MWC's Picks for Best/Worst of 2004

I wrapped up the voting for the People's Pick Awards for 2004 today, and I'll be tallying up the results and contacting the winners this week.  But once the voting is done, I always weigh in with my choices and comments on the year that was.

And what a year it's been - retailers dropping like flies, and some companies doing the same.  Others finding a way to make a big splash in a shrinking pond, and some tied up in the icy tentacles of litigation.  There's been some surprises, that's for sure, and it looks like 2005 is going to get tighter before it gets better.

So who rose above the pack?  Here's my thoughts - let me know if you agree or disagree!

The Best Overall Company
This was easily the toughest category for me to pick this year.  Other categories, like Best Male or Best Line, had clear stand outs for me.  But Best Company?  Most of them were getting squeezed so tight that their output was reduced, and very few of them had both consistent and an overall stellar year.

Some companies like Mezco and SOTA did some great work, but only a little.  They are going to get rewarded in other categories for that work, but it wasn't enough output to land them at the top of this category.  And some, like Hasbro and Mattel, whom I've never considered for this category before, actually came out with some truly great work.  Other dark horses included Diamond Select, DC Direct (who have really improved this last year), and Plan-B Toys, who didn't produce a lot but always do great work.

Some of my old standbys fell to the wayside too, like Toybiz.  Their work on LOTR and Marvel Legends is still amazing, but there's no way I can place them in this category with the Marvel Legends chase issues.

So who's the winners?  Let's start with the Bronze medal - Palisades.  They were the big winners last year, and have been in the top three for the previous two years.  While the work they do is still outstanding, there just wasn't as much of it this year.  The Muppets was their clear winner, and with the Backstage playset, Sweetums, Adventure Kermit, and the Jim Henson Muppet figure, they will be top picks in several other categories.  Other lines weren't as successful, with Crittaz bombing, but Palz turned out pretty sweet, and their work in mini-busts and statues was excellent.

Second place silver goes to a company that has been in the top three every year since 2000 - Sideshow Toys.  There were figures that I didn't like this year (can you say Faith?), and their quality was off at times.  But if you look at the overall body of work - Planet of the Apes, James Bond, Hellboy, Modern Horror like Freddy, Jason and TCM, Buffy, Van Helsing, X-Files, and the Civil War and historical figures - you have to be truly impressed.  And while the market has toughened up for everyone else, Sideshow seems to be able to continue to produce tons of figures direct to the collector.  Not only are the figures great, but they have the business savvy to make it through tough times.

And the big winner may come as a big surprise - NECA takes the gold.  They continued the cool, bargain priced statues through their Marvel Collector's Club, they branched out into the 18" market in a big way with Jack Sparrow, Aragorn, Legolas, Freddy, The Crow and , produced two of the best boxed sets of the year with Freddy vs. Jason and The Night He Came Home, gave Ghostbuster's fans the coolest Slimer they'll ever see, captured and produced on some hot licenses like Kill Bill, Nightmare Before Christmas and Pirates of the Caribbean, and continued some of their standbys like Hellraiser.  They had consistent output all year long, and while there was the occasional miss, the majority were top quality.

Best Overall Line
There were a ton of choices this year, much more than you would have guessed considering how few retailers there are.  DC Direct was doing a great job with lines like Hush, Mattel did a great job with both The Batman and the comic based Batman line (too bad it's dead), and even Hasbro brought Star Wars back to life with some creative thinking.

But even with dozens and dozens of choices, there were three lines that really stood out for me.  Bronze goes to the 8" Hellboy line from Mezco.  Here was a movie that was okay, but nothing all that exciting, and yet I found myself buying the entire first series of figures.  Why?  Because they were just so damn cool.  Mezco managed to crank out a second excellent series before the year ended, listening to the fans and giving them the characters they were most interested in.

The silver medal goes to Street Fighter from SOTA.  Here's a company with tremendous possibilities, and they produced a hit line even on an old property that's been already done many times.  With some fantastic articulation and excellent sculpting, they managed to get Street Fighter fans excited again.

