Mego is a brand I’ve heard about for as long as I’ve been collecting, and I have minimal experience with them. They make what is called “action dolls” (check the wiki) where they have old school GI Joe style bodies in a 7″ and 12″ scale with actual clothes. The likenesses were semi-general, so not too accurate. The characterization of the figures they made was mostly in the clothing styles and just getting close on the faces.
Mego was before my time, so I was never really aware of them as a kid. In 1983 I was just seven years old playing with Transformers and new school G.I. Joes. But my entire time collecting, I’ve seen companies putting out “Mego Style” or “Retro Cloth” figures. Diamond Select did a run of Universal Monsters. NECA makes a line of 7″ cloth action figures. I’ve run into other companies that had experimented with the Mego style during the time that the Mego company was out of action. They filed for bankruptcy in ’82 and stopped operation in 1983. I didn’t start seriously collecting until the late ’90s.
Now Mego is back. In 2018 they resumed putting out those clothed figures that made them super famous with collectors. And since then, they have been taking the action figure arena by storm.
I bought into the hype as soon as they started putting out their line of horror figures last year. The line includes Dracula, Frankenstein, Nosferatu, Invisible Man, Wolfman, and Freddy Krueger. They were not easy to find, which increased the collectability as people rushed to try to hunt down these new Megos.
I’m not hugely into the figures; cloth stuff often looks bad to me because of the poorly fitting clothing. But I gather the company, run by Marty Abrams, is struggling with licensing and production issues. What started out with characters that mostly didn’t look so bad has turned a bit…sideways.
Things began to happen, such as their first Freddy figure coming out with a green glove (which, while wrong, made it more collectible to some). As those sold out, they re-released Freddy with a proper brown glove. Because the license was limited, it was safe to assume that you wouldn’t be seeing those on shelves for long. They have since secured an extension, but this waters down the collectible value of these figures. These situations make it feel like it’s been misstep after misstep for the resurrected company.
The figures I did get? Well, they looked okay. I decided to indulge because they added some cool features. For instance, Frankenstein had a glow-in-the-dark variant, Nosferatu had real buttons, and the Invisible Man used clear plastic. The sculpts of the Universal Monsters were based on their originals from back in the ’70s, and the clothes looked pretty sharp. It was fun finding these!
If you cruised the Target toy aisles at all over the past year, though, you would see where they began to fail. The licenses they brought to the shelves were things like Facts of Life, Cheers, 90’s Charmed, and a host of other properties that people didn’t seem to care about. But it’s what Mego could afford. The Star Trek pieces, while their best offerings, were few and far between. When they finally hit stores, it was in such bulk that adult collectors just outside the Mego fandom didn’t want to be bothered with them.
Flash forward to 2019, and they are putting out their next line of horror figures. You’ll find things like the Headless Horseman, who is very loosely based on the Disney animated flick. With a set of oversized, under-designed clothing and a sword that looks like it was part of a five-year-old’s action figure — it just looks pretty bad. The Headless Horseman is one of my favorite characters, and I can’t bring myself to buy that figure. In fact, I’m pretty sure with all Mego’s problems (limited licensing, production mistakes, likeness issues), I will be passing up most of their horror figures.
The second run also features a third version of Frankenstein, this one clearly based on a photo of a shirtless Boris Karloff in the makeup that has been circulating social media for a couple years. There’s also a Dracula that is clearly based on the animated Castlevania. Both figures are not being marketed as what they are obviously referencing because of licensing. This is equivalent to those knockoff toys people joke about — like Sharp Hand Joe.
The thing is, it’s been 35 years since Mego had a hand in action figures and that’s a LONG time in toy terms. All these other companies have been created, and toy technology has advanced incredibly. Mego is a company coming out of a place in time where they ruled the roost into a time where I’m not sure they actually fit. Their figures feature things like 14 points of articulation — which is low by modern standards. The Freddy has metal blades and a removable hat, but it barely looks like the character… and included a green glove? That’s a pretty big production issue.
