- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2008

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 Speed Racer Toy Vault.

Battle Morph Mach 6

Mattel delivers a high-performance toy lineup for Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Speed Racer.” Bringing the thrills of Tatsuo Yoshida’s racing legend to life, the company mixes its Hot Wheels and action-figure expertise into a speedy and colorful set of products. Its core collection includes 1:64 scale cars, tracks, 3 1/2-inch figures, deluxe vehicles, role-play items and a premiere piece of pop culture updated for the movie.

Figure profile: From Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Speed Racer” Web site (http://speedracerthemovie.warnerbros.com/): Hurtling down the track, careening around, over and through the competition, Speed Racer is a natural behind the wheel. Born to race cars, Speed is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized - the legendary Rex Racer, whose death in a race has left behind a legacy Speed is driven to fulfill.

Accessories: This 14-inch-long version of the Mach 6 is a rugged piece of toy tech that makes the Batmobile look like an Edsel.

Owners simply grasp the side of the vehicle with one hand and pull on the rear spoiler to transform the car into a weapon of mass destruction. The hood splits open to reveal the homing-bird launcher embedded in front of the engine. A saw blade pops from the side of the body. Surrounding the driving compartment are two missile launchers, another launcher in the canopy and a pair of machine guns.

All comes to life through red flashing lights, weapon sound effects and some audio snippets of encouragement from Speed, such as “See you at the finish line.”

When done delivering the firepower, owners simply push the spoiler back in and all the cool gadgets are hidden away.nough to squeeze him into the car. Unfortunately, his cheap design pales in comparison to the Mach 6.

Price: $34.99

Read all about it: IDW Publishing brought the wild driver back into sequential art with its four-issue miniseries Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer ($3.99 each). It is available in a trade paperback ($17.99).

What’s it worth: New and old fans will go, go, go crazy for this souped-up version of Speed’s primary mode of transportation. It’s beautifully designed, rugged and even includes a seat belt to keep safety at the forefront of junior’s role-playing experience.

Pop bytes

A look at more toys tied to the latest version of Speed Racer.

Race-a-Round Sound Helmet (Mattel, $24.99, uses three AAA batteries, included)-This full-size play piece not only offers a solidly made representation of Speed’s headgear (not made for protection) but also includes motion-activated sounds. Owners put on the helmet, pull down the translucent visor and take part in a virtual race.

Speed Racer Funkeys Starter Set (Radica, $39.99)- Odd creatures that exist in the real world as miniature collectible figures and in a rich online universe have embraced the Speed Racer legend.

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