Captain Toy's Picks for Best and Worst of 2009!

It's that time of the year once again!  I've closed the judge's voting in the Poppies (thanks to all the judges!), and I've also closed the reader's voting in the People's Picks (thanks for voting!), so now I'm free and clear to post my choices for best of the year, as well as my picks for worsts. 

I'm going to stick to the same categories that were used for the Poppies and People's Picks. That will give me some consistency with those results, and I'll continue to do that in future years. I'm also sticking with my "Gold, Silver, Bronze" layout, all the more appropriate with the Winter Olympics right around the corner. I might slip in a few products that weren't actually nominated on the official ballot, but I'm calling perogative on that one.

Here are links back to past year's picks for comparisons:

My picks:   People's Picks:   Poppies:  
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

Feel free to disagree with me - that's kind of a big part of doing these lists and reading them. If you feel strongly enough, let me know by emailing me.  Now let's get to those picks! 

Best Overall Company

If you look up 'no contest' in Webster's Dictionary, the example they will give is this category for 2009. We all know who I'm going to pick as the winner...but what about silver and bronze? When it came to second and third place, I have to say that the selecting was tough.

There were a number of great efforts this year, all worthy of praise. Character Options had another bang up showing with Dr. Who, and Thinkway stepped up with exceptional work on the Toy Story Collection line. Smaller companies like Onell and Go Hero pushed boundaries and produced product that took the industry in new directions. It was tough leaving any of them - and several others - out of the top three.

But there can only be three, and my choices were based on a wide variety of factors. The winner of the bronze is the one that will be considered the oddest - Mattel. They were in the top three last year too, which was a surprise even to me. Before you get too excited, what til you get to the Worst Companies of the year...

Mattel is in both categories because they're like the Sybil of toy companies right now. At the lower levels is a team that really is working hard to get great figures out to collectors and kids alike. These are the people producing lines like DCUC, MOTUC, Cars , JLU and even Batman: Brave and the Bold (as much as I hate the shoulder holes). They are giving us great character selection, cool accessories, and making fans very happy, as will be obvious by the People's Pick results.

Then there's the upper management and ancillary groups of the largely monolithic company. They want to make fans happy...except when it conflicts with what they think SHOULD make them happy. Crappy distribution, weird case packs, and bad overall decisions plague some of Mattel's best lines because of this other Mattel personality.

I'm giving second place to a company that always ends up in this category - Sideshow. While their product isn't always perfect (and in fact, some of their stuff is ending up in my worsts this year), the company is one of the very best at working with their fan base and their affiliates. They really do care what their customers think, they really do want your experience with them to be the best possible, and they really do love what they are doing - and it shows. They've got online ordering down to a science, they have the best online communications, and they've cracked the nut that is SDCC exclusives like no one else. They've built this sort of rapport with years of effort, and it's become a competitive advantage for them.

So who was number one this year? Why, Hot Toys of course. Some how they managed to take their production sculpts and paints to new levels again this year, not content to let other companies catch up. They've also stretched out into multiple geek-tastic licenses, and given a tremendous amount of thought and care to each one. Unlike some other companies, it never seems like there's an A team and a B team, with different licenses getting a different level of quality. Every team at Hot Toys brings an A game to their work, and the level of quality that they are producing is going to be what brings in more and more licenses, some of which may have been impossible for other companies to get in the past. Can they be de-throned in 2010? Anythings possible, but it's going to take a Herculean effort.

Worst Overall Company

I already gave away one of the companies on my three worsts, but the other two might be a surprise. Okay, probably not. But maybe their placement will be.

Shocker Toys has managed to take first in this category for several years now, but they are actually getting themselves out of the dog house. They're still in the back yard, and it's going to take some more effort to get in the house, but it's a step in the right direction. Amusingly enough, their improvement is due largely to a) finally getting some product on the market and b) largely keeping their mouths shut, especially during the back half of the year. Largely. Now they just need to take those two concepts and expand on them, and maybe in 2010 they'll be off this list entirely.

I already mentioned (and explained) that Mattel is in the Worsts as well as the Bests, and they are taking the Silver here. I suppose I should stop comparing them to Sybil though, and start comparing them to Tara. Get with the times, don't you know.

So who's, losing...this year? I'm giving top dishonors to Playmates, and I suspect it will be pretty obvious to most folks why. They picked up the licenses for two of the best action movies of 2009, and screwed the pooch with both. Yep, I'm talking Star Trek and Terminator:Salvation. I'll admit that it wasn't all bad - the small T-R.I.P. endo was a lot better than most folks gave him credit for, and the Build a Playset concept with the Trek figures was great, at least in concept. But the execution on both these series was abysmal, and they really should have known better.


