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LYT’s Honest Holiday Gift Guide for the Toy Collector

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Hey kids! It’s time for another holiday gift guide and…

Wait! Come back! I know what you’re thinking. “He’s just going to show us some stuff we already know about, repeat marketing copy, and whatever…we get it.” But this is different. This isn’t me looking online and telling you, more or less, what I would want. This is me having had the chance to get what I wanted, in hand, and actually review it so you know what you’re getting.

Here’s how it went down: Entertainment Earth, a site that’s probably one of your bookmarks if you ever buy action figures online, is giving away a $1000 shopping spree at their warehouse, which you should enter even if it’s to gift to somebody else. To demonstrate what said spree might look like, they invited a select group of toy bloggers, myself included, to do a half-spree of $500. This allowed me to sample quite a few things I have always wanted to check out, without having the discretionary income all at once, and assess them for you. As of this writing, all of the items were in stock at EE; as to whether they’ll be great gifts for the figure fan on your list, read on.

Star Trek Captain Kirk – Mezco One:12 Collective – $70

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$70 sounds like a lot for a 6-inch figure, and it is. But this really is a fancy, fancy 6-inch figure. I suspect a lot of what you’re paying for is packaging, since it comes wrapped in a clear plastic bag, under which is a plastic sleeve, under which is a printed cardboard sleeve, inside which is a box with magnet flap for viewing. Take the figure out and he comes in layers of plastic trays holding him down, a collector-friendly packaging style more often seen in Japanese toys that makes twist-ties unnecessary. I t wasn’t until I was ready to put him away that I noticed there was another tray underneath the figure, containing a stand and a little leather-ish belt with a holster for Kirk’s phaser.

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Mezco have always been known for detail and quality, but they used to use it for what I might facetiously call evil ends – they could do realistic if they wanted, but opted for a cartoonish, caricature-based house style. With One:12, they’re doing the opposite, striving for the ultimate in accuracy and doing for 6-inch scale what Hot Toys and Sideshow do for 12-inch. $70 is high (and Kirk is on the low end of the scale – some of their superheroes cost almost twice that), but it’s not the $300 or so you’d be dropping on Hot Toys.

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William Shatner’s likeness is semi-famously difficult to capture in toy form, and while I won’t say it’s as perfect as some in the series, Mezco have done a good job capturing specific facial expressions, which is a creative way to go if the neutral one is hard. The form-fitting clothes are amazing at this scale – even my wife’s Madame Alexander dolls don’t get the fabric to fit so well. It’s easy when looking at pictures to not quite understand just how small these are, so here are a handful of comparisons: with an Art Asylum Kirk, Marvel Legends Nuke, and Star Wars Black Series Poe.

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He is so much better than any other figure at this scale that I actually wound up putting him back in package, which I never ever do. I’ve been wanting to check out One:12 for a while, and I think I can safely say now that any collector would appreciate one.

Quarter-Scale Ben Affleck Batman – $89.99

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NECA’s 18-inch figures are just about my favorite these days – they’re huge, detailed, and usually around the $100 mark. With some legal-loophole exceptions, it’s also the only scale they’re allowed to make DC and Marvel figures in, and they do the best ones.

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Whatever you thought of Batman V Superman, I think you can appreciate the way Zack Snyder tried to do a comics-faithful version of the Batsuit that didn’t look silly, and also didn’t look like fake muscles. As with their Christopher Reeve Superman figure, NECA have used a skin-over-frame design for the torso – the costume is an outer layer, and there’s articulation underneath. The company is not fond of a visible ab crunch joint.

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“Batfleck” is poseable, self-balances pretty well, and comes with two Batarangs, interchangeable hands, and his gun with two removable (but not firing) projectiles. In giving this as a gift, it’s best to assess how much your receiver-to-be likes the character – if they do, this is a solid choice, and a lot of plastic for your buck.

Game of Thrones “The Wall” playset by Funko -$34.99

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Hey kids! How would you like to play with…a wall? You can reenact those large-scale battles your parents shouldn’t have let you watch on TV…sort of.

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Yes, that looks pretty epic, all right.

I kid…but I love environmental dioramas for figures, especially if the figures are small to begin with. The vintage Dagobah and Hoth playsets, for example, are things simply not made today except by Lego and other toys like it. So I wanted this as a thing to put figures on. It does not come with assembly instructions, so it takes a moment how to figure out the wood structure thing, and the vertical wall piece doesn’t really attach to the base – it just kind of sits on it. Funko haven’t really done playsets before, and they could use some practice.

