TOM BLIGH

MEGO CRAZY

AT MEGOCON 2004, ONE ADULT TOY COLLECTOR (AMONG MANY) BUYS A CAPE FOR HIS ABE LINCOLN ACTION FIGURE, DISCOVERS UNCOMPLICATED CONTENTMENT, AND BECOMES HIS OWN SANTA CLAUS.

DISCUSSED: Civil War Military Tactics, Hush Ups, John Boy Walton, eBay, Mint in Box vs. Mint on Card, Collecting as Extremist Activity, Five-Dollar Hamburgers, Sex with Robots, Abraham Lincoln, Super Friends, Captain Dunsel, Belly Shirts, Squish Molds, Plasti Dip, Cher, Rise-and-Fall Movies, Licensing Loopholes, The Oil Crisis, Gay Personal Ads, Children Dying on Christmas Morning

Friday night, I’m in a hotel ballroom trading action figures with other grown men. We’re playing nicely. No one’s mom interferes when a deal goes bad. No one tells me not to mix beer-drinking with toy-trading.

A hotel employee sells me a pricey domestic bottle and observes us with a barely concealed smirk. Twenty-odd guys circulate around tables bearing action figures from the 1970s. It’s the swap meet/social to kick off MegoCon 2004, an event honoring Mego, the greatest action-figure company ever. It’s fitting that the first convention devoted solely to Mego would be held at the Hotel Pennsylvania, on the corner of Thirty-third and Seventh in Manhattan, just a block down from Macy’s, site of past Christmas miracles. Mego is best known for making action figures for superheroes and characters from TV shows such as Star Trek, CHiPs, Happy Days, and Starsky & Hutch. The company closed its doors in 1983, partly a result of a fateful decision that’s now legend: Mego passed up the chance to make toys for Star Wars. Common wisdom holds this to be Mego’s chief blunder, akin to losing the high ground at Gettysburg.

I flew up this afternoon from Tallahassee. “What are you really doing?” my friends asked when I said I was going to an action-figure convention. People came from all over the country for MegoCon. Some dropped down from Canada. True believers, every one—they buy cereal for the toy inside the box—and only a few could pass for Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I meet a bunch of eccentric and creative folks, a subculture of thirtysomething men who spend a lot of time repairing outfits and painting resin heads. I gradually recognize people who’ve posted their photographs in the online forum at the Mego Museum (www.megomuseum.com). “What’s your screen name?” we ask each other, then run out of small talk. I note very few women at MegoCon.

No one wants my toys. It’s OK, I brought parts anybody accumulates in time—a bag of Kirk and Spock heads. Along with Batman and Robin, they’re among the most abundant Megos in the world. I pack them up and head to my room.

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Tom Bligh has published fiction in Black Warrior Review and the Cincinnati Review. His short stories have twice been recognized in the Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest. He holds the Kingsbury Fellowship at Florida State University, where he is a doctoral student in the creative writing program.

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