John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino
Dedicated to the love of my life, Bryn Isabella Cimino
Why do we do things the way that we do them?
A question I have always asked myself and I’ve been asked many times. You see, I’m an eccentric person, probably one of the most eccentric people you could ever meet. And I’m not joking about this. I’m a man who walks in this world defined by the cartoons, comics and superhero toys he grew up with. But much more so than the average geek fanboy. I swear I see superheroes everywhere I look (even when my eyes are closed). And why am I so obsessed with these superheroes and funnybooks? Why such a passion to collect them, to horde them, to love them all? For me, it all comes down to a toy that was made during my youth back in 1979 by Mego Corporation. A toy called the Mego Elastic Hulk. This toy, believe it or not, molded me into the person I am today. Yup, that’s right, it changed my life in so many ways and not always for the better. You might ask, how could some silly toy be powerful enough to do this to someone’s entire life? Well, sit back and let me take you on a journey thru my life and maybe, just maybe, you might understand the type of world that I live in…
|Little ol' John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino before the Gamma Bomb exploded|
In Christmas of 1977, I was 4 years old. I can remember my older brother Carlo opening up a present and getting this cool looking new toy called Stretch Armstrong. Then I would rip open one of my presents and it contained a creature called the Stretch Monster (Mr. Armstrong's arch-enemy). I loved how he felt and stretched, he was so much fun! These two toys left a big impression on me at this time because I really can't remember anything else that we got that day. As it turned out, these two toys didn't last very long. My older cousin Bill stretched Mr. Armstrong a tad too far and my crazy godfather Salvator tied Mr. Monster a bit too tight (I remember crying to my father). I would soon go on to other toys, but I always remembered those stretch figures being very, very cool.
|The Stretch Armstrong and Stretch Monster figures that my brother and I got for Christmas in 1977 started my descent into stretch figure toy-madness!|
The next two years in 1978 and 1979 superhero toys were everywhere you looked (these were the greatest years for toys ever IMHO). And the leader of this superhero toy revolution was Mego and their "World's Greatest Superheroes" 8 inch action figures. Kids went nuts for these toys and ate up everything that was out. There were a ton of figures (Hulk, Spider-man, Superman, Thor, etc.) and accessories to choose from. All the kids in my neighborhood had at least one figure in their toychest.
|Just two of the 8 inch "World's Greatest Superheroes" that kids went crazy for.|
During this time while eating Boo-Berry Cereal and watching Saturday morning cartoons, I came across a commercial that showed a brand new toy line out in stores by Mego; the "Elastic" Superheroes! I can remember kids on the tube stretching Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Plastic man and my favorite superhero of all…the Hulk! They looked so awesome, so chubby, so cute and they stretched (years later, I thought that they reminded me of drawings by Jack Kirby with their soft, pudgy bodies and overall heroic look)!! I was literally in awe of these toys! Just then, I remembered my Stretch Monster from a few years earlier and thought, WOW!! A stretch Hulk now exists?? I couldn't believe it! I had to have one!!
The Mego Elastic commercial that changed my life!! It was like seeing the second coming of Christ for me!!
I would go with my mother Orietta from time to time to department stores (Zayers, Caldors and Bradlees) and never could seem to find them. One day my aunt Connie came by for a visit and took my brother and myself to Osco Drugs to spoil us on some toys. When we got there, I ran down to the toy aisle in hoping to find those blasted stretch figures that seemed to elude me. And there they were (my heart began to race), the Mego Elastic figures for only 11.99; Superman, Batman, Plastic man, Spider-man and…What? No Hulk? For some reason he was the only one missing. I couldn't believe my luck. I was disappointed but I had to have one so I got a Spider-man figure.
The Spider-man stretch lasted me only about a week before it began to leak. I told my mother about this and she said that we were going to return it. She put the damaged Spidey into its box and took me back to Osco Drugs with her to exchange it for another one (this was the first time I found out what receipts do). When I went back to the toy aisle I was hoping to find a Hulk figure, but he was still missing…UGH! All the other stretch figures were still there so I just got another Spider-man.
|My adventures with the Mego Elastic Spider-man didn't last very long.|
As we were driving back home, my mother decided to make a pit stop at the CVS down the street. As I walked in with her, I looked up--and there it was--the Mego Elastic Hulk! An entire row of them for 12.99 each!! I couldn't believe it! Years later I found out that Mego Corp. distributed the Hulk figure separately from the other figures in the set due to the popularity of the Hulk live-action series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno that was all the rage in the late 70's (which is also why he had a different color box from the others).
