Retro Action DC Superheroes
Lex Luthor
8 Inch Scale
By: Mattel

Beginning in 1972, Mego pronounced Mee-Go (Not like Lego), began to transform the world of licensed toys with their World’s Greatest Superheroes toy line. Legend has it that they decided to put their old Action Jackson surplus of bodies into super costumed heroes of lore. Fascinatingly, it was MEGO who came up with the name World’s Greatest Superhero. They later gave up the term to both Marvel & DC to continue their licensing. Mego at the time sold figures of both DC and Marvel characters, as luck would have it Mego pumped out heroes and villains for both companies for many years and they all shared the same style and scale.

Of that vintage line, only a handful of villains were produced. On the Marvel side, only two Spider-man villains made the cut, Green Goblin and the Lizard. Both were prominent in the 1970’s and make sense as core villains for the Marvel comics who were still somewhat finding their footing. On the DC side, mostly Batman villains were produced. That’s largely because the 1960’s Batman TV show was still in reruns and quite popular. This meant that Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman all got a release. DC also got a Superman villain… But for reasons that still remain unclear, Mr. Mxyzptlk received the figure. The belief is that Mxyzptlk was more “colorful” than Luthor and therefor received a toy, but whatever the reason, Lex Luthor seemed like a heinous omission from the DC toy line. In 2010 when Mattel started to make their Retro Action Mego-esque nostalgia line, Luthor was one of the first announced.

Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor is a fictional character, a supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. He is the archenemy of Superman. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, he first appeared in Action Comics #23 (April 1940). Luthor is described as “a power-mad, evil scientist” of high intelligence and incredible technological prowess. His goals typically center on killing Superman, usually as a stepping stone to world domination. Though he periodically wears a powered exoskeleton, Luthor has traditionally lacked superpowers or a dual identity. The character was originally depicted as a mad scientist who, in the vein of pulp novels, wreaks havoc on the world with his futuristic weaponry. In his earliest appearances, Luthor is shown with a full head of red hair; despite this, the character later became hairless as the result of an artist’s mistake.

Mattel set out with this new line to rectify a lot of the wrongs with the classic Mego figures and promised to keep the somewhat “goofy” charm of the classic toys, while updating them to modern standards. That’s a daunting task, as Toy Biz and several other companies had attempted their own “Megos” with varying success over the years. Mattel teamed up with EMCE toys and the legendary Doc Mego to try to make sure they got it right. So how did they do? Well I actually opened this guy, so let’s find out.

Even though I always review the packages of a toy, it’s overall something I care very little about. That said, everyone cares about the package just a little, even if you think you don’t. When the 25th Anniversary GI Joes hit, a lot of the charm of the figures came from the retro packaging. It immediately brought everyone back to their childhood and people noticed. I received more comments from cashiers about the 25th Anniversary Joes than any other toy I’ve ever bought, because people remembered that package.

Matty Mattel ain’t no fool and got his team right to work on making sure that these Retro Action figures followed that same suit. The “hardcore” Mego collectors are mostly guys in the 40+ age bracket and they care about stuff like the package. You can’t claim to be redoing Mego without paying some serious homage. So Mattel set out to make these appear to have the 1976 style card backs. The first edition Megos came in boxes, then the Kresge cards came along, before eventually settling on a cardback like you see here.

What the hell is a Kresge style card? It’s a K-Mart card. Yup, K-Mart used to be known as Kresge’s and the Megoheads remember that. This style of card was introduced after the higher ups at Kresges told Mego that too many kids were ripping open the boxes that these used to come in and stealing the parts. That cardback was eventually tweaked into something similar to this Mattel card and became the standard Mego card ever since.

Mattel went the extra mile and put minor “damage” on the classic designs so that this package would appear aged. A whole lot has been made out of this, but honestly the end result is pretty minor. It does look a little aged, but it could easily be confused for part of the design too. The artwork used on the package is all retro, but as some fans have pointed out it’s closer akin to 80’s style art than 70’s.

There is no twist ties holding the figure in and the weapons are free to bounce around as well. This definitely fits the “retro” theme, but it’s not without some problems too. Your toys are much more likely to be damaged this way and reports have been varied about that very subject. I’ve seen some smashed noses myself. It also allows some of the bodies to get contorted in the package and makes these very unappealing.

There is also a silicon spray on the inside that some folks have claimed has damaged their figure. I haven’t seen any damage from this myself, but some of the bubbles do look greasy. Some people have noted that certain figures are twisted around in the package, the bubble is sweaty looking and there’s gunk on the plastic which in essence makes the toys at times look like they’ve been, uh, doing some stuff that the comics code wouldn’t approve of.

