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The Prince of All Saiyans – In Action Figure Form!

IMG_2274Jumping back into the world of Dragon Ball, and especially the SH Figuarts Vegeta figure, has made me especially nostalgic for all things Dragon Ball Z. Back in the early 2000s, I was an avid collector of Irwin Toys’ Dragon Ball Z line of action figures. When Dragon Ball Z first showed up in America, Irwin licensed the old Bandai Super Battle Collection line of toys for distribution in North America. This proved a smart move because the show didn’t catch on so Irwin wasn’t out a ton of capital. The Bandai toys, and also a series also licensed by Irwin from a company called AB, were pretty dated in the late 90s. They contained minimal articulation, almost no accessories (something DBZ didn’t really lend itself well to, in fairness), and were just an adequate representation of the characters from the anime. Arguably their best feature was the nice box-styled packaging, something that was probably expensive relative to other toys so the Irwin ones came in standard blisters with “loud” 90s styling.

These toys, as released by Irwin, were largely peg warmers. They paled in quality to the stuff being put out by Toy Biz and McFarlane and since the show didn’t catch on kids really didn’t want them. They eventually made it into the discount bins, which was when I got my Super Saiyan Vegeta figure for a mere four dollars. Eventually, Cartoon Network picked up Dragon Ball Z and began airing it during the afternoon timeslot. It soon caught on, and suddenly America was in love with this series from Japan that had long since ended. Funimation, the company distributing the show in North America, eventually went back to the series to dub it in its entirety which also gave Irwin the confidence to go all-in on the license and start creating its own toys. DBZ was mostly a show that appealed to an older audience, so Irwin made it a point to appeal to collectors and longtime fans, which was pretty cool from a collector’s standpoint, but maybe not the best marketing decision. They first concentrated on characters that Bandai never tackled such as Nappa, Krillen, and the non-final forms of Frieza, to name a few. They didn’t even release a Goku until Series 4, which is pretty damn crazy since almost every series of modern figures includes one Goku.

In light of my enjoyment of the Figuarts Vegeta, I decided to dig out all of my Vegeta toys from storage and take a look at them. They’re all Irwin releases, except one. Irwin eventually went bankrupt as DBZ was basically its only successful property. They were able to sell the license to Jakks Pacific who would continue the line for a few years. The Jakks toys initially were fine because they were mostly unreleased Irwin designed figures, but the Jakks originals were rather poor which is when I stopped collecting. Jakks seemed to use a lower quality plastic and a much simpler paint application giving their toys almost a rubbery look, even though they were hard plastic. Their only good releases really were the re-releases of older Irwin toys that they were able to make paint corrections to, most notoriously Perfect Cell who had a very blue skin and no purple sideburns as released by Irwin. Lets take a trip through the toys I did get though. I did not get every Vegeta released by Irwin, but I did get all of the main ones (I mostly skipped the gimmick lines, with one exception) and one of the Jakks releases. Let’s start with the first one, the re-release of the Bandai Super Battle Collection Super Saiyan Vegeta.

This figure is pretty damn basic for a toy. He’s mostly comprised of colored plastic with minimal paint applications and almost no articulation, which was par for the course for this line. His only articulation is in the shoulders, wrists, and calves. His hair is glued on and doesn’t look particularly great, but in a way it accentuates his receding hairline. The battle armor is removable and it’s just two pieces of plastic that snap together. This was the standard approach for this line as most characters had a removable shirt. His boots are missing the yellow/gold tips. Still, for the time, the likeness was fine and he mostly looks like Vegeta, especially from the side. Not a fun toy by any means, but at least his bum looks nice in blue spandex.

