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  1. When Mego Met 'Moonraker'

    John CoxAs anyone who grew up in the 1970s can tell you, Mego was THE toy company for licensed film, TV, and comic book action figures. Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and Starsky and Hutch all found form in Mego’s popular 8 inch action figure line. But by far the most successful action figures in the Mego lineup were the “Official World’s Greatest Super Heroes” series. Starting in 1972 with Batman, Superman, Captain America and Spiderman, by 1977 there were over 30 figures including The Hulk and Wonder Woman. Mego was on top of the toy game.

    But then Mego made the fateful decision to pass on the license to create figures for a little sci-fi film called… Star Wars. Doh! Mego’s rival Kenner snapped up the license and was propelled into the lead in the small action figure market. Mego struggled to recover by acquiring the rights to other potential sci-fi hits like Star Trek the Motion Picture, The Black Hole, and in 1979… Moonraker.

    Coming off the success of The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker proved to be the right Bond film at the right time. The 11th Bond movie was a major hit in the summer of 1979 and remained the highest grossing Bond film (non-inflation adjusted) until 1995’s GoldenEye. It was also the most merchandised Bond film since Thunderball. Among companies producing Moonraker merchandise, Mego was first in line with a series high-quality 12 inch action figures. James Bond, Holly (her last name “Goodhead” does not appear on the packaging for obvious reasons), Drax, and Jaws (complete with magnetic teeth) all found form in a Mego figure. Bond came in two versions: a regular and a European “deluxe” figure that included extra accessories. Production delays forced Jaws to be a European exclusive, making this and the “deluxe” Bond the rarest of the Mego figures. (Collector note: The plastic Mego used to create these figures’ heads has the habit of turning a grayish green with age, so condition is a big factor.)

    In a loose leaf supplement to their 1979 catalog, Mego promised to expand on their Moonraker license with an all-new line of 3 3/4 inch Moonraker “rack toy” figures and vehicles. The supplement included pics of two proposed toys. The first was a helicopter (presumably the helicopter that brought 007 to the Drax estate in California) with a Bond figure included. The helicopter Mego used for the prototype was the “Comic Action Heroes” Batcopter, and Bond was a Superman figure wearing a jacket from the Batman/Penguin figure. The tux was painted on. The second was a Space Shuttle vehicle with Bond in a space suit.

    However, this second Moonraker toyline never materialized, and for years Bond fans have speculated that poor pre-sales must have put the kybosh on Mego’s ambitious Moonraker plans. But by doing some research at the Motion Picture Academy Library in Los Angeles, CBn has uncovered the real story.

    Apparently, Mego didn’t pay their bill.

    On July 1, 1980, Eon Productions and Glidrose Publications filed suit against Mego in the U.S. District Court for the Southern Distinct, claming the company failed to pay a $60,000 guaranteed for the exclusive Moonraker merchandise rights. It’s not clear whether Eon and Glidrose ever collected their money, but no doubt the non-payment and lawsuit brought about a premature end to the Mego license and a bitter end to Mego’s planned James Bond toyline.

    Mego began falling apart in the early 1980s with the expense of licensing failures and other internal problems. Even their popular Micronauts series (Mego’s direct answer to Kenner’s Star Wars line) could not keep the company out of the red. Mego sold off pieces of its corporation to stay in business, but the end came in June of 1982 when Mego filed for bankruptcy. While Eon continued to grant toy licenses, it would be 17 years before Bond fans saw another 12 inch James Bond action figure when Hasbro released a series of James Bond Action Man tie-ins.

    Today, we are in a golden age of 007 action figures with Sideshow Collectibles amazing James Bond Collection. But the Mego Moonraker figures of 1979 are still sought after collectibles, and will always be fun reminders of a time when Outer Space Belonged to 007.

    A very special thank you to Brian at the excellent Mego Museum website for his help with this article. For pics of all the Mego Moonraker figures visit Mego Museum’s Moonraker Gallery.

    johncox @ 2004-08-09
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