Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Best Of 2020: Part 4

There weren’t that many toys being released at the start of 2020. For the most part I was just placing pre-orders for stuff scheduled to be released later in the year. So come September onwards all those pre orders started arriving and just like that I was overwhelmed with so many new toys. So much so that it took me one whole post to just write about my honorable mentions for the last third of the year. So now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to go over the final top 10 list for 2020.

10. Marvel Legends Deadpool, Cable & Domino

When Hasbro announced early in 2020 that they would finally be releasing action figures based on the Fox X-Men movie franchise, I’m sure everyone went crazy over the multiple Hugh Jackman Wolverines that they had on display. While I admit they probably sold their collective souls to produce a close to perfect 6” plastic rendition of Hugh-verine, I really couldn’t care less. What really got me excited were their renditions of Deadpool and his X-Force buddies Cable & Domino.

Now let’s get one thing straight, I’m not a big Deadpool fan. I for one believe that we have been force fed enough redundant and useless versions of Deadpool figures to last us a lifetime. But I did thoroughly enjoy both live action Deadpool movies, so I’m perfectly fine having yet another version of Deadpool that is based on them. In fact I was looking forward to it. Seeing the inclusion of Cable and Domino was just icing on the cake.

Now it really could have been easy for Hasbro to just phone it in with the rest of the Fox movie characters not named Wolverine and Deadpool. Thankfully they didn’t and both Cable and Domino are just as amazingly sculpted and detailed as the later two. Personally I would’ve preferred a taller more imposing Cable, but as it turns out, Josh Brolin isn’t all that big without all the Mad Titan CGI all around him. So points for accuracy I guess?

In the end, this trio has got me excited for hopefully more Deadpool movie releases..Colossus, Yukio, the whole ill fated X-Force team...hell I’ll even take a Russell Firefist. I’m all in. 

9. Earthrise Sunstreaker

If you are familiar with this blog, there’s a good chance you know that Sunstreaker is my favorite Transformer, Autobot or Decepticon….of all time. So you can imagine that I was over the moon when Earthrise Sunstreaker was announced and was eagerly awaiting his arrival for the greater part of 2020.

All biases aside, I think this is one of the best toys released in the line. While some may argue that he is an extensive remold of Wheeljack (the original toys did share a similar transformation) he’s practically an all new figure with uniquely sculpted parts. The biggest knocks on this guy is that his yellows don’t match and that Hasbro skimped on his accessories by not giving him a proper weapon and ditching the car spoiler. Which is why I can’t really place him any higher on this list...if it weren’t Sunstreaker, this toy wouldn’t even be on it.

Well, the slight paint mismatch I can live with, and I was able to get a proper gun and spoiler 3D printed so I’m good with that. Through the years, Hasbro has given us a decent number of Sunstreaker toys but not counting the masterpiece version, this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to the look and feel of the original vintage toy.

8. Black Series Teebo & Paploo

Well Teebo manages to stick around, and this time he’s brought along his friend Paploo. Aside from Wicket and the ewok that died, Paploo was probably the only other ewok people specifically remembered after watching Return of the Jedi for the first time. He was the ewok who took an Imperial speeder bike out for a joy ride.

What can I say? I love ewoks. I hope that Hasbro gives us more in 2021. Sell them as individuals, in a 2 pack, hell even an exclusive 5 pack...I’ll take them all :) 

7. X-Transbots Gravestone (MP Motormaster)

When this guy was released at the start of the year, everyone expected the final part, which was his trailer to follow soon after. Unfortunately, the year came and went and no trailer was released, so we were left with five Stunticons who couldn’t combine into Menasor. Then, to add even more insult to injury, X-Transbots finally did announce a pre order in December for the trailer AND a separate accessory set (which they previously stated would be included with the trailer) both for unexpectedly high prices which left a lot of collectors who had been patiently waiting extremely pissed off. 

Anyway, despite their dubious business practices, their MP take on Motormaster really does deserve it’s place in my list. He was one of the bigger purchases I made and has a great presence on the shelf. More importantly though, he’s fairly well built and isn’t too much of a nightmare to transform So yeah, Gravestone finishes firm at seven.

6. Honey Badger KO MPM-08 Megatron 

This guy may technically be a knock off, but he is surprisingly better than the original Movie masterpiece release. This KO is made of better materials and sports an even more realistic and detailed paint job. He basically falls in the same category as Gravestone. Great big toy, great big presence on the shelf but without all the bad taste that the whole X-Transbots trailer fiasco caused. 

And while I know this doesn’t really matter in the grander scheme of things but did you know that badgers are some of the smartest, toughest and most vicious animals in existence? 

5. Earthrise Sky Lynx

With no actual robot mode, just a space shuttle and its platform(?) that transformed into a giant bird and lynx respectively and then combined to form some sort of 4 legged…..dragon(?), Sky Lynx was quite the “odd duck” of the Transformers bunch. I personally found his whole gimmick pretty cool and although I never got the original toy, I was more than open to getting any modern versions of him since he was somewhat a regular character in the third season of the original G1 cartoon. Unfortunately though, new Sky Lynxes weren’t very common.

