Still licking our wounds from the recession, 2011 was the year we moved forward. We saw a lot of companies change their release schedules, and as such there were fewer toys and collectibles available this year than we've seen in past years. On a positive note, for the most part, the products released this year surpassed anything we've ever seen before. The toy makers that survived the recession fought tooth and nail to compete with one another and we ended up being the ones to win!
There was simply no competition for this one. Certainly we saw a lot of very cool figures this year, such as Sideshow Collectibles' Hammerhead, which if we covered Star Wars on this media site would have been the only strong contender, there is only one figure that trumps everything else offered by every company: Hot Toys' incredible Christopher Reeves Superman 1/6 scale figure. This is the toy everyone wanted, and it is perfect! If you don't own this figure, we have to ask you what's wrong with you? Maybe you should go to the doctor and have your temperature checked. There is nothing wrong with this figure, and it needs to be in your collection!
Up until now, we only had one Statue Of The Year, but with so many cool statues released in 2011 could have fit into this category the only way we could make heads and tails out of it was to break it down into two separate categories. So for the first time we are awarding both a polystone and a PVC statue as the best of the year. Since polystone is more traditionally considered a statue, we'll start off there. Even cutting the choices down between these to materials, it was still tough to choose a winner. In fact, there were two strong runner ups.
The second runner up was Hollywood Collectibles' Captain Kirk. Seeing it in person at Toy Fair and San Diego Comic-Con made us think it was a surefire choice, but the production piece just didn't look as good as the earlier samples, and that is such a shame. The sculpt was there, and the paint job was very well done... for the most part. The colour choices for the flesh destroyed what should have been the defining Star Trek collectible.
Almost taking home top honours was Sideshow Collectibles Captain Hook Premium Format Figure. This statue by itself is exceptional, and the addition of the Tick Tock companion piece made it a must have piece. If it weren't for one statue it would have easily won.
The top prize, however, must go to Gentle Giant's insanely cool Sucker Punch 1/4 scale Baby Doll statue. Whether you have the standard or Japanese versions, you have a fine collectible. The paint job is flawless and the sculpt is both accurate and iconic. With the Amber statue that followed (which is almost as cool) this line looks very promising. Gentle Giant has delivered production statues that match the prototypes we saw last year. If you don't have Baby Doll yet you better hurry up and get it because it ain't going to get more affordable any time soon.
While there have been plenty of PVC statues released this year, it wasn't so hard to determine which one was hands down the coolest. Leading up to the fourth quarter we thought it was the race between two statues, but Yamato USA's Fantasy Figure Gallery Ritual PVC Figure, which we thought we'd see early, won't be shipping for another couple of weeks, leaving us only one choice.
Thing is, even if it did ship in time for this years' review, it may not have been able to take our attention away from Kotobukiya's incredible Wonder Woman DC Comics Bishoujo statue, which is both iconic and true to the character. Generally we love what Koto does with their Bishoujo statues, but this one stands in front of all others.
Going into 2012, we'll see the Bishoujo collection spread its wings and cross into many new licensed like Tekken and Star Wars, and we are excited to see where they will go from their. Now if we could only convince them to upscale the line's best offerings to create 1/6 or 1/4 scale versions of these statues.
There is no doubt that True Believers were treated to some of best Marvel offerings ever released. From the 1/6 scale movie figures from Hot Toys, the ongoing statue collection from Sideshow Collectibles, Gentle Giant's initial offerings, or Kotobukiya's unique take on all things Marvel, we have seen more awesome choices than ever, but who thought we'd see a Rocket Racoon figure? How about a Power Man & Iron Fist two pack? Or an appropriately scaled Cable with baby Hope? If that isn't enough to float your boat, how about a Frost Giant that lives up to its name or a massive Sentinel?
There is a reason that people stopped moaning about the Marvel Legends hiatus, and that reason is Hasbro's incredibly diverse 3 3/4" Marvel Universe line. And with what we know of for next year's assortment (PUCK!), they aren't slowing down. Of course, now that all the moaning about Legends has died down, 2012 will also be the year the larger line comes back. Be interesting to see which way collectors go.
There have been plenty of great domestically released action figures available at retail this year, but none was more original than the Zombie Lurker from the first wave of McFarlane Toys' The Walking Dead comic book series. In fact, this figure reminds us how groundbreaking McFarlane Toys was when they took the action figure aisle over by Sheer Force in the 90's. Make no mistake, what we have these days can be traced back to their original offerings.
For the last few years, McFarlane Toys seemed to have the passion of a neutered cat, but if the Zombie Lurker is the template for what they have in store for us in 2012, we only hope their offerings are once more seen as a challenge to the other companies competing for shelf space at your local department store, and once again McFarlane Toys brings forth a new revolution in action figure design!
Going into the summer months, we were sure that the coolest 1/1 scale prop we'd see this year was the Metal-Plated Star Trek Phaser by Quantum Mechanics, but after our hands on the Warehouse 13 Tesla prop replica we knew there was no competition! Even though this hand-made work of art is pricy, it is too awesome not to admire! So even though the Phaser takes second place, QMX is still the winner this year.
In 2012 we are most looking forward to their TARTIS, which is based on Philip Wise's screen accurate replica, and secretly hope Santa sends the two awesome Enterprise replicas to the Canadian CTR Photo Studio.
