Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back in the Space business?



New consoles? Heck yeah!

I've been turning down orders for the Space Command sets for awhile because I had run out of the vinyl consoles in needed, and making more at the factory meant ordering a larger run of them than I was able to do. So I went to my good friend Paul Wasson at LaserMego.com and we cooked up a plastic alternative that I think is a real winner. They can be made on an as needed basis. They are also fun because you get to cut out and apply the stickers yourself,just like Mego. Some assembly is required--rather than snapping them to the wall, they use rivet style screws. This is an improvement as some folks had trouble snapping the vinyl consoles in place.

I think the plastic is perfectly in keeping with the Mego aesthetic, though I loved the vinyl consoles I designed, they were in a way above and beyond the call of duty.

So if you've been wanting to get one of these sets, now is the time. I will be out of Dida the other Dida parts so I won't be able to make these for ever. Get yours now...The Legion of Doom playset is coming soon, and a certain Ape village is right around the corner. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's some tasty pictures of the Space Command Expanded Carry Case Playset.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mego Western Heroes Shadow Horse Sticker




Someone was asking what this looked like. We only made a few of these stickers, I think I have one. Like the Batmobile it's a simple pop graphic treatment of a photographed toy. The painted image is from the Mego box art.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spider-Man still going strong



My 17 month old son claimed this Mego Spider-Man for his own. It's actually the oldest Mego I have. I bought him in 1983 in Belen, New Mexico at a dime store. I had given my Megos away a few years earlier in a gesture to grow up and stop playing with dolls, but I justified the purchase because I was drawing a lot of comic books and wanted him as a model to pose. My mom even sewed up the costume so it was more tight fitting. He hung by a string over my drawing baord for years, eventually all the color faded from his hands due to the sunlight and the seams have started to give. But he's a good Mego and he's my son's very own "Spy-aderrr--manAH".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Chair Project Fails

So, I'm sad to report that I think the chair project is officially a failure. After 6 months I've finally had it with the endless excuses and what I suspect to be lies coming from the man who I paid to make the molds for these plastic chairs. Needless to say I made a mistake taking him at his word and paying upfront for almost all of the fee he agreed to. I had faith that as a professional with 25 years experience as a mold maker he'd come through. So I will be forced to refund money out of my own pocket to my customers and chalk it up as yet another expensive learning experience.

If you found this post because you are considering hiring Dave LaRoche of Newark, California for your injection molding plastic project take my advice and don't.

While he is a nice guy with the equipment and expertise to do the job he's not reliable at all. After countless emails pushing to get paid he became impossible to get a hold of after that. He came up with a series of pathetic excuses why he couldn't do the job, from sickness, to lost parts, to several 'buddies' that he need to borrow stuff from, to his shop having to move entirely in a landlord dispute. Worst of all, he complained that the price he bid was too low, effectively taking my money and then refusing to do the job because it wasn't enough.

I'll be contacting my pre-order customers individually about their refunds. Thanks.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Small Chair Update


My injection molding mold-maker, Dave Laroche, is working on the mold for the chairs we want to make. I hope to post good news here soon.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Carry THIS Batcave Home! Dida News Update.

It's been a while since I've done an update, but this new Batcave Carry Case Playset from The Toyroom is too good not to shout about! Anthony has done a number of fabulous custom playsets using Dida Display carrying case boxes. Stunning in it's ambition, it's two display boxes strapped together into a 20"x22" case that opens up into a massive set that includes a drop down cave entrance for the Batmobile. The artwork is full of comic accurate details sure to please the geekyest of Batman geeks. Check it out! If the Stately Caverns from Dida Displays doesn't float your boat (or fly your Bat) this might do the trick!

An update on the Star Trek Style crew chairs: The toolmaker who was contracted to make the mold has finally relocated his shop and is almost back up and running. I cannot say when chairs might be a reality, I'm certainly pushing as hard as I reasonably can. The good folks who put up the pre-order money have all agreed to remain patient. I hope to have good news soon.

Things have been slow on the new product front from me. An Apes playset and a Legion of Doom are still works in progress. They are very promising, but generating the artwork has been backburnered due to work and family priorities. I hope to make some progress in the next two months.

I do have a new version of the TRIBOX to show you. The Tri-box can now be taken apart and put back together as a stage display. This can be done using any existing Dida Artwork combination.


I do anticipate having some more time in February to build playsets. If you have been thinking of ordering one of my existing sets please let me know. I'd like to do a bunch at once if I can get advance notice. My policy is to take a deposit of $50 on large sets and $25 on smaller ones and then get the balance when the set if completed and ready to ship. That can be 6-8 weeks depending on my schedule.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

View from the desk

In the months since the Dida parts came and I've been working to fill the pre-orders I've never had time to make a display for myself. I'm in love with my new Hall of Justice Playset! The colors really make the figures pop and I'm really proud of all the touches I put in it. My obsession with making these modular paid off--I'm currently enjoying this display with the jail on top and the drop down floor placed on the roof.

