Category Archives: Master’s of the Universe
A full year has passed since I last updated this blog so I guess it’s fair to say that I’m no longer a blogger; but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a collector. I’ve been buying just as many, if not more, toys than ever and if you’d like to see what I’ve been collecting you should follow me on instagram (under the name “mikescollectionhalifax”). I post pictures of everything I buy so it’s a much more accurate reflection of my growing collection than this blog ever was. There was simply no way I could keep up with writing about every toy I bought and if I didn’t have time to write about it then you never saw it. With instagram I simply provide a few quick comments and let the pictures speak for themselves. But for my annual “best of” list I wanted to share more comments than instagram can accommodate so I have returned to the blogosphere. Before I begin I’ll lay down the usual ground rules; this list is comprised only of action figures that I actually own and that were released in 2018. That may seem limiting but even within those guidelines this list was not easy to do (I had nearly 300 figures to choose from). Just to give you an idea of what you’ll find here, I collect G.I. Joes, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Funko POPs, Star Wars Black Series, Marvel Legends, and a few other odds and ends. Let the countdown begin…
18. The Thing: Marvel Legends – Hasbro has been absolutely killing it with their Marvel Legends line the past few years. We’re getting more figures of well-known and obscure characters than I can keep up with and the quality is almost always superb. The sculpts, the paint apps, the articulation, the build-a-figure components…all great! The only real complaint I have is that there are SO many awesome figures that they may bankrupt me. I had to leave a slew of those amazing figures off this list (Mysterio, Storm, Silver Surfer, Lizard, Cobra, Spider-Man Noir just to name a few) but a few of them could not be ignored. First up is the Fantastic Four’s Thing. Ol’ Ben Grimm here was a Walgreens exclusive in the US but fortunately EB Games carried him here in Canada so I managed to snag one. There have been plenty of Thing figures in the past but I think this one is the first to get everything right. The size, the colour, the outfit, and the shape and feel of his rocky skin are all exactly how I would want them. The fact that he has interchangeable heads (neutral and angry) and hands (open and fists) is just icing on the cake.
17. Dylamug: Masters of the Universe Classics – I consider myself to be pretty well versed in MOTU lore but my knowledge is in no way encyclopedic. For example, when Super7 announced that Dylamug would be one of their new figures this year I had no idea who he was. Apparently he appeared in 3 episodes of the She-Ra cartoon back in the 80s but I don’t remember him. Or maybe I do. There is a familiarity about him but I certainly didn’t remember any details such as his name. The fact that this figure does not scratch any particular nostalgic itch makes it all the more impressive that I like it so much. Sometimes my objective opinion is clouded by nostalgia, as later entries on this list will show, but I love this figure based solely on it’s awesomeness. The MOTU figure line is full of unique characters but most of them share the same basic construction. Dylamug however is made up of completely unique pieces so he looks nothing like any of the other figures on my MOTU shelf. The Man-E-Faces like spinning facial wheels is a super fun feature that actually works as opposed to the often simulated recreations of vintage play features. The robotic body is simple and streamlined and does a good job of making him appear animated. My favourite attribute is the clear plastic fuse bulbs on the top of his head that make him look like a legit electronic.
16. Rampart: G.I. Joe – 2018 is the final year for the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. A lot of people really hate on the Club online but despite their often questionable decisions, inflated prices, and factory errors I’m sad to see them go. They’ve given us more Joe figures than Hasbro the last couple of years and many of them have been great. Whether Rampart is one of the great ones is debatable but this is one of those instances where nostalgia wins out over common sense. The original 1990 Rampart holds the distinction of being the last G.I. Joe figure I bought as a kid. It seems odd to me now though because, even though I was 12 at the time and should have logically been losing interest in toys, I really loved that figure and I remember playing with it a lot. I don’t know why I didn’t buy any more Joes after that. Anyway, I’m so glad the Club provided me with a modern version of him before they closed their doors. Sure it’s 100% made up of pre-existing parts including reusing Blocker’s head but the parts work really well together and it absolutely looks like Rampart even if it isn’t completely faithful to the original design.
15. Abominus: Transformers: Power of the Primes – Of the 5 Terrorcons that combine to create Abominus I only owned one of the original toys as a kid and that was Ripper Snapper. Similar to Rampart, Ripper Snapper was one of the last vintage Transformers I got as a kid so I have a specific connection to him. I loved the idea of him but unfortunately the actual toy left a lot to be desired which I found was often the case with Transformers back then. He was short and stubby and he basically had no articulation. So I was super stoked to get a bigger, better, fully articulated version in 2018. It’s not often that I like both modes of a Transformer because I’m not into vehicles but with Ripper Snapper both modes are awesome. His robot face and colours look great on a shelf but how could you not love his legged shark monster mode. I was going to give this slot to Ripper Snapper alone but then at the last minute I decided to cheat and let him share the slot with the other 4 Terrorcons which I also acquired this year. They’re all similarly great in both configurations and their combined mode is sweet too. If not for my childhood ties to Rip/Snap, Cutthroat might’ve been my favourite as he’s all kinds of cool.
14. Mosasaurus-Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom – I was one of those kids who was really into dinosaurs. It’s a passion that never went away but it’s near impossible to keep up with all the new species they keep discovering. The first time I “saw” a Mosasaurus was in the BBC documentary series “Waling with Dinosaurs” and I was blown away. How had I never heard of this thing before? Why weren’t there rubber toys of him available to buy anywhere? I was giddy when I first saw the trailer for Jurassic World and one of these bad boys leaps out of the water to bite a shark in half. The Indominus Rex was cool and all but I think this guy stole the show. The Mosssaurus also had a goosebump inducing scene in the trailer to the sequel but unfortunately I found Fallen Kingdom to be a let down and the trailer scene was a tease with no payoff. Mediocre movie aside this toy rules. It could’ve been a solid hunk of plastic and I would’ve loved it but the articulated fins, rubbery skin, and articulated jaw really put this thing over the top. Not to mention the size of it. I would’ve loved to have had this thing in the pool with me when I was a kid, having it attack the G.I. Joe Hovercraft or swallow up the Cobra raft. Super cool.
13. Gwendolynne Heavensbrand: Mythic Legions Advent of Decay – This year was relatively quiet for me as far as kickstarters go. In the past few years I’ve backed several campaigns and have acquired a ton of wicked figures as a result. But I don’t have anything new from either Boss Fight Studios or Marauder Task Force to share with you this year. The only “indie” toys I bought this year came courtesy of the Four Horsemen and their Mythic Legions fantasy based line. I’m not really a fantasy guy and these figures are expensive so I keep telling myself that I’m going to stop buying them but every time the Horsemen unveil new ones I get sucked right back in. In fact I just preordered 3 of their upcoming 9″ troll figures last week. I’m mostly interested in the creatures and haven’t generally felt the need to buy the human characters. However I made an exception with Gwen because she just looks so damn good. The attention to detail is immaculate but it was the paint job that really won me over here. The gold and purple look very regal and I knew she’d be a showstopper on my shelf. The working visor on the helmet is fantastic but I appreciate that they included an alternate helmetless head as well. A slew of additional accessories make this figure a surefire win.
12. Spider-Ham: Marvel Legends – This pick is most definitely skewed by very thick nostalgia goggles. This thirty dollar toy is about 2.5″ tall and lacks any leg articulation. It’s basically a ridiculously overpriced Smurf and it has no business being on a “best action figures of the year” list. And yet, I had to resist the urge to make it number one. The same month I started collecting Spider-Man comics in 1986 I also started collecting Spider-Ham comics so I’ve loved this little dude for as long as I’ve loved comic books. I collected his whole 19 issue series, a few one-shots, and his back-up stories in Marvel Tales. But it wasn’t until 2014 that he was introduced into the “real” Marvel Universe by way of a Multi-Universe spanning storyline called Spider-verse which brought all of the various versions of Spider-Man together to fight a common foe. Now, 4 years later, he’s a prominent character in the Spider-Verse animated movie. It blows my mind that these obscure things I loved as a kid are so mainstream now. I’m very glad Hasbro didn’t make this version fat to match his appearance in the movie though as the Ham I read about as a kid was never fat. This figure is vibrant, the sculpt is great (I love the little mouth ) and it just oozes fun. I wish it moved more but I’m just thrilled that it even exists.
11. Crystal Ball: G.I. Joe – A lot of Joes fans like the militaristic aspects of the brand so characters like Crystal Ball, the Cobra hypnotist originally released in 1987, aren’t always well received. However, I was a 9 year old Canadian kid in 1987 and I didn’t give a crap whether Crystal Ball was authentic to the United States military or not; I just liked cool toys. In my opinion Crystal Ball was very cool and his lenticular hypno-sheild accessory was awesome. This updated version from the Collector’s Club is pretty close to the original and any changes they had to make due to the limited parts they had available don’t hurt him in any way. The thigh high boots that morph into his pants are kinda weird but I think it’s all believable as eccentric gypsy-wear. The Club doesn’t often spend money to have brand new parts made but thankfully they did to give Crystal Ball a unique head. I think they may have went a little overly cartoony with it but I think it adds to his eccentricity and I ultimately like it. My modern Joe shelf would not have felt complete without Crystal Ball so this figure fills a void in both my collection and my heart.
