- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here’s some gift choices tethered to the worlds of comic books, video games and pop-culture franchises that are sure to delight your special fanboy and fangirl this holiday season.

For young role players

Giant Web Slinging Spider-Man (Hasbro, $29.99, ages 5 years and older) — Peter Parker’s alter-ego empowers children to test one of the hero’s stickiest powers with help from this 14-inch-tall action figure. Instead of shooting webbing from his wrists, Spidey gets embedded in his chest a 5-inch-long, 3.8-ounce canister held by his wrists. A child presses his back to send a stream of a “Silly String” type substance at targets. Additionally, owners can embed the enclosed water canister to target relatives and pets. You did not hear that from this Santa’s helper. Additional containers of Spidey Shot Web Fluid sold separately ($7.99).

Mega Mutant Leo (Playmates, $29.99, for ages 3 and older, 2 AA batteries included) — The famed, sword-wielding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comes to life for youngsters in the form of a talking, 12-inch-tall action figure ready for training. The perfect small hands toy for tots, the child holds the hero with a handle on his back. He presses its lever to swing Leo’s arms, move his eyes and activate sound effects and a few of over of 100 phrases such as “that will come in handy the next time we battle Shredder.” He can deliver further phrases by pressing a button on his belt. Leo comes with a pair of removable soft plastic Katana blades to fit into his fists and has about a dozen points of articulation.

Deluxe Flying Baymax (Bandai, $39.99, for ages 4 years old and older, 3 AA batteries included) — Wield the mechanical might of one of the co-stars of Disney’s computer-animated superhero film “Big Hero 6” in this 11-inch-tall, interactive figure. Featuring a whopping 18-inch-long wingspan, the robot comes to life when a child presses his midsection to light up his head and deliver a selection of robotic sound effects. He features 20 points of articulation, collapsible wigs, a projectile fist (hard plastic warning) and detachable pieces of armor. Better yet, attach the 4.5-inch version of his 14-year-old, science genius Hiro Hamada to his back and Baymax delivers ascending and descending flight sounds when twisted in the air. Suffice to report, this highly entertaining, hands-on toy will thrill fans of the film.

Stomp & Chomp Grimlock (Hasbro, $79.99, for ages 5 years old and older, 2 AA batteries included) — The leader of the legendary Dinobots offers an ultimate gift for lovers of the Transformers. This noisy, mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex is