Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Best and Worst of 2017

Date Published: 2017-02-07
Written By: Michael Crawford

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QMX Captain's Chair Star Trek sixth scale

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The votes are in, and now it's time for me to get tallying! The Poppies Judges have completed their voting on the Poppies, and the ballot is now closed for the People's Picks as well. It's going to take me a few days to get it all figured out and written up - stay tuned!

While you wait, here's a look at my picks for the best of 2017 - and the worst, when it's applicable. I haven't been as active in every category, and you really need to know the market to pick valid worsts. But I'll give it my best shot and try to hit every category, in my on going attempt to piss off everyone at some point.

Let's keep in mind that nothing here is fact. It's all my opinion.  Don't get upset, don't get mad, don't get your knickers in a twist over any of this.  Your opinion on this stuff is just as valid as mine, which is what makes it all so much fun.

Here are links to past year's picks (and this years) for comparisons:

My picks:   People's Picks:   Poppies:  
2017 2017 2017
2016 2016 2016
2015 2015 2015
2014 2014 2014
2013 2013 2013
2012 2012 2012
2011 2011 2011
2010 2010 2010
2009 2009 2009
2008 2008 2008
2007 N/A   2007
2006 2006 N/A
2005 2005 N/A
2004 2004 N/A
2003 2003 N/A
2002 2002 N/A
2001 2001 N/A
2000 2000 N/A

On to the list...

Best Overall Company
One company is going to be pretty prominent in my selections this year, winning in several categories starting with Best Company.

Before we get to them, let's talk bronze. My third place pick this year is NECA. Their work on Aliens, Predator, and a wide variety of other licenses remains top of the market. Years ago, they challenged McFarlane, then overtook them, and now are in command in th 7" licensed action figure market. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Silver goes to Hot Toys. They might slip now and then, but overall they own the sixth scale market. I'd love to see them do more with lesser licenses, but let's be honest - when you have juggernauts like Marvel, DC, and Star Wars, how much time are you going to have for the B side? The quality of their sculpts and paints have set the bar for the overall industry, and rather than rest on their laurels, they continue to push themselves with innovation and invention.

The winner, by a landslide, is Mezco. While they did plenty of terrific figures and lines, their win is largely based on the One:12 Collective. It's one of my current favorite lines, and is likely to be one of my top ten of all time before it wraps up. They had some very strong releases in 17, and 18 is already looking even better. As with Hot Toys, I'm hoping they don't end up with too many Marvel and DC figures and ignore the other lesser known licenses, but I'll be buying everything they produce. Where's Popeye?

One:12 Collective Deathstroke action figure

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Worst Overall Company
You know what? Gone are the days of the truly awful companies. Nobody is rolling out garbage just for profit sake, and the industry as a whole is the better for it. There's still mistakes being made, and companies aren't always looking out for their customers. But overall, we're miles ahead of where we were 10 years ago.

But there was one company that stood out here. C'mon, it was an easy pick. They made promises that simply were impossible, and continue to promise things without any delivery. They've taken people's money, and so far, have given nothing but hype in return. Yep, that'd be Molecule8. I'm not a big John Lennon fan, so their first figure didn't really excite me. We did an interview with them about 8 months ago on the HotToyCast, and they seem like good people - but they continue to promise to solve world hunger, and haven't bought lunch for a single person. I am interested in their second promised figure - Willy Wonka - and so I hope they manage to right the ship. But until they do, it's all just unicorns and Santa Claus.

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Best Overall Line - High End
Guess who is going to win? Yea, you know.

Let's start with bronze though, which I'm giving to Qmx for their sixth scale Star Trek series. We got McCoy, Picard, and Khan this year, along with the terrific Captain's Chair. I can't wait to see what they have in store for us after Old Khan, and it's one of my most anticipated series.

Taking second place is Hot Toys with their terrific Star Wars figures. From old school Vader and Yoda, to new characters like Jyn Erso and K-2SO, they crushed almost every release. They're giving us a nice mix too, with both A-listers and B-listers seeing the light of day.

But the winner should be obvious, for the second straight year - Mezco's One:12 Collective. These guys are running $80 now, and for a 1/12 scale figure, I consider that pretty 'high end'. Thankfully, the quality backs up the price. There aren't many lines I'm a completist on, but this is one, and unfortunately, that attitude is going to cost me.

One:12 Collective Red Skull action figures

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Worst Overall Line - High End
I'm going to stick with just one pick in this worst as well. While there were a few disappointing lines, there's only one I really felt needed the raspberry.

