MWC's Picks for Best/Worst of 2002

It's that time of year again - time for me (and you!) to pick the best and worst of 2002! This will be the third year for the People's Choice Awards, and the voting is complete. As I was putting the list together I was particularly surprised by the number of good companies and lines this year, and the lack of the bad. Part of that has to do with some companies going out of business - we don't have N2 or Vital to pick on any more - but it also has to do with the overall quality of the product increasing.

And so here's my choices for best and worst. Once again this year I'm using the gold/silver/bronze medal approach in both the bad and good categories, and I'll give overall company medal stats at the end. I should have the votes tallied in the next week for the People's Choice Awards that you voted in, and I'll put together a nice big feature on it.   Last year Playmates included their winning of a People's Choice Award in their Toy Fair display - the companies are reading!

The Best Overall Company
All of these categories are tough this year, but this one is a real sticky wicket. There was so much good work done by so many companies, that picking even the top three was tough. Mattel hit a home run with the MOTU releases, Hasbro has improved the Star Wars line (at least the 3 3/4" offerings), McFarlane continues to be a leader in sculpting and innovation, and Playmates has breathed new life into the Simpsons line with the mail aways and improving the detail and designs of the playsets.

After much debate, here goes. The bronze medal is awarded to Sideshow Toys. They are producing some of the most unique sixth scale figures on the market, and have found a way to exploit some of  the most bizarre licenses around. The Monty Python figures continue to delight fans of the film, while the more traditional Universal Monsters show the level of detail and accuracy they strive for. I'm particularly happy with the Twilight Zone/Outer Limits figures, a license I never expected to see, let alone done so well.

The silver medal goes to Palisades. A small, young company known originally known for video game
licenses, they turned the corner this year with the Muppets. Sure, the figures are terrific, but that's not what sets them apart from all others - it's their heart. The level of customer service and responsiveness to the fan base is unparallelled, and it's clear that they love their jobs, their products, and the licenses.

And now the drum roll please...the gold medal goes to...Toybiz. Surprised? Don't be. They have elevated their work this year, and poured everything into the Lord of the Rings license. How they managed to also produce the excellent Spiderman Classics and Marvel Legends is beyond me. To produce consistent quality across multiple lines is no easy task, and Toybiz rose to the occasion.

Best Overall Line
Another tough category, because there is a lot to choose from this year. There's my old favorite, the Simpsons, along with new favorites like Marvel Legends, MOTU, and the Outer Limits. And while some of my choices are influenced by the license itself, they wouldn't be winners if the license was handled poorly. For a line to win in this category, the entire line has to be top notch, not just a couple characters.

The bronze medal goes to Lord of the Rings. If I gave out a most improved award, this line would win.
Improved articulation, sculpting, and paint ops, along with some excellent work on the larger figures in the series, all put this line a the top of the pile.

The winner of the silver medal is Viking Age Spawn (22). McToys hit one out of the park, and it's a big park, with the terrific sculpting, articulation and paint ops of this entire line, PLUS with the terrific deluxe Bloodaxe and Thunderhoof.

And the big winner of the gold medal...the Muppets. Not only has every figure been well executed, but we got not one but two exceptional playsets. The paint ops on these continue to impress me, with so many colors and so much detail. This is the line to watch - by series 3 or 4 it's going to be the 'next big thing'.

Best Male Figure
Just about every great line this year had at least one great male figure. If you look at the People's
Choice Ballot, I have a TON listed, and in reality there are more than that. My tastes may not always run the same as everyone's - my pick out of the Marvel Legends line would have been Namor - but I can certainly see arguments for at least a dozen male figures this year having a shot at the title.

Just the sixth scale arena had figures like the Sean Connery Bond, the Gimli from LOTR, Drastic's Roosevelt, and Astronaut Buck. In the 6" LOTR scale there are at least three or four possibilities alone, a couple from the Muppets, and even the Star Wars line has some contenders. But here's my picks:

The bronze medalist is the Bloodaxe/Thunderhoof duo. The license may not be your cup of tea, but you can't argue with the exceptional sculpting, paint ops and detail at this price point.

