Hello and Welcome back.
It's that time of year again, time to roll down my favorites from 1:18th (3 & 3/4 inch) scale of the past year.
Normally I tend to save most of my editorializing for the actual list but I felt this year there was a need for an explanation of the picture above. In case you have never caught the pattern in previous years I generally try to put in as many figures from the past year into the shot as possible. This year has been just horrid to put it mildly. I think my tally's of figures would be around 43 total new figures made this year added to my collection. Not that I am saying I didn't buy a great many figures but to be blunt the choices offered this year were less than stellar. The year began with the Avengers line which as we all know sliced back articulation. In addition to the cuts though there was a huge amount of "already done" figures which simply had no appeal to me whatsoever. Why buy another Cap, Thor, or Iron Man when I just got better versions over the past two years from their own prospective movies. Marvel Universe was shoved to the back burner to put it mildly (only two waves this year) and we all know the GI Joe line went into another hiatus due to the delay of Retaliation so Hasbro in it's infinite wisdom choose to say "Look, here's what we had on tap until the Retaliation move" which only served to agitate the loss of the 30th line for me (and other fans). Spider-Man showed some promise that quickly dashed away with rehashing all the villains done in previous lines as well as a ton more of , you guessed it, Spider-Man. Star Wars looked great until the ever present distribution problems hit once more. I barely saw anything past the Episode 1 wave (with some exceptions I will note later). DC Direct changed their name and offered up some interesting 1:18th choices however the fact they were con exclusives made getting them a bit tough. BUT not nearly as tough as other con exclusives that simply INFURIATED fans like Jinx, The Masters of Evil, ect. At least DC did have open options for some time (and not just an hour like Hasbro). I'm sure Hasbro apologists are reading of thier list of pre-made excuses now, not to be rude but I can only think of one thing to say to each and every one of those excuses-"Shut the F--- up!"
BASIC marketing says you don't want to piss off your main audience. Of course the apologists have claimed we adults are NOT the main audience for years, clearly this has been fueled by Hasbro itself. This was evidenced by the new head of Marvel who stated that he never knew there were so many adult fans and that only kids bought MU even though most of the distribution is going to comic shops and adult markets. I mean can we please get some folks in there that actually look at who they are dealing with.
Even still, the idea that loss of quality is going to increase the profit margin is one that has NEVER WORKED and has often been the downfall of many a company. I mean can anyone show an example of lowering quality working out for someone? Raising prices (annoying as it is) doesn't seem to bring down companies until the breaking point is reached (Which for 1:18th figures seems to be around $10 with some exceptions). Even still the lame explanations of why prices keep going up have all but been disproven (From plastics going up when in actuality the prices are going down to losing articulation points). It's gotten to the point Hasbro quit trying to explain it because often (in this information age) someone could find an explanation counter to what was just said (well because we just got an excuse not a reason).
Of course there are alternatives like the GI Joe Collectors Club which uses stone age computers, marketing techniques that ignore any and all responsibility and place it right back on the customer for any incidents that occur, and price tags ripped from the future. Let's move on ;-).
I guess what I am saying here is much of my resources were spent catching up to previous years that I had missed. Iron Man and Thor showed up at TJ Maxx and other secondary closeout stores. The end of the year we saw Avengers (Cap, Thor, Iron Man) and Star Wars Clone Wars figures that had hit some distribution problems end up in gift packs on the cheap in Wal-Mart (Where I finally acquired gems I had been seeking years before like Zombie Geonoshian, CW Quinlin Vos, ect. ect). It boggles my mind to think that with everything ending up in closeout and clearance that Hasbro thinks things are perfectly fine.
And while most of what I have just said relates to Hasbro, there are still other companies of course. But in fairness Hasbro does cover a vast majority of my interests (Star Wars, GI Joe, Marvel). However the choices on them do seem limited. At this point I still haven't gotten all the Hobbit figures I want (but I got the "Must Haves" at this point), Mortal Kombat is a bit sporadic (Still looking for Rayden), I'm still not certain if the Hanna Barbara line fits with 1:18th scale (Hearing several different stories, but also not found a fig I am interested enough in to do a comparison), MIB III figures were a bit hard for me to get (As the nearest TRU and Targets are over an hour away and when I was able to go to them the main characters of Jay and Kay were not available). Mattel clearly never learned it's mistake from the Green Lantern line and gave us a HORRIBLE Batman line this year too. I suppose to save money they simply cut back character selection. But Matty should be praised for also giving us what I consider the absolute worst 1:18th figure in modern times: Bane.
