I am a huge Mego fan, and have been since my childhood; before every Christmas I would pore over the toy section of the Sears or JCPenney catalog and drool over the Mego superheroes action figures and playsets. When I started collecting toys, the first thing I did was track down Megos, first through friends, flea markets, and word of mouth, then buying through ads in Toy Shop magazine, continuing through the early days of the internet on newsgroups, email lists, and finally, through the amazing Mego Museum web site by Scott Adams and Brian Heiler.
Since Mego went out of business in the early 1980s, toy collectors like me have been clamoring for the return of Mego superheroes. Finally, this year, Figures Toy Company (or FTC) has made it happen. They shocked the Mego collecting community with their announcement that they had acquired the license to do DC superheroes. Their first efforts were Batman characters, but they’ve since branched out into other DC offerings including Teen Titans and characters from the 1966 Batman TV series. They’ve also announced a ton of new lines, including a wave of Superman characters due to hit in late November.
However, you might also notice a listing for an early release version of Superman that was announced as due in September, but actually showed up a little early. I placed a preorder (which is something I rarely do), and got it last week. And it really is like Christmas again!
I’ve taken more photos of this figure than any other item on my web site, because I wanted to show lots of details and also provide comparisons between this reproduction and the original Megos to try to help out with identification. Unfortunately, I am running right up to the limit of my photographic ability on these, so I apologize if some of these aren’t entirely wonderful. So here are the pictures of my Early Bird Superman:
FTC’s clamshell package is really great. Superman is twist-tied to a tray, which is then inserted into a clamshell package and sealed shut with a branded zip tie. The bubble placement is similar to original Mego where the bubble was on the right side, but this style of bubble is just a vast improvement. It’s much more durable.
Here’s a detail photo of the front.
The back of the card shows the first wave of FTC’s Retro Superman line. The second row is presumably the second wave. I am really, really excited for wave 2 because it consists of three characters Mego never made: Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane. Plus, the second wave has Clark Kent, which originally was only available as a catalog order from Montgomery Ward.
The early bird version of Superman has a different card backer than the first wave will, but it is also distinguished by this Early Bird First Version label on the front of the bubble. It’s also nice to see that FTC has included an extra S shield sticker in case you lose the first one. (A common problem with vintage Mego…)
Here’s a detail photo of the branded zip tie that seals the Retro Superman package. I guess if you’re the super-anal retentive type, you might not like that you have to cut the zip tie to remove the figure, but this is a marked improvement over a traditional blister card because you can open the package without ruining it, and take the figure out and then put it back in and snap it closed again.
Once you cut that zip tie, you can snap open the clamshell and pull the tray out.
Superman is fastened to an inner tray with twist-ties. Back in the old days, Mego left their figures loose in the bubble with no tray, so many vintage Megos that are carded can still be damaged as they’re jostled around.
Here’s a picture of the card art. It’s period stock art that looks like it might be the work of José Luis García-López. Or maybe Dick Giordano? Or both? What’s neat about the design of the clamshells is that thanks to inkjet printing and photo paper, you could potentially make your own card designs if you wanted.
The figure itself is great… very close to the original Mego with some very subtle changes.
Comparison shots with original Mego Type 2 Superman
On the left of these shots is an original Mego Type 2 Superman. For those non-Mego collectors out there, there are two types of standard (non fat, non-fist fighting) male body styles for Mego superheroes. Type 1 are the early body version, which are skinnier, paler, and have metal joint fasteners. Type 2 bodies are an updated version that is more muscular, darker, and has plastic joints that are a little less obtrusive than the metal ones.
Here is a full figure shot of a Mego Type 2 Superman standing next to an FTC Retro Superman. If you look carefully, you can see several differences… one quick one is that FTC’s Superman looks just a little bit taller.
There are some slight differences in the head, too. Skin tone of the original Mego is slightly darker, and it looks just a little bit “beefier”. Eyes and eyebrows are painted differently, too; FTC’s Superman has slightly wider eyes and fatter, shorter eyebrows. Notice on the Mego the brows are wider than the eyes.