Overall the package lacks a lot of things that I normally look for, but since this package is attempting to replicate a specific style of vintage package… I’m grading it a little differently. It mostly does what it’s supposed to.

Mego figures were always made on the cheap. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good quality, but they weren’t the Hot Toys of their era either. Mattel had promised to keep some of that cheapness, but also to bring the standard up. The end result is a bit mixed, honestly.

Most of the vintage clothes were made of a fabric that I’d say was closer to wool than cotton. These new outfits are spandex. I mean like, 1990’s biker shorts spandex. This is good in some respects because it helps the outfits fit tight and for superheroes, they are often supposed to be in spandex.

I always liked my Luthor in a business suit, but this fits the Super Friends feel of this Luthor with the tight spandex green and purple. There are two versions out there. One has the straps like you see on mine, with the stitching making it look more like leather. The variant is unstitched and just looks like straps that have been cut out of material. I prefer the stitched look, it’s much nicer and apparently more common.

I’d say that the head sculpt on Lex Luthor is excellent, but I should preface that by saying that any bald dude is an excellent sculpt of Lex Luthor. He doesn’t have any distinguishing characteristics other than “bald”, so it’s not really hard to nail his sculpt. They did keep with the Mego “feel” though in that he’s not too detailed or sculpted. Mego always had a semi-soft cartoon likeness and that’s present here.

Compared to a vintage Mego WGSH he looks good and comparable. Dare I say, better. Unlike Toy Biz’s Famous Covers series, he doesn’t look out of place. The materials while different, capture the essence of what the design is about. If I could hop into a time machine and give this to a kid of the 1970’s, he’d never mistake it for anything but a Mego.

The back of the costume fits with a couple of snaps. Mego often cheaped out and only used one snap, leading to some figures with open backs. I like the three snaps here. However I must admit that the clothes fit so tight that it makes the snaps bulge out a bit.

I should note that he doesn’t have the Mego classic “oven mitts” for gloves. Instead having colored hands and gauntlets. There is a minor amount of controvery to this, but personally I prefer this look. The mittens always looked stupid in my mind.

The body underneath I’ve given a lot of grief. Mego’s body is in public domain, so every time a company makes a new body that doesn’t follow the exact specifications of the vintage toys, it annoys me. Mattel promised to “update” the body with better articulation and many people, myself included, expected them to do a better job than they ultimately did.

For starters, Mattel made a new body from scratch. Obviously they followed their Big Jim guidelines a bit and designed a body similar to that body. If you look at a classic Mego body and a classic Big Jim body, obviously the Retro Action body is closer to that. The upper body really isn’t bad and Mattel did some improvements here, but the tiny waist and bulbous thighs represent a real problem. Overall the top half is pretty good.

The upper arms have a minor problem as well, though… No bicep swivel! This was added by Cast-a-Way toys in their improved Mego style body and most expected Mattel to follow suit. It seems like an odd omission to make, honestly.

The only real “improvement” I noticed was giving a swivel hinge to the feet. Mego had a swivel hinge on the wrists previously and Mattel followed suit but also gave them to their feet. It’s a nice addition, but doesn’t add a lot one way or the other.

There are two major flaws with the articulation, ultimately. First the rubber bands which hold the legs together are too tight and the hips are so smooth that they snap back into place. Essentially if you try to have Lex kick, his leg will snap back to standing. This is a problem that isn’t present on classic Megos.

The second problem is that he won’t stand straight up. I’m not sure if it’s the small waist or crotch piece or what… But he has a tendency to lean over like above. Or worse:

Fully bent over like this. Having his clothes on does help with this problem, but it doesn’t solve it.

The good news is, that you can fix this relatively easily. Take a piece of rubber tubing, cut it into a small C and place that around the band that holds the legs together. It’s a super easy fix and I was able to do it in under 5 minutes. Presumably you could shove anything in there to get the same effect. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any way to make the legs where they aren’t so “snappy”.

I’m of the belief that all Mego-style figures should come with several accessories. The toys just aren’t good enough not to. They might have been in 1975, but not in 2010. Batman should come with a batarang and a grappling hook, Superman should come with a bent steel girder and some kryptonite, etc… Everyone should have at least two accessories.

Lex Luthor comes with a single piece of kryptonite. It’s a big piece. It’s not a terrible accessory, but it doesn’t fit in his hand great. In fact it seems more like a piece that he would chain around Superman’s neck or something.

It’s definitely cool that he comes with it, but he needs more.

A ray gun of some sort would have made a ton of sense. You need to up the ante with play value. Even if collectors are the target for these toys, we want more. I know a lot of people are giving these to their kids and kids want accessories. You could easily reuse guns from DCUC in this line.

