Captain Toy's Picks for Best and Worst of 2014!

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 2014. In some of these categories, coming up with worsts was a real stretch. I don't give a 'worst' for mediocre - it should actually deserve the designation, and while there's always plenty of meh, there wasn't a truly bad item in every category. Unfortunately, in some cases it was much too easy. I also want to let you know that I'm going to get a little opinionated and ranty in a couple spots - you've been warned. On to my picks! 

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

My picks:   People's Picks:   Poppies:  
2014 2014 2014
2013 2013 2013
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

Some people think that you can't compare a company that produces $300 collectibles to a company that produces $20 collectibles. I disagree. While it can be tough to compare the products (but not impossible), the companies should be operating under the same sort of principles for success. If they are producing quality products at a market price that collectors want, those collectors respond by buying more and being vocal in their pleasure with the organization. The trick isn't to break up the companies in this category, but to have a broad enough group of voters filling out the ballot.

For me, there weren't as many companies in the thick of the hunt on this category this year. There's a few runner ups that have serious potential for next year (Star Ace, ThreeZero, Funko, etc.), and one that almost made it on because of their exceptional customer service in the face of a bad situation (DC Collectibles with the breakage issues). But in the end, there were three that distanced themselves from the rest of the pack by being strong across multiple licenses, styles, markets and brands.

My third place pick is Lego. For those that regularly collect the amazing building block sets, I suppose this is a no-brainer. But I think that 2014 was really a banner year for them, with the fantastic Lego Movie (which was utterly robbed by the Academy) starting things out. They've got a terrific variety in their line up right now, from the standard sets to their in-house properties to their licensed extravaganzas. And they did Simpsons, so you know, there's that.

My second place vote is going to Hot Toys. While they've consistently won this spot from the overall population for the past several years - and got my vote for number 1 last year - the extremely good competition in the sixth scale market is starting to muddy the waters a bit. They had a solid year, but not an exceptional one. I think part of that has to do with gearing up for 2015. This coming year has a lot of potential for them, with both the Marvel and Star Wars licenses set to take off. They could explode, reaching far beyond their current collector base, and getting new buyers that never knew they existed before. But with all that potential comes a lot of risk, and they'll have to ensure they maintain their highest quality to take full advantage.

My first place winner is a company that seemed to be hitting on all cylinders in 2014 - NECA. Their output was substantial, and I can't think of a single series - Predator, Pacific Rim, Alien, Gremlins, video game characters, the 8" horror series, Planet of the Apes old and new, Celebrity Simpsons - that didn't please their fan base. For me personally they had two series that met the 'must buy all of them now' criteria: Simpsons and classic Apes. I never thought I'd see either of these licenses in this format again, and certainly not this well done.

Worst Overall Company

I'm going to step a little outside the box this time around, in part because there wasn't the same level of atrocious behavior out there in 2014 as in some years, and in part because I feel pretty strongly about one news story that got way too much press.

My third place spot is empty. Yep, nobody gets the honor.

Second place goes to a traditional company - Hasbro. The G.I. Joe series is the longest running action figure line in history, hanging out at the toy store for more than 50 years in one format or another. And yet, Hasbro seems to be working their hardest to kill it off, rather than find new and imaginative ways to re-invigorate the line. This isn't the first time Joe has hit a rough patch, but at this point it doesn't look like Hasbro wants to invest the effort that it will require to make it through. I'm hoping I'm wrong, and what they do with the line in 2015 will say a lot.

Taking the number one raspberry is not a traditional toy manufacturing company - it's a toy retailer. Like I said, I'm going a little outside the bounds this time around, but it's worth it. I'm calling out Toys R Us on their ridiculous behavior when confronted by the "Florida Mom" over the selling of Breaking Bad action figures. I'm calling her the "Florida Mom" because a) I don't remember her name and frankly she's not worth the time looking it up and b) I'm hoping that using that moniker might shame the whole state of Florida into improving their educational system so this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

If you missed the story, and I know you didn't, this devote member of the Modern Day Church of Children was told by a friend (she didn't even witness the perversion herself) that Toys R Us was selling Breaking Bad action figures. You know, a bald dude in a wind breaker. Upon hearing this, she went into savior mode, and managed to get 10,000 signatures on a petition, get on national television (because crazy and stupid gets the views), and scared Toys R Us into pulling the figures.

I'm not putting them here because they pulled the figures - I get it. This isn't the first time this happened, and it certainly won't be the last. But even when faced with a counter petition, signed by almost 65,000 clear minded individuals that wanted the figures available, they kept them off the shelf. That sort of mentality, the idea that if one person whines loud enough we all suffer, is a bad, bad attitude to have, and lands the toy retailer in my top spot.


