MWC's Picks for Best/Worst of 2006

Man, the time just keeps flying by, and the older you get the faster it flies. It's hard to fathom that a year has shot by already, but it's time once again for my picks of the best and worst in the toy and collectible industry.

I see a lot of product every year, probably more than almost anyone in the industry. Oh, there are folks like the buyer at Wal-mart who sees a lot, but gives it a quick glance and moves along. But I critical inspect and review literally hundreds of figures, busts, statues and other collectibles every year from every company. Last year I did approximately 200 reviews, many of them covering 4, 5 or 6 figures in one article. What amazes me is that even in this tight market, with fewer retailers and fewer companies, I never had a week where I was struggling to find new product to check out.

I've added a few new categories this year, which mirror the new categories I've added to the voting. Your voting is wrapped up now, and I'll be busy tallying the results for awhile longer, but have no fear - you'll know the outcome soon.

Until then, tide yourself over with my personal thoughts on all things action figure...

The Best Overall Company
Once again this year, the number of companies even in the running dwindled. The loss of Palisades was a big one, and companies like Art Asylum and SOTA produced far, far less than in previous years. And in 2007, another big player -Toybiz - will be cutting way back, as they find their place in a world without Marvel licenses.

Let's start at the bronze and move up. The bronze medal in this category goes to the Four Horsemen. I didn't actually include them in the ballot for voting, because they only produced the Xetheus figure this year under their own label, but in working with Mattel, NECA and others, they produced some of the coolest action figures of the year. So while they aren't a traditional selection for this category, they do certainly deserve it.

Silver goes to NECA. They showed a tremendous amount of improvement this year in general overall quality, in both sculpting and paint. Not only that, but they seem to be snagging some of the most interesting and highest profile licenses, clearly looking to rival Mcfarlane. Whether they can actually unseat McToys in the hearts and minds of collectors is yet to be seen, but they've certainly made major improvements during the course of 2006.

The winner of the gold was last year's silver, swapping places with some really smart moves. It's Sideshow Collectibles, who seem to make all the right decisions. Oh, don't get me wrong - they have plenty of issues. Their basic body needs to be further refined, they need to get the proportions accurate and consistent between bodies and heads, and more work is needed on the production paint ops. Oh, and let's not forget that there are still decisions being made on licensing and character selection that can be baffling. But when you're as willing to work with your customers as they are, listen to what they have to say, and implement it where possible, you're going to succeed. Sideshow has done a very good job with the Star Wars license, gotten things rolling nicely with Lord of the Rings, developed innovative packaging, added a customer rewards program, worked out pretty much all the major kinks in pre-ordering and exclusives, and built a loyal fan base by connecting with their customers. They also made one of the smartest business decisions I saw this year when they partnered with Medicom and Hot Toys to distribute their figures here in the States. The company is hitting on all cylinders right now, and I'm hopeful that they can make solid choices moving into 2007 and 2008 to keep that train rolling.

Best Overall Line
When I pondered this category, I found myself thinking that my choices were pretty much coming from the same pool of lines as last year. There weren't a lot of new lines this year added to the big pile that were all that innovative, exciting, or cool, but there were a couple.

My choice for Bronze is the Looney Tunes line from DC Direct. Series 1 wasn't my fav, but with series 2 they proved you could do great animated sculpts AND have plenty of useful articulation, something no one else seems to manage. Let's just hope the line doesn't end up dying in a spiral of Bugs Bunny variants.

Silver was easy as well, going to the same line that snagged bronze last year, Mezco's Family Guy. Oh, there were too many variants. And sometimes character selection is a little weird. And let's not forget that I always bitched about the paint ops. But this is a line I always look forward to with anticipation, and one of the few anymore that I'm a completist on. They've got me hooked, and of all the cartoon lines I collect right now, this one is my favorite.

Finally, the gold. This year it goes to Sideshow as well, for the Star Wars 12" series. Again, I'm not saying it's not without its faults. God knows, I've pointed them out enough. But we've gotten a nice range of figures at this point, and they're so far beyond what we've seen in the past that there's really no comparison. Now if we could just get some troopers!

