- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

It’s too late to procrastinate; get thee to a store and purchase one of Zadzooks’ picks for best gifts, featuring items based on famed comic-book, cartoon and video-game universes.

For role-players

* Temple of Doom (Lego, ages 8 to 14, $89.99) - Re-create a pivotal mine car chase from the second Indiana Jones movie with this 652-piece set from the famed Danish block makers. In addition to minifigures of Mola Ram, Short Round, Willie Scott, a couple of Temple goons and Indiana Jones, builders get nearly three feet of rail track, a couple of mine cars, a fiery temple with a trap door, spiders and skeleton heads. It’s pricey but a guaranteed hit with the younger Lego lover.

* Mobile Command Center (Hasbro, ages 3 and older, $29.99) - The Marvel Super Hero Squad goes into action with a colorful rolling truck that unfolds into a mobile headquarters featuring three ramps and figure and missile launchers. Better yet, a cab detaches and transforms into an assault jet holding one Hero. It works with all of the 2-inch Squad action figures and even includes Wolverine (claw engaged) and a motorcycle. Parental alert: Assembly is required, and there are stickers to apply, but junior will love the results.

* Halo Odd Pods (McFarlane Toys, ages 5 and older, $9.99) - These 4-inch-tall tubular and stocky representations of Halo stalwarts such as ODST Rookie, Master Chief, Brute Chieftain, Arbiter, and Spartan Soldiers COB and Hayabusa make perfect stocking stuffers for the UNSC or Covenant fan. Each mildly articulated hard-plastic figure comes with a familiar weapon and pops apart at the head, waist and arms to mix and match with other Odd Pods.

For readers

* The Marvel Encyclopedia (DK Publishing, $40) - More than 60 new entries refresh this select, stalwart resource for comic-book fans. This 400-page A-to-Z breakdown of nearly every character and major event in the Marvel Universe comes loaded with classic artwork from legends including John Byrne, Jack Kirby and John Romita. Get concise information on every character - from Abomination to Millie the Model to ZZZax - and get an eyeful of color with every turn of the page.

* The Batman Vault (Running Press, $49.95) - This year’s museum in a book pays tribute to the pop culture of the Dark Knight and mixes 190 colorful spiral-bound pages with a dozen pieces of reproduced memorabilia held in protective sleeves. Read up on the origins of Robin while holding Golden Books’ 1966 Batman mask or build a paper Batplane (originally available in 1943) and ogle art from Bob Kane, Alex Ross and George Perez.

* Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years (Andrews McMeel, $75) - This coffee-table-size 534-page monograph with slip case gives Peanuts fans the perfect overview of Charles M. Schulz’s famed comic strip. Broken into decades, the book delivers color and black-and-white multipanel gems of the legendary shenanigans of Charlie Brown and the gang, sprinkled with quotes from the creator and a liberal number of fact nuggets about the strip.

For gamers

* Batman Arkham Asylum (Eidos, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, rated M for mature, $59.99) - Fists and cowls above any superhero-based video game ever made, this virtual descent into the bowels of the Dark Knight’s battles against the criminally insane never ceases to impress. The highest of production values mixed with highlights such as the Joker (fueled by Mark Hamill’s maniacal voice work), the stealthy attacks by the Bat in Arkham, a visit to the Batcave and liberal use of Wayne Tech upgrades (you gotta love the explosive gel and radio-controlled Batarang) make this game a comic-book fan’s dream.

* Tekken 6: Limited Edition (Namco Bandai for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, rated T for teen, $149.99) - Take one of the best-playing and best-looking three-dimensional fighting games ever created, add high-definition graphics and toss in a stylish wireless fight-stick controller that feels as if it has been ripped from an arcade in a strip mall. Now embellish it with a beautiful hardcover art book featuring the stable of warriors and watch the receiver of this package jump higher than Devil Jin Kazama taking an uppercut in the chops from Steve Fox.

* Marvel Super Hero Squad (THQ for Wii, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $39.99) - Up to four players button-mash their way through a world where pint-size versions of Marvel’s beloved comic-book characters fight over Infinity Fractals. It’s a colorful three-dimensional brawler providing control of more than 20 characters, including Iron Man, Hulk, Juggernaut, Thor and Silver Surfer. Wrap up this one for the young fan of the action-figure line and cartoon and get ready for the Wii to overheat.

For watchers

* Marvel Animation: 6 Film Set (Lions Gate Home Entertainment, $49.98). All of Marvel’s direct-to-DVD releases have been bundled in one box. The PG- and PG-13-rated selection includes ” Ultimate Avengers: The Movie,” “Ultimate Avengers 2,” “Doctor Strange,” “The Invincible Iron Man,” “Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow” and “Hulk Vs.” A liberal supply of bonus features will keep fans satiated with featurettes, trivia tracks and optional commentary tracks.

* Justice League: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video, $99.98) - After a mega-successful run of cartoon series featuring Batman and Superman, producer Bruce Timm tackled an animated version of DC Comics’ popular superhero team. The series, which ran from 2001 to 2006, is now packaged in a metal container. Owners get all 91 episodes of the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” series compiled on 14 DVDs. If Red Tornado, Booster Gold, Jonah Hex and Brainiac 5 ring a bell, buy it and consider it a gift for yourself.

* SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes (Paramount Home Entertainment, $99.99) - The title says it all in this ultimate gift for the SpongeBob fan, which is stuffed onto 14 DVDs within a bubbly Lucite case. Watch the first 100 episodes of the show - in measured doses to avoid insanity - and learn the origins of the unstable porifera who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (https://communities.washingtontimes.com/) or on Twitter .

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