Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Poppies Winners of the Last Ten Years

Date Published: 2017-01-18
Written By: Michael Crawford

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Hulkbuster Marvel Legends action figure

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I've been running the Poppies Awards for a decade now. If you're unfamiliar with the Poppies, here's the basic idea: Every year I (and many other websites and podcasts) do our own version of awards for action figures and other pop culture collectibles.  I call mine the People's Picks, and while the results for the best figures, busts and statues of the year are derived from a large voting base, it's still only MY readers doing the voting.  This is the same issue that all the current web based awards have. BTW, if you'd like to take place in this year's People's Picks, just follow this link to the ballot.

Ten years ago I started a new tradition, more in line with an industry awards program for pop culture collectibles - the Poppies!  Think of it as the Academy Awards of the pop culture collectible industry.  Rather than the readers of any one site or the admins of any one site doing the selections, a panel of esteemed judges from the industry make the choices.  These judges come from five categories: Companies, Artists, Collectors, Retailers, and Media.  The list of the 149 Poppies Judges for 2016 is here, and you'll see quite a few familiar names and companies.

These judges come together and first nominate their picks to populate the ballot. Then they vote on this ballot, a process currently occurring. That's also your chance to vote, because the same ballot is used for the People's Picks.  It makes for an interesting comparison - how does the larger voting base compare to the smaller industry judging panel? Again, if you'd like to be a part of all this, just head on over to the People's Picks ballot and cast your vote. It only takes a few minutes!

All of that leads up to this weeks Captain Toy Picks... list, based on the previous ten Poppies results. This isn't a top ten list, because there are actually nineteen categories (currently) and I'll only be picking my favorite winner in each category. Yea, it's a little different than the usual list, but hey, we can handle different, can't we? In most cases, I had nine winners to choose from. In some, there were fewer simply because the category hasn't been around the entire time. Either way, I picked MY favorite of the winners (not necessarily my favorite overall). I'll also include a list of the 'contenders', the winners of that award from which I chose. Got it?

On to the list...

Best Overall Company - Hot Toys, Winner Many Years
The dominance of Hot Toys in the industry during the same period as the Poppies is pretty evident in this category. The first year, this was won by Sideshow. Every year since - every year - it's been taken by Hot Toys. That's pretty impressive considering the amount of terrific work being done by a number of other companies during this period. Remember, a large percentage of the voters are representatives of other companies or from media that have nothing to do with sixth scale, and still Hot Toys dominates. They've made a mark on the entire collectibles industry in expectations and quality, and they deserve the recognition. I will say that I think their dominance might be in jeopardy this year - we'll see.

The Contenders: Hot Toys, Sideshow.

Superman Christopher Reeve action figure

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Best Overall Line - High End - Hot Toys MCU, many years
This is one of those areas where the category evolved over time. It just started out as Best Overall Line, but with the huge jump in cost for some collectibles, while others remained much more affordable, it was necessary to split the category in half.

This category wasn't split in 2007, and Hasbro took it with their Joes.  But in 2009 the split occurred, and Hot Toys went on to sweep.  But while the company remained the same, the license started to vary. At first, it was their work on the Dark Knight.  In more recent times, it's been Star Wars. In between, it was my choice, their work on the Marvel properties. Between the various characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hot Toys has really killed it, keeping Iron Man fresh, adding second string characters, and improving on key characters with each release.

The Contenders: Hot Toys Star Wars; Hot Toys MCU (Iron Man, Avengers); Hot Toys Dark Knight

Hot Toys Winter Soldier action figure

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Best Overall Line - Low End - Masters of the Universe Classics, 2011 Winner
Here's where things start to get interesting. As I said, the category split occurred in 2009, but if you include the more generic Best Overall Line category winners from 2007 and 2008, you see only one line won this category more than once - MOTUC. They snagged it in a tie in 2010, and as a straight up win in 2011. I think that over the course of the last ten years, MOTUC has been the most consistent line in existence, producing solid releases with great regularity.  I'll be sad to see the Matty days end, but let's hope Super7 can continue the tradition.

The Contenders: DC Collectibles Animated Batman series; NECA Planet of the Apes; Hasbro Star Wars Black; Playmates TMNT; Mattel MOTUC; Hasbro Star Wars (tied with MOTUC that year); Mattel DCUC; Hasbro G.I. Joe.

MOTUC Draego action figure

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Eddie Wires Award for Outstanding Paint - Hot Toys Nicholson Joker, 2012 Winner
The collectibles community was hit with a tragedy with the sudden and unexpected loss of Eddie Wires. Eddie was an exceptional painter, and did the prototype work on numerous lines for numerous companies. Many of us knew him personally, and his death was heart breaking. This category was created for the 2010 awards in his memory and honor.

