Sometimes a less than stellar figure gets a spot on the list just by the nature of what that Action Figure represents.  Such was the case with Old Spock from the Star Trek line a few years ago (a choice that ended up being very controversial at the time) and such is the cases with Gollum. 

Very few characters can illicit such a diverse response from an audience.  He is sympathetic, childlike, conniving, disgusting and much more in the course of a few moments.  

Gollum is a character that I despise and feel pity for at the same time.  He's sneaky and manipulative and yet it's hard not to feel pity for him.  Gollum is as much a victim as he is an aggressor.  He is driven to the point of madness due to his exposure to the ring of power.  While this point became slightly heavy handed in Lord of the Rings movies it still remains valid. 

For the figure itself, it would have ranked much higher if  someone had realized what articulation is.  While some might argue the figure is too small for any real articulation the fact that Bilbo has a level of articulation does kind of strike that argument down.  He's not bad at all but the lack of  articulation does kill a great mold.  Still it's Gollum, one of those characters I always wanted around and someone I want to have mess around with R2-D2, Short Round, Puck and Yoda.  It's a match made in some dark corner of comedy hell when one thinks about it.  


Up front I admit that this figure only made the list because there were so few good figures this year.  That isn't to say I hate it but I could easily see this figure being replaced by a multitude of other figures but this year being as it was those figures simply don't exist or I was unable to acquire them.  

Astute readers will notice right away that I have upgraded Shippy's accessories.   More on that turn of events in a moment.  

Shipwreck was probably one of the busiest Joes on the roster.  Let's face it, there were no other sailors in the entire force and he had to operate the Flagg, Tactical Battle Platform, occasionally the Whale, Devilfish, and any other water based craft.  Sure there were other water characters like Torpedo and Keel Haul but Shippy seemed more generalized to the Navy than those specialists.  

Of course this figure's accessory complement is kind of questionable.  He comes with one of those lame Renegades ray guns and scuba gear.  Now scuba gear for Shipwreck isn't a terrible idea, but the fact he is wearing a sweater, well, I let you fill in the blanks on that one.  I'm sure someone will say something about some water proof sweater the military developed way back and has never reached the open market or some such insanity.  Point is that even with some experimental rare fiber the look of the figure is odd just on an esthetic level.  

But the overall look, clearly based on the Spy Troops version of Shipwreck, is a cool one if you ignore the scuba gear.  The parts could have been put together a bit better but it does work.  There are enough flaws that I hesitate putting him any higher on the list.  The neck, the arms, and the torso do distract from the overall figure just enough to keep it from getting any higher.  


Once again a figure appears that probably wouldn't be on the list in a better year.

About two years ago I got a ton of flak for putting so many Iron Man figures on my favorites list.  Sorry, I love Iron Man, what can I say.  But at the time I said I probably would not put another Iron Man on the list.  Well we all knew there would be an exception eventually but I am just as surprised that it came from the Avengers line.  It really stinks that we have been told by Hasbro for so long that there had to be some big movie or something behind a toyline only to FINALLY get one of the biggest films ever and get a sub-par toyline from it.  Darn the arguments that the lack of articulation is more solid or kids don't care, compare the Mark VI from Iron Man 2's line to the Mark VI of the Avengers line and you see a world of difference.  I still think this is all a bad move.  After all when has a step down in quality ever worked out to be a good thing for the customer or the business who instigated it.  

  Still I wanted a Mark VII and this "Super articulated" as it was originally called now dubbed "Shatterblaster"  is the closest to being a good version as we are going to get (At least it has double knee joints unlike all the other Avengers figures).  This one would have ranked higher with wrist articulation, really don't know what you will miss until you don't have it. 

The lack of articulation does inhibit the ability to pose the figure.  Really after the IM2 line this is a letdown with no kind of body motion possible and no way to point the repulsors at would be Villains.  So one might be asking what the heck is he doing on a list of favorite figures of the year?  Well first off he is Iron Man and the Mark VII is a good representation of him overall.  Second, despite the huge gapping flaws in this figure it is a good one that does work beyond those flaws.  Granted almost anything in the IM2 line was ten times better but also note this one's ranking in the list.  Good but not at all great and it did receive some benefits of a bad year for action figures as well.  

What I love about Iron Man is he is sort of like James Bond only he makes his own gadgets and runs his own missions.  While characters like Spider-Man and Batman are intended to be relatable to the audience almost everything about Iron Man nearly alienates him.  The only women troubles he has is which girl to take to dinner that night and his "secret identity" is pretty much non-existent (although that wasn't always the case).  The point is that when I go to read for escape that is exactly what I try to do, escape.  I don't need Spidey's constant problems reminding me of my own nor do I need to rationalize Batman's quest for justice.  I need to get away into a fantastic realm where my issues and pains melt away to something else.  Thus, Iron Man was one of the first characters I followed in comics with any regularity and probably was one of the longest running characters I followed.  Granted I completely hate what has been done to his character since the beginning of Civil War (To me that storyline totally ruined him as a character), but as with all things I have those old stories to remind me of how cool Iron Man can be.  


