It's the People's Picks for 2008!

Alright, we've had my picks for the best and worst of the year, we've had the Poppies awards, which are the industry judge's picks for best of the it's time to see what the readers think! I've compiled the results from the People's Picks for 2008, and this year I used the same categories - and nominees - as the Poppies, so we could compare the results. And in that comparison, there's some interesting results... If you have any comments or questions, feel free to drop me a line.

In case you'd like to check the results of my picks, the Poppies or the People's Picks from previous years, check these links:

My picks:   Readers 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

I'm going to have some additional general comments at the end of the review, particularly around some companies in 2009. I'm also going to include a little table in each category showing the picks from me, the Poppies Judges, and the Peoples all in one spot for easier comparison. Now let's get to those People's Pick results!

Best Overall Company

It's interesting to see the differences in winners between the different groups, but sometimes it's even more interesting to see when they match almost exactly. And when it came to this category, that's the case.

Sideshow Collectibles took a third place spot here, and considering how good their customer service and customer interaction is, I'm not surprised. They did have a very, very solid year, with figures like Palpatine, the ANH Obi-Wan, the Clone Trooper Obi-Wan, their Gandalf, and their Indy all turning out well. And of course, their Indy PF is THE Indy collectible to own. Sideshow has done a terrific job of developing raving fans, and that's a critical aspect for company growth.

Hasbro took second place, but they did so by edging out Sideshow with only a handful of votes. Remember, this isn't a smaller group like the 147 Poppies judges, this is a far larger sampling of widely diverse readers. Having such a close result with such a large group is quite interesting.

As I said with the Hasbro third place win in the Poppies, I think that they had a very strong year with Star Wars, Iron Man, and Transformers. Things were rocky for Indiana Jones, but enough collectors were getting on the wagon by the Temple of Doom wave that there was some positive energy built there as well. I'm very interested to see what mass market goodies they have in store for 2009.

I'll give you three guesses as to who took first place, and the first two won't count - of course it's Hot Toys. That makes the perfect trifecta for them, a unanimous decision across all three voting groups.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Amok Time Hasbro Sideshow
2nd Place Mattel Sideshow Hasbro
1st Place Hot Toys Hot Toys Hot Toys

Aliens Dallas action figure from Hot Toys


Best Overall Line

Some categories have a wider spread of votes than others, due to the wider range of personal tastes. This is generally the case with the Best Overall Line, where there's plenty of choices and a tremendously different audiences for each one. However, 55% of the voters picked one of the top three lines, with the other 18 nominees fighting over the remaining 45%.

In third place is one of my favorites, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from NECA. Sometimes when a line comes out early in the year, they can be forgotten by the time the voting comes around, but the TMNT line was strong enough to remain at the forefront in the reader's minds.

Second place went to my first place choice, the DC Universe Classics from Mattel. Yep, a lot of folks (myself included) have been frustrated about the exclusive wave 5, but that didn't seem to quell the love too much. In fact, this was the only line that was in the top three of all three voting groups.

The big winner is probably no surprise - Hot Toys Dark Knight line. Here's a company doing everything right. With the Bat Pod, Tumbler, Two Face and maybe another Joker as potential figures/vehicles on the 2009 awards ballot, I suspect it will be another good showing for them in January of 2010, too.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   G.I. Joe Star Wars - Hasbro TMNT - NECA
2nd Place TMNT - NECA DC Universe Classics/G.I. Joe  DC Universe Classics
1st Place DC Universe Classics  Hot Toys - Dark Knight  Hot Toys - Dark Knight 

Dark Knight Two Face action figure by Hot Toys

Best Figure 18" or more (Male or Female)

The reader's agreed with both myself and the Poppies Judges in this category, although no one seemed able to agree on the actual order of the best three 18" figures. There was no question as to the authority by which these won either, with almost 90% of the voters selecting one of the three.

