Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Ten Action Figure Packages

Date Published: 2017-08-28
Written By: Michael Crawford

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DCUC Plastic Man

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In every review, I discuss the packaging. Some folks couldn't care less - or at least that's what they believe. But the reality is that packaging is the first thing you see, especially when you're buying off the shelf. Even when you buy online, it's your first impression when you unpack the shipping box, and like all first impressions, it can alter your overall opinion of what's inside without you realizing it.

This list was one of the tougher to do. The reason is pretty simple - it's hard to remember great packages. The figure could have been awful, but the package could have been spectacular - you tend to remember the figure more, and it's easy to forget some stand outs. I stuck with just action figures here - no busts, no prop replicas, no statues. That was really the only limitation, but my picks tend to be more than just attractive graphics. I found that those that made the list had something extra, something unique, that made them stand out for me.

Let's get to the list!

10 - Watchmen, Mattel, 2013
My number ten is a terrific example of a pretty mediocre action figure series that has some really inventive and spiffy packaging. Mattel's Watchmen series was available through Matty Collector. It's a 6" series based on the comics, not the movie. The figures weren't anything to get excited about, but they put a lot of thought into their boxes.

Turn them one way, you get the Watchmen name across the set. Turn them the other, you get the countdown clock. And perhaps my favorite, turn them so one spline is visible, and you get the classic graffiti, which you can see in the photo below. It's a nice example of truly imaginative package design, and almost made it worth it to buy the whole set of figures. Almost.

Mattel Watchmen action figures

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9 - Sigma 6 (deluxe), Hasbro, 2005
Back in the mid-aughts, Hasbro revamped their G.I. Joe line with the very cool Sigma 6 series. I've discussed how cool these figures were before, but let's not forget that the deluxe version had a really interesting packaging feature. The top and bottom were hard plastic, and could be attached to each other, forming a footlocker to hold all the cool accessories! The foam tray, die cut for the accessories, fit neatly inside these hard shells, creating the perfect repository for all the figure's goodies. The entire series was pretty innovative, especially for Hasbro during this period, but it was the packaging that remains memorable.

Sigma 6 Destro action figure

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8 - Outer Space Men, Four Horsemen, 2012
As a child of the 60's and 70's, I love retro packages that hearken back to the style of my youth. My favorite in this theme is the Outer Space Men, a series of small figures from the Four Horsemen. These guys look like they were buddies with Major Matt Mason and the Zeroids, and the package artwork is reminiscent of the space race decade.

And yes, there's something extra here - it's all very collector friendly. The attractive card backer can slip out of the bubble easily, allowing you to remove the figure and keep the card to place on display as well.

Outer Space Men action figure

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7 - Man-Bat SDCC, Mattel, 2007
Back in 2005 or so, Mattel started to up their game with their SDCC exclusives packaging. The first one I really remember being impressed with was the DCUC style Batman. Then came the Catwoman, and her nine (nine lives, get it?) variants. But Man-Bat took it to a new level, with a very cool outer box that looked like a crate, which contained an elaborate inner package. This inner package had a cover over the bubble crated by folding 'wings'. Open these wings up, and the Man-bat figure was hanging upside down inside. Mattel hasn't been this fancy in awhile, but for several years after this they really took things to greater and greater heights. You'll be seeing another of their SDCC packages later in the list.

Photo courtesy Cool Toy Review.

SDCC Man-Bat action figure

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6 - Super Grover, Palisades, 2005
This is the only one of my ten choices that's purely about the artwork, but even then, it's because there's something special going on. It's more than just attractive - it's by one of my favorite comic artists, Alex Ross.

Palisade's Super Grover was a great figure, and it was their first salvo in the Sesame Street license. Sadly, it was also their last. They could have gone with any old graphics, but they were known for doing attractive packages. They stepped it up by getting one of the best known superhero artists at the time to do a special version of the character, in his own unique style.

Palisades Super Grover action figure

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5 - The Godfather, Hot Toys, 2009
Hot Toys has done some amazing packages, most notably with their DX series of figures. They've tried a lot of different approaches over the years, and tend to lead other sixth scale companies in this area. While there were many I really liked - everything from the DX14 Joker to the Indiana Jones - I settled on just two for the list overall. The first of those is the very cool Godfather.

They created the silhouette on the front by using a second piece of red plastic on the inside of the lid. This plastic rises up through the die cut cover, creating the effect. It was a damn creative way to go about it, and gave it the 3D, shadowed look which sets it apart.