Oh, and notice the newest version of the Enterprise. It's great, but making it has given me one heck of a brainstorm....back to work...

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Justice, No Peace!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hall of Justice in Progress

I've been posting updates at the Museum Work in Progress section showing the new deluxe Hall of Justice I'm working on. Today I started putting together a new wall with a glass view screen for a new twist on the old Mego HOJ Disaster Viewer. I can't wait to see it finished. Check out the thread to see the first stages of the Jail Cell trap door. This is going to be a fun one.


I've set up a new workshop downstairs in our garage. Now I can work while the baby sleeps. Hurrah!

Labels: , , , ,

Stately Set Up


Joel, my most recent Stately Caverns customer shared photos of his new Display at the MegoMuseum. I love how the JLA are cooling their heels waiting for Bruce to come meet them in the Library, as well as the proud displayed the classic World's Greatest Toys!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Another Review! Matt got his Space Command!


Another Space Command Review! This time from Matthew Amy at TheRobotKillers.com.
Matt's one of my most enthusiastic and patient customers and I'm thrilled that he's so thrilled with his set. This guy knows his playsets, check out his Playmate's scaled custom Bridge nd plans for a Temple of Doom! Say, that gives me an idea...Here's his review:

----------------------------------------------



Well, I finally got the last piece to the displayset- thought that I would have had some more Megos by now besides the Captain- but this will work for now.


Anyway, as I have posted in an earlier segment- Scott Adams at didadisplays.com has done an INCREDIBLE job making vinyl playsets that are right at home for the old 1970’s action figures. The set pictured above is the complete (and none too vague) “Space Command Displayset”, complete with separate Transporter room.


The original Mego toys were noted for their kid-friendly, durable and fun accessories. The playsets which were made to accompany them featured well designed features which usually included some funky artwork for the wall set-up, encased in vinyl. Mego did this for a number of their character lines including Batman, Star Trek, and Planet of the Apes, if not more.


In keeping with this traditional aesthetic, Didadisplays has proudly announced their brand new line of displaysets for the Megos themed after the different lines- with newly designed layouts that are modular in structure and can be ordered, and combined in various different ways. With my Space Command Playset, I neglected to build it vertically so I went without the roof-pieces, but could just have easily used those to complete a several-story tall structure.


With any piece like this that you find offered over the internet which is from a start-up company (that you’re unsure of the quality of the pieces...) you have to wonder if what you are going to get will really be worth the premium that you pay for. Will the item be shipped on-time? In good shape? Well, I was willing to take the chance. It’s not often that you see such ambition in custom projects that are then offered to the public, so I wanted to do my part to contribute. And you know what? It was an excellent choice. Although there were a few production snags in the beginning (as there must always be for this type of thing) my Didadisplayset shipped in a relatively short time from when I ordered it- it was shipped professionally, packed great, and was easy to assemble with the online instructions. Scott’s communication was excellent and never was I left to wonder for too long what the status of the shipment was.


Once set-up, the piece was truly a wonder to behold. There’s not much more to say other than this is a first-rate, top-notch quality set. Although the Didadisplays are basically fairly simple in design, the homemade artwork which Scott (a professional graphic designer) has used, really steals the show. In all, I truly believe that this is better than anything Mego had put out themselves while the company was still in action.

----------------------------------------

Thanks so much, Matt!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Dida Review from the good folks at We Are Small!

I've been a fan and booster of Jason deWitt at wearesmall for 10 years now, dating back to the earliest days at the Mego Museum. He's an artistic force of nature who has created an amazing world of original characters using Megos. He has almost no use for the original licensed identities of the dolls (with the exception of the Notorious Batman Brothers, but I wouldn't expect DC to be claiming them any time soon). So I was a bit surprised and very honored when Jason ordered a Space Command set and populated it with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and a host of Romulans! Here's Jason's review:

06/25/08 ::: Dida Displays and EMCE Star Trek

UPS usually just drops stuff over our front fence in a plastic bag if we are not home, and that's how I found my Dida Display Starship Bridge Playset this week! I pre-ordered the Bridge as soon as I could, and I have been buying and saving one of each EMCE Star Trek figure in anticipation of the playset, imagining a great future day when I would open them all together and become eight years old again. Somehow, I managed to keep from busting the Klingon open... until today!

The Dida playset is a jewel. The design is so simple that no instruction sheet was needed, and the materials are perfect. The original Mego sets were made with cardboard akin to that found on the back of a pad of paper, and sagging and bending were the norm. Dida sets are thick, sturdy, and built for warp speed. Gone are the cheap painted walls of the original Mego Enterprise set, now the crew has awesome 3D computer consoles on every wall with buttons and dials to operate! Mr. Spock would be deeply thrilled about it if he wasn't against that kind of thing.
My favorite feature in the set has to be the sliding red door. Again, going way beyond what Mego did, this door is the perfect red plastic and it slides in channels that are riveted together. It even sounds like the Bridge door when you slide it open.