Normally I don't do Honorable Mentions, but there's one I need to add in here. Sigma Six is a terrific toy line, and with the addition of the smaller size with vehicles and play sets, the line really took the next step. If you have kids, or are just a kid at heart, you really owe it to yourself to check out this latest incarnation of the venerable G.I. Joe.

Best Mini-Figure Line
Here's a category where the number of options has really dried up. Still, there's three that stand out for me.

The Mega-Bloks Pyrates take the bronze. My five year old son loves these things, and when he's thirty years old, I'm sure it will be one of his childhood toys that he waxes nostalgic about. The figures themselves are quite sturdy and great for play, and the ships and play sets combine just enough building play with action play to make them the perfect combination.

Silver gets awarded to a perennial favorite, Mini-mates. Art Asylum isn't doing too much else these days, but thank God they're still doing these. With new Speed Racer and Battlestar Galactica 'mates out, and plans for other licensed properties in 2007, it doesn't look like they'll be dying off any time soon. The only real disappointment is that we didn't get any of the announced DC mini-mates this year.

Finally, gold goes to my favorite from the last several years, Mez-itz. Now, I know we didn't actually see any new Mez-itz in 2006, technically. But the Pirates Mez-itz, which were only available on the Mezco website late in 2005, did make their debut at regular retailers in 2006, so I'm counting them. Sue me.

Best Male Figure (18" and above)
In past years, the Sideshow Premium Format stuff was lumped into this category with the plastic and rotocast 18" figures. This year I've broken those out into the Statue categories, to give the rotocast stuff a better shot at recognition.

My choice for bronze is actually a figure that isn't quite 18" tall, but fits in with that large scale rotocast market. And if we're talking about scale, well, he's even bigger than 1/4 scale. It's the Family Guy Evil Monkey from Mezco, produced as an SDCC exclusive last summer. Sitting on his butt he's about 12" tall, and he definitely has the bulk of most 18" figures.

I'm handing silver over to SOTA for the Lord of Darkness. This is one very heavy, very detailed, very cool figure. Some folks had issues with breakage at the waist, which was unfortunate because the quality of the sculpt and paint was so high. Of the wide variety of Darkness collectibles out there, I'm betting this one ends up being the most sought after long term.

And gold goes to NECA, for the very cool and very fun Balrog. It was a long time coming, and the poor guy has some issues with weak leg joints, but so would you if you were trying to hold up wings that size. Hell, I already do and my wings aren't nearly that big.

Best Male Figure (12" - 18")
If the previous category was tough, this one is downright impossible. 2006 was THE year of sixth scale, with amazing figures coming from Hot Toys, Sideshow and Medicom, not to mention smaller companies like Majestic Studios and Product Enterprise. While in the past the majority of the sixth scale market was military in nature, this year saw a huge boom in licensed properties, and the collectors responded very favorably. There was plenty to choose from, and the quality was amazingly good. Even the makers of superhero figures got in the act, like DC Direct, Mattel and Toybiz.

I'm giving bronze to Takara's Batman Begins. We saw a lot of versions of this particular character, but no one matched the overall quality of sculpt and paint with sheer poseability like Takara.

Silver goes to the Hot Toys Robocop. Another figure that looks fantastic, and takes maximum advantage of limited articulation. The ED-209 was nice, but I don't think he can compare to the overall cool that was his smaller cousin.

I'm giving gold to the Medicom RAH X-men 3 Wolverine. This figure was so much fun, and so great to look at, that he completely blew me away. I have other RAH figures, like Vader, Batman, or comic Spidey, but I wasn't prepared for how well they pulled off this version. And considering that you can pick him up for well south of $100 right now, he's also a much better deal than many other RAH figures.

There's a ton of others that deserve mention, including the Hulk and Venom from Marvel Icons, and the various Alien and Predator figures from Hot Toys. It's truly the time to be a sixth scale collector, so enjoy it while it lasts!

