Captain Toy's Picks for Best and Worst of 2011!

You're probably wondering where the Poppies and People's Picks awards are - I'm working on them, but it takes some time. While you're waiting, here's my own choices for best - and worst! - of 2011.

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

My picks:   People's Picks:   Poppies:  
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

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

I'm starting out my picks for best company with a couple dark horses. My third place pick goes to NECA, and it's not for the usual reasons. Sure, they did some very nice figures this year, including their work on the Gremlins and Predators. They also did some sloppy work - sort of a catch-22. But why I'm putting them in my top three is because they remain willing to take risk and go after properties they feel strongly about. Most companies are unwilling to work with an unproven license, but not NECA. It doesn't always pan out for them, but more often than not they make the right choices, and I believe it's their willingness to take on some risk that is why they are still pumping along in the collectible action figure market while most of their competition has disappeared.

My second place nod goes to a little guy - Onell Designs. They have been quietly making a name for themselves amongst collectors with their cool designs and philosophy of fun figures. I suspect we'll be seeing more mainstream news on them in 2012.

So who wins? Do you really have to ask? How does anyone beat Hot Toys right now? Terrific sculpts, and simply stunning paint work set their licensed sixth scale products apart, but it doesn't end there. Top of the line outfits, amazing accessories, and the sort of innovative extras with each license that shows they have real fans doing the work. Will someone rise up to challenge them in 2012? Some companies sure are trying, but they have a might tall order to fill thanks to Hot Toys continuing to not just set the bar but raise it every year.

Worst Overall Company

This year, my worst for companies is all about one thing - going from a once great innovator to mere shadow of your former self.  That's a theme for all three of my picks, and an unfortunate one in every case.

My third place pick is Gentle Giant, a company that once reigned supreme over busts. Their likenesses were considered some of the best in the business, and they broke ground with the use of technology in the process. Their exclusives commanded huge secondary markups, and the line at San Diego Comic Con for their booth was one of the longest. While their Star Wars busts keep chugging along, they're desperate to make another series a hit, and no one discusses them when talking about the state of the art in the industry. Their oversized retro vintage figures have done pretty well, and they have shown some life with their Sucker Punch statues, but it's still going to be a long road back.

My second place award goes to a company in a similar situation, just a different collectibles market. Medicom was once the darling of sixth scale figures in the high end market, but has let their quality and style remain mired in the past while companies like Hot Toys and Enterbay have blown past them.

But the greatest disappointment for long term collectors has been the situation at McFarlane Toys. More so than any other company, McFarlane defined the action figure as a collectible, fueling the market to exponential growth in the 90's. Back then, they could do no wrong, and every line they showed at Toy Fair was eagerly gobbled up by the likes of Toys R Us, Media Play, Electronics Boutique and even Walmart. Now, their Sports Picks and their Halo lines keep the lights on, but neither showcases the innovation and creativity that the company was once known for.


Best Overall Line - High End

Hot Toys has tended to dominate this category in past years, but they are getting more and more competition these days.

My third place choice is World War Robot by threeA. They continue to stick with what they do best, and the fans of the book continue to respond. I'm betting they get more votes in the People's Picks as well this time around, as collectors in general are starting to get a bit more exposure to the figures.

Sideshow has done some great work over the years with the Star Wars license, and they are getting a second place award from me in this category. With some excellent alien releases as well as a ton of terrific Troopers, they kept the line healthy all year long. Throw in some high end items like Yoda's hut and the Dewback, and you have a terrific offering for 2011.

Other companies have done some amazing high end lines this year as well, including Enterbay, Blitzway, Bowen, Kotobukiya, Sideshow, and Weta, but Hot Toys takes my top pick in this category once again. You might be surprised by my choice though, since it's not my traditional favorite. Yep, I'm largely a Batman nerd, but I'm not picking Batman. There weren't enough releases in 2011 in that series to make top honors. And while there were enough releases in Iron Man 2, the variety wasn't there. Maybe in 2012, Tony.

