In four months, I’m going to be 30 years old. I’m not really worried about it. Things don’t feel much different from when I was a kid. The space shuttle is still the primary space vehicle, ketchup still isn’t a vegetable, and Clash of the Titans & The Karate Kid are new in theaters. Not everything is the same, more people care about who Jacob is than who shot JR, and of course, there’s Pluto (sorry, buddy). As a toy collector, things feel especially the same. I’m still hitting up stores looking for Black Spidey, Desaad, He-Man, and Wreck-Gar. Over the last few years, toy companies have, ingeniously, figured out that I’ll buy all my old toys over again if they at least try to make them better. It’s an 80s love fest out there. I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.
In particular, Mattel has me hooked on their trio of Classics: DC, MOTU, and Ghostbusters. I’m thrilled to be getting updated versions of Cyclotron and Golden Pharaoh! Hasbro, in the last few years, got me with 25th Joes (and Matt Trakker from M.A.S.K.). And I’ve noticed that more than a handful of Marvel Universe figures have snuck into my collection: Brown Wolverine, Black Spidey, Iron Man, Daredevil. When I realized I was waiting on Baron Zemo & Magneto, I knew why. But something new is encroaching on my nostalgia fest. Something that, while it’s at least partially home in the eighties, doesn’t feel like it: Megos. They’re back and I’m not sure why.
Before I say anything else, let me say that I begrudge no one their Mego habit. I’m well aware that I’m a slave to my timeframe. There’s a reason that I look back more fondly on He-Man and Transformers than say, Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Looking back, 1984-86 seemed to be some pretty important formative years in my life as a toy collector. Super Powers is still one of my favorite toy lines. Battle Armor is the quintessential He-Man. The best Joes were from those years and I have a soft spot for movie Transformers first and foremost. I’m sure that if I’d just been a little older, I’d probably have owned at least one Mego and I’d be sharing in the excitement surrounding their resurgence. Well, maybe, see the truth is, even though I love the old properties, I don’t love all the old toys.
When I was in grade school, a “natural” disaster changed the face of my toy ‘collection’. I was the first to get home, and upon entering found that my house was flooded. Though the smell should’ve immediately given it away, I didn’t totally understand what I was looking at. It was raw sewage.* I never saw what my room looked like and, to this day, I can’t tell you what toys were lost other than most of them. Every once in awhile, I’ll see a picture of an older collection and go “I had that!” That’s how I went from messy kid to organized toy collector in one harsh lesson.
* – I love the term “raw sewage”, like it would have been more okay if my house was just flooded with well done sewage.
It may seem trivial to focus on my lost toys in light of all that went on, but I was a kid and it seemed like a big deal at the time. Plus, in the span of two weeks the house was gutted, floors ripped out, new floors puts in, and everything was refurbished courtesy of the city. The only lingering consequence for me was the annihilation of every toy I had innocently left on the floor. Which, sadly, was most of them. My parents took care of it though. Some of the settlement was used to give me the most amazing toy day of my young life, the closest I’ll ever get to a TRU Toy Run.
I don’t know how much was spent that day, but I remember being plenty satisfied when it was over.* My toy collection would forever be in flux after that, switching to newer properties, and at one point being completely dominated by Playmates Star Trek line. When I got older still, I found myself going back and picking up those old toys I’d lost. Tons of G1s. The ’86 Joes. My Super Powers Collection was rebuilt completely with my family & friends chipping in to pool enough money to get me some of the more expensive items as Christmas and birthday gifts. For a few years, things were going great, but I was ready for something different. I just didn’t know what.
* – I’d be remiss if I didn’t point that while I loved the G.I. Joe Crusader Space Shuttle, it could never fill the hole made by losing the Defiant Complex.
I think it started with Marvel Legends and 200x Masters of the Universe. For the first time, I wasn’t buying old copies of things I loved as a kid. I was seeing those characters, those toys, updated. That, to me, is what kept me toy collecting all the years since. I’d be out, so to speak, if it weren’t for the updated material. I still feel the nostalgia of a vintage piece, but I’m so much happier with MOTU Classics than I would have ever been with a commemorative collection. I still love my Super Powers, but DCUC is my dream toy line. These modern figures, to me, represent the pinnacle of what started with Kenner’s Star Wars line.
Kenner and Star Wars popularized the modern action figure. They shrunk it down to the 1/18th scale and over the last thirty years we’ve seen better and better figures with more sophisticated articulation, better likenesses, and better paint (usually). Amidst those advancements, the figures also got bigger, closer to Mego size, but more on that later. I love modern action figures. When done right, they move well and they look great. In essence, I feel like the figures I’m buying now are the toys I always wanted. A decade ago, I’d have been okay with reissues and expansion of the Super Powers line. Not anymore. I want DCUC to be as thorough as possible. So, in that respect, I don’t understand the popularity of bringing back Megos. They don’t seem to be better than the Megos of old, but maybe I’m not seeing the right ones. Still, If I’d been raised on Megos, I don’t think I’m the type of person the companies would be catering too. As such, I’ve been mostly oblivious to their return. At least, up until this weekend.
