- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

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


Hasbro, master licenser of Marvel Comics’ toy universe, takes a historical look at the action-figure world of a famed web slinger with its Spider-Man Origins line.

In addition to its Signature Series — which offers 9-inch versions of cloth-costumed figurines such as the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus (reminiscent of Mego dolls from the 1970s) — the line also offers pared-down versions of 7-inch superarticulated action figures inspired by the former Marvel toy licenser, Toy Biz, and its Spider-Man Classics lineups.

Some of the 7-inch gems are the Lizard, Demogoblin, Rhino, Spider-Man 2099, Secret Wars Spider-Man and a mysterious villain sporting three faces of evil.

Figure profile: From the back of the package: “Quentin Beck was a great special-effects man, but Hollywood just didn’t appreciate him, so he turned his talents to crime. As Mysterio, he is a master of illusion with the incredible ability to seemingly reshape reality around Spider-Man. Under his mercy, Spider-Man has battled everything from rampaging dinosaurs to shambling zombies. Spider-Man usually is too smart to totally fall for Beck’s manipulation, but victory against Mysterio almost always comes at a cost.”

Accessories: Unlike Toy Biz’s 2005 version of the figure, which came with a missile-shooting cloud base and light-up feature for Mysterio’s helmet, owners get only the villain in a metallic-finish costume. However, owners can press a large green button on his back to flip a trio of faces in his helmet to see an angry Quentin Beck, a creepy baby alien mug or a ferocious demon face.

Price: $7.99

Read all about it: I suggest either of two sources: First, the trade paperback “Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six” ($15.95) compiles Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, Nos. 334 to 339 (drawn by Erik Larsen) and features Mysterio as one of an evil team out to destroy the web slinger.

Second, mature readers will want to savor the Daredevil story arc, Guardian Devil, compiled in the trade paperback “Daredevil Visionaries: Kevin Smith, Volume 1” ($19.95), which compiles issues 1 through 8 of a tale written by Mr. Smith about an intense Mysterio out to destroy the Man Without Fear.

Words to buy by: Anyone unfamiliar with the more feature-packed version of Spidey’s archenemy will be satisfied with Hasbro’s Mysterio, but I will sorely miss what Toy Biz delivered to youngsters and collectors with its Marvel action figures.

Marge and Homer

McFarlane Toys adds Matt Groening’s dysfunctional animated family to its lineup of detailed action figures with its first series devoted to “The Simpsons.”

These 6-inch dioramas of life in Springfield include Why You!! (with figures of Homer and Bart), Kamp Krusty (with figures of Bart and Krusty the Clown), Simple Simpson (with figures of the superheroes Pieman and the Cupcake Kid), and a moment captured from the 2004 Treehouse of Horrors vignette “In the Belly of the Boss,” which found the Simpsons’ celebrated couple, Homer and Marge, within the innards of Homer’s boss, Mr. Burns.

Figure profile: From the package: “Professor Fink develops a giant capsule that will supply all of the vitamins a person needs for the rest of his or her life. The doctor shrinks the capsule down and gives it to Mr. Burns.

“However, unbeknownst to anyone, Maggie crawled inside the capsule moments before it was sealed. Now, only 30 minutes remain until Mr. Burns’ especially potent stomach acid erodes away the capsule and attacks the child.

“Marge and Homer Simpson must man a submarine and shrink themselves down and venture inside Mr. Burns’ body to rescue Maggie.”

Accessories: Homer and Marge average eight points of articulation and can be mounted on poles that stick out of a coiled and squishy pink base representing Mr. Burns’ intestines. Also, Homer has a removable helmet, and Marge’s helmet can be partially taken off.

Price: $12.99

Read all about it: Bongo Comics offers an annual Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror comic book ($4.99 each). Fans also can try to find the HarperCollins trade paperback “Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: Spine-Tingling Spooktacular” ($15.95), published in 2001. It compiles about a half-dozen of the humorous horror tales.

Words to buy by: Playmates Toys did a great job with its 16 waves of Simpsons figures betweeen 2000 and 2004; each even had voice chips. Although McFarlane’s plastic gems sport paint jobs closer to their animated counterparts, they might be a tough sell. The company will have to continue with its release of obscure and legendary moments in the show to satisfy the hard-core fans.

Strange but cool

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

Marvel Origins: Iron Man

(Diamond Select Toys, $69.99)

A series of resin statues devoted to the origins of Marvel’s comic-book heroes includes sculptor Greg Millington’s dioramic interpretation featuring Tony Stark in his workshop as he assembles his first Iron Man costume.

Limited to 2,500 pieces, the highlight to the diorama, which has a 3½-inch-tall Stark behind a workbench with blowtorch in hand, is an almost 6-inch-tall gray-scale version of the hero in costume who towers behind the man not in the mask. Others in the Origins line include Daredevil/Matt Murdock, and Spider-Man/Peter Parker.

Dr. Fate and Power Girl Minimates

(DC Direct, $7.99)

DC Comics’ famed lineup of heroes and villains becomes part of the 2-inch-tall, block-figure universe of pop-culture collectibles with pairs of characters with four points of articulation each.

Although Power Girl gets no accessories other than a generous paint job to highlight her upper torso, Dr. Fate has a soft plastic yellow cape and removable helmet, which can be replaced with a white hairpiece .

Other pairings that are part of the second wave of DC Minimates include the Penguin and Robin, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle and Superman and Brainiac.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszad kowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (www.washingtontimes.com/blogs/) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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