10. Predaking: Transformers: Power of the Primes – Once again I’m cheating by lumping 5 Transformers into one slot. The difference here is though, while any of the 5 Terrorcons could have been granted slot 15, none of the individual Predacons that make up Predaking would make this list. The Predacons have been at the top of my want list for years so I was very happy when this box set was announced. That joy diminished some when I saw the price point and then it turned into straight-up sorrow when I opened the box. There are some serious flaws with these Predacons, like huge blocks of undisguised connector parts, and that really isn’t cool given the price. I don’t know why they didn’t just make all the “kibble” removable like the fists and feet. Razorclaw the lion is the only one that doesn’t piss me off. That said, the fully combined Predaking is a thing of beauty. Sure it’s hard to play with but it’s an impressive 18″ tall and with it’s bold colours and golden wings it’s more of a conversation piece than any other toy on this list.
9. Budo: G.I. Joe – The original Budo was released in 1988 and he’s another figure that likely annoyed collectors who wanted Joe to stick to it’s military roots. Budo is the Joe team’s Samurai Warrior which admittedly doesn’t make much f**king sense but I was a kid so I thought he was great in 1988 and I still think he’s great now. Hasbro gave us a modern take on him in 2013 but other than the fact that it was a samurai figure it bared little resemblance to the Budo of old. Had the Collector’s Club never taken a stab at him I could’ve rested easy at least knowing that there was some sort of modern-era Budo in my collection but I’m very thankful that the Club felt that a more vintage accurate version was needed; now I can truly sleep soundly. This figure pissed a lot of Joe fans off this year because the Club decided to glue the helmet to his head and they replaced his combat boots with socks but those things don’t really bother me. I think the new head sculpt is youthful and reminiscent of the original, the helmet is big but it looks good and the glue keeps it from falling off (which would annoy me more than the glue), the colours are bright, and he came with a good selection of bladed weapons. It’s a shame a toy this fun isn’t available in stores for kids to enjoy.
8. Deathlok: Marvel Legends – Deathlok is a rather obscure Marvel character originally created in 1974. Back then he was Luthor Manning, a reanimated soldier. However, I didn’t discover the character until Marvel rebooted him in 1990. The new version was Michael Collins, a scientist who unwillingly had his brain transplanted into the Deathlok cyborg. Thats’s the version I grew up with and as far as I’m concerned that’s who this figure represents though I think it’s technically supposed to be the Manning version. I didn’t start collecting Marvel Legends until just a few years ago but one of the first ones I bought was their first attempt at Deathlok more than a decade ago. I just thought it was such a good figure of a character I love that I had to have it even though I wasn’t collecting the line at the time. That figure may have seemed good at the time but it completely blows when compared to the modern ML figures. It would stick out like a sore thumb if I tried to display it with the current generation of figures so I’m glad Hasbro opted to revisit Deathlok this year. This figure is incredible. I know I sound like a broken record but the sculpt, the paint, the articulation, and the accessories are all perfect. I love the stoic expression on his face. This dude looks like a total badass. I’m almost tempted to buy a second one so I can display them as Manning and Michaels. It’s that good.
7. Gryshaa The Slytherer: Mythic Legions Advent of Decay – When the Horsemen revealed their “Advent of Decay” wave of figures for their second major Mythic Legions kickstarter there were over 40 new characters to choose from. The one that immediately caught my eye was Gryshaa. As I mentioned above I’m not really into fantasy stuff so Orcs and Elves don’t really do it for me but this dude did not look like a sword and sorcery based character to me. I honestly don’t know what he looks like other than Red Square with pants on. He’s slender and spooky with no visible skin. He could be a man or a woman, a skeleton, a monster, a robot…anything really. Even the brief bio included on the packaging kept things mysterious. Gryshaa is like the Boba Fett of the Mythic Legions universe. The detailing in the sculpt is top-notch and the paint work showcases all those details beautifully. The colours work really well together and the 4 different bladed accessories provide Gryshaa with ample ways to dispatch the other figures on my shelf. It’s a work of art as much as it is an action figure.
6. W.O.R.M.S: G.I. Joe – The original Worms (Weapons Ordinance Rugged Machine Specialists) figure was released in 1987 as the driver of the Cobra Maggot. The driver represented a new trooper for Cobra and the file card even said they operated in crews of 4. However, as kids my brother Doug and I only had one in our collection (and it was his). Doug opted to make Worms a unique character and, along with my Ice-Viper whom I also deemed a unique character, they were the toughest S.O.B.s in the Cobra organization. It was silly how tough we made these guys, flipping tanks with their bare hands and whatnot. So even though I never personally owned a Worms figure as a kid I have always viewed him as a key member of Cobra. I am so glad the Club released this figure before they lost the Joe license at year’s end. Ice-Viper would’ve been so lonely on the shelf without him. Personal fondness for the character aside, this is a really sharp figure. The sleeveless jacket is a little weird but that’s a limitation of the modern-era design and not unique to Worms. I think the Club did the best they could with what they had. The torso of the jacket is a pretty close approximation of the ’87 sculpt and the addition of a real cloth ascot shows that the Club went the extra mile to be vintage accurate. I’m especially thankful that they were able to retool the original Rocketeer looking helmet rather than give us some half-assed substitute. I only wish these guys weren’t so damn expensive so that I could get one for Doug.
5. Fangor: Master’s of the Universe Classics – When Mattel stopped making MOTU Classics figures and handed the license off to Super7 I really though it would mean I could stop buying so many MOTU figures. Mattel had already made all the core characters so that left Super7 with a bunch of C-list characters to work with. To my surprise they’ve managed to make some pretty awesome figures out of those less than memorable characters. Fangor here is a perfect example. He’s a just some obscure Snake-Man that no one’s ever heard of and they’ve turned him into one of my all-time favourite MOTU figures. His design and colours are great and perfectly snakey. His accessories, include a flying snake pet, a tool set, and an interchangeable head so you can adjust the length of his fangs; all of which are awesome. This is what toys are all about.
4. Optimus Prime: Transformers: Power of the Primes – For years I’ve been looking for a definitive Optimus Prime figure. I’ve got some that look decent but the size isn’t right and the ones that look really good are just too expensive. Just this week I was eyeballing the new “Siege” version in Toys R Us and I’m thinking I may need to get it because it’s pretty great. But as of right now I’m still in the honeymoon phase with this Power of the Primes version. Not only is he the perfect size in my opinion, but he manages to transform into both the cab of the truck and the trailer without any additional pieces hanging around. It’s a good representation of the G1 look, it’s got a Matrix of Leadership accessory, and best-of-all there’s a version of Orion Pax hidden within. It has long been established that prior to being Optimus, the leader of the Autobots, he was just a dude named Orion and this is what he looked like in that form back in the 80s cartoon. I love this gimmick and as happy as I am to finally have such a great Optimus i actually have him displayed as Orion. I really love it.
3. Brontus: Mythic Legions: Coliseum – While I was still waiting for my Advent of Decay figures to arrive, the Four Horsemen offered up a much smaller third wave of figures they dubbed “Coliseum”. I ordered 3 of the figures and they showed up months before the Decay figures did so perhaps smaller waves is the way to go. The warrior and skeleton figures were cool but nothing I hadn’t seen before. Brontus however is the first troll I’ve ordered so even though he’s mostly just a repaint of the two prior trolls he’s all new to me and he is spectacular. The trolls were too fantasy based for me but Brontus being a cyclops makes him seem more mythological and that’s more up my alley. I could totally see this 12″ brute going to battle against my Boss Fight Studios Grecian warriors and gorgons. The sculpt and paint are obviously great but the fur loin cloth, the metal chain, and the club weapon made from a troll skull all help to enhance this already amazing toy. Oftentimes I feel ripped off spending so much on action figures that fail to wow but you always get your money’s worth from the Horsemen. Cash well spent.
2. Mer-Man: Master’s of the Universe Classics – My favourite MOTU character has always been Mer-Man. I loved my original 80s toy, I loved my 2002 figure, and I loved both my green and blue Classics versions. I really didn’t think I needed another version of this guy but as soon as they started making cartoon accurate toys a couple years ago I’ve been anxiously awaiting for them to announce Mer-Man. I finally got my Filmation Mer-Man this year and he does not disappoint. He looks like he leapt right off of an animation cel. The head sculpt is pure joy. The colours are flat and the design is simple just as they should be for a cartoon based toy. I actually think that if you were to own only one Mer-Man figure it should maybe be this one.