Best Overall Line - High End

Hot Toys continues to kick butt, but they are getting a lot more competition these days.

My third place spot goes to Sideshow's DC sixth scale series. That's not to say the line went without a hitch - you'll see a certain Superman show up a bit later in the not so good category. But with Harley, Catwoman and Batman, they finally provided us with some high quality comic based sixth scale figures.

In second place is Gang's Kingdom by DAM Toys. I don't own a single one, yet I can still appreciate just how damn cool these things are. Fortunately for me, I didn't get sucked in at the beginning, because I'd would have been a completist.  Doing art style figures can be a tricky business, but they've captured a great caricature design and matched it with some beloved actors, all in a bad ass theme.

But the top spot goes to Hot Toys once again this year. They're doing a fantastic job with the Marvel movie properties, including the Avengers, and 2015 looks like another fantastic year. In 2014 they had a great figure for almost every character - Iron Man, Thor, Loki, Black Widow, Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-Man - improving on every one in the process.

Worst Overall Line - High End

This category got even tougher in 2014, a very, very good sign for collectors. There's not many lines in the high end market that really deserve to be singled out.

Starting with third place...there isn't one.

For second place, I'm going with the DC Collectibles Bombshells statues. This is one of those issues of aesthetics, not quality, so your mileage can vary quite a bit. I wasn't thrilled with Harley, and we ended up with a redeco'ed release of her as well. I really disliked Black Canary as well, but at least things started to improve with Stargirl and I have a couple more here to review that show improvement as well, giving hope for 2015.

In first place is another DC offering, but this time it's from Diamond Select. Their busts based on the 1966 Batman television show have had their fair share of quality issues, and while $60 is on the border of 'high end', it's still a decent chunk of change. These are the actual busts I'm talking about, not the banks.


Best Overall Line - Low End

When it comes to certain categories, my own personal preferences and nostalgia take over. I'm sure that's true of everyone, but this category is a perfect example for me...

Last year, my third place entry won it all - Hasbro's Star Wars Black. Maybe some of the newness has worn off, maybe some of the releases just haven't been as strong. Whatever the reason, they dropped a couple spots this time around, but still stay strong enough to take the bronze.

The second place award goes to a personal favorite, this time from NECA. When they announced they were doing Simpsons figures again I was thrilled, but when they added that they'd be in scale and style to match the World of Springfield? I passed out. I don't know how long it will last, but they've already given us a terrific assortment of new celebrity based characters to add to the display.

My first place award also goes to NECA, and it's another based on my love for a particular license...Classic Planet of the Apes! A childhood favorite brought back in 6" plastic goodness - it doesn't get much better than this! Their output for 2014 was good, and the overall quality was excellent. I had to debate a bit between my first and second place choices, but in the end it came down to figure quality, and the Apes were slightly ahead of the Simpsons in that category.

Worst Overall Line - Low End
This year, we saw some disappointments, some quality issues, and some overall fails in the low end of things.

My third place spot is going to a line that has huge potential, but started out as a huge disappointment. It's the Animated Batman figures from DC Collectibles. As a huge fan of all the animated shows, I was really looking forward to this new 6" series.  In photos, they're great - I love the designs, sculpts and paint.  But with two of the four breaking on me right out of the package, and numerous online tales of other collectors having the same problem, it was clear that DC Collectibles stumbled on this first release. However, I'm expecting a major turn around in 2015, because it's clear that they have heard the customers complaints and responded (sending many replacement figures), and have a really strong line up planned for upcoming year.  I have my fingers crossed that the problems will be in the past.

Getting the second place spot is Funko's ReAction series of action figures. Yes, I realize there's a lot of collectors that dig these, but I'm not one of them. When I look at them, I see a tremendously wasted opportunity. I get the concept, and I applaud it - make the figures reminiscent of the 1980's Kenner figures that popped up with every movie and TV show. But that didn't mean they had to suck. Quite the contrary, you could have done them with the original style of articulation and overall body design, and just given them a reasonable head sculpt, something that at least looks like the character from a distance, and you would have expanded your market by leaps and bounds. People that wanted them merely because they reminded them of the 80's toys would have bought them (no one was going to say "Gee, I'd love this figure just for nostalgia but it looks too much like Malcom Reynolds") AND you would have gotten the fans of the newer properties (Firefly, Buffy, etc.) to jump on board as well. Don't even get me started on the God awful paint quality.

My number one pick was really, really easy for me this year, because I absolutely loathe these things - it's the Titan series of figures from Hasbro. Dear God, these things are awful. In past years I've picked one here and one there as the worst of the 12" Males, but what started as a few has turned into an unholy infestation. I get it- they're cheap. But that's the problem - they're cheap. Ugly, poorly made, dollar store knock offs that don't deserve the peg space they're sucking up. Did I mention I don't like them? The photo below is actually from a couple years ago, but trust me - the quality hasn't improved.