Hot Toys Godfather sixth scale figure

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4 - Classic Captain America, One:12 Collective, Mezco, 2017
I'm a big fan of metal or tin containers, and they've been used successfully a number of times with various action figures. But the new One:12 Collective series has employed them several times now with their various exclusives, and the best execution was with the classic Captain America. Since they could go with a round design to match the shield, it was a perfect match. Inside they used a cardboard cover over the figure and accessories with artwork based on the technology used to create him. It's a very cool - and expensive to produce - style of packaging.

Photo courtesy Mezco Toyz.

One:12 Collective Classic Captain America action figure

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3 - Christopher Reeve Superman, Hot Toys, 2011
The second Hot Toys package to make the cut was one I'd completely forgotten. It's probably because I love the figure so much that the package seemed secondary, but it's one of their best designs.

The box itself was done in the Superman emblem shape. Inside everything was safe and sound and completely collector friendly of course. There's a very classic, simple black insert as well, proclaiming "In Memory of Christopher Reeve". All very nice, but if that was it, this package wouldn't have made the list.

But Hot Toys went one further. To get this oddly shaped package in a regular rectangular shipping box, they included some filler pieces of cardboard. They could have simply used plain cardboard of course, and that's what 99% of the companies out there would do. But not Hot Toys - they decorated it with Fortress of Solitude style graphics, and turned it into a base for the pack itself! It was a touch of genius and deserves special recognition.

Hot Toys Christopher Reeve Superman action figure

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2 - Buck Rogers, Go Hero, 2009
Cardboard, cardboard, and more cardboard. Throw in some plastic bubbles, and occasionally a metal tin, and that's about it for action figure packaging.

Go Hero stepped outside the normal with their wooden box for the Buck Rogers sixth scale figure. The cover slides open to reveal the foam interior where the figure is carefully cradled. Going one step further, they gave the exterior graphics and text an old school wood burned look. If you're my age, you remember having a wood burner - do they still sell those things? They added a little wear and age to top it all off, creating a perfect high quality retro style box.

Go Hero Buck Rogers action figure

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1 - Wonder Twins SDCC, Mattel, 2009
As I mentioned earlier, Mattel was doing some amazing SDCC exclusive packaging during the latter half of the first decade of the century.  It's fallen off a bit in more recent years, and I think the apex was in 2009 with their DCUC Wonder Twins pack.

You don't get many packages with lights. You get even fewer with sounds. This one gave you both, and I'm not talking about lights and sounds on the figures themselves, but lights and sounds only with the package! When you open up the double wide box fully, so it looks like the rings on the two characters touch, you get both lights and various sounds, including specific lines from the cartoon. It's pretty rare when a package design is so cool, so well executed, that you don't want to remove the figures, not because of any sort of 'collectibility', but because they simply look better where they are. This is one of those unicorns.

If you'd like to see the package in action, check out this video by Pixel Dan.

Image courtesy of Figure Fan Zone.

Wonder Twins SDCC exclusive

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This was an interesting one to do, because I'd forgotten quite a few of the packages that ended up on the final list. Like most of the lists, I knew going in what my number one was likely to be, and that didn't change - the Wonder Twins package created quite a lasting impression. But others, including the Man-Bat, Superman, Super Grover, and even the Watchmen had completely slipped my mind, and it was only through researching for the list that I recalled just how cool they were.  I suspect that means I've missed some others that you like quite a bit, and I'd love to hear what would make your list.

If you're enjoying this top ten concept of Captain Toy Picks or have a suggestion for a future list, drop me a line and let me know! I've added a section below with links to all the past Captain Toy Picks... features:

Captain Toy Picks...The Top Female Sixth Scale Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Statue Series!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Defunct Toy/Collectibles Companies!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Original Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top 'Remakes Required' Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Sideshow Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Hot Toys Portraits - Male!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Robot Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Animal Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Action Figure Vehicles!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Television (Live Action) Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Movie Based Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Underrated Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Action Figure Play Sets!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Smart Purchases!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten McFarlane Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Bad Action Figure Ideas!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Toy Fair 2017 Reveals!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Unproduced Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The People's Picks for Best of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Best/Worst of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Poppies Winners of the Past Ten Years!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten DC Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Christmas Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Joker Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Superman Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Animated Action Figure Series!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Toy Things I'm Thankful For!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Premium Format Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Over $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Under $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Palisades Muppets!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Wanted Licenses in Sixth Scale!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman Black and White Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Masters of the Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Female Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Prop Replicas!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Simpsons World of Springfield action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Grails!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Figures!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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