Finally, there's the gold.  This year, and probably for the last year, it goes to the Muppets.  Here's a line that lost retailer support in 2004, and yet still gave us three of the coolest figures of the year in Sweetums, Adventure Kermit and Jim Henson.  It doesn't look like the line will be a big influence in 2005, but in 2004 they still managed to produce some amazing work.

Best Mini-Figure Line
There have been so many new mini-figure lines produced in the last year that I figured I just had to add a new category.  It just wasn't fair to lump them in with the very different style of figures in the larger scales.

Bronze was easy. I've been hoping for mini-figures of my favorite DC Comic characters, and Art Asylum came through with the C3 building sets and figures.  Okay, the sets weren't perfect, and I still have nightmares from putting together the Batcave.  But the figures themselves combined the best of mini-mates with DC, and that made me very happy.

Silver was easy as well.  I was less than impressed with the Buffy Palz when I first picked up the Suncoast/Media Play exclusive three pack, but once I had the regular figures with all the ultra-cool accessories and transforming action, I was hooked.  Now I'll be picking up the whole line, and I'll be giving the X-Files version a much closer look.

Mez-itz are actually my favorite style of mini-figure, with the little sculpted heads and nifty style.  There weren't enough of them for my liking this year, but the Hellboy set was fun, and the second Monster set was a winner.

Best Male Figure (18")
This year saw a much larger number of figures in the quarter scale, done in all plastic and also in Sideshow's 'mixed media' style.  Almost all of them were top quality though, so making the picks was a little tougher than I'd anticipated.  NECA could have made a sweep here, but Sideshow and Mezco managed to jump in there as well.

Bronze goes to Spider-man from Toybiz.  You won't have too many more articulated figures in your collection than their 18" version, yet all those joints were tight and useful.  Here was a surprise figure that popped up with very little fanfare, but became tremendously popular with collectors and kids very quickly.

Silver goes to NECA for Jack Sparrow. They actually did a number of great 18" figures this year, including Michael Myers, the Crow, and Aragorn, but my favorite is Jack Sparrow, hands down.  With two different head sculpts to choose from, and a great choice of voice lines, this is currently one of my favorite figures all around.

The gold goes to Mezco, for a figure they produced many months ago - Hellboy.  This big, rotocast bad boy was impressive when it hit back in March, and it's still impressive almost a year later.  With a combination of cloth and plastic, Mezco managed to approach the level of style and sculpt of the much more expensive Sideshow quarter scale.  The Hellboy line in general was Mezco's major diamond for 2004, and this figure was one of a couple of their best.

Best Male Figure (under 12")
The market continues to boom for Dragon, bbi, Sideshow, Ignite and others, but it was still easy for me to pick my favorite three.

Bronze goes to the Knight of Outremer from Ignite.  I love the historical warriors, and while Ignite's stuff is damn expensive, it's pretty much worth the high cost.

Silver is given to Leatherface from Mcfarlane.  He's not a traditional sixth scale figure, but they did an excellent job bringing the gruesome cannibal into this scale.  You can't argue with the amazing sculpting, although the lack of articulation puts some folks off.

Gold goes to Sideshow - is it any surprise considering this category is their specialty?  They produced a lot of good male figures this year, but Black Beard, another historical figure, is the stand out for me.  With an excellent expressive sculpt, and great outfit and accessories, he stands out on my shelf and draws comments on a regular basis.

Best Male Figure (under 12")
Here's another category with a billion choices - but this one was really easy for me.  There were a handful of figures that leaped out from the pack this year as truly outstanding.

Bronze is awarded to the 10" Battle Troll from Toybiz.  This is the best ten bucks you could have spent this year, and a perfect example of how to use rotocast to get a larger scale figure produced for a reasonable cost.

The silver goes to Slimer from the Ghostbusters line.  He's just about as perfect as you can get, and is one of those figures that remains on my shelf even after the rest of the line is in a box.  He goes great with other 'monster' lines, and has the kind of paint and sculpt quality that proves NECA is here to stay.