The Mego resurgence didn’t really impact me in anyway. I saw the Star Trek figures make a comeback and was happy to see characters that didn’t get Megos the first time around get some love. That’s cool in my book and I imagined the Trek fans appreciated it. I’m not interested in Lost or Venture Bros figures, so I had no opinion on Bif Bang Pow!’s decision to go retro and make figures in the Mego format. I wished them well and still do. The DC Retro Heroes, at $20, make me feel better about paying $15 for my “modern” toys when I see them next to each other on the pegs at Toys R Us.
Nothing I wanted in articulated 1/12 scale had ended up in ‘Mego format’ instead, so I didn’t mind. That is, until a sharp eyed poster at the MegoMuseum caught a commercial for Attack of the Show. If you’re not familiar, G4′s Attack of the Show (airs at 7/6c) will reveal some of Mattel’s SDCC Exclusive offerings today (4/12) and the rest on Thursday (4/15). One of them, featured in the commercial, will presumably be a Retro Action (Mego) figure for The Real Ghostbusters line.
If you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably seen me mention that I’m buying the movie-based Ghostbusters Classics, but really holding out for Real Ghostbusters versions. To hear that Mattel is finally doing some was wonderful. To hear it was a Mego was not. Now, I’m not “jumping to conclusions” or “spinning my wheels” here. I still have hope that Mattel is going to offer Real Ghostbusters in my beloved 6″ articulated form. If they can sell these Retro figures alongside the line I’m hoping to see, more power to them. Heck, I have to admit some intrigue myself. It appears they talk, and that could be cool. If there’s a proton pack hiding out in the bottom of that package, that’d be nice. If they get the costumes cartoon accurate, that’d be great. Winston Zeddemore could end up being my first Mego. But, still I have to ask, why was this decision made?
Up until now, Mattel has been pretty solidly trying to update my own childhood. Ghostbusters is about as 80s as a property can get. Filmation Ghostbusters as Megos would make sense*, but Real Ghostbusters didn’t even come about until years after Mego filed for bankruptcy. This seems like a mismatch. An 80s toy trapped in a 70s body.
* – One more reason for Mattel to grab that Filmation license…
Looking at the Bif Bang Pow! announcement in that same light, I’m similarly puzzled. The Star Trek and DC Retro lines made sense. If you had Megos as a kid, they’re probably not in the best condition. With the reissues, you can buy immaculate new ones. By making characters that were surreptitiously looked over the first time, collectors can fill decade-long holes in their collection. But does the same thing work when a license is added to the Retro roster that wasn’t part of the Mego lineup? Will fans of Lost and Venture Bros. gobble up the toys? Will Mego enthusiasts buy figures for properties they may not be familiar with?
It may not matter. As I mentioned earlier, figures have steadily worked their way back to being Mego size, except with injection-molded details and tons of little pieces. That, along with other factors, have made them more expensive. When you started reading this article, DC Classics were fifty cents cheaper than they are right now. Mattel’s Classics, even with heavy part reuse are still climbing out of the price range of the average collector. Toy companies, looking for solutions, have turned back the clock. We’ve already seen some lines shrink back to 1/18th scale and now we’re going further back. See, a retro line wouldn’t seem to be afflicted with high costs. The body is identical from figure-to-figure. The clothes and one-piece head are surely cheaper to produce. And it doesn’t just make sense on a cost analysis spreadsheet. When you factor in the higher price point adding to the bottom line outright, a Retro line makes sense. If Retro takes off, then it looks to have good returns for the companies producing them.
The associated costs aside, one thing that Megofans seem to like to remind us young 30-year old whippersnappers (kidding, kidding…) is that all their toys were compatible. They didn’t have to worry about He-Man being a 7ft tall bodybuilder if he came to the DC Universe or if, for the sake of accuracy, you need to go back and grab an Iron Monger from the first movie to be in-scale with your Iron Man 2 3.75″ figures. Everything fit together. DC and Marvel toys haven’t really been compatible ever since. So, maybe that can overcome any gaps in the nostalgia. Even if you never dreamed of having the Dude and Egon Spengler duking it out against Ming the Merciless and the Gorn as a kid, it can soon be a featured matchup on your toy shelves.
Me? I really don’t like soft goods on my figures. That cloth cape is going to cost Trigon points come his IAT judgment day. I look at the amazing things being done in 1/6th scale, and while I marvel at it, I know it’s not for me. If I had a few hundred to buy an individual toy, I’d be on vacation right now. Still, 1/6th scale is booming and maybe that’s got some of these companies thinking they can do something with these retro figures. Honestly, I wish Bif Bang Pow! and Mattel luck. Maybe the market for these is there and my thinking it’s about cutting costs is me getting pessimistic in my old age. Did I mention I was turning thirty?