It's another category with lots of different winners, as you might expect, Hot Toys dominated as a company thanks to their innovations with paint work on sixth scale portraits. Their work on two different Jokers won in two different years, but it's the Nicholson Joker that simply amazes me.  Of course, my love for the character has an effect, but I think this figure is some of their best paint work, and certainly my favorite of the 6 winners so far.

The Contenders: Blitzway's Marilyn Monroe; Hot Toys Elder Predator; Hot Toys Nicholson Joker; Hot Toys DX Joker 2.0; Hot Toys Chris Reeve Superman; Hot Toys Aldo Raine.

Hot Toys Nicholson Joker action figure

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Best Male Figure - 18" and up - NECA 1989 Batman, 2014 Winner
NECA has been crushing this category in recent years, but it's not always been a scale that's seen favor. While it was one of the initial categories back in 2007, we actually dropped it for 2010 - 2012 due to a lack of potential nominees.  But in 2013 it came back strong, and this year there are a ton of excellent contenders.

I may do a Top Ten list of just the NECA releases over the years - there's certainly been enough, and I have my favorites. While I like the 89 Batman, I had to admit that it's not my favorite overall. Still, out of the six Poppies winners, he's my choice.

The Contenders: Hot Toys Boba Fett; NECA 1989 Batman; Hot Toys DKR Batman; Mezco Abe Sapien; Mezco Hellboy II; Hasbro Ultimate Bumblebee.

NECA Batman Returns Batman action figure

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Best Male Figure 12 - 17" - Nicholson Joker, 2012 Winner
Here's another category that has been dominated by Hot Toys, but that's certainly no surprise. Even back in 2007 they won!  They have lost once however, and it's going to be a VERY tight race again this year.

The character that has won the most is interesting. It's interesting that even one character has won more than once, let alone four times! Yep, Hot Toys has taken this trophy four times with various Jokers, and of course, I'm picking the Nicholson win as my favorite. While that might not be a surprise, I have to say the Reeve Superman and Battle Damaged Robocop certainly gave him a run for the money.

The Contenders: Battle Damaged Robocop, Sideshow's Darth Vader; Hot Toys Joker 2.0; Hot Toys Nicholson Joker; Hot Toys Reeve Superman; Hot Toys War Machine; Hot Toys DX01 Joker, Hot Toys Bank Robber Joker, Hot Toys Endoskeleton.

Hot Toys Nicholson Joker action figure

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Best Male Figure 5 - 11" - Donatello NECA, 2008 Winner
Back to a category with lots of variety, both in licenses and in companies. Over the years, some great series have been honored, including MOTUC, DCUC, and Star Wars Black. Lesser known figures as well as more international releases have won, making it a very diverse group.

My pick is an oldie but a goodie, and while NECA has recently released a great 18" comic based TMNT figure, and Mondo is doing the same in sixth scale, I think the original NECA 6" set are still the best comic based TMNT figures to date. Don won back in 2008, and he (along with the other three turtles) remain a shining example of an action figure at its very best.

The Contenders: Bandai Ronin Boba Fett; Revoltech TMNT Mike; Star Wars Black Boba Fett; Marvel Select Hulk; Four Horsemen Scarabus; MOTUC Trapjaw; NECA Big Daddy; NECA TMNT Don; DCUC Clayface.

NECA TMNT Comic Book Donatello action figure

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Best Male Figure under 5" - Hellboy II, Mezco, 2008 Winner
Another category with lots of variety over the years, although G.I. Joe has done it's share of winning. While selections from recent years in Marvel and Star Wars have also been great, I'm going back almost to the beginning with the tiny Hellboy from the Hellboy II series by Mezco. Over time, Mezco has proven themselves adept in almost every scale and style, and I wish we'd see more from them in this size.

The Contenders: G.I. Joe Gung-ho; Figuarts Super Mario; G.I. Joe Storm Shadow; Marvel Universe Beta Ray Bill; G.I. Joe Low-Light; Star Wars Bespin Luke; Marvel Universe Iron Man; Mezco Hellboy II.

Mezco Hellboy II action figure

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Best Female Figure 12" and up - Hot Toys Winter Soldier Black Widow, 2014 Winner
There's never been enough female figures in the pure 1/4 scale and larger group to make it a viable voting category. However, the number of female figures in the other three categories has grown tremendously over the last decade, and the nominees themselves have improved in quality year after year.

