Sunday, February 6, 2022

My Top 10 Toylines of 2021


  It's that time of the year again!

    2021 was another interesting year for toys and action figures. While the Covid-19 pandemic continued to effect everything and supply chain issues and inflation were at the forefront of the discussion about almost any topic, there were still plenty of toys and action figures hitting shelves. Timing product was still a bit of an issue as some companies as seemed to have trouble getting out product in the ideal time for entertainment based launches wile other companies ran like clockwork. Popular lines from Hasbro, Mattel, Funko, McFarlane, NECA, Diamond and other companies mostly continued on as usual but there were some exciting changes. I find it interesting and inspiring that we're starting to see more product and action figure lines from companies like Jazwares, Jakks Pacific, Jada Toys, Super7, and other smaller companies showing up at mainstream retail, often with a focus on video game based toys that do appeal to a younger demographic. There were some real surprises at retail this year. While prices jumped on quite a few lines, Dollar Tree's Greenbrier International kept the Final Faction line going for around $1, creating a fun budget line that kids and collectors could go nuts over without breaking the bank. Smaller companies like Boss Fight Studios, Valaverse, and Lone Coconut, among many others, continue to really expand what's available for collectors outside of retail offerings. We're definitely seeing some incredible product marketed directly to collectors. As a diehard Masters of the Universe fan I'm still amazed by how much MOTU product hit retail last year. Of course, there was also the resurgence of Spawn, the toyline that, along with Kenner's Star Wars: The Power of the Force, essentially created modern action figure collecting as a hobby. The 90s are really starting to get the nostalgic focus that the 1980s have gotten for so long.

   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 tenth 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. 2021's list was a little more difficult than last year as there were definitely more lines that caught my attention. Also, with Mattel putting out multiple MOTU lines, I had to really pick and choose. I'll still say that a majority of my collecting focuses on Masters of the Universe and I pick up a wide array of stuff, while with other properties I love I might stick to a single line (The Black Series for Star Wars, Classified Series for G.I.Joe, etc.)  I've realized that besides MOTU stuff I'm far more prone to pick up items that I can really sit around and mess with versus items that just display well. It's not always the case but more often than not that seems to be a theme of my purchases this year. I also jumped back into Marvel Legends, which kind of cycles on and off for me.

    A few years back I divided my Top 10 list into two separate categories: My Top 10 Toylines and My Top 10 Individual Releases. Today I'm starting 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 most enjoyed collecting. 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 really based on a toyline's true merits and I don't typically go outside of what interests me. This is really 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 2021...

Churro & FD-0

Final Faction by Greenbrier International

   Have you ever fallen in love with a low-budget movie or an indie video game that just captured your imagination? Sure, it might not have the same level of "quality" or the budget of a triple A release but it's just so neat and fun and full of good ideas that you just can't help but go nuts over it. That's how I feel about Final Faction. It's a simple humans versus aliens concept but the characters are unique, the bios are fun, the designs are inspired, and the figures retail for $1 exclusively through Dollar Tree/Family Dollar stores. Figures, accessory packs, even a vehicle: All a buck. While the first series of figures showed up at the very end of 2020 and were pretty neat, the 2021 releases were even cooler. Working holsters. A dog riding around in a robotic dog mech. A vehicle in a tiny box. This line is incredibly fun and I'm excited to see how it continues. The team behind it is obviously very passionate and really interacts with the fan community better than most of the larger toy companies. 




G.I. Joe Classified also made the list in 2020!
G.I. Joe Classified Series by Hasbro

   If I have a favorite active action figure line at the moment it's probably Hasbro's G.I. Joe Classified Series. The line sort of came out of nowhere last year and ended up being one of the best of 2020. It continues on for 2021 with a better mix of classic designs and new ideas than the earlier figures in the line. The exclusives were far easier to obtain this year, too, and distribution overall seemed a bit better, though it's weird that Hasbro is still doing such small cases and assortments. If there was anything negative about this line it was the movie based line. The movie just wasn't that popular and most of the figures don't seem to be moving. I liked the two I picked up pretty well (Baroness and Snake Eyes) but it feels like they're flooding the shelves and taking the space of far more interesting figures. 2022 is already a hit with some excellent releases that continues the great work of the design team, however, so things seem to be back on course. These are some of the most well designed and well accessorized action figures on the market and they're more fun than anything else. I ended up quarantined away from home in August with Covid and was stuck in a room for about 10 days with just my G.I.Joe Classified Series figures to keep me company (and, you know, TV and stuff). To be honest, I had a blast....


