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31 Dec 2009 / mttlg

2009 Action Figure Recap

Last year, I struggled to remember what had happened over the past year, so this year I started monthly recaps. And then scrambled to get everything else wrapped up by December 31…

Toy Lines | Year in Review | The Awards
Most Vaporous | Most Controversial | Most Surprising | Most Disappointing | Least Necessary | Best Mail-Away | Worst Exclusive | Best Exclusive | Worst Repaint | Best Repaint | Most Elusive | Best Figure | Most Wanted | Best Pegwarmer | The Moffy
Final Thoughts

2009 Action Figure Recap

The Toy Lines

This is not a comprehensive list of all toy lines that were out this year; I only cover what I feel like covering. Therefore, before you start complaining that your favorite toy line isn’t listed, you can just assume that I think your favorite toy line is total crap that only babies like, just like most of the stuff listed below. Seriously, they’re toys. Lighten up.

G.I. Joe

The 25th Anniversary line was wrapped up early and everything changed over to the movie line. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

So here’s the movie line… The good news is that the 25th Anniversary line worked out all of the bugs with design and production, making these figures some of the best Hasbro has ever produced. The bad news is the movie styling.

Indiana Jones

Clearance, clearance, clearance. I hear they got loads of Wave 4 in Canada. Around here, Wave 4 was only available via internet retailers in full cases, which include one of each new figure and a load of worthless crap. But the figures are just so awesome that it’s worth it.

Marvel 1:18: Marvel Universe et. al.

Marvel Universe was the most anticipated figure line of the spring and promises to bring out countless classic heroes and villains over the course of the year, if it ever gets restocked. It was accompanied at launch by two lesser-anticipated lines, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Wolverine and the X-Men, tie-in lines for the latest Marvel movie and cartoon, respectively. The cartoon line is an easy pass (as is the Iron Man cartoon line and pretty much any other Marvel cartoon line that pops up), but the movie line looks promising. The sheer abundance of Wolverine figures on the pegs is a bit annoying though.

Star Trek

New for 2009 is a 3-3/4″ Star Trek line to go along with the new movie. Unfortunately, it’s from Playmates, best known for milking TMNT for more than two decades. Well, they’re really only known for that. And now they’ll be known for making a really crappy Star Trek line. Seriously, if you thought the first wave of Indiana Jones figures was bad, stay away from these things. Articulation is basic at best, sculpts are boring, and there’s just nothing fun about this line. There are also two playsets, which you need to buy all of the figures to complete (and by “complete,” I mean “place a bunch of parts on a plastic mat”). I really wanted to like this line, but there’s just nothing to like about it. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ll still buy all of it, but only at sale/clearance prices.

Star Wars Clone Wars

And now here’s a full year of Clone Wars. This is still the main focus on the Star Wars side of things, mainly because there’s nothing else going on this year. The deluxe class is back at a higher price point (midway between carded figures and battle packs, which are also going up in price).

Star Wars Legacy Collection

Many long-awaited figures are due up this year, so Yarna should have some company warming the pegs. And there’s an Obi-Wan in just about every wave, so, um, wonderful.

Star Wars Titanium

With one final Battlestar Galactica ship, it’s all Star Wars from here on out. There’s a ton of color-coordinated Clone Wars vehicles, but I really hate those colors. And just like that, the line is dead. See what happens when you drop Battlestar Galactica? Serves you right.

Terminator: Salvation

Playmates must have made one hell of a deal with the devil to get both Star Trek and the new Terminator movie. As with most deals with the devil, things don’t quite work out how you’d like. Like the Star Trek line, this one sucks. Bad sculpts, poor articulation, boring line. Worse, they didn’t manage to secure likeness rights until after they made the first batch of figures (which were all that were released at major retailers before being clearanced), so some have their faces covered. Seriously, is this the best you could do?

Transformers Animated

Animated was one of the few bright spots of the year, which surprised me considering that I have yet to get through a single episode of the show. It too will be slowing down to make room for the movie, though the wonderful plastic crack we’ve been tempted with at several conventions is supposed to be released eventually. Who would have guessed that my most anticipated release would be Animated Arcee?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

There’s still debris leftover from the last movie (and a six foot aisle section of TRU exclusive Blackout/Scorponok packs), and now we get more. Repaints abound (as should be expected), but did we really need another Scorponok? The good news: all-new Scout class figures that kick ass (well, half are all-new, the other half are repaints of the first half). The bad news: a massive $100 Devastator gift pack that looks like crap (and will be stacked to the ceiling at TRU by November).

Transformers Universe 2.0

Once more, the classic-style figures had to go away to make room for movie crap. And just when things started getting interesting…

2009 Year in Review

Once again, January was clearance season. The big prize this time around was the demise of the Indiana Jones line. Wave 4 never really materialized south of the (Canadian) border, but Wave 3 was pretty easy to find at TJ Maxx and Marhalls stores for $3.99 per figure. Deluxe figures made it down to $7 or less at most stores (though it took a going out of business clearance to bring the price down at Kay Bee) and quickly sold out almost everywhere before dropping to $3 at Wal-Mart and $2.48 at Target. Single carded figures started the year on clearance for $3 at Wal-Mart, with reports of some stores cutting them to $1. I call BS; every store around here stuck with the $3 price, then they disappeared everywhere except for one store, which somehow managed to load up with at least 100 of the things. Target took its time getting past the 30% off stage (except for deluxes, which hit 75% off almost immediately despite a lack of stock), but just about everything cleared out at 50% off ($2.72), leaving only one figure around here when things hit 75% off. I never saw a vehicle at less than $12.99.

Elsewhere in the clearance section, Wal-Mart marked down G.I. Joe vehicles to $13 and DVD packs to $15, but they never got any of the newer stuff in anyway (I found the one DVD Pack #5 I ever spotted at retail at Wal-Mart pre-clearance, much to the dismay of the guy next to me who seemed to be looking for the same thing). Target’s G.I. Joe Ultimate Battle Pack, as expected, began its slow march to nothing with a price cut to $54.99 at most stores (and some confusing New at Target! signs) before hitting each of the 30%, 50%, and 75% discounts on the way down. Stores were overflowing with the things until the 75% off level ($13.74), when they completely disappeared (I managed to find only one at this price).

Overall, not much made it past 50% off at Target, and most things never even saw 50% (all Transformers exclusives were gone at 30%). Wal-Mart was quick to lower prices, but only did so once (around here at least), then left everything clogging the clearance aisles. Kay Bee finally closed its doors for good in the last week of January, its clearance sale never really bringing prices down much below retail. Even at 60% off (as high as I saw them go), what they had left was still more expensive than most of the competition.

Indy finally got the boot from Wal-Mart in February, with carded figures and Titaniums reduced to $1 (which is apparently what people were willing to pay for these things). New products were still hard to come by, with only a wave of Star Wars Legacy figures, a couple of Star Wars battle packs, and the final two G.I. Joe comic packs making their debut (G.I. Joe Wave 11, Wave 12, Wave 13, Comic Pack Wave 7, and Vehicle Wave 4 did start to show up again though, two months after their release). But hey, at least there’s Toy Fair to show us all the wonderful things to look forward to for the rest of the year, right? Crap.

OK, so Toy Fair was a bust. All non-movie G.I. Joe product due up before the movie (except for Hall of Heroes and the next batch of 5-packs) was scrapped, replaced by two internet exclusive 7-packs with all of the new characters that were now lacking a method of release. It’s nice to get everything in convenient Duke-free packs, but what happened to the rest of the line? It’s all movie toys for kids who are too young to see the movie and collectors who are too old to care… We got to see some Transformers movie toys, most of which already had their prototypes leaked. Devastator is back! For $100. Without individual robot modes. But you can get individual versions that transform! But they won’t combine and have crappy robot modes. What the fuck Hasbro, what the fuck? Um, Sideswipe looks cool? Maybe Sideways too (or not). And the rest sucks. And people said the last batch of movie toys was bad… Star Wars had their usual presentation laying out the plan for the year. Clone Wars looks decent, but the rest seems to be a 10th Anniversary celebration for The Phantom Menace. Seriously? Couldn’t you wait a few more decades before making us remember that movie? And it all gets topped off with an exclusive mail-away Qui-Gon Jinn on Eopie figure. Um, right.

The big news in March was the launch of Hasbro’s new Marvel lines, Marvel Universe, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Wolverine and the X-Men. Well, the first two might be decent, but that last one is a steaming pile of crap… Marvel Universe started out with loose joints and cheap construction and Wolverine figures were a bit too tight, but otherwise solid. It should be interesting to see where these go.