The artwork that covers the set is luminous and vibrant, and since Scott has designed a playset that can be reversed we are treated to The Engine Room and Sick Bay sets for the first time in toy history. Each backdrop is stunning, and I hope that Scott will offer artwork sets to slip into all the groovy plastic sleeves that make up the computer monitors and Main Viewing Screen.

I'm impressed with the whole playset. Scott's thoughtful designs and awesome art are enough, but I think this set's strongest appeal is the way it combines nostalgia with innovation. It reminds me of how great Mego's old USS Enterprise set was when I was a kid, while at the same time it photon-torpedoes that set away. Get one today, and make your toys happy! (Niffty capt. chair and action figures in pics not included)

And in case you haven't heard, the good people at EMCE toys are making Megos again! These are faithful, super-cool reproductions of the classic action figures from Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and with any luck LOTS of other lines! All of these fine toys can be opened and actually played with by hand, and that's a proven fact! Buy a bunch now before another Dark Age sets in...



Oh, and another thing... I have added an 18 inch clear plastic half-dome to my Dida Bridge, because you know how corrosive and debilitating that space dust can be. I just happened to have the dome kicking around here as part of an old toy space odyssey feature we used to run, and as you can see it fits like a smooth orbicular glove. I got mine here!

--------------------------------------

Check out Jason's award-winning WEE WESTERNS!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Collapsing Across the Finish line

My last post mentioned shipping in 2 weeks. That was a month ago. To be fair, I did ship a few of the Space Command sets 2 weeks ago, but I did expect to be done by now. Best laid plans, as they say.

My time is more limited than I ever imagined with the baby. I get home from work around 5 and help take care of him so my wife Julie can get a break. Jonah's 6 months old now and we are lucky if we can get him to sleep by 8 o'clock. Which leaves 2 hours a night to work in the basement and that has to be fairly quiet work...so the bulk of my hole punching and snap setting is to be done on the weekends when I have some free time. I've pretty much been on that schedule for the last month, working my day job, working the daddy job, and working the Dida night shift.

The other half of this is never imagining how difficult it would be to mass produce the Stately Caverns set that I built a year ago. In addition to the mind numbing number of steps I created for myself I made several mistakes along the way that cost a lot of time and energy. Those pain in the neck sliding doors I talked about weeks ago? Had to take those apart and do them again because I had somehow damaged the snaps and they were not working. So rebuilding 12 sliding doors, that was a bummer and time-suck.

Then about a week ago I was all set to start packing them into boxes. I started putting a few together to test them and to my horror about 25 percent of the snaps were failing! Popping right out of the walls! Visions of irate customers flooding my inbox with broken snaps were keeping me awake all night. So I had to go through all of the walls (36 walls, 12 snaps each...) and re-hammer all the snaps to make sure they were secure, double check them and find the failings. So as I am packing them up I am double and triple checking everything as best I can. Time consuming, but dealing with returns or sending out repair kits would suck too.

And packing the boxes? Yeah, about that. I ordered boxes months ago and miscalculated on the sizes--they were too small. So I had to order even more boxes...

Measure twice, cut once?
Yeah, I've heard that. With me it seems to be measure 8 times, get 3 different results, and expect to do it over again anyway. Okay, enough bitching. Despite all of this I keep my head down and keep marching and slowly but surely everything has been done. Make some Batsignals here, rivets some consoles there, cut some Batpoles, make some sliding doors, as much as I can every day.

So today my very understanding wife, who would very much like to see us move on from this phase of our lives, helped me get a big chunk of uninterrupted time to make the final push to get these displays shipped. It was heaven! I spent all day double checking parts, punching holes, setting snaps, wrapping stuff in foam, filling plastic bags and at last filling boxes!

The Stately Caverns will be leaving the building on Monday. Unless I've horribly miscalculated on some other damn thing....



Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Production Update

Here's an update on our progress delivering pre-orders. The bottom line is that both Stately Caverns and Space Command should be shipped within the the next two weeks.

Stately Caverns is going very well. The walls are almost all done, that's installing 28 snaps in three walls (15 times) and building the sliding door walls for the library and the support wall for the batpole entrance. The sliding door is the most labor intensive. It involves cutting the plastic track, drilling holes in the exact right location using a template, and then hand cutting the wall parts away from the display box so they can be riveted onto the track. It's a time consuming operation, but it was great to finally get a rhythm going and crank out a bunch of these walls.

The biggest remaining job is to finish the batpole boxes but I just got my new 1/2 inch hole punch so that is underway. I need to assemble the consoles and the batsignal window, and then get everything boxed up for shipping. The whole playset weighs about 19 pounds and it will be packed well.
The Space Command Center is also well underway. The walls are 75% done and are moving smoothly. This thing has been a headache for sure. In pushing so hard to make the outside art interchangeable I really made a lot of extra work for myself. The issue is the snap-on consoles. In order for the art to be removable the snaps in the walls cannot go all the way through the layers of vinyl. These means the holes must be punched carefully by inserting a backing piece under the vinyl so the punch doesn't pierce the outside vinyl. Then the snaps have to be carefully slid into the pocket and hammered closed. It's a delicate operation and I kind of wish I could have just punched the holes all the way through and set the snaps and that would be that. So we'll have to make sure there is cool artwork to change in and out of these sets in order to make it worth the effort!