Halo: The Spartan Collection by Jazwares/ Wicked Cool Toys

   So it appears I have a line on this list that I didn't review any releases from. Weird, huh? I didn't start picking up Halo: The Spartan Collection from Jazwares/ Wicked Cool Toys until November or December but I'm really liking them. The line really is just composed of various Spartans, both named and unnamed, from across the Halo universe, but they're really fun action figures. They're sturdy, well articulated  6.5 inch scaled figures with lots of weapons and some great armor sculpts. They're not perfect but they look great on display and are just so much fun to pose and play around with. I honestly grab an action figure to mess around with before watching TV or a movie or something and these armored up warriors are fun, durable hand candy. The distribution is kind of weird (they're tough to find online for normal prices) but I've found most of what I wanted so far. I'd love to finally see some aliens from the Covenant, the Prometheans, the Banished, or even some non-Spartan humans in the near future but so far it seems like that's not in the cards. Please give us a Cortana, though, Jazwares!



Marvel Legends also made the list in 2014 and 2016-2018
Marvel Legends Series by Hasbro

  2021 was the year my 8-year old went all in on Marvel. After walking in while my wife and I were watching WandaVision she became completely enamored with anything and everything Marvel, especially the MCU. We watched through all of the films together and had a ball. Each weekly installment of a TV show and movie release became a big deal and really made for a fun year. While showing my daughter so many of the figures I already owned, I decided to continue filling in gaps and adding to my collection. Hasbro does a great job and I really loved Legends this year, especially the classic villains they put out like Thanos, MODOK, Red Skull, and Ultron. I love the MCU but the main focuses of my collection are the comic versions of characters who have appeared in the MCU. I'm by no means a completest on this line (who could be?) but I did add quite a bit to my shelves this year.


The Evil Horde
Masters of the Universe Origins by Mattel 

   Last year I wasn't terribly impressed by Masters of the Universe Origins but that changed pretty quickly in 2021. Mattel rolled out lots of figures with plenty of characters, vehicles, and some cool variants. They even had some great exclusive items. This went from being a line I was fairly lukewarm on to one of my favorites of the year. Mattel is well on their way towards completing the vintage roster and I really hope they do it. They've knocked out lots of the easy to make characters, though, so have they backed themselves into a corner where the figures requiring more new tooling are most of what's left? The deluxe line has been quite nice and seems like the way to put out some of the more involved figures, so hopefully 2022 sees the Snake Men make an appearance. There's only one series announced currently for 2021 with some more characters from Sun-Man also entering the line but hopefully we'll hear of more soon, especially with the movie being officially announced (seemingly for real this time).


Scare Glow
Masterverse by Mattel

  Hey! Another MOTU line! For 2021 Masterverse solely focused on Masters of the Universe: Revelation although it's supposed to become a banner line, covering various different areas of the MOTU canon in 2022. While I don't love the line as much as Masters of the Universe Classics, Mattel definitely put forward a great effort with Masterverse and some of the figures from Revelation are stunning, particularly Evil-Lyn, Scare Glow, Stinkor, Faker, and Andra. It's nice to see some modern looking MOTU toys on mainstream shelves again to show that the brand can have a future and life rather than just as a nostalgia property. 



 MOTU POP! vinyls also made the list in 2020!
POP! Retro Toys by Funko

   I love when a toyline has a robust character selection beyond just the main cast and Funko is definitely getting more and more obscure with their MOTU releases under their POP! Retro Toys banner. This year had some great characters that don't often get made like Leech, Dragstor, Whiplash, and Snake Face, and they're the only MOTU out there I can think of that's covering most every faction. With more MOTU POP! Rides and the little Snake Mountain from the POP! Town range Funko has really delivered the goods this year. Of course, they still haven't given us a Teela yet. Still. I'm flabbergasted! They've got to in 2022, right?