Best Overall Line - High End

I don't think you're going to be surprised when you see Hot Toys dominating my picks here as well. They didn't just pick great licenses, they put a lot of effort into those licenses, giving us multiple key figures over the year.

They get the bronze medal for their Iron Man series. With MK1, II and III versions all coming out last year, they covered the key suits. They gave us a variant on the MKIII as well, and announced a battle damaged MKII as well as the Tony Stark/Mech Test version. And don't forget they also gave us a Stark dress suit! Every one of the Mark versions was outstanding, and each could easily be picked for the best sixth scale figure of the year depending on your personal tastes. That's one hell of a strong series!

They also get the silver medal with Dark Knight. I know a lot of folks are going to give this series here top honors, and it was a very tough decision for me. The Bat-pod squeaked out at the very end of 2008, but the Tumbler, Harvey Dent and DX-01 Joker were all exceptional 2009 products.

My big winner in the high end category is Terminator: Salvation. No, the movie wasn't as good as 1 or 2, but it was a damn sight better than 3, and stood out as a decent summer action flick. But this category isn't about the movie - it's about how well Hot Toys supported the movie with their line of figures. They produced an exceptional John Connor, Marcus Wright, T-600 and T-700. They did several variants on both the T-600 and T-700, but made them unique enough to stand out on the shelf. They also announced the Final Battle John Connor, and while he's not technically Salvation, the announcement of their Arnie T-800 was very warmly received by Terminator fans. This is a series that is getting the same level of love from them as their Aliens and Predators, and has a tremendous amount of potential in 2010.

Worst Overall Line - High End

Nobody ever enjoys hearing that they suck. It's part of life though, and the wise people listen for the nuggets of truth in the avalanche of whine, and take those nuggets to improve in the future.

I think that folks are most vehement when lines, figures or collectibles fail in this category because they end up hit the hardest in the wallet. It's one thing to spend ten bucks on an action figure only to learn it's not all it could be, and another to spend hundreds.

In third place, I'm picking Medicom's Star Wars line. Actually, I think I could have picked any of Medicom's non-anime licensed lines here, including Indiana Jones. But I'm picking on Star Wars because they had a reasonable number of releases this year, and they all suffer from the same problem. Medicom set the bar for licensed sixth scale collectibles several years ago, but has since been surpassed by the competition. And yet their pricing remains above the industry average, and they show no signs of attempting to up the overall realism or quality of their line.

In second place, I'm putting DC Direct's Deluxe 13" figures. They do occasionally have a shining star in the series, but overall it's saddled by a poorly designed and oversized body, and an ridiculous price tag. Don't believe me? Just search ebay for just about any release, and you'll be able to find it for half suggested retail.

But the line that gets 1st place is one that disappointed me as a collector and a fan - Sideshow's Indiana Jones. The started out pretty strong at the end of '08 with Indy, and at the end of '09 slightly redeemed themselves with Professor Jones Sr, an excellent figure overall. But in between those two bookends we got three really mediocre (at best) releases in Toht, Belloq, and Germain Disguise Indy. As a fan, I'd really hoped to see this line get more love than it has.


Best Overall Line - Low End

Mattel might have managed their way onto my Worst Company list, but they also produced their way on to my Best Company list, and two of my three top Low End lines are the reason why.

But first let's talk about the line taking my third place bronze award - Toy Story Collection from Thinkway. While there was the 3-D release of the original films in the fall, there wasn't any sort of major movie release to support the toy line, and yet Thinkway managed to produce a great series that sold well. They did it by knowing what makes a great toy, and combining that with the best features of the characters. Mattel did their Toy Story figures as well, but it was the higher end work from Thinkway that really stood out.

The Silver medal goes to a Mattel line, and one aimed at collectors - Masters of the Universe Classics. Mattel has finally gotten it right (and as close to perfect as we'll probably ever see) with their latest trip to Eternia. It's easy for collectors to get themselves all frothy over whether Mossman's ears should be flocked or not, but they should also step back occasionally and remember just how lucky they are to get a line of figures based on the classic property that aren't just cool collectibles, they're really cool toys.

Mattel is also producing my number one pick - DC Universe Classics. Mattel seems to do better with a line if they put 'classics' on the end of it. Do you think if they rename them "Ghostbusters Classics" they'll get better too? Back to DCUC - DC Direct has been working with these characters for years, and have never produced a full series this comprehensive, this long lasting, and this well made.  And these are mass market figures, not specialty market! Mattel has outplayed DCD at their own game, with better articulation, better accessories, high quality sculpts, and just plain fun action figures.

