Thursday, February 29, 2024

Action Figure Review: Beast Man from Turtles of Grayskull by Mattel


   Just this week I got my hands on all four of the series 2 basic Turtles of Grayskull action figures from Mattel, so get ready for some reviews of these meldings of Mutants and Masters! I'm starting things off with Beast Man as he's kind of just a Beast Man variant.  While Mouse-Jaw is a blend of Trap-Jaw with M.O.U.S.E.R. technology, Beast Man is actually just Beast Man wearing some armor given to him by Donatello. I haven't acquired any of the series 1 figures yet, so I haven't read the minicomic, but in the minicomic included with the series 2 figures Beast Man is sent to the TMNT, Man-At-Arms, and Teela to tell them that he has defected from Skeletor (who is now working with Shredder and Krang) and that he knows where He-Man is (who has apparently gone missing). Everyone is suspicious of ol' fur face, but they do give him some armor (with a tracker in it) and he leads them to He-Man. And Skeletor. And Shredder. And the now mutated Evil Warriors. So, yeah, it's a trap. If you're in the market for a samurai Beast Man (you could put him with your 200x samurai variants of He-Man, Man-At-Arms, and Skeletor) then you're in luck. Let's check him out after the break...

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Action Figure Review: Parth "Wolf Spider" Varma (Night Force) from G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro

   Today I'm looking at the second G.I. Joe: Classified Series figure from the newest Night Force themed series of figures and this time it's a member of the Joe team: Parth "Wolf Spider" Varma. Parth "Wolf Spider" Varma is a brand new character and adds another Coast Guard member to the crew. He's a pararescue trooper, so he has EMT training for when your Joes get hurt. I believe it was mentioned somewhere that Wolf Spider is the first Joe team member of Indian heritage, so that's kind of cool. His first name, Parth, means "the person who never misses his target" and his last name, Varma, means armor and protection in Sanskrit. That's pretty cool. I wonder if that was intentionally chosen by Hasbro? Wolf Spider has an interesting story in that he began showing up in pictures and for international fans early last fall, at least a month or so before he was even announced by Hasbro. That doesn't happen often these days. Wolf Spider does reuse parts from a number of other figures, so he's a bit of a Frankenjoe, but he has his own unique vibe. Ready to take a look at Wolf Spider? Then join me after the break...

Monday, February 26, 2024

Minifigure Review: Deathstroke from DC Comics- Batman Tiny Mights by CultureFly


   Today I've got another minifigure review from CultureFly's DC Comics- Batman series: Deathstroke!  Deathstroke is an interesting character choice for this set as while he definitely is a foe of Batman, when I think of Deathstroke my first thought isn't Batman villain. Still, he fits in well here and has ended up being one of my favorite figures in the set. These guys really remind me of M.U.S.C.L.E. and Monster in My Pocket minifigures and Slade feels like he could seamlessly mix in with your vintage M.U.S.C.L.E. collection. For the full story and all the details on CultureFly's Tiny Mights check out my review of Catwoman. Today I'm just looking at Deathstroke and the four different colorways of him that I had in the shipment of twelve 3-packs I ordered from CultureFly. Let's check out Deathstroke after the break...

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Missing in Action: Toylines That Didn't Make the Cut in 2023


   Since 2015 I've supplemented my Top 10 Toylines of the Year awards with a list called Missing in Action (no relation to the Chuck Norris film). This is a reflective list where I look back at the Top 10 Toylines list from the year before and determine why some of the lines from that year failed to return for the current year's list.  2023's top 10 list only had five lines returning from 2022's list (2022's top 10 list  had seven returning toylines while 2021 only had four returning toylines from the 2020 list). I find it interesting to look at the lines that failed to show up again in order to diagnose why they went missing. It's also fun to whine and complain a bit, which might be part of the reason I enjoy this list so much. There are a few reasons why a toyline might make this list:

Missing in Action: This is a toyline that gets cancelled, ends, or just didn't have any releases during the year. It happens a lot, unfortunately, and often to some of my favorites it seems, though not as much as in the past.

Demoted: Sometimes a toyline just gets outdone by others. This isn't specifically related to the quality of the demoted line and more reflective of the quality of the lines that supplanted it or of my interest shifting to other things.

Sunk: This is when a toyline has a severe drop in quality or perhaps an exorbitant price hike that causes it to fall from grace. While most toylines get better as they go, some do indeed get worse and worse due to cost cutting, mismanagement, and quality control issues. Sometimes the price just outpaces the value, making a once impressive toyline now seem like a shell of its former self.