To say I find the above somewhat annoying would be an understatement. Truthfully the more we look at 2013 the more uptight I get too. The rumors are flying that this might be the last year for Marvel Universe. The promise of Iron Man 3 is becoming dashed as 5 points of articulation figures are being shown left and right, I still hope these are just Dollar Store versions or Drivers, but I can't help but wonder why reveal these figures early without anything cool. My hopes for a final battle Whiplash are being slowly killed the more we see from Ebay and official Hasbro stuff though. Star Wars already seems bland, a few winners but overall a strong sence of "Well, been there done that." GI Joe holds some promise once you wade through the endless rehashes of Snake Eyes, Duke and Storm Shadow (But I'm sure they won't clog the pegs [/sarcasm]).
At most of the year it looked like I would only be able to put out a top 30 list. The combination of distribution and all around bad choices made thinks ultra difficult this year. In years past I had struggled to keep the number of choices within the numbers I had set. This year was the exact opposite and I actually struggled with extending the choices up to 40.
I really hope something changes in the next bit or by Toyfair, but as it stands now I have doubts of having even a top 20 for next year. I could be wrong, hell I hope I am wrong. But last year I was worried and it turned out to be something. If this trend continues the Action Figure will die off much like many trends in collectables.
Now let me take a moment to run down my criteria since many times readers seem a bit confused on what it is I am doing here. This is (generally) how I pick the members of THE LIST:
#1 Character-Probably the most important thing to my choices. I love characters and generally want new characters to add to my collection roster. This is one of the major reasons characters like Duke never make the list, I am sick of his character and the dozens and dozens of versions of him. Lots of characters fall into the "I simply don't like them" category which automatically gets them excluded from my favorites. Basically I have to like the representation before I can even get any further. Sure there are exceptions and some less than stellar figures might make it into my favorites list just on character alone. Something to keep in mind while reading.
#2 Esthetics and "Feel"-Probably only slightly lesser in my mind is the esthetics of the figure itself. How does it look, is it a GREAT figure, ect. There is a whole package I look at and not just one like articulation or paint. In order to win out on the character part above, the esthetics must be pretty good. A prime example would be POC wave 3 Snake Eyes.
#3 Functionality-This is where I think some people get confused. Not all characters need to be overloaded with articulation. For example, you will never see Spock pulling off ninja moves. The combat as presented in Star Trek is very different than a martial arts film, thus I can be forgiving on some lack of articulation there (to a point at least). However, no way will a modern figure with articulation of a vintage Star Wars figure ever reach my list (HINT!). While I'm not a hound to articulation there are some basics I insist on with modern figures (Knees and elbows for instance).
#4 Concept-Why does this figure exist? If it's just to have another Snake Eyes, Duke, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Wolverine, ect on the shelf I will probably pass on it, but that doesn't mean I totally ignore those characters. However if there is a reason (Vast Improvements on old designs or a different look the the character) I am more inclined to get it. Sometimes new versions of old characters do catch my eye as well.
#5 How can I use this?-So sometimes I buy a figure JUST to use it in my Photo-webcomic Scale Wars (Shameless Plug) and sometimes a figure gets my attention JUST for that reason and ends up being a favorite because I can get some fun stuff out of it, even when the figure doesn't meet any of the above criteria. This, more than anything, probably can trump any of the above criteria. Sometimes figures make me smile JUST for the ideas they give me. No, I don't just let these bad boys rest on a shelf in a pose, I use them. To me that counts for a great deal as well.
I could simply run down the year like a reporter but honestly I find most times things like that are a waste of my and your time. Instead let me repeat what the purpose is here.
First and foremost, this list is my opinion, the list is called "Zed's Favorite" for a reason, it is my favorites of the last year. I am not claiming to be some toy guru who is wiser than the masses and dictates what is good or bad. I get no "freebees" and have no quota for each company to have certain numbers of figures from certain lines in the list. The fact is no one person can state that kind of opinion for everyone no matter how hard they try. I state what works for me. The first thing is that people will probably disagree with me, and that is cool, as long as no on tries to say what "My Favorites" should be (and on the internet people tend to do just that). Every year I debate taking that last statement out, but am quickly reminded of why I put it in there. Each year someone (or sometimes a group of someone's) try to tell me my favorites are not my favorites because they somehow believe they know what I should and should not like. Again this is me, I do this for love of the game not some kind of ego boost. I share this with everyone because many honestly enjoy it.
This is not as solid as a review or countdown, its me having fun with my collection and reminiscing over the past year and the ups and downs. This is a list of my favorite figures, the ones I went out of my way to find, the ones that made me think "I have to have that one" when they were previewed, the ones that just screamed at me and when I got them continued to give me a great deal of satisfaction. This is my opinions, thoughts, feelings and ideas about what has happened in 1:18th scale over the past year.
Now I said opinions, yep its very opinionated as are any reviews you read online or view in videos. Truth is any time you say "This is a good _____" or "This is a bad_____" its an opinion. The Federal Trade Commission has said a great deal this year about bloggers and free items they receive to act like "the average Joe" and say positive things about their products. Not me, I have said every year and I reiterate that I am not some toy guru who claims to have secret knowledge nor does any company send me free products (wouldn't refuse them though ;-), but I wouldn't change my opinions either so the point is moot ).
