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Points of Articulation

Toy of the Year

The ToY Awards started back in 1998, when yo was just doing reviews on his 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 dull.

He wanted to honor the toys that older toy fans actually liked. ToyFare magazine had a similar year-ender, but when he 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.

  • ToY
    Gargoyles Ultimate Goliath
    The Marvel Legends Sentinel is great and all, but there have been Sentinels in multiple lines over the years; no one's done anything Gargoyles since the '90s cartoon ended. We tried nudging Super7 to get the license, but NECA grabbed it instead and made an exceptional figure (for a franchise I got way into this year and then was unable to get the @#^!ing toy because both of the sites stocking it locally sold out!!). The size is impressive, the accessories are good, and we'll even be getting alternate bonus pieces with future toys. Plus, you can get him without having to put down a masive pre-payment and crippling shipping fees. No matter what way one spins it it's a terrific figure.

    Nominees included the HasLab Sentinel, of course, a giant chunk of beautiful plastic with plenty of bonus accessories • Alpha Predator, an original design with some history behind it • DoomicornInspector Gadget was the one standout figure from his eponymous line • Krang's Android Body finally delivered something we'd wanted for years • Popeye & Bluto allowed Mezco to go out on a strong note • we finally got a Mandarin Spawn who lives up to his design • you can't help but adore Meowscles • and his son Kit is even cuter • What If's Zombie Captain America is gruesomely great.

  • Best Line
    Final Faction
    Being the "best" is not simply a matter of quality, but availability and value as well - otherwise SH Figuarts or One:12 Collective would run away with it every year even harder than Marvel Legends does. But when it came to value for your money in 2021, there was nothing that could even approach Final Faction. The line is exclusive to Dollar Tree in the US, and the figures (3½" military toys) are sold for a single dollar each. They only have five points of articulation, but when GI Joe did the same thing a couple years ago, those still cost fans $6-7 apiece. Final Faction includes accessory packs and even a vehicle now, all of them for just a buck. What a way to throw open the door and say "everybody, look at me!"

    Nominees included Marvel Legends, like always, but they're the pinnacle of the list every year and so we try to look deeper • McFarlane's DC Multiverse have really stepped up, mixing the standard DC faves with some really unusual picks (it's just too bad they're in the wrong scale) • Lone Coconut's Plunderlings • the Spawn Remastered offerings from McFarlane Toys, using the success of the Kickstarter to prove to retail stores that shoppers wanted to buy them • GI Joe Classified kepts its high quality, but improved distribution • DST's Lord of the Rings • the Fortnite Victory Royale Series sees the good work Jazwares did and raises, including figures at different pricepoints, and even including one character/vehicle/accessory pack thing, all in beautiful packaging.

  • Best Accessory
    Stilt-Man's legs
    While Jordamus Prime's suggestion - Stilt-Man as the sole "named" character in an entire series of armybuilder henchmen who would each come with additional legs for him - is still a brilliant idea and the way the character should have been done, including modular BAF leg pieces definitely helped move a lot of Hand Ninjas off the pegs. The extreme shortage of Ninjas right at the outset of the line eventually evened out (mostly online rather than in stores, but that's still better than chronic unavailability), so anybody who wanted to build their Stilt-Man into the skiy had a fair chance of doing so.

    Nominees included • Iron Giant's magnetic Superman symbol • the scenery and sound effects from the Inspector Gadget set • Kane's John Hurt head, making a rerelease worth upgrading • Scout Predator's sniper rifle, a new creation that blends in well • the Gizmo that came with Santa Stripe • GameStop Mandarin Spawn's shield and sword updates • the Darksaber of Moff Gideon • moved a whole lot of Hand ninjas • 2015 Doc Brown's Emergency Cash • everything Lady Jaye came with - alternate head with a hat, backpack that stows weapons, etc. • Firefly's backpack can carry everything the toy comes with • Ultimate Casey Jones' face and mask were the reason people bought the toy • Meowscles' weight bench could get you to buy a Hasbro figure a lot like one Jazwares had just done earlier in the year.