Our next figure was Irwin’s first attempt at a proper Vegeta. Based on his look in the Androids Saga, this was a Series 4 figure and a much anticipated one. He’s a solid representation of what Irwin’s approach was. They utilized ball joints for the shoulders to go with legs, knees, and head articulation. It was pretty standard for the time, but obviously not on pair with what we’re accustomed to today. After all, he basically can’t be posed in any of his signature stances and what you see is kind of what you get since he has no elbow or wrist articulation. Like the Bandai toys, he is mostly done with colored plastic as well, but the white and yellow of his armor is painted on. The blue of his suit is a deep royal blue and the tips of his boots are molded on, but not painted. This was an artistic approach for the figures as we’ll see with the Super Saiyan version, Irwin would go lighter on the suit and paint in the boot tips. The likeness is solid, though something is off a bit in the face and I think it’s the thickness of the eyebrows. Part of the likeness issues is probably due to the relatively small scale Irwin is working with. Vegetal stands just under 5″ at about 4 7/8″ to the tip of his hair. This line is basically in-scale with the Bandai line, though most of the figures were about the same height with only the obviously taller ones coming in greater than 5″. This figure does accentuate what I love about this look for Vegeta which is the contrasting bright white of the armor with the rich blue of the bodysuit. It pops, and making the armor molded onto the figure is a much better choice than making it removable.

The next figure is Irwin’s first go at Super Saiyan Vegeta. Coming in the very next series following the non-super version, this figure had an entirely new sculpt which was a positive as I feared they’d just put a new head on him and call it a day. There’s evidence of minor enhancements too in Irwin’s sculpting process. This figure is more rounded in the torso, possibly to accentuate the bulkiness of Super Vegeta. He also has molded kneecaps and a slightly open hand showing that Irwin wasn’t going to shy away from doing fingers. The hair is much spikier, and there’s a pearl finish to the white of the armor. As I mentioned with the previous figure, this one is a lighter blue and the yellow pieces are slightly lighter as well to give off the impression of that Super Saiyan glow. The yellow tips of the boots are also painted in as well. For some reason, Irwin associated that feature with the Super Saiyan form as they would repeat this with Trunks. The face sculpting was more ambitious as well as he has sunken in eyes, a furrowed brow, and more detail in his ears. He looks pretty solid, though the shape of the hair feels off and I wish he had a sneer instead of a scowl. The pupils of his eyes aren’t lined up either and he looks kind of goofy upon closer inspection. I was pretty satisfied with him though at the time, and he is an improvement on the previous Vegeta in many respects, though at the expense of looking a little less like Vegeta.

Our next figure is from the non-mainline series and from the Striking Z Fighters line of figures. These ones all featured some action they could perform. In the case of this Super Saiyan Vegeta, clad in his Buu Saga attire, he’s supposed to do a flip. It’s an exceedingly lame action feature as you basically just hold one arm between your fingers and literally flick at him to make him spin around. Basically any figure can do this, this one just features a ratchet joint in the shoulder so he’ll move more freely and easily without getting so loose that the figure can’t hold its arm up when posing. The good thing is this lame feature doesn’t harm the look of the figure, but it does mean he lost knee articulation and can only stand with his right foot slightly in front of his left. This stance makes him shorter than our other Vegeta figures, which actually makes him more in scale with the likes of Goku and Trunks. He’s a quieter looking figure too when compared with the prior Super Saiyan version as his hair is less spiky and his facial features are more simple. He has a sort-of angry, smug look on his face that’s almost the much-wanted Vegeta smirk but not quite. He looks fine, though I wish he posed better. He came with a plastic board originally that he could flip through that I didn’t drag out as it was pretty lame. And it was nice that Irwin made the effort to put him in different attire, even though the Buu Saga was still a little ways off at the time of release.

The next figure is the first Vegeta from the Buu era of the show in the main series and it’s Majin Vegeta. He had an interesting existence as the first version released to retail incorrectly colored his hair black. If you’re thinking this makes that version rare and valuable you would be wrong. While perhaps it could become that eventually, the figure was mass released and I honestly don’t know which is more rare – the error version or the running change yellow seen here. Since it was so obviously an error, I’m sure many people bought multiples and kept them carded in hopes of re-selling them later. Unfortunately for them, this line doesn’t command much money probably due to the abundance of better DBZ toys out there. Anyway, this figure was a bit of a disappointment. Series 6 for Irwin marked a new era of paint experimentation that included applying a paint wash to give the toys more definition and personality. They also tried to give them a bit of a dirty look as well. This Vegeta came well after that and Irwin toned it down some, but they still had’t quite figured things out. His clothing is very muted while his skin has a lot of red to it, including around the eyes which should have been heightened with black for this version of Vegeta. The M on his forehead is nice and sharp, though his hair should probably be spikier given this is also our first Super Saiyan 2 Vegeta. His arms are posed oddly, making it look like he’s riding an imaginary motorcycle. Maybe this was done to recreate the scene where he gives young Trunks a hug before sacrificing himself in a bid to kill Majin Buu. This figure disappointed me at the time, but at least they did finally give Vegeta a cocky grin.

