Captain Toy's Picks for Best and Worst of 2012!

You're probably wondering where the Poppies and People's Picks awards are - I'm working on them, but it takes some time. While you're waiting, here's my own choices for best - and worst! - of 2012.

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

My picks:   People's Picks:   Poppies:  
2012 2012 2012
2011 2011 2011
2010 2010 2010
2009 2009 2009
2008 2008 2008
2007 N/A   2007
2006 2006 N/A
2005 2005 N/A
2004 2004 N/A
2003 2003 N/A
2002 2002 N/A
2001 2001 N/A
2000 2000 N/A

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

This is always a tough category, because there are a number of solid companies doing consistently solid work. It can be tough to narrow it down, and even tougher to decide on just one as the best.

Last year, I selected NECA for my third place spot, and I'm going with them again. They've been quietly cranking out solid product all year, and remain willing to take risks with new licenses like Hunger Games and Prometheus. Their overall quality has been good, and the paint work on many figures improved this year. The 6 - 8" movie and TV action figure market has been a killer for most other companies, and yet NECA has had a good year, with a large number of releases. Their definitely doing something right, and I want to recognize them for it.

My second place nod is going to be a huge surprise - I'm giving it to Hot Toys. The reason I'm sure this is a surprise is because many people feel they still have that first place locked up, and there's no doubt that 2012 was another very strong year for them. With several of their licenses - particularly Batman and the Avengers - they hit multiple home runs, and their overall quality is still hard to top.

But as much as I loved their work, there was one company I felt really deserved to be recognized for a particularly amazing comeback in 2012. After terrific success with Star Trek, Simpsons and TMNT, Playmates had had a string of failures. Most collectors had written them off, assuming that eventually they'd be out of the action figure market altogether. And yet in 2012, they produced one (actually two) of the best lines of the year, and sales of those lines were excellent. I'm talking about their new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series and their 'classic' series, both of which flew off the shelves. They dried up everywhere at Christmas, and stores are still struggling to replenish them. With that kind of demand, you know they were doing something right, and that something was producing excellent looking figures with terrific articulation and sculpts, all at a reasonable market price. Let's hope this comeback continues in 2013, and that some of those choices can be carried over to a new Star Trek line with the new film. I know Playmates could have done a much better job with the previous Trek line, and perhaps the success with TMNT will convince the powers that be to afford the product managers the chance.

Worst Overall Company

Here's a shock - it's actually tough to come up with one, let alone three, for this list. I finally did come up with three, but I have to tell you that none of them were the hot mess of atrocious that I normally have in this category. In fact, part of me feels bad singling them out because they weren't THAT bad - it's their unfortunate luck that the rest of the industry really upped their game this year.

As an example, Gentle Giant was on the last year, but have did a much better job in 2012. The Sucker Punch statues were excellent work, and many of their busts showed improved quality as well.

Many people would put Mattel at the top of their Worst list, but not me - at least not for 2012. I make no promises about 2013. They are taking the third place spot though, and it's largely for three reasons, one of them shared. The shared issue was the Wal-mart exclusive Gordon, a figure I've NEVER seen any sign of at retail, and that's with 5 close Wal-marts to check. The burden of this responsibility lies with Wal-mart, but it still annoys me that Mattel can't be a little smarter with their exclusives.

My second problem was with the awful BTTF Hoverboard. After producing some great prop replicas through Matty Collector, they really dropped the ball on this one - you'll hear more about that further down in my picks.

And finally, I feel they did a very poor job with the mass market figures for The Dark Knight Rises. While I like the Movie Masters (the ones I could find), to say I was underwhelmed by the smaller series is being generous. Even with these issues though, Mattel did enough right during 2012 to keep them from being any higher on this list.

In a similar vein, DC Direct (now DC Collectibles) is getting hit with my second place raspberry. The quality slipped a bit on their flagship Batman Black and White statues, and the shift to the New 52 for their Cover Girls series really peeved me off. And while they dropped the limited nature of their statues, the prices didn't necessarily drop, particularly with the Cover Girls.

Taking the worst top spot is McFarlane Toys, the second year in a row they've been in the bottom three. The once great company seems completely without leadership, and this problem falls squarely at the feet of Todd. I don't know if he's lost interest, grown weary, or just wants to move on with his life, but the company seems adrift, content with producing their Sports figures and the weak Walking Dead line. There's some great people working there, and I feel for them - I suspect they would love to return the company to it's greatness. But without a clear strategy and direction from the top, they best they can do is keep the wheels on the bus.


