2014 has brought a plethora of collecting goodies and it is only timely to conclude the old whilst introducing the New Year by looking back at some of the best. I’d like to revisit a collection of stellar products that I have either purchased or have experience with, and briefly discuss why I feel they deserve praise. All opinions are that of my own based upon quality, presentation, and overall enjoyment of the items featured. Without further ado, I present my 2014 year in review!
Notable Figures/Lines of 2014:
NECA’s Bioshock Infinite Booker DeWitt
A true send off to a wonderful line, the fact this figure exists is a great success. After months of uncertainty by NECA, it was announced that Booker would see the light of day, and the wait was certainly worth it. NECA again brought their A-Game delivering a great sculpt, clean paints, and awesome accessories. Although the line may have ended, this was a fantastic conclusion that should please any Bioshock fan.
NECA 1/4 Scale Arkham Origins Batman
This is THE Batman. From a technical aspect, this figure has everything a good Batman requires. Full articulation including double jointed knees, ratchet joints, and an impressive range for the head and neck. Furthermore, the cape is an excellent fabric weight, draping perfectly without looking bunched or out-of-place. To top off a great figure additional accessories are a requirement, and per expectation, Batman is equipped properly. The included accessories are perfect representations of the batarang and grapnel gun (featuring a removable claw). From an aesthetic standpoint this is a great looking piece. This massive figure rivals many high-end statues and will complete your Batman collection no doubt.
NECA 1/4 Scale Halo 4 Master Chief
Much to the same tune as Batman, the Master Chief 1/4 figure wins in almost every way. This figure is massive and captures every detail the in-game model has to offer. Superb articulation allows the collector to display this figure in a myriad of action poses, and the ratchet joints hold them perfectly. The epitome of visual appeal is the Chief’s visor, which is a collection of layered material resulting in the most accurate looking representation I’ve seen to date. Accompanying all this, the Chief also features alternate hands, weapon pins, and two detailed weapons. This is not a figure you want to miss.
Hasbro Build-a-Figure Groot
Groot is by far one of the most lovable characters brought to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s a shame that a figure as solid as this one was limited to build-a-figure status. Retail controversy aside, Groot succeeded in fulfilling the majority of the points needed to get a gold star of approval: a nice, detailed sculpt, full articulation (check out those ankle rockers!), and a solid build; all he lacked was a more detailed paint application. Even with the soft materials used on the Guardians of the Galaxy Legends wave, Groot still seemed to be a better build than his smaller counterparts, netting him a place amongst the best of the year.
Underground Toys/Character Options Time of the Doctor Set
It’s been a while since fans of the BBC show had an opportunity to get their hands on an 11th Doctor, so this figure couldn’t have arrived any sooner. Coming in a classy collector package, the Time of the Doctor set encompasses the Time Lord’s final days prior to his 12th regeneration. Contained within the snazzy TARDIS inspired package comes two alternate heads, the Cyberman “Handles” head, an alternate shirt, and appropriate accessories so that the collector can display the 11 as young, old, or regenerated. Respectable sculpting and almost all new parts make this a must have for Who fans, even if the price is steep.
McFarlane Halo 2 Master Chief
McFarlane made a big mistake in their marketing, as this figure takes the place as their best Chief to date. While it’s not perfect, it is a great encompassing figure that is equipped with a number of accessories and a detailed sculpt. Fans on the fence should definitely be made aware that the figure is all new and usurps all previous efforts by McFarlane.
DC Collectibles Arkham Origins Deathstroke
Get passed the quality control problems that DC Collectibles tend to have and you’ve got yourself a stellar Deathstroke; I’ve yet to seen one to top it. Chock loaded with a detailed sculpt and a very clean paint job, Slade Wilson is ready to take on any Batman you have on your shelf. His collection of included weapons meshes perfectly with heavy amounts of articulation so that he can be posed dynamically. For a figure as good as this, it was a shame the majority of his attention arose from his fracture-prone, clear joints.
Funko’s Magic the Gathering Legacy Line
Magic? I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about the card game before, but beyond that (if you’re like me) you know nothing more. This line unfortunately seems to be on its way out despite being exquisite. No matter how solid a series is though, cost can kill it; a $24.99 MSRP for these does not cut it here. Couple that with a lack of audience knowledge and you’ve got a train wreck. It’s a shame really, because these figures have done something very few products have since I was a kid; I wanted to buy them because they looked cool, not because of a license they originated from. I could care less about the source material, these are awesome, and I know a lot of folks think the same way. That’s why I insist these figures receive attention here, because they are the epitome of collecting figures: fun, well built, and exciting.