Next up is I guess what you would call dead Vegeta. This is after he’s been brought back by the Kais to help Goku defeat Buu, marked with a halo above is head. He’s in his super form and it looks like the head of the first Super Saiyan Vegeta may have been re-tooled for this figure. At least the hair looks to be about the same. The only real different is he’s sporting an open mouth instead of a closed one. The outfit is less drab compared with Majin Vegeta as Irwin dialed back the dark blue wash they used on that figure. There’s also way less red in the flesh, though the center piece of plastic on the shoulders remains unpainted. His gloves feature a lot of grime on them, as do his boots. Interestingly enough though, Irwin finally adopted elbow articulation so this Vegeta can be posed a little better than others. For the first time he can kind of look like he’s getting ready to power-up his Final Flash attack, so at least that’s pretty cool. The halo is a little warped from storage, though I recall most had a little bend in them, and is supported by a very sturdy peg. It’s not removable, and the tallness of his hair does a solid job of hiding the peg when viewed from the front. This was the last official Irwin Vegeta in the 5″ line and you could argue it was their best take on the character which isn’t a bad way to go out.

Our last 5″ figure is a Jakks Pacific release, but I’m pretty sure this was an Irwin design. This Vegeta was a bit of a surprise, but also a sign of where Jakks would take the line. This is Vegeta as he was on Planet Namek during his fight with Frieza. It features the Namek armor vest which lacked the yellow straps and it’s also battle damaged. The paint is a bit off though as the bodysuit is a very light blue, almost as light as the Super Saiyan Vegeta, when it should be a very dark blue that’s almost black. He also has the yellow tips on his boots when this particular version of Vegeta should have all white boots. The paint is a little sloppy in places, mostly where the vest ends and the bodysuit begins just before the neck, though overall I’d say it’s pretty good. The battle damage on the vest looks awesome and really adds depth to the armor pieces. He has a great looking cocky grin recalling the time just after Dende healed him and Vegeta challenged Frieza thinking he was a Super Saiyan. Best of all, he has more articulation than the other figures including ball-jointed elbows and twisting wrists. He even has ankle articulation, though the shape of the boots makes it very limited. Aside from the incorrect paint choice, the only drawback to this figure is his almost total absence of a nose. The nose is always one of the hardest parts to get right on these characters since they’re so small. It’s not awful, but his face looks a little weird as a result. After so many Super Saiyan versions of the character, it was nice to get another black-haired Vegeta. Jakks would release one more Vegeta that I believe originated as an Irwin sculpt, a version with a black jacket from the very end of DBZ. They would never top this one though.

Oh, but wait! We’re not done yet! In addition to the 5″ line of figures, Irwin also dabbled in the collector market. They first released a trio of figures in a 9″ scale – Goku, Super Saiyan 2 Gohan, and Super Saiyan Vegeta. These figures were more like statues and featured extensive battle damage. Goku looked pretty awful, but Gohan and Vegeta were pretty cool and both were depicted as they were during the Cell Games. This Vegeta is in sort of an odd pose as he almost looks like he’s surfing. As a result of the pose, he comes in at about 8 1/2″ tall. I’m not sure what the source material was, maybe the death of Trunks? What you see here is largely what you get. He does have a thin, black display stand I neglected to remove from storage that helps him stand, but he doesn’t need it. His attire is pretty well beat-up and there’s a real brightness to the blue of his suit. There’s some color blending on it as well that looks pretty sharp. The same trick is used for his skin tone and the color of his hair. It’s similar to what they did with their 5″ version of the character in an attempt to try and make it look like he’s glowing, only with this larger format the results are more convincing. He has a concerned look on his face which i suppose is appropriate. I would have preferred something else though. I really like the shape of his hair, and I wish they could have pulled this off with the smaller figures. He does have articulation in his shoulders and waist as well as his neck. No ball joints though. The rear of his vest has yellowed too, possibly due to when I had him on display which may have been in sunlight – I’m not sure. Oh well. At the time, this was one of my favorite pieces in my DBZ collection, but he’s kind of just so-so now.

