Topless Robot's Top Ten Toys of 2012

By Poe Ghostal in Daily Lists, Toys
Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm

...'cause alliteration rocks, bitches.

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Poe Ghostal here. I've been assigned the daunting task of choosing the top ten toys of 2012. Whole teams of toy reviewers (yes, they exist) work together to create such lists, but apparently Luke trusts me enough to come up with such a list myself...or maybe he just wants me to bear the brunt of reader outrage in the comments. Either way, I'm up for it!

There was actually quite a lot of cool geek-oriented toy product last year, making this a tricky list to put together. Many toy companies have upped their game in recent years as they begin to target older, nostalgic collectors (from my observation, most kids prefer their parents' Ipads to physical toys these days). The result is a significant rise in the quality and coolness of the toys out there. Here are ten of the best that came out in 2012.

10.) Henrietta (Evil Dead II, NECA).

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I first discovered Evil Dead II back in the early nineties. I became completely obsessed with all three Evil Dead films (Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness), but especially EDII. I rented them constantly from the local video store, since they weren't available at retail. Ten years later, the secret was out - all three films had been released on special edition DVDs, Bruce Campbell had a successful memoir and there were McFarlane Toys action figures based on Army of Darkness. But there were never any figures from Evil Dead II...until now.




In 2012, NECA made the figures I'd been waiting for. The entire line was great, but the highlight was Henrietta, the disgusting zombified hausfrau (played in the film by Sam Raimi's little brother Ted). Fully articulated and featuring an alternate monster head with a bendy neck, NECA pulled out all the stops on this figure and gave us Evil Dead fans the Henrietta figure we'd always (for some reason) wanted. By the company's own admission, this was a labor of love - NECA barely broke even with the line. But it was something they had always wanted to do, and thanks to them, Henrietta now stalks collectors' shelves instead of just the fruit cellar.

9.) Spacegodzilla (S.H.MonsterArts, Tamashii Nations).

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Since the 1980s, Bandai has churned out tons of vinyl toys of Godzilla and his assorted monster pals. These figures have always featured just a few points of articulation - the arms, the legs, maybe the tail and neck. But in late 2011, Bandai's adult collector arm, Tamashii Nations, unveiled S.H.MonsterArts, a line of high-end, super-articulated monster toys.

Most collectors agree that the best figure in the line so far is Spacegodzilla - which is a bit odd, since most people have never heard of him. An alien clone of Godzilla with a thing for giant crystals, Spacegodzilla's design was loosely based on the "Super Godzilla" design from the Super Nintendo game of the same name. The 1994 movie he starred in, well, pretty much sucked (in addition to the two main monsters, it also featured a giant robot mole).

But the character design is interesting, and the figure is very well-executed. Featuring a detailed sculpt by popular monster sculptor Yuji Sakai and well-engineered articulation, the S.H.MonsterArts Spacegodzilla is actually much more flexible than the movie suit ever was. Best of all, he comes with his signature "corona blast" energy effect. It's the sort of accessory that makes many Japanese toys so cool.

8.) Armorvor (Glyos, Onell Design).

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Glyos is an independent toy line - the brainchild of Matt Doughty and his Onell Design studio - which has quietly been gaining an increasingly large and loyal following since Onell's inception in the mid-2000s. Fans were drawn to the both the independent spirit of the venture, the interchangeability of the toys (each figure can be taken entirely apart and mixed and match with other figures via the Glyos "Fit Function" joint) and most of all, Doughty's distinct style. Much of Glyos is inspired by early 1980s videogames and the videogame cabinet and box art of the era.

Glyos jumped to another level this past year, when Doughty and several collaborators (including sculptor Jason Frailey, who also sculpted the Evil Dead II Henrietta) created the Armorvor. Inspired by both 1980s videogames and the popular '80s toyline Battle Beasts, the Armorvor was a bit more intricate and detailed than previous releases, and the design proved to be an immediate hit. Every colorway (color variant) of the Armorvor sells out within minutes, and it has drawn a number of new fans to the world of Glyos.

7.) Castle Grayskullman (Masters of the Universe Classics, Mattel).

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2012 was the thirtieth anniversary of Masters of the Universe. To celebrate, Mattel offered a line of six "new" characters in their subscription-based Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. Even better, one of the figures would be designed by a fan as part of a Create-a-Character contest.

(The first figure in the anniversary line was actually the winner of the first Create-a-Character contest Mattel held in the mid-'80s. The character's name was Fearless Photog, and the kid who designed it was one Nathan Bitner, who would later work at Bungie in the early stages of what would become Halo: Combat Evolved. Seriously.)

The winner of the 2012 contest was Daniel Benedict, who created Castle Grayskullman. He's sort of the living embodiment of Castle Grayskull, only with swords and Hulk Hogan's hair. As sculpted by the Four Horsemen, the character perfectly embodies everything great and everything goofy about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in the 1980s. You can easily imagine this character popping up in the old cartoon - voiced by Lou Scheimer and hanging around just long enough for kids to know there was a new toy they could buy.

6.) Derpy (My Little Pony SDCC Exclusive, Hasbro).

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If we evaluate a top toy by its value on the secondary market, then we simply can't refuse a spot to Derpy. Derpy started life as an artistic error in the first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Accidentally drawn with a googly-eyed "derp" stare, fans(?) of the show at 4chan dubbed the character "Derpy Hooves." She soon acquired a strong following among the brony community and was eventually given a part in the show. So Derpy is kind of the Boba Fett of the MLP universe, only she's not the clone-child of some dude who gets their head cut off (though who knows what future episodes will reveal).

As often happens with fan-favorite characters, Derpy was not produced as a standard retail figure, but as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive. The results were predictable: fast sell-outs and a huge aftermarket demand. The figure sells for hundreds online and is more popular than some of the exclusives for brands like Transformers or Masters of the Universe. Derpy, people. Derpy.


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