Play Arts Kai Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag Edward Kenway
This is not an area of collecting I travel to often, this ~$100 range. Alas, Black Flag has been one of my favorite Assassin’s Creed Games and McFarlane’s Edward left a lot to be desired, so this was the next best option. I can happily say that Play Arts Kai has done a stellar job with this figure.
While the price is undoubtedly high, the figure does a lot of things right that make up for that entry cost. An excellent articulation scheme, great paint applications, a plethora of accessories, and a minimally stylized sculpt all give this a win in my department. By making intelligent decisions such as providing a separate hood and hairpiece, this figure has all of the makings of a high end product.
Coolest Original Idea:
NECA’s Classic Video Game Series
While the line technically began in 2013 with the SDCC NES Jason, and only saw one addition (NES Freddy Krueger), it truly only spread its wings last year, hence why I’m willing to include it. The brainchild of one fan’s inspiration and Mr. Randy Falk, the Classic Video Game Series is truly a treat. Whether you were old enough for the rise of games or not, these figures are a testament to the era and artistic prowess.
The homages don’t stop with the figures though, as the packaging accurately imitates the original cartridge boxes, complete with re-written descriptions, faux distress, shrink wrap, and a nifty NECA logo reminiscent of Nintendo’s gold seal. This is one of the rare occasions where the package is as fun to collect as the figure within. What could have been a mere set of repaints has expanded to nostalgic nirvana.
2014 saw the release of the 1989 NES Robocop, Predator, and the surprise Keaton Batman, each capturing their classic style exquisitely and expanding the line beyond horror at a rapid pace. Next year, collectors will be able to add Rambo, Rocky, and a number of unannounced characters to this amazing series. With expansion to a dedicated Robocop vs. Terminator 16-bit homage line that hit shelves last December, the possibilities are endless.
Biggest Improvement/Best Potential:
Funko Game of Thrones Legacy Series 2
2013 saw the collectors rejoicing at the prospect of articulated 1/12 scale Game of Thrones figures. Sculpted by Gentle Giant, high hopes garnished with trepidation shrouded Funko’s first foray into the action figure market. Unfortunately, Funko was presented with a tumultuous start. Figures featuring fantastic sculpts marred by poor paint apps and quality issues haunted the line.
Fast forward to Fall 2014, as Funko finally brought about Series 2 of their cautiously received Game of Thrones line. While the release was not without it’s faults, the comparison of series 1 to 2 is like that of night to day. Typically clean, more complex paint applications coupled with solid plastic joints squashed Funko’s two biggest complaints. While many figures still shipped with frozen joints out of the box, the break rate was significantly better than that of the original series. This improvement shows much promise that the unannounced series 3 will hit hit the ground running with all the bases covered.
NECA 1989 Batman 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray Figure
No one ever thought this would see the light of day, no one. A 7″ Keaton Batman? Preposterous.
Fortunately that’s where NECA works its magic, the preposterous; first Dutch, then Ripley, and now Keaton Batman.
Not only did NECA nail the release with a near perfect figure, one many argue is the best Batman figure ever made, they did it whilst avoiding Mattel’s DC license. While this unfortunately means that the figure saw extremely limited release as a bonus to the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray, what’s important is that it happened. The collector technically isn’t buying the figure, but rather the disc; this is where NECA was able to work around Mattel.
This clever approach nets NECA the best exclusive of 2014, not only because the release was deviously well executed, but because it is a great figure.
Favorite Vinyl Collectible:
Tie: Funko POP Army of Darkness Ash/Guardians of the Galaxy Baby Groot
While one of these was a complete expectation, both exhibit exceptional stylization that appropriately serves as a homage to their characters. Ash in particular captures the essence of Bruce Campbell by perfecting the cocked eyebrow and his iconic hairstyle. To top it off, this POP has clean paint apps, even going as far as to have glossed details on the chainsaw. This is a great piece for any vinyl collector and/or film lover.
There’s not much to be said about Baby Groot, because he’s the most talked about character this year. Nevertheless, despite being a complete cash-in, this POP fittingly represents the final moments of the film. The stylization is actually quite suitable for Groot’s big eyes. This guy is a fun, great piece for collectors and fans alike. Clean paint apps coupled with a neat bobble head feature make it a noteworthy purchase.
NECA 1/4 Scale Offerings
For those of us who are not prepared to join the Hot Toys club for a high end fix, NECA’s ¼ scale figures offer one heck of a deal. For about a $100 bucks, these 18” figures tower over traditional offerings in every way. The best part is that these are not only larger counterparts to typical figures, but they take the paint apps and sculpt that NECA is known for and raise the bar even further. A full set of articulation on these figures mean that dynamic displays are a breeze to create. These are quality figures in every way, and there is no question that they easily can be the centerpiece of your collection.