Worst Overall Line - Low End

Sadly, it was much too easy for me to come up with my three top picks for this category in 2009.

The third place loser is a line you might not even consider, but which clogged pegs and shelves at my local Toys R Us and annoyed me on several levels. It's the repainted Jurassic Park release from Hasbro - what were they thinking? Actually, I know what they were thinking. They had the molds, and kids love dinosaurs, right? Producing the figures when all the fixed costs are already covered is uber-cheap, and get some bright wild colors on those beasts and kids won't be able to resist. Thankfully, kids are smarter than that and generally did resist, leaving these bad 90's toys taking up valuable shelf real estate.

Playmates gets the top two honors here, which is probably not surprising after my comments in the earlier category. The silver dishonor goes to the Terminator: Salvation series, which was almost a hit...but sadly missed the mark. The large scale figures were generally poor, but some of the small (4") scale Endoskeletons actually weren't too bad. But the humans, even in the smaller scale, were all atrocious, and it's unforgivable to have a John Connor figure without a likeness, even in a kid's toy line. There's a reason these things are in clearance bins all over the place.

They also tanked another potentially great license - Star Trek. The movie turned out to be a huge hit, loved by new and old fans alike. Playmates did have a great idea with the 'build-a-playset' concept, but the figures themselves suffered from awful articulation and mediocre sculpting. With other companies doing such a great job in the 4" scale, these lumpy little buggers didn't stand a chance.


Best Figure 18" or more (Male or Female)

There was a time when there were tons of choices in this category, but these days it seems to be a dying breed. Still, Diamond Select, NECA and Mezco have done their part to keep it alive, if not quite kicking.

Third place goes to said NECA for their Jason from New Beginnings. Yea, the movie sucked like an Electrolux, but NECA still managed to produce a good looking 18" figure off the new design.

Second place silver goes to Mezco's Abe Sapien. He's not quite the level of quality that we saw from them in previous years with their 18" Hellboy figures, but he was still a solid release, and looks great on the shelf next to his predecessors.

My favorite and first place winner is from DST - it's their Han Solo in Hoth Gear. I've always loved this outfit (I wish *someone* would give us some 12" figures in Hoth costumes), and the shortcomings of the Ultimate Quarter Scale body are hidden and downplayed a bit by the overall costume design.

Worst Figure 18" or more (Male or Female)

Sadly, it was tougher to pick the bests in this category than it was the worsts this year.

I'm giving third place to one of Tonner's releases. First, I have to admit that I'm not a fan of Tonner dolls. That's not to say I think they are all bad, and in fact, some of their unlicensed dolls are truly works of art. I think what they are doing with Miss Piggy looks fantastic, and some of their other work, like the Gone With the Wind series, I can certainly appreciate.

But it seems that when they tackle licensed, modern characters, it comes out pretty bad. I could have picked on their Edward Cullen from Twilight, no doubt about it. Sure, Tonner's is bigger, but it doesn't appear any better quality than the Mattel Barbie version. But instead I'm giving this honor to one you might not have even noticed - Maxwell Smart. That's a licensed Steve Carell likeness, just in case you weren't sure. And this guy costs, would you believe...$150.

I have to say that it's nice to see DST hitting this scale hard with their Ultimate Quarter Scale series, but sadly, the underlying body leaves a few things to be desired when it comes to aesthetic appeal. Sometimes, like with the Hoth Han or the 2008 Maul, the costume can overcome the issues. But at other times, as with both my second and first place choices in this category, it doesn't and the glaring wonky proportions jump right out and slap you til you cry like a little girl.

Second place goes to the their T-800 from Terminator 2. If you thought the Sideshow PF was a little too skinny, then this guy's obvious anorexia is going to probably be an issue for you, even at the cheaper price. I suppose you could pretend that underneath all that ill fitting black leather, Arnie has already been stripped of all his flesh and there's only the endoskeleton left...

The first place winner/loser is another UQS - poor Captain Kirk. Again, here's a costume that goes beyond not hiding the skinny limbs and disproportionate body, and actually accentuates the worst qualities of the design. And why is it so hard to get Kirk's likeness? He's another of those actors that is almost impossible to reproduce accurately. When I saw this guy in my LCS, I actually shuddered.


Best Male Figure 12 - 18"

Talk about a tough category - the sixth scale market, especially for licensed figures, had never been stronger. Most folks know and love Hot Toys, but let's not forget that Enterbay, Medicom, Sideshow, Go Hero, Takara...even Mattel and Hasbro had some great releases this year.