Readers voted Hellboy II in as their third place winner. I suspect the fact that many folks already had one (or more) of the Hellboys already produced in this scale might have had an effect on their voting.  And while HB took third, he did so just a few votes behind the hugely surprising second place winner, the Ultimate Quarter Scale Maul. Now, it's true that both myself and the Poppies Judges also picked Maul in our top three, but we didn't place him as high as the readers. On top of that, the more vocal readers (and many vocal posters on multiple boards) have been blasting both the UQS line and this figure. Therefore it was quite a surprise to me to see almost a third of the voters pick him as the best of the year in this category.

But NECA's Alien still held court over the rest, even if it was only by a few votes. The figure has it's issues, but considering the price point, it's one Hell of a figure.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   UQS Darth Maul  UQS Darth Maul   Hellboy II
2nd Place Hellboy II Alien UQS Darth Maul
1st Place Alien Hellboy II Alien

Alien action figure from NECA


Best Male Figure 12 - 18"

This is a category with a TON of great choices this year. But the winner once again crushed the competition - it wasn't even close.

In a distant third place was Sideshow's Indiana Jones. Folks have been longing for a great sixth scale Indy at a reasonable price for years, and I think Sideshow's offering made many of them quite happy.

In an almost equally distant second is a huge surprise - the Hot Toys Joker. Yea, the first one, not the Bank Robber version. I say this is a surprise, not because the figure is bad, but because with the BR version available, I'm surprised anyone choose it as 'best'. Having that critically important outfit must have been enough for some voters to prefer it overall. I suppose it isn't that big of a surprise, since the Poppies judges did the same thing by giving it a tie for second with the Indiana Jones, but it still seems odd to me.

Although enough people did pick the first one to get it in the top three, it still didn't come anywhere near the top vote getter - the Bank Robber Joker from Hot Toys, of course. There's no doubt he's the figure of the year, and all three award giving groups agreed on that one.

Every year, the question of how much something costs having an effect o how well it does in the voting always comes up, but this year I had a lot more folks suggesting that perhaps there needs to be a break down by 'high end' vs 'low end', or 'mass market' vs 'specialty', 'costs a small fortune', and 'el cheapo'. I think the dominance of Hot Toys this year prompted more of the conversation, but it's always worth having.

On the surface, it seems like a reasonable idea. But what it comes down to is how diluted can you make the categories, and still make them a reasonable number of choices.  I'm bringing this up here because this category is a prime example. You could split this category in two, with a Best 12 - 18" under, say, $50, and a Best 12 - 18" over $50. Of course, you see the first problem - how do you decide where to draw the line? Is $50 right? or $75? or $100? And is that SRP, or what most folks had to actually pay for it? And it isn't just quality that drives price - it's the size of the company and the run size of the figure as well. Amok Time's 12" figures run $50 - $60 and some even more, but is it fair to put their work up against Sideshow's, who have been doing it for over a decade, and have far greater resources at their disposal? Or do you put them in the lower end category, even though the price is higher?

Yes, it's difficult to start drawing that line. But let's pretend we do draw it at $50, forcing a company like Amok Time to compete against Sideshow, Hot Toys and Enterbay. Who would be in the under $50 category? Well, I can tell you right now that Mcfarlane's 12" Master Chief would have won the category for 2008...but would it mean anything to them considering this is the guy they would have beat?

Just like film, or art, or even cars, I think the creators should always be striving to do the very best they can with the resources they have. And when they do, I think people respond. I think the way the categories are currently set up is the best option available, but if someone can come up with something that makes better sense (and can provide a good, logical argument to convince me), I'd be more than happy to go with it - just drop me a line.

Dark Knight Bank Robber Joker action figure by Hot Toys


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

While the readers loved some of the same things I did, and some of the same things the Poppies Judges did, they also loved some of their own things too. If you're not going to love your own thing, who is?

Their third place winner was the new Masters of the Universe Classics He-man. I have to say I'm pretty impressed with how Mattel is handling this license so far, including their decision to discontinue each figure after a full month of availability. I think it's the right mix of exclusive, yet not impossible to get. There's also no doubt that they've done a nice job updating the classic line.

