THE TOYHEM! FINALE: A tale of the one that (almost) got away…
Welcome to the TOYHEM! finale! For the holiday season, we’ve brought you a series of features and columns celebrating the toys of our youth, which often made for the best memories this time of year. You heard from comics creators, regular 13th Dimension contributors and more. Click here to check out the complete index of stories — and have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah and Happy Holidays! — Dan
Every year, I tell the story of how I got the Mego Batcave for Chanukah. It’s become something of a tradition here at 13th Dimension and you can click here to check it out, if you like.
Now, the Batcave has always been — and will forever be — my favorite toy. The sheer amount of enjoyment I got out of it, the countless hours spent on the floor concocting adventures for Batman and his coterie of allies and adversaries (not to mention a fleet that included the Batmobile, Batcycle and Batcopter) make it easily the greatest of all time.
I will brook no dissent.
Thing is, though, at some point I learned that Mego had put out another headquarters for the Caped Crusader: Batman’s Wayne Foundation, which, since its 1977 debut, has become the granddaddy of all Mego playsets.
I can’t say exactly when I found out that it even existed. It was most likely through an old Heroes World catalog (click here for a trip through those), but in any event by the time I became aware, it was too late — its time had passed.
Because when it was new, I was quite in the dark. I never saw a commercial for it — though there was one — and it wasn’t like I could just drive myself to the toy store to see what the latest Cool New Thing was.
And I’m not even sure I would have been able to convince my Mom to get it for me to begin with. Money was tight and she knew I had the Batcave. To her, this probably would have seemed duplicative and wasteful. Besides, by the time I was 10, she was trying to steer me away from such things. (Foolish Mom.)
But, see, the Wayne Foundation wasn’t a repeat of the Batcave at all. It was four stories, with a working elevator powered by a simple pulley system. There was a plastic Batcomputer and conference table with view screen, as well as other furniture (a rather rudimentary sliding bookcase and even more simplistic “trophy case”).
Not only that, each floor had its own colorful background — art by Neal Adams and perhaps some of his Continuity studiomates — that harkened to the classic Batcave tropes, mixing comics and TV lore: an atomic pile, a trophy room with giant penny and dinosaur, a hangar, and, in what was ostensibly supposed be the penthouse, a laboratory.
Beyond all the finery though, was what the Wayne Foundation stood for: modernity. At the end of 1969, Dick Grayson went off to Hudson University and Bruce Wayne moved into his Gotham City penthouse.
Later, he built a new Batcave under the tower in the underbelly of the city – as wonderfully improbable as that was.
In fact, when playing with my Batcave, sometimes I pretended it was under Wayne Manor, sometimes under the Wayne Foundation. It wasn’t until the ’80s that Bruce moved back to his ancestral home.
Decades later, I was reminded of the Wayne Foundation playset. I can’t say exactly when but I was an adult. Certainly in the last, oh, maybe 15 years or so. I initially didn’t feel a hankering to track one down because I never had it as a kid.
Yet something shifted over time. I began thinking of it more frequently, just as I had the Jokermobile (another Mego Bat-item I never received as a kid — and a story for another TOYHEM!).
Eventually, I began looking out for one but the cost was just too high. I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. And it was difficult to find one in good shape, with everything intact.
But I kept looking. And looking. More a fantasy than any real belief I would ever get one.
Then, this fall, one popped up on eBay that looked relatively affordable. So, I took a shot at it – naively thinking I could fend off the snipers who, as it turned out, were much more willing to spend a lot more than I was.
My initial reaction, was, “Screw it. I’ll just have to live with the idea that I’ll never have one.”
And that was quickly replaced with, “No, screw it. You only live once. I WILL have one. Someday. Just maybe not right now. I’ll put the money away and one of these days, the Bat-stars will align.”
A couple weeks later, another one was posted on eBay, one even nicer than the one I’d lost out on.
Now, mind you, I’m not some hedge-fund dude who has cash spilling from his pockets. If I was going to do this, it was going to hurt. I would have to make sacrifices. Not “I won’t be able to feed my family” sacrifices, but you know what I mean. This was not an easy move.
But with my wife and son’s encouragement, I went in a second time, this time with an absolute cut-off number in my head and a rough idea of how I would be able make it work financially. I timed my bid, strategizing until the final moments.
And dammit, I won! The Holy Grail of Mego collectibles was headed my way!
Over the weekend, I built it and it’s HUGE, living up to its 42-year-old billing. I even have a special spot for it picked out, not far from where I keep my Batcave on display.
Because while the Batcave may still be the greatest of all Mego toys – greatest toy, period — the Wayne Foundation is definitely the biggest.
And it was worth every penny.
— The Complete TOYHEM! Index of Features and Columns. Click here.
— TOYHEM! Memories: THE MEGO BATCAVE AND ME: A Holiday Story. Click here.