A WORK IN PROGRESS
Mego Past and Present. Vol I. Updated February 2004
Created by Scott Adams
Updates by Brain
Introducing Neal Kublan, Vice-president of Research and Development, VP of Marketing, Mego Corp. 1960-1980
Editorial assistance from Anthony B. McElveen
Eternal thanks to Rob Chatlin for lending his catalog collection to the Museum for archiving. Rob is currently seeking to buy the 72, 74, 76, 77 and 83 Mego Catalogs, as well as catalogs from other companies of the era. Please contact him if you have them and are looking to sell.
Copyright 2004, R. Scott Carroll Illustration, San Francisco, California. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.
Editor's Note: For some time now I have had Mr. Chatlin's collection of original Mego Toy Fair Catalogs, and will forever thank him for his patience and generosity. It took a lot of time simply to scan them in, and even longer to decide how best to present the material. In the end, I went with the convenient artificial deadline of Toy Fair 99. Please take note as you navigate through the catalog showroom that this is really only the beginning of a larger and more comprehensive archive and historical document, and the numerous holes will eventually be filled, some of the countless questions answered. The goal here at the Museum is to present a richly textured, multimedia history of a now obscure toy company that was at one time on the leading edge of toy-pop-culture.
Note on IMAGES: I scanned in 185 pages of material for this project and want to show as much as I can. At some point in the future, the material will be available in a larger size and at better resolution, but it is not feasible to show them as large as we would all like to see without bringing Toymania to it's knees. It still looks good, and I think we all agree the Museum could use some bandwidth discipline. : )
A Brief History of the Mego Corporation. 1954-1973
Founded by D. David Abrams and his wife, Madeline. Mego had been successful by selling 88 cent promotional ( sometimes called "hush-ups" in the trade...) toys in basement department stores. The key to their venture was that they sold the toys along with a 10 percent advertising budget. This is to say, when stores bought the toys the cost of advertising was included, and the Mego art department did the newspaper copy-ready layouts for them.
By the late Sixties, the cost of newspaper advertising had increased to the point where the company's business was no longer profitable, and it needed to go in a new direction. It all changed when, in 1971, David's son Marty graduated from business school and came on board with the ambition and determination to take the company to new heights and play with the big kids.
Anyone who has ever spoken of him describes Marty as a born salesman and marketing whiz, and he gets well-deserved credit for building a terrific company and giving freedom and support to the creative personnel who did the work. As time has passed, however, he is the only name ever associated with Mego Toys. Recent statements in the press could lead one to the conclusion that he was the sole visionary behind this remarkable story, which he himself might admit is not possibly true. For the record, I have never spoken with Mr. Abrams myself.
Much about Mego still remains a mystery in the public record, but that is changing rapidly as the generation that loved them grows up and turns to collecting as a serious hobby. With a new book on the way by Marty and Tomart's AFD, NEO-Megos popping up from Toy-Biz to Flattworld, PLUS the ridiculous growth of Megos on eBay and the regrettable designation of Mego as the "hot" collectible....1999 stands to be the year of full-blown Mego revivalism. (Unless Star Wars kills us all again, which could happen...)
The Museum has had something to do with all of this, of course. It's been providing inspiration, information and a center for the online Mego world for three years now and we are set to expand our own efforts in this year of Megoism and see where we can go with it. We have a unique style and approach to the material, and enjoy a very supportive base of collectors who like the way we do things here.
We are pleased to announce our hard work has paid off in a very big way by attracting the attention of the former Senior Vice-president for R&D and Marketing at Mego, Mr. Neal Kublan. We have been fortunate to develop a relationship with Neal and conduct preliminary interviews about his days at Mego Corp. from 1960 to 1980 and have been wildly excited by what's he's had to say. This catalog showcase is an excellent opportunity to begin sharing and forming this material, though we are holding some back until we have a chance to conduct interviews in person and check facts with other Mego employees from Neal's creative teams.
In the course of the year we plan to tell a story that satisfies the most obscure curiosities of Mego fans, while at the same time telling a larger story about American pop-culture. In this age of media saturation and the multimedia cult of celebrity, Mego's story seems especially relevant. They invented or perfected many of the toy genres and marketing tools that today we take for granted. Further, it was a time when the Vietnam war had diminished the glory of GI Joe, and the women's movement had confused Barbie's role entirely. In this vacuum, Mego stepped in with action figures and dolls that offered a different vehicle for children's imaginations.
Further, I personally find Neal's own story immensely inspiring. In 1960 Neal Kublan was a 20 year-old illustrator fresh from art school who took a job as an advertising layout man for Mego. He stayed on the job and learned the toy business from D. David Abrams and rose to head the art and marketing department by the end of the decade. When Marty turned the company into a manufacturer of original mass-marketed toys, Neal became his right-hand man and was instrumental in bringing what we know as the Mego style into being.
As R&D VP, Neal supervised and directed the teams of artists and designers who created the products Marty was so good at selling. His name is on the patent for the 8 inch female doll. He designed the case for Magna-Doodle, one of the all-time great toys. When Cher balked at her likeness he personally made changes to the head sculpt according to the diva's demands. He drove Shatner and Nimoy around in a limo for appearances at Toys R Us, and got to work with Muhammed Ali in his prime....
As VP of Marketing he designed and pitched ad campaigns for print and television, helped close deals with studios and worked directly with the celebrities Mego licensed. After leaving Mego in 1980 he freelanced on jobs with companies such as LJN, where he put together the Brooke Shields doll. He is still very active in the industry, currently working on electronic/interactive sound components for toys, an arena Mego pioneered in the late 70s. He was shocked and pleased to see the following the old Mego toys have today and looks forward to setting the record straight on behalf of the many creative talents that helped make Mego the World's Greatest Toy Company.
The story of Mego continues through these catalogs. Stay tuned for more material as it becomes availiable.
|This huge lineup in celebration of Mego's Wizard of Oz liscense contains a number of protoype versions. Click here for a Key to the lineup.|
The 1978 Catalog reflects exactly how important the Micronauts' were to Mego. The line became responsible for one third of the company's sales and occupies the first third of the catalog. The Micronauts were based on the Japanese Microman toys made by Takara. While they were a hit for their first three years they eventually died out in the wake of Kenner's Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back toys and action-figures.
Mego is famous for having turned down the Star Wars liscense. They were offered the line first, as they had a long and profitable relationship with 20th Century Fox going back to Planet of the Apes and were the kings of the TV and Movie toy property. Declining Star Wars was more or less a communications error, with the pitch never reaching the senior management at Mego. Had Abrams or Kublan been consulted, Mego would have likely bought the rights to Star Wars in order to PROTECT the Micronauts' share of the market.
We will never know what Mego would have done with Star Wars, of course. The general consensus among collectors is that Mego would not have done a good job with it, and consider it fortunate that Mego did not get the property. The series demands a small-format action figure, and Mego, while a pioneer in the 3 3/4 inch format, never produced small figures very well. Also featured in this catalog are the Comic Action Heros, an awkward line distinguished by lack of detail in the facial painting. Some of this is attributable to the technological limitations at the time. The factory used paper masks to spray paint details on the figure's face, but the paper mask did not work at such a small size. Later, copper masks were developed to solve the problem. However, Mego's efforts in the small figure format were never very successful and are not favorably viewed by most Mego collectors today, with the possible exception of the Super Heros. It is a bit of a myth that Star Wars actually killed Mego, but the competition took it's toll as one sci-fi line after the other failed. The financial troubles and Justice Department prosecutions prevented the possibilty of Mego recovering from those disasters, and did more damage than Skywalker and his little friends ever could.
.The Micronauts, on the other hand, are one of the great toy lines of the last two decades, and this catalog represents Mego at it's creative best. So confident were they that they issued a supplement to the 1978 catalog