April saw the launch of two major movie lines, Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation, both from Playmates. Both lines are most notable for having packaging that is almost completely recyclable (suck it, Hasbro). Unfortunately, the figures aren’t even up to 1980s standards. Don’t get me started on the Star Trek build-a-crappy-playsets. Hasbro announced that the Titanium line would be canned at the end of the year (translation: we’ll be lucky to see any new waves after the fall packaging refresh), but Mattel started shipping its line of Hot Wheels Star Trek ships. The roughly 6″ “1:50” scale “die-cast” ships aren’t to any particular scale (and are most certainly not 1:50, which would be the size of a sailboat) and contain less metal than a 3″ Titanium ship. Elsewhere, new product shipped and carded samples of G.I. Joe figures we’re not getting surfaced. Moff Jerjerrod continues to pegwarm and TRU launched a new plan to move barely-marked-down Indiana Jones toys that nobody cares about anymore by putting them on an endcap. Maybe they should try that with the aisles full of G.I. Joe Sigma 6 Dukes, Transformers 2007 Movie toys, and Star Wars Transformers Millennium Falcons (not to mention Incredible Hulk toys, miniature replica Boba Fett blasters, Marvel Legends, and all the other ancient products caked in dust). Or maybe they could clearance the damn things to make room for new product (and marking them down to retail price does not count as a clearance). It was a very frustrating month.

Holy shit, it’s only May and the Wave 4 G.I. Joe vehicles have started showing up at Target! That makes one sighting each at Wal-Mart and K-Mart in February and three at Target in May. Not bad for a wave that was released at the end of 2008. Has anyone mentioned that Hasbro’s distribution sucks donkey dong? What, that exact phrase has 30,000 hits on Google? That sounds a bit low. Speaking of Hasbro’s distribution, after a month or two of mostly-empty pegs, Target and Wal-Mart started to get some Marvel Universe Wave 3 cases. Meanwhile, TRU has been stockpiling Wolverines in one aisle and Yarnas two aisles over. Target also got some new Clone Wars figures and some remnants from Legacy Wave 6 (which later showed up in massive quantities at Wal-Mart). They’ve even gotten some occasional G.I. Joe carded figure shipments over at Target. What gives? Wal-Mart and TRU still have Moff Jerjerrod on the pegs, but Target gets what little new product Hasbro decides to let trickle out? I do not understand how this industry makes money. Transformers Movie 2 toys started to show up at some Wal-Marts (well ahead of the 30 May street date), but they couldn’t actually sell them. Not this shit again…

It’s official, the Hasbro summer movie season has started. June was Revenge of the Fallen month, with tons of new Transformers product filling toy aisles everywhere. Of course, different stores got different case assortments, so it still took some hunting to find everything. Meanwhile, Star Trek and Terminator are already fading. Aren’t there supposed to be a few more waves of these guys? Not at this rate… At least half of the Wal-Marts around here have already dumped them, with Star Trek already discounted at the remainder (the 3-3/4 Terminator never showed up at any of them). Will we ever get the rest of the bridge playset? G.I. Joe clearance started at some Target stores in mid-June, while the other chains just didn’t get much of anything in this year. The end of the month saw the launch of the new Transformers movie, which landed in theaters with a massive thud that shook loose hundreds of millions of dollars and left audiences feeling cheated. While many fans had positive things to say about the movie, the same thing happened after The Phantom Menace (and look at how fondly that one is remembered). At least one mystery was solved though; we now know why there are two sets of Constructicon toys, one with vehicle modes only that combine into Devastator and one with robot modes but no combination. It turns out that the movie featured multiple versions of each constructicon and the Devastator versions were never seen with individual robot modes (but had vehicle modes identical to the individual versions). So if you were wondering why Devastator and the individual Constructicons were fighting in the same battle, well, it still makes no sense, but that’s the movie for you. Oh, and Devastator has wrecking balls.

OK, we need something to distract us from RotF, so what’s up next? G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Crap. Hey, the early reviews say “more entertaining than Transformers 2,” but calling that damning with faint praise is an understatement. Still, I’ll give it a shot. If I can get it on Blu-Ray for $10 on Black Friday. Anyway… Yeah, toys, um… Tons of G.I. Joe product on shelves? Can it be? After two years of mostly empty pegs, G.I. Joe was back in force in July with a massive movie product launch. Combine the total launch lines from Star Trek, Terminator, and Wolverine and you still wouldn’t come close to the G.I. Joe launch, which had 37 single carded figures and tons of vehicles released in the first couple of weeks (though it could take a few months for all of those waves to make it onto the pegs at retail stores). Sure, the packaging is nothing special (the carded figures in particular are a pain to open), and the figures are all in movie style. And a lot of the vehicles are repaints of crappy old vehicles. And there are already pegs full of nothing but Duke, Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, with more of all of them on the way. Um… The figure quality is top notch. This would be an awesome line without all this movie crap. Example: Neo-Viper – head, legs, forearms, vest, backpack, and weapons + Viper Commando legs and forearms + black mask trooper/officer head + black trooper/officer helmet + black webgear (trooper, officer, Snake Eyes, or Bazooka Trooper) + black backpack (Viper, Resolute trooper/officer, Viper Commando, etc.) + Marauder G36C = awesome. Well, 1/3 awesome considering that it takes three or more figures to make one…

So, um, Indiana Jones. Back in 2008, there was a mail-in offer for a crystal skeleton with throne for only $5.99 plus six stickers from single carded figures. The deadline was extended to December 31 so you could use the stickers in the Temple of Doom wave, which only became widely available online in 2009. Delivery was promised in 6-8 weeks. Then there was talk of delays. And more delays. Then nothing. Seven months later, they started showing up. Seven months. I have to laugh at the Star Wars collectors sending in their Qui-Gon Jinn with Eopie forms and expecting to have it in hand in 6-8 weeks…

Remember that whole debacle with Playmates not getting Christian Bale’s likeness rights in time for the first wave of figures? And how it wasn’t a big deal because a proper John Connor figure would be coming in the second wave? Yeah, about that… Once Target cleared out its remaining Terminator stock at 75% off, that only left TRU carrying the 3-3/4″ line (Wal-Mart never carried it and K-Mart doesn’t count), and with the amount left on the pegs there, there’s no chance of them ordering more. It came as no surprise when Playmates announced that the second wave would not be coming. It wasn’t all doom and gloom from Playmates though – the second Star Trek wave was still on track for an October release. Of figures based on a movie that was released in May. And two of the figures will be online exclusives. Way to fuck over the retail stores there Playmates. Don’t be surprised when stores decline to carry your next iteration of TMNT crap. Please, just do everyone a favor and stop producing toys. Even Mattel doesn’t screw things up this royally.

August was also the end of the convention season, with BotCon (May), ComicCon (July), and JoeCon (August), plus many others that don’t get massive press coverage, all in the bag. As usual, ComicCon had the best and most reasonably-priced exclusives, but that’s just because Fun Publications runs the others. The BotCon and JoeCon exclusives were actually some of the best in recent history, but that was mostly because they were inessential enough to be easy to skip due to the insane prices. The JoeCon set was quite nice, but I have no use for 12 Vipers. Really, three named characters and 12 generic figures? Anyway, Hasbro surprised everyone by having their SDCC exclusives readily available online right away after ComicCon in decent quantities and with a 10% discount code. For once, you didn’t have to stalk HasbroToyShop every day for a chance to miss out on getting the convention goodies. And the exclusives were, for the most part, worth buying – even the My Little Pony looked pretty cool (not that My Little Ponies are cool of course, um, or that there’s anything wrong with them being cool, er, yeah).

September was store exclusive month, and how. With new product barely trickling out (hey, I finally saw another X-Men Origins: Wolverine Iceman, only four months after first finding it), the exclusives are the only thing worth mentioning. While it’s pretty much all repaints, these repaints are a lot better than they’ve been in the past. At Target, the Transformers Bruticus set has the best mix of colors since the original. The Star Wars Legaxy Red 2 X-Wing with Wedge and astromech is tempting, even to someone who doesn’t buy Star Wars vehicles. Still waiting for more G.I. Joe exclusives though (the first wave of mini vehicle packs and the Rhino are still hanging around, wave 2 of the mini vehicles and a multi-pack are due up soon)… TRU has a ton of G.I. Joe exclusives (SRO 3-packs, themed 5-packs, mole pod pack), but they haven’t arrived in quantity yet (they also have a Clone Wars Commander Ponds that was released in August but was free with a $30 Star Wars purchase at the end of September). Wal-Mart is exclusive-crazy with two packs for G.I. Joe (3), Star Wars Legacy (5), and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (4) and Star Wars evolutions packs and a vehicle-size droid on top of that. Even K-Mart got in on the action with a pack of four Star Wars repacks (lame) and a nice pack of G.I. Joe repaints.

Late September marked the end of Star Trek. While TRU still struggles to sell off its stock at buy one get one free and Wal-Mart raised its prices back to regular price, Target started its stock selloff with a 50% clearance at most stores. Still waiting for Wave 2… The Hot Wheels ships are still full price, but to date only four have been released, and those stopped selling months ago.

