So the New York Toy Fair, the biggest annual trade show for kid-and-collector-oriented playthings in the States, was this past weekend. Naturally, all through Saturday and Sunday I had my eyes glued to several websites to see what’s coming up in the land of superhero & sci-fi action figures and plastic and die-cast robots. This was probably the worst possible time for me to be eyeballing shiny new collectibles, as I’m about to be out of a job (more on this situation later), but as someone who’s been surrounded by toys all my life, I can’t help at least looking at what’s on the horizon, even if I might not be able to grab all, or any, of this stuff right when it drops. What follows is a roundup of the things that most grabbed my attention this year — not that I’ll be able to get all of it, but I’d definitely consider a lot of this stuff.
Mythic Legions (The Four Horsemen)
Yeah, I’m only using the one picture to represent this upcoming line, but it’s a picture of the one I want from the line. Mythic Legions is a line of fantasy action figures by renowned toy designers The Four Horsemen, the studio responsible for the classic Spawn action figure line of the 1990s and both the Masters of the Universe line of the early 2000s and the more recent Masters of the Universe Classics line. It’s got a very Dungeons & Dragons European fantasy look, with knights in classic shining armor, green Orc-looking guys, and beardy axe-wielding dwarves, but it’s the various skeleton warriors — in both basic troop builder and specific character flavors — that really caught my eye.
To be honest, I originally saw these figures on Kickstarter about a week ago — the Kickstarter page is here — and if I wasn’t fretting about the future right now I’d be signing up to snag some awesome-looking skeleton knights right now (and maybe the dude with the cool helmet with the gold wings, too) but it’s just not in the cards right now. Hopefully when I do have the cash to spare these won’t be as hard to get a hold of as the Four Horsemen’s last Kickstarted action figure line, Gothitropolis, which seems at present to be cycling through a vast army of cool crazy bird-headed dudes (most recently a flamingo that very much had my attention).
Masters of the Universe Classics (Mattel)
None of the new reveals in this line, entering its final year by all accounts, really made an impression on me; the Hover Robots here, however, were showcased in their final packaged form. These were about the most useless weapons in Skeletor‘s arsenal, but they’re iconic designs from the old He-Man cartoon that were never made into toys, so therein lies the appeal. You get your He-Man figure, you pose him so he’s holding one over his head, and you imagine him throwing it at the wall so it explodes, just as he did week-to-week on TV. (You don’t actually throw it at the wall, though, because Masters of the Universe Classics figures are notoriously expensive to collect.) Glad to see that they’re coming three to a pack, but they’re also only being sold by Mattel at conventions, which means they’ll be a pain to get at any sort of reasonable price.
The only new figure they showed that holds any real appeal to me is Blast-Attak, but as with pretty much the entire line, he doesn’t have his action feature, so it’s like, what’s the point of you, then? If Blast-Attak doesn’t blow apart into two pieces, he’s just another dumb, ugly robot guy who looks like a refugee from a weird 80s movie. Ho hum.
Play-Arts Kai Variant Marvel (Square-Enix)
Square-Enix, the company best known for creating the Final Fantasy series of Japanese Role Playing Games, has been doing weird-ass action figures redesigning DC Comics characters for a few years now and apparently is now doing the same to the Marvel roster. However, where their DC redesigns have largely just caused me to cock my head and go, “EH?” I find myself being really taken with their takes on Spider-Man and Thor. Thor’s outfit honestly just looks like something you’ll see Chris Hemsworth wearing a few movies from now; it’s snazzy, and I’m so glad he’s wearing the winged helmet, but it just looks like a remarkably good Japanese Thor figure. Spidey, on the other hand, has all these interesting intrusions of black across his costume, an interestingly stylized version of the spider emblem on his chest, and all those ornate silver webs across the costume that almost look random except for their bilateral symmetry. Thanks to the blue being more-or-less in the right places and the mask looking right (it’s all in the eyes) it still feels more like Spider-Man than a lot of the wacky costumes he’s gotten in the comics over the last ten years, but it’s almost like he’s been given a modern Tokusatsu makeover. They’re also doing an Iron Man, but boy do I not care about Yet Another Iron Man Variant.