Now we are getting to some figures I don't feel I need to justify as much as previous entries.   I'm not saying Nightwolf is a great figure but I am confident he would be somewhere on here even if the Action Figure situation had been different this past year.  

Back in the day there was this oddball question that was sort of like the modernized version of "Who do you like better: The Stones or The Beatles?"  Of course it was the age old question of do you like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter better.  Of course I always leaned to  MK, it was violent, over the top, and the characters held some form of variety to them verses the Street Fighter characters in my opinion.  The characters were colorful and stood out (at least until all the Ninjas became cloned).   Nightwolf stood out very prominently among those characters.  I'm not sure if there had ever been an Indian in a martial arts type game before but the nature of MK made him stand out in the crowd.  In a big way MK was kind of like Pro Wrestling which is also way over the top.

I really gravitated to certain MK characters and Nightwolf was one of them.  I have always had a bit of a fascination of Native American culture and such.  Many have said Nightwolf kind of becomes a bit of a stereotype, but then again most of the characters of MK fall into that category so in that respect he fit right in.  I do remember in MK being very disappointed in his move set.  Still I worked at it to make him win the tournament just because I liked him.  

The figure is pretty solid which is a great plus as he doesn't have any foot pegs.  I have mostly enjoyed the MK9 line thus far but with distribution being what it is I simply have been getting the figures very late.  This is one of the few times I have gotten one of the figures early (Of course being one of my favorites helps expedite matters).  


Cobra Commander, where would our bad guys be without him (Probably ruling the world).  While I passed on the Retaliation version of the Commander I couldn't pass on the Dollar General version which took one of my favorite molds (mostly) and painted it all black (verses the bright blue and yellow it was painted with originally).  

I have said more than once that I feel Cobra Commander simply looks better in black rather than blue.  This figure is another point that kind of backs up that statement.  My one gripe on this figure is that there could have been more detail with the paints.  The buttons and decor around the chest could use such detail work.  Still he is a cool looking figure overall.  

Cobra Commander had been portrayed in many ways, from buffoon to braggart, from ruthless to ridiculous.  Each incarnation makes him stick out and it seems everyone has an opinion on how and why he is the way he his and what that actually entails.  The Commander is probably only second to Snake Eyes in shear numbers of versions in figure form.  It seems that he is the second guy Hasbro insists must be done in any line of GI Joe.   The last several renditions have been somewhat weak in comparison to this back to basics approach to the Cobra Commander.  No fancy  new interpretations or weird visor masks, just simple regalia with a hood.  That is really all the Commander needs when you think about it.  

I really like this figure for his simplicity.  I just think the overwhelming "New" interpretations have gotten stale over the years with this character.  Granted the same thing over and over gets old too, just ask Snake Eyes.  Still after so much with weird half masks and such it's nice to see something basic once again.  

Add to the fact his accessories match great, a snake handled sword and a pistol is all the Commander needs to stand against the good guys and make their lives miserable.  Simple and easy, Hasbro should take notes from itself on this one.  Although with so many versions coming out one after another maybe too much basic could be too much too, just ask Snake Eyes.  


So I guess the reason they did this version of Ultimate Hawkeye is because the movie version looked so much like the regular Ultimate Version of him.  Still it was semi-nice to see some comic based characters among the Avengers line.  Of course it kind of stunk that the figures lacked articulation.  Nowhere does that stick out more than with Hawkeye.  If any character of the line from Avengers deserved a great deal of articulation it's probably Hawkeye.  Still it was a shock to see this figure at all in the line.   

Granted he needed a bow of his own and of course a better range of movement.  Still he works as a comic based character we never expected to see in action figure form.  Somehow this look reminds me of Ghost Bear from the GI Joe line.  It's probably the mask with the hair coming out the top of it.  

I keep thinking the Avengers line could have saved a ton of money by recycling Thor and Iron Man from the first film's toylines, after all there wasn't huge differences in the looks of the figures.  Then there would have been money for Cap, Hawkeye, ect.  Also an easy recycle could have been done with the unmasked Cap.  Then they could have afforded to give this and the other figures better articulation.  Eh, what do I know, I mean I just spend money on this stuff.  

I really bought this one just out of what I felt was obligation to complete the Ultimates.  I had Iron Man and Cap and this line gave me Thor.  Although I never asked for a Hawkeye he still felt like part of the crew and thus necessitated the purchase.  After I got the figure I had to admit I kind of liked it even though it wasn't a figure I was even realizing I wanted.  I suppose that is what happens in this hobby.  


I swear I think I am one of the few people who actually liked this guy.   When he came out in the spy troops line he was the first new Dreadnok since 1989 with Gnawgahyde.  

