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Points of Articulation

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Toy of the Year

The ToY Awards started back in 1998, when I was just doing reviews on my own. Yes, there were other end-of-year awards around at the time, but most of them focussed primarily on "child safe" toys, handing out praise for educational content, safety in manufacturing, and encouraging non-violent play patterns.

How lame.

I wanted to honor the toys that older toy fans actually liked. ToyFare magazine had (and still has) a similar year-ender, but when I started, they were nothing but whores to Star Wars. Then they went out of their way to ignore McFarlane. Plus, they had a tendency to include toys to which they as a news outlet had access, but normal collectors did not; ToY things that they had received as samples, but weren't due on the shelf for a few months (they continue this practice to this day).

Thus, the ToYs were born. The ToYs are the voice of the real fan community, covering what's really the best of the best. What started out as one "best of" award has grown and expanded to include a few more categories, but still: they're all the best of the best. We've even inspired a few imitators, but when you want the real toy of the year, you head for the Toy of the Year.

  • ToY
    Xetheus, Champion of Mynothecea
    We normally try very hard to avoid putting any exclusives on the Toy of the Year lists - the fact that you can't just walk into a store and purchase one works against them. Xetheus, however, overcame that. The sculpt is superb, the articulation is great and the paint is beautiful. That's the trifecta, right there. Even the packaging was cool. The price was high, but you actually got what you paid for, and that's rare. But more than all that, Xetheus may be the first step to a new toy industry. He was designed by the Four Horsemen, but they were working at the whim of the fans, thanks to their FANtastic Exclusive voting process. As the industry faces rising prices and dwindling retailer support, going online and catering directly to your customers - the fans - might be the way to go.

    Other nominees included XMC Avalanche, which was as good as any ToyBiz product this year • the Balrog for finally delivering exactly what was promised • the Captain America Face-Off set(s) for giving us a perfect 616 Cap and two of his classic enemies • Cybertron Primus for filling a hole we didn't even know was there, and doing it better than Unicron • 12" Green Goblin rotocast because it looks great, moves well and costs very little • ML13 Green Goblin for finally giving us an icon we've been awaiting for years • superposeable Spike, from the Buffy line, for the same reason • the Super Skrull for its great detail and fun play feature • Spider-Hulk, because he was a huge value for the money and didn't sacrifice poseability for an action feature • DCSH Superman for its sculpt, articulation and flat-out design • TF Classics Bumblebee, who captures that G1 flavor wonderfully.

  • Best Line
    DC Superheroes
    Last year, Mattel got a special shout-out for ruining the Batman comic line - this year they were nominated for the quality of that line's follow-up. DC Superheroes is limited by the fact that it only covers Batman and Superman, but that's a problem of the future, not the present. Mattel took a huge step forward with DCSH, catching up with an industry that was swiftly leaving them behind. Even the re-released characters have been given a going over, almost making it worthwhile for fans to double dip on characters like Robin and Mr. Freeze. The improvements made since last year are astounding - now let's see if they can keep it up.

    Other nominees included Cult Classics for great versions of characters we all wanted, with fun display bases • DCD's The Long Halloween because the final figures were better than the prototypes and they came in nice packaging • Looney Tunes Golden Collection because they offer great toys in cool packaging for a surprisingly low price • Marvel Legends for sheer volume, getting seven series of figures out in one year • Marvel Legends Icons for size, sculpt and value • Sideshow's 12" Star Wars line, because this is what Hasbro's should have been from the beginning • TF Classics for capturing that G1 flavor wonderfully, and offering an interesting packaging design, as well.

  • Best Accessory
    Billy the Puppet (Saw)
    This was a tough one - Billy straddles the line between toy and accessory. When NECA announced they were doing Saw in Cult Classics, everyone thought of the creepy puppet on the tricycle, not a bald guy in a bathrobe. An argument could be made (and believe me, it was) that Billy is the figure and the actual killer is the extra. But that's why he won: an accessory that can sell the toy by itself is gold. Put the puppet on his trike and roll him around a while, and you'll get it.

    Other nominees included Ash's alternate head for giving you a little more play value • the Balrog's whip for being both poseable and functional • Blackhawk's gun, because it's more detailed and functional than some 12" figures' • all the Cult Classics bases • DCSH Batman's seven Batarangs • Earl's creepy entrailsHannibal Lecter's gurney, because it really works • Laserbeak, because it's a huge G1 nod that no one would have expected • Paratrooper Duke's working parachutePerry White's newspaper, because it actually has real printed stories on it • Sigma Six Night Quad Ranger, because toys just don't get big vehicles like this any more • Two-Face's hands, because it suited the character perfectly and kept us from losing a tiny coin

  • Best Packaging
    Solomon Grundy
    Another exclusive finds its way onto the list. Starting with the outside box and its stone pattern, then moving into the interior box which is a complete diorama. It's designed well and constructed perfectly. It showcases the figure and re-creates a specific scene from one of his cartoon appearances. On top of that, you've got the rumble feature - how many toys can you play with before you even open them?

    Other nominees were the Balrog's utilitarian brown box • The Long Halloween, because DC Direct improved upon their usual "high-end" boxes with a few small changes • ML Icons were both collector-friendly and easy to open • Paratrooper Duke's bubble thing • DCD's New Frontier, because its muted colors look really distinctive • the Target-exclusive Rogue 2 Snowspeeder, which had a complete hangar, right down to the docking lights • DCD's Silver Age Superman, with the Daily Planet globe as a blister • Skirmish in the Senate, a great diorama of the scene in question, with the figures in action poses and a backdrop that would be great in any fan-made display • Star Wars Galactic Heroes Cinema Scenes, whose half-circle design and printed backdrops are adorable • Transformers Alternators switched from plain red boxes to complex white bubbles that show off the toy better • TF Classics, with their little flip-up panels to show both modes of the toy

  • Worst of the Year
    Fantastic Four Classics
    This line was FUBAR from the beginning. The first series comprised three characters that were still packing shelves thanks to the tail-end of the FF movie line; there was one figure in the series that was both highly desired and an army-builder, but it was shortpacked. So when Series 2 came along, with two big villains and three new, worthwhile versions of the heroes, no stores ordered it. Fantastic Four Classics is a toyline that absolutely screwed the fans over - and if anyone has a line on a set of all five Series 2 figures, please let me know.

    Other nominees included The Batman, which is under articulated, used shoddy materials and varied wildly in scale • Electro, a long-awaited character whose action feature left him stuck in a goofy pose • Hydro-Man, for a poor costume, a weird sculpt and an action feature that ruins the figure above the waist • Playmates' King Kong line, for absolutely missing the target audience • Luke Cage's pimp hand • the fact that Mattel has flat-out refused to put any "girl" figures in the Avatar line, despite the show having some of the strongest females in fiction • SOTA, because other than Street Fighter Round 4, their product took a huge drop in quality this year • Playmates' TMNT line, for turning out some real crap this year • ToyBiz's quality control suffered a big hit in the flood of product they pushed out the door before their license expired • Wal*Mart Legends because although the toys were good, finding them was (and still is) way too hard.

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2006 has joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.


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