And the gold goes to da man - or da's Adventure Kermit.  This figure has it all, with an amazing sculpt, excellent articulation and accessories, and a combination of two of my favorite licenses, Muppets and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It was a brilliant idea, and it makes me smile every time I see it.  What more could you ask for?

Best Female Figure (12")
You might notice that there's no best female in the 18" category this year.  That's because there was only one that I know of - The Bride from Kill Bill.  When you're the only guy on the ballot, you pretty much have it locked up.

But there were plenty of 12" females this year, especially because of Sideshow's work.  It should be no surprise that most of these awards, at least for me, end up with them.

However, bronze goes to Asuka from the Cy Girls.  bbi continues to produce some bad ass females in this series, with great articulation and tons of attitude.

Silver does go to a Sideshow figure, Vampire Willow.  There were a few minor issues with her costume, but she was one of those figures that showed just how much the company listens to the fans.  They weren't happy with what they saw with the original prototypes, and let them know.  Sideshow reacted, and fixed the issues that were pointed out, producing a figure that Buffy fans were very happy with.

Sideshow gets the gold too, but some folks are going to disagree with me.  I think the likeness on Scully is one of the best they produced this year, capturing her far better than any company had before.  It also helped that the costume and accessories for the X-Files line has been top notch.

Best Female Figure (under 12")
There are never as many female figures to choose from as male, and that's just a fact of life I suppose.  But there were enough this year to certainly make things interesting, especially with DC Direct providing tons of female superheroes and villains.

First up is the bronze for Willow from DST.  Sort of fitting, since that's the club they hung out in back in Sunnydale.  I was really surprised by the exceptional head sculpt on the smiling version, and it is the best Willow I have in my collection so far.

The silver goes to one of those comic villains - Catwoman from Microman.  The figure shows off some amazing Microman articulation, with tons of fun and play value.  Not everyone is thrilled with the particular style of Catwoman, but you can't argue with how cool the Microman figures have been.

Finally, the gold goes to Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas.  Here's another line that had already been done, and yet NECA found a way to do it better.  Excellent sculpting, fantastic articulation, and a great assortment of movie specific accessories made Sally my favorite lady of the year.

Best Articulation
The chasm between articulation and sculpt continues to widen, with more people polarizing on either side.  Fortunately, several companies this year stepped up and proved that you could have both.

Most people only think of sixth scale manufacturers in this category, but let's face it - the 12" figure body peaked about 4 years ago and has made very few new strides since.  However, I'm giving bronze to Sideshow because of the very cool wrist and ankle joints they they've used with their figures, and for a couple other innovations this year like the swappable head on Trevelyan from the Bond line, and a greater use of the ball jointed neck on several of their lines.

The silver goes to a dark horse - Plan-B Toys.  Too many folks overlook their military and emergency worker lines, not realizing how great they are.  They find ways to add useful articulation and still manage to maintain fantastic sculpts.  Ladder 49 might not have been a box office smash, but the figures from Plan-B were excellent.

And the gold goes to...SOTA.  There's no denying how cool the articulation was on the Street Fighter line, but SOTA does that with everything they do, including the Riddick figures from last summer.

Best Sculpting
Every year the bar gets raised in this category.  Companies keep pushing the envelope on the quality of the sculpting, going way past toys to create true art in plastic form.  Of course, while this award goes to particular companies, many of them are using the very same sculptors to do the work.  Still, if it wasn't for the vision and perseverance of the company, many of these figures would never look as good as they do.

I'm giving bronze to Palisades.  They consistently deliver quality sculpting, although their licenses aren't perfect for everyone.  It took awhile for us to get the Invader Zim figures, but once we did, they proved again they could capture even the most difficult likenesses.

Silver hangs around the neck of NECA.  They produced many amazing works this year, with fantastic sculpting.  And because they are doing some figures that had been done before, you can clearly see how far sculpting has come over the last few years.

I'm giving the gold to the company that remains champ in this category - Mcfarlane Toys.  They didn't have a big year for me, since most of their lines were more hook and pegleg than innovation and creativity.  But it doesn't have to be a line I find interesting for me to see the amazing quality of the sculpt.  Who else could actually make an old man in a wheel chair cool?

