Captain Toy's Picks for Best and Worst of 2008!

It's that time of the year once again!  I've closed the judge's voting in the Poppies (thanks to all the judges!), and I've also closed the reader's voting in the People's Picks (thanks for voting!), so now I'm free and clear to post my choices for best of the year, as well as my picks for worsts. 

I'm going to break with tradition this year, and match my picks to the same 14 categories that I used for the Poppies and People's Picks. That will give me some consistency with those results, and I'll continue to do that in future years.

I'm also switching up the format a little, doing best and worst for each category together, rather than in separate sections. Hey, I just felt like it.

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

My picks:   Readers Picks:  Poppies:  
2007N/A  2007
2006 2006N/A
2005 2005N/A
2004 2004N/A
2003 2003N/A
2002 2002N/A
2001 2001N/A
2000 2000N/A

Feel free to disagree with me - that's kind of a big part of doing these lists and reading them. If you feel strongly enough, let me know by emailing me.  Now let's get to those picks! 

Best Overall Company

If there's ever been a category in a year that had a clear winner, it's this one. In fact, a lot of categories this year were no brainers, but let's start with the big dogs.

In third place (for the bronze), I'm going with Amok Time.  Who? Yea, if you aren't a sixth scale horror collector, they probably aren't even on your radar. They've been a retailer for years, but in '08 they stepped up and started producing horror related figures and replicas, usually on licenses that other folks wouldn't touch for fear of low sales. They produced low edition sizes, and managed to get quite a number of products out for their inaugural year. Yea, they weren't perfect, but the company is showing real signs of becoming one of my favorites over time.

The silver goes to Mattel. This is a huge shock, even to me, since I've spent most of my last couple months pissed off with the terrible distribution and decisions around their DC Universe line. But the deciding factor was that they are at least trying to figure out the collectors market. Interestingly enough, they got this same award last year. Had they managed to not make some of the mistakes they did (and some, like distribution, are a retailer issue as well), they might have had a shot at moving up a level.

No, now that I think about it, they didn't have a chance. Nobody did, because my pick for gold crushed the competition. Hot Toys wins easily, moving up from the third place win last year. Their work on multiple lines, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight, Aliens, AvP and others has been simply outstanding. With the current plans for 2009, it's going to be mighty tough for anyone to take this award away from them next year.

Dark Knight Batman Bat Pod sixth scale vehicle by Hot Toys

Worst Overall Company

Ah, now let's get to the worsts. Sometimes when I pick a worst company for the year, I feel bad. Hey, everybody is out there struggling right now, trying to do they best they can. Well, most everybody anyway. And my third place award goes to SOTA, a company that's been struggling for awhile now. The quality of their products hasn't been up to their past history, they've gone through plenty of business woes, and I think 2009 is going to be the critical year for them. They've just recently announced a whole bunch of new licenses, so this year is either going to be the turning point back toward success...or we might not be talking about them at all in 2010.

The 2nd place trophy goes to McFarlane Toys, another company in the midst of their own struggles. Recent layoffs cut pretty deep, and their year in action figures can be pretty much summed up with the Sports line and Halo. The future of the line that started the company, Spawn, is in serious question. And they have no major announcements for 2009 yet. There was a time when Todd liked to say he had his 'thumb on the pulse of pop culture'. In fact, once upon a time the company created pop culture, making things that people didn't even know they needed til they saw them. It seems like in the last couple years instead of creating pop culture, they're chasing it. They need to turn that around and return to the roots of what made them unique, or they will merely become another manufacturer in a pack of manufacturers.

Remember that part about feeling bad picking worsts? Yea, that's true with companies like SOTA and McFarlane. But I don't feel bad giving Shocker Toys the worst company of the year award AGAIN this year. Really? You're surprised? No you're not.  Another year of promises, no product, and more ranting, ballistic, bizarre behavior from the president. I suppose the only real surprise here is that I even bothered to mention them at all.


Best Overall Line

When it's just me making the picks, my personal tastes and preferences are going to be most notable. But I do my best to also pay attention to lines and figures outside my normal collecting habits.