Batman: The Animated Series (DC Collectibles)
While most fans of the old 1990s Batman cartoons were heaping praise upon DC Collectibles (DC’s in-house toy company) for their upcoming Batmobile vehicle, I was just happy to see the fellow to your right hand side, the New Batman Adventures version of The Scarecrow. To this day I’m still a bit stunned that such a vividly creepy design made it into a Saturday morning cartoon, though I think Kids WB’s standards were a little more lax than Fox’s had been. Mind you, the toy is a bit goofier looking than I remember from the show design being; it could really use some extra paint applications to suggest the stark shadow that the animation design had going for it. As it is, he looks a bit, I don’t know, Scooby Doo. Still not bad, and definitely one of the major designs from the 1997 do-over worth adding to the line.
Of course, at his side stands the original 1992 Batman design, previously revealed by MTV‘s website of all places. I am partial to the 1997 redesign of him, too, but that toy’s already out and there have been so many reports of thin parts of that figure snapping like twigs. Indeed, the quality control on the whole line so far has apparently been not up to snuff. I’ve read that, fully aware of this, a rep from DC Collectibles spent the weekend taking the figure of Killer Croc they had for the display and throwing it at things to demonstrate that they’re on it and starting with wave two the line won’t be as fragile. Once I’ve heard that this is actually the case, I’ll definitely be finding a way to add Bats here to the collection. No Batmobile for me, though; given that this is a line where the figures start at $25, I shudder to think what that thing will cost; also, given some of the other items on the list that I’m afraid I’ll need, space is a very real concern as well.
Spider-Man Legends (Hasbro)
As with Masters of the Universe, it was toys previously revealed that I was reminded of that struck me moreso than the all-new product. The first wave of this year’s Spider-Man-centric run of Marvel Legends figures is almost entirely made up of things I wouldn’t mind owning — a proper classic Spider-Man (with swappable “thwip” hands), Daredevil, Spider-Man 2099 (one of my all-time favorite designs), Spider-Girl (the future teenage daughter of Peter & Mary Jane), the Ultimate Comics Spider-Woman (a female clone of Peter from the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series’s version of the infamous Clone Saga), and Anti-Venom (the only one of the lot I don’t care about; like Sam Raimi, I just don’t care about Venom or any of his knock-offs). All six come with parts to build the dude you see above — a recent version of the Hobgoblin (pictured), very much in the style of frequent Spider-Man artist (and this version of the character’s designer) Humberto Ramos. The wave after has some decent figures in it — sure, I’ll take the good ol’ Scarlet Spider, complete with blue hoodie — but the build-a-figure is The Rhino, and I just can’t get excited about the Rhino the same way I am about sword-wielding Hobby up there. In a world where I had the spare cash, I’d have this wave pre-ordered right now.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates)
I usually don’t pay that much attention to Playmates’s never-ending Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line; the last time I was really into it was about ten years ago, when the 2000s line was cranking out figures of all sorts of characters pretty much straight from the original Mirage comic books (who were also making their TV debut at the time, hence the figures). This decade I did snag the latest incarnations of the four Turtles themselves, which are really great action figures, but most of the rest of the line has been either weirdly off-scale or otherwise deficient in some way.
Still, I can’t help but think that when the two figures seen above hit stores I might need to grab them. The first is Muckman, a friendly but shambling goop-monster last seen in the original toy line in the 1980s. Unlike a lot of characters hailing from the decade that brought us the original line who’ve been brought back in the twenty-teens series, he looks pretty much the same here. This figure actually wasn’t even at the show; he just turned up in the official photography provided to Toy News International with a note saying they weren’t sure when he’ll be out. I wouldn’t even know he was returning if Matt from Dinosaur Dracula hadn’t mentioned him in a blog post extolling the virtues of the original figure today.
