Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Top 10 Toylines of 2016


 Every year around the end of January/ beginning of February I start sharing my picks for the toys I enjoyed best from the previous year. The first list I always put out is my10 favorite toylines and this is the fifth year that I've created a list of my top 10 toylines (you can read my 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 lists if you'd like). It's something I always enjoy compiling and sharing in examining my collecting habits over the past year and thinking ahead to the year to come. Keep in mind a few things:

   First, this is a list of my favorite lines, and thus it's even more subjective than the standard "best of" list (which is already quite subjective). If I were doing a "best of 2016" I'd definitely be looking at the merits of lines that I don't even collect. For this list, though, I'm factoring in the fun I had collecting these lines, discussing them, and reviewing them in addition to the merits of the toys themselves.

Second, I've started doing a separate top ten for individual figures from lines that I didn't mention here. Sometimes a single action figure release or a standout figure from a line I'm not overwhelmed by captures my attention and I want to give them some attention.

Third, I try my best to be fair in determining what constitutes a toyline. Sometimes I mix stuff  that I feel is really part of a singular line, such as Mattel's work on the WWE license. Mattel's WWE basic line and WWE Elite line are the same license in the same scale, share parts, and are intended to work together; why separate them?  I wouldn't try to separate Hasbro's various Marvel Legends assortments that have different names, either, although I would separate Hasbro 1/18th scale Star Wars Black figures from the 6 inch scaled Black Series figures.  If the lines are in the same scale and style and from the same property and same company, I'll probably join them together.

Fourth, I list these alphabetically, not by merit. It's just easier that way.

Ready to get started with my top 10 favorite lines of 2016? Then join me after the break...



 1. DC Comics Bishoujo by Kotobukiya


This line also appeared on the list in 2012 and 2015
   I've been in love with Kotobukiya's DC Comics Bishoujo line for quite a few years now and it's consistently held some place in my various top 10 lists. I have a weakness for the women of DC Comics and 2016 was a great year as there were a few releases in the line, all of which were exceptional. The sculpting and paintwork on these statues is always just incredible and the vivid colors and smooth sculpting manage to look better than statues that cost 2, 3, and even 4 times as much as these. I also like how Kotobukiya has been experimenting with giving the statues more unique options for display. While Raven didn't have any of those features, I love the ability to interchange parts on both of the New 52 Harley Quinn figures. The only downside to this line is that Kotobukiya has definitely been scaling back on the intricacy of the display bases lately. While in year's past figures like Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, Huntress, and Batgirl had elaborate, diorama-like elements on their bases for the statues to interact with, now we're getting much simpler bases. Still, the statues themselves are incredible and I hope we continue to get a good character selection in 2017. There are still many cool DC females to add into this line such as Mera, Hawkgirl, Katana, Vixen, and new versions of Batgirl and Catwoman wouldn't hurt, either.




2. DC Comics Designer Series by DC Collectibles

This line also made the list in 2014.
   The second DC Comics based line on my list is the DC Comics Designer Series. Over the past year DC Collectibles has expanded the line from just featuring the work of Greg Capullo to include figures based on the styles of the late Darwyn Cooke, Jae Lee, and Lee Bermejo. While the figures offered do have a fairly limited character selection (lots of Batmans, Catwomans, Wonder Womans, etc.) it really is nice to see DC Collectibles return to doing some artist specific figures. I'm enjoying DC Comics Icons, and I think that will ultimately be a stronger line, but the character selection this year didn't appeal to me as much as I hoped for. While more limited, I just really like what the Designer Series offered. Considering that next year this line continues to expand with figures based on the artwork of Amanda Connor and Ant Lucia, I think it has a very bright future.



3. DC Comics Lil' Bombshells by Cryptozoic Entertainment

   I'm a huge fan of the DC Bombshells aesthetic and this line takes those designs (and even some concept designs) and shrinks them down to minifigure size. Of course, these are far more deluxe than your standard minifigure, though; the sculpting and paintwork is just exceptional. I'd never heard of Cryptozoic before this line but they did an excellent job with the property. My only problem is that they are selling these "blind boxed" in metal canisters. Now the canisters are gorgeous and I've incorporated them into my display, but who wants to pay $10 bucks for a blind-bagged item? Fortunately I snagged my set from folks reselling them or when I'd find containers people has already opened in stores, so I managed to get all the basic figures with no duplicates. The second series also looks incredible and should be hitting later this year! This time I have a full case preordered to cut out the searching aspect so I can get a full set.

  

 

4. DC Comics Multiverse by Mattel

   It's time for the fourth, and final, DC Comics line on my list! Here's another one where I'll issue the disclaimer that these are my favorite lines to collect and not necessarily the ones I find to somewhat objectively be "the best." I was a huge fan of Mattel's DC Universe Classics, though mostly as a collector of Batman and Jack Kirby related characters. Mattel has put out some good DC figures over the past decade, but the shift to a 1/18th scale "Multiverse" line a couple of years back seemed awkward and unwarranted. It's nice to see Mattel return offering a fairly diverse array of 6 inch figures.

   While the sculpts and paint can be very hit or miss, the selection has been pretty strong. This year we've seen two series of regular releases, a BvS series, a Suicide Squad series, and a small Dark Knight Returns subset. It's actually been pretty cool that Mattel gets their movie figures out before the actual movies come out to build some excitement, especially considering most other lines like MAFEX, One:12 Collective, and DC Collectibles' offerings seem to take 6 to 9 months (or more) after a film's release to hit the market. The movie and TV figures are designed to fit in with the slightly smaller "Movie Masters" scale Mattel started back during the release of The Dark Knight while the comic inspired series is mostly built to fit in with the DCUC figures. Mattel has already teased some incredible offerings for next year, so let's hope that's just the tip of the iceberg. It seems like they're wanting to expand their character diversity which would be a good thing, as this year was very Batman heavy (I count 8 different Batman figures in the line). Hopefully Mattel also considers distribution issues, as some figures were much harder to find than others (although exclusives were generally pretty easy to track down). I'd love to see this line continue as a worthwhile spiritual successor to DCUC.



5. Marvel Legends Series by Hasbro

This line also made the list in 2014.
   Hasbro hits this list for the first time this year with Marvel Legends. As someone who doesn't even really consider myself a Marvel collector, I gotta admit I bought a lot of Marvel Legends this year. Since relaunching these as the Infinite Series a few years back, Hasbro has been on a role. Their character selection is incredible, their build-a-figures are impressive, they've jam-packed these heroes and villains with some excellent accessories, and pretty much every figure is just so darn impressive to look at. With quite possibly the best standard articulation model as mass-market, Hasbro has a real winner here. They also put out a ton of figures, which I'm sure makes this a hard line for completests to keep up with. It also is a line that tends to produce a lot of pegwarmers, sometimes clogging shelves and keeping the frequent new releases from arriving. Not only are there quite a few figures I never saw at retail this year, there are quite a few I was never able to obtain (I'm looking at you, Deadpool).  if they can improve their case assortments a bit, Marvel Legends could easily continue to dominate the toy aisles in 2017, too.



6. M.U.S.C.L.E. by Super7

 I have always loved M.U.S.C.L.E. and I'm thrilled as anything that Super7 has officially brought it back. What started last year with M.O.T.U.S.C.L.E., a line paying homage to M.U.S.C.L.E. and Masters of the Universe, is now officially dubbed just M.U.S.C.L.E. There haven't been that many releases this year; Masters of the Universe series 2, Alien, and a re-release of last year's Masters of the Universe figures in new colorways, but the figures themselves and the presentation have been incredible. I'm not quite sold on the overly cartoonish human likenesses in the line, but I will admit it is growing on me. With the just released Street Fighter II M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, here's hoping this line has a long, strong revival. It's not quite the same as the vintage line, but the magic is still there. Fun Fact: I now store my vintage M.U.S.C.L.E. figures in a replica Money in the Bank briefcase.



