Retro Action Two Face, Batman, Aquaman... bask in their awesomeness!!!
In early 2010 this amazing new collection of Mego-like dolls was announced by Mattel! I missed out on the Green Arrow figure as it was issued separately before other characters were available in stores, but I was lucky to find all four dolls in Wave 1. Here they are (minus Green Arrow)...
Superman, Lex Luthor
Green Lantern, Sinestro (in blue and black outfit)
Update: In Feb 2014 I finally got a Green Arrow and completed my collection! Here he is:
Series two is actually what made me give in to the Retro Action series and start collecting. When I saw the Batman and Two-Face dolls I had to have them! These are awesome and the Two-Face doll is perfect! What an excellent costume! I love the head sculpting for Two-Face. Batman is also awesome. At last, no more oven mitts! I also really like the Aquaman doll and find it superior to the Mego version. I had left the series one figures in the packages unopened, but I had to open Aquaman so I actually bought two! This is something that I've never done in all the years I've been collecting dolls and action figures! The costuming for Aquaman is awesome and the face is so much better. He even comes with his trident! After opening Aquaman, I had to do the same for Batman and Two-Face, so I now have two of each! Batman has a removable mask which is a nice additional detail. Here is series two:
Aquaman, Black Manta
Although I find this series to be amazing, I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed with how fragile the costumes are. The fabric around the snaps on the Aquaman costume looks as though it wants to tear so I leave them undone. Batman's suit is just as fragile and the bat logo can be damaged easily if the fabric stretches. It's odd that the logo wasn't just silk screened like the pattern on Aquaman's costume. Batman's cape is also unfinished around the edges and frays just like a Mego cape, which is a retro feature this collector would have gladly done without. How easy it would have been simply to use a type of fabric that doesn't fray!!! Of course, I'm thankful all the same that the Retro Action DC Super Heroes collection exists at all.
I noticed a variation for Aquaman's costume. For the doll below, the pattern on his shoulder is not connected (there is a space where the different direction of loops meet as the lines do not touch)...
And here is the back view...
My only complaint about the Retro Action doll body is the "floppy" midsection due to the elastic not being strong enough. This unfortunately limits the posability and functionality of the doll. The doll's legs cannot be posed to stay in position, such as a kicking action, they way Mego dolls can. In addition, the top half of the Retro Action body does not stay upright easily, and tends to tilt to one direction so that the figure looks bent forward. As a result, the Retro Action dolls do not stand up on their own very well and it takes some patience to straighten the figures to a natural position. I would trust a Mego Type 2 doll to stand on its own without a doll stand no problem, but not a Retro Action doll.
For Wave 3 Mattel addressed part of this problem by removing the elastic used to connect the torso to the doll's lower half, and replacing it with a plastic ball joint. This is a super upgrade and keeps the doll body upright. However, elastic is still being used to hold the doll's legs onto the body, which makes for loosely attached legs that still do not stay in a kicking position. It's odd that Mattel, the world's leading doll maker, would have trouble with something like this! Of course, Mego dolls had problems too. They broke easily at the knee, discoloured easily, cracked easily, but I adore them anyway. Here is series three:
The Flash, Captain Cold
Wonder Woman, Cheetah
I'm not too thrilled about Captain Cold's head sculpt because it seems odd that they didn't make him a fabric hood. Yet, I can see how the plastic hood is similar to what Mego did for Green Goblin. Cheetah is not bad, but if I had not been able to pick up a Wonder Woman on e-bay to go with it, I wouldn't have bothered with the villain. The Retro Action Wonder Woman looks so much better than the Mego version. I like the idea of the clear plastic straps to keep her top up and the outfit is much better. The Flash Retro Action figure is awesome! I'm soooooo happy to finally have a Mego-like Flash for my collection. What a cool doll!!!! Why the heck didn't Mego make the Flash? Look how awesome he is!