The flow of store exclusives continued into October, which was a good thing considering that not much else made it out. Transformers had the most, with three Ultra class repaints (for $30 each) and a three pack of a Deluxe plus two Legends (for $24) at Wal-Mart, another Voyager/Deluxe repaint pack ($35) and a Voyager/Voyager/Deluxe repaint/repack/repaint pack ($50) at TRU, and a pack of four Legends repaint/repacks ($25) and 10 Mini-con repaints ($25) at K-Mart. The G.I. Joe multi-packs were out in force at Target and TRU, and K-Mart even put theirs on sale for $10 off (as they tend to do for one week only with their horribly overpriced exclusives). There were even some sightings of the next two TRU exclusive single figures (a Snow Serpent repaint and a “just-add-head” Sgt. Slaughter body with the name “Bench Press”) and 5-packs. Wave 5 of carded figures was sighted at K-Mart and in Canada, but the rest of the world has barely seen Wave 3. Meanwhile, Star Wars had some actual new product released! The second wave of black card Legacy figures made it out in decent numbers (meaning that you could find an entire case on the pegs at the same time), but Clone Wars remained a crap shoot and TRU remained crap (nothing new since June, if not earlier). The lack of Moff Jerjerrod sightings in the last five months was a bit troubling, but it turns out that he just moved to TJ Maxx and Marshalls, where he is as plentiful as ever.

As for Star Trek, Wave 2 was officially canned at retail and is now an online exclusive, due out sometime in 2010. Right… Elsewhere, Astro Boy toys went straight to Big Lots, indicating that retail stores actually passed on a sure stinker for once. Unfortunately, Avatar was brought in to replace Star Trek, and it doesn’t look like that line will fare any better. But hey, you never know, hell seems to be freezing over these days with Mattel putting out decently articulated versions of Batman and Superman. Of course, you have a choice of getting them in separate three-packs or one big six-pack, and most of the eight other figures between the two options suck (three of them look like they don’t suck, but two of those are in the Batman three-pack). I guess we can’t expect Mattel to go legit all at once… At least there’s the Delorean from Back to the Future, which was released at retail in its incarnation from the first movie. Sadly, the version from the second movie was a sold-out Entertainment Earth exclusive (a Back to the Future 3 version is upcoming). Despite being slightly larger than typical figures at 1:15 scale, it still looks pretty good. It’s not all bad when random cool stuff like this makes it out. Now how about an affordable version of the 1:18 scale Mad Max interceptor?

In shocking news, Star Trek Wave 2 ain’t coming. Oh well, at least three of the Wave 2 figures can be made with simple head swaps with Wave 1 figures.

And in November we got… more store exclusives! That’s three months with little more than exclusives. G.I. Joe 5-packs at TRU, G.I. Joe Battle Stations packs (with the usual Wal-Mart crappy distribution), a $20 G.I. Joe ninja 2-pack, a $27 Transformers deluxe 2-pack, 2-packs of the Target exclusive Scout class repaints from the first movie line (at a somewhat reasonable $9, though these are repacks of repaints), and the long-awaited Star Wars AT-ST at Wal-Mart, and a metric buttload of everything at Target – two Clone Wars battle packs, more X-Wings, a Transformers 5-pack of Legends, an orange The Fallen repaint, and the G.I. Joe Then and Now Snow Job with vehicle pack. I have to say, seeing the classic G.I. Joe packaging style when I turned the corner in the toy aisle was a very welcome surprise, though it quickly wore off when I realized that we likely wouldn’t be seeing it again any time soon (and there’s the whole problem of the other half of the pack containing a boring RoC vehicle). Some regular product made it out too, mainly Marvel Universe (lots and lots of Marvel Universe) and some Star Wars. G.I. Joe continues to pegwarm, with Wave 3 figures still somewhat rare and remnants of Waves 4 and 5 only seen at one lone Wal-Mart (the same one that seems to get a case of every new product that never makes it out anywhere else) and sporadic sightings of the latest TRU exclusive figures (though they have been spotted in Canada). A recent wave of Star Wars Titaniums started showing up at some of the Targets that didn’t clearance the line yet. If not for that one magical Wal-Mart, I would not have been able to find the last couple of ships I wanted. Oh, and Human Alliance Skids finally showed up. Right, I forgot that there was a Transformers line. With the prices falling, it looks like everyone else forgot about it too.

With the holiday season fast approaching, sales have been plentiful. Just about all of the basic figure lines have been available for $5 or less per figure. And they still won’t sell… G.I. Joe Waves 1 and 2 are going nowhere fast even at $3.75 at K-Mart. TRU keeps stocking Star Wars Saga Legends figures even though nobody is buying them, and their store exclusive figures (Commander Ponds for Star Wars and the G.I. Joe Firefly and Barbecue repaints) take up a significant percentage of the remaining space. Wal-Mart remains fully stocked with figures from the summer. Target just matches Wal-Mart’s prices and then gives up even trying (still no sign of G.I. Joe Wave 3 C1, Wave 4, Wave 5, Alpha vehicles Wave 2, etc.). Stock is stagnating so much that some of the discount stores have more recent product and much lower prices (maybe Moff Jerjerrod wasn’t bad luck after all). Speaking of discount stores, remember last year’s DVD packs that disappeared before pack #5 hit in any decent quantity? It’s finally here! At Marshalls. Well, better late than never. See, Hasbro wasn’t lying when they said that these packs would get out there.

December means Holiday madness, which was fairly mild given the whole global economic collapse. Traffic barely even became intolerable until the last couple of days before Christmas. Retailers responded to this indifference by lowering prices and not stocking much of anything new. The year that gave us higher price points across the board ended with massive discounts to move stagnating merchandise. There has to be a lesson in there somewhere…

The post-Christmas clearance started early this year, and by December 26, most of the store exclusives from the previous few months were heavily discounted. The Wal-Mart G.I. Joe Battle Stations finally hit wide release at 50% off, one more shining example of Wal-Mart’s sheer ineptitude with exclusives. Luckily, most of their exclusives were half off, with the notable exception of the Build-a-Droid 2-packs, which held steady at $17 (except for some lucky stores that marked them down to $2). Hasbro even admits that they just won’t sell at this price (and Hasbro almost never admits failure), so it makes you wonder why Wal-mart keeps trying. Still, the clearance prices made the overpriced Transformers packs somewhat easier to stomach and brought down the price of those Universe Voyagers that just won’t die. Target started the clearance process for its G.I. Joe 4-pack and various G.I. Joe novelty items, with the rest of the exclusives sure to follow. K-Mart threw in the towel on Revenge of the Fallen and actually put merchandise on clearance at clearance prices (G.I. Joe DVD packs are still $20 though). Finally, TRU shocked everyone by clearancing out … Astro Boy! Yes, the line that was shunned by every other retailer except Big Lots turned out to be a dud. Who would have guessed? It stunk so badly that TRU took the drastic step of slashing prices, which it has yet to do on just about every other failed toy line clogging its shelves.

The Awards

Most Vaporous

G.I. Joe: Resolute Figures

After three carded figures in the last wave of 2008 (and the line as well), a five pack of mostly repaints and a couple of comic packs, Resolute was in high demand (and this was before the show even aired). After finally getting to see the new animated G.I. Joe incarnation, fans wanted more figures in this style. Sure enough, prototypes started to flow out of China in large quantities. And nothing showed up in stores. As of the end of 2009, only the Snake Eyes figure has been released in its entirety (as City Strike Snake Eyes and repainted in black in a Target exclusive pack with a movie-style head), with most of Roadblock showing up in a hard-to-find Wal-Mart exclusive and repainted as Night Adder.

G.I. Joe: RoC: Snow Cat

One of the most wanted vehicle reissues for a couple of years now, the Snow Cat is confirmed as coming. Eventually. With the way Bravo vehicles are selling, it could be a while before these guys hit shelves even after they are released.

Star Trek: Wave 2

The Star Trek 3-3/4″ line was an exercise in frustration from the start, between the small size, bland designs, massive parts reuse, poor paint colors in the initial run, and bizarre choice of outfits (Checkov as a cadet, Kirk in yellow uniform, etc.). Wave 2 looked promising with a little bit more variety (a new Romulan outfit, a space suit body, one non-human/Vulcan/Romulan) and some outfits that filled out the Enterprise crew (McCoy and Chekov in Enterprise uniforms, Kirk in emo-wear), plus the missing parts from the bridge and transporter playsets. As always though, the first wave was shipped in massive quantities and was restocked with more of the same. By the time the movie was out on DVD, stores had either given up on the line or raised the price to ensure that consumers would give up on it instead. The second wave was delayed several times, then new products were announced, then everything was scrapped. Indiana Jones was a failure because it couldn’t get Wave 4 to retail in 6 months, Star Trek didn’t even get Wave 2 into production in 6 months. Everyone who picked up a bridge playset for $7.24 is just out of luck.

Star Wars Legacy: Alternate Heads

Whoever is running the Star Wars factory needs to be fired. Time and time again, Hasbro blames the factory when there’s a screw-up, yet nothing ever changes. Last year, the Black Pauldron Sandtrooper was reported as shipped (but wasn’t), this year running changes to figures were planned and promised (but didn’t ship). All the while, Hasbro was sure that the second Hoth Trooper was on its way, but it never made it out. The same process was repeated for the Inperial Scanning Crew figure, with more promises for the Bespin Guard figure. We already know that the factories can’t manage to use standard size head sockets, include the correct accessories, or assemble parts the right way around, so why isn’t someone doing something to fix the problem? The alternate versions are promised in upcoming battle packs, which will most likely be filled out with a load of crap nobody wants, if they ever ship at all.

