- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2004

The holidays are the perfect time to unload a bit of extraneous expenditure upon the pop-culture fan in the family. With comic-book and cartoon properties hotter than ever, I cannot think of anyone not willing to receive an item associated with a superhero, animated legend or movie icon from the sequential-art medium.

However, time is fleeting, so here is a bit of help with deciding on the perfect product to spread some merry and colorful cheer.

For children

Spider-Man Stunt City (Toy Biz, $39.99, ages 6 and older): Through the powers of magnetism and comic-book heroes, tykes are attracted to this massive cityscape play set featuring Marvel Comics’ famed web slinger and a few of his most formidable foes.

After about 30 minutes of parental aggravation during the assembly process, Junior can make a 3-inch-tall Spidey swing between lampposts using strands of plastic webbing as he battles Dock Ock and the Lizard. The set includes water power, building fronts, sports car and destructible dumpster for further play possibilities.

Marvel Mighty Beanz (Spin Master Toys, $6.95 for a package of five, ages 8 and older): I am not quite sure of the feverish fascination associated with 11/2-inch-tall, capsule-shaped characters that wobble, but children sure enjoy flipping them around. The Beanz, based on the famed superhero universe built by Stan Lee, fit perfectly in a stocking and include 56 eclectic possibilities using the likenesses of characters such as Doctor Doom, Scarlet Witch, Absorbing Man, Captain America and Black Panther.

Batwave Batmobile (Mattel, $49.99, ages 6 and older): Younger fans of the Dark Knight get a total immersion into the latest Kids WB Batman cartoon series with a vehicle that wirelessly connects with television episodes and responds to on-screen action. The magic happens thanks to the detachable hand-held Batlink (with an earpiece) that not only helps prompt the famed car to react with lights and sounds, but downloads information from the show to add to the awe from the television fun. Easily one of the coolest tech toys of the year.

For the pop-culture lover

1/4-scale Hellboy (Sideshow Collectibles, $250): Nothing quite says “Happy holidays” like a 21-inch-tall polystone representation of the comic and film worlds’ most revered red-skinned paranormal investigating demon. Sculpted by Mat Falls, this incredible-looking Hellboy figure perfectly captures the likeness of actor Ron Perlman’s portrayal of writer-director Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s curmudgeonly enforcer of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. The figure, limited to 2,000 pieces, comes with a cloth coat, faux leather pants, “Good Samaritan” revolver, BPRD logo buckle, pouches, revolver holster, horseshoe and a display base to mount it.

Lord of the Rings Minimates (Art Asylum, $9.99 for a four-figure pack): The battle for pop-culture dollars never ends in Middle-earth as fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels and Peter Jackson’s films can create an epic battle using ridiculously detailed 3-inch block figures. Sets include Legolas, Aragorn, Saruman and Twilight Frodo or Gollum, Frodo, Gandalf and Uruk-Hai Berserker. Each figure comes with multiple accessories, such as Gollum and his fish or Legolas with a bow and sword, and more than a dozen points of articulation. They can easily be taken apart and combined with other figures to produce some pretty strange amalgams.

The Flintmobile (Joy Ride Studios, $34.95): The yabba-dabba-doozie of a vehicle made famous by Hanna Barbera’s Flintstones arrives as a 1:18 scale model perfect for admiring on a collector’s shelf. Made with a die-cast chassis that rolls on cold-cast wheels and offering a cloth roof, the 6-inch-long model of the foot-powered vehicle includes plastic figures of Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty in a seated position and Pebbles, Bam Bam and trusted prehistoric pet Dino.

For readers

Star Wars: Panel to Panel — From the Pages of Dark Horse Comics to a Galaxy Far, Far Away (Dark Horse Comics, $19.95): The perpetual pop-culture juggernaut that is Star Wars has invaded the medium of sequential art since 1977. Dark Horse Comics’ contribution has been spectacular during the past 12 years, and this 192-page, full color, 9-by-12-inch softcover book offers some of the best illustrated moments from 1992 to 1999. The likes of artists Dave Dorman, Hugh Fleming, Kilian Plunkett, Jan Duursema and Tim Bradstreet bring to life heroes, villains and events that translate into some awesome drawings of Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Count Dooku, Jabba the Hutt and the Death Star.

The Golden Age of DC Comics: 365 Days (Abrams Books, $29.95): A very artistic format covers DC Comics’ most influential superheroes from the 1930s to 1950s by juxtaposing 365 photographed color art panels and covers from classic sequential-art books against a page containing text from comic historian Les Daniels. The oddly shaped book, 91/4 by 61/4 inches, reveals nostalgic nuggets from titles ranging from Detective Comics and More Fun Comics to House of Mystery and World’s Finest Comics that helped introduce the likes of Batman, Captain Marvel, Hawkman and Sandman to readers.

Al Williamson: Hidden Lands (Dark Horse Comics, $22.95): Comic-book creators Mark Schultz, Thomas Yeates and Steve Ringgenberg pay tribute to one of the 1950s’ most influential sequential artists. Through quotes and historic narrative, they look at the man behind the illustrations and offer readers some visually staggering highlights of his career. Culling art from Mr. Williamson’s years at E.C., Atlas, Harvey and Dell, the 224-page book explores the artist’s sharp eye for detail exposed via black-and-white drawings.

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

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