Best Male Figure (under 12")
Unfortunately, as the 12" market boomed, the smaller scale market sagged. With far fewer retailers, the number of lines produced by different companies shrank accordingly. Still, we got some really outstandying boys.

One South Park figure really stood out for me this year - A.W.E.S.O.M - O. Great execution on a hilarious Cartman variant, and it deserves a bronze.

Next up is silver, and my pick is Locke from first series of Lost figures. While not every figure was a home run - or even a base hit - Locke stands out with an amazing sculpt, excellent paint, and even a pretty decent diorama base.

The gold goes to the Green Goblin from the Marvel Legends line by Toybiz. He's the perfect marriage of sculpt and articulation, and is one of the best ML style figures they've done. I even broke down and picked up the unmasked variant - he was that cool.

Best Female Figure (12")
Man, there was a real shortage of great - or even sub-par - female figures this year, especially in sixth scale.

My bronze goes to a controversial Cordelia. Some folks hated her, but I think the issues were greatly exaggerated. Now, had the competition been stronger this year, poor Cordy might not have made it in to my picks, but when there are fewer players on the field...

Silver was a tough choice, but I finally decided on Rei Ayanami. This sixth scale version of the popular anime character from Medicom did an excellent job of blending the two worlds. Sixth scale and anime rarely work well together, but this was one time where it really clicked.

Gold was easy. There was only one female figure that I picked up this year that I really loved, and that was the Takara Catwoman. Some folks had issues with the size of the helmet, but I think she looks terrific.

Best Female Figure (under 12")
Whew - this category gets a little easier. While there weren't a ton of choices this year, there were some real standouts.

My first choice is a one of those personal preference sort of things - she didn't score that high overall when I reviewed her, and most won't really think of her as a 'female' figure. But I'm giving bronze to the Undersea Gal out of the Nightmare Before Christmas line by NECA. While she had some issues, she was a figure that I liked more and more the longer I had her.

Silver goes to a much more obvious female - much. I don't pick up a lot of the female Spawn figures, but Zera was just too...interesting for me to pass up. She's far more statue than action figure, but she's one fine looking lump of plastic.

Gold was perhaps the easiest choice for me of the three. I'm taking the Batgirl figure from the DC Superheroes two pack. She has herself some funky hips, but the face sculpt is excellent, and the combination of articulation and sculpting work extremely well together. She's easily my favorite Batgirl in my collection at this point.

Another rare honorable mention goes to Lt. Carter from the second series of Stargate. Unfortunately, as much as I like her, she won't officially hit pegs til this month, so was ineligible for this year's awards.

Best Statue
This was a year of many statues, with the market shifting to more high end collectibles. While companies like Gentle Giant, Attakus and Bowen had some great work, my three choices went to two companies.

DC Direct is getting the bronze for the Mignola inspired Batman: Black and White. While the Kelley Jones version was also quite good, it was the Mignola one that stands out for me.

And then Sideshow takes over from there. I'm handing silver over to the PF Obi-wan, perhaps the best of the Sideshow PF Star Wars figures to date, and the gold over to the PF Lurtz. He's a thing of beauty, even if he is as ugly as a monkey's butt. Sideshow should also be commended in getting creative with these PF's, getting the light up saber feature to work great on Ben, and the swappable hands on Lurtz through the use of magnets.

Best Mini-bust
Again, there was a ton of companies producing mini-busts this year, but I ended up only picking from two companies.

Bronze goes to Diamond Select, for the convention exclusive Beta Ray Bill. I don't do a lot of comic book mini-busts, so they have to be special enough to catch my eye. Bill caught that and more.

Ah and then silver and gold go to Gentle Giant. Silver is going to Palpatine, a much needed boost to the flagging Star Wars mini-bust line. Earlier in the year, before he hit the shelves, the series was really starting to wane, both in character selection and quality. Since his release, we've also gotten the amazing Darth Maul and Chewbacca, and once again I'm hyped for what 2007 will bring.

GG gets the gold for the Professor Snape bust, from the almost perfect Harry Potter series. While the busts of the three stars has been average, the adults and monsters in the series have been stupendous, and Snape is my current favorite.