Marvel might not be my favorite comics, but this time the Marvel Movie series by Hot Toys is my favorite high end line. With Thor, Odin, Captain America, Ghost Rider and Spider-man all turning out as good or better than I expected, this was the series to beat.

Worst Overall Line - High End

I thought and I thought and I thought...and for the first time ever, I couldn't come up with a high end line I thought deserving of getting called out here. Sure, there's the weak figure, bust or statue here and there, but I couldn't think of an overall series that consistently failed to deliver.


Best Overall Line - Low End

For me, there's some serious shaking up going on in this category for 2011. One of my perennial favorites has fallen completely off my top three - DC Universe Classics. While some of the early releases were very good, this year didn't seem the usual consistency in releases that we've seen in past years. The line has lost some luster for me, and it's tough to tell if it can bring it back.

My third place winner is one I've never put in this category before, but that's because they're fairly new - Glyos by Onell Design. Glyos is really more of a philosophy, or design concept, where all the parts are interchangeable, customization rules, and the designs are extremely cool and unique. This is another of those companies where they are finally getting the sort of wider exposure they deserve, and we should be hearing more and more about them in 2012.

Second place goes to one of my usual favorites - Masters of the Universe Classics. While some of the regular monthly releases were less exciting than usual (I'm looking at you, Leech), the Wind Raider and Swift Wind releases helped make up for it.

But in first place I'm going back to a series I don't even regularly collect any more - Hasbro's Star Wars line. I might not be buying them regularly, but I still check them out whenever I can, and the sculpting, paint and articulation that Hasbro has been building into the newer figures, whether they be the Vintage series or the Clone Wars series or one of their store exclusives, is really outstanding. Other 4" lines simply pale in comparison these days, and Hasbro deserves the nod for continuing to put their all into this long time line.

Worst Overall Line - Low End
When it comes to this category, worsts are usually pretty easy to come by. That's no different this year.

I'm giving third place to a comic book movie line, and there really were two that were very close in suckitude. While the Hasbro Thor series wasn't great, it still surpassed Mattel's Green Lantern figures with better articulation and some (if you hunted hard enough) decent sculpts. Mattel's shotgun attempt at GL figures flooded the market with poorly articulated figures and a BAF that was almost impossible to complete. The only bright spot in the overall campaign was the larger Classics style figures, but the fall out from the rest of the product hurt their chances as well.

Second place goes to a series that saw clearance at every store that carried it - Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides by Jakks. While the 4" figures were no great shakes, they weren't really the major issue. It was the 7" line, which saw two waves make it to market.

I suspect all my regular readers know what series won this coveted Poopie award - easily the worst line of the year has been McFarlane's Walking Dead.  Doesn't matter if it's comic based or show based, the humans in the series manage to be more vomit inducing than the zombies. It doesn't help that I'm a huge fan of the property, making my disappointment all that greater.


Eddie Wires Award for Outstanding Paint

This award was created in memory of the amazing artist Eddie Wires. Many people in the industry knew Eddie, and everyone inside and out loved his work. The Poppies Judges thought it was appropriate to create a special award in his honor that in turn honors a collectible that stands out due to it's exceptional paint quality.

There were some great choices this year, and I was originally leaning toward Hot Toys Sweeney Todd figure.  They did some great work with the Reeves Superman as well, and NECA's work on their large Predator and the Four Hosemen's detailing on their Scarabus were also outstanding. But after I finally cracked open my DX06 Captain Jack Sparrow from Hot Toys, I knew I had the winner. The lifelike nature of every aspect - lips, eyes, facial hair, skin tone, make up - allows the underlying sculpt to take on a realism that's uncanny.


Best Male Figure 12 - 18"

For me, this was a Hot Toys race. That doesn't mean that Sideshow, Blitzway and Enterbay all didn't produce figures that I initially considered for my top three spots - they did. But Hot Toys produced so many exceptional figures across their spectrum of licenses, that it was tough for any other player to stand a chance.

Setting the order was tough, however. I ended up putting the T-800 from Terminator in the third place spot. He tends to get forgotten because he was released so early in the year, but he's an exceptional addition to their Terminator series.

