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Points of Articulation

yo go re
yo go re
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 dull.

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. (And I literally at the start of the month saw a respected toy person online praising something as "the best of the year" that isn't out yet, so that problem persists even in an age without magazines.)

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
    Storm Shadow
    There were quite a few GI Joe Classified releases that could have won this year - coming back from the low point of the Snake-Eyes movie, it was surprising enough to see the toys appearing on shelves at all. The designs need to be better, but the articulation outshines Marvel Legends and the sculpts are wonderful. The best overall release, though, had to be Storm Shadow. He had most of his classic weapons (no nunchucks) and at least a few costume updates. As one of the brand's iconic characters, you'd expect him to sell quickly, but the figure was easy to find on shelves. Even if he's not as good as he could have been, he's way better than either of the previous two shots at the character.

    Nominees included King Features' Phantom, for its classic appearance, cool accessories, and packaging design • Retro Spider-Man Hammerhead, with a beautifully expressive sculpt and good paint • GI Joe Classified Croc Master and his giant, articulated, pet reptile • Usagi Yojimbo, finally giving this well-known character a worthy toy • the Figura Obscura Headless Horseman, a classic character done well • both the Super7 and NECA versions of Slash • Hiya Toys' 1:18 scale RoboCain had a ton of detail despite its small size • Transformers Collaborative Megatron HISS Tank gives fans something they've wanted for decades • HasLab Galactus, because it almost has to be.

  • Best Line
    Universal Monsters TMNT
    For a company known for its screen-accurate re-creations of movie characters, doing something so inventive and unprecedented really stands out! NECA took advantage of the fact it had two good licenses - ones that had crossed over in the past - to create something exciting and new. The designs and character combos are creative, the sculpts are outstanding, the themed accessories are all kinds of fun, and the packaging is beautiful, both the portraits on the front and the hyperbolic text on the back. We're going to be sad when they run out of characters to mash up.

    Nominees included the Jurassic Park Hammond Collection, delivering movie-accurate dinosaurs at mass market prices • the unbridled goofiness of Monsterverse Titan Tech figures • GI Joe Classified, despite its tired designs • the Fortnite Victory Royale Series.

  • Best Accessory
    Picture frame
    The idea behind this category is an accessory that will get you to buy a toy you otherwise might not. Hasbro's X-Men: the Animated Series line isn't the greatest thing ever, and most collectors will already had plenty of Wolverines, but including his meme-worthy photo of Cyclops and Jean Grey could tip you over the edge. You can even take that phot out and replace it with anything you want! Some of the other nominees were great in their own right, but in Wolverine's case, the picture frame is the only noteable thing about him.

    Nominees included NECA movie TMNT Splinter and cage • Retro Sandman's alternate sand parts, especially the "punch" head • the extra heads included with the Space Force • both GI Joe's animals, Fiona the Crocodile and Freedom the Eagle • Phantom's Oath skull • the teleportation portal included with Dr. StrangeThe Thing's blood surprise • Thor's spinning Mjolnir • the tiny Sgt. Slaughter that comes with Sgt. Slaughter • Spider-Man's Kick Me signRetro Collection Iron Man's Capcom-inspired Plasma Cannon.

  • Best Packaging
    Jurassic Park Kitchen Encounter
    This is not the first release of Tim and Lex Murphy, nor the best JP velociraptor there's ever been. But this set, with cardboard inserts making it look like the raptor has jumped up onto one of the kitchen counters makes an eye-catching presentation on store shelves.

    Nominees included Hasbro's plasticless packaging, which is ecologically friendly, looks nice, and makes that "I'm buying one to open and one to keep MOC" crowd look even more like clowns than they already did, meaning the only bad thing about it is the lack of adequate character info • Figura Obscura's boxes, with magnetized mural backdrops wrapped around them • Tyrannocon Rex & JP93Holiday Edition Optmius Prime, designed to look like torn-open wrapping paper • April O'Neil's staticy TVsStar Wars Micro Galaxy Squadron boxes • Fortnite Back Boards, which can be reversed into scenery.

  • Best Build-A-Figure
    The Frost King
    DC's "Endless Winter" crossover may have come and gone with less impact than the first James Cameron's Avatar movie, but you only need to buy four toys to B this F, and two of them are in neat alternate costumes. Even if you don't care about the Frost King as a character (and why would you, he looks like "Blue Lobo"), this can be a frost giant for Thor to fight, some kind of specialized White Walker, some werid interpretation of one of Santa's elves... it's a big, ice-themed fantasy monster, and would definitely have been a major factor in getting anyon to buy any of the "Endless Winter" releases.

  • Worst of the Year
    Hasbro's prices
    Much like we often choose to grandfather out Marvel Legends from the Best Line category (though if you're keeping track, not this year), we may have to do it with this category, too: this is now two years in a row where the same thing has won. DC toys have always tended to cost a little more than their Marvel counterparts, but McFarlane's DC Multiverse releases are larger than ML and have fewer reused/shared parts, but they're held steady at $19.99 while Hasbro is pushing Marvel - and all their lines, really - to $24.99 without any commensurate increase in quality. The Marvel Legends 20th Anniversary line may have a handful of extra accessories, but the molds are pre-existing and we only get cardboard backdrops instead of bases; explain, then, why they cost $10 more than regular releases. Add to that the various oversized releases (like Marvel Legends' Retro Collection, Star Wars' deluxe figures, etc.) that seem to seek to justify their price through packaging size alone, and multipacks that somehow cost more than the figures inside would have individually, and you've got a company that's taking advantage of its position at the top to unfairly squeeze consumers.

    Nominees included McFarlane's Avatar line • Fezzik's likeness • tiny ShockwaveSpin Master holding squatter's rights on decent licenses and only releasing crud • the uncreative GI Joe Classified designs • Eye Guy's paint • the weird choices made with Sabretooth • lack of individualized character info on the back of many new toys' boxes • Black KrrsantanMarvel Legends Toad • the heavy, dense flame effect that came with Cheetara.

  • Best Exclusive
    Galactus
    Two years of HasLab exclusives, two years of wins. There have been Galactii before, all in different sizes, but none as big as this. Nor as poseable. The size of the figure is used to show off details in the sculpt, and we get alternate faces to create different takes on the character, and three full figures as accessories. Vastly expensive, even for an exclusive, but being nearly as tall as a human toddler doesn't come cheap!

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

    Other top finishers included:
    Ragnarok (Hasbro/Target)
    Doctor Strange (Hasbro/Walmart)
    Rectro Collection Deluxe Iron Man (Hasbro Pulse)
    Spider-Man Noir (Hasbro/Target)
    Naughty or Nice Collection (Big Bad Toy Store)
    Holiday Edition Clone Trooper (Hasbro Pulse)
    Holiday Edition Optimus Prime (Hasbro Pulse)

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2022 joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.


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