1. Obsidian Fury: Pacific Rim: Uprising – I realize that Pacific Rim 2 wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely loved it. I appreciate how fun it is. It wasn’t bogged down by all the world building and mumbo-jumbo science of the first movie (which I also love). This is the type of film I can throw in the bluray player any day of the week and enjoy it. I’m much more of a monster guy than a robot guy so the first time I saw it I was a little disappointed to learn that the bad guy through the first 2/3s of the film was a bad robot rather than a monster. But what a robot it is. Obsidian Fury is the Darth Maul of jaegers and the filmmakers seemed to clearly acknowledge that by giving him two laser chainsaws. I think his design is super cool and it was beautifully translated into this figure by Bandai. This toy is way better than any of the jaegers neca produced for the first movie. It’s light and flexible but durable. It’s a ton of fun to pose and play with; it just feels fun. The sculpt and articulation are great and the accessories including those removable chainsaws add to its playability. It may look a little bland but these photos don’t do it justice. There’s matte black and metallic black parts, silver paint apps and translucent orange plastic on the head and accessories. This is just a really slick figure.
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.
It’s time once again for my annual “best of” list; a tradition I began in 2012. I posted fewer toy reviews this year than I ever have before but that does not mean I purchased fewer action figures. My collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 and as always it was very difficult for me to pick my favourites but pick them I did. The only criteria I had for toys to be named on this list was that they must have been released in 2016 and I must have acquired them personally. So without further ado let’s get started…
16. TIGER FORCE SNEAK PEEK-I only have two G.I. Joe figures on my list this year so Sneak Peek may seem like an odd choice in the eyes of many Joe fans. We got a lot of excellent G.I. Joes this year between the 50th anniversary series, the Figure Subscription Service, and the Collector’s Club box set and I’d bet that most people would place Sneak Peek near the bottom of their “best of” lists. Not only is he completely made up of rehashed pieces, including one of the most over used heads in the biz, but this figure doesn’t even recreate the classic 1987 Sneak Peek we all owned as kids. Instead the Club gave us an updated version of the lesser known European exclusive Tiger Force repaint. So why is this figure on my list? Well, I simply love Sneak Peek. The character was a favourite from my youth and one I’ve been clamouring to see updated since the beginning of the modern era 9 years ago. The reused parts work well together in my opinion and I quite like the face regardless of its familiarity. If the Collector’s Club had sculpted a new head for this figure I probably wouldn’t like it as much because they’d likely make it pudgy and round to match the vintage figure. I didn’t expect to like this Tiger Force paint job as much as I do but I think it’s a great mix of colours so I find myself really enjoying this more obscure deco.
15. VULTAK-The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been killing it since 2008 providing fans with awesome new versions of the property’s numerous iconic characters. But after so many years it was inevitable that the line would lose steam and fizzle out. In past years I bought Mattel’s latest MOTU offering on the 15th of every month as soon as it went up for sale exclusively on their website. I couldn’t afford to wait because new toys sold out almost immediately. Nowadays toys of obscure characters remain on sale for months so there’s no sense of urgency. I didn’t purchase a single MOTU figure this year until they were discounted during Mattel’s Black Friday sale. Even though my excitement for the toyline has waned a bit there’s nothing more exciting than opening up a new box of He-Man figures from Mattel. My Black Friday shipment contained 6 figures (none of them well known characters) and they were all awesome. Vultak is like a slap in the face reminding me why I loved MOTU in the first place. He’s like a mix of Marvel’s Vulture, Thundercats’ Panthro, and MOTU’s Hordak. He’s bright, he’s big, he’s fun, and he’s awesome.
14. ROD DRILL-Hasbro’s Transformers were my jam growing up but I also enjoyed Tonka’s line of transforming robots called Go-Bots. I had a handful of the toys and while they weren’t as complex as Transformers their simplicity and their silly names made them charming. The line has been officially dead since 1987 but in the past couple of years some third-party companies have produced unofficial homages of Go-Bot characters. You may recall that DX9’s remake of Cy-Kill (named Salmoore) nabbed the number two slot of my best of 2014 list. I love seeing old Go-Bots characters revived after so many years. My fingers are crossed for new versions of my childhood favourites Cop-tur, Loco, and Water Walk. If those characters are ever to be reproduced it will likely be by way of a company called Action Toys. They’ve been doing a great job of releasing spiffy new updates of classic Go-Bots. Vanessa got me Rod Drill for Christmas. He’s Action Toy’s version of Screwhead who transforms into a drill tank. This figure is immediately recognizable as Screwhead as they share of the same physical characteristics but Rod Drill is a far superior figure. He’s a bit larger and far more posable. He’s not as nice as update as Salmoore was but Rod Drill’s price point is a little easier to swallow.
13. SNOWTROOPER-Everybody loves the generic Stormtroopers from Star Wars but as a kid I held the Snowtroopers from the Empire Strikes Back in much higher regard. My brother Doug and I both owned a Stromtrooper but he also owned the AT-AT Driver and the Biker Scout. I suppose that’s why the Snowtrooper was the only Stormtrooper variation that felt like mine because it was the only one he didn’t have. My original 1980s Snowtrooper was one of three vintage Star Wars figures I held onto when I got rid of my collection in my teens. There’s something about that long featureless mask that always appealed to me; I thought it looked more like a ghost than a soldier. I already have a very cool 12″ version of the Snowtrooper plus multiple 3 3/4″ figures but it was still at the top of my want list when I started collecting the 6″ Black Series figures. I just got this figure a week ago and he did not disappoint. It’s not exactly what I was expecting because it’s far more “dirty” than previous versions. The base uniform is more beige than white and his boots and skirt are speckled with grime. It looks really cool though so I don’t have any complaints.
12. MARAUDER VALKYRIES– Last year I named the Marauder Task Force in my number six spot. I didn’t name a specific figure as I used the slot as more of a catch all for the whole wave of interchangable soldier figures produced by Marauder Gun Runners via a Kickstarter campaign. MGR put out variations of those same figures with new parts added this year so they could have easily made my list again. I’m a big fan of the yellow “Shock-Ops” and orange “Hazard Ops” they released this year. However they overshadowed those releases with the launch of their all-female Valkyries line this year via another Kickstarter. Thus far I have four complete figures in hand with another shipment on the way. These figures look excellent. MTF has given us a multitude of hair styles and colours, gear, and accessories so you can make unlimited figure variations. I wish Hasbro put this much care into their G.I. Joes. Hasbro has given us some pretty fugly ladies over the years but MTF has given us a squad of attractive ladies with realistic proportions. I can’t recommend these figures enough. The only reason they’re not higher is that their tiny accessories don’t stay in place unless glued which is a pain in the ass and I have no childhood connection or elaborate backstory to latch onto.
11. NAMOR-What a year for Marvel Legends. Hasbro pumped out 7 waves of figures this year. It was just a couple of years ago that I was writing on this blog that I had no interest in collecting 6″ Legends because I was committed to collecting the 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. I found Legends to be gangly and awkward looking. Well Hasbro has upped their game big time and now I’m buying Legends figures every other week. I bought over 50 Marvel Legends figures this year and I’m continually impressed. I could have made a top 16 list of Marvel Legends figures alone and I still would have had to exclude a bunch of stellar toys. To pick only a choice few for this multi-line list truly was difficult. After a great deal of thought the first Legend I’ve chosen to spotlight is Marvel’s King of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner. When I first started collecting comics as a kid I didn’t like Namor. He struck me as an arrogant Mr. Spock flying around in his underwear. I’m not sure when that changed but somewhere along the way I really fell in love with Namor. His arrogance actually makes him a lot of fun to read. The fact that he started wearing pants probably helped too. Truthfully, I don’t even mind the green speedo in the comics but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting action figure. My 3 3/4″ Namor is a testament to how boring that design can be. This Walgreens exclusive Namor is sporting a much cooler black and blue costume with a nice metallic sheen. The elbows are a little weird and the trident looks dumb but those issues are out weighed by the phenomenal head sculpt. Depending on the angle you look at him he can appear regal, smarmy, pissed, or playful. This is the finest Namor ever produced.
10. K-2SO– When I reviewed this figure a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t yet seen Star Wars Rogue One. Now that I have I like this figure even more. K-2S0 was a real scene stealer in the movie. He was tough, sarcastic and funny and i was really bummed when things weren’t going his way. I’m glad I picked this figure up when I did as I imagine it will be in high demand now that everyone has seen the movie. This figure just looks and feels cool. As soon as I opened him up I wanted to pose him and fiddle around with him. He’s built nice and sturdy for such a lean figure. This sculpt, paint apps, and articulation are all great. No complaints.
9. BATMAN-Putting Batman on a “best of” list seems like such a no-brainer that it’s almost a waste of a slot. He has such a cool and iconic design that you’d think it would be a snap to design an amazing Batman figure, right? So why are there so many terrible Batman figures? Have you walked down the action figure aisle lately? It’s full of Batmen and most of them look like crap. I feel bad for kids that think those are the only Batman figures available. If only they’d venture into a comic book shop like Strange Adventures they’d discover a whole new world of awesome action figures geared towards adult collectors. For example, DC Collectibles line of designer action figures based on the artwork of Darwyn Cooke. I bought the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn from this line and any one of them could be on this list but I think Batman edges the others out. This figure depicts Darwyn’s contemporary version of the dark knight as seen in stories like EGO. I think this figure is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant artist who we sadly lost this year. It makes me emotional every time I look at it.
