Wednesday, February 1, 2023

My Top 10 Toylines of 2022


   It's February and that means it's time for my annual awards lists here at Action Figure Barbecue! 

   I feel like I say that every year is an interesting one for action figures, but it kind of feels like the truth. There's always some fascinating, unusual stuff that happens. So, what happened in 2022? As the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions largely waned, at least here in the United States, product releases seem to have returned more to normal. The toy product on shelves largely matched up with media releases, many conventions were back to being in-person, and retail shelves went back to their regular ebb and flow of feast or famine when it comes to finding new stuff on shelves. Inflation was a big factor last year with most companies raising prices, some more than others. While I know many smaller companies had to raise prices, Hasbro seemed to draw the most attention for some truly bizarre price increases, many of which seemed to be largely arbitrary. Their switch to plastic free packaging on most releases was also a point of contention with many collectors. 

   While toys are still available at retail (this year 8 of my top 10 lines had a retail presence), we're seeing more companies, even the larger ones, having a dedicated online presence. Previously it seemed like some of the larger companies didn't want to upset their retail partners, so online offerings directly from the company were more limited but now you can find most everything direct from the manufacturer. Preorders are also becoming more and more prominent with many scattered releases being favored over traditional "series" or "waves" of figures. While we still toys based on current media, we're seeing lots of 1990s nostalgia lines now. TMNT and Power Rangers are always huge, but even smaller 1990s properties like Gargoyles and Barnyard Commandos are getting a shake.

   While Hasbro still seems to be the 800 pound gorilla in the retail toy aisle, Mattel still had a significant presence at retail in 2022 as did McFarlane Toys, Jakks, Spin Masters, Jada Toys, Funko, and Jazwares. NECA and the Loyal Subjects also had a nice amount of product at mainstream retail, typically in designated collector focused sections, and Target is even carrying product from Super7 and other smaller companies. Playmates is still being Playmates, selling decades old TMNT figures and returning to Star Trek. While the fourth quarter is always a big deal, Hasbro, Mattel, and I'm sure a few others really shipped out a lot of product, much of which caught collectors (and their wallets) by surprise. It was crazy to see product expected for this coming Spring show up in October, November, and December. Of course, delays are still a thing, especially with companies like Super7 and Mezco who are notoriously slow at getting product to market. 

   When it comes to specialty stuff, many of the smaller, collector focused companies are really rivaling the mainstream companies in terms of output and quality, especially as prices are becoming more comparable. Valaverse, Fresh Monkey Fiction, Lone Coconut, Boss Fight Studios, Four Horsemen Studios, Diamond, Super7, Premium DNA and others, continue to release collector focused product directly to buyers and to smaller retailers. Hasbro, Mattel, and Jada are clearly trying to cash in on these trends with things like Haslab, Hasbro's $50 starting line-up figures (that just went "on sale" for $30) and Mattel offering up a remake of Eternia. Some of have been wildly successful while others haven't. 
   Creating my "Top 10" lists is always one of my favorite things to do at Action Figure Barbecue and I always spend plenty of time pouring over my notes from the previous year to determine which toylines I thought were the coolest and most fun to collect. This is the eleventh year I've created a list (the earliest ones were posted at The Epic Review) and it's always interesting too see how my lists change from year to year, often reflecting my changing interests and collecting trends. 2022's list wasn't as difficult as years past for some reason; I feel like I bought more things, but from fewer lines. I also made fewer "one off" purchases unless it was stuff that really fit in with one of my other collections.  While Masters of the Universe is still my number one collecting focus as a whole, there seemed to be a bit less of it this year. Funko seemed to largely ignore the property in 2022, which was quite odd.  There were definitely a good number of returning lines on this year's list, most of which are 6inch or 7inch scaled, well articulated and durable lines. I've realized that while I love displaying stuff, I still want action figures to feel like toys. You know, something I can pick up and mess around with without any fear of breakage. 

    A number of years back I divided my Top 10 list into two separate categories: My Top 10 Toylines and My Top 10 Individual Releases. I always start with My Top 10 Toylines as it's my standard best of list. These are the 10 toylines (action figures, statues, minifigures, etc.) of the past year that I had the most fun collecting and enjoyed the most. They may not always be the best or the most expansive lines, but they're my favorites for one reason or another. As I reiterate every year, the two key word for this list are "my" and "favorite." My list isn't necessarily based on a toyline's true merits and I really don't go outside of what interests me. Take this as a snapshot of the ten toylines I had the most fun collecting last year. As always, these are listed alphabetically rather than by any order of merit. And now, for My Top 10 Toylines of 2022...

Action Force by Valaverse

   Action Force had a few items ship out at the very end of 2021, but 2022 was the true first year of the line and it was awesome. It's a 1/12th scale military line with excellent articulation, cool, fairly realistic designs (though there is still a bit of sci-fi in there), and impressive accessories. The figures are great and Valaverse's vast array of accessory packs allow you to gear them up in so many different ways. Despite the perceived rivalry with the G.I. Joe: Classified Series, seeming to be present from the the two lines complement each other beautifully. Action Force has many of their own unique characters as well as plenty of troop builders. They're a very collector focused company and really seem to do right by their customers. I've been thrilled with my purchases from them this year and am excited to add them to this list. Hopefully we continue to see lots of new sculpts this year to keep the line fresh and ever expanding. 

DC Multiverse by McFarlane Toys

   I've long talked about my love for Mattel's DC Universe Classics and it's many spinoff lines. There were so many DC Direct line I've enjoyed as well, but so many of those were all over the place scale-wise and stylistically, plus many of them were so prone to breakage. I was hesitant about jumping into a new DC Comics based toyline and I skipped McFarlane's offerings for the couple years of the line. Now, though, they've been interesting me. I started collecting these later in the year, often picking up certain older releases alongside new ones (I haven't reviewed many yet) and, let me say, I'm impressed. I'm impressed by the price, the quality, the unique sculpts, and now the character selection. It's still very Batman heavy, but we're starting to see more mainstream comic versions of Batman's allies and villains as well as more supernatural based characters, which I love. I'm really hoping that McFarlane Toys improves some of the wonky design decisions like the "diaper" crotches, puts out more women (I want a comic styled Harley Quinn, Batwoman, Zatanna, Power Girl, and Poison Ivy), and starts doing more swappable portraits and fewer "unmasked" variants. Some folks will scoff, but I kind of like the side eyes on the portraits, though...😜

Final Faction also made the list in 2021.
Final Faction by Greenbrier International

   While the second half of 2022 was filled with repaints, the first half of 2022 had some amazing releases for Final Faction, the 1/18th scaled Dollar Tree exclusive toyline featuring humans fighting alien invaders. Oh, and the figures are priced at $1.25. With vehicles, accessory packs, drone guns, and all kinds of figures priced at $1.25, Final Faction offered a lot of bang for your buck. Whether you liked the cool designs reminiscent of the toys of yesteryear, used them as a base for your own customs, or just enjoyed that they were affordable toys, this is a fairly neat line. While the Venom and Elite variants are simple paint variants and the future of the line is unclear, Greenbrier International put out some super fun toys this year that were super affordable. 

This line also made the list in 2020 and 2021.
G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro

   While I don't rank this list, I think it's clear from most of my reviews that the G.I. Joe: Classified Series is my favorite ongoing toyline. I absolutely adore it. I've had G.I. Joes for about as long as I can remember and these modern updates do them proud. The accessories continue to be great and the character roster keeps growing nicely. Exclusives seemed easier to find this year, too, which was nice. The Classified Series was certainly hit by Hasbro's price increases, but the accessories in this line definitely help make the increases feel more justified than on so many other lines. I will admit, though, that I'm a little bit alarmed at the trend of the design of the figures starting to be more straight up updating the vintage A Real American Hero designs into 1/12th scale rather than offering something really unique. Dusty and Bazooka weren't bad figures, but they definitely felt like characters who could have been modernized a bit. I liked some of the creative upgrades earlier in the line and I'd like to see them on more figures in the future. When Tripwire comes out, I'd love for him to really look more like a Modern EOD than a retread of his vintage figure. Spirit, Stalker, Outback, Zarana, and the Alley Viper were figures this year who really felt like solid "Classified Series" upgrades. 

