In the 60s, a veritable tsunami of Batman collectibles flooded American shores, but by the dawn of the Bronze Age, the volume had slowed to a comparative trickle.

The good news was that for the first time ever a whole line of action figures was devoted to comic book superheroes, and as one of the most visible and universally recognized examples of the genre, Batman was well-represented.

Starting in 1971, the Mego Corporation gave us 8-inch figures of Batman and Robin, soon to be joined by villains the Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman, vehicles including the Batmobile, Batcycle and Bat-copter (and a truly odd "Mobile Crime Lab" that looked like a VW van!) and playsets of the Bat-Cave and the gigantic Wayne Foundation.

It's hard to explain to kids of today just what a big deal it was to have action figures based on comic book heroes. Now it's the norm, but at the time, the upstart Mego company was the only toymaker willing to take a gamble on these properties. We were so grateful we were willing to overlook certain...imperfections in the execution. At least for a while.

Batman and Robin had capes made of some sort of woven plastic that started fraying as soon as they were out of the box. Their chest emblems were paper stickers that peeled off if you gave them so much as a hard look. And of course, there were those "gloves." Featuring thumbs but no fingers, they looked for all the world like oven mitts, which must have made using the bat-poles and bat-ropes risky ventures at best. The "fins" normally shown on Batman's gloves became in the Mego version the sort of fringe you might more normally expect on Buffalo Bill's gauntlets. And to remove any last vestige of spookiness from Batman's look, a great big pair of pupils were painted into the cowl's eye-slits.

Still, all this has to be taken in the context of history. Almost no one had really translated two-dimensional heroes into toy form before, and Mego eventually worked out a lot of design issues that later toymakers would learn from. Plus the change from the accepted 12-inch GI-Joe scale to a more portable and practical 8 inches was a major innovation (soon Kenner's "Star Wars" line would bring it down even further to a pocket-sized 4 inches!). Today, figures in the Mego line are avidly collected, with the original, "removable cowl" Batman among the most sought-after. For a complete history on Mego Batman and Mego in general, visit the excellent and fun Mego Museum website!



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