- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

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.

Gandalf the Grey

Sideshow Collectibles brings another of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed characters to three-dimensional life with its 1:6 scale tribute to one of Middle-earth’s most powerful wizards.

The 12-inch Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf stands next to a potent lineup of figures, starring Frodo Baggins, Legolas Greenleaf, Aragorn, Samwise Gamgee and Boromir: Son of Denethor.

Figure profile: From the packaging - As a member of the Istari, the ancient and powerful Gandalf the Grey is sent to Middle-earth to orchestrate the forces of light against the growing darkness. Gandalf is a trusted ally and provides wise counsel to the many peoples of Middle-earth.

Accessories: This version of Gandalf, sculpted by Tim Miller to look just like Sir Ian McKellen’s portrayal in the recent movies, boasts more than 30 points of articulation.

He gets a cloth robe, tunic, shirt, pants and cloak, all finely stitched. He also comes with boots, his pointed hat, haversack, famed Glamdring sword and scabbard (faux-leather strapping no less), a pair of interchangeable hands and a display base.

I couldn’t stop admiring the pair of staffs — one topped by a crystal (helpful in stopping pesky orcs) and one for physical support that includes a tethered tobacco pouch and removable pipe.

Price: $89.99

Read all about it: There’s no “Lord of the Rings” comic-book series yet, but Eclipse Comics offered a three-part sequential-art adaptation of “The Hobbit,” which co-stars Gandalf, in 1989. I read the original books, and the artwork by David Wenzel was gorgeous. Look long and hard online and in specialty stores to find a 2006 revised trade paperback of this gem (averaging $19.99).

What’s it worth: Cinema powerhouses Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro are working on a movie adaptation of “The Hobbit” for 2012 with Mr. McKellen set to reprise the role of Gandalf. I predict this fantastic Sideshow figure will continue to gain in popularity and collectibility as a result. Buy it, pose it and sit next to it while watching Mr. Jackson’s incredible “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Indiana Jones

Based on his adventures in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Sideshow Collectibles’ 12-inch homage to actor Harrison Ford’s celebrated archaeologist features unparalleled detail and accessories for the discerning collector.

The multiarticulated gem is the first in the company’s “Raiders” doll lineup, soon to be joined by Jones’ persistent rival for the Ark of the Covenant, Dr. Rene Belloq, and the coat-hanger-wielding Nazi, Major Arnold Toht.

Figure profile: Paraphrased from the packaging - Indiana Jones, professor of archaeology, is frequently called upon to save priceless relics from falling into the wrong hands. He faces many dangers as he travels the world, battling enemies from power-hungry Nazis to voodoo priests. Jones pieces together mysterious clues, deciphers ancient maps and navigates deadly booby traps in search of forgotten treasures.

Accessories: Indiana is finely fitted with a pleather jacket (detailed down to zipper and stitching), shirt, pants, belt, boots and fedora permanently attached to his noggin. He gets a bounty of stuff, including three extra sets of hands (one set gloved and two bare), an extra head (hat not attached), another fedora (with a fabric lining, no less), a bendable bullwhip, a coiled bullwhip with tie, a golden idol, a molded bag of sand and a satchel with magnetic clasps.

The hero also is packing heat. His impressive arsenal includes a cockable revolver with moving cylinder, and a pistol with a removable clip. In both - believe it or not - you can see the bullets.

Collector-friendly packaging includes images from the film, a magnetic tab to open the threefold box and easy-to-open plastic trays.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with the figure’s 30 articulated joints. A loose neck joint causes the head to flop around, and the knee joints are nearly as loose. Owners need to spend more time appreciating the figure on its display stand and less posing it.

Price: $89.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics keeps Dr. Henry Jones Jr.’s legacy alive in sequential art. The current four-part miniseries Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods ($2.99 each) is up to issue No. 3 and features plenty of Nazis and a “Raiders”-era Indy in action.

What’s it worth: Forget the price for a minute and marvel at sculptor Trevor Grove’s dead-on likeness of Mr. Ford. Now consider that Hasbro Inc. has never been able to accomplish this feat with any of its Han Solo or Indiana Jones 12-inch figures. Yes, it’s a $90 action figure but clearly not for play, only googly-eyed admiration.

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