A line that I don't collect at all gets the bronze award here. Hasbro has done a terrific job with the 3 3/4" G.I. Joe series, producing a wide range of characters and vehicles that have pleased fans quite a bit. Even as an outsider, I was mighty impressed.

My silver selection is a bit odd, since the series didn't include many figures. In fact, there were only four, done once in regular colors and once in black and white. But oh, they were done so damn well. I'm giving second place to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line from NECA.

As frustrating as the line was to collect, none made me happier once I had them than the DC Universe Classic figures from Mattel. I'm giving them the gold, even though I still haven't found wave 5 at a single Wal-mart, and giving two exclusives to a dying Kay-Bee was a truly bad idea. Even with the warts, this is a line that is still at the top of my favorites list.

DC Universe Classics wave 3 by Mattel

Worst Overall Line

There were a fair share of stinkers this year, too. So let's get to my worsts for Overall Line, starting with the third place winner: Hasbro's Indiana Jones. Now, you might think that the only problem with this line was bad decisions on the part of Hasbro, but there's also poor quality on the initial releases. Some of the weak sculpts and bad paint on the first couple waves was enough to scare the original monkey faced Leia back into her bubble.

Another line that hurt all the more because I'm such a big fan of the license is Mattel's Dark Knight series. No, not the Movie Masters line - that one kicks ass. But the regular DK line was generally awful, following in the standard movie franchise tradition. Yea, it's a 'kids line', which too often translates into 'we can be lazy and cheap'.

My big winner though - or lose, depending on your point of view - for worst line is Speed Racer.  The movie wasn't that bad, and I think it got a bad rap from a lot of people that didn't even see it. It doesn't deserve any awards, but I'd watch it again before I watched KOTCS. But the toy line? Ugh. Crappy little figures with crappy articulation and crappy paint. Notice a theme? Some of the vehicles were actually pretty decent, but the accompanying action figures are better off forgotten.

Speed Racer action figure by Mattel


Best Figure 18" or more (Male or Female)

I included both male and female figures in this scale, since so few people are working in this area.  Diamond Select will be upping the ante considerably in 2009 if all the Ultimate Quarter Scale figures they have planned make it to production, but 2008 was a bit of a leaner year for big figures.

Speaking of the UQS line, my third place bronze medal goes to their Darth Maul. An awful lot of people want to hate this series without giving it a chance, which is unfortunate. The body has some issues, and it will certainly work better for some characters than others, but DST and Art Asylum are doing a nice job with the sculpts, and you can't beat the price point.

My silver choice is Mezco's new Hellboy, designed around the second film. More great sculpting from a company that's done a nice job with the license overall. Their 18" Hellboys are a highlight in my collection of figures in this scale.

The winner of gold was an easy choice for me too - the NECA Alien. I know some folks were disappointed with the paint work on the dome (or to be more specific, inside it), but I thought this figure was a tremendous accomplishment, especially at the very reasonable price point they released it at.

Alien action figure by NECA

Worst Figure 18" or more (Male or Female)

I suppose something can be said that there are even enough 18" figures out there these days (and I'm talking FIGURES here, not statues) that worsts are possible.

I'm going to be honest. I don't generally get the whole Tonner thing. I think most of them are truly unattractive, although occasionally (like this year's Lara Croft or Snape) they pull off a great looking figure. Most years it doesn't bother me when I see a less than attractive Tonner, because it's not really my thing and I'm smart enough to understand just because it doesn't float my boat, that doesn't mean it isn't somebody's lake.

But this year they abused one of my favorite licenses, Batman. I'm giving the third place honor to their version of the caped crusader. This poor guy is sporting one of the ugliest cowls and most ill fitting outfits ever. I cried a little when I saw it.

The second place dishonor is going to NECA for their Beetlejuice.  I have to give NECA a ton of credit for really keeping the quarter scale action figure market alive the last few years, and most of the time they do a solid job. But the Beetlejuice I reviewed had some of the worst paint I'd seen all year, and looked and felt much cheaper than their usual quality.

