Mego Corporation

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Mego Corporation
Fate Bankruptcy
Successor Abrams Gentile Entertainment LLC
Founded 1954
Founders D. David Abrams and Madeline Abrams
Defunct 1983
Headquarters 41 Madison Avenue[1], New York City, United States
Key people
Martin B.[2] Abrams, Neil Kublan, Vincent Baiera
Products dime store toys, action figures, celebrity & fashion dolls, games, electronic toys

The Mego Corporation was a toy company founded in 1954. Originally known as a purveyor of dime store toys,[3] in 1971 the company shifted direction and became famous for producing licensed action figures (including the long-running "World's Greatest Super Heroes" line), celebrity dolls, and the Micronauts toy line. For a time in the 1970s, their line of 8-inch-scale action figures with interchangeable bodies became the industry standard.

In 1982 Mego filed for bankruptcy, and by 1983, the Mego Corporation ceased to exist;[4] today, Mego action figures and playsets are highly prized collectibles, with some fetching thousands of dollars in the open collectibles market.

Corporate history[edit]

Mego was founded in 1954 by D. David Abrams[5] and Madeline Abrams. The company thrived in the 1950s and early 1960s as an importer of dime store toys,[5] 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,[5] was named company president.[6]

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.[2] Mego constructed their figures primarily in an 8-inch (200 mm) scale. Sixty percent of their products were manufactured in Hong Kong.[7]

In 1972 Mego secured the licenses to create toys for both National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) and Marvel Comics. The popularity of this line of 8" figures — dubbed "The World's Greatest Super Heroes" — created the standard action figure scale for the 1970s.

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.

Beginning in 1974 Mego released the Planet of the Apes action figures, the first such toys sold as film tie-ins. 1974 also saw the release of figures from Star Trek: The Original Series, which was steadily gaining fandom in syndication. The Planet of the Apes and Star Trek figures proved popular and inspired the rise of action figure series based on popular culture franchises.[8]

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.[2][9] Both dolls were formally unveiled on The Mike Douglas Show.[10] The Cher doll was the number-1-selling doll in 1976,[11] helping to make Mego the sixth-ranked American toy manufacturer, based on retail sales.[7]

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,[12] 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, earning the company more than $30 million at their peak.[13] On the other hand, the Star Wars film was extremely popular and competitor Kenner Products sold substantial numbers of Star Wars action figures.[14][15]

Following Star Wars' huge cultural impact, and Kenner's great success with its action figure line, 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, none were as successful.[5] The widespread success of Kenner's Star Wars 3-3/4" toy line soon made the newer, smaller size the industry standard, shifting sales away from the 8" standard popularized by Mego.

In the late 1970s, Mego was earning about $100 million in sales.[13] Around this time, Mego began shifting their focus toward electronic toys like the 2-XL toy robot and the Fabulous Fred hand-held game player, but sales were not commemsurate with the company's investment, and Mego went deeply into debt.[7] In the fiscal years 1980 and 1981,[16] Mego reported combined losses of $40 million.[7] In fiscal year 1982, the company reported losses of between $18 and $20 million.[16]

In February 1982 the remaining staff was let go and the Mego offices were closed.[1] On June 14, 1982,[2] Mego filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy;[17] the company officially went under in 1983.[2]

In 1986, Martin Abrams co-founded Abrams Gentile Entertainment (AGE),[18] in order to retain and manage Mego’s licensing contracts, rights and deals. In October 1995 AGE attempted to reclaim the Mego trademark.[19] In March 2002, they abandoned the effort.[19] In early 2009, Martin Abrams announced that AGE had reclaimed the rights to the name Mego;[4] no specific future plans for Mego products have been disclosed to date.

Products history[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 included figures, vehicles, and playsets. It was a big seller on its 1971 launch, but soon faded in popularity and was discontinued after 1974.

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.[20] (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.

Fashion dolls[edit]

Mego marketed various fashion doll lines designed to compete with Mattel's popular Barbie line. The company's first attempt was the 1973 "Maddie Mod" line, which included an extensive wardrobe and Maddie's boyfriend "Richie," was not a success. Next, Mego created "Dinah-Mite," a poseable eight-inch (203 mm) scale Barbie-like doll with a boyfriend named Don.[21] Other fashion dolls included "Beautiful Lainie," a 19" doll that danced back and forth from the hips; and Candi, a line that included "Coppertone Candi," a "tanning" doll co-branded with Coppertone sunscreen.

