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10 - Mr. Burns, WoS Wave 1, Playmates, 2000
The very first wave (out of 16!) produced one of my all time favorites in Mr. Burns. While we got some other terrific variations on the character, including the cool future robot design and him in his PJ's, it was the expression on his face in this original release that sold me on starting down the path of WoS in the first place. The rest of the wave 1 was nice enough, and let's be honest - as crazy as I am about buying Simpsons stuff (for God's sake, I have asthma inhaler covers), I probably would have bought them all anyway. But Burns was a prelude to the best of the series, and the inclusion of Blinky cemented the deal.
9 - Cletus, WoS Wave 7, Playmates, 2002
A recurring theme you'll see with my choices are the inclusion of key accessories. Cletus is one of my favorite C level characters on the show, perhaps because he reminds me of several of my in-laws...and some of my own relatives. Adding in the moonshine jug was sweet, but the flattened opossum takes the prize.
8 - Penn and Teller, Celebrity Series Wave 3, NECA, 2014
While I love the new NECA series, I ended up only picking this pair (and while it's a bit of a cheat since it's two figures instead of one, let's be honest - you can't have just one) out of the Celebrity Series. There were some others in the running, including Matt Groening, Stephen King, and of course, Stan Lee, but in the end it was my love for this pair as actual people, plus the excellent execution, that allowed them to slip onto the list.
7 - Herman, Military Antique Store, Playmates, 2003
The play sets were critical to the WoS series of course, and deserve a list all their own. Each one came with a unique figure, and while many were variants of characters also released as singles, they mixed in some terrific new Springfield citizens when they could. Herman was a perfect example, a creepy weird dude with one arm and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth - and FOX thought this was a kid's line!
6 - The Octuplets, WoS Wave 15, Playmates, 2004
Near the end of the series, Playmates gave us the octuplets, the eight babies of Apu and Manjula. They also gave us Manjula, and we had a perfect head sculpt variation on Apu as well, making an ideal family portrait. When I think about characters I never would expect to see, the babies rise right to the top of the list, and yet they are a fantastic addition to the display of one of my all time favorite characters on the show, Apu.
5 - Donut Head Homer, Treehouse of Horror set 3, Playmates, 2002
It didn't feel right completely leaving out Homer from this list, since he is the head of the household and did have a billion versions of his character produced. The Treehouse of Horror play sets were consistently among the best Playmates produced in terms of characters included, so it's no surprise that my favorite Homer comes from one of them. This Donut Head Homer is just so many levels of wrong. And if you're expecting a Bart, Lisa, or Marge to make the list, you're going to be disappointed.
4 - Itchy and Scratchy, WoS Wave 4, 2001
Ah yes, I'm cheating a bit again, but you can't have the cat without the mouse. Itchy and Scratchy were such an integral part of the show, and while these required stands to stay up (and say their lines), they were still great looking additions. Of course, I wish we'd gotten violent, damaged versions at some point, but this pair had to suffice.
3 - The Collector Comic Book Guy, Treehouse of Horror Play Set 4, Playmates, 2003
There isn't a nerd alive that doesn't love the Comic Book Guy (CBG). Playmates did several variations on the original release, swapping in different t-shirt slogans. My favorite was "worst episode ever", but "bi-mon-sci-fi-con" was good too. But the best version of CBG they released was in the fourth Treehouse of Horror set, called the Collector's Lair. It included a Lucy Lawless Xena, as well as superhero variants on Bart and Lisa from the THOH episode. This costumed CBG remains a favorite, as does the play set overall. How can you go wrong when he says things like "I'm not insane - I simply wish to take you back to my lair and make you my bride."
2 - Stephen Hawking, Wos Wave 13, Playmates, 2003
Playmates didn't include a ton of celebrity figures playing themselves in their WoS line, largely due to the additional rights required. One bright shining exception was Stephen Hawking, a great figure because of the sculpt, accessories, lines...and just because the man himself is so damn cool. This is also a figure that people who couldn't care any less about Simpsons action figures in general are always drawn to, a figure that stands out in multiple ways.
1 - Kang and Kodos, Treehouse of Horror Set 2, Playmates, 2001
And yes, I cheated on the number 1 slot as well, but Kang and Kodos go together like PB and J. The second THOH play set was, as play sets go, a pretty weak offering. But the pairing of these two evil aliens, along with some terrific lines ("Aaaaa - he's got a board with a nail in it!"), elevate the entire set. Their bulk, the clear plastic domes, and the overall shelf presence of these two make them my personal top release, no doubt about it.
There's some surprising results here. When I review my lists and consider the rest of the potential picks, it always raises some questions.
- you'll notice almost no kids were picked. The only inclusion is the octuplets, and you could argue that key characters like Bart, Lisa, and Milhouse are woefully under represented. The kids were over sized in this series however, and I have to say that none (with the possible exception of Bart the Fly) really exited me all that much.
- the Treehouse of Horrors play sets were heavily favored, but that's not because the play sets them selves were that good (only the fourth set, the Collector's Lair, would probably be in my top ten sets) but the figures that were included were stand outs, much like the episodes themselves.
I did a wrap up article on WoS back in the day which you can find here. I've talked about writing a book and I swear that one of these days I'll get around to it. The style and size of these figures remain a huge favorite of mine, and coming up with a unique 10 for this list was extremely tough.
So what's your list look like?
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