Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018 - The State of Toys

By Dave

Needless Things started as a toy review site, basically.

I shared recollections, life stories, and events as well, but there’s a lot less of that now.
There seem to be a lot less toy reviews, too, so I wonder what we’re even doing in this year of 2018. Podcasts, mostly. I like those a lot more and it seems that the internet does, too.
I do still collect toys and I’m actually getting a little more satisfaction out of the hobby lately because I only review one every once in a while. Mostly I just open them up and enjoy them as opposed to waiting until I’ve got time to take pictures and opening them in a certain way and in a certain order.

Once something turns into a job, it can cease to be fun. Especially if it’s a job that pays jack squat.

Anyway, my point here is that since I’ve cut back on the website I’ve been a little more into toys. I’m paying more attention to things and relishing new stuff more than I was a year ago. I also think that we’re in something of a… let’s say relatively very good age of toys. It’s not a Golden Age because prices are so high and assortments for many brands are limited and “safe”. But there’s a lot of really cool stuff out there.

Let’s start with the basics.


Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line made me relatively happy last year. I’m in a good place with them. Especially since I’ve worked out a deal with our Head of Research where I get the MCU build-a-figure parts or he gets the figures I don’t want, depending on who finds what first.

Over the course of 2017 we got waves featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, the Netflix heroes, Spider-Man, an unbelievable wave of X-Men, Walgreens Exclusive Fantastic Four characters (that were easy to score), and some other things I didn’t care about like 12” scale figures and Ex Nihilo.

Looking back at the full slate of releases for last year, there were less than a dozen figures that I specifically did not want. There were a few more that I was willing to chance missing to wait for a lower price. Mostly, though, I wanted what Hasbro released. I still wish they’d keep comic book and movie characters separate, but I get why they don’t.

I think the line has improved in both sculpts and character selection. I remember the year where we got Blizzard, Tiger Shark, and about five other figures that looked basically exactly the same aside from paint and heads and that year was lame (it was 2015). While there were characters I didn’t care about last year, very few releases seemed like outright boring or poor choices or were executed in an underwhelming manner.

I am still baffled by Hasbro releasing Death’s Head II rather than the original, though. Unless there’s some licensing bullshit, which there might be.

I already have the new Black Panther wave and it’s a winner. I preordered T’Challa, Killmonger, and Nakia because I knew I was going to want them. They are some of the best Marvel Legends Hasbro has produced and the likenesses are incredible. I know Hasbro started using a new deco process recently and the results are breathtaking.

Then – much to my surprise – I found the wave in a Walmart and decided to go ahead and grab Namor and Black Bolt. I’ll admit it was mostly to get the remaining pieces for the Okoye build-a-figure, but the figures looked great on their own. I had the old Fantastic Four Namor that I thought was fine until I saw this new one. It really is a worthy upgrade. And I don’t give a fig about the Inhumans or Black Bolt, but his figure looked awesome. I may tire of it at some point when I need the shelf space, but for now I dig how it looks.

Overall I think Hasbro did a fine job with Marvel Legends in 2017 and I ended the year happy with the line and excited to see what 2018 has to offer.


I really and truly thought that I was done with this line, aside from a Batman figure here and there.

DC Universe Classics had gotten stale towards the end, and MattyCollector taking over didn’t do anything to improve the line. As a matter of fact, it killed it.

After a few confusing starts and a (not entirely bad) foray into the 3.75” scale, Mattel relaunched their 6” DC line in the Marvel Legends style, mixing comic and movie/TV characters. It worked to get things off the ground, but it was when Mattel made a course correction and separated the comics from the movies that the line really took off again.
Sales-wise, anyway.

The Suicide Squad figures looked “pretty good” at best (Deadshot) and “this might be the worst figure I’ve seen this year” at worst (any of the Harleys).

At the same time, though, there were still waves based on the comics that were offering more tooling, compelling character selections, and less figures per assortment. And CW TV characters, but that was okay because they looked pretty good (and have been getting better).

There are still some dodgy figures here and there – Mattel still can’t get Henry Cavill’s likeness – but overall DC Multiverse has been delivering some great stuff. From classics like Batman Year Two’s Reaper to modern characters like Duke and Batwing, the comic offerings have been a lot of fun to see roll out; crappy distribution aside.

The movie offerings started getting good with the limited but nice-to-look-at Wonder Woman wave. I’m still annoyed that we didn’t get a General Antiope, but the Amazons and Ares that we did get ended up looking great. Surprisingly, the Steve Trevor was a standout, as the Chris Pine likeness is excellent. I guess he’s got a more plastic-friendly mug than Cavill.
I ended up digging the heck out of the Justice League figures, with retailer exclusives of Mera, Aquaman, and Batman being some of my favorites, thought the whole line looked great. And then there’s the award-winning Ultimate Batmobile.

In the end, I am much more invested in DC Multiverse right now than I expected to be. I have the forthcoming Clayface wave preordered from and am looking forward to seeing how Mattel handles the shortage of available movie tie-ins over the next couple of years. The only definite right now is this year’s Aquaman, so they’re going to have to figure out a way to keep the line interesting and profitable.

Personally, I recommend a second wave of Wonder Woman figures with General Antiope and Diana’s multicultural pals.

Side Note: Honorable mention goes to Mattel’s kid-oriented waves of 6” Justice League figures. While I’m collecting Multiverse figures, my son is happily building his army of these. He can’t get enough Parademons and Atlantean Warriors and that line has some kickass vehicles, to boot.


