Here are some last-minute gift ideas for the younger fans of pop culture and adults who are into the massive world of comic books and cartoons.
For role players
*Boba Fett Electronic Helmet (Hasbro, ages 5 and older, $29) - Embrace your inner Mandalorian warrior with this working piece of gear from one of the most feared bounty hunters in a galaxy far, far away. Hasbro’s latest and greatest turns children (and a few adults I know) into Boba Fett with a full over-the-head battle-damaged helmet that, with the press of the button, offers phrases such as “Surrender … or face disintegration” and “You’re lucky Jabba wants you alive.”
Blaster and rocket-pack sound effects, as well as a light-up working antenna that indicates when the bounty hunter’s prey is near, rounds out this great memory from the “Star Wars” universe.
Woody (Mattel, ages 4 and older, $8.99) - The action and drama of Pixar/Disney’s latest animated mega-blockbuster carries over to children’s playrooms with a complete collection of “Toy Story 3” action figures. Choose from colorful new characters such as Stretch the Octopus and Mr. Pricklepants the porcupine or old friends including Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and Woody. Each features limited articulation, great design detail for the price and the occasional accessory. The 6-inch-tall cowboy comes with a red neckerchief, holster and removable hat.
*Steel Marauder (Hasbro, ages 4 and older, $19.99) - The heroic G.I. Joe team’s pursuit of the evil Cobra continues in a faraway jungle, and it will take some serious firepower to knock out the group’s Terror Drome Fortress. Thus the story is set for children to play with this 8-inch-tall mobile mech suit that includes a missile-firing Gatling gun (six projectiles included), working capture claw and opening cockpit. Young warriors will appreciate the included 3 3/4-inch figure of Kickstart, but also will need (parents listening?) the Cobra Deviant Mech Suit with Cyber Viper V1 ($19.99) to set the war into motion.
*Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo, for Wii, rated E for everyone, $49.99) - One of the legendary stars of the video-game universe returns in a brilliantly updated homage to his Super Nintendo origins. With a tip of the banana to the days when serious old-school side-scrolling platforming captured a hard-core gamer’s life, the title delivers updated graphics and eight worlds loaded with coins, hearts, balloons, letters, puzzle pieces and that delicious yellow fruit ready for collecting.
Our hairy hero still faces nasty environmental obstacles, but he can ride the backs of some animal friends and gets help from his pal Diddy. New to Kong’s arsenal are the abilities to climb and blow. Of course, shake the Wii remote to perform ground pounds and barrel rolls and to generate blasts of air. By the way, two players (one as Donkey and one as Diddy) can take part in the monkey business.
*Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the Video Game (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, for Wii, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $39.99) - “Holy pop-art-pleasing-epic, Batman.” Based on the Cartoon Network’s animated show, this colorful side-scrolling set of four adventures stars some of the greatest heroes of the DC Comics universe paired up to thwart the plans of legendary villains such as Catwoman, Gorilla Grodd and Gentleman Ghost.
One or two players select from a superhero lineup including Hawkman, Robin, Black Canary, Plastic Man, the JSA’a own Wildcat and, of course, Batman to cooperatively solve puzzles and battle the forces of evil with upgradable weapons, hand-to-hand combat and clever retorts. Even comic-book-reading parents will jump aboard for the tongue-in-cheek humor, the cool 1960s vibe, the Nelson Riddle-esque soundtrack and the chance to see Bat-Mite or Golden Age Flash’s Jay Garrick in action.
*Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet (THQ, for Xbox 360, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $39.99) - Hasbro and the Cartoon Network’s pint-sized versions of Marvel Comics’ legendary characters return to video-game realms in this child-friendly, third-person action game. Let’s call it the toddler version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance as this humorous adventure finds one or two players cooperatively challenging evil legends such as Thanos, Dr. Doom and Super-Skrull in a tale loosely based on the epic sequential art miniseries from 1991.