  • Best Packaging
    TMNT - The Catwoman from Channel Six
    This would-be-SDCC-exclusive set was sold with almost no advance warning, so naturally we don't have a review of it for you. But the outer sleeve looks like the Channel 6 News building, the interior box looks like April on a TV set, and the insert behind the figures is the newsroom, making it a diorama backdrop for all your TMNT toys of any era. That's a lot of cool design for one box!

    Nominees included the fancy Krampus box • the interconnecting art of Sam & Max • the Plunderlings boxes • NECA's Ultimate Lost Tribe boxes are the usual style, but Tristan Jones' art tells new stories • the increase in fully detailed backdrops behind Marvel Legends • specifically What If, because each character got their own appropriate scenery • also the HoX/PoX series, with its unique graphics • The Boys boxes suggest the hero's individual costumes • Transformers boxes getting more eco-friendly as the year went along • great graphic design on the new Fortnite figures from Hasbro • the Puppet Master boxes that look like the movies' carrying cases.

  • Best Build-A-Figure
    Ursa Major
    The Best BAF isn't just an anticipated character, it's one that does what a BAF is supposed to do: make you buy figures you don't want just to complete it. Joe Fixit and Armadillo both did that (and Stilt-Man made you buy a more Hand Ninjas than you otherwise planned to), but Ursa Major helped fill out an existing team and, frankly, was just better than those. To say nothing of the fun of getting to Build-A-Bear! [I think that name might need Workshopped --ed.]

  • Worst of the Year
    "Deluxe" price-gouging
    We're used to scalpers overcharging for things, but now the companies are getting in on it? Hasbro in particular loves to christen things "Deluxe" releases and charge extra for them; and yes, they tend to come with more accessories, but often those feel like filler material to justify the pricepoint Hasbro's already decided on, when they could easily have been sold with less for the normal price. And then there are all the "Retro Series" releases, where we're supposed to be happy about paying 25% more for a gimicky cardback that's harder to open than the normal packaging, but still ends up in the recycling all the same? No thank you!

    Nominees included Bebop's undersized weaponsDark Side Rey doesn't move well and needs more accessories • Orange Cassidy's rubber jeans • the floppy blades Mandarin Spawn carries • off-model Avatar the Last Airbender faces • Hologram Iron Man • thin, one-sided capes on NECA's The Boys figures • the unpainted, poorly articulated Daniel Witwicky that came with Slug • two conflicting scales of Disney Mirrorverse toys • the "no guns" policy WB forced on DC Multiverse • BST AXN is just pure garbage.

  • Best Exclusive
    Nearly forgot this this counted! Criteria for the best exclusive is that it's not an otherwise-unavailable character (there are previous Sentinels available) and is something we wouldn't get otherwise (no store would ever carry this), and while a lot of this year's nominees fit that description, none of them are as bone-rattlingly awesome as the Sentinel. Two feet tall, multiple heads, full-sized figures as accessories that have their own alternate heads as accessories... this thing may cost enough to feed a family of four for a month (or dinner for two at a sit-down restaurant), but that's why it's an exclusive and not a mass-market toy. There were other great exclusives this year, but nothing had a chance against the Sentinel.

    The "Best Exclusive" category is open to every exclusive (convention, store, online, anything) released this year.

    Other top finishers included:
    Monoclonius (Creative Beast/Kickstarter)
    Ectotron (Hasbro/Target)
    Drizzt Do'urden (Hasbro Pulse)
    Santa Stripe (NECA/Target)
    Mandarin Spawns (McFarlane Toys/Walmart, McFarlane Toys/GameStop)
    Clone Wars Obi-Wan (Hasbro/Target)
    Origin Bublebee (Hasbro/Target)
    John Nada (Mattel/Walmart)
    MODOK and The Captain (Hasbro Pulse)

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2021 joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.

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