The sliding door on this is the same crazy operation with the tracks and the rivets and the cursing and grumbling. But it's worth it, they look really cool. Of course, the big issue with these is that the factory put the door on the wrong side and if you are a stickler for accuracy that's a big no-no. A few customers want it corrected and that is doable, it just means the walls won't be factory sealed anymore since I have to cut open the vinyl to remove the art and put it on the other side. I've done one though and it looks pretty good and didn't take that much extra time. Still, cutting that wall open was kind of sad.

The navigation console is now the major project and it's a real labor of love. When I made my original prototype the base of this console was a real funky affair. I wasn't actually sure how I would pull it off in reality.

It's made from scraps that come from making the tri-boxes. Follow me here. The tri-boxes are made from the tower tool modified to have 6 sections rather than two. The tower has three 1.5 inch tabs on each side to secure it to a stacked display. These have to be removed to make a tri-box so I have all of these really nice black vinyl rectangles I can use. They become the main face of the base of the helm.

The sides are then made from the scraps that result from making the triangle roof/floors for the triboxes. The triangles are made from a modification of the basic displaybox floor and there's this great angled scrap piece that gets cut off...the angle just so happens to work nicely as the base of the helm. How I stitch this all together is another story, but the result looks really good in my opinion. Obviously, Mego did theirs in plastic and if this was mass produced that would be the way to go. But I love the shiny vinyl consoles and this helm really finishes the piece off nicely.

My preorder customers are getting a heck of a deal on these Space Command sets. They are taking forever to make but they have a lot of time and love put into them. I'd charge a lot more for them if I could! Ha-ha.

So I think these will be shipping in about 2 weeks, I may ship them in batches as I get the helms finished. Keep an eye on your inbox, I will email you when it leave dry dock.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Space Command Production Update

Consoles, consoles, consoles! I put a big batch of these together this week. It involves first inserting the snaps that will hold it to the wall, then folding the console together and closing it with rivets. Took me a while to figure out the easiest way to do it, but once I found vise grip pliers it was easy. Spent an evening watching TV and putting a big box of these together.

Wait 'til you see the navigation console! Oh my!

What's left to do on these. Snaps are in half of the walls. They are tricky because if the outside artwork is removable then the snaps for the consoles have to sit UNDER the clear vinyl, so it's not just a metter of punching a hole and driving a snap. Then the sliding pocket door. I spent time making a template for cutting and drilling the track. I think I can bang them out. Wish me luck.

Bonus Image: Check out how great the Diamond Direct Captain's chair looks in the new Space Command Set!

Labels: , ,

Stately Caverns Production Update:

I've been multi-tasking in the past week, working on both the Stately Caverns and Space Command Displaysets. Although it was a setback that my assembly help did not work out, it's been great to get my hands back on these and start putting them together.

On Stately Caverns I concentrated mainly on the Batpole Quick Change box.

The design of this is directly related to the now postponed Phone Booth slipcase. Throughout this project I've tried to design thing that can be used in a variety of ways in order to get the maximum return on tooling and production costs. This has been a mixed bag. I had the notion that the phone booth slipcase could be re-purposed by adding a diagonal sealbar across the top square and then riveting two units together to form this hidden chamber.

My first manufacturer encouraged this kind of creative reuse but they couldn't actually deliver it. The second could do it, but each clever little alteration like this costs more than it's worth and oh, do they cause delays and confusion...at one point I think I had 5 variations on this one tool. Insane, but that's part of the learning curve.

Anyway, that's why the box looks the way it does. It could be designed any number of ways--it could be square, or made from a canister, but, a triangle is a simplest way to get a stable shape--like a three-legged stool.

The batpole boxes are now handmade from heavy black chipboard, which means a lot of labor with a utility knife and a heavy hole punch for the pole holes. It took a lot of planning to make sure it lines up properly. The hardest part is making 12 of them!



But it's worth it to me, because this has been a Mego gimmick I've long wanted to see. I loved the Batpole in their Batcave, but it was a pole from nowhere. And while the Wayne Foundation looks cool, the elevator is kind of disappointing. I always wanted to be able to slide a figure from the top of the Foundation into the Batcave and have them change costume in the process.

This was one of my early 3D drawings trying to figure out the design. Having the batpole chamber in a rectangle facing out made sense, but that's a lot to build. 4 walls plus the elevator shaft. The design I have now has 3 walls and the triangular elevator shaft only has two. It may seem a little funky, but the Tower really makes a lot of sense.


Anyway, that's the update on the Batpole Quick Change gimmick. I had about half of them done before my hole punch gave out. Back to the hardware store!

Meanwhile, my friend Sean has been helping by inserting artwork and installing snaps in the main walls, so we are in good shape! Still left to do are the sliding Library shelf door and assembling the towers themselves. More later.