The silver medal goes to Sauron. Toybiz gets props not just for great sculpting but keeping things in scale. On top of it, the articulation, paint ops and accessories are all top notch. Adding the ability to remove the fingers and ring was genius!

And the big winner of the gold of those quirky choices. It's Gwyllm, from Sideshow. As I said earlier, I love the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits shows, and of the figures they've produced so far, this one stands out as the best. A perfect example of the kind of monster those shows made famous, with great articulation and sculpting. I doubt he'll be on anyone elses list, but he was a highlight of the year for me.

Best Female Figure
There weren't a lot of great female figures this year, probably because there weren't a lot of female figures period. Things seem to be going back to the old ways, with only the occasional female figure released, and always in shorter numbers than the male. It appears that the excess fascination of collectors with any female character has passed, or at least manufacturers think it has passed.

There were still some nice figures though. Teela stands out from the He-man line, while McFarlane did their usual work with Sarah Conner and Valkyrie. I was able to find three major players though that really stood out. 

The bronze goes to Nikki, one of the few Cy-Girl figures released by bbi this year. Still as bad ass as ever, the Cy-Girls are my favorite tough girls, with great articulation and excellent accessories.

The silver goes to another sixth scale woman - the Nurse from the Doctor/Nurse set of Twilight Zone figures. These two, produced by Sideshow, are from the episode "Eye of the Beholder". The sculpting on the nurse is exceptional, and the pair are some of my favorites from the entire year.

And who takes home the gold? Mcfarlane does it, this time with the Voodoo Queen. While she wasn't the most monstrous of the McToys Monsters line, she was certainly the hottest, and the sculpting and accessories are excellent.

Best Articulation
This is a category usually dominated by the sixth scale makers. Let's face it, it's simply easier to put a ton of articulation into a big figure, and companies like bbi, Dragon, Sideshow and Drastic Plastic have led the way. Still, it's possible to add useful and inventive articulation to the smallest of figures, and not all my winners this year used a 12" body.

First some honorable mentions. Of course, the three long term leaders in articulation, bbi, Dragon and Sideshow, deserve kudos. They didn't make it into the top three this year though for one simple reason - nothing really new. While the figures are well articulated, there was little innovation over 2002.

McFarlane came a long way in this category this year, particularly on lines like Spawn 22. They show progress and creativity, always nice to see in a company that's been in the game for awhile.

Taking the bronze medal is a new company, Drastic Plastic. While not too many folks jumped at their first offering, Hitler, their next two figures (FDR and Custer) further showcase their newly designed sixth scale body. Adding additional articulation in the feet, designing relatively unique leg and shoulder joints, and adding bendy fingers that actually work well brought them ahead of the pack in the 12" market.

The silver medal goes to another small company, Art Asylum. They've worked hard to add articulation into every license where ever possible. Even in figures as small as their Mini-mates, there's elbow and knee joints, and in the new Trek license they got creative with rubber to cover unsightly joints. While it wasn't a universal hit, it does show a level of creativity and an understanding that both sculpt and articulation are important.

The top prize goes to an old company though, long in the business - Toybiz. The fantastic articulation they've added to several of their lines, including Spider-Man, Marvel Legends, and LOTR, shows that you can produce a figure that isn't just great looking, but great posing too.

Best Sculpting
Sculpting is an area that seems to improve every year, and certainly not just because of the new Real Scan technology improvements. Every company realizes it has to hit the likeness, and produce better and better looking figures just to stay in the game.

Lots of companies rose to the challenge this year. Toybiz stepped it up on the LOTR and Marvel Legends line, while Mezco continued their great sculpting. Art Asylum used the Real Scan process better than any other company with the Star Trek line, and even Hasbro and Mattel started catching on to the importance of great sculpting.

But there were three very clear winners for me this year. Taking the Bronze this time is Palisades. This is due mostly to the Muppets line, where they produced plastic figures that looked just like fuzzy little puppets. The texturing and detail is simply amazing on this line, but Palisades has also done an excellent job with their other series, especially the Year Without Santa Claus.

