Over the last few years, action figure collecting has seen a sharp spike. Perhaps, we all turned to a hobby that still sparks joy in a time of loss and division. While that enthusiasm drove up prices, it also helped small businesses stay afloat through online sales. Toy manufacturers took notice and felt supported enough to invest in previously risky strategies. We came together and found comradeship around a unique passion. And, sure, we trolled each other a little. Mike is so annoying, and he deserves it. So, join me, won’t you? Let’s discuss Five 2021 Trends to Get You Hyped for 2022.
For those unfamiliar with Final Faction, this Dollar Store 3.75” action figure line gained momentum in 2021 in the collecting community for the original sculpts, modular weapons packs, $1 price point, and availability. The Kharn aliens, in particular, are excellent army builders. And, to the benefit of collectors, the store pegs at most Dollar Trees were stocked on the level of peak Toys R’ Us. You could simply walk in and pick up the whole line, a nostalgic experience in itself.
Or, maybe not for much longer. While more subtle, Mattel also committed to more in-store toy availability in 2021. Sparsely available products like the Masters of the Universe Origins Rise of Evil 2 Pack and MOTU Masterverse Revelations Faker became easier to find on store shelves and online steadily over time. These releases progressed to the point that they are currently warming pegs into 2022. Mattel PowerCon exclusives were even offered in limited quantities from their online store. Neca also stepped up with web ordering options for previously exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings from both the late 80s cartoon and 90s Movie lines.
Since toy manufacturers cower in fear of the dreaded clearance section, more in-store selection at big box stores could be short-lived. But, for 2022, I believe we’ll see an uptick in availability on store shelves and online.
Speaking of NECA, even though quality control issues remain a concern, they continue to deliver to die-hard fans. The resurrection of the Friday the 13th Part VII Ultimate Jason (The New Blood) Figure is a testament to this fact. Believed to be dead in the water, the figure was tied up due to licensing issues shortly after NECA teased the figure’s release. (And, yes, I am very proud of myself for that Jason-inspired wordplay). Many fans were disappointed by the possibility of not one single release featuring Kane Hodder’s portrayal of the beloved character. But, due to NECA’s commitment, Jason Voorhees Part VII came stalking onto our shelves for 2021. Not only that, but this figure features an innovative level of sculpture that showcases NECA’s ability to continually outdo themselves.
Back to NECA’s TMNT lines, let’s talk about 2022 licensed options for this single intellectual property (IP). Not only are there two NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lines, but Super7 also has a 3.75” 5-point line based on the original Playmate toys as well as an accompanying 7” ULTIMATES! line. If that wasn’t enough, PlayMates is offering their original toys in Retro Rotocast packs, Hasbro is releasing Power Ranger mashup TMNT figures in their Lightening Collection, and we’re getting a brand new late 80s cartoon 4” line from The Loyal Subjects. I’m out of breath just from typing that sentence.
So, in 2022, I foresee Toy Manufacturers continuing to play nice with one another and continuing to romance IP holders.
Oh, the ports. 2021 brought a slew of release delays and an overall dread that maybe, just maybe, pre-orders cancellations were inbound. But, the shipments eventually came. Not only that, but a lot of the releases were more than originally expected. The Mezco One:12 Collective Conan The Barbarian was a sleeper hit. Initially, fans were split on this superhero outlier. But, shortly after release, he became the darling of action figure photographers and a coveted eBay win. The Valaverse Kickstarter Action Force figures faced similar delays, barely shipping out within the last days of 2021. But, these highly anticipated GI Joe Classified compatible figures also feature digital paint applications that exceeded promotional images.
We have yet to see complete cancellations like those that plagued DC Direct for years. This one, in particular, may be a tough pill for fans to swallow. But, better late than never, right? So, for 2022, I predict more order fulfillments and fewer cancellations.
The HasLab business model does have a predatory air since everyday collectors are forwarding funds to a billion-dollar company. Putting that aside, the larger-than-life releases that HasLab is producing are something to get excited about. (Rest In Power Black Series Rancor) The scale has always been an issue for action figure lines. Normally, the best we could hope for is an expensive whole wave build-a-figure purchase or multi-figure pack that features a close to scale larger character. Even then, the figures were still scaled down in a lot of instances for packaging or cost. But, single packaged larger and in scale figures featuring a slightly higher price point are becoming more and more the norm. Even if the Haslab X-Men Legends Marvel’s Sentinel or Transformers: War For Cybertron Unicron are extreme examples, the Marvel Hasbro Legends Series 13″ Action Figure Toy Surtur and Justice League (2021) DC Multiverse Steppenwolf Mega Action Figure point to this being an affordable and ongoing trend. McFarlane has even recently teased a DC Rebirth Clayface.
In 2022, I predict we’ll see more single packaged large characters available in action figure lines. This will mean fewer whole wave purchases for collectors and a truer scale to figures in that line.
I mentioned before all the options available in 2022 for just the TMNT IP. What I didn’t mention was NECA’s Disney Gargoyles Ultimate Goliath Figure. A plastic beast that hit the collecting community where they live and left them begging for more. Additionally, Super7 opened preorders for the similarly nostalgic SilverHawks ULTIMATES! line. I mean, what a time to be collector? So many IPs with products aimed specifically at adults. Super7 also has a 7” GI Joe ULTIMATES! line that will run concurrently with Hasbro’s 6” GI Joe Classified Series. While you may prefer one over the other, the simple fact that both are available at the same time is kinda insane.
While some collectors (Like Bobby Vala of Valaverse) are disappointed in Super7’s Silver Hawk deco choices and limited articulation, the crazy thing is it seems this won’t be the only option. Ramen Toys released images on Instagram of a highly articulated SilverHawks Prototype. And, even if this is likely not a licensed release (similar to their Centurion-based ‘80s Commanders’), the offerings and work quality from independent creators has become very impressive. While creators like StanSoloCreations may be hated by non-repro purists, they’re saviors to others providing factory-quality replicas of hard-to-find vintage Star Wars figures. Home 3D resin printers have enabled so many creators like HasNoTalent with small run batch figure releases or even the sale of 3D files for wholly created action figure lines from people like 3D Zip Guy.
My final and favorite prediction for 2022 is a continuing growing cornucopia of options for collectors. More and more obscure IPs will be released and more and more independent creators will pick up the slack. I mean there’s a late 80s cartoon Beetlejuice from The Loyal Subjects (BST AXN) and NECA has Defenders of the Earth Wave 2 on the way. Mattel even released more Street Sharks as part of Mattel Creations. I mean, what’s even left? Well, wishing you a Happy New Year for one. Be excellent to each other!