8. PYTHONA- I wanted a Pythona figure SO BAD in 1987. She was one of the new characters introduced, and heavily featured, in the animated G.I. Joe movie released that year yet she got completely snubbed by Hasbro. Her absence from the ’87 line-up seemed like a huge oversight to me. Big Lob was similarly snubbed but I didn’t like him as much. He’s finally getting a figure courtesy of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club in 2017 but 2016 was Pythona’s year…finally. She was the free membership figure you got this year when you signed up as a member of the Club. It’s been a 30 year wait so thankfully the Club delivered a stellar figure to make the wait all seem worth it. Pythona’s got a very nice newly sculpted head with a removable ponytail which allows her to don the hood of her cloak. The intricate facial paint is well done too. The Club has been doing a great job making figures of characters long desired by fans, like Dr. Venom and Billy, but Pythona is the one I’ve wanted the most so I’m very glad the Club didn’t cut any corners. Awesome figure.
7. RINGNECK GORGON-I backed a Kickstarter campaign by Boss Fight Studios back in 2014 to help them launch their own line of figures called Vitruvian HACKS. Those figures finally arrived in 2016. I received over 30 figures and honestly I could have put each and every one of them on this list. BFS has constructed some of the nicest action figures I’ve ever seen in their Mythology themed HACKS line. Series one primarily consists of ancient warriors and gorgons. The construction of the gorgons alone is a thing of beauty to say nothing of the sculpting, painting, and accessories. The way their multi-jointed tails allow for them to be posed in an upright position without the aid of a display base is amazing. I have seven gorgons including Medusa. She seemed like the obvious choice for this list if I were to showcase just one gorgon but I just so happen to prefer the purple and orange colour scheme of the ringneck. I also prefer her closed mouth. This figure is perfect and I can’t wait to see what BFS does next.
6. CAPTAIN BRITAIN-Picking Marvel Legends for this list was really tough. I thought that Nico would make my list for sure. Silk, Black Panther, and Deadpool all seemed like shoe-ins as well. I wasn’t even sure I would buy this Captain Britain and I certainly didn’t expect I’d like him more than those other figures but here he is. CB was included in the most recent Captain America wave. The only figure I planned to buy from the wave was Eel. I really like Captain Britain as a character but this figure doesn’t feature my preferred costume so I planned to skip it. While in Chicago the other week I found the Cap wave in a comic shop (I haven’t found them here at home yet) and there was Eel. I picked him up and looked over his scrawny physique. Then I saw Captain Britain out of the corner of my eye practically bulging out of his packaging. I picked him up and was immediately won over. See ya later, Eel. This Cap looks tough as nails. The standard “bulky” body is perfectly sized for him and the unique Captain Britain parts really look great. The buckled boots, the wrapped forearms, the sunken eyes in the helmet, I love it all. Throw in an excellent and eye-grabbing paint job and you have yourself a winning action figure.
5. VENOM– Next up is another Marvel Legends figure, Venom. I’m not even a big Venom fan yet this is the second time he’s made my “best of” list in just three years. 2014 saw the release of an awesome Agent Venom. This year we got two other versions of the character. There was the large build-a-figure Space Knight Venom which looks neat but whom I have no affinity for because I didn’t read any of the short-lived Space Knight comics. The second 2016 release was this classic Venom. This toy looks like it leapt from the page of the character’s first appearance as drawn by Todd McFarlane. It makes me very nostalgic for that late 80s era of Spider-Man. The body is the exact same one that was used for Captain Britain and it works wonderfully for Venom too. He has standard “sock” feet and open clawed hands. I’m not sure if those parts are reused or not. The one piece that is definitely unique is the head and thats the piece that really elevates this figure. The head sculpt looks so good that I can’t imagine anyone ever making a better Venom figure than this.
4. TALOS-This is another figure from Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS line. It was exclusive to Kickstarter supporters so I don’t think you’ll ever be able to buy it from their online store. That’s a real shame because this is one of the nicer looking figures from the assortment. Most of the warrior figures share the same parts, they’re just painted differently. I don’t think there are any parts on this figure that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, Talos has the same bearded head as Leonidas and the same armor as the Myrmidon Warrior but what makes them unique to Talos is the bronze paint job. The figure is painted entirely in bronze with a green patina to add realism. It looks amazing; like a little metal statue. Whether you want to display this guy as a statue or some sort of living bronze warrior he really should be a part of your collection.
3. MALLEUS– 2016 saw the release of the Four Horsemen’s newest toy line called Mythic Legions. It’s a fantasy-based line full or Orcs, Trolls, and Knights. I couldn’t afford to go all-in on their 2015 kickstarter but I did pitch in by pre-ordering 4 of the 34 available figures. My quartet arrived in June 2016 and all of them are awesome but Malleus is my favourite. This figure is amazing in every category. The sculpting, the painting, and the accessories are all incredible (the dual axes are sick!). He’s very well articulated right down to a movable jaw. The 6″ scale really allows the Horsemen to show off. Originally I thought I might display Malleus as a minion of Skeletor but the level of detail on the Legions figures far surpasses that of MOTU figures so there isn’t much consistency there. If I had the space and the money I’d love to own all the Mythic Legions figures but if my collection never grows beyond the four I have I’m confident that I have the best one right here.
2. TAILGATE/REAREND-Many times on this blog I’ve told you how great James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” comics are. I think its the best comic on the stands. He has a way of making you fall in love with characters you never thought you’d care about. One of the stars of the book is a little Transformer named Tailgate. I never owned the Tailgate toy as a kid because he was just a crappy repaint of Wheelcharger, a Transformer who I really liked. Well Roberts has made Tailgate a far more interesting character than Wheelcharger ever was and so I desperately wanted an action figure that reflected his comic book appearance. Hasbro obliged me with this turd in 2014. Thankfully, a third party company called Make Toys answered my prayers this year. Because this is an unofficial release they can’t call him Tailgate so Make Toys has dubbed him Rearend. It’s a silly name but who cares, everyone knows this is Tailgate. This figure is quite small so it may be hard to justify the large price tag but thankfully Vanessa got him for me for X-mas so I didn’t have to. I’m actually glad he’s the size that he is because its true to the character. The likeness to the comic book art is perhaps the best I’ve seen yet. This toy truly look like an Alex Milne drawing some to life. I love it.
1. UNDERWORLD WARRIOR-You shouldn’t be surprised that one of Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS figures tops my list. Almost every figure in this line is a showstopper. The paint work, sculpting, accessories, articulation, and customization possibilities launched HACKS straight to the top of the heap of quality action figure lines. Every toyline should strive to be this good. As soon as my box of HACKS arrived it was almost a certainty that one of them would top my list this year. The trouble was in deciding which one. I thought it would be harder to choose but I actually arrived at my answer quite easily. The Underworld Warrior was the figure that appealed to me the most when the concept art was first revealed at the launch of the kickstarter and once I had the figure in my hands I felt it lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s not the most detailed or innovative figure of the bunch but it sure does look damn cool.
Retro “re-creations” of 80s toys that never existed became popular a year or two ago courtesy of a company called Funko. They most famously produce those Pop! vinyl figures you see everywhere but they also make a line of 3/4″ figures with 5-points of articulation called ReAction Figures. I’m a big fan of both lines. My Pop! collection is now more than 30 deep and I’ve picked up ReAction versions of the Rocketeer, the Invisible Man, the Boondock Saints, the Crow, Scarface, JAWS, and more. They’re great little toys that harken back to a simpler time. Unfortunately, the line seems to have come to an end as I haven’t heard any news of upcoming releases for months.
However, that didn’t stop Super7, a San Francisco based company from getting in on the action. They started out publishing a magazine about toys then later morphed into a toy and apparel company. I only became aware of them this past year when images of their vintage “Star Wars” style Masters of the Universe figures began appearing online. The set consisted of 4 figures: He-Man, Skeletor, Beast Man, and Mer-Man. They looked exactly like Funko’s ReAction figures with 5 points of articulation, simple sculpts, and eye-catching character-specific packaging.
I’m a big Masters of the Universe fan as evidenced by my near complete collection of Mattel’s MOTU Classics figures, my handful of vintage figures, my near complete 200X line, and my complete run of mini-figures. So naturally I was tempted to order all of the Super7 figures when they went up for pre-order at BigBadToyStore. The price wasn’t unreasonable at $15 a pop but common sense stepped in and stopped me before I placed them all in my cart. I assumed this was an indie project produced in very limited numbers so the possibility of a wave 2 was low. But I had to ask myself, “what if there is a wave 2?” Would I buy them all too? then wave 3 and wave 4 etc. In my opinion the CLASSICS versions of these characters are the definitive versions. They have great sculpting and articulation, they’re bright, big and fun, and they have great accessories. So if my Classics collection provides me with the perfect set of MOTU toys why would I set myself on a path to buy them all again in an inferior (albeit fun and nostalgic) format? I decided I only needed one of the figures to satisfy my itch and that of course had to be Mer-Man since he’s always been my favorite.