Imagine if we had Mogwai and Gremlin figures when we were kids? Sure, if they came out in the Eighties, they wouldn't have been well painted, the sculpts would have had pretty soft details, and the articulation would have been the five point style made the standard design by Kenner's Star Wars collection, but they would have been awesome nonetheless. Even though we never got these figures back then, we'd like to consider NECA's Gremlins line the Power Of The Force 2 of 2011. This line of action figures reminds of our childhoods like no other line has over the last 365 days. While we do like to continue to look forward, we still must remember where we came from, and somehow this line has done that better than any other released this year.
With the release of NECA's Gremlins line, we only long for Blade Runner, Remo Williams, and Back To The Future action figure lines to fulfill our childhood wish lists.
It blows our minds that no one thought to pursue The Munsters license before now. In truth, this is such a no-brainer we're still amazed we didn't see The Munsters toys ten years ago. Hats of to Diamond Select Toys for taking the risk on what is essentially an untested property and turning it into a cool line of action figures. In an era that sees the same licenses going from company to company with little new being offered, having these classic characters produced as articulated action figures now is a giant breath of fresh air. We bought ours, and we encourage you go out and buy yours (if you haven't). Only by supporting endeavours like this will we see fresh new products in the toy aisles.
It is hard to believe that one of the creepiest scenes in horror film history was the result of a special effect that didn't quite work as well as planned. Most people don't realize how often cinematic history is made on the backs of the skilled technicians working on a film set. As a film technician myself (in the props department) I can assure you that even the most meticulously planned films are only as successful as the crew that makes them. A Director has a vision and discusses it to the key technicians in pre-production and then the wheels start to spin, but it is only on the day when a scene is scheduled to shoot that the real work begins. Gags don't always come straight out of the box, and often they aren't totally worked out until the shot is blocked. So when it comes to a gag that doesn't work as the director envisioned, it is up to the film technicians (the electrics department, the grips department, set dec department, wardrobe department, hair department, make up department, special effects department, visual effects department, and props department) to figure it out and make it work.
In the case of the original A Nightmare On Elm Street feature film, director Wes Craven wanted a well lit scene showing Freddy Krueger's arms stretching across a back alley, but while blocking the scene it became all too obvious that the scene looked hokey and the special effect wasn't convincing. At some point while the technicians tried to figure it out, someone suggested backlighting the scene. They tried it and disaster turned into one of the creepiest things a pre-digital effects spoiled audience has ever seen.
The creative people at NECA are as big of horror fans as we are (and we dare say they may love horror more than us), and they knew they had to recreate this scene for collectors. In doing so, they made a very cool Freddy figure into the quintessential Freddy figure.
We hope NECA can find a way to offer a backlit version of this genre defining action figure in 2012.
First off, let it be said that Mattel makes some very cool action figures. There is no question about it, the toys rock. Unfortunately, that's the only positive thing we have to say about the world's biggest toy company as it stands right now. With all the emails we get complaining about the practices of MattyCollector.com, the rock star attitude collectors have to endure when visiting the Mattel booth at the summer conventions, and the constant comments at the product panels about giving all your hard earned money to Matty or else, its a wonder some people haven't been fired, or at very least removed from being the public representation of the company. The people who sign cheques really should be paying closer attention to the people acting as the public face of Mattel. The people who come to say hi are not only your customers, but they are fans of your products, and they deserve your respect. You have a job because of them, not in spite of them.
Moving past the atrocious face to face troubles, equally puzzling is the online interaction. MattyCollector.com should be the flagship for modern toy collecting, but they don't seem to want to learn from the companies that have been doing online sales for years. There doesn't seem to be an interest in improving the customer service, and we use that term loosely. With the economy being what it is, MattyCollector.com should be bending over backwards to make the online buying experience as simple as possible, but instead collectors have to deal with the almighty, and all far to frequent, White Screen Of Death. The fact that collectors have a term for it should be the first sign that there is a problem, but it seems to the collecting community that Matty would rather point fingers and say it isn't 'his' fault than actually resolve the problem. Other online stores have had server problems in the past, and have figured out how to fix the problem, and now in 2011, it seems that only MattyCollector.com has been unable to figure it out. That's appalling considering the fact that Mattel is the biggest toy company in the world. That's a fact you should never forget when the site's customer service lacks. This isn't a small business trying to make it in these tumultuous times, it is a major corporation, and it is hard to believe that they really can't figure out how to keep their online store up when it's big sales time... or even worse, figure out how to combine orders to save their customers the highly inflated shipping rates.
Will we see things improve in 2012? That's hard to say. We'd really like to see Mattel put the customers first, but we wouldn't be surprised if business remains the same at MattyCollector.com. After all, there has to be a reason why they created an impersonal mascot that looks like a total asshole and don't sign their own names to the many negative statements they publish on their site or through Facebook. Then again, so long as everyone buys from them directly, they have no reason to change, do they? So take this tip with you in 2012: The MattyCollector.com figures are all available online through sites like Big Bad Toy Store for pretty much the same price. Matter of fact, the only real difference is when pre-ordering the figures elsewhere is in the absence of the anxiety you feel when trying to buy your action figures.