Bonus brainstorm! Are you a big fan of the Wayne Foundation but don't want to spend $500? Prefer a vinyl playset? Check out the possibilities when you put Mego Wayne Foundation art in a Dida Display Stack...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Post of Firsts 2: First Anniversary

A short history of Dida Displays.

April 2007: I launch the website and blog on my late grandfather Dida's birthday. I'm accepting preorders for the Space Command, Stately Caverns, and Mego Museum Displaysets. Yay!

May 2007: My manufacturer in the midwest decides they can't deliver the job. Preorders are refunded and I start looking for a new supplier. Argh!

July 2007: I find a company in LA that can do the job no problem. Very experienced, quality work.I have the tooling shipped from Wisconsin to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, some of the tools are damaged in shipping and will have to be rebuilt. Argh!

September 2007: It's turned out to take a long time to get things done. Phone calls don't get returned, it's hard to get answers. My project is small and not a priority. It doesn't help that I've made this fairly complicated and there's some confusion. But finally the order is placed for Displayboxes in 3 different configurations, consoles, and towers. Art for Space and Caverns has been shipped down for sealing. I've made the order smaller than originally planned because I'm not sure what the prospects will be for this and the cost turns out to be almost the same.

October 2007: I start taking preorders again. Response to the Space Command, Stately Caverns and Mego Museum Displays are still good. I'm feeling confident. Yay!

November 2007: Now I'm worried. It doesn't seem like we are close to delivering and I can't figure out why. They are working on it.... But one thing that IS delivering is my first born son, and soon! Can the displays be delivered , assembled and shipped before he comes? Argh!

November 26 2007: Jonah Edward is born. Yay! But the Displays are not ready and I tell them to get them to me in January when I will be freer to deal with them.

January 31st 2008: Everything is delivered to my storage unit in Oakland. The wait was worth it. The parts are so much better than what Wisconsin made it's ridiculous. They had cut the chipboard to small, so the panels weren't tight and the diplays started to sag and warp after awhile. These are gorgeous. Yay!

Mid-February 2008: Life with baby and a day job is about all I can handle. I advertise for someone top do the assembly of the displaysets for me. Art has be inserted on the outside walls, then hundreds of snaps put in. Consoles have to be riveted together and that's tricky. The sliding doors have to be made and they are more complicated than they look--cut and drill the track, attach to the walls in a special way. I find a smart friendly guy with a shop in his garage who seems very qualified to do the job. He's a Star Trek geek so he speaks our language. It's in good hands, I think we can ship these in March. Yay!

In the meantime the printing outfit I had been using can't deliver affordably anymore and I'm scrambling to find a new source. I need hundreds of color prints. Argh!

Mid-March: There's been some snags as can be expected trying to start a new person on a complicated project. I find it hard to explain things fully and a few things get done wrong and have to be fixed. Then my helper gets the flu for 10 days. Of course. I'm set to go on vacation for a week in Hawaii and I don't want to be sitting on the beach worrying about these displays. "No problem," he says, "We'll get em done, I've got my system down."

Meantime, my friend Anthony (The Toyroom) offers to help me with my printing troubles. Plus, he's doing some designs to use in Dida Displays! Yay!

March 26 2008: It's clear it's not getting done before vacation. Okay, fine. Have them ready by the time I get back and we're good. The night before I leave he calls me and tells me his knife slipped while cutting board to make Batpole boxes and he cut himself pretty bad. He won't be able to do much for a couple of weeks but he's going to hire a local kid to help him. Have a nice trip. Argh!

April 5th, 2008: After a nice vacation with the wife and baby (10 days with them! What a treat! Yay!) I'm back and ready to get this DONE.

Well, it turns out he lost the lease on his shop and has to move out. I'm not surprised anymore. No Argh! , just load up the truck and move on.....

So I'm back to square one. After almost 2 months he's got snaps in exactly half of the Space Commands. Even with a crying baby and a day job I'm certain I could have done 4 times as much myself. Without question.

And that's what I want to do. I'll get a friend to help me here and there, break it up into manageable chunks and get these things done. I'm dying to fill the orders for my very patient and supportive customers and then get on to designing new playsets. Follow my progress here on the blog as I try to finally fullfill these orders and stay tuned for some really cool new stuff!

Yay!

More Firsts: First Displaysets Shipping



Well, there it is. After a year of waiting and working I have a cart full of Mego Museum WGSH Special Edition Displaysets ready to take to UPS. It was a pleasure to be doing the job myself again and spending a few hours packing panels into plastic and boxing them up.

Of course, that was the easy part. Now to finish the Stately Caverns and pre-orders...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Posts of Firsts: First Prototypes

October 2006: I don't know how long I've been thinking about making Mego style vinyl playsets. Ever since I started recollecting Megos as an adult, I guess. After I made the Mego Museum logo in Photoshop
it had been on my mind to make it for real (that's a whole other story). As the obsession grew I finally took the first step and sealed this scrap of a Jet Jungle Trading Card between two pieces of vinyl (using our now ruined household iron) and drove a brass rivet through it. It may look a little stupid to you, but to me it was the essence of what I wanted to create: Mego playsets...artwork sealed in vinyl...held together with rivets. This little object was SO SATISFYING. that I carried it in my pocket all the time for inspiration. It launched me off on an odyssey I could never have predicted. Perhaps I should have stopped while I was ahead.