Lastly, but not least, we have the IF Labs take on battle damaged Super Saiyan Vegeta from the film Cooler’s Revenge. After just the three figures in their special 9″ line, Irwin created the brand IF Labs (later re-named Giant Ape after the Jakks sale) for large scale collector figures. Most of the figures released in this line were based on the many DBZ films getting dubbed and released by Funimation, but they would eventually tackle DBZ characters like Vegito and Super Buu. This Vegeta is about 8″ tall, making him much shorter than most of the characters released in this line which actually put him in scale for once. His articulation is expansive when compared with the 5″ line – ball shoulders, neck, elbow, hips, knees, shins, and waist. He’s not capable of much in the way of dynamic poses, but his standard look is pretty nice on its own. The sculpting is the real stand-out with this Vegeta as his armor is cracked and broken in places, the bodysuit torn with fragments hanging, his skin is scratched and bleeding and is very evocative of the source artwork. He has an angry, but determined, look to his face and the hair is in two distinct pieces giving the spikes nice definition. There’s finer details as well like stitching on the boots and gloves really giving this figure a jolt of realism, even above what is present in the film. Some of that realism, like his teeth, actually take away from the figure slightly because he looks too real and unlike the actual cartoon. Otherwise, the attention to detail is rather impressive including the all-white boots which is film accurate, even though he always had gold-tipped ones when wearing this attire in the anime. The only thing that stinks about my particular figure is the tiny paint chip on the end of his nose, a terrible place for a spot of missing paint. This was probably my favorite Vegeta figure, until I got the Figuarts one, though I do have another non-Irwin/Jakks Vegeta I’m quite fond of. I suppose I would have preferred a really awesome, non-battle damaged version of the character in this line, but at least the battle damage looks good. They also did eventually do a normal Vegeta and he looked pretty terrible. A lot of the figures in this line suffered with scale as often the heads would be too small, but for at least this figure IF Labs nailed it.

Hopefully you had fun on this trip down memory lane with me and Vegeta. I plan on doing more Dragon Ball related posts in the not too distant future so if you like that franchise you might want to hit that subscribe button!


Action Figures!

It’s been almost a year since I made my initial entry talking about my affection for collecting things.  In that entry, I mentioned how I used to collect action figures.  I loved action figures as a kid, even more so than video games.  Action figures were my go-to toy when I needed to entertain myself.  I even separate my childhood into phases based on what line of action figures dominated my playtime.  In chronological order, they are:  Ghostbusters, TMNT, and X-Men/Spider-Man.  That basically took me from age four to ten or eleven.  Around that age playing with action figures and acting out climactic battles starts to feel childish, plus puberty kicks in which brings along a whole host of new interests and time-wasters.  Most of those toys are gone now, either sold at yard sales or thrown away.  I have most of my X-Men and Spider-Man ones, and I did save the original TMNT line and movie line, not because they’re worth anything, just because I’m sentimental.

Once I hit my late teens I started working a part-time job and soon found myself with disposable income for the first time in my life.  Most kids my age probably spent their money on booze and drugs, I ended up buying toys.  I’m not saying that makes me better than most of my peers, actually it kind of makes me a dork.  New action figures were way better than anything I ever had and they impressed the Hell out of me.  It didn’t make much sense to me, but I started buying more and more.  At first it was a figure here or there, then it started to become whole lines.  I’d buy what I thought looked cool, and then I’d just buy everything.  It was a compulsion.  This lasted probably from the time I was 16 until 22.  At that point in time I was living on my own, I had no place to really put more toys, and the Marvel Legends line switched from Toy Biz to Hasbro and went down the crapper.  Since then I’ve bought a few toys here and there, but by and large I’m done unless I have a kid who gets action figures.