Players eventually access more than a dozen heroes, including Wolverine, Hulk, Thor and Scarlet Witch, each with signature combat powers, and can even unlock new costumes for avatars such as Iron Man as War Machine. For those looking for more chaotic battles, the challenge mode allows a quartet of friends to compete in minigames as either heroes or villains. As a bonus, the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game include a character download pack to access Captain America, Bucky and the Red Skull.
Shrek: The Whole Story (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated PG, $49.99) - High-definition high jinks abound in this four-disc set paying tribute to the big-budget computer-animated version of William Steig’s famed ogre. Gorgeous visuals via the Blu-ray format allow viewers to enjoy the funny quartet of films “Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” “Shrek the Third” and “Shrek Forever After” starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas along with the holiday singalong extravaganza “Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular.”
The extras are bountiful and include filmmaker commentary tracks, a picture-in-picture look at the movies with the production staff, Shrek’s Interactive Journey (a map revealing the artwork origins of some of the film’s locations), and more holiday fun with a Yule Log (to burn away on television screens) and a “12 Days of Christmas” virtual pop-up book.
*Batman Beyond: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video, $99.98) - Fans of Gotham City’s futuristic Dark Knight can relive the entire 52-episode run of the Emmy-Award-winning television series with this nine-disc DVD set. A mythology taking place in 2039 finds an elderly Bruce Wayne hanging up his high-tech cape and teenager Terry McGinnis stealing it to challenge the Jokerz gang as the new Batman.
Packaged with a 24-page, 8-by-12-inch color art book in a Bat-fanatic-friendly box, extras to the set also include a trio of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a smattering of optional commentary tracks and the 90-minute documentary “Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics.”
*Wolverine and the X-Men: The Complete Series (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, $44.99) The latest animated series starring Marvel Comics’ Homo Superior species ended last year after only one season, but it arrives in a three-disc Blu-ray set ready to dazzle in the high-definition format. Through 26 episodes, viewers learn the plight of an X-Men team devoid of Professor X and Jean Grey but still ready to fight the U.S.-government-sponsored Mutant Response Division and attempt to stop a tragic future.
Characters such as Wendigo, the Stepford Cuckoos, Silver Samurai and Squidboy will appeal to the hard-core comic-book fan while the action is perfect for the tween cartoon lover. Extras include optional commentary tracks for all of the episodes.
Scarlet Witch Comiquette (Sideshow Collectibles, $204.99) - One of Marvel Comics’ most gorgeous and dangerous mutants comes to life in this 18-inch-tall hand-painted polystone statue. Artist Mark Brooks captures the cheesecake beauty of Wanda Maximoff and adds a bit of humor as she holds a controller to manipulate a pint-sized toy version of her husband, the Vision. The piece uses a bit of magnetism (Magneto not involved) to complete the assembly process (arms and head pop right on) and I’m betting it helps if someone accidentally knocks into it. However, only a buffoon would not get this pop-art masterpiece in a case for all to admire.
*Michael Jackson’s Thriller (Hot Toys, $189.99) - The memory of the “King of Pop” lives on in this 12-inch-tall detailed doll capturing his look in the legendary 1983 long-form horror music video “Thriller.” The set includes a perfect face sculpt of the star, cloth costuming with signature shiny red pleather jacket, red pants, white socks and black shoes. Hot Toys tosses in nine additional hands to interchange, 32 points of articulation of the doll’s body and a display stand to craft the perfect pose of the dancer in action. The best part of the set, however, is the ability to create the zombie version of Michael, complete with tattered jacket and replaceable, ghoulish head.
*Aurra Sing (Sideshow Collectibles, $289.99) - For only the most devoted “Star Wars” fans, this 22-inch-tall hand-painted premium-format figure brings to life one of most obscure bounty hunters in the Skywalker saga. A museum-quality piece limited to 750 figures, it features the female’s stunning, chalk-white curvy polystone body in an orangish, form-fitting spandex-style suit with dual holsters and a brown vest packing ammunition.
No detail is spared down to the complex mixed-media ponytail and fine-metal antenna that stick out of her head. She stands posed with one hand resting on her blaster pistol and other holding on to her long projectile rifle set against a railed rock formation pulled from her Pod Race mission at Tatooine.