Best Articulation
Ah, articulation was actually at a bit of a low point this year, if you step away from the sixth scale market. Even within the sixth scale market, maintaining the status quo was really the main objective. A few companies are still going above and beyond however, and I hope to see some new advances in articulation in 2007.

The bronze is going to one of the Big Two - Hasbro. The articulation in the 3 3/4" Star Wars line has improved, and the work on the Sigma Six line shows that they understand the play value of well done articulation. Let's hope we see that commitment in the new Marvel Legends continue.

Silver was an easy pick with Toybiz continuing to do great work on the various Marvel lines, including Marvel Legends, Spider-man, Superhero Showdown, and others. With Toybiz's much reduced output next year, we'll have to see where they take it.

Gold was an easy choice for me as well, and does go to a sixth scale company that is currently setting the bar in this category - Medicom. They've managed to develop a body that 'hangs' much more naturally than others, allowing for poses that are very lifelike. This natural flow to the poses that a figure can take is really the next step in sixth scale evolution, getting away from pure joint counts, and Medicom is leading the way right now.

Best Sculpting
Ooooo, always a favorite category of mine. When I review figures, the sculpting category is almost always the one that carries the most weight, although paint is mighty close. It's hard to create a great figure overall without first creating a great sculpt, and some companies manage to do it consistently better than the others.

DC Direct stepped up their game this year, and are getting the bronze. They have a new roster of sculptors on board, and along with the old experts, are churning out some great work. While they didn't have many single figures that blew me away this year, the overall improvement in their lines was definitely noticable.

I'm handing silver over to NECA. For several years, NECA has been chasing Mcfarlane, in licenses, in quality, and in sculpting. But the hard work they've put into recruiting talent and managing the overseas quality is starting to really pay off, and several of their lines in 2006 were outstanding in the sculpting category. While they are still taking silver this year, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they manage to give Mcfarlane a run for gold in 2007.

But for now, Mcfarlane is still king in this category. It didn't matter if it was a cartoon line like Hanna-Barbera, a realistic line like Lost, or a comic book line like Spawn, every sculpt shows amazing detail and a trademark style.

Best Packaging
Oh, I know - you don't care about the package. It's just garbage that gets in your way. But the package is often the first thing you see, and it can catch your eye and suck you in for a closer look...or let you slip by without a second glance. When packaging is done well, it becomes a critical tool for marketing and sales. These companies do it the best...

Hasbro picks up the bronze this year for the Sigma Six line, not to mention some of the cool work on the Star Wars line. Of all the mass market companies, Hasbro seems to put the most time and effort into their package designs.

I'm going with a sixth scale company for silver - Medicom. While not at the level of Sideshow goodness, Medicom does offer very collector friendly packaging free of most twisties, rubber bands or tape. It's usually fairly attractive, if a bit minimalist, as well.

And you know who gets the gold - Sideshow. With the addition of the magnetic closures in the Star Wars boxes, they pretty much had me. But they continued to produced great looking boxes with well written text, AND they even added additional protection to their shipping boxes to get them to you unharmed. They could have also used the Star Wars packaging style for the Lord of the Rings line, resting on their laurels for awhile...but no, they designed another great looking package to set the line apart!

There's an honorable mention here too for the Cars line from Mattel. With each cardback personalized with wonderful graphics and text, they really did a nice job with this line.

Best vehicle/play set/deluxe set
This is a pretty broad category, but that's generally not a problem. In any given year, there aren't too may playsets or vehicles released. Usually. But this year there were plenty of folks producing boxed sets, diorama play sets and even vehicles.

The Sigma Six Dragonhawk was cool when I first saw it in action at SDCC, and it was even better when it was on the shelves. This is a great vehicle, with a ton of play value, and gets the bronze award.

Silver is way easy for me. It's Mattels Cars. Okay, so these aren't technically related to action figures. Hey, they kicked ass, no doubt about it, and I had to find some place to squeeze them in. This category seemed better than any others, and it's my picks anyway. So there.