Star Wars Titanium: Gungan Sub

The original planned Wave 4 2008 continues to dominate this category now that Hasbro has canned the Titanium line without producing any of the non-Galactica items from this doomed wave. The wave that was scrapped to make way for loads of pegwarming repaints (some of which can still be found at stores) featured repacks and repaints that inexplicably never materialized (though the new Jedi Starfighter mold did show up in different colors), a long-awaited Galactica ship that didn’t make it out before the contract expired, and the Gungan Sub, a Galoob mold that was first shown in early 2008 and didn’t make it out over the next two years. It is possible that it was planned for a 2010 release after being bumped from its 2008 slot, but the line’s demise took it out of the lineup once again. Hasbro is still looking for a way to get this out, with no word on any plans yet. Here’s an idea – store-exclusive vehicle/figure two-packs with a Titanium vehicle and a pilot figure. People love pilots (and Hasbro has admitted that they want to get more pilot figures out) and you could sneak in a Jar Jar figure without attracting too much attention (Porkins would make good cover).

Terminator: Salvation: Wave 2

And here’s a recurring theme with Playmates toy lines from 2009. Unlike Star Trek, the Terminator line didn’t have a well-received movie to work with, nor did it seem to have as many character options. Wave 1 was pretty lean, with only two real humans, one fully disguised machine, two partially disguised machines, and two endoskeletons. Wave 2’s big draw was to be an unmasked John Connor (likeness rights issues apparently caused the Wave 1 Connor to hide his face), but that never happened. We’re probably better off without more from this line considering the poor articulation, inconsistent figure design, and sloppy paint and assembly. At least the Star Trek line looked like it was all derived from the same baseline figure model, the Terminator line looked like it was made up of figures designed at various points over the last 20 years. At least they were cheap on clearance.

Transformers Animated: Hydrowave Bumblebee

The Animated line was rather confusing in 2009. With the show over, it looked like the merchandise would be clearanced out and forgotten, but somehow most of the main line was spared that fate (larger items got the axe at most non-TRU retailers). This resulted in an odd situation with older Voyager figures available at retail while the most recent wave was plentiful at the discount stores. The impact on announced but not released products remained unknown until the end of the year when Arcee was revealed as a TRU exclusive and Electrostatic Soundwave and Freeway Jazz showed up at retail. This left Voyager-class Hydrowave Bumblebee as the final unknown.

Transformers Universe 2.0: Red Alert

This one is pure venting. Just as the new iteration of Classics was getting interesting, it gets pushed aside for the new movie line. Still, it was a good run (aside from all of the Cybertron repaints that only seemed to be holding shelf space until Inferno was ready). The one sore spot (Hot Shot’s missing guns notwithstanding) was that Red Alert was released in the Japanese counterpart to the Classics/Universe 2.0 line but was skipped in the US. As usual, Hasbro has no plans to produce one. Instead, have another crappy movie Jazz repaint. Whoo-hoo.

Most Controversial

G.I. Joe: RoC: Giant Missile Launchers

Nothing infuriates the die-hard fanbase like spring-loaded projectiles. After all, most of us remember the 90s, when 3″ missiles, water cannons, disc launchers, and other play gimmicks laid waste to every major toy line, leading to the dark times. So when the new movie line was shown to be filled with giant spring-loaded missiles, it was expected that at least a few people would be upset. The issue was whether the additional cost of items that were essentially garbage for collectors would be worth the potential appeal to kids. When done right (as in the Resolute 5-Pack), nobody minds a spring-loaded missile launcher, but including one massively oversized launcher with every figure was really overkill. Later in the line, the missile launchers became optional, with additional useful accessories taking the place of the giant unnecessary hunks of spring-loaded plastic.

Transformers: RotF: Devastator

It was a welcome surprise when Devastator was announced as a character in the new Transformers movie, but the end result was somewhat underwhelming. The toy versions were even more frustrating, with choices of a combining version without individual robot modes or fully transforming figures that don’t combine (plus a set of Legends-size figures that transform and combine that is not yet available in the US). This was accurate to the movie, but that was small consolation to fans who wanted a perfect version of Devastator. Things only got worse when the toys were released and even the transformable versions were found to be overly complicated unstable masses of joints. Worst of all, Hasbro has confirmed that there will not be a version of Devastator with wrecking balls. Third-party custom job maybe?

Most Surprising

G.I. Joe: RoC: Quality Construction

Look, I hate the movie styling as much as anyone. Turtle Vipers, mech suits, bizarro Cobra Commander, etc. Still, you can’t deny that someone in the design/production process is on the top of their game on this one; these figures are some of the best Hasbro has ever produced. It’s too bad the early 25th Anniversary figures couldn’t have been this good, but at least they got it right eventually. From what we’ve seen so far, Resolute should have the best of both worlds, so there is hope. Now how about working on quality control, I’m sick of mis-inserted pins in ankle and elbow joints (usually at least one or two in every three figures, or around a 10% failure rate).

Star Wars Legacy: Scramble on Yavin

Battle packs have come to represent a creative outlet for Hasbro. Free from the size/costing restraints of carded figures, they can throw in the occasional unexpected bonus for collectors. Never has this been done better than in the Scramble on Yavin pack, something that seems simple and boring on the surface but is really anything but. Perfect for diorama builders of the mentioned scene, it includes a pilot, astromech, ground crew, and a small vehicle. All of the pieces were new in some way, not a superfluous Vader to be found. More surprising than the fact that Hasbro made it (or that I liked it so much despite having little interest in this sort of thing) was how successful the pack was at retail. While collector-focused products usually fail miserably (Yarna), this pack was very hard to find and worked well with Target’s X-Wing exclusive. Unfortunately, Hasbro will not be producing any more of these due to the new battle pack box form factor and the directive to give collectors the finger in the Battle Pack line from here on out.

Transformers Animated: Not Quite Dead Yet

With the Transformers Animated cartoon off the air, the future of the Animated toy line was uncertain. And it still is. Surprisingly though, new product continues to come out (every few months) and old stuff won’t go away. For a line I haven’t really cared about, I’m glad to see it still going.

Transformers: RotF: Scout Class

Missing from the 2007 movie line was anything in the Scout class aside from Target-exclusive repaints of older figures. Given the price increases since then, it couldn’t be ignored this time around. While expectations tend to be low for figures in this class, Hasbro delivered some real gems in here. With alt modes varying from the usual cars and trucks to a biplane and an Aussie (or possibly Kiwi) toaster and inevitable repaints up the proverbial wazoo, you could ignore the rest of the line and still do pretty well. Ransack managed to be one of the best figures of the year and served as a clever G1 callback (note the wings in robot mode). Unlike most figures, these guys could be repainted forever without any complaints from the fanbase (until their money runs out, these figures rarely go on sale and are usually only about 50 cents less than sale-priced Deluxe figures).

Transformers Universe 2.0: G3 Trailer

When Hasbro released Classics Optimus Prime (and later Ultra Magnus, Nemesis Prime, etc.) without a trailer, The fan outcry was strong enough to generate several moneymaking opportunities for third party manufacturers. Three different trailers were produced, the third and final being the Fans Project TFX-02 G3 Trailer. This massive trailer was the most faithful to the original toy and incorporated countless new gimmicks that added functionality without detracting from the classic style. From the additional weapons for other figures to the separate rear doors and ramp to the connector for a second trailer to the fold-out mirrored panels that effectively hide the entire trailer, there were plenty of perfectly-implemented features to enjoy. While the $80 price tag was a bit steep for an accessory, the overall quality of the finished product was on par with the Masterpiece line.

Most Disappointing

G.I. Joe: Hall of Heroes B.A.T.

Hall of Heroes had great potential to surprise of disappoint because of how little anyone knew about the concept. Would there be new parts? Better paint jobs? Improved sculpts? In the end, the figures were slightly tweaked and tended to include a larger assortment of accessories than the originals. With the fate of the battle-damaged B.A.T. uncertain (it was later released in a 7-pack), this could have been the last chance to get the new parts planned for that version. What we got was something in between – the DVD pack B.A.T. with a silver face with the spore canister and battle-damaged head from the 7-pack version. No purple vines, no battle-damaged chestplate, not even paint on the old attachments. Oh, and the pistol was black. Everything else had different parts, new paint jobs, something to differentiate them from other versions. This one had a colored stand.

G.I. Joe: RoC: Female Head Sculpts

What did Star Trek and Terminator both do better than G.I. Joe in 2009? Other than failing as a toy line. Both of these otherwise craptacular lines still managed to put decent heads on female figures. The second versions of Scarlett and the Baroness weren’t as bad, and Helix wasn’t terrible, but the line started with horrible head sculpts on Scarlett and the Baroness and only improved slightly with Cover Girl. Considering how good the rest of these figures were, the heads were simple inexcusable.

Marvel: Cartoon Lines

There were plenty of ups and downs in Hasbro’s Marvel lines, but both the Wolverine & The X-Men and Iron Man cartoon lines had no upside. Clearly designed for kids (because Hasbro knows that kids don’t care about articulation), there was little to like about these awkward-looking little lumps of plastic.

