- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 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.

Batbot Batman

The Dark Knight returns in an animated format September 11 on the Kids WB, and Mattel helps celebrate with a complete lineup of action figures, vehicles and a play set based on the cartoon.

Children looking to delve into the Caped Crusader’s world can choose initially from 5-inch figures of Bruce Wayne/Batman in various brightly colored costumes, plus the Joker and a trio of deluxe figures (each boasting heavy armor and firepower).

Figure profile: In his third year of being the Batman, billionaire bachelor Bruce Wayne is just finding his way as protector, defender and superhero while balancing his public persona. Living in Gotham, a metropolis where shadows run long and deep, this younger crime fighter confronts a classic rogues’ gallery of evil.

The arsenal of adversaries includes the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Riddler and Man-Bat as the Caped Crusader’s war on crime jumps to the next level with an advanced remote-controlled invention he dubs the Bat-Wave.

Accessories: Dressed in permanently installed red-and-gray armor, the vigilante comes with detachable bat wings, a translucent helmet and a cannon shield with a missile launcher.

Parents with money burning a hole in their utility belts will be pleased to learn that Batman gets a newly designed Batmobile (priced at $19.99) with buttons that trigger lights, sounds and missiles.

There’s also a 42-inch-tall Batcave ($39.99) that requires about 30 minutes of assembly time. It needs to be mounted to a door or affixed to a wall to withstand the intense amount of sliding, swinging, elevating, missile launching and costume changing that can be performed within its four levels.

Price: $10.99

Read all about it: Of course, DC Comics is putting out a monthly Batman book based on the new animated series. Get ready to grab the first issue of Batman Strikes ($2.50) later this month.

Words to buy by: Parents should know the deluxe figures do not fit in the Batmobile and have a hard time dwelling comfortably inside the Batcave. Try buying the regular-size figures first. Overall, Mattel has put together quite a kid-friendly line that will reside right below the TV set as junior watches — and then re-creates — moments from his new favorite cartoon.

Aayla Secura

The Skywalker saga comes to life with sculptures based on some highly charged moments from the last five “Star Wars” films through Hasbro’s Unleashed line. The eighth wave of these 7-inch artist-interpreted gems features action-oriented poses of Bossk the bounty hunter, a vicious Tusken Raider and a female Jedi Knight barely revealed to moviegoers in 2002’s “Attack of the Clones” movie.

Figure profile: Beautiful, graceful, powerful Aayla displays the innate elegance and charm of the Twi’Lek species even as she wields her light saber in battle. She’s a striking figure with cerulean blue skin, distinctive head tentacles and the focused intensity of a light-saber blade.

She stands unyielding in the face of attack, a shimmering promise of strength and defiance to all who confront her.

Accessories: The blue beauty comes with a detachable light-saber blade and display base that looks ripped from the grounds of an ancient Jedi or Sith temple. Her lack of articulation clearly means she’s to be admired and not manhandled by her owner.

Price: $11.99

Read all about it: Although the Unleashed Aayla bears a bit of resemblance to Amy Allen (who portrayed her in the last “Star Wars” film), I would like to think whoever sculpted the piece worked much more from Dark Horse Comics artist Jan Duursema’s wonderful interpretation of the character published last year as a one-shot-issue book titled “Jedi — Aayla Secura.”

Words to buy by: The Star Wars Unleashed line presents a paradox for the hard-core Star Wars collector. The pieces are not nearly as spectacular as statues by Gentle Giant Studios or model kits by Kotobukiya Inc. They also are not made to be played ruggedly like the Marvel Legends line. However, for the younger fan looking to start a collection, the modestly priced moments from his favorite science-fantasy films will lead to much peeper-focused appreciation.

Strange but cool

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

King Theoden #(Sideshow Collectibles, $125). The mighty monarch from the land of Rohan of “Lord of the Rings” fame comes to life through an amazingly detailed 1:6 scale statue limited to 2,000 collectibles. The dead-on sculpt (by Brigette Wuest) of actor Bernard Hill raising his sword against hordes of Orcs is one of Sideshow’s finest pieces.

Towering nearly 17 inches high, he’s handcrafted in heavyweight polystone, hand-painted and stands atop a display base that has been etched with the map of Middle Earth. The base also includes the “Lord of the Rings”logo, the character’s name and sculptor’s signature.

Sabretooth Mini-bust (Diamond Select Toys, $50). The latest gem from the Rogues Gallery line offers the complete torso, arms and head of Wolverine’s longtime foe, who’s clad in a costume from his 1990s “Mutant Genesis” days. Depicted with razor-sharp talons slicing through rock, the 6-inch-tall Sabretooth is ferociously sculpted by Art Asylum’s Eli Livingston. The figure is also accompanied by a hand-numbered certificate of authenticity and is limited to 3,000 collectible pieces worldwide.

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

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