Best Overall Line - High End

We all assume Hot Toys will dominate here, but there's been some real competition for them in 2012. 

The third place spot is going to Kotobukiya for their Bishoujo line of lovely ladies. These statues won't be for everyone, but with excellent sculpting, outstanding paint work, and a terrific price point, they are are high end quality at low end prices.

Enterbay has been coming on very strong this year, with some excellent releases in multiple formats. I'm giving my second place spot to a series that practically defines 'high end', their Masterpiece HD quarter scale figures. While I wasn't thrilled with their Bruce Lee (I felt you should get more for the price), I have since received the Ledger Joker and am extremely impressed. Fans who have the Batman, T-800 and Rambo can't stop raving about them.

But as much as many other companies and lines are hot on their heels, it's still a Hot Toys series that takes my gold for this category. They had lots of releases this year, but I think their work around the Marvel licenses, from the Avengers to Iron Man to Spider-Man, has been outstanding.

Worst Overall Line - High End

Last year, I couldn't come up with any worsts for this category - this year, not so lucky. That being said, I really had only two that disappointed me this year, and it's because both took a dip in quality from past years.

I've already picked on DC Collectibles, but I'm going to do it some more with these picks. My second place worst goes to one of my favorite series overall - Batman Black and White. In 2012, the quality of the paint worked seemed to slip, and I ended up with too many statues that just weren't quite up to the level of quality that I'd come to expect. They also dropped the limited nature of the line, and re-released a number of statues that were previously limited, with almost no change to them. The only plus in all this is that they did keep the price down, and they deserve some credit for that, but I'm hoping we see the overall quality bump back up in 2013.

Cover Girls of the DCU gets my top worst here, due to both a slip in paint quality (a concerning issue across many  collectibles from them) and the decision to switch to the New 52 designs for this series. And let's not forget that they dropped the limited nature here as well, but your wallet didn't get any break. These three issues combined makes me a very sad geek.


Best Overall Line - Low End

There were some solid contenders for this category in 2012, but surprisingly, both DC Universe Classics and Masters of the Universe Classics had much less of an impact than in past years.

My third place winner is line that didn't wow me, but certainly did seem to connect with the rest of the collecting world. I'm not above admitting that I might not always be right, and this seems to be one of those cases. The Hobbit action figures from Bridge Direct got great reviews from fans, and sold well...when you could find them. I've never found one of their 6" figures, and even the smaller scale is only at a few stores in my neck of the woods. It's nice to see a small, relatively unknown company make a good impression with Hobbit fans.

My second place spot is going to Masters of the Universe Classics. While there were only a few serious standouts in 2012, the line still clocked along, seemingly as healthy as ever. We'll see if Mattel can keep up the quality of releases in 2013, but I have my fingers crossed.

The winner this year was an easy one for me - Playmate's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I never thought I'd be saying that again, but they produced a fantastic series this year that flew off the shelves at Christmas time. Great sculpting, great articulation, great accessories, all this and more added up to real play value and terrific action figures. I'm lumping both the new cartoon line and the 'classics' line in together for purposes of this award, and I think they deserve it.

Worst Overall Line - Low End
Each year, companies take a shot at doing what they can with that summer's movies. And invariably, they end up on this list.

It is true though that there weren't quite as many to choose from. Unlike some recent past years, the move lines on the shelves at the local toy store were a bit higher quality in general.

But there were still some bombs, starting with Mattel's Dark Knight Rises series of small figures. Poor articulation, ugly paint work, and an overwhelming number of Batmen doomed the line to peg warm.

Second place here is going to the Men In Black 3 series from Jakks. While I like some of their other work this year, the MIB3 line lacked much pop or pizzazz. Thankfully, the movie was much better.

But the big winner for me remains the same as from last year - the Walking Dead from McFarlane Toys. The zombies aren't terrible (although overpriced), but the humans are atrocious, and it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon.


Eddie Wires Award for Outstanding Paint

This award was created in memory of the amazing artist Eddie Wires. Many people in the industry knew Eddie, and everyone inside and out loved his work. The Poppies Judges thought it was appropriate to create a special award in his honor that in turn honors a collectible that stands out due to it's exceptional paint quality.

