- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2010

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.

Leia (Hoth outfit)

With its latest Star Wars Vintage Collection, Hasbro is taking a nostalgia trip to the days when Kenner ruled the toy galaxy far, far away.

The 3-inch gems feature current sculpts of some classic characters from “The Empire Strikes Back,” including Bespin Luke Skywalker, Echo Base Han Solo, Darth Vader, Cloud Car Pilot, Princess Leia and bounty hunter Dengar.

The packaging, however, is pure retro, right from the 1980s toy shelves, with cardboard backs and designs from the original display cards.

Figure profile: From StarWars.com — Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Alliance had set up a new base on the frozen world of Hoth. Princess Leia was one of the commanding members of Echo Base. When the Imperials attacked Hoth, Leia took the initiative and acted in a number of command roles, ordering the evacuation of the base. Leia’s access to her own escape transport was cut off, but she managed to escape in Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon.

Accessories: This miniature version of Princess Leia kind of looks like actress Carrie Fisher (the braided hair is dead-on) and can be posed through 12 points of articulation.

She comes with a slightly large Rebel blaster and removable jacket vest to show off the detail of her cool painted snow gear.

For a more complex “accessory,” fans can buy five of the vintage figures and send the UPC codes (plus $6.99) to receive a rocket-firing 1980s Boba Fett figure to chase Leia across the galaxy.

While we’re on a spending spree, and for those willing to open the package, I would buy the Darth Vader figure featuring cloth garb and a three-piece, breakaway helmet that can be removed to reveal the scarred head of Sebastian Shaw, the actor who played old-man Anakin before actor Hayden Christensen jumped aboard the saga.

Price: $7.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics compiles Marvel Comics‘ adaptation of the 1980 “Star Wars” sequel into a trade paperback with Classic Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back ($9.95), starring the classic team-up of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson.

What’s it worth? A fan’s age obviously will determine this figure’s fate. Older collectors immediately will encase the packaged Leia in plastic to slip next to their original figure, while younger owners will simply rip open the card to start new adventures with their Star Wars friends.

Tony Stark (Mech Test)

Hot Toys’ 12-inch collectible figures offer highly articulated, detailed versions of pop-culture stars. The Movie Masterpiece series includes Apollo Creed from “Rocky,” Silk Spectre from “Watchmen,” Barney Ross from “The Expendables,” the T-1000 from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and Iron Man’s alter ego caught in the middle of testing his latest high-tech device.

Figure profile: From box insert  While traveling overseas on business, Tony Stark is gravely injured after being ambushed and taken hostage. While in captivity, Stark is ordered to build a superweapon capable of worldwide devastation. Instead, determined to escape and ultimately confront the demons of his past, Stark constructs a nearly invincible suit of armor and escapes. Upon his return to America, he becomes the red-and-gold warrior Iron Man, vowing to don his powerful armor to protect the world.

Accessories: Take a deep breath; the highlights to this 1:6 scale ode to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark include 34 points of articulation; cloth outfit; interchangeable shoes, mechanical boots and gauntlets (the micro detail with the wiring and faux mechanics is phenomenal); a belt with a pair of cloth pouches; a battery pack; and two pairs of detachable gloved hands.

Some extra magic involves LED-lighted boot beams, palm repulsars and a chest arc reactor (batteries included). This trick relies on flipping a switch on the figure’s back and plugging a box containing batteries into a socket on the web of wiring covering Stark’s torso. I’ll note that extreme caution is necessary when handling and manipulating the wiring.

Stark can pose on a translucent display stand, appearing to hover next to his trusty robotic assistant wielding a fire extinguisher. That little robot is its own marvel, with wires attached to the base and offering ridiculous detail and 360-degree swivel motion. Add the included backdrop and 6-inch-square piece of flooring for an incredible diorama.

Price: $159.99, available through Sideshow Collectibles (www.sideshowcollectibles.com)

Read all about it:Marvel Comics delivers a pair of Silver Age retrospectives devoted to the Crimson Avenger with Iron Man Omnibus hardcover books ($99 each).

Volume 1 compiles Tales of Suspense Nos. 39 through 83 and Tales to Astonish No. 82, while Volume 2 includes Tales of Suspense Nos. 84 through 89, Iron Man & Sub Mariner No.1 and Iron Man Nos. 1 through 25.

The issues highlight classic writing from Stan Lee and Archie Goodwin along with legendary art from Gene Colan and George Tuska.

What’s it worth? Only collectors need apply here, as this incredible version of Tony Stark must be relegated immediately to a museum-quality display case. The figure will dazzle visitors with a dead-on likeness of Mr. Downey and may elicit a gasp when his chest lights up. It’s one of the best Hot Toys figures I have seen.

Pop Vault

A look at more items devoted to the pop culture of superheroes.

Batman and Joker Mez-Itz (Mezco Toyz, $40)  These 6-inch rotocast vinyl figures offer a comic-book-style design of two archenemies from the DC Comics universe.

Think miniature plastic versions of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons as Batman comes in a blue-and-gray costume with cloth cape and puffy Batarang to hold while the Clown Prince of Crime wears a purple suit with removable plastic fedora.

Five points of articulation offer some limited posabilty for the figures, which will look great in a home-entertainment display mantel or office cubicle.

DC Universe Squatz (Wild Planet, $9.99)  About the length of Shaquille O’Neal’s toenail, these bizarre comic-book-themed micro-figures offer odes to familiar comic-book heroes and villains.

For 10 bucks, owners get a couple of compact, Little People-like entities in a typical Battle Pack, both entombed in a mysterious substance that’s dissolved in water.

Once released, the little fellows look like sequential-art stars, including Batman, Joker, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Hawkman, Lex Luthor, Gorilla Grodd and the Penguin. Their heads can pop off to trade with others, but I’m not really seeing the play potential here.

One character is revealed on the packaging, while the other is kept secret in a bid to add to the collectibility factor. I’m guessing it won’t  $10 is a ton of money to spend for the Squatz experience.

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