Top 17 Action Figures of 2017
Happy Holidays everybody. It’s been half a year since I last posted anything on this blog but I couldn’t resist returning for my annual year-end list. I love “best of” lists and my lack of blogging is by no means indicative of a lack of new action figures. New toys have been steadily flowing into my collection all year long (if you’re interested in seeing each one as they arrive you should follow me on Instagram @mikescollectionhalifax). I had begun preparing this list weeks ago but a few last minute additions bumped a couple of great figures off the list. Therefore runner-up shout outs go to Shin Godzilla and The Will from McFarlane Toys’ Saga line. Also Admiral Ackbar from The Star Wars 6″ Black Series line. Vanessa picked him up for me this week and he’s a long-time favourite of mine that definitely would’ve made the list but I can’t rank him because she’s holding him until my birthday next month. My only criteria for the list is that ranked toys must have been released this calendar year and I must have personally acquired them. So let’s get started…
17. Axl Rose, Funko POP!: Last year I got so many great POP figures that I had to give them their own “Top of the Pops” list. I could have easily done the same this year because I picked up a lot of new POPs and they’re all fantastic. However, this year’s purchases weren’t nearly as diverse as last year’s ensemble. 2016 was chock full of random one-offs like Labyrinth’s Jareth, Willy Wonka, Clockwork Orange’s Alex DeLarge, Elvira, and Mr. T. but in 2017 I tended to buy full waves such as 7 Master’s of the Universe figures, all 3 Home Alone characters, all 6 Hellboy offerings, and a half dozen Batman variations. Had I made an all POP list it would’ve been practically made up entirely of MOTU and Hellboy characters and that would’ve been rather dull. Ergo, I selected the cream of the crop and ranked them with my regular action figures. First up is Guns N’ F’N Roses frontman, Axl Rose. I’ve loved GNR since Appetite for Destruction and a few years back I had the pleasure of seeing them live here in Halifax. Axl looked more like a bloated Mickey Rourke than the wiry energetic frontman of yore (he still put on an excellent show) but this adorable little guy captures Axl in his glory days. He’s got everything you need: leather kilt, mic stand with big red mic, mandatory 80s rock bandana, forehead sunglasses, midriff exposing half-jeresey, and tour stubble. If that’s not a recipe for success I don’t know what is.
16. Bludgeon, Transformers: The original Bludgeon toy was released after I had walked away from Transformers as a kid in 1989. I don’t feel I missed out on anything though because it was a pretty stupid figure anyway; a blocky generic green and plum coloured robot with no paint apps who transformed into a blocky generic tank. What made him unique, however, was his pretender shell, a hollow plastic husk in the shape of a frumpy biological skeleton samurai. I came to appreciate this odd character many years later by way of new Transformers comics published by Dreamwave and ID which portrayed him as a formidable and cunning foe. Those comics made me love Bludgeon and I felt I needed a decent action figure of him in my collection but I didn’t want one that looked like the crappy vintage toy. I wanted one that looked like his comic appearance where the samurai is his true visage as opposed to a costume for a boring two-toned robot. I would’ve preferred Bludgeon in the “Generation 1” style but this one, based on his stylized animated appearance from the Transformers Prime cartoon, is definitely adequate. This version clearly presents a samurai skeleton but it’s a robotic true-version rather than a pretender shell. It’s more akin to how he appears in the comics which is exactly what I wanted. As a nod to the ’89 toy Bludgeon still transforms into a tank like his vintage “inner-self” did which is cool. I’m pleased with the colours, I like the accessories and I liked the price. I was very close to spending $125 on a third party version of this guy before this Hasbro release came along which cost less than 15 bucks. Not too shabby.
15. Dazzler, Marvel Legends: I only have a handful of Marvel Legends on this list and it was not easy to pick favourites. I bought more than 40 of these things in 2017 and they’re almost all great. Hasbro has been hitting home runs with very impressive consistency. Sunfire, Nebula, Moonknight, Bullseye…I could go on and on. So I would understand completely if you disagree with my “top” picks. I didn’t necessarily choose them because they had the best sculpting or best articulation or best accessories. My picks are driven by character and we all gravitate towards different characters. First up is Dazzler, the disco singer with the mutant ability to blast light from her fingers…or something. I never quite understood her powers. Dazzler first appeared in X-Men issue 130 published in 1980. From ’81 to ’85 she starred in her own self-titled series but shortly after it was cancelled she joined the X-Men as a permanent member; that’s when I was first exposed to her. The disco look had been replaced by a contemporary 80s costume that looked like something you’d see in a Jane Fonda workout video tape. In hindsight it’s just as dated if not more so than the disco look but its the costume I grew up with so it’s the one I like best. So even though I would’ve preferred Dazzler in the exercise unitard and headband she was my favourite X-Man of that era so I’m just stoked to finally own any figure of her. I’m only aware of one other Dazzler figure and its 20 years old and atrocious. This figure finally gives dazzler her due. The sculpting is great with the flared pants and feathered hair and the accessories are great with a mic, roller skates, disco-ball necklace, and light effects. She looks amazing and I think any disco fan would want this figure on their desk whether they know she’s an X-Man or not. Daring character choices like this is what makes Marvel Legends the best toyline on the market today.
