Saturday, January 2, 2010

Almost Vintage: Mattel Retro-Action DC Super Heroes Green Arrow

Back in the very early Seventies, a company named Mego began producing some of the very first Super Hero action figures. They produced a wide array of characters from both DC and Marvel comics in a toy line titled "World's Greatest Super-Heroes!" They were 8" tall, colorful, and full of playability. Many "kids" of that era swear by Mego figures as being the best toys ever created. Mego figures may not have been the most durable toys but kids loved them and many grown men (and women) today still do. The way that Mego figures were designed often left the characters looking slightly goofy and "off-model." However, looking back, the quirkiness of Megos lends them their greatest charm.

Over the past ten or fifteen years, nostalgia for Megos has lead to at least two toy companies trying to recapture the "magic" of Super Hero Megos in a 9" format. Two of the things that makes a Mego a Mego are cloth costumes and and a "reusable" base body. In kind, the new 9" "Megos" from Hasbro (DC Super Heroes) and Toybiz (Marvel Famous Covers) had cloth clothing and utilized a "reusable" base body. Both companies succeeded to some degree with both hits and misses in their respective lines. However, both companies were trying to create a product that would appeal to both nostalgic Mego collectors AND to the current generation of children roaming the toy aisles with their parents. In my opinion, by trying to hit both targets, they also missed both to a great degree. The 9" format wasn't truly in scale with the vintage Mego figures that Mego collectors already had AND children were more used to action figures with sculpted clothing and a smaller scale. Both lines did fairly well but began to fizzle after a relatively short time.

Just recently, in 2009, Mattel toys announced that they would partner with EMCE Toys (makers of the fantastic Star Trek and Planet of the Apes Mego replica figures) to resurrect the "World's Greatest Super-Heroes!" toy line by producing brand-new "Megos" in an 8" scale. The figures would be made to closely resemble the style and look of vintage Mego figures. All new characters that Mego never produced would also be a part of the new Mattel line. Mego fans rejoiced at the prospect of having all-new Megos and have been waiting anxiously for the figures to become available. It should also be noted that the "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" name has changed, sadly, and the line is now called "Retro-Action DC Super-Heroes."

The first new "Mego" from Mattel is Green Arrow and he is an online exclusive through The following waves of figures will be exclusive to Toys R Us stores and a few online toy sites. Green Arrow just shipped out to collectors last week and is just now arriving to homes, currently.

So, how does this new "Mego" stack up? Let's find out.

Packaging: The packaging on the "Retro-Action" Green Arrow is a definite "nod" to the packaging of vintage carded Megos. It consists of a somewhat flimsy cardboard backer and a simple clear bubble to hold the figure. The figure and accessories are packed in the bubble with nothing to hold them in place. This is exactly how vintage Megos were packed and it definitely adds to the nostalgia factor of this toy to not have twist ties or an insert tray to keep everything in place. The packaging art is also clearly an homage to vintage Mego art using many of the same design cues like the rectangle for the name of the toy line, the white line around the border of the card, and vintage looking drawings of the characters on the front and back. There is also a bit of "distressing" to the card art to help carry over the idea that this is an homage to a vintage toy.

The figure: The figure itself is very Mego-like. The way that the costume and accessories have been produced gives them a quality that is very close to vintage Mego. The costume seems to be made of the same type of material that Mego used and the accessories are molded in a single color (without painted details) just like vintage Mego accessories. His hat, bow, and quiver all look very much like their vintage counterparts with just a slight bit of updating.

Green Arrow's boots are made of a much denser, hard rubber-like plastic that gives them a bit of a different feel than vintage Mego boots. Vintage boots are a bit slimmer and less chunky looking. They were also made of the thinner plastic that almost "rattled" on the vintage figures' feet.

Green Arrow's head is still squishy like a vintage Mego. The headsculpt is also very reminiscent of classic Mego sculpts.

The body used on Mattel's new Megos will probably elicit the most criticism from vintage Mego fans. Clothed, Green Arrow looks quite a bit like a vintage Mego. However, it does have some key differences that do point away from Mego, somewhat. It's limbs and torso are sculpted to look a little more muscular than a vintage Mego. For instance, Mattel's new "Mego" body has a much smaller waist and legs that seem a bit too muscular and "bow legged." However, official word is that the legs will undergo some "tweaking" before the second wave (characters yet unannounced) of these figures hit shelves. Articulation-wise, this new body has the same basic style of articulation of vintage Megos and in the same spots on the figure. That's a plus.

As you can see, the new Retro-Action Green Arrow "hangs" with vintage Megos quite well.

Overall, the Mattel Retro-Action Green Arrow hits almost all of the right buttons and should produce a good dose of nostalgia for anyone that loves the old Mego action figures. I definitely felt a nostalgic rush while cracking open this brand-new "Mego." Much more so, than other aforementioned attempts at bringing back some "Mego Super Hero magic." I, for one, am very excited about the what the future holds for this line.

As I mentioned, Green Arrow is currently available at This Spring (2010), the next four figures (Superman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, and Sinestro) will begin hitting Toys R Us shelves.

I can hardly wait.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mego 8" Planet of the Apes General Ursus

Happy New Year, Everyone!!!

This is Mego's General Ursus from 1974. He was released as part of the second wave of Planet of the Apes figures. This second wave was based on the POTA TV series that was running at the time.

There is a bit of controversy involved with the name of this figure. You see, during the time that Mego produced this figure, his packaging used two different names...General Ursus and General Urko. Another Mego General figure from this same wave also used these two names. However, since the figure I had as a kid was called "Ursus," that's the name I'll be using for this guy. Although, it should be noted that "Urko" is probably the more appropriate name as Urko was the name of the helmeted General from the TV series (played by Mark Lenard) that this second wave of figures was based upon. General Ursus is from the film Beneath the Planet of the Apes and is almost identical to the General in the TV series.

Ursus was probably my favorite Mego Ape. There was just something so cool about him coming with an extra accessory. He had a rifle AND a knife. So, that automatically gave him a "one up" on the regular soldier apes because they only came with a rifle.

Looking back, it was an odd choice for Mego to use the colors that they did on General Ursus. His costume with the riveted collar and helmet were a nice approximation of a character costume from both the movies and the TV show. However, the purple and mustard coloration seems completely out of left field. When I was a kid, though, I think the bright colors were part of what made this guy my favorite. Perhaps, Mego was following the look of this character from the Planet of the Apes cartoon. I don't know.

A complete General Ursus should include his mustard colored tunic (with attached cuffs), a pair of purple pants, two black boots (note that the General's boots have a split toe and are not the same as the soldier's boots), a rifle with string, a bandolier with a knife "scabbard," and a silver/gray knife. Ursus is also sporting a helmet. However, the helmet is not removable.

Left to right: Mike Magnuson, Yours Truly, David Magnuson, and my brother Michael. The Magnusons were good friends that lived next door. We shared a wall in our townhouse. They were in a band with two older siblings and it was always a lot of fun for me to hear them practicing through the wall.

The photo above was taken in Fridley, Minnesota in 1974. So, I've had the picture almost my entire life. I was scanning and archiving a bunch of old family photos last year when I noticed, for the very first time, that my brother is actually holding a Mego General Ursus figure! Also, a friend (thanks, Brian B!) pointed out that he is ALSO holding Mego Batman in the other hand. Wow!!...hidden treasure.

Below is a close-up of the figures in Michael's hands.

The Mego Planet of the Apes figures were such great kids' toys and General Ursus is no exception.