The most infamous, notorious, and maybe even most beloved of toymakers, Marty Abrams is back in the toy biz years after a stint in prison for fraud and the bankruptcy of his famous toy company (get the whole story on Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us). The company he made famous–MEGO–gave kids the ultimate 1970s line of licensed 8-inch (1:9 scale) action figures, and it returned to stores with a vengeance this year. Not to toy stores–since they seem to be a thing of the past after the bankruptcy of Toys R Us this year–but to the end cap at your neighborhood Target store. Replaced in recent years by the 3 3/4-inch line of licensed small-scale action figured from Super 7, Funko, and Biff! Bam! Pow!, the classic MEGO figures are making a comeback. Abrams has pulled in a bizarre cross-section of licensed properties to get his foot back in the door with kids, collectors, and anyone able to be sidetracked on their way to pick up school supplies and shampoo. Abrams was a groundbreaking importer, manufacturer, marketing maven, inventor, and brand developer who founded MEGO Corporation, the first company to license action figures based on TV shows and comic book superheroes, and the first to sell dolls in clear bubbles on cards that hung on pegs instead of in boxes stacked on store shelves. If you were a kid in the 1970s, you probably had at least one of his figures (I’m pretty sure we still called them dolls back then). My three-year-old self was not excluded:
The first wave of figures are already on the discount shelves at Target. Look around and you’ll find an eclectic mix of pop culture nostalgia, some figures resembling sculpts and costumes from the original MEGO figures, others representing characters that may leave you scratching your head, wondering who has been eagerly waiting to see this show in an action figure line. So Wave One includes Sulu and Chekov from the original Star Trek series, Charlie’s Angels’ Kelly Garrett (complete with ’70s hairdo), Peg Bundy from Married with Children, Action Jackson (not the movie version) sporting a jumpsuit, NORM! Peterson from Cheers, Piper Halliwell from the original TV series Charmed, Dracula (sculpted after Bela Lugosi’s version), Alice the housekeeper and center square from The Brady Bunch, Tootie the youngest girl from Facts of Life, Jimi Hendrix in his Woodstock outfit, and probably the best of all (OK, besides Jim Hendrix): Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (aka Fonzie) looking like the original Mego figure from Happy Days. Two dual figure sets feature Jeannie and Tony from I Dream of Jeannie and a Mirror Universe figure set of Kirk and Spock from Star Trek. Mego also has a 14-inch (1:5 scale) DC Comics line, including Wonder Woman from the TV series, General Zod from the two original Superman movies, a classic style Harley Quinn, and a Golden Age Batman.
Wave Two, arriving this month at Target stores nationwide, includes Frankenstein, Greg from The Brady Bunch, John Ratzenberger’s Cliff Clavin from Cheers, Starchild from the band KISS, Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe from Charmed, Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, Cheryl Ladd’s Kris Munroe from Charlie’s Angels, Spock and the Gorn from Star Trek, Samantha from Bewitched, Kelly Bundy from Married with Children, Jo from Facts of Life, and dual sets featuring Dorothy, Toto, and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, DJ and Stephanie Tanner from Full House. In the 14-inch DC Comics line look for Superman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, and Poison Ivy.
Despite modern technologies, MEGO figures still look… not exactly like the actors they portray, and yet that was the attraction of the Kenner-style Funko and Super 7 ReAction figures released over the past five years. In a world with photo-real figures and 3D printing technologies–think Sideshow/Hot Toys–is there still a market for these figures, and how long can it last?
MEGO reports 10,000 of each character will be released, all numbered, and 20 characters in each wave, with three waves in initial development. Each figure has a sticker with the unique number, and all boast MEGO’s 14-points of articulation. According to MEGO, “The plan is to coordinate the on-line and store release so that customers that don’t have a local Target store can still have access to all the characters.” You can join the MEGO Ambassador fan club at the company website here.
From 1996-2011 a new generation was introduced to MEGO figures (whether they were aware of it or not) in the pages of Wizard Entertainment’s magazine ToyFare. Their photo-image comic strips featured the original figures posed and participating in strange situations, all of the comics collected in a tenth anniversary edition compilation here at Amazon.
Whether MEGO will continue its release of toys and whether or not Target will remain its sole distributor outside its website is not known. According to MEGO, “you never know what the future holds.”