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TOP 10 TOYS/TOY LINES OF 2013
The Best of the Best
By Jarrett Kruse
December 23, 2013
2013 is in the books and for the toy industry it was a doozy. Toys continue to grow their market for adult collectors and the hobby is becoming as common as picking up your weekly comic books. New products abound ripped from the pages and properties of our favorite comics, TV shows and movies. Whether you are an opener or you are a Mint-in-box guy like me, all things plastic can mean serious bank in your attic or storage unit. With Toy Fair just around the corner in February to see whats next, Mania looks back at the year that was and what toys made the grade. From figures to prop replicas to sleeper picks, we've got it all in our 2013 wrap up! I will say this: Batman and Star Wars will never get old or out of style. You can't go wrong with Gotham's guardian or the gang from a galaxy far, far away.
The list combines both specific items as well as companies that made their mark in 2013. Basically its a big old Mania mix-up list!
10. MATTYCOLLECTOR PROPS
For the serious collector, there is nothing better than being able to nab real life prop replicas from your favorite movies and TV shows. This year MATTEL brought us the GHOSTBUSTERS Ecto-Goggles as well as the Neutrino Wand that the Busters carry on the back of their ghost-zapping backpacks. Sure it carries a hefty price but how often do you get to own a piece of movie history? OK I guess it is pretty easy but these are just too damn cool to pass up! On the success of the BATMAN '66 line, MATTY decided to release a Batman utility belt complete with Batarang for around $125.00. Pricey but for those that have been waiting on this since they first watched the classic TV show, its a chance to buy a piece of your childhood back. Hopefully they will continue to churn out more prop replicas that will make a dent in our wallets but keep a smile on our faces.
9. MARVEL UNIVERSE
Well 2013 saw the last of HASBRO's wildly successful 3 & ¾ inch MARVEL figures totally bumming out the collector community at large. Some solid additions were made this year including Abomination, Black Knight, a variant A-Bomb and even Cloak & Dagger. After doing some digging I still cannot figure out an explanation as to just why they are getting rid of their go-to toy line. Supposedly it is going to be replaced with new packaging and other cool stuff but nothing has been written in stone as of this writing. The MU's are at a great price point and promote collecting amongst the dedicated fan base of both kids and adults. Personally I was psyched to get the “Bag-Head” Spider-Man from when he had to borrow a suit from Johnny Storm way back in SECRET WARS as to conceal his identity. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.
8. DIAMOND SELECT
DIAMOND SELECT continues to chug along with not just amazing figures from their awesome MARVEL SELECT line but continue to churn out some amazing props and fanboy related stuff. Need a Han Solo in Carbonite ice tray? They've got you covered. What about a Mr. Fusion from BACK TO THE FUTURE II that comes complete with sound effects and steam. They've got it all from bottle openers to mini-busts and everything in between. To me the Marvel Select figures are most definitely the most bang for your buck on the high-end figure market. From STAR WARS to the WALKING DEAD, Diamond seriously has it all for your inner toy junkie. 2014 is already boasting some awesome product including stuff for the new CAPTAIN AMERICA sequel. All in all, Diamond has a wide array of product that is definitely the most varied amongst the list we have compiled. My hits of the year from them would have to be my deluxe Rhino and Abomination figures. They are insanely big and for just $22 totally worth it.
7. CASTLE GRAYSKULL
The playset that was the center of a generation has returned! After several stalls and missteps, MATTEL revealed their crown jewel of the legendary Masters of the Universe line at Toy Fair back in February. The Castle is based on the original 1981 design with an all-new sculpt. After some tweaks to make the figures not look so strange in the Castle (at one point their heads were hitting the ceiling) they have finally fixed the playset and it looks better than ever. At a $300 price point it is a little pricey but well worth it for the die-hard collector. It has all of the bells and whistles that kids and adults both will enjoy and it even has a “Jawbridge.” The Castle even boasts an elevator! How cool is that? It is only available on MATTYCOLLECTOR.com and will most likely sell out before the new year. When it hits the secondary market (I'm looking at you eBay!) it is sure to skyrocket in price so get your Castle today!