Paint is such a critical issue for any collectible. In fact, it's critical with many more art forms than just toys - watch an episode of the show "Face Off" (a show that our very own Poppies judge Jerry Malacuso was on last season) and you'll see how great paint can elevate make up effects, and bad paint can ruin the best concept. When a company cuts the budget for the production paint, they do it with extreme risk.

There were a lot of terrific nominees in this category for 2012.  My third place spot is going to a small figure, the Lost Predator from NECA. The did quite a few great figures in this line over the year, but I thought this particular character was especially sharp.

My second place winner is also a cheaper, smaller figure - Draego-Man, part of MOTUC from Mattel. While there were several very strong releases this year, I thought that Draego-man had the best color combination, and the style and look fit the character's personality perfectly.

The big winner is one of my favorite Hot Toys figures of the year - the Jack Nicholson Joker. Being the huge Batman fan, it was a dream come true finally getting a figure of this classic rendition of the Clown Prince of Crime.


Best Male Figure 12 - 18"

A few years back, we had a separate category for quarter scale figures. Not statues, but figures. That was because they were popular, and you could come up with enough nominees for the ballot. Then, that changed - the number of quarter scale figures dropped considerably.

Now, they are back on the up swing. With companies like NECA and Enterbay getting back into the game, that scale is starting to get a lot more attention. We didn't break them out this year, but if this trend continues into 2013, there's a good chance we will next year.

All that being said, I didn't pick any of the large scale guys for my top three. Let's start with the third place winner - IG-88, from Sideshow Collectibles. This figure is under appreciated. When Hot Toys did their amazing engineering with the various Iron Man suits, you didn't hear the end of it from collectors and fans. I'm here to tell you that the design work on the joints, pistons and limbs is just as impressive with IG-88. Add in a great paint job, and you have a real winner.

My second place trophy is going to the DX10 T-800 from Hot Toys. If you already own their original T-800, or plan on buying the battle damaged version, I can't say that you absolutely have to have the DX10. But that doesn't override the simple fact that he's a fantastic figure, with an amazing real leather outfit, one of the best Arnie sculpts out there, and a great assortment of accessories.

My top place goes to perhaps the most expensive sixth scale figure of the year - practically any year. Fortunately, it's obvious where all that money went with the exceptional Hot Toys Iron Monger. This is a figure that can be a collection centerpiece, and with several Iron Man figures surrounding him, he'll make your guest go "ooooooo".

Worst Male Figure 12 - 18"

There hasn't been a ton of awful figures this year in this scale. Usually, those summer blockbusters end up spewing out a slew, but not this time. The one figure I am putting in this category is from a summer blockbuster though - have you seen the Interactive Bane and Batman?  Both are bad, but I'm going to make an example of Bane. You can spend a ridiculous amount of money and get a large, interactive figure (the two figures can hold a basic conversation with each other) that looks nothing like Bane and even worse, sounds nothing like him.

I've included a photo, but you'll notice that this is not my usual style. That's because it's a cel phone photo of the figure on the shelf at the store...I'm not taking the bullet on this one.


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

This was an odd category for me this year - for several years now, it's been dominated by Masters of the Universe Classics and DC Universe Classics. With almost no DCUC this year, and fewer MOTUC that blew me away, it's a much more open category.

That doesn't mean MOTUC doesn't make a mark, however. They get a third place spot with their Draego-Man, a figure I also mentioned in the Eddie Wires Award. He was easily my personal favorite in the series for 2012, and deserves a spot in this category.

My second place winner was a figure that very much took me by surprise - Mezco's Frankenstein Monster. Mezco had several cool releases this year, including their EarthWorm Jim, but the black and white convention exclusive Frankie knocked my socks off with its quality and style.

Sort of like how Best Picture and Best Director tend to go together, Best Overall Line Low End and Best Male Figure 5 -11" are usually related. That's the case again this year where my number one pick here comes from my Best Overall Line, TMNT. It's the classic version of Michelangelo. Why the classics? I liked both the new cartoon style and the classics, but it seemed like the latter series disappeared in a heart beat, selling out the minute they were put on the shelf. And why, out of the four figures, did I pick Mike? That should be obvious.

Worst Male Figure 5 - 11"
Thankfully, this was actually a tough category for me this year. Even with several major films and their accompanying action figure lines, there weren't a lot of truly awful figures in this scale.

