- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

First of two parts

NEW YORK — Despite the celebration of the 40th anniversary of G.I. Joe, the 20th anniversary of the Transformers and the tragic breakup of Barbie and Ken, the comic-book superhero and his animated counterparts dominated this year’s American International Toy Fair.

Most prevalent were the likenesses of a Dark Knight and a certain teenager dressed in a Spider-Man outfit, which were found on everything from children’s chairs to holographic stickers to lava lamps as thousands of suited toy buyers infested booths at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and showrooms in the Toy District during the four-day event.

Once again, Zadzooks was on hand, having whirled through a record 35 appointments in three days to report on some of the best items from a diverse set of toy companies that are sure to empty the wallets of sequential-art lovers.

SideShow Toy Inc.

The famous stone fist wielded by Dark Horse Comics’ and Revolution Films’ Hellboy can be worn by fans in this dense rubber, movie-accurate replica ($200). Taken straight from a mold used for stunt work in the new movie, due in theaters in April, the foam portion of the hand is hollow with a built-in grip. The piece is complete with a black base featuring the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense ) logo and an engraved nameplate.

Disguise

Halloween can happen every day for the Marvel Comics fan, thanks to an avalanche of designs coming from one of the world’s largest costume companies. Children and adults can dress up and take on the roles of such icons as the Punisher, Iron Man, Captain America, Ghost Rider, the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, Thor, Daredevil and Dr. Doom throughout the year (prices range from $7.99 to $899).

Hasbro

G.I. Joe’s home base has placed itself in the tough position of needing to top McFarlane Toys’ awesome action figures from the first “Shrek” movie by taking over as master toy licensor for the sequel. It does top McFarlane in the game department with the May release of Operation: Shrek Edition ($16.99). Yes, it’s just like the original except an ogre lies on the table ready for dissection, as up to four players extract the likes of grubs, ear wax, onion breath and the pain from the buttocks of the popular green behemoth without getting buzzed.

Best Pals Toys

Six Flags Theme Parks have been developing rides and attractions based on the world of DC Comics for more than a decade, and a new toy company has transformed some of their more popular coasters into a line of construction toys. Builders in the Batman Knight Flight ($20) can race the Batmobile against Mr. Freeze, the Joker and Two-Face on a course through Gotham City, all while avoiding the Joker’s acid bath and Mr. Freeze’s ice-ray gun. Meanwhile, the Joker’s Jinx Action Set ($10) lets youngsters power-launch the Batmobile around eight feet of track through a theme park to crash and explode the Joker’s hidden hideout as it spins.

Upper Deck

The company known for its varied line of sports trading cards and its collectible card franchise, Yu-Gi-Oh, hopes to tempt sequential-art lovers this year with its new collectible card games featuring the galaxy of characters from both DC and Marvel Comics. Expect such popular artists as Steve Rude, Brian Steelfreeze and Adam Kubert to illustrate the 220 card core sets in 40-card, two-player starter sets (priced at $12.99) that will be available in April for DC and Marvel Comics fans. Fourteen card booster packs ($2.49) also will be available to enhance the action.

Corgi

I was the proud owner of a Corgi Batmobile in the early 1960s and was thrilled to see the company is bringing a new line of Dark Knight vehicles to toy shelves this year. Collectors will find lines of die-cast replicas in 1:43, 1:16, 1:24 and 1:18 scales ($7.99 to $29.99) highlighting the comic-book versions of the hero’s and villains’ vehicles. The 1:16 and 1:24 also will come with a hand-held Virtual Video Batcommunicator, offering audio snippets and a slide show of the character highlighted. Additionally, the 1:18 Batmobile comes with a transparent hood, cockpit and removable canopy.

Art Asylum

Digger and the boys from Brooklyn jump into the building-blocks business with odes to both Batman and the Justice League. Simply titled the C3 line, the sets incorporate the company’s Minimates block figures with multipiece dioramas and will be released this fall. Some of the coolest ones include:

• The 436-piece Batcave ($49.99) with slide elevator, three figures (heavy assault Batman, Bruce Wayne and the Joker) and interchangeable trading cards for the Batcomputer.

m The 170-piece Batmobile with Dark Knight Batman figure and missile-firing action.

• The 73-piece Darkseid Throne Room with a hidden torture chamber plus Superman and Darkseid figures.

Lego

The Danish building-block company gives fans of Marvel Comics’ arachnid hero multiple sets to construct in May based on Sony’s upcoming “Spider-Man II” movie. Of the seven adventure sets, look for the hottest to be the 294-piece Spider-Man’s Train Rescue ($29.99) and the 480-piece Doc Ock’s Hideout ($49.99), complete with Mary Jane, Harry Osbourne and Spidey minifigures.

Genio Group

Marvel superheroes are primed to teach in the new collectible card game Genio Cards. With the battle cry “the more you know, the stronger you grow,” the War-like challenge revolves around comparing numbers from 360 cards, divided into 30 subjects, including mythology, American heroes, insects, astronomy and natural wonders. The cards, according to the Web site www.geniocards.com, are designed to take fans “on an amazing journey from the birth of our universe to the farthest reaches of outer space,” with each game hosted by the likes of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil and Captain America. Each card features a number to challenge an opponent with a fact related to an educational topic, and the highest number wins. The Genio Starter pack includes an album, a 36-card mega deck and limited edition hologram card ($19.99).

Next week: Action figures in all shapes and sizes.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski/The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington D.C. 20002.

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