Though for some reason BBTS was only selling He-Man and Skeletor as individuals. Mer-Man was only available as part of the set of four for $60. I stood my ground and did not place an order for any of them. That was a few months ago. Then last week my local comic shop, Strange Adventures, got them in. They were priced at $30 a piece which was painful but honestly, given the US to Canadian conversion rate and the shipping, that’s close to what I would’ve paid to order one from BBTS anyway had they been selling him individually.
This is a very cool little figure. The intentionally simple sculpting is well done and very reminiscent of the original 1982 Mer-Man figure. The colors are a very good match too. He even has a little replica of his vintage sword which always looked like a cob of corn to me. The true highlight of this figure is the original illustration by Jason Edmiston on the blister card so I’m happy to see that he’s been credited on the back. I usually open my toys but this guy is getting tacked onto the wall as is so that I can continue to enjoy the complete packaging. This is not a must-have for your MOTU collection but it is pretty neat. If you have a favorite character and a couple bucks to spare maybe you should pick one up. Wave 2 with Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops, Sorceress, and Man-At-Arms was just announced. 7 out of 10.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a review so I thought I’d write up a quickie to help me get back into the habit. Today’s figure is a Mike’s Collection original, I call her Looker.
I have more loose action figure accessories than I know what to do with. I literally have bins full of extra weapons and knick knacks that came packaged with various figures. My Masters of the Universe Classics accessory bin primarily consists of swords, shields, mystical objects, and extra heads. One piece that stood out amongst those standard parts was an extra pair of legs; actually a woman’s entire lower half. The legs came packaged with the She-Ra character Mermista. She’s a mermaid that can transform into a human so her action figure came with both a lower lady half and a fishy half. I find the mermaid version much more interesting so thats how I chose to display her on my shelf. That left me with these unused gams.
One of the extra heads I had laying around was a giant eyeball. It originally came with the character Optic who included both an orange eye and a green eye. I preferred the orange eye as Optic’s noggin so the green one went into the bin.
The peg that connects Mermista’s lower half to her torso is the same type of peg used to connect all MOTU figures’ heads. It seemed a shame to let the legs go to waste (it’s half a figure…that’s like $20!) so I decided to build a freaky custom character. I have over a dozen heads to choose from but placing a random human head on the legs looked pretty weird so after some trial and error I went with the eyeball. This combination is still very strange looking but not as strange as a He-Man head on those legs. The end result makes for a bizarre creature that I can actually believe as an inhabitant of Eternia.
At first I named her Legs but then one day the name Looker donned on me and I knew it was gold. It’s the perfect name for an eyeball with sexy legs and it’s in line with other goofy on-the-nose MOTU names.
I realize this figure is retarded but its also kind of fun and brings a little originality to my MOTU display. 4 out of 10.
On the 15th of every month Mattel releases a new Masters of the Universe (MOTU) Classics figure which is available only on their website. November 2015’s figure was Dragstor. The release of Dragstor was kind of a big deal to MOTU fans. Not because he’s so awesome or anything like that but because he was the last character from the vintage toyline that hadn’t yet been released in the Classics format. Dragstor completes the mission that Mattel and the Four Horsemen set out to accomplish way back in 2008. Several times over the years there were rumblings that Classics was going to get cancelled and the vintage line-up would never be completed but as 2015 wrapped up that lofty goal was finally realized. But not only did Mattel release updated versions of all 73 vintage figures they also added over 100 other characters to the mix plus vehicles and play sets. I never imagined when I bought my first Classics figure (Hordak) that my collection would one day grow to the size it is today.
So, Dragstor’s place in history aside, how is the figure?
The original Dragstor was released in 1986 and neither my brother Doug or I owned him. King Hiss was the only figure I got that year. Our interest in the line had waned by then for some reason. Since I never owned the toy and Dragstor never appeared in either the He-Man or She-Ra cartoons I have zero nostalgic attachment to him.
Every vintage MOTU figure had a unique gimmick. Dragstor’s shtick was that he was half-man/half-car. All Dragstor had to do to go from man to car was lay face-down. There was a spinning wheel on his torso and a plastic ripcord that you yanked through his backpack to send him careening across your kitchen floor. Many of the MOTU gimmicks were kind of goofy but Dragstor’s seemed especially lame. He was like a Transformer that didn’t transform. I never had the chance to play with him as a kid but I don’t imagine my He-Man action figure would have taken this a-hole seriously as he scooted around the carpet on his belly.
As silly as the vintage action feature was I really wish this Classics figure had it too. I don’t care that the Classics version doesn’t have a ripcord but it sure as hell should have a spinning wheel. Dragstor is all about the wheel on his chest. That’s his whole thing. This Classics figure only has a static sculpted half wheel which is attached to his removable armour. Every time I look at this figure I want to spin the wheel and it drives me nuts that I can’t.
The look of the character is decent enough but I always found it lacked the wow-factor of other MOTU villains like Trap-Jaw or Mantenna. Love it or hate it this new Classics figure does a very good job of re-creating the vintage look. All the key design elements are there like the metal plates on the legs, the red boots, the orange gloves, the engine backpack, the exhaust pipes on the chest, the gas mask, the helmet, and of course the wheel (static as it may be). I actually quite like the overall look. Sure he’s not as striking as Mer-Man or Modulok but he has a mysterious x-factor about him since we can’t see his entire face. His grey skin and orange eyes give the impression that he’s reptilian and monstrous under there.
Dragstor’s accessories are pretty cool. He’s a member of the Evil Horde so he comes with a cross bow like all the other guys do. However, he has a uniquely sculpted crossbow that looks like its made out of car parts which is much more appropriate than the standard bone crossbow that came with the vintage figure. Also, in place of the old ripcord (which wasn’t really a playable accessory) Dragstor now has a whip with a blade on the end. Looks pretty brutal.
As 2015 comes to an end it’s time for my annual “best of” list. It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth year-end list and even harder to believe that since I started this blog I’ve reviewed over 800 action figures (and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of my collection!). Thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers and thanks to those of you checking it out for the first time, I hope you come back. Now, Before I begin the list let me clearly state that this list features the 15 BEST ACTION FIGURES I COLLECTED IN 2015. I am not saying these are the best 15 action figures released this year, just the best ones I managed to get my hands on. In order to qualify for my list the figure must have been released in 2015. I’ve gotten some great action figures this year that don’t qualify because they were originally released prior to 2015. Now that the criteria has been clearly stated hopefully any nerd rage will be quelled. I don’t need anyone calling me an idiot because I didn’t name the Hot Toys Hulkbuster Iron Man the best toy of the year (I know it’s awesome but its also $800 and I don’t have one). So let’s get started…
15. Cardinus– This is a figure from the Gothitropolis line by Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios. It’s a completely original toyline by the sculptors extraordinaire made famous for their work on Spawn, DC, and Masters of the Universe. At present I don’t have a link to a review of Cardinus but you can check out my review of another figure from the line, Eagalus. All the Gothitropolis figures share the exact same body and they come with the same staff as an accessory. The only differences between them are a uniquely sculpted head and a paint job specific to each bird species. I raved on about the intricacies of the sculpting in my Eagalus review so I won’t dwell on it again here but the armour is spectacular. Both Eagalus and Cardinus have amazing head sculpts that look very life-like. Either could have made the list but Cardinus edges Eagalus out due to the beautifully regal paint job. Cardinus features a black and gold paint scheme which looks fantastic against his crimson red feathers. I could totally display Cardinus with my Masters of the Universe collection or any other fantasy figures. Eagalus’s obnoxious American paint job makes him seem more like a novelty item than a fantasy figure. This is an amazing figure and I wish I could afford to collect the entire line .
14. First Aid– This figure makes the list primarily because I happen to love the character but it’s also a great toy. The original First Aid figure from 1986 was one of my favourite vintage Transformers and I’ve always regretted getting rid of it. First Aid’s portrayal in IDW’s Transformers comics in recent years have only made me like him even more. For years I’ve been hoping that Hasbro would release a new version of him and this year they finally did. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the actual figure. The sculpting, paint, accessories, and articulation are on par with just about every other Transformer that came out this year under the “Combiner Wars” banner but that’s not a bad thing because those things were done well on all the figures. Almost any one of the combiner-bots could have made this list (i.e. Breakdown, Alpha Bravo) but due to my personal affection for First Aid he gets the shout out.
13. Jaws– I love the movie Jaws. Love it. When I was a kid that shark scared the crap out of me and fascinated me at the same time, it still does. I have yet to see a movie shark even come close to being as terrifying as the original Jaws. I was so stoked to get a Jaws action figure this year courtesy of Funko’s ReAction line. The retro style of the line was perfectly suited for the task of giving fans the first ever Jaws action figure line. The 3 human characters are awesome but its the shark that steals the show. I could’ve easily named this my number one action figure of the year but due to its lack of articulation it didn’t seem fair. This toy belongs in every bathtub around the world.