Ah, now we're onto position one, and we're back to Tonner, and more specifically, Tonner's work on the Batman license. I have almost every figure of Batman's arch nemesis ever produced, but it was a no brainer when I passed on Tonner's version of the Joker. This is the Joker if he owned a chocolate factory and was played by Gene Wilder. If you're into these, now is the time to pick one up, as I've seen them on clearance at a number of online stores.


Best Male Figure 12 - 18"

This is perhaps my favorite category these days. We're getting such good work from so many companies in this scale, that you'd think it would be tough to choose. The big surprise here was that as much as I loved Sideshow's New Hope Kenobi, Clone Wars Kenobi, Indiana Jones, Senator Palpatine and Gandalf, none of them made it in my top three.

In the end, Cannibal Jack Sparrow from Hot Toys ended up with the bronze. They managed to do something with this figure that most other companies fail at - they produced a terrific looking head sculpt in a very specific and extreme expression. On top of that, they gave us a second standard head sculpt for Jack that was even better than the original standard version. Through in a ton of great accessories, and you have a fantastic figure.

But as great as he was, Hot Toys topped him with their Captain Dallas from Aliens. Same fantastic sculpting, with great accessories and an amazing space suit, but add in light up features that look amazing, and you have a silver medal as well.

And then there's gold. Hot Toys does the impossible and completes the hat trick here, something I don't think any other company has ever done in any of my picks. But their Bank Robber Joker is a truly outstanding figure, and if he doesn't take the top honors from both the Poppies judges AND the People's Picks, I'll be shocked. It helps to have a figure from a movie that's received wide spread acclaim, based on a character that's likely to be up for an Academy Award. But it still takes creating a dead on sculpt, costume and accessories (all on the best body in the current sixth scale market) to make perfection.

I do want to put in an honorable mention here for McFarlane's 12" Master Chief (and the variants). This was easily my favorite 'non-traditional' sixth scale figure of the year.

Dark Knight Bank Robber Joker action figure by Hot Toys

Worst Male Figure 12 - 18"

With all the emphasis on figures in this scale these days, you know somebody had to make some losers.

In third place is the goofy talking Indiana Jones from Hasbro. Now, I wasn't as hard on the line overall as some folks, because for the price, they really weren't bad figures. But the talking version of Indy was easily the weakest of the bunch, and the talking action feature (where his mouth actually moves) is one they need to scrap, period.

Second place goes to a Sideshow figure *gasp*! But there's no doubt that they missed the ball with their Shaun of the Dead set, and Ed was the bigger disappointment of the two. 

My first place choice was another easy one - DST's Jack Bauer. Which one? Doesn't matter. This is a figure that you could find clearanced out at five bucks at lots of places, and there's plenty of good reasons why.

Jack Bauer action figure by Diamond Select Toys


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

If there was one category that was tough to pick this year, it was this one. There's a dozen figures or more that I could see winning this category, and even whittling that down to 3 top picks was difficult. Passing up choices like Mezco's Gomez, or McFarlane's Master Chief, was mighty hard.

I'm giving my third place bronze trophy to Wall-E, from Thinkway. This is the deluxe version for this category, of course. I have to say that I've always been happy with the work Thinkway does, and it's too bad that more animated lines don't end up with them. They bring their own creativity and quality to everything they do, and the overall Wall-E series was no exception. Their deluxe Wall-E is perhaps the best movie related action figure of the year in this scale.

Second place goes to one of the four turtles from NECA's TMNT line - Don. Now, it actually doesn't matter which one you pick, since the only real difference between them is the accessories. I like the extras with Don the best, so I went with him, but every turtle sports amazing sculpt and paint, and some of the very, very best articulation we've seen from any company not just in '08, but ever.

My gold goes to Deathstroke from the DCUC line by Mattel. There's something about this figure that makes him so photogenic that translates to a great look on the display shelf too. It's that perfect combination of sculpt, paint and articulation, and it's interesting that my top two picks have that in common.