My gold goes to a playset you might have forgotten about by now - the Buffy Library set. This is an amazing diorama, and works great with just about any 6 - 7" action figure. For the size, the price tag was reasonable, and the Buffy fans were thrilled to get such a terrific addition to the line.

Best New Idea
I could have easily give all three awards to Sideshow this year, as they came up with several new approaches to marketing and sales that were brilliant. But I'm going to share the wealth a bit, and not forget some of the other cool ideas that hit in 2006.

Bronze goes to Creatus Maximus, the company that brought us Smart Bombs. Yes, controversial they were, but it's always nice to see a small company trying new things - and doing it with class, style and real professionalism. . I have high hopes for what Ken Lilly will be bringing out in 2007, and recommend you check out the company website at for more details.

I'm tossing silver over to Hasbro, for shrinking the Star Wars Unleashed line down to mini size. The grouped sets make sense, and I'm going to mention that 'P' word again - play. Kids are enjoying these as toys, and not just as statues on the shelf.

Finally, Sideshow does get the gold. While they had several great ideas this year, my favorite is the use of 'inclusive' editions, where a limited edition figure goes up for sale for several days, and the edition size is set at the end of that period based on all orders actually received. Sideshow has continued to tweak their business model with input from their fans, and their willingness to listen - and ability to know when to and when not to - has made them a favorite.

Ah, now we get to the dreaded 'worsts'. You know where to send the threats and hate mail.

Worst Overall Company
I believe that for the first time in a long time, there aren't any companies making it their mission to produce garbage. That doesn't mean that some of them don't produce crap on occasion - sometimes too often - but those companies that were consistent crap machines have pretty much gone bye bye. That's what happens when a market tightens up. So this year, all three of my picks are going to companies that have found other ways to end up on my list.

The bad bronze goes to Mattel. Now, they have given us some wonderful figures in the Justice League line, although quality has sometimes been an issue. The Batman has been treated better than I expected, but there's those damn action features. They had the Hal Jordan fiasco last year, but seem to be moving in the right direction when it comes to satisfying collectors in more recent history. The Superman Returns line was a fiasco though, a truly wasted opportunity, and a line I disliked much more than even the earlier Batman Begins series.

Mattel seems to be learning from their mistakes though, so I'm hopeful that they won't show up in the bottom three for me next year. The DCSH line is a perfect example of their ability to do great work, and I'm just hoping we see some of that applied to other licenses.

Sloppy silver is given to a company that infuriates me with their inconsistency - Gentle Giant. One product will be mouth wateringly amazing, the next will be a suckfest of major proportions. And don't even get me started on putting out the Evil Krusty as the variant in the last Simpsons Bust-Ups. It's not bad enough that they screwed that up (and I'm almost positive that it was a mistake and not intentional), but then to continue to claim that the 'good' Krusty really was the variant and those folks who had bought 4 or 5 Krusty's and gotten all good versions were just really lucky...please. GG can do amazing work - now let's work on that consistency thing.

Ah, then there's goober gold. This was an easy pick for me, because only one company stood out with terrible customer communications, juvenile behavior, a lack of professionalism, and repeated difficulties in making and meeting commitments - Shocker Toys. The behavior of their president on message boards and through email has alienated them even further than a year ago, and for those that have witnessed this behavior, it's no shock that they have to continually 're-align' their proposed figure line ups. Contracts falling through? I can't imagine why.

Worst Line
For every rose there is a thorn. For every wonderful line of action figures, there's a stinker warming the pegs.

Busted bronze goes to Dragonology. Yes, I know the simplistic designs are based on the book - my son has the book. But these overpriced hunks of plastic remind me of dollar store goods, and certainly don't deserve the ten bucks each.

The line that deserves tarnished silver is the Web Splashers from Toybiz. You see, this is what happens when a company is ending their days on a big license - they roll out the crap wagon. Web Splashers originally were on the pegs in 2000, and they were some of the stinkiest figures out then. Six years and some repainting didn't improve the bouquet.