So I will freely admit that this figure (along with the rest of the Dreadnoks from the Dreadnok set) are only present due to interpretation. Technically these were part of the 2011 line but due to delays they weren't released until 2012 (January to be exact).  As such I chose to put them on my list this year since there was never a chance for them to on the list last year.  

Burnout was kind of refreshing to me in many ways.  He was a Dreadnok that didn't have a signature weapon and (to put it mildly) he looked to have an interesting ethnic background.  Even now his ethnicity is kind of questionable.  I mean is he black, Middle Eastern, he could even be Samoan or Rastafarian.  Whatever the case might be it does make him at least somewhat visually striking.  

I do which Hasbro had found a way to bring forward his barbed wire that he wore around his chest (Just a cool thing to me).  But even without it he is kind of a cool update from his old version.  Granted he could be much better if some more thought had gone into the figure though.  

Sadly he was handed a blowtorch simply due to his code name (did no one at Hasbro noticed that Torch kind of covered that area for the Dreadnoks already).  I think if his accessory complement had been better he would have been more well received.  At least he has a cool sawed off shotgun.  


Who is this guy?  I haven't the slightest clue still.  I know at some point I looked up his bio but it was so uninteresting that I completely forgot about it.  I do know I grabbed him just cause I thought he looked cool.  With so little of Star Wars reaching the shelves that actually became an option.  

I know he is related to the Vong which is also obvious from the fact that he shares the same staff as the comic pack version.  The hood doesn't sit nearly as cool as it did in the press pictures but it does work for the figure.  Like I said this figure was based purely on look.  

His look is very cool, medieval and yet futuristic.  He also manages to look like his armor is based on organics while still remaining technological.  It's a hard look to pull off but the designers did well by it.  


So have I mentioned how burned out on Spider-Man I am.  I mean how many Spider-Man figures does one need.  I can justify so many Iron Man figures as he has legitimately has many, many looks to him.  Spidey having too many looks feels forced to me.  So with that in mind what the heck is this figure doing on the list of my favorites (especially when you consider I'm not huge fan of Future Foundation too).  Yeah, this should be interesting, right.  

Still I like the look of the figure, in fact I like it much, much more than most of the pictures I have seen of FF Spidey for the comic.  The outfit looks like a reversed Venom costume with some futuristic (pun unintended there).  I admit his face kind of looks like an alien or something but it is still recognizable as Spider-Man.  

However this figure ranks so low just by who he is.  Let's face it, Hasbro has just given us too many Spideys in the past few years.  There is all the ones in Marvel Universe, his own line, now the movie line.  There are limits on every character and in truth Spidey has hit his limit a long time ago.  This has the novelty of being kind of new at least as the FF version has never been done.  I really wanted the bag head variant but was unable to find him (Probably what I will use my IM3 budget on now).  Still he isn't bad, just overdone.  Unlike Iron Man there are not that many more figures you can conceivably do for Spider-Man anymore.  They all have been done at least once (and often more than that).

I have to say though, as a character Marvel has screwed up Spidey royally.  They made him make a deal with Mephisto (basically Marvel's devil) which really spits in the face on any moral high ground he might have.  That was my turning point.  Now Marvel has went with a clone of Kraven's Last Hunt it seems (having Parker die and be replaced by is arch-nemesis, in this case Doc Ock).  Apparently the "death" has already been refuted according to some still reading Spidey (not that it was a surprise, but you would figure they might pretend or something).  Way to screw up your flag ship character there guys.  Gimmicks that are worn out and storylines that had played out 30 years ago with much more effectiveness.  


What's Thrasher without the Thunder Machine, well he is a bit less than with that's for sure.  

I always kind of figured Thrash was some sort of spoiled rich kid.  His original file card said he was raised in an Upper Middle Class family but I figured he was actually RICH and got everything he ever asked for.  I know the file card says that too, but I am talking borderline Richie Rich here.  I suppose it's the lacrosse stick.  I mean who plays lacrosse besides rich kids?  Adding to it is the "Stevie Richards" like mid section exposing outfit, just not flattering for a man to wear.  At least he didn't wear the denim shorts.    

As a result I had Thrasher as kind of a whiney baby.  He laughed whenever he got his way but threw huge tantrums if he didn't.  In one idea I had, Thrasher's fits got so bad Zartan threatened to shoot him.  

So if he were single carded I probably would have passed on him to be honest.  Probably my least favorite Drednok (with the exception of one notable other which will be mentioned later).  Again it's the character I put on him.  I only had the original due to the Thunder Machine (But I generally had Ripper driving).  He looked weird even by Drednok standards.  I disliked this guy so much I actually questioned if the Thunder Machine was his, seriously.   He just seems the type to have bought it rather than build it.  Kind of part of my background for him.

Of course he was part of the Drednok set which makes perfect sense, however I can't help but think the absence of the Thunder Machine weakens him slightly. 


If you think that's all, HA, much more to come (just like a cheap porno ;-)



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