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Exclusive interview with Dr. Mego!

Author Robert Covarrubias

THE DOCTOR IS "IN"

Exclusive interview with Dr. Mego!

I remember growing up a hyper kid always showered with toys at Christmas time, especially my Batman and Robin Megos with all the villains and vehicles to match. I played with them so much that they would eventually wear out and break, but no fear Mommy was near and all she had to do was go to the store and buy me another. If you were smart, today, those original figures are sitting in a glass case somewhere in your home. And God help you if you try to re-claim the whole collection, unless you’re a relative of Trump that probably wont happen. But there is another way to re-claim the old glory so that a new generation can enjoy the pleasures we still carry with us today and that’s when we call in Paul Clarke known to others as Dr. Mego. Paul Clarke isn’t really a doctor; he just plays one nights and weekends in his workshop.

In the summer of 1997, Paul got the bright idea that if he needed replacement accessories for HIS Megos, others might need them too. And so Doctor Mego was born! His mission: To get back to every Mego all the accessories they were created with. To make them whole again.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Doctor in his lair of Mego replacement parts and rubbers and molds. There was enough to start an army, ready to do battle once again. I chatted with the Doctor at his workshop.

drmego03

EC: How did you get started reproducing Megos?And Why Megos?

DM: I needed a Batman boot, I had a Batman I had one boot and I said, you can’t have Batman with one boot it looks like he lost a fight. So I said, “if only I had a replicator where I could put the boot in copy it and bring out two of them”. So I spent two years looking at silicon rubbers and different mold materials and plaster to finally come up with something that would not shrink much, be friendly to use as a hobby level and reproduce the detail. So it took me about two years and I found something and I keep trying to do materials because you never want to have one solution for things but the only way any one would get into something like this is they needed it for themselves.

EC: Then you grew to love Megos in general?

DM: Well I was a Mego collector, I started with Megos when I was seven. In 1972 I got a removable mask Batman, looking at the box I saw a picture of Superman on the side of the box and said, “oh I gotta get Superman!” So it was a couple of days later or a week later my mother got me Superman and then I was like, “I need Aquaman I gotta collect them all”. I pretty much had them till 7 th grade junior high when your mother says, “hey! enough of playing with dolls! Grow up, go meet a girl or something get out of the house”. I had to give away all my old toys. That’s a key component with collectors, most collectors at some point they were told to give up their toys or were thrown away or given to somebody else. But there’s always that loss that goes on. Then my girlfriend in 1982, who’s now my wife, for my birthday got me Superman, Spiderman and Captain America from Toys R Us. They still had Megos on the shelves. She got me those and I was like, “You got me Megos!” And I got back into it.

EC: So how many years have you been reproducing?

DM: I started this in 1998 when I found out I wasn’t the only guy out there who was playing with old toys. Before the internet we all thought we were just weirdos sitting in our basements and then when the internet came out I started to realize, No, there are other grown men who refuse to give up on their toys. As I talked to them I found out I’m not the only guy missing a Batman boot and gloves and capes so I started in my living room figuring out how to make the capes. I actually spent a day going to fabric stores with a Batman cape in one hand and feeling fabric with the other and kept going around until I found material that was just like that original cape. Because the whole key to a reproduction is you want it to be as close to the original as possible. From a couple of feet away it should be indistinguishable from the real thing. On close examination you should be able to tell the difference so that no one should get ripped off buying a repro thinking its an original but when you display it, you step back a few feet, it looks good.

drmego2EC: So everything is hand made?

DM: Yes, right, first everything I did was myself. I have 500 items on my website 415 of them are still done by hand but 85 items are made in China, so I took the most popular and the most difficult pieces and found a Chinese manufacturer who would be able to work with the small quantities I needed.

EC: Like what kind of items?

DM: Like the Green Arrow Quiver if you’ve ever seen the Mego Green Arrow he’s got this arrow backpack with these little belt-straps and little straps for his arms, they always break. In fact when I gave the Chinese the original to work from one of the belt-straps broke off and they told me, “you know this is really badly designed would you like to re-do this? We could improve this design and make it better” and I said, “but then it wouldn’t be authentic”. The collector wants it to be just like the original and if they break every couple of years I’ve got 5,000 of them in my garage, so break one every week. We’ll just make more.

EC: So this has been a very good business for you?