Diamond Select's Premier Collection of statues based on the Batman 1966 show fell well short of my expectations. Of course, it doesn't help their case that I'm a huge fan of the old show, making my requirements all the harder to meet. The overall quality is poor, from sculpt to design, but most importantly, the paint work is weak. Now, I get it when we're talking about one of the lower cost DST lines like their animated busts and statues. In fact, while the paint quality on these is iffy at times as well, you'll see some of the getting the kudos in later categories. In these instances, the low price and paint quality match up and make sense, but with this high end line, the price is much higher, and the expectations for the overall quality are also high.

DST Premier Collection 1966 Batman

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Best Overall Line - Low End
There were lots - LOTS - of exceptional lines this year, and even the quality of the movie based series increased.

My bronze goes to the Articulated Icons. This is a line by collectors for collectors, with an emphasis on amazing articulation and great play value. I know just how hard it is to get an action figure line up off the ground, let alone one that matches your vision as these clearly do. Hats off to the folks behind them, and if you haven't picked any up yet, I highly recommend you do.

Silver is another 'independent' series, this time from the Four Horsemen - Mythic Legions. Amazing sculpts, terrific articulation, and lots of fan input allow them to create some truly creative and inspired fantasy characters. Who doesn't love orcs and goblins and elves and knights? Again, if you haven't checked them out yet, do.

My gold goes to a more traditional, large company line, but I have to give them props for an overall amazing year. Hasbro's Marvel Legends had so many great releases in 2017, from male and female figures right up to their BAF's. By combining movie based figures with comic based figures, getting good distribution (much, much better than their competitors from Mattel, DC Multiverse), and picking appropriate characters to drive the line forward, they owned the mass retail action figure market.

Marvel Legends Green Goblin action figure

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Worst Overall Line - Low End
There were a number of pretty stinky low end lines this year, but that's certainly nothing new. Several of Mattel's less articulated movie lines were less than inspired, and I'm not thrilled with what we've seen from McFarlane's Stranger Things yet. But there was one series that really disappointed me, and if you haven't figured it out by now, disappointing me is a great way to end up on this list.

I'm not exactly sure what my expectations were with the Funko Rick and Morty series. I did really like their smaller blind boxed figures based on the show, and have almost a full set. Some people liked these larger, more traditional figures quite a bit. But not me. They chose a terrible design for the hip articulation, the quality of the plastic is suspect, and the lack of any sort of actual scale was horrendous. And Morty? Yea, don't even get me started on Morty.  You know me though - as much as I hated this first series, I already have series 2 on pre-order. I might have a problem...

Funko Rick and Morty action figures

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Eddie Wires Award for Outstanding Paint
The Eddie Wires Award is intended to highlight a collectible where the paint work was so exceptional, so amazing, so eye catching, that it set the figure apart from everything else.

My bronze award is going to the Kotobukiya movie based Wonder Woman statue. This was a great statue of the Gal Gadot character in just about every way, but the clean, sharp paint work really made it stand out for me.  When you consider the price point, it becomes even more impressive.

Second place goes to the Hot Toys Tuxedo Joker. Okay, so every one of the Hot Toys Joker releases was pretty damn impressive from a portrait perspective, but the work on the accessories elevated this particular version above the rest for me.

Mezco grabs another gold from me, thanks to the work on their One:12 Collective Punisher. You can pick any one of the multiple releases here - they all had the same amazing paint work on the beaten and bloodied portrait. My personal favorite is the Classic version, thanks to the additional white details, which makes him an even stronger candidate for this particular award.

One:12 Collective Punisher action figure

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Best Male/Female Figure - 18" and up
We made a change with this category for 2017. Usually, we simply did a best male figure 18" and up - their haven't been a lot of females in this scale. Of course, that's starting to change, just as it is across all the scales. There's still not enough for them to have their own category, unlike every size below this, but there was one outstanding release that deserved to be in the running.

First, let's talk bronze. NECA continues to crush it in this scale, and all of their TMNT figures were outstanding. I'm picking Mike, because he's the guy that made it on the ballot, but anyone of them is a perfect example of how NECA sets the bar for this style and scale.

Second place goes to Hot Toys for their deluxe Iron Man MK42. I've never bought a quarter scale Hot Toys figure that wasn't simply amazing, and the deluxe version of the Mark 42 is no different. Of course, there's still a bit of the Iron Man burn out to deal with, but this one was so good it overcame it.

