Welcome to the first annual Toy Time Holiday Gift Spectacular, with special guests Batman, Spike the Dragon, The Walking Dead, Transformers and more. These are the toys and collectibles that would have made my Christmas list, were they not already sitting right over there.
Originally planned as an elaborate video, the inaugural Holiday Gift Spectacular ran into some trouble, mostly involving my relatively expensive Canon EOS 70D suddenly developing a freezing issue. See this hat-bearded face?
So many Santa tears were shed.
Imagine that face sitting in front of hot lights, tears trickling down its rosy cheeks as it stared at its frozen reflection on the camera's viewscreen. Imagine it is 3am, and that face (along with the rest of its body) had been trying to get the camera working for the better part of a week. That poor face.
And so our first Holiday Gift Spectacular is presented in still imagines. I hope you enjoy them.
The Animated Dark Knight Rises Again
What's in the box?
If there is one thing I learned in 2016, it's that human beings can be kind of stupid (happy holidays!) and I should never visit the DC Collectibles website on payday. Not when they're producing outstanding figures and accessories based on the greatest Batman cartoon ever made.
The wonderful thing about Batman: The Animated series, aside from the excellent stories, dark (but not too dark) tone and amazing voice cast, is that the sleek style of the characters and vehicles translates perfectly into toy form. I collected them back when the show was running, and I fear I'm starting over again.
Just look at the detail on the deluxe version of Clayface ($US40 ($54)). Mainly a single colour, but so damn expressive, and packed with plenty of accessories to make use of Matthew Hagen's unique properties.
"You have my axe!"
Those looking for a something a bit more festive, there's always "Christmas with the Joker."
Joker comes with seven different hands. This is one of them.
Based on the classic holiday episode of the animated series, the Christmas with the Joker figure ($US30 ($41) to $US40 ($54) depending on where you find him) is ready to give fans old and young some holly, jolly nightmares. Putting animated Joker in normal situations was always so terrifying, wasn't it?
The ornaments are separate, which is a very nice touch.
It's sitting right next to me and still this picture gives me chills.
No really, look at it.
Those lines are just, man. I never say this, but hhnnngggg. Is that right? I can never tell.
Featuring working lights and sounds, the Batmobile is a magnificent beast that fits a pair of six-inch animated figures in its cockpit. The $US99 ($135) ride also comes in a $US175 ($238) deluxe version, featuring Batman, the Boy Wonder and a Bat-signal.
The Bat-signal actually lights up, and the kids stays in the car. I mean, you can take him out, but STAY IN THE CAR, ROBIN.
I love the DC Collectibles folks for drawing my attention to this series. I also hate them, because this is going to hurt me so bad in the long run.
IN THE CAR, ROBIN.
Two Headmasters Are Better Than One
Chromedome's colour scheme is so late '80s.
While the animated Robots in Disguise line has been pleasing younger fans of Transformers in 2016, older collectors have been treated to a brand-new line that's several heads above the Combiner Wars. Titans Return is a modern take on the Headmasters, late '80s Transformer toys featuring smaller robots that transformed into the heads of larger ones.
The small heads aren't great, and I miss the tech specs pop-up, but they will do.
While Headmasters toys did make it to North America, along with an animated miniseries, the line flourished in Japan, where it was subject to its own animated series. The Titans Returns line features many of the characters showcased in that Japanese series, including a new version of he who was once the largest Transformer of them all, Fortress Maximus.
The scale here is kind of nuts.
Standing nearly two feet tall, the new Fort Max is a great deal less blocky and awkward as his earlier incarnation, while still evoking those signature giant bastard feels.
Fort Max's head, Cerebros, transforms into a robot. Cerebros' head, The Emissary, also transforms into a robot. It's robotception.
Cerebros, also the nickname for Charles Xavier's college frat.
In the Headmasters series, the smaller robots were actually modified humans. This one would have been very upset about its legs.
Meanwhile, the big guy himself is changing into an Autobot city and a flying fortress.
Pictured here: Flying fortress mode, possibly in a race with the Batmobile.
I had no room for city mode, so here.
The best thing about Fortress Maximus, aside from the fact that the $US149.99 ($204) figure can be found heavily discounted if you look hard enough, is he comes with a giant sticker sheet, which I have yet to apply. Waiting for just the right moment. Christmas night sounds good.
Based On Hitting AMC's The Walking Dead
Give a boxed toy collector uniform packaging and they will love you forever.
McFarlane Toys' six-inch The Walking Dead line got a new look this year as part of the company's Colour Tops line, which collects toys from different properties (including Titanfall 2 and Gears of War 4) under one unified packaging scheme. It's clever marketing that gives figures from more obscure properties a chance to shine.
