We’ve briefly touched on the history in Part 1 but this time we’ll take a closer look at each line and I’ll pick my “best of” each group.

I know I keep saying it but it’s hard to believe a decade has gone by since minimates started. So much has happened in those 10 years. Minimates Central was Danny’s (aka Divebomb) brain-child; he along with several other classic contributors have done a vast amount of reviews this past decade. Since Danny’s retirement (I picture him sitting on a tropical beach somewhere with red dress Sixes all around) Luke has taken the reins and thankfully kept me around to continue my nonsensical minimate review babble. But we’re not the only review site out there. With the popularity of the minimate line you can imagine there are tons of people eager to sing the praises/criticisms of new releases. OAFE, Michael Crawford’s ReviewsMillionaire Playboy and the Ghostbusters Minimate Archive have some great minimate reviews. Be sure to also check the Review subforum for even more cool reviews. Also longtime minimate addict MiniJeff has an incredible blog worth checking out, Portrait of Addiction; it’s part reviews / part great photos / and all around fun for everyone. Jeff recently interviewed Matt of Iron-Cow Productions whose own site has a wealth of his minimate designs created for Art Asylum. And if you’re feeling adventurous check out Ivan’s Minimate Labs; I could try to explain what it is but honestly there is no explaining what goes on in Ivan’s mind. 

Each year on the Minimate Multiverse forum we have an awards ceremony celebrating the figures released the previous year. I’m sure this year’s show will be a blast as always so be sure to get your vote in. You may also want to check the shows from previous years: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 & 2006.

Before I get started on each of the lines, a big “Hail Ivan” goes out to the Minimate Database because there’s going to be some heavy linkage here. And honestly I don’t have every minimate ever made in my own personal collection so MMDB is my next best option; although there is rumor of a bunker under a lake somewhere in the UK that has such a treasure trove of minimates but I’ll save that trek for another day.

So the early days of minimates were filled with 3 inch figures from varying lines of pop-culture. There were figures from recent Oscar winning movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“, one figure from the TV series “Dark Angel” (the show was cancelled before the full line got started), also Rock characters with a full line of KISS members, even Bruce Lee and Mr. T figures, and of course a true staple in geek culture: Star Trek. There was almost a line of Tony Hawk minimates but they never made it to market. Nowadays the 3 inch body seems chunky but it was a good start 10 years ago. There are a few other differences too, the joints for the elbows and knees are centered and the hands are a C shape but with shorter side for the thumbs. Another nice little gimmick for the early sets were the included puzzle pieces. It was definitely an early sign that even though the characters are from different lines the minimate brand all fits together.

Overall the early minimates were fairly simple in design but there were some good stand-outs. The Crouching Tiger figures had some neat accessories but my favorite figure is Lo. Bright colored outfit, pointed shoes, that pre-shrunk vest (seriously what is that thing) and dude comes with a hawk .. A HAWK (first line of minimates and we already have a pet accessory). It’s hard to pick a favorite of Trek; all the main characters match well to the actors so I’m going to have to go with Mugatu for the impressive sculpted pieces. Rock/KISS is another hard call; they’re all scary, strange and great matches to the people themselves. When you have skulls, chains, fangs, claws, cups, wings and platform boots you just have to go with the one you’d be most scared of to meet in a dark alley. For me that would be Rob Zombie’s Techno Zombie; the claws, pointed shoulder pads and mess of hair make him one frightening minimate. For Bruce Lee the Hong Kong Dragon has cool shades and shirt but the simple yellow jumpsuit of Ascension of the Dragon can’t be beat.

So what’s the longest running toy line in the world today? That would be Marvel Minimates!! Not only did the Marvel line help to change minimates to the now standard 2 inch base size but the longevity of the line without a doubt has helped to make so many other lines possible over the years. I have a lot of favorites for this line. But like saving your favorite desert for last, I’m going to save my “best of” picks for the Marvel line for later.

Meanwhile we’ll continue here with another question: what minimate line was released first with the LEGO style (C3) holes in the bottom of their feet? Nope it’s wasn’t C3, it was actually the Lord of the Rings minimates. With the DC C3 sets on the horizon a change to the minimate body was needed so that these figures could fit into the building block world. The basic minimate foot was shorted and a hole was added to the bottom so that the feet would fit on and between a standard LEGO pegs. Not only could you now use minimates with block sets but you could create displays for your figures and actually keep them standing upright (no more tacky putty needed). Eventually these little peg holes would come to be used for flight, flame, teleportation, cloud, flip, asteroid and more bases. The LotR sets came with clear rectangle block with four pegs, it wasn’t perfect or as stable as the disc bases we see today but it was a good start. The LotR line also used a range of sizes from 2 inch up to the old 3 inch. We also saw the first translucent minimates with Twilight Frodo (the blue version was even cooler). While the orcs and Uruk-hai were all very impressive the best had to be Sauron. Even by today’s standards he still rules as one of the best minimates of all.

