Points of Articulation
The Top Ten Toys in My Display
If you're like me (and you're probably not), you spend way too much time organizing and re-organizing your display of toys that almost nobody ever sees. Still, as you collect more toys, you have to make tough decisions, and some toys get stowed in boxes, and others might go to market... but some toys, some toys will always be there. Some figures are important enough that they're never going into storage, and you sure as butt aren't going to sell them. These are mine.
When selecting these toys, it's important to note that I did not take into account nostalgia. And while I did take into account the "historical significance" of the toy, I still limited myself to toys that hold up today. Most lists of this type tend to skew towards toys from the '80s or '90s, and while those old toys still have a special place in my heart, for the most part they don't get shelf space. That's reserved for figures that have an awesome sculpt and a killer paint job, or articulation that allows them to be posed doing damn near anything, or an arsenal of accessories that puts the figure on a totally different level. Or, ideally, all of these things rolled up into a single toy. That's what I wanted to hold myself to: figures that represent a benchmark that toy companies should aspire to. And here goes:
- Hit-Monkey BAF (Marvel Legends by Hasbro)
This figure is pretty new at the time of this writing, so some may argue it hasn't had enough time to solidify a spot in a list of classic toys such as this. To that I say whatever dude, it's my list. But I put him at #10 so as not to commit some kind of toy heresy.
Hit-Monkey has a pretty interesting origin, but you don't have to know any of his backstory to know that this is a monkey. In a black suit. With sunglasses. And guns. Four guns, to be precise. I have a soft spot for figures that can wield twin weapons, one in each hand, John Woo-style, and Hit-Monkey gets both a pair of pistols and a pair of mini MP5's. He's also got some amazing articulation despite his small stature.
The only downside is that he's a Build-A-Figure, and he's way too small to merit such a distinction. His status as a BAF means he'll cost a pretty penny; you either have to get the figures that come with his parts, or buy him separately on the secondary market. He'd make more sense as a pack-in figure, but i'm not even sure that's still a thing that exists. Regardless, I can't ever see him leaving my figure display. Again: Monkey. Suit. Guns.
- Renegades Storm Shadow (GI Joe by Hasbro)
Storm Shadow is one of the most iconic characters in a franchise in which a good chunk of the characters could be called "iconic," and this is pretty much the only version you need to have. He is overflowing with accessories, features a very detailed sculpt, and features a very high level of articulation, with some innovative hand sculpts that allow for varied holding of accessories tossed in for good measure. In addition to his two display options (which involve interchangeable heads and sashes), this figure has a backpack that pulls apart to store his accessories, and features various clips for whatever can't be stowed inside.
Like some other figures on this list, he's difficult to obtain, commanding a hefty aftermarket price. He was never plentiful, being part of a stop-gap
wave series that featured peg warmers from the previous wave, and it's a real shame since he's definitely one of the best and most memorable Joe figures out there.
- Legolas with Rohan Armor (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by ToyBiz)
Maybe this choice is out of left field, but in a line that had its fair share of great figures, this Legolas stands out as being above and beyond in terms of detail, articulation, and accessories. He's got an excellent likeness of Orlando Bloom, really one of the best likenesses at this scale I've ever seen, and as we've seen quite a few times from companies as skilled as NECA and Sideshow, Bloom's is not an easy face to render in plastic form. The Rohan armor helps to make him more visually interesting than previous Legolases... Legolii? On top of that, he's unburdened by any action features, so there's no obnoxious knob poking through his cape, and his articulation is uncompromised. He's heavily accessorized and can hold all his weapons on his person, with sheathes for his sword and awesome twin knives, and a quiver that holds five arrows. His bow's even got a real string, which is something that's almost unheard of in today's figurescape.
Unlike Renegades Storm Shadow, Legolas won't even cost you an arm and a leg(OLAS..GET IT??!!??!ahahahh), and can still be found quite cheaply on the secondary market.
- Masked City Hunter (Predators by NECA)
This entry could apply to either the 2-pack version or the single-packed repaint. They're slightly different in terms of accessories, hand sculpt, and overall paint, but the essentials are the same. Both feature a wonderfully detailed and articulated sculpt, and really blows the old McFarlane Movie Maniacs 6 figures right out of the water.
I could complain about the lack of a folding spear or opening wrist computer, but those are both difficult to do at this scale (as we saw with McFarlane's attempts) and are forgotten once you get this guy in some awesome poses. There are a lot of standout figures in NECA's Predators line, but this one is the best. Other than the occasional flubbed netting paint, there's really nothing to complain about.
The only problem is that you may not be able to compare examples in stores to get the best specimen. Originally part of a TRU 2-pack, his appearance in Series 7 was presumably meant to make him more available. However, he seems to be the surprisingly more elusive figure in this Series, despite being essentially a straight repaint.
- Classic Venom (Marvel Select by DST)
I typically am not a big Marvel Select fan, but this is the Venom figure that fans have desired since back when Venom figures could talk and said "I want to eat your brain!" Time after time we've been treated to "almost there" or "good enough" Venoms in Marvel Legends, Spider-Man Classics and Marvel Select. But none of them were truly satisfying. So even though, like Hit-Monkey, this is a relatively new figure, it's still a figure that's existed in the minds of fans for as long as Venom figures have existed. It's iconic, well-articulated and fits right in with Marvel Legends.