But one thing inevitably leads to another.



More ambitious now, I sealed larger pieces of illustration board in vinyl to try to make boxes. A nasty business, I was melting the edges together with our iron, using a metal ruler to try to keep the line straight, working outdoors and breathing through a ventilator to try to save what few brain cells I have left. Again, the results may not impress you, but here was a structure with sealed hinges. This meant I could do more....

The next idea was to produce a vinyl/chipboard backdrop that you could simply insert artwork into much like a clear-view 3 ring binder. The first designs were nothing more than a folding panel, like a game board. Simple and cheap, but underwhelming.

I wanted something with separate panels that riveted together in an interesting way and I wanted something that would act as a display STAGE as well as a playset. So I settled on a wedge shape that would make a box but also face the side walls out to the viewer like a stage in a play. Again with the iron in the backyard I made my first displaybox. I wanted to be able to take it apart, so I moved away from rivets and towards snaps. The first snaps were the large ones you can find in any hardware store, huge and bulky, but inspiring.



I had recently finished the Mego Museum Star Trek card set so I had backdrop artwork immediately available. I hadn't set out to design a Bridge playset, but that's what this was turning into. If you took two of these and put them together....hmmm....

More on that another time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mad Monster Art

Happy Halloweeeeen! After debuting the latest series of Mego Museum Trading Cards, I can unveil the newest Dida Displays background art for The Mad Monsters. It's a spooky night time exterior that shows a old country village with torch wielding mob in the distance, a distant haunted monster castle silhouetted in front of a blood red moon, and a graveyard with a crypt. There's a Mego logo on a tombstone (naturally) and the castle is based on the same design as the Mego Museum itself (Reuse, Recycle, it's the Mego way!).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dida Displays Is Accepting Pre-Orders Again!

Good news, Bad news, Great news....

The good news is that at long last Didas are back in production! The factory will start making pieces in 10 days! The bad news is that there will be a delay in getting displays to you until February. The GREAT news is that the delay will be caused by the arrival of my first child! Yay! So after getting settled in with him and getting some sleep and taking care of his momma I'll get back to assembling and shipping the displays after the New Year.

However, I do need to hear from you now if you plan to purchase any of these items: A Stately Caverns Deluxe Playset, a Space Command playset, or a Mego Museum WGSH Special Edition Displaybox. The artwork for these items will be sealed at the factory so I need to know ahead of time that you want one. If you put in a deposit it will ensure you will get one, but since it is short notice if you let me know to put you down on the list I'll set one aside for you. Depositors will be the first served, and those who pre-ordered last time will be at the top of the list, but I need to hear you still want your order.

One important note: The Space Command will not include the Transporter slipcase in the pictures. That will sell separately later, and the price has been reduced because of that.

As you may know from my previous posts this has been quite a struggle to get going again. It's taken a good deal of time and effort to get a new factory to do the work and do it right. I think it's going to be worth it. I've been able to have a number of these displays in my house since the first samples were made and I really think they are great. I know you'll enjoy them and I appreciate you support and patience (in the past and in the near future).

Please check out the new website to see many pictures of displays in action plus a peak at some other things I have cooked up: The Corner Tower Display and the Tri-box Carrying Case. These will be available for sale in February.

Please let me know as soon as you can if you want to pre-order one of the deluxe sets. You can preorder here!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are Dida Displays Coming Back?

Will these nice ladies be making Dida Displays with this nice big machine anytime soon? I sure hope so!

It's been a very, very long slow process of restarting this project. Many phone calls and emails and lots of waiting for people to "get back to me". The tools that were made for me by my former supplier were shipped to a new vendor in Southern California in July. Since then I've been waiting for them to make a hole punch die so that the panels of the displaysets will be perfectly aligned. This was the part that derailed the project the first time--the vendor didn't think they could accurately punch the holes and that's a pretty important part of the process, as I learned with the sample parts I hand punched with frustrating difficulty.

Anyway, due to various issues it's taken awhile to get the die made and have a test done, but last weekend on a trip south to visit my wife's family I stopped by to check things out. I was really pleased that the hole punch worked great and even better they installed the snaps with their snap machine and the results were outstanding. It will be somewhat more expensive to set them by machine but the quality will be much better. That last thing I want is to have people complaining about bad snaps on their Displaysets.

So now that I know the job can be done I have placed the order for a limited run of displayset pieces. I am still getting the new website together and finalizing prices and other details, so I am not making a huge announcement just yet. I worry that there's still something that will come up to derail this project again and I don't want to have to refund any money again.