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 Macaluso was on) 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.

Speaking of Jerry, my third place choice goes to a terrific statue produced by his company, Pop Culture Shock - Shao Kahn! If you're a fan of Mortal Kombat (or Masters of the Universe!), you should really do yourself a favor and check out their 1/4 scale series of statues and life size busts.

Taking second place on my list is a figure NOT on the Poppies ballot. It's the beautiful Iron Patriot by Hot Toys. You might wonder how a stellar figure like this did not make it on the ballot. The nominees for each year are picked by the Poppies Judges, and Hot Toys is one of the judges. They tend to feel very strongly about which figures of theirs make it on the ballot, and I usually defer to them. This is one of those cases, because they felt the MKXLII was the stronger nominee, and so he ended up on the ballot. While I like the MK2 better overall, I still think the Patriot had the exceptional paint job, making it the better choice for this category.

It's all a moot point though, because my number one pick remained unaffected either way. When I unboxed the Batman Black and White Harley Quinn statue from DC Collectibles, I was awestruck. And while I love the sculpt and design, it was the perfect use of the monochrome color scheme and high quality application that really made me ooo and ahhh.


Best Male Figure - 18"

While a number of companies continue to make this format a strong one on the shelf, NECA is really dominating right now.

My third place spot goes to a figure I *wish* I had grabbed but passed by - the Enterbay Mr. Bean. This is exactly the sort of goofy movie character I love to add to the display, and the quality of the sculpt and accessories is outstanding. Congrats to those that have him!

My second place winner is also from Enterbay - Robocop!  They upped the ante with this figure, going beyond sounds to automation, and while it's not perfect, it's a big leap forward. On top of that, he's an amazing looking figure, perhaps the best that's been produced.

But even with all that excellence, NECA still stole the top spot with a figure that's near and dear to my heart - their 1/4 scale 1989 Batman. The cape is a bit wrinkled out of the box, but with a little work you can get it just right.  Add in a terrific sculpt and real shelf presence, and you have my favorite for this year.

Worst Male Figure - 18"

Last year, I had an entry in this category, but even with all the releases in 2014, I couldn't come up with one that truly deserved the shame.


Best Male Figure  12 - 17"

While there might be a couple contenders on the ballot in this category that are outliers, let's be honest - this is really the sixth scale category. And Hot Toys has certainly dominated that arena for the past several years.

However, that's starting to change. As Hot Toys prices reach past $240 into the $300 range, smaller companies are coming in to fill the niche with sub-$200 figures. They are snagging great licenses, and they are producing quality product, threatening Hot Toys stranglehold.

But the reality is that it's going to take another year or two before you see any potential shift, and for 2014, Hot Toys was still quite dominate, at least for the general population of collectors.

I'm giving the bronze to Sideshow for their comic based sixth scale Batman. This is a figure that got a lot of negative attitude, but I think is a fantastic example of a well done comic themed character. The two swappable face plates were pretty silly, but the standard stoic face with the short ears is just about perfect, and blows away the older DC Direct attempts.

In second place is a new company working off an old license - the Star Ace Harry Potter.
I love it when there's a new company I can get excited about, and even better when there's a new series that I can look forward to. The Harry (and Ron) is a well crafted figure with top notch sculpt, paint, articulation and accessories. With their announcements of characters like Sirius Black, Hermione, and Voldemort in 2015, this line is easily one of my most anticipated.

There's a bunch of solid contenders for the top spot, and I couldn't argue if you had the battle damaged T-800, the MK42 die cast, Star-Lord, or any number of other choices here. My top choice is driven largely by my nostalgic love for the 1966 television show - it's the Hot Toys Adam West Batman. For decades I was told that getting any licensed merchandise (let alone the show on DVD) was impossible, as the licensing nightmare was simply too impossible for anyone to untangle. We saw the obstacles fall aside over the last couple years, and the Hot Toys 1966 Batman is the optimal result.

Worst Male Figure 12 - 17"
Unlike last year, I actually had no trouble coming up with three perfect examples of bad sixth scale figures in 2014.

It's pretty rare that I ever put a Hot Toys release on this list in the Worst categories, but I was very disappointed overall with their Tonto, and it ends up in 3rd place. It was the usual high price point, but not the usual quality, particularly with the Depp likeness.

In second place is the DC Comics Superman from Sideshow. I'm a fan of their comic series, and both Batman and Harley will appear in my 'best of' picks in this very list. But the Superman was a big stumble for them, with a poorly chosen base body, an oversized head, and a weak costume, all resulting in a fail with collectors.

