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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 lame.

We wanted to honor the toys that older toy fans actually liked. ToyFare magazine had a similar year-ender, but when we 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
    There have been several attempts to create a figure of the World Eater before, but all of them have fallen short - quite literally. He's a gigantic character, but none of the previous efforts have ever been in scale with the lines they were meant to represent. The Marvel Universe release changes that, giving us a Galactus that fits within Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe guidelines. The sculpt is highly detailed, and the articulation is plentiful. If you don't like the bright, comicbooky colors, you can wait for the darker variant. He has a play feature that's actually fun - he lights up and bellows dialogue at you with an appropriately cheesy Kirby feeling. He has a new Silver Surfer as a pack-in, and though he comes with the same "paper accessories" as the rest of the Marvel Universe figures, they've been similarly scaled up. His packaging is good for openers or MOCers, and he's held in place by what is truly the innovation of the year: those rolled paper twist-ties Hasbro introduced in 2010. Price is a factor in this category, and with Galactus, you get what you pay for - but what pushed him over the top were the plentiful sales at year's end, which meant that savvy shoppers could get him for less than half price.

    Other nominees included the large AT-AT, which took a big step up in size and detail with only a small increase in price • Big Daddy for being big, cool and articulated • Blue Beetle for being the first Mattel figure that deserves to stand with Marvel Legends • Bludgeon has a level of quality few can match, with a great design in both modes • Dante, with his beautiful sculpt, good playability, and giant accessory • Drift, introduced a new character rather than just updating an old one, but he was a great toy • GI Joe Firefly is fun to play with because of his myriad accessories, great design and even better execution • Star Wars' Gamorean Guard, for a dead-on sculpt and a fun throwback card • "Human Alliance" Jazz, because he has a simple conversion, a great sculpt and is generally better than any other movie Jazz • Juggernaut is just as big, but easier to find • GI Joe Jungle-Viper was either a new character of an update of an old one, and had aweseom accessories that even won over the haters • WWE Legends Kamala the Ugandan Giant looks great and has several cool accessories • Rhino from the 4" Spider-Man line is appropriately huge and highly articulated • comic-based War Machine is one of the most comic-accurate figures in a long time.

  • Best Line
    GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra
    The Real American Hero Generation 3 line did its best to re-create the past (the original toys); the Rise of Cobra line wanted to duplicate the present (movie designs and likenesses); PoC is trying to shape the future. The characters still have some ties to the classic versions, but aren't afraid to try something new, as well. The designs are intricate yet grounded, taking their cues from near-future military tech. Every figure comes with a huge pile of accessories, and none of them are stupid oversized missile launchers. The packaging is well designed, for both the individual figures and the vehicles. Plus the way the line is divided into four "themes" makes it easy to pick enemies who are ready to fight. Distribution is slow, but Hasbro is just playing it safe, avoiding the oversaturation of the movie line, and everything becomes plentiful eventually.

    Other nominees included BioShock, with its huge, affordable figures, incredible detail and plentiful articulation • Doctor Who Classics, which is covering characters never done before, offering various TARDIS sets, and releasing impressive two-packs • Iron Man 2 offered a mix of movie and comic designs, and despite numerous pegwarmers, new releases have continued at a steady pace • Lego Minifigures offer a slew of cool new characters, and despite being blind-packed, there are still ways to tell what you're getting • Mattel's WWE because they were a clear step up from Jakks' work.

  • Best Accessory
    Prince Adam
    The guideline for this category is simple: an accessory that's so good, it makes you want to buy the figure it's packed with just to get it. Since the only way to get Prince Adam is to buy Orko, he absolutely fits the bill. Make no mistake, if the arrangement had been reversed - Orko packed as the accessory with Adam - it might not have even been nominated, let alone won the award.

    Other nominees included Captain America's ice block • Dante's scythe • Glomulus with Larfleeze • the Infinity Gauntlet for Minimates • Iron's working pipe wrench • Joker's cards and smiling fish • Kryb's two kidnapped babies • Ladysmith Splicer's rolling pin • Silver Surfer's flying surfboard • Snow Job's awesome backpack/tent thing • Starro the Conqueror's mini-spores • Stilt Man's legs • Zartan's bird of prey and its little perch and hood.