But like I said, NECA pretty much owns this category these days. Their Batman Returns Catwoman is terrific, especially considering the price point. The regular portrait is just okay - the damaged portrait takes the entire figure to a whole new level.

NECA Batman Returns Catwoman action figure

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Worst Male Figure - 18" and up
My pick here is going to be a bit unfair. Lanard is actually doing a very good job with some of these lesser movie lines, like Kong last year and this year's Rampage. But of all the 1/4 scale figures in 2017, I found their Kong the most frustrating. It desperately needs some leg articulation to be the ape it could have been.

Photo courtesy of Godzilla Wikia.

Lanard Kong action figure

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Best Male Figure 12 - 17"
I bet you think you know what I'll pick, and you'll be wrong. There were a lot of really terrific choices this year, more than I remember in a long time, and picking a top contender was awfully difficult. Hot Toys, Qmx, Star Ace, Blitzway, Sideshow, Mondo, DreamX, and more all had fantastic releases.

Let's start out simple with third place. I'm going with Egon Spengler from Blitzway's Ghostbusters line. There are some issues with breakage on the packs, and getting the lights to work consistently is a problem. But Egon looks fantastic, and the idea that we finally got a high quality of a figure of all four Ghostbusters? Outstanding.

Second place is going to an amazing figure on the shelf - the Hot Toys Hulkbuster. I know some people will try to argue that this figure is outside the norm, and more of a vehicle than a figure. But if that's the case, then every Iron Man costume is a vehicle, and I'm not going down that path. The Hulkbuster is an engineering marvel, and while he's expensive, he's well worth the cost. It took a loooong time for him to show up, but he was worth the wait.

But he didn't get my top spot. That's going to a different Hot Toys Marvel character - Doctor Strange. This figure was my perfect storm for 2017, a melding of exceptionally accurate sculpting, realistic and life-like paint, top quality tailoring and construction with a complex outfit, and an excellent selection of accessories. It's rare even for Hot Toys to hit on almost every category, but they pulled it off with this guy.

It is worth noting that if their new Star-Lord had made it out just a little earlier, he would have unseated them all. Beating him in 2018 is going to be quite the battle.

Hot Toys Doctor Strange sixth scale action figure

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Worst Male Figure 12 - 17"
I won't lie - I'm saddened by how many figures were vying for this category this year.

I'll start with a dishonorable mention - Hot Toys Daredevil. I love both seasons of the show, even the silly parts in the second season with Elektra. I had tremendously high hopes for this guy. And I was not particularly happy with the final product. Worse, the longer I had him, the less I liked him, and when I got their Netflix based Punisher and compared, he fared even worse. The head's too big, the body too small, and the costume is a let down when compared to other releases. Even though he didn't make it quite low enough to hit my bottom three, I'm sure even mentioning a Hot Toys figure in the same category as 'worst' will generate some conversation.

So let's talk third place. I'm going with ThreeZero's Merle figure from the Walking Dead. I really wanted to like this figure. I generally like everything ThreeZero does, and I'm a much happier camper overall with their Game of Thrones line than it seems with other collectors. But Merl's light bulb head was just so atrociously goofy, and Merle is a portrait that gives you so much to work with. Missing it is worse than one of the average 'pretty' boys - even McFarlane nailed this guy in a much smaller scale.

In second place is the Lost in Space Will Robinson from Executive Replicas. ER as done some good stuff in the past, but usually not under their own brand. The quality here is more Barbie doll than high end figure, which isn't a problem...if it wasn't almost $200. They also have a John Robinson with the jet pack scheduled for release, and I'm hopeful that we'll see improvements there.

The top winner - or loser, as it were - in this category is another one of those figures where I really, really love the character, and this love for the character resulted in a much greater disappointment in the final result. I'm picking Sideshow's Beetlejuice for the 'gold'.

It's important to note that Sideshow actually had a terrific year in 2017. I loved their Evil Dead Ash, and Lobo was in the running for the top three. But Beetlejuice just didn't do it for me, largely because of the weird, wide eyed expression on the portrait, the lack of accessories, and the eye popping ridiculous price tag ($240?!?!?). Drop him $60, and he wouldn't have ended up in this spot.

Although you have to admit, he looks pretty taken aback by his inclusion in this list...

Sideshow Beetlejuice action figure

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Best Male Figure 5 - 11"
Since I already bragged up a couple lines in earlier categories that produce figures in this range, you probably have a pretty good idea of where this is going.

Bronze might be a surprise though. Eh, probably not. I already told you the Mythic Legions from the Four Horsemen were mighty cool - look no further than their Forest Troll for proof. This big, bulky, highly detailed and extremely well painted figure epitomizes the concept of the entire line.

