Monday, January 7, 2019

The Best Of 2018 part 2

So it’s finally time to finish off this little experiment I started nine whole months ago when I set off to tackle my annual “best of” list in a new way. I have to say I really enjoyed building up to my best of 2018 list this way as it gave me a greater appreciation of everything I got in the past 365 days. I really hope it was as fun for you the readers as it was for me. So let’s get it on!

Let’s start things off by doing a recap of the 3rd quarter Top 10 list which was as follows:

10) Transformers Titans Return Monsterbots
9) Super 7 comic version Trapjaw
8) Marvel Legends Build-a-figure SP//dr
7) Fans Toys Rouge (Masterpiece Arcee)
6) Marvel Legends Thing/Fantastic Four
5) X-Transbots Toro (Masterpiece Cliffjumper)
4) Marvel Mei Sho Manga Realization Samurai Deadpool
3) Marvel Mei Sho Manga Realization Samurai Captain America
2) Gigapower Graviter (Masterpiece Sludge)
1) Toy World Constructor (Masterpiece Devastator)

Looking back now at how my list evolved from quarter to quarter I noticed a recurring trend that was definitely not planned. With every new update of my list, half of the previous quarter’s list was replaced. Given that, it’s rather apt that the trend be continued with half of the final list being composed of stuff I got between October to December. I’ll admit that there may be a slight case of recency bias on my part but there really was a lot of great stuff that came out before the year ended. And so we say goodbye to yet another batch of toys to make way for more.

And now without further ado, the final TOP TEN LIST OF 2018.

10) Fans Toys Rouge (Masterpiece Arcee)

OK, I’ll be the first to admit, that as far as Transformers go, Rouge is not the best designed toy. Especially for one produced by Fans Toys, a 3rd party company known for putting out exceptional products. Her transformation can be quite a chore and her relatively dainty appearance means a slightly more fragile build. But transformation aside, she looks fantastic in both robot and vehicle mode, miles better than any other “masterpiece” Arcee option out to date.

But more importantly, Arcee is a key character in the Transformers universe, making her release one of my most anticipated for 2018. Her addition to my shelf helps complete my 1986 movie masterpiece display, one of my most cherished sets in the collection. And so she manages to hang on to the last spot on my list.

9) Marvel Legends Thing (Fantastic Four)

As a character, Thing is easily one of the most iconic and easily recognizable superheroes in the Marvel Universe. As a toy, this Thing is a beautifully sculpted and chunky figure. And more importantly, this Thing finally completes the long awaited modern take on the Fantastic Four for Marvel Legends.

8) Super 7 Club Grayskull Mer-Man

When Filmation produced their Masters of the Universe cartoon in the 80’s, one of the first things they did was to take the toy designs done by Mattel and simplify them to make them easier to animate and most likely appeal more to a younger audience. While the change from toy to cartoon wasn’t too radical for most characters , there were a few key characters which looked really different. Mer-Man was definitely one of those who fell into the later category. And so when Mattel first started their Filmation based Club Grayskull toy line a few years back, a cartoon Mer-Man seemed like a no-brainer and was one I was most looking forward to. But just like that, the line ended after one wave with no Mer-Man produced.

Fortunately, another company, Super 7 came to the rescue and continued where Mattel left off with the Club Grayskull line and we finally got a cartoon based Mer-Man. I know the concept of a “merman” is pretty standard fare as far as “monsters” go, but I have always found Mer-Man to be one of the more visually interesting characters from Masters of the Universe. And now I have modern versions of both the vintage toy and cartoon Mer-Man on my shelf.

7) Marvel Amazing Yamaguchi Revoltech Psylocke

OK so this was definitely an impulse buy for me. I don’t really collect the Amazing Yamaguchi line, but when I first saw preview pics of Psylocke a few months ago I was immediately taken. Once the preorders went up I placed an order...and then started to regret it. Aside from not really collecting the line, I also didn’t really have any place on my shelf for it. To make matters worse, when she was finally released, most online reviews rated her as just OK at best.

Anyway, maybe it was just due to lowered expectations but when I finally got my figure in hand, I was not disappointed. Maybe I was lucky with my specific figure but I found her not as fiddly as many reviewers made her out to be. With multiple accessories, swappable hands and faces (and moveable eyeballs!), she can be placed in quite a number of cool action poses. The perfect subject for toy photography.

All my worries about this figure quickly dissipated once I started playing around with it and realized just how fun she was. She looks so good that she can be a stand alone piece in any display. This is the definite successor to last year’s Figma Metroid figure as the most enjoyable figure for me in 2018.

6) Fans Toys Quietus (Masterpiece Cyclonus)

Going into 2018, Cyclonus was one of the key characters missing from my 1986 Transformers Movie masterpiece shelf. At the time, the only MP version of Cyclonus currently available was one by 3rd party X-Transbots which for some reason didn’t look quite right for me. Of course I also held out from getting him because another company with a stronger reputation, Fans Toys had already released preview pics of their own upcoming version which definitely looked better. Unfortunately, Fans Toys had a reputation of releasing prototype pics of so many characters that it was anyone’s guess as to when the actual toys would be released. Such was the case with their version of Cyclonus dubbed Quietus.

