- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 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

Bizarro

Mattel takes a cue from Toy Biz’s Marvel Legends line with its selection of DC Super Heroes. The 6-inch-tall, articulated action figures in the latest set are sculpted by renowned designers the Four Horsemen. Each comes with a comic book and is devoted to the world of Superman.

The current lineup on store shelves includes Supergirl, with a copy of Supergirl No. 5; Superman, with Superman: Man of Tomorrow No. 9; Doomsday, with Superman: Man of Steel No. 19; and Bizarro himself, a beefy behemoth who goes out of his way to oppose everything his enemy stands for, with a copy of Superman No. 181.

Figure profile: When the Joker tricks the fifth-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk into relinquishing 99 percent of his powers to the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime becomes emperor of the world. He brings back Superman’s legendary archrival, Bizarro, and turns him into a hero. Although the Joker’s reign comes to a quick end with help from the Justice League, Bizarro survives and continues his life in opposition as he challenges the Man of Steel.

Accessories: The brute pays tribute to artist Ed McGuinness’ interpretation in his resemblance to the comic-book character. He arrives with a tattered plastic purple cape (not detachable) and a wheel attached to its axle and part of a rear drive shaft for him to hold.

His 20 points of articulation will frustrate rather than amaze owners, especially when they attempt to get him to stand up — the hip and knee joints are loose. Parents also should be warned that their offspring’s heavy play sessions will quickly destroy the figure’s paint job.

Price: $7.99

Read all about it: The copy of Superman No. 181 that comes with Bizarro highlights, on glossy paper, a story by Jeph Loeb, who explores a day when the minds of the villain and the Man of Steel were switched — a twist that leads to some humorous situations.

Words to buy by: An excellent selection of affordable figures should expose younger fans to the Superman universe while they ride the fence between being collectible items and toys children should just enjoy in play. Look for the next set to arrive this summer and include Robin, Mr. Freeze and Azrael.

Dr. Light

DC Direct gives readers a three-dimensional look at some of the major players of writer Brad Meltzer’s shocking sequential-art series from 2004 with its Identity Crisis action-figure line. Now in specialty shops are 6-inch-tall, multiarticulated versions of Hawkman, Green Arrow, Deadshot, Zatanna and one very confused villain — Dr. Light — who just found his mind.

Figure profile: The photokinetic Dr. Arthur Light’s life took a turn for the worse — much worse — when he teleported aboard the Justice League’s orbiting headquarters and raped the Elongated Man’s wife, Sue Dibney. He subsequently was caught and lobotomized by Zatanna after a split vote by Justice League members. He regained his memory years later and has sworn to exact revenge upon the team, the Teen Titans and the entire superhero community.

Accessories: The evil doctor looks ripped from artist Rags Morales’ designs. He has 13 points of articulation but gets nothing extra, other than a shiny base sporting the Infinity Crisis logo.

Price: $16.99

Read all about it: DC Comics publishes a hardcover trade paperback of the Identity Crisis miniseries ($24.99).

Words to buy by: Why does DC Direct charge nearly twice as much for a figure with a quality comparable to that of Mattel’s DC Super Heroes’ line? Because the average consumer could not care less about owning some obscure character such as Dr. Light, while the hard-core fan gladly would enter a comic-book or specialty store and pay for the privilege. Anyway, a total of 10 Identity Crisis figures will be produced, which will set back the fan about $150 (if bought in batches) — ouch.

Strange but cool

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

Kashyyyk Attack: Unleashed Battle Pack

(Hasbro, $7.99)

I was annoyed initially when Hasbro replaced its highly detailed, 6-inch-tall plastic Star Wars Unleashed statue line with 2½-inch-tall equivalents, until I remembered how much fun it was to create dioramas when I was a child. These slightly articulated figures come four to a pack and work fine when junior artists pour imagination into some three-dimensional scene designs.

For example, youngsters can create an excellent Clone Wars battle by combining the Chewbacca, Tarfful, Yoda and Aayla Secura characters from the Kashyyyk Attack set with the Yoda’s Elite Corps and Wookie Warriors packs in any forested environment. Expect this year a total of 14 Battle Packs to cover many of the Star Wars film’s pivotal moments.

Roadster Batmobile

(Corgi USA, $32.99)

Corgi continues to please collectors fascinated by the Dark Knight’s famed vehicle with a highly detailed variety of scale reproductions. One of the latest pays homage to Bob Kane’s Caped Crusader of the 1940s with a 1:18-scale modified Duesenberg roadster that is not as easily recognized as the more current lines of Batmobiles. Only small bat logos on the hubcaps, grille and trunk initially give a clue to its owner.

However, the 11-inch-long, grayish-blue vehicle’s trunk opens to reveal a computer, utility belt, Batarangs and other famed Bat gadgets; the hood opens to showcase a multi-metallic-colored turbocharged engine.

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