Saturday, June 8, 2013

Nerd Praise Part 2: Mego

SO I really enjoyed writing that blog about Mike Pondsmith and R. Talsorian games, and it got me thinking. part of having nerd rage against the way my favorite characters, comics and properties are treated is due to how I viewed such things when I was younger. Had I no passion or love for say DC Comics, why would I blog about what a travesty casting Ryan Reynolds in it was. I also Didn't like him in Waiting,or Van Wilder  which were both pretty shitty movies, but as I did not care about the idea of the film before, Ryan Reynolds' sub par performances weren't sending me into any Nerd Rage at all, just a meh, and a turn of the channel. So in that spirit I think it's important to look at things that made me the Nerd so willing to Rage that I am today, and this next one is a subject near and dear to any true geeks heart. They are the source of so many of my own childhood memories, and even today I collect them obsessively. so without further adeiu, here is my next nerd praise, Mego!

Mego is best known for their ubiquitous 8" action figures. Sure they were hardly the first to come up with the idea of a 8" "action figure" with removable clothing, but they were the best known, and best loved. Starting in 1971, Mego began using their own brand of 8" figure under the name Action Jackson, as a cheap way to get some of that filthy G.I. Joe luchre. Taking a less military vibe Action Jackson like Mattel's own Big Jim, was more generic man of action than say specific military man. His comercial's jingle, "Think of what you want to be, then call on me!"sent kids into action but this was not their hot ticket item.
However Action Jackson would lay the groundwork for their use of the same figure's body to take on licenses such as Wizard of Oz, The Waltons, and of course the world's greatest Superheroes. Not until Wizkids' collectable miniatures game heroclix would we see a company hold both Marvel and DC licenses. using the same small amount of separate bodies and different costumes Mego was able to make a host of different heroes from both comic companies cheaply and easily. Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Robin all shared the same body, with different heads, possibly re-colored hands and different costumes/ accessories.
The result was lightning in a bottle. Mego's figures were not the best sculpted, not the greatest articulation but they were very well done for the time and inexpensive enough for most kids to get ahold of. And just look at these cool commercials.
Mego also got some other great licenses in Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Dukes of Hazard, and C.H.I.P.S. They were also great at reusing parts for different effects. the Star Trek Gorn Figure was a Marvel Lizard painted brown and wearing a Klingon uniform with Klingon Phaser and Communicator. The Mugato, was a special set of head and feet placed on a figure wearing the Cochise costume from thier wild west series. in short making customs from their own library of parts the way later fans would do. In fact as a kid I used to pop the heads off of them and try to change them around, (when yeah, changing costumes would have probably been easier,)  and eventually I would need my mom's help to put the head back on, but using fonzie's body for superman, he could give the rest of the Superfriends a Thumbs up! Years later as my mom would chide me for it I would explain the hobby of action figure customizing, declaring my five year old self as ahead of my time.

Mego dies some time in the early 1980s killed by financial trouble and a lack of hit toys to put them back in the game as Star Wars and GI Joe/ Transformers would take the spotlight. It was a time when small stores kept toys on the shelf for years as opposed to today where a line may be lucky to have a shelf life of a year. Look at the playmates Star Trek movie figures, for example killed in one wave, and hasbro who has the license and could make 3.75" Star Trek Figures in the same quality as Star Wars/ GI Joe, has held off due to the volatile nature of the industry. instead just a few freaking Kreo Toys and some squishy crap. It really makes me nostalgic for what Mego accomplished, sure they had their share of flops (Cher, and Jordache anyone) but they inspired a slew of customizers, hobbyists and fans. even today EMCE, Mattel, Zica, TV Classic Toys, Bif Bang Pow, and others are making mego style figures to fill the gap left by this once great company. Even some obscure but cool figures like my 8" Big Lebowski (Complete with Rug!), or the Real Ghostbusters, and Sam Jones' Flash Gordon. So While many have written more about them, and there are plenty of people still supporting them (Doctor Mego, and Mego Museum just for starters!) I felt like I could not call my self a geek, or have any street cred as a geek without a bit of waxing nostalgic about them. In fact when Bif Bang Pow got the license for the venture brothers I had hoped that for the San Diego Comicon Exclusive they would do The Alchemist and Jefferson twilight as a repainted Mego Falcon and Spock, as Doctor Orpheus had made as demonstrations of potential merchandising. God I love that show, and the fact that they love mego and it shows in the series made me all that more excited to get the mego ventrue bros!

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