- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2003

Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic-book and cartoon characters, companies are bombarding consumers with an incredible selection of action figures.

With tongue in cheek, let’s take a peek at some of the specimens worthy of a place in Zad’s Toy Vault.

Zipline Batman

Mattel takes advantage of acquiring DC Comics’ Dark Knight toy license by releasing dynamic lines of action figures and vehicles for children. Using the talents of the design legend Four Horsemen Studios, the home of Barbie has bombarded stores with a 6-inch version of Batman reflecting his current comic-book form combined with loads of accessories. Small fry 4 years old and older can find the likes of silvery Stealth Wing Armor Batman, a maniacal Joker, Hydro-suit Batman with underwater gear, Martial Arts Batman adorned in purple and gold, a Batcycle and a Batmobile to enjoy an adventure.

• Figure profile: Though Batman is regarded by many Gothamites as an “urban legend” built on superstition and fear of the city’s darkened streets, Bruce Wayne knows all too well that Batman is a cold, hard reality of his own fabrication. Since his parents’ death in Gotham’s dreaded Crime Alley, Wayne has spent his life in pursuit of physical and mental perfection in order to wage unrelenting war on crime. Watching over Gotham’s streets from its gargoyles and parapets, the Dark Knight is the city’s last best hope against evil. It’s this obsession that drives Batman, for Wayne has vowed that no innocent should suffer the pain he has endured.

From DC Comics’ secret files:

• Accessories: The brooding hero comes with his fists clenched and in his black-and-gray garb highlighted by a cloth cape and a large yellow utility belt permanently attached around his waist. He gets a launcher to which he can attach a grappling hook and line, a pulley to use to glide effortlessly across buildings, two Batarangs and a missile in case he runs into trouble.

• Price: $7.99

• Read all about it: Those seeking to begin enjoying Batman sequential art have jumped aboard at the perfect time. Legendary artist Jim Lee is illustrating Bruce Wayne and his alter ego to accompany the writing of Jeph Loeb. This dynamic duo of creativity has made fans salivate over every issue of the 12-part Hush story line. Prices of the back issues are a bit inflated, so grab some if you can afford them, but I would just buy the “Batman Hush” hardcover ($19.95), collecting issues 608 to 612, and enjoy.

• Words to buy by: Mattel has done a super job with the line, and Batman has never looked better, with his sculpt seeming to combine the best of Neal Adams’ sequential-art version from the 1970s and Jim Lee’s current interpretation. At the bare minimum, Junior Caped Crusaders deserve the extremely cool and newly designed Batmobile ($26.99) — with detachable stand-alone motorcycle and jet pack, a spike-haired Tim Drake portraying Robin ($7.99) and a couple of the Bat figures.

Bond in “Goldfinger”

Quickly becoming known for its 12-inch representations of pop-culture movie icons, Sideshow Toy acquired the James Bond license in 2002 and has delivered an awesome lineup over the past year. Each release offers two dolls, to be purchased separately, that pay homage to the 40-year cinematic history of Britain’s superspy. Be it Sean Connery’s Bond and Joseph Wiseman of “Dr. No” fame, Timothy Dalton as 007 and Franz Sanchez of “License to Kill,” Roger Moore portraying the agent or Scaramanga from “The Man With the Golden Gun,” each figure has been crafted meticulously to satisfy fans.

• Figure profile: The powerful tycoon Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) has initiated Operation Grand Slam, a cataclysmic scheme to raid Fort Knox and obliterate the world economy. James Bond, armed with his specially equipped Aston Martin, must stop the plan by overcoming several outrageous foes. First, there’s Oddjob (Harold Sakata), the mute servant who kills at the toss of a lethal hat; next, the beautiful Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), who gives new meaning to the phrase “golden girl”; and finally, sexy pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), whose romantic feelings for Bond complicate her involvement in Goldfinger’s high-flying scheme.

The Sideshow Collectibles Figure Team delivers the figure with a rappelling gun, a transmitter, a wood beam to use on Oddjob, a Walther PPK pistol, a parachute backpack and a gold bar with Nazi insignia. Mr. Bond’s wardrobe comes from his stealth black line and includes a finely sewn sweater, pants, shirt and pair of buffed shoes. A stand, along with a detailed package of photos from the film, theatrical poster and such knowledge nuggets as a cast list, plot synopsis and a biography of Mr. Connery complete the amazing three-dimensional tribute.

Price: $40

nRead all about it: Those collectors unwilling to pay for Bond’s first foray into American sequential art, which happened in 1963 in DC Comics’ Showcase series adapting “Dr. No” ($450 in near mint shape), will want to look for either the Marvel Comics’ take on “For Your Eyes Only” from 1981 ($1.50 each) or Dark Horse Comics’ extension of Bond lore released in the mid-1990s in four limited series: A Silent Armageddon, Serpent’s Tooth, Shattered Helix and the Quasimodo Gambit (averaging $3.50 per issue). Unfortunately, “Goldfinger” has never been a comic book.

nWords to buy by: Sculptor Mat Falls’ effort, once again, completely captures a 1960s Sean Connery down to his arrogant smirk. The complement to Goldfinger’s Bond is the chapeau-wielding Korean bodyguard Oddjob ($40), who looks perfect and should fly off of the shelves as quickly as his adversary.

Strange but cool

A short look at bizarre products with a pop-culture twist:

nMarvel Mini-Mates(Diamond Select Toys, $7.99). Marvel Universe’s superheroes get shrunk into 2.5-inch, block-headed action figures wit h 14 points of articulation; they’ll be familiar to fans of Lego action figures. Each two-pack set, planned for release throughout the year, contains characters associated with one another and comes with a few accessories, such as Daredevil wielding his famous sticks and details down to Kingpin holding a cigar and wearing a red rose on his lapel and a gold ring on his finger. The latest lineup on specialty store shelves twins Bruce Banner with the Hulk, a red costumed Daredevil with chunky archenemy Kingpin and Daredevil wearing his 1960s yellow costume, matched with Elektra adorned in red.

Expect the likes of Mary Jane Parker, Spider-Man, Green Goblin and many of the Ultimate X-Men over the next months, and also expect these toys to catch the eyes of children and collectors who can take them apart and swap pieces to tickle their imaginations.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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