- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

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

Steel

Mattel pleases discerning fans of DC Comics’ legendary characters with its latest line of 6-inch-tall action figures devoted to the Superman universe. Released under the logo of S3, Select Sculpt Series, each multiarticulated figure has been designed by the legendary team called the Four Horsemen and looks great. Currently on store shelves are Kal-El, Supergirl, Black Suit Superman, Darkseid, Bizarro, Mongul, Doomsday, Parasite and a brilliant engineer who helped fill the hero void when Superman temporarily died.

Figure profile: From the DC Comics Web site (dccomics.com): “Former weapons researcher John Henry Irons created a powerful suit of armor and became the new protector of Metropolis after the Man of Steel was killed in battle. Wielding a hammer and calling himself Steel, Irons quickly became a hero of the people. But when he discovers that gangs are using the weapons he once developed, Steel dedicates himself to a new mission focused on stopping street violence in the inner city.”

Accessories: Besides the nonremovable soft plastic red cape that stands out against his silvery, muscle-bound and riveted body and costume, the multiarticulated Steel gets a massive hammer to put Thor to shame. He also gets a flimsy cardboard diorama in which to stand. (It must be built.)

Price: $9.99

Read all about it: With the early groups of figures, called the DC Superheroes line rather than S3, owners got a slick comic-book reprint to accompany the figure rather than the cheap backdrop provided now. Sequential-art fans will want to find the trade paperback “Steel: Forging a Hero” ($19.95), which collects 10 issues from his appearances in Man of Steel and his discontinued monthly series.

Words to buy by: A carefully constructed figure with enough detail to place on a display shelf and not in the hands of a 7-year-old (although he will put up a big fight), Steel is the perfect example of Mattel’s commitment to produce affordable and great-looking toys for the hard-core fan.

Flight Strike Robin

Mattel maintains its licensing alliance with “The Batman” through a gadget-rich line of action figures. Based on the popular Warner Bros. animated show, the ShadowTek Ultra series offers 6-inch-tall, multiarticulated versions of characters that look ripped from the show, with a Batmobile trunk’s worth of themed accessories. Versions of the Dark Knight are fitted out with the weapons and costumes of Scuba Assault, Ninja Warrior, Electro-Armor and Twin Blaster. The Boy Wonder is also ready to take to the skies.

Figure profile: From the DC Comics Web site (dccomics.com): “Gotham City was only a one-night stop for Haly’s Circus. Management ignored the mob’s request for protection money, until the Flying Graysons fell from their trapeze. While the rest of the audience screamed in terror, Bruce Wayne relived the trauma of a murdered family through the eyes of the Graysons’ son Dick. Recognizing the boy’s pain, Wayne adopted the orphan as his ward and the Dark Knight began training his first squire to become an expert crime fighter in his own right.”

Accessories: Robin, in Super D style (a Japanese design that uses a head that’s larger in proportion to the body than in a typical action figure) is dressed in a stealthy black-and-yellow suit and comes with — get ready, kiddies — a staff, binoculars, goggles, a harness with a hologram logo, a utility belt, a jet pack (which opens up to cloth wings), a rocket and launcher, and Birdarangs.

Price: $14.99

Read all about it: DC Comics offers the kid-friendly monthly comic-book series Batman Strikes! ($2.25 each), based on the cartoon. By the way, issue No. 29 brought Robin into the pop pulp-paper fold.

Words to buy by: Through simple-to-read packaging that’s opened easily, along with irresistible accessories and small-hands-friendly designs, Mattel’s ShadowTek figures cry out for younger fans to grab them and quickly get immersed in the rich-play-potential world of Batman.

Strange but cool

A short look at bizarre products with a pop-culture twist.

Classic Mach 5 with Speed Racer

(Art Asylum, $29.99)

Speed Racer stays relevant to a new generation of fans with a film in 2008, a Web-based series of cartoons and more cool toys. This 15-inch-long version of the famed Mach 5 comes with a removable canopy, two passengers, a detailed interior, a working trunk, attachable and spinnable front buzz-saw blades, a pop-up camera and — get this — attachable auto jacks that actually spring. Owners also get a Speed figure with 14 points of articulation, a helmet for it and a DVD with three webisodes on it. It’s the perfect toy package to introduce youngsters to the Speed Racer legend.

Galactica

(Diamond Select Toys, $149.99)

The Sci-Fi Channel series “Battlestar Galactica” gets a pricey tribute with a miniature re-creation of its famous spaceship. To be precise, it’s a 16-inch-long resin statue of the battlestar, sculpted by Gabriel Koerner, using the show’s actual digital schematics. Limited to 2,003 pieces, the gem gets two pair of differently sized, interchangeable flight pods and a hand-numbered base with the BSG logo. Those 247 humans in need of a more exclusive memory will also find an excruciatingly limited, chrome-covered edition of the normally massive vessel.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (www.washingtontimes.com/blogs/) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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