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The Tyrion figure’s cool, though the winter cloak is hard plastic and restricts his movement a lot. The barrel accessories might have been improved with holes that could attach them to the footpegs, but alas.

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My plan was to maybe use this for Star Wars figures, but as it turns out, the footpegs don’t fit! What does fit, surprisingly, is every Mattel figure – the pegs are perfect for WWE, DC Universe, and Masters of the Universe. A Universal picture, if you will. And there’s nothing about the wall that dictates scale, so larger figures on it are no problem. In the end, this is a useful piece with amusing shortcomings…and that’s not a Tyrion dwarf joke.

Entertainment Earth Exclusive Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Legends Set -$119.99

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The movie-based Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Legends figures were very difficult to collect, with toy retailers ordering conservatively because they weren’t sure the movie would be a hit, and Rocket/Groot and Gamora figures being more highly sought-out than the rest. So as not to alter their collectibility, Hasbro didn’t make more…but they did do a comic-based box set for Entertainment Earth that is the next best thing.

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Groot is the movie figure, but with a different head, while Rocket is a repaint of an older build-a-figure version (two build-a-figures in one set – Groot being the other – makes this a great deal) Star-Lord is masked so you can pretend it’s Chris Pratt, and Drax looks close enough to Batista. Gamora is very pretty, but she can’t stand up; the plastic cape makes her too back heavy, and that pose you see above is the best I can muster.

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They come pretty loaded with accessories. Rocket has three huge guns, while Drax has interchangeable hands – metal-gloved for menacing poses, ungloved for holding both knives (the wrist guards are removable too). He gets two sets of knives: slender ones for his boot holsters, and big ones for his hands.

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Gamora has two different heads that aren’t really different enough to justify that choice, but hey, it’s an extra head. Best of all, though, are the smallest accessories: a Tesseract and Baby Groot. Though since this is the comic version, Baby Groot is a little different.

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Right now, as of this writing, the Guardians boxed set is 50% off. That’s a price tag of $60 for at least $100 worth of Marvel Legends, and more if you consider that it originally took the purchase of six figures apiece to build similar Rocket and Groot figures. The newly announced figural wave for the Guardians sequel doesn’t even have the whole team, so you can avoid potential disappointment here quickly.

Batman V Superman Play Arts Kai Batman – $149.99

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Like the Mezco One:12 figures, Play Arts Kai figures are a line I’ve been wanting to check out for a while, having only seen them before in limited quantities at the oddball anime store in the mall. They’re stylized, hyper-real takes on characters, which means the superheroes tend to look totally steroided out and the monsters have all kinds of jagged little details added. Batfleck here is the former.

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They also have pretty crazy articulation. Check out the ball joints upon ball joints! Yes, the ball joints at places like the wrists can look goofy in a neutral pose, but they allow for some other creative display choices you won’t manage with different figures.

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Even his CAPE has two ball-joints, y’all.

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At first glance, he seems to be in the kind of collector-friendly, tray-on-tray packaging I mentioned above. That is, until you get to THE MOST COMPLICATED FIGURE STAND IN THE WORLD, sealed blister carded, with instructions, and a pop-out frame that includes an Ikea-style tool widget to help you screw in the tiny metal screws, nuts, and washers you’ll need. This is annoying, and seems to only be there because Japanese collectors love model-kit aspects.

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I have arthritic hands, and they were hurting by the end of this. I’m only thankful the cats didn’t seize the opportunity to try and grab things. BUt it’s all worth it, maybe, for this:

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Seriously, that couldn’t have come pre-built?

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On the stand, he looks nice and will be a great conversation piece. Still, for the Batfleck fan on your list, I recommend the bigger and cheaper NECA version.

WWE Kevin Owens – $20.99

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Here’s the deal – I knew I had enough left to pick out a $20 figure. And I got Kevin Owens. If you’re buying a wrestling figure, he’s a good choice,a s he’s one of the most entertaining guys on TV right now: an overweight brawler and family man who also happens to be an a-hole, which is a character combo I haven’t seen in wrestling before. He comes with the shiny, metallic NXT title, which won’t fit around his waist.

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He’s a decent enough figure. They’ll probably redo him in a more current look, but this was his first “Elite.”

And there ends my spree, but yours may be about to begin! The Entertainment Earth Experience could have you winning twice my haul. In the meantime, everything reviewed above is,a s of this writing, in stock and available to buy.

Enjoy. And if you don’t…make fun.

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