The silver medal goes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Don. Don was the only one on the nominee list, but I think the result would have been the same no matter which one I chose to highlight. The TMNT was one of the nicest lines produced this year, and it's great to see the figure get some more love. In fact, he's the only figure to end up in some place on all three lists, which I think is a true indication of just how universal his appeal is.

The Poppies Judges kinda snubbed the DCUC line with their picks, but the Peoples did the right thing and gave their gold to the DCUC Deathstroke. He's a great figure, and the DCUC line already looks to have contender for next years competition with Hawkman.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Wall-E  Halo Master Chief/HBII Wink   MOTUC He-Man
2nd Place TMNT Don Wall-E TMNT Don
1st Place DCUC Deathstroke   TMNT Don DCUC Deathstroke 

DC Unverse Classics Deathstroke action figure by Mattel

Best Male Figure under 5"

Several folks complained that because their were so many choices for the G.I. Joes fans in the nominees (4), that the vote for them would be diluted, making it impossible for them to beat a figure who was all by his lonesome on the ballot. I actually meant to discuss this when I was recapping the Poppies results, but since I forgot...uh, I mean since I planned on doing it here, I'll explain how this didn't actually happen as part of the discussion around the category. But first, the winners.

In third place, is one of those G.I. Joe figures, Snake Eyes. I thought Trakker was the best, but then again, I know a lot of Joe fans were peeved that he was even included in the line. Clearly that had some effect, because Snake Eyes got twice as many votes as Trakker did. Of course, the good news for fans is that there were a ton of great 25th Anniversary figures this year.

The second place award goes to Wall-E, obviously the itty bitty version. Since the Peoples snubber poor Wall-E in the previous category, it's nice to see him pick up a spot here.

And the big winner, in first place...Hellboy II, and in specific, the SDCC cigar chomping version. Mezco did a great job on that whole first wave, but this exclusive was really outstanding.

But what about the effects of having more than one figure in the same category from the same line? Did that mean the votes were too diluted for the Joes, making Hellboy the easy winner? To see if that is true, you have to make one big assumption - that everyone that voted for a particular figure, would have voted for another figure in the same license if their figure hadn't been available. In other words, if Trakker wasn't a nominee, then you have to assume all the Trakker voters swung over to Snake Eyes, or Eel or the Paraviper, and not to a completely different license.

If you make that assumption, Hellboy still would have won. I combined all the votes for the four Joe figures, the votes for the two Star Wars figures, the votes for the two Hellboy figures, and the votes for the three Indiana Jones figures, and compared them license to license, rather than figure by figure. If you do that, you end up with you end up with the Hellboy license still in first place, the Joe license moving up from third to second, and the Indy line beating out little lone Wall-E to take the third place spot.

I did this with the Poppies votes too, and got the exact same result - the Hellboy license took first, the Joe license took second, and the Indy license too third.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   G.I. Joe Trakker Wall-E  G.I. Joe Snake Eyes
2nd Place Mola Ram Mola Ram Wall-E
1st Place Hellboy II (SDCC)  Hellboy II (SDCC)  Hellboy II (SDCC)  

Hellboy II Hellboy action figure from Mezco


Best Female Figure any size under 18"

Here's another category where you might say that how much something costs effects the final results. But when a $10 action figure beats a $150 figure, it seems to me the process is working.

The third place winner is that $150 (almost) Deunan from Hot Toys. Yea, she was sweet. Chicks in rubber suits...what can we say.

But the DCUC Wonder Woman beat her out for the second place spot. Hey, you know I agree since I put her in my top spot over all the other ladies. With a Wonder Woman movie (still) in the works, we can only hope that we get more great collectibles based on the character in the future.

