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January 7, 2008

{     Adam's Top Toys in the '07     }    


2007 was an interesting year for toy lovers; there was a lot of speculation about the bubble finally bursting on the collectible vinyl scene as things seemed to reach a kind of critical mass towards the end of '06 with tons of throwaway designs flooding shelves as everyone tried to jump on the bandwagon. Thankfully, most of Crown Dozen's fave companies and designers decided to play it safe this past year by focusing on quality in favor of quantity, cranking out some of the best pieces we've seen to date.

Here's my stab at the top baker's dozen of '07, please click "Read on" below to see pics and read my full commentary, along with my take on repaints, variants, mainstream toys and what's looking hot for '08:

13. Gary Panter's "Jimbo" by Dark Horse
12. Kii Aren's "La La" by Munky King
11. Bob Dob's "Lueys" by Strangeco
10. Amanda Visell's "Pink Elephant featuring Drunky McSkunky" by Munky King
9. Mr. Cartoon's "Lost Angel" by Super Rad Toys
8. Frank Kozik's "Necromorth the Christraper" Ningyo by Super Rad Toys
7. Junko Mizuno's "Keiko the Director" by Kid Robot
6. Craola x Upper Playground "Walrus" by Ningyoushi
5. Brian Flynn x Gargamel "Visighost" by Super7
4. Bill and Jerry Frissen x Monster 5 "Red Demon" by Muttpop
3. Glen Barr's "Hell's Proprietor" by Dark Horse
2. Skwak's "Maniac" by MINDstyle
1. eBoy x Kid Robot's "PEECOL" by Kid Robot


13.Gary Panter's "Jimbo" by Dark Horse
Dark Horse brings underground comics legend Gary Panter's signature character to life, with a wickedly accurate paint application and real cloth clothing accessories. They scored a coup with the packaging as well, which includes a booklet describing the process of making the figure, with what look like some sketches from Panter himself.


12. Kii Aren's "La La" by Munky King
I love this piece on so many levels, primarily for it's abstract 50's sci-fi feel, but also because it's packing magnets in it's feet and 'cuz the "eye" of the piece illuminates at the flick of a switch. It's a totally unique design and approach to toys, beautifully packaged and rocking some wicked colorways (including the white and red seen here and a pink flocked version).


11. Bob Dob's "Lueys" by Strangeco
These little guys are just ten kinds of badass. Their squinty facial features put me in mind of Evan Dorkin's Milk & Cheese, and I can imagine them causing a similar amount of havoc when released on an unsuspecting public. Plus, they're from Strangeco, so you know you're getting one of the most well-made toys on the market.


10. Amanda Visell's "Pink Elephant featuring Drunky McSkunky" by Munky King
I love the 50's-60's aesthetic of this piece, recalling an era in which perpetual drunkenness and the seeing of pink elephants wasn't treated as a sympathetic disease but rather a defining character trait. Plus, Drunky McSkunky? That's the best name for anything, ever.


9. Mr. Cartoon's "Lost Angel" by Super Rad Toys
This piece blew up on so many levels, penetrating mainstream culture thanks to it's amazing attention to detail and it's ridiculously well-realized synthesis of tattoo, graffiti and hip-hop culture. If you haven't seen close-ups yet of the tattoos adorning "Lost Angel" go goog that shit right now and stand amazed. I was very happy to see such a strong entry in the increasingly ignored 12"+ figure category. And it's got flocked wings.


8. Frank Kozik's "Necromorth the Christraper" Ningyo by Super Rad Toys
Kozik wins for most ballsy name for a toy, ever, and also because he took the Ningyo platform concept, a bubbly chubbly Buddha-esque figure, and did something completely evil with it. The play on black metal themes (kill false vinyl) rings too troo to mine ears.


7. Junko Mizuno's "Keiko the Director" by Kid Robot
I've already waxed poetic about this piece, and my passion for it is no less a month later. It's just so extremely well-realized and visually arresting, how can you not want to take her home?


6. Craola x Upper Playground "Walrus" by Ningyoushi
Top hat and an argyle sweater motherfucker! The Upper Playground mascot has never been better represented than in this 3-D piece. It's great to see Ningyoushi, who've been a distributor for many years, bring the pain with such a great piece from such a great artist, following up their excellent Get Small series from last year.


5. Brian Flynn x Gargamel "Visighost" by Super7
Brian Flynn is one of my favorite designers, period. His work is simple and straightforward, it moves you on a very basic almost minimal level, yet it has a flavor all it's own- his work owes as much influence to kaiju culture as it does to his evident love of scientific diagramming. As an O.G. aficionado of old-school japanese vinyl, it's great to see his collab with Gargamel holds all the appeal of vintage vinyl while keeping things fresh and contemporary with the detailed paint application and figural design.


4. Bill and Jerry Frissen x Monster 5 "Red Demon" by Muttpop
Pictured here in his "Vice" variant colorway, Red Demon is the third amazing release by Muttpop, continuing their winning streak into 2007. This piece has a tremendous amount of personality, retaining the animated/comic style of the original character design. Never has anyone looked so nonchalant yet deadly in a suit and lucha mask.