14. Michonne, Walking Dead: This was perhaps the toughest slot to fill. That’s because I knew I would give it to a Walking Dead figure but I really struggled with which one. I’m a fan of both the comic and the TV show but I have, for the most part, steered clear of the Walking Dead action figures. One of the reasons why is they’re produced by McFarlane Toys. Now I have a ton of respect for Todd McFarlane and I used to buy his figures all the time. He played a large part in creating the adult action figure market so it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have this blog without him. But years ago I decided his hyper realistic and extremely detailed products weren’t really what I wanted to spend my money on because they’re, often times, more statues than toys. But I do still pick up his figures from time to time. In recent years I’ve bought 7 Walking Dead and 4 Saga figures. Over the past few months I more than doubled my Walking Dead collection because I purchased two convention exclusive boxsets each containing 4 figures; one focusing on good guys and the other on bad. What caught my eye about them was that they’re homages to classic G.I. Joe figures. The good guys are dressed in tiger stripped outfits as a nod to G.I. Joe’s Tiger Force and the bad guys’ outfits are cross-hatched grey and green just like Cobra’s Python Patrol. I have no idea why they did this mash-up but I thought it was super neat and had to have them. These will be some of the rare toys that I keep sealed in their packaging because the vintage G.I. Joe style card art is a big part of their appeal. All eight figures are really nice but Rick, Michonne, and Neegan were my top contenders. I went with Michonne because the colours look good and surprisingly natural on her. I love the sculpt and the artwork on the blister card is dynamic. This is a weird and wonderful addition to my collection. Conversation pieces to be sure.
13. Avalanche, G.I. Joe: It was another rough year for G.I. Joe. Not to the extent where there were no figures, there were actually about 50 figures released this year, but not a single one at retail. I purchased nearly all of those figures and it cost me an arm and a leg to do so because they were only available through subscriptions, clubs, and conventions. The average consumer would have no idea that G.I. Joe is still plugging away which isn’t good for the brand. There were plenty of decent figures released in 2017 but seeing as nearly all of them were made up of existing parts that we’ve seen time and time again it’s hard to get too excited about any of them. For example, Sneak Peak was on my list last year and Gung-Ho the year before that and those same figures were released this year with new paint jobs but the wow factor has diminished. This year’s 15-figure convention set featured Battle Force 2000 (The Joe team’s futuristic fighting force first released in 1987) vs an army of Battle Android Troopers (BATS). Getting nine identical Bats was pretty annoying considering the cost of the damn set but at least the Collector’s Club splurged for newly sculpted heads for nearly all of the Battle Force characters. As a kid my brother Doug owned 3 BF members (Dodger, Blocker, and Blaster) and I owned the other 4 (DeeJay, Knockdown, Avalanche, and Maverick) with Maverick being my favourite. Sadly, the convention set’s Maverick is probably the weakest of the bunch. If I had to pick the strongest it would probably be one of Doug’s old guys (Blaster and Dodger are great figures) but nostalgia is a funny thing and it sways my vote to Avalanche. His design is weird and his face sculpt looks a lot like Kevin Spacey which really isn’t a good thing these days but I can’t help but dig this figure; he’s fun. The knee-high silver boots, arctic camo pattern, and white weapons all work together to create a memorable toy which is superior to the original.
12. Darkhawk, Marvel Legends: Much like Dazzler, Darkhawk is an obscure Marvel character from my youth and I never thought I’d see him in action figure form. His comic launched in 1991 at a time when Marvel was trying out all sorts of new things. His comic lasted 50 issues and then he faded to the background. Darkhawk has popped up sporadically over the last two decades and whenever he does I’m there to share in his adventures. I collected his appearances in War of Kings, Loners, and Avengers Arena. He was always a great looking character but I found writers and artists often let him down. Hasbro produced the first ever Darkhawk figure a couple of years ago in their 3 3/4″ “Universe” line. I was pretty excited about that figure but it wasn’t perfect. Most notably the wings were held on with teeny weeny pegs which meant they weren’t really held on at all. Well this year Hasbro made a Darkhawk figure which I have no complaints about. It looks totally badass and his wings are sculpted directly to his arms in a creative way so they look great when posed standing or in action. The metallic blue plastic used for the armour is the perfect colour and the body type suits the character; not too big, not too small. Sculpting detail is minimal and there are no accessories to speak of but Darkhawk doesn’t need them. This is a figure I would’ve loved as a kid and being a grown-up doesn’t change that.