Best Packaging
Some folks think packaging doesn't matter, but of course it does.  Otherwise, they'd just stuff it in a plain white box.  The package has to be both functional and artistic, providing a safe and secure method of selling the figure, and also catching your eye on the peg.  Some companies do this far better than others.

Mcfarlane gets the bronze this year.  I am a fan of the clamshells of course, but McToys has done an excellent job all year with tremendously attractive inserts.  A few instructions would be nice now and again, but for the most part their packages do everything they need them to and more.

Silver goes to Sideshow. Okay, I complain now and then about minor issues, but overall their boxes are truly works of art in themselves.  With fantastic use of text and graphics, and an eye for collector friendly packaging, they manage to produce the best sixth scale packages on the market.

The winner of the gold might be a surprise - Hasbro.  What?  How could that happen?  Simple - Vintage Original Trilogy Collection.  Going with the old style packages, with great new figures inside, was a brilliant idea.  They didn't swamp us with it either, only doing a small set.  It was one of the best ideas this year, and certainly one of the niftiest package concepts.

Best vehicle/play set
Play sets continue to be big this year, and companies are getting more and more creative with diorama type settings.  With figures becoming more art than toy, it only makes sense that the original concept of a play set for 'play' has switched to a diorama for display.

Bronze is going to Playmates this year, for the World of Springfield Town Square.  I'm doing this partly out of nostalgia, since with the end of the line came the end of an era.  The Town Square was far from the best play set ever produced in the WOS line, but it was still pretty damn good - and a fine way to end.

Silver goes to another one of those dark horses - the Kluger Mail Truck from Playing Mantis.  This cool vehicle from their Santa Claus is Coming to Town line was a surprise to me.  With their usual flair, they produced the perfect vehicle for this Christmas classic.

I bet you think I'm giving the gold to the Backstage play set.  Nope.  It was a close call, I'll admit it, but the Night He Came Home diorama from NECA looks just so damn cool on the shelf, that I had to give it the nod.  I know a lot of folks will disagree with me on this one, but I think the sculpt on both figures is perfect, and the creative design of the diorama works extremely well.

Best New Idea
I am a little disappointed looking back at 2004 and original ideas.  There just weren't a whole lot, at least not like there had been in the previous three or four years when the market was really booming.  There were still a few concepts that worked well though.

Bronze goes to the 18" quarter scale craze.  Companies had tried it before, but without much success.  But now with Mezco, NECA and Sideshow pushing the envelope on what could be done, it's really started to catch on.  I know I have a whole lot more than I ever expected to own!

I'm giving the silver to the increase in the use of rotocast.  Mezco and Toybiz both really did a fantastic job producing figures in the 10" to 18" range using this manufacturing process.  They managed to improve the quality of sculpt and the types of joints that are possible, so that it became an excellent alternative.  Using rotocast, we've gotten large figures cheaply that otherwise might never have been made.

And finally, gold goes to the VOTC packaging.  Yep, I already rewarded them in the packaging department, but it was such a good idea that it was worth rewarding them again.  And let's face it, poor Hasbro gets so few kudos from me that they might have a stroke with two gold's. 

Now on to the Worst of 2004. Most other sites don't pick worsts.  Nobody wants to upset anyone, but the truth of the matter is that not everything is a winner.  It might be a dirty job, but somebody has to point out the suckiest sucks of a suck.

Worst Overall Company
It's gotten harder to find worst companies - most of them have ended up going bankrupt.  That's the way the market works, and is a good thing.  Don't listen to the fans, and you lose.

This year, the award's are going to companies that managed to either a) seriously disappointment or b) piss me off with their goofy, backward ideas. Without further ado...

The tarnished bronze is awarded to Toybiz.  I bet you can guess why.  The chase figures with the Marvel Legends were a bad idea from the start, but they have no excuse.  History has shown over and over that chase figures are bad, and can actually kill an otherwise healthy line.  Still, companies refuse to believe it and repeat the mistakes of the past.

The blackened silver goes to Disney.  They almost redeemed themselves with the Incredibles store exclusives, but I was far less enamored with those than many folks.  And their work with the Indy figures, I have tremendous fears for what we might see with the Muppets in the future.

