- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Here’s some last-minute gift suggestions tied to the world of comic books and cartoons that are sure to delight fanboys of all ages this holiday season.

For role players

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Republic Attack Shuttle (Hasbro, $79.99, for ages 4 years old and older, requires three AA batteries)  Based upon the design seen in Cartoon Network’s popular weekly series, this 17-inch-long multifunctional space ship with a 29-inch wingspan is one of the more modest sized and manageable of the deluxe Hasbro Star Wars vehicles. It accommodates junior’s line-up of 3-inch figures and includes multiple missile gun turrets and launchers and a pull-out armored attack base complete with raised-wing blast shields. The cockpit even detaches and turns into a mini-recon ship complete with wings. With batteries in place and some button pushing, the ship comes to life with lights and vehicle and weapon sound effects that also feature an impressive collection of almost 60 Clone Trooper phrases (“That’s givin’ it to the clankers”) and nine from the Battle Droid opposition. Owners get a Clone Pilot and five projectiles to begin the assault on the Trade Federation. Warning for parents: Break out a bottle of Maalox and a sweat towel to conquer the dreaded sheet of 24 mandatory decals.

Heatwave: The Fire-Bot (Playskool, $29.99, ages 3 to 6, two AAA batteries included)  A crossover between the legendary Transformers and Rescue Heroes brands produces a 10-inch-tall robotic pal accompanied by a 2-inch-tall firefighter ready to help save the day. The Fire-Bot includes a launching rescue hook, flip-down safety visor, chopping action rescue ax and retractable ladder. Press the Cybertron logo on the robot’s chest and he offers 10 phrases, such as “You can count on me,” along with sound effects as its dual water cannons light up and move into position to fight a fire. Our mechanical hero does not transform, but offers plenty of play potential with help from the slightly articulated mini action figure. The package includes a 24-page illustrated book starring Chief Charlie and the Rescue Bots.

G.I. Joe Army Paratrooper (Hasbro, $19.99, ages 5 years old and older)  For those who still remember the days when G.I. Joe was not a 3-inch-tall munchkin, the 12-inch version of the warrior is back and celebrating real American heroes. The articulated doll includes a cloth combat uniform, helmet, goggles, tactical assault rifle, combat knife, pistol, jump pack, binoculars and flashlight. He even has posable fingers, though it’s not quite the kung-fu grip I remember from my youth. The best part of the G.I. Joe is the working, vinyl parachute so dad and his offspring can appreciate a piece of pop-culture Americana in action. Also available is a First Responder Firefighter and Police K-9 Unit.

For gamers

Superman (Chillingo, for iPad, rated 9+, $2.99) Use Apple’s popular computer tablet to take control of a miniature version of DC Comics’ famed superhero as he protects Metropolis from Lex Luthor and his minions. Through a side-scrolling story embellished with colorful comic book panels, a player taps and maneuvers his way through 18 levels using the iPad’s responsive touch screen. As Superman runs through the city and flies at super speeds around buildings and into space, he uses heat vision, freeze breath and his fists in missions that include stopping a speeding getaway car, breaking apart space debris and even guiding a plane to safety. And hey, don’t clean your glasses Clark, it really is only three bucks to take part in this fast-paced, third-person action game.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Capcom, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, rated T for teen, $39.99) One of the premier two-dimensional fighting games has been given a slight upgrade from its Fate of Two Worlds version (released early this year) and delivers an even more potent pop-culture punch for fans of Marvel Comics’ legends and Capcom’s video game superstars. Three-versus-three tag-team matches loaded with signature character moves (on the ground and in the air) are set in a three-dimensional comic book universe that is simply an explosion of color on large-screen televisions. This version offers the same awesome lineup of more than three dozen warriors and adds a dozen more, including Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist and Resident Evil’s Nemesis. It also features new modes, such as Spectator (watch others pummel each other online) and Heroes and Heralds (trading card upgrades are used in battles involving Galactus’ followers to save or destroy the world).

Marvel Super Hero Squad: Cosmic Combat (THQ, for Xbox 360, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $29.99) Cartoon Network and Hasbro’s pint-size versions of Marvel Comics’ heroes and villains return to gaming consoles in this kid-friendly, hands-on third-person action game with quite a twist. A player can wield the magic of the uDraw Game Tablet’s Power Pen (uDraw sold separately, $79.99) and direct legendary characters in six virtual comic book adventures to thwart the plans of Doctor Doom, Red Skull, MODOK and Abomination. Through a cartoony universe using a cel-shaded design — which gives the impression of 3-D sequential art come to life  10 heroes can be called upon, including Wolverine, Thor (“Thou art toast,” he often says), Captain America, Scarlet Witch and Squirrel Girl (her debut) to stop Doom from acquiring the Personal Evil Neutralizer (uDraw Pen). Ultimately, a combination of drawing to move heroes around and unleash powers and tapping to collect power-ups and restore ink reserves proves the pen is mightier than the virtual sword.