The second figure is a similar case; while Savanti Romero was in the big figure display at Toy Fair, the figure we see here is an early prototype and I only confirmed his identity by watching a Toy News International video of “Pixel Dan” Eardly interviewing a guy from Playmates; none of the other coverage seemed to pay poor Savanti any notice. Heck, Dan didn’t even know the character’s name! However, on first seeing a snapshot of that figure I figured it had to have been that demonic sorcerer who faced the combined forces of the Turtles and Dave Sim’s Cerebus The Aardvark back in issue #8 of the original Mirage TMNT comic book run. He looks a bit beefier than the original incarnation of the character, but unlike the figure that came from the last decade’s cartoon, this Savanti doesn’t have a bunch of bone armor guff cluttering his character design. I like it, and I hope the fact that he’s in the line means that down the road we’ll be seeing his “arch nemesis,” bumbling amateur sorceress Renet (who’s been confirmed for the show), as well.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Legacy (Bandai)
There was a very narrow window in the 1990s when I actually watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I’d probably watched most of the first year and about half to maybe two thirds of the second before stopping cold in one of the few acts of “I’m too old for this” shame I’ve ever made in my life. For this reason, it’s only those first two years that I harbor any sort of nostalgic affection for, and only those first two years’ Zords that I’d love to have all the robots for.
And yet every time I go to Toys R Us I find I just can’t bring myself to spend seventy bucks on that Legacy Dragonzord. Likewise I’m sure I won’t be able to do the same for that Legacy White Tigerzord you see above (which is apparently out now, though I’ve not seen it in person), but damn do I want to. Both units fill the same role in their respective seasons; they’re both the sort-of standalone sixth machine introduced mid-way through the season. And thanks to the way the second year of Power Rangers was handled, they’re both piloted by the same guy, Jason David Frank as Tommy, moving from hot-tempered wildcard as the Green Ranger to de facto team leader as the White Ranger (thanks mostly to the sacking of Red Ranger actor Austin St. John mid-way through season two).
The Legacy toys are all new/modern tooling; they’re not reissues of the toys from the 1990s. The robot mode proportions look a lot closer here to those of the clunky plastic suit from the show — especially the head, which I remember being much smaller on the old toy. Just a shame that they’ve given no indication of doing a Legacy version of the same year’s main Zord team, the Thunderzords. (On the other hand, at Toy Fair the Bandai rep said they were considering that year’s awesome enemy battle machine Serpentera, which would also be frustratingly tempting.) However, thanks to common engineering it can be combined with the leg parts from the original Legacy Megazord to kinda-sorta do its secondary robot mode. That’s kind of neat.
Robotech 30th Anniversary (Toynami)
I did a full rundown of Toynami‘s upcoming 30th anniversary offerings relating to my favorite anything ever over on the This Robotech Thing tumblr blog, but to recap: more versions of the 1/100 scale VF-1 Valkyrie, except now with the Armored Valkyrie parts with all the missile hatches; rereleases of the Super Valkyrie armor pieces for Rick, Max, and Miriya’s fighters; an all-new line of highly poseable Super Deformed figures featuring Roy’s VF-1S, Rick’s VF-1J, the VF-1D Trainer, and a cannon-fodder VF-1A; an all-plastic reissue of the Masterpiece Alpha Fighter tooling in all three standard color schemes; and they had what looked like production versions of the Macross Saga blind box figures that are due in March.
I might get the VF-1D figure out of curiosity. I’m very curious how an all-plastic version of the Masterpiece Alpha will turn out given the dubious quality of every other version of that tooling ever released — but they’re asking $140 for it, which I’m pretty sure is twice what the old die-cast one in the fancy book packaging cost. Depending on the timeframe of its release I might buy the whole wave of Armored Valkyries since I dig the way the traditionally red parts of the armor look in yellow and blue and the currently available 30th Anniversary versions of those Valkyries skipped Max’s VF-1J in favor of his VF-1A. But, as with everything else, it does depend on my income situation at the time those come out.
Glad to see at least something representing the New Generation era of the show is seeing release, but it’s a shame it isn’t something more affordable and with more reliable tooling. Irritated, as always, that Robotech Masters has no representation in the product line. Too many Valkyries, not enough everything else. Business as usual.