To break up the monotony of all of these video game posts of late, I thought now would be a good time to go digging through some boxes and come up with my 10 favorite action figures.  And by favorite, I mostly mean favorite looking with some addition of intrinsic value taking hold as well.  If I were to make a list of my favorite and most played with toys it would have been an entirely different list.  These are, for the most part, all modern action figures that I acquired in my teens and twenties.  Most of them are from the world of comics, with some cartoon characters as well.  Before I get to my list, let’s take some time out for one honorable mention:

Turtle Trolls

There are some pretty cool gimmick action figures out there.  Lego versions of popular characters come to mind as well as Lego-type toys like Mini Mates and Kubricks.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had many such gimmicks that range from cool to embarrassing.  This one such cross-over falls somewhere in between, though for many it might fall into the embarrassing category.  Treasure Trolls were really popular in the early ’90s.  They didn’t do anything and were cheaply made, but for some reason kids had to have them.  Seeing an opportunity for a cross-over, Playmates and whoever made Treasure Trolls combined the TMNT brand with the trolls and the result was Turtle Trolls.  These things are quite silly, but terribly cute.  They still look mostly like turtles, just with big, colorful hair.  The accessories they came with were mined from existing Turtles figures and really don’t make much sense (Leonardo has the stone katanas that came with Cave Turtle Leo, for instance) but I guess Playmates felt they couldn’t just go with normal weapons.  For whatever reason, I liked this gimmick as a kid and still like it today which is why I still have a set of Turtle Trolls.

Honorable mention out of the way, time for the The Nostalgia Spot’s Top 10 Action Figures!

10. Marvel Legends Green Goblin/Spider-Man Classics Hobgoblin

I couldn’t separate these two, and since they’re so similar, they both get to share spot #10.  Hobgoblin was treated quite well by Toy Biz in the aughts as he received two really sharp figures.  The first Spider-Man Classics Hobgoblin was based on his demonic appearance.  Creatively, the sculpt took some liberties in making him look quite fearsome and the sculpter opted for brown instead of orange for the costume which gave the character a certain gritty-ness not seen in the comics.  As cool as it was, I prefer the more traditional take that came later.  This Hobgoblin is picture perfect when compared with the comic book character.  The colors are vibrant and clean and he wasn’t given some cheesy action feature that could detract from the sculpt.  The pumpkin bomb is permanently affixed to his left hand, but that doesn’t really bother me.  The Green Goblin is every bit as good.  He’s from the Marvel Legends line from the Onslaught wave.  The colors are a bit darker as the Legends line tried to appeal more to adults than the Spider-Man Classics line.  Perhaps a more vibrant paint job would have been more comic accurate, but this works just fine.  It’s not the worst thing in the world to downplay the purple and green color scheme.  Like Hobgoblin, his pumpkin bomb is also permanently attached to his hand.  His glider also has a nice stand for displaying instead of the more cartoonish smoke cloud that Hobgoblin has.  I like the angle the glider’s wings are at too, as it makes the figure much easier to pose.

9.  IF Labs Super Saiyan Vegeta

Dragon Ball Z was a big reason for my renewed interest in action figures.  I got into the series as a teen which made the action figures suddenly appealing.  For awhile, they were terrible as the US distributer, Irwin,  just re-released the old Bandai and AB figures which had long since become outdated.  Eventually, Irwin would start producing its own figures.  There were some growing pains, and the normal five inch line was geared more towards kids than collectors, but they ended up putting out some worthwhile stuff.  Their high grade collector line, IF Labs, had its share of misses but had some hits as well.  IF Labs focused more on the DBZ films, and this version of Vegeta is from the The Return of Cooler OVA.  Articulation wise, the figure leaves something to be desired as its pretty basic, but the sculpt and paint job is bad ass.  Vegeta was one of my favorites from the show, and I was stoked to pick this one up.  He’s around 7″ tall, making him short compared to the rest of the line but still larger than the standard line of action figures.  Irwin/IF never made a better Vegeta than this one, and arguably never produced a better figure than this one.