The top winner is another Hot Toys creation - Machiko. While she's never been in a film, and in fact, she's never looked exactly the way Hot Toys has portrayed her, they did a terrific job of creating the perfect love child of Angelina Jolie and a Predator.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Deunan Deunan  Deunan
2nd Place DCD Wonder Woman DCUC Wonder Woman  DCUC Wonder Woman 
1st Place DCUC Wonder Woman   Predator Machiko  Predator Machiko 

Predator Machiko action figure by Hot Toys

Best Build a Figure

Although the 'buy something and get a piece of another to build'' concept existed for some time, it's a testament to Toybiz's handling of it that it will forever be known as a BAF in the action figure world. Like Kleenex for tissue, and Xerox for copy machine, BAF has become the defacto name for this particularly cool marketing gimmick.

Toynami's Robot Santa pulled the clean three way win by taking third place in the People's Picks, the same spot it took in the other two awards. I'm torn though - since we still don't have all the pieces for the 'true' BAF, does it get to be on the 2009 ballot too?

The second place winner is Solomon Grundy. Obviously, Mattel is doing a good job with the BAF's...uh, excuse me, 'C&C' figures (whatever) with the DC Universe Classics series. In fact, although none of them took first, there wasn't a loser amongst them.

The first place winner is the big bad Fin Fang Foom. Size is one of the things that made BAF's so damn cool in the first place, and Foom was the only really huge BAF to hit in 2008.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Robot Santa Robot Santa  Robot Santa
2nd Place Fin Fang Foom Solomon Grundy Solomon Grundy
1st Place Solomon Grundy  Fin Fang Foom    Fin Fang Foom  

Fin Fang Foom action figure by Hasbro

Best Vehicle or Playset

This was a no contest category this year. While there were plenty of cool vehicles and play sets this year, a situation created by the shift to more 3 3/4" lines, there was one that easily stood out.

For the Peoples, the 1966 1/18th Batmoble took third place. Fans of the old show were thrilled by the car, and I have to admit that was pretty sweet. Now if we could just get the damn show released on DVD...

The second place vehicle, oddly enough, was another Batman conveyance - the Movie Masters Bat Pod! For twenty bucks it was a Hell of a sweet ride, but if you picked it up on clearance for five bucks, you scored the deal of the year.

And of course, the big winner is...the Millennium Falcon from Hasbro. Hasbro deserves all the kudos they are getting for this stellar toy.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   The Cell Imaginext Bat Cave   1966 1/18th Batmobile 
2nd Place Movie Masters Bat Pod  1966 1/18th Batmobile  Movie Masters Bat Pod
1st Place Millennium Falcon   Millennium Falcon   Millennium Falcon 

Millenium Falcon ship from Hasbro


Best Statue

While the Peoples mirrored the Poppies and my picks in two ways, they also pulled a dark horse in, surprising me.

The third place winner was the Kotobukiya Iron Man. This statue place in all three awards, indicating that he's the real deal. I know a lot of Marvel fans are going to be surprised that he made it in instead of the Thor PF, but obviously they didn't vote.

The second place winner is that dark horse - the Frank Miller version of the Batman Black and White statue. As a fan of the series, it's nice to see it getting some love, and I suspect the popularity of Miller's artwork helped boost this one into the top three.

But there was once again no real contest for the top spot - it's the Indiana Jones PF. Should we just make the call now and tell all collectibles companies that the contest for best ever Indy collectible is over, and they might as well pack it in?

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Batman B&W George Perez  Creature from the Black Lagoon PF  Kotobukiya Iron Man
2nd Place Kotobukiya Iron Man  Kotobukiya Iron Man Batman B&W Frank Miller 
1st Place Indiana Jones PF   Indiana Jones PF   Indiana Jones PF 

Indiana Jones Premium Format statue by Sideshow Collectibles


Best Bust

Hot Toys managed to dominate this category again, even though they are very new to this market.

They took third place with the Dark Knight Batman bust. This was a bit of a surprise to me, since it's a nice bust, but I didn't think it ranked up there with some of the competition from other companies. Hey, clearly the Peoples didn't agree with me.

Second place went to long time fan favorite, Gentle Giant, but it was for their Pan's Labyrinth Faun, an SDCC exclusive that lots of folks never even saw, let alone had the chance to own.

