2-XL.[18] The toy was introduced to the public and became a success.[18][19] The toy was sold in different countries and was voiced in seven languages, including English.[20] A lot of games were also developed for the toy. By 1981, the 2-XL's popularity had waned, and it was later discontinued.[18]

Military figures[edit]

Mego produced a small collection of military-themed action figures marketed in France, Italy (under the Polistil name), Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom in 1976 under different names. Under the name "Johnny Action" or "Combat Man," the line was also released in United States the early 1980s. Using the 6-inch (150 mm) format, they were produced after the 12-inch (300 mm) G.I. Joe figures had lost their popularity and before the revival of the G.I. Joe line in 3-¾" format, and also to compete with Spain's Madelman line of soldier figures. The 6-inch (150 mm) combat line was not a success; knockoff figures were also released for companies like Woolworth (or Woolco in Canada, where the line was known as "World War Two Heroes, Brave Soldiers, Jest Force").

One of Mego's last large product lines was Eagle Force, a 2 34-inch-high (70 mm) die-cast action figure toy line co-designed by Paul Kirchner[21] and marketed in 1981-1982.[9] The line was similar to Hasbro's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero action figures.[22]

Legacy[edit]

Mego action figures and playsets are highly prized collectibles, specifically the World's Greatest Superhero line, the Elastic Superheroes line (a mint condition Elastic Batman figure actually sold for over $15,000 in 2006),[citation needed] the Wonder Woman doll line, the Cher doll (as well as certain rare Bob Mackie-designed outfits), and the Kiss dolls.[citation needed]

"Mego Melt"[edit]

Virtually every plastic action figure and doll made by Mego has suffered from "Mego Melt" (also known as "Mego Molt"),[23] a term coined by toy collectors to describe the material deteriorating over time. The plastic used for the doll's torso reacts with the rubberized plastic used for the arms and legs. The result is a melting of the torso at those joining points: shoulder, underarm, hips, and buttocks. Even when stored carefully, this melting often results in the costumes becoming stuck to the dolls. Excessive heat from storage in hot attics or garages exacerbates this problem. The dolls' hair and eyelashes are prone to similar deterioration when exposed to high temperatures.

Dr. Mego[edit]

In 2001, good quality reproductions of Mego bodies, heads, and accessories were made in China by Paul "Dr. Mego" Clarke.[citation needed] Collectors could now repair their broken or incomplete Megos as well as make new custom action figures.[citation needed]

ClassicTVToys[edit]

In 2005, a company named ClassicTVToys (CTVT) began to produce lesser quality 8-inch (200 mm) re-issue figures very similar in design to the original Mego figure. Various lines manufactured include facsimilied replicas of Mego's Mad Monster, Merry Men, Western Heroes and Super Pirates. These figures were produced in India and were made from a low quality recycled plastic, which caused the figures' hands and feet to crack and break easily. Nonetheless, the accessories work well as replacement accessories for original Mego items that are missing parts, To the company's credit, their products are usually marked "CTVT", but the lack of quality is evident and easily spotted.[citation needed]

They also manufactured licensed, classic television characters, packaged on blister cards. Among the many included in the line: Happy Days, a modified version of the series Mego made. And others, which Mego did not make, such as Married... with Children, The Munsters, The Brady Bunch, Space:1999 (which Mego did produce to some degree in the 1970s, but only for the European market, as Mattel had the American license),[citation needed] and professional wrestler André the Giant. Unfortunately the sculpting of the heads were harsh and lacked Mego's charm. These figures were quickly discounted by CTVT and can be found for a third of their original retail price on eBay.[citation needed]

EMCE Toys[edit]

In 2006, EMCE Toys brand (pronounced "MC") was founded by Paul "Dr. Mego" Clarke and Joe Sena to bring back Mego toys with the blessing of Martin Abrams, former CEO of Mego Corp.[2] Made in China, the new Star Trek figures have the high quality of the Dr. Mego parts, matching the original action figures. Working with Diamond Select Toys, holders of the Star Trek and Planet of the Apes licenses, these figures have been selling in comics shops. Following their success, new characters are currently being produced that Mego did not originally make, such as Lt. Sulu, Ensign Chekov, and "Space Seed" villain Khan Noonien Singh.

The Gorn that Mego produced was a brown Lizard head (identical to the Marvel Comics villain) on a brown body wearing a Klingon outfit. Fans have frequently wished that Mego had made a TV accurate Gorn. EMCE Toys and DST have made a new green Gorn based on the TV episode "Arena".[citation needed]

EMCE Toys was even able to get original Mego packaging artist Harold Schull to illustrate new artwork for Sulu, Chekov, Khan and the Gorn.[citation needed]

In July 2009, EMCE Toys teamed up with Mattel for the return of Mego's World's Greatest Superheroes. Dubbed "DC Retro Action Superheroes," these were released in Toys "R" Us stores in spring 2010. The line includes completely revamped versions of Superman and Green Arrow, along with Green Lantern, Lex Luthor, and Sinestro.[citation needed] In fall 2010, Wave 2 was released: Batman, Two-Face, Aquaman, and Black Manta.[citation needed] In winter 2010, Wave 3 was released: Wonder Woman, Cheetah, Flash, and Captain Cold.[citation needed] In spring 2011, Wave 4 was released: Captain Marvel (for legal reasons labeled as "Shazam"), Black Adam, the Martian Manhunter, and Darkseid.[citation needed]