  • Best Packaging
    Starro the Conqueror
    It always feels like cheating to give a Mattel summer exclusive the win in this category, because they're always pushing things the way a normal release never could. But this one not only showcases the figures beautifully, re-creating a classic comic cover in the process, it's the first packging to ever have an audio commentary. Hell, it did half our job for us! The sound clips aren't part of the figures, or a display base or anything, they're actually part of the packaging, and that's what gave this one the win. Plus, it's possible to take the figures out, play with them, and get them back in without damaging the packaging at all.

    Other nominees include BioShock, for the inserts that show the sunken city and are just as useful after you've opened the clamshell • DCU vs. MOTU Classics manages to blend the two lines nicely • GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra's clean, artistic simplicity (and separately, the Cobra Commander variation) • Green Lantern Classics is similar enough to DCU to fit in, but different enough to be its own thing • Masterpiece Grimlock's box shows off the figure the best possible way, and is reusable • Plastic Man because the card is just as much a part of the figure as the accessories • SDCC Galactus on the world's biggest blister card • Star Wars (Vintage Packaging) is something you've seen before • Transformers Voyager-class packaging, for daring to try something entirely new.

  • Worst of the Year
    The death of Eddie Wires
    We had plenty of complaints about figures this year, but picking apart minor flaws on lumps of plastic takes a back seat to the loss of a real human being. As Rustin said in his touching eulogy, Eddie was the first of the modern toy superstars to die. Kids don't think about where toys come from (beyond "the store"), so it took the rise of the collector community and our attendant curiosity about who made what to bring fame to specific toymakers. And while some of the people who were among the first "big names" have moved onto other fields, there's always the chance they'll return someday; Eddie Wires, the man who made the majority of your collection look as awesome as it does, never will. No action figures made after 2010 will ever know the touch of his brush, and the entire industry is poorer for it.

    Other nominees included Green Lantern Classics' 3D glassesBif Bang Pow wasting interesting licenses with Mego knock-offs • DC Universe's collector pins, which were a waste of material designed to disguise the price increase • Egon because he was identical to a previous figure, but had fewer paint apps and the lamest accessory of the entire line • Darkmount is just poorly made • Eclipso, because he doesn't have enough articulation to do the one thing he needs to be able to • Iron Man 2's distribution, both in 4" and 6" scales (though for opposite reasons) • the return of low-quality joints on DC Universe, just in time for the Wal*Mart-exclusive series • Lego Minifigures are a great idea, but have terrible distribution, stores are over-charging, and Lego took away the easily identifying marks that let fans know what they were buying • Marvel Universe packaging, for trading Frank Cho for Mike Deodato • Mattel moving the Four Horsemen off Ghostbusters • McFarlane changing scales between their two Halo lines • the mess that Mattel's Movie Masters turned into • the lack of new Shocker Toys releases • Transformer Scout Class price points • Tron: Legacy screwed up the small figures with bad sculpts, and screwed up the big figures with silly action features • WfC Bumblebee was rushed into production and it shows.

  • Best Exclusive
    SDCC Galactus
    We already talked above about how great MU Galactus was - so take the same high-quality toy, plus all its accessories, and put them in new packaging that includes the world's biggest blister card, and you have a winner! If you could get Galactus at the show, you got something special and unique; if you couldn't get him, then all you missed out on was the packaging. That's the way to do it!

    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:
    Big Sister & Little Sister (Second Place, NECA/TRU)
    B&W Creature from the Black Lagoon/Wolf Man (Third Place, AA/TRU)
    DC Universe "All-Stars" Batman (Mattel/TRU)
    Ghostbusters 2 (Art Asylum)
    Good Morning, Super Hero City! (Hasbro)
    Liquid Metal T-1000 (NECA)
    Mark IV Iron Man/Battle Damage Whiplash (Art Asylum/Borders)
    Mo-Larr (Mattel)
    Nebular Starscream (Hasbro/Kmart)
    Stark Expo Tony Stark/Natalie Romanova (Art Asylum)

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2010 has joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.

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