Customizer of the Month- July 2008- Mike Rogers
Name: Mike Rogers (mego73)

CM: Any Personal Info you are willing to share: (married? Kids? Pets? Occupation? Where from? Other hobbies,/Interests?).

MR: I’m a retro pop culture vulture who collects old tv shows, movies and commercials on video. I’ve done framing and photo restoration work in the past, which paved the way to do the repro boxes I am doing now.

CM: How did you get started collecting mego?

MR: A couple things happened in the mid 80’s. First, Starlog started to run the ads of Planet Earth Collectables for the original Star Trek figures. These were the figures from Brad and Jeannie Taylor’s warehouse find which kept secondary market Mego Trek figure prices down for a good while.

Also, around that time I picked up an interesting book at the nearby Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum (a museum made from this lady’s vast doll and toy collection. It’s since evolved to the “Museum of Play ”)

It was John Axe’s The Encyclopedia of Celebrity Dolls. It was a very well done book that categorized figures under celebrity names. For instance, you would find POTA’s Cornelius and Galen under the entry for Roddy McDowell. The book did have its inaccuracies though. It listed Mego Klingon as being based on Michael Ansara’s Kang, instead of William Campbell’s Koloth, Also, it was assumed that the Mego Thing figure was actually based on the James Arness movie (the author had obviously never seen the figure).

It was there I learned about Mego’s Walton’s line, Wizard Of Oz line, Wild West line and that there were other Happy Days figures besides Fonzie. It was also there I saw that other figures I thought were Mego were actually LJN, like Emergency!, SWAT and Rookies. So, that book fired me up for collecting Mego. It was also about that time that the French Pin Pin Mego figures (which included Spiderman, Hulk and The Fantastic Four) were at my local Toy Stores. I bought them for myself and actually trading a number of them to Toy Shop (magazine) dealers to get other Mego stuff like Planet Of The Apes figures and Treehouse and some Superheroes.

I always liked the look of Mego figures compared to figures that came after it. They looked more like a real human then a lot of action figures. I always judged newer figures by how well they remind me of Mego figures. In the 90’s, the collecting bug cooled and I sold off stuff that now I wish I hadn’t (like my own set of Fantastic Four and boxed Shazam, Lizard and Aquaman). It wasn’t until the Mego Museum was discovered that the dormant collecting bug got lit up again.

CM: What is your favorite original mego figure and line?

MR: Star Trek’s Mr. Spock. No doubt about it. When I found Star Trek in the form of the animated show in 1975 I was hoping there were some Star Trek figures out there. I vaguely remembered seeing a commercial for something that could’ve been Star Trek figures (turns out it was the “Mego presents the Star Trek action figures…” ad I was thinking of) but I didn’t get a real confirmation of their existence until the Sears Christmas catalog came out. And it was Mr. Spock I wanted the most, he was my favorite. So, Mego Mr. Spock is the seed with which all the rest of my Mego interest was built upon.

CM: What is, in your opinion, the biggest "hole" in mego's original lines. (what figure or figure line is missing that should have been done).

MR: I had always believed that there was a Mego Taylor (Charlton Heston from Planet Of The Apes) out there somewhere until I got the Encyclopedia of Celebrity Dolls showed that only a generic Astronaut existed. Also, I believed that there were Mego Emergency! Figures (I guess because I remembered seeing them not to close in a store or in a catalog) and seeing the LJN figures that actually existed did not match my mental picture of what Mego Emergency figures would look like. So, I wish Mego would’ve done these. Also, it goes without saying that I wish we had Mego Star Wars figures but I also wished that they would’ve taken a chance on JAWS (which got a lot of toy merchandising at the time).

CM: What motivated you to start customizing?

MR: Getting a Mego character I always wanted as a kid or thought existed but didn’t. As a kid, I put together the Planet Of The Apes Taylor I always thought was out there for instance. When I got the book of celebrity dolls I found out there never was one but wished there was. Also, as a kid I found the Mad Monster Mummy and from the little art cameos on the side I always thought Frankenstein and Dracula looked more like the movie versions than the actual figures did. When you come right down to it, most customs are fulfilling a whim for something I wanted but could not find as a kid.

CM: What was your first custom?

