- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

The holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to give a wrapped surprise to a human enamored of colorful cartoon characters, splash pages, legendary sequential art heroes and fantastical worlds.

So here is some help in choosing the perfect pop-culture gift to spread some cheer to a friend or loved one who prefers a miniature Batmobile to a boring sweater.

For children

Fantastic Four Laser Blaster

(KIDdesigns, $32.99, ages 3 and older, requires 6 AA batteries)

A pair of combatants strap targets to their chest and use light guns that any Trekkie would admire, in a laser tag-type game tied to Marvel Comics’ famed superhero family. Perched atop each weapon are miniature versions of the Human Torch in midflight and Doctor Doom positioned to deliver a concussion beam. The action is really a blast as the first warrior to shoot and light up an opponent’s target (adorned with either a mug of Doom or an FF logo) 10 times, wins. Adding to the fun is a weapon-reload feature, laser pinging and explosion sounds.

Karate Spider-Man

Toy Biz, $5.99, ages 3 to 6)

The Spider-Man and Friends line of 6-inch, small-hands-friendly action figures continues to expand and challenge Fisher-Price’s famed Rescue Heroes. Just one example from the latest selection: Peter Parker’s alter ego is dressed in a Japanese dogi wearing a Spider-Man logo headband and comes with a resettable, breakable board mounted on concrete blocks. When owners squeeze the figure’s legs, his hand chops down to deliver the fatal blow on the faux wood. Gift buyers will also find the Mega Muscle Thing and Super Strength Hulk among the over 50 figures available to stuff stockings.

Super Hero Showdown Starter Set

(Toy Biz, 14.99, ages 5 and older)

Action figures transform themselves into active board game tokens in a game mixing posability and strategy. The fun combines trading cards, a grid composed of cardboard tiles, projectiles, 4-inch, multiarticulated versions of Marvel Comics characters and illustrations from such artists as Alex Ross, Alex Maleev and Mike Deodato Jr.

Players move and pose figures on the large battle tiles and engage in combat using dice rolls, shooting missiles and following card directions. More difficult than Hasbro’s Attacktix but less mind-numbing than Wiz Kids’ Heroclix, Super Hero Showdown will never be boring, as a child can also take the great-looking figures away from the game to enjoy some simpler play.

The starter set includes Spider-Man, the Thing, six character cards, 12 battle tiles, a pair of dice and the “all important” rule book. Booster packs ($7.99 each) are also available offering comic book stars such as Ghost Rider, Doctor Doom, Iron Man and Black Costume Spider-Man with each package including six cards and a tile.

For the serious pop-culture lover

Wolverine vs. Sabretooth

Sideshow Collectibles, $250)

Sculptor Martin Canale creates a 16-inch-tall, PolyStonecqorama highlighting a ferocious battle between Marvel Comics’ adamantium-laced hero and his arch nemesis. A costumed Victor Creed and Logan fight on a snowy landscape in this masterpiece that harks back to artists John Byrne and Marc Silvestri’s work on the Wolverine comic book series. Owners will also be thrilled to find Wolverine comes with a pair of interchangeable heads, one featuring his classic pointed mask and the other highlighting his facial features and famed mutton chops. Limited to 1,500 pieces, the collectible is the perfect centerpiece to any comic-book-themed display case.

Little Lulu

(Dark Horse Comics, $17.99)

The comic strip/comic book/cartoon icon who celebrates 70 years of charming children comes to life in the form of an 8-inch-tall vinyl figure perfectly capturing her colorful design. Fans will also appreciate the vinyl figure ($17.99) of Tubby, who played an intricate role in Lulu’s life over the years. A perfect companion to the statues are any of the trade paperbacks, also from Dark Horse Comics ($9.95), that chronicle her humorous sequential-art adventures through 200 pages of black-and-white illustrations.

Incredible Hulk Wall Statue

(Diamond Select Toys, $75)

Representing artist Tim Sale’s interpretation of the gamma-radiated superhero from Marvel Comics’ Hulk: Gray miniseries of 2003, this statue features the surly alter ego of Bruce Banner bursting through a concrete wall with twisted steel girders and bent brass pipes hanging in his wake. Limited to 1,000 pieces, the 8-inch-tall collectible comes with a certificate of authenticity and conveniently mounts on any perpendicular surface to admire its intricacy.

Two-Tone Two-Face Car

(Corgi-USA, $9.99)

Corgi continues to celebrate seven decades of the vehicles seen in the pages of Batman comic books with another wave of 1:43-scale, die-cast collectibles. The 1950s muscle car driven by the Dark Knight’s schizophrenic foe features 50 percent of the vehicle adorned in a purple, acid-etched texture, a silver coin manifold and a hood that opens to reveal the also half-etched engine. Other vehicles available include the first Batmobile drawn by Bob Kane, a 1930s red modified Cord with working doors and trunk, and a 1940s roadster with the Caped Crusader sitting behind the wheel.

For readers

Avengers: The Ultimate Guide

(DK Publishing, $24.99)

Covering each decade of Marvel Comics’ famed superhero team, this 128-page, full-color, 9-by-11-inch encyclopedia combines individual text entries on all of the major characters, surrounded by fantastic art from such luminaries as Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, John Romita and George Perez. Fans will appreciate the encapsulated historical detail (down to the most recent story arcs), a 3-D cross-sectioned look at the Avenger’s headquarters and large splash pages of the team in action. The indexed hardcover also lists first appearances of all of the members as well as a forward by Marvel’s patriarch Stan Lee.

The Star Wars Poster Book

(Chronicle Books, $50)

ve this 288-page book presenting 350 of the most amazing promotional art masterpieces ever designed to tout the Skywalker clan’s adventures in a galaxy far, far awaycq; the works are all about Star Wars. The 9-by-12-inch hardcover book compiles the works of such artists as Howard Chaykin, Ralph McQuarrie, Boris Vallejo and brothers Greg and Tim Hildebrandt and highlights illustrated and photo-montage moments of almost every major character in the “Star Wars” films. Readers also get historical tidbits on the pieces as well as a guide to the more than 2,000 posters and how to identify illegal reproductions.

Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years, Vol. 1

(Dark Horse Comics, $49.95)

One of sequential art’s most influential and revered artists, Joe Kubert, gets a deserving homage for his adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous character. Acting as editor, writer and illustrator, Joe Kubert delivered adventures of Tarzan during the 1970s and gave upcoming artists a clinic in the illustration of the human anatomy in action. This 200-page, full-color, hardcover book reprints issues Nos. 207 through 214 of the 1970s monthly Tarzan comic book series originally published by DC Comics.

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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