Most Addictive Line:
Tie: Lego Collectible Minifigures and Funko Pop Vinyls
For something that only comes out about twice a year (give or take), Lego has a powerful hold on a big audience with their collectible minifigures. These blind bagged figures induce a collector feeding frenzy when they hit shelves and you’ll need luck to beat the crowd to a fresh case. Even if you’re adept at feeling them out, the hunt to find these minifigures is relentless. Top that off with the competition to reach them and you’ve got a major collectible addiction on your hands.
Lego rarely skimps on their designs, always bringing unique and exciting characters to your cityscape, so it’s no surprise that collectors want these figures immediately.
I’m not sure what kind of witchcraft goes on behind the scenes at Funko, but I doubt any company has ever held so many licenses simultaneously. If you can think it, chances are Funko’s got a POP vinyl for it, and that’s an impressive feat. A wide variety means broad appeal, and the super stylized design is simply too cute to pass up, even for non-collectors. The regularity, frequency, and sub $10 price with which Funko is able to deliver new characters makes them perfect to collect between major releases from other companies. This accessibility provides an easy collecting fix, giving Funko the addiction award hands down.
Funko has hit a goldmine with their product, and it doesn’t look like they will be stopping anytime soon. I can’t think of a time where collecting has become mainstream in the way the Funko has made it. You almost can’t visit a store without seeing POPs, with the king being Barnes and Noble. A bookstore that beats big-box retailers in carrying collectibles? That’s sign of a cultural addiction if I’ve ever seen one.
Line of the Year:
Mega Bloks Assassin’s Creed Collector Series
It was clear with their Halo license that Mega was sincerely invested in the line, as they listened to their audience by improving quality, construction complexity, and brought out products fans requested. This year, Mega not only improved upon the sculpt of their micro figures, but furthered their articulation, raising the total count to 14 points.
The reveal of an Assassin’s Creed license guaranteed a sale from me; I could no longer resist the promise of a quality building line coupled with my favorite game series. Mega had to impress; these would be the first building sets I’ve purchased in a long time. That’s not to say I had zero hesitation opening my first set; history can leave a bad impression. That feeling was quickly quelled. Everything I’d been promised from great figures to quality pieces was delivered.
I award Mega Brands with line of the year because they not only started off with a strong first step into a great franchise, but have truly embraced the feel of the game series. Each set accurately represents the source material. I’d go as far as to argue that these are the ultimate Assassin’s Creed collectible, as the historical settings are equally as important as their protagonists. Not only does the collector get impressive figurines with their sets, but they get to bring a piece of game appropriate history to their shelves too. Furthermore, the complexity and quality of the builds are top notch, utilizing fun, challenging designs that result in stunning recreations of their in-game counterparts.
Company of the Year:
This final award may come as no surprise, as NECA has found a special place in many collector’s hearts in recent years. 2014 was no different, as the company moved further into classic territory while retaining their modern flair, gaining many more fans in the process. From classic sci-fi to the origins of video games, NECA is revisiting the last 50 years with a vengeance. The heart and soul that the team puts into their products obviously stems from a love of the source material; these are collectibles designed by fans above all, and NECA continues to deliver figures that consistently raise the bar.
Quality products are a great portion of why NECA gets this title, and for good reason. However, if you haven’t looked at the bottom of your NECA figure package, you should; almost every figure has a collection of credits citing who did what to help make your product become a reality. Atop this list is a truly special individual in the collecting community, Mr. Randy Falk. If this guy isn’t up for employee of the decade, then there is something very wrong.
Due to the continual efforts of Mr. Falk, NECA has become the most accessible company on the market today. His massive effort on Twitter is a true testament to his love of the product, his position, and his fan base. Top that off with efforts to create a touching farewell tribute to Craig Windrix, (the late brother of NECA sculptor Kyle Windrix) Mr. Falk is an exceptional individual. His active participation in the community gives us behind the scenes looks and up to date information on NECA products regularly. His work has arguably propelled NECA to the forefront of the figure market, notably with his seemingly magical abilities to make the impossible occur. From Weaver to Keaton, Mr. Falk has made deals that collectors have only dreamed of.
A big thank you to both Mr. Falk and the entire NECA team for bringing the market some of the best collectibles we could imagine; I know I’m not alone in saying that I look forward to what surprises they have in store for 2015.
That’s it folks, say goodbye to 2014 and look forward to 2015! I’m excited to bringing you more reviews and news for the best hobby out there throughout the year. Do you have any specific figure you’re looking forward to? Perhaps you agree or disagree with some of my choices? Sound off in the comments and let me know!
Thank you for being loyal readers and patrons of Action Figure Fury; all the best in the coming year!