And the ultimate fool's gold goes to JAKKS.  They've never been a stellar company, but this year if there was a line coming out from them, you could bet it would bomb.  From their awful work on Van Helsing to the disappointing work on Fairly Odd Parents, JAKKS was a name synonymous with crap.

Worst Line
Think there weren't enough to chose from? Oh, I say nay nay! There were plenty, but fortunately not as many as in past years.

The bronze medal was slapped, then given to South Park.  I'll admit that I own every one of these figures so far - but that doesn't mean they are nearly as good as they could be.  I'm picking on them because they could be so much more than they are, and like the average teenager, just aren't living up to their potential.  Don't you hate it when some old man tells you that?

After a quick judo chop to the neck, silver was awarded to goes to Shrek 2.  I don't want Hasbro getting a big head after those gold's for the VOTC packaging.  Shrek 2 is a fine example of everything wrong with the average mass market toy line - weak sculpts, goofy action features, cheap construction, and too expensive.  Yuck.

A whole gang of other medals got together and stomped on the gold, before giving it to the Van Helsing line from JAKKS.  Ugh.  Even at deep discount prices, this entire series - both the 12" and the smaller figures - were too expensive.  Awful sculpts, cheap materials, and no play value.  They couldn't have done a worse job.

Worst Mini-figure line
This was a tough one - almost every mini-figure line is actually pretty damn cool.  But there are still a few that fall behind the others.

The brassy bronze is awarded to the Freakables.  I thought they weren't too bad, but some how Palisades managed to miss the mark with these guys.  They did a far better job with the Palz.

The blackened silver goes to Shockinis.  I just don't get it, and never have.  At least they aren't shoulder action figures.

And the faux gold goes to the Smitis.  It's not so much that they aren't good, it's that they are so damn expensive.  Perhaps going with bands wasn't the best idea for a mini-figure line.  And since I don't have any photos of Smitis...we'll just go on to the next category.

Worst Male Figure (18")
This is a really tough call, because there really weren't any bad 18" figures this year.  In fact, it's such a tough call, that I'm not picking any worsts.  How can I?  The work in this scale has been universally excellent this year.

I will point out though that the high cost of the mixed media figures from Sideshow has some folks grumbling.  Then again, the quality of those big boys is truly amazing, and I'll be getting at least one of the Star Wars figures.

Worst Male Figure (12")
Man...breaking these guys up into separate categories means an awful lot more work for me.  And I generally hate work.  Oh well - I'll learn someday.

There was a ton of sixth scale again this year, and the market continues to boom for Sideshow, bbi, Dragon, Ignite and others.  Unfortunately, it's also a scale that sees its share of bad figures.

Bronze is abused and given to Gandalf from DiD.  What is up with that bright silver hair?  The outfit and accessories are well above the weaker Toybiz version, but I simply can't overlook the God awful paint ops on the head.

Sickly silver is going to Sideshow for their Hellboy.  Hey, they can't all be winners.  With a combination of shiny paint, poor sculpting on the Right Hand of Doom, and an undersized body, he was the big miss of the series for them.

After gold gets drug through the desert, it's handed over to the truly awful Van Helsing from the JAKKS series.  Some people actually found redeeming qualities in this figure, but I can't see it.  A cheap head sculpt, cheap materials, and truly awful body all add up to the lamest 12" figure of the year.  Let's not even see another picture of him, okay?

Worst Male Figure (under 12")
It's good to know that there aren't as many choices in the worst categories as there are in the best categories.  Of course, there's tons of stuff that ends up somewhere in the middle, but it's a pretty short list of figures that really deserve worst awards.  These three definitely deserve it.

A medal that looks like bronze painted lead goes to Quidditch Harry Potter.  You didn't think I could completely ignore this line, did you?  Somebody decided to change the scale on the figures, and killed the desire of anyone buying the figures to continue to do so.  This figure was a particularly goofy standout, but the overall line was a huge disappointment.

