My name is Mike and this blog is about my toy collection, hence the clever name. I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the East Coast of Canada. I’m one of six kids. Now while my three sisters are all great they had very little impact on my toy collecting so you’ll rarely see them mentioned here. My dad is the one who bought me most of the toys I owned as a kid so you will see him pop up from time to time. My mom always thought I had too many toys as a kid and she certainly doesn’t understand why I still buy them as an adult, but she’s supportive and she reads this blog so I do my best to keep my language clean and to write in layman’s terms.
My younger brother Brian was my toy collecting buddy for a few years when he was still a kid and I was in my tweens but he eventually lost interest and gave his toys to me. My older brother Doug however has been my toy collecting partner-in-crime since the day I was born. We shared a bedroom our whole childhood, we were best friends, and we split toy collecting right down the middle, tit-for-tat. Back in the day we collected all of the same things. He still collects action figures himself but we’ve gravitated towards different brands as adults. Regardless, I don’t imagine I would be this passionate about toys today if not for his older-brother influence. You’ll see just how integral he was to my collecting as you go through these reviews as he’s mentioned regularly.
When I was a kid in the 80s I collected G.I. Joes, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, WWF, Battle Beasts, Robotech, and Star Wars; just to name a few. As a teen in the 90s it was Gundam, Marvel, Spawn, and Star Wars again. From 2000 onward I’ve been collecting brand new versions of all that old stuff as well as occasionally filling in the holes of my vintage collections.
Besides collecting toys, another passion of mine is writing. I’ve written comics, children’s books, and screenplays. Nothing’s ever been published but I do it for personal enjoyment and with the hope that maybe someday my words will reach the masses. One day, during a spell of writer’s block, I came up with the idea of flexing my writing muscles on short writing exercises to get me through such slumps. Inspired by G.I. Joe figure review sites like GeneralsJoes and JoeaDay I thought it might be fun to review the various action figures in my collection. I launched this blog in December 2011. It has been helpful in that it keeps me writing multiple times a week but it has also been hurtful in that it sometimes distracts me from other writing projects.
I hope you enjoy my reviews and visit regularly. I appreciate all comments and am open to requests, suggestions, and guest reviews. Feel free to get in touch with me either here or via the facebook page.
Now, if you’re a well versed toy nerd like me, please feel free to skip the rest of this post and delve into the reviews. However if you’re new to collecting or simply aren’t familiar with all of the jargon that comes with the hobby then read on and I shall try to clarify a few things which should help to make my reviews read more smoothly.
When I review a toy the first thing I look at is the sculpt; meaning the physical shape of the toy. Most toys are sculpted by hand with every detail finely crafted with specialized tools by a toy sculptor. These sculpted pieces are used to make an inverted mold of the final sculpted piece in which plastic can be poured so the piece can be mass produced. These pieces are often re-used over and over again on multiple figures to reduce costs for toy manufactures. It’s really noticeable on heads but reused forearms and thighs can fly under the radar quite easily. When a new piece is sculpted and molded we sometimes say that it was tooled. Sculpted, molded, and tooled can pretty much be used interchangeably.
Another thing I look at is the articulation which refers to the movable joints between separately molded pieces. Some items in my collection have zero points of articulation meaning they were sculpted from one solid piece of material. This could be something like a statue or a hollow squeeze toy. When it comes to action figures, 5-point articulation is usually considered the most basic. With 5-point articulation a figure can usually turn his head from side to side, raise his arms, and kick his legs forward to allow him to sit. The Star Wars figures of the early 80s were probably the most popular 5-point figures. Early G.I. Joes had them beat since they could also turn at the waist, bend their elbows and bend their knees. This allowed for more realistic poses and they fit better in their vehicles. Further innovation led to wrist and ankle movement, separately articulated fingers, and swivel joints on the upper arm which enabled figures to realistically grip two-handed weapons. Ball-jointed articulation allows for the greatest range of movement. The rounded base of a ball jointed appendage sits in a circular socket and can be moved in any direction. More articulation isn’t always better. Too many joints can make a figure look unnatural. The trick is to cleverly hide articulation points at natural breaks in the design of a figure such as at a belt or the top of a boot.
