- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

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

Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes

Hasbro already has begin to churn out new selections of its Star Wars action-figure lines to celebrate next year’s 30th anniversary of a galaxy far, far, away. Its latest release, the Commemorative Tin Collection, offers collectors six sets of 33/4-inch-tall figures, one group for each film, packaged in an illustrated metal container.

In addition to such sets as the Phantom Menace with Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui Gon Jinn and the R2-R9 droid, the company has put together a very special tin as a Wal-Mart exclusive containing the famed Mos Eisley Cantina band.

Figure profile: During the Clone Wars, the Bith jazz sensation was at its height, and the Modal Nodes rode that wave all the way to the top. Popular even with the clone troops of the Republic, the band constantly toured the front lines. After the war’s end, Imperial politics and mismanagement cast the Modal Nodes on hard times. It fell to band leader Figrin D’an to keep the group together, booking gigs at any backwater cantina that would pay its fee.

Accessories: Owners get a quintet of carefully packaged musicians, each holding a detachable instrument. All of the big-headed Biths — Figrin D’an with his Kloo horn, Doikk Na’ts with his Dorenian beshniquel, Tech Mo’r with his ommni box, Tedn Dahai with his fanfar and Nalan Cheel with his bandfill — have cloth vests and about half a dozen points of articulation.

The tin has a Star Wars logo design on its front and, on its back, the 1978 painting by Bill Selby of the Mos Eisley Cantina interior that was used as the first poster for the Star Wars Fan Club.

Price: $29.99

Read all about it: I would suggest either Dark Horse Comics’ trade paperback “Star Wars: A New Hope — The Special Edition” ($9.95) to see a glimpse of the band, or Little Brown and Co.’s “The Mos Eisley Cantina Pop-Up Book” ($19.99) from 1995, which features music from the Modal Nodes and is illustrated by the legendary Ralph McQuarrie.

Words to buy by: It amazes me how George Lucas can turn characters with seconds of screen time into pop-culture icons through his licensing muscle. He has succeeded again with the Modal Nodes, and this exclusive release devoted to them will thrill the Star Wars collector.

Johann Kraus

Once again, Mezco Toyz brings comic-book creator Mike Mignola’s paranormal world of Hellboy into the three-dimensional realm with its latest set of action figures. Based on the sequential-art designs, the heavy-duty gems feature a frightening level of detail to honor Mr. Mignola’s vision.

This second wave includes Hellboy with a rocket pack, Roger the Homunculus with a removable vest, an alien loaded with firepower and a tragic but powerful medium kept barely alive by his outfit.

Figure profile: During a routine seance in Heidelberg, Germany, psychic Johann Kraus found himself stuck between the physical and spiritual after an occult event in China set off a chain reaction that doomed him to the etheric plane. Helped by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, he exists as an ectoplasmic entity in a specially built containment suit and is part of the famed B.P.R.D. investigative team.

Accessories: At almost 8 inches tall, with 13 points of articulation, the figure sports a brownish translucent head, an empty holster, a utility belt and interchangeable hands — one normal, gloved set and a pair that unleash ectoplasm projections of his being.

Price: $15.99

Read all about it: For a taste of Johann’s plight, look to Dark Horse Comics’ Web site (www.darkhorse.com/zones/hellboy/downloads.php?did=15&part=1) for a three-episode online comic. Then quickly order the trade paperback “B.P.R.D: Hollow Earth and Other Stories” ($17.95) to read about the psychic’s debut in comics along with other tales of the B.P.R.D. team members in action.

Words to buy by: Mezco Toyz perfectly brings to a collector’s display case a piece that looks ripped right from the pages of a Hellboy comic and captures Mr. Mignola’s distinctive art style.

Strange but cool

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

USS Enterprise

(Corgi USA, $30)

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Star Trek” franchise, the legendary maker of miniature replica vehicles has created a collection of die-cast spacecraft based on the Gene Roddenberry-inspired universe.

In addition to versions of the Klingon Bird of Prey, the USS Enterprise-D, the USS Defiant and a Romulan War Bird, fans can find an 8-inch-long USS Enterprise that looks just like a model the special-effects department might have used in the original “Trek” television series from the 1960s. With fluorescent orange propulsion tubes, a gold main sensor and a white bridge, the NCC-1701 design also comes with a Starfleet emblem display base.

Superman Spin Pop

(Cap Candy, $3.99)

The Man of Steel got his own line of treats this year to complement his return to the big screen. Fans will most appreciate a 6-inch-tall likeness of Superman with a lollipop embedded in the top of his noggin. When owners press his chest’s “S” logo, his arm rises, and the strawberry sucker spins. Other candy in the line includes a glowing green-apple Kryptonite pop ($1.99) and a Phone Booth Gum Dispenser ($3) that has Clark literally turn into Superman with a twist of its top.

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