But we're not talking about an obscure property. We're talking about AMC's popular adaptation of the comic book sensation, which recently went through a bit of turmoil, or so I hear. Unfortunately I only had time to showcase two of the five figures I had on hand, so I arbitrarily picked Abraham Ford from the Colour Tops red collection and . . . ok, we'll go with the Deluxe Glenn figure.
This is probably to scale. Seems right to me.
McFarlane's The Walking Dead figures fall somewhere between statue and action figure, with articulation for some basic posing without compromising the look. It's a nice balance to hit.
They will be fine.
Oh, and I mustn't forget Lucille, the barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat of a fellow named Negan. She's really pretty, and rather massive. She may be plastic, but she's plastic with a bite.
Look everybody, it's TV's Negan, and definitely not just my nephew trying real hard to grow a beard.
There, doesn't that make for a nice picture? I probably could have done better, but I am way behind on the show.
Seriously though, this is an excellent combo for a fan of the show. Maybe go for a smaller Glenn.
My Giant Dragon
This is technically a Weird Al action figure.
It's been pretty hard to find the latest line of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic figures on store shelves this holiday season, and for good reason. The Guardians of Harmony line trades the pretty plastic statues with brushable hair with real articulated figures.
Princess Celestia's wings move, and her hair fights cavities and keeps your breath minty fresh.
Well, mostly real articulated figures.
Seriously, Hasbro should win an award for most improved toy line of 2016. While there will always be a place for pretty hairbrush ponies, adding articulation and action features to the mix creates a toy that offers more play potential for both girls and boys.
If you're going to get one Guardians of Harmony toy this year, it has to be the mature, battle-ready version of Spike the Dragon.
Standing 33cm tall and fitted with a harness so his pony friends can use him for drive-bys, big Spike would be a fearsome creature if not for his oddly-pleasing mint and lilac colour scheme.
Is it me, or does Shining Armour look like he is all out of ***** to give?
Somehow I doubt this version of Spike is to be helping Twilight Sparkle dictate letters to Princess Celestia any time soon.
With electronic lights and sounds! Also fires missiles! I have lost the missiles!
Luckily, in a bit of either alternate reality or time-twisting, large Spike comes with the smaller, cuter version of himself.
Kind of a Hulk/Banner thing going on here, I would imagine.
Best Lego Combo Ever
Rounding out the list, as anyone probably knew it would, is good old Lego bricks. Rather than focus on one specific set, I decided to highlight a pair of kits that combine into a compelling tale of humanity versus nature.
First we take the $US39.99 ($54) Lego City Fun in the Park set. It's a lovely little collection of people resting and relaxing out in nature.
A child rides a playground spinner while a woman pushes her baby along in a carriage.
Green base plate not included. Sad child face included. Also, that baby.
It's a great day for a bike ride!
I found the other wheel for this bike 10 minutes before this shoot.
A young lad and his best friend enjoy the sunshine. Such a lovely scene!
The set also comes with a very small section of fence for that poor woman to paint for all eternity.
On the other side of the park, Billy Mays has a picnic with his family.
I wonder how much he's charging his daughter for the picnic food. But wait, there's more!
Pretty idyllic, isn't it?
Then comes the $US119.99 ($163) Lego City Volcano Exploration Base. It features scientists and engineers, a cool research vehicle, and a live volcano.
You can probably see where I am going with this.
That is definitely a volcano. Shut up.
Now the folks at Lego made me promise to keep things from getting too horrible, so your imagination will have to be your guide here.
We'll just imagine this as an exciting adventure in which a group of townsfolk find themselves face-to-face with the full brunt of nature's wrath, only to be saved at the very last minute by an intrepid resurrected TV infomercial host.
Billy Mays to the rescue. I bet he has all sorts of handy As Seen On TV gadgets to help save that baby.
Don't worry, in this narrative the baby is completely fireproof.
I really love his smirk.
As are the wheels on this chair. No molten lava is going to keep this plucky kid down. Nuts to you, volcano!
And then Billy Mays went back to heaven, having fulfilled his earthly purpose.
See? Everyone is safe and sound. We had a pretty amazing adventure today, didn't we?
Who said kit builders can't be creative?
Hugging Fortress Maximus while holding a cell phone in my other hand. That's how art is made. Damn it, Canon.
That about wraps things up for the first annual Toy Time Holiday Gift Spectacular. Feel free to share your own toy and game holiday wants in the comments, while I package up this stupid camera and ship it back to Canon.