The Clown
Spawn by McFarlane Toys

   Can you even talk about action figure collecting without talking about Spawn? McFarlane Toys has made a huge comeback over the past couple years and the return of Spawn was a very welcome event. I actually had a few Spawn toys as a kid when I was still basically just playing with toys but I only picked up Spawn figures off and off as I got into High School and College and started "collecting" rather than just playing. I've always loved the Mandarin Spawn figure and the new version drew me back in. I only picked up a few figures this year (Clown, the GameStop Mandarin Spawn, Gunslinger Spawn, and the Redeemer) but I liked what I grabbed and I'm having fun watching what comes next. For the size, articulation, and quality of these figures McFarlane is certainly delivering some impressive product with lots of unique sculpts and large accessories. I'm really excited to see what McFarlane brings to the table in 2022 to keep the momentum going.


The Black Series has made the list since 2013!
Star Wars: The Black Series

  For nine years running Star Wars: The Black Series has made my Top 10 Toylines list. Will they make a decade? 2021 was an odd year for this line, I must say, as there were a lot of repaints and repacks with many exclusives and few actual waves released. The figures that did make it out were fantastic, though. The Bad Batch releases were incredible and getting some long awaited figures like Bodhi Rook and Bo-Katan Kryze were also nice additions. It was disappointing again, though, that Hasbro rarely has figures lined up for major entertainment releases. Why not have the entire Bad Batch ready to go when the cartoon hit Disney+ or why not have anything at all ready for The Book of Boba Fett? Hasbro really and truly seems to be working a year or two behind on this line which is just inexplicable. Throw in the disappointing Rancor Haslab and the poorly priced deluxe releases which seem to be getting more and more egregious and you can see why the line's future is unclear. When the Black Series hits, it hits; that's why it keeps making this list year after year. I just hope that Hasbro manages to overcome some of the issues affecting this line so it can continue to impress.


Vinyl SODA also made the list in 2020
Vinyl SODA by Funko

One of my favorite surprises of 2020 was Funko's Vinyl SODA line. These are fun, stylized solid vinyl figures that just have so much appeal on the shelf. While dozens of properties are covered, it's the Masters of the Universe figures that have caught my attention and Funko put out some more great releases this year. They look fantastic on display next to their cool faux soda cans and there's just something about them that I love so very much. This line is on hear solely because of how much I love the visual aesthetic of the line. I enjoy these more than some high dollar statues.

Well, that's it for 2021's list!  What do you think about my choices? The two things I've noticed with my picks are that I really favored Masters of the Universe stuff (obviously) but also I really favored action figure lines you can truly pick up and mess around with over stuff that was more "pose, display, and just look at." I've also grown less interested in some of the premium lines as the value for the money just seems to be better with the more low end offerings. What were your favorite lines of 2021? What did you have the most fun collecting? 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. Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. Also, as always, here are some fun facts:

# of lines that have appeared on this list multiple years: 5 

# of lines returning from last year: 4

# of lines from Jazwares: 1

# of lines from Greenbrier International: 1

# of lines from Mattel: 2 

# of lines from Hasbro: 3

# of lines from McFarlane Toys: 1

#of lines from Funko: 2

# of lines featuring He-Man: 4

# of lines based on films from 2021: 2

# of toylins based on TV shows from 2021: 3 I'm only counting Masterverse for MOTU: Revelation

# of toylines based on video games: 2 (The Black Series had multiple video game based figures)

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

# of toylines based on R- rated films/M-Rated games, etc.: 1 (Halo used  to be rated M, although Spawn isn't really a kid friendly property, either).

# of toylines that I was a completest on and bought everything offered: 3

# 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: 3

# of toylines with no articulation: 1

# of toylines with articulated animals: 5

# of toylines with irritating, hard to obtain exclusive figures: 8

# of toylines I collected that were affected by Warner Bros. "no guns on merchandise" ban: 0





  1. The Funko Pop Soda line was very clever. I purchased one "Bob Ross" for our Bob Ross shrine at work. Everyone loves it, and they all ask "was there really a Bob Ross soda?" Nope - but fun way to collect and display.


What'chu talkin' 'bout?