6. BATMAN UNLIMITED, ORIGINS, ARKHAM CITY & BATMAN '66
Bat-fans can rejoice as they had a banner year in the toy department with some amazing additions for your own Batcave. The pickings were plenty with something for everyone making it very difficult to narrow down what was the absolute best. So we decided to include all four of the major Bat-lines to give you a peek at the best offerings of the year. We start with the amazing BATMAN '66 line that brought us back to our collective childhoods with figures from the classic 1966 TV show finally being made. Brilliantly executed with amazing likenesses to the actors that portrayed them, MATTEL has a home run on their hands with this line. From the retro packaging to the special Con Exclusive “Bat-tusi” Batman, these figures are a whole lot of fun. Plus they made an extra big '66 Batmobile that fits the 6-inch figures perfectly making it the cherry on top of a Sunday we've been waiting for for decades. Included in the first wave are the Frank Gorshin Riddler, Julie Newmar Catwoman, Adam West Batman & Cesar Romero Joker complete with painted over mustache! In order to get a Burt Ward Robin, you have to purchase the two-pack that includes Batman and his plucky sidekick with a wall for climbing just like how they did back in the day on the TV show. All in all just an amazing series of figures that is long overdue.
On top of the resurrection of the long dormant Adam West Batman, the successful franchise of Batman video games have spawned some amazing figures that have become highly coveted amongst collectors. The Arkham City lines debuted more amazing figures including Deadshot, oversized Solomon Grundy, Killer Croc and Mr. Freeze. Although they are a little pricier they are totally worth it for the major figure Junkie that wants to add to their displays. Catwoman, HUSH and Robin were just a few of the stand-outs of the regular sized line and at a reasonable price point, junkies were able to nab these to finish off their collections. And in 2014, expect more awesomeness from the series.
The Batman Unlimited lines saw one of the coolest Batman's yet that has skyrocketed in price to near $50 and as a die-hard collector, let me tell you that it is most definitely worth it. The Deathstroke also is one to watch that continues to grow in price and is becoming more and more hard to find—the sign of a great figure! They even made a DARK KNIGHT RETURNS Batman based on the Frank Miller classic as well as Vampire Batman and the “Beware the Batman” figure from the cartoon. Even a Batgirl and dope looking Green Lantern was offered that I had to pick up and I NEVER pick up a GL figure! But this design was just too awesome to pass up. My only complaint is that the figures are not in a hard plastic shell like the ARKHAM figures, instead they are made of a flimsy cardboard that easily bends and frays at the corners making it a bitch for shipping to your fellow collectors in trades and stuff.
The Batman: Origins figures based on the game are nothing short of amazing. The Bane figure is the standout and they even had to make a special card for it to be on because of the sheer size of the figure. Outfitted in an “urban warfare” type costume, this was a hit amongst the collecting crowd. Not only that but the Joker is downright scary looking and reminds me of the Joker from Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo's graphic novel from years past. Rounding out the wave is yet another Deathstroke that collectors cannot seem to get enough of along with a creepy looking Black Mask that is scarily accurate in every detail. With a new wave on the horizon early in 2014, the Batman: Origins toys are some of the best I have ever seen.
NECA is the little company that could and proved their worth as a major player in the toy biz in 2013. With an amazing showing at Toy Fair back in February, NECA landed a bunch of lucrative licenses that included PREDATOR, ALIENS, PACIFIC RIM, THE LONE RANGER, ROBOCOP and BATMAN. I was amazed at the detail that the company put into each and every offering they released. From their Predator trophy room filled with bones to Robocop's ED-209, NECA could do no wrong in 2013. Although PACIFIC RIM did not do boffo box office, their action figures based on the movie were a huge hit and have already soared in price since the first wave debuted last summer. I spent a lot of time in the NECA booth at Toy Fair and was amazed at what they were offering for the year and was super impressed with just how far they have come making them a major player on the toy scene. They even had KICK-ASS 2 figures that were especially well done despite the dismal box office of the movie. You heard it here first on MANIA, NECA is a company to watch in the coming year as they continue to nab up first class licenses that they will make into some really unbelievable toys. I think that my favorites were the quarter-scale '66 BATMAN and the '89 Michael Keaton BATMAN. They are simply amazing and stand over 18-inches tall with all of the accoutrements that you would expect. At a reasonable price point, these are a must have for the Bat-fan in your family.