And that's without even bringing the accessories into it. Three choices of heads, including a McFarlane-esque "Spidey with a Joker grin"; an Erik Larsen-like jagged-toothed, green-spittled, tongue-lolling monstrosity; and a half-way morphing Eddie Brock head. Plus a "backpack" add-on that gives him extra articulated arms and heads for extra gross alien grossness. And a third pair of arms that fits on his regular arms. And three sets of interchangeable hands (fisted, regular or extra claw-y). Oh and did I mention the tongue on the second head is removable? The only things that could have made this a better figure are stronger knee joints and a fully unmasked Brock head. But that doesn't mean the figure we got isn't outstanding, and it really makes you wonder why it took so long to get the only Venom toy anyone's ever really wanted.
- Firefly (GI Joe by Sideshow)
We don't review a lot of high-end figures here at OAFE. There are a variety of reasons, but mainly they're just too damn expensive for us to collect in large numbers. Space is also an issue. High-end figures also typically use a lot of different (and sometimes experimental) materials, so it's hard for a review to truly rate the figure since you can never be too sure how it'll hold up over time.
However, I think everybody has that one awesome high-end figure where they're just like "screw the price, I need that in my collection." For me, it's Firefly. One of the coolest villains in a franchise full of cool villains, Sideshow's Firefly delivers in pretty much every way. He's got a ton of accessories including all kinds of grenades, smoke bombs, magnetic mines, etc. He's also got a ton of storage space in the form of a functioning backpack with a tiny zipper. He's got a suitcase (packed with explosives, naturally), guns, a knife, goggles, even his outdated walkie-talkie remote detonator dealie. I could (and do) spend untold amounts of time just messing with his submachine gun, which features removable magazine and suppressor, folding stock and a sliding scope.
When he was first announced, his outfit featured his trademark gray camouflage pattern, but his mask did not. Sideshow listened to fans and included a camo head AND a non-camo head, which means just about everybody was pleased.
- Deathstroke (DCU Classics by Mattel)
I'm typically right on the front lines of Matty bashing, and they definitely deserve a lot of the negative attention that gets heaped on them. However, every so often they make a toy that reminds you of why they're still around and why we still give them money. Deathstroke is definitely a high point in Matty's DCUC line, featuring a ton of accessories and almost an entirely new sculpt (how else could they replicate his goofy pirate boots and chainmail armor?). He's got everything a world class mercenary needs: sword, pistol, rifle, staff...and the articulation to wield it all. And enough holsters, sheaths, straps and clips to allow him to carry it all.
- Xetheus (7th Kingdom by Four Horsemen Design)
It's extremely rare these days to get a figure that isn't based on a movie, a cartoon, a comic book, or some sort of established, pre-existing license. While the Four Horsemen's 7th Kingdom universe is basically just humanoid animals, it's refreshing to get an even slightly "original" property these days.
Xetheus was the first offering from the 7th Kingdom line, and even though it was released in 2005, it still holds up in just about every way. There are tons of fun little details in his sculpt, especially the repeated "sun god" motif that shows up on his kneepads, his chest armor, and his double-bladed combinable spear-axe...thing. There's also repeated cow motifs in his shoulder pads and the curled horns on his back that cleverly allow him to store his aforementioned staff weapon. The paint work is stellar, even if blue is a weird color for a bull, and the articulation is both well hidden and very functional. His legs are a little looser than they should be, but he can still stand and hold poses.
This figure shows what the Horsemen are capable of when they're not restrained by some arbitrary Matty or McFarlane guidelines, and really get to cut loose and show us what they've got.
- Deadpool (Marvel Legends by ToyBiz)
This is one figure that I'm sure is high on many lists of favorite action figures, and it deserves its spot. Deadpool needs an arsenal, and this figure delivers in ways that you really don't see anymore in 6" action figures. Two AK-47s, two swords, two sais, a pistol, an interchangeable head, a pack-in figure, and a clear plastic stand on an articulated arm that can be used with either figure (the archetypal "Doop stand"). Both head sculpts are great, and the articulation is ToyBiz at their peak. He can also store every one of his accessories except for his extra head, and the way the AKs clip to his sword sheathes is very cool. They really just don't make figures like this these days.
- Hellboy w/ Trenchcoat (Hellboy by Mezco)
Translating a specific comic artist's work from the page to plastic can be extremely difficult. The more distinctive and unique the art, the trickier it can be. When the artist's style is as distinctive as Mike Mignola's, it can be damn near impossible. Just look at the first Hellboy figure by Graphitti Designs, and you can see how hard it is to make a style like Mignola's work in three dimensions.
Mezco, however, was undeterred. After their success with the Hellboy movie figures, they turned their attention to the comic designs. While the line only lasted for two series, it almost certainly had more to do with the character selection than the figures themselves, which were excellent. There's only so many people who want a Roger the Homonculus figure, regardless of how well-made that figure may be.
The best figures of the line were the hardest to find: Kriegaffe #10, for example, was a brilliant toy of a giant cyborg ape (can never have too many of those) but he was shortpacked and now commands an outrageous price on the secondary market. Hellboy himself had several figures in the line, but was only available with his iconic trenchcoat in the form of two exclusives, one with a Nazi head in a jar, and the other with a bunch of floating Japanese heads.
This toy is beautiful. The sculpt is absolutely perfect, capturing Mignola's blocky artwork flawlessly from every angle. It seems trite to say it looks like it jumped right out of the comic, but that's exactly the case here. The paint and articulation are top notch as well, and the soft goods coat fits extremely well for this scale.
He's just a great, great figure, and just about the perfect representation of what an action figure should be: amazing sculpt, well-integrated and useful articulation, appropriate accessories (he gets his Samaritan, of course, as well as a lucky horseshoe and a walkie-talkie)...and my toy collection would feel incomplete without him.
So that's my list of favorites. Feel free to share your personal faves on our message board.