When it comes to building toys, Lego has ruled the market since the 1980s. I'm old enough to remember a time when the ubiquitous bricks were only available in a few primary colors, and we used our imaginations to make blocky versions of our favorite things. Over the years Lego made a number of brick innovations, including the use of gears for moving parts, the addition of families of "Minifigs" (Lego's signature yellow-skinned smiling people,) and their successful forray into branded building toys.
What began with a few Star Wars themed sets in the 1990s has blown up into a massive business for Lego. They are one of the few toy giants able to hold licensing rights from competing properties, like Marvel and DC, without either entity seeing a conflict in having their products side-by-side on toy shelves. Lego has also successfully groomed their own in-house properties like Chima, Ninjago, and Bionicle that have loyal fans (both children and collectors.)
There have always been imitator "brick" building toys out there. I recall some relative buying us a bucket of them one Christmas, and my dissappointment with the brittle awkward blocks was very hard to hide. Because of the inferiority (and incompatability) of other brick brands, I grew up viewing anything other than Lego as the "Go-Bots" to Lego's "Transformers." And yes, I know that Go-Bots came first.
The building brick market is so lucrative that Hasbro dove in with gusto a few years back, hoping to cash in on their already successful licenses like GI Joe and Transformers by selling those in brick form under the label Kre-O. Those Kre-O toys had their fans, but the lack of sales eventually caused the line to dry up.
Likewise, Mega Bloks has existed on the fringes of the construction toy market for decades, but their purchase by toy giant Mattel in the past few years seems to have given a new vision to the toy company, inspiring the rebrand of their building blocks as "Mega Construx" and allowing them to compete for license rights for a number of valuable IPs.
If you love any of the properties they're creating toys for, you should shell out the five to six dollars for each figure at retail, especially since wave one is already selling for twice that on the secondary market.
They first came to my attention a few years ago when Mega Bloks began to offer great retro-themed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sets. Lego had previously held the license, and nothing in the original TMNT Lego sets was particularly inspiring. However, in the hands of Mega Bloks the toys became a great source of nostalgia marketing. I keep their versions of all four Turtles displayed in my office, along with cartoon-accurate versions of their enemies Beebop and Rocksteady.
Last year during the Christmas season Mega Construx announced their "Heroes" line, waves of mini brick figures released on single cards with a variety of licenses. The first wave included Captain Picard and a Borg figure, from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"; He-Man and Skeletor from the "He-Man" cartoons; and a Colonial Space Marine and Xenomorph from the "Aliens" movie franchise. The unfortunate timing of the wave's release meant that I missed them all at retail, but I was intrigued with the idea of these little licensed figures, particularly with the thought that my little Ninja Turtles might have other retro 80s cartoon buddies to hang out with.
Last night I saw wave two at my local toy store and picked up four of them. The second wave included Kirk and Spock from the original "Star Trek" television show; Teela and Beast Man from the "He-Man" cartoons; and Fry and Bender from the show "Futurama." The ones I picked up were Teela, Beast Man, Fry, and Bender.
It's been a while since I had as much fun opening and posing some figures as I have with these little guys. The attention to detail on such tiny sculpts is fantastic, and their posability makes leaving them on display far more fun than the rigid Lego figures. Each figure comes with signature accessories: Teela has her snake staff and shield, Beast Man has his whip, Fry has a can of Slurm and a $300 bill (complete with tiny Nixon's face on it), and Bender has a can of robot oil and a sack of stolen money. The characters also come with little display bases with nameplates, so they can be easy to display on geeky desks without the worry of them falling over or getting lost.
I know the loyalty to Lego is a powerful feeling, but I cannot help but praise these tiny building figures from Mega Construx. If you love any of the properties they're creating toys for, you should shell out the five to six dollars for each figure at retail, especially since wave one is already selling for twice that on the secondary market. If you dispel the notion that Mega Construx is somehow an inferior brand, you'll find yourself joyously posing these figures and feeling like a kid again while you do.