Brett Howard Sproul

Photographer | Graphic Artist

Ode to MEGO Toys

MEGO – Essay

New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Saigon, Grand Rapids (MI).

 

I’ve spent my adult life living and traveling throughout the world, beginning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and continuing through far more cities than I can list, none of which yielded the home, success and meaningful relationships I sought. Rather, they were stops in a race from my past, myself and a future I’ve yet to see. I don’t blame anyone for that. My actions are my responsibility, and what caused them should have been dispatched more productively.

 

 
 

Instead, on 28 October 2005 they almost killed me, leading to my becoming a so-called artist, but I never slowed. I don’t think I can. It’s too late. But the journey to acknowledging my ultimate failure as a person and a photographer has been quite successful, which enabled greater peace with my past and society in general, and is detailed in my travelogue (www.bretthowardsproul.com). What I didn’t mention was that it was partly inspired by a superhero doll made by Mego Corporation in the 1970′s.

 

Yes, a severely edited version of this would have passed for equally ignored promotional material, but now documents my dissolution.

 

Anyway, rediscovering Mego toys of my youth enabled a modest reconciliation of its harshness with an aimless adulthood, if only through reassessing what Megos meant and realizing that my priorities stopped resembling my ideals; one’s that ultimately remain grounded, not inconveniently hindered, by morals and respect indirectly inculcated in childhood.

 

Simply put, a lifetime of avoiding personal problems while chasing material gain and validation of one’s overcompensating ego, however poorly, are erroneous life choices regardless of whatever worthy objectives may be attached.

 

Unfortunately, that lesson’s pain and misery remain as I continue searching for direction, which has grown more daunting with time. But at least I no longer confuse self-pity, self-delusion or pursuing goals with life itself, where fulfillment comes from experiencing a diverse world, meaningful relationships, compassion towards others and a passionate, purposeful life, or so I’ve deduced in my return to Mego-Land.

 

It all began by finding Superman in a bargain bin. He was in very rough condition and should have been discarded, but I remembered having this Christopher Reeve doll when I was a child in 1978, so we reluctantly left; my only junk-store find that day.

 

I didn’t photograph Superman immediately, however, because I wasn’t certain what to do, so he sat for several weeks until I propped him before a navy blue bath towel and angled a cheap shop-light below, which commenced my singular quest to rediscover the Mego superheroes of my youth.

 

Soon I found an on-line museum dedicated to Megos, which has been invaluable. My next revelation was how expensive they’ve become, especially certain variations only noticed by obsessive child-adults, but I continued undaunted; an alleged business expense for a long failed business.

 

Unfortunately, my limited means translated to overpaying for figures, photographing them, then putting a greatly depreciated resale amount towards others. Of course, I should’ve purchased low-grade, overpriced ones and saved money since it wouldn’t have mattered given my expressionistic tendencies and overall lack of subtlety (or possibly quality). But you can judge for yourself.

 

One of the most fulfilling aspects of this, besides the ever-expanding number of images, is getting to see and re-evaluate some of my favorite childhood toys. Regrettably, most ephemera from my youth hasn’t withstood scrutiny; television shows, movies (yes, Star Wars included) and comic books (the generally wooden and insipid dialogue anyway), which has been disillusioning, albeit somewhat encouraging since my standards and maturity have theoretically increased.

 

The Megos, however, are actually better than I remember, with all at various levels of high quality regarding head sculpt, uniform and accessories, which is even more impressive considering how much manual labor they required. Of course, what ultimately gives Megos their allure are the comic book characters and what they meant, and still mean, to the people who own them, namely a sense of empowerment, justice and the concrete ideals of right and wrong, which a child could enact through infinite scenarios bounded only by one’s imagination.

 

Perhaps that freedom and ultimate escape are what collector’s fondly remember, in addition to the figures’ impressive durability that yields physical reminders of moments frozen in time; ones when the world was greatly simplified and its institutionalized compromises not yet comprehensible; the world as it should have been, not what it eventually became.

 

As adults our ideals haven’t necessarily dissipated, just adapted to a needlessly complicated reality. That’s why Megos remain relevant lest we succumb to the trap of adulthood where we completely lose a child-like sense of wonder, adventure and creativity, and become close-minded and ultimately devoid of hope and joy.

 

That’s ascribing much to a child’s toy, but it holds true for me and many others. I’m just not certain it will apply to younger generations immersed in pervasive and invasive technology and an inherently disposable culture, but maybe they’ll have childhood mementos that are no less meaningful.

 

Regardless, the 1970′s were a transitional time for toys, where it wasn’t unusual to play with high quality, hand-made superhero dolls, albeit of the mass-produced variety, nor with molded plastic ones that became ubiquitous in the late 1970′s. Now a child’s options are limited to the latter, at least for boys, unless a parent wants to purchase relatively pricey reproduction Mego’s for their child to abuse.

 

Perchance the Mego toys of the 70′s were a hold-over from an era where quality mattered, and perhaps those standards were conferred to the children of the 70′s who are now adults and who look back with greater appreciation for how the world used to be, or at least certain aspects of it; a place where reality could be negated through the simple act of play; a place where one’s hopes and dreams hadn’t yet been tarnished by time.