Coming in at first is the Asmus Toys Gandalf the White. I know they're improving with time, and some of their other figures (like Guritz) are pretty sweet. They've also recognized that this Gandalf has a pretty weak head sculpt, and will be including a new one as a replacement with the release of their Gandalf the Grey, perfect for those of us that will be buying it as well. They deserve a lot of credit for recognizing issues and working to resolve them, but that doesn't make the figure itself any less of a disappointment.


Best Male Figure  5 - 11"

Once it was Mattel that was dominating this category with DCUC and MOTUC - those days are ending.

My third place vote is going to the Revoltech TMNT - pick any one of the four. If you really need a name, go with Michelangelo. But you'll love the whole set, with terrific articulation, sculpts and accessories.  Revoltech has been doing some terrific work, and this set really shows their capability.

My second place spot goes to a figure that came out late in the year - the 1989 Batman from NECA. This is the movie based version, not the video game version. Sure, it's only a paint difference between the two, but it's still a big difference. Getting this figure in this scale has been a grail for a lot of collectors, so it was nice to see NECA make it happen.

My winner is another one of those situations where a favorite license connects with a stellar action figure. This time it's Diamond Select Toys new Creature from the Black Lagoon. We've had a fair share of attempts with this character in the past, but this is the finest job anyone has ever done in bringing him to plastic. As one of my top three all time greatest monster designs, it was easy for me to pick such a fantastic plastic version as the winner in this category.

Worst Male Figure 5 - 11"
This scale has been mighty popular this year, and with big licenses like Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft, Star Wars, and Planet of the Apes, you've got plenty of great figures...and a few not so great.

In third place is one of those GoT dudes - Jon Snow, from Funko. Overall, I've been very happy with the line, but this was a figure where the paint and sculpt just didn't support the figure well enough. If he were a lesser character, it might not be quite as disappointing, but as one of my favorites, I was hoping for better.

Unfortunately, the Star Wars Black series had more misses than hits in 2014. Just about ever human character had real issues, but my least favorite of the bunch was Obi-Wan. Another heavy handed paint job that really hurt what might have been a better sculpt under there. If these are supposed to be collector figures, then they better get the quality up to acceptable levels.

But of all the figures I picked up this year in this scale, there was one stand out, and not in a good way - the Walgreen's exclusive Family Guy figures. Out of those five figures, it was Quagmire that really grinds my gears. I appreciate what Walgreens is doing, and I love that they are getting more into action figures. They had several cool exclusives in 2014, and it wasn't hard to get any of them if you had a little patience. With so many retailers that once carried collectible action figures drying up, it's great to see Walgreens stepping up to fill the void. But with this series it's pretty obvious that they have a way to go before they can get behind their own figures, and do it right. There was almost no articulation to these 'action' figures, the scale was all over the place, and the paint and sculpt quality were definitely dollar store stuff. Giggity.


Best Male Figure under 5"

I don't play alot in this market anymore, partly due to changes in my own personal tastes, and partly due to a perceived drop in overall quality. All three of my picks are from lines I still buy, however.

First up is from the Four Horsemen, in their Power Lords line up - Lord Power!  I really, really like this entire series, and the juiced up hero is one of my favorites. If you love that retro space toy feel, this is a line you'll want to check out.

The same can be said for my second place pick, also from the Four Horsemen - Jack Asteroid from the Outer Space Men! As a fan of the old Major Matt Mason line up - as well as every other cool 70's style space toy - these are a true blast from the past.

My top spot was an easy pick though, coming from the one series I still am a completist on - the DC Multiverse. Their Batman Returns Penguin is exceptional, with a terrific sculpt and paint job considering the tiny scale.

Worst Male Figure under 5"
I've already told you how much I don't like the ReAction figures, and with Funko pumping out a metric ton of them for every conceivable license, you'd think I'd have an easy time snagging three for this category. I wanted to try to be a bit more expansive than that, however.

Let's not forget that I do regularly buy the Multiverse figures, and not all of these are a home run. I might love the BR Penguin, but I don't feel the same way about the Batman Returns Batman/Michael Keaton figure. He gets the third place spot, and this is entirely due to the God awful paint job, with slop everywhere. It's all the more unacceptable because of how well they did with the Penguin.

My second place spot does go to one of the Funko ReAction figures - poor Marty McFly from Back to the Future. Ugh. Can you honestly tell me that they didn't take the same head sculpt, add some hair length and an eye patch, paint a beard and call him Snake Plissken? Shorten the hair and he's Biff - do almost nothing and you have Malcolm Reynolds. Interchangeable body parts, I'm good. Interchangeable head sculpts? Not so much. It's particularly grievous with Marty though, because along with looking nothing like Michael J. Fox, he looks like he's a middle aged dude. Repeat the earlier 'ugh'.

