- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2013

A look at toys and collectibles devoted to the Superman mythology and the new movie “Man of Steel.”

Jor-El (DC Collectibles, $129.99) Actor Russell Crowe’s upcoming portrayal of Superman’s birth father gets immortalized through a beautiful, 1:6 scale statue featuring him in battle armor and focused for a fight.

Sculpted by legendary Gentle Giant Studios, the hand-painted, cold-cast porcelain masterpiece stands 12 inches tall and has Jor-El standing, wielding a Kryptonian rifle in one hand and a fist ready to strike with the other

The intricate details of the bone-colored armor will impress as well as the burgundy cloth cape with wire armature for maximum poseability. He also permanently stands atop a base showing the familiar, red Superman crest.

By the way, the head sculpt of Mr. Crowe is dead on down to his graying beard, wavy hair, bluish-green eyes and slightly puffy cheeks. It’s a statue worthy of showcasing behind a display case in an entertainment room.

Quick Shots: Battle for Metropolis (Mattel, ages 4 and older, $24.99) This 15-inch tall playset based on the “Man of Steel” movie combines action figures and a safe shooting gallery featuring an alien-landing craft that looks plucked from “The War of Worlds.”

PHOTOS: Slideshow: Photos of action figures from Mattel's Man of Steel: Movie Masters collection

With help from younger fans, Superman zooms toward a confrontation with General Zod, dismantling the villain’s ship in the process and smacking him down.

Owners get a 3-inch tall, pint-sized version of Superman featuring a soft body, cloth cape and elastic arms, which Stretch Armstrong would admire, that act as missiles.

Attach the figure to two fingers and launch this self-contained slingshot projectile toward the ship. The goal is to aim at strategic points (look for the Zod family crest) on the ship that break it open to expose a spinning core (with fiery guards) and hit another target to pop up and knock down a figure of Zod.

Two issues came up quickly with my younger testers. First, getting fingers in figure hand grips to launch was a bit of challenge as well as keeping the ship from not falling over after an especially hard hit.

However, the concept is sound, and taking the ship apart is a worthy challenge for the 8-year-old in the family.

The good news for dad or mom is that the ship requires minimal assembly and best of all, no stickers.

I’d suggest parental units also buy a Man of Steel Quick Shots figure pack ($6.99) that contains another Superman along with a hard plastic Zod minion that acts as a very easy-to-use launcher.

Flight Speeders: Superman Strike Ship (Mattel, for ages 4 and older, $25.99) This combination portable spaceship and Superman launcher has the design to be a brilliant role-playing experience for the younger “Man of Steel” fan but ends up falling way short in performance.

Owners get the top half of a blue-and-red, 12-inch-long Kryptonian spaceship with a convenient handle.

The top frame of the ship can house a 3?-inch action figure (preferably from the Man of Steel collection, $6.99 each) in a cockpit covered in yellow, translucent plastic and can shoot an included missile from its tip.

The bottom of the ship uses a contraption to launch a 5-inch-tall version of Superman tethered to a propeller and wings. The figure’s arms are outstretched and in flight position with a soft rubber bumper held to his hands simulating his blasting his way into space.

A child attaches the Superman, rotates it onto a peg and cranks a knob unit tight. He taps a red button, and the hero should fly into the sky.

Well, he kind of flies, about 6 feet and quickly falls to the ground. Not only will the process of prepping Superman for flight confound younger children but also the end result will have them move on to another toy very quickly.

The biggest disappointment is the box dramatically lists the mini-Superman as launching up to 25 feet, but the only chance that will happen is if a child actually plays with the toy in outer space.

Shadow Assault Zod (Mattel, Ages 4 and older, $6.99) Fans of 3 3/4-inch actions figures are not forgotten in Mattel’s latest Man of Steel toy collection.

The welcomed variety (nine figure in the first wave) feature the Kryptonian hero and his archenemy each sporting different costume colors, pieces of armor, limited articulation (averaging 7 points) and accessories.

For example, the Shadow Assault Zod features the villain in black armor with a tattered, cloth cape and a two-piece rifle and blade combination that reminded me of a Gears of War weapon.

Or, Strike Shield Superman finds Kal-El in blue armor, cloth cape and with a shield and staff that can combine into a large hammer.

Other variations include Wrecking Ball Superman (in red costume), Split Cycle Superman (in movie costume) and Krypton Combat Superman (in silver armor).

Overall, the 6- to 10-year-old looking for an expanded role-playing session within the Superman mythology will have plenty to enjoy.

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