Silver goes to the best company around for real people - Sideshow. Their sculpts of the Platoon, Bond, Monty Python and Universal Monster characters this year captured human faces that you could easily compare to an actual person, and every time they came out on top.

But who gets the Gold? The same company that seems to do no wrong when it comes to sculpting - McFarlane. While I have problems with the articulation on some lines, perhaps the quality on others, I never find the sculpting lacking on a McToys line. Between this year's Movie Maniacs and Spawn 22, they proved once again they know great looking toys.

Best Packaging
Some collectors couldn't possibly care less about the boxes their toys come in, but you have to remember that the packaging is key to on-the-shelf marketing. And in the world of sixth scale collecting, it's always sweet to have a box you can put everything back into for storage.

And the sixth scale market really is where we see the best packaging work. But the Bronze medal winner goes to a smaller scale line, due to it's innovation - DC Direct. It was great to see them trying out the re-sealable bubble/card package this year, and I'm hoping we see more of it in the future.

The silver medal goes to Sideshow Toy, for their continued excellence. Packages for lines like Six Gun Legends, Twilight Zone, and Outer Limits have some of the best written and most informational text around. The designs are great, and the graphics well chosen and attractive.

The winner of the gold is a new company this year - Drastic Plastic. Not only was the box art and style fantastic on the Roosevelt and Custer figures, but they were completely collector friendly. The thing that put them on top though was the presentation of these figures in the boxes. Rather than being static in simple trays, they were posed in attractive ways, showing off the figures right on the shelf.

I wanted to give McFarlane an honorable mention here. The hard clamshell packaging has really grown on me, and I think it works great for MOCer's and openers alike.

Best vehicle/playset
This category usually has so few entrants in the first place, that picking a winner is fairly clear. Not so this year, with several lines producing great playsets, and plenty of cool vehicles.

And while those vehicles were cool, I'll be picking playsets for all three places this time around. The bronze goes to the Geonosian Battle Arena from Hasbro. Reminiscent of what makes a playset fun, this huge toy allows kids to re-enact one of the best scenes from Episode II. Add in the three beasts, and the ability to connect the smaller deluxe scenes to this larger scene, and you've got a set that delivers a ton of fun.

The silver medal winner this year is a Simpsons set. Heck, they produced so many this year one of them had to make it in! Actually, two or three of the sets this year were excellent, but only one can get a medal. And that one is Main Street. A huge set, retailers balked at the idea when Playmates first introduced it. But they worked with the fans to further develop the idea, and finally got Toys R Us to jump on board. The set is the largest out this year by far, and has voice lines for 95 of the current
figures. If you collect World of Springfield, you have to have Main Street - it's that simple.

And the gold goes to...Muppet Labs. With tons of detail, excellent size, lots of extras, and a terrific price point, it was easily the hands down winner in this category.

Best New Idea
There were actually quite a few innovative and creative ideas this year. Galidor bombed, but it was at least creative. Hero Clix have been extremely popular, and is a game idea that spans many age groups. Lots of folks are excited about the Johnny Lightning Batmobiles, and there are those that really like the uniqueness of the new Marvel Select line. But this was an easy category for me, because three things really stood out.

The bronze medal is awarded to Mattel for the new He-Man line. Great idea, and by using the excellent
skills of the Four Horseman, they started the series out with a bang. I'm hoping we equal creativity and thought put into the Batman and Superman licenses.

What's next? Silver of course, and it goes to Playmates for the use of mail aways to help re-ignite interest in the WOS line, and to also find a way to get figures that might have never seen a peg into the hands of collectors. Cooder and Sinclair were doomed to an early grave with the cancellation of the All Star Voices line. But rather than let them disappear into the pages of an archive book, Playmates came up with a way to use the mail away system to get them out. It worked, and collectors are very happy with the Be Sharps offers as well. The fulfillment house that they are using is extremely fast, reliable and customer focused, so the promotions have worked well all around.

