?Santa and his elves have been making toy soldiers for a lot longer than they have Nintendo DSes. So for much of the world, the holidays and toys go together like milk and cookies, or like milk and cookies go in Santa’s belly.
It’s no surprise toy manufacturers have capitalized on this association, not only pushing their wares during the holiday season, but creating toys specifically to celebrate it — especially in the toy collector market of the ’00s, where anybody could and would make a toyline of anything (adding a Santa hat makes for a very simple variant). From special holiday-themed versions of classic toys to figures based on seasonal TV specials, here’s Topless Robot‘s list of the 12 best holiday action figures.
12) Ghostbusters Classics 4-Pack
?Based on a blink-and-you’ll-miss it scene in Ghostbusters II, Mattel just released a holiday set featuring the ‘Busters in the gray outfits and wearing removable cloth Santa hats. The set, a Toys “R” Us exclusive, also includes a Slimer.
11) Star Wars Holiday Edition R2D2 & C-3PO
?This Wal-mart-exclusive set from 2002 was based on a famous piece of holiday art by Ralph McQuarrie, the conceptual designer who worked on the original Star Wars trilogy. McQuarrie created the art for a Christmas card, and decades later it was lovingly captured in this set. There’s something kind of creepy about C-3PO as a Santa with no pants, though.
10) Santa Spawn
?No one cares about Spawn the comic anymore, but Todd McFarlane’s toy company still puts out some pretty kick-ass toys, like this one based on Greg Capullo’s cover to Spawn #39 back in 2007. The actual cover depicts blood seeping out from the bag, but apparently that was a tad too dark, even for McFarlane.
9) The Winter Warlock
?This figure begins the run of “licenses we never thought would get action figures.” In the early 2000s toy companies were buying up any cult classic license they could find, and the 1970 Rankin-Bass special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town was no exception. Part of a toyline called Memory Lane (now Forever Fun by Playing Mantis (now Round 2) released in 2004, the most popular figure was the Winter Warlock, an evil sorcerer who is reformed by Santa Claus into a Gandalf-like white wizard. Playing Mantis produced both pre- and post-transformation Warlocks.
8) The Snow Miser & The Heat Miser
?This one’s a two-fer — the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser. These brothers are the only good part of the otherwise forgettable 1974 Rankin-Bass special The Year Without a Santa Claus (they even got their own sequel, A Miser Brothers’ Christmas, in 2008). As with the special, the Misers were the highlight of NECA’s 2003 toy line, each coming with two mini-Misers.
7) Holiday Willow
?The reason we’re calling this list the top ten holiday action figures and not Christmas action figures is thanks to Ms. Rosenberg here. Before she became a Wiccan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best pal Willow was one of the better-known Jewish characters in geekdom. This 2005 Diamond Select figure celebrates that with a green sweater emblazoned with a menorah. It was a free giveaway to fans and remains one of the harder-to-find figures these days.
?Like we said, anything could get a toy line in the early part of this decade, and that includes cult holiday movies from the 1980s like A Christmas Story (still no Ernest Saves Christmas figures, though.) NECA also produced figures of the Old Man, the Mom, friend Flick and brother Randy, but the only must-have figure in this line was Ralphie, who came with a bar of soap to wash out his filthy mouth and of course, his beloved BB gun so that he could shoot his eye out.
5) Santa Jack
?NECA’s comprehensive Nightmare Before Christmas line included this figure of Jack Skellington in his Santa Claus outfit in ’05. In addition to the spindly, creepy Jack, the set came with a sack and a little, morose tot holding a shrunken head.
4) The Simpsons Family Christmas Set
?Though it’s easy to forget now, The Simpsons began with a Christmas special. In the course of their definitive Simpsons toyline, Playmates produced this set in 2001, which depicts Homer in his Santa outfit and the rest of the family in similar seasonal gear. It’s a nice reminder of a time when The Simpsons was fresh, relevant, and still had heart.
3) Mrs. Claus
?Todd McFarlane loves to take nice things and make them hideous. Give him Spider-Man and he makes Venom, give him modern superheroes and he makes Spawn, give him baseball and he exorbitantly overpays for numerous steroid-fueled homerun balls. So it should come as no surprise that McFarlane Toys produced Twisted Xmas, a freakish take on the Yuletide season that featured demonic snowmen, a murderous Santa and a Godzilla-like Jack Frost. But none of these figures were as popular as Mrs. Claus, dressed in skimpy lingerie, clinging to a candy cane-shaped stripper pole and being leered at by ugly elves. It’s the elves that disturb us most — there’s some seriously creepy psychological shit going on there, Todd.
2) Holiday Vader
?What says Christmas more than a strangle-happy, child-murdering despot? Seriously, does anything? Decked all in shiny red from his head to his foot, this 2005 figure was an exclusive from the Star Wars Shop and came on a wreath display base. As seen in #11 above, there have also been special holiday figures of other SW characters, but none have quite the humorous incongruity of the Dark Lord of the Mirth here.
1) Ultimate Bumble
?Playing Mantis also produced a fantastic line of action figures based on the perennial TV classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Most of the figures were fully articulated and came with numerous accessories, and Rudolph had a light-up nose. But the U.S.S. Flagg, the Fortress Maximus or, if you prefer, the Tytus of the line was the Ultimate Bumble. Standing at an in-scale 16-inches tall, the Ultimate Bumble came with an electronic roaring feature and a silver star to put on top of the Christmas tree.