In 1979, the post-Star Wars, Glen Larson version of Buck Rogers took the sci-fi world by storm. I was nine year old at the time, and both the feature film and the follow-up TV series on NBC were right up my alley.
Category Archives: Mego
The franchise starred Gil Gerard as Buck, Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering, and Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardala. The tone of the enterprise was cheeky and knowing, and the special effects, for their day, were absolutely stellar. Down to the sexy opening credits, the film version played like James Bond in the future, or in space, perhaps.
Accordingly, I was thrilled when I began to see toys from Mego lining the shelves at Toys R Us. Among the first of these was a spaceship toy with a design you never saw featured on-screen: the “Laserscope fighter.”
This sharp-nosed space fighter “with simulated lasers and explosions” featured a cockpit for the 3.5 inch Buck Rogers figures. But more interestingly, it possessed a rear-mounted view screen through which you could track, target, and incinerate enemies.
The box explains: “Look through the view-screen and line up your target, press the switches – see and hear the lasers fire – the target will appear to explode right before your very eyes!”
· Laserscope viewscreen
· Twin stub wing handles
· Telescopic focus control
· Realistic laser sounds
· Swing-open cockpit
· Fits any Buck Rogers figure.
Of course, I must confess that when I was generously given the Laserscope fighter as a gift, I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted the Buck Rogers star fighter, a craft which was featured on the show and boasted an infinitely cooler design aesthetic.
But once I actually got the star fighter for the Christmas of 1980, I could enjoy the Laserscope fighter as a kind of “alternate” ship for the intrepid Buck. The fighter sort of fit with the universe of the TV series, because Buck often ended up going undercover for the Earth Directorate, flying ships of various designs. So it was kind of cool to be able to play out that scenario with a ship other than an “official” one.
Also, if I understand my toy history right, the “Laserscope fighter” was also released in Europe, but as a toy from a different Mego license: The Black Hole (1979).
This is another Mego playset from the 1970s for which I harbor deep and abiding love. In 1977, Mego manufactured a line of toys from Flash Gordon (1936), including four 10-inch action figures (Flash Gordon, Ming the Merciless, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov), and this terrific playset/carrying case.
“The world of Mongo comes alive in this double sided playset” the box informed kids. “One side is Ming’s Throne Room complete with Ming’s throne.”
“The other side is Dr. Zarkov’s secret laboratory with a simulated computer and (3) computer cards.”
The set also “fits all Flash Gordon figures (not included.)“
Like the Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Wizard of Oz playsets, this Flash Gordon playset is constructed of hard cardboard, surrounded by laminated vinyl, I believe. The illustrations on this set are really quite beautiful as I hope you can see, and strongly evocative of Alex Raymond’s art work.
The three computer cards included here are double-sided, and feature images of all the characters, plus a city of Mongo, plus a rocket on approach. They slip down through the top of the computer, into the viewscreen. panel.
You might think that the timing (the mid-1970s) was weird for a Flash Gordon boomlet but I remember in the mid-1970s — around the time of Star Wars — finally getting to see the original serial at my local library. On Friday afternoons, I think, I went to see it, one chapter at a time over a span of weeks. Also, if I’m not mistaken, some TV stations had begun to play the original Buster Crabbe serials as well. It was kind of a mini –Flash Gordon fad. My grandmother from Texas (now deceased), was thrilled to see the serials again because she had loved them as a kid. It was pretty awesome, actually, that my grandmother, mother and I could all sit down and discuss together Buster Crabbe and Flash Gordon.
Today, I don’t own any of the Flash Gordon action figures, alas, which came equipped with plastic swords and cool helmets. But I do own this wonderful Mego playset and its box, which remain in excellent shape.
For kids of Generation X (my generation…), there’s one toy company that stands above the rest and absolutely remains a thing of legend:
In the 1970s, Mego held the Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Marvel and D.C. superheroes licenses, and created some absolutely amazing toys that have now become prized collectors items.
Growing up, I absolutely loved Planet of the Apes. I avidly read the magazines and comics from Marvel, and played with the action figures and play sets from Mego. As a kid in the 1970s, I could find many of these toys cheap at garage sales. I still remember the time I purchased a boxed POTA tree house and Forbidden Zone play set for one dollar a piece.
Best. Saturday. Ever.
One terrific and much beloved Mego Planet of the Apes toy from this era is the Planet of the Apes Village, a “giant 3 foot play set, headquarters for all Planet of the Apes 8 inch action figures.”
Truth be told, this play set is highly reminiscent of Mego’s Batcave play set, but what the heck. It’s still cool.
The Planet of the Apes village folds down into a small carry case, and also opens up into this huge diorama of Ape City as seen in the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall. There’s a “secret entrance” to Ape City, plus plenty of accouterments. These include a “laboratory table” (for dissecting humans, no doubt…), a flip-up “weapons bench,” a “capture net and carry pole,” a “detention pen,” “3 control sticks” and “3 rifles.”
When fully assembled (with a green mat bridging the two ends,) the play set is a pretty impressive thing, but I love the fact you can fold it up and carry it with you so easily.
The play set itself is made up of laminated cardboard, decorated with some expressive art from the Apes saga (including vistas of the Statue of Liberty and Ape City itself).
I’m not sure how much kids of today would love this retro play set, but for me the Planet of the Apes village just absolutely takes me back to the disco decade, and some great times spent in the company of Zira, Cornelius, Zaius, Urko and the rest.
“The Phaser Gun is light sensitive and operates best when used indoors in subdued light. The gun will not function properly in bright sunlight.”
Manufactured “exclusively for Mego Corp.” by “Megotronics” in 1976 is this glorious Star Trek Super Phaser II Target Game.
The product came complete with “a super phaser II gun with sonic buzzer device” and a “target reflector badge” in the shape of a Klingon D-7 battle cruiser.
To work this toy, you would simply “Aim. Press the trigger” and a watch as a “powerful beam of light shoots out!”
The idea was to “Hit the target reflector badge on your friend” and “activate the sonic buzzer device.”
So this is like an early (prehistoric?) version of Photon, or laser tag, I suppose you could say.
This Mego phaser game ran on two double A batteries and one 9 volt transistor type battery, and was ideal for landing party combat if you owned two: one for you and one for a Klingon friend. Recommended for children over three years old, the Super Phaser II Target Game featured some lovely box art, as you can see. A red shirt (behind Kirk and Spock) is blasting an armed denizen of the planet Cheron (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”) That’s not exactly politically correct, since the people of Cheron are technically extinct in Trek lore, but that’s okay. Look at his face. He clearly was up to no good.
I’ve got the communicators, action playset, Tribble and Mission to Gamma VI, but I still hunger after the Tricorder, Console, and especially the Battle Game.
One of these days, perhaps…