Let's jump in and check out who went missing in action in 2023 after the break...

Friday, February 23, 2024

Action Figure Review: Shadow Tracker from G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro


   In January the newest series of Walmart exclusive G.I. Joe: Classified Series figures shipped out and, once again, they features the Night Force theme for the Joe team members. Tunnel Rat and Wolf Spider were the Joe team members in Night Force gear (Tunnel Rat's a repaint while Wolf Spider is a completely new character that reuses some parts from other figures) but Shadow Tracker, a member of Cobra, might be the star of the show. Shadow Tracker was created during the Pursuit of Cobra era, an era which was perhaps the best post-vintage era ever for 1/18th scale G.I. Joe figures. The Pursuit of Cobra figures seemed to draw from a variety of pop culture sources and featured "Jungle Assault" versions of Duke, Spirit, and Recondo that felt suspiciously like tributes to Dutch, Billy, and Blain from the 1987 film Predator, one of the few truly perfect motion pictures to ever exist. And who did those guys square off against? Shadow Tracker, a mask wearing, blade wielding jungle hunter who sported dreadlocks and various trophies made from bone. This guy absolutely rocked the Joe fandom back in 2011 and he's still a pretty unique villain in the Classified Series today. Ready for an incredible new menace for your Joes to face off against? Then join me after the break...

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Action Figure Review: Peter Venkman & Gruesome Twosome Ghost from Ghostbusters Kenner Classics by Hasbro


   I was surprised in early February when I walked into Target and stumbled upon the retro styled Fright Features versions of The Real Ghostbusters figures from Hasbro. These were right on the shelf alongside the Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire toys and they're currently exclusive to Target until later this spring. I've now found all four of the Ghostbusters from this series (Hasbro hasn't announced a release of Janine Melnitz yet, but she's one of the few original vintage figures I still own) but Peter and Ray were the first two I found from the set. These are pretty much straight up remakes of the vintage figures released in very late 1987/ early 1988, which I definitely had and remember fondly. They would have came out when I was four and when I was really into Ghostbusters. The Fright Features series isn't my favorite variant set of the Ghostbusters (that would be either the Super Fright Features or the Backpack Heroes) but these are definitely one of the most recognizable sets of vintage Ghostbusters toys. Apparently they had the widest distribution of any of the sets, which explains why you'll find these in nearly any loose toy bin at comic and collectible shops. Ready to start off checking these remakes out with a look at Peter Venkman & Gruesome Twosome Ghost? Then join me after the break...

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Action Figure Review: Mutt & Junkyard from G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro


  Mutt and Junkyard are my first G.I. Joe: Classified Series reviews for 2024 figures! I do believe that some of the deluxe set of Mutt, the dog handler, and Junkyard, the dog, made it out at the end of 2023, but this guy didn't release from Hasbro Pulse or most other online stores until the first week of January, so I'm counting the set as a 2024 release. While there are still plenty to be made, Hasbro has been offering a nice assortment of figures with animal companions in the Classified Series. I loved the figures that came with animals as a kid and I'm always looking forward to any sets that come with a dog. We've had Snake Eyes and Timber and now we have Mutt and Junkyard. Oddly enough, Junkyard is the friendlier of the pair, as Mutt is known for being prone to snapping and having a pretty bad attitude. He's the one wearing the muzzle, after all. Mutt and Junkyard were first released as part of the 1984 G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series, and it's that vintage figure that these two are largely based on. Ready to check out this two-pack? Then join me after the break...

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Best of the Rest: My 10 Favorite Individual Toys of 2023


   While the list of my 10 favorite toylines from the past year is always the main event for my annual awards, I've always tried to recognize that not every great toy is part of a larger toyline or a toyline that I fully collect. I find that I'm usually driven to lines where I can build a huge roster of diverse characters that have a steady stream of releases, so those tend to be my favorites. It seems kind of unfair, then, to never acknowledge figures from smaller toylines or one off releases. Sometimes I just grab a single figure or toy from a larger line because it really appeals to me in some way. That's where the list of my Top 10 Favorite Individual Toys for the year comes in. So who is eligible? Most any toy or collectible released in 2023 could have made this list. Who isn't eligible? Any toy from a line I picked in my 10 Favorite Toylines of 2023 list. Remember that these are just listed semi randomly, not in order of merit. Many of the figures I picked this year were from properties with limited characters released, import figures I ordered to supplement other lines, or my favorite figures from lines that just didn't make the cut in 2023. Ready to pick out some of my favorite one-offs of 2023? Then join me after the break...