11. Big Lob, G.I. Joe: If you had told 9-year old me in 1987 that I would be placing Big Lob on my top toys of the year list in 2017 I probably would’ve said “Why? Big Lob sucks”. And I would agree, Big Lob did suck in 1987 and I can’t be the only one who felt that way because Hasbro never bothered to make a figure of him. ’87 was the year of the animated G.I. Joe movie. It introduced a group of new recruits to the Joe team. They started out as goof-offs but ended up saving the day in the end. Those rookies were Big Lob, Law, Jinx, Lt. Falcon, Tunnel Rat, and Chuckles, all of whom got released as action figures in 1987…except Big Lob. The movie also introduced Cobra La and Slaughter’s Renegades all of which got action figures in 1987. But for some reason Big Lob (and Cobra La’s Pythona) got the shaft when it came to action figures. I was mad about the lack of Pythona because I really liked her but Big Lob wasn’t missed because I thought he was annoying. However, as the years passed it started to seem odder and odder that a Big Lob figure was never produced. The Collector’s Club finally rectified that error in 2010 when they released an O-ring version of Lob as their incentive figure that year. Problem is, not only did that figure kind of suck, but it was released 3 years into the “modern-era” of Joe figures when many collectors like myself had stopped buying O-ring vintage-style Joes. So my collection has remained Big Lobless until a few months ago when the Club finally made a modern-ea version of him. Best of all they made a great version of him. He has a newly sculpted head which is clearly inspired by how he looked in the animated movie but far less goofy. Using Roadblock/The Rock’s body gives Big Lob the height he needed but it also bulks him up so he looks like he could kick your ass. His design may be relatively simple but I think it’s perfect and exactly what this character needed and deserved after all this time.
10. Death’s Head II, Marvel Legends: Getting a Darkhawk figure may have seemed fairly unlikely a couple of years ago but at least he’d made guest appearances in several comics throughout the 2000s so it wasn’t THAT unbelievable when he hit store shelves. Death’s Head II on the other hand? I would’ve thought getting struck by lightening while getting attacked by a shark was more probable. He was a flash in the pan character who showed up for a year or two in some UK Marvel books in the early 90s and then he faded into obscurity for decades. Even now he hasn’t returned and yet somehow this action figure got the green light from someone at Hasbro. I bought all of those Death’s Head books and, even though there weren’t many of them, the character made an impact on me. For years I designed my own characters that borrowed aspects of Death’s Head II. He embodies the 90s “everything but the kitchen sink” design style which is both awful and awesome. As busy as he is (horns, dreadlocks, torn melted face, liquid metal arm, etc) I was surprised by how boring his body sculpt was once I had this figure in hand. He needs some pouches or something. So if taken at face value this figure may not seem like “top 10” material but the sheer miracle that he exists, and my nostalgia-fueled love of the character, guaranteed Death’s Head II a spot.
9. Slag/Slug, Transformers: It’s about f**king time. I can understand why I haven’t gotten a Big Lob or a Death’s Head II figure for 30 years. Nobody other than hardcore adult collector’s like myself were looking for them. But why on earth has Hasbro waited so god damn long to give me Dinobots!! Every kid wants a Dinobot! It’s crazy! The original Dinobots were released in 1985. Repaints were released in 1993 when Hasbro tried to relaunch Transformers with little success. But since then….nothing! I consider the mid 2000s to be the beginning of the modern era of toy collecting; toys made for grown ups that grew up in the 80s. 2002 saw the relaunch of G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe and those brands have been carrying on ever since. Generation 1 style Transformers came a few years later when Hasbro launched the “Classics” line in 2006 in the lead up to the first live-action movie. Over the years the G1 inspired line carried on alongside the stupid movie-based lines though its name changed several times to “Universe” then “Generations” then “Reveal the Shield” then “Combiner Wars” then “Titans Return” and most recently “Power of the Primes”. That’s 11 years of Generation 1 inspired toys and other than Grimlock none of the other Dinobots got new toys. The Dinobots were introduced to the original toyline after only about two years so how on earth did it take 11 years this time?! It’s madness. Anyway, rant aside, just this week I got a new version of Slag (now called Slug) who transforms into my favourite dinosaur, the Triceratops. This figure looks so much like the original toy that I’m beyond thrilled to finally have him in my collection again. He looks great in both modes and he’s got tons of articulation which the original lacked. Love it!