There's a few, though. My third place goes to DC Collectibles New 52 Batman, his look from the Justice League books. This sort of static nerd Hummel is hard enough to pay close to $20 for, but this one has the silly Tron-like suit and weak paint. Considering how good some of the other figures they produced were - like Killer Croc and Mr. Freeze - it's all the more disappointing.

My second place loser award goes to Peeta, from NECA's Hunger Games series. While I think they did a great job on the female likenesses for Katniss and Rue this year, their males were less impressive, and Peeta was simply a mess. Last weekend, SNL did a Hunger Games skit where one of their actors portrayed Peeta, and this figure looked far more like him than it did the actual character.

But the worst for me was poor Hong Kong Phooey from Jazwares. I appreciate that they picked up a bunch of cartoon licenses this year, both for old cartoons and new (Adventure Time!), but they also went as cheap as possible in the manufacture, both in terms of paint and plastic. They also used some really weird articulation, making them even less posable than you'd expect.


Best Male Figure under 5"

I don't collect a whole lot in this scale any more. As a matter of fact, I'm currently trying to decide what to do with all my 4" scale Star Wars figures, now that I've left that arena completely. I still pay attention to what's hitting the pegs, but my choices are going to be limited by what I saw.

My third place choice is going to be a bit of a surprise for some - it's Brock Samson, from BifBangPow. I was pretty hard on him when I first reviewed him, but he's grown on me over time, and I'd really, REALLY like to see the rest of the Venture Brothers line up make it to production. He's not perfect, but if they're all just as good, the overall result will make fans happy.

The second place spot goes to the Super Poseable Spider-Man from the Amazing Spider-Man series. I liked the movie quite a bit (yes, I know I'm not supposed to, but I do) and while most of the small figures stunk up the place, the SP version was extremely nice. It's great to get such a well articulated figure in this scale.

My winner is a real dark horse, since many people haven't even paid much attention to the series. I'm picking Mystron from the terrific Outer Space Men from the Four Horsemen. The designs are a cool combination of retro done modern, and I thought Mystron was their best release in 2012. If you like old school styles and sci-fi concepts, you should give these a closer look.

Worst Male Figure under 5"
This was almost too easy this year, and unfortunately, the same line ends up winning as in 2011.

But let's start with the sad figure in third place - the Reptile Blast Lizard from the Amazing Spider-Man. As I just said, most of the figures in the Amazing Spider-Man series stunk up the pegs, and this one was the worst offender. Then again, maybe not - Toys R Us had the audacity to re-release this figure with glow in the dark paint. Ugh.

Perhaps my biggest overall disappointment this year was the Mattel's small Dark Knight Rises series. While they weren't the worst low end series of the year, they were based on my favorite property, making them more important to me. Sadly, they didn't deliver, and the Bane was particularly atrocious. Since we didn't get much else in the way of other characters (Catwoman was only available in the Target multi-pack), his suckage was all the more painful.

The big winner has a name that rhymes with Bane - it's Shane, from the Walking Dead. One of their living likenesses won this dishonor last year as well, and if they keep up their current level of crapitude, there will be one winning next year.


Best Female Figure over 11"

For me, Hot Toys dominated this category this year. While the Poppies Judges did a nice job coming up with some alternatives, it was really Hot Toys work that I loved the most for 2012 in this category.

In third place, I'm going with their Resident Evil: Afterlife version of Alice. This isn't their first time doing her, or doing her well, but I really liked the costuming on this particular version.

My second place is also going to Hot Toys, and this time it's one of their rooted hair gals - Angelique from Pirates of the Caribbean. The hair can certainly be a bother to work with, but just like Alice, it's the exceptional costuming that won me over.

My winner is also from Hot Toys - Amber, from the Sucker Punch license. Unlike 90% of geek-dom, I don't hate this movie with every fiber of my body. In fact, I think it's a decent watch, and I like the concept that the story isn't always about who you think it's about. The computer game style of graphics and slo-mo were overdone, but in the end it was more than watchable. And hot women? It had more than it's fair share. Hot Toys work with Baby Doll was good, but the costume (can you see a pattern?) on Amber was outstanding.

Worst Female Figure over 11"
I didn't have any figures to even consider for this category this year. I don't know if that's because nothing really awful was released, or just simply that I didn't pick up enough female figures in this scale. Either way, they avoid my disapproval for 2012.


Best Female Figure 5" - 11"
While DCUC and MOTUC don't have as much effect on the male figures this year, they still pull some weight when it comes to the ladies.