Star Trek: Hot Wheels Starships

One of the more interesting things to come from the new Star Trek movie was a line of die-cast starships from Hot Wheels. Initially, it wasn’t clear how big these ships would be. Some listings said 1:50 scale, but that didn’t make much sense for huge starships. The end products were slightly smaller than Titanium Ultra figures, which was a reasonable size for these ships. They were not to a constant scale, but that was probably unavoidable. Things only got worse from there. As for being “die-cast,” they only had about as much metal as a 3″ Titanium figure (before those went mostly plastic). The detailing was also poor, with lots of stray glue and poorly-fitted plastic pieces. Warping of the plastic was an issue (particularly with nacelles), and paint apps were minimal. I could live with that if they had at least produced more of a variety of ships. The initial waves featured four ships (three Federation, one Klingon), with several more and battle-damaged repaints planned. Don’t hold your breath. The ultimate insult is that the line was clearanced in stores before any ships from the new movie made it out. Nice job with that movie tie-in.

Star Wars Clone Wars: Jedi Statues

Hasbro has emphatically stated that Clone Wars is first and foremost a kids’ line, and everyone knows that kids don’t give a crap about articulation (never mind that I thought Star Wars figures were crap with I was a kid over two decades ago because of the lack of articulation compared to other figure lines). The logical conclusion is that Clone Wars figures should have as little articulation as possible, which is the case with the Jedi. Yes, those guys who run and jump around while waving around glowing energy swords have no need for knees or ankles. While you can justify this for guys like Admiral Yularen (who only ever really stands around anyway), limiting the Jedi this much seems a bit stupid. But hey, if the kids don’t care, I guess it doesn’t matter.

Star Wars Legacy: Death of the Battle Pack

So much in the Star Wars universe just won’t fit on a card, which is why there are battle packs. From large accessories to beasts to obscure repaints, the Battle Pack line has been the catch-all for anything that didn’t slot into one of the other lines. Until now. Starting in 2010, battle packs will be for repacks of repacks of repacks of ancient figures only. Somehow, Hasbro has also promised a few new things as well, so who knows how all this will shake out. Still, the days of innovation in the Battle Pack line appear to be over. The higher price however is here to stay.

Star Wars Titanium: End of the Line

It was no secret that the Titanium line wasn’t a strong performer, but it was so infrequently restocked that most stores skipped a wave of two for every wave they put out. Still, they usually sold through eventually (except for Jabba’s Skiff), so canning the whole line seemed a bit excessive. At least they finished off their niche project of making all of the bounty hunter ships, but the sudden end precluded the inclusion of countless much-needed repaints and repacks. The TIE Defender (one of the most elusive ships of 2008) made a return, but many others were left out (even some promised by Hasbro).

Terminator: Salvation: 3-3/4″ Terminators

While I wasn’t all that broken up about the demise of this line (let’s face it, there wasn’t much to work with), the Terminators could have been amazing. Considering what Hasbro has done with the B.A.T., IG Assassin Droid, and Commando Droid, you would think that Playmates could spice up an otherwise bland toy line with some kick-ass Terminators. Instead, the ones they deliver are severely lacking in articulation and are essentially just boring statues. The best of the bunch was the T-1 from the 6″ line (which was scaled to fit in with the smaller line), but even that was so simple that it could have been a build-a-figure in the 3-3/4″ figure line (I do applaud Playmates for hiding the spring-loaded missile gimmick, as nonsensical as it ends up being as a result). The T-1 is everything the smaller models are not – a robot that could fit in with just about any other toy line while still being a uniquely Terminator figure.

Transformers Animated: No Arcee Until 2010

The good news: Arcee isn’t cancelled. The bad news: she’s going to be a TRU exclusive in 2010 (supposedly). Well, it’s something…

Transformers: RotF: Leader Class Optimus Prime

There was a lot of disappointment in the second movie line, but I stopped keeping track of it after getting Leader Class Optimus Prime. The last version was outstanding, so this more movie-accurate version would be even better, right? And hey, he has blades this time instead of a stupid blaster. So what’s not to like? Well, the designers stated that they hit their target for complexity with this figure, which was apparently “so freaking complicated that I just want to throw it out the window in mid-transformation.” This figure is a mess of joints and panels that only align properly in one specific way, which is nearly impossible to achieve without popping pieces off or knocking everything else out of alignment. The ultimate frustration came from pieces that need to be forcibly popped out of place to hard that the figure seems sure to break. The instructions of course explain every complex maneuver with a simple picture and an arrow or two. Look, I can transform Masterpiece Megatron practically blindfolded (well, not really), but I never want to slide a piece of this figure out of place ever again for as long as I live. Not even to try out the combined mode with Jetfire (and I love obscenely bulky and complicated combined Optimus Prime modes). I would have been so much happier if I had stuck with the Scout Class exclusively.

Least Necessary

G.I. Joe: Greatest Battles DVD Pack

There was a lot of competition from a slew of uninspired repaints, but the Greatest Battles pack was the worst waste of plastic this year. I’m sure someone thought this would be a good idea, but the results look like someone gave a kid a bucket of parts and some paint. Not only does the pack contain the four most repainted figures ever, but the part selection and accessories make everything look pathetic. These might as well be knock-offs. Seriously, words fail me, the only good thing in this pack was the unnecessary black Snake Eyes webgear (which is now on a black movie trooper).

G.I. Joe: RoC: Green Snow Job

Since the 25th Anniversary line started, we have gotten plenty of snow-themed figures. Three of them have been Snow Job. Snow Job in white, Snow Job with green forearms, Snow Job with brown forearms… Wait a second, green? Luckily, it came with an unnecessary vehicle, so it was an easy pass.

Marvel: Wolverine, Take Your Pick

The one with the horrible paint job? Hideous face? Obscure costume? Wrong shade of yellow? Caveman? How about making just one good one?

Star Trek: Kirk in Command Uniform

We get to see Kirk in a variety of uniforms in the new Star Trek movie, but he spends the bulk of the action in a plain black shirt, though he also has a bit of time in a cadet uniform and a space suit. So what does Playmates choose for Kirk’s first two figures? A yellow command uniform. That he doesn’t wear in the movie. For both figures. But hey, the other three will be in Wave 2. Oh, right…

Star Wars Legacy: Fetts

Well, the flood of Vaders has subsided. Now we have Fetts – Jango Fetts, Boba Fetts, lots of Fetts. As filler in various waves, store exclusives, etc. Someone should put out a bounty on these guys…

Star Wars Titanium: Sebula’s Pod Racer (Final Wave)

With the Titanium line winding down, every slot was important. For the final wave, this meant getting in the last new ship and as many hard-to-find ships as possible. So why a pod racer? New ships from Wave 7 I can see. Old favorites like the TIE Defender, sure. That promised clear-canopy V-19? Apparently not. Pegwarming bounty hunter ships? What? And a pod racer? Nice job Hasbro.

Transformers: RotF: Preview Bumblebee

OK, I could understand the need for preview figures the last time around. This whole movie thing was new and protoform figures wouldn’t hold up well in the main line, so tossing them out there as a teaser made sense. But now? There were still remnants from the last movie around when the new movie line hit, so it’s not like they needed something to maintain a presence in the toy aisle. The choice of figures certainly didn’t help any, with Soundwave (new mold, underwhelming figure) and a slightly retooled Bumblebee. Yes, Bumblebee, the hottest figure in July 2007 and by now one of the most overused molds there is. And there’s a new version in the main movie line. Well, at least one, you can be sure of more… And the Human Alliance version. Why did we need this one again?

Most Essential

Marvel: Captain America

Let’s see, goofy multicolored costume, patriotic color scheme, bullseye shield… How can you not want this guy? The classic version is up next year.

Transformers: RotF: Human Alliance Bumblebee

This line definitely started off with a whimper when the preview Bumblebee was released – great, yet another slight variation of a figure I already have too many of. Even the new Cannon Bumblebee was considerably underwhelming. Things took a turn in the right direction though when Human Alliance Bumblebee came out. The Human Alliance line is essentially a cross between Alternators and the Battle Scene packs from the last movie line. The result is a set of detailed cars that include articulated human figures that can interact with the robots in a variety of ways. While some of the gimmicks get in the way, the Bumblebee in this line still manages to surpass the Deluxe versions in both size and play value. The price tag is a bit high at $30, but this is really the only version of this character that you need.

Best Mail-Away: Eh, not this year

Aside from the Star Wars Qui-Gon Jinn on Eopie and some seriously delayed Indiana Jones items, what else was there? 2010 looks more promising with planed mail-aways for G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and Transformers.

Worst Exclusive

G.I Joe: RoC: TRU Barbecue

It was bad enough that Toys R Us (which had been promoting online sales of the Hall of Heroes figures) named their exclusive carded figure line Headquarters of Heroes, but their first two figures were the endlessly repainted Firefly (with a new mix of parts) and Barbecue. The Firefly was excusable, but a yellow and gray Barbecue just didn’t work. They were going for a realistic firefighter look and ended up with something that nobody wanted. Also a contender for Worst Repaint and Best Pegwarmer.