|All the other Elastic Heroes had a "white" box while the Hulk was distributed separately from them with a "red" box.|
But this didn't help my current situation!! I begged my mom to buy it for me; she said no, she said that I just got the same toy in the car. I told her that the Hulk was the one that I wanted. But my mother (being right off the boat from Honduras) could never understand my dilemma. To her a superhero was the same as any other and a toy is a toy with no difference at all. I knew she wasn't going to budge. So I began to pace up and down the aisle just staring at all those Elastic Hulk's. I knew I couldn't leave this store empty handed. So I grabbed one of the Hulk's off the shelf and pried my hand into the box taking the purple pants that came with the figure. For those of you who don't know, the Elastic Hulk and Spider-man came with pants that were placed in front of the figure rather than on it so my little hand just slipped in under the plastic cover and out with the pants. I put it in my pocket as we left the store (my mom would've killed me if she knew).
|Hulk and Spider-man Elastic figures had cloth pants that were put in front of the toy.|
When I got home I would put the purple pants on the stretch Spider-man figure and pretend that it was the Hulk, but this just didn't work. The next day in school I got some green construction paper and drew an image of the Elastic Hulk figure on it. I then cut out the image (which was the exact size as the actual figure) and placed the purple pants on it pretending that it was the real stretch Hulk toy (I was obsessed). This seemed to ease my frustration a little, but it didn't last long. Eventually I lost the pants, the image and I don't even remember what happened to my Spider-man figure. After a while my desire for the Elastic Hulk eased (even though I kept seeing the Elastic figures toy ads in comic books and magazines every now and then that kept me dreaming of it).
One day during the early 80's my family went to visit some friends that lived in the same town as us in Waltham, Massachusetts. My brother and I had fun playing with their son Frankie. Frankie was a little younger than me (maybe 5 at this time) and even though he went to a different school and had different friends, we were close. I remember on this visit going into a closet looking for something. When I looked down I saw it, the Mego Elastic Hulk figure!!! I couldn't believe my eyes!! Here was the toy that escaped me about a year ago!! I took it in my hands and squeezed its soft body and then smelled its latex skin. Here it was, in the palm of my hands, the Mego Elastic Hulk!! I couldn't believe it!! I took the figure with me and asked Frankie if he would trade it for some of my other toys. He said that I could just have it because he knew how much I loved the Hulk. How could I be this lucky?? At long last the Elastic Hulk was all mine!!! I held it close for the rest of the night. When it was time to leave, my mother saw me with this toy and asked me why I had it. I told her that Frankie gave it to me. But she said that I wasn't supposed to take anyone else's toys and so I had to give it back. I was absolutely crushed (guess my luck ran out).
By the mid 80's I once again forgot about the Elastic Hulk. I was into Professional Wrestling and Hulk Hogan so I collected those LJN rubber wrestling figures. At this time my family would spend their weekends and summers in Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod. I would sometimes hang out with Frankie (our families both had summer houses there) and a few others and we would have wrestling matches all day long. One Sunday during September, Frankie asked me if I would trade him my Paul Orndorff figure (he was pretty rare) for something. I thought about it for a second and then I asked him if he still had that Elastic Hulk figure from a few years back. He said that he did, but it leaked because of all the stretching he had done to it. I didn't care. I just wanted that damn toy. Frankie said that he would love to trade it but he would have to give it to me when he went back to Waltham the next day. I was so excited!! Once again my desire for this Hulk toy erupted!!! I gave him the Paul Orndorff figure on the spot and said that I would pick up the Elastic Hulk after school on Monday. He told me to come on Wednesday because his parents wouldn't be home (they hated when Frankie gave people his things). I said that it was alright and I would be there right after school on Wednesday.
|This was the WWF LJN Paul Orndorff Wrestling figure I had that Frankie wanted. Would this toy finally end my quest for the Mego Elastic Hulk?|
Monday and Tuesday took forever to get through. It was so hard for me to sleep at night because I was so excited to finally get my hands on that ever elusive stretch Hulk toy. When Wednesday finally did come I could barely make it through school. At 3:30 I ran out the door and began to run to Frankie's house in the frigid rain (his house was down the street from my school). I was soaked when I got to his house but I didn't care. I saw his older sister Clara putting out the trash (it was trash pick-up day) and I asked her if Frankie was home. She said that he just left with his mother and he would be back tonight. I asked her if he left anything for me, she said no (I couldn't tell her what I was looking for because I feared that she would tell her mom and ruin our trade). My heart sank as I scanned the drive way and saw nothing. I was so disappointed when I began to walk home.
