- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

Second of two parts

What a difference a winter makes. Last year, retail toy buyers braved a blizzard — the likes of which would make X-Men’s Storm proud — to see the hottest popular-culture products based on movies, television shows, comic books and cartoon properties.

This year, however, at the four-day American International Toy Fair, the only flakes found were in the hallways of the toy building and on the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center’s floor. They were seen driving around in go-karts or wearing brightly colored costumes while desperately seeking attention from an overwhelmed audience looking at thousands of potential sales bonanzas for the year ahead.

Of course, the action figure was a large part of the displays. I’m proudly revealing a smidgen of the upcoming gems and complimentary products guaranteed to be purchased and proudly displayed by the pop-culture lover this year.

Dreams & Visions

The doll-designing company known for redesigning Hasbro’s G.I. Joe into 12-inch tributes of characters featured in DC Comics’ silver-age war comic books follows up its successful release of Sergeant Rock and his soldiers of Easy Company, Enemy Ace and Blackhawk with the Unknown Soldier this fall. The limited-edition figure features three interchangeable masks, including the famous bandaged one, cloth garb, a German officer’s disguise and comic art packaging. Expect the high-end collectible to run in the $100 range.

Hasbro

• The home of G.I. Joe continues to churn out “Star Wars”-related figures and games geared toward both the DVD release of the first trilogy of films this fall and the anticipated next chapter of the saga in 2005. In August, fans of the collectible miniature role-playing game HeroClix will find a familiar setting in a new game sporting 3-inch, pre-painted plastic creatures and characters from the classic era of “Star Wars.”

The line of 60 figures will be inserted randomly in both Entry and Expansion packs. The initial Entry Pack (priced at $19.99) provides all the starting materials a player needs to become familiar with the game — including 16 icons from Episodes IV, V and VI, a basic rulebook, a 20-sided die and a checklist for the set.

• In other Hasbro news: Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” scheduled for holiday season release, will give youngsters the chance to re-create plenty of the film’s moments with a complete line of action figures. The animated feature film explores the life and family of a superhero. Included in Hasbro’s line are the 12-inch Incredible Mr. Incredible ($24.99), featuring authentic-feeling skin and voice capabilities activated by pushing down on his belt buckle, plus 5-inch deluxe action figures ($9.99), each offering a signature action movement and accessory.

Mattel

• Fans who enjoy the Cartoon Network’s Justice League with the help of some slick 3½-inch action figures will have the ultimate interactive diorama this September to re-create the popular animated show starring DC Comic’s legendary superheroes. The Watchtower Playset Command ($42.99) uses a trigger switch to open the space station while lights flash and alarms go off as the room, docking station and attack pod unfold. It also features missile-launching action from the battle towers, sound effects and a trap door.

• DC Comics’ Batman debuts this fall in a new cartoon on both the Cartoon Network and Kids WB, while getting a high-tech upgrade with a new line of figures. A 6-inch doll ($38.99) and complimentary Batmobile ($51.99) both use a detachable module with an LCD screen with which to interact and to download content from the new animated show.

Toy Biz

• The home of Marvel Comics action figures pays tribute to the release of the next Spider-Man film in July with a complete line of products. Two of my favorites include a Doc Ock Arm ($9.99) with titanium tentacle grabbing action and two Ultimate Web Shooting Spider-Man ($19.99) figures, which shoot water or projectiles from their wrists, depending on the three attachments used.

• The successful Marvel Legends series offers a comic book and 6-inch, highly detailed action figure for a reasonable price ($7.99). Figures in this year’s lineups range from Deadpool with the Mike Allred-designed Doop, Juggernaut and Movie Punisher (included in the July assortment) to Ultimate Captain Marvel, Ice-Man and Man Thing (all featured in the November assortment).

Mezco Toyz

• Mezco, gearing up for the April 2 release of the film “Hellboy” (based on Mike Mignola’s creation for Dark Horse Comics) has assembled a wicked line of multiarticulated figures to please the paranormal investigator’s fan base. Look for 8-inch versions of the hero along with Abe Sapien, Sammael and Rasputin with Baby Hellboy ($12.99), an 18-inch rotocast version of Hellboy ($44.95) and a line of those interchangeable, 3-inch block figures, Mez-Itz, sold in blister-carded two-packs ($8.99) to reach store shelves simultaneously with the movie’s release.

SideShow Toy Inc.

• Actor Hugh Jackman takes off the Wolverine claws and dons a brim hat and trench coat this May for the title role of monster hunter Van Helsing in the potential box-office smash of the same name. SideShow Toy Inc., the company known for bringing Universal’s horror legends to three-dimensional life, offers a slick lineup for action figure collectors. The 12-inch gems include Van Helsing and Anna as well as Dracula in human form ($39.99 each) and a stunning 18-inch representation of Bram Stoker’s vampire slayer. ($200) .

Bandai

• The master toy licensee for the popular Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics series Teen Titans begins loading up toy shelves this spring with 3½-inch action figures of Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven. Each has seven points of articulation and weapons (priced at $1.99 for a single-pack, and $3.50 for a two-pack).

In August, the Teen Titans home, aka the Launch Tower play set ($29.99), is adding missiles and cannons that can be aimed through a scope. It’s packaged with one 3½-inch figure and a vehicle that can be shot out of the Tower to attack supervillains by using controllers in the back.

• Astro Boy, now 50, has returned to U.S. shores via a new cartoon on the Kids’ WB. Bandai will support Osamu Tezuka’s favorite robot with a full line of action figures this summer. In addition to 5- and 6-inch beauties, this gem of the collection will debut in June with an 11-inch Astro Interactive doll ($24.99) that comes with five collectible cards that will activate various lights and sounds (via a card reader in the arm). The doll will have eyes that light up, faux flames in the feet and hidden compartments that will reveal his interior circuitry.

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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