In the first year, we only had one Female Figure category for all sizes.  All three winners were sixth scale. In 2008 and 2009, there remained only one category, but the top three winners started to include smaller figures as well. Then in 2010, we expanded to two female categories - over 11" and under 11". That only lasted one year, and in 2011 we went to the three categories we have today.  The number of nominees in these categories has risen since 2011, with a ton of excellent choices on this year's ballot in every scale.

When it comes to the over 11" category, the Hot Toys Black Widow has dominated. They've released her four times - she's won four times.  The latest version came out in December of 2016, but didn't make it on this year's ballot. It's always a judgement call, and depends on whether the judges feel the figure has had enough exposure before the year end cut off to make it fair.  They felt the newest Black Widow hadn't, so she'll be going on the 2017 ballot instead, and I suspect will do very, very well once again.

Every Black Widow release has been better in some way than the previous, but my personal favorite remains the Winter Soldier version. It's the hair style, what can I say.

The Contenders: Avengers AoU Black Widow; Winter Solider Black Widow; Avengers Black Widow; Hot Toys Baby Doll; Hot Toys Alice; Iron Man Black Widow; Hot Toys Sheva; Hot Toys Machiko; Sideshow Asajj Ventress.

Hot Toys Black Widow action figure

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Best Female Figure 5 - 11" - Evil-Lyn, MOTUC, 2010 Winner
Remember, this category didn't exist during the first three years of the Poppies, and the winners of the generic female category were mostly sixth scale.  That means the first real chance a smaller figure had at getting an award was 2010. And that year the judges picked Evil-Lyn, my favorite over the next five winners.  She's gorgeous, and remains one of my very favorite MOTUC ladies.

The Contenders: NECA Aliens Ripley; NECA Alien Queen; Mattel 66 Catwoman; MOTUC Sorceress; DC Direct Arkham Asylum Harley; MOTUC Evil-Lyn.

MOTUC Evil-Lyn action figure

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Best Female Figure under 5" - Terra Firma, 2014 Winner
We've only had enough contenders in the female categories to make this category viable the previous 5 years.  Now with a total of 19 nominees for 2016, the shift in the quantity and quality of female figures is impressive!

My favorite of the five previous winners is an odd one, but that's part of the beauty of the Poppies. Thanks to the varied tastes of the judges, we get some unusual winners. And Terra Firma, the female astronaut in the Outer Space Men, is one of those unusual winners.

The Contenders: Star Wars Ashoka Tano; Terra Firma; Walking Dead Michonne; Marvel Universe She-Hulk; G.I. Joe Zarana.

Outer Space Men Terra Firma action figure

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Best Build-A-Figure - Fin Fang Foom, 2008 Winner
Another oldie but goodie, Fin Fang Foom hearkens back to the original Build-A-Figure concept with Toybiz, where bigger was better. While there's been some great recent additions (I almost went with last year's winner, Hulkbuster, who is in the very first photo in this article), the Foom Meister still takes the top spot in my heart. 

This category is an interesting one, because there have been years where we *almost* dropped it...but then it came back strong, and looks like it will remain so for the next several years.

The Contenders: Marvel Legends Hulkbuster; Marvel Legends Groot; DST Munsters Stairs/Spot; Mattel Voltron; DST Munsters Electric Chair; Kubrick's Jabba the Hutt; Mattel Kilowog; Marvel Legends Fin Fang Foom.

Fin Fang Foom action figure

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Best Vehicle or Play Set - Castle Grayskull, 2013 Winner
When I started to review the winners, I was under the misguided idea that Hot Toys had won this category a lot. Let's face it, they've had some pretty great vehicles and play sets. They've only won twice, however, for the DKR Batman Armory and the original Tumbler.

Another contender was their 89 Batmobile, but it was beat out by my pick for the overall best so far - Castle Grayskull from Mattel. You should really check out the review for all the uber-cool features, but trust me when I say this is one of the greatest play sets released in the last decade.

The Contenders: DC Collectibles Animated Batmobile; Hot Toys Batman Armory; Mattel Castle Grayskull; Playmates TMNT Sewer Lair; Sideshow Dewback; Hasbro AT-AT; Hot Toys Tumbler; Hasbro Millennium Falcon.

Mattel Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull

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Best Statue - Indiana Jones Premium Format, 2008 Winner
Premium Format and mixed media style statues have always done well in this category, and since Indiana Jones won in his respective year AND he's my number one pick in the earlier 'Top Ten PF Statues' list, you gotta assume he'd be here. He has some serious contention, but in the end, he's a statue that will always remain on display in my house.

The Contenders: Blitzway Marilyn Monroe; DC Bombshells Harley; Sideshow Galactus; Sideshow Baroness PF; Gentle Giant Baby Doll; DCD Batman vs Killer Croc; Electric Tiki Rocketeer; DCD Cover Girls Catwoman; Sideshow Indiana Jones PF; Sideshow Captain America PF.