EMCE Toys is continuing the Mego revival by working with Diamond Select Toys on more Star Trek figures, including Captain Pike and the Salt Vampire, as well as Universal Monsters.[citation needed]

Mego Meet[edit]

Mego Meet is a trade convention for Mego collectors held annually since 2005. For many years, the Mego Meet was held in Wheeling, West Virginia, but in 2014 was held in Skokie, Illinois. Open to the public, the Mego Meet also features expert panels for academic discussions.

In popular culture[edit]

From 1996–2011, Mego's 8-inch (200 mm) figures, particularly the superhero line, found new life in Twisted ToyFare Theater, a humorous photo comic strip appearing in ToyFare, a monthly magazine published by Wizard Entertainment.[23] ToyFare staff posed and took photos depicting the figures in bizarre situations, with added dialogue bubbles. The series was well known in comic book and collectors' circles for its distinctive, off-the-wall sense of humor.[23] The popular strips (renamed, formerly Twisted Mego Theatre) were later published separately in their own collections.

Mego action figures as well as similarly styled figures are used in the Cartoon Network Adult Swim program Robot Chicken. The show, which debuted in February 2005, is directly based on Twisted ToyFare Theater and features three of its writers.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources consulted[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Caringer, Kevin. "The Rise and Fall of a Toy Giant," White's Guide to Collecting Figures vol. 2, #1 (Jan. 1996). Archived at the New Force Comics website.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mego: The World's Greatest Action Figure Company," Action Figure Resource (Jan, 2012), pp. 20-22.
  3. ^ "Marty Abrams, Chairman, Co-Founder," Abrams Gentile Entertainment website. Accessed Dec. 21, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "Business Day: Toy Selection Undid Mego," New York Times (June 16, 1982).
  5. ^ Scott 2010, pp. 3, 204.
  6. ^ Stern, Sydney Ladensohn Stern & Ted Schoenhaus. Toyland: the high-stakes game of the toy industry, p. 235 (Contemporary Books, 1990)
  7. ^ a b "Mego Catalog Library: 1976 Cher". Mego Corporation. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  8. ^ Cherry, Rona (19 December 1976). Toying with a name, The New York Times ("This year's No. 1 selling doll, for example, is Cher, introduced by Mego at a suggested retail price of $6.94 to rival the famous Barbie ..."; article includes large picture of Cher doll)
  9. ^ a b c d "Business Day: Mego in Chapter 11," New York Times (June 15, 1982).
  10. ^ "Federal Jury Convicts Abrams, Other Mego Executive in Fraud Trial," (Oct. 1982). Archived at Mego Museum website.
  11. ^ "UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Leonard S. SIEGEL and Martin B. Abrams, Defendants-Appellants," Open Jurist (Aug. 24, 1983).
  12. ^ "Company Overview: Abrams Gentile Entertainment LLC," Bloomberg Businessweek. Accessed Dec. 21, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "MEGO by: Abrams/Gentile Entertainment, Inc.," Trademarkia.com. Accessed Dec. 21, 2014.
  14. ^ Tarzan was originally licensed to Mego by creator Edgar Rice Burroughs; DC later acquired rights.
  15. ^ (1 March 1976). People, Time (Magazine)
  16. ^ "Sonny and Cher fans can have their favorites at home". Warsaw, Indiana: Times Union. 1976-11-24. Sonny and Cher fans can have their favorites at home, plus Cher's 32 costumes designed for her by Bob Mackie 
  17. ^ Heron, R. Lane. Much ado about dolls: a beginner's guide to doll collecting, p. 113 (Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 1979) ("Mego has launched a million-dollar advertising campaign to promote these new offerings. The dolls were scheduled for the retail market in May, 1976. With the success of Sonny and Cher dolls, look for a Baby Bono doll in the near future.")
  18. ^ a b c "2-XL Electronic Game Console and Tape Player". The Strong. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  19. ^ Mannes, George (September 1, 2001). "Almost Famous Interactive television company ACTV has been the next big thing in the entertainment field for 18 years. Here's how the startup has managed to keep the dream alive. Sort of.". Fortune Small Business. CNN. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  20. ^ Kaminski, Joseph (May 22, 2008). "Retro Tech: Mego's 2-XL". CNET. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  21. ^ Kirchner, Paul. "Creating the Eagle Force," Mego Museum (2005). Accessed Dec. 26, 2014.
  22. ^ Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. pp. p. 2. ISBN 0-7407-5118-2.
  23. ^ a b c d Thomas, Jr., Dr. Ronald C. "Playing with Themselves: Robot Chicken and 'Twisted Toyfare Theatre,'" The New York Review of Science Fiction (Oct. 2010), pp. 17-19.

External links[edit]