In fact the first modern version of Sky Lynx was released back in 2016 as part of the Combiner Wars line. This version was sorely undersized and couldn’t divide into its lynx and bird components. Instead, this version formed the main body that other combined limbs could attach to in order to form the new gestalt Sky Reign. For what it was, it was a cool toy, but it didn’t really satisfy my need for a properly updated Sky Lynx.

This year, Hasbro finally gave us the modern Sky Lynx we needed as part of the Earthrise line and it’s about time. This is basically an updated version of the original toy in every way. It’s bigger, more detailed and more articulated. It also has a fairly decent 4th mode which is that of a base/station giving it even more playability.

For me though, the main plus for this guy is that he is solid. The biggest knock I have with the Earthrise line is that a lot of the releases don’t feel very sturdy. The plastic used on most of the toys feel brittle and have a lot of hollow parts to save on production costs. Sky Lynx has none of these issues. Hasbro didn’t cut any corners when they made this guy. 

4. Fans Toys Thomas (MP Astrotrain)

Transformer triple changer toys are generally tricky to design and produce. In almost all cases, at least one of the three modes is usually sacrificed in order to make the other two passable. And then the difficulty is multiplied with masterpiece triple changers as then an overly complicated transformation is usually added into the mix. 

This is what makes Fans Toys Thomas, their version of a masterpiece Astrotrain really special. All his modes, robot, train and space shuttle look really good, and switching between them is fairly easy or at the very least is not headache inducing. This in itself is a pleasant surprise given Fans Toy’s reputation for overly complicated engineering and transformation sequences. And to top it all off, he also has all the strong points of a typical Fans Toys product as well, solid materials, construction and a masterpiece paint finish.

As a toy, I’ve seen this guy top a lot of collectors lists and he could easily top mine if it weren’t for the fact that well...he’s Astrotrain. I recognize that he’s one of the more popular Decepticons and is a must in any serious Transformer display...but he was never a favorite character of mine. I have no connection with the guy. And nostalgia does play a significant factor in my rankings. So as close to perfect as this toy is, number four is as high as he goes.

3. Black Series Cad Bane

Aside from Ahsoka Tano, I would argue that the bounty hunter Cad Bane is the most popular new character introduced in the Clone Wars animated series. Hasbro must have agreed with this assessment as they decided that his eventual release in their Black Series line deserved some special treatment. While they apparently planned to release him in a regular wave, they first opted to have him debut as a European convention exclusive with an added accessory, his droid sidekick Todo 360. 

By some odd twist, this said exclusive was also released in Asia (or at least in HK) where I was able to easily pro-order it with no problem and get it in my hands a mere 2 weeks after it was officially announced. The fact that I was able to get this premium version so quickly without a hitch was one of my favorite collecting stories for the year. I heard that a lot of US collectors weren’t as lucky as he was rather difficult to get there.

All that aside, the figure itself is fantastic, again Hasbro pulled out all the stops with this guy and he just exudes a menacing coolness to him...fitting for this dangerous bounty hunter. And finally as an accessory, Todo 360 is pretty cool in his own right, his addition definitely justifies the exclusive price which in itself wasn’t too bad to begin with. 

The moment I had these two in hand I had no doubt that they would make my top ten of the year.

2. Black Series Zeb Orrelios

As much as I love the Clone Wars, I am really more particular to the Rebels series that followed it. And it’s mainly for that reason that Zeb Orrelios finishes this high on my list. Zeb was the last member of the Rebels Ghost crew that completionists like myself were waiting for, So you can imagine how excited I was when his official release was announced early this year. He was easily one of my most anticipated toys of 2020.

While Rebels was an animated series, Hasbro took the more realistic approach when they tackled their characters for the Black Series line. So even on that level I was very curious on how they would interpret a Lasat, Zeb’s alien species into a more real world look. I think they did a pretty good job. Here’s a quick bit of trivia in case you weren’t aware, the Lasat species was based on the original Ralph McQuarrie concept for Chewbacca. 

Anyway, the Zeb figure itself is really cool with an interesting weapon accessory with multiple display options. And finally completing my Rebels crew was possibly the main collecting goal highlight for the year. 

1. Earthrise Optimus Prime

And for the number one toy of 2020, we have Optimus Prime. He was number one at the start of the year and ends the year still on top. Given the number of adult collector oriented toys I get in a year, it’s very rare that a mainline retail release from any company takes the top spot. The only other 2 that have made it previously got there mainly due to nostalgic reasons and not so much for the toy itself. This time around, it’s the toy itself that earns the top spot (sorry did that make sense?). I mean I like Optimus Prime as much as the next guy but I don’t really have some special nostalgic connection with him.

Earthrise Optimus Prime is probably the best reasonably priced mainstream version of the Autobot leader that you can get your hands on to date. The only drawback to this release is that it comes with a trailer that seems like an afterthought. It feels cheap and incomplete and doesn’t even have his little buddy Roller. But thanks to some readily available custom 3D printed parts, these shortcomings can be fixed easily.

Of course it’s not in the same category as a masterpiece Transformer, but sometimes you just want a simpler version of a character to fiddle with and transform back and forth frequently. As my 5 year old daughter put it, one for “play” and one for “display”. 

So there you have it. Prime (Earth) rises to the top of my best of 2020. We can put this year to a close and move on to 2021!