Another point is I limited the list to figures I actually have been able to acquire (Thus and SDCC Jinx and Marvel Universe Masters of Evil are automatically not on the list simply because I was unable to acquire them). I am not affiliated with a news source nor do I receive "press" figures. Would like to, but nope I don't. Still the fact remains that I buy these toys and as such I only can claim to have first hand knowledge of the figures I have seen in hand. While I could do a least favorites list from those I have seen in the stores, I really felt that was counterproductive (besides I launch enough criticisms in this list to cover that as well). But it would also only be fair to look at figures I can actually look at. There is also a question of what I can afford (married with kids does cause one to be on a budget, thus I don't spend all my money acquiring toys I don't like, on purpose anyway). Also there is the idea that desire would make the figure rank higher, which makes sense when you think about it so why go there. Thanos would be a prime example of this, I wanted to put his single carded release on the list a few years ago but I couldn't get a hold of him until much later. Thus he didn't make the list, but would have if I had gotten him sooner.
This year, as last year, I knew I was going to do this so as the year progressed and new figures were released I would mark them down on my list. The list itself went through many changes and was not finalized until the year had passed (on Dec 31). After that if I acquired a figure from 2012 it just didn't make the list. Sorry I have to have a cut off point.
Last year the list was 50, truth is there was just too much great stuff last year. This year is the exact opposite as I explained above. In fact I will be honest some of the figures that made the list are somewhat mediocre to say the least. That's not to say I don't like them but to say in a year similar to 2011 they would have never made the list despite making it into my collection.
I avoided repaints and rehashes, The Star Wars Saga Legends and parts of the Vintage lines are very important note here. The whole line is repaints and while I appreciate the chance to grab some figures I missed I felt it would be unfair to the new figures released this year.
Of course its the same relative format, a huge pic doctored in Photoshop and a write up of what I think of the figure, character, and how it relates to my little universe that I affectionately call "Scale Wars" (Shameless plug for my photo webcomic) as well as to me. But as I found with last years list things come out I am not expecting, memories, ideas and even changing my mind once in a while. Still what this is about is a 30 something guy who still refuses to let go of his childhood and who also loves that part of his life and the reasons why he does. All set out into individual stories of individual outstanding figures that make this thing I call a hobby move forward.
At the end of all these descriptions I try my best to include the other reason I bought them. My creative focus has been to my comedic Diostory/Photo-novel/Photo-comic Scale Wars (Another shameless plug, just hit HOME to go there, updated MON, WED, & FRI). I decided that it might be insightful to people to see my thoughts on how these new figures and the characters themselves play into the universe as well as help with insights into why I might have purchased them. Half the time I see a figure and then come up with an idea to make it work in the Scale Wars world and thus buy it.
Another important topic is that this is about figures in the 1:18th (3 & 3/4 inch) scale exclusively. While I will never say a "Giant" figure will never make the list (meaning a figure in 1:18th scale meant to represent a larger character), in general this is about 3 & 3/4 inch figures. That scale is where I first was introduced as a child (with Adventure People, really showing my age there LOL) and it is the scale that holds my interest. Without naming names, a few years ago some, shall we say enthusiastic, fans got rather heated because they though certain 6 inch figures were better than what was on my list. While I hold nothing against the 6 inch scale or any other scale (and have quite a few figures in other scales) it is not the main scale that holds interest for me. Star Wars really hooked me into the scale a very long time ago and I don't think I will change that anytime soon. Sorry to everyone who is not interested in the "little guys" but again this is my thoughts and opinions (and my site so :-P LOL)
A few notes about last year's and this year's list (This is directed at toy companies) a major problem I had last year (and this year) was distribution. In fact if distrobution had been done a bit better I would guarantee the 50 figures would have been different indeed. Still what that means is some figs didn't make the list because I had to decide on a cut off point, the same rule applies here. So I am saying to Hasbro, Mattel, Playmates. Bandai ect, that first off this segment is very popular (I welcome them all to look at the stats) and if you want to make an impressive showing you need to get your stuff out. I am sure you look on things like this like free advertising, so yeah you need to put your best foot forward cause I am old fashioned and still shop at the stores (although I admit 2011 forced me to shop online more than I have ever done before in my life). Oh, I occasionally shop online but not to the degree of many people, my primary gains with toys are defiantly from brink and mortar stores. Just wanted to throw that out there (not, that I am sure, any toy company is even reading, but it was the best and most non-insulting, non-whiney way I could think of to bitch about the problem).
Tons of info to go over, sorry to ramble.
So with all that out of the way lets begin:
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