Marvel Universe: Nick Fury

Now, I’m no comic book aficionado, but I can see that Nick Fury might make your cut if you just want a few key figures from this line. And if he comes with a bunch of guns, all the better. But requiring a subscription to an online comic archive (at a minimum cost of $24.99) to get him is just a kick straight to the nuts. I would have bought more figures from this line if that was what it took to get this guy, but now, fuck you Hasbro/Marvel.

Star Wars Legacy: K-Mart 4-Pack

K-Mart had a thing for 4-packs this year, but at least the Transformers and G.I. Joe packs had some repaints in them. For the Star Wars pack, K-Mart took four figures from last year and packaged them together. Really? Figures that we were sick of a year ago? Is that the best you can do?

Transformers: RotF: Wal-Mart Blowpipe and Sideways

$27 for two Deluxes? When singles are selling for $8? Huh? Well, at least they’re repaints, right? What’s that, only one is a repaint? And everyone who wants the other one probably has it already? Great, $27 for an $8 figure and some trash. Sure, I like the figure and I like the color, but no. Just no. Even on clearance for $13.50, this one is no bargain.

Best Exclusive

G.I. Joe: Internet Exclusive Cobra Island Packs

Hasbro followed up last year’s Extreme Conditions packs with another set of 7-packs filled with, um, stuff that was canned to make way for the movie line. Well, at least we got it, though it took a good amount of the year for Hasbro to come up with a ship date. The figures were great, despite using a lot of recycled parts. And hey, they even threw in a white Ripcord (using the alias “Altitude”). It was a bittersweet end to two years of outstanding nostalgia.

G.I. Joe: RoC: SDCC Destro 2-Pack

Hasbro has been doing a good job with SDCC exclusives lately, but this one is probably the best yet. Unlike the past two years, which each featured a single carded figure and a more limited repaint of some sort, the 2009 SDCC exclusive was a pack of two different figures in a very detailed box. The figures themselves were on normal cards, but they were housed in a book-style box inside another box. The figures were two versions of Destro, the current movie incarnation and an ancestor who was the first to wear a metal mask. The former is an all-new suited sculpt, which Hasbro has no plans to reuse anytime soon (so stop asking), while the latter is a heavily built-up and painted IG Destro sculpt (so much so that you wouldn’t know that it was IG Destro underneath unless you looked at the two of them side-by-side). The box features a complete family history of Clan McCullen with details on the arms developed and sold by each Destro (most of which is slightly or hilariously anachronistic). Best of all, the pack was available at a reasonable price and in sufficient quantities to satisfy the demand (quite unusual for SDCC exclusives).

Marvel: Captain America (Black and White)

Marvel was light on exclusives, but this desaturated Cap (actually a repaint of the comic pack version) was an interesting concept that came out perfectly. Even the outer box played a part in setting this up as a look into the past.

Star Wars Legacy: Joker Squadron

This severely-delayed pack finally made it out, and it was worth the wait. Finally, unique Stormtroopers who are not secretly Luke or Han (or George Lucas). Best of all, the first female Stormtrooper. And some Sith guy. Sure, you had to mix and match helmets to get them all fitting right (you think they could have figured this out before packing them up), and there are some remolded G.I. Joe accessories in there, but this is a good way to boost the troops without having them all look like clones.

Transformers Animated: Target 2-Packs

There weren’t really any other Animated exclusives in 2009, but the Target 2-packs were notable for two reasons. First, they had some great repaints in Shockwave and Sunstorm. Second, Target screwed up on the sale price and accidentally marked them down to $5 instead on putting them on sale for $5 off. The sale was stopped after two days, but the damage was done; by then, it was very hard to find them anywhere. In the end, they still made it to 75% off on clearance.

Transformers: RotF: Target Orange The Fallen

The thing about The Fallen is that he’s on fire. ON FIRE. The movie figure has some flip out fiery panels, but that just didn’t cut it. The Target exclusive version takes it up a notch by making the whole figure look like fire. While the figure itself may not be that great, it isn’t just on fire, it IS fire.

Transformers Universe 2.0: Target Dirge and Roadbuster

The Universe 2.0 line was light on original exclusives (only Titanium Grimlock and Prowl come to mind) but had plenty of good exclusive repaints/reissues: Wal-Mart Skyfall and Hardhead, Target Titanium Thrust and Hot Zone, G1 Soundwave, Perceptor, and the Insecticons (and the return of last years overpriced and underwhelming Optimus Prime reissue, in the same beat up boxes that were last seen at the beginning of the year), etc. Some of the most interesting though were the Target 2-Packs of Cybertron repaints. Despite the glut of Cybertron repaints in the main line, these were definitely worth picking up. The best had to be Dirge (Cybertron Starscream) and Roadbuster (Cybertron Defense Hot Shot). Both made use of good molds and featured rarely-seen characters with interesting color schemes.

Worst Repaint

G.I. Joe: Resolute Cobra Commander (Red)

Another Cobra Commander? In random colors? Using the largely immobile Resolute sculpt? Why?

G.I. Joe: RoC: Wal-Mart Ninja Battles

In a year where store exclusive repaints dominated the fall, this one was just one set too many. The weapons and diorama pieces are nice (and many people will pay $20 for that alone), but the figures are, as always, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Let’s face it, there aren’t many unique paint jobs left for these guys, certainly nothing good. While the accessories save it from being a terrible exclusive, the figures are still a waste.

Star Wars Titanium: Xanadu Blood

The original was my favorite from 2008, but I just don’t get the repaint – it looks like it flew through a paint store. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I just don’t get it.

Transformers: RotF: Smokescreen

Of all the Deluxe molds from the first movie line, Jazz was the most flawed. That didn’t stop him from getting tons of repaints though, and it didn’t stop an uninspired repaint in the 2009 movie line as Smokescreen. A good paint job can help to hide a bad figure, but this was just bad all around.

Transformers Universe 2.0: Titanium Optimus Prime

Target kept the Titanium line going with three exclusive repaints in mid-2009. While Thrust and Hot Zone were welcome additions, the third was yet another War Within Optimus Prime. It wasn’t that great the first time and isn’t getting better with repeated releases.

Best Repaint

G.I. Joe: Resolute B.A.T.

It’s risky putting the B.A.T. in anything but the original colors, but the Resolute pack pulled it off with a black and red color scheme that worked well with the concept of mechanical bad guys. This followed Resolute’s darker, more realistic update of the original cartoon (while retaining the goofy sci-fi elements) perfectly.

G.I. Joe: RoC: Crimson Neo-Viper

While most of the best repaints of the year were in black (Target 4-pack Snake Eyes, TRU 5-pack Duke, Para-Viper, etc.), the best example of how the right paint job can work wonders is the Crimson Neo-Viper. Regular Neo-Vipers are a boring dull gray, not to mention extremely goofy in that bulky turtleneck armor, but bathing it all in metallic red fixed everything. Changing around the accessories doesn’t hurt either. These guys should look great next to next year’s mail-away Cobra Commander.

Star Wars Clone Wars: Ziro’s IG Assassin Droid

I’ll take any excuse to buy another of these guys, but I was impressed with the colors and patterns on this guy. Underneath, it’s the same great figure, which doesn’t hurt.

Star Wars Titanium: Starbuck’s Viper Mk. II

The last of the Battlestar Galactica Titaniums and one of the most elusive Titanium ships of 2009 (I found four and bought every one), this Viper Mk. II repaint is also the first Viper to be personalized for someone other than Apollo. The detail is every bit as good as that of the Apollo version, so the two of them will look great flanked by a few of the originals.

Transformers Animated: Target Exclusive Purple Shockwave

Repaints of figures in the colors of their G1 namesakes are a given with modern Transformers lines, so it was no surprise that a Purple version of Animated Shockwave followed the regular blue-gray version. The original was already an excellent figure, but the purple version made it even better. The tank mode also makes a great mini tank for G.I. Joe figures, with the purple-trimmed Iron Grenadier Destro from last year’s TRU SRO pack being a perfect match.

Transformers: RotF: Swerve

It seems like these movies like to do away with color: Ironhide is black, Sideswipe is Silver, etc. Luckily, the occasional repaint can fix that. In the case of Sideswipe, the figure was quickly followed by a red repaint as Swerve. It gives us a red Sideswipe at least (though, as a Corvette, we need a blue repaint as Tracks).

Transformers Universe 2.0: Hardhead

With so many exclusive repaints in the Universe 2.0 line (see Best Exclusive), it was hard to pick just one. In the end, I went with the Wal-Mart exclusive Hardhead repaint of last year’s Onslaught. Not only are there some nice touches (the pain apps on the shield are particularly nice), but they fixed the minor flaws with the mold, resulting in a much more solid figure (he still needs a big gun though). I am looking forward to the inevitable black repaint.

Most Elusive

G.I. Joe: RoC: Nano-Viper

As with most other lines, the wave due out in September was largely a no-show, with stores skipping straight to the next wave. Most of RoC Wave 4 was repacked in Wave 5, with the exception of Kamakura and the Nano-Viper. I managed to find a very beat-up Kamakura (likely a return), so that just leaves the Nano-Viper. It is understandable that Hasbro would want to limit the number of glowing green turtle vipers in the wild, but it looks like very few of these made it out.

