- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2006

With another holiday season well upon us, here are some last-minute suggestions for the gift giver that are guaranteed to plaster a smile on the face of any cartoon and comic-book lover in the family.

For families and children

Marvel Heroes Wall Stars (Upper Deck, $19.99)

Youngsters unroll a 13-by-37-inch sheet of 10 self-adhesive, precut stickers and use them to adorn their bedroom and playroom walls and furniture with such legends as Wolverine, Thor, Venom and Captain America. Parents will appreciate the lack of mess and ability to quickly detach the decals, while superhero fans will love the comic-book-inspired artwork and especially the included jumbo-sized sticker (12 inches from head to toe) of Spider-Man.

The Batmobile: Ultimate Collectors’ Edition

(LEGO, $68.99)

An 18-inch version of the Dark Knight’s famed vehicle comes to life after meticulous builders assemble 1,045 blocks and pieces. This heavy-duty car boasts rotating engine turbines and booster flames, a seat that reclines, a detailed interior, a viewable engine and classic Bat logos on the wheel caps. Junior builders may have a tough time with the kit, and it could turn into a family project.

My Marvel Heroes Collector’s Monopoly

(USAopoly, $35.95)

The classic property-trading game is now customizable as players set up the board using more than 100 of Marvel’s comic-book heroes and villains instead of famous real estate. Static-cling character labels of such stars as Dazzler, Abomination, Dr. Strange and Carnage are placed on the 22 available property squares, while equivalent name labels are attached to the title deed cards. Players choose from the six zinc tokens of Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Wolverine, Kingpin, Ghost Rider and Dark Phoenix and begin the buying frenzy.

In addition to the comic art labels, the game features a fantastic collage of character art in the center of the board. A 60-minute speed-play option also is available for families who do not have days to play out a typical Monopoly extravaganza.

Scene It? Marvel Deluxe Edition

(Screenlife, $39.95)

A mixture of trivia cards and a pair of DVDs loaded with film clips, animation, sounds and more questions gives fans of the Marvel Universe a multimedia challenge that mixes a traditional board game with on-screen fun. Up to six players move hero-themed tokens (e.g. Thor’s helmet and Captain America’s shield) around a game board and answer questions in categories determined with rolls of a die. Questions can be as simple as, “Name the character who says it’s clobberin’ time” or as brain-numbing as, “Name the sole female founder of the Avengers.”

For the serious pop-culture lover

The Thing (Corgi USA, $75)

The home of die-cast vehicles branches out into a line of 1:12-scale, hand-painted metal figures based on Marvel Comics’ roster. The heaviest and coolest arrives in the form of Ben Grimm’s orange rocky alter ego, who anchors the legendary Fantastic Four and is posed to start clobberin’. With a nod to the Marvel Adventures’ style of the Thing, this beautiful statue, limited to 2,500 pieces, is a weighty monster, and collectors will need to hire a structural engineer if they wish to place him on any standard wall shelf.

Symbiote Spider-Man Maquette

(Diamond Select Toys, $85

Limited to 600 pieces worldwide, this 10-inch-tall statue, sculpted by Gabriel Marquez, presents Peter Parker in his famed black costume, which will be featured in the next Spider-Man movie this summer. He stands atop a hand-numbered black-and-red base and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Batmobile Bronze Age Collection

(Corgi-USA, $28)

As Corgi continues its celebration of the vehicles seen in Batman comic books, collectors can get a pair of 1:43-scale die-cast replicas of the Caped Crusader’s favorite mode of transportation in a hinged-lid box. One vehicle is a classic 1970s import coupe that mixes Jaguar and Mercedes designs. It has doors that open. Next, the 1980s Batmobile offers side fins, opening hood and open cockpit and pays homage to the version seen in the “Challenge of the Superfriends” cartoon. Both come with seated miniature metal versions of the Dynamic Duo. This limited-edition release (5,000) is wrapped in an embossed Bat logo sleeve with a numbered certificate of authenticity.

For readers

‘Disney Comics: The Classic Collection’

(Disney Editions, $49.95)

Owners will find sequential-art adaptations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, all reprinted from the golden age of Disney Comics of the 1940s and 1950s. The 256-page hard-bound book is a colorful inspiration for parents to share with their younger readers.

‘Stan Lee’s Amazing Marvel Universe’

(Sterling Publishing, $50)

Marvel’s former editor in chief, Roy Thomas, chronicles the characters from the “House of Ideas” through a book that not only lets fans read about some amazing heroes but hears from the man who created them. This 200-page color, indexed monograph will be remembered not only for its fantastic reproductions of some amazing sequential art but for 45 minutes’ worth of audio provided by Stan “the Man” Lee, Marvel’s patriarch.

When readers see a numerical sign in the book, they simply enter a code in the attached player and hear 68 entries from the 2-inch speaker that offer Mr. Lee’s thoughts on his life and favorite Marvel moments. They will learn such tidbits as the origin of Fin Fang Foom, why the Hulk went from the color gray to green, and about the introduction of Mary Jane Watson into Peter Parker’s world. Easily one of the best ideas to chronicle the history of comics ever created.

‘The Art of Making Monster House’

(Insight Editions, $49.95)

A fantastic look into the artistry and latest computer-animation techniques from this year’s definitive haunted-house film can be found in this hands-on 168-page, hard-bound scrapbook. Author J.W. Rinzler brilliantly mixes text, pull-out pages, trading cards, cardboard pamphlets, envelopes, a miniposter and handwritten Post-it notes with loads of color art from the sets, storyboards and animation to reveal the secrets behind the movie. I especially loved the overlays used to show how motion-capture technology brought facial expressions of the characters to life.

‘Conan: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Savage Barbarian’

(DK Publishing, $24.99)

Author Robert E. Howard’s Hybordian hero has been featured on and off in comic books for the past 36 years. This 160-page, indexed, colorful monograph uses illustrations culled from his many sequential-art series and text from Conan scholar Roy Thomas to offer a definitive encyclopedic resource of his history and major adventures.

Broken up by the many hats Conan has worn over his life, from thief to chieftain to warrior and king, the hard-bound gem also packs pages with features on all of his friends and enemies as well as a two-page map of his world. However, readers will really revel in art from such masters as Frank Frazetta, John Buscema, Alex Ross and Barrry Windsor Smith, who bring the Cimmerian to life.

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