Series four was released in April 2011. Martian Manhunter and Darkseid were the only two I was able to find at the store. Martian Manhunter isn't a character that I care much for, but the Retro action doll looked like a nifty addition to the series. That is, aside from the cape that looks like it would fray to pieces if ever touched by human hands. The rest of the doll looks perfect, so it's very odd that Mattel didn't bother to finish the edge of the cape or use a different type of fabric. The cape for the Superman RA doll has a finnished edge, so why not do the same for this one? Here is series four:
Martian Manhunter, Darkseid
Darkseid looks a bit weird as a Mego, though he is still an interesting addition to the series. I don't have to worry about his cape fraying, he doesn't have his cape! The fact that his body is padded rather than making a larger "Mego Hulk" body type is very cheap, even by Mego standards. Had Mattel taken time to make a larger size doll body, they could have also used it for Kilowog from the Green Lantern series (as they are focusing on the Green Lantern characters) and justified the production expense buy using the body for other "Mego Hulk" sized DC characters, such as Clay Face, Bane, Doomsday, and Swamp Thing. But, oh well!
Shazam, Black Adam
Eventually I managed to find Shazam and Black Adam at Toys R Us. Shazam looks better than the Mego version, but he's a character I'm not that interested in. I'd rather they made a Robin or Hawkman Retro Action doll with a matching villain (Joker or Lion Mane). I think it would be awesome if Mattel made a Billy Batson doll based on the live action TV series by Filmation. The doll could have huge rooted doll hair like Mego's Conan. Doubtful it will happen though. Wave five was only available online through the Mattel website MattyCollector.com. Here is series 5:
Guy Gardner, Sinestro (yellow costume)
The John Stewart figure is awesome and the one from series five that I wanted the most. Here is a close up of his face to show what a perfect job they did on him. See how cool he is!
There was a mix up with Kyle Rayner's right hand that has resulted in two variations of this figure which are both shown above. From what I understand, the prototype of this figure didn't have a power ring however this wasn't noticed until the figure had already gone into production. Therefore, production had to be stopped to correct the problem by painting a ring onto the "Open Hand" versions that had already been made, and continuing the production with the correct "Closed Fist" hand which has a moulded ring. This caused the release date for the figure to be pushed back by about a month. Below is a closer look at the two variations of Kyle Rayner's hand...
When the Kyle Rayner figure was released it was rumoured that up to five variations of the figure were available. It has since been confirmed that only these two variations exist.
Although Mattel's Retro Action Green Lantern figures look amazing, if they don't make Robin and Hawkman for this series it will be unforgivable!
Update: As we now know, Mattel never did issue Robin or Hawkman. It was also confirmed online at the Mego Museum discussion forum that a Hawkman prototype had been made. The character would likely have been in the next series. So close! In January 2015 the Mego Museum posted the photo below showing the head sculpt for Mattel's unused Hawkman prototype. What an awesome sculpting job! That would have been an awesome Hawkman doll!!!
The Real Ghostbusters
Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz, and Winston Zeddemore
In April 2010 Mattel released a set of four Retro Action "The Real Ghostbusters" dolls based on the four main characters (shown above). Prior to this, two different Retro Action dolls based on Peter Venkman were exclusively available at the San Diego Comic convention in 2010 (shown below). Both of these are based on the episode "Citizen Ghost" and have a talking feature with sayings from the episode. Oddly enough however, the voice used for these talking dolls is not the original one from the TV series which I find somewhat disappointing. The "Citizen Ghost" episode was included with the bonus material on the DVD release of Ghostbusters II.
Images from: www.mattycollector.com
The only differences between the two initial Venkman dolls is that one is the normal human version and the other is a ghost version with a green head/body. Both dolls are wearing the same light brown outfits and have the same black plastic Proton Packs. The human version of this talking Peter Venkman doll was later available on the Mattel website and, from my experience, is slightly easier to find than the green ghost version. The third version of Peter Venkman that was later released with the set of four dolls (shown above with the set of four) is a non-talking doll wearing a brown outfit with an aqua collar and cuffs. It is by far more common to find than the two initial dolls. The four main Ghostbuster dolls are awesome, so I had to add them to the collection... truth be told though, I'd prefer more DC Heroes!
1) Hey, don't make fun. This is how I got through college.
2) Sorry gentlemen but my public calls.
3) Strange, weird, eccentric, sick. That about covers it.
4) Dr. Venkman prescribes a nice long nap in the containment unit.
As I don't yet have the green ghost version of this doll I'm just assuming that both dolls say the same things.
