I’ve often mentioned I don’t like action figures with soft goods–fabric capes, clothes, anything. Such figures could never be my “definitive” figure of a character. However, there’s something to be said for what you could call simply “fun” figures–odd, unusual, or just plain goofy figures who have a certain charm, despite not being at all what one would consider a “definitive” version of a character.
Take Mego-style figures. While Mego arguably represented the most state-of-the-art versions of characters as action figures in the 1970s, they’ve been long surpassed by the works of Kenner, Mattel, Hasbro, and DC Direct. But while your “definitive” Batman action figure might be DC Direct’s Hush version or Mattel’s Crime Stopper Batman, there’s something to be said for the appeal of more cartoonish lines like Mattel’s Retro Action DC Super Heroes–or, for that matter, Funko’s POP Heroes, any of the myriad Hasbro Heroes-style lines. I view these nuveau-Mego figures (Megeau?) more like stylized collectibles than action figures.
Moreover, I find such lines more palatable if there are preexisting “normal” lines. Mego-style figures are fine for Star Trek, DC Super Heroes, Universal Monsters and Doctor Who, which all have more traditional action figure lines available to collectors. But when your first Lost or Venture Bros. figures out of the gate are Mego-style, I’m going to be disappointed.
So, all of this is informing my perception of these two RADCSH figures Mattel sent me last month: Captain Cold and the Flash. I suspect one reason for putting the Flash and CC in this early wave is neither character received a Mego figure in the 1970s. (Captain Cold I get, but why no Flash?) The RADCSH line was developed with Mattel in conjunction with EMCE Toys, a toy company founded by two Mego fans with the express purposes of reviving the Mego style for the modern market.
Packaging: Mattel and EMCE lovingly created a packaging that is so faithful to the original Mego figures, it even features whitish “wear” in the lower left corner of the cards, something that (I’m guessing) was a common occurrence on the original toys. Whatever I think of the figures, I can’t deny the retro appeal of the packaging. The back features very ’70s-looking depictions of the heroes from the wave.
Design & Sculpt: Mattel’s Retro Action figures do not have typical Mego-style bodies, unlike most of EMCE’s other work. Instead of using the public-domain Mego body, Mattel chose to create their own proprietary body. The final result resembles their 1970s Big Jim figures, and it has both advantages and disadvantages over the typical Mego body.
The advantages include better upper body articulation (thanks to solid construction, i.e., plastic joints, rather than rubber bands) and…well, I think that’s about it. The Retro Action body has the same rubber band construction for the torso and hips that most Mego figures do. (Rubber bands in action figures may be the one thing I hate more than soft goods.) These rubber bands are often too tight, causing the figures to hunch over or lean back, or just plain fall over.
Aside from the standard bodies, the only sculpting on these figures are the heads. The trick with these Mego-style figures is to sculpt a head that isn’t too realistic-looking, or else you end up with this. But here the head sculpts, while simple, do a great job of capturing the character. The Flash has a goofy smile on his face, while Captain Cold has his trademark smirk.
Outfit & Paint: There’s not a whole lot of paint to speak of, except on the heads. Both of them aren’t quite as sharp as the usual modern standards, with quite a bit of slop around the edges. That said, if the paint were super-neat and clean, it might look a bit incongruous on such a retro-styled figure.
The outfits are quite nicely done. The Flash’s outfit is primarily a bodysuit. The chest emblem appears to be an iron-on; I’m not as sure about the lightning bolts. Unfortunately, the chest emblems have a tendency to peel when the figure is handled frequently or if you remove the outfit. (However, a trick I learned with my RADCSH Batman is that they can be easily put back on with a standard glue stick.)
The other part of the outfit, and I suppose this could count as sculpting too, are the boots. They’re custom-designed for the Flash, and they even feature his big trademark treads along the bottom.
Captain Cold’s outfit has a sheen to it that’s reminiscent of snow pants. The “shawl” and cuffs are sharp, and the belt looks great. The boots are unique, like the Flash’s, with “frost” along the tops.
Articulation: Both figures feature what seems to be the standard RADCSH articulation: ball jointed shoulders, a ball joint at the torso and hips (all controlled through a rubber band), swivel-hinges at the wrists and ankles for a ball-joint-like range of motion, and hinges at the elbows and knees. For both of these figures, the foot articulation is mostly useless due to the thick boots.
The figures don’t feel as loose and floppy as the previous waves of these figures. The arms, obviously, are nice and tight thanks to the solid construction.
Accessories: Considering these figures are $20 a pop at Toys R Us, some accessories would be appreciated. Sadly, the Flash (who, admittedly, doesn’t have any obvious accessories) has none, but Captain Cold, in addition to his unique belt, has his trademark freeze gun. It’s molded in its classic magenta, rather than the silver used for the DCUC version.
Quality Control: There’s the aforementioned issue with the Flash’s emblem; aside from that, no problems.
Overall: I’m going to try to grade these a bit more objectively than usual. Again, I’m no fan of the Mego style, but I want to try to judge how these stack up against the other Mego figures out there.
The solid construction on the shoulders is a plus, and the outfits and accessories are about as good as the rest of the market out there. The packaging in particular is well-executed and appealing. I still hate the rubber band construction of the torso. I know that’s part of the nostalgic appeal of these toys, but I can’t help but think they’d draw more younger, more casual collectors in if they went with solid construction.
But most of all, the reason I’m giving these figures an average score is the $20 price point. At something like $15, these would be a relatively solid deal. $20 is a lot harder to swallow for a mass-produced line like this.