By Christopher Smith
2014's American International Toy Fair in New York this week brought an embarrassment of riches in terms of toys for all stripes of fans and collectors. Some collect Funko Pop! Vinyls – my wife and I do so, carefully, so as not to tip over the edge into full-bore obsession – while others pine after anything with a Dalek plastered on it. My own passion veers into childhood nostalgia, and any product, even based on current comics or other media, that manages to hit a certain aesthetic sweet spot. Sometimes, it evokes the "hand candy" feeling of a toy that was a joy to hold, and pose, as a child. Others channel the look of some comic artists and animators I remember with special fondness. Finally, the resurrection of certain formats such as the Kenner 3.75" action figure or the Mego 8" doll, will always have a soft spot in my heart. Here are some nostalgic offerings to get excited about in the coming year.
3.75" Big Bang Theory action figures (Bif Bang Pow)
Bif Bang Pow have also showcased Mego-esque figures, which have been delayed a bit due to licensing approval, and offered a Comic Con-exclusive Sheldon doll in that format, but this 3.75" set of figures captures the actors' likenesses and characters' essences particularly well. Just look at Howard Wolowitz's cocky stance! There's also an undeniable appeal to having an Amy Farrah-Fowler in scale with a vintage Star Wars Walrus Man.
Still more Venture Bros. Mego-esque figures (Bif Bang Pow)
For the past several years, Bif Bang Pow has been doing excellent work with the Venture Bros. license, and is continuing to produce more obscure characters from recent seasons. With detailed outfits and a vintage charm that evokes the show's revisionist take on Hanna-Barbara animation, these 8" Mego dolls are hard to resist. Like many fans, I hope this line continues until they've exhausted all the D-list supervillains that populate the Ventureverse.
Death's Head action figure in Avengers Infinite series (Hasbro)
While many of us thrilled to Hasbro's intention to get Rocket Raccoon figures and even a role-play mask out to every household in America, longtime collectors of the 3.75" Marvel Universe series especially enjoyed the new Avengers-focused toyline, which will begin by filling out the team's ranks with somewhat obscure Bronze Age heroes and villains like Hyperion and Whirlwind. But of particular interest was the long-rumored Death's Head figure, which will be of special interest to anyone who grew up with Marvel UK's parallel universe of strangeness. The bizarre robot bounty hunter, created by Simon Furman for Transformers but published in his own eponymous title and in anthology titles like The Marvel Bumper Comic, will soon be available to face off against your Hulk, or perhaps enjoy an episode of Are You Being Served? in a posh armchair while munching on chocolate digestives, because British things. Thank Dave Vonner, former creative force behind this line, for championing this true cult favorite.
DC Universe Classics' final Mattycollector.com series (Mattel)
Like my fellow collectors of this line, I've certainly mourned its demise, but the Super Powers nostalgia engine of Mattel's DC Universe Classics is firing on all cylinders with a final, online-exclusive wave of repaints and repackages that capture the color schemes of 1984-1986's Super Powers Collection, Kenner's definitive take on the DC Universe as my generation would sometimes like to keep it preserved in amber. In addition to a slightly tweaked Batman – the closest I'll get for now to a Neal Adams-accurate figure – Superman, and Wonder Woman, Mattel are even offering a bizarre variant Green Lantern, a tribute to Argentina's "Super Amigos Riddler," a repainted version of the former. Kudos to Mattel for even getting his mismatched shins right, though this is the definition of a niche item.
Masters of the Universe Classics Loo-Kee and Kowl (Mattel)
A similar acquired taste might be the release of Loo-Kee and Kowl, two of the stranger supporting characters on She-Ra: Princess of Power. Not every collector is clamoring to add these two, who look more like something from the Rainbrow Brite or Popples universe, to their shelf of bulky space-age barbarians and their extended kin, but I love their inclusion. For those who don't remember, Loo-Kee was the elfin creature who'd challenge young viewers to find where he was hiding in each episode, before imparting strange moral lessons in his sped-up voice. They will be "chase" figures, offered first to Mattycollector subscribers, then at random, when you least expect them; I anticipate lots of irritated refreshing of the notorious online Mattel webstore on these days.
Funko and Super 7 Toys thrilled many collectors such as myself with their release late last year of a toyline that never was: Kenner's prototype Alien line from 1979. Now, they are expanding their realm of throwback 3.75" figures in the purest sense, with more toylines that might have existed in a parallel universe. While Buffy and Firefly seem to me like slightly odd choices for this format, I expect them to sell well, and if that helps fund the release of future product, I'm all for it. I'm especially fond of the Rocketeer, Goonies, and Snake Plissken figures, but perhaps the best sculpts are showing up in the Universal Monsters subline, which evokes another cult 3.75" series of the early '80's, Remco's Mini Monsters. Funko look to be updating that line, and even throwing '80's nightmare fuel like Freddy Kreuger into the mix. I admit that I'd enjoy it if this line spread to Pop! Vinyl levels of inclusiveness.
Batman: The Animated Series Action Figures (DC Collectibles)
I'm far from the only voice in the online comics community to remember the early '90's Batman animated properties (and the subsequent Timmverse) with fondness, so I especially enjoy seeing DC Collectibles pick up Mattel's slack and offer an updated, fully articulated series of figures based on that show and the subsequent New Batman Adventures.
X-Men Classic Character Statues (Dark Horse)
Many of us associate the X-Men with the toyetic popularity boom of the'90's, but this latest series of statues in Dark Horse's Classic Character Statues line – evoking some of the first superhero collectibles ever available – is an appealing take on Dave Cockrum's original character designs. Some would even call these characters definitive, even if the format isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea.
Of course, there's lots more I'm leaving out, so stay tuned to Bleeding Cool for further Toy Fair coverage. For 100 images from The Toy Fair, you can find them here.
Christopher Smith teaches composition at Columbus State Community College and has spent about two thirds of his life being obsessed with comics, music, and the strange, somewhat overlooked corners of pop culture. He lives with his wife, son, and two devious cats.