3. Glen Barr's "Hell's Proprietor" by Dark Horse
Again, mad props to Dark Horse for stepping up their game this year to bring us this excellent piece that carefully reproduces Glen Barr's signature character in gorgeous vinyl. Released in brown and blue variants, you can click through to the archives to read my gushing full review of this lovely bit of art-toy.


2. Skwak's "Maniac" by MINDstyle
One of the most bizarre and original designs to grace this list, Skwak's Maniac made a big splash this year with collectors by offering something new and kinda gross, a character that calls to mind Rat Fink and Basil Wolverton's Wolvertoons in it's bug-eyed glory. If you haven't seen decent pics of this thing from all angles, it's worth looking up just to see how the strange spiky hair and comples paint job blend into the rest of the piece's overall design. And you gotta love the propeller beanie.


1. eBoy x Kid Robot's "PEECOL" by Kid Robot
I haven't been bitten this hard by the collectible bug since, well, ever. We at C-12 have long been fans of eBoy, so it's no surprise that these guys top the list, but they're not getting by on pedigree alone. These are some incredibly well-designed toys, reminiscent of Lego in their simplicity and colorfulness, but packing considerably more presence and personality. They're also bigger than I thought they'd be, once I actually had one in my hand, substantial and just plain fun to play with. Collaborator Kid Robot knows how to turn up the heat on the collectible market and did so with zeal, offering several ultra-limited PEECOLs to those who were lucky enough to live near select stores offering them for sale or quick enough to log in at specified times to their website and place orders before supplies ran out. They've even crossed over with clothing brand LaCoste to offer three sneaker designs with exclusive PEECOLs packed in. I swear, they're just fucking with me, testing the limits of my patience and my wallet simultaneously, but it's worth the hassle. These are undoubtedly the best platform toy released this year, and I'm looking forward to future designs with an enthusiasm that borders on the psychotic.

2007 Repaints/Variants
'07 also played host to some super-fab repaints and variants of pieces released prior to this year, here's my top two picks:


Gary Baseman's "Hot Cha Cha" in Red Pearl by Critterbox
I was honestly just happy to see Critterbox putting out anything this year, and with Baseman toys continuing to sell out their entire runs in record time, it made sense that they'd crank out some more of this signature piece. We saw other color variants of Hot Cha Cha this year, (including a shit-hot White Pearl edition) but the Red Pearl seems to have captured the feel of the character more than any of those that came before or after it.


Mars-1's "Observer" SEEN edition by Strangeco
As a huge fan of Mars-1 in general, I was ecstatic to see two incredible repaints of the Observer this year. While DELTA, INC.'s take is pretty hype, the SEEN edition shown here took the piece to another level. I wouldn't have thought that the original designs and colorways could ever be topped in terms of catching that psychedelic dreamy sci-fi vibe, but with much respect to Mars-1, this variant does them all one better. (Props to Manuel for pointing these out to me in the first place.)

2007 Imports
For many of us, a true passion for collecting toys as an adult began with getting our hands on sweet Japanese imports. Because Japan had (and has) long-fostered an otaku-based adult toy collecting subculture, Japanese companies were some of the first to offer highly detailed and maturely-themed collectible toys to an adult demographic, and before the US and the rest of the world caught up with them, sometimes the only way to bag cool swag was to hook up with a Japanese importer and pray they didn't gouge you too hard. Here's some of the coolest shit to come over on the boat this year:


Soul of Chogokin Lightan Collector Set by Bandai
It may be hard to tell from this pic, but what you're looking at here is a a series of gold-plated functional cigarette lighters that transform into robots. As if smoking wasn't cool enough already. These beauties are sold as a set, and come in a wooden display box with a wood-burned logo on the front.


Bruce Lee Game of Death 12" figure by Enterbay
This piece has been giving off those "Holy Grail" vibes to collectors of 12" figures ever since pics of it first started popping up online. I didn't even want to post a pic of the figure here, because there's no way to do it justice in postage-stamp size, so I suggest doing a quick search to scope it out, as it's one of the most detailed and well-made figures in the 1/6 scale I've ever seen. The yellow w/black-striped jumpsuit is nailed perfectly (they've managed to make it look like it actually fits, not like it's mere "doll clothes") as are the matching Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. And the piece comes with an arsenal of accessories, as if you needed further justification for it's price tag.


Soundwave mp3 Player by Takara
Poor Soundwave. As everyone's favorite old-school Transformer, his cassette-deck form proved to be less than impervious to technological obsolescence, keeping him from a reprise role in the recent live-action film, so praise be to Takara for coming up with a way to make him relevant again. This is a fully-functional mp3 player, with space for transforming cassette buddies and a slot for an additional memory card. Takara produced a few colorways of this guy, a purple and black fellow named Shockwave and an all-white variant (Macwave???), but this OG blue and silver is the way to go for my money.

