Figures.com Reporter/ Reviewer
My name is Scott Rubin, and I love toys! As you’ll see from my list of 2012 favorites, my taste in toys is pretty eclectic. And unlike some other collectors I get a lot of my enjoyment from mass market toys generally thought of as being for “kids.” When I’m not at my boring day job you’ll generally find me in the toy aisles, playing HeroClix, or working on my Figures.com reviews.
In no particular order:
#10 - BANDAI S.H. MONSTER ARTS GODZILLA - Bandai has created tons of Godzilla toys over the years, but every so often they come up with something truly original. The S.H. MonsterArts line takes the kaiju of the Godzilla movies, shrinks them down to about a 6 inch scale, and loads them up with unprecedented articulation and even accessories! If it wasn’t for the not insignificant price tag I might be tempted to say that these are the perfect Godzilla figures. This year saw the line expand to include multiple monsters, but the real highlight was the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive “Explosion” Godzilla (check out my review HERE). Combining the amazing sculpt of the original figure with a new partly translucent radioactive color scheme, this “Big G” is a great addition to my Godzilla collection and makes me really excited for the upcoming “Burning” version.
#9 - KOTOBUKIYA X-FORCE ARCHANGEL FINE ART STATUE (Read my review HERE!) - By far the biggest and most expensive item on my 2012 list, this statue captures one of my favorite Marvel superheroes. There was a long stretch when Archangel toys and statues were few and far between, but that changed recently with his stint in the hugely popular X-Force and subsequent Uncanny X-Force. Kotobukiya captured the mutant’s huge metal wings and spiffy black and silver uniform perfectly in one of his most iconic poses, and I dare say that this is the best looking X-Force Archangel product to date. The rest of the line (X-23, Warpath, Deadpool, and Wolverine) aren’t shabby either.
#8 - WIZKIDS STAR TREK HEROCLIX TACTICS (Read my review HERE!) - I love spaceships - big space ships, little spaceships, and everything in between. Spaceship toys come and go in popularity, and there really hasn’t been a widely available small-scale ship line since Hasbro folded the Titanium series a few years ago. That changed early this year when WizKids’ HeroClix game (usually featuring superheroes) expanded to include Star Trek ships! Federation and Klingon vessels bigger than the old Micro Machines at around 2 inches long, the Tactics ships cover all eras of Trek and feature great sculpts and painted details. And besides great display pieces, they’re also fully playable HeroClix figures and a lot of fun. Look for a whole new set of Tactics ships (including Romulans, Vulcans, Cardassians, Ferengi, and the Dominion!) coming out in a couple months.
#7 - DC COLLECTIBLES 3 ¾" SUPERHEROES - When it comes to action figures, 3 ¾ inch has been my go-to scale since I was a kid. This year at SDCC and then NYCC DC Collectibles came through in a huge way for me with the perfect storm of “my” scale and characters from my favorite comic books, Green Lantern! First Kilowog and Kyle Rayner (review HERE) and then John Stewart and Atrocitus (review HERE), this series is hitting the greats from the multi-colored Lantern universe in great, easy to collect and display figures. Even better, these guys have great sculpts and solid articulation, something sorely lacking in previous DC 3 ¾ inch figures from other companies... A bit of a test run, it’s uncertain exactly how this line will proceed in the future, but I’m really hoping they’ll get to all of the prototypes displayed at SDCC 2012 whether they’re all convention exclusives or not.
#6 KUSO VINYL THUNDERCRAPS - While I like a lot of different kinds of toys, I don’t generally buy a lot of “art toys” unless I find something that really grabs me. When I saw Kuso Vinyl’s first two Thundercraps last year at Comic-Con I immediately picked them up and hoped that the line would continue, and I wasn’t disappointed. At Anime Expo 2012 they released a cool new boxed set with new color palettes for the original two and a brand new Thundercrap (read my review HERE). As you can probably tell from the name, these figures are send-ups of Thundercats designed by artist Robobox utilizing the Spiki figure as their base. Whenever I look at mine I get a kick out of the classic Thundercats-inspired designs and their cute little cat faces. The back of the 2012 boxed set showed art depicting more Thundercraps characters, so hopefully the line will continue!
#5 - PLAYMATES TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ANIMATED SERIES - Nickelodeon Animated Series (Read a review HERE!) - A figure line you’re probably seeing on a lot of “Top” lists for 2012, the Animated series takes the turtles you loved as a kid and makes them, well, awesome. If you’re really nostalgic you can go with Playmates’ “Classic Collection,” but I’m really digging these rough and tumble versions. Each turtle has unique sculpt elements including individual heads and each one is a different shade of green, which is pretty cool. They have lots of articulation and plenty of gear in addition to their signature weapons, and they’re even in scale with the vintage toy line. Best of all? Raphael, clearly the coolest turtle and my favorite, just looks totally badass!
#4 - HASBRO TRANSFORMERS CYBERVERSE - While big, complicated Transformers are still as popular as ever, Hasbro has been making a big push toward improving its small-scale robots in disguise with the result being Cyberverse. Sort of akin to the 3 ¾ inch scale for Transformers, Cyberverse toys are around 2 to 4 inches tall in robot mode and turn into compact little vehicles. The toy line crosses over “universes” with Prime and Dark of the Moon, and it features several different classes of Transformers from the tiniest Legion toys to the larger Commander Class, the Action Set with transforming bases, large Your World vehicles, and the enormous Battle Suits. For all of us with space considerations, the Cyberverse vehicles are a welcome addition to the Transformers universe with all of your favorite characters and the designs you’re accustomed to, just smaller!
#3 - WIZKIDS HEROCLIX - For anyone who follows my reviews, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of the game HeroClix. 2012 was the 10th anniversary of the game, and WizKids really went all out with three full size expansion sets, more than a half dozen smaller sets, the conclusion of the Infinity Gauntlet series, the start of the No Man’s Land series, the return of Colossal figures, the introduction of vehicles, and much more. HeroClix figures are awesome for collecting, with thousands of great miniature DC and Marvel (and other licenses too) characters in action poses. My favorite releases this year were probably the colossal figures in the Chaos War set featuring Galactus, the New 52 Justice League set bringing many of the current characters to plastic form for the first time, and the two “10th Anniversary” sets celebrating classic figures with some of the best sculpts in the game.
#2 - JAKKS PACIFIC WINX CLUB BELIEVIX COLLECTION - Remember when I said my tastes ran to the eclectic? Well one of the cartoons I enjoy is Winx Club, and Jakks Pacific this year released some really high quality figures for it in about a 4 inch scale called the Believix Collection. The girls are available in both their civilian outfits and their fairy forms, (in both singles and multi-packs), and different versions come with different formations of their fairy wings. The girls of Alfea may be cute, but don’t let their cheerful looks fool you; these are action figures, not dolls. They’ve got good distinctive sculpts, solid articulation and poseability with ball joints, and even accessories! Plus, the wings are all removable and interchangeable, so you can mix and match for different display options. We may not be as numerous as the Bronies, but those of us who like Winx Club have excellent figure options.
#1 - DC COLLECTIBLES NEW 52 JUSTIC LEAGUE - The relaunch of the DC Comics universe was a pretty big deal, and since it was spearheaded by the Justice League it was only natural that the “Big 7” get the first action figure treatment from DC Collectibles. The resulting 6 inch figures, released incrementally throughout the year, capture the characters’ new looks as rendered by Jim Lee and marry that to the quality DC Direct has passed on to DC Collectibles. Naturally my favorite of the line was Green Lantern (read my review HERE), but they’re all solid action figures with superb sculpts and detailed paint jobs.
* Hasbro Marvel Universe - It’s got superheroes in 3 ¾ inch scale, so you know I’m there. This year I felt like the MU was a lot more of the same, but there were some cool highlights like Beta Ray Bill and the X-Factor set featuring the new Angel sculpt.
* LEGO - I’ve always been a fan of LEGOs, and the sets they’re producing are better than ever with a huge range of licenses. This year saw some incredible Star Wars sets like Palpatine’s Arrest, while DC AND Marvel joined the brick giant featuring Avengers and Batman. Their stable also includes Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, the neat Monster Fighters, and all the rest, plus the Friends line for girls.
#10 - HASBRO STAR WARS JAR JAR BINKS IN CARBONITE - I know what you’re thinking: “How on Earth did Jar Jar Binks make the top 10?!” Simply put, this is a figure I never expected to see the light of day. Ever. The actual Jar Jar in Carbonite piece is hanging on the walls of Industrial Light & Magic and even makes a brief cameo in the new version of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at the Disney Parks. Having this made into official Star Wars plastic as this year’s San Diego Comic-Con exclusive (along with six other figures) makes it one of my favorite exclusives of the year. The Carbonite block can separate so your new “Vintage” style Jar Jar Binks figure can be released from the cold prison just like Han Solo was.
#9 - HASBRO STAR WARS EWOK PACK – The second most hated species of the Star Wars Universe are the Ewoks and they make my #9 spot because I happen to love them! But what really makes this Toys’R’Us exclusive mega cool is that you get five of these fuzzy guys (and gal) and a few extra hoods for the option to customize your ranks if you chose to do so. The Ewok Pack includes four never before released Ewoks to build your ranks: Flitchee, Nanta, Kneesaa, Tippet; and a new sculpt of Teebo.