I had a battle in my brain between second and first - I went back and forth as to which figure belonged in the top spot. In the end, I put the Chris Reeve Superman in second, although it was close. He is a figure fans have been clamoring for, and Hot Toys did an excellent - and very respectful - job with their release.

It was with their definitive release of Jack Sparrow that Hot Toys took my number one place. Their DX06 Captain Jack Sparrow hit it out of the park in every category, something extremely rare these days even for them. Once you have this Jack, all others become obsolete.

Worst Male Figure 12 - 18"
We didn't get hit with too many really crappy 12" figures this year. That's probably because it's become less of the format of choice in the toy aisles, leaving it to the high end companies who tend to do a better job.

There were a few low enders out there though, and a few of those really stunk up the place. For the Green Lantern line, Mattel did a 12" Classics Green Lantern, and he was disappointing largely because some of the past releases in this style have been pretty sweet. But this time his hollow body, high price tag, pathetic articulation, and weak paint ops pulled him into a third place here.

Not all the figures in this bad category were cheap - my second place pick goes to the Medicom Harry Potter. Almost $200 for this figure? Now you see what I meant by Hot Toys and Enterbay leaving them in the dust. From the looks of the Cowboys and Aliens figures they have planned for release this spring, I don't think I'll have any trouble coming up with at least one selection in this category next January.

Somewhat ironically, Jack Sparrow manages to take my top spot in the worst 12" figure, after taking the top spot in the best 12" figure. This time it's the God awful figure by Jakks that you can find at your local Toys R Us. I don't have a photo of my own to show you - that was a bullet I wasn't willing to take - but if you click on the link you can see the photo at the Toys R Us site. When that's the best looking that a professional marketing person can make it, you know it's bad.


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

I'm picking some odd balls in this category this year - it's unlikely my three picks will line up with anyone else on the planet. You won't see any figures from my tried and true DCUC or MOTUC this time around, but that's because both those series stayed pretty even, while some new lines took the forefront.

My third place pick is the 8" Lion-O from Bandai. Yes, he's too shiny and those damn ankles need to be the right color, but there's a great, goofy, retro toy feel to this figure that's missing all too much from our hyper-realistic collectibles. This is a damn cool toy, and I find it truly refreshing to find something like him on the pegs.

Second place goes to the Revoltech Skeleton Warrior. Those of you that love the old Harryhausen films will love this guy, but even without that context he's damn cool. Great articulation, as you'd expect from a Revoltech figure, as well as a plethora of extras makes him one of my favorites.

And first place? The Four Horsemen get that this year with their release of Scarabus. Over the last few years they've done plenty of cool figures as part of their FANtastic Exclusives series, but this one is my favorite so far. With amazing sculpting and paint, well designed articulation, and some great customizing potential with swappable parts, he was the easy winner.

Worst Male Figure 5 - 11"
There's no real shortage this year of bad figures in this scale, but they seem to come from only a handful of lines.

I put one of the oddball Thor figures in this category, picking him for third. He's about 8" tall, with very little articulation, and at first it appears like he should light up. His hammer is clear blue, and sections of his chest are as well - but there's no light up function. Looks like someone dropped the ball on this one. There's a second version with a hammer that's not translucent, but the hammer can't be removed from his hand on either version. Even the buyers on Amazon weren't thrilled, and that's always a bad sign.

In second place is the poor Spanish Officer, from the Jakks Pirates series. Philip didn't fair much better, but the Spanish Officer is cursed with one of the silliest forced poses I've ever seen.

But I gotta say that the worst figure is again another Jack Sparrow, but not one by Jakks this time. Disney did their own exclusive figure, and he was just awful. I didn't pick one up - thank God - but a guest reviewer did and the resulting review speaks for itself.


Best Male Figure under 5"

Hasbro continues to dominate this scale, although lots of other companies continue to produce product.

Onell gets my third place spot with their new Glyan version of Glyos. These things are part designer toy, part action figure, part old school fun, and I personally think they have a winning combination so far.