7. Nightmare Before Christmas ReAction by Funko

ReAction as a whole made the list in 2014.
 As a kid, I felt like I was the only person who liked The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's amazing to me now that the film continues to be a bona fide classic and a merchandising juggernaut. While NECA's mid 2000's toyline is still the best NBX toyline out there, series 2 of Funko's Nightmare Before Christmas ReAction line absolutely wowed me. They are incredible! These really don't look or feel like vintage figures: They just seem like really good (if somewhat less articulated) action figures. Figures like the Wolfman  and the Clown with the Tearaway Face are just amazing! This line only had 6 releases this year, but they were all superb. Now that Funko is turning over the ReAction brand over to Super7, I actually have even higher expectations for this line. I'm liking the way Super7 operates and I hope they continue this line and do it justice! Give me two or three more series of figures and I'll be ready to pass NECA's pumpkin themed crown to Super7. 



8.  POP! Star Wars by Funko

  I've said for far too long that I don't collect POP! vinyls; they just somehow just keep showing up at my house. I'm now just going to claim that I collect POP! vinyls. I'm by no means a completest on this line (and I'm not sure anyone could be) but I'm a sucker for so many of their Star Wars releases. Funko has excellent character selection skills for the Star Wars POP! range and I'm always thrilled to see what they put out. They're pretty good at releasing stuff from a variety of eras, too (although their prequel and Clone Wars releases are lagging). I'm a subscriber to Smuggler's Bounty and it's the first subscription box that I've been nothing but thrilled with due to the excellent POP! vinyls released in it every other month. Of course, that also represents a problem with this line: Too many exclusives! It seems like every store, every blind boxed crate, and every comic convention gets their own exclusive Star Wars POP! vinyls. 




9. Star Wars: The Black Series Phase III by Hasbro

This line has made the list in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
   It's an incredible time to be a Star Wars fan. We're getting new films, both of which I've loved, a pretty solid offering of canonical books and comics (Marvel's new comics have just been incredible, by the way), and Star Wars Rebels (quite possibly one of my favorite Star Wars things ever). What has been a sore spot with many Star Wars fans, though is Hasbro's efforts in their traditional 1/18th scale line. With diminished articulation, odd, non-film accessories, and some weak paint applications, many classic 1/18th scale collectors feel Hasbro has left them behind. While I've been collecting 1/18th scale Star Wars figures off and on since the POTF2 era, I have to admit that I'm in love with Hasbro's 6 inch Star Wars: The Black Series.  As someone who spends more time displaying and photographing my figures now, the size and presentation of this line really appeals to me (although I still will freely admit that nothing compares to the Vintage Collection from a few years; it's likely to never be surpassed). Hasbro is putting out some truly amazing action figures, most of which are 100% completely original sculpts. I was a completest on this line this year and I really appreciate the diverse eras and properties we've seen releases from: The Prequels, the Original Trilogy, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, the Expanded Universe, and Rebels have all received some love this year.

    Of course, the line isn't without some problems that Hasbro needs to address. There are definitely some odd gaps, such as not receiving Bodhi Rook, Grand Moff Tarkin, or Saw Gerrera as part of the Rogue One offerings, no Maz Kanata, Luke, or Leia, as part of the TFA offerings, and being 3 1/2 years into the line with still not one Padme figure. There are also some really difficult to find con exclusives (although 2016 was better than previous years) and a weird dry period of new releases that seemed to stretch from March or April to September. The biggest problem with this line, though, is that the distribution is ridiculous. You'll have one series that floods shelves while another series seems to never even make it into mainstream retail. Also, Hasbro is putting a lot of repacks in this line. Do you like Jyn Erso and Rey? That's great, I do too! I love me some Jyn Erso and Rey. If Hasbro made a whole line of nothing but Jyn and Rey in their various outfits, I'd still by them. Instead, Hasbro keeps releasing the same darn figures over and over (and over) again. If you look at the problems with this line dating back to the third series of the Phase I releases (late 2013) you can see that most carry over figures have caused problems. Hasbro has a case coming out soon that includes two new figures (Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus) along with four carry over figures (Krennic, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, and a Deathtrooper). Maybe one or two would be OK, but what loyal collector is going to pre-order an entire case of these when half of the figures can easily be purchased at a discount on Amazon? Fix this, Hasbro! Now that you're having to compete with other companies like Medicom's MAFEX and Bandai's S.H. Figuarts, you need to bring the A-game. This is an incredible line and it needs to be treated as such.    