The silver painted lead medal goes to the Wolfman from JAKKS.  What the hell was up with that rubber wolfman suit?  Who thought that was a good idea?  Fire them.  Now.

And the gold painted lead medal is given to Otis from the House of 1000 Corpses.  No, not the NECA version, but the Stevenson Entertainment Group version from earlier in the year.  NECA has already released a great version of Spaulding, but SEG got to do the figures first - and they sure screwed the pooch on this one.  I didn't even review this line, but a guest reviewer did, and when a guest reviewer gives a figure *1/2, you know it's bad.

Worst Female (12")
Here's a category that's never hard to choose. Let's face it - screwing up the female form in action figure style is almost an art form in itself. This year's awards...

The scratched bronze goes to Sigrid Von Thaler from Armoury.  You might not have heard of her, and I never did a review, but trust me, she's butt ugly.  Her costume is actually pretty cool, but she has one of the ugliest head sculpts of the year.

The dented silver the Barbie Catwoman.  You know, I think I might have saved Sideshow the disgrace of winning this category in the People's Pick Awards by including the Barbie Catwoman in the voting, but that wasn't my intention.  I know a lot of comic book collectors bought this $50 Barbie, but let's remember that she's still just a Barbie, Catwoman outfit or not.

And the old gold is awarded to Faith.  See, that's the figure I think would have won the People's Pick had Catwoman Barbie not been an available choice (although I haven't actually totalled up the numbers yet).  Faith was one of those terrible combinations of a weak sculpt with even weaker production paint ops.  I love Sideshow, but everyone stumbles now and then.  Faith was their biggest stumble of the year.

Worst Female Figure (under 12")
This was a really easy category for me this year - three figures leapt to mind immediately.  These were figures so ugly that even their mommas didn't love them.

The broken bronze is given to Go Go from Kill Bill.  Okay, so in reality the actress isn't quite as pretty as some people remember her, but she wasn't quite that ugly either.  On top of it, the lack of articulation and awkward pose made for the weakest figure in the entire Kill Bill line.

The sliced silver is awarded to the small Anna Valorius from JAKKS.  The entire line leaps out as one of the very worst of the year, so it's no surprise that the only female produced followed in the footsteps of the rest of the line.

And the grubby gold goes to the Bride from the Haunted Mansion.  This line was another fine example of the awful work that Disney is capable of producing, and the Bride is a stand out of imperfection.  On top of that, she's expensive.  You just can't win.

Worst Articulation
For some incomprehensible reason, some companies continue to demand that sculpting and articulation can't live together.  Some of them can do it, and still make the claim.  It just boggles the mind.  There's mostly repeats on this list from last year, so there aren't going to be any real surprises.

Toycom/Mirage gets the bent bronze.  Just look at South Park, with almost zero articulation, and you can see what I mean.  Satan actually has a couple more points, but figures like Cartman's Mom can't even use her accessory.  I know the designs make articulation tough, but Playing Mantis and Palisades figured out how to do it with tough cartoon lines too.

The mangled silver goes to Dusty Trails.  They ranked higher last year, but it looks like they might actually start delving into more articulation in 2005 with the release of their 1/18 scale stuff.  Time, and Toy Fair, will tell.

Finally, the gold that turns your wrist green goes to Graphitti Designs.  Their big work this year was the continuation of the various Clerks 'inaction' figures.  It might be a cute marketing name, but it doesn't make them anything more than big Homies.  And yes, that's actually an old picture of a Clerks figure from 2003, but they haven't changed.

Worst Sculpting
When it comes to sculpts, everyone is trying to meet the standard set by Mcfarlane.  Well, almost everyone.

Bruised bronze is awarded to Jazwares.  Here's the funny part - their Street Fighter figures are actually done by SOTA!  But they said let's go cheap, and when you go cheap, you get what you pay for.  It's too bad too, since a crappy release like that can interfere with folks finding the better quality versions.

Pitted silver is awarded to Equity.  They do great work for kid's meal toys, but whenever they try to step up to the more expensive action figure market, it just ends up looking like a kid's meal toy.  They need to understand it's a different market, and bring in some different thinking.