DC Universe Deathstroke action figure by Mattel

Worst Male Figure 5 - 11"

There are plenty of awful figures in this range every year. Just swing by the local Dollar Store and you can find them clogging clearance pegs. But to get a truly Worst award from me, they have to go beyond bad to disappointing. My worsts are generally not just bad figures, but bad figures that had the potential for greatness.

Such is the case with my third place choice, Stuntman Mike from NECA. I love both Grindhouse movies, but the character of Stuntman Mike was my favorite single role. I'm also a big Kurt Russell fan, and I thought he did a terrific job playing the serial killer. NECA's prototype looked amazing...and then something happened on the way to the peg. He looks like Stuntman Mike alright, but unfortunately it's the way he looked in the last 30 seconds of screen time.

My second place selection is Medicom's Wicket. Now, some might put this figure in the category of 12 - 18" figures, since it's sorta kinda supposed to be sixth scale. I think it misses being sixth scale by about an inch, however. Or, you could stick it in the designer/vinyl category, since it is one of their 'vinyl collectible dolls'. But I didn't want to muddy up that category with this thing. Why is it in my worsts? Two words - ripped off. There wasn't another figure I bought all year that gave me the feeling of being ripped off like this one.

But my top spot goes to the Dark Knight movie line (yes, the kid's line) version of the Joker. A stupid design, with poor paint and even worse articulation. All manufactured behind the excuse of "yea, but it's just for kids!". Regular readers know how much I hate that excuse, since it implies kids don't care about what a figure looks like.  There are Happy Meal toys that look better than this thing, and kid's know it. They might buy it because it's the only movie joker they get, but they shouldn't have to.

Dark Knight Joker action figure by Mattel


Best Male Figure under 5"

In the past, it was really only Star Wars (and a few Joes) that would be in this category. But 2008 started a heavy trend toward more lines being released in this scale, and it looks like that trend will continue in '09.

Before we get to the three winners though, I wanted to put out an honorable mention for the Rabbids by NECA. My son plays with these more than any other figure he received this last year - not marketing them to the under 10 set is a huge mistake. Now, on to the winners...

While I don't collect Joes (as I already pointed out), I have to admit that the Matt Trakker figure is pretty damn cool. Yea, I know there was some controversy amongst the hard core fans as to whether or not this figure even belonged in the Joe series, but coming from an external point of view, all I can see is that he's mighty sweet.

The Indiana Jones line from Hasbro was killed just when it hit its peak - with the Temple of Doom wave. There were several excellent figures in this set, but my favorite was Mola Ram. If Hasbro had managed to do this good of a job with the entire line (and perhaps avoided flooding the shelves with the far less interesting KOTCS figures up front), they might have managed to keep this ball rolling a little while longer.

The winner here was an easy choice for me - gold goes to the SDCC exclusive Hellboy. The regular release was great too, but the exclusive had the cigar, which put him over the top. The quality on this series was excellent, and Mezco proved they could work in any scale and still be at the top of their game.

Hellboy II Hellboy action figure from Mezco

Worst Male Figure under 5"

I'm betting that this will be a category that people have very different answers. That's because there was a lot more product in this scale in 2008 AND much of it blew chunks.

I already ragged on the awful Joker in the 5" movie line, so now let's not beat on that same crappy sculpt in another scale. Instead, let's pick on the dull Bruce Wayne figure. Another figure with a weak sculpt, bad paint, and poor articulation, and the character is just a guy in a suit anyway.

I also already mentioned the terrible Speed Racer line, but I can't avoid giving one of these worsts in this category to a figure from that line. Which one? It really doesn't matter, as everyone of them was awful, so let's just pick Speed Racer himself, since he is the main man. This is a line that probably wasn't going to sell all that well no matter how good it was. But add on over producing the product and turning out crap on top of it, and you have figures, cars, vehicles and play sets all doomed for a landfill near you.

