- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

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

Xaltotun

McFarlane Toys continues to sate collectors’ demands for reminders of author Robert E. Smith’s Hyborian King with a second series of Conan action figures.

Based on Mr. Smith’s classic pulp story “The Hour of the Dragon,” these 6-inch sculpted marvels include Black Dragon commander Pallantides, the monstrous Haunter of the Pits, a leaping Conan, the slave girl Zenobia and an evil sorcerer looking to return to his glory years.

Figure profile: A cabal of royal conspirators hatches a plot to overthrow King Conan. Using arcane arts, they bring back to life a long-dead High Priest of Set. The Xaltotun lives once more after lying mummified in his hieroglyph-covered jade sarcophagus for 3,000 years and now hatches his own dark plots.

Accessories: The hunched undead skeleton is dressed in ornate Egyptian garb and leans on a sturdy scepter while mounted on his cracked base. The creepy Xaltotun also arrives with a book of evil spells tethered to a rope on his belt, which also contains a scroll and powder bag.

Price: $14.99

Read all about it: The whole adventure can be found in Marvel Comics’ 1970s sequential-art series Giant-Size Conan, Nos. 1 through 4 ($22 each in near mint condition). However, it is just a matter of time before Dark Horse Comics’ current Conan sequential-art team of Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord adapt the story in the monthly series ($2.99 each).

Words to buy by: The company sets the standard for the Conan action figure by, intentionally or unintentionally, tapping into interpretations of the hero from such great artists as Frank Frazetta, Ken Kelly and Boris Vallejo. Todd McFarlane and his gifted gang definitely have given collectors an affordable mix of statues that will provide a feast for the fantasy lover’s eyes.

Emma Frost

Diamond Select Toys continues its relationship with the home of Spider-Man and the X-Men to deliver a multiarticulated line of action figures. The Marvel Select series features 7-inch-tall representations of heroes and villains from comicdom encompassing pivotal moments from actual sequential-art books. One of the latest pieces comes from last year’s Astonishing X-Men No. 1 and mixes a famous mutant bad girl with a heavy dose of cheesecake.

Figure profile: A seductress with the brains to back up her body of work, Emma Frost amassed wealth and influence enough to attract the attention of the planet’s social elite. As White Queen of the exclusive Hellfire Club, Frost was at odds with the heroic X-Men because of her frequent power plays. Now she stands with her genetic brethren in defense of a world that hates and fears them.

As a consequence of continued mutation, Emma Frost can assume a diamond-hard, nearly indestructible form. Also, she possesses various telepathic talents, including the ability to read minds and influence the thoughts of others.

Accessories: This 7-inch-tall, blue-eyed, blond heartbreaker boasts 16 points of articulation down to ankles to support her on stiletto heels. She comes with flaming logs, a grate and a fireplace mantel on which to display her, which even includes a trio of painted portraits by sequential-art masters Julie Bell and Greg Horn.

Price: $18.99

Read all about it: She first appeared in Uncanny X-Men No. 129 ($55 in near mint condition), but readers looking for the current interpretation of the character will enjoy the monthly Astonishing X-Men title that conveniently has been compiled in a pair of trade paperbacks, “Volume 1: Gifted” and “Volume 2: Dangerous” ($14.99 each), covering the first 12 issues of the series.

Words to buy by: Sculptor Steve Kiwus’ gorgeous interpretation of the character will provide many ogling opportunities for older male collectors but do little for youngsters just looking for an action figure to, well, put into action.

Strange but cool

“Star Wars, Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” has pulled in more than $800 million worldwide since its May release, and that has given pop-culture companies plenty of reasons to continue offering a high-end mix of products based on a galaxy far, far away.

Darth Vader Light Saber

(Master Replicas, $119.99)

For serious collectors of the Jedi’s favorite weapon, Master Replicas delivers its FX Edition line. It is not only meticulously crafted to please LucasFilm’s specifications, but loaded with multimedia moments.

This 44-inch, chrome-plated beauty is the official reproduction of the Lord of the Sith’s light saber used in “The Empire Strikes Back.” It features cinema-realistic power-up and power-down light effects illuminating the 44-inch polycarbonate blade, authentic sound effects digitally recorded from the movie, and eight motion-sensor-controlled sound effects such as powering, whooshing and clashing noises when it makes contact.

The authentic Jedi experience only requires three AA batteries, and the prized piece also can be mounted on the included display stand.

Luke Skywalker

(Sideshow Collectibles, $250)

Nothing will irritate a wife more than having her spouse proudly place next to her Waterford crystal collection a 17-inch-tall version of young Skywalker as he stares longingly toward Tatooine’s twin suns.

Unless of course, the male can convince the female that this quarter-scale, museum-quality figure, limited to 2,500 pieces, provides a window into his pop-culture soul and represents him as the dreamer of the clan.

It’s worth the monetary risk, considering the meticulous work of the Sideshow design team, which has combined polystone and metal with finely tailored costuming to bring actor Mark Hamill’s interpretation of the character to life.

I would caution that attaching the leather belt and Luke’s binoculars could be a bit daunting, so complete the task away from the expensive crystal.

Legendary Casts: ‘Empire Strikes Back’

(Code 3 Collectibles, $79.99)

Relief-sculpture artistry brings the classic 1980 “Star Wars” movie poster one-sheet to three-dimensional life through this hand-painted, cold-cast resin masterpiece. The 8-by-10-inch work of art, limited to 3,000 pieces, captures all of painter Roger Kastel’s original design, as Han Solo and Princess Leia look into each other’s eyes while Luke Skywalker sits atop a tauntaun, with a massive mask of Vader behind them. All images of the design pop out, even such minor details as cast credits and the laser blasts coming from a trio of X-Wings in the corner.

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