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Minifigure Review: Clayface from DC Comics- Batman Tiny Mights by CultureFly


   Let's take a short look at another sculpt from CultureFly's C Comics- Batman Tiny Mights: Clayface! I presume this is the Basil Karlo version of Clayface, as he's sculpted to look like a big mess of mud, though other villains with the Clayface name have sported this same appearance. For the full story on CultureFly's Tiny Mights check out my review of Catwoman, but for just the details on this miniature Clayface that really reminds me of a mix between the classic M.U.S.C.L.E. line and Monster in my Pocket, keep reading after the break...

Monday, February 12, 2024

Action Figure Review: Robin (DC vs. Vampires) from DC Multiverse by McFarlane Toys


   I've really enjoyed DC Vs. Vampires. It's an excellent "Elseworlds" story that's been quite fun with some wonderfully gruesome redesigns. It's sad that we'll likely never get a full roster from the book, though with how many comics DC releases, that's just not even really possible, is it? Last year I reviewed the Walmart exclusive Gold Label Batman from DC Vs. Vampires and this year I'm reviewing the Walmart exclusive Gold Label Robin from the same title. Walmart has been getting all of the DC Vs. Vampires exclusives as they've also had the Joker, Green Lantern, and Superman. I grabbed the Joker but skipped the other two. I'm a Gotham City guy, though, and Damian Wayne actually plays a significant role in the DC Vs. Vampires series, so he was a sure buy. Ready to check out this vampirized variant of Batman's son? Then join me after the break...

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Minifigure Review: Catwoman from DC Comics- Batman Tiny Mights by CultureFly


   Last year minifigure collectors got pretty excited over the Scooby-Doo Tiny Mights by CultureFly. A series of 2 inch rubber minifigures similar to M.U.S.C.L.E., the Tiny Mights were apparently sold at certain Walmart locations. I never found any, though. When I heard that CultureFly was following up the Scooby-Doo series of minifigures with Batman Tiny Mights, I knew I'd have to jump in and acquire them. These are awesome! They're very M.U.S.C.L.E.- like with crisp sculpts, bold solid colors, and just the right level of rubbery texture. They're not squishy or gooey, but they're not solid and brittle, either. The DC Comics- Batman Tiny Mights come three to set, packaged in a little plastic Batmobile. The Batmobile is translucent, though, so for the most part you can tell what figures are inside. I ordered mine through CultureFly's website where they're sold as a set of four packs, so twelve figures, for $20 bucks. That's pretty good for minifigures. I ordered three sets and while I only ended up getting 11 of the 12 sculpts (I'm still looking for the Joker), I didn't get any color duplicates. From what I can tell there are different colorways for these: Grey, yellow, purple, green, peach/ M.U.S.C.L.E. pink, red, glow-in-the-dark blue, and glittery translucent green (There's also a special Arkham Asylum set of all twelve sculpts in translucent glittery purple). I'm not going to look at all the sculpts in the series but I'm going to check out a few of them, starting with Catwoman, Batman's former adversary, regular ally, and sometimes wife. Ready to check her out? Then join me after the break...

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Wrapping Up 2023: Chun-Li from Ultra Street Fighter 2: The New Challengers by Jada Toys


   I've been looking forward to reviewing some figures from Jada Toys' Ultra Street Fighter 2: The New Challengers line but I didn't get my hands on any of them until December. I haven't reviewed many Street Fighter figures on the site as there haven't been many readily available over the past decade or so. Revoltech, Storm Collectibles, SOTA, Super7 (under the ReAction banner), NECA, Funko, Max Factory, Toy Biz, and Hasbro (along with a few others) have all put out Street Fighter action figure over the past 30 some years or so, but most of them have either been too expensive, too hard to acquire, or the companies just never came close to completing the main roster. Besides grabbing Jada's Nano Metalfigs and two of NECA's Street Fighter IV figures, my main Street Fighter collection is still my collection of Hasbro figures. Hasbro actually released 1/18th scaled Street Fighter figures as a subset of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line in 1993 and as their own line in 1994. My set of the main twelve Street Fighter II figures was cobbled together from those two lines and I played with those figures like crazy as a kid. I'm really excited for Jada's line of Street Fighter figures, though, as they seem to have a solid plan to get out the cast appearing in Street Fighter II and all it's later iterations, including the New Challengers. Series 1 kicked off with two mainstays, Chun-Li and Ryu, and one later fighter, Fei Long. Ryu and Chun-Lil are without a doubt the faces of the franchise and it's pretty cool to have some new figures based on them. They've been readily available from many online retailers but I found mine in store at Target. Ready to check out Chun-Li? Then join me after the break...

