- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2004

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.

Mister Fantastic

Toy Biz continues to apply pressure to the wallets of action-figure collectors with its fifth series of Marvel Legends. Each of the 6-inch, highly posable superheroes and villains comes with a display base and a 32-page comic book. The latest line includes Colossus (with Uncanny X-Men No. 129), Silver Surfer (with Silver Surfer No. 11), Sabretooth (with X-Men No. 6), Nick Fury (with Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 4), Blade II (with poster book) and the elastic member of a legendary team of mutated stars who have existed in sequential-art circles since 1961.

Figure profile: During an experimental space flight, brilliant scientist Reed Richards was exposed to cosmic rays. Upon returning to Earth, he discovered that he was capable of converting his body into a highly malleable state at will. He can stretch, deform, expand or compress himself into any contiguous shape he can imagine. Celebrated around the world as much for his mind as his stretching abilities, Reed Richards commands respect from his peers and family as leader of the Fantastic Four.

Accessories: A detailed, wall-mountable, condensed version of the flying Fantastic Car with foldable bench seat also doubles as a slick display base. The figure also comes with two removable gloved hands that can be replaced with one enormous bendy arm (to demonstrate Richards’ expanding ability) and a Looney Tunes-type mallet appendage to clobber an archvillain. Additionally, Stretcho has 37 points of articulation and bears an uncanny resemblance to an older, underfed and angrier version of Oscar-winning actor Adrian Brody.

Price: $9.99

Read all about it: The Mr. Fantastic package contains the complete 60th issue of the third volume in the Fantastic Four series from Marvel Comics, originally released in 2002. The pivotal book highlights the debut of writer Mark Waid’s work on the title as he presents a week in the life of the superhero family after Reed Richards hires an image consultant for the quartet.

Words to buy by: Toy Biz’s Marvel Legends rule toy-store aisles when it comes to bringing comic-book characters to three-dimensional life. Carefully balancing each figure’s display possibilities with playability has made each one a gorgeous gem. The company also has placed a rare figure in the assortment: a representation of the Red Skull, which will thrill treasure-hunting collectors.

Asajj Ventress

Hasbro takes advantage of Genndy Tartakovsky’s brilliant five-minute Force- inspired animated segments on Cartoon Network with the release of the Star Wars: Clone Wars, the Epic Micro Series action-figure line. These 4-inch, slightly articulated characters are sold exclusively at Target stores. The first set to arrive on shelves features three key heroes from the Clone Wars — Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Mace Windu — and a nasty female villain who wants single-handedly to eliminate the Jedi.

Figure profile: A ruthless and cunning military mastermind of the Confederacy, Asajj Ventress is instrumental in fighting the Jedi during the Clone Wars. Count Dooku discovered the mysterious Asajj Ventress on a war-torn planet shortly after the Battle of Geonosis. Though she never trained as a Jedi, Ventress demonstrates a corrupt mastery of the Force. Under the tutelage of Count Dooku, she has embraced the dark side, using a pair of light sabers to cut down all those who would oppose her.

Accessories: The bald-headed deliverer of death comes with two curved-handle red light sabers and a base imprinted with the Star Wars: Clone Wars label.

Price: $4.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics introduces Asajj to the sequential-art world during the Clone Wars story arc in its monthly Star Wars: Republic title. Fans will want to pick up the trade paperback “Star Wars: Volume 3, Last Stand on Jabiim” ($14.95), which compiles issues 55 through 59, and then grab issue No. 60 ($2.99) for the Dark Jedi battling Obi-Wan Kenobi in her castle.

Words to buy by: The limited supply of the first wave of these beauties combined with fans’ frothing at the mouth over the Clone Wars cartoon may make it difficult for younger children to collect the figures. Not to worry. Wave 2 should be hitting Target stores very soon, and seasoned toy-shopping parents should have a better chance of picking up Count Dooku, Yoda, Durge and a Clone Trooper for their Padawans.

Strange but cool

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

Alien and Predator Mez-Itz (Mezco Toys, $12.99 each). No matter what the 3-inch, interchangeable figures are called — LEGO mates, kubricks, Minimates or Mez-Itz — they continue to garner the attention of collectors through representations of famous pop-culture characters. Mezco offers an ode to a pair of popular sci-fi horror-film species with its sets of micro action figures featuring sculpted heads and painstaking detail.

First, aliens fans will love a set containing a Warrior Alien with a jutting inner jaw, an unfortunate Nostromo Astronaut whose head rotates to reveal an attached face-hugger creature; an egg-riddled platform with extra face hugger ready to hatch and a custom diorama base of the deceased extraterrestrial who first fell victim to the creatures in the 1979 movie.

Next, the Predator set contains three figures. Two, the Hunter and Big Game Predator, are masked. There’s also the unmasked Battle Ravaged Predator with spots of fluorescent green blood. Each comes with a display base and weapons ranging from shoulder-mounted cannons to telescoped spears and razor-sharp disks.

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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