4. HOT TOYS
OK so you may break the bank when you purchase a figure from HOT TOYS but let me be the first to tell you that it is worth it! HOT TOYS figures are so realistic looking that it is difficult to be able to tell the difference between them and the real thing. At a price point that varies between two and four hundred dollars they are most definitely expensive BUT the hardcore collector sees HOT TOYS offerings as must haves to add to their collection. This year it was difficult to narrow down just which ones were my favorites but gun to head I think that THE WOLVERINE, BRUCE BANNER, IRON MAN 3 (HEARTBREAKER ARMOR), IRON MAN 3 “IGOR ARMOR,” MAN OF STEEL JOR-EL and the '89 BATMAN “MIME JOKER” are my final “best of” picks. If there is a gold standard in toys, HOT TOYS has the monopoly that is light years ahead of everything else. Now if we can just find a way to get these babies for a couple of hundred bucks less than retail!
3. MARVEL LEGENDS
HASBRO turned things up a notch in 2013 with more of their flagship 6-inch MARVEL heroes leaving figure junkies salivating for more product. The demand has become so crazy that the secondary markets are usually the only places that you will have some luck finding their offerings. They made a strange move with their Variant figures only being offered across the pond in the UK making collectors scramble to nab their red Deadpool's and white Dr. Doom's. They must be doing something right because we keep coming back for more. The standouts of the year are Archangel, Piledriver and the SDCC Thunderbolts box set. 2014 will see some major MARVEL movies releasing entire waves of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Legends and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Legends that will keep us busy until at least the summer. As far as the second half of 2014, we will have to wait until TOY FAIR in February to see what HASBRO has up their sleeve. Also they have decided to take a cue from the STAR WARS BLACK SERIES and have totally streamlined their packaging for the new waves of ML's hitting next month. No more clutter and worrying about bending all of the corners or denting the protective bubble. Yay!!
2. STAR WARS BLACK SERIES
HASBRO took a gamble in 2013 on their most profitable franchise and introduced the STAR WARS BLACK SERIES. Dreams of toy Junkies were finally realized when HASBRO decided to release the BLACK SERIES that would realize 6-inch STAR WARS figures in all of their glory for just $20 a pop! They have been a runaway success with those that did not pre-order a case scrambling to get their figures on the secondary market and paying through the nose for their Boba Fett's and Slave Leia's in gold bikinis. The great thing is that there are made at the highest standards and are excellent show pieces for displaying your awesome collection. Wave 3 is already set to be released in early 2014 and they are receiving raves from toy collectors the world over. Boba Fett is easily the toughest to find if you did not get in on the ground floor so be prepared to pay through the nose.
1. PLAY ARTS KAI
PLAY ARTS KAI has finally singled themselves out as a serious player in the lucrative toy market. I have been following the company for some time now and after 2013 they have squeezed their way into the #1 spot on MANIA's must have toy list. With a plethora of licenses and brilliant design, these figures are no joke and pretty affordable for the toy Junkie in your family. Most of the figures stand close to 10-inches and come with a slew of accessories including interchangeable hands, heads and weapons. Some of my favorites include ARKHAM CITY Robin, Catwoman and a bunch of different Batman's that all vary in some way from the other. 2014 will bring a host of new goodies including some brilliant looking ROBOCOP's from the new movie as well as a classic one based on the 1987 figure. Also keep an eye out for the FLASH, a new SUPERMAN and more BATMAN figures than you can shake a stick at. All in all, PLAY ARTS KAI wins our toys of the year with their attention to detail, affordability and downright awesomeness and playability.