Friday, February 9, 2024

Wrapping Up 2023: Kazim from Indiana Jones: Adventure Series by Hasbro


   OK... one last Indiana Jones Adventure Series review! I missed Kazim at Target last year and ended up snatching him up earlier this week online. He's become one of the tougher figures to find but I'm glad I went ahead and picked him up as he is a surprisingly good figure. Kazim is definitely not an A-list figure, though, and it's surprising to get him in this line ahead of so many other figures. He feels like he'd be a "second year" figure for the line, though, if you know what I mean. That's what I find kind of weird about the Adventure Series: There are some deeper character choices present while main characters are missing! I'd love to have been a fly in the wall in the planning of this series. How was the roster selected? Why were certain main characters left out? Why leave out characters who had figures in the vintage line and the current Retro line? Why completely skip Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Anyways, let's just enjoy Kazim. Join me after the break...

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Wrapping Up 2023: Jason "Shockwave" Faria from G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro


   I'm almost through wrapping up reviews of 2023 stuff I picked up and I'm starting to pepper in some new 2024 releases that I've acquired, but today I have another 2023 release: Jason "Shockwave" Faria from Hasbro's G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro. Back in early February 2021 I made a list of 10 G.I. Joe team members I was really looking forward to in the Classified Series figures and Shockwave was one of them (to date four of them have been released and one, Jinx, was just revealed). I loved the vintage figure as a kid and I even loved the 1992 D.E.F. version. Actually, he was my preferred Shockwave later on, and is still one of my favorites. The vintage Shockwave had a hilariously brilliant file card write up that compares being a member of a S.W.A.T. team with being a member of a choir (it goes on to note that Shockwave is "a half-decent tenor when his voice is in shape..." He's the guy who kicks down the door and enters in first and has been equipped this time around with a ballistic shield. In his post vintage releases, Shockwave was known as Shockblast, but now that Hasbro tends to use the character's "real" name with their codename, he's back to being good old Shockwave. Ready to see how Shockwave stands up to some heavy fire? Then join me after the break...

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Action Figure Review: Vincent Price from Toony Terrors by NECA


   Today I'm really excited to check out a new Toony Terror. It's been over two years since I last reviewed one but from the moment I heard that NECA was releasing a Vincent Price Toony Terror, I knew I'd have to have him. Vincent here isn't based on any particular film role; this is just a figure of the actor himself. The Toony Terrors line captures horror icons in the style of a traditional Saturday morning cartoon and, if you remember watching The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo, you might be getting some serious Vincent Van Ghoul vibes here. Ready to add a distinguished horror icon to your shelf who just embodies coolness and class? Then join me after the break...

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Wrapping Up 2023: Grail Table from Indiana Jones: Adventure Series by Hasbro


   Last week I looked at the Skull Temple Build-an-Artifact from Hasbro Indiana Jones: Adventure Series line and today I'm looking at the last of the Build-An-Artifacts: The Grail Table from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Housed within the Temple of the Sun, the Grail Table holds the Holy Grail and the other false grails in the secret Grail chamber. Out of all five Indiana Jones films, the only film scene with more than two characters you can really do any justice to with the figures released in the Adventure Series is the Grail chamber scene as Hasbro released the Grail Knight, Elsa Schneider, and Walter Donovan to accompany Indy. That's pretty wild, right? This makes for a great backdrop for those figures, even if it is scaled down a bit from the movie set design. Let's take a look at the Grail Table after the break...

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Wrapping Up 2023: General Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy from G.I. Joe: Classified Series by Hasbro


   While I released my Top 10 Toylines of 2023 list yesterday, I'm still making my way through a few 2023 releases that arrived near the end of year or that I've acquired since then. Today I'm looking at General Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy, better known as just Hawk or General Hawk. This version of the character was released in 1986 and was actually the second version of Hawk in the line (the first was in 1982, when he was just a Colonel). I'm still pretty confident that the vintage Hawk v2 was the first action figure I ever owned. I've speculated before that it could have been Peter Venkman or He-Man, but I'm really pretty sure it was General Hawk. I've been looking forward to this guy and it shouldn't surprise you that he's one of my favorite G.I. Joe: Classified Series figures to date. The 1986 version of Hawk feels like a pretty timeless figure, so Hasbro's Joe team didn't do much here but enhance details, offer up a great portrait, and load him down with some nice accessories, but it all works. Ready to give your G.I. Joe team the leader it deserves? Then join me after the break...