And Hot Toys jumps in with the first place win with their Dark Knight Joker. It's nice to see that the Dark Knight movie didn't get snubbed in any of these awards...unlike the Oscars.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Dark Knight Joker Aayla Secure/DK Batman  Dark Knight Batman
2nd Place Faun (Gentle Giant) Faun (Gentle Giant) Faun (Gentle Giant)
1st Place Bellatrix Lestrange   Dark Knight Joker  Dark Knight Joker  

Dark Knight Joker bust by Hot Toys


Best Designer/Vinyl

Yea, this is a tough category. And yes, I'm open to reasonable and logical suggestions on how to make changes to it for 2009. But for 2008, here's the results.

Third place went to a Mighty Mugg - Mola Ram. I'm surprised by this since this is the masses voting, and the masses didn't really get behind the Indy Muggs like they did the Marvel and Star Wars versions. But clearly that particular one stood out for them.

The second place winner is from that unknown company called Hot Toys. Yea, you might have heard of them. Their Alien Vs Predator Cosbabies were just so damn cute that the readers couldn't resist giving them a spot.

The big winner for the Peoples was the SDCC Iron Man Mighty Mugg. That paint job was so damn cool!

I will admit that it was a huge oversight both on my part and the part of the Poppies Judges not to include one of the Ashley Wood figures (like Bertie, that I picked for my 1st place trophy) on the ballots. Fortunately, we'll have more of the series to choose from come the 2009 vote.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Milk and Cheese Mola Ram Mighty Mugg   Mola Ram Mighty Mugg 
2nd Place Mola Ram Might Mugg  Milk & Cheese/AvP Cosbabies  Alien vs Predator Cosbabies
1st Place Bertie Iron Man Mighty Mugg (SDCC)   Iron Man Mighty Mugg (SDCC)  


Best Prop Replica

As home theaters and movie rooms become more and more popular, the prop replica market gets bigger and bigger, and more companies are moving to fill the demand.

eFX is new to the scene, taking over the Star Wars license from previous holders, Master Replicas. Their Clonetrooper Helmet is amazing, and I'm not surprised that it made it into the third place spot.

Another very cool, albeit expensive, prop replica is the second place winner from Diamond Select Toys, the Flux Capacitor. Now your Delorean can be complete!

The big winner is probably no surprise - it's the Hellboy II Samaritan. Yep, the first version was great when it was polystone, making it metal just upped the ante.

I wanted to mention that I also goofed in this category. I included the Big Baby replica because I (and clearly, the other judges) had thought it started shipping late in the year. It had not, so I had to disqualify bad. There's always next year.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   HB II Samaritan Flux Capacitor  Clonetrooper Helmet (eFX) 
2nd Place STOS Phaser STOS Communicator  Flux Capacitor
1st Place STOS Communicator   HB II Samaritan   HB II Samaritan  

Hellboy II Samaritan prop replica from Sideshow Collectibles

Best Misc

The final catch all category has three very, very different winners.

Third place goes to those cute little buggers, the Hasbro Galactic Heroes. I think more adult collectors buy these than kids, but you can certainly see why.

The second place award goes to the Indiana Jones mail away Ark of the Covenant. Now, I'm sure that the much more expensive Sideshow version will be a sight to behold, but I bet lots of folks are going to be satisfied with keeping this one in their display.

The big winner comes out of one of the best overall master toy licenses of the year - the Ultimate Wall-E from Thinkway. They certainly did it up right for this movie, and it's one of the first truly successful animated movie toy lines in...well...forever.

Place MWC Picks   Poppies Picks   People's Picks  
3rd Place   Skeleflex Galactic Heroes  Galactic Heroes
2nd Place Indiana Jones Lego  Ultimate Wall-E Ark of the Covenant
1st Place Mattel Cars  Ark of the Covenant   Ultimate Wall-E 

Indiana Jones Ark of the Covenant from Hasbro

General Comments

That wraps up the final of my three separate awards ceremonies. If you have suggestions, comments, or questions, feel free to drop me a line. My current plan is to leave the format pretty much the same for 2009, although I am open to ideas around the Designer/Vinyl category, as well as any ideas on improving the process. If you are in the industry and would like to be a judge, or if you know someone you think would make a good judge, let me know as well.