But there was one figure that stood out to me as truly awful, due to it's particularly poor paint applications. While it's technically not a ReAction figure, since it's not from Funko, it was done in the same style. That's not the problem though, and in fact, the underlying sculpt might actually be passable, but for the terrible, terrible paint. The number one spot goes to Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, by BifBangPow. It's amazing how much paint was a factor with most of my bottom choices...


Best Female Figure over 11"

It's very worth noting that all the female figure categories for 2014 had many more choices, and they were all great figures. We are seeing quite a few more female figures across the board, and they aren't relegated to simply shortpacks in later waves any more.

In the top scale, Hot Toys had some serious competition this year. In fact, they had enough competition that their lovely Black Widow from Winter Soldier only made it to my number three spot. She is beautiful, but I think part of my problem is that she's also the third incarnation of this actress as this character, making it hard for me to get excited. As further proof, I have her but have yet to review her. I'll get to it eventually, and she's well worth picking up if you don't already have her or are a huge Winter Soldier fan, but she's not top spot worthy to me.

My second place spot goes to the Sideshow G.I. Joe Baroness. She's sporting a beautiful head sculpt (especially the exclusive second portrait), with a nice set of accessories and a great costume.  Joe fans were particularly fond of her, and I can see why.

Sideshow also gets my top spot, but I am fully aware that I'll probably be in the minority here.  I will say that I still do not have my Maleficent, and had I gotten her in hand to properly judge the final product, she might have made it here. But photos have been all over the board in portraying her from mediocre to great, so I have to reserve judgment.

So instead, I'm going with the DC Comics Harley. I know some people aren't in love with the underlying body, but I really like both head sculpts, all the great accessories, and the cool costume design. This is a terrific comic based version, and goes great with the Batman and Joker they've released.

Worst Female Figure over 11"
You know what? I got nuttin' for you here. I didn't see anything all year in this scale that caused me to shield my eyes. I guess it was just the men that got the sixth scale abuse in 2014.


Best Female Figure 5" - 11"
This is another really strong category this year, with a lot of really good nominees. It was a tough one for me to choose, that's for sure.

For third place, I'm going into the Funko Game of Thrones line, and picking Arya Stark. The ladies had some issues across the board so far with this line, but I think they did a commendable job capturing the difficult likeness of Arya.

One of my favorite movies of the year was Guardians of the Galaxy, and I think Hasbro did a terrific job with the likeness on their Marvel Legends Gamora. It's rare that we get an actually attractive female action figure, but one that also matches her on screen look so well? Practically unheard of, and for that she gets second place.

I've been pretty generous with the Planet of the Apes line and figures, and that trend will continue with this category. While she might not be traditionally beautiful, I'm picking Zira from the classic POTA line by NECA as my top female in this scale. She grabs first place with those hairy paws of hers!

Worst Female Figure 5" - 11"
There aren't a lot of awful female figures out there right now, and that's certainly a refreshing breathe of fresh air.

That doesn't mean there weren't a couple that disappointed me though. In third place is another of the Funko Game of Thrones figures - Daenarys. I'm talking about the second release in blue, not the first.  The paint work was terribly sloppy, and the overall sculpt wasn't an improvement over the first release.  As you move forward, you should get better, not worse.

Another big disappointment was Maggie, from the McFarlane Walking Dead series. They had some really strong male releases last year, including Tyreese and Glen, but Maggie was not up to snuff.

My number one pick goes to show that there really weren't a lot of awful female figures out there in 2014 - even my worst pick is better than what we've seen in some past years. But the DC Collectibles animated Batman line up has has all kinds of trouble with breakage, and for me the worst offender was Catwoman. She has some other issues (the neck is too long, and the paint work could have been better), but it was really the snapping joints right out of the package that hurt her overall.  DC Collectibles is working hard to correct the issue, and that's a very good thing, because the line up they have planned for 2015 looks very, very cool.


Best Female Figure under 5"

For me, it's no different with the ladies when it comes to this scale - I don't buy many any more. I still do my best to pay attention though, and certainly have my favorites.

I've already mentioned a couple of the Multiverse figures, both good and bad, and I'm putting another in my third place 'best' for this category - Harley. Based on her video game look, she's got all the right parts in all the right places, and the paint on the ones I've seen is an improvement over some of the other figures in the line.

Along with the Multiverse figures, the other line I tend to still buy regularly in this scale is the Twilight Zone series from BifBangPow. These are also in that silly 'ReAction' style, but since most of them aren't actually people (monsters, etc.), they don't have as much trouble with wildly inaccurate sculpts. I really like the tiny Talky Tina, especially in the black and white paint scheme. And look at that - she actually looks like the doll!