I will continue to buy all of the Madballs. Be it Kidrobot’s collector-oriented vinyl offerings, Just Play’s retail stuff, or even if Mondo comes back with their licensed characters, I can’t get enough.

I’m a little concerned by Target’s aggressive post-holiday markdowns on Just Play’s stuff, but at the same time I’ve seen those showing up at more and more retailers over the past couple of months. Plus, the third wave of blind bagged miniballs has been shown and, like the prior two waves, it includes new characters that will likely populate a new full size wave.
For the time being Madballs seem to be thriving in a marketplace where there isn’t too much that’s like them. But if other companies pick up on the success of this brand and others like Grossery Gang, we could see a new revolution of gross-out toys that the Madballs would have to work hard to stay abreast of.

This is another brand that me and Phantom, Jr. are both collecting. As opposed as I am to blind bag stuff, we’ve even picked up a number of those. I’ve enjoyed them thanks to the wild repaint versions of the standard characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing some classic designs work their way into the blind bag mix.

One:12 Collective

You knew this was coming.

Mezco’s action figures are rapidly becoming my favorite superhero toy line of all time (yes – there are characters other than superheroes, but I’ve managed to resist buying those). I think I’ve probably talked enough about how amazing the design, articulation, accessories, and costumes are on these. You get it.

Bandai & Medicom Imports

These are new for me.

Early in the year I bought an SH Figuarts Injustice Batman on clearance from Barnes & Noble and thought it was pretty great. By that time I had already made up my mind to buy their Suicide Squad Harley Quinn because I love that character design but no American companies were offering decent figures.

That figure was great, too. As a matter of fact, it was one of my favorites from last year.
The quality of that figure left me curious about the differences between it and Medicom’s MAFEX version. There were quite a few, surprisingly. I think it all comes down to personal preference. Bandai’s figures are a smaller scale than Medicom’s. Their Harley is – to my eyes – a sleeker and more realistic looking version, but is lacking much of the detail of Medicom’s and also seems slightly more subdued, color-wise.

Medicom’s had slightly different accessories and didn’t seem as tightly put together.
Each Harley is very good, but I honestly believe you have to see them both in person to know which one hits your personal preferences and demands for an action figure.

I only have a few releases from these two companies – both of whom are increasing their American profiles – but so far I seem to have a preference for Bandai’s releases. I’ll be buying these sparingly and only when there’s a character design that I absolutely love, but I’m still having fun with these action figures that are far, far higher quality than anything we get from domestic toy companies.


I still love the licenses that NECA has and, for the most part, the way the company is handling them. We’re getting interesting stuff like the Aliens Hadley’s Hope set and hopefully soon the DC/Dark Horse two-packs.

I adore NECA’s retro Mego-style figures and love how much care NECA  takes with them (mostly – the tie on the most recent Leatherface is shameful).

NECA has some quality issues to look at and I’d love it if they’d figure out a way to consistently paint eyes on figures of human beings, but I do love this company and hope they can continue making horror and sci-fi toys for decades to come.

Figures Toy Company

This is a company that I wish I could collect more from. Their Mego-style figures are right up my nostalgia alley.

They have an absolutely bonkers number of quality licenses – Hanna-Barbera, DC Comics, the Batman TV show, The Monkees, KISS, Harry Potter – and are also producing some amazing wrestling figures.

This is where my budget really kicks in. I like to collect lots of different things, and unfortunately, when it comes down to it I have to pass on regular humans in funny pants.  FTC’s RoH and Rising Stars and Legends of Wrestling lines are tremendous. They’re creating much-needed figures of some of the biggest names in wrestling at a time when the WWE is no longer the sole provider of content to the world.



I’ve started and stopped with this one many times over the years. I didn’t have many when I was a kid, but got into the G2 stuff, then the Alternators, then some Masterpiece figures. Every few years I’ve whittled down what I own and stopped buying new stuff.

I’ve been doing well for a few years now, but the SDCC Exclusive Primitive Skateboarding Optimus Prime got me. From the time I saw it I thought it was awesome, but what got me was when I went to order other exclusives from Hasbro’s website and it was actually in stock. I thought, “Why the heck not?” and put it in my cart. It turned out to be an awesome toy and, as all collectors know, opened the gates to more Transformers.

Now, thanks to BigBad’s year-end sale I have a couple of new Masterpiece figures – Shockwave and Shattered Glass Optimus (they’re purple – how was I supposed to resist?) and I’ve picked up some of the new Dinobots. I’m pretty happy with all of them, though the Shockwave seems a little small for the price I paid. Well, for the original price, anyway.

I think I’ve got it under control, though. I’ve managed to resist some impulse buys and even some clearance deals. Once I’ve got Grimlock and the other Power of the Primes Dinobots I think I’ll be good.

As far as Transformers in 2018 as a whole, I think it’s a very confusing toy line. There seem to be new lines, sub-lines, and gimmicks almost constantly and I can’t figure out what the predominant format is or which characters and scales are supposed to go together (though the scale thing is one of the big reasons I was never A Transformers Guy). But I do see exciting things on the shelves and pegs all the time, particularly some of the recent releases that I recognize as characters from the 1986 animated movie.

There are a few other items here and there that I’ve been picking up, but those are the main toys I wanted to cover today. I might hit on Star Wars, wrestling toys, and some Funko stuff in a future post.

For more on toys, catch Needless Things LIVE at Days of the Dead Atlanta February 2-4!

You can follow Dave as Phantom Troublemaker on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for all the latest on pop culture!

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