Even with all that amazing competition, Hot Toys managed to sweep my top three this year. In third place is their Godfather, one of the most amazing life-like figures I've ever seen in any format. Enterbay did an outstanding job with theirs as well, but for my money the Hot Toys version edged them out.

In second place is the Iron Man MKII. The sleek silver design looks amazing, and the engineering work on all the IM suits from Hot Toys takes the design to another level. In any other year, this figure would have won for me.

But it wasn't any other year, it was 2009, and Hot Toys released their very first 'deluxe' figure - the DX-01 Joker. Wow. Just when you thought they couldn't get any better with the character, they did. I simply can't wait to see what figure will be the third in their DX series!

Worst Male Figure 12 - 18"

Whenever you get a whole lotta releases in a format, there's bound to be a few that don't quite measure up. You'll notice a pattern in my choices - the figures were more than bad, they were a disappointment to me as a big fan of the property.

I've beat up Playmates a bit for the Trek fiasco, and it's not done yet. I have to say that of the entire release, the 12" series was the best, with decent costumes and accessories, and in most cases, pretty good sculpting. However, my third place pick for worst 12" male comes from this line - Captain Kirk. This is supposed to be Chris Pine as Kirk, not William Shatner, so maybe it's not that Shatner is impossible to sculpt, but that there's some joo-joo curse on the character of Kirk.

In second place is Medicom's Young Indiana Jones. At this price point, we deserve more than a splash of red paint on his chin. And what's with that hair color? They could have knocked this one out of the park with just a tad more effort on execution, but it ended up a swing and a miss.

Sadly, Indiana Jones takes first place too, but this time it's Sideshow's German Disguise Indy. Again, at this high of a price point there's a greater expectation, and Sideshow gave us close to Hasbro quality on the outfit and accessories. He also still suffers from bobble head syndrome, a situation that is all the worse with the thin shouldered Pro body.


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

I'm going to deviate slightly here with my first pick, selecting a figure that didn't make it onto the ballot for the People's Picks or the Poppies. There are always so many good figures each year, sometimes there's something that just stands out for you personally - for me, that would be Number One from Nine, done by NECA. The movie was a visual treat, but had a ridiculous ending. Still, I loved the character designs, and NECA matched the film almost perfectly.

The next two slots are dominated by Mattel, which is probably not a surprise considering their strong year.  I'm putting the Masters of the Universe Classics Mer-man in second, and it was a very tough choice. I didn't want to pick more than one MOTUC figure in my top three, but narrowing it down to a single choice was migraine-inducing. In the end, it was the inclusion of both heads that really pushed Mer-man over the top.

That leaves somebody from DC Universe Classics to take top honors. That was a really difficult decision too, with figures like Gentleman Ghost, Killer Moth, and the Green Arrow begging for my favor. But at heart I'm a Batman fan first, DC fan second, so the exceptional Joker gets to be the main man.

Worst Male Figure 5 - 11"

My choice for bronze in this category landed here not because he's a particularly bad figure in the traditional sense (i.e. poor paint, overpriced, weak sculpt, etc.), but rather that the translation to 3 dimensions was never going to work. If you follow the Spectacular Spider-man line from Hasbro, you'll remember Electro and his wacky man-boobs. They were kind of stuck, since he had the wrap around protrusions in the cartoon, but on a flat television screen they didn't look quite so goofy.

I've already abused Playmates for the Trek line, so let's switch gears over to the Terminator Salvation line. In this scale they gave us some pretty silly looking figures, but the worst of the bunch was John Connor. Who? Yea, that's what everyone said when they saw him on the peg, since his entire head and face are covered by a helicopter pilot helmet and goggles. Think there were some likeness rights issues? With this goofy figure they take a second place trophy.

Taking first place is the Gallaxhar, the alien leader figure from the Monsters Vs. Aliens series. They started with a poor design that didn't allow the figure to stand well on it's own, added in cheap plastic and weak paint work, and wrapped it up with a display base that didn't work particularly well.


Best Male Figure under 5"

We saw a TON of figures in the 4" scale this last year, and many of them did not fair particularly well. However, there's some real stand outs and some real surprises.

I'm not a huge fan of most of the Marvel Universe figures from Hasbro, but I really do love the little Iron Man they did early in the year. He poses great, and while this particular uniform isn't to everyone's tastes, I thought they did a great job interpreting it in this scale.

Hasbro also scored with their G.I. Joe series, doing a much better job with the toys than the film makers did on screen. The Pit Commando might just be an army builder, but he's an excellent one, with a ton of great accessories.

