Action figure lines never seem to last too long. Even the most successful lines in history haved faded away over the course of a decade, only to return as a new iteration some time later, often with altered designs or totally new characters. Then decades later, when 20 or 30 years have passed since the original line, fans demand a throwback line that honors the classic property. And it seems like manufacturers are more than willing to capitalize on revived classics.
Unfortunately not all throwback lines are met with success and approval, but a select few have taken off and earned their own level of respect and adoration in collectors' eyes. The following five lines are the most successful throwbacks in action figure history.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the biggest action figure lines in history. It totally consumed children in the late '80s and early '90s, and Playmates Toys is finally returning to the classic line. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics line takes the iconic cartoon designs and translates them for a modern-day audience with advanced sculpting and articulation.
The plethora of characters available in the Turtles universe, in combination with the revitalized yet still classic design of the figures, makes the Classics line a perfect example of the right way to do a throwback line. Only time will tell how much more successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classic can become.
4. Transformers Masterpiece
Unlike most throwback lines which stay quite close to the original line's roots, Transformers Masterpiece completely revolutionizes the Generation 1 Transformers. Instead of the small, affordable, and often simplistic toys from the '80s, Transformers Masterpiece is full of expensive, complex, and enormous collectibles.
The Masterpiece line takes some of the most iconic and important characters in action figure history and absolutely perfects them. They still retain the basic look and functionality of the originals, but they're engineered in amazing ways that result in smooth transformations and incredible robot designs. Transformers Masterpiece figures are quite simply the masterpieces they claim to be. The only thing holding this line back is the still-limited selection of characters and inaccessibility to many collectors.
3. DC Universe Classics
Although the DC Universe Classics line doesn't have a direct vintage predecessor, it is a throwback of sorts to Kenner's Super Powers line. It would be hard to argue DC Universe Classics is anything more than just the next iteration of DC Comics superhero figures, if not for the fact that Mattel has openly admitted their intention to pay tribute to the vintage Super Powers line.
Characters that are specific to Kenner's Super Powers line have made their way into DC Universe Classics, and practically every character in the vintage line has made an appearance in Mattel's throwback tribute too. DC Universe Classics is unquestionably the evolution of the classic Super Powers line. Despite any problems with the line, the figures are great, the character selection is diverse, and fans have gone wild over this line.
2. G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary
Few lines mean more to action figure history than G.I. Joe. And though the original Joes may not be at the forefront of most collectors' minds, the Real American Hero line that relaunched Joe in the '80s is a major hit with enthusiasts. In what's actually a throwback to a relaunch, the 25th Anniversary line brought Hasbro's heroes back to the forefront of the modern collector market.
The 25th Anniversary figures were modernized versions of the classic Joes and Cobras, introduced in vintage styled packaging and in similar assortments to the originals. G.I. Joe hadn't been relevant in 15 years,and still managed to become one of the most-collected and most-discussed lines in the action figure world. The 25th Anniversary throwback completely re-introduced G.I. Joe to the modern collector.
1. Masters of the Universe Classics
When it comes to throwbacks, no one has done it as well as Mattel with the Masters of the Universe Classics line. They managed to take a long-dead line with oft-forgotten characters and make it the biggest thing in collectible action figures. He-Man, Skeletor, and the rest of Mattel's pantheon became the hottest figures on the market as soon as the Classics line launched, and that popularity never waned over the ensuing years.
Masters of the Universe Classics got everything right. The characters are perfectly represented, but updated to fit modern advanced standards of sculpting and articulation. Fans of the classic line love the revitalized representations of their favorite characters, and new collectors love them because they're good figures. Masters of the Universe Classics has certainly been subject to problems, but it's still the best throwback line in action figure history.