I called Frankie's house from time to time that day with no answer. Finally, at night around 6:00PM I got in touch with him. I asked Frankie what happened and he told me that he had a doctor's appointment he forgot about and had to leave. He said that he tried to put the Hulk figure in his sister's car for me to pick up but she went nuts because she thought the corn syrup that was leaking would ruin her interior. So she decided to throw it in the trash and he couldn't do anything about it (he was such a wimp). I couldn't believe my bad luck!!! A Mego Elastic Hulk destroyed at some city dump!! And the worst part of it was that I got there just after Frankie left and his sister was throwing out his Elastic Hulk right under my nose when she was throwing out the trash!!!!!!!!! AAARRRGGHHH!! I was devastated by this and I told Frankie to give back my Paul Orndorff figure tomorrow or else...and he did.
Over the next twelve years I collected comics every month and went to conventions from time to time picking up rare items and toys (always keeping my eye out for that Elastic Hulk). I was now starting to amass a pretty big collection. When I moved out of my parents for school and an apartment, I would keep my collection in their attic. Every time I got new stuff I would drive to their house and put it away, so whatever it was wouldn't get ruined. During this period in my life I started my hardcore band "Grimlock" and we surprisingly got pretty successful putting out three albums and living the dream. So my obsession waned (I also focused on bodybuilding and girls because I'm a huge egomaniac).
I eventually got burnt out from the constant years of touring the country and crazy lifestyle that comes with it so I quit the band, settled in Worcester, Massachusetts and worked for a big comic/collectible store called That's Entertainment (it was fun as hell). This is where I discovered a new website called EBay. You could buy and bid on things that you just couldn't find anywhere else. It was like being at a universal yard sale/auction for hard to find Hulk toys. I went nuts and started to buy everything I saw (things were so much cheaper back then). I upgraded toys I already had and bought new ones (even those I remembered my mom wouldn't buy for me). I soon moved to Manchester, New Hampshire and finally bought my first computer. My collecting went into overdrive now because I was buying so much superhero memorabilia on a daily basis that I needed an entire room to fit everything. As always I was on the lookout for that Elastic Hulk. I knew that an auction for one had to show up someday and I was going to be ready.
It was the morning of June 2000. I turned on the computer, went to EBay and did my daily search for a stretch Hulk. I logged it in and expected not to see any results and then…there it was, a stretch Hulk!!!!!!!!! I almost fell out of my seat! It was so perfect and mint in the box and…What? This was a totally different stretch Hulk!! It wasn't the Elastic figure made by Mego! It was made by a company called Denys Fisher! The box was yellow and this Hulk figure seemed to be a little slimmer than the one that I remembered. Then it hit me--OH MY GOD!!! THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT STRETCH HULKS IN THE WORLD!!! And I didn't know about it!! How could this be? I needed some answers!
|I was absolutely SHOCKED to see this different version of a stretch Hulk toy!!|
I spoke with collectors that I knew from over the years and eventually found out that this stretch Hulk was a rare piece. Denys Fisher was a company in Europe licensed under Kenner and Mego; they produced the Stretch Armstrong, Stretch Monster figures overseas as well as a bunch of other toys for both companies. This Hulk was said to be sold only out of either Kays or Freemans mail order catalogs back in 1979. Only a small amount made their debut in some local UK stores. One of these stores was in fact called Asda Supermarket in Doncaster England. The Hulk had a price tag of only 8.99 (about 15.00 in U.S. currency at the time).
This import stretch Hulk that was in front of me on the computer screen was just as hard to locate as the Mego Elastic Hulk that has escaped me for over twenty years! It was in such perfect shape! It had an absolute flawless box, the Hulk figure itself was like new (soft with great skin), the directions and black coffin with lid were also perfect. I later found out that the owner got it when he was a kid and his family took him on a vacation to Europe. He wasn't a big Hulk fan at the time but he thought that it looked cool. When he got the toy home, he just opened it once, looked at the figure and put it away for years forgetting about it. It amazes me even today how a kid could even resist to pull or tug at a stretch figure (I know I couldn't have resisted the temptation when I was 5). All I knew now was that I had to get this toy at all costs!!