God awful Gold? I think you know...Superman Returns. I already mentioned what a disappointment this line was overall, with almost no redeeming single figures.

Worst Mini-figure line
I'm actually not picking any in this category this year. The field has really narrowed up from where it was in the past, and those that are left are either great, or at least passable. The designs and styles of each are going to appeal to different crowds, but once I get past my favorites, the rest are pretty average for me.

Worst Male Figure (18" and above)
We didn't get a ton of 18" figures this year, so picking bad's was pretty tough.

I'm giving boring bronze to Scarface. Why? Because the Scarface license was already pretty much flooded by the time NECA put this guy out, and he did little to improve or out class the smaller versions.

Slappy silver is going to another oddball, Freddy Mercury. And when I say oddball, I'm talking about the figure itself, not old Freddy, although you could certainly say the same about him. A rather stoic pose and an odd facial expression hurt this addition to NECA's musical line up.

Goofy gold was an easy one for me, with Pumpkinhead being a big let down. His sculpt isn't bad at all, but the paint ops were so far inferior to what we'd seen on the pre-production figures that he was a real disappointment, and some of us were so looking forward to him too.

Worst Male Figure (12" to 18")
Out of all the categories this year, the best and worsts in the male sixth scale arena were the easiest picks. Why? Oh that's simple - because there were so many to choose from, and there were such clear winners and losers.

Blightful bronze is going to the Marvel Icons Ironman. While I'm generally very happy with the Icons line, especially Venom and Hulk, the Ironman just left me cold. The hips have always been an issue, and the skinny look in the new armor just doesn't work for me.

Sickly silver was another easy pick - Two-face from DC Direct. While they tried with some nice detail touches, the pin head, poorly articulated and oversized body, and poorly tailored suit all added up to a let down, especially after the much nicer Batman.

Finally, there's gag me gold. Out of all the sixth scale figures I perused this year, easily my least favorite was the Will Turner from Zizzle. Oh, their Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones weren't exactly diamonds in the rough either, but at least those two were about what you'd expect for your twenty bucks. Will couldn't even manage that, with a very poor quality outfit and silly look.

Worst Male Figure (under 12")
While all my choices in this category this year are very deserving, I have to admit that none of these even comes close to some of the atrocities we saw on the shelves 10 or 12 years ago. My, how things have changed.

Aqua Tech Namor from the Web Splashers wins the broken bronze easily. I've already commented on how this is the result of a company cleaning out the warehouse, mixing and matching some parts with a little new paint to create their own special brand of ugly. What more can I say?

Soiled silver is handed over to Clark Kent from the DCSH line. As good as the two pack Batgirl was, the two pack Clark was just that bad, playing yang to her yin. I suppose that's necessary to keep the world in karmic balance...

Greased up gold slides on over to the Superbreath Superman. C'mon. How could it be any other?

Worst Female (12")
I'm going to take another pass. I know, I know, that's just not fair. But this is another category where the field was so small this year that the truly awful simply didn't stand out. There's a few 'meh' figures to be sure, but there's none that can generate a good head of loathing.

Worst Female Figure (under 12")
Ah, that's not a problem in this category - there's plenty of loathing to go around.

I'm going to pick on JAKKS this time, something I haven't done too much of this year. They're getting brassy bronze for Adrian from the Rocky line. The Rocky line isn't bad actually, as long as you only look at the Rocky's. But once you get outside of those figures, you start treading in some nasty water, especially when it comes to Adrian. If you ever find yourself in need of a figure of a bag lady, remember this version of Adrian. Give her a little shopping cart, and she's good to go.

Occasionally, Toybiz did a good looking female in one of their Marvel lines, but it's always been the rarity rather than the norm. This year, they gave us the butt ugly Lady Deathstrike, just to keep things consistent, and they get the sleazy silver for it.

Finally, the ghastly gold goes to DST, for one of the females in their Buffy/Angel line ups. It's bad enough to do an ugly figure of an average looking woman, or even an imaginary woman, as in the case of the two runners up. But to take a woman that's real, truly beautiful, and half nekkid, and turn her into the shaved butt of an ugly dog, - that's a crime. And that was poor Pylean Princess Cordelia.