Photo from: www.amazon.com
In November 2011 a two-pack set of Janine and the villain Samhain (a ghost that has a pumpkin as a head) were available at Toys R Us, though I suspect only in the United States as I didn't see them at any stores here in Ottawa, Ontario! The two pack also came with a very small figure of Slimer and a cardboard poster of the Ghostbusters firehouse headquarters. These two dolls were the very last Retro Action figures to be made by Mattel.
June 2011: The Retro Action series is cancelled by Mattel... which is crazy!!!
I'm very baffled and disappointed by Mattel's decision to cancel this awesome series. Clearly there is still so much potential in this collection and a vast consumer base for it. Cancelling this series is such a shocking move because it only makes it more obvious how Mattel and DC Comics have fumbled the ball regarding the Retro Action collection.
I'm not a toy sales expert, yet it seems that it was a major blunder not to have released all of the major DC characters at the same time, rather than two at a time in limited numbers. If the all the main heroes, including Batman, Robin, Superman, Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Hawkman, had shown up in stores all at once, it would have grabbed the attention of a larger number of DC comics fans. Additionally, as a budget was clearly set aside for a series of at least nine figures, these main characters would have accounted for the first two waves of the collection. Following these characters should have been three waves of other A-listers including key villains: Lex Luthor, Sinestro, Joker, Two-Face, Nightwing, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Kid Flash, Batgirl, Catwoman, Penguin, and Riddler. The lesser known villains and Golden Age heroes could have come later once the series was established with collectors.
Mattel did not issue a Robin figure for the Retro Action series presumably because they didn't have a doll body that was the right scale. However I found this Mattel Wolf doll that was made in 2008 for the Little Red Riding Hood Barbie set, and it is the right size for the Boy Wonder. All he needs is a head and a costume! I made this picture and posted it on the MattyCollector.com website forum page for the Retro Action series. Hopefully when they see how little work is actually needed, the folks at Mattel will change their minds and make a Retro Action Robin! (The rest of the Teen Titans would be awesome too!)
When I asked on the Matty Collector website about why they didn't make vehicles for this series, a Mattel representative replied "We offered Retro Action to other retailers with a larger program. No one was interested in high enough quota per figure to move forward." (Aug 24, 2011) While I know very little about how companies like Mattel sell their products to retail stores, it seems odd that they couldn't figure out a deal to sell DC comics merchandise. Toys R Us was already carrying the series. If other retail stores were not interested, why didn't Mattel distribute the RA series through special novelty and gift shops or stores such as the Warner Brothers store in New York, FAO Shwartz, Target and so on to build momentum?
Most importantly though, I think the DC Retro Action collection should have been marketed to kids first and collectors second. Yet, it's my suspicion that the RA series was made without kids in mind, and the issues with the quality of the RA dolls ("floppy" midsections, capes that fray, legs that don't stay in position) are a result of this. Had Mattel and DC fully realized the gold mine that was waiting for them with the Retro Action collection, and approached it with more seriousness rather than treating it as a side project, the RA series would have been given a stronger marketing campaign just as Mattel did with their Max Steel collection back in 2000. It was an opportunity missed, but not one that can't be recovered from.
With the Retro Action series now "officially" cancelled, I can only hope that some logic will eventually get through to the decision makers at Mattel and DC, so that the DC Retro Action series will be given a second try with a better marketing strategy. Clearly, this series has so much potential! To prove it, I've made a wish list of characters that I would have liked to see join the collection. See the next page of this blog for more...(hold that thought! I've updated the page, see the "Update" note below!)
Update: In the fall of 2013 Figures Toy Company announced that they would be re-issuing the Batman and Teen Titans DC Comics super heroes from the Mego Official World's Greatest Superheroes series. These will be made as true as possible to the original Mego dolls. In addition new characters that Mego did not make will be added to the series! In 2004 the Figures Toy Company began re-issued numerous Mego collections, including Happy Days, Robin Hood, Super Knights, Super Pirates, Space 1999, and Kiss.
So it seems that Mattel has missed their chance at continuing the Mego line! Sucks to be them. I'm really looking forward to the new Figures Toy DC Comics series, and so I've updated my "Retro Action Wish list" and changed it to the "Figures Toy Co DC Heroes Wish List". See the next page of this blog for more about Figures Toys Company....
Text and Photos © Mike Artelle 2010, 2013