I put in my maximum bid in at 1,000.00 dollars, hoping it would be enough to scare off any potential collector threats. The auction was a week long and I sighed because I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep due to my crazy compulsion for this toy. The week dragged on and on, I drove myself crazy thinking that something would go wrong or someone would outbid me. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night just staring at the computer screen and praying. If you asked me a question at this time, no matter what it was, my answer would always be…the Denys Fisher Stretch Hulk (I was totally gone from reality). Finally, the time came for the end of the auction. I remember it was around 1:00 in the morning and I was wide awake staring at the screen. 5 minutes left and then the bids started to come. The price for this toy began at 300.00 and moved up to 440.00, then 976.50, then 1,235.00 (oh my god, I was being over bid) my heart began to pound!! With 5 seconds left I put another maximum bid in at 10,000.00 and won the auction at 3,550.00!! The battle was finally over and I won the friggin' war!!!!!
I sent out my payment by Paypal for the stretch Hulk right after the auction ended, I wanted the package to be insured and delivered in overnight express. I've waited long enough for this toy and I wanted it now!!! The seller was such a professional and did everything right so I gave him 100.00 because he made me so happy. I also called into work the next day because I wanted to be home when the figure was getting dropped off by the mailman. Finally, when the package did come I hugged the mailman and I gave him 20.00 because he dropped it off so early in the day. Once I closed the door behind me I put the package on the table and just stared at it. The stretch Hulk was in my apartment and finally came home to poppa, I fell to the floor and sobbed like a baby for at least 5 minutes. When I finally managed the strength to open the package and hold the stretch Hulk and box in my hands, I just couldn't believe how perfect it was. The previous owner said he barely touched it and it really showed. I cried a little more before I placed it at the center of my collection. I called all my friends to tell them the news and most of them just didn't get it (my best friend Al responded by saying "Don't you already have that?"). But I didn't care, as long as I had this stretch Hulk I was doing fine. In the next few months I found out that only about an estimated 35 of these Hulks are left in existence in various conditions. One collector said that I had one of the "Holy Grail's" of Hulk memorabilia (the other being the Mego Elastic Hulk). WOW!! I had a huge Hulk/vintage Marvel collection but now I also had one of the most sought after Hulk toys in existence.
I was actually offered 5,000.00 for it in 2001 by a "big time" Hulk collector in California, the previous owner contacted me again and offered me 4,000.00 for it in 2002 (he said that he missed the toy and asked me if the "nostalgia" had worn off yet). But I could never sell, NEVER! For someone who loved the Hulk and stretch figures so much, it was only fitting that I got one of the finest stretch Hulk toys around. Okay, I had the Denys Fisher Stretch Hulk in my collection and it was in mint condition, so how come I was still thinking of the Mego Elastic Hulk figure?
Over the next year as I became more obsessed, my collection got even bigger. I had the entire comic runs of the Hulk, Spider-man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Thor and just about every key Marvel Silver and Bronze Age issue you could ever think of (I had about 25 long comic boxes). I had so much vintage 60's and 70's Marvel memorabilia, magazines, and art that I didn't know where to put everything. Some of the key pieces to my collection was the 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man costume (which is Marvel's VERY FIRST licensed product EVER!!!), the 1967 Marx Marvel Tin Train (another highly sought after 60's Marvel piece), the original art for Journey into Mystery (vol.1) 112 page 1 by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone, the Amico 1979 Hulk stunt cycle mint in the box (the only one in existence), all three boxed variations of the 60's Marvel Sparkle sets, a bunch of 60's Marvel stuff including toys, books, posters, pennants, stickers, and gumball machine pieces, a prototype of a Marvel 70's weeble wabble set that never saw the light of day (this was cute as hell), original Jim Steranko Hulk art from 1969, the box for a never made Hulk Atari video game from the early 80's, a 1967 mint in the box Captain Action Spider-man outfit from Ideal, a bunch of Marvel 60's t-shirts and sweatshirts, two fully working Hulk pinball machines from 1979, the Grover Toys version of the Hulk Rage Cage from 1979 (this was a limited smaller version of the Hulk Rage Cage made by Fun stuff), the Spider-man, Thor and the ultra-rare Sub-Mariner and Hulk inflatable pillow cases from the 60's (still in the package), a ton of Mego toys; the "Comic Action Heroes" Green Goblin Mangler mint in the box from 1976, mint 8" WGSH figures and accessories including just about every figure they made and in a variety of different carded and boxed versions for both 8” and 12" sized figures, even some of the 8" green carded Palitoy figures from Europe (which are crazy rare), and all four original solid boxes, the list just goes on and on.