Another non-surprise is that a Marvel Legends figure gets the silver. I'm going with Green Goblin, a character I love, and a design that really pops. But I could have gone with anyone of six different figures, thanks to the quality of the line over the entire year.

And there's zero surprise who the winner is - Mezco's Classic Punisher. Every Punisher in their One:12 Collective line is outstanding, but the Classic version was my pick. Terrific portraits, excellent costume, and fantastic accessories all add up to my favorite of the year.

Punisher One:12 action figure

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Worst Male Figure 5 - 11"
I didn't have a lot of awful figures in this scale. But there was one that bugged the crap out of me - the Marvel Legends Netflix Daredevil. As much as I loved the overall ML series in 2017, this one figure stood out like a sort thumb. The lower face looks nothing like him, and the restrictive design hurt the posability.

Marvel Legends Daredevil action figure

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Best Male Figure under 5"
I don't buy a lot of figures in this scale any more, but there's still plenty of great ones out there.

Let's start with bronze. There's a line I'm very, very tempted to get into - Bucky O'Hare from Boss Fight Studios. The sculpts are great, the articulation is solid, and they have a buttload of extras, including swappable faces for different expressions. I haven't taken the plunge yet...but I'm *this* close, and I really love what I've seen in person so far.

My second place winner comes from Funko - Scrooge McDuck. Funko is responsible for a metric ton of collectibles, some very good, some not so much.  Their line of action figures based on the 'Disney Afternoon' license fall very firmly in the former. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this line was their best work in 2017 - they are that good. Scrooge happens to be the best, in my opinion, of an overall terrific series.

But my personal favorite comes from Diamond Select Toys - Rowlf. Oh, I know I've complained about the smaller scale with their series of Muppets, but the reality is they're great figures, and I love the accessories. Getting a regular Rowlf in the old Palisades line wasn't easy, but DST changed all that. He looks terrific too, especially standing next to his piano.

Funko Scrooge McDuck action figure

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Worst Male Figure under 5"
Remember Rick and Morty? Yep, poor Funko gets abused for that series here again. I do feel a bit for them, because a cartoon character like Morty, who really has no neck, is almost impossible to properly translate into three dimensions. Still, they failed. Glip glop.

Funko Morty action figure

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Best Female Figure 11" - 17"
One of the best things about the modern action figure market is the number of terrific female figures we're getting in every scale. Ten years ago, there were barely enough total choices to have a ballot - now there's so many good choices it's almost impossible to choose.

This is particularly true in sixth scale, where a number of companies are working with female heroes these days. My bronze pick goes to Hot Toys' Ellen Ripley. It's been a long time coming, but we finally got a Ripley good enough to stack up against the Aliens on the shelf.

Hot Toys takes silver as well, with their Suicide Squad Harley Quinn. You might not be a huge fan of the movie or the design of the character, but you still have to admit Hot Toys nailed the character perfectly. This is one of the very rare times where an extremely dynamic expression worked flawlessly, and if I were purely going off sculpt, she would take the top prize.

Guess what - Hot Toys gets my clean sweep by taking the gold as well. Their deluxe Jyn Erso ended up edging out Harley for me, but I'll admit it was mighty close. When you take into consideration the entire figure, from sculpt to paint to outfit to accessories, Jyn gets my vote.

Hot Toys deluxe Jyn Erso action figure

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Worst Female Figure 12" and up
When you start getting more female figures, you start getting more weak ones too. Hopefully we'll see the overall quality continue to improve, and it will become harder and harder to pick someone for this category.

While a lot of folks found ThreeZero's Daenerys Targaryen less than perfect, I thought she was decent. Star Ace's Marilyn Monroe had issues as well, but I think folks were being a bit harder on the portrait than it deserved. And Star Ace fumbled on their Katniss Everdeen too, making it a tough year for them and the ladies.

Sadly, they take my gold here with another female release - Hermione Granger. They released a long awaited teen version of the best wizard in the Harry Potter universe, and it fell well short of their usual quality.  They've had hits and misses, but 2017 also saw the release of the Gambon Dumbledore, a figure they crushed. And their young Hermione remains one of my favorite sixth scale female figures ever produced.

I think it's the rooted hair that causes the biggest issue, not because it's rooted, but because they did it in such a way that it created a five head, and then they parted the hair down the middle. Of course, the paint needs some improvement too - you can't not notice that - but I suspect the underlying sculpt can be redeemed in the right hands.