But the big surprise this year was the winner of first place. We knew Mezco could do great work in this scale after their nice Hellboy figures in '08, but the horror figures were even better. I love the Jason, and the fact that I've never seen the regular release of the first (and only, so far) wave of figures at my local stores makes me very sad.

Worst Male Figure under 5"

I have my suspicions that there were plenty of Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures that could have taken the bronze, but I didn't buy enough (or pay nearly all that much attention) of either line this year.  So yea, I'm skipping my third place spot. Sue me.

The second place slot goes to another of the Playmates Trek figures. While it might be way too easy to hit them up, you have to admit they deserve it this time around. Again, it's Chris Pine as Kirk, complete with pinhead and weirdly shaped torso.

And yes, the first place winner is even worse than that - Punisher from the Marvel Universe line. This is the first release from way back in the winter, with weird oversized head and monkey paws. If you want to see ugly, look no further than this sin against nature.


Best Female Figure any size under 18"

There's never enough of the ladies to break them out into their own categories, but this last year did see enough to give us a nice selection to choose from overall. I was surprised that I didn't select any sixth scale females, considering how many we got this year, and how good several of them were. But my tastes ran to the smaller scales for this category in '09.

My bronze choice is Queen Alluxandra from the Four Horsemen's 2009 FANtastic Exclusives. She's a beautiful figure, even with a few accessory breakage issues. Hey, men don't like women for their accessories. While it might seem like the FH gets a lot of praise, it's not enough. Whereas McFarlane once set the bar for low end action figures, the Four Horsemen now do it through lines like DCUC, MOTUC, their own series, and work they've done for just about every other major toy company currently in business.

My silver selection is another piece of work from FH, this time for Mattel - Teela, from Masters of the Universe Classics. Another gorgeous head sculpt, and an excellent first female for the series. Maybe it was the two heads, like Mer-man, that set her over the top.

The gold selection goes to NECA for their Coraline figures. I loved the film, as did my kids, and NECA captured the look of the stop motion figures perfectly with the bendy design. It's unfortunate that we haven't gotten any of the other characters in this larger scale, and we still don't have the doll replica itself, something I've had on pre-order since day one. So for now it looks like we'll have to be happy with the four figures we did get, and just hope that eventually NECA gets some of the other product to market.

Worst Female Figure any size under 18"

Doing the ladies right is a lot harder than getting the men right, or so it's always seems. I think that's because male 'beauty' allows for personality (scars, oddly shaped facial features, etc), whereas female beauty is often very similar in basic structure, and makes it all the harder for a sculptor to capture the specifics.

NECA might have gotten the gold in best, but they also get the bronze in worst. I love Harry Potter, but women of the series have been woefully represented by several companies. This year, NECA gave us a less than perfect Ginny in their action figure series, with a chubby face and weak paint ops.

It's awful easy to pick on the Star Trek series, but it's even harder not to. My second place trophy of ugliness is going to the Uhura, but this time it's from the 6" Warp Collection. The face sculpt wasn't *too* bad, but the body and articulation just tanked what could have been a beautiful figure - the actress certainly is.

For me, the most disappointing females came from Amok Time this year. Their female body, which they used for Blood of Dracula, Maureen Robinson, and Barbra from Night of the Living Dead, had some serious breakage issues. I picked Barbra for my gold worst, but I'm betting one of these three will end up on lots of worst lists, depending on your tastes. I went with Babs because the ill fitting outfit didn't do her any favors, and at this price point Amok is going to have to seriously up the quality.


Best Build a Figure

The concept of a Build a Figure (or Collect and Connect) has continued in 2009, and has been very strong. There's a ton of great choices for bests, and just about every company got into the game.

My bronze medal for best goes to the Ancient's Control Chair that you could build from Series 3 of the Stargate Atlantis figures from DST. I'm a huge fan of diorama type accessories, and breaking them up across a wave is a terrific way to get something large that otherwise would never see the light of day.

My silver medal is award to Imperiex. Want to know a figure is great? Get someone that has no real previous knowledge or interest of the character to utter a 'wow' when they put him together - that's a great figure. It helps that I'm a big fan of cool knight-like designs and anything zombie, and this guy looks like Night of the Living Dead meets King Arthur's Court.

My gold medal pick didn't make it out to December, but he was a clear winner for me. It's Kilowog from the DCUC series 11 set of figures. Here's a character that deserved the BAF treatment, where he was able to be given the impressive size he needed on the shelf. Great sculpting and paint gives him the edge, but it also helps that he's a visually striking character to begin with.