Hasbro had a bunch of very well done Joes this year, but I think my favorite is Low-Light from PoC. Tons of accessories, excellent articulation, great sculpt - he's got it all going on!

My winner is also from Hasbro, but a different series - Star Wars. They really outdid themselves this year with a ton of excellent figures in this scale, but the one that stood out for me was Savage Opress, especially the shirtless version. Considering the scale, the paint work and sculpt are surprisingly good, and he was a pretty damn cool character on top of it.

Worst Male Figure under 5"
Sadly, there are far too many potential options here. Even Hasbro had some work in the non-Joe, non-Star Wars licenses that was pretty embarrassing. Even so, I do have to say that there weren't any this year that could compare to some of the horrendous figures of past years.

Case in point - Thor. The entire series had far too few stand out figures, and far too many mediocre ones. One of my least favorite was the Lightning Clash Thor, but I'm betting you could find another you dislike just as much.

Mattel just doesn't seem capable of doing anything very well in this scale, but their Green Lantern series was another big disappointment. I'm going to pick on Green Lantern in specific because of the awful articulation, but I'm betting you have your favorites to hate out of this series as well.

I had to think long and hard about the winner...uh, no I didn't. And he's right on that edge of 5", so I suppose he could have slipped into the previous category, but hey - it's my awards so I'll put him where I want. I'm picking the comic based Rick Grimes from McFarlane's Walking Dead series, no doubt about it. I almost went with the TV Daryl, but most folks didn't get to see him on shelves til 2012, so I'm saving him for next year's awards.


Best Female Figure over 11"

A weird thing happened this year - overall, there were enough female figure nominations to actually create three separate categories this year, just like the males! However, the category that usually has the most entries (over 11") was one of the lightest for nominations.

There was still some good work though, including Dakota from Triad Toys. There's no doubt that Triad has a ways to go before they are competing with Hot Toys and Enterbay on sculpts, and I'm not quite sure they want to even go down that road. They fulfill a need for lower cost sixth scale figures, and they pack them up with some of the coolest accessories around. Dakota has plenty of weapons, and is one of their better head sculpts.

I'm going to be mentioning Monster High again later in these selections, but here I'm putting one of their 'dolls' in my second place spot. I really dig this series, almost as much as my youngest daughter, but the Abby Bominable was easily my favorite. The cool winter outfit and Snowman relationship is what sold me on her - I've always had a thing for the Yeti.

Hot Toys produced my top pick - the Battle Suit version of Jill Valentine. She's smokin' hot, with a great outfit and excellent accessories. The short hair style works well too, since sculpting it was the best option.  Hot Toys may be here again next year with their Catwoman as well - can't wait!

Worst Female Figure over 11"
Here's another category where there just wasn't anything worth calling out this year. I'm sure there must be some awful large scale female figure released in 2011...but I sure couldn't think of one. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this trend continues.


Best Female Figure 5" - 11"
There were tons of good choices in this scale, with most superhero series having someone, as well as plenty of Japanese imports.

I'm going with Mera from DC Direct for my third place spot. I love the scaly costume, and both head sculpts are extremely well done. Sure, I wish the articulation was better, but we kinda know what we're getting with DC Direct these days.

Mattel had a number of females in their Masters of the Universe series to choose from, but I'm going with Catra for second place. Sure, Marlena and Teela were nice as well, but there's something about a chick in a cat mask...

My top spot goes to the very sexy Arkham Asylum rendition of Harley Quinn. Hubba hubba! While she was a bit overly pre-posed, at least it was a smokin' hot pose, and the paint work was quite good for the scale.

Worst Female Figure 5" - 11"
My third place pick is a bit of a stretch for a worst. In fact, I like the overall Munsters line well enough, but Lily Munster was a bit of a disappointment. I felt her likeness was the only one not in the right ball park, and the heavy wash didn't do her any favors.

Second place goes to the young Stargirl from the DCUC wave 19. The toothy lopsided grin really freaks me out.