In this photo, you can also see the difference between emblems. FTC’s has finer, higher quality printing, but the red is just a hair lighter/more orange than the original Mego red, which is nicer, in my opinion.
The fabric on the Mego on the left is much lighter in person than the FTC… not sure the photo really does the difference justice. What you can also see is the big difference in fabric texture. The original Mego uses a much wider yarn in its knit. The FTC blue fabric is more like a modern, smoother spandex.
It’s been noted on the Mego Museum boards that the belt on FTC’s Retro Superman is much more translucent than on an original Mego.
Here’s a detail of that… you can really see the red through the yellow. I don’t really think it’s much of an issue, though.
Here’s a sleeve comparison, again to show the difference in the Mego Type 2 blue fabric and the FTC Retro blue. Notice, too, how much larger the stitches on the sleeve hem of the original are?
The cape fabric of FTC’s Retro is close, but it’s much more translucent and it has a rougher texture. If you zoom in on the enlarged photo, you can really see a big difference.
One other big difference between the two figures is the boots. FTC’s boots are much, much shinier and smoother than an original Mego boot, and the top of the Mego original boot is much pointier. The FTC boots also look just a bit more red.
The backs of the two figures show what are the most obvious ways to tell them apart: FTC’s Superman cape hangs much lower in the back. Also, FTC’s Superman is stamped on the neck with black lettering.
If you lift the cape, you can see a slight difference in the costume construction. The original Type 2 Mego has two snaps on the back: one at the neck and one at the waist. FTC’s has just one, and a much smaller vertical opening in the back.
Here’s a detail shot of the lettering on the back of an FTC Retro Superman neck.
Comparison shots with original Mego Type 1 Superman
Here are some more comparisons, this time with an original Mego Type 1 Superman.
Here are the two figures side by side, with the original Type 1 on the left. Notice the height difference. You can also see a marked difference in the color of the fabrics; the early Type 1 Superman costumes are notorious for fading to a nice purple color, so this really stands out against the darker blue of the FTC Retro Superman.
Here are the two heads. Some early chatter on the Mego forums is that the FTC Superman is slightly skinnier than an original Mego, but I actually think it’s just that the FTC version is closer to a Type 1 head. The difference in skin tone is less remarkable with a Type 1 Mego, too… the Mego might be a little more yellow.
You can really see a difference in the fabric texture between a Type 1 early Mego and the FTC Superman… the Mego’s knit is almost ribbed and it looks like he’s wearing a sweater! I love that purple color, too. Again, check out the color difference between the emblems. FTC’s is not as bold a red.
Here is a sleeve comparison. I think it might just be manufacturing variation, but the FTC’s sleeves on my Superman are slightly longer. And, not to harp on the purple again, but it’s interesting to see the blue thread in the original Mego. I think that’s what color the fabric used to be.
Cape texture difference is less noticeable, but the FTC cape is still much more translucent than Mego’s.
FTC’s Superman boots are much shinier than the Type 1 Mego, just like they were with the Type 2 Mego.
Here are the backs of the Type 1 Mego and the FTC Retro Superman. Again, like with the other Mego, the FTC’s cape is hanging a lot lower off the neck than the Type 1. If you look carefully, you can see some darkening on the more translucent FTC cape where the blue is showing through very slightly.
Just like with the Type 2 costume, the Type 1 Mego Superman has two snaps at the neck and the waist. The FTC only has one at the neck.
How to tell the difference between an FTC Retro Superman and an original Mego
I think the easiest way for a normal person to spot the difference right away, beyond the differences in color and texture of the fabrics, would be to turn the figure around and look at the back. The markings on the neck are a very quick giveaway. I could also see how the markings might wear off (or be taken off by an unscrupulous person) since they aren’t incised into the mold like the original Mego copyright was… so the other thing I’d look for would be that cape and how it hangs off the neck. If you see a larger gap in the back where you can almost fit a head through it without having to stretch the elastic, it’d probably an FTC figure.