For watchers

 Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1 Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner Home Video, $79.98)  Join Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Bugs and the whole gang in a Blu-ray celebration of 50 of their most memorable cartoons remastered for the high-definition format. A pair of discs delivers the “Tunes” and adds more than three-dozen audio commentaries from production staff members including director Bob Clampett and voice talent Stan Freberg, along with a modern perspective from writer Paul (Harley Quinn) Dini. The third disc essentially is an extras tribute to Looney Tunes’ mastermind Chuck Jones and features more than three hours of content about the man. And, for those who are still Looney, it also offers another nine cartoons. Additionally, the gift set includes a book highlighting each short, a refrigerator magnet, a certified limited-edition lithocel and, just for the kiddies, a Bugs Bunny shot glass.

Smallville: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video, $339.88) DC Comics’ Man of Steel’s early years came to life over a 10-season live-action show on the WB/CW network starring Tom Welling in the title role. This massive 62-disc DVD set offers all 218 episodes and more than five hours of newly created extras. Special features include a 90-minute retrospective, an interactive tour of Smallville, the story of DC Comics and, in the box, a 16-page edition of the Daily Planet covering many of the major storylines. Be it the introduction of Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, General Zod, Lois Lane, Doomsday, Green Arrow and Supergirl, origins of the Justice League or Justice Society of America, it was one of the best and deepest superhero shows ever created for TV. Any Superman fan in the family will not be disappointed.

Farscape: The Complete Series (A&E Home Video, $199.95) The groundbreaking sci-fi classic television series, co-produced by the Jim Henson Co., is back and remastered in high definition for nostalgic fans. NASA test pilot John Crichton’s adventures arrive in a 20-disc Blu-ray set highlighting an 88-episode journey aboard the starship Moya and into an outer space infested with extraterrestrials. Extras guaranteed to lock fans up in a room for days include behind-the-scenes interviews with all of the cast, audio commentaries and a new documentary looking back at the world of “Farscape.” The only bummer here is the missing two-episode miniseries “The Peacekeeper Wars” that concluded the show’s story. It is available on DVD (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, $14.98).

For collectors

Superman: Exclusive Edition (Hot Toys, $209.99)  The one and only true movie Man of Steel comes to three-dimensional life with this 12-inch doll bearing the likeness of the late Christopher Reeve. Features of this high-end collectible with 30-points of articulation include his signature form-fitting blue-and-red costume with logo (accurate to the 1978 film), cape, red boots, three pairs of interchangeable hands (fists, open palms for flight and relaxed palms), a chain tethered to a chunk of green Kryptonite, and a detailed display diorama (with translucent figure mounting pole) duplicating part of the Fortress of Solitude. The best part of this piece is that a portion of the price will be donated to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

The Batman Files (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $100)  Historian Matthew K. Manning unmasks one of the world’s greatest detectives and controversial vigilantes by revealing the private files of Bruce Wayne  files that were to be shown only to his successor. This hardbound, oversized scrapbook features a padded cover with a magnetized bat logo that contains its 308 full-color pages. Just some of the historical resources found within include blueprints of the Batmobile, files from Arkham Asylum on many of its most famous inhabitants, schematics of the Batcave, childhood photos, lots of handwritten notes from Wayne, and details on a workout regimen and diet that can transform the reader into the next Batman. Loaded with gorgeous color illustrations highlighting years of artwork culled from the DC Comics’ archive, the book’s only miscue is maintaining the scrapbook illusion a little too well and never crediting the artists for their contribution. I would love to see an index so pieces from legends such as Brian Bolland, Mike Mignola, Jim Lee and George Perez could be identified. Still, “The Batman Files” makes an incredible gift for the serious fan of the Caped Crusader.

Darth Maul with Mechanical Legs (Sideshow Collectibles, $324.99)  Anyone who read Dark Horse Comics’ anthology book “Star Wars: Visionaries” ($17.95) will remember Aaron McBride’s standout story “Old Wounds,” about the return of Darth Maul and his hunt for an older Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. Well, Sideshow has immortalized this bionic version of the Sith Lord with a museum-quality piece limited to 1,250 pieces. This 2-foot-tall gem is individually hand-painted and crafted in a mixed-media format featuring a polystone body, fabric costume (with removable tunic to reveal the villain’s intricate chest tattoos) and Maul’s signature dual-blade lightsaber that actually glows red (three AA batteries and AC adapter included). The head sculpt (with grown-out horns) also perfectly captures the likeness of actor Ray Parks, who portrayed Dark Maul in the “The Phantom Menace.” This rare vision of evil would be appreciated by any older “Star Wars” fan.

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