Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mego Teen Titans - 2009

This was the first piece I ever did for TwoMorrows' Back Issue! magazine (#33), a very small (500 words) sideline piece to accompany a larger article about the Teen Titans.

I was incredibly nervous about this being my first time in the magazine as a writer (I had been a reader and LOC writer since the first issue), so I must have gone over it half a dozen times trying to make it flow as well as possible. It must have gone over okay, since I did a number of articles for Back Issue! after this.


If one word could sum up the legendary Mego toy company, that would be it. Capable of producing breathtakingly cool plastic reproductions of kids' favorite comic book, movie, and TV characters, they just as quickly could make something so pathetically cheesy that Santa wouldn't have dared leave it for you under the Christmas tree.

And no Mego line is a better microcosm of those inherent contradictions than Teen Titans. Produced in 1977, the Teen Titans line consisted of four figures--Wonder Girl, Speedy, Kid Flash, and Aqualad (Robin having been Mego-ized in 1972). Despite being established characters in the DC universe, Mego chose not to brand them with their massively popular World's Greatest Super-Heroes label, and their packaging was different than the standard WGSH design, even though in trade ads they were sold alongside the WGSH line.

Within the line itself, quality varies wildly. While Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad are spitting images of their comic book selves (and Speedy coming with a full complement of detailed accessories), Wonder Girl has the creepy, dead-eyed visage of a baby doll, something I doubt any young boy would've been caught dead buying. At least you could buy Batgirl or Supergirl because you had feelings for Babs or Kara that you were too young to understand, but Wonder Girl looks like she wants to help you whip up some brownies in your sister's Easy-Bake Oven.

Also, Teen Titans would become victims of Mego's cost-cutting practices at the time. They used an inferior, cheaper plastic on them, causing "molting", where the caucasian skin tones eventually turn a sickly grey, making the kids look like they're the stars of Teen Titans Zombies.

As many toy manufacturers have learned, kids are an inscrutable bunch, and you never know what will sell. While the WGSH line was a monstrous, industry-changing hit, the Teen Titans line flopped. According to Benjamin Holcomb, author of the ultimate WGSH reference work, Mego 8" Super-Heroes: World's Greatest Toys, "The Teen Titans had an extremely short production life, offered to retailers only once, at Toy Fair in February 1977. With no marketing support, the Teen Titans failed." (Yet the line lasted long enough to produce one tiny packaging variant and two different sets of arms--one that bent, one that didn't--for Wonder Girl)

One of the other things going against the line was Mego's (usually excellent) timing. In 1977, there was no Teen Titans cartoon or movie, and the Teen Titans comic was heading for its second cancellation. Ironically, the Titans would take off to nearly unrivaled heights of popularity under the genius hands of Marv Wolfman and George Perez just a few years later.

Partly because of their unusualness (face it, you don't see a lot of Speedy toys out there, even in a post-DC Direct world) and the fact that they weren't collected en masse like a lot of the other WGSHs, the Teen Titans now go for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to collectors.
Teen Titans Go!

1 comment:

JasonMotesBowles said...

Ha ha Speedy is the ONLY one I own! That's just because that was the only TT figure I ever stumbled across.

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