My third place choice took a lot of heat from the MOTUC fans, but I really love her. I'm picking Sorceress here, restrictive wings and all. Could they have found some better design for attaching the wings? Perhaps, but I still think she's a terrific looking figure.

Second place goes to a DCUC lady - Dove. I've always liked the DCUC females better than the Marvel Legends counterparts, because they seem a bit more feminine and are able to take more fluid poses. Dove was the best example from the series in 2012, which probably isn't saying too much, since we didn't see a ton of DCUC released.

My top winner is a figure that I was pretty hard on when I reviewed her - it's Catwoman from the Dark Knight Rises Movie Masters. Why the love now? Let's be honest, we really don't get that many gorgeous female figures in this scale, and even fewer that I got to see in hand. Of the ones that I had direct contact with, she was my fav.

Worst Female Figure 5" - 11"
You'd think that having a hard time picking bests in this category would mean there's lots of worsts. Not so, since many of the releases were middling - not great, not terrible. But I can always come up with a few for the bottom of the list.

I'm thrilled that DST is giving us Munster figures, but I was disappointed in the look of Marilyn Munster. Maybe it was the cankles, maybe the mannequin look to the overall figure, but I was left wanting more. She takes the number 2 spot in this category.

I mentioned in my Best category for this scale that I like DCUC females better than ML females. The big winner (loser) here is further proof of that - Madam Masque from Marvel Legends. The manly head sculpt and weirdly proportioned body makes her unattractive all the way around.


Best Female Figure under 5"

I didn't see a ton of females in this scale last year, but I did have a few favorites.

My third place choice is probably going to be surprising - it's Rosie, from the Jetsons! I love that Jazwares has brought some old school cartoons back in plastic form, and while some of the figures had quality issues, I thought Rosie was terrific.

My second place choice is Vanellope Von Schweetz, from the Wreck-It-Ralph series by ThinkWay. I loved the movie, and I thought ThinkWay did their usually terrific job with the figures, especially the girls.

My top pick is the terrific She-Hulk from the Marvel Legends series. Hasbro has done a nice job with the line overall, but she was a real stand out for me. Better articulation and a prettier facial sculpt than we usually get in much larger figures - how can you not love the green beauty!

Worst Female Figure under 5"
I don't have three worthy candidates here, but that doesn't mean I didn't see any weak female figures in this scale. Like the previous Worst category, I had two that really bugged me.

While I really liked the larger scale Catwoman in the Movie Masters series of Dark Knight Rises figures, the small 4" scale figure was much weaker. The sculpt was similar, but the skinny limbs and design didn't translate well, and the lack of articulation really hurts her.

But the first place dishonor goes to Bicycle Girl Zombie, from the Walking Dead line by McFarlane. She's not supposed to be pretty, but that's not the issue. Like most of the zombies in this series, I actually liked the sculpt and paint quite a bit, but the lame action feature that broke the first time I used it was a big disappointment. Had they not included it, I would have been much happier - how often do you want less for your money?


Best Build a Figure

There weren't a ton of Build-A-Figure style items last year, but there were enough to make the category interesting. So far, it doesn't look good for 2013, however. We might have to re-think the category for next year's ballot.

My third place winner is the Hawkeye costume for Captain Action from Round 2. Sadly, I don't have a good link to show it off, but the idea was to pack a piece of the Hawkeye outfit with each of the other outfits for their new Captain Action figure. It was a great incentive for people to pick them all up, and the costume quality was great. It also reminded me of something you would have seen done back in the 60's as well.

In second place is the very cool Bat Signal from the Dark Knight Rises. This is a terrific example of thinking outside the box when it comes to developing ideas around what can be a great BAF. Too bad it was almost impossible to come up with the broken lens piece, available only with the Wal-mart exclusive Gordon.

The first place winner is a bit more traditional - he's Terrax, from Marvel Legends. I have to admit that the DCUC Nekron was mighty nice too, but while paint and sculpt is pretty even, I liked the articulation on Terrax a bit better.

Worst BAF

I'm not going to pick on any this year - I was happy with every one I saw. How often does THAT happen?


Best Vehicle or Playset

There seemed to be a bumper crop of playsets and vehicles for all scales this year, both on the high end and the low end. Let's hope that's a trend that continues strong into 2013.