Worst BAF

I wracked my brain, and yet I couldn't come up with a single BAF, CnC or other similar product to put in my 'worsts' category. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the concept, but everyone executed it really well this year.


Best Vehicle or Playset

I was originally tempted to break this category into a high end and low end, much like I did with the Best Overall Line. But then on further thought I realized that even the 'low end' (like Hasbro Star Wars vehicles) are pretty damn expensive, making the distinction less valuable.

This was also a very difficult category for me this year because there were so many potential winners. We had a banner year for vehicles in particular, from a multitude of licenses.

I gave the bronze to DST's Back to the Future Delorean. I never did review it, but I did pick one up, and I love it. Lots of cool features, and great price point as well!

Silver goes to another vehicle I bought but didn't review - the Star Wars Turbo Tank from Hasbro. I bought this for my son for Christmas for just $50 on sale, and it was money extremely well spent. It's not quite Falcon cool, but it's pretty damn close, especially with the nifty opening doors in back, complete with sound effects.

You know who got the gold though, don't you? Yep, it's the Hot Toys Tumbler from the Dark Knight. You really need to spend the big bucks to put this on the shelf (and you need one Hell of a big shelf as well), but just getting this vehicle in this scale is an amazing accomplishment. Yep, the Batpod was sweet too, but there were enough issues with getting Bats to sit on it just right that it didn't squeak it's way into my top three. But I love everything about the Tumbler, and it will be a centerpiece of my Batman collection for years to come.


Worst Vehicle or Playset

Even in a year with such excellent playsets and vehicles, there's always a few stinkers.

My bronze pick is for the Star Trek Bridge from Playmates. It's not because the playset itself is bad - in fact, it's quite good. I loved the 'build a playset' concept, but Playmates ran into the one flaw: they spread the extra pieces over so many additional figures (18?) that when the line tanked and the second series of figures was 'put on hold' (i.e. never to be seen), fans were left with an incomplete bridge. Playmates has said they are trying to come up with a way to make the pieces available, but I personally think that's a huge long shot. As it is, they were just big playset teases.

My silver pick goes to Sideshow's Reactor Station Alpha. I'm not sure it really qualifies as a 'playset', since it's really a diorama, but I don't really consider it a 'statue' either.  I appreciate their willingness to do diorama pieces like this, and my hopes are still high for the next two releases, but the reactor was mighty small for the price tag.

And the number one worst award goes to the Hot Toys Tumbler! No, not really - just checking to be sure you're still paying attention. Gold goes to the G.I. Joe Rapid Rollers. Which one? Take your pick. Obviously these are for the toddler set, but they end up being one of those bad ideas hatched by someone trying to make something new by smashing together two cool things. G.I. Joe? Cool. Tanks? Cool. Oversized silly looking Joes driving cheap looking tank-like vehicles? Not cool.


Best Statue

I'm generally a bit biased when it comes to this category, because I like mixed media statues far better than statues that are entirely sculpted in some form of resin or poly-resin. Or just plain old plastic for that matter.

But the bronze is going to a dark horse from Symbiote Studios - Sam and Max. I've always love the games, and the longer I've had the statue the more I've liked it. It really is a great representation of the detectives, and it's sheer size adds to the cool factor.

Another oddball for me is in second place - Kotobukiya's Bishoujo Rogue. Kotobukiya has done some really beautiful female statues this last year, all at relatively decent price points. If you're a fan of the Bishoujo style, you should really check these out.

Of course you know a Sideshow Premium Format is going to take my top stop. Hell, I could have picked three or four or five for this category - it was a stellar year for PF's, and everyone had their favorite. I just recently received the Blackbeard (review coming!) and he's terrific, and Hellboy will have a place of honor on my shelves for a long time. But the one I liked the very best was the Uruk-Hai from Lord of the Rings. This is the sort of statue that first wow's your guests when they walk in the room, and then causes them to question your sanity and their safety. What more could you want?


Worst Statue
Sometimes, personal tastes can have an effect on what your overall opinion of how a collectible, especially a statue, turned out. That's particularly true for me in this category this year.

The bronze medal goes to a Premium Format from Sideshow. Yep, as great of a year as they had, there were a couple stinkers in there too, and one of them really disappointed me. I'm a big fan of the original Planet of the Apes movies, and when Sideshow announced we'd get a PF, I was stoked. I like my PF collection to be broad more than deep, so when I can add a completely new character from a completely new license that I love, all the better. But the final result turned out to be mediocre at best - Dr. Zauis. This is also one of the very rare times when not getting the exclusive version really hurts, since the pose is designed to work better with the doll than without.