DM: No, it’s a one-man operation. I mean it’s nice but there aren’t that many Mego collectors out there to achieve what you call critical mass. Like, the G.I. Joe club says they’ve got a million members world wide that’s why there’s five manufacturers making G.I. Joe’s because there’s enough people out there to sell to. To date I only carry about 2,000 Mego collectors. They’re very loyal, very nice guys but just not the mass to justify going out there and licensing properties. Because when you go to a licensing company like Marvel or D.C. and you say, “I want to make these figures” then they go “well, how many are you projecting on selling?” And the reality is if you tell them, “oh hundreds of thousands” come back next year there gonna say, “No it was quite less than you said and that’s not really enough to make it worth our while for us to give you a license”. So, it’s a small business that I continue to work at and the goal would be to try to get new people, younger guys into it, because otherwise if your just going for the Mego collector your looking at 40 year old men who are not really changing, they’ve got their stuff and sooner or later you won’t wear it out and that original Is already drying up.

drmego03EC: And you say you’re also a collector?

DM: Oh, of course, comic books. Like a lot of Mego guys, I kind of just read comics as a kid and saw Megos and said, “well this is great this is a three dimensional representation of the superhero”, cause I said that as a kid. Here’s a Batman that I can actually run around the house with. So yeah, comic books. Also, I’m getting into some of those statues because its very cool to see superheroes rendered in real life in a real dimension. I notice one thing about collectors, even if you collect Mego or G.I. Joe, at some point you kind of finish that, you get all you can and then you start looking around going, “what else can I collect now?” Collectors are collectors by nature, like when I used to buy comics I got to a point where the only comics I needed were 40s golden age comics. So I said, “well that’s no fun anymore” because then I’ll spend hundreds of dollars for one book and not really get that much pleasure out of it. So then I got into toys and buying up toys in the early 90’s cause its fun and you could buy a whole stack of them for a hundred bucks and get that thrill again of collecting.

EC: Do you display your toys?

DM: Yeah, I actually have a room in my house devoted to Megos. I have a two year old daughter who would actually pick up bodies and heads and say, “try this one on” she calls them "guys". Yeah, so I have a display case it’s called a curio cabinet. The whole front slides over with glass shelves and I display a mego figure with a box behind it because, I gotta get the artwork. Then vehicles, I have the Batcave inside a Plexiglas container so dust doesn’t get on it and the Enterprise, same way, and then the Wayne foundation.

drmego10EC: Is this a mixture of original Megos and the Megos that you’ve created?

DM: Yeah, because Mego didn’t do Lex Luthor and you’re looking at Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Mr. Mxyzptlk and everybody goes, “why? why didn’t you do Lex Luthor” so I did a Lex Luthor and put em there.

EC: What is the process in making a reproduction Mego?

DM: You have to take the original. You need the original to start from. Then I cast it in silicon rubber and then I extract the original from the mold. When its cured then you’re pouring in a liquid plastic and then after, depending on the plastic, some are an hour some are 6 hours, some are over night, you would extract out a re-production and clean off any flashing just like a manufacturer. That’s essentially how injection mold works the stuff gets pushed through and then you take it out, clean off the excess and package it. I prefer not to paint anything like heads, heads are cast in one color because I find that every body has their own interpretation. The whole point of it is they may want a superman head but they don’t want it with black hair they want to do him with blonde hair, so by giving it to him unpainted he can do his own interpretation, some guys buy my heads and then sand down the details to make a new head, cause its easier than ruining an original.

EC: Do you make all the clothes?

DM: Actually the Chinese do the clothing. I can do few things like capes but any kind of costume stuff I’ve asked the Chinese to make like body suits, single colored body suits like unitards in different colors. So if you wanted to do a Batman you could take a gray body suit and black trunks and put it together instead of incorporating the trunks into the outfit then the only thing you could do with it would be a Batman.

EC: What is the most requested Mego?

DM: Probably the alter egos, in 1974 Mego did an exclusive of Montgomery Ward to make Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Peter Parker. Essentially they’re just wearing suits, Peter Parker’s got a sweater and pants. They sold for $1,000 a piece. Essentially they’re little Megos in business suits and to me I just said, “that’s crazy to spend $1,000 on an old toy, doll suits”. So I sent the suits to the Chinese and they said, “we could knock these out all day how many would you like 10,000, 100,00?” So I had them make the suits, so every body who wants a Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne to put next to their Batman or Superman can pick them up from me for $25 bucks each.