My number one pick is not one most people will have on their list, but it was my favorite - it's Terra Firma, part of the Four Horsemen's Outer Space Men. I've already sung the praises of this line when I discussed Jack Asteroid, but Terra is well worth taking a number one spot with her cool retro look, nifty astronaut outfit, and big...uh, helmet.

Worst Female Figure under 5"
Thanks to the Funko ReAction series - did I mention I really don't like these figures? - I would have no problem picking three for this category. But instead of beating this particular dead horse any more than I need to, I thought I'd just pick one as the poster child for the all the poor ladies in the series.  And that one is sweet, adorable, sexy Kaylee from Firefly. At least the character was sweet, adorable and sexy - how could they do that to her?


Best Build a Figure

For 2014, this was a category held in place by the efforts of only one company - Hasbro. It seems like the concept is on the decline for the time being (these things are always cyclical), but it should be no surprise that my top three are all from them.

As I said earlier, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Marvel Legends BAF of Groot did the character justice. Great looking with some interestingly designed articulation, he was a terrific addition to the ML shelf, and takes my third place spot.

My second place spot goes to Mandroid, another of the Hasbro Marvel Legends BAF's. He came with the Amazing Captain America line up, and has a nice heft and size to his design. BAF's just aren't big enough any more...but who doesn't love robots?

My top pick is yet another Marvel Legends figure, but this time it's from the Amazing Spider-Man series - Green Goblin! Big, bad ass, with flames and horns, it doesn't get much better than this. It's not the traditional character design of course, but it's one of the few new ones that I really like.

Worst BAF

For me, there was no awful BAF's this year. There weren't a lot, but what there was, was well done.


Best Vehicle or Playset

This is another category with a ton of great nominees this year, all of them very worthy of the award. I'm betting my best won't be yours, but that's what makes this fun.

In third place is a very cool Batman goodie from Imaginext. While this series of toys is intended for the younger set, you still have to appreciate how cool the various playsets and vehicles are, and with their RC Batbot, they had a real winner. It's a remote control vehicle that also transforms from tank to robot, perfect for Batman to fight crime.

My second place spot goes to the 'playset', and I use that term loosely, that I think has the best shot at winning both the Poppies and the People's Picks this year - the Hot Toys Batman Armory. This thing is amazing, and yes, I did buy one. I'll hopefully get around to reviewing it soon, but it really deserves a lot of time and effort, because it's simply amazing in the quality and quantity of cool stuff you get with it. This was THE thing to get in 2014 if you are a Hot Toys Batman fan.

But my winner is a lot cheaper, and yet, still an awful lot of fun. I think the Hasbro Star Wars Black Speeder Bike (with Trooper) is they best thing they've done so far in this series, regardless of the year. While the overall line has been a real roller coaster in quality, this was one vehicle they got right.


Worst Vehicle or Playset
I didn't see a ton of crap in this category either, but there's a couple things I'd like to get off my chest.

Kids love vehicles, so it's not all that surprising that toy manufacturers make them for action figures where it really doesn't make sense.  It bugs me on an intellectual level, but I get the market driver. But when you combine a vehicle designed for a character that really doesn't need it, and make that vehicle as crappy as the action figure, then you're going to get called on it. My second place entry is exactly that - a car for Iron Man (Iron Man? Tony Stark, sure, but why would I put on the Iron Man suit to drive somewhere?) that's part of the aforementioned God awful Hasbro Titans series.  Useless meet ugly. Please don't reproduce.

But in my top spot is the entire Planes line from Mattel. While the movies (hard to believe there were two) were pretty weak, the vehicles themselves aren't bad. But they dumped so many on the market so fast, nobody was going to bite. And now they suck up far more peg space then they truly deserve.


Best Statue

This was one of the toughest categories for me this year, because there are several really, really worthy statues that could take the top spot.

The one in third is a statue that's already gotten one of my previous 'bests' - the Batman Black and White Harley. That paint job is what really makes her outstanding, which is why she was my pick for the Eddie Wires award. Overall, she doesn't quite take the top spot in this category though, because I wasn't ecstatic about the smoke piece curling out of the gun. Third place is a perfect spot for her, however.

Second place goes to one of the cool Premium Format statues from Sideshow. They had a number of great releases in 2014, including Black Widow, Hellboy, and Harley, but it's their comic based, older Superman that I think really stands out. If you've ever wondered what 'shelf presence' means, check this guy out in person.

