Are we here already? Apparently, we are! As we slowly crawled out of the horrors of the beginning of this decade and slouch toward whatever new horrors await us in the 2020s, toy companies kept releasing cool shit, and I kept buying it! So let’s talk about some stuff I loved in 2022.
Like last year’s list, this one is presented more or less unordered except for the top spot. I did include at least one item that wasn’t released in 2022, and some may also be from the tail end of 2021. Let’s roll!
Honorable Mention: The Backlog
This year ended up being the year I returned to the Gunpla hobby, and it’s taken up a good chunk of my hobby time. And I’m glad of it – this hobby always teaches me more about myself, furthers my crafting abilities, and makes me new buddies. The key task for 2023 is not to let it burn me out, which it’s done many times in the past. We’re gonna keep that hobbyist alive.
I didn’t put any Gundam kits on the list simply because they stand apart from mass retail action figures. I don’t quite think of them the same way.
Honorable Mention: Masterpiece Redecos
It was a bit of an odd year for the Transformers Masterpiece toyline. MP-52+ Skywarp, released at the end of 2021, represented the highest profile G1 character to appear in the line. Other releases that I picked up this year included MP-55 Nightbird, MP-54 Reboost and MP-53+ Senator Crosscut. All of these are redecos or retools of previously released toys.
And that’s great! I like them all, especially new-character Reboost. But I ultimately didn’t love any single of them enough to include them on the list.
2022 also saw the beginning of one of the more exciting developments in Masterpiece, about which more…right now.
Honorable Mention: Incomplete Combiner Teams
Two different lines kicked off a major combiner team in 2022, with the more notable one being the MPG sub-line imprint, which features the first-ever update to Raiden, a train combiner that originally only saw release in Diaclone and the Japanese Headmasters toyline. The MPG trainbots are designed with maximum attention to real-life train detail and are apparently compatible with scale model train layouts.
The Transformers Legacy line also started up a new combiner team in the form of the Stunticons, taking a different and more cartoon-focused approach since the 2015 Combiner Wars figures.
I’m very excited about both of these lineups. But Takara only released two of the six trainbots in 2022, and I’ve not yet been able to find the other three Stunticons (the fifth is only barely out at retail now). I feel like I won’t be able to get the whole picture of these toys’ functions until I have the whole set in hand, so for 2022 they’re here in the honorable mentions.
Alright, now for the main list!
10. Transformers Legacy Leader-Class Blitzwing
A longtime fave of mine, Blitzwing has had a couple of previous figures in the various Generations lines that just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. And I was pretty sure this one didn’t either – the egregious fake cockpit on the tank mode to replicate an animation error, the enormous hunks of tank hanging off the jet mode…and yet, once I handled the figure, I was instantly in love with it.
I guess all Hasbro had to do was make him look pretty much like the cartoon model. I’m a mark, what can I say.
9. Masters of the Universe Origins Clawful
Origins continually defies my expectations and and still can’t quite believe we’re about to embark on the line’s third year (or fourth, if you count the few figures released in 2020 and the WWE line). Last year I put one figure and one playset on my list; this year it’s three figures, and I’m still looking at my shelves and noticing stuff I could have added.
Anyway, Clawful is just one of those characters I’ve always liked. He’s a muscle guy with a big crab claw. I’m really happy with how Origins retooled the pincer gimmick (you push back on the lever now instead of pull on it). He can finally hold his mace in a convincing way. He still looks like a lobster muppet. Perfect toy, no notes.
8. Transformers Studio Series 85 Arcee
The 2018 Bumblebee movie featured a few scenes of war-ravaged Cybertron in which a number of familiar G1 characters made cameos in designs that strongly evoked their G1 character models. Fans loved this, and I even saw some wishing that these glorified video game cutscenes made up the whole movie.
In truth, the scenes were added after initial test screenings, and because of the lack of time, all of the models were made by repurposing existing assets from the CG models already created for the movie (basically, any of the characters you see in the Earth scenes).
The scenes were fun to watch and I’m glad they’re there. But they weren’t too interesting, and the character models seemed fairly bland to me. Further, the designs were not made with alternate modes in mind. So I was prepared to ignore the toy versions slated to come out in Studio Series.
Then I saw how the toy designers had approached the task of designing vehicle modes for characters who didn’t have any to begin with, and my opinion did a 180 instantly. Arcee is one of the few versions of her character who doesn’t rely on a vehicle shell that closes over her body! She turns into a cool Tron bike! She might be the best realization of her character ever to be put to plastic!
So thank you, Studio Series, for making me like a thing I was initially pretty cool on.
7. Transformers Velocitron Speedia 500 Series Cosmos
Each year since 2019, the Generations line has a Walmart exclusive sub-line imprint. Usually it was to tie in with that year’s middling Netflix cartoon series. But by 2022, the Netflix shows were no more. So instead, Hasbro created a whole sub storyline of an intergalactic car race and populated it with mostly redecos of existing Gens toys and a few new molds.
Among those new molds was Cosmos here, easily the best realization of the cartoon model in toy form outside of third party (and honestly, I like him almost as much as the fancy X-Transbots version I also own).
It’s just too bad he was only released in an exclusive line and was packed one to a case. It made him nearly impossible to find. I was lucky enough to see him once, and that was that. I doubt I’ll ever see him on shelves again. So if you wanted this lil UFO, I hope you were able to find it, and if you weren’t, I hope you get lucky in 2023.