I was definitely in, but was not holding my breath for an imminent release. Which is why it was such a pleasant surprise when pics of an actual toy in package started to surface late in 2018. It took a few more months but to my delight I actually got my MP Quietus/Cyclonus before the year ended and it was definitely worth the wait.

Fans Toys is known for producing fantastic looking and perfectly painted toys, and Quietus continues that trend. Unfortunately Fans Toys is also known for rather over ambitious engineering with their transformations, making switching from one mode to the other rather ….difficult. But in my opinion, Quietus is not as bad as some of their their other stuff which is an added bonus in my book.

And speaking of bonuses, Fans Toys even went the extra mile to give us extra parts for fans of the IDW comics version of Cyclonus who was a radically different take on what we were used to with this “evil Decepticon” warrior.

Before I actually got him in hand, I knew he would easily crack my top 10 regardless, his place was really his to lose, he just didn’t need to suck big time and well….he didn’t.

5) Marvel Mei Sho Manga Realization Samurai Captain America

One of only two entries from the first quarter of 2018. A real cool take on my favorite hero of all time. Even when compared to his other fellow Marvel samurai, Cap really stands out. There was never a doubt that this samurai Cap would remain in my top 10 for the entire year.

4) DX9 Carry (Masterpiece Rodimus Prime)

As far as 3rd party Transformers go, Dx9 Carry is rather old, having been first released in 2015. I never really got around to getting him because I already had the official Masterpiece Rodimus Prime from Hasbro (the one that didn’t come with a trailer). But as time passed, that MP Rodiumus started looking uglier and dated standing next to my newer 3rd party Transformers.

On the flipside, Dx9 Carry seemed to age pretty well and was constantly being re-issued which meant the demand for the guy must have been pretty strong, I got curious and started checking out reviews online. Every review I watched had nothing but praises for the toy, so despite being 3 years late to the party I decided to check it out and well….it turned out that all those reviews were pretty spot on. I quickly sold off my Takara Rodimus and Carry easily took his on the 86 shelf place.

Unlike the official MP Rodimus which had a multitude of breakage issues and was a pain to transform, DX9 Carry is a solid toy that actually includes the trailer in its transformation which is quite convenient. And the transformation itself, is just perfect, not too complicated but not too simple as well. Admittedly, he has a more stylized look, which is one of the reasons I also hesitated getting him in the first place, but ultimately I think it works, he fits in with the rest of my 86 movie bots just fine.

3) Gigapower Graviter (Masterpiece Sludge)

As far as Dinobots go, Sludge is probably my least favorite, which says a lot about how great this toy is. Gigapower is infamous for taking their sweet time in completing their masterpiece Dinobot team (averaging about 1 per year), but the end result of what they produce is undeniably top quality stuff. And it’s obvious they take customer feedback into account with each successive release. While both Gutter & Grassor are pretty great as well, there is an obvious step up in quality with Graviter. Once released early in 2018, he shot straight up to the top of my first quarter list. And although he didn’t manage to keep the top spot, even back then I knew he was a lock for the final list.

2) Toy World Constructor (Masterpiece Devastator)

If this was a list was based on actual size and cost, Constructor would definitely take the prize. This was easily the biggest and most expensive toy I got in 2018. It would take something extra special to unseat this behemoth from his throne at the top, and to be honest, initially I didn’t foresee anything actually doing that. But guess what? Something actually did! Oh how the mighty have fallen!

1) Star Wars Black Series Dengar (Bounty Hunters)

Ok so even i’ll admit that at first take this may seem like a rather odd (or even anti-climactic) choice for my number one toy for 2018. But let me explain.

First of all, I have always been a big fan of the Bounty Hunters from The Empire Strikes Back. Even as a kid, the original vintage figures were some of my favorites from the line. And of all the hunters, Dengar was actually one of the first action figures I ever got. In fact I got two of them! So there is a lot of sentimentality behind this choice.

Secondly, as a figure itself, Dengar is probably one of the best ones produced by Hasbro to date. Given that he’s the only bounty hunter with a human face, it was quite timely that Hasbro chose to make him this year after they finally started using face printing technology, making the final product all that more better. Dengar’s bandaged up & scarred ugly mugg is perfectly executed.

And finally, Dengar was the last bounty hunter made by Hasbro to complete the team. Their first hunter, Boba Fett (of course!) was released way back in 2014 with Bossk & IG-88 following soon after. Still, even with half the team in hand, it seemed like a pipe dream that we would actually get all six bounty hunters. But Hasbro had other plans. It may have taken 4 years (which is an eternity for low EQ collectors like myself) but in 2018 we got the final 3 members, in quick succession, 4-Lom, Zuckuss and of course...Dengar! Completing my 6” Bounty Hunters team was definitely the major collecting highlight for the year for me.

Definitely worth sending Dengar (and by default, the rest of the Bounty Hunters) straight to the top of my best of 2018.

In case you missed it, you can read the first three parts of my ongoing top ten list of 2018 here: First QuarterSecond QuarterThird Quarter.