Marvel: Colossus

Pretty much everything new from the X-Men Origins: Wolverine line after the first month or so was near-impossible to find, but it only took six months or so for Iceman and Cyclops to be downgraded to moderately difficult. Colossus is another matter, and the line’s stagnation isn’t helping.

Star Wars Legacy: Commander Cody

Most of the Legacy waves on the new style packaging have been hard to find, but of the waves that have shown up a few times, Commander Cody seems to be the hardest to find. Hopefully this will sort itself out when some more Legacy product gets into stores.

Star Wars Titanium: Outrider and Nebulon-B

Normally, the last wave in a line’s run is the hardest to find. The rules don’t apply to Titanium though, which was stalled at Wave 5 at most stores until Wave 8 came along. In between, only the Outrider and the Nebulon-B were limited to a single wave, Wave 7. With only one more wave until the line’s demise, any new ship that is not repacked is going to be a real pain to find. I’m glad I never got into bounty hunters or rebel transports…

Terminator Salvation: A-10 with Blair

The line’s poor performance was most evident in the vehicle class, which was handicapped from the start with only one massively non-scale vehicle at launch and a second so far out that it skipped retail altogether and went straight to the discount chains, where it was still hard to find. The vehicle itself is nothing special, roughly 1:32 scale with a 1:18 scale pilot, but it wasn’t hideous and did resemble an actual military vehicle (unlike some other military-themed vehicles) and the pilot was fairly well-done compared to the rest of this crapfest of a toy line. The head at least was done decently, and a quick swap with a Lady Jaye body made for a passable figure.

Best Figure

G.I. Joe: Alley Viper

The Cobra Island packs were loaded with great figures, but the Alley Viper just overshadowed the rest. While it reuses plenty of old parts (just like the rest of the figures in these packs), they all work together with new parts to build a solid figure. In this case, the core figure is Snake Eyes v3, which is mostly hidden under new parts. The figure features two removable knives, one on the vest and one on the right forearm (and the knives fit perfectly, unlike some previous attempts at sheathed knives). There’s a full load of accessories, including a helmet, shield, baton, rifle, crossbow, and backpack. The one small defect is that the crossbow, while clearly meant to do so, can’t clip onto the backpack (a rubber band solves that problem). On top of all that is a fluorescent orange color scheme with blue detailing. How can you not like this guy?

G.I. Joe: RoC: Snake Eyes (City Strike)

I would really like to give this to a figure from the movie or even related to the movie, but the Resolute figures are just too good to pass up. If a complete Roadblock had shown up, this would have been a tougher call (the Battle Stations Roadblock is missing the vest and the Night Adder figure has a different head). Yes, this is yet another Snake Eyes, but Hasbro keeps making great Snake Eyes figures and this may be the best one yet. The sculpt, paint apps, accessories, etc. are all top-notch.

Marvel: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Logan

So many figures have come out of the various new Marvel lines, many of them Wolverines. While a definitive Wolverine is still just a dream, a definitive Hugh Jackman is available. As the only plainclothes Wolverine figure, Logan needs to be able to pull off looking like Wolverine and looking like just a random guy, and the figure succeeds. The figure is a generic 20th century male casual look, equally at home anywhere Logan has been in his long life. The swappable normal/clawed hands (a feature missing in most Wolverines unfortunately) are a big plus, but the wrists can split if too much force is applied. The head is a perfect likeness of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, one of the best heads Hasbro has done. Best of all, unlike many figures in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine figures, all standard points of articulation are included.

Star Wars Clone Wars: Commando Droid

Hasbro finally got around to filling out the ranks from the episode that featured the debut of the Commando Droid, which gives us the second great droid sculpt in the Clone Wars line. This is a rather tiny guy, so it feels like a poor value as a single carded figure or 3/4 of a battle pack (Ewoks are more massive), but you’re paying for all the articulation, which these guys need to even come close to being as cool as they are on the show. While most droids just stand around waiting to be cut to pieces, Commando Droids use intelligence and acrobatics to get the upper hand. The figure does a great job of representing the character in plastic.

Star Wars Legacy: Slave Leia

Like Manny emerging from his Green Monster bathroom, this one is out of left field. It’s a tiny female sculpt ad not terribly action-oriented, but it is perfectly articulated, makes good use of soft goods, includes an alternate set of legs to have Leia posing on Jabba’s dais, and features a very good likeness of Carrie Fisher (the downside: it’s a very good likeness of Carrie Fisher). Sure, she’s in the cosplay-favorite Slave Leia outfit, but it works. She is currently adorning my MASS Device.

Star Wars Titanium: Clone Wars Y-Wing

Let’s face it, this ship just kicks ass. On the show, it has bailed everyone out at least three times so far. In the vehicle assortment, it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. And in Titanium form, even without any moving parts, it is one slick ship. The plastic nose throws things off a bit, but the rest is perfectly sculpted. The final release lacked panel lines, providing a clean deco to add some variety with the normal version and Anakin’s version. Unfortunately, a red repaint will likely not be coming now that the Titanium line has been scrapped.

Terminator: Salvation: T-1

While it wasn’t technically in the 3-3/4″ line, the T-1 was scaled appropriately for the smaller line. Sadly, this oversized tankbot was superior to the smaller figures in every way, so it was really the only choice for best figure. It feels cheap, but it features light piping in the eyes, spring-loaded missiles (the fronts of the gatling guns shoot off, which, while a bit strange, keeps this gimmick well-hidden), and a rotating turret that swivels back and forth when the figure is rolled (unless you open it up and remove the gearing that does this, which is easy enough to do). Paint apps give a nice muddy look. It can’t do much other than roll and swivel, but it’s a huge step up from the rest of this line.

Transformers Animated: Wreck-Gar

I’ll be honest, there wasn’t really all that much to choose from this year other than repaints. Wreck-Gar was one of the only new figures, and being a Weird Al garbage truck is enough for me. It’s basically a shellformer, but the TV head and somewhat working forks are nice touches.

Transformers: RotF: Bludgeon

Finally, another Voyager-class Classics/Universe 2.0 figure. Sore, it’s in the movie line, but there’s nothing movie about this guy. As an update to a G1 Pretender, there are so many ways this could have gone wrong. Instead, Hasbro has produced a gem of a figure that makes an excellent case for bringing back Classics in some form sooner rather than later.

Transformers Universe 2.0: Inferno

Though technically released in the last days of 2008, Hound and Cyclonus started the year off with a couple of solid figure updates (plus a Cheetor). Finally though, we got the real treat: Inferno. You couldn’t really ask for much more from an update of the old Inferno, except maybe a ladder. Luckily, third party manufacturers came to the rescue. And then the line was over…

Most Wanted

G.I. Joe: RoC: Breaker in Reactive Armor

We are well past off-screen characters and clearly into anything and everything with the Rise of Cobra line, but wait a second, wasn’t Breaker in reactive armor in the movie (really, I’m asking, I haven’t seen the movie yet). Every other question in Hasbro’s always enlightening G.I. Joe Q&A was about this figure, and Hasbro’s response each time was “Fuck off.” We’re more likely to get Bea Arthur in reactive armor than Breaker at this point…

Marvel: Definitive Wolverine

How hard is this to figure out: classic tacky masked yellow spandex Wolverine. How is it that we’ve gotten truckloads of different Wolverines but not one definitive classic version?

Star Wars Clone Wars: Arctic Captain Rex / Arctic Clones

This has to be coming. Like Hasbro is going to pass up the chance to churn out more clones… Seriously though, the arctic designs are usually great, and this one has all of the key details you would expect from a prototypical arctic trooper design. Arctic Jedi are already confirmed, so it’s just a matter of time.

Star Wars Legacy: Jocasta Nu

This year saw the release of the long-awaited fan favorite Wilrow Hood figure (aka Ice Cream Maker Guy), so fans of random background characters rejoice! Everyone else, be glad that Hasbro has learned its lesson with Yarna. So, aside from figures that Hasbro says will never be made, what other bizarre figure can we twist Hasbro’s arm to get? Well, the clear target is everyone’s favorite hard-assed Jedi librarian, Jocasta Nu. Hasbro has repeatedly stated that they would reluctantly make a figure if she wins the Fan’s Choice poll (though they feel that it would be a really bad idea). Well, there you go, if Hasbro doesn’t want to do it, it must be a good idea. Let the petitions begin.

Star Wars Titanium: X-Wing (Red 6)

In the year and a half since the new X-Wing mold was released, we’ve seen Red 1, Red 2, Red 3, Red 4, and Red 5. So why not Red 6? It would be a simple repaint, but since Porkins wasn’t a bounty hunter, it didn’t fit the 2009 theme. I have an empty slot in my letter-Wing fighter box waiting for this guy.