The gold from the front tooth of Mike Tyson is given to JAKKS.  They won last year, and they win again.  Van Helsing, FOP, and Universal Monsters were enough to lock this one in for them again.  The fact that they tied up the mass market version of FOP, getting in the way of Palisades being able to get their line out to a wider audience, only adds to my frustration.

Worst Packaging
Again, lots of people think this category doesn't matter, but then when you see bad packaging, you know it.

Bronze was beaten down and then given to Disney.  They managed to keep themselves out of the worst sculpting category with the Incredibles line - while it wasn't perfect, it was decent.  But even on that line, they went with difficult, plain, annoying packaging.  Even when it's obvious they put thought into it, they screw it up.

Silver was used in awful ways, and then given to SOTA.  While they did many things right this year, the Street Fighter packaging was just bad.  I know, it's supposed to look like the game, but it just didn't work.

Finally, gold was greased up and tossed to DC Direct.  DC Direct actually was on the cusp of winning a number of the bests this year - I love my Hush Batman - but the competition was just too stiff for them.  However, the rather plain boxes that they went with for many of their lines just didn't work, and don't hold up well to shelf wear or storage.

Worst Vehicle/Playset
There weren't too many awful vehicles or play sets this year, but that just makes my job so much easier.

The bronze goes to one of the worst though - the C3 Batcave.  With pieces that didn't want to stay together, and entire sections that simply wouldn't stay put, getting this together was some of the most frustrating hours I've ever spent.

Silver goes to another Batcave, this time from Mattel.  With weak supports and cheap materials, what could have been an ultra cool set ended up less than mediocre.

And gold goes to the Sandcrawler from Hasbro.  It's greatest sin was it's price, but oh what a sin it was.  Sometimes ideas like that should never make it to reality.  Here's another one I didn't review, but a guest reviewer gave it a less than average overall score - what does that tell you?

Worst Idea
There never seems to be any shortage of stupid ideas.  I blame the concept of brainstorming, used in ways it was never meant to be used.

The bronze goes to one of those bad ideas.  Crittaz took a long time to hit the market, and probably never should have.  Perhaps it's time had passed, perhaps it was the scale, or perhaps it was the price point, but the little critters ended up as road kill.

I've already picked on Toybiz for the stupid chase figures, so instead I'll give silver to Mcfarlane for his continued obsession with hooks and peglegs.  What is the deal here?  Once is cutting edge, twice is repetitive, three or more times is an indication that intensive therapy is needed. 

And of course the gold goes to the dwindling retailer scene.  More and more stores are pulling out of action figures, and 2005 won't be any better than 2004.

Most looking forward to in 2004
Okay, enough of all that negativity.  Now for a little more positive energy!

The three things I'm most looking forward to, in no particular order:

- Sesame Street from Palisades.  Woo-hoo!  Let's hope they can transfer the magic of their Muppets line to this property, and give us a Snuffleupagus in scale. 

- Pirates Mez-itz.  These guys remind me of Playmobil on steriods.  I'm hoping we see not just figures, but the ship as well.

- Batman's Rogues Gallery from DC Direct.  I love Kelly Jones artwork, and I love the extreme versions of Batman's most non-human villains.

Companies to watch
Last year, I told you to watch NECA, SOTA and Majestic.  Pretty good, eh?
  Pay attention to what I'm telling you this year.

Majestic is still a company to watch.  They didn't do a whole lot in 2004, but they have the Battlestar Galactica and Vincent Price figures coming up in 2005, and I think people will be surprised by the quality.

Playmates might make another big splash with collectors with the King Kong line, if they handle it right.  It's tough to do a line that appeals to kids AND adults, but this is the perfect license to pull it off.

With the announcement of 1/18th scale figures from Dusty Trails, they might do something interesting next year.  The jury is still out on this one, but I have high hopes.


So there's my choices.  *whew* That took some serious thought, and now I'm going to go lie down.  There were plenty of other lines and figures, and it was tough to whittle it down in some categories, but I did my best. Let me know what you think about my picks, and I'll get working on tallying up the results of the People's Picks this week.  

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