EC: What is the most unusual request?

DM: A guy asked me to make Polar Bear man, and I said, “whose Polar Bear man?” and he says, “it’s a superhero I created, he’s part man part Polar Bear” and I said, “then I think you want to make him, I’m not going to make him, this is not my idea”. I’m not really interested in getting involved in making a character you came up with. I’ll give you the parts and you make him.

EC: Are you able to fill every request? Is there something you can’t make like hair?

DM: Yeah, I can’t do rooted hair. Like, a guy wanted me to make a Thor head with rooted hair like a Barbie and I can’t do that. I asked the Chinese about that and they said, “were not doing that either” obviously there are Chinese manufacturers that do rooted hair cause Barbie’s are made but the one I’m dealing with said no. Its kind of frustrating because I have to say, sorry but if you want a Thor I have to sculpt the hair in clay as part of the head.

drmego5EC: So you also sculpt?

DM: A little, there are people out there that are actually into sculpting that seem to regularly get hold of me. A friend of mine that sculpts says, "here, I did a Thing head". If you saw the Mego Thing he has his mouth open like he’s yawning. My friend and I are big Thing fans and it just killed us that you have the Fantastic Four Megos lined up and the Thing looks like he’s ready for a nap. So he sculpted a real good curby Thing head where he looks angry, he looks determined, definitely much better to put against a custom Dr. Doom which I also make.

EC: What is the hardest Mego to reproduce?

DM: Hardest one is probably, something like, Isis . I know it sounds weird but she’s got these little lace up sandals that are a nightmare to cast. And she’s a little brunette wearing that little white dress and for me to make a dress like that is just frustrating and too small and it’s Isis ! She’s not even a real superhero. I have trouble with this.

EC: Do you re-produce anything else besides figures?

DM: Yeah, I do parts like the missiles from the Corgi Batmobile that are shot out of the exhaust pipe. I have them and I said, “well gee, these things are lost all the time, its easy for me to make them so I’ll make them and put them up on ebay” The Aston Martin, the James Bond car has an ejector seat guy, I just made him. Usually its because somebody asks me, “can you do this?”. They have to have the original and be willing to lend it to me. And it’s also a matter of am I interested in doing this? My friend lent me the Remco Beatles instruments because he said they were always missing so I was able to cast them and put up a couple of sets on ebay to let people know, and then get them to the web site and see if there’s any interest.

drmego6EC: What do you think about the Mego style figures, Classic TV toys hitting the shelves?

DM: Yeah, I’ve dealt with the guy and talked to him a lot of times he was doing three stooges figures in the early 90’s he’s a Mego fan. When I started doing the reproduction parts he starting to do gloves and boots for the same thing and we all want to see the company come back but unless you can license superheroes most people really aren’t that interested in buying. Hopefully he can get them to enough people to make it a viable enterprise. I thought about it many times trying to get small licenses and going out there and doing it and it came down to I just can’t guarantee that you’ll find that many people.

EC: So why do you think Mego has held its appeal after so many years especially with the hard core collectors?

DM: Cause it brings you back to being 7 every time you pick up a Mego. There’s a split second where you’re 7 years old again or 8 where you were master of the earth, everything was possible, and you remember Christmas or a birthday. There’s that moment of holding that Mego Batman where you’re going "na na na na na na na na" and running down the hall and your there, for that briefest moment you’re 8.

EC: Do you attend any conventions?

DM: Well, before ebay, shows were everything and I wish shows were still a viable force cause I love to go out and meet people. I love to actually be able to talk to the guys and say what do u like? What don’t u like? and unfortunately I just don’t see people going to shows when ebay is a 24 – 7 show, where you can search by exactly what you’re interested in. People don’t seem to have the same desire for community that they used to. Until someone comes up with a better model for a show, I have to be very careful about what shows I could afford to do. For me to fly to Los Angeles, ship product there and stand there for three days showing my stuff and getting a lot of, “that’s nice but who cares”, its hard to justify it for the expenses to go into a show. The reality is shows are a promotion expense, as a result I gotta pick a better show bigger shows and it becomes a killer for the little guys. The guys in Ohio I’d love to go visit them but it really takes a lot for me to make the decision to go to Ohio to do a show when I just don’t see the numbers. So my rule of thumb is if Adam West is signing autographs, I’ll go cause he brings in the right Mego minded guy, right age group, the right interest. If you’re going to see Adam West you’re probably into Megos.