And when it came to the Hulk stuff, you could name just about any Hulk toy, action figure, game, ad, costume, puzzle, coloring book, store display, wall paper, poster, record, car, model, etc. from the 60's thru the mid 2000's and chances are that I had it and it was probably mint in the box or still sealed!!! I turned down local newspapers and famous toy magazines for interviews and publication because I didn't want many people to know about the collection I had (it was now closing in on 5,000 pieces). I was a respected collector who rarely ever lost an auction on EBay. And even after all this, I still didn't have the Mego Elastic Hulk figure. But that had to eventually change!!
Here are pics of some my favorite items I had...
|My Crown Jewel!!! The 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man costume is the first product Marvel ever licensed out. To understand how crazy this piece is one must realize that Spidey was a virtually unknown character when it was released and only on issue #7!! Marvel wouldn't release another product until two years later in 1965 with the Merry Marvel Marching Society Fan Club. It remains the most sought after and valuable Marvel item ever!! Only 3 boxes and 2 costumes known to exist today and can sell for upwards of 20,000.00 or more!! Now that's a lot of web-fluid!|
|Marx Marvel Tin Train 1967! Another early Marvel "Holy Grail" piece!! Even banged up without the box it goes for 3k easy. With the box where talking crazy numbers Choooooo!! Choooooooooooo!!|
|Massachusetts Art Hulk pillowcase 1968. Supa dupa rare early Marvel item that a lot of people don't even know exists!!|
|Ideal Captain Action Spider-man suit 1967. Another "Holy Grail" piece for Spider-man collectors!!|
|Marvel Hulk sweatshirt 1966! Here comes the Incredible Hulk!! YEAH!!!!|
|Marvel bend back rings 1966. Look how adorable these heroes are?? I'm just uncertain how they even manage to stay on a kids finger.|
|Mego 12 inch Captain America figure with "Fly Away Action" 1979. One of my favorite Cap toys ever!!! Just look at the size of that head!!!|
|Gottlieb Hulk pinball machine 1979. And believe it or not, I had two of them!!!|
|Durham Hulk Workbench 1980! What the hell do you build when all you want to do is SMASH??|
|Marvel Superheroes gumball head ring set 1967. Just look at the Hulk in the middle, he looks like Humphrey Bogart!|
|Mego Comic Action Heroes The Mangler 1976!! It makes pancakes out of the Green Goblin...really!!!|
|Remco Hulk Instant Muscles 1979! Who the hell needs steroids?? Just put this green, floaty thing on and pump me full of Gamma juice and then watch me SMASH!!!!|
|Amsco Marvel World Playset 1975. Absolutely one of my favorite toys ever made!!!|
|Hulk gumball charm figure (I also have a Captain America and Spider-man figure that is not pictured) 1966. Some may say this thing is ugly and cheaply manufactured, I say Merry, Marvel, Marching, Goodness at its finest!!|
|Union Major Hulk Radio Controlled Figure 1980! When he is pumped up and zooming around the house he's not just a toy but a best friend!!!|
Now back to the stretch Hulk's...
I got a call from a friend of mine named Dana who worked for a toy dealer based on the Internet. He said that his company was doing a major deal with an (extremely rich) psychiatrist that collected every single toy line from the mid 70's until the late 80's. Yes, you heard that right, this doctor (I'm keeping his name private) had just about every single toy from this time period! He would buy the toys in bulk and just store it away in his mansion and TWO warehouses (and I thought I had a big collection). You name it; Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rainbow Bright, G.I. Joe, etc. this guy had it all.
Dana said to me that this guy may have a Mego Elastic Hulk somewhere in his collection. I wanted this guy's number right away but Dana couldn't give it to me because they had a confidentiality agreement, plus this guy was very private and did things very slowly. Dana told me he would keep in touch with me and if this guy ever came across the Hulk figure he would call me. What could I do? I knew Dana would've given me the number if he could but business was business and there was nothing that he could do.
