Back in the 1970s when I grew up, your choices for super hero merchandise were fairly well limited. But what little we had, we loved. This is why so many people from that era have such fond memories of the Mego line of action figures–not just the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes line, but also Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, SWAT, Happy Days, and assorted others. These toys became ubiquitous in every household that had children of a certain age.
My household, obviously, was no different. And the centerpiece of all of this activity was the Hall of Justice playset. Inspired by the success of the Super-Friends cartoon as well as the brisk sales of their Batcave and Enterprise bridge playsets, Mego came out with this little gem somewhere around 1975 or so.
Like the other playsets of this era, it really is a cheap bit of work. Constructed primarily of vinyl over cardboard, the playset was relatively durable. As its main item, it came with a table around which your super heroes could assemble–the top of the table was actually a booklet of maps and images showcasing different crises around the world at which your heroes might be needed. It also came with a series of slide-in cards which would be visible through the clear window in the back wall. Each of these cards itself had a clear area in it. By placing your hero into the teleporter, you could slide him to the right, so that he appeared in the midst of the disaster seen upon the screen.
This was nowhere near as cool as the spinning transporter that was incorporated into the Enterprise set, nor the Bat-Poles and cave entrance in the Batcave set through which you could propel the Batmobile toy. Regardless, I loved this stupid thing. it had great Neal Adams artwork on the outside of it that included characters such as Green Lantern who never got an actual toy. And it used the shield from the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA logo as a part of the HALL OF JUSTICE logo, which I appreciated.
I would typically mix-and-match characters and props to create my own super heroes, so it wasn’t uncommon in my play to find Batman, Spock, one of the stars of Emergency and an ape, all in different patchwork costumes, teamed up to battle whatever I could throw at them. A few years later, I built my own Doctor Doom figure out of a GI Joe costume, some aluminum foil and a spare figure to do battle with my Fantastic Four toys. And when that ape-figure broke–the central rubber band at the center of Mego figures was susceptible to snapping, causing the figure to lose its arms and legs–I cut his head in half to make a mask that other figures could wear to transform themselves into a sort of Were-Ape.