The third spot goes to one of those sixth scale dioramas - we had a bunch this year. My favorite is Boonetown from Triad Toys, for several reasons. First, it's a western theme, and anyone that knows me knows how much I love western action figures and dioramas. Second, it's actually in scale. This is one of those rare times where a 1/6th diorama isn't too short or too narrow when you put an actual figure on it. And third, the price was right, making it a good value as well.

In the second place spot is another sixth scale item, but this time it's technically a vehicle - the S.T.A.P. from Sideshow Collectibles. You get one of the cool Battle Droids with it, and he fits on it nicely without a lot of futzing. It balances great with him on it, looking terrific on the shelf.

But my number one pick in this category goes to a mass market smaller scale toy series - TMNT. It's the very cool Sewer Lair playset from Playmates Toys. This has all the elements of a great playset for kids, and while it wasn't cheap, it wasn't so ridiculous as to be prohibitive.  I hope this marks a return to some of the huge, cool playsets we used to see in the 80's. Sadly, I don't have a great photo of the set, but you should be able to see one at the local Toys R Us - unless they're all sold out.


Worst Vehicle or Playset
It was a little trickier coming up with worsts here, but let's face it - when they make a lot, they'll make some crap. I only have two, both because they touch on licenses I really love.

My second place pick is the Blast and Battle Batcave from Mattel. How is this dinky thing a batcave? The included 8" figure is can barely fit inside. This is what the Batcave would look like if Bruce Wayne had my budget to work with.

And my first place loser is thosw damn Action Agents. They went away from producing any new Cars in the normal series to give us these ugly little bastards? Thank God it looks like they've dropped that idea for 2013, but of course now they're trying to put little motors on the regular cars. *sigh* Thankfully, it does look like we'll get a decent assortment of new vehicles in the normal, non-motorized Cars line.


Best Statue

While I didn't pick up many Premium Format style or large size statues this year, I did dalley in the smaller scale quite a bit.

Sadly, my dear Cover Girls took a turn for the worst this year, and you won't find any in this category - at least not in the 'bests'. Thankfully, DC Collectibles kept the quality up on some of their Batman Black and White statues, and my third place pick goes to their Jock rendition. They went with a very dynamic flying pose, yet didn't get too silly (i.e. the llater Batman Begins design). It looks great, and really stands out amongst the crowd.

The Bishoujo statues from Kotobukiya were strong all year. Out of all the releases, I think Power Girl is still my favorite, and she takes second place. She had some tough competition in Huntress, but the overall look and design of Power Girl was just too strong to deny.

Kotobukiya takes the top spot as well, with their slightly altered Batman in the black and gray costume. Normally I wouldn't give a re-release like this such honor, but I loved the original and they managed to make it even better with this color scheme.


Worst Statue
There weren't many bad statues this year, but there's a couple worth calling out. I only have two, however, and not the usual three.

While I enjoyed most of the Batman Black and White releases in 2012, I have to admit that the quality was slipping a bit, especially on the paint. My biggest disappointment of all was the Sergio Aragones release. I had very high expectations for this one, and anticipated its release for months. That made the final release with it's sloppy paint and soft sculpt all the more of a let down.

As I said earlier, my dear Cover Girls of the DCU took a bad turn this year, heading into the land of the New 52 and Jim Lee designs. Ugh.  My least favorite was Wonder Woman, the first they did, and she gets the top (bad) spot here. Part of this is my overall disapproval with the new direction for the series, and part is due to the specifically bad paint,  weak design, and an overall unattractive appearance of the Amazon. I can only hope that they find their way back to what made the line great before it's too late.


Best Bust

Out of all the categories, I think the Best and Worst Busts as a set was the overall easiest to select.

Very early in the year, DC Collectibles released their Swamp Thing bust, and it's a beaut. It's one of the few New 52 designs that I really do like, and Jean St. Jean did an amazing job with the sculpt. That, combined with some decent paint ops, makes it my third place choice.

Second place goes to one of Grand Jester's Disney busts - Cruella DeVil. Grand Jester has been doing some terrific work with this license, and I thought Cruella was one of their best so far. If you've checked out some of their others, like the Beast or Stitch, you know that's saying quite a bit.

My winner is one that I'm probably completely alone on - I'm picking Watto, from Gentle Giant. Let's face it, everyone hates Episode 1, and with very good cause. But I think Gentle Giant did an excellent job bringing the obnoxious Watto into bust form, and I was impressed with both the paint and the sculpt.