Friday, February 2, 2024

My Top 10 Toylines of 2023


February has arrived yet again and it's time for me to start releasing my annual "Wrap Up" lists for 2023 at Action Figure Barbecue.

   So, what were the highlights of 2023 in the toy world?  Box office bombs at theaters meant less product on store shelves or stuff that went almost straight to clearance, lots of overshipped merchandise heavily clearanced out both online and at retail, Funko scrapping $30 million dollars in unsold product, the usual retail mixture of feast or famine on shelves, Hasbro ditching their plastic free packaging, laying off employees (or planning to down the road), cancelling the Selfie Series, and hiking prices, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once again being a retail toys juggernaut, toy sales overall dropping from previous years, and stuff either getting delayed like crazy or showing up early and in large numbers.

   Once again, toys are still available at retail (this year 7 of my top 10 lines had a mass market retail presence) and while it felt like more companies were offering product at retail, most companies continue to  grow their dedicated online stores. Face it; most collectors are ordering their stuff online, now. 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. While I still love browsing stores, very few of us want to truly hunt for toys that retailers often carry in sparing numbers. 

  Who dominated at retail this year? Unofficially, I'd say Playmates'' Rise of the TMNT movie line and their assorted tie-in stuff was a huge hit as were Jakks' Super Mario Bros. movie lines and Michael Keaton's Batman at retail. The Flash itself might have bombed, but that didn't seem to hurt anything with Batman from McFarlane and Spin Masters. DC Multiverse and other lines from McFarlane seemed to do well, though more exclusives seemed to move online with McFarlane Toys this year. Hasbro is still a dominant force in the action figure retail toy aisle, though they suffered with toys from some box office flops (D&D, Indiana Jones: DoD, The Marvels) and lots of product going to closeout chains like Ollie's and Ross. Hasbro had multiple lines that died quickly like Dungeons & Dragons, Indiana Jones, and their Fortnite: Victory Royale series. Oddly enough, Walmart didn't even carry Hasbro's Indiana Jones: Adventure Series. Mattel still had a decent presence at retail in 2023, though the MOTU line is still dealing with severe over shipments from previous years, something that Funko dealt with, which made major news. Jazwares, NECA, Super7, Jada, and the Loyal Subjects continued to have small but respectable retail offerings, typically in designated collector focused sections. Walmart's collector area is usually pretty picked over with some stuff that just lingers but Target seems to have a nice selection from my experience. GameStop and Books a Million are not bad places either, though Books a Million does charge a premium for some reason (not as bad as FYE, but still noticeable).

   The specialty companies and import lines continue to offer cool stuff and just keep becoming more and more competitive with the mainstream companies as the mass market retail lines raise prices. Delays hit these companies hard, though, and there were a few I just don't recall seeing or hearing from last year. Companies like Four Horsemen Studios, Mezco, Valaverse, Plastic Meatball, Storm Collectibles, Nacelle, and Boss Fight are really keeping things going with good product at prices that most collectors seem to be OK with. Still, you do have instances like Super7, who had a lot of product that was delayed, cancelled, or cleared out by retailers and e-tailers. I have a feeling that e-tailers and the owners of smaller retail stories might be less forgiving of product that they just can't move than larger retailers. Remember back in the very late 1990s and early 2000s how it seemed smaller toymakers were in a race to make figures of the most unusual properties imaginable? I've been getting that feeling more and more over the past year or two. We're seeing some really deep stuff with a limited audience, but since it's sold so directly it has more of a chance at surviving. 
   Creating my "Top 10" lists is always one of my favorite things to do at Action Figure Barbecue and I always spend a good chunk 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 twelfth 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. 2023's list had some absolute shoe-ins that I always knew would be on it, some wild cards that surprised me, and some long time favorites that just didn't cut the mustard this year. While I'm still quite devoted to the G.I. Joe: Classified Series and Mattel's MOTU lines, I did cherry pick more this year from a wider variety of lines.  

    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 2023...