But my first place gold star figure for worst didn't get here just by being a crappy figure. The Mutt Williams figure (sans jacket) from Indy's first wave is no great shakes, but he went beyond being a poor figure. He went all the way to helping kill the entire line. I actually thought the Mutt character was one of the better aspects of KOTCS, but nobody needed two versions of him in the first shipments of figures, and skipping the jacket less figure would have at least helped reduce the peg warmer status of the line.


Best Female Figure any size under 18"

I had some folks complain that there weren't enough categories for Female figures, although I'm not sure what figures they thought would get nominated. It's not my fault that most companies produce far more male figures than female - complain to them.

My third place winner is a figure I didn't end up buying, but I think she's amazing nonetheless. It's Deunan from the Hot Toys Appleseed line. Jeff Parker did a terrific guest review of here here at MROTW, and since then I've had the chance to check her out in person too. And yes, she's all that and a bag of wup ass.

The silver medalist is Wonder Woman, but not the one you first might think. I'm giving this second place award to the one by DC Direct, as part of their Wonder Woman series 1 line up. In fact, that whole set is some of the best female superheroes DCD has produced in some time.

In another first ever, the same character takes two spots in the same category this year, as Wonder Woman also gets the gold medal! This time it's the WW from DCUC, by Mattel. Some folks complained that the body was too skinny, but I think they did a nice job translating the character into this series, and it's one of the prettiest head sculpts in a smaller scale in 2008.

DC Universe Wonder Woman action figure by Mattel
Worst Female Figure any size under 18"

When I sat down to pick out my three least favorites in this category, I had no trouble coming up with the names. But putting them in the right order was a bit trickier.  I pretty much dislike all three in an equal opportunity way. They're also three very different figures, making it tough to call them out in terms of priority.

In the end, I put the Marvel Legends She Hulk (from the Fin Fang Foom wave) in third place. I know she's supposed to have Hulk-like characteristics, but she really shouldn't be uglier than he is.

My second place trophy goes to a figure that has some controversy - Sideshow's Lara Croft. Some folks are really quite pleased with her, but I'm in the opposite camp. This seemed like a figure from pre-2000, being peddled at 2009 prices.

My top winner though is another of those lovely first wave Indiana Jones figures - Marion Ravenwood. Indy collectors everywhere will always regret the many cool figures we didn't get (TOHT!) before this line was canceled, and one of the big regrets will be that the only Marion they got was this monkey ugly version. How ironic is it that the generally least favorite female lead in the films, Willie Scott, got the high quality, attractive figure? Further proof that there is no God.

Indiana Jones Marion Ravenwood action figure by Hasbro


Best Build a Figure

There were so many BAF's this year, that we could actually give them their own category! The six that were most popular with the judges ended up on the Poppies ballot, but there were another 4 or 5 that could have been included as well.

My bronze pick is Robot Santa from the Futurama line. This is a weird one, since we haven't gotten all the pieces yet to complete him...but we did get him in completed form already at SDCC. Toynami has done a nice job incorporating the BAF concept into this series, and the Robot Santa is a stand out.

My second place silver award goes to Fin Fang Foom. Yes, I know - most people are going to pick him to win. And he is a great sculpt, and a huge BAF. But I still have too many issues with his sloppy paint job to give him the top spot.

From the photos I've seen of Metallo, he might have gotten this award. But, as I've already stated with great annoyance, I have yet to see that wave of figures any where. Despero and Ares were pretty well done, but I'm going to have to go with Solomon Grundy.  He's a character I've always liked, and the sculpt and paint were both well done.

DC Universe Solomon Grundy action figure by Mattel

When it comes to BAF's, I don't think we had any that really deserve being called 'worsts' this year.


Best Vehicle or Playset

If my Hot Toys Bat Pod had showed up in 2008, I bet it would have been in here. But they have just started shipping out more widely now, so I left it off my list. A bat pod did make it in to the top three though.

Bronze goes to another one of those lines that I don't personally collect, but I can certainly appreciate.  Jakks put out a full scale cage ring, called The Cell. This thing is HUGE, with a number of very cool action features as well. It's gone on clearance at my local Wal-mart, and if it gets cheap enough, I may pick one up just for the photo potential. If I had a child into wrestling, I would have bought it long ago.