ML made the list in 2014, 2016-2018, and 2021.
Marvel Legends Series by Hasbro

   Like every year for at least a decade, Hasbro released a ton of Marvel Legends figures. Seriously, it felt like new stuff was coming out every week, and much of it delivered. Hasbro continues to make a fun, colorful, and diverse roster of Marvel figures drawing from comics, cartoon, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, video games, and even a 1978 Japanese television show. Marvel Legends celebrated it's 20th anniversary this year, and there's really no other line quite like it. Unfortunately, Marvel Legends feels like it was really hit by Hasbro's price increases. Rather than feeling like you were getting a bit of a deal, or at least breaking even, multipacks felt like they were priced higher for unexplained reasons. So did the 20th Anniversary Marvel Legends figures. Much of my collection was assembled from various sales and clearance finds as retail price seemed too high for some of the figures. The change to the plastic free packaging also made these seem less appealing on store pegs due to the line's long history of people swapping figures and stealing BAF parts. Rather than attractive packaging like the G.I. Joe: Classified Series, the Marvel Legends figure just get renders on the front, which seems a bit lackluster. I enjoyed collecting the line and scored some real favorites this past year though (Mojo, classic Zemo, Rhino, Bonebreaker) and my Marvel Legends collection continues to look better and better, so I'm still excited for some of the future releases. I'm just being more selective, like so many other collectors seem to be.

MOTU Origins also made the list in 2021
Masters of the Universe Origins by Mattel

   2022 was another great year filled with cool stuff. Not only did we get more Heroic Warriors and Evil Warriors but we received the Snake Men, some never before made characters like Kol-Darr, a few more vehicles, and characters from Sun-Man, which was really an out of left field choice that turned out quite well. With a crowdfunded Eternia on the way, are bigger and better things still yet to come for MOTU Origins? I hope so, but this line was really difficult to come by at times. Even using online shopping, I've still not been able to acquire King Randor and the standard Kobra Khan, and store shelves seem to be filled with figures from last year. The line keeps trucking along but why aren't there new releases on store shelves? Mattel continues to strongly support the line through Mattel Creations, so maybe they'll be instrumental in the line's long term health? We know some big things have been announced and seem to be on the horizon (Moss Man, Snake Mountain) and there are many rumored release, so it seems likely Origins will continue to bring vintage fun to the modern collector in 2023. 

Masterverse also made the list in 2021
Masterverse by Mattel

   Masterverse's second year continues to improve and expand the line with more areas covered (Revelation, New Eternia, Vintage, Princess of Power, CGI He-Man, Sun-Man, and New Adventures) and a great mix of classic and new concepts. While I'm especially thrilled that Revelation is still getting support and Princess of Power is indeed an area of focus, I love the New Eternia concepts best of all. This was a strong line all through 2022 and while it was sometimes tough to find things on retail shelves (though exclusives were surprisingly well stocked), the availability of these through e-tailers and online sales was quite good. If Mattel just keeps on doing what they're doing, offering up small improvements along the way, I'll continue to eagerly anticipate each new release. A recent rumor list seems to show some great stuff coming, so here's to more Masterverse in 2023 and beyond. 

Naughty or Nice Collection by Fresh Monkey Fiction

   The Santa Claus and Christmas themed Naughty or Nice Collection was a Christmas surprise that turned out to be well worth the wait. Composed of elves, nutcrackers, and multiple different versions of Santa, this really seems like a line with something for everyone. I didn't go all in, picking up only three of the stranger figures in the line, but I love what I bought. Whether you're looking for cute and traditional figures for a holiday display, terrifying figures for your horror shelf, or bizarre variants to team up with superheroes, the line does have multiple nice variants. There's a lot of reuse here, but since I only picked up three figures it didn't bother me much. The quality is fantastic on these, as are the accessories. They're a lot of fun. 2023's series 2 looks to have some more unique figures on the way, so maybe that will help keep the line fresh. This line could be a seasonal treat to look forward to whether you're naughty or nice. 

Spawn also made the list in 2021
Spawn by McFarlane Toys

   Another line from the Toddfather! This time it's the Spawn revival line, which also made it to my list last year. I certainly pick up every figure released but I did grab what I thought was cool and some characters that appealed to me since I've started reading the newer Spawn trades. With a mixture of newer characters and reimagined versions of characters I remember from when I was a kid (Overtkill, Sam & Twitch, Cy-Gor), it's a fun line that's both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. There are also Spawn figures from the Mortal Kombat which offer up many cool Spawn variants, so I'm counting those too (like Commando Spawn).  I'm also a big fan of the weapons pack that McFarlane Toys put out. It's more weapons for the Spawn crew and also fits the DC Multiverse figures quite well. Sometimes the line still has weird design decisions (no cape for Spawn with the throne, Cy-God's weird waist) and there are some flops (Manga Spawn looked pretty dull) but the hits in this line definitely impressed me. 