Second place is awarded to Amok Time's (sort of) Monster Pals Creature.  I'm a big Creature of the Black Lagoon fan, and I tend to end up buying pretty much anything based on the classic monster design. But far too often the offshoot designs fall short, and this is one of those cases. He looks like the results of an unholy union between the Creature and Kermit the Frog. I could have lived with that though, but the paint work was extremely sloppy, and the price point much too high.

My gold medal of dishonor goes to another Symbiote Studios release. Yep, they scored well with the Sam and Max, but their Jessica Chobot ended up clear on the other side of the room. Do I really need to say anything more than "Jessica Chobot statue"?


Best Bust

We saw some terrific work in this category this year from Bowen, Gentle Giant, Hot Toys, DST, DCD, and new kid on the block, Grand Jester.

My bronze winner is the AT-AT Driver from Gentle Giant. It's been awhile since one of the Star Wars busts really tripped my trigger, but the simple, clean, well executed design on this bust really blew me away. Then again, I tend to love anything to do with Hoth.

The second place silver medal goes to DC Direct and one of their Women of the DCU busts - Phantom Lady. The entire series has been a real winner for them, but there's just something about this one that makes her...stand out. It's the rocket, I'm sure.

I mentioned that Grand Jester Studios is the new kid on the block, at least as a company doing their own work, and their work on the Disney license this year was exceptional. Sadly, I didn't get in on this line when I should have, but that doesn't mean the busts haven't been top notch. My favorite is the Stitch, done up in his alien costume, but their Tinker Bell and Maleficent were great as well. I regret passing these up when they were first solicited.


Worst Bust
Even with all the companies out there producing busts, my worsts this year are dominated by Gentle Giant product. Once the company that all others tried to emulate, they still can produced an amazing collectible - just not with the consistency we once saw.

My bronze dishonor is going to their Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. She's not the worst female bust that they've done for the license, but it seems so unfair that the females always get beaten by the ugly stick.

My silver choice is their Hellboy, from Hellboy II. The overall line was weak, but this Hellboy was just sad. I've seen cosplayers that looked more like Ron Perlman in the makeup.

The choice for number 1 worst was easy for me, especially since he just hit at the end of the year and the horror is fresh in my mind. I'm giving it to poor Short Round from the Indiana Jones series. We waited for a year for this bust, and we ended up with his sister.


Best Designer/Vinyl

I don't cover nearly enough designer toys, and those I do are usually more mainstream vinyl. But this has been a great year for some really unique designs, both on the low end and on the high end.

My bronze pick is O-No Sushi - it's just so damn cute! A very creative idea that turned out even better in reality. These have gotten high marks from many other designer toy critics, and I can see why.

The second place medal goes to Hellboy Mez-itz. These aren't your father's mez-itz either - they've all grown up. The new version is much larger, and much more in style with other mass market vinyl toys.  When the base body was used for an SDCC 2009 exhibit, the versatility was obvious.

My gold is going to a figure from a line that doesn't get as much coverage as it should - World War Robot based on Ashley Wood's characters from the books of the same name. My pick is Bramble  for this year, but the entire series has been terrific so far.


Worst Designer/Vinyl
I searched the backfiles of my brain for worsts in this category, and couldn't come up with a thing. There's a few that left me lukewarm, but nothing that managed to garner enough hate to end up on my list. Hey, there's always Blammoids for 2010!


Best Prop Replica

I'm back to buying quite a few more prop replicas in 2010, but I still picked up a few in 2009. This last year saw the release of some very well done replicas at a much better price point than usual. In fact, two of my picks are downright cheap, a big reason I like them so much.

But not the bronze pick. In this slot I'm going with DST's reproduction of the Captain's Chair from the STOS bridge. This is one of those grail items that's way to expensive for us normal humans to afford, and yet could be the coolest thing in your house.

Next up, my silver medal goes to the Star Trek Original Series Tricorder also from DST. I love me just about any STOS stuff, and the Tricorder was a natural pairing to the terrific phaser that they produced last year. Now I can put on my red shirt and suit up for the away team! And I can actually afford this...

My gold selection actually is, at least in color - it's the Fertility Idol from DST. Yep, it's really a bank, and there's a coin slot in the back of the head. But for less than $20, you're getting a very realistic looking replica from a classic scene in one of the all time greatest movies.


Worst Prop Replica
Most of the prop replicas I had in my mitts this year were actually quite good, and while I heard rumors of some weak work from some companies, I didn't get to see it first hand. So my choices here are pretty limited.