My top pick in this area is Angelica - the poor girl got figures of her in more than one scale, and every one was bad. The large version was one of the most awkward figures I reviewed all year, and that's saying something.


Best Female Figure under 5"

The field was a little light here, but I felt there were enough contenders to make breaking them out from the larger scales worthwhile.

I thought Hasbro did a great job on their latest Ashoka figure. She's a huge improvement over her earlier versions, and while we all know that things are unlikely to end well for her (although whether we actually see her fate is still up in the air), she's been a much better character on the show than I had expected.

My second place pick goes to the sexy Zarana from G.I. Joe. I happen to like my ladies on the bad ass side, and she fits the bill in either version. I'm a little more fond of the Cold Slither variant, but your mileage may vary.

And the top pick also goes to Hasbro, who continue to dominate in this scale no matter the gender. I'm going with Zam Wessell, from their Star Wars Vintage Collection. Lots of cool accessories and the ability to give her different looks make her tops for me.

Worst Female Figure under 5"
It was pretty easy coming up with three females for this category - seems like the ladies always get the short end of the stick.

I believe the Power Rangers Samurai Rita Repulsa came out in 2011, although I have to admit that I don't pay a lot of attention to the line. She was tough to miss though with her Madonna/Gaga/Katy Perry cone breasts, an odd choice for a kid's villain to wear. Were those actually supposed to be right on her breasts?

Since I put the Rick Grimes from the Walking Dead in the 'male under 5' category, it's only fitting that the Michonne goes here too. But unlike Rick, she's getting a second place award. She wasn't great, but she wasn't the awful waste of plastic that the leader of our favorite zombie apocalypse survivors was.

Nope, first place ends up going to poor Angelica again. She just couldn't catch a break in any scale. I'll admit that she was pretty disappointing on screen too, but at least she was nice to look at - her plastic incarnations didn't even have that going for them.


Best Build a Figure

While there weren't a ton of companies doing Build-A-whatevers this year (Mattel pretty much dominated), there was still enough character variety to make the contest interesting.

My third place pick goes to the Anti-Monitor from DCUC series 17. Great looking sculpt and a very appropriate character for 2011.

Second place goes to a cool old school character that I really never expected we'd see - Apache Chief! He was the BAF with series 18, and for those of us who love the old Super Friends cartoon, he was a real treat.

My top pick is a bit unusual, but in a good way. First, you didn't have to buy 6, 7 or even more figures to put it together - just three. It isn't a figure, but a diorama piece, something that's always appreciated. And none of the figures were hard to find or short packed, making it possible for anyone to complete. It's the Electric Chair from the Munsters! It helps that it was an excellent sculpt too, and that Herman can cop a squat on it a look great doing it.

Worst BAF

There were no BAF's this year that I thought were poor quality, so I almost gave this category a pass. However, another way to look at 'worst BAF' is 'BAF that's almost impossible to complete'. In that regard, there were two - the Hall of Justice, and Parallax. While it is possible to complete them (they did eventually release all the figures), it isn't easy. The final run of figures has been hard to find, and many collectors have resorted to inflated prices on ebay. Not cool, and next time hopefully Mattel will keep that in mind.


Best Vehicle or Playset

There were quite a few really, really good choices in this category this year, which is always a great sign for the market.

My third place pick goes to the Family Guy Living Room from Playmates. I was thrilled to see a new playset done up in the old World of Springfield style, and they managed to improve a few things (like the connectors) as part of the deal. Sadly, it's not looking good for more sets, and it's a pity we may never see the Drunken Clam in plastic form.

Second place goes to a high end item - Ghost Rider's Bike. People always assume that the high end items will win in any category - they cost more, they must be better, therefore they'll win. That's not always true, but it's hard to argue with the quality and the cool factor of this light up bike.

But all that cool comes at a price, and people don't ignore than when thinking about 'best'. At least I don't. And my pick for the Best Vehicle or Playset this year is a low end item - the MOTUC Windraider! This great vehicle managed to just sneak in before the year closed out, and it was a surprise highlight for me. In fact, I'd say it was the best MOTUC release of the year, with a great sculpt and play value.