8. Marvel Legends Apocalypse

Not to be confused with the series 7 Apocalypse action figure, this is the massive build-a-figure Apocalypse from series 12.  At that point, Toy Biz had started releasing each figure in a wave with a piece of a larger figure.  This particular wave of figures came with a piece of the world’s oldest mutant, Apocalypse.  This was a welcomed figure as the series 7 Apocalypse was not well-received.  He was short and fat and a rather poor representation of the figure.  Most figures in the Legends line could trace their appearance to a certain point in time, but that Apocalypse really had no comic counterpart.  This one was true to the likeness of Apocalypse from the ’80s, just huge.  Yeah it would have been nice to have a 6″ scaled Apocalypse as this one is perhaps too big (even though one of Apocalypse’s many mutant powers was the ability to grow in size) but still pretty awesome.  He’s hefty too and one solid figure.  This Apocalypse was the last of the standard waves of figures to feature a build-a-figure of this size.  Future ones were much smaller in scale, which really diminished their coolness (especially for the series 13 Onslaught).  This Apocalypse is a mix of blue and black, though apparently some pieces were colored black where they should have been blue so there are a few more black Apocalypse’s floating around.  The range of motion on his legs is a bit limited, and he’s so top-heavy that he can be hard to stand.  The rest of the figure features typical Marvel Legends articulation.  In the original batch of figures one of his cables was missing and collectors had to go to Toy Biz for a replacement.  As you can see, I went through the effort to have a complete Apocalypse.

7. Unifive Ultimate Saiyan Vegeta

The only character to appear twice on my list, this Vegeta is of a much smaller scale than the previous one and attempts to capture the character in all of his forms from the anime.  It doesn’t quite pull that trick off, but he’s pretty cool nonetheless.  Unifive is a Japanese company and as such this is a Japanese figure that was never released in the US.  He was pretty costly at the time, and has only become more costly since release.  The figure is probably less than 5″ tall though I assume that’s so he can fit in with the other figures from the line (I don’t own any of the other ones).  His coloring is also supposed to resemble the manga more than the anime which basically just means he’s a little darker than usual.  The articulation is rather interesting as it’s mostly cut joints instead of ball joints.  He’s capable of a variety of poses but the cut joints hide the articulation well and make him easy to display.  He comes with a bunch of accessories that I didn’t feel like digging out.  As such, only a couple are displayed in the picture.  He came with four heads:  regular, super saiyan, majin, and oozaru (great ape).  The oozaru head includes damaged saiyan armor like what he wore in his first appearance.  He has a display base that’s just some barren ground with little saibamen heads poking out.  There’s an attachable mountain to cover-up the heads and a little tiny Goku clicks into it so you can display Vegeta in his ape form and he’s actually to scale with Goku!  He also has a removable tail and scouter.  It would have been nice if he had some shoulder pads to more accurately depict him in his Saiyan Saga attire.  There’s also no top to pair with the Majin Vegeta head for an accurate portrayal of that character.  The second set of figures from Unifive (featuring Trunks and Gohan) would do a much better job of accounting for the different looks of the characters.  Short-comings aside, this is my favorite 5″ scale DBZ figure.

6.  Marvel Legends Sentinel

Another build-a-figure, and this one really made use of the format.  This is a more modern take on the Sentinel character from X-Men and he’s pretty bad ass.  Pieces of this figure were distributed in wave 10 which had a very X-Men feel to it.  The coloring is muted and gritty and great care was taken to sculpt the more mechanical parts of the figure making a giant red and purple robot seem almost believable.  Like Apocalypse, there’s a tremendous heft to this figure that’s quite satisfying.  Unlike Apocalypse, his feet are huge making him easy to stand and pose.  He came with a couple of detachable cables (the same that were used for Omega Red from the same series) to coil around various mutants.  Not surprisingly, this one was a real hit with collectors as this was one giant figure that was mostly in scale with the others.  Many would buy multiples of the figures in wave 10 to create their own Sentinel army.  I was satisfied to just have one.

