- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic-book and cartoon characters, companies bombard 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

George Lucas

Hasbro’s latest promotion, the Star Wars Ultimate Galactic Hunt, taps into the 30-year-long fervor of hard-core action-figure fans and returns them to the days when Kenner’s Star Wars toys ruled store aisles. Its Saga Collection of vintage 33/4-inch-tall figures offers classic characters in reproductions of their original packaging and protected in a plastic clamshell case.

The basic line consists of Greedo, a Biker Scout, Han Solo in a trench coat, a Tusken Raider and Luke Skywalker as an X-wing pilot ($9.99 each). Collectors need to buy all of the vintage Saga figures to own the exclusive piece of the set, a multiarticulated ode to Mr. Lucas, the creator of the Skywalker mythology, dressed as one of his famed soldiers.

Figure profile: George Lucas changed the world of films, licensing and special-effects cinema in 1977 when he released “Star Wars.” To honor both his remarkable accomplishments in film and the legion of “Star Wars” fans whom he inspired, Hasbro presents a likeness of the director, clad in one of the saga’s most iconic designs, the distinctive armor of an Imperial Stormtrooper.

Accessories: Owners get a svelte and bearded Mr. Lucas, circa 1977, with 12 points of articulation. He comes with a trooper’s blaster and a removable helmet while encased in an embellished version of the classic Kenner Star Wars figure package.

Price: $4.95 and proof-of-purchase stickers from the five vintage Saga Collection figures.

Read all about it: For a tale as preposterous as the idea of Mr. Lucas dressed up as a Stormtrooper, I suggest Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: The Return of Tag & Bink — Special Edition No. 1 ($2.99). The humorous book continues the adventures of a bumbling pair of heroes from the Rebellion who are in the wrong place all the time, especially when it comes to run-ins with bounty hunters and the Empire.

Words to buy by: Only once before has Mr. Lucas’ likeness been represented as an action figure. He became the Rebel Pilot Jorg Sacul for an exclusive item from the 2002 Star Wars Celebration II Convention. However, the limited quantity of the figure has pushed prices up to the $50 range. This is the best opportunity for the serious fan to grab a true collectors’ piece at an affordable price.

Jedi Luke Skywalker

Sideshow Collectibles further expands its homage to George Lucas’ famed space fantasy through its debut of a 12-inch-tall line of Star Wars figures. Highly detailed, with multitextured clothing and loaded with articulation, each captures the character and the actor who portrayed him in the popular films.

In addition to a “Return of the Jedi” Luke, fans will want Jedi knights such as Kit Fisto, Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn as well as Han Solo from his adventures in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Figure profile: After his defeat at Cloud City and Darth Vader’s revelation, Luke makes his recovery in the care of Leia and the Rebellion’s finest medics. Resolved to complete his training in the face of these challenges, the young Jedi returns to Dagobah to seek answers from his old master Yoda but arrives in time to find the ancient Jedi nearing the end of his long life. With his master’s death, Luke becomes the last of the Jedi and must help the Rebellion launch its final, desperate attack on the Empire.

Accessories: Artist Mat Falls offers the best sculpting of actor Mark Hamill’s head to date, as I believe he captures Luke’s facial expression right around the time he confesses to Leia that he is her brother.

Luke’s costume and extras include a gray tunic, black jumpsuit, boots, a hooded cloak, a belt with a light-saber hook, a light-saber hilt, a light saber with ignited blade, a femur bone used to irritate Jabba’s Rancor and five interchangeable hands, including a blaster-damaged right hand (from his Skiff battle) and a gloved right hand. It also comes with a stand that sports a Star Wars logo.

Additionally, one might consider the ornate and innovative package an accessory: It opens and closes via hidden magnetic clips, unfolds to contain reusable compartments for the figure and its extra stuff. It also features a nice selection of photographs from the film and background information on Luke and the Order of the Jedi.

Price: $49.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics reprints the classic Marvel Comics adaptation of “Return of the Jedi” written by the legendary Archie Goodwin in trade paperback format and throws in 30-page gallery of sketches from famed illustrator Ralph McQuarrie ($9.95).

Words to buy by: With costs in the $300 range to own any of Sideshow’s Premium Format Star Wars line of statues, the 12-inch collection makes life much more affordable for the collector of higher-end movie memories.

Although Luke already is sold out at the Sideshow Web site (www.sideshowtoy.com), consumers can surf over there to get on a waiting list as well as pre-order some other figures. Those in immediate need of Jedi Luke will have to suffer the potential price gouges associated with shopping in a secondary market (i.e., specialty stores or auction Internet sites).

Strange but cool

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

Two Face’s Escape

(Lego, $29.99)

Lego captures the Batman license and does an impressive job with its first series of product. Youngsters 7 and older will be thrilled to spend a couple of hours assembling 394 blocks and pieces to take part in a classic confrontation between the Dark Knight and his schizophrenic archenemy.

Once built, the set includes a city roadblock, an armored car, a 9½-inch-long Batmobile (which looks like a permutation of the 1989 “Batman and Robin” film version) and 1½-inch-tall block figures of Harvey Dent’s alter ego (styled to resemble Bruce Timm’s animated version of Two Face), a henchman and a black-suited Batman (from the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney film years).

As a nice play feature, the Batmobile trunk opens up to store some of the Caped Crusader’s tiny weapons, and it shoots a rubber missile at the armored car that will send Two Face into the air if struck at the right place.

Family Guy: Collector’s Edition Monopoly

(USAopoly, $35.95)

Seth McFarlane’s scatological, sophomoric and, oh yeah, hilarious cartoon gets immortalized through the legendary property trading game as players wheel and deal for 22 of the locations from the Griffins’ hometown of Quahog, R.I.

As fans of the show move around pewter representations of Peter, Brian, Stewie, Meg, Chris and Lois, they might land on and purchase Pewterschmidt Mansion, Cleveland’s Deli or Pawtucket Pat’s. They have to select a “giggity, giggity, giggity” (Community Chest) card — or ponder how a show loaded with ridiculous situations got turned into a bore of a board game.

Usually, I am astounded by the detail, art and depth of USAopoly’s tributes to popular-culture icons, but I was not impressed by its Family Guy set. It needed much more text devoted to the mindless mockery of American culture and to hard-core jokes, which will appeal to the 12-year-old in all of us (just as the show does).

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