Second place goes to the aforementioned other Bat Pod, this one made by Mattel for the Movie Masters line. This is a great little vehicle at a reasonable price. Even though it was a Target exclusive, it was easy to come by. Now all we need is a new MM DK Batman with an improved neck joint to ride on it!

Of all the categories, the gold winner was the most obvious here. Yep, even more so than the 12" Bank Robber Joker. Anyone that has had a chance to check out the new Millennium Falcon from Hasbro knows just what an amazing toy it is. My son loves Star Wars, but showed no interest in this vehicle when he saw it at the store.  Like a good father, I ignored that and bought it for him as a Christmas present anyway. Once it was out of the box, he spend hours and hours playing with it, and I suspect it's his favorite gift for this year. With a dozen buttons controlling tons of sounds, lights, missiles and other features, along with plenty of space for a ton of figures, this is an easy pick for vehicle (and play set) of the year.

Worst Vehicle or Playset

There weren't a ton of lines that had stinky vehicles this year, so I don't have three worsts. I do want to highlight one though for my overall worst, as it was indicative of a problem that the helped sink the Indiana Jones line. My pick for worst vehicle is the Jungle Cutter that was repacked with three already released figures, and priced at $40. Now, the Jungle cutter wasn't worth the $25 they were originally charging to begin with - add in three figures most people already had, and you get an even worse deal. This type of repackaging was a truly stupid idea, and I'll talk more about it in my Worst Misc.


Best Statue

If you're wondering where I put Premium Format mixed media figures, wonder no more. They get included with other statues, since that makes the most sense to me. I suspect that when the votes are tallied from the Poppies and People's Picks, that the PF's will dominate this year. But there's a couple other statues out there too.

I remain a huge fan of the DC Direct Batman Black and White series, and my favorite this year was the George Perez inspired version. All of them have their pros and cons, but there was something about this one that broke it from the pack, and gets it the bronze.

Kotobukiya did a bunch of excellent vinyl statues this year, including their Bounty Hunters (especially the Bossk), but my overall favorite was the excellent Fine Art Ironman. They took their basic formula and added lights, making this one deserving of my silver.

The top pick was another easy one though, and I'm giving gold to Sideshow's Indiana Jones Premium Format. Yea, I think the skin is a little too dark. But this is one of the most realistic PF's Sideshow has ever done, and it sports the finest Ford as Jones head sculpts I've ever seen on any collectible. This is a 'collection centerpiece' type of item, outshining even the far more expensive Cinemaquette version.

Indiana Jones Premium Format statue by Sideshow Collectibles

Worst Statue
This was a tough worst category, because there are no stand outs for me this year, no statues that scream "I suck and I'm not sorry". The three I finally settled on weren't terrible, but just fell at the bottom of my personal list.

I love the Premium Format statues that Sideshow produces, but they have a hefty price tag, and with it, very high expectations. That's why I'm giving the third place trophy to their Bruce Lee from this last year. I did like the head sculpt better than some folks did, but if you compare this PF against others in the same price range, it's obvious that the final product did not live up to expectations.

In second place is the Jim Aparo based Batman Black and White statue. One of my favorites is from the overall series as well, and I generally love everything they do. But the weird paint scheme on the cowl and mask really threw this one off for me.

I don't know that my first place worst here was really the worst of the year, but perhaps he was merely my most disappointing- the Kotobukiya Indiana Jones. I have to admit that generally, Kotobukiya's human likenesses are weaker than their monster/alien/masked character likenesses. But the Indy's dad, Professor Jones, was quite good, so it was fairly disappointing to see the weak likeness on their Indy. I think even the UQS figure had a better likeness, and seeing the Sideshow PF really sealed the deal.

Indiana Jones statue by Kotobukiya


Best Bust

For some folks, the 'best bust' for 2008 was probably O.J. Simpson. But I'll stick with the kind made from resin or plastic.

And yes, you can make a pretty damn impressive bust using plastic. My third place pick is just that - the Dark Knight Joker from Hot Toys. He has a very impressive head sculpt, and is larger than usual (closer to quarter scale). I had a few nits to pick on his painted eyes, but he's quite impressive considering they decided to go in a somewhat unique direction with the material for their busts.

I blew it when it comes to my second place choice on the list. I could have picked one up...or at least tried to pick one SDCC last summer, but wasn't paying attention. So Gentle Giant's Faun bust from the film Pan's Labyrinth escaped me. In person, it's very cool, and this character is one I'd like to see represented in a few other formats.

My winner is another Gentle Giant bust, but that's not too surprising considering how much of the mini-bust market they control. What is surprising, at least to me, is that it's a female character from their Harry Potter series. This is surprising because almost every female they've done for the HP license has sucked wind. But the Bellatrix Lestrange was a perfect home run, that just right combination of a great character, done in an excellent pose, with accurate sculpting and high quality paint.

Bellatrix Lestrange minii-bust by Gentle Giant
Worst Bust
Unlike the worst statue category, I had no trouble at all coming up with three busts that didn't just scream "I suck and I'm not sorry", but they did a little dance while they screamed it. Unfortunately for Gentle Giant, they produced all three.

In third place is the Harry Potter Tonks bust. As I just mentioned when I picked the Bellatrix as best bust, it has been the norm for Harry Potter female busts to be baboon ugly. This year, I think it was poor Tonks who got the worst beating with the ugly stick.

Just to prove they can muck up the male Harry Potter busts too, Gentle Giant gave us George Weasley. Sadly, his twin Fred turned out just fine, but they picked the goofiest expression and pose for George that they could possibly conceive. Surprise, surprise, it came out goofy looking. I suspect that when the house is quite and no ones around, Fred quietly mocks his brother on my display shelf.

But the first place winner was even a bigger disappointment - Indiana Jones. Almost no one seems to be able to get the likeness right, but GG didn't even get it as close as far cheaper alternatives did. There's just no excuse for any bust that a company with as much talent as GG has to end up looking like this.

Indiana Jones mini-bust by Gentle Giant


Best Designer/Vinyl

Yes, putting together a single category for the general concept of designer toys or vinyl toys is tough, but it's the best alternative I have these days. It certainly doesn't make sense to create 10 different categories to try to capture every permutation, but perhaps next year I'll look at adding one more to break things up a bit.

For now, my bronze award goes to Milk and Cheese. Hey, it helps that I love the source material, and that these were pretty reasonably priced. I've tried really, really, really hard to stay away from many of the products in this category, because it would be very easy for me to get sucked in never to be heard from again. But the Milk and Cheese figures were just too cool.

You can argue that Mighty Muggs aren't 'vinyl', but I say that they are done in the same spirit as many of the designer lines, whether they are licensed or not. And of the ones I bought this year, Mola Ram was the stand out.  Another potentially great Indiana Jones line, dead before it's time.

My top choice here is one that somehow got left off the nominations. Hey, I don't know what happened - none of the judges mentioned it, and somehow I completely forgot too. It's Bertie, based on the artwork of Ashley Wood. I don't own one myself, but I have seen them in person, and they rock no matter which version you get. None of the bots are cheap, but fans are still digging them.

Worsts in this category? Well, I have to say that there wasn't any real stinkers that I saw, just art that might not appeal to everyone. If I were to pick any one, it would be the Simpsons line from Kid Robot, not because of the quality (they're great, just like you'd expect) but because of the damn blind boxing.  Regular readers now just how much I love blind boxing. But I figured I'd just skip handing out my bottom three here, because I didn't feel strongly enough about any to dis them that bad.


Best Prop Replica

I didn't buy as many prop replicas this year as in some past years. I'm not sure if that's because there were fewer out there, or just fewer that happened to make my bread rise.

But my third place winner is likely to be in a lot of people's first place slot - the new Samaritan from Sideshow Collectibles based on Hellboy II. The gun grew on me, and I think the second version is an improvement over the first. But the price tag is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

On the opposite end of the price spectrum is my second place choice, the Star Trek Original Series phaser from Diamond Select Toys. Yea, it's pretty much a re-issue, but this thing is just too damn cool.

The only thing better, at least for me, was Diamond's Star Trek Original Series communicator. With tons of features and sounds, it's far better than anything they actually used on the show. I wish they hadn't delayed the Tricorder, since I think that thing will even surpass these two in quality and fun.

Star Trek Original Series communicator and phaser by Diamond Select Toys

As I said, I didn't buy many this year, and I didn't come in personal contact with any that deserved a dishonorable mention.  I know there are some out there, but I was fortunate enough not to cross paths with them.


Best Misc

Talk about your wide open categories. Anything and everything that didn't have a home someplace else can get dumped into here. And that's a lot of anything and every thing. It's probably no surprise that the three things I picked have nothing in common, other than the fact that I liked them.

My third place winner is Skeleflex. Sort of like Xevoz, but not really, these build and play figures deserved more attention than they got. Not only can your kids build dinosaur and alien skeletons, they can swap parts around to create their own articulated nightmares. 

My silver goes to the Indiana Jones Legos. They had a several really well designed sets this year for the license, and they were probably the best overall line that supported the license.

My top pick was another of those items that didn't even make the nominations cut for the Poppies - the Cars line of die cast vehicles from Mattel. Of all the stuff I collect, this is one of them that brings me tremendous pleasure. There's always something new hitting the shelves, and it's never impossible to find. It might take a little while, but you'll always come across it eventually. Individually they aren't all that, but put this whole line together in a single display, and it's damn impressive.

Worst Misc

Misc is always a weird category - sort of a catch all for stuff that just doesn't quite fit elsewhere. Some of my worst picks COULD fit elsewhere I suppose, but they just seemed to make the most sense here. And since I used to have a 'worst idea' category, but now with the new format do not, I'll also be putting more general bad ideas here as well.

I think I've mentioned my hate before for the Star Wars Kustomz, but it's worth mentioning again, since they released some more. This silly rat fink inspired statues are an obvious example of trying to take two things that are considered 'cool', and mashing them together assuming that will make something even cooler! It almost never works, and it's lazy.

Every year, the media starts in on some doll or action figure because some whiny parent went off on it being to sexy or lewd for their little one. This year, it was poor Black Canary from the Barbie line, a figure that looked just like she does in the comics. Hey, she likes to look hot, don't be hatin'. I thought the Birds Barbie was far more bizarre than that - I mean really, a Barbie being torn apart by birds? I bought one. But the Barbie that I thought was truly bizarre this year was the Red Riding Hood version. It wasn't that the outfit was all that risque, at least not in comparison to other Barbies. But she was packed with a truly psychotic looking wolf, with the most sadistic grin on his face. He was packed next to her in the box, and in theory he was staring at and reaching for a bag of goodies she was carrying. But that's definitely not what it looked like. Oh, he was certainly staring at her goodies, and his hand was practically on her ass. Talk about your weird packaging!

If you were looking to kill interest in your action figures, nobody knew how to do that this year like Hasbro with their Indiana Jones line. They played it safe with the entire line, taking as few risks as they thought possible. Instead of tying this to a collector fan base, they went after the larger kid's market. They released a ton of figures based on the new film, believing that was less risky than basing too much on earlier films. And when sales lagged, they held off on the new, better figures that might have saved it and repackaged the crap that was already on the shelf in multiple new ways, killing sales of both. Nobody wants to take on too much business risk, but being too conservative and playing it too safe is a sure fire way to choke sales off before a line ever even has a chance.

General Comments

And so we come to the end of another year's awards. The current economy is in the toilet, and fate's hand is on the flusher. It should be no surprise that it's hurting the collectibles market, and companies left and right are cutting back, both in product and in people. It's going to be a bumpy ride in 2009, but I suspect that smart companies that stick with producing high quality collectibles aimed at very specific fans will do just fine. I'll be publishing the Poppies and the People's Picks later this week, and when I do so I'll be adding my own special comments on the results. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the great feedback and comments over the last 12 months!


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