I spoke with Dana a few times in the following months with no luck. This guy had so much stuff that he didn't know where anything was. He would just bring over boxes full of toys in a van and whatever he had at that given time was what they had to work with. About a month after this I gave Dana a call to check up on the Hulk situation and he told me that he had bad news. He told me that the doctor thought he was getting ripped off by the toy company and pulled out of their deal. Dana said that the guy was totally unreasonable, he wanted so much money for toys that had little to no value. When the doctor was told this, he pulled out right away. Dana said that he didn't have the heart to tell me because he knew how bad I wanted that stretch Hulk. AAARRGGHH!! This was not going to happen to me again! If this psychiatrist had a Mego Elastic Hulk in mint condition, I had to have it. I begged Dana for his number and after an hour of pleading he finally gave it to me knowing that he could've gotten into trouble from his work (I'll always love you for that bro). I knew this doctor/toy collector was tough, but I had a plan.
I had my girlfriend at the time, Meghan (who had a sweet innocent voice) call the number and ask for the doctor. Meghan spoke with his wife and told her about a surprise Wedding Anniversary party that she was throwing us and it would be such an honor if she could have her husband sell her the stretch Hulk figure so she could give it to me as a present. This woman said that it would be her pleasure but she had to ask her husband about it first (the funny thing was that she even knew where the Hulk figure was located). A few hours later the woman called Meghan back and told her that her husband said it would be fine, they just wanted to find out how much it was worth and then sell it as soon as they could. Step one of my plan was complete. I knew a girl talking about a Wedding Anniversary would be the right move because I would've been too anxious and possibly spoiling the deal. Plus, having two girls talking about weddings and romance made it even better (girls just love that kinda stuff). The doctor's wife called Meghan the next day and said that they would sell it for 300.00 dollars (I would've payed any price), they would send it overnight free of charge.
Once again, I sent the money out by Paypal to the doctor's account and called into work so I could be there in the morning when the package arrived. Finally the quest for my "Holy Grail" was complete. The next morning I waited and then waited and waited and waited. The package never came. I thought maybe it was just a delay and it was going to show up tomorrow. I called into work again and still no package was delivered. I couldn't believe it! Even after the 3rd day there was no package. Finally, after an entire week of waiting I was beginning to think I was cursed (I had to be)!! I didn't know what to do, so finally, I had Meghan call the doctor again to see what had happened to the Hulk figure.
As it turned out the couple went away on a week long cruise and forgot to send it out (freaking old people). The lady felt terrible that she made such a mistake and promised to send it out the next day. Was this really going to be the end of this horrible 22 year journey?? I've waited so long and experienced so much heartache for this toy that I didn't bother to call into work. But when I got home later that day, there it was--a beautiful cardboard package that contained the real "Holy Grail" of Hulk.
My heart raced as I once again cried like a baby (for at least 20 minutes)! What would it look like? The last time I actually saw and touched this figure I was a small child! Believe it or not, I was dizzy. I finally opened the package and saw the Mego Elastic Hulk figure, but to my dismay it was missing the box and the figure itself had leaked and was stuck in the styrofoam case never to be picked up, held and loved...UGH!!! To be honest, I was very disappointed in the condition of the toy, but how could I complain, I finally had it. I later found out that the doctor kept this toy in a non-heated warehouse for years and the constant hot and cold weather destroyed its latex skin. I said to myself that if I was destined to have this toy and it had to be in this condition I would still be grateful (I'm such a good sport).
|UGH!!! I wasn't too happy with this Elastic Hulk's condition but beggars can't be choosers.|
Within the next few years, things slowed down for me and my Marvel memorabilia compulsion, after everything that I've accumulated what was left for me to get? By the end of 2003 I stopped collecting comics on a monthly basis because they just didn't seem as fun as they used to be for me (I'll always believe that the 60's thru mid 80's were the greatest time for comics). I moved back to Waltham (it took three trips with a 14 foot U-haul and four trips with my Toyota 4-Runner to bring my entire collection home).