2007 Mainstream
As we've all been scrambling to get our hands on the latest ultra-rare collectible art-toys and super-variant low-number production-run pieces of urban vinyl, the mainstream mass-producers have been putting out some pretty deece shit throughout 2007. While many of these riff off the toys we collected in our childhood and don't offer much in the way of exclusivity or lowbrow indie cred, I think you'll agree that it's hard to resist their appeal:


Alex Ross's "Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless" by Bif Bang Pow!
Ross is such a huge fan of the 1980 film that he became involved in the re-release on DVD, providing original artwork for the film's packaging. So stunning were his visions of the characters that a figural release was inevitable, and here they stand in all their glory. You can almost ignore the cheesiness of the feature when faced with the sharp heroism of Flash and the vile ruthlessness of Ming in these scultps.


Monsieur Bome's "Honey Bunny" Set by Kaiyodo
Bome has been cranking out deliciously titillating sculpts of anime-inspired cuties for years, but this piece represents a true high water mark. Not only do you get two adorable bunny-eared "Honeys" for the price of one, they can be displayed on a scrumptious red-velvet flocked base. The figures themselves are a bit reigned-in from Bome's usual fantasy-inspired themes, think Playboy Bunny Club meets Japanese hostess bar, but it's a welcome departure for fans of this particular brand of cheesecake.


Star Wars 30th Anniversary "Ralph McQuarrie Concept Chewbacca" by Hasbro
This thing gets by on weirdness alone. Back before the terrible prequels or before the first film had even been storyboarded, sci-fi illustrator Ralph McQuarrie was commissioned to give George Lucas's original Star Wars script some visual representation. What he cranked out was a wild mix of fantasy and futurism that helped to define what made those initial films so unique. But some of his ideas overshot the mark in a wonderfully over-the-top way, like this bug-eyed werewolf-ish take on Chewbacca.


G1 Masterpiece Edition Starscream by Hasbro
Everybody's favorite backstabbing ego-maniacal robo-jet brown-noser, Starscream, finally gets his due with a sweet Masterpiece Edition in scale to the Optimus Prime previously released by Hasbro a few years back. (There was also a Japan-only Megatron released by Takara that sadly never made it stateside.) As any fan of the G1 cartoon will tell you, it wasn't the lackluster animation that made the show so endearing, it was the vibrant personalities imbued upon the characters by the scriptwriters and voice-actors that truly earned this show it's legacy. And none, other than Prime himself, was as memorable a character as Starscream.

Most Wanted in '08
And here's looking to the future, with a short list of some of the stuff I'm most looking forward to in the New Year:


Glen Barr's "Janes" by Dark Horse
These cuties are going to hit harder than a bomb when they drop soon, their kewpie-ish look and UFO-vibe are likely going to crossover in a big way, they've got not only art-toy cred to spare but a retro feel that will appeal to old-school sci-fi fans as well.


Wilfrid Wood's "Coot" by Gums Productions
Weird, wonderful and completely unique, this piece by sculptor Wilfrid Wood is the kind of thing that redefines how you look at this whole urban vinyl movement.


Tara McPherson's Hellboy Variant by Dark Horse
Legend has it that Mike Mignola himself handpicked Ms. McPherson to offer her variant take on his iconic character, and she's done so with aplomb. It's great to see her palette and flavor applied to this piece (the original version was a runner-up for the top 13 above) and the "hug life" tat across the gut is sheer genius.


Jeff Soto's "Walker" by Critterbox
Anybody else remember a Juxtapoz ad featuring a fully-painted (and seemingly ready for production) version of this baby? Yeah, me too. This has been on the books since, like, '05 and despite delays throughout the intervening years, Soto has stated that he and Critterbox are moving forward with plans to get this baby out there. Eventually. While Soto's passion for a character he created several years ago may have waned, toy-heads are still foaming at the mouth to get their hands on this. Maybe '08 will be the year?


Nice list yo. That Chewbacca has me rollin'!

Posted by: Garrett at January 8, 2008 12:02 AM

That Critterbox Walker piece I always thought was just a myth. Something of a "bigfoot" within toy culture. The Tara Hellboy is sick.. First time I have seen it and 2 of yer other toys I got for Xmas.. F-F-Fresh post...!

Werd up Adam!

Posted by: Manuel at January 8, 2008 2:27 AM

The Soto Walker may indeed be the Bigfoot of vinyl.
I understand the dilemma - Soto has moved on to other, more ethereal themes and continues to grow as an artist, at this point a Walker toy likely seems like a step backwards for him.
On the other hand, Critterbox head dude Connor is known to be a bit of a perfectionist and may be waiting until he can assure that everything is up to his exacting specifications before pressing the giant red button that fires up the magic toy-makin' machine.
Meanwhile, you've got thousands of vinyl junkies who are praying to whatever Nameless Ancient Ones they worship that this thing just sees the light of day eventually.

Posted by: Adam at January 8, 2008 5:06 AM

no toy list but were can i get one of those Mr. Cartoon's "Lost Angel" by Super Rad Toys

Posted by: cody at June 1, 2008 8:22 PM

no toy list but were can i get one of those Mr. Cartoon's "Lost Angel" by Super Rad Toys

Posted by: cody at June 1, 2008 8:23 PM
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