12. Snake-Armor He-Man-This is another figure that I haven’t yet reviewed so there’s no link available yet. I had every intention of reviewing all my list candidates by years end but I got busy/lazy. When I was a kid I had a bunch of Masters of the Universe figures including the main hero, He-Man. He was always my least favourite of the bunch. He was so uninteresting when compared to guys like Buzz-Off and Mer-Man. It wasn’t until the 2002 MOTU reboot that I actually liked He-Man. The ’02 cartoon and toy line featured anime inspired designs which I thought did wonders to up He-Man’s cool factor. When the Classics line kicked off in 2008/2009 He-Man reverted back to his boring old bowl-cut self. Multiple re-releases (Thunder Punch, Battle Armour) didn’t help. Finally, in 2015 Mattel has given us this Classics He-Man in the 2002 style, and that didn’t simply mean a new head sculpt, they decked him out in his snake armour which was heavily featured in season 2 of the animated series. The armour features great sculpting and paint work but it’s the shaggy hair that really wins me over.
11. Wonder Woman-No link here either folks but thats because I just got this figure the other day. I didn’t buy many DC figures this year. The only one I requested for Christmas was Superman from the designer series based on Jae Lee’s artwork. I’m a big fan of Jae Lee’s work but of the 4 figures in his designer series Superman was the only one that appealed to me based on the images I saw online. The Batman kinda sucked and the Catwoman was too similar to the Greg Capullo Catwoman that made my list last year. The Wonder Woman looked good but I already have what I feel is the best Wonder Woman figure ever made (DC Direct-2007) so why buy a lesser one? Well I was checking out Giant Robot Comics’ boxing day sale the other day and saw the Jae Lee Wonder Woman figure “in-person” for the first time. The sculpting and paint work were so good that I couldn’t resist buying it. I don’t think it’s better than the 2007 figure but this toy is a work of art and had I passed it up I know I’d be kicking myself for years to come.
10. Otachi– I just reviewed this figure the other day so I don’t have much to add at the moment. This figure is big, has great sculpting, great paint apps, and good articulation. Most important of all it’s a big monster. I love big monsters. I have a lot of big monster toys in my collection but few of them are designed as well as this figure. I’m still pissed about the price and the lack of wings but I didn’t buy anything else even remotely like Otachi this year. He’s a unique looking piece in my collection and he’s a joy to look at.
9. Kylo Ren– I just reviewed this figure the other day as well. This was a tough call because I got quite a few excellent 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures this year and I wasn’t sure who was going to make the cut. Captain Phasma is pretty rad looking and the First Order Storm Trooper is awesome too. For Christmas Vanessa got me a 4-pack of figures which included a red classic Storm Trooper that I absolutely love and he very nearly dethroned Kylo from this list (as I write this I realize he probably should have. Sorry, Honey). Kylo held his spot though because he was such a compelling character in the movie and because this figure is made up of all new parts including plastic and cloth blended together wonderfully. The standard white Storm Trooper ranked number six on my list last year and it would have seemed a bit lazy to award essentially the same figure again this year.
8. Calix-This is a great figure that I’ve been meaning to review for months. It’s one of the six figures included in Mattel’s MOTU Classics mini-subscription based on the 2002 cartoon I mentioned above in my He-Man write up. Over the past 7 years a handful of 2002-inspired characters have found their way into the main Classics line but they’re few and far between. A whole subscription devoted to them is something fans of that era (like myself) have been clamouring for. I have three of the mini-sub figures in hand at present and they’re all great. I expect to have the last three this week or next and they all look great too; there isn’t a dud in the bunch. Any or all of them could have made this list but I narrowed it down to one and I went with Calix. This guy is a member of the Evil Horde and he appeared ever so briefly in one episode before getting destroyed. It’s a shame this guy was created as a throwaway character because he is awesome. I hope he gets a second chance at greatness in the comics or maybe even a future animated series. He’s a dude made of rock, which is nothing new for MOTU, but this guy is WAY cooler than those geeks Stondar and Rokkon. The newly sculpted pieces are fantastic and they do a great job of hiding the fact that this figure is primarily made up of the standard Classics body. The paint work is subtle but really brings out the details of the sculpt. I love the stone beard. I love the axe/crossbow. I love this figure.
7. Frostbite– A lot of people online like to hate on the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. I get that they’ve screwed up a few things (like losing members’ credit card information) but how anyone can stay mad at them when they produce figures like this is beyond me. They gave us so much gold this year from the Figure Subscription Service (Spearhead was a contender) and the Convention set (Wreckage was a contender) to the Free Membership figure (Dr. Mindbender was a contender) and the online store exclusives (Old Snake was a contender). Frostbite was the mystery 13th figure that shipped with the final FSS 3.0 shipment this year. It wasn’t much of a surprise but it was a figure everyone was happy to receive. Frostbite is a classic character that desperately needed a modern-era makeover and the Club did not disappoint here. The Frankensteined body looks good but what really elevates this figure to another level is the new head and collar by Boss Fight Studios. Frostbite has never looked so good.
6. Marauder Task Force– Speaking of Boss Fight Studios, I was really hoping to have their first ever original toyline, Vitruvian Hacks, in hand by the end of the year. I bought into their kickstarter campaign in June 2014 and the figures were expected to be delivered in February 2015. No such luck. The figures are going to be more than a year late but they look spectacular and I’m sure you’ll see some on next year’s list. One of the reasons for the delay is because the production factory in China got held up making these figures, the Marauder Task Force (MTF). This is another original toyline funded by a kickstarter campaign courtesy of Marauder Gun Runners who actually hired Boss Fight Studios to do the sculpting. The concept behind the line is completely customizable military action figures. The base figures are all the same but you can buy a variety of guns and accessories from Marauder’s website. I ordered the base figure in all 8 color varieties: red, blue, green, black, arctic, desert, urban and jungle camo. You can mix and match all the parts right down to the pouches on their sleeves and the logos on their helemts. There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of parts combinations. No one figure is better than another so this slot belongs to the whole line in general. Do yourself a favour and order some of these guys. Four new color variations were just stocked (mine are in the mail).
5. Hobgoblin– Here we go, top five. The fifth spot on my list belongs to the Hobgoblin. This is a Marvel Legends build-a-figure meaning you had to buy six different Marvel Legends figures to get all the parts to build this guy. I didn’t mind the concept back when the build-a-figures were giant figures but it kind of pisses me off now that build-a-figures are no bigger than the standard releases. Despite the hoops I had to jump through to get this guy I am very happy to have him completed. This is my favourite Marvel Legends figure to date. Not only is Hobby one of Spidey’s all-time great villains, this is a version of him we’ve never seen in action figure form before (Phil Urich) and it’s faithful to Humberto Ramos’s artwork which I love. The sculpt is perfect, he’s got great accessories, he’s well articulated, and he’s just fun to look at. He’s bright and bold and I would think any kid would love to have him.
4. Gung Ho– This guy was never one of my favourite Joes. Partly because Doug owned both the 1983 and ’87 versions when we were kids. Despite my lack of personal attachment to Gung Ho he is one of the most recognizable faces on the team. His importance was evidenced by his inclusion in the Joe 5-pack that launched the modern-era in 2007 along with key characters Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlet, and Roadblock. In the 8 years since that pack came out 27 more Dukes have been released, 40 more Snake Eyes’, 6 more Scarlets, and 8 more Roadblocks. This is only Gung Ho’s third and he didn’t get any new parts in last two. The 2007 Gung Ho and it’s two subsequent repaints are extremely dated and they did not do justice to the Joe team’s original Marine. In 2015 we finally got a Gung Ho we can be proud off. This figure was released as part of Hasbro’s 50th anniversary line and it is both a beauty and a beast. It’s beastly in its size and manliness and it’s beautifully rendered. This figure looks more like Gung Ho than any figure ever before released including the original Gung Ho. The stache is epic, the chest tat is massive, the arms are thick, and the uniform is seafoam. To top it off he has a gigantic SAW heavy machine gun with matching seafoam bullets.
3. Machine Man-If Hobgoblin is my favourite Marvel Legends figure how is this guy higher than him on the list? I don’t know. It must be the power of Jack Kirby. This figure isn’t necessarily based on his creator’s artwork but it sure looks as though the sculptor was referencing some Kirby drawings when creating this head sculpt. I love everything about this figure from the sculpting to the shimmery purple paint job to the telescoping Inspector Gadget arms. It’s perfect in its simplicity.
2. Devestator– In a year where every Transformer released is a member of a combiner team I had to put a combiner on the list. Defensor and Superion would have been contenders had Hasbro not released this behemoth this past fall. Devestator towers over the other combiners. They seemed so impressive at first but they look like children in Devestator’s shadow. I have some issues with the individual Constructicons that make up Devestator but for the most part I’m even impressed with them. As a whole Devestator is near perfect. He’s still a bit wobbly but he’s much better than the original. This toy has everything you’d want in a Devestator; he ‘s big, he’s green and purple, and he’s cartoon/comic book accurate. I’ve been wishing for this figure for decades but never did I expect to receive something as impressive as this. This toy is boss.