I eventually came to the realization that my collection was too big and it had to finally go (I was soooo tired of lugging it around). I decided to sell it off in one big lump sum instead of breaking it up. Many big time comic and toy collectors came from all over the country to check out the collection and to give me an offer (many wanted just the comics or just the memorabilia but despite some great offers, I never budged). In the end, I went with a company from New York that gave me a hefty fee none of the others could match and they took it all (the heroes I've been dedicated to over the years finally gave me something back). There were so many cardboard boxes that they had to make a few trips despite all the trucks they had. Don't worry folks, I did keep some of my favorite comics (including Hulk 1-6) and about 350 vintage pieces of my collection, especially the Mego and Denys Fisher Stretch Hulks (how could I let those go after my long journey to get them).
The moment that changed my life forever was when my beautiful daughter Bryn Isabella Cimino (the real "Holy Grail") was born on July 25th, of 2004. This was the person who was going to inherit my collection and hear all the crazy stories her daddy went through to get them. To tell you the truth, it's an honor for me to give it to her when she gets older. I want her to understand how much these toys (especially the stretch Hulks) have always meant to me.
|The love of my life, Bryn Isabella Cimino at age 3|
But if Bryn was anything, she was my little lady luck. During this time I met a friend over the Internet named Tony who lived in New York. We hit it off so well because we both had a passion for the stretch figures, especially the stretch Hulks. Tony was a BIG TIME collector and wanted every stretch figure made. He would journey long and far to find them (He is now the biggest stretch collector in the world, check it out at www.stretcharmstrongworld.com.) Tony reminded me of me when I was in my collecting frenzy heyday. He would stop at nothing to get these toys and it didn't matter how much ca$h he had to spend. We spent literally hours on end talking on the phone about the magic of these figures and how they were so fun to play with as a kid. I loved helping him out with my connections and helping him locate some stretch figures.
One day in late Spring of 2005, Tony calls me up and said that he had located a guy named Mark Huckabone from California who was a huge toy dealer that specialized in Mego toys (we didn't know how huge at the time because Mark is the biggest Mego dealer in the world). He had a complete collection of totally mint Mego Elastic figures and a loose Denys Fisher Hulk to sell from his own personal collection. We analyzed the pictures over and over to make sure this wasn't a scam (you wouldn't believe how many there are out there in the toy world). But this was legit!! OH MY GOD!! A perfectly mint Mego Elastic Hulk in a beautiful box and complete!! Mark told Tony that this Mego Hulk was the best conditioned figure of the set and the most beautiful Hulk he had ever seen in 16 years! This was proven true!! For this Hulk (along with Mark's mint Spider-man and Plastic man) was actually featured in "Tomart's Action Figure Digest" #60 in January of 1999 as a picture in a story about Marty Abrams (former head of Mego). And the funny thing is, I HAD THE ISSUE!!! Mark also said that there are only possibly 15 of these Hulk's left and only two remain in flawless, unrestored condition. But this one was the "Holy Grail" of all the Mego Elastic Hulks!!!
|Me and Mego god, Mark Huckabone at a Philadelphia Comic Con in 2007|
|Action Figure Digest #60 from January of 1999 with a picture of Mark's Elastic Hulk inside it that I just happened to have.|
|Actual picture of Mark's three Elastic figures from his private collection; Spider-man, Hulk and Plastic Man. It should also be noted that all the Mego toys on this page is from Mark's collection.|
I said to Tony that we had to get these NOW!! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!! I made a deal with Tony that I would trade him a few things including my damaged Mego Elastic Hulk (Tony can fix these stretch toys, no matter how damaged, like new and recreate the boxes too) for this perfect Hulk. Tony (being the great friend he is) said yes because he knew how much I wanted this toy that has eluded me for so long. He eventually closed the deal for some major dollars and cents and sent me the Hulk along the way! Could this really be the end to my journey???
Tony sent the Hulk to me with overnight shipping after he received it first. He just had to look at this Hulk and to shed a tear for its pure beauty and condition. Tony told me that it was one of the best stretch figures he had ever seen to date and was tempted to keep it for himself. I once again, called into work the next day and had my daughter stay home from daycare. If anything, Bryn was going to enjoy this day with me!!! She had too!!! When the package finally came, I called Tony and thanked him for being such a good and loyal friend for giving my daughter and myself this moment. I hugged and kissed Bryn as she opened the cardboard package (I also took pictures). And soon, there it was...the real deal, MINT in the box Mego Elastic Hulk!! I couldn't believe that after everything I've been through with this toy, I ended getting the best one in the world!! IN THE WORLD!!!! It was a thing of beauty and as I wept like a baby (again and again and again), I just kept thinking of that day as a child in the CVS so long ago and seeing this toy for the first time on the top shelves. It was a special moment as I looked at Bryn and this toy. I now had the "Holy Grail" of Hulk toys and the "Holy Grail" of my life. What a perfect ending to the journey.