Ah, but there's one that I'm more than happy to give bronze, silver AND gold to, along with a couple dishonorable mentions - the Iron Man MKIII helmet from Museum Replicas. Give it a cursory glance and it looks pretty good. Then spend 30 seconds comparing it to what it's supposed to be a replica of and you realize how far off it truly is. Add in a huge price tag and some basic quality issues, and you have my stinker for the year.


Best Misc

This is always a weird category, sort of a catch all for the stuff I can't figure out where to put. There's certainly some eclectic choices this year.

Don't believe it? Then check out my first pick that isn't really a prop replica, but it sorta's the Buck Rogers Atomic Disintegrator from Go Hero. You have to be a fan of the old show or old tin toys to really appreciate how good this little gun is, but old school nerds (emphasis on 'old') are loving it.

The silver place pick is for the Righteous Bison, the new cheaper version of the Weta Rayguns. I've been jonesing for one that I could actually afford (there's a theme here), and even though the plastic one isn't nearly as amazing as the expensive versions, it's still well worth the bucks.

My gold for best misc is going to the Toy Story Collection Buzz Lightyear from Thinkway. I supposed I could have stuck him in with the action figures, but he's so much more. With a ton of light and sound features, Thinkway captured the beauty of their original and made it better. The whole Toy Story Collection series has been a hit, and I can't wait to see the additions based on Toy Story 2.

Worst Misc

Rather than pick items in my worst misc, I'm going to pick concepts, ideas, and just general blunders. I could beat on Mattel for about a dozen of them, but I'm going to try to spread the love around a bit. And these aren't in any particular order - I found them all equally annoying.

My first pick goes to Mattel's decision to do another exclusive wave of DC Universe Classics with my favorite retailer, Wal-mart. The disaster that was wave 5 wasn't good enough for them, nope, they went with Wallie World again for a full wave of some pretty key figures. Fortunately, the distribution was slightly better and it was easier to get 10 than it was 5, but not before the scalpers had the opportunity to take advantage of the fears and distrust of the collectors.

McFarlane draws my ire this year for abandoning pretty much everything that made them great in the first place, falling back on Sports and Halo in a big to stay afloat. They're still in business, but just a shadow of the company they once were. It looks like they'll take a run at some licensed products again in 2010, but it's going to be a struggle for them to return to the top of the heap.

Hasbro draws fire as well, but for a different reason - articulation, specifically their Marvel small figure articulation. They've done a fantastic job with their Star Wars 3 3/4" line. They did a nice job with the G.I. Joe line as well, with just a few stumbles. Both these series sport some excellent articulation, especially when they can based on character designs. So what happened with their Marvel lines? Some folks like the Marvel Universe series, but when it comes to articulation they are generally inadequate. And then they were all over the place with the Wolverine Origins stuff. Hasbro has been doing this scale for so long that they oughtta have it down cold by now.

It seems like there were a lot of other issues that bugged the crap out of me last year (Digital River, rising prices, poor distribution), but I settled on these three to cover my bases.

General Comments

Wow, another year gone by, more pages torn out of the book, way too many miles on the tires and most of them on back roads...and the first month of 2010 is already behind us as well. I suspect 2010 is going to be a year of consolidation, and rising prices are going to put the hurt on more mass retail lines. But it looks like Mattel's experiment with collector lines is working out pretty well so far, at least with the right line and high quality products.

We'll see some more companies bite the bullet this year, and two that are having their share of issues these days are McFarlane and Gentle Giant, both once leaders - Hell, frontiersmen - in their markets. They may still be able to turn it around and rise back up, but it's going to be a rough 2010 getting there.

Hot Toys looks to be on one long roll, but Enterbay is going to give them a run. If Hot Toys can continue to get the cool, quirky licenses and maintain the amazing production quality, they'll be awfully hard to unseat from the throne. Iron Man 2 will prove to be a big winner for them, and we'll see if Hasbro can pull off the same thing with the mass retail toys.

It's going to be an expensive year for collectors, but we can at least be thankful that the quality is very high too. Even low end figures like Masters of the Universe Classics or DC Universe Classics have improved the overall quality, and I'm hopeful that companies like Mattel and Hasbro (as well as Playmates) will learn from Playmates huge blunder with Star Trek and Terminator in 2009 and not repeat the past.

It should be an interesting year, and I plan on being here once again. Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the website, and I hope to keep things running for another 10. You may be seeing a few changes this year, but the basic mission of the site will always remain the same - bring you fair, unbiased reviews and great photos of the broadest range of pop culture collectibles possible.

I'm in the process of compiling the Poppies and People's Picks results for 2009 right now, and I'll be posting them this week - watch for it!


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