Friday, June 12, 2020

The Best Of 2020: Part 1

So… has your 2020 been? I guess it’s safe to say that nobody expected this year to turn out as it has. This worldwide pandemic has turned pretty much everyone’s lives upside down and amidst all of the real world problems, all of a sudden, updating a blog about toys just seemed a little less...significant.

Anyway after over three months into a mix of enhanced and general community quarantine, we’re slowly getting into a more regularized sense of “new normalcy”, and I’ve finally gotten some time to sit down and start up my annual “best of” list for the year.

As the title suggests, we’re going to be doing things a little differently this year. Instead of the usual 4 part installment, I’ve decided to make it a 3 parter. The reason being well….I just haven’t been able to get anything new during the lockdown. Can you imagine? Almost 2 months without a SINGLE toy purchase (a few pre orders made before the lockdown started arriving this month)! Now that is quite a record for me.

So with all that out of the way, let’s get started with a few honorable mentions.

Marvel Legends Cuckoos

The same exact figure that serious collectors would have to get at least three for a proper display was a definite no brainer for Hasbro. While I wouldn’t have minded three traditionally blond Cuckoos. The addition of 2 other unique head sculpts and multiple hand options to further differentiate the 3 surviving Cuckoos is much appreciated.

Earthrise Grapple & Hoist

So let me get this out of the way now. I am really loving Hasbro’s new toy line Earthrise! The Transformers in this line hit that perfect mix of the original G1 toys with modern updates. While my main Transformers collection is the masterpiece line, I just LOVE these simpler versions that you can easily fiddle with over and over again.

So just as a head’s up, you’re going to see a bunch of Earthrise Transformers on this list. The only reason Hoist and Grapple only make honorable mentions is because I don’t really have that much nostalgic connection to either character. But other than that, like almost all the Earthrise stuff, these are up to this point, the best modern representations of Hoist and Grapple short of the masterpiece level.

And now the proper top ten so far.

10) Marvel Legends Iron Fist

For the longest time, I felt that I didn’t need this figure as I already had the New Avengers white Iron Fist in my Marvel Legends display. Over time though, I found myself wanting to replace him with the more traditional green costume. While I would have preferred his original look with the high collar and martial arts slippers, this is currently the closest one we have from Hasbro that I know of, so it would have to do. I found a nice deal online and that was that. While I originally bought him with the intention of just “filling a slot” in my collection, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually liked him so there you go….good enough to crack my top ten for now.

9) Earthrise Wheeljack

While I’m not a huge fan, Wheeljack is one of those iconic Autobots from the original series. Ever since his original toy, I’ve felt that all the other Wheeljack toys (not counting the MP version of course) have always come out rather bland. It seems like none of them really got the proportions right and looked awkward. This one kinda least a lot better than any of the others. Plus he gets extra points for all the additional decos on his car mode that is rather unusual for a main line release.

8) Marvel Legends Demogoblin

I remember when I first saw this guy in the comics, my first reaction was that I felt they were really milking this whole “goblin” thing. I was good with the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin. Demogoblin felt like the people at Marvel were just pushing it. So initially this was an easy pass for me. But as is usually the case, it just takes a few more extra looks for my resolve to crumble. And so while I had no connection towards this guy, his sculpt and design slowly won me over. And he looks great with the rest of my goblin horde.

7) Marvel Legends Superior Octopus

I’m not a regular Spider Man reader, but I did check out the whole Superior Spider Man story out of curiosity and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Once it was done I figured that was it for the whole Doc Ock Spidey story. Then I saw Superior Octopus pop up in the Secret Empire storyline as a member of the Hydra Avengers. I had no idea about what his backstory was but I completely fell in love with the design. So I was quite happy that I didn’t have to wait long for a plastic representation of the Superior Octopus to finally be released. I don’t know if this guy is just a one off character, but regardless, his design is something that really pops on my shelf.

6) Marvel Legends Vulture

I just love completing super teams, and that includes super villain teams. And the Sinister Six is one of the most iconic ones out there. Slowly but surely, Hasbro has been building their modern version of the original line up and the Vulture is the final member of the team (OK so a more accurate version of Electro is on its way as well) to be released. And he’s really well done. He has one of the best head sculpts done, complete with the old man warts and all. Now if they would only hurry up with Overdrive…..