Star Ace Hermione Teen action figure

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Best Female Figure 5 - 11"
There were some terrific choices in 2017 - it looks like making a final pick will be just as difficult this year.

Hasbro's Star Wars Black 6" series had some great choices, and my bronze pick proves you don't have to be a beautiful woman to be a beautiful action figure. I'm picking Maz Kanata for third, a character I really like and a translation to plastic I like almost as much.

My second place pick goes to the One:12 Collective Suicide Squad Harley. Poor Harley - that's twice she's been a runner up now. The One:12 line is fantastic, and they did a marvelous job creating the complex outfit and multiple portraits in this tiny scale.

The winner is a bit of an odd pick - I know many of you won't agree. But the Marvel Legends Dazzler is just so funky, so disco, so 70's, that I have to give Hasbro a lot of credit for adding her to their line up. They did a fantastic job on the sculpt and paint, right down to the amazing hair. It's like I'm 16 again!

Marvel Legends Dazzler action figure

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Worst Female Figure 5 - 11"
There weren't a ton of choices this year for my worst in this category - a good sign.  Sure, I thought some of the silly female zombie WWE figures were lame, but that's not so much a quality issue as one of taste.

There's a few Multiverse figures I'm not happy with as well - poor Wonder Woman didn't get the treatment she really deserved, that's for sure. But the clear pick for me in this category was from McFarlane Toys, a company trying to make a comeback in the market they created. They grabbed the Stranger Things license, and started off a line of 7" scale figures with the release of Eleven. The Sheriff wasn't bad, but he's not the most important character - Eleven is. And they missed on several fronts with her figure. The sculpt and paint are mediocre at best, and the articulation is simply awful. It's not enough that it's worthless - they had to make it ugly too.

Stranger Things Eleven action figure

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Best Female Figure under 5"
As I mentioned when discussing the male counterpart of this category, I'm not a big collector of this scale any more. But I still see things...I still hear things. And it's pretty clear that the lesser known companies are doing some amazing work here.

My bronze is going to any of the Valkyries from Maurader. If you're looking for some cool female combat figures to go with your Joes, look no further. There's a ton to choose from too, and the articulation makes them great toys for the kids.

Okay, so Funko isn't a 'lesser known company', but they did quite a few female characters across all their styles and properties this year.  As a huge fan of the 1966 Batman show, I was happy to see at least one series of actual action figures - not Pops, not Rock Candy, actual figures - based on the show.  A highlight is the Batgirl, thanks to a nice sculpt and good paint work considering the scale.

Boss Fight Studio has a terrific line of Elven Warriors in their Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. (the entire line up of characters both male and female is amazing too), and I'm going with Cerisier the Assassin for my top spot. She's a terrific sculpt, has great paint, accessories, and articulation, and fits in with the fantasy theme that's so popular right now.

Photo courtesy of Toy Ark.

Elven Warrior Ceriseir action figure

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Worst Female Figure under 5"
When you do as many figures in as many styles as Funko, you're bound to have some stinkers.  While I really liked the work they did overall with the small scale Batman 66 action figures, I'm much less enthused with the final result on the Stranger Things series. Eleven was particularly bad, with an unrecognizable head sculpt, weird proportions, and wonky articulation. I'm not a huge fan of the McFarlane Eleven either, making the poor kid zero for two in action figure representations.

Funko Stranger Things Eleven action figure

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Best Build-A-Figure
With Mattel and Hasbro going crazy with the BAF's in 2017, there were no shortages of picks for this category. It's funny, because a few years ago we almost dropped it from the ballot, but the concept has roared back over the last couple years.

My third place pick goes to Snowball from the Funko Rick and Morty series. Yes, I know, I hated the overall series, but Snowball was the bright spot in an otherwise barren wasteland.

My second place pick goes to the Thor Ragnarok Hulk from Hasbro's Marvel Legends. I love my BAF's big, and anytime I can get an ML Hulk it's a good day.

When I say 'big', it's an understatement with my winner for this category. It's taken quite a while to get all the pieces necessary to build the Ghostbusters rooftop diorama, but it was well worth it. It's complex, well designed, and looks fantastic with the wide variety of figures Diamond Select Toys produced over the last couple years. They are taking the BAF concept to the extreme, and I love it.

Ghosbusters Rooftop Diorama

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Worst Build-A-Figure
There weren't any really bad BAF's this year - some were weaker than others, but nothing that I thought was truly horrendous. So think of this choice as more of a dishonorable mention rather than an outright win.

