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The Best, Worst and Weirdest of Toy Fair 2011

This past week, New York City was once again host to the American International Toy Fair, in which the toy industry showed off its biggest products for the coming year.

I’m not much of a toy guy anymore — the fact that I already own more versions of Zartan than any one man should have and my disappointment with the current crop of My Little Pony have kept me from cluttering up my house with any more plastic than I’ve already got — but I still pay attention to Toy Fair. More than anything else, it’s a crazy snapshot of what’s going on in the collective geek consciousness, whether I understand it or not. That’s why today, I’ve combed through the coverage of sites like Toy News International to bring you this year’s crop of the Best, Worst and Weirdest Toy Fair offerings!

#1. BATMAN INCORPORATED

Believe me when I say that I flipped out when I saw the Batman, Inc. toys. For one thing, that is an actual Man-of-Bats action figure. That is a thing that exists that is going to be sold in stores, despite the fact that before the last three years, it was probably the least likely action figure of all time. And second, holy crap does the Knight look awesome. As the record will show, I totally love that guy, and if there’s a figure of the Squire that just didn’t get in the picture for some reason, that’s going to be awfully tempting.

#2. BATMAN LEGACY

Oh man, whew. That was a close one. For a second there, I thought 2011 was going to be the year that we didn’t get another forty-six thousand Batman toys. But that doesn’t mean that the “Batman Legacy” line isn’t bringing anything new to the table. For instance, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve seen Batman action figure that looks constipated.

Before anyone worries, rest assured that the set also includes the Joker, because I’m pretty sure that they’re contractually obligated to produce four or five different versions of that guy every year. What grabbed my attention, however, was a figure that I originally thought was a surprisingly garish version of Mr. Freeze, but what I now think is actually an astonishingly off-model version of Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time:

I mean, Princess Bubblegum doesn’t even carry a freeze ray! And I’m pretty sure that “Finn and Jake” was just a Justice Jogger with a cowboy hat and a lump of tan Play-Dohâ„¢. Get it together, guys, seriously.

#3. GREEN LANTERN MOVIE

This is a gigantic toy gun that ties into the upcoming Green Lantern movie, and that is dumber than a bag of hammers.

It’s not the toy itself. If nothing else, Hulk Hands and Nerf have taught us that kids (and let’s be honest, adults) love to put things on the end of their arms and shooting small foam objects at each other, and it’s not like shoehorning a toy gun into things is unique to this franchise. Iron Man had a Nerf gun, and amazingly so did the most recent Batman movies. Batman! The super-hero who hates guns! But that’s a whole other problem, and trust me, if I started in on that, we’d be here all day.

No, the problem here is that this is a Green Lantern toy, which means that it’s meant to be something that was made using a ring that’s limited only its user’s imagination, meaning that this is a toy where the limit of one’s imagination is a gun. And it’s not just this one, either. Have a look at the DC vs. Masters of the Universe figures:

Even if you give the guy a pass on being unable to concentrate when he’s confronted with a dude in tiny, tiny, furry shorts, the fact that the best thing Green Lantern (and by extension, the toy designers and writers who pull this nonsense in the comics) can come up with for him to use is a gun is a massive failure of imagination. At least make the effort, guys.

#4. THOR MOVIE LIGHTNING HAMMER

This, however, is a perfectly appropriate toy tie-in, as it is a giant foam hammer that you can hit people with, just like Thor.

ComicsAlliance assistant editor Caleb Goellner pegged it pretty well as being “like Hulk Hands you can throw.” Unfortunately, when I pointed out that you can already throw Hulk Hands at people unless you had them surgically grafted on your arms, he began to weep softly.

Poor guy hasn’t been able to pick up a can of soda since 2003.

#5. DUKE NUKEM FOREVER

Hey, remember that time that a video game came out that lifted so many movie references it was like playing a First Person Shooter version of Family Guy, which was such a good idea that they decided to make it a franchise, and so they said they were going to release a sequel and it took FOURTEEN YEARS (and counting) for it to actually happen, and then when they released a trailer, it looked like a 16 year-old Megadeth fan made a mod for Quake 3?

Well, apparently they’re making action figures for it. Though to be fair, the expresison the toy designers gave Duke Nukem is appropriately sheepish, as if he’s embarrassed about it himself. Which he should be.

#6. STARFIRE STATUE

“Hello, Nightwing! After reading about the traditions of your planet’s Christmas celebrations, I have cut off some hair for you! Please use it to purchase a chain for the pocket watch you sold to buy me a set of combs!”

“Uh, Kori… it’s February.”

#7. KOTOBUKIYA BISHOUJO STATUES

On the one hand, I like Kotobukiya’s stuff a lot — especially their extremely articulated, well-designed action figures — but their line of “bishoujo” statues always give me the same “bought by extremely sketchy dudes who make way too much eye contact” vibe as the Ame-Comi statues.

On the other hand, despite the windswept miniskirt, this is a pretty cute statue, and more importantly, it includes Streaky the Super-Cat, so I think I’m going to have to come out in favor of this one.

This on the other hand….

I don’t even… what is going on here?

For a second there I was about to ask if there was actually a market for a sexy anime girl version of the Ghostbusters, but I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know the answer to that one. What I’m not sure about is whether this is actually meant to be one of the Ghostbusters we already know. Sadly, the design’s nametag is too small to make out, so I’m not actually sure if this is meant to be a hot, nearly-unpantsed lady version of Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray.

But really, I’m okay not knowing. I’m haunted enough by the knowledge that bustin’ makes whoever’s going to buy this thing feel good.

8. TONNER’S AMAZINGLY CREEPY SUPER-HEROINE DOLLS

I’ve seen Tonner’s dolls before when I was working at a comic book store, and I’ll be honest with you guys: These things freak me right the hell out.

Seriously, the dead eyes, the blank expressions, the tiny hands… there is literally nothing about these things that makes me think that they’re not going to come to life and start grabbing knives the second I look away.

I know it’s a completely silly fear on my part, but I just can’t get past the OH HOLY S— DID THAT THING JUST MOVE?!

Oh the hell with this we are moving on.

#9. MINI-MATES FEMME FATALES BOX SET

I thought that ArtAsylum had gotten all the comedy they could out of their awesomely blocky MiniMates when they produced a Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose boxed set last year — which I unbelievably still do not own — but it turns out I completely underestimated them. This thing is hilarious.

Joining Tarot, we have the winged Darkchylde, who has dificulty spelling, and at right, rocking hair so big that it throws her face almost completely into shadow, is Lady Death, who somehow still exists in a year that does not start with the numbers one, nine and nine.

In the center, we have Dawn, who was once believed to be a comic book character, but has now been confirmed to have only ever appeared in art books, pin-ups and lithographs as far back as anyone can remember.

#10. WWE RUMBLERS

And finally, we have the toy line I’m most excited about this year: WWE Rumblers!

I’ve actually seen these things around in stores already, but the fact that they’re expanding the line to include stuff like the Rumble Rig, a semi truck that transforms into a wrestling ring, entrace ramp, and TitanTron, gives me hope that it’s going to continue for the forseeable future. And that is awesome.

Why? Because the blocky, cartoonish figures in the WWE Rumblers line are the same style and scale as Marvel’s Super-Hero Squad and the Batman: The Brave and the Bold Action League figures, which means that after years of waiting, I can finally pit the team of Batman and the Rock against Batroc.

Throw a couple of My Little Ponies in there to swing a steel chair, and brother, you have got yourself a sale.

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