5) Siege Mirage

This one took me by surprise. I originally got the clear blue version of Mirage that came in a Siege 3 pack. He was meant to be a throwaway character that I intended to just sell off since what I really wanted were the other 2 characters in the set, Impactor and the Powerdasher Aragon. But Mirage ended up impressing me quite a bit! What I really enjoyed about the toy was that he transformed in a very non-traditional Mirage way, with the alt mode front not folding down to form the robot's chest. I found the engineering rather new and refreshing. And this guy won me over. I ended up keeping him, and even got myself the regular version later on. As an aside, I later realized that they actually sported different head sculpts. How cool is that?

4) Earthrise Starscream

Regular readers of my blog know by now that I am a Decepticon seeker whore. And I make it a point to get as many versions of Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp as humanly possible. Anyway, one of my biggest frustrations was that up to this point, the definitive “classic” mold of the seeker, while pretty great was sorely undersized. I really needed a properly sized voyager seeker for my shelf. While Siege came close with a very well done Cybertronic “tetra-jet” version, Earthrise FINALLY gave me what I and I’m sure other collectors have been waiting for.

While some may point out that he’s just an upsized version of the original classic seeker mold, I’m completely fine with that. Aside from finally giving us a properly sized classic seeker, the toy itself is well done. The added articulation is most welcome, and the construction is just perfect. The plastic used feels great and everything locks and fits in perfectly in both modes. It’s been quite awhile since I handled a toy like this. I am SO looking forward to the Thundercracker/Skywarp two pack coming out later this year to finally complete this classic team.

3) Marvel Legends Monster Venom

The monster Venom figure was originally released as a build-a-figure for a Marvel legends Venom wave released last year. As with many Spider Man and symbiote characters, I really had no connection with this guy so I ultimately passed on him and most of that wave. As the months passed though I started slowly regretting my decision as the Monster Venom started really growing on me. By this time, he had become one of the more expensive BAFS on the secondary market, selling for prices I was unwilling to go for.

Then Hasbro re-released him as an oversized figure this year. And to sweeten the pot, he was released in an alternate and more classic deco. So this was a no brainer.

2) X-Transbots Gravestone (Masterpiece Motormaster)

This was the biggest purchase, both literally and price-wise, for me for the first third of the year. Gravestone is the final member of X-Transbot’s take on their MP Stunticons. Unfortunately, he didn’t come with his trailer that is needed to form Menasor. But at the very least at least I have a complete set of Stunticons.

As a figure he’s very solid and has quite the presence on the shelf as Motormaster should. And while he can be quite imposing, his transformation and engineering is not so overwhelming.

I remember getting this early in the year when news on the Corona virus was still emerging from China. Still that didn’t stop me from stressing out on whether this toy had the virus since it originated from China ha ha. Anyway, as my supplier/seller assured me, his stock was shipped out of China, not flown. So IF there had been any remnants of the virus on the box or the toy itself from China, it would not have survived the long journey by there :P

1) Earthrise Optimus Prime

As far as iconic characters go, they don’t get more iconic than this guy. Yes I know, it’s ANOTHER Optimus Prime. While 2019 gave me the definitive Optimus Prime for my MP shelf with Transform Element’s OP Leader, we finally got possibly the definitive Prime for my classic collection.

After an almost perfect Siege Optimus Prime, the Earthrise version seemed a little...redundant, but I decided to get him anyway since he WAS an earth mode Prime that did come with a trailer (which was a rarity for many modern versions of Prime). I figured I could just sell off my Siege version (another fake reasoning I would employ on myself to get something new) once I had this one. Anyway while the trailer part feels more like a second thought, the actual Prime more than makes up for it. There really isn’t much to say about this guy except he’s the perfect modern, no frills version of a classic Prime. Period. He even comes with his own little Matrix of Leadership. Oh by the way, I ended up keeping the Siege version as well ha ha.

And that’s it for now. I have since gotten more stuff (more PO’s made before the lockdown) to write about come the second third of the year. Hopefully by then the world will be in a better place with less of the virus going around. So until then, please stay safe everyone.