Usually merchandise like this drives me crazy. It seems like you can walk into a store and find, say, Darth Vader as a car, Darth Vader as a Potato Head, and a plush Darth Vader, but no actual Darth Vader action figure. You could probably say the same for any other popular character: Spider-Man as a squishable bendy, Captain Marvel as a bobble-head, Black Panther as a robot. You can find toys of your favorite characters but often not a true action figure. With Masters of the Universe, though, I love the crazy stuff and that's why I love this outlandishly awesome Battle Cat as a monster truck. This is inexpensive, durable, and just crazy cool. MOTU is a weird property and stuff like this just seems to work better than, say, Jabba the Hutt on a dirt bike.
The Four Horsemen have a long history with the Masters of the Universe brand and their own homegrown line, Mythic Legions, regularly pays tribute to classic MOTU characters. There were some great releases in 2021 but Bryophytus was by far my favorite. Not only is this lichen orc a great tribute to Moss Man, my favorite MOTU character, but he might be the best Moss Man figure ever made. I love the MOTU Classics version dearly but the more realistic moss on this guy is incredible and the alternate headsculpt is perfect. This is an amazing figure from some of the greatest toy-smiths of our age.
Franken Berry from General Mills by Jada Toys
Jada Toys kind of came out of nowhere this year and started offering some pretty solid collector targeted action figures. I didn't pick up their Universal Monsters line but I did snag both of the General Mills cereal monsters figures and I really hope they finish the entire team of five. Packaged in cool window boxes that look like the classic cereal boxes, this line just has a ton of character. Franken Berry was my favorite of the two due to his bright colors and his two fantastic portraits. The distribution on these was really weird and I bet some folks didn't even know they existed. Hopefully we'll see more action figures from Jada Toys in the near future. I need a Fruit Brute!
I'm a huge Stephen King fan and I think I've enjoyed every version of The Shining, one of King's many classic novels. The original novel, the TV movie from 1997, Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation and even the sequel Doctor Sleep; they're all excellent. I was really surprised by getting the Grady Twins from the Kubrick film in Toony Terrors. Largely being a creation of the film, the Grady Twins are one of the most iconic images in horror cinema and having them in this unique animated style is pretty amazing. It doesn't make them any less creepy, either. Toony Terrors have a little articulation but not much; really just enough to strike a pose and tweak it a little bit. Toony Terrors narrowly missed making the best of 2021 list as they did put out a few character I really liked (Elvira and Sam, most notably), but ultimately the Grady Twins nabbed a spot on this list.
I really like Tweeterhead and I was thrilled when they picked up the 1/5th scale MOTU statue line from Sideshow. These reimagined takes on some of the greatest heroes and villains of Eternia and Etheria have been fantastic and Tweeterhead's first release, Hordak, fits in perfectly with the earlier Sideshow statues. This is such a fearsome depiction of Hordak and the Tweeterhead exclusive gives you some nice flexibility to display your ideal Hordak. I don't think I bought many statues this year (this might have been the only one) but it stood out to me and was well worth the purchase.
I love The Worst and Killer Bat is an excellent addition to the line. Technically part of series 3 (Super7 only revealed and released two of the six figures from series 3 this year), this "Baseball Shogun of Death" is incredible. This is without a doubt the best series of retro styled action figures out there due to the strength of the designs and the sculpts. Killer Bat's bizarre mashup of a samurai and a baseball player is pretty darn unique and a sword hidden inside of a baseball bat is a pretty cool accessory. I didn't grab many retro styled action figures this year but The Worst were certainly the best of those I did pick up. I'm even more excited for the Ultimate versions of The Worst which should come out this year. Those look amazing!
There didn't seem to be as many Mega Construx releases for MOTU in 2021 as there were in 2019 and 2020 but many of the minifigures were really well done, particularly the single packed Man-E-Faces. These are some of the most well articulated little minis on the market and they're always so much fun to play around with. Man-E-Faces' working action feature was excellent and definitely helped him to stand out in this line.
While I think some Kickstarter backers may have gotten their figures in very late 2021, Valaverse's Action Force line didn't go on sale through their website and other e-tailers until 2022, so I'm counting it as a 2022 line. There was one thing they actually did release in 2021 that caught my eye, however, and that was the Prototype Armaments set of weapons. For $30 bucks this was a great way to add 21 high quality, 1:12 scale weapons to your collection. While they're obviously intended for the Action Force toyline, they also work well with other lines like the G.I.Joe Classified Series, Marvel Legends, and some of your DC figures who are lacking some firepower. The painted weapons from the sets released this year are also excellent, so look for those reviews soon.
Ultimate Macready (Station Survival) from The Thing by NECA
What do you think of my list? What were some of your favorite toys that weren't necessarily part of a larger toyline or from a toyline you don't typically collect. Any "one and dones" from 2021 that stood out to you? Talk about it in the comments below!