1.Bombstrike– I tried to curb any nerd rage in my opening paragraph but I’m aware this may illicit some. In a year filled with stellar Transformers and Star Wars figures, a year where Marvel Legends are at the top of their game and a year where Funko further established itself with a wealth of Pop!, ReAction and Legacy figures, you might be wondering how could some chick you’ve never heard of top this list? To be honest I didn’t know Bombstrike was going to top the list until I started ranking the figures I had selected earlier today. I always knew Bomstrike would make my year-end list but even I didn’t know I liked her this much. I laid the figures out in front of me and, after painfully eliminating great toys like POP Godzilla and Shanna the She-Devil, I began ranking the final 15. As I went, Bombstrike kept getting shoved up the ranks and this is where she ended up. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve been a big fan of this character ever since version 1 was released in 2005. The sibling rivalry storyline hinted at in the file cards of her and her brothers (Barrel Roll and Black Out) made for some interesting play scenarios that I would’ve loved as a kid. As much as I cherish the classic Joe characters I think the brand needs some fresh blood every once and a while to stay interesting and relevant. The Stall siblings were exactly what the brand needed and I was really disappointed to see them swept under the rug when the new-sculpt era came to a close in 2006. When The brothers were resurrected in the Collector Club’s first Figure Subscription Service I knew Bombstrike was likely to follow in FSS 2.0. It took a year longer than expected but in 2015 she arrived and she totally lived up to my expectations even after 10 years of anticipation. This figure is feminine, petite and cute but she’s ready for combat. She’s camouflaged, she’s armoured, and she’s packing multiple firearms, a computer, and a drone. I love the character, I love the toy. What’s not to like?
I buy almost all of the Masters of the Universe Classics figures produced by Mattel. I log onto the MattyCollector website on the 15th of just about every month to buy the latest offerings. Unfortunately, some of the figures have sold out very quickly and as a result I’ve missed out on a few key characters. Mattel offers a subscription service to ensure collectors like myself don’t miss any of the figures but I’ve never subscribed for the following reasons:
-Paying for the full-year subscription makes for a very expensive lump sum payment.
-I’d be locked into buying every single figure, even though not all of the figures are announced by the subscription deadline, meaning I could be committing to some real duds.
-And Mattel doesn’t allow for combined shipping between subscription figures and non-subscription purchases made on the site.
However, outside of the annual subscription that locks you into buying 15+ figures, Mattel has begun offering mini-subscriptions that only lock you into buying 6 figures. The mini-subs focus on a specific group of characters within the MOTU mythology that may not appeal to the fandom at large. For example, last year they ran a subscription for the mini-figure 2 packs. Prior to that they ran mini-subs for obscure filmation characters and for brand new characters to celebrate the brand’s 30th anniversary. I’ve considered subbing a few times but I never made the commitment until their latest min-sub which focuses on 200X characters.
The “200X” title refers to the MOTU animated series and toy line that launched in 2002 to much acclaim. I was a HUGE fan of the cartoon which ran for 2 seasons (39 episodes) and I loved the stylized toys and statues based on the anime-inspired character designs. A few of the new characters that were created for the 200X show have made their way into the Classics toy line (i.e. Chief Carnivus and Lord Dactys) but by and large the Classics line has focused on the vintage MOTU mythology. The 200X mini-sub consists of 6 figures based on characters that first appeared in the 200X cartoon and who have never been made into toys before. I chose to sub for the following reasons:
-All six figures hd been revealed by the subscription deadline and they all looked awesome.
-Mattel offered an option for the figures to ship out in bundles of 3 rather than 1 at a time so I was able to save on shipping. Also, they billed in instalments rather than in one large lump sum.
-And subscribers got a free bonus gift.
The 6 figures were reason enough to warrant subscribing but the bonus gift was like the cherry on top that sealed the deal. The bonus gift is a pack of 6 alternate heads in the 200X style intended for previously released MOTU Classics figures. Some characters looked drastically different from their vintage counterparts when redesigned for the 200X line and these new heads allow you to display “Classics” versions of those dynamic reimaginings.
I’ll start with Buzz-Off because he’s one of my favorite MOTU characters. I’ll forever love the vintage look because I grew up with it but the 200X redesign was undeniably cooler. It was much leaner and more angular and the long antennae provided a truer bug-like appearance. It was less cutesy and more badass. The 200X Buzz-Off figure looks awesome displayed on my shelf but unfortunately I’m quickly running out of shelf space so my 200X collection may soon end up boxed up to make room for more current toy lines. This new head will take some of the “sting” out of boxing up my 200X Buzz-Off because now I can display my Classics Buzz-Off with this 200X-style head. However, I’m not 100% sure I’ll do that because the vintage style head has a nostalgic charm about it that makes me smile. Also the 200X head doesn’t quite look natural on the bulkier body of the Classics figure; plus the bright banana yellow used on this new head doesn’t match up as nicely with the more mustardy yellow of the body and original head. I really like them both and I’d almost rather try to find another Buzz-Off for cheap so I can display him both ways rather than choose.
Next up is Clawful. Apparently some people hate the big bushy black eyebrows of the original Classics head. I personally don’t mind my Clawful looking like Eugene Levy but this new 200X head is a really nice update regardless. The change isn’t as drastic as the Buzz-Off redesign but what they changed were improvements. The new head has more ridges and protrusions and the eyes are less cartoonish. I’m undecided if I’ll make the change on Clawful because I like the new and the old heads but they’re not different enough to warrant buying another figure so I can display both.
Sy-Klone was probably my least favorite MOTU character when I was a kid. He was at least in my bottom five. That changed with the 200X series. He went from being a total goofball to a badass samurai courtesy of an impressive redesign. I thought his portrayal in the 200X animated series was awesome and it really fleshed out the character. I was a big fan of the 200X toy as well. If not for his 200X make-over I probably wouldn’t have even bothered to buy the Classics version of Sy-Klone; I disliked him that much. However, I did buy the Classics version when it came out in 2011 but it’s been relegated to the back of the shelf because it looks like the goofy vintage version that I never liked. This new 200X-inspired head isn’t as good as the actual 200X head but its a big improvement over the 2011 head. The 200X Sy-Klone was clearly Asian but his ethnicity seems to have been undone for this new head which is unfortunate. In Sy-Klone’s case I will absolutely swap out the old head for this new one and he may actually work his way to the front of the shelf as a result.
I never owned the vintage Roboto which was disappointing because I always thought it was a neat figure with it’s see-thru chest and working gears. I did get the 200X version though and it was even better than the original. It still had the chest and gears gimmick but the overall design had been bulked up and pimped out. I love my 200X Roboto. The Classics version was released in 2010, before I had committed to collecting the line, so I didn’t buy it. I regret that decision now because I became a big fan of the line soon afterwards and have tried to collect them all and yet Roboto still eludes me. For that reason this 200X-style Roboto head isn’t much good to me because I don’t have a body to put it on. I will get that figure eventually though and I will definitely put this head on it. The original Roboto looked more like a knight where as this one is very much science-fiction. I love the sloped visor and the articulated jaw. It’s such a great looking head that maybe I’ll pop it onto someone else untilI track down a Roboto.
Like Clawful, Grizzlor isn’t a character I needed updated. I’m fine with his Classics head and the vintage figure that inspired it. I liked the 200X redesign as well but the only major change was the addition of a yellow ring around his face. I’m not sure what purpose it was supposed to serve, maybe just to keep his hair out of his face, but it looked cool regardless. It reminds me of the headgear boxers wear when training or that odd headpiece Shatterstar from X-Force wears. The actual face on the new head is smaller and there are fewer sculpted details in the face; he’s not as wrinkly. I find its more ape-like than the original. I might’ve considered swapping out the old head for the new one but unfortunately the rooted hair on the new head doesn’t quite match the hair on the body so I think I’ll stick with the original.
Lastly is Snout Spout, the crown jewel of this collection. Like Sy-Klone, the original Snout Spout was a dork. He had a big round robot elephant head sitting atop a man’s body and he looked ridiculous. I never owned it but my little brother Brian did oddly enough. it may have been the only He-Man figure he owned. Snout Spout never appeared in the 200X cartoon and he never got a 200X figure but he did get a statue and it was amazeballs.
The 200X redesign cranked Snout Spout up from a 3 to an 11. He was still a dude with a robotic elephant head but the proportions were way better and the design was much sleeker and meaner looking. I loved that statue and I was totally bummed that I never managed to get one (They were very tough to find in my area). Well I’m bummed no longer because Mattel has given me this awesome new 200X-inspired Snout Spout head. This thing is a beast. The original head looks like Babar while this new head looks like Darth Vader with a trunk (not exactly, I’m just saying it’s hella cool). I wish the nose were articulated but other than that this thing is perfect.
