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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 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, ToY but normal collectors did not; things that they had received as samples, but weren't due on the shelf for a few months.

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.

Right now, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you think should be nominated. You can do it on our message board, on Twitter, Google+, or directly through email. As usual, we'll announce the winners at the end of the month, so get your nominations in early! Here are the criteria you'll be judging by:

  • ToY
    Private Jenette Vasquez
    Last year's winner was NECA doing an Aliens character who "couldn't" be done because of likeness rights. This year's winner is the same thing, but she's made even better. Vasquez has a completely new sculpt, the perfect accessories, and the best likeness ever seen on a 7" figure. The back of the packaging has character-specific info that wasn't even in the movie. She's missing a few paint apps, and her gun is misassembled out of the packaging, but she wasn't particularly hard to get at retail, and is just an amazing offering once you open her up.

    Other nominees include the one-two punch of Mutavore and Hardship; • X-Men Legends Deadpool; • Star Wars Black Series Kanan Jarrus; • X-Men Legends Wolverine; • Star Wars Black Series K-2SO; • Lucy Westenra; • Heroes of the Storm Stitches; • Marvel Legends Capwolf; • NECA's Ultimate Nathan Drake.

  • Best Line
    DC Superhero Girls
    Mattel showed a nice bit of insight this year, trying to welcome girls into what is mostly a boys-oriented hobby. Beyond even recognizing that splitting toys along gender lines is silly (kids will play with what they want to play with), just the fact that they're trying to increase the audience in new ways is a great choice. These aren't dolls or down-sized Barbies, they're actual action figures done in a different way. They're not as articulated as what we normally like, and they don't have many accessories, but the toys themselves are cool and affordable. Plus, the brand is even branching out to Lego Friends-style sets, which will only increase its appeal further.

    Other nominees include Hasbro's X-Men Legends; • the continuing workhorse that is Aliens; • the way World of Nintendo keeps expanding; • Transformers Titans Return, part of a trend in the hobby this year; • WWE Zombies for being something different and clever for the brand.

  • Best Accessory
    Silvermane
    2016 was the Year of the Heads, wasn't it? We got a lot of things where the head was the big draw. So why did Silvermane top the rest of them? Because he's such an unlikely character to be made into a toy at all, and because nobody would really care about the toy he was packaged with by itself (contrast that with Kitty Pryde, who'd sell just fine even without Magneto's helmet). Silvermane did exactly what this category's guidelines state: he made buying the toy he came with more appealing. Plus, he's on a little car!

    Other nominees include Medusa's snake whip; • Captain America's shield throw thing; • Ultimate Striker Eureka's missile launcher; • Titan Masters, Transformers heads sold by themselves; • Onlaught's Magneto helmet for completing a BAF from long ago; • Deadpool's taco or boxing glove bazooka; • the Claw Shield with a slot to store the Sword of Omens; • Kanan Jarrus' deconstructable lightsaber; • Falcon's removable Redwing.

  • Best Packaging
    Amazing Heroes
    For a line of toys meant to evoke the glory days of the '80s, this packaging was perfect. It combined the two major comic-based lines of the day, and was designed to look like it had been naturally aging for three decades. The back even had a little retro comic. Plus, as a Kickstarter line, it didn't have to worry about shoplifters and so was done in the "slide off blister" style.

    Other nominees include Thundercats Classic; • the Sherlock set showing the door of his famous apartment; • Ultimate Striker Eureka's box, which is designed to look like an in-scale launch bay; • NECA's Arcade Colors TMNT, for suggesting the layout of an arcade cabinet; • Hasbro's SDCC Raft set for creating a toy prison; • Filmation MotU.

  • Worst of the Year
    Oversaturation
    We've often complained about poor distribution before, and this is more of that. But different. In many cases, figures we saw on shelves at the beginning of the year are still on shelves at the end of the year. Stores ordered so much of the Red Onslaught series that the Civil War toys didn't show up when the movie was in theaters; half the Suicide Squad toys might as well be phantoms, leaving many an incomplete Killer Croc in our collections; if you want to build the Sandman BAF, you'd better hope the store isn't still putting out new Absorbing Man pieces. When things are over-ordered they stagnate, and new product can't be shelved. Sales slow, and the industry as a whole gets hurt.

    Other nominees include McFarlane Toys' Color Tops for going back down the path that made Todd irrelevent in the first place; • the Warcraft toys, for being out of scale with everything and looking even worse than the movie; • the release of The Force Awakens on DVD, which just gave stores an excuse to pull more Constable Zuvios out of the back; the quality control problems caused by poor quality plastic; • this Ben Affleck likeness; • Hasbro's SDCC Raft set, for mixing a few new characters with prepaints and duplicate releases.

  • Best Exclusive
    Kylo Ren (Starkiller Base)
    You could buy a plain Kylo Ren very easily if you wanted one, and the only difference on this figure is the style of his lightsaber and a bit of a deco on the bottom of his robe. The fact that he comes with a chunk of planet to stand on is just a bonus at that point, and not one that's what you'd call "necessary."

    The "Best Exclusive" category is open to every exclusive (convention, store, online, anything) released this year, and the winner determined based on our criteria for the perfect exclusive.

    Other top finishers included Arkham City Harley Quinn (Second Place, NECA/TRU) • First Appearance Daredevil (Third Place, Hasbro/Walgreens) • Arcade Foot Clan (NECA/SDCC) • Celestial Perseus vs. Medusa (Boss Fight Studio) • Unmasked Batman (Mattel/TRU) • Darth Vader (Emperor's Wrath) (Hasbro/Walgreens)

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2016 joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.


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