EC: We attended, the San Diego Comic con and it was packed. Not that all conventions get the same turn out but it’s interesting how you bring up the point of how the internet has brought down attendance somewhat.

DM: I’d love to go to San Diego , but what you’re seeing there is not just toys. It’s a lot of companies putting out a new product, using it as a launch. For what I do you just don’t need a lot of people you need a lot of people targeted. Like, Mego Con, Mego Con was great because everyone walking through the door was a customer. Everyone was into what I was doing so its better for me, take Chiller, Chiller Con had a lot of people but a lot of them are into horror, so they went pass what I did and went, “ahh” not really into it.

EC: What is the best convention experience you’ve had?

DM: Mego Con, Mego Con was home, but aside from that shows where Adam West is signing. It’s almost like, the Grateful Dead I would follow him around the country.

EC: What is your website?

DM: www.drmego.com

drmego8EC: Do you get a lot of business from the internet?

DM: Almost all my business is the internet, worldwide it allows someone in Barcelona to go through the website as easily as somebody in Long Island and pick what he wants and send the payment and in a week he’ll get his package, with a catalogue with more things to buy.

EC: So people can come in off the street and place an order?

DM: Yes, they can come to The Land Of Ooh’s and Oz in Farmingdale. There’s a pretty small group of people that are on Long Island that are actually Mego collectors. Yeah, there are guys who come in and say "can I place an order?" and the store would be more than happy to take the list and either fill it out right there on the spot or tell you that something has to be made, cause unlike a lot of businesses, I actually make a lot of what I sell, so sometimes I don’t have everything in stock. With 500 items, some items are more popular than others. I really don’t get much calls for the wicked witch broom but I can make it.

EC: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

DM: Dead in a pit, swallowing plastic, no, I always love that, where do u see yourself 5 years from now, in prison! But actually, sad thing I don’t know, 5-10 years from now the reproduction business may completely dry up because Megos, all original Megos have ended up with the final consumer and the people who have them have got the parts or not gonna get em maybe or something else and there’s only a finite number and I hope to be doing new licenses, looking into new properties and saying I will license this product and try to sell it through a different venue. There was one guy he was a musician and he wanted to do an action figure on himself and I said, “listen this is great I can do your prototype, show you what the figure looks like, put it out on your fan site and people could order it and as they order them, we’ll make them, and if you find it to be a viable thing then I can have the stuff made in China”. I can have the head and clothes done in China and we could see where that goes. He can’t go to Mc Farlane or Hasbro and say I want to do an action figure of me, they’ll go, “well who cares” but I’m willing to work on a small scale and as it grows take it from there.

drmego11

EC: So where do you see the toy business and toy collecting business years from now and how have you seen it change?

DM: Well, I’ve seen it change from Megos, for ten years we got this one product line with 25 characters out on the shelf and one age group after another bought them and re-bought them and played with them and made them into other guys. The best customizer is an eight year old he just pulls off parts and makes them into another guy and he’s sold on it. Then I saw it go into 3 ¾ inch which was “we’re going to do every variation of Luke in his regular, here’s Luke as a Stormtrooper, here’s Luke in a speedo, here’s Luke in evening wear”. Now, the retailers demand that the manufacturer change inventory every six months. So you put out a line of Marvel Legends and in six months Toys R Us demands that you put out a new line of figures. So, Captain America , Iron Man and Hulk are out and in come Thor and Dark Phoenix and Hawkeye. Now you could sell more Captain America, Iron Man and Hulk than you can of the others so what happens is, you’ve just created a secondary market selling that inventory, but it hasn’t been around long enough to build up any real numbers. So what I think you’ll see in 10 years in the toy industry is a lot of money paid for certain items because they weren’t around long enough to satisfy the real collector demand. In fact a lot of hot toys now are coming out and becoming hot because they weren’t in the stores long enough. Either there gonna change that and go back to the Mego rule of let the stuff stay on the shelf for a while or it just goes to a lot more web exclusives, a lot more you can buy the stuff but only through this venue, only through ebay, only through their web site.

EC: Well thank you Dr. Mego for your time

DM: Sure, I just talked my head off. (Laughs)

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