I was a big Man-Thing fan when I was young, so I was really, really looking forward to the release of the Marvel Legends BAF. Unfortunately, he didn't live up to my expectations. While I like the head sculpt, the rest of the body is just too Sasquatch for me, not enough Man-Thing.

Marvel Legends Man-Thing action figure

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Best Vehicle
Prior to this year, we had a category called 'best vehicle/play set'. Putting them together makes sense - technically, a vehicle IS a play set, and the line between the two is often blurry.

But in 2017 there were so many great vehicles AND great play sets that the judges suggested we bust them up into two categories. So likewise, I'm doing the same here.

One of the more expensive - but cool - vehicles from last year was the Ultimate Batmobile. Sure, it cost a couple hundred bucks, but it was not only RC - it was RC from your phone!  And it did all sorts of cool things too, more than I've seen with most RC releases.  It only ended up in third because I've also heard some stories of less than stellar performance.

Second place goes to Rey's Speeder from Hasbro's Star Wars Black 6" line. This is one of the few lines left that I collect at mass market, and any time I can get a cool vehicle in this scale, I'm all over it like hair on a bear. This one looks great, and has a nice size and bulk to it.

The first place winner is from Playmobil. They branched out a bit more with their licensed products in 2017, producing several sets based on the classic Ghostbusters. Their Ecto-1 was terrific, a ton of fun and a fantastic toy. All the sets are a lot of fun - Playmobil remains one of the greatest toy lines of all time - but this one really stands out for its complexity and design.

Playmobil Ghostbusters Ecto-1

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Worst Vehicle
I usually pick on silly vehicles here, things that simply don't make sense. That's what I'll be doing again.

Now, I love Imaginext. I think they make some of the best toys on the market right now. I have bought quite a few, just because I couldn't resist.  I also love the Teen Titans cartoon, so you'd think the marriage between the two would be ideal.

And for the most part it is...but then they did this Beast Boy with a 'vehicle'. He rides on the back of a big gorilla...which is him...he's riding himself. Even a six year old is going to think this is weird.

Teen Titans Beast Boy action figure

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Best Play Set
While the number of super hero movies in 2017 wasn't particularly unique, the number of big play sets produced by the large toy companies was.

My third place pick is by Mattel for the Justice League movie - the Ultimate Justice Battleground. This reminds me of the play sets of the 80's and 90's, and it is absolutely huge. Tons of play potential, and plenty of fun for kids, but you better have the space to set it up.

My second place choice goes to the Nano Metal Batcave. Some folks hate these little guys, but they remind me of the metal figures of my youth, and the Batcave has some great details.

My favorite is an easy win, however. It's another Batcave, but this time it's the huge Batman that Animated Series Batcave from DC Collectibles. I'm bummed that this line is petering out - I've loved the releases, and it's been a great addition to the BTAS collection. This play set is a terrific example of the line at its best.

Batman the Animated Series Batcave

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Worst Playset
There were a few disappointing dioramas and sets this year, but one really stands out for me. To go with their less than stellar Beeltejuice, Sideshow produced a tombstone, based on the one in the film of course. The quality was sub-par - think Halloween decoration in the Target seasonal section. It's greatest flaw was it's price, and even with a rather pathetic light feature, it couldn't come close to being worth original retail.

Sideshow Beetlejuice Tombstone diorama

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Best Statue
I added quite a few nice statues to my collection last year, and the selection on the Poppies ballot is quite impressive.

I'm giving bronze to the cutest statue of the year - Rocket and Groot by Gentle Giant. I love what their doing with their mash up of animated MCU characters, but this one really stood out. The expressions on both their faces is priceless, and it can work as a completely stand alone addition to your display.

My silver goes to the Kotobukiya ArtFX Wonder Woman. This is an example example of how to produce a strong, powerful, beautiful character without over sexualizing it or objectifying her. This is also the best Gadot likeness out of any collectible based on the films, at least to my eye.

My gold medalist is another Marvel character - Ghost Rider from XM Studios. It can be hard to capture a tremendously dynamic character like this in a statue.  He needs to be moving, flaming, screaming...yet, trying to do that can often end up in a silly, over posed look. Not so here, where they've created a bad ass Ghost Rider, intent on sending you straight to Hell.

Xm Studios Ghost Rider Statue

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Worst Statue
I didn't see a lot of truly bad statues, but rather statues whose quality matched their price point. Pay less, get less. No surprise there.