The gold winner was easy for me - Hasbro, for their Playskool line of Star Wars figures. Fun, well built, and designed with kids in mind, this series was one of the most exciting Star Wars lines in ages. Dads all over had the chance to bring their love of Star Wars to the under 5 set in a way not possible before.

Best Accessories
I've added two new categories this year, and Best Accessories is the first. Some companies just seem to know how to pick the coolest, most appropriate stuff to add to their figures. People sometimes assume this is more of a 12" figure area, but I've found that many makers of smaller figures do this extremely well, and for this first year of the award, all three winners are figures 6" and under.

I'm giving bronze to Hasbro for the Star Wars line. Yes, that might be surprising at first, but consider some of the excellent little accessories we've seen with the 3 3/4" figures, particularly in the second half of the year. Not every figure was loaded down, but most had much more innovative and creative accessories in the past. Hasbro deservers some props for recognizing their need to improve, and not raising the price along with it.

The silver medal goes to the Simpsons (WOS). Every figure comes with four or five accessories,
and as 2002 progressed, there was less and less re-use. All of them make sense with the character, and many are episode specific. The hands are generally sculpted to hold them, and the look great with the playsets.  The Faces of Springfield series of 9" figures came with exceptional accessories as well, further cementing Playmates for this category.

And the gold ends up with Art Asylum. The deluxe Enterprise figures come with individual sections of the bridge, which can each be used independently with the figure, or hooked together to form one big, huge set. The sections also have a voice feature, with lines from the show for the specific character. It's a great idea, and well executed. Part accessory, part playset - Art Asylum did a terrific job.

Best Outfit
This is the second new category this year, and one that's clearly a sixth scale area. All three of my winners this time are in the 12" arena, though I suppose it's not impossible that in future years we'll see smaller figures with exceptional outfits.

The bronze is awarded to bbi.  They continue to produce exceptional quality in all their uniforms, although they tend toward military lines.

Silver goes to Drastic Plastic. With their release of FDR and Custer, they gave us two exceptional outfits at once. Custer's buckskin pants and  jacket are amazing, and have to bee seen (and felt) in person to really appreciate. The suit on FDR is the finest quality tailored sixth scale suit I've seen, and if they continue down this path we expect even more great things from DP.

And gold goes to Dragon's exceptional astronaut figure, Buck. He's being re-released under his proper name, Buzz, as well now. With this figure, bbi gave us the finest mass produced astronaut I've seen, with exceptional quality, accuracy and detail. I'm praying we get to see a few more in this vein, like a Mercury astronaut, or perhaps a Space Shuttle version.

Now on to the Worst of 2002. This was actually harder than the best this time around, and that's pretty unusual. Companies like N2, Vital Toys, and Exclusive Premiere made it easy to find a worst figure or worst sculpt. With their demise, and the overall level of quality going up across the board, it's tougher to choose. Have no fear though - there's still plenty of crap in the world to go around.

Worst Overall Company
My three picks this year didn't necessarily turn out complete garbage, but they did disappoint me in some basic, primal way.

The bronze is awarded to Stan Winston Creations. Yep, many of the figures look terrific. Sculpting and paint ops aren't a big issue, but they aren't selling and Winston isn't willing to do anything about the reasons - poor articulation and high price. The reason this bugs me so much is very simple - he has the opportunity to prove to the world, and all the idiot toy store buyers, that a line doesn't have to be a licensed product to be successful. McToys has done it, and if Stan Winston could too, with completely new ideas dreamed up out of his head, they'd finally have to listen. But the extreme price point keeps these things on the peg, and eventually Toys R Us will have had enough.

The silver medal goes to Equity. What happened to Scooby-Doo? Maybe there simply wasn't enough consumer interest, but with only two waves of figures released, overloaded with Shaggy and Scooby figures, three different boxed sets of the boring gang, and God knows how many Mystery Vans, there's no real way to know. There's a ton of variety they could have produced, but never found a way. Even the larger 8" line did better than this, and it didn't have a movie to help it along.