And the winner is - Herman Munster from Tweeterhead!  The longer I've had this statue, the more I've liked it, and I have to say that Tweeterhead is doing some amazing work. I have no doubt that the recently shipping Catwoman is going to be on the ballot for 2015.


Worst Statue
Lots of statues from lots of companies released in one year means lots of good choices in the 'best' category, but it also means that finding 'worsts' is a lot easier. Still, this year I'm only putting two on my list to get a lump of coal.

Second place goes to the Batman Black and White Earth 2 Batman by DC Collectibles. The pose doesn't work for me, I've never been a fan of the costume, the paint quality was below average, and he's even a bit on the small side when compared with other statues in the line.

In my top spot here is a statue that I know a lot of people liked, but I certainly didn't. It's the Black Canary figure in the Bombshells line from DC Collectibles. Generally, I love these statues, and I'm really looking forward to the Lois Lane, Hawkgirl and Batwoman they've announced and shown. But what I love about them is that they are superheroes done up as though it was the 1940's, and someone had put them on the side of a bomber plane. For me, they should be superhero first, pin-up second.  When I look at one, all by itself with no others around it, I should still be able to immediately know what character it's supposed to be.

And that's not the case with Black Canary. She's very pretty, and I get the canary power turned into lounge singer angle. But there's absolutely nothing 'heroic' about her, nothing to imply the comic book side. It doesn't help that her paint work was weak as well, and for all that, she lands at the top of my naughty list.


Best Bust

I haven't been buying as many busts this last year, but I think that's due in part to an overall drop in the number being produced. There was a time when every license was getting a series of busts from someone - now, it's a lot more hit or miss.

In the third place spot is going to the Gentle Giant bust of Azog, from the Hobbit series. This is an unusual situation, because I really don't like the character. He was particularly bad in the final movie, where he appeared to look completely different than in the previous two films. But Gentle Giant did a terrific job with the pose and detailing on this bust, finding a way to transcend the weak on screen CGI performance.

Taking second is a very cool Legendary Scale bust from Sideshow - the Alien Big Chap! This is one sweet bust, if you have the money and space to accommodate it. And it's not even full scale!

My top pick goes to the life size bust from Pop Culture Shock of Scorpion! Pop Culture Shock is doing their fair share of cool life size busts, and if you're a Mortal Kombat fan, this one is a treasure. I love the light up eyes, and the overall size and sharp detailing make it truly impressive in any collection.


Worst Bust
I didn't see a lot of really bad busts this year, but there's one series that does stand out. Normally I try to avoid picking the same item for more than one category, but I can't help it when it comes to this one. DST did some great stuff in 2014, but the 1966 Batman line of busts wasn't one of them. I'm putting poor Batman here as my top choice, thanks to a sculpt that looks little like Adam West, and a truly horrible paint job to match. Remember, these are the actual resin busts, not the  much better bust-banks.


Best Designer/Vinyl

Once upon a time, I collected in this area, at least a little. A Mighty Muggs here, a unique designer figure that caught my eye there. But I don't think I bought a single one in 2014, leaving me to base my picks on what I've seen at shows.

Obviously, Funko is dominating in this area right now. They have the 'beanie baby' concept down and rolling with their Pop! line, hitting every known license and a few unknown. It's leading to great success right now - whether they can keep that rolling is to be seen. What they have to their advantage is the licensing angle. Unlike beanie babies, which were their own thing, independent of other concepts, and therefore lived and died merely on their own strength, Pop! vinyl figures can stay afloat by making specific fans of specific lines happy, and not require them to 'collect them all'. It's better for Funko when you do, but it's not necessary.

Funko takes my third place spot with their 'dead face' Gus Fring from Breaking Bad. This was cool because it was so gross - not an angle that they usually go for, outside of the occasional zombie. It helps that the license is another of my favorites, and the character one of the best on the show. It also helps that unlike their many other normal human figures, this one has something that really makes him distinct and recognizable.

My second place spot is going to Splinter from the Loyal Subjects line of TMNT figures. While I'm picking Splinter, the entire line is a winner with some very, very cool designs. You can find these at Toys R Us too, another big plus.

My winner is an odd one, but one I really, really like - the Judge Dredd Cosplay Penguin from Blind Mouse Toys. He is exactly what it sounds like, a penguin that's dressed up like Judge Dredd. I love the penguin design, and there's tremendous potential here.  They already did a Stargate Jaffa version, with DC characters to come.

Worst Designer/Vinyl

Once again, I'm not going to pick on anyone in this category for 2014 - the quality is generally there, and then it just becomes a matter of taste.

Best Prop Replica
It didn't seem like the prop replicas hit quite as hard this year as they did last, with fewer great ones to choose from. But there were a few standouts, at least for me.