10. World of Nintendo by Jakks Pacific

This line made the list in 2015.
   Objectively, I know that there are far better toylines out there than World of Nintendo. These, however, are the lines that appeal to me and that I had a blast collecting Jakks Pacific's World of Nintendo. I've said numerous times that as someone who received an NES for Christmas of 1986, and then proceeded to have a SNES, N64, GameCube, a Wii, and nearly every iteration of the GameBoy and Nintendo DS, most of Nintendo's characters are near and dear to my heart. I always wanted Super Mario Bros. toys as a kid but the closest I ever got were some McDonald's toys and the rather blah action figures from the live-action movie. Jakks has filled a gap in my life and they continue to put out some fun toys. And, let's be honest, these are definitely toys. They don't pretend to be collector's items. They're fun and colorful with a good character selection (can you believe we finished the original StarFox team this year?) but they're definitely on the lower end of the collectibles totem pole. Some figures have really odd articulation (or hardly any articulation at all). Still, I love them and look forward to most new releases.


   Of course, since Nintendo characters often have unusual body shapes, many of these figures are 100% unique sculpts. To make up for this, there are a lot of repaints in this line. I'm usually OK with that but sometimes it becomes a bit tiring and it seems that we might see even more straight repaints going forward. The price increase on this line hasn't helped things, either. The distribution has also been really wonky and Jakks hasn't been very good at offering case assortments to e-tailers, so you're going to have to hunt for these. Still, just the fact that we have a fairly diverse array of Nintendo figures arriving on store shelves at mass market is a pretty good thing. The number of retailers carrying these and getting exclusives seems to be growing, so hopefully that means the future is bright for World of Nintendo. I know I have a whole list of figures I still want to see in this line.



So, what do you think? What were your favorite toylines of 2016? Leave a comment and let me know. Now, here are some facts and figures I like to track every year, just for fun:

# of lines that have appeared on this list multiple years: 5 (6 if you count Nightmare Before Christmas ReAction since ReAction was counted as single entity on 2014's list)

# of lines from NECA: 0

# of lines from Mattel: 1

# of lines from Hasbro: 2

# of lines from Funko: 2

# of lines in which Batman appeared: 2

# of lines in which Harley Quinn appeared: 4

# of lines based on films from 2015: 4 (Both Star Wars lines had characters from Rogue One, DC Multiverse had figures from BvS and Suicide Squad, and Marvel Legends had figures from Civil War and Dr. Strange).

# of toylines that I never saw hide nor hair of at Wal-Mart: 4. This is down from last year. Wal-Mart now carries some interesting things such as World of Nintendo and World of Nintendo.

# of toylines based on R- rated films/M-Rated games, etc.: 1 M.U.S.C.L.E. has the Alien subset.

# of toylines that I was a completest on and bought everything offered: 2- For Star Wars the Black Series I picked up every unique release and I bought all 6 of Funko's Nightmare Before Christmas ReAction figures.

# of toylines that were available through Kickstarter or an online subscription method: 0- This one has plummeted. The subscription method seems to have largely fallen out of favor while the Kickstarter lines have just become too massive for me to keep up with! I wanted to support Dime Novel Legends but the buy in was just way too high.

# of toylines in a 1/18th scale or smaller: 4 (M.U.S.C.L.E., Nightmare Before Christmas ReAction, POP! Star Wars, and Lil' Bombshells)

# of toylines with no articulation: 3 (DC Comics Bishoujo, Lil' Bombshells, and M.U.S.C.L.E.

4 comments:

  1. Nice picks. I'm still on the hunt for a "World of Nintendo" Samus figure!

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    Replies
    1. Which one? I'll keep my eyes ope for you.

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  2. Great list, as always BBQ17 you do the lord's work here my friend!

    ReplyDelete

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