Ahh, C3 how I loved and loathed you. You brought me my favorite super hero in minimate form: Batman. You taunt me with a Batcave that refuses to stay together. And then you leave me wanting more from a line that will not be resurrected (or will it???). C3 was definitely hit and miss and I love me some Batman but we sorely needed a wider variety of DC characters. Overall most of the sets were good, at the time the Batcopter and Large Batmobile really stood out. The Batcave could have been excellent if it weren’t for the engineering failures. And the whole miniflyer phase just emphasized how the blocks were a way to get around the licensing to be able to create DC minimates. But the best set is the Batwing, it’s the only one that I can honestly say I haven’t seen LEGO create a better one. As far as the figures, this may surprise you, but my favorite is the animated version of the Joker (not a Batman figure, gasp!!!). He just matches the version from the show so perfectly you can almost hear Mark Hamill laughing through that smile.    

It wasn’t until a couple years later that DC minimates came back sans block sets (besides the lone GL tease in between). Now these were some loved figures. DCD had listened about needing some character variety but unfortunately they took it to far to soon (Ambush Bug & Ma Hunkel?? Really???) . They stayed with the base 2 inch body but had a couple of the larger characters done in 2 1/2 inch size. Looking back now it would have been better if they could have used some of the torso risers and other techniques the Marvel line uses now for added height. But still some great figures were created. My favorite Batman minimate is the modern version (batcuffs!!) even though I don’t like the full slip on head covers, just a well sculpted cowl would have been better; I’ll let this one slide though.  Battle Damaged Superman and regular Wonder Woman round out the best of the big three. Cheetah is the best female of the bunch with Starfire a close second. Brainiac 13 has my vote for most incredible torso cover but my favorite of the line is Lex Luthor in his battle armor. This is what a great minimate should be, tons of details, outstanding sculpted pieces with details continued underneath and a perfect relevant accessory (well it would be perfect if he could hold it, but it’s close enough).

I’m going to bounce around to some of the TV and movie lines now but any of the ones I skipped I’ll return to next time. Next we have some hot TV series reboots of the time. First came two Speed Racer sets which were supposed to lead to more vehicle sets and some two and four packs. Unfortunately the line fizzled before it could get started. However the good thing that came from these mini vehicles was it became a starting point from which we would later get star fighters, pirate ships, Warthogs and some other famous cars. So another reboot that lasted a bit longer was Battlestar Galactica. What was really nice about this series was we got a mix of old and new characters from the show. Also instead of the regular mix of two packs there were single army builder packs, box sets and vehicle sets too. The little Viper spaceship is still a fun vehicle and something that can be used across minimate lines as a regular spaceship.  As far as the figures go, we owe a special thanks to Muffit just for being created! This broke the mold that minimates had to be a two legged human body base. Overall the best figures of this BSG line had to be the modern Cylons and of course my favorite the Cylon Elf. What’s Christmas without a Cylon Elf on the Shelf?

So it’s late 2007 and we’ve gotten to a time in minimate history where the 2 inch base body has firmly taken hold, what better line for a rebirth than Star Trek? Star Trek went for five waves and one box set, even venturing into some of the other Trek TV series with some of the characters. Most of the crew would have benefited from the newer buccaneer boots rather than those square looking things they used; so honestly I have trouble picking any of them as the best. Had “The Trouble with Tribbles” Kirk actually came with tribbles in this new set, his snarky self may have gotten my vote. But my best vote goes to the Borg Drone; two figures in one is always a good bonus.

Another hot TV series at the time was Fox’s 24 and there were two box sets and a couple 2-packs released. Not only was Jack Bauer in every episode of the show, he was in every minimate set. My biggest gripe with this series was Kim Bauer really should have come with a cougar accessory. But my best pick is the End of Day 2 Nina Myers, she has a simple looking outfit but very cool chain with cuffs accessory (Civil War Capt America will thank her for that a year later). Also that EoD2 pack has an awesome minimate size gurney.

Minimates did fairly well with popular TV shows and it was really exciting to see them branch out into several cult and classic movies. The character likenesses of the Rocky minimates were very impressive and they had some great accessories too: boxing gloves, slabs of meat, and even the championship belt. My favorite of the bunch is super cool pimpin Tiger Jacket Rocky. But honestly I’m sad we never got the third box set released with Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan), Clubber Lang (Mr T) and USA shorts Rocky; that would have been an incredible set!

There were several one shot box sets/exclusives for Platoon, The Silence of the Lambs and Desperately Seeking Susan. Again some wonder character likenesses and great new accessories. The rounded heads of the Lambs set creeps me out a bit otherwise Hannibal the Cannibal would have gotten top honors. So my favorite goes to Susan; she’s full on rocking the 80’s spirit. And speaking of spirit, in 2009 the comic Spirit was brought to life with a very forgettable movie adaption. A couple movie related sets got made that had several minimate lethal ladies any my best of the bunch, The Octopus (the details on his coat is amazing).

Perhaps some of the best minimate movie box sets are the Western Trilogy sets. Even if you’re not into westerns you still have to be impressed by these figures. Lots of details, great looking weapons, cowboy boot feet and ponchos. It’s hard to pick one but if I could only have one figure from all these sets I’d go with Showdown Monco; that poncho is just too awesome.

So this is just the first bunch of “best of”, stay tuned for next time and we’ll go over more movie lines, some of the game lines and much much more.


by Lurch77