TV and movie figures[edit]

The popularity of the 1974 releases of the Planet of the Apes and Star Trek: The Original Series lines led Mego to produce a variety of licensed figures based on films and TV shows, including The Flintstones, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Our Gang, Starsky & Hutch, The Waltons, and Wizard of Oz.

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

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

In the early 1980s Mego produced figures and vehicles for the popular TV shows CHiPs, Dallas, Dukes of Hazzard, and The Greatest American Hero. The Dukes of Hazzard figures sold well, but Mego failed with its CHiPs and Dallas dolls.[2]

Comic Action Heroes![edit]

Always thinking of ways to reduce costs of production, in 1975 Mego released a smaller plastic line of action toys called Comic Action Heroes! that had the costumes molded onto the figure, thus eliminating the extra cost of creating the suits. The line featured Batman, Robin, The Joker, and The Penguin, as well as other DC Comics characters. Later, in 1979, Mego re-released the line under the new name Pocket Super Heroes.

Celebrity dolls[edit]

In 1976, Mego launched a highly successful 12½-inch celebrity doll line. The first dolls were Sonny and Cher,[10][22] with famed fashion designer Bob Mackie designing an extensive wardrobe for Cher.[23][24] Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Diana Ross,[2] Suzanne Somers, The Captain and Tennille, and Kiss celebrity dolls followed in 1977 and 1978.

Micronauts[edit]

Main article: Micronauts

From 1976 to 1980 Mego produced a licensed line of Takara's Microman figures under the name Micronauts. The 3-3/4" toy line's popularity led Marvel Comics to launch a Micronauts comic book in 1979, which ran until 1986.

2-XL robot[edit]

Main article: 2-XL

In 1978, Martin Abrams purchased inventor Michael J. Freeman's toy robot, the 2-XL,[25] which was introduced to the public and became a success.[25][26] The toy was sold in different countries and was voiced in seven languages, including English.[27] A lot of games were also developed for the toy. By 1981, the 2-XL's popularity had waned, and it was later discontinued.[25]

The 2-XL was part of Mego's electronic games line, which included the handheld devices Mini-Vid and Fabulous Fred.

Military figures[edit]

In 1976, Mego began producing a small collection of World War II-themed military action figures marketed in France, Italy (under the Polistil name), Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom under different names. Most of these products were branded under the "Lion Rock" name, Mego's manufacturing arm. These figures were released in United States the early 1980s as "Johnny Action" or "Combat Man." 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; they were also intended to compete with Spain's Madelman line of soldier figures. The 6-inch (150 mm) combat line was not a success.

Eagle Force[edit]

Main article: Eagle Force

One of Mego's final large product lines was Eagle Force, a 2 34-inch-high (70 mm) die-cast action figure toy line co-designed by Paul Kirchner[1] and marketed in 1981-1982.[16] Produced during Ronald Reagan's first term as president, the Eagle Force toy line was marketed as a counter-terrorist task force, to send the message that the United States wasn't going to be "pushed around" anymore.[16] The line was similar to Hasbro's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero action figures.[28]

Toys and games manufactured by Mego[edit]

Action figures[edit]

TV/movie figures[edit]

Celebrity dolls[edit]

Fashion dolls[edit]

  • Candi (1979)
  • Dinah-Mite (1973–1975)
  • Lainie (1973) —19" doll
  • Maddie Mod (1973)

Electronic games and toys[edit]

  • 2-XL (1978–1982) — toy robot [30]
  • Batman Command Console (1977) [31]
  • Fabulous Fred (1980) — handheld device with 10 games
  • game/digital watch combo (1980) — the Exterminator, Fireman Fireman, Flag Man, Toss-Up
  • Mini-Vid (1979) — handheld electronic games like Break Free, Dodge City Gunfight, Sea Battle, and Spacewar
  • Pulsonic baseball (1980)
  • Star Trek tricorder (1976) — life-size

Games[edit]

  • Ball Buster (1975)
  • Magnadoodle (1978)
  • Mazeroni (1975)
  • Obsession (1978-1979)
  • See 'N Drive (1978)
  • Sixth Sense (1978-1979)

Other[edit]