MR: A while ago on the old Mego list. Somebody first offered the shunk down Mattel Space:1999 Professor Bergman head. I had just learned about the Palitoy Space 1999 figures and how they avoided Bergman and Dr. Russell. So, I really wanted a Mego style Bergman. I got the head and did the clothes myself by a pattern and mostly glue “stitching” (never been too good at constructing clothing, try to avoid it if possible). I ended up selling it but I have an extra painted head that I may decide to put on a body and make a suit for again one day

CM: How did it come out? (looking back on it now)

MR: It came out good enough but now I wouldn’t have painted the accessories or made the specialized decals for the commlocks because I like to keep it more like a produced item.

CM: What have you done/learned that has improved your customizing skills?

MR: Realizing that I have enough skill to take an already existing head and add to it with Sculpy to make another character has made me attempt things I would have thought was beyond me before. May I will get real gutsy and try to do a head from scratch some day.

CM: What areas of customizing is your strongest points, or favorite things to do?

MR: Without a doubt, I make sure I throw a lot into the packaging. When it comes to the figure itself, I can do okay. I am a good coordinator of how to get the stuff to make a good-looking custom and I can make okay likenesses from other heads if I try hard enough. But what really seals the deal is a card or box that:

1. Looks vintage

2. Looks good

To make it look 1970’s vintage often means holding back on accuracy and play up the kid friendly elements of the concept. You also have to have bold color schemes. The Mego WGSH boxes are great examples. Day glow magenta for Batman? It’s counter to the character but a kids eyes will be drawn to it. But best of all were the Mad Monster and Western boxes. I was never a fan of westerns but those boxes might’ve gotten me to want to buy a figure, had I seen them in the 1970’s.

I’ve had more then a few opportunities to do boxes of a more modern bent and I like how they turn out but the vintage ones are more free and fun to do.

I loved toy packaging as a kid but still let it get thrown out in most cases. Also, a lot of my Megos came from Sears or JCPennies catalogs in their plain brown shipping boxes. So, it is no wonder that a look at a bunch of packaged vintage toys still gets my heart to skip a beat. There’s something very charming about 1970’s toy packaging, which was made before most ever conceived of an adult base of collectors of action figures and toys. There is something very charming about seeing those package designers go their merry way since it was before most licensors thought of using style guides or model sheets for their merchandising.

CM: What resources make it easier for you as a customizer? (is there a source for parts? Information? Etc. that aids you more than anything else?).

MR: Naturally, the custom forum is a great source of information for anyone wishing to try a custom. Doctor Mego, Mego Orion Homeworld, Classic TV Toys is also a good place to go. When I am trying to do a new head I want to start with a resin copy of a head and that steers me to DaveMc's, Laurie Halbritter’s site Toyfanatic, and Austin’s reproheads site. Those are the first “bases I hit”

CM: What is your favorite custom you've done and do you think it's your best work? If not, what do you think is your best work?

MR: I would have to say the Emergency! Figure set. The LJN (and someday I want to get those too) figures did not resemble John and Roy too much and didn’t even come with a fire hat (you had to get the fire hat separately in an accessories set or get a specially packaged figure with the accessories). I wanted the Emergency! Figures I thought were out there somewhere as a kid. I originally was only going to do John and Roy but began to entertain the idea of doing Dr. Brackett as well. I knew the resin Thor head I had would make for a good John (Randolph Mantooth). For Roy, I looked at video and pictures of Kevin Tighe and came to the conclusion he resembled a somewhat pudgier faced William Shatner with 70’s hair so I used a Kirk head for him. For Brackett I finally came to use a custom Pierce head from Dave Mc’s website.

Since I thought three figures was odd for a Mego set (literally and figuratively) I wanted to add another character. I thought about Dr. Early and Nurse Dixie but believe Mego would’ve avoided them because Early was older and Dixie was “a girl” and these are boy toys (it also could’ve been that I just was too spent on doing the first three at the time to tackle two more). In any case, I thought a generic rescue patient would be so “Mego” and in the tradition of “Chopper” and the  “Astronaut”. But I love the combination of a much-loved 1970’s TV show and the archetypes of many boy toys: Firemen and Doctors.

CM: Why do you choose the projects you choose?

MR: Most Mego customizes concentrate on comic book characters and that is fine. But comic books were on the periphery of my kid experience. I was always more excited by horror and Sci-fi movies and TV.