Third place goes to Mezco's pink Teddy Bear from Breaking Bad. I've been meaning to review this guy, and will hopefully get to it soon. It's a reasonable price, comes from a great show, and is a decent reproduction of what was seen on screen. I like it when companies produce cheaper replicas, allowing people that don't have hundreds of dollars to blow the chance to own something from their favorite show or movie. This is the perfect example, and it can even do double duty by comforting your child at night. Hey, it's better than Chucky.

In second, I'm taking the Batman Returns cowl from Hollywood Collectibles. I haven't bought one yet, but I'm really, really tempted. I saw it in person at SDCC last summer, and I have to say that the temptation to buy is getting overwhelming. It looks great, and would be a centerpiece for any Batman collection.

And the big winner? For me, it was a purchase i made early in the year, from Valyrian Steel. They've been doing a great job with the Game of Thrones replicas, and had several strong contenders this year, including the Hound's Helm. But I'm going with their Long Claw, the sword of Jon Snow, based on the look in the television show. It looks terrific on the wall, is very well made, and is priced right.

Worst Prop Replica
I didn't have any awful replicas this year, but there were a couple that missed the mark by *that* much.

One of those is the Monkey Brains bowl, based on the Temple of Doom. It's not terrible, but was about 20% too small. Such a minor thing, so easy to correct, and you would have had a much, much better replica. I know they weren't really trying to be a perfect replica, but that slight increase in size would have made such a positive impact on the overall look.

But my big disappointment is due to my love for this particular license. Mattel has done a nice job with most of their Batman 1966 items, especially the belt and batarang from last year. But this year they released the 1966 Batman cowl, and it was an easy pass for me. While I'm fine with the overall look of the materials and construction, those damn high arched eyebrows, in the bright color, just throw it all off. I may still end up buying it if it hits a decent sale price, but what could have been a fantastic item ended up less than desirable, even for a Batfan like me.

Best Block Figures/Building Sets
We switched up this category for the Poppies and People's Picks this year, expanding it to lines or series, rather than just companies. That means instead of voting for Lego vs. MegaBloks, you were voting for specific lines from each company.

I know a lot of collector's, that if faced with the decision of only being able to collect one thing, would go with building sets and their block figures. It's no wonder too, what with the amazing work Lego has done over the last decade, along with a number of new comers.

My third place spot is going to one of those new comers. Sort of - MegaBloks has been around for awhile, just not decades like Lego.  They've done some pretty cool licensed products recently, including Call of Duty and Assasin's Creed. But I love the goofy nature of their Spongebob series, a show that's never really gotten any great toys or collectibles before. Who doesn't love a photo booth time machine?

My second place choice comes from the masters at Lego, and it's in support of their terrific Lego Movie. The sets they put together for this in-house license are outstanding, covering all the key scenes and characters.  They also allow for using them in multiple ways, and promote going your own creative way, always a huge plus.

But my top spot is once again ruled by my personal love for a particular license. Lego decided to do the Simpsons in 2014, but sadly, didn't do enough. They did a wave of block figures, as well as the Simpsons House, but that's been it so far. C'mon, Lego, we need some more Springfield!

Worst Block Figure

It's hard to say that any building set line is a worst - any block figure or building set is a good block figure or building set. But I do have one that just puzzles me, although I have to admit that I didn't pick any of them up.

It's the McFarlane Walking Dead building sets.  Sort of like traditional building sets, but not really, I'm not quite sure who these are designed for. It's kind of like army men meets Lego meets Walking Dead, and for me, it doesn't really work on any level.


Best Misc

It seems odd, but the same sort of collectible wins for me again this year...

Let's start out with third place, which goes to the giant sized TMNT figures from Jakks. C'mon, admit it - you really wanted to buy one of these. In a few years, collectors will be scouring garage sales looking for one, trust me.

In second place, I'm going with the collector's edition of Titanfall. I'm thinking we might need a new category for this sort of video game release. There's a statue, hardcover art book, a poster, and of course, the game. But it's that 18" light up statue that really sets this apart, and this kind of mega-release with included collectibles is becoming more the norm.

Last year my winner was a blu-ray case (Walking Dead floating heads), and this year the blu-ray cases repeat. This time around it's for the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes release, and instead of a bunch of heads, it's just one - Caeser's! The Caesar bust case by Weta might be a little small, but the detailing and paint work are exceptional. He looks fantastic on the shelf, and is well worth the money, particularly if you picked it up at Costco where it was around $80, including two blu-rays.

Worst Misc

Let's end on a positive note this year, and skip the worst misc stuff. There isn't anything that screams 'suck' to me, and we all need a little more positivity in the world anyway.


That's it for my picks, both best and worst. 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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