5.  Marvel Select Ultimate Venom

While Toy Biz was releasing highly articulated action figures to toy stores across the globe, Diamond was releasing high grade figures to specialty shops.  Their Marvel Select line had its own scale and focused more on creating a dynamic scene as opposed to making an actual action figure.  Most of the toys featured little articulation but usually came with a display base of some kind.  They also weren’t afraid to tackle some of Marvel’s more obscure characters and embraced the Ultimate Universe that was fairly popular at the time.  I was always a big Venom fan and I always bought the latest action figure to depict him.  Perhaps my standards were set too high considering he was my favorite character, but I often wasn’t completely happy with Venom figures.  This one though is the first I can ever recall being truly satisfied with.  He’s based on his appearance in Ultimate Spider-Man, but Diamond put out two versions of him and this one featured the iconic white spider logo that wasn’t present on the character in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man.  Like most Venom figures, he’s black but with some purple accents.  He’s a solid and heavy figure and has many sculpted pseudopods protruding from his costume.  I especially like the work done on the head and claws.  He also came with a frightened Peter Parker to torment eternally.  This is easily my favorite Venom action figure and there really isn’t a close runner-up.

4. Masterpiece Optimus Prime and Megatron

I’ve never been anything more than a casual fan of Transformers.  The cartoon never grabbed me like the TMNT cartoon, and I just wasn’t that interested in cars that transformed into robots, as cool a concept as that is.  That concept was cool enough for me to acquire a few Transformers here and there.  As a little guy, I had a couple that I only vaguely remember.  When Hasbro released the Generation 2 wave I bought a couple including the Generation 2 Grimlock and Optimus Prime.  When Takara/Hasbro unveiled the Masterpiece Optimus Prime a few years ago the collector in me had to have it.  Here was the perfect Transformer.  Not only does Optimus look like he was pulled from the cartoon, he also transforms into a perfect rendition of his truck form.  No sacrifices had to be made for one form or the other.  The one pictured is the US version which had smaller smoke stacks (apparently we can’t handle longer ones) but he’s still just as cool.  He came with several accessories, and is actually fairly easy to transform.  My favorite touch is the little button on the back of his head that makes his mouth-piece move like he’s talking.  It kind of makes me want to play with him right now.  And after Optimus was released, it was only a matter of time before a Megatron came out as well.  Like Optimus, Megatron is designed to resemble his cartoon form.  Here the designers weren’t as successful which isn’t surprising considering Megatron’s transformation is the most absurd one in the cartoon.  Still, they did a good job with what they had to work with.  His legs did come out skinny making him hard to stand.  Adding the tremendous weight of his arm cannon just makes posing him even more difficult.  When transformed, he makes for a pretty convincing replica of a Walther P38.  Gun enthusiasts won’t be fooled, but others might.  As a result, the US forced Hasbro to put a bright orange cap on the end which is why I got the Japanese version.  Unlike Prime though, transforming Megatron is a total bitch and is something I’ve only done a couple of times.  He has less die-cast than Prime too, making him more fragile.  He’s definitely the lesser of the two, and other Masterpiece figures like Starscream and Grimlock are probably better, but what’s Optimus Prime without his arch nemesis?  I had to include him.