Worst Statue
This year, all three of my picks are statues I didn't buy...kinda makes sense, eh?

Bungled bronze goes to NECA, because they bungled the V for Vendetta statue. It's rare to hear as many complaints about a high end item as I've heard about this one - normally, when folks spend a lot of money, they try to convince themselves it's all good, no matter how it turns out. But people have been pretty consistent in their disappointment over this one.

Sideshow did some amazing statue/premium format work this year, but there was one that stands out, and not in a good way. It's not the quality of the work, but rather the design that baffles the mind. It's the X-men 3 Beast statue.  First, poor Beast is nekkid, and given a sort of relaxed, contemplative pose. Thank God he's 'relaxed'. Throw on a pair of glasses and a book to imply his brilliance, and you get some sort of a blue, furry David. I don't get it.

Here's a gnarly gold that many folks won't agree with - the Kotobukiya Superman. I wasn't the biggest fan of their Batman, not because of the sculpt or design, but because of the heavy wash used on the suit. But it was a great pose, and I could certainly understand the attraction. But Supes? They've posed him with a pole up his ass - and his expression and body pose seem to imply that he's just realized he has a pole up his ass. I generally like the Koto work, especially the Star Wars vinyl kits, but Supes was definitely a turkey.

Worst Mini-bust
I actually own some of my picks here, which goes to show what a sucker I am some times.

Buggered bronze is gracefully handed over to another X3 product - the Wolverine mini-bust. They went for an extreme pose here, which is always risky. The risk didn't pay off.

Skanky silver goes to the Becoming Buffy bust from DST. SMG is many things, but one thing she is not is skanky. But the zombie eyes and open mouth on this statue puts me off more the longer I own it.

Garish gold belongs solely to Gentle Giant, and their weird, goofy version of Qui-Gon Jesus. The weak paint ops didn't help any, but even had they been perfect, there was no saving that silly design.

Worst Articulation
Now we're into the company specific categories...

Blocky bronze goes to NECA. They've made some real improvements in articulation in some areas, but they still have a ways to go to truly find the best incorporation of joints with sculpts. I'm hopeful that by next year, they'll have worked their way off this list.

Static silver belongs to DC Direct. Again, they do seem to be trying, but Mattel is actually doing better versions of DC comic characters than they are, with just as good of sculpts, and better articulation. They need to take it to the next level at this point.

Grounded gold is owned by Mcfarlane. In the past, they've added articulation to lines where they could, like Aliens and Predator for example. Now though, they seem to have pretty much given up on useful articulation, even when it has no effect on sculpt. I have no problem with sculpt coming first, articulation second, but at this point it seems that articulation isn't even on the table.

Worst Sculpting
Usually the companies I pick for this category have no chance for redemption. But this year is different - all three of these picks show signs of real improvement, trending up from their poorer past work.

Zizzle is a new company on the pegs, and have hit it big with their Pirates of the Caribbean line. The larger figures are pretty weak still, but the 3 3/4" line has had some shining stars amongst the mediocre, and the newest waves continue to show improvement. They're still getting the baggy bronze, but they appear to be making real attempts at improving.

Sad silver is going to another company that is really trying to improve - JAKKS. Again, the general quality of the sculpts has a way to go, but they've been working on upping the ante, and with the Rocky line showed a few bright spots. Oh, they still have a journey ahead of them to reach their potential, but I think it's possible.

And the same can be said for Jazwares, a company I'm giving gunky gold. One of the reasons that sculpt quality is often low is a lack of funds - spend more money, get better work. With the start of the Mortal Kombat line, Jazwares wasn't spending much money and it was obvious in overall quality. With the latter series, they're showing real improvements, and I'm betting that's a sign of their willingness to invest more - both in money and time - in the action figure area. 

Here's to hoping that all three of these companies have moved their way off this list by the end of 2007.

