- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

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.

Titans Launch Tower

Bandai keeps young fans of Cartoon Network’s and the WB Kids’ quirky cartoon series saturated in play possibilities through a complete line of Teen Titan toys. Based on DC Comics’ legendary band of teenage superheroes, the product line complements the skewered animation style. Children can choose among 3-inch action figures ($6.99, two per pack) of such stalwarts as Robin, Slade, Thunder, Raven, Beast Boy and Terra; transforming vehicles; and a 12-inch-tall interactive ode to the building the group calls home.

Figure profile: In the TV series, the 10-story-tall, double-T-design headquarters and hangout of the Teen Titans stands in an imaginary West Coast city and is based in an alternate 1960s world. The structure features a rooftop pool; large refrigerator loaded with sustenance and junk food; workout room; command center; plenty of screens for playing video games; and individual rooms for Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy.

Accessories: The deluxe play set includes a see-through drop tower from which a capsule-shaped vehicle carrying a favorite figure can be made to free-fall to a launch bay. A joystick controlled by the child then gives the Titan a ride and also can jettison Teen Titans Battling Machines (sold separately, for $7.99 each) from a movable track. Additionally, the tower has four missile launchers, multiple cockpits and an aiming dock (a chair for an action figure in back of a missile launcher). It also comes with a 3-inch Trident figure that is available only with the tower set.

Price: $29.99

Read all about it: DC Comics offers a monthly book based on the Cartoon Network’s show, titled Teen Titans Go ($2.25 each).

Words to buy by: Although Bandai does an admirable job of offering a wide range of play scenarios for children 4 and older, the set doesn’t hold up very well under intense play. In my tests, missile launchers often fell off their mounts, the pair of green landscape pieces fell off easily, and the mighty T-Tower had very little to stabilize it. To remedy this, parents may need simply to apply a few drops of adhesive to keep junior thrilled with Teen Titans lore.

RoboCop

McFarlane Toys’ latest ode to heroes and villains of the cinema arrives in its seventh series of 7-inch, multiarticulated action figures devoted to Movie Maniacs. Although it’s concentrating on the latest version of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” — with representations of Leatherface, Old Monty, Sheriff Hoyt and Erin — the company also adds the icons of Colonial Marine Corporal Hicks from “Aliens” and a familiar indestructible cybernetic cop who made his screen debut in 1987.

Figure profile: “When good cop Alex J. Murphy gets blown away by some ruthless criminals, innovative scientists and doctors are able to piece him back together as an unstoppable crime-fighting cyborg called ‘RoboCop.’ Impervious to bullets and bombs, and equipped with high-tech weaponry, RoboCop quickly makes a name for himself by cleaning up the crime-ridden streets of violence-ravaged Detroit.”

— from MGM Entertainment production notes

Accessories: The silver-colored cyborg stands almost 8 inches tall and has fantastic detail down to working piston joints on the back of his legs and the “OCP POLICE - 001” logo engraved on his helmet and upper thigh. He comes with his famous firearm and a display base with bullets and automatic weapons lying on it.

Price: $9.99

Read all about it: Marvel Comics offered a 23-issue RoboCop series in the early 1990s ($2.50 each). However, I would look for the famous RoboCop Versus Terminator miniseries from Dark Horse Comics, issued in 1992 ($2.50 each). The four-part effort was created by legendary writer Frank Miller and legendary artist Walter Simonson.

Words to buy by: The perfect three-dimensional statue featuring an exact likeness of Peter Weller’s mandible and film costume looks awesome on a desktop but will find little use in a play area.

Strange but cool

Here’s a short look at bizarre products with a pop-culture twist:

• Abe Sapien Maquette (Sideshow Collectibles, $300). The hottest statues and 12-inch figures based on the movie adaptation of the Hellboy comic book have come from a company known for its three-dimensional representations of cinema and popular-culture icons. This 1/3-scale, almost-2-foot-tall polystone figure of the amphibious, paranormal investigator features translucent leg fins and hand webbing. It’s also an actual design study of the character for the film before the full-size costume of Abe was produced. The 1,000-piece limited edition stands on a base emblazoned with the B.P.R.D. logo and was sculpted by the artists at Spectral Motion (the company used for the movie’s creature creation).

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

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