Worst Vehicle or Playset
I have only two to pick on this time, and they are both really because of a general style, not a specific issue.

The second place award goes to the Kilowog's Transforming Moto-jet. Okay, it's not bad enough that everything has to 'transform' these days, but why is it that when a character doesn't really have a reasonable vehicle of his own, they end up on some sort of silly looking bike? Don't even ponder why any Lantern would need a vehicle anyway.

First place goes to those awful color changing Cars. It's not bad enough to flood the shelves with the crappy cars, they have several playsets that squirt water all over the place. There's Ramone's Color Change as well as the Color Splash Speedway, both of which are a major annoyance to parents.


Best Statue

With Ame-Comi, Bishoujo, and Cover Girls out there this year, the ladies were likely to dominate this category.

They almost had a sweep for me, but I did decide to slip Bad Robot from Qmx into the third place spot. This little guy was just so damn cute, and as a big Abrams fan, he was pretty much irresistible.

Then the ladies take over, first with the Ame-Comi version of Raven. Something about the dark, goth style mixed with the Ame-Comi style really works for me.

My top spot goes to the Kotobukiya Bishoujo Wonder Woman. Some folks complained that she was too curvaceous, but this is how I think the Amazonian should look, mixed once again with a bit of that anime style.


Worst Statue
If we ever end up with that Robocop statue here in Detroit, it'll probably be a contender. Til then, we'll have to stick with the smaller variety.

There were a few statues that were a let down this year, but only one that I could really say deserved a mention in this category. Sideshow did some really great work on their PF's this year, as well as their new regular statues. Unfortunately, one of the PF's had a lot - and I mean a lot - of problems and complaints. That'd be Rogue, whose paint job was so bad, they ended up sending out replacement heads.


Best Bust

It seems that the bust as collectible is dying, or at least cycling down to a low point right now in it's current history. We may see it make a resurgence again sometime in the future, but there's no denying that it doesn't hold the appeal as a format that it once did.

Still, there were some mighty fine busts last year, and I'm not just talking about Rita Repulsa's. My third place pick is the Son of Satan from Bowen. He's still producing some seriously awesome busts, but SoS just has that extra something something. Maybe it's the Hellfire base, maybe the look of damnation awaiting on his face, but whatever the case, he's a real stand out for me.

Second place goes to the Iron Man Mark V from Hot Toys. Busts aren't a big deal for them these days, but they continue to do a great job with the Iron Man series. The light up feature helps of course.

My first place pick goes to one of the better Harry Potter busts we've seen from Gentle Giant recently - Filch. We haven't gotten many Harry Potter busts from them in the last year, and I don't think that's a trend we'll see change in 2012, so it's all the more important that the ones we do get are home runs.


Worst Bust
I thought coming up with three mini-busts for a worsts selection might be tough - turns out I was wrong.

Moore still does some amazing work, especially in the statue market, but his busts of the zombies from the Walking Dead have been disappointing. Undersized, they seem much lower quality than the usual work we see from his company.

My number two spot is probably deserving of the number 1, although 'number 2' is a good way to describe them. I'm betting you haven't even seen these, but be glad you haven't. The NFL is selling busts of famous players, and they all have the same blank stare expression, God awful 'meticulous hand painting', and terrible likenesses. Even Jesus would have trouble finding something nice to say about this Tebow. And look at the price! $250? No, these aren't 1:1 - they're standard 8" mini-busts. The only thing worse than these are the 16" versions with the alien-esque torsos and the almost triple price tag. Check out the main page for all the horrid badness.

Last year, my pick for worst was a Gentle Giant Harry Potter bust. This year, my pick for best bust was a Gentle Giant Harry Potter bust AND my pick for worst is a Gentle Giant Harry Potter bust - that shows just how all over the place this series has been. My top pick for worst this year squeaked in at the very beginning of 2011 - Cedric. Sloppy paint and an uninspired pose do nothing to sell this guy.