The trip was also great because I got to see first hand what the tools look like for heat sealing these vinyl panels. This is the tool for making the Phone Booth (which will likely be delayed until next year. I want to do the display boxes first and they are complicated enough...). The seals are made with brass ruled bars that are bolted to a big metal plate. The plate fits in the big machine in the first photo. The layers of chipboard and vinyl are laid out by hand on the turntable which turns and puts the piece under the brass tool. A radio frequency runs through the seal bars and heat seals all the layers of vinyl together.

A lot of the expense is in manpower. There's no other way to do it that to lay out the layers of vinyl and board by hand into these guides they set up. With something like my project that's a lot of material, given the various tabs and panels I have. The factory itself is a noisy place hat smells heavily of fresh vinyl and chemicals, but people seem fairly happy. All the work I have ever done has been in offices on a computer, which is very cushy compared to this, but it's still cool to see something real made by hand in America.

So, unless these nice folks come to their sense and tell me to take my overly complicated dolly-boxes and go home I think I'll be back in the Displayset business soon. Stay tuned....

Labels:

Thursday, August 9, 2007

POTA Teaser Trailer

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Soft, Rubbery, Wonder Woman Art


When I started doing the Mego Museum in 1996 I had just graduated from art school with a degree in illustration. I had been interested in editorial illustration, the conceptual kind of stuff you see in magazine and newspapers, as well as graphic novel comic book art, both of which are among the most competitive fields there are. I quickly discovered that if I was to have any chance at regular work I'd need to learn what I had avoided in art school: "Computer art". The Mego Museum was a place I got to practice these new, awkward skills with complete freedom and the original gallery art in the Museum is the work of a fairly competent novice. One of my favorites is the Wonder Woman painting. It's a tour of everything I loved about the program Fractal Painter---the "cloud" brush, the "image hose" that splatters leaves all around, the filters that give an easy metallic 3D look, and of course the faux marble look on the easy-to-draw classical column. Today it looks very underdone to me--more of a concept sketch really, but at the time I was impressed with my "low-rent version of Myst" as I called it. It fit the Mego Wonder Woman very well, and the golden Mego body goddess statues of Paradise Island were very clever.

I wish I was as pleased with the eventual Wonder Woman Trading card! I can't recall why I chose to do her for the 3rd card. Probably because I had a clearest idea for her background than the others. I was still experimenting with the graphic photo technique and there is this fake Grecian temple type structure down the street at Oakland's Lake Merritt. I'm pretty sure that Brian Heiler had asked for some more WGSH cards on a very short deadline and I figured I could bang out a WW pretty quickly. Indeed, I seem to have taken all of two pictures of the doll (by the end of the run I'd be taking 20-40 of each figure trying to get the perfect lighting, pose and focus). So the whole card is a bit undercooked to me.

What is most significant about this card is the back. I mentioned in my last post that we used Mego's own black and white reproduction art on the first two cards, but this wasn't sustainable because few characters had good repro art. 12 inch Wonder Woman was the best you could get here. So I pushed the posterized graphic photograph technique to make a black and white "repro drawing" of the doll. At this point I want to acknowledge the source of inspiration here. When the Museum's own Tom Bligh published his wonderful account of his trip to MegoCon and his seduction into Mego collecting in the ultra-hip literary magazine The Believer it reminded me that there were cool things to be done with Mego and it helped get me interested in coming back to work on the Museum. The article was prominently featured on the cover by a fantastic drawing of the Mego Wonder Woman head by the legendary underground illustrator Charles Burns. His ink beautiful ink portrait in his distinctive style, complete with the little holes for the hair rooting on the doll--contained in the circle, was a definite influence on how I did the portraits on the back of the trading cards. So while I'm not so happy with the Wonder Woman front, the card back was a big breakthrough. The portraits are a big part of the fun of the cards and the look was used on the Instruction Sheet map of the Mego Museum and in other ways as well.

So that's the story of card #3. I keep saying this, but I will have news about the return of Dida Displays very soon! Stay tuned.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My favorite Mego Museum Trading Cards. Or, Why I Collect Megos.


I called this blog the Mego Museum Art Department and not just the Dida Display blog because I wanted a place to post about the work I have done at the Museum, but with the difficulties with the Displayset production I had a bit of a slowdown after Mego Meet. I make no guarantees that there will be another post from the Art Department, but it's possible!

Two threads at the newly refurbished Mego Museum Forums got me thinking... The first was one that's come and gone dozens of times but is always fun and interesting: Why Do You Collect Megos? It's a question I ask myself often, sometimes in exasperation. My answer to the second thread, Which is your favorite MM trading card? actually helps answer the first question for me.

The trading card discussion was remarkable in that responses seemed to lean toward the person's favorite character, naturally enough. However, no one mentioned the Superman or Spider-man cards; Two favorite characters, two favorite Megos, two somewhat overlooked cards.

While they are prized for their rarity (we only made 500 of them) they tend to get short shrift because they aren't as exciting and dynamic as the later cards are. So, I'd like to give them their due.

