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...