  • Beanie Buddies (1978)
  • Bubble Yum Baby (1977) — doll that blew a chewing gum bubble; co-branded with Bubble Yum
  • Chills 'N Thrills stunt car game (1975)
  • Clown Around (1981)
  • Commander Zack Power and his Lightning Cycle (1975)
  • Dare Bros. toy glider (1975)
  • Doodlebugs (1978–1979) — wooden toy cars
  • Dune Machine (1980) — toy dune buggy
  • Evel Knievel bike accessories (1975)
  • Luv'n'Stuff (1975) — soft animal characters
  • Magnanimals (1978) — wooden toy animals, vehicles, and playsets, including some Disney characters
  • Poz 'N Play (1978)
  • Puppet Love (1978)
  • Speed Burners (1976/1977/1978) — diecast cars designed to compete with Matchbox and Hot Wheels
  • Woodies (1973) — wooden preschool toys

"Mego Melt"[edit]

Virtually every plastic action figure and doll made by Mego has suffered from "Mego Melt" (also known as "Mego Molt"),[32] 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.

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 (originally called "Twisted Mego Theatre"), a humorous photo comic strip appearing in ToyFare, a monthly magazine published by Wizard Entertainment.[32] ToyFare staff posed and took photos depicting the figures in bizarre situations, with added dialogue balloons. The series was well known in comic book and collectors' circles for its distinctive, off-the-wall sense of humor.[32] The popular strips 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.[32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources consulted[edit]

Further reading[edit]


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Kirchner, Paul. "Creating the Eagle Force," Mego Museum (2005). Accessed Dec. 26, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  3. ^ Steinberg, Shirley R., Michael Kehler, and Lindsay Cornish, editors. Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, Jun 17, 2010).
  4. ^ a b "Mego Toys & Action Figures - World Collectors Net". World Collectors Net. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Mego: The World's Greatest Action Figure Company," Action Figure Resource (Jan, 2012), pp. 20-22.
  6. ^ "Marty Abrams, Chairman, Co-Founder," Abrams Gentile Entertainment website. Accessed Dec. 21, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d "Business Day: Toy Selection Undid Mego," New York Times (June 16, 1982).
  8. ^ Scott 2010, pp. 3, 204.
  9. ^ Stern, Sydney Ladensohn Stern & Ted Schoenhaus. Toyland: the high-stakes game of the toy industry, p. 235 (Contemporary Books, 1990)
  10. ^ a b "Mego Catalog Library: 1976 Cher". Mego Corporation. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  11. ^ 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)
  12. ^ Carlisle, Rodney (2009-04-02), Encyclopedia of play in today's society, Sage, p. 345, ISBN 9781412966702, retrieved January 11, 2012 
  13. ^ a b Mego VP of R&D Neal Kublan, quoted in "Mego Micronauts," Mego Museum. Accessed Dec. 28, 2014.
  14. ^ "Toymakers are ready months ahead of Santa", The Free Lance Star, February 18, 1980, retrieved January 11, 2012 
  15. ^ "Killer toys", Ellensburg Daily Record, June 19, 1980, retrieved January 11, 2012 
  16. ^ a b c d Alexander, Ron. "Toy Fair Unwraps the Latest Offerings," New York Times (Feb. 17, 1982).
  17. ^ "Business Day: Mego in Chapter 11," New York Times (June 15, 1982).
  18. ^ "Company Overview: Abrams Gentile Entertainment LLC," Bloomberg Businessweek. Accessed Dec. 21, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "MEGO by: Abrams/Gentile Entertainment, Inc.," Trademarkia.com. Accessed Dec. 21, 2014.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Mego 1974 catalog, archived at the Mego Museum. Accessed Dec. 28, 2014.
  22. ^ (1 March 1976). People, Time (Magazine)
  23. ^ "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 
  24. ^ 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.")
  25. ^ a b c "2-XL Electronic Game Console and Tape Player". The Strong. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  26. ^ 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. 
  27. ^ Kaminski, Joseph (May 22, 2008). "Retro Tech: Mego's 2-XL". CNET. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Tarzan was originally licensed to Mego by creator Edgar Rice Burroughs; DC later acquired rights.
  30. ^ Coopee, Todd. "2-XL Robot from Mego (1978)". ToyTales.ca. 
  31. ^ Coopee, Todd. "Batman Command Console". ToyTales.ca. 
  32. ^ 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.

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