Best Designer/Vinyl

Since this is a category for any sort of designer figure, be it vinyl or otherwise, some folks may put the Glyos here. I already put them as one of my top three Best Overall Low End lines however, so cool as they are, they won't repeat here.

Third place goes to OMFG, or Outlandish Mini Figure Guys. These cool little figures remind me of the vending machine toys of the past, only a whole lot more interesting. With some cool designs and funky concepts, these are a great way to get even younger kids interested in the more quirky designer toys.

I'm giving my second place award to Bumble, the classic Abominable Snowman done up for the holidays by Funko as part of their Pop series of vinyl figures. I only saw this guy at Target as part of their holiday offering, but he may have been available elsewhere. When I first came upon him, his cuteness was just too much to resist!

My top pick goes to Hot Toys for their Rango figure. Part of this is because I love the film and the character - part is because Hot Toys did such an amazing job translating him to three dimensions. I wish we'd gotten a few more characters to go along with Rango and Priscilla, but two is better than none.
Worst Designer/Vinyl
I'm betting that there were plenty of potential candidates for this worst honor in 2011, but I simply don't follow this market well enough to bash on anyone. Hey, one man can only pay so much attention to so many things...

Best Prop Replica
This might be the easiest of the categories for me this year, because there were three that stood out from the rest.

Back when Green Lantern hit theaters, there was some pretty weak product on the shelves. But one item stood out, this simple, basic, cheap version of the ring that could be had at any Toys R Us. And yet this Green Lantern ring rocked! You can find some more expensive versions out there, but for the cost I think this one does the job just fine, and gets my third place nod.

In second place comes another prop replica from a 'toy' company - Mattel's Ghostbusters Ghost Trap. They included features for both play and role play, allowing the lights and sounds to work differently depending on the use. It's well built, looks great, and is a ton of fun to show off to friends. Now if they could just do as good a job with the pack and keep it under $300...

My winner in this category is a bit of a dark horse - or at least a black and white horse. It's the Talky Tina doll by Bif Bang Pow. I'm a huge fan of Twilight Zone, and love just about anything related to the old show. To get 1:1 scale prop replicas is a dream come true (can't wait for the Mystic Seer!), but the fact that this is the first creepy killer doll, sort of Chucky's grandmother, just adds to the cool. They did a great job reproducing her, and she gives you the chills when she says "My name is Talky Tina, and I'm going to kill you".

Worst Prop Replica
I know it's not fair to say I can't think of any worsts in a particular category - but it's also true. Perhaps it's because I simply didn't buy or research as many replicas this year, but I couldn't come up with any that were bad enough to deserve a mention.

I will say that I'm a little concerned about the direction prices are going, since most of us can't afford replicas that cost $300, $400 or more. But let's hope that as more players enter the market, those prices will drop back down a bit.

Best Block Figure

There have been several new players in the block figure market, as more come on board with new building play sets. I'm going with the old standbys for all my choices, however.

In third place is Playmobil, one of my all time favorite toys. They've done some expanding this year, including some cool 'spy' themed sets, updating their themes and following Lego's lead in some ways.  If I were told I could collect only one thing and nothing else, Playmobil would be it. And yet, I have so little of it...

Minimates get my second place award, and have had a huge year. I don't collect them with the religious fervor that I once did, but they have produced a ton of cool figures this year, including the Universal Monsters that did make it into my collection. They also did some great vehicles and playsets, including the cool Pirate's Ship.

My top pick is the most obvious - Lego of course. My son still loves to build with Lego, and while the sets are themed and somewhat restricted from what we knew as kids, he has no trouble using them to build some mighty creative and unique constructs.  Their expansion into aliens and dinosaurs is smart, my son and I both love their mini-figure individual series, and they've gone back to their DC license to produce some more of my favorite sets - Batman. Who can argue with that?

Worst Block Figure

I'm picking three here, but in some cases it's not about the general line but specific issues within specific lines.