The third major factor to analyze is the paint job. Each piece of a figure is sculpted in a solid color plastic, such as flesh tone for wrestlers or green for ninja turtles. Sculpted details like wrestling shorts or bandanas are painted to separate them from the base color. Each spot where paint has been applied is known as a paint app. Multiple paint apps usually indicate a higher quality figure. A cheaply made ninja turtle head would be sculpted in green and then maybe have one paint app to give him a red bandana. A high quality turtle would have a red app for the bandana, white apps for the eyes, and black apps for the pupils. Maybe even a pink app for the tongue if the mouth is open or speckles of alternate shades of green on the skin to give it a more realistic look.
When reviewing figures I also consider their accessories or add-ons. These are the small peripheral items included in the package such as guns and backpacks. Most military figures should at least come with a gun and a backpack but accessories may also include a secondary pistol, a knife or sword, a bow and arrow, a removable hat or vest, binoculars, or even an animal sidekick. If a figure includes multiple accessories I like it when they can be stored somewhere on the figure like in a holster or in the backpack. I’m not a fan of multiple accessories for the sake of multiple accessories as they just end up in a box in the closet. I’m also not a fan of pointless accessories such as a water–squirting “web cannon” that attaches to Spider-Man’s arm. Spidey has never needed a cannon to shoot webs and he likely never will. As an adult collector who displays his toys I’m always happy when a figure comes packaged with a display base to help him stand.
Scale is another factor to consider. The very first action figure was the G.I. Joe figure from the 1960s. Those figures were essentially dolls with removable fabric clothing. The standard doll size was 12 inches. Most of the action figures that followed were released in the 12″ scale until Star Wars shook things up in the late 70s with their 3 ¾ inch figures. The smaller figures were cheaper to make and allowed for compatibly sized vehicles to be produced. The smaller scale remained popular throughout the 80s. In the 1990s, 5 to 6 inch figures became the norm. I like different scales for different brands but I prefer the smaller 3 ¾’ scale because it makes for easier display and more affordable prices. As a kid I liked it when different toy lines were of the same scale so they could be mixed together such as my Joes and Star wars figures. Characters who are supposed to be bigger should be bigger in relation to other figures in the toyline. For example, if you got a David & Goliath 2-pack you’d want the Goliath to be larger than the David. Large figures usually have to be scaled down somewhat in order to make them for a reasonable price but a Galactus should never be the same height as a Spider-Man within the same toyline.
That about covers the major judgement criteria but allow me to shed some light on a few other terms that I often use on the site. Each unique brand, such as G.I. Joe or Transformers, constitutes its own toyline. Some brands can have multiple toylines such as Marvel comics. I collect the Marvel Universe toyline which consists of 3 3/4” figures while Doug collects Marvel Legends which is a line of 6” figures. New groups of figures are added to toy lines periodically maybe two or three times a year. Each new group of figures is referred to as a wave, or a series, or a batch. Multiple waves from a specific period of time sometimes take on a name of their own to differentiate them from figures released in a later period. For example, the G.I. Joe toy line I collected as a kid had a new batch of figures added every year from 1982 to 1994. The G.I. Joe brand died off for a while but resurfaced in 2002. The 2002 figures were similar enough that they could be displayed with the older figures but they were made of softer plastic and were constructed differently. To differentiate the figures from the 2 eras, 1982-1994 became known as the Real American Hero (RAH) era since “Real American Hero” was the subtitle on the packaging back then. Since 2002-2007 featured newly sculpted figures it became known as the “new sculpt era”, and Joes produced from 2007 onward are said to be of the “modern era”.
With Transformers, any toys based on the 80s cartoon and comic are described as Generation 1 (G1). Toys based on subsequent animated shows like Beast Wars and Prime, or the live-action movies, have their own classifications.
With Masters of the Universe, there’s the vintage line from the 80s, the “New Adventures” line from the 90s, the anime-inspired line from 2002 which has become known as 200X, and then there’s the modern figures, which draw inspiration from all the past incarnations, known as Masters of the Universe Classics.
Lastly, a quick note about packaging. Most action figures come in a plastic bubble on a cardboard backer card; this is called a blister pack. Some folk liked to keep their figures sealed in their blister packs. These figures are referred to as carded, as opposed to loose. Some collectors go a step further than carded and have their blister packs incased in durable plastic to keep the corners of the backer cards from fraying and the bubbles from denting. These sealed toyed can be professionally graded to increase their value. Sealed toys are the most valuable so if you’re in this for the money keep’em sealed. I’m in it for the joy it brings me. I open up 99% of my toys so that I can display them, review them, and maybe even play with them a little bit.