I love Superheroes but somehow it never translated to a lot of comic book buying. I would always watch Superheroes as offered on TV and film though and also liked to get comic adaptations of TV shows and movies. Looking back on it now, I have a hard time figuring out why I didn’t go for more Superhero comics. Maybe it was because whenever I picked one up they were already in the midst of a story (multi issue) and I felt out of the loop. Or maybe what saw in the comic books ran counter to what I saw on TV with the same characters (i.e. Batman and Robin). In any case, most of my Superhero exposure was though the TV and movie adaptations. Because I was more into TV and movies, I loved seeing TV and movie toys and when I became a collector I was more turned on to TV and movie toys as well. So, when I customize, I am bringing that mentality to it. I love the Superheroes (might even customize a Superhero or two myself in the future) but wouldn’t it have been great if they came out with a Hawaii Five O figure set? Wouldn’t it have been cool if there were a 1970’s Dracula that really looked a lot like Bela Lugosi but still had that 1970’s sensibility?

CM: What are your favorite customs others have done and why?

MR: Anyone who gets any type of custom together that requires some effort deserves a pat on the back. But there is something to be revered for people who build customs practically from the feet up. On that note you can’t help but be wowed by the stuff John Farely (type3toys) does. His Spiderman and Green Goblin in particular are the gold standard. And he molds and paints the bodies, the heads and sews the outfits. He approaching customs differently then I do: as detailed, collector’s pieces that most manufactures today (let alone the Mego of the 1970’s) would be hard pressed to match.

Also, you got to loves James Brady and his single-handedly extending the Star Trek line through his self sculpted heads and Dave McCormick’s clothing.

Then there are Dave McCormick's Star Wars figures that are almost too good to be true.

CM: What is on your "to do" list in the near future?

MR: A Movie Mummy and Wolfman are on the short list. There are customs I want to do where female characters are holding me back. I would want the figures to have rooted hair and a face that is something better than a DinahMite. Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeannie are what I am talking about. Someday I will figure out how to do good customs of Samantha and Jeannie (and a Space:1999 Dr. Russell with rooted hair). Get Smart and Honeymooners are other ones I think about doing.

Besides that, I want to do other 70’s crime dramas like Adam 12, Cannon and Ironside. Especially Adam 12, since I often got the Adam 12 comics and thought there were Adam 12 figures out there.

Also, I would love to find a way to do the 1970’s configuration of the Harlem Globetrotters, at least Meadowlark Lemon and Curly. I was never much into Sports as a kid but Globetrotters transcended all that and always loved watching their real games as well as the Saturday Morning shows. It would’ve been a great license for Mego.

For movies, I’d like to do JAWS and Star Wars customs. I’ve made the cards already for other people’s customs and would like to look into doing my own. I have my own idea of how C-3PO should be. He should be constructed much like the Tin Man with a gold bodysuit and plastic slip on chest, legs and arms. I also think about doing Forbidden Planet customs somewhere down the road.

CM: How do you think customizing affects the mego collecting hobby?

MR: I think that you can make an argument that without people customizing Megos we would not be seeing EMCE Star Trek figures that include never before made characters. Some out there are looking and realizing that a large group of people love these style of figures so much that they fill holes in what characters were offered through customs. And they realize Mego like figures look great enough to have the potential of attracting those 70’s kids that don’t even do this for a hobby for a purchase on a nostalgic whim.

I saw EMCE Trek figures at a mall store and actually saw some father pick a Spock up for his son. Who would’ve thought that would ever be possible just 3 years ago?

I believe the Mego figure is still the most elegant, beautifully simple of action figures and I don’t seem to be alone. With all the improved technology on today’s figures it’s funny that the Mego body still seems the most realistic, best poseable action figure bodies out there.

CM: Any tips or words of customizing advise to new customizers?

MR: It’s never been easier to give it a go. Don’t give up and take your time. If I could do customs, anyone can. Just going through all the custom and resin heads available from dealers here can be the start of most customs. You can imagine what they would look like with a different paint job or a little Sculpy. And it doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough to satisfy you.

CM: Do you sell custom figures or parts? If so, why?

MR: Well, if I have a usable mold I have informally sold the heads I have done to people who want them. Of course, I do custom and repro boxes for people. When I got back into this hobby and saw the price for a loose figure compared to a boxed I decided to give repro boxes a go. When I got repro boxes from other people, they were not too well done. Either color copies of real boxes or low resolution scans computer printed out with a dull finish. So, I ended up making the boxes that would satisfy me, but I am never really satisfied and always try to improve on the boxes.

CM: What does your family/friends think of your mego custom work/hobby?

MR: I am single right now but my immediate family is close by. They are mystified sometimes when I am filling orders for boxes “Who would want all these boxes?” but they get a kick out of it. They even got me a new printer for Christmas that handles larger printing.

CM: Thanks for taking a break and chatting with us for a few Mike!