- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

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

Green Arrow

Mattel extends play options involving the Cartoon Network’s popular series “Justice League Unlimited” with another round of 43/4-inch action figures. Based on the cartoon equivalents of DC Comics’ most powerful heroes and villains, the latest lineup includes Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Atom, Red Tornado, Brainiac, Dr. Fate and a free-spirited archer.

Figure profile: Former billionaire Oliver Queen sold off his company and took up his bow and arrow to defend the little guy. As Green Arrow, he employs a variety of weapons to get the job done, including a net arrow, stun arrow and boxing-glove arrow.

Accessories: This version of Green Arrow is more of a statue than a multiarticulated action figure. Mattel offers much more playable versions of heroes, such as Superman and Batman, as part of the line. However, Green Arrow comes with a quiver, a bow (without string), and his famed knockout-gas arrow, along with a trading card of the Flash — for no apparent reason.

Price: $4.99

Read all about it: DC Comics offers a monthly comic based on the cartoon, aptly titled Justice League Unlimited ($2.25 each).

Words to buy by: Each figure looks precisely like his on-screen counterpart and, despite less articulation than I would like, will more than satisfy a child’s imaginative fascination with the Justice League universe.

Mattel also intelligently offers a sturdy Justice League Unlimited Carrycase ($15.99) that can hold up to six superfriends. It features a drop-down panel to re-create scenes from the superheroes’ team headquarters, the Watchtower, and includes a slick Batman figure in a silvery costume.

Berserker Clan Dragon

McFarlane Toys makes its boldest move yet in the world of sculptured products with an original series of figures devoted to the mythical world of fire-breathing beasts. Its Dragons: Quest for the Lost King line includes six types of slightly articulated, 10-inch-tall gems boasting detailed paint schemes and foot-long wing spans that represent the legendary Dragon clans of Fire, Komodo, Water, Sorcerers, Eternal and Berserker.

Figure profile: Our fiery friend dwells in caves and is part of the best known and most infamous of all dragon clans. He also is the most treacherous of all of his species, with a wrath that is the stuff of myth and legend.

Accessories: This boxed set includes a Berserker with translucent wings, eight points of articulation and very scaly skin. Once mounted upon a rocky display base through a single peg, he is in a flighty position with a blast of fire coming from his mouth.

A 2½-inch-tall warrior atop a galloping horse is the unlucky recipient of the fire breath when also attached to the base. The tiny brave fellow comes clad in armor and wielding a sword and shield.

Price: $19.99

Read all about it: Todd McFarlane has not yet created a new comic-book series for the line. However, DC Comics offered 34 issues of Dragonlance ($2.50 each in near mint condition) back in the late 1980s, based on the TSR role-playing game. They’re loaded with illustrations and plots involving intelligent dragons.

Words to buy by: McFarlane’s Dragon line is easily one of the company’s best-looking to date and shows a near-reverence for the mythical creatures through painstaking sculpting and lifelike representations.

Strange but cool

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

Marvel Spider-Man vs. Venom Collector’s Tin

Mega Bloks, $29.99

The rival to Lego’s building-block dynasty does an awesome job with its first lineup of products based on the Marvel Comics’ license. The Collector’s Tin construction set is especially immersive as youngsters put together a 250-piece city street corner complete with the Daily Bugle building. They can role-play with 1½-inch versions of Spider-Man; his archenemy, Venom; sweetheart, Mary Jane Watson; and a police officer.

The set stands out for a building’s collapsing balcony, which comes crashing down after youngsters put Spidey through a breakable glass window. Also notable are a newsstand that converts to a ramp to thwart the police cruiser that’s included, and a single Super WebLine Block to give the illusion of Spidey crawling up his favorite mode of transportation.

Additionally, a colorful and roomy tin for storing the pieces, plus an instruction manual that looks like an Ultimate-Spider-Man comic book add to the sequential-art-based fun.

Ultimate Thing Bust

Diamond Select Toys, $49.99

Rocco Tartamella sculpts an exquisite, almost 7-inch-tall resin tribute to Yancy Street’s favorite cigar-chomping superhero that collectors will place proudly in their display cases. Based on the monthly Ultimate Fantastic Four comic-books series and the art of Adam Kubert, the resin bust highlights Benjamin Grimm’s rocky orange skin while mounted on an emblem base. It includes a hand-numbered certificate of authenticity and is limited to 3,000 pieces worldwide.

Justice League Chess

Pressman, $36.95

DC Comics heroes and villains help introduce youngsters to the intricacies of a classic board game in an affordable package. Players take command of sturdy 4-inch statues of such legends as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Solomon Grundy and Copperhead as they outmaneuver one another on a gridded surface 18 inches square.

My only gripe is the lack of supervillains helming the king and queen chess positions. Owners get the Shade and Star Sapphire instead of better choices such as Lex Luthor, the Joker, Poison Ivy or Cheetah.

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