In the fall of 2005 I was in the middle of overhauling the Mego Museum after a 5 year hiatus. Brian Heiler had done a heroic job growing the site into one of the best vintage toy archives on the web but he was hamstrung by the site's outdated format. So over the course of several months I developed the logo and templates that gave the place a fresher, more cohesive look and much improved navigation. For me it was a great feeling to finish something I had left undone and correct something that had always bothered me. So in the middle of this Brian emails and asks if I have a larger resolution version of the old Spider-Man gallery image. He and Steve Leach (MegoSteve) are putting together a trading card to promote the Museum.

<span class=

I was immediately excited by the idea and inspired by the perfectly retro design that Steve had done on the back, but I had two concerns. First, I wanted the card to reflect the new look of the Museum that would debut in a few months, and more importantly, I couldn't live with that old Spider-man image printed and scattered across the world. Not only was it very low resolution and not printable, but it, like all of the gallery art, had been made when I was just learning Photoshop and digital art and I really wanted to improve it.

To do these two cards I was faced with a very short deadline. Brian was getting a sweet deal adding these cards to another print run so I had to work fast. Fortunately, Steve had put together a strong basic design that I was able to plug into the new Museum treatment.

<span class=

This first rough used a Conan I happened to have photographed and I think I may have toyed with the idea of having one standard color for all the cards, thus Conan with primary colors from the Museum front page. I saw immediately that the only way to go was to use the various colors Mego used for the packaging art. I had recently gone on a spree of buying carded WGSH and I had picked up the love of the Mego color scheme from Benjamin Holcomb who can wax rhapsodic about Mego packaging colors (and wrote a book about it!).

I think it was a crucial decision. It grounded the cards in the Mego history and aesthetic while allowing us to use our own logos and iconography. Much as I love the classic Mego images and character logos I didn't want to have to deal with getting, for example, the Green Goblin's iconography off his box and incorporating it into a card design. Much easier to use the same template and simply plug in the colors accordingly. This eventually led me down the tortuous road of color-coding each character's page in Cascading Style Sheets, but it was worth it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We always shake or heads when we contemplate the number of Mego cards we have made, because when this first started it was intended to be a one shot deal, but I think it was clear to me early on that this would have to continue to it's logical end. I really wanted to be able to replace the gallery art for the figures and this was the way to do it. So the other crucial decision I made on the first cards was to develop a background style that I could live with. Generating 38-plus Super Hero images was going to be hard enough without drawing or painting that many original backgrounds. Fortunately, I didn't have any time at all to do the first two cards and was forced to find a treatment that would be quick--thus making dozens of subsequent cards possible.

Background <span class=


So after shooting the figures in the backyard sunlight I went my iPhoto library and found a bunch of shots of downtown San Francisco I had taken and grabbed a couple of likely backgrounds. I brought them into Photoshop and applied a few filter effects (Poster edges, posterize, find edges) and tried to reduce the images down to a graphic style that plausibly looked like comic art. I was frankly a little embarrassed to be relying on such cheap out of the box tricks, but at the same time I was excited by the possibilities if not the results. These first images are fairly tame and unimaginative, and as the project wore on I became more creative and achieved more dynamic results. I am glad that I stuck to limiting the color scheme of the background art the the character's colors, it gave the series a continuity and a challenge as things progressed.

Superman Card BackFor the back of the cards we kept MegoSteve's original work, and that is why they look somewhat unique from the rest. Spidey and Superman's cards use Mego "Repro Art" images, a brilliant choice on Steve's part because of how important line art was in toy marketing back in the 70's. But with so many characters and only so much decent repro clips I would have to develop a different treatment for the line art, but that's another story.


All very interesting, but how does that really explain why
I collect Megos?

Well, yeah, the creative outlet they've given me has been wonderful. I feel very lucky to have accidentally become the artist at the MegoMuseum. All along, with these cards, with the old gallery art and the old clunky web pages I was always trying to get across what these toys meant to me.

Superman Flies

There's something about this picture of Superman flying in the back yard that says it all for me. The crinkly red cape, the puffy sleeves, the kind, reassuring face...and the boots--those big clunky red plastic rainboots. To someone who didn't have Megos or spend much time with them it's just a Superman figure: Goofy, lame, charming, innocent, old-fashioned, nostalgic whatever adjective fits. But for myself and many of my fellows---this is a face that I spent a lot of time looking into at very close range as a kid does when playing with a favorite toy and when I saw one again after 10 years it was like meeting an old friend. The weight of the figure, the shape of that boot, the texture of the costume all adds up to something vaguely remembered but impossible to forget. This guy is a friend of mine, that's all I can say.

I guess that's one of the best things about the trading cards: The spirit of friendship they've taken on. They've been freely given away by dozens of Megoheads to hundreds more---always with the invitation to come to the Museum and make friends. So while this version of Superman and Spiderman may not have gotten the deluxe treatment they really did their job.

I'm going to sign off now before this gets any cornier. I hope to have some more news about Dida Displays soon and I'd like to revisit a few other trading cards in the future.

Labels: , , ,