6. Masters of the Universe Origins Space Sumo
One of the coolest things that happened in MOTU this year was Mattel folding the Olmec Rulers of the Sun toyline into its canon. This allowed for updates to a set of pretty obscure and very rare toys from the 80s, and next year we’ll be seeing some that never previously made it past the prototype stage!
I could have picked any of the Rulers of the Sun that came out this year for this list, but I settled on Space Sumo just because I enjoy his whole idea, as well as his color scheme and wonderful head sculpt. I can’t resist a character who is trying to be several things at once. (He’s a ninja? But also a sumo wrestler? And he has telekinetic powers too??)
Space Sumo had a single release via Mattel’s website recently, but he is also available in a three-pack with two other RotS characters that is exclusive to Target.
5. Transformers Legacy Core Class Iguanus
When Hasbro was showing off the early artwork and mockups for Legacy, THIS was the one that jumped out at me. At the time, he was only shown in the mural artwork as a head in the background. I was gnashing my teeth. A new Iguanus!? You have to be kidding me. No one cares about Pretenders, let alone Iguanus!
He was a childhood fave (and I wrote about the original here) who I never expected to get a mainline update. But he got one, and besides the kinda dumb Energon weapon gimmick thing, he’s perfect.
Also the only figure on my list that also appears on Dustin’s year-end list, which is much more diverse and interesting than mine!
Legacy has gone on to feature two more Pretender characters, but of those, Skullgrin was far less exciting, and I haven’t found a Bomb Burst yet. Hoping to see more of them in 2023!
4. Transformers Studio Series 86-15 Sludge
Last year I included the first two SS86 Dinobots in the honorable mentions, but this year Sludge gets a proper mention. Why? Because seeing him with his two dino-buddies on my shelf brings me so much joy every day. Is he better than the other two? No, not really, and I do wish he had a sword since Hasbro dropped the minifigure pack-ins, but he’s every bit as great as his companions.
I’ll note too that each Dinobot has had a more complicated transformation than the last, in a way that’s been hella fun to experience.
Hopefully the last two Dinobots are on the way in 2023!
3. Masters of the Universe Origins Mantenna
The 1980s Mantenna was a figure I’d take with me everywhere. One time I offered to show him to my violin teacher (she was not impressed). I loved the Classics iteration with its extrapolation of the toy’s vague details into something truly horrific. When I sold off most of my Classics toys this year, Mantenna was one that I kept.
For Origins, I’m glad to see the eye poppin’ feature return. Origins retools it so the eyes are now on a spring, and the lever is on Mantenna’s head rather than his back. This gives him neck articulation with the tradeoff that the eyes can’t stay up after you take your finger off the lever.
More impressive was how they managed to give him the four-legged design seen on the Classics toy (the original has four legs, but they are molded together in pairs) and still sell him at the basic price point.
The only thing is I wish the blue on his limbs was a little brighter. Otherwise, a perfect update.
2. Transformers Masterpiece MP-24 Star Saber
Here it is, the only toy on my list that isn’t really from this year. HasTak did release a Star Saber toy in 2022, the first one they’d made since the 2015 Masterpiece version pictured here.
I’d been wanting to buy the Masterpiece toy for several years, and I finally found one for the right price at a toy show this past summer. I’d read about some of its weaknesses, such as loose joints, and I still found it to be one of the most joyful figures to play with in the MP line. It even inspired me to buy my first-ever Soul of Chogokin figure a couple of months afterward.
I didn’t back the HasLabs Victory Saber, and I do have a little bit of the old fomo there, but seeing this huge fella waving his chrome sword around on my top shelf helps a lot.
1. Transformers Legacy Voyager-Class Jhiaxus
Last year, my number one spot was reserved for my number one favorite character, Skids. In a crazy twist of cosmic blessings, another Skids figure came out in 2022, the deluxe version in the Legacy line. It’s good, but it’s nowhere near as good as the Masterpiece figure I highlighted in 2021, and that kept it off my list this year.
Instead, the number one spot easily goes to Legacy Jhiaxus. Jhiaxus was the primary antagonist of the short-lived 1990s “Transformers: Generation 2” Marvel comic. He was presented as a bigger, badder threat than the Cobra-enhanced Megatron of the era, conquering multiple worlds before the Autobots even caught wind of his existence.
He also had no toy. He was created wholly by writer Simon Furman, who named him as a coy reference to Marvel’s unrealistic sales expectations for the comic (“Gee, axe us,” which, they did). He and his second-generation Decepticon team, for many years, existed only in artwork.
Since the 1990s, Jhiaxus had two toys made, both of them redecos of existing figures in a strangely off-model orange. So in 2022 we got the first-ever toy of Jhiaxus that is based directly on Derek Yaniger’s artwork.
And it slaps. It’s not just that it perfectly realizes the character art. It’s not just the beautifully smooth transformation into a comic-accurate jet mode. It’s that it’s a flawless action figure in addition to these things. He looks incredible from every angle. If Legacy Jhiaxus falls off your shelf, he’ll land on the floor looking dynamic. He’s probably already conquered and cyberformed my toy room.
And that’s that for 2022! There were a few toys that probably would have made the list if I’d gotten them before January, like Legacy Beast Wars Inferno, SS86 Ironhide, Origins King Hisss, Legacy Bomb Burst, and others.
In 2023, I’m excited about the rest of the Legacy Stunticons, MP Trailbreaker, MP Skyfire, the Legacy Evolution Junkions, Legacy Tarn, lots of stuff from Origins (Snake Mountain! Tung Lashor! Skeleton warriors! Eternia if it actually comes out before 2024!), and of course, building and painting lots of model kits.
What were some of your faves from 2022? What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
— Video Dracula