Worst Bust
This was an easy category, but I only went after two this time around.

In second place is the life size Frankenstein's Monster bust from Factory Entertainment. To be fair, I do have this bust on display in my bar, and people oooh and aaaah at the lights and sounds. I have no plans on selling it any time soon, or boxing it up and hiding it from sight. But it has a very high price tag for what it is, and the quality does not justify it. Recently Factory Entertainment announced they are producing the fossilized hand from Creature from the Black Lagoon, and I would love to get one. But will it be fantastic, like their swords from the Princess Bride (two of my all time favorite prop replicas)? Or will it be more like this bust? I still haven't decided.

The big winner here is a bust about which I should have known better - the Game of Thrones Daenerys from Dark Horse. I saw it at SDCC and wasn't thrilled, but perhaps I just wanted it to be good so badly, that I threw caution to the wind. That wind blew it right back in my face - weak paint did nothing to improve on a mediocre sculpt. I have a very bad feeling that the Tyrion statue is going to end up in one of the worst categories for 2013 if he doesn't improve from prototype to production.


Best Designer/Vinyl

I don't buy a lot of figure in this style, but I do pick up a few. I also make sure I check out all the booths at SDCC, where there's always some very cool new designs.

Funko has released a metric ton of vinyl figures in their Pop! series this last year, and you could pick just about any of them as your favorite.  Originally, my personal fav was Wall-E, but just before Christmas I found their Plants Vs. Zombies figures and picked up a couple for my son. He loved them, and I have to say I think they've done a terrific job translating the license.

The Glyos Armorvor gets my second place spot. I love what we've seen from the Glyos series over the last couple years, and they remain a company to watch. These are truly inventive, creative figures, with not just good looks but actual play value.

The winner has cool written all over it. How can a monkey in a space suit not be cool? I'm picking the TaoBao version of the Apexplorer as my winner for this year. Some people complained that he was a bit too cartoony, but that's pretty much the style, and I love the detail work on the fur and space suit. And he's just too damn cute!

Worst Designer/Vinyl

I'm not going to pick on anyone in this category for 2012 - the quality is generally there, and then it just becomes a matter of taste.

Best Prop Replica
There are three props that really stand out for me, but I have to admit - I didn't buy a ton myself.

In third place is Weta's Key to Erebor. It was priced right, and I love smaller props like this that are key to the story. See what I did there?

I don't usually pick re-issues of previous collectibles as 'bests' (although I already did it once in this list), but I'm doing it with my second place pick here - I love the Malcolm Reynolds Replica Pistol.  QMx put this out a few years ago, but it was all resin. This time around, it was largely metal, and that added weight and feel really improved the cosplay value. Add in an amazingly low price tag, and I think it was one of the best replica's released last year.

For the second year in a row, BifBangPow takes my top spot here, and it's with another Twilight Zone prop replica. Last year it was Talky Tina, and this year it's the exceptional Mystic Seer. It's so rare that we get a replica of this quality, let alone one that actually works just like it did on screen! Kudos to BifBangPow for making this happen.

Worst Prop Replica
I only have one pick for this category from last year, but it's a really, really good example of a poor prop replica. It's the Back to the Future Hoverboard from Mattel. After the excellent Ghostbuster releases - both of which have done well in my picks, the People's Picks and the Poppies in past years - they went in a very wrong direction with the Hoverboard. Inaccurate, cheaply built, and high priced, it was a fail with fans across the board, including me.

Best Block Figure

There are always a ton of great mini-figures on the market. This year, several of the standard companies upped their game. And here's a huge surprise - I didn't put Lego in my top three. Why not? Because while they did their usual great job, nothing new or game changing seemed to come from them in this category.

One of my favs is Mega-Bloks, who did a great job with some new licenses including Skylanders. I always loved the extra articulation their figures have, and they've done a nice job interpreting some unique brands.

Also high on my list are Mez-itz from Mezco. The did some cool Batman related figures this year, including several based on the Dark Knight Rises. Just when you thought they were gone, they make another splash!

And speaking of making another splash, my top pick in this category certainly came on strong once again. It's the Minimates from Diamond Select Toys. With some great releases around a ton of licenses - everything from Ghostbusters to the Walking Dead - and some cool extras like the Munsters car, fans of these figures had a bumper crop of goodies to choose from in 2012.