Transformers: Combiner Wars (Hasbro)
Transformers remains the thing that will continue to bleed my wallet dry, the thing that continues to push my nostalgia buttons in all the right ways while also providing modern twists that set my imagination alight.
For instance: we’re getting a brand new Ultra Magnus figure based on his appearance in the modern IDW comic books (announced mere weeks after I finally got a Masterpiece Ultra Magnus, which serves as a definitive 3D version of the character as he appeared in theaters and on television in 1986). This Magnus figure opens up to reveal a small white robot inside of him, Minimus Ambus; Ambus is the latest in a long line of robots who have been secretly given the Ultra Magnus identity, passed from Autobot to Autobot, to build this legend of a seemingly immortal soldier — a neat concept writer James Roberts built, presumably, off of the fact that the original Magnus toy was originally a powered suit wrapped around a recolored version of the original Optimus Prime trailer cab. The Ambus toy transforms into a small car that can also be carried by the Magnus armor’s car carrier mode. The whole thing looks fantastic in both modes, is based on comics I’ve loved since issue #1, and seems to be very cleverly engineered. Can’t wait to find out when it’s coming out. A must-have item.
Also hailing from Team 1986, we have a brand new Cyclonus figure. Oddly enough, this is a severe retooling of the latest figure of the Aerialbot leader Silverbolt, the center piece of the super robot Superion. Thus, now Cyclonus can combine with four limb robots to form a super robot, which he’s never done before. The downside is that Silverbolt toys tend to transform in such a way that the robot mode ends up carrying a folded-up airplane on its back, while the plane mode ends up carrying a block of folded-up robot bits on its belly. (This was the case in 1986, was again in 2008, and now yet again in 2015.) Changing that plane from a Concorde to Cyclonus’s pointy futuristic fighter and that robot to Cyclonus’s more sleek physique doesn’t change the way the base tooling transforms, sadly. However, the new super mode chestplate (attached to Cyclonus’s legs) and head sculpt (which as of yet hasn’t been released to the public) are based on Cyclonus’s commander, Galvatron, which adds an interesting wrinkle to those two characters’ relationship. Given this, I’m very curious who the canonical limbs for this combined form might turn out to be. I’m also now wondering if any other characters who’ve never been part of a combiner might wind up turning up in this line.
Finally, we move from modern reimaginings to a bit of lovely near-slavish retreading. Hasbro has gone completely round-the-bend mad and given us a $125, eighteen-inch-tall Devastator, all modern and poseable and chunky and imposing and fully capable of breaking down into his six component Constructicons: Bonecrusher, Scavenger, Long Haul, Scrapper, and Mixmaster. And, of course, each of them can turn into their proper construction vehicles (although folks are whining that Mixmaster now turns into a modern cement mixer, which carries the drum the other way around; this is the only concession to modernity any of the vehicle forms takes, from what I can tell). The robot modes are a touch simplistic, lacking certain bits of articulation that most figures from the last twenty years have, but the detailing is good and the head sculpts are cartoon-perfect. Sacrifices have been made to meet the price point and make the best combined form possible, and by all appearances it’s all worth it. “Third party” manufacturers have done their own interpretations of Devastator, and most of those have wound up costing at least three times as much and look to be much more fiddly. They also don’t have a head sculpt that immediately brings to mind the shot of Devastator tearing through the walls of Autobot City in the 1986 movie.
Logic, concerns about space, and concerns about money all go out the window when I look at this beast. Much like the previous two characters, my desire for him is driven by fond, fuzzy memories of 1986, specifically of the awe and fear with which he was regarded in the animated film. Finally, Hasbro appears to have provided a toy that fulfills the promise of that in-universe regard. I will probably wind up with one of these, one way or another. If push comes to shove, maybe I’ll be able to talk someone into getting it for me for Christmas.
Well, that’s pretty much my list for this year. Any thoughts? Did you see something in somebody’s coverage that really hit you like a runaway train of joy, or that you think I might need to add to my “list of things to buy if/when I win the lottery”? Have you got your hands on one of the things I mentioned that’s already out and have an opinion on it? Let me know in the comments, if you don’t mind.