My third place spot is going back to Lego. Yea, I know, I just said they were the best - how could they also be on the worst list? That's a conundrum, yes it is. As much as I love their mini figure single packs, I HATE that they are blind bagged. Unless I turn to ebay, my son will never get a full set, and many people have resorted to tricks and indent interpretations in an attempt to getting around this annoying marketing trick.

While I still want to pick up the huge Batcave set at Toys R Us, I have to say that the Trio figures just don't do it for me. It's the goofy feet - they kill the overall appearance.

My top choice goes to Kidrobot Family Guy series. Sometimes, a style matches a license extremely well, like the Kidrobot South Park figures. These guys look amazing, and the two styles mesh great. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Family Guy series. Stewie is passable, but the rest of the characters just don't work for me.


Best Misc

This was one of the easiest categories for me this year, because all three selections were high on my kid's lists of wants.

First up, Trash Pack 'Trashies'. These things are Toys R Us exclusives, and sort of the current version of Garbage Pail Kids. Intended to be disgusting and cheap, I grabbed a few for my son for Christmas. Since they are almost impossible to find, indicating that they've found themselves a market. I know my son thinks they're pretty sweet...

But not quite as sweet as my second place choice, another toy available before Christmas but since non-existent due to demand. That would be Skylanders, or more specifically, the action figures that go with the game. Easy to find before Christmas, lots of parents got their kids the game for the xbox, PS3 or DS. But once those kids had the game, they all wanted the figures, and they flew off the shelves in January. They're well done figures too, with cool designs and sculpts.

My favorite line in the 'misc' category is actually my daughters favorite right now - Monster High. I picked one of their dolls in my Best Female category, and I think Mattel has done a brilliant job marketing this series. They have new build-a-character packs out that let you customize your own monster, and they've keep the variety of releases fresh and up to date. The playsets and extras have been cool too - have you seen Draculara's car? Sweet!

Worst Misc

This is always a good spot to rip on concepts or directions that various lines have taken, as well as just outright bad ideas.

Third place goes to one that I'm not sure is a bad idea yet - it might just be an over supplied idea. It's Squinkies - you know these little guys, much like the Trash Packs I just praised, but covering a ton of licenses, some better than others. These things are taking up half an aisle already at Target, and I have a bad feeling that while some of them are cute, there's just so many that they'll end up a bust.

Second place goes to a really bad idea - one that I've only see selling at one retail chain, and not well there. The unappealing name doesn't help any either...would you want to buy Squatz? Sounds like an unfortunate gastrointestinal disorder.

But my personal first place award in the Worst Misc category goes to one of my favorite lines - Cars by Mattel. C'mon guys, with all the new potential characters in Cars 2, what do we get on the pegs? Millions of Finn McMissiles, Lightning McQueen's, and Maters. Since the first wave hit back in the spring (and had a good share of different characters), the variety has pretty much been completely sucked out of the line. Instead, we've gotten 'quick changers', and 'squinkies', and 'action agents', and more freakin' color changers than anyone could possible want. I do love the Lights and Sounds variation, but the rest have been a bust, and the lack of new characters in the regular line is hurting the series big time.

General Comments
2011 was a very big year for sixth scale collectibles, and fans were treated to some amazing product by several companies. All that competition is forcing the bar higher, and it's hard to imagine the product getting better than it already is.

It's was a big year for statues and prop replicas too, and clearly the high end collectibles is really where the focus is these days. Lower end stuff has taken a serious hit, with only NECA really hanging in there with the quirky licenses and mass market product.  Even on the high end, busts seem to have, well, gone bust.

With programs like Kickstarter and plenty of nifty concepts like Glyos and OMFG, I bet 2012 proves to be the year for the little guy to make a splash once again. We might be on the edge of another revolution in the market, with the emphasis shifting away from the well known companies to garage operations, from big runs of licensed figures to small runs of unique creations. There's certainly a ton of potential, and the funding and access to the market is there like never before.

I'm off to start tallying those ballots for the People's Picks and the Poppies, but you'll need to give me at least a week. Stay tuned!


This page copyright 2012, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour