Superangebot…

Mego_German_Ad-0016014840610_54e2004ff2_o-001Super_Ad

Translated from the German of the rare print ad (second pic) as ‘Super Offer’ it may come as a surprise that the now-beloved line of toys based on Superman: The Movie were neither a big hit with its target audience, or indeed, its star, who apparently was not too enamoured with the idea of being further immortalised in plastic.

Already constrained by a licensing deal that limited usage of designs directly from the movie, it is now the stuff of figure-collecting legend that the Mego Corporation were forced to market the newest addition to their World’s Greatest Superheroes line as a mere representation of its cinematic counterparts rather than the faithful adaptations it would become so renowned for with later Sci-Fi properties.

While the 1/6 line may have been outfitted in garish costumes torn straight from the comic book page and packaged in boxes with similar slapdash art, Mego did not compromise on the portraits, (despite the leading man’s objections) where convincing (for the time) likenesses of the actors (created by Ken Sheller) topping off the patented muscular bodies were highlights of the collection.

Charged with maintaining the history of the fondly remembered company itself is the Mego Museum website, where recent interviews given by its former creative team reveal further interesting details about the conception and development of the Superman line – the first excerpt below from a chat with Harvey Zelman;

MM: Did you have a lot of input on lines like the Worlds Greatest Superheroes?

HZ: Oh yeah, it was one of my big lines.

MM: How did you choose characters?

HZ: You have to understand the relationship that we had with [ then president of DC Sol] Harrison (Editor’s note, Sol’s son Marty worked at Mego in the mid seventies) We get a lot of advanced comic books, we knew who all of the characters were, we knew Superman was going to be the big star and all the other characters were going to be “B” players.

The greatest thing we came up with in those days was the flying Superman on a string. I don’t remember what we called it, that was my item. I remember hooking up that up at a toy show and in those days we didn’t have what we do now, so here was Superman flying all over the place, that was really cool.

MM: With the individual characters, what were some of your favourites to work on?

HZ: Superman, I remember when they went out to the movie and they came back, they said “Chris Reeve, he [doesn’t like us] ” He didn’t want the licensing deal, I don’t know what the problem was, those stories are true.

MM: He didn’t want to be made into an action figure?

HZ: No he did not but what was really great and I remember sitting down with everybody and they lined up all the still frames from the movie and we got the insight of what was going on. Sitting there in the meeting saying :OK, we gotta do a Fortress of Solitude, we gotta do this, we gotta do that’ {Editors note, Actual notes from one of these meetings can be found in the Vincent Baiera interview) and that’s how great Mego was. We’d show Marty and say “this is what we want to do” and he’d say “Fine, do it” and we just cooked.

Reeve’s intriguing conflict with the toy giant takes on an even bigger twist due to the baffling involvement of a certain James Bond Producer as cited by Bill Baron – Mego VP of RND;

MM: You were on the set of Superman the Movie weren’t you?

BB: Yeah, Lenny Jacobs (The movie’s licensor) outfit ran me out there. Christopher Reeve was [really ticked off about his licensing deal] and he didn’t realize it wasn’t me [who had done the deal] it was Cubby Broccoli. I had to say “Whoa Superman!” (Laughs). He seemed like a really nice guy. Len said to me, “I’d like to take you out there and see what’s going on” This was the set of second movie. It was mainly a PR thing; I took some pictures but the next year Superman really kind of faded. It was a good franchise but you need good product too.

MM: Mego didn’t do anything for Superman II?

BB: We had a twelve inch line for the first one but for the second one, I can’t remember what happened.

MM: I have read that the first Superman the Movie didn’t do much for Mego sales.

BB: No, I don’t think it did, it was a loser.

From the top, TV Commercial for ‘The World’s Greatest Superheroes’ Superman figures, a print ad from Germany representing the only instance of promotional material from the movie, an ad taken from a Superman comic book of the era, and finally a full-page ad of Superman memorabilia presumably taken from a Warren Publications magazine…