The Golden Age of Never Was continues…
It only took almost 50 years but now fans of Mego’s glorious 8-inch action figure line — the greatest superhero toys ever — can get just about anything they wanted when they were a kid. Mego didn’t make a Luthor in the ’70s? Well, now you’ve got three to choose from if you know where to look. Green Lantern? Check. The Flash? Check. This doesn’t even count the remakes of staples such as Batman and Robin.
And it’s not just DC either. Over the last few years, we’ve seen releases of the likes of Wolverine and the Punisher too.
But there’s one area that’s remained largely untouched — until now: playsets for your favorite heroes and villains, other than a couple of official versions of the Batcave.
And that’s where our buddy and 13th Dimension contributor Anthony Durso comes in.
Anthony is the gifted graphic designer behind The Toyroom custom toy-package company, as well as the big brain who founded the always-creative Retropolis Tees.
Anyway, a number of years ago, a company called Dida produced materials for custom playsets and Anthony aggressively got in the game, producing a series of plastic and cardboard settings that we would have given anything to have when we would sit on the living-room floor with our World’s Greatest Super-Heroes figures in, say, 1977.
Eventually, Dida fell by the wayside, but now Anthony is back in the custom-playset game with a new line of dioramas that scratch many an itch — from the Joker’s Ha-Hacienda to TV Batgirl’s apartment and changing room to the Legion of Doom HQ. Most are single sets but Anthony’s version of the TV Batcave comes as a two-case display. (And there could be more double-sets on the way.)
“The majority of these were originally designs I created to be used in Dida Displays,” Anthony explained. “Some, like the Fortress of Solitude, Batcave, Shazam’s Rock of Eternity and the Aquacave existed prior as straight cardboard, hand laminated. Dida Displays were created by Mego Museum founder Robyn Adams sometime around 2007, I think. I would use the parts from Dida and assemble and design my own. Didas were time consuming, using a hammer-pounding snap-button process. So they were pricier and slower to move.
“Eventually Robyn ran out of the materials and just stopped producing the Didas,” he countinued. “I’ve gotten requests for years but I think the last ones I sold were in 2014. Nothing was available after that. So although new cases from Figures Toy Company are smaller than the biggest Didas, they’re cheaper and quicker to get out. Old artwork has to be resized for these and much is edited when it comes to bigger ones like the Fortress or JLA headquarters. In theory, I could do two cases to keep the artwork intact like I did for the TV Batcave but space is also a consideration for these.”
Well, we’re going to be spotlighting our favorites over the next weeks and months — including how you can get your hands on them. Pretty much as long as Anthony keeps churning them out.
(Full disclosure: I don’t get a dime. This is just me providing you fellow retro-toy fanatics a public service.)
So, to kick things off, we’re gonna start with the first superhero and his arctic hideaway: Superman’s Fortess of Solitude.
“This was the first playset I designed,” Anthony writes. “Originally, I had acquired two original Mego Justice League playsets and was going to try and convert the worse one into a Fortress. But it proved to difficult in that format so I created one out of hand-cut cardboard which I then hand-laminated and glued together. When Dida Displays first came available I was able to expand the Fortress into a larger playset. And now the new, smaller playcase is a shrunk down version of that.”
“I’ll probably be offering a second case soon to expand it once again,” Anthony adds. “My inspiration/source materials were the Amazing World of Superman (Neal Adams diagram) and the Superman and His Incredible Fortress of Solitude treasury edition, as well as other Silver Age and Bronze Age comics. Every version I’ve done has included the Bottle City of Kandor, the Phantom Zone projector, Superman robots and the Kryptonite collection. Expanded versions of the Fortress have included super weapons, rogues-and-friends statues, the Krypton Room and the Interplanetary Zoo.”
Sets currently include: The Fortress of Solitude, the JLA Satellite, the 1966 Batcave, the 1966 Batgirl apartment and changing room (click here for more on that), the Joker’s Ha-Hacienda, the Aquacave, the Rock of Eternity, the Hall of Doom, Paradise Island, the Green Lantern HQ on Oa, and a Scooby-Doo haunted house — with more to come.
Here’s a tease:
— INSIDE LOOK: The Groovy ‘MEGO’ BATGIRL Playset You’ve Been Waiting For. Click here.
— 13 REASONS to Love DC in the BRONZE AGE, by ANTHONY DURSO. Click here.