Worst Block Figure

While I'm not sure they're the worst, I will mention that the Trio line of sets and figures seems to have seen their final days.  I'm bummed that I didn't snag the huge deluxe Batman set when it went on clearance at the local Toys R Us.


Best Misc

Every year we see some pretty creative stuff hit the market that isn't quite as easy to categorize - that's what 'misc' is all about.

My third place favorite is Skylanders. Part cool action figures, part fun adventure game, kids have been eating these things up for the last year. With the new Giants game and figures, it's tough to say if the appeal is still there, but I got to give them props for remaining true to the concept.

Another of my favorites is the Armory sets from Spy Monkey. I love it when small companies do big things, and I think that with Spy Monkey's release of their first set of action figures as well this year, that they are well on their way to great success.

My top pick is a surprise even to me, because I didn't pay them any attention until very late in the fall. I needed to pick up some stocking stuffer gifts for my son, and he's become enamored with zombies over the last year. That meant the S.L.U.G. Zombies made perfect sense, and once I'd got him a couple sets, I was just as hooked as he was. Sadly, I never did see a single series 1 figure, and I have yet to complete his series 2 or series 4. I'm hopeful that these cool little guys will reappear at Target and Toys R Us at some point. If you haven't seen them, think of the concept of Army guys, but instead they are zombies...and some are designed to be certain famous characters, like Elvis or Indiana Jones. How could I resist!

Worst Misc

This is always my catch all bin - and all three of my picks are pretty unstructured. In a year when more things annoyed me than I would have liked, these three took the cake.

My third place pick is the Walking Dead season 1 DVD case. This zombie head could have been outstanding, but unfortunately it is mediocre at best. It's tough to find one now, and they did sell well, but an awful paint job makes the having a lot less exciting.

In second, is the Dark Knight Movie Masters Jim Gordon exclusive. Not because he's a bad figure - if that were the case, I would have mentioned this in the Worst Male Figure category. No, he's here because he was another Wal-mart exclusive that was completely mishandled.  Why have an exclusive (and a pretty cool one at that) and make it almost impossible to find? I have multiple Wal-marts within driving distance of my home, and after months of looking, many trips and much wasted gas, I never saw a single one.

My worst for this year is something I just don't understand - Squinkies. And yes, I understand a lot. I love the S.L.U.G. Zombies, and I get the appeal of cute little characters. But these things are just too tiny and deformed, and almost every license looks ridiculous. The only ones even slightly appealing are the Spongebob sets, because the character style sort of, kind of, if you squint just right, makes sense with the style. How they managed to snag every license known to man is completely beyond me.

General Comments
The older you get, the faster the years seem to fly by. I've been doing my picks at this site for 13 years now, longer than that through other outlets. What made 2012 different? Certainly prices are becoming an issue, whether you're buying action figures at the local Toys R Us or ordering high end sixth scale figures online. It's hard to believe what some figures are pulling in at this point, and even harder to believe that the bubble won't eventually pop. With the economy improving in general,It doesn't look like 2013 is going to be the year for the down turn, but there will continue to be some shake outs in the industry, especially in the high end.

This is going to be a year of real competition for Hot Toys, with companies like Enterbay, ACI, Big Chief and others putting a lot of pressure on them to up their game. Can Hot Toys do it, or will they make the same mistakes other leaders have in the past? Look no further than McFarlane Toys to see how resting on past accomplishments and not continuing to raise the bar can cost an industry leader.

I think that one of the most talked about lines in 2013 is going to be Sideshow's DC sixth scale figures. So far we've seen some pretty great work in the DC Premium Format statues, which bodes well for the smaller scale line. I'm not willing to predict that the talk will end up being good or bad - but I will predict that there's going to be plenty of it.

I have a very bad feeling about Matty Collector going into the new year. I've already had nothing but trouble with my 2013 subscriptions - none of the January figures have shipped as of yet, and after four phone calls with Digital River I don't feel any closer to seeing them - and with the price increases on the MOTUC figures (again), I'm not sure the clubs can make it.

With established franchise movies like Man of Steel, Wolverine, Star Trek, Hobbit, and Hunger Games, as well as some unknowns like After Earth, and Oblivion, there's the potential for some great movie based toys. Let's hope they put some effort into it and give us the quality we expect.

What do you think? Let me know at, and thanks for reading! I hope you continue to enjoy the reviews for another year, and I'll do my best to keep them fair and fresh!


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