The Heads of Eternia set is a great add-on and I’m glad I subscribed in order to get it. I may only swap out 2 or 3 of the heads but those heads do wonders for those 2 or 3 figures. It’s unfortunate that the Classics bodies don’t really mesh well with the 200X heads in general but I’m happy to see Mattel acknowledge this brief but excellent era of MOTU. I hope to see another one of these sets in the future, a 200X Leech would be insane. 8 out of 10.
The Masters of the Universe Classics toy line is slated to wrap up by the end of the year. I’ll be sad to see it go because it provided me with so many great figures over the past seven years but at the same time it’ll be nice to have one less expense each month. Also on the plus side is that the toy line came to a natural end. It really sucks when something you love, whether its a TV show, a movie series, a comic book, or a toy line, gets cancelled before it’s run its course. A prime example would be the 2002 Masters of the Universe reboot. Both the cartoon and toy line got cancelled abruptly so story lines went unresolved and figures of key characters never got made (including Sssqueeze). When the MOTU Classics line first started in 2008 the goal was to produce updated versions of all the vintage figures. I never thought they’d get there but by the end of 2015 all of the vintage MOTU characters will be accounted for along with the majority of the Princess of Power characters and a healthy dose of New Adventures characters too. On top of that we also got Classics figures based on the old cartoon, the 2002 cartoon, the comics, concept art, and completely original characters. I think Classics will go down in history as one of the best toy lines of all time. It’s a shame so few kids know about it.
One of the reasons that this collector aimed line has survived as long as it has is due to the clever reuse of parts. Many of the figures share torsos and limbs which reduces tooling costs. This recycling of parts is likely the main reason why some of the most oddly shaped vintage toys were not tackled sooner; they cost too much to produce. But in an effort to achieve their original goal of getting all the vintage toys remade by years end Mattel has pulled out all the stops for these final months. Case in point, this past June they give us Multi-Bot, the six-legged two-headed android who is 100% brand new parts AND the Snake Man with the constrictor arms: Sssqueeze.
The first three Snake Men were added to the MOTU mythology in 1986, four years into the vintage toy line, as a new faction of villains. They were King Hiss, Rattlor, and Tongue Lasher. Two more followed in 1987; Snake Face and Sssqueeze. The only vintage Snake Man I owned as a kid was King Hiss but I would’ve loved to have all of them. Tongue Lasher and Sssqueeze were especially desirable because of their cool play features. Tongue Lasher had a long tongue that flicked in and out and Sssqueeze had long wiry snake arms. The snake arms were slightly ridiculous looking but very unique even in a line as diverse as MOTU.
Tooling costs aside, I’d bet figuring out to to make those snake arms work on a Classics figure deterred Mattel from updating Sssqueeze sooner. Almost none of the play features from the vintage toy line were carried over into the Classics figures. Instead, features were approximated with additional parts. For example: Instead of Mekaneck’s neck actually extending when you twisted his waist like it did on the vintage toy, an extra neck piece was added to the Classics figure to replicate the elongated neck, and instead of Mantenna’s eyes bugging out with the push of a button like they did on the vintage toy, swappable protruding eyes were included with the Classics version. So you couldn’t help but wonder how Mattel would apply this method of approximation to Sssqueeze. Would they package him with a second set of arms or arm extending pieces like they did with Extendar?
As it turns out Mattel decided to faithfully replicate the vintage play feature and give the Classics Sssqueeze fully posable wire arms. The constrictor arms look great and are very posable. The fact that Mattel was able to make the feature work so well while maintaining the collector-level sculpting makes me wish that they had tried a little harder to work some of the other play features into Classics figures. Adding pieces to Mekaneck’s neck works okay and it looks good enough for display purposes but those old-school functional play features just made the vintage toys so much fun.
Sssqueeze features quite a few new parts and they all look fantastic. The look is very true to the original figure. His whole body is covered in scales and his armour has some cool little details too. The colours look very nice as well. The almost florescent green skin really pops and I love how it looks against the multi-coloured armour. Mattel could’ve cheaped out on painting the armour and I doubt anyone would have noticed but they didn’t. The grey boots have silver highlights and the orange wrist bands have shimmery metallic highlights.
The head sculpt is excellent but, just as with the original, Sssqueeze looks more like an alligator than a snake. Thats fine with me though as it adds more diversity to the Snake Men. For accessories he came with a twisty purple snake staff just as the original did but I forgot to take any pictures of him with it. I also forgot to include Snake Face in the group shot below. I must’ve been half asleep when taking these pics.
(UPDATE: I wrote this on Wednesday but am just getting it posted on Sunday. Over the weekend it was announced at the San Diego Comic Con that Masters of the Universe Classics will continue on into 2016. They revealed some great looking figures so I guess my wallet will continue to suffer.)
For those of you not in the know, this is how Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics toy line is sold. On the 15th of each month at least one new figure is made available on their website, matty collector.com. The figure remains for sale on the site until it sells out which can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days depending on the figure. Fans tend to scoop up old favorites like Beast Man and Trap Jaw quite quickly but lesser known and new characters like Netossa and Sir Laser Lot may sit around for a while.
To ensure they hit a certain amount of sales each month Mattel offers a subscription service at the start of each year. The benefit to Mattel is that it locks buyers into purchasing all of the figures released that year. The benefits to subscribers is early access to the monthly sales, discounted prices, and subscriber exclusive figures.
I buy the new MOTU Classics figure almost every month so you’d think it would make sense for me to subscribe. However, I never have because I feel Mattel set up the subscription option very poorly in a major way in that they don’t allow for combined shipping.
I live in Canada and our dollar is pretty much always worth less than the American dollar. Presently a $28 MOTU figure costs me $34 Canadian. The shipping for a single figure is at best $15 US which is about $19 CA. Therefore, a single figure purchase costs me $53. PLUS I occasionally get dinged at the boarder for customs fees which can tack as much as $20 more onto a figure’s overall cost. That is why I occasionally do not buy the monthly MOTU figure. Each figure I buy has to be justifiably worth $73 to me otherwise I pass on it. To Mattel’s credit their figures are so good that I buy from them about 10 months out of the year.
Presently, as a non-subscriber, when I buy 2 figures a month, which is often the case, the shipping costs are combined thereby bringing the overall cost per figure down which is great. But, if I were to subscribe I would have to pay the full shipping costs on my obligatory subscription purchase and if I made any additional purchases I would have to pay full shipping on those items as well; even if they shipped out on the same day and from the same location. It costs me extra cash needlessly and that is why I’ve never subscribed.
Having early access to sales and getting minor discounts would be nice but the only time I ever felt royally screwed for not being a subscriber was when Mattel made Two-Bad a subscriber exclusive figure in January 2014. Two-Bad is one of my favorite MOTU characters. I love the original 1985 figure and I love the updated 2002 figure. Two-Bad was one of the characters I was most looking forward to getting in the Classics format and to deny me the chance to purchase him was downright cruel. Shortly after his release BigBadToyStore was selling this figure for $80 plus shipping and I considered buying it many times. I never did though because paying $80 for a figure I feel I should have been able to purchase from Mattel for under $30 really pissed me off.
Well it took a year and a half but Mattel finally gave me the opportunity to purchase Two-Bad for $27 last month and now I have him in my collection. It did require me to subscribe…sort-of…but I’ve rambled on long enough in this post so I won’t get into that.
According to the origin story on Two-Bad’s packaging, which is inspired by an episode of the 200X cartoon, Two-Bad was once two separate guys; bounty hunters named Tuvar and Baddrah. After they failed to complete a mission assigned to them by Skeletor he punished them by merging them via an irreversible spell. When the halves work together Two-Bad is a brilliant strategist but unfortunately they’re usually fighting amongst themselves and strategies are few and far between.
I gotta say, that was a real dick move even for Skeletor. All of his evil warriors have horrible track records and yet none of the other guys are forced to share abdomens. Poor bastards.
As much as I love the previous two incarnations this is definitely the best Two-Bad yet. It’s an excellent homage to the 1985 figure. The only element retained from the 2002 redesign is his weapon, a double mace. The mace is pretty cool though it would be better is it was articulated like the 2002 version. He also comes with a vintage style shield which looks fine but it doesn’t attach to his arm very well.
The sculpt on this figure is really nice. The left side (the Tuvar side) is a mix of new and re-used pieces but the right side (the Baddrah side) is entirely new. Baddrah is covered in scales and it has lots of boney protrusions. The realistic sculpting on his leather boot and glove is very impressive too. Tuvar’s skin is smooth and lacking in detail but his new medieval looking boot and gauntlet pieces compensate for that. The torso is wider than that of most MOTU figures for obvious reasons but it doesn’t look overly so. That unique design element was pulled off with much more finesse here than it was on the awkwardly shaped original. Lastly, the head sculpts are both awesome. Each face has a neutral expression which seems to say these guys mean business. They don’t have any of the goofiness that was present in the original toy and the animated look.
The paint work is also very well done. The skin tones are nice and crisp and most of the accessories have subtle two-toned paint jobs. The metallic orange paint used on his chest armour flair is especially cool looking. I’m very happy to finally have this figure in my collection. 10 out of 10.