- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005

NEW YORK — The American International Toy Fair has become known as the premier toy event of any year. It’s a gathering where more than 1,400 manufacturers and distributors show more than 15,000 store owners a wide range of upcoming entertainment products — a decent percentage of them based on comic-book, cartoon and movie properties.

It also has become a seven-day event in which buyers and media representatives are rewarded with an eclectic mix of items created solely for distribution during the show.

That leads me to one of the more unbelievable situations growing out of this year’s fair, which took place Feb. 17 through 23 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Toy giant Hasbro handed the privileged few who visited its private quarters a unique freebie touting the company’s “Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith” toy line.

These cereal-box-size promotions featured a pair of 33/4-inch action figures mounted in a display that rotated, showing a scarred Anakin Skywalker and his alter ego, Darth Vader.

Receiving this glorious geekified gift immediately led certain privileged morons to post the pack on EBay. The insanity reached a feverish pitch as the first of the supposed collectibles sold for $2,938.88. Yes, some dope bid that much.

Unbelievably, over the next week, a handful of the promotional packs appeared on EBay, selling at an average of $900 each. Sellers made sure to report in painful detail how the items had been acquired and to declare their gems absolutely the most mint versions available.

What I found surprising was not the human greed (that was expected) but the voracious appetite of Star Wars collectors willing to pay outrageous sums for essentially two pieces of sculpted plastic that will be available in mass quantity on store shelves next month.

While on the topic of sculpted plastic, let’s take a look at the wide range of action figures, toys and collectibles featured at the toy fair and coming to stores this year.

Hasbro

The home of G.I. Joe is also the place that has created Star Wars toys for the past 10 years. A month before “Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith” hits theaters, the company is beginning to release an avalanche of products that will flow to store shelves throughout the year.

A total of 56 action figures ($5.99 each), each 33/4 inches tall and encompassing the latest woes of the Skywalker clan, will be released methodically with supporting assault, battle and gunship vehicles (averaging $19.99 each). Children can role-play with the assistance of the Mustafar Duel set ($29.99) highlighting the final, explosive fight between Anakin Skywalker and his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Other products to watch out for include:

• An awesome 12-inch Ultimate Vader doll ($49.99) loaded with detailed accessories, which will allow owners to encase a badly burned and scarred Anakin in his Vader armor.

• A Trivial Pursuit DVD Star Wars Saga edition ($49.99) featuring more than 2,400 questions, including 600 interactive questions (20 of them acted out by serious Star Wars fans filmed at conventions around the country), crammed onto a pair of discs.

• “Call Upon Yoda” ($29.99), a lifelike tribute to the wisest Jedi in the galaxy, who utters more than 500 phrases while moving his head and appendages as he speaks of the Star Wars saga, offers trivia questions and answers yes-or-no questions.

Lego

The force is strong with the Danish building-block company as it releases its 2005 lineup based on the new “Star Wars” film. Constructing collectors will appreciate the re-creation of moments in the film, such as Darth Vader Transformation (53 pieces, $9.99), General Grievous Chase (111 pieces, $19.99) and Wookiee Attack (366 pieces, $29.99) as well as the new Classic Star Wars kit, the 3,441-piece Death Star II ($299.00).

Corgi

The company known for almost half a century for its metallic versions of planes and vehicles continues its homage to the Dark Knight this year with a collection of 1:43-scale die-cast cars from the Batman comic-book universe. Specialty stores will carry such treats as a 1990s Batmobile convertible, a 1970s Batmobile coupe, the 2000 Robin Redbird car, the 1950s Two-Face Two-Tone car, the 1960s Catwoman Catillac and the rarely seen 1930s red Batmobile ($9.99 each).

Diamond Select

The Timonium, Md., company continues to appeal to sequential-art and movie fans with an eclectic line of products. This year, its Marvel Select collection of highly detailed 7-inch action figures ($19.99 each) brings to three-dimensional, dioramic life classic moments in Stan Lee’s famed comic-book universe. The set includes Ultimate Carnage with a withered Gwen Stacy, Thanos with an interchangeable Infinity Gauntlet hand and Death figure, and She-Hulk (as a comic convention exclusive).

I also was impressed with its Silver Age Fantastic Four resin statues ($79.99 each). Though sold individually, when placed together, they will form a five-piece, connected re-creation of the cover of the Fantastic Four’s first issue.

This is the first of two parts. Next week: The Terminator speaks to Moses.


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