The gold is easy, but it's like kicking a dead horse. N2 managed to produce a few figures this year, including a second wave of Mad Max and the Tick. As you'd expect, they were horrible. And as you'd hope, N2 is no more.

Worst Line
Unfortunately, while there were fewer terrible lines this year, there's still more than enough to choose from for this category. Picking three was like shooting fish in a barrel.

The bronze goes to a line that I seem to be all alone on - Marvel Select. I can't understand how the same company that's doing such a great job on LOTR and Marvel Legends can pass this stuff off as the ultimate collector figures. Mediocre sculpts, weak paint ops, little articulation and a hefty price tag don't add up to ultimate in my book.

I'm giving the silver to the Tick. N2 took a cute show, about a cool comic book superhero, and turned it into poor figures. And these were some of N2's best figures ever! Weak sculpts, and no articulation meant no buyers. Of course, the show getting cancelled didn't help.

The gold goes to Smallville, if for no other reason than because I'm such a big fan of the show, and DC Direct did such a disappointing job bringing them to plastic. While the Clark figure was passable, both Lex and Lana were practically unrecognizable. DC Direct has certainly shown their ability to do better than this with past lines, but they've also shown a distinct lack of consistency.

Worst Male Figure
It was a little tougher for me to single out particular figures that were bad, but then I spent five minutes actually thinking about it, and surprise, surprise, plenty sprung to mind.

I'm giving the bronze medal to the Jester figure from the Scooby Doo movie line. Poor articulation, and a pretty stupid character to begin with. I can't keep this damn figure standing for more than a minute, and he's an embarrassment to the rest of the Scooby display. And that's not easy to do!

The silver is reserved for Brad Goodman of the WOS line. I love WOS like a brother, but Brad was simply a bad choice all around. It's no surprise that he's still warming pegs at Toys R Us stores every where. 

The gold goes to an unobvious choice - Jorg Sacul. Sure, the sculpting, paint ops and articulation are just fine. But this is an example of crass butt kissing at it's finest, and it's a figure Star Wars collectors could have certainly done without.

Worst female
When it comes to the worst male figures, many factors can come into play, including sculpt, paint, articulation, style, etc. etc. etc. But for the worst female it's much simpler - sculpt, sculpt, sculpt. First and foremost, a female figure better look good, and that means accurate. All three winners are perfect examples of what NOT to do.

The bronze medal winner comes from the Spider-Man movie line - the 6" Mary Jane. The concept was good, using the bright red Asian style dress and falling balcony, a major scene for her from the film. So why does she look like a man? Terrible sculpt in an otherwise good series.

Silver is awarded to Drusilla from the MAC Buffy line. Here's a line that is about as inconsistent as they get. Last year we got the wonderful set of Gentlemen figures, with great sculpting and excellent accessories. Right next to it you could find the awful Druscilla, with a terrible likeness. I'd be offended if I were Juliet Landau - this is what they think she looks like? You could almost see her dad, Martin, spinning in his grave.

And the gold goes to Zam Wesell. When will Hasbro stop with the God awful 12" female figures? A huge head on a poorly articulated body  makes this another failure in a long list of failures for the Star Wars sixth scale ladies.

Worst Articulation
While articulation seems to be improving across the industry, there are still some companies that don't get it. Worse, they give you articulation that's completely useless, driving up the cost of the figure but with no real benefit to the customer.

I'm picking Marvel Select for the bronze for exactly that reason. If you're going to give us statues, give us statues. Don't add a couple worthless points of articulation for no other reason than to have a couple.

The silver goes to a consistently poor company for articulation, MAC. While their sculpting can be amazing at times, their articulation never is. They'll have to catch up if the plan on staying in the business. McFarlane knows this, Toybiz usually know this, and smaller companies like NECA, Palisades and Toynami are going to bite into any smaller licenses MAC might have wanted.

But the worst offender, worthy of the gold medal, is N2. Again, it's a little like kicking a man when he's down, but poor sculpting and poor articulation mean you're going to fail. The small companies that have flourished all have great sculpting and a clear understanding of articulation, and the ones that are on the ropes or have gone bye bye did not.

Worst Sculpting
Let's all be grateful there there were far less companies to choose from in this category this year. But there's still a few, and some old standby's are going in the wrong direction.

The bronze medal goes to one of those - 21st Century. Never a company with fantastic sculpts, the latest sets of carded 12" soldiers look like bad dollar store head sculpts. The companies been having various problems for quite awhile, so trying to cheapen things up isn't too surprising. But these butt ugly faces aren't going to be moving much product.

The silver goes to MAC. The only real figures we got from them this year was a handful of Buffy items, and of those the majority showed inferior sculpting. The Gentlemen looked great, but the rest were simply average to below average. Let's hope that doesn't continue with the Buffy/Angel lines.

The gold is handed to a small, new company - Action Figure Paradise. Their set of cop figures were fairly good in terms of accessories and outfits, but the sculpting was really sub-par. I'm hoping that we seem improvement with their planned western line.

Worst Packaging
Another tough category this year, as most companies did a fairly decent job using the packaging to sell and advertise their product. But I'm sure I can dig up a couple examples...

I'm giving the bronze to Mattel. While I think they did a terrific job with the initial release of the MOTU figures, both that line and Harry Potter just don't do anything for me from a packaging stand point. Very basic work, without much innovation, creativity,
or even marketing skill.

The silver is grabbed by Hasbro. Their 3 3/4" packages aren't bad, but the sixth scale packaging is simply dull. It's at least improved in terms of collector friendliness, but with very little in terms of text and graphics, it's not eye catching or especially attractive. They need to get better graphic designers on the 12" line of packaging.

And finally, the gold goes to Mirage. While the Kingdom Hearts line is a fairly good looking set of figures, the packaging was some of the dullest and uninspired I've seen in a long time.

Worst Vehicle/Playset
The majority of the poor playsets and vehicles this year were particularly silly re-issues and repaints that were pretty much nothing more than pathetic money grubbing ploys. There were a couple new releases that were below par though, in one way or another.

The bronze goes to the Great Pumpkin/Doghouse set from Playing Mantis. While I like the Peanuts line overall, and the Sally/Classroom set shows real improvement, the Doghouse set was no were near as good. With only a couple sounds, a fairly small size, and a re-used Snoopy figure, it certainly wasn't worth the higher price tag.

Silver is awarded to the Jedi Starfighter exclusive that hit Kaybee. Didn't we just see this ship a few months ago? Hasbro is truly awful for reused vehicles and playsets, and that's why they also get...

...the gold for the Batman Guardian of Gotham City Batmobile. This is the third release of this particular Batmobile in a year, I believe, and with a crappy brown color, the least interesting. Hasbro did everything thing they could to squeeze a few more bucks out of the Batman license.

Worst Idea
We had some terrific new ideas this year, and most companies seem to be jumping on the creativity bandwagon. However, contrary to popular brain storming concepts, there IS such a thing as a bad idea.

Bronze goes to one of my favorite companies for simply a bad idea - Playmates and the Prozone figures. McToys is having a tough enough time with the sports market, and to add another line to the mix simply seems doomed to fail. While the talking feature is cool, baseball is a fairly dead sport - basketball would have at least been a better choice. I can't see these working, although perhaps they'll cause Todd a little heart burn.

Silver goes to the release of all these mini-figures by far too many companies. A couple have done a decent job with the figures - both the Toynami I-Men and Art Asylum Mini-mates are great little figures - but the market became quickly flooded with far more figures and far more companies than it could handle.

And the gold goes to the complete morons who think producing serial killer action figures is a good idea. There are now at least two small companies trying their best to capitalize off some of the worst crimes we've ever witnessed, and while I'm sure there's a market, and while I'm sure they can find six ways to next week to rationalize it, it's still a despicable way to make a buck. Everyone has a line, and when you cross it, it becomes obvious to them. Producing a John Wayne Gacy figure in a clown suit is crossing that line for me.