3. Marvel Legends Deadpool

A piece of advice for any toy manufacturers trying to win me over; I love accessories!  When an action figure comes with everything it’s supposed to I get excited.  Marvel Legends Deadpool is a great example of a character coming with just the right amount of accessories.  He’s got a 9mm, two AK’s, two katanas, and a pair of sai.  He even comes with a second, mask-less head that’s totally creepy and an action stand for cool poses.  All of the details are in place including the goofy Deadpool mask-logo on his belt.  This figure reused probably the most popular sculpt Toy Biz would produce, the Daredevil sculpt, and even left Daredevil’s leg pouch on the right leg.  Reusing sculpts kind of sucks, but if it’s done well I can forgive it and this one is.  The only negative I can say about it are that the shoulders are a bit too bulky.  In that case, appearance was sacrificed some for articulation and Deadpool is loaded with articulation.  He can be posed in just about any position one can dream up and I love that all of his accessories have a place they can be stored on his belt.  The paint scheme is very clean and the costume is spot-on.  He is a perfect action figure.  Toy Biz either underestimated the character’s popularity or just plain had distribution issues because he was a bitch to find in stores.  Not long after Marvel Legends Series 6 was released, Deadpool was showing up on eBay for big bucks.  Really, that whole series was botched as Juggernaut and Phoenix were a colossal pain in the ass to find which is a shame because that was one of the better waves of figures Toy Biz ever put out.  Deadpool also came with Doop from X-Force, the slimer wannabe.  I don’t like Doop, so he’s not pictured.

2.  Hot Toys Dark Knight Batman

You may have noticed that some of these toys appeared in my original post about collections.  That’s not a coincidence because most of my favorite toys are still on display in my home, while the rest are sealed away in the basement.  This one was featured in that post and represents one of the last figures I ever bought.  Normally movie themed lines are terrible.  Action figures seem to always come out better when they’re trying to resemble a piece of art and not an actual person.  Action figures can sometimes point out how absurd a character would look in the real world making the figures totally undesirable or just plain ugly.  This is no such toy.  Hot Toys puts out high grade action figures that are more like dolls than what most would consider an action figure.  These things are stupidly expensive, which is why I only bought one from the series, but are extremely nice.  This take on Batman is from the film The Dark Knight and depicts his updated costume in that film.  He comes with a stand and a bunch of little accessories including an assortment of bat-a-rangs, bombs, and even a second head.  I’ve never bothered to switch him to the Bruce Wayne head because why would I ever want to?  His costume is a rubbery material that works really well because it’s how I imagine the costume would actually feel.  All of the little details are present making this probably the most accurate movie-based figure in existence.  He also came with an extra set of hands but good luck getting the factory attached ones off, I never could.  That’s okay though, because he looks cool as is.  He also sports quite a bit of articulation.  I’ve never gone through the trouble to really pose him but there’s plenty of pictures online of people who have.  If you’ve got about $150 burning a hole in your pocket and really want an awesome Batman toy, you can’t go wrong with this one.

1.  NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Maybe I’m cheating again by making my number 1 action figure four figures, but as you can see, it couldn’t be done any other way.  The Ghostbusters got me into action figures, but my obsession exploded with the TMNT and they were really my first love.  These toys are everything I love about action figures.  They look great, move great, are loaded with accessories, and are of characters that I adore.  Each one has just the right amount of personality to separate it form the rest, perhaps even more so than the comics they come from.  And as you can see, these turtles are based on the ones from Mirage Comics.  Each one comes with a base, some knives, their turtle specific weapons, a little turtle, and an extra set of climbing hands.  That’s all well and good, but all I really care about is that each turtle has his weapons.  Mikey stands out in this regard as his nunchaku have real chains, how awesome is that?!  Every incarnation of the character released before that had all plastic nunchaku and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think one would come along with actual chains.  Raph’s sai are just wide enough that he can fit his fingers within the blades which is cool for display purposes (though I’m too scared to do it as I’m afraid the sai will stretch and break after awhile).  I love the expression on Donatello’s face, it just looks exactly how I picture him.  And Leo is Leo, which means he’s awesome.  Somehow, some way, NECA did not sell enough of these figures to warrant future ones.  They did do an April O’Neil figure that was just as ugly as the source material.  I’m guessing that one sold poorly which is why we never got a Mirage Shredder to join these turtles.  One was unveiled at a Toy Fair along with a Foot soldier, but he has never been released which is a shame.  At least we got four comic accurate turtles that kick all kinds of ass.  And if you really want a comic accurate set, NECA released a four-pack of the Turtles that are colored in black and white.  I prefer the colored ones, but it’s pretty cool they went through the effort of putting out a second set.


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