- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2003

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.

Black Cat

The dynamic duo of action-figure makers, Toy Biz and Diamond Select Toys, continues to highlight current characters in the Marvel Comics universe with a discriminating line of Marvel Select pieces.

Combining detailed sculpting with limited articulation, the 7-inch, deluxe delights have been arriving in specialty stores almost every month since September. The latest one is a feline femme fatale who will always have feelings for a certain arachnid hero.

Figure profile: Whether possessing probability-altering powers or forced to rely solely on her athletic prowess, this reformed cat burglar is bad news. Shedding her criminal tendencies, Felicia Hardy fell in love with the Amazing Spider-Man and joined his heroic crusade — wrapping the web slinger around her pretty little paw. When their relationship ended, however, she proved there’s truth to the ancient superstition that it’s bad luck to cross the path of a black cat.

Accessories: The gorgeous-looking, very healthy heroine gets a safe with a working door and spinning handle, a pile of cash, a large diamond, a string of pearls, a miniature script from filmmaker Kevin Smith and an in-scale, non-articulated web-slinging admirer who can get mounted on the brick wall display to look in on his former gal pal.

Price: $18.99

Read all about it: The figure is based on Marvel Comics’ 2002 four-part miniseries the Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do ($2.99 each), written by Mr. Smith and illustrated by Terry Dodson.

Words to buy by: Every time I think Diamond Select has put out its best figure, such as its Ultimate Captain America or Origins Wolverine, the company tops itself. The Black Cat, sculpted by Steve Kewis, purrfectly captures Mr. Dodson’s renderings and explains why Spider-Man might consider leaving Mary Jane Watson for the buxom knockout.

Predator 2

McFarlane Toys spotlights two legendary film creatures of extraterrestrial origins in its sixth series of Movie Maniacs. The four highly detailed 8-inch action figures and boxed set make up the line that explores the designs of H.R. Giger’s Alien monster and 20th Century Fox’s Predator.

Lucky sci-fi film buffs can acquire a diorama of the Mother Alien inspecting a recent human acquisition, a Warrior Alien, a Dog Alien, Predator the Hunter and a Predator having a bit of trouble with an appendage.

Figure profile: Predators, also known as the Yautja, are a species of interplanetary warriors who travel across the galaxy looking for the perfect beings to hunt. Their sport involves sophisticated safaris as a lone Predator faces off against one or a group of opponents, with the victor receiving a piece of his victim to add to a coveted trophy collection. The Predator has an almost flawless record of wins, thanks to a variety of armaments, strength and survival skills.

Accessories: Our obviously inexperienced friend comes with a left arm (spattered with fluorescent green blood) that can be removed to simulate actor Danny Glover’s character — Lt. Mike Harrigan from the film “Predator 2” — a smart disk (think of a sophisticated circular boomerang) and a helmet that attaches to his noggin to hide that ugly mug he calls a face. He also comes with a display base so pathetic, it is not even worth discussing.

Price: $10.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics produced a slew of Predator sequential-art stories between 1989 and 2001. Fans might want to track down the two-part “Predator 2” movie adaptation from 1990 ($2.50 each), on which the action figure is based, or try out the “Alien vs. Predator” trade paperback ($19.99), collecting the five-part 1989 series.

Words to buy by: This 21-point articulated gem really shines thanks to its uncanny duplication of its on-screen counterpart, but fans with a couple more dollars really need to buy the Alien Queen Deluxe Boxed Set ($25.99) for a 3-D scene guaranteed to induce nightmares.

Strange but cool

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

Super Hero Shoes (Payless Shoesource, $12.99 and up). Payless keeps younger Marvel Zombies happy with an all-encompassing line of character-themed footwear. Using illustrations of the Hulk and Spider-Man, the line includes various forms of sneakers, an aqua-terra shoe for the pool, a sport sandal and plush house slipper to suck the cash out of parents’ wallets.

The product promotion, dubbed Super Hero Summer, begins immediately at Payless stores nationwide, and while supplies last, the company is offering an exclusive coloring book with posters of both characters with shoe purchase.

Sinbad Kids Meal (Burger King, $3.99). Dreamworks’ animated film “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” gets a promotional push from the home of the Whopper.

Through July 27, each Big Kids Meal or regular Kids Meal contains one of six interactive Sinbad toys, along with a collectible Constellation Card featuring light-capturing designs that when held up to any illuminating source reveal a mysterious astrological creature.

Overall, there are some cool items that range from a tail-twisting sea monster, a light-up water siren and the main protagonist sliding down an 11-inch mast that should give fans of the cartoon plenty of playtime while they munch on their fast food.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853; e-mail [email protected]; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002.

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