8. Lord Gr’Asp, Masters of the Universe Classics: It was a slow year for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Mattel concluded their line of website exclusive MOTU figures at the end of 2016. Things looked grim for a while before it was announced that a little company called Super7 would be picking up the license and carrying on with the Classics line in a similar fashion. But rather than make people commit to an annual subscription or scramble online for the figures they want on the 15th of every month Super7 opted to go with a made-to-order model. They offered a window where you could pre-order their upcoming figures in manageable sets of 4 to be delivered at a later date. That date was supposed to be this year but due to production delays I’m still waiting for my first 8 Classics figures from Super7. Therefore I almost had no new MOTUC figures to even consider for this list but Super7 did manage to release a couple of exclusive 3-packs late in the summer for the annual MOTU convention, Power-Con. I only ordered one, a set featuring three characters that were developed for the original line but were never released: Terroar, Lord Gra’asp, and Plasmar. They’re all made up of existing parts but they all look great and any one of them could have made this list but Lord Gr’Asp just edged out the competition. He’s got a basic body with Clawful’s claw and Sssqueeze’s head. It’s an odd mix but it’s these weird designs that makes MOTU figures so unique. The paint job is really nice, especially on the claw, and it does a good job of differentiating this guy from Sssqueeze. A reused cape from Scareglow adds just the right amount of gravitas to this weirdo.
7. Raptor, G.I. Joe: For the past 6 years I’ve signed up for the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s Figure Subscription Service where for 6 months you get 2 exclusive figures in the mail. It’s expensive and it’s all or nothing; you can’t pick and choose your favourites. Every year I question whether it’s worth it. I hum and haw for weeks but I always cave when the deadline arrives. In fact I just signed up for FSS 7 last month. The problem is that the figures aren’t always winners. There are a few each year that I don’t really need or want and they make me question whether this is the best way for me to be spending my hard earned dollars. Then a figure like Raptor lands in my mailbox and assures me I made the right choice. Raptor is a very goofy but fan-favourite character originally released in 1987. Joe fans have been clamouring for an updated version for years but considering his unique look he seemed an unlikely candidate to be successfully assembled by the Club using existing parts and, sadly, those are the only Joes we get these days. But in 2017 the Club proved us wrong with this inspired reimagining. This character is still goofy as all hell but i wouldn’t want him any other way.
6. Man-Thing, Marvel Legends: Toy Biz put out a decent Man-Thing figure in the 90s. And they followed that up with another good one in the mid-2000s. I never had either but always wanted one. Well, I no longer need them because Hasbro’s build-a-figure Man-Thing blows those two older toys out of the swamp. This figure is so gnarly I was willing to buy four $30 figures I didn’t want (and two I did) just so I could assemble him. Man-Thing is one of those weird Marvel characters that I shouldn’t love because he never really does anything but I do. He’s a big lumbering muck monster and this figure captures that perfectly. There isn’t much in the way of paint apps here but the sculpting is very detailed. Every inch of Thingie is covered in vines, weeds, and fungi. His physique is big and lumbering with a hefty hunch which is spot on for the character. The head sculpt is the cherry on top of this mud sundae as the face vines are just the right length and the big red eyes pierce right through you.
5. Super Harley Quinn, DC Designer Series: I like the idea of Harley Quinn but I rarely like the execution. I feel she’s a great looking character with tons of potential but I almost always hate reading her comics and as of this year I can definitively say that I hate seeing her movies too. But since it’s her look that appeals to me more than anything else her crappy portrayals in film and print do not deter me from buying her action figures. I purchased 3 of them this year bringing my total to 7. I actually had to fight the urge to buy 2 more because I really wanted all 4 Designer Series Quinns based on the artwork of Amanda Connor. Connor is one of my favourite comic artists and she’s at her best when drawing super heroines. Its crazy that DC Collectibles still hasn’t produced a Powergirl figure based on Amanda’s pencils but hopefully that’s coming. In the meantime I’ll enjoy these renditions of Harley. I passed on Classic Jester and X-Mas Harley and opted for Space Cadet Harley and Super Harley. Both are excellent and do Connor justice but Super wins out because Space Harley’s pigtails are constantly falling out of her head which is really annoying. This figure features a neat blend on Harley’s classic and modern looks. The sculpt is excellent and the paint apps, especially around the eyes, really elevate this figure.