TBS has made the list every year since 2013
Star Wars: The Black Series by Hasbro

   First congratulations to Hasbro and Star Wars: The Black Series! The line has been on my list for ten years straight. This will be a day long remembered! It's pretty amazing to look and see how expansive the line has become over the past decade. What originally started as a "Greatest Hits" line of sorts has really grown into an impressive and expansive toyline, even keeping up with new media. Surprisingly, this year Hasbro did manage to release some figures fairly close to the premiers of Kenobi and Andor. There were some figures I really liked this year including Boba Fett (Tython), Figrin D'an, Fennec Shand, Saw Gerrera, comic Princess Leia, the Death Watch Mandalorian, and the various Obi-Wan Kenobi variants from the show. Those really impressive figures were definitely enough to get the line on this list, but I have to say there were many disappointments this year. Some figures were clearly kitbashed with little thought, a practice that left Ponda Baba looking like a shrimp. The line was also filled with repaints galore, oddly selected Archive series figures, and overpriced exclusives and deluxe releases. It's been a few years since I was a completest on this line but this year I felt I was really only skimming the cream off the top. There might be a lot of undesirable and boring stuff out there right now but when these figures are good, they're very good.

Well, that's my Top 10 lines of 2022. What do you think? What were your favorite lines of last year? Some of the trends I've noticed with my picks are ones that I noticed in 2021 and that carried over into 2022: I really favored Masters of the Universe stuff (obviously) and I really favored action figure lines that I can actually pick up and mess around with over stuff that was more "pose, display, and look at." Even more this year, I ignored what I'll call premium lines as the value for the money just seems to be better with the more low end offerings (though some of those have gone up). Remember that I'll soon be releasing more best of lists: My top 10 favorite individual releases that weren't part of these toylines and my annual Missing in Action report.

And, as always, here are some fun facts:

# of lines that have appeared on this list multiple years: 7

# of lines returning from last year: 7

# of lines from Fresh Monkey Fiction: 1

# of lines from Jazwares: 0

# of lines from Greenbrier International: 1

# of lines from Mattel: 2 

# of lines from Hasbro: 3

# of lines from McFarlane Toys: 2

# of lines from Valaverse: 1

#of lines from Funko: 0

# of lines featuring He-Man: 2

# of lines based on or featuring figures from films released in: 2022: 2

# of toylines with figures based on TV shows from 2022: 5

# of toylines featuring figures based video games: 3 

# of toylines that I never saw hide nor hair of at Wal-Mart: 3

# of toylines that I was a completest on and bought everything offered: 0 (I would have with Masterverse and MOTU Origins, though, but there were four figures I haven't found yet from those lines).

# of toylines that were only available through Kickstarter, a small seller online, or an online subscription method: 0

# of toylines in a 1/18th scale or smaller: 1

# of toylines with no articulation: 0

# of toylines with articulated animals: 3

# of toylines with irritating, hard to obtain exclusive figures: 5

# of toylines I collected that were affected by Warner Bros. "no guns on merchandise" ban: 1

# of toylines that are just modern updates of toys I had as a kid: 7


  1. Awesome list. Valaverse is kicking butt, and Fresh Monkey's Naughty or Nice is amazing. Black Series and GI Joe Classified deliver awesome stuff. My wallet hurts every year too. :-P

    1. Yeah, there's a lot of good stuff out there. Valaverse and Fresh Monkey Fiction both really impressed me this year. Valaverse's first year was truly impressive. They released a lot of figures and accessories at good prices. They even got rereleases and improvements out in the same calendar year.

      I know FMF has been around but they did a great job moving into the 1/12th scale with the Naught or Nice line.

  2. I'm happy that Mcfarlane toys' DC Multiverse and Spawn made it to the list, many of their figures are fantastic this year. Hoping you would do a review of Batman Hush and Omega Spawn :D

    1. I'm really liking McFarlane's current releases quite a bit and you'll definitely be seeing more DC Multiverse reviews here. I do plan on picking up the blue Hush Batman when he's released, so I'll most likely review him. I actually just read the trade of Spawn with Omega Spawn in it, so that makes it more likely for me to pick up the figure, though probably not until he's discounted a bit. He doesn't feel large enough to warrant the Megafig status and I've heard about some QC issues with breaking wrists in the earlier batches.

  3. That Renew Your Vows set was really nice. I never reviewed it but I do own it.

    Masterverse definitely has a good year. New Eternia absolutely rocked.


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