Worst Packaging
Generally, getting an award for worst packaging implies dull and bland, but this year we actually saw some problems with the basic premise of keeping a figure, bust or statue safe and sound.

But Creatus Maximus is getting boondoggle bronze not because the boxes they used for their SDCC exclusive Smart Bombs weren't protective - nope, it's the old problem with boring and dull. As much as I respect Ken Lilly and the folks helping him out, I still have to admit that these boxes were about as plain as can be. Chalk it up to a company just starting out, with just minimal cash to spend on the extras like packaging. With the creative minds of CMX, I'm sure that's going to change with future releases.

Disney's packaging always bugs me, and gets the saggy silver, because it's so oversized and wasteful. Oh, I know, it's not cool to consider the environment, but when I'm throwing out all this plastic and cardboard, it's hard not to notice.

SOTA is getting the gross gold for exactly the reason I mentioned at the beginning. Their boxes for the Lord of Darkness 18" figures were woefully inadequate, and breakage problems with the big guy were a huge issue. It also doesn't help that more recent releases, especially in the Now Playing line, have also been dull and bland.

Worst Vehicle/Playset
Ever wonder why Superman needs a car, or Darth Vader needs a motorcyle? You're not alone.

My blasted bronze goes to the Ironic Punishment Simpsons set from Mcfarlane. This was a classic case of great idea, bad execution. The first offering for any new series or line up needs to be a home run. This set was barely a single.

Squishy silver is handed over to the Masterworks Fantastic Four/Moleman set. Another good concept that failed in the execution. And why is the Thing and Mr. Fantastic trying to grab the monster's crotch? I suppose that's one way to end the battle.

And gooey gold goes to another Mcfarlane cartoon set...Hot Rod Fred Flintstone. This is NOT Fred Flintstone. Please don't go all Rat Fink with the beloved character of our youth again. Mcfarlane has the boxed set of Fred and the gang in the car at the drive-in coming out in 2007, and I have high hopes for that one.

Worst Idea
When the market is booming and things are selling, bad ideas can come and go without ever causing a ripple. But when things are tight, and everyone is struggling for sales, bad ideas can spell disaster. My three picks for the worst ones this year...

I already mentioned this, but Gentle Giant gets my bashed bronze for the whole variant Krusty dealio with the latest Simpsons bust ups. Everyone wanted Evil Krusty of course - it's a Treehouse of Horror series after all. And yet they short pack that version, the version actually pictured on the package, and give us plenty of the 'good' Krusty's that no one really wants. *sigh*

Slappy silver is going to Mcfarlane for the Lost prop replicas. I picture a meeting where people are throwing around ideas, and someone comes up with a great one - use the small airplane as one of Kate's accessories! Brilliant! And then somebody else has to go and take it too far and propose that ALL the figures come with a 'prop replica', even though none of the others have anything that really makes all that much sense, or adds any real value.

And finally, ghoulish gold goes to Wal-mart and Toybiz's decision to pack a critical piece of the Giant Man BAF - his right hand - with the variant wolverine in the wave. Leave it to Wal-mart to take the glorious concept of a BAF and turn it into a major pain.

Most looking forward to in 2007
Well, that's it for my picks of 2006. I'll have the readers votes compiled in the next week, so watch for those results. Rather than end on a down note, let's take a look at my picks for what's most interesting and exciting coming up in 2007.

A lot of the lines I'm looking forward to next year are coming from NECA. With Grindhouse, 300 and Harry Potter all coming from them, they have the opportunity to have a fantastic year - or a truly disappointing one. I have my fingers crossed and I'm hoping for the very best.

There's also plenty of cool possibilities in the cartoon lines, with the first actual series of Mcfarlane Simpsons (and perhaps movie figures!), more Hanna-Barbara, and some great possibilities with both South Park and Family Guy from Mezco.

And let's not forget the big boom in licensed sixth scale product. I'll be eagerly anticipating every release in the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings lines from Sideshow, and I can't wait to see what Medicom and Hot Toys has in store for us.

So that's it for me - thanks for another great year, and your continued support of the site!

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