|My Mego Elastic Hulk!!! Believe it or not, this is the best and most perfect example of this toy in existence!! It is in absolutely flawless shape with a C-10 box!!! After everything I've been through, I cannot believe it's mine.|
I know most people will think this story is a little bit much. But for me, I can't wait to sit with Bryn around the campfire and tell her all about it. And one day she can look back and say that even through daddy's extreme compulsiveness he had a ton of fun and enjoyed the magic of youth.
|Me after I captured my first Denys Fisher Stretch Hulk toy. As you can see, I was delirious!!|
|The Mego Elastic Hulk and the Denys Fisher Stretch Hulk "head to head!!"|
|My baby Bryn at age 4 holding our stretch Hulk's!! These are my "Holy Grails" in life!!|
The story so far...
Tony eventually sold my original Mego Elastic Hulk (all fixed up) to fellow Hulk-collector Steve Moreau from Louisiana. And that is awesome because Steve is a great guy who wanted both stretch Hulk's for a long, long time to be the center of his collection. I'm happy to know that my Hulk figure is loved and cared for in such a great home and truly appreciated. I also found out through the collectors grapevine that the only other perfect Mego Elastic Hulk known to exist other than mine (currently owned by Tony once again) had a leaking shoulder and now had to be fixed up and refilled with new corn syrup leaving my Elastic Hulk as the last flawless Hulk in existence. WOW!! It still boggles my mind how I have the absolute best Elastic Hulk around. And I'm sorry to hear this because all the Elastic figures are a dying breed, you have to know how to take care of them...and I do! I also picked up the actual Mego Elastic Hulk shipping box for about 500.00 back in 2009. Yup, that’s right, 500 dollars for a cardboard box (I’ll do anything for my Elastic Hulk). And I thought I had the last thing I could ever want!!
|Mego Elastic Hulk shipping box. Now this is a cool obscure item.|
So I thought I could die in peace UNTIL…
There was a Mexican Mego Elastic Hulk just recently discovered and brought into the light at the Mego Museum website by worldmego.com. Made back in 1979, it was an AMAZING discovery because it has never surfaced in Mexico or in the U.S. or has ever been seen until now!!! It could quite simply not even exist today. But if it does, John “The Mego Stretch Hulk” Cimino will find it!! HE HAS TOO!!!!
|HOLY MOLEY!!! There now has been discovered a Mexican version of the Elastic Hulk!!! Behold the Ensueno Elastico Hulk!!!|
And if that isn't enough here is a video of it. Now this footage might be a little weird (or a lot weird) if you have no idea who Chavelo is. He's a famous man-child persona comedian host from Mexico. Here he hosts an Ensueno promotional event for children to test the new products! These kids are lucky bastards as they get boxed Ensueno Elastico Plastic Man and Hulk figures! And those Flyaway heroes aren't too shabby neither.
THE ELASTIC HULK AND ME MAKE AN APPEARANCE ON COMIC BOOK MEN!
|Making a deal for the Elastic Hulk on an episode of AMC's Comic Book Men.|
Me and my Elastic Hulk made a guest appearance on AMC's "Comic Book Men" (season 3, episode 16) which aired on March 30th, 2014. I traveled to the Secret Stash Comic Store to sell off my Elastic Hulk. It just so happened to be the rarest and highest price they ever offered for an item...a whopping $11,100 bucks!! But it wasn't enough for me to let it go (would any price?). I find it pretty remarkable that this toy has taken me this far! What an adventure!!
To be continued…
|Nothing better than the magic of childhood.|
Special Thanks to:
Mark Huckabone (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Mego Elastic Superheroes
1963 Ben Cooper Spider-Man Halloween Costume
1963 Ben Cooper Spider-Man Halloween Costume
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles". He buys, sells and gives appraisals on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR Magazines from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He has written and starred in the "Hero Envy" webisode series, is the host of the Reckless Sidekick "Swass-Cast" and has contributed to the "Hero Envy" comic book. John also thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at email@example.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.