- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 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

Superman: X-Ray Alert

Warner Bros. Pictures’ epic adventure “Superman Returns” brings the comic-book legend back to the silver screen, and master toy licensee Mattel gives children maximum play possibilities for the latest cinematic incarnation of the Man of Steel through a complete line of toys.

In addition to costume accessories, a 12-inch-tall figure, games and a slingshot created to highlight DC Comics’ famed hero, the company includes a 5-inch line of multiarticulated figures. Fans can choose from versions of Superman that owners bring to life to deliver Super Breath, Flying Attack, Kryptonite Smash, Wall Busting and X-Ray Vision action.

Figure profile: Following a mysterious absence of several years, the Man of Steel comes back to Earth to confront an old enemy and face the heartbreaking realization that the woman he loves, Lois Lane, has moved on with her life. In an attempt to protect the world he loves from cataclysmic destruction, he will embark on an epic journey of redemption that takes him from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of outer space.

Accessories: Superman boasts 10 points of articulation, gets a cloth cape (which cannot be removed) and a safe to look at, which features an embedded ocular attachment. (Children press it down to see what the hero sees).

On the package, instructions show Superman lifting the safe and then dropping it. The safe then splits open to reveal a translucent green Kryptonite bomb.

The action figure can repeat the motion, thanks to spring-loaded arms, but why would Superman want to expose himself to the deadly rock — especially when he can clearly see what the safe contains?

Price: $6.99

Read all about it: Fans will be satisfied with DC Comics’ trade paperback “Superman Returns: The Movie and More Tales of the Man of Steel” ($12.99), which compiles the sequential-art adaptation of the film and an origin story from the 1973 classic one-shot book, Amazing World of Superman, the Official Metropolis Edition.

Words to buy by: Despite some nice texture to the suit and accurate color reproduction, collectors will find little to appreciate with this figure,which barely looks like actor Brandon Routh (the current movie Superman). However, the rugged reproduction of the film character will light up the faces of 4- to 10-year old fans.

Strange but cool

In honor of Warner Bros’ “Superman Returns,” I concentrate on the diverse product bonanza that surrounds the release of his cinematic resurrection.

Inflato Suit

(Mattel, $21.99)

With help from a connected battery-operated fan device (requires four AA batteries) and a plastic upper-body suit that fits tightly around the waist and wrists, children puff up their pectorals and biceps to take on the exaggerated physique of the Man of Steel.

Actually, the owner looks more like a World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, but it’s a clever trick that not only offers a blast of fresh air to the costume industry but will empower youngsters to feel like the Super dude. I would have liked to have seen a cloth cape, but the “S” logo still looks very cool as it pops from the wearer’s chest.

To complete the outfit, parents also might want to purchase the

Punch ‘N’ Crunch Gloves ($19.99) which offer two molded forearm pieces with a fabric half-glove and palm sensors in one of the gloves that emit sound effects as owners swing at villains and crunch the included faux-metal bar.

MBX Metal, five-pack

(Matchbox, $14.99)

These die-cast vehicles range in scale from 1:62 to 1:71. They look ripped from the streets and sky of Metropolis. Owners get a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria (a blue police car), a TV news truck from Channel 12 (with pop-up video camera), a yellow Checker cab with even some mud along the outside of the wheel wells, a white Chevy transport bus from the Metropolis Tour line, and a red rescue helicopter owned by the Daily Planet.

It would be nice to see a couple of micro figures thrown in because the car line does not scream “Superman adventure” and will appeal only to the die-hard Matchbox collector.

‘Superman Returns’ lunchbox

(The Tin Box Co., 12.99 each)

The New York company has spent more than half a century turning tin into pop-culture memories. Its ode to the new Superman film offers a line of smaller lunchboxes, (7 inches long and 6 inches high) that come in a workman style (think Ralph Kramden’s container with top lid) and embossed traditional design. Each colorful piece is distinguished by the realistic illustrative style of artist Greg Horn, who portrays Mr. Routh in action dressed as the Man of Steel or more familiar comic art.

‘Superman Returns’ Monopoly

(USAopoly, $35.95)

The classic real estate trading board game gets a Man of Steel twist based on the latest Warner Bros. film. Players use six pewter tokens that represent Superman, Clark Kent’s glasses, his boot, the Superman logo, a Daily Planet globe, and a piece of Kryptonite as they move around a board loaded with color stills from the movie and purchase such properties as the Kent farm, the Fortress of Solitude and the Daily Planet.

Clark Kent and Superman cards replace Community Chest and Chance cards, and houses and hotels are renamed Crystal Shards and Crystal Structures, although they still look like houses and hotels.

I think USAopoly slightly missed the mark with the release, and it would have looked even better if the pewter game pieces were of the cast of characters (like the company’s “Family Guy” tribute) rather than based on traditional Monopoly pieces. It would have been more fun to move Lex Luthor, Perry White, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson or Clark Kent around the board than to move a boot.

Also, the company should have gone even more radical and offered a Lex Luthor edition because the brilliant archvillain often attempts crimes centered around land masses and real estate.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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