Indiana Jones Premium Format Statue

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Best Bust - Big Chap Alien, 2014 Winner
When it comes to winning the Poppies for Best Bust, size really does matter. Four of the nine winners have been 'life size', and one - the Big Chap Alien - is pretty damn big too.  I own three of the four of those life size contenders, and don't own the Alien, but he's so damn cool, and I so damn wish I did, that he's my pick.

The Contenders: PCS 1:1 Akuma; Sideshow Big Chap Alien; Gentle Giant "Magnitude" Ackbar; Factory Entertainment 1:1 Frankenstein Monster; Hot Toys Iron Man MKV; Sideshow 1:1 Darth Vader; Sideshow 1:1 Iron Man; Hot Toys Dark Knight Joker; DCD Women of the DC Universe Batgirl.

Sideshow Big Chap Alien bust

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Best Designer/Vinyl Figure - Carl and Russell, 2010 Winner
This is a tough category. It covers any sort of vinyl figure, from the mass produced Funko stuff to the small independent designer figure.  We have a really eclectic assortment on the ballot this year, and we tend to see quite a bit of diversity in the winners as well.

Once upon a time, Hot Toys was pretty active in this market. They've gotten away from it at least a bit in recent years, but their Carl and Russell, from the terrific movie Up, remains my favorite. A close second was Rango, but there can be only one winner.

The Contenders: Funko Bruce the Shark Exclusive; Funko Groot; Hot Toys Mike and Sulley; Kidrobot Matt Groening; Hot Toys Rango; Hot Toys Carl and Russell; DST Staypuft Marshmellow Man; Hasbro Mighty Muggs Iron Man; Medicom VCD Yoda.

Hot Toys Up Carl, Russell action figures

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Best Prop Replica - Ghostbusters Ghost Trap, 2011 Winner
When Mattel, a toy manufacturer, got into the collectible prop replica market, there were plenty of skeptics.  That included me. But they did some pretty sweet stuff (with a few misses as well), and my favorite winner of this category is their Ghost Trap. It remains a highlight in my collection, still works great, and still impresses guests with it's lights, sounds, and movement.

The Contenders: BTTF USA Today; Hasbro Infinity Gauntlet; Mattel 66 Bat Belt; NECA Portal Gun; Mattel Ghost Trap; Mattel PKE Meter; Sideshow Life size C-3PO; Sideshow Samaritan.

Mattel Ghostbusters Ghost Trap replica

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Best Building set/Block Figure - Lego Star Wars, Winner Multiple Times
This has always been a weird category, pretty much a gimme for Lego of course.  The first four years, it was just the best overall brand, and while there have always been plenty of nominees, the winner was always Lego. No surprise there.  The last three years, we've altered the nominees to be actual lines or specific sets. This opens things up a bit i suppose...but the winner has still remained Lego. With the switch to more specificity, the Lego Star Wars line has dominated, and I have to agree. The variety and quality of the sets has been amazing.

However, I'm not sure if the Star Wars dominance will bleed into 2016...I'm thinking the Batman Movie sets are a strong opponent.

The Contenders: Lego and Lego Star Wars. Duh.

Lego Star Wars Star Destroyer

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Best Misc - Skylanders, 2012 Winner
We always finish with the catch all category, and there have been lots of odd nominees and winners.  Sometimes it's a unique item from a small manufacturer, sometimes it's something that doesn't yet have its own category. Out of the winners, my pick is the Skylanders, the first truly successful combination of action figures and video games. It has gone on to create its own sub-industry, and while this particular brand has slowed, others have picked up the ball and ran with it.

The Contenders: NECA Carton of Alien Eggs; Funko's ReAction; Mecha Godzilla; Skylanders; Spy Monkey MOTUC Accessories; Sideshow Han in Carbonite; Hasbro sixth scale Ark of the Covenant; Hot Toys Aliens Power Loader.

Skylanders action figure
Photo Courtesy

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It's been a lot of work, but a lot of fun running the Poppies every year. I really appreciate all the input from the judges, particularly around the nominations.  Their support and help make the whole thing possible.

I also appreciate all the readers that vote in the People's Picks.  I know your favorites aren't always there, but the judges do their best to represent the industry as a whole.  It's always an evolving process, and we'll continue to make it better every round. Please take the time and vote in the 2016 People's Picks at the ballot right here.

If you're enjoying this concept of Captain Toy Picks, drop me a line and let me know! I've added a section below with links to all the past Captain Toy Picks... features:

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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