2008 was a rough year on this industry, and a lot of companies felt the pinch. Some, like SOTA, were already hanging on by their finger tips, while others, like Master Replicas, went from being an industry leader to almost disappearing form sight. No one was completely insulated, and previously untouchable companies like McFarlane and Gentle Giant took some pretty serious economic hits.

But whenever there's a shake up like this, new opportunities present themselves. For every company in trouble, there was an upstart looking to slip in. Newcomers like eFX, Amok Time, Peril Unlimited, Onell, Enterbay, Symbiote Studios and others see the potential and are chasing after it.

I think that 2009 is going to be a year to return to the basics. The companies that will not only survive but flourish through the economic downturn will be those that focus back on what made the market pioneers successful - excellent sculpts with excellent paint, backed up by friendly, top notch customer support. The casual fans are likely to go on hiatus for awhile, but the core fans are still out there, and they'll spend their money with the companies they think are meeting their needs the best.

So who's going to do well? Newer companies like Enterbay and eFX seemed posed to have a big year, if they can control their expansion. They don't want to stretch themselves too thin in a rough economy, but if they can follow up their recent work with some additional solid releases, fans are sure to respond.

Of course, Hot Toys is on the verge of world domination. Or at least what passes for it in this industry. We know they're hitting the year with some major releases, from the Dark Knight Two Face and Tumbler to the Predator figures. I contend that if they make a big push toward building a more direct relationship with their collectors that they could become the new McFarlane of sixth scale, setting the bar for everyone else to try to reach.

Ah, but who's in trouble? Clearly companies like SOTA and Master Replicas were already in deep, and 2009 hasn't made things better. But there are a couple other companies who once seemed above any problems, but are now faced with some tough times. Both McFarlane and Gentle Giant have had a rough year, no doubt about it. Both have made business moves to try to shore up their financial picture, and weather the storm. Neither is disappearing any time soon, but 2009 could be a very different kind of year for them.

Gentle Giant has been had no luck in repeating the kind of success they have had with the Star Wars license. All they need to do is look at Master Replicas to see what happens when too many of your eggs are in the same basket.

McFarlane's biggest issue is that they've gotten away from the innovation and market leading changes that made them top of the heap. I said it earlier, but I'll say it again - they used to create their own pop culture, now their just chasing the pop culture creations of others. They can survive doing that, but they can't be the king of the hill.

There are several other companies in the middle, who have been smart in the past, but need to remain so.  Sideshow has a great business model when folks are spending money - sell direct, determine demand from pre-orders, and use exclusives to reduce the amount of retailers who get a share of the revenue. Unfortunately, this same model can be a liability when people tighten their spending. There's no retailer between them and the customer to help soften the effect, and since customers can cancel pre-orders any time up until things ship, it's possible that they'll end up with a lot of extra inventory in '09. I have faith that they'll weather the storm, but it won't be a cake walk.

Both Mezco and NECA are in decent positions too, but for different reasons. NECA has a diversified portfolio of products, which gives them a bit more of a cushion. They need to remain vigilante on the sculpts, put pressure on their manufacturers to get the paint more consistent, and they really need to try to improve their connection to their customers.

Mezco has always been smart about not stretching themselves too thin, and picking the right licenses to compliment their style and strategy. They don't go after something just because it's the latest hot property, but instead look for good matches. If they can pull that off this year, and not overextend themselves, they should be okay.

There's plenty of uncertainty facing every one this year. But whenever there's a lot of instability and change, there's also lots of opportunity. I bet we see a lot of new small companies pop up this year, and I also think we'll see several of the newer companies find ways to take advantage of the weaknesses of their larger, older competitors. I think we'll see a very different mix of who's on top and who's not in 2010, and it should be an interesting ride, if nothing else!


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