But the Premier Collection from DST is supposed to be 'premier', and comes at a pretty high price. The paint quality just hasn't been there though, at least not from the few I picked up. The worst of the bunch was the 66 Batman Joker, and he scared me off buying any more.

DST Premier Collection Joker Statue

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Best Bust
This is a collectible style that's in a slump right now. Everything rises and falls in popularity, and right now it's the bust that's on the outs for many collectors. That means companies are producing far less than they once were. I suspect they'll pop back up in popularity in a couple years though - the pendulum always swings back.

Gentle Giant continues to produce some amazing stuff however, and they get my bronze pick with their Bistan. He's such a cool looking retro style Star Wars alien, and they captured the design perfectly.

I might have picked on DST for their Premier Collection 66 Batman Joker statue, but their 66 Batman series of busts had a highlight for me - Mad Hatter! These are at a very low price point, yet they managed to create an excellent likeness and quality paint work with this release.

They also get my gold medal for a BTAS release - Man-bat! It's important to remember that at these price points, you'll never get quite the paint quality you will with something twice as expensive. But they created a huge, well sculpted character from one of my favorite licenses, and they did it without breaking the bank.

BTAS Man-Bat bust

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Worst Bust
Here's a rarity this year - I don't have one. I don't buy a lot any more, but what I did buy I generally liked, and the quality of those I've seen and not bought has been solid as well.

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Best Designer/Vinyl Figure
The mass market for 'designer' style vinyl figures has gone nuts over the last couple years, with Funko leading the charge. In past years, we've had more true small company/individual figures on the ballot, but this year Funko really took control.

That's not to say none of the little guys made it to the ballot. My third place trophy goes to James Groman's Brachiosores. A terrific design, especially for the dino lovers.

Funko does get my silver medal with their Daenerys Rock Candy figure. I don't own any of the Rock Candy figures, but I see them all the time on my toy runs. They are excellent quality overall, and I love the designs. Dany was a particular favorite who stood out thanks to the license.

My gold medal winner is one I did buy - the Qmx Pinky and the Brain. Quantum Mechanix Q-Figs are always cute, but combining the style with one of my favorite cartoon licenses - a license that simply doesn't get enough love - was the way to win my heart.

Photo courtesy Toy Ark.

Qmx Pinky and the Brain vinyl figure

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Worst Designer/Vinyl Figure
I could say anything Pop! but that would be a tad condescending. I'll admit it - I just don't get the appeal. I own a few - my most recent purchase is the Pickle Rick - but the fervor that accompanies the line is lost on me.

But that's not my worst. Technically, my worst shouldn't be on here til next year, because the official release wasn't until 2018. I was seeing them in December though, so I'm going to count it. Hasbro has re-released Mighty Muggs, and it's not good. You remember Mighty Muggs? Yep, they came out long before Pop! did, and covered a variety of Hasbro licenses like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. They're back, and they have a new gimmick - push down on the head and the face turns, revealing a different expression. Yea, no.

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Best Prop Replica
I didn't pick up a ton of prop replicas this year, but there were a handful that were outstanding.

I'm giving my third place nod to the Batarang from Qmx. Heavy enough to kill someone, this thing is quite impressive on the shelf.  The base design - using magnets - is also quite clever.

In second place is NECA with their Ashy Slashy puppet. This comes from a terrific episode of Ash Vs. the Evil Dead, and makes a great companion piece to your Angel puppet from back in the day.

My gold medal goes to a rather unusual item. Johnny Walker was featured in Blade Runner 2049, and recreated the whisky bottle seen on screen for retail. Thanks to my nephew I was able to get one, and it makes a terrific addition to any bar. Now I just need to find someplace selling the glasses for less than $100 each.

Photo courtesy Bloody Disgusting.

Johnny Walker Blade Runner 2049 replica

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Worst Prop Replica
I'm giving this one a pass too - I didn't come across any stinkers in my travels last year. If there was something you thought was woeful, let me know.

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Best Building set/Block Figure
While there are plenty of players in this market, Lego continues to dominate. Once upon a time we picked by company - now we go down to the actual set level when nominating.

'Huge' was an understatement for some of the sets released in 2017. The Megablox Cabal Harvester Dropship gets my bronze, and it is definitely huge. The final product is also a ton of fun to play with, a common theme with Megablox.

Another huge set - really huge - takes my silver medal - Lego's UCS Millennium Falcon. All the Ultimate Collector Series sets are great, but this one takes top honors. Just be sure you have a lot of patience and a lot of time before you crack those plastic bags open!

My winner is not huge. In fact, it's relatively small. Lego produced the Women of NASA set as part of their Ideas line, a great concept in and of itself. This particular set pays homage to three pioneering women in the space program, and this sort of positive reinforcement of the contributions of all sorts of people to the improvement of humanity are much appreciated.

Photo courtesy Lego.

Lego Women of NASA

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Worst Building set/Block Figure
McFarlane has been dabbling in the building set world for a few years now. They started with the Walking Dead, which was relatively successful. They moved on to the Game of Thrones, which was a giant bust. And then they doubled down with a bunch of new licenses, themed around animated shows like Steven Universe, South Park, and the super popular Rick & Morty.

I didn't pick up any of the Steven Universe sets - not a watcher of the cartoon. I did get all the South Park sets, and was fairly pleased. But the Rick & Morty sets were less enjoyable, and the Garage set was a particular annoyance. Pieces didn't always fit particularly well, the soft body parts were just weird, and the paint work on the figures was less than expected. I'm hoping we see them improve, rather than give up. This set isn't God awful, but there's plenty of room for said improvement.

McFarlane Rick And Morty garage set

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Best Misc
We're down to the final category, the catch all, the Island for Misc-fit (see what I did there?) Toys.

I'm going to go with the Nano Metal Figs by Jada as my third place pick. They're cheap, they remind me of my metal and plastic army men, and the couple play sets they've done are really nice.  How often can you pick up a Batman figure, even a simple PVC let alone metal, for a buck?

Boss Fight Studios has this nifty line called Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. I mentioned them earlier when I picked one of their Elven Warriors for Best Female Figure Under 5". In 2017 they added nifty blind bag accessory packs that include weapons, hands, heads, helmets, etc. that you can pop on any of their figures in the line. It's a really cool idea, and allows you to get pretty wild with your creations.

My gold medal goes to Spinmaster. They've been doing all sorts of cool RC characters and vehicles for Star Wars, but their large scale Hero Droid BB-8 was fantastic. You can have your own BB-8! The control works well, and the quality is great.  Talk about fun - this is the sort of toy that makes me wish I was 10 again.

Photo courtesy Spinmaster.

Spinmaster BB-8 Hero Droid

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Worst Misc
I've probably complained about this particular line before, because I tend to complain about the overall concept in general quite a bit. I hate it when a toy company decides to take two great, popular themes and jam them together even when it makes no sense, because you can't possibly go wrong...right? I can imagine a dozen people sitting around coming up with these lame ideas...

My worst here goes to the mutant WWE figures. Yea, WWE figures = great. And we all know I think mutants = great. But mutant WWE figures? Nope, no thank you. Last year it was zombie WWE figures, this year it's 'mutants'. What's up for 2018 - WWE characters dressed up in fantasy garb? "Orc Lesnar". Mattel gets that one for free.

Photo courtesy Ringside Collectibles.

Zombie Triple H action figure

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This was one of the toughest years I remember for making my choices. I also heard from several Poppies judges who felt the same, commenting that voting in past years took 10 minutes, but this year it was 45 - 60 to make it all the way through.

That's a good thing, however. Once upon a time, there were more than one company that was producing poor quality work, or simply not producing at all. The best choices in each category tended to stand by themselves, and the international offerings were harder to find and obtain. Scalping was rampant, and often Ebay was the only solution for exclusives. The environment for collectors has improved in almost every way, from selection to availability to quality.

The sixth scale market is dicey right now. Hot Toys has turned their back on the smaller licenses, creating a vacuum that smaller manufacturers are trying to fill. But Hot Toys has also created an expectation in quality that these smaller manufacturers can't achieve, setting them up to fail if collectors are unwilling to accept anything less with the more niche lines. It will be interesting to see how this all flushes out over the next 12 - 24 months.

Busts are definitely in a decline right now, but statues seem to be booming, particularly those in the larger scales.  But with the high prices, can the market maintain?

It's also interesting to note that action figures at mass market were predicted to be dead 15 years ago, and yet they continue to be a fairly large factor in the toy store aisles. Companies like Playmates, NECA, Hasbro, Imaginext, and Mattel - not to mention Funko - have found a way to still turn a profit, and lines that were once on life support (think Marvel Legends) are back on top. Will the intrinsic enjoyment of holding an action figure in your hand, and the joy a kid gets out of creating their own battles between characters outweigh the ever present siren call of video games?

The one constant is change, and this certainly remains true in the toy and collectible market. What changes will we see in 2018 and beyond? I can't wait to find out!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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