Transformers Animated: Perceptor

I don’t get it. The Animated character designs have been getting better and better, but now the show is long gone and the line is clearly on life support. Damn it Derrick Wyatt, stop coming up with clever updates to old characters. While it looks like more will be coming, there’s still no sign of Animated Perceptor. These things get so frustrating…

Transformers: RotF: Starscream Repaints

When the first movie’s Starscream came out, we got repaints as Thundercracker, G1 Starscream, and another Starscream. When the second movie’s Starscream came out, we got repaints of the first one as Skywarp and Ramjet. How about some decent repaints of the better movie Starscream?

Best Pegwarmer

G.I. Joe: Tripwire

The line was all but dead when 2009 started, but remnants still remain at Wal-Mart and TRU. While it is common to see Major Bludd at Wal-Mart or a few Python Patrol Crimson Guard figures at TRU, the common thread here is Tripwire. The single carded version is part of the ill-fated Wave 12 that still haunts TRU and the comic pack version is plentiful at some Wal-Marts. Releasing him twice in late 2008 even seemed like a mistake then, but maybe he should have been exclusive to DVD Pack #1 instead.

G.I. Joe: RoC: Waves 1 and 2

How can you pick just one when Waves 1 and 2 of Collections 1 and 2 have been everywhere for six months? Talk about a massive miscalculation. Oh well, it’s not like there’s anything good in the waves that aren’t getting out because of all of the old stuff clogging the system…

Marvel: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Wolverines

The Marvel line has been a tough one to figure out, with stock alternating between nothing and dozens with little in between. This leaves the leftovers as the only real pegwarmers, but even they sell out once new product comes in. The only constant for 2009 has been in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine line, where only the non-Wolverine figures are guaranteed to sell out and little of anything new was ever stocked.

Star Wars Clone Wars: Admiral Yularen

Clone Wars was, for the most part, a reliable seller, but one figure was impossible to miss after the packaging change: Admiral Yularen. Following in the footsteps of the all-time great Moff Jerjerrod, Yularen often made up the bulk of the Clone Wars pegs when stores were slow to restock (which was most of the last few months of the year).

Star Wars Legacy: Saga Legends

Aside from a few Wal-Marts that massively overstocked the last wave in the old packaging style, stores haven’t had much of an excess of Legacy. The new packaging style has been particularly hard to spot at retail, especially with all the Saga Legends crowding it out. Saga Legends is Hasbro’s special child, only I think they mean that as a compliment. In reality, it leaves behind tons of dead weight that is nearly indistinguishable from the Clone Wars and Legacy lines, keeping those lines from being restocked. Saga Legends is a cancer on the Star Wars toy franchise in every sense of the term.

Star Wars Titanium: IG-2000

While last year’s Jabba’s Skiff was plentiful at Wal-Mart, the one consistent pegwarmer this year was a bounty hunter ship, IG-2000. Most of the rest of the bounty hunter ships were in the hard-to-find final waves, but the IG-2000 was in waves 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. Add to the overexposure its small size compared to the other bounty hunter ships (most of which were clearly oversized), and you have a real stinker.

Transformers: RotF: Demolisher

So much of this line has proven to be a dud, but Demolisher was doomed from the start. Born from Michael Bay’s wheelbot fetish, Demosher transforms into a rolling pile of crap.

Transformers Universe 2.0: Cybertron Repaints

How bad of an idea were these Voyager Class Cybertron repaints? They won’t even sell at half price. TRU has tried several times, but they just won’t move.

Moff Jerjerrod Award for Excellence in Pegwarming (The Moffy)

With Moff Jerjerrod earning a lifetime achievement award last year (and still pegwarming strong!), it’s time to give another figure a chance at pegwarming recognition. To be eligible for a Moffy, a figure must spend no less than one full year in the same store (major retail outlets only, discount chains do not count) without ever selling out. This year, some of the finalists spent the entire 2008 calendar year unsold and continued well into 2009. While Moff Jerjerrod’s run may prove impossible to top (3+ years on the pegs before retiring to the discount stores), all of the finalists have elevated pegwarming to an art form.

Star Wars VTAC Princess Leia in Combat Poncho (Wal-Mart)

Most stores clearanced this line before I bought my first Star Wars figure (a VTAC Snowtrooper on sale at Kay-Bee) and Kay-Bee was the only store left with a decent supply of these (and they had frequent sales to unload them). Wal-Mart on the other hand just let them sit, which three continue to do until this day. It’s the Leia of course, the least popular in the line. A few feet away, Moff Jerjerrod Watches over her, guiding her in the ways of the pegwarmer.

Star Wars Transformers Millennium Falcon (TRU)

After the 2006 holiday season, Wal-Marts began clearancing the Star Wars Transformers Millennium Falcon, recognizing that it was going to take a bit of a nudge to move these things. However, Wal-Mart had an exclusive version with two Titanium figures, so that helped move some of them. TRU on the other hand was stuck with the standard version and, as usual, charged more than anyone else. Somewhere along the way, it seems like they got more of them, and by 2009, a good 8 feet of shelf space was nothing but Millennium Falcons. From 2006. Needless to say, a toy that sold poorly in 2006 didn’t fare much better three years later. TRU did eventially clearance them, but marking them down to $25 didn’t really help.

Transformers Movie 2007 TRU Exclusive Blackout and Scorponok (TRU)

Given how Blackout and Scorponok work together in the beginning of the 2007 Transformers movie, putting them together in a single pack probably seemed like a good idea. Of course, putting two of the most disappointing figures in the line together and charging as much as the individual versions combined is stupid no matter how you look at it. At least the other exclusive repacks were cheaper than buying them separately… These never sold and TRU didn’t bother clearancing them, opting instead to just move them into the 2009 movie line display. Their 2009 exclusive was at least a pair of repaints, but one was a repaint of a slightly remolded Blackout and the price this time was $5 higher. Someone still isn’t learning.

G.I. Joe Wave 7 (Silver Card) Remnants (K-Mart)

Oh boy, K-Mart finally started carrying G.I. Joe figures! After almost a year with nothing from the new G.I. Joe line, my local Sears Essentials (the cleaner version of K-Mart) finally got a case of Wave 7. A month after every other store got it. But hey, they’ll get more, right? A year later, nothing new had been stocked and several of the original Wave 7 figures were still there.

G.I. Joe Wave 1 Comic Packs (TRU and Wal-Mart)

The initial wave of comic packs debuted at the end of 2007 with some very bad repaints and one new character (Hawk). Supplies of these packs grew over the course of the next year to the point where they prevented newer comic packs from being stocked at many stores. While most of the other packs featured new characters or decent repaints, the first three were miserable disasters that sold for next to nothing online (and that was back when the Doc redemption stickers were worth something). As 2009 comes to a close, the pack with Hawk, the least hideous of the bunch, is still available at many stores for the original retail price of $9.99 or more. Worse, since Hawk had his crotch trimmed in the Wave 2 release, the many pre-crotch fix versions available today can be traced back to that first shipment that hit in December 07 – January 08. That’s two solid years of pegwarming service.

Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (TRU)

Hasbro’s horrible management of the Indiana Jones line had at least one side benefit – massive clearance deals. Well, everywhere except TRU. Yes, the store that had a buy two get one free sale a couple weeks after the line was released (bringing the price of a single carded figure down to $4.66) and had another similar sale just before the holidays never went below $4.98 on clearance. While Wal-Mart was begging people to take them, TRU held firm, tying up shelf space with a long-dead line (alongside The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Legends, G.I. Joe Sigma Six, Wall-E, Speed Racer, and several other abandoned properties). Walking the aisles at TRU is like a stroll through memory lane, mainly because the pegs haven’t been refreshed in years.

Star Wars Legacy Yarna (Everywhere)

The newest entry of the bunch is the ill-fated Yarna. Much loved by a small but vocal group of collectors, Yarna was released in the same quantity as the other figures in the first wave of Legacy figures, which was a massive mistake. While much of the wave was borderline crap, Yarna has a face (and triple decker rack) that only a collector could love. The result of this miscalculation was pegs full of Yarnas a year after her release, many still bearing the First Day of Issue sticker. At some points, the entire Star Wars section at certain stores (TRU) consisted of nothing but Yarnas. Unfortunately, Hasbro hunted down all of the pegwarming Yarnas, leaving only a small number in the wild. Poor Yarna, cut down in her pegwarming prime…

So who will win? Come back next year for the answer, these things take time…

Final Thoughts

There’s not much else to say about 2009. Movie lines were largely flops, with Playmates making total failures out of Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation and Hasbro overestimating the demand for G.I. Joe and Transformers 2. Collector-focused lines did fairly well, but much of that was due to better expectation management by the manufacturers. Not covered above, the 6″ size had a lot of great limited releases, mainly from Mattel with Masters of the Universe Classics, Ghostbusters, and DC Universe Classics (again, lowered expectations resulted in reduced quantities, but that doesn’t explain Mattel’s pathetic web ordering system). Kay Bee has finally been put out of its misery. Sadly, the Star Wars Titanium line is also dead. Prices hit all-time highs, then crashed to more reasonable levels when sales stagnated (and will probably be even higher in 2010). At this point, it seems clear that toy companies are more than happy to risk failure with just about any idea except when it’s something collectors want, and we’re just going to have to get used to it.

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