In addition to the chunk of kryptonite, all of the clothes are removable. His whole outfit is one full spandex suit though… So it’s not like you can piece it out.

There has also been a lot of hullabaloo about the boots. Some say they are too big and rubbery. I own a lot of Mego boots and I love these new boots. They are thicker, sturdier and of a good quality. Consider me a fan.

Here is perhaps the toughest category. These figures cost $20. I originally bought a Superman and couldn’t bare to open him at that price and returned him a week later. These are the only toys I can recall my GF actually telling me that were a ripoff. So how is the value?

It’s sort of debatable. There are really two values, in my opinion. If you’re a casual collector, these guys are overpriced. The body needs work, the accessories are lacking and you can get a much “better” figure for less money. I don’t think anyone would debate that. It’s also stunning to me that EMCE toys and various other companies can release even more limited quantity figures in this style and still manage to make the price cheaper than Mattel. Most expected Mattel to charge $13-$15 for these and I can tell you for a fact that they would be MUCH better received at that price.

The second value and ultimately the one that made me decide to hop on board, is the Mego collector value. If you’re in the Mego community, you know very well that a custom cast head sculpt can run between $5-$10 on it’s own. A screen printed costume usually runs $20 and above. Basically, what I’m saying is that even if you think the body is absolute junk… You’d be hard pressed to get the head sculpt and costume for less elsewhere. Which makes them more or less worth it. With Luthor, I don’t feel the need to put him on a new body. I fixed this body well enough and he’s good enough.

So overall, the price point should definitely drop a few bucks… But it’s not the worst deal out there today. Hopefully Mattel will come down on this price in the future. I honestly think they would sell TWICE as many, if not more if they could get the price down to $15.

Score Recap:
Packaging – 8
Sculpting – 8
Articulation – 7
Accessories – Kryptonite
Value – 8
Overall – 8 out of 10

I ended up liking this figure a lot more than I thought I would. Without getting him out of the package, I didn’t care for him so much. Having him outside and messing around with him, it’s great to have this guy to complete my vintage Mego villains lineup. However I think it’s important to note that Luthor, is an exception, not the rule. I believe that some of the other guys might would score significantly less. Also, if you have no interest in Megos whatsoever, subtract 2 full points from the final score. You have to have some interest in the nostalgia of these guys to truly understand them.

For a Mego collector, these guys are pretty awesome… BUT THEY CAN BE AND SHOULD BE BETTER. I want to make that clear. They’re good, but I know Mattel and EMCE can work out the kinks and make these better. The big hang up for everyone else will be price and Mattel has to find a way to either reduce the price or up the accessories… Hopefully both.

12 Responses to Retro-Action: Lex Luthor Review

  • Carl says:

    Cool review. I don't know if I'll pick these up or not, but this helps me. I also learned a bit about Mego. I think I get it now.

  • Thanks. I try my best. They're an aquired taste, but definitely something fun.

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    Thorough as promised!

    I'm not inclined to pick these up, they fall under the category of "weird lookin' dolls from before I was born", but it's good to know that the folks that do "understand" them can find something to appreciate.

  • Mark says:

    Excellent review.
    They were before my time aswell but I like the Mego figures. They still seem better value for what you are getting compared to DCUC and MOTUC.
    I so wnat a Shazam although I may get a repro body and do a head and costume swap.
    I am going to get one of the Mgo Super knights reissues.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Excellent work, Newt! Despite the issues regarding body posturing, I still feel inclined to pick these up. But even as a child of the 70's, twenty bucks is way too rich for my blood. As you mentioned, hopefully the kinks will be worked out or the prices might drop a bit.

  • sinchicken says:

    Great review! I am a big fan of Mego and am still debating about whether or not to pick these up. I would like to start with Green Arrow if I can get him this week from Mattel and Luthor is definitely my next pick.

  • Be careful with some of the repros, they're of poor body quality. If you're looking for a high quality body though, I can't say enough good stuff about Cast-a-way toys version. Shazaam was pretty interesting for Mego, because he as never a super seller, but he remained in the lineup almost to the very end.

  • I really hope they can get them down to like $13. I think that'd b an ideal price. It's pretty much pumping out head sculpts and clothing. I don't really know why they're so costly.

  • I think I'm going to try my hand at Green Arrow as well. I've been sucked in!

  • Haha, yeah. I don't really know why I came to like them, but I did. But I also am enough of a outside collector to know that these won't be for a lot of people.

  • Mark says:

    Thanks Newt. I was thinking of getting a Cast-A-Ways body and doing a Shazam from scratch….think you have sold me on it ;).
    Well the Knight more for the sake of having it really, always wanted a knight figure…and they are really cheap so….it'll be cool to have.

  • Celsius says:

    Thank dude- great review.

Leave a Reply