4. Mer-Man, Funko POP!: As I mentioned above I bought every regular release MOTU figure this year. That includes He-Man, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Stratos, Orko, and Evil-Lyn (I haven’t yet acquired the exclusive Man-at-Arms, Faker, Moss-Man, Scareglow, and Trap-Jaw figures but I likely will eventually). These new figures join Spikor and Hordak on my shelf. Each one of them is cheek-pinchingly perfect but none more so than Mer-Man. The King of the Crystal Sea has been my favourite MOTU figure for as long as I can remember, literally. One of my earliest memories involves my dad hunting the original 1982 figure down for me for Christmas. Mer-Man is such a cool character with such a great look I don’t know how he isn’t everyone’s favourite character. The colours really “pop” on this figure so he stands out on the shelf even amongst an army of other brightly hued figures. It’s a little odd that they gave him this spear instead of his trident and I wish he didn’t topple over so easily but I can look past those things because this figure warms my heart.
3. Batwoman, DC Bombshells: Batwoman has become one of my favourite DC characters since she first appeared in 2006. Her book features good story-telling and beautiful artwork more often than not plus she’s a bat character that isn’t bogged down by a half century of continuity. She’s got a great looking costume but unfortunately the only action figure of her that existed prior to 2017, released around the time of her first appearance, sucked. The mask wasn’t right and the hair was just awful. I wanted to add an action figure of her to my collection but I refused to seek that stinker out. 2018 finally promises to bring us an updated version Batwoman in her signature crime-fighting costume but 2017 tided us over with this little gem. DC Bombshells started out as a line of statues showcasing DC heroines presented as 1940s-era pin-up girls. I loved the statues but they were too rich for my blood. The line has since expanded into a comic series, Funko POPs, and action figures. I picked up a few of the figures and sadly I think a lot of the beauty of artist Ant Lucia’s designs gets lost in translation. The figures are generally okay looking but hardly a suitable placeholder for the gorgeous statues. Batwoman is the Bombshell figure that impressed me the most. It’s cool and sexy, it captures the period-piece aesthetic of the statue quite well, and it’s finally a good figure of a character I’ve been wanting for a decade. Fun accessories and a great paint job (the shadow around the eyes could’ve gone horribly wrong) helped to secure this figure a spot on my list.
2. Warlock, Marvel Legends: Holy crap, it’s a Warlock figure. I started collecting comic books at 8 years old during the summer of 1986. In September ’86 Web of Spider-Man annual #2 came out. Here’s the official synopsis: “Warlock of the New Mutants is on a rampage in New York City! What scientific experiments have driven him over the deep end? What can Spidey do to stop the mayhem?” Warlock is a zany shapeshifting techno-organic alien who refers to himself as “self”. I can imagine that some people find him annoying and maybe I would too had I encountered him later in life. But I was introduced to him just as my young mind was being blown for the first time by the miracle of comics. I will forever love Warlock and even though it took over 30 years I am super stoked about this toy. He was the build-a-figure in a wave of X-Men figures which allowed him to be appropriately tall and even have swappable limbs. The sculpting on this figure is pure perfection, it looks like he stepped right out of the pages of that Web annual. This toy is so rad that he almost secured the number one spot.
1. Trypticon, Transformers: In 2013 and 2014 my then girlfriend, Vanessa, surprised me with such an awesome toy for Christmas that I had to change the number one toy on my list just days before years’ end. In 2013 it was Hot Toy’s Snake Eyes and in 2014 it was Hot Toys’ Crow. Awesome presents like that lead me to propose to her this year (she said yes!). For Christmas 2017 my now fiancé Vanessa bought me two amazing toys. The first was Hot Toys Storm Shadow which will make an excellent companion piece for my Snake Eyes. He likely would’ve topped my list but due to my rules he can’t be on this list (he was released in 2013, not 2017) however I’ll do a full review of him soon. The other toy she bought me was released in 2017 though and it was a surefire list-topper. Metroplex, the 2 foot tall robot that turns into a city, nabbed my number 5 slot in 2013. But Vanessa’s gift Trypticon, the two foot tall dinosaur that turns into a city, easily takes number one this year because he a god damn dinosaur. Trypticon is an absolute beast of a toy. I have no idea where I’m going to display him. I also don’t know where to even begin talking about this toy. I never owned the original but I always wanted him because he was so big and cool. I have no doubt that this new version dwarfs the original though because the new Metroplex make the original look like a micro machine. Trypticon is 24 inches of ferocious plastic awesomeness. Plus he includes a really cool 6″ sidekick named Full-Tilt which is a great toy all on its own.