The superheroes spawned by comic books such as Marvel and D.C. enjoyed what might be considered the Golden Age in the 1970s. From movies such as Superman to the Saturday morning mainstay Super Friends, to prime time television series such as Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk, it seemed that wherever one turned, a cape-wearing do-gooder was fighting the good fight against the forces of evil. It was inevitable that toy companies would seek out a piece of the superhero pie and the leader of the pack was Mego, with their official line of World’s Greatest Superheroes.
Mego procured the licensing for a number of DC and Marvel characters and in 1972, introduced their successful line of 8” pose-able plastic figures, starting with four heavyweights of the comic world – Superman, Aquaman, Batman and Robin. Soon after, Captain America, The Green Hornet, Spiderman, and villains such as the Joker, Penguin and Riddler would be added to the mix.
Perhaps the most surprising inclusions to the line, however, were the female action figures, which might not seem all that unusual today, but at the time, was unheard of in the realm of toys made for boys. The introduction of Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Supergirl and Batgirl, proved that there was plenty of room for both genders in the lucrative toy market. It was a bold move at the time but the World’s Greatest Super Gals were welcomed without a second glance.
And with the popularity of these action figures came the inevitable onslaught of accessories. The Hall of Justice playset and Superman Adventure Set provided a place for the heroes to converge, socialize and plot the best way to tackle their adversaries. And an army of vehicles stood ready to transport them to all corners of the globe – or at least the bedroom. The familiar Batmobile, Batcycle and Batcopter, and the less-familiar Captain Americar and Amazing Spider Car were introduced and when that wasn’t enough, plenty of completely unfamiliar vehicles were rolled out to provide more options. The Hulk and the Joker each got their own van, and the Supervator, Super Action Flyby allowed any of the heroes to fly via a handy string.
One might think this well-rounded collection would be enough to satiate the appetite of Superhero fans but Mego was just getting started. For those particular about the size of their action figures, a smaller set of 5” ‘Bend and Flex’ figures as well as much larger 12” figures were introduced. Need more options? How about some stretchable Elastic Heroes or the plush Super Softies and Talking Super Softies? Whatever your preference, there was a superhero waiting to win you over.
The smaller action figures also had their own mile-long list of accessories available including a similar assortment of transportation options and numerous playsets like the Exploding Bridge, complete with Batmobile and the Exploding Tower. And with the help of a handy Comic Action Activator, which was basically an air pump, all sorts of mayhem, from crumbling buildings to exploding doors, was possible with a simple plunge.
The affinity for toy superheroes would wane by the end of the 70s and eventually kids would turn their attention to a series of space toys based on the popular Star Wars film. The Golden Age of the Superhero had finally reached its twilight. Of course, new films based on these defenders of all that is good have been making a comeback recently and toy companies have certainly taken notice. Another round of figures and accessories may be just around the corner.
And then there are the collectors, who are willing to pay substantial amounts for the various action figures and accessories of yesteryear – a testament to the fact that the world always seems a little safer when you know that superheroes are close at hand, ready to step up to the plate and battle the forces of evil at a moment’s notice.
If you had a collection of Mego Superheroes to keep you company as a kid, we’d sure love to hear your thoughts and recollections in our comments section. Meanwhile, a tip of the hat to Mego, for these beloved collectables that never go out of style.