Worst Outfit
Here's a first - a worst category that I can't come up with any decent nominees for. Sure, some of the sixth scale stuff from Hasbro isn't great, but it's certainly not of the 'worst of' type quality. Hmmmm - maybe next year.

Worst Accessories
This was a little easier than worst outfit to say the least. Providing too few or totally inappropriate accessories seems to be more common than anyone would like.

For the bronze winner, I pick Toybiz, for the 12" Movie Spiderman line. Why? Because there were NO accessories! Considering the numer of possibilities, it was very disappointing. The fact that the 12" females in the LOTR line also are sans extras doesn't help.

The silver goes to...hell if I could come up with one.  Most of the seriously annoying accessory problems come from the same company...

And the big winner of the gold is Hasbro, for the Batman line. Terrible, goofy, bizarre accessories were included with many of the re-released figures this year, and to make it even worse, these same accessories were often used over and over. If I never see another one of those nose cannons again, it will be too soon. Just another reason to be happy that a new company gets to take a crack at the license.

Most looking forward to in 2003
There's an awful lot of cool stuff on the horizon for 2003. There's the Alien/Predator line up of MM6, the new Hellraiser stuff from NECA, the Simpsons mini-busts from Sideshow, the Matrix figures from McToys, and on and on. Just about every company has something cool coming out, but there are three that really stand out for me, for completely different reasons.

For the bronze winner, I'm picking a line I don't even collect - MOTU. I'm interested to see what Mattel does with it, and where it goes in the long haul. Do they get goofy with the variations? Can they keep the collector interest alive? How do they pull it all off? I'm watching as an interested spectator.

I'm giving the silver to Mattel and the Batman/Superman lines. The JL stuff looks decent so far, and I can't wait to see what they do with the Batman line that is more based on the comic books. There's some cool 12" stuff planned as well, and I expect to spend quite a bit on the Batman toys this year, something that has been missing from my budget the last couple of years.

And the gold goes to Art Asylum and the release of their Star Trek figures based on the original show. I have pretty much every STOS figure produced by Playmates, and that is another area of my collection that has been awfully lonely for the last couple years. It will be great to walk into a store and buy an excellent looking STOS figure again!

Companies to watch
As a final note, I'd like to mention some companies I think you should pay special attention to this year. These companies all have the opportunity to break out and make a name for themselves over the coming 12 months.

NECA will be producing a wide range of products next year, including the Hellraiser figures. With a McToys sensibility, good sculpting and articulation, and a keen desire to make it big, I expect to see them putting a lot of effort into the quality of their products.

Toynami will be releasing the Herculoids and Thundarr lines next year, and both of these look excellent. Fans of the shows have been waiting for these for a long time, and if they turn out as well as expected, they should be a big hit.

Finally, Mirage is a company on the border. Given the right licenses and the right approach, it could be a great year for them.

The Final Tally!
So who's the big winner this year?  Here's the final medal standings.  Each 'best of' gold is worth three points, each silver two, each bronze one.  Each 'worst of' gold is worth -3, each silver -2 and each bronze -1.  Add them all up and you get Sideshow barely squeeking out a first place overall, just one point ahead of McFarlane and Palisades, with both Art Asylum and Toybiz hot on their heels.  If Toybiz hadn't managed to screw up on a few lines, they would have been the easy winners.

Best Best Best Worst Worst Worst
Gold Silver Bronze Gold Silver Bronze Total
Sideshow Toys 1 3 1 10
McFarlane Toys 2 1 1 9
Palisades 2 1 1 9
Art Asylum 2 1 8
Toybiz 2 1 1 2 7
Drastic Plastic 1 1 1 6
bbi 2 2
Playmates 3 1 1 3
Mattel 1 2 1 3
Dragon 1 3
Playing Mantis 1 -1
21st Century 1 -1
Stan Winston Creations 1 -1
Marvel Select 2 -2
DC Direct 1 1 -2
AFP 1 -3
Equity 1 1 -3
Mirage 1 -3
MAC 3 -6
N2 2 1 -8
Hasbro 1 2 3 3 -10
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