One of the things that initially impressed me about this new Mego is that they are the first company in a long time to put out a Dracula figure that captured some of the features of Lugosi’s portrayal of the legendary vampire. And this, despite what seems like years of Dracula figures mired by likeness issues from popular toy companies like Diamond Select and even Funko, was worth getting excited about.
All these cool features seem to have fizzled out over time, though. Likenesses have gotten worse, variants or new versions of figures seem to be knockoffs rather than signature characters, and those production issues… All of their selling points are melting away.
This all begs the question, can you recapture the magic of these legendary figures from the ’70s and early ’80s in a modern action figure climate? Collectability is now based majorly on points that seem to be slipping through Mego’s fingers. Established companies use artists with super detailed sculpts, high tech scanners, and all in the name of hyper-realistic toys that stir people’s nostalgia for the media these things represent.
People eat up variants that feature impressive updates or accessories, not alternates that look absolutely nothing like the previous figure in the line (Dracula, Wolfman). And while pricing is an issue with the most popular figures, Mego’s lower cost was a significant factor, and that seems to be going, too.
One of the only reasons the NECA cloth figure line works is because they continue delivering characters that we haven’t had in a cloth figure before. Diamond Select had to end the Universal cloth figure line they were doing over (what I’m guessing was) low sales and lack of characters people wanted. I don’t see them chasing after any licenses for more cloth figures. Mezco’s cloth figures are super realistic and 1/12th scale and feature a considerable price tag, all of which makes them highly collectible, though hard on the wallet.
Here comes Mego, half the price of a N.E.C.A. figure (good for the wallet but not for collectability), and not especially high on the likeness scale. They seem to be banking on people remembering these figures from their childhood and newer collectors who have heard the legend of the Mego figure. This all just doesn’t seem promising to me. I just don’t see younger collectors scrambling for a Tootie figure.
The latest line of horror from Mego includes a Phantom of the Opera, which, to be honest, has a much better likeness than I’d expect from them. There’s a mummy who has a sculpted head, but cloth wrapping that looks a bit sloppy. There’s also a Pennywise in an already over-saturated market for that character that really isn’t the best looking. Finally, of course, the previously mentioned Headless Horseman.
While companies like Mezco, NECA, and Funko have developed options for collectors featuring things like collector friendly packaging, Mego still features carded figures with glued-on shells. They leave you with a choice of cracking open a collectible or keeping it locked away in its packaging forever, never being able to enjoy it truly. Compare that to even McFarlane’s Stranger Things carded figures, and the packaging is still lacking. Even Diamond Select’s line of cloth Universal Monsters packaging, which was an homage to Mego figures, was better than what Mego ever put out.
Unless Mego comes up with a better gimmick to build the collectability of their figures, I’m not sure we will see them on shelves for more than 5 years. In a post-Toys-R-Us world, there’s not much that can help Mego other than Mego. Target, reasonably new to handling adult collectibles and still trying to figure it out, went gung ho with Mego (as well as a couple others), and now they are just cluttering shelves.
The one big thing they seem to have latched onto is putting out figures no one else has put out. They seem to be working toward bettering their likenesses and ironing out production issues, which will help. They have also been busy planning big names like Dee Snider, Alice Cooper, and the original Fly. This is what will keep them going.
Rehashing figures that other companies have already had their hand in is only going to hurt them. Most people aren’t going to rush the stores for a low-grade version of something NECA already crushed in the market. However, putting an Andre Delambre/Fly on the shelves could leave lots of empty pegs and frustrated collectors scrambling to buy a $14 figure off eBay for $50.
The bottom line here is that Mego figures may be fun, and they may have their place in some collections, but they are struggling to catch up and keep up with current collectibles companies. Most of their stuff is hit or miss, and while the things they have planned are exciting, execution hasn’t been their strong suit. This may just be a flash in the pan revival for a company that might be the result of memories being better than the reality they came from.
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