- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 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 ‘Star Wars’ Toy Vault

Ultimate Vader

Hasbro is the master toy licenser of the Star Wars brand, and the company is unloading an amazing variety of items to celebrate the last film devoted to the Skywalker clan, “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”One item in its 12-inch action-figure line gives fans the chance to turn Anakin Skywalker into his evil alter ego with a deluxe package bursting with detailed pieces to accomplish the transformation.

Figure profile: When Anakin Skywalker falls to the dark side of the Force, he leaves everyone and everything behind, even his name and identity. Betraying the Jedi and those closest to him, Anakin changes into the most terrifying incarnation of evil the galaxy has ever seen: Darth Vader, the darkest Lord of the Sith.

Accessories: Hasbro includes two sets of detailed costumes, which feature clothing of various textures and extra appendages to present Anakin in his black armor as well as his less intense form.

Owners get the removable Anakin head, six interchangeable hands, a tunic, two belts, pants, a sash, two pairs of boots, two light sabers, Vader armor, shoulder plates, headgear, undercloak, cape and gloves.

The Vader mask/helmet comes in three pieces — just like in the movies — and Hasbro even throws in the burned head of the former “chosen one” of the Jedi Knights to completely depict his devastation by molten lava.

The costuming can be attached easily — until one reaches the Vader boots. I suggest using the power of the Force and some baby powder to get the footgear on Anakin’s soft plastic tootsies.

Price: $49.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics continues to extend the “Star Wars” universe to the sequential-art medium by giving readers a colorful illustrated look at the new movie seven weeks before it hits theaters, via Dark Horse’s four-part comic-book adaptation. Of course, the trade paperback ($12.95) is already available, but be warned — it mirrors the movie and reveals all of its tense plot.

Words to buy by: Although the price is high, playability combined with durability makes the Ultimate Villain a great package for the young “Star Wars” fan in the family. If Hasbro had done a better job in the head sculpt of the pre-burned Anakin figure to make him look more like actor Hayden Christianson, it would have been the perfect representation.

Strange but cool

In celebration of the new “Star Wars” film, companies have delivered an eclectic collection of items to make sure fans never forget the downfall of Anakin Skywalker. Here are some of the best, or at least most interesting, in the galaxy:

Trading Card Collector Tins

(Topps, $9.99 each)

In addition to giving fans a chance to acquire a 90-card set based on the “Revenge of the Sith” movie by buying individual packs of cards ($1.99, seven cards per pack), Topps has put out something special for legions of the dark side. Its special tin-box collection highlights six designs of Darth Vader in action. Each tin contains three packs of seven cards and a pair of exclusive foil cards, with one mirroring the illustration from the box cover.

Darth Tater

(Hasbro, $7.99)

Classic film series melds with classic toy as Mr. Potato Head becomes part of the “Star Wars” merchandising myth. Perfectly executing an extremely clever idea, Hasbro gives one of its signature toys the gear to become the Dark Lord of the Sith, including a light saber and cape to complete the costume.

Ultimate Lightsaber Duel

(Lego, 282 pieces, $29.99)

Lego ups the technology with its latest line of “Star Wars”-inspired construction sets. Its Ultimate Lightsaber Duel features miniature versions of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who can be controlled by players as they battle amid the quickly collapsing droid foundries of the volcanic planet Mustafar. The 13/4-inch figures come with light sabers that glow when their heads are pressed down.

In addition, the Wookiee Catamaran set includes a Clone Swamp Speeder, a pair of Clone Troopers, Jedi Knight Luminara Unduli (with glowing light saber), Yoda, a Wookiee Warrior and Chewbacca (376 pieces, $29.99).

Younger builders will appreciate the less complicated General Grievous Chase, an Obi-Wan Kenobi figure atop a Utapau Boga lizard with a General Grievous figure wielding four light sabers while riding his Wheelbike (111 pieces, $19.99).

Mustafar Playset

(Hasbro, $29.99)

The final, fiery showdown in the conflict between Jedi Knight and Sith Lord comes to life in a play set featuring the battle between Anakin Skywalker and his former mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Luckily, the miniature volcano setup works well with all of Hasbro’s 33/4-inch line of action figures ($5.99) because the included representations of the characters not only have trouble holding their light sabers but do not look so hot.

Still, the play set delivers some hands-on action with a pair of breakaway platforms, a pair of magma balls that can be shot out of the volcano’s mouth, spinning disks to mount the figures on and a pool of lava into which youngsters can drop Anakin; the pool flips to show only a hand grasping above the fluorescent red ooze.

Burger King

(Burger King, free — included with purchase of a kid’s meal)

The home of the Whopper unleashes a whopper of a “Star Wars” promotion by giving children an interactive bonus in every one of its kid’s meals. Starting Wednesday, 30 primary toys will be available that highlight characters and vehicles from all six of the films.

Arriving in the categories of pull-backs, wind-up figures, water squirters, image viewers and stuffed plush creatures, each roughly 3-inch-tall collectible really captures the likenesses of the characters in a big-headed, cartoony style. Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala are especially impressive.

So as Junior plunges his greasy fingers into the “Star Wars” mythos, he can enjoy pressing the belly of a soft Jawa and watching his eyes light up, winding up Han Solo and watching him burst out of his carbonite enclosure, winding up Yoda and seeing him perform a back flip, and looking into the bottom of Darth Maul to watch slides from the movies.

An additional 31st limited-edition toy is also available. It features a Darth Vader that, when split open, frees a smaller Anakin Skywalker figure.

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