#8 - HASBRO STAR WARS BUILD-A-DROID FACTORY – A few months ago in a state very, very far away (Florida), the ability to customize your own Astromech Droid was made a reality at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Using repainted Hasbro build-a-droid parts, Disney stumbled upon a goldmine that wasn’t too far off from their successful Build-A-Lightsaber booth. Kids and collectors alike go down the line, picking out the colors and dome types they want and finally topping it off with Mouse Ears, Goofy Ears, Yoda Ears, or even a Jack Sparrow Pirate hat if they fancy. A sticker sheet with letters and numbers allow you to name your own droid on resealable packaging. The variations are seemingly endless and fun… but expensive! Building one droid will set you back $11.95 while buying a pair is a better deal at $19.95. So far, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the only location you can Build-A-Droid but I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually hits California.
#7 - DIAMOND SELECT MINIMATES KITT & MICHAEL KNIGHT - An almost forgotten piece since it was released earlier this year, Minimates K.I.T.T. and Michael Knight are my #7 for no better reason than that it’s pure simplistic fun. Now if I could only find someone with small enough fingers to apply these decals.
#6 - MEDICOM RUNAWAY BRAIN MICKEY MOUSE – Runaway Brain is a long forgotten theatrically released short cartoon starring Mickey Mouse that was also nominated for an Oscar. Add on the fact that Disney wasn’t very eager to release everything in their library immediately made this a very popular and hard to find cult favorite (you can now find it on various released VHS and DVD formats). Collecting anything Runaway Brain related also proved a challenge in the states but thanks to our Japanese toy makers at Medicom, we now have two Miracle Action Figures: One of standard Mickey Mouse and the second of Mickey Mouse with a brain transplant. Wonderfully sculpted and articulated, these are the ultimate figures for the Disney and Mickey Mouse fan but will cost a pretty penny, at least $30 each.
#5 - HASBRO TRANSFORMERS MASTERPIECE OPTIMUS PRIME – Whenever there are Masterpiece Transformers released, at least one needs to make the top 10 list. This year Toys’R’Us released both Masterpiece Thundercracker (new mold) and Masterpiece Optimus Prime. Both are wonderful toys but Optimus Prime might be the more essential of the two. If you picked up the initial Masterpiece Optimus, you might be wondering whether this smaller version warrants a purchase or not. For me personally, I could not deny the nostalgic magic that an entire Optimus Prime complete with trailer brings. Originally released as MP-10 in Japan, the brand new Optimus Prime comes with his trailer / battle station, Roller, and Spike! The transformation differs slightly than MP-1 but manages to work great in both modes. Smaller Optimus isn’t what I’d consider the most accurate version to the cartoon but it is the better scaled Optimus we’ve seen so far and an absolute must have.
#4 - HOT TOYS TRON: LEGACY SAM FLYNN WITH LIGHT CYCLE – There have been a slew of amazing Hot Toys releases this year and if I had the money, this entire list would be filled with nothing BUT Hot Toys! But there was one item in particular that shined a bit brighter for me and that was Sam Flynn with Light Cycle. Being a fan of an underappreciated film isn’t easy, nor is finding merchandise, so when this beauty from Tron: Legacy finally shipped, I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. While I discounted the head sculpt for being a tiny bit off, the overall aesthetic with the light up suit and bike make for an incredible display.
#3 - MATTEL BACK TO THE FUTURE PART 2 HOVERBOARD – Despite all the controversy surrounding this Mattycollector exclusive; including Back to the Future scribe Bob Gale apologizing to his fans for supporting such a disappointing product, I couldn’t help but enjoy the piece nonetheless. It’s far from perfect and it is incredibly expensive but at the end of the day, it’s a great looking replica of the Hover Board seen in Back to the Future Part II. This is a toy that every kid from the 80s wanted with all their heart and for the most part, it’s finally here. While it doesn’t hover, it does make swishing sounds when moved about. A Mini Hoverboard for your 6” scale action figures is also included as a bonus. It’s too big for your DC Universe Classics but might be better suited for the Masters of the Universe Classics figures. The prop replicas of Ghostbusters are all great too but nothing makes an impact like a Hoverboard does.
#2 - MATTEL VOLTRON – Making a splash this year in a very big way was Mattycollector’s Voltron collection. Each lion and their respective pilots were released one at a time but when finally complete and combined, there is no question how impressive the final result is. Standing at 23” tall, Voltron is a force to be reckoned with in your toy collection along with the 3 ¾” scale pilots and interchangeable heads. This version of Voltron is no doubt riddled with flaws and problems and by no means is it perfect, but it’s definitely something I’ll have on display for a long time to come.
#1 - PLAYMATES TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES CLASSIC – And the number 1 spot for me this year goes to the TMNT Classics figures. Playmates really delivered some amazing new product here that is unlike anything they’ve produced in the past. The entire gang is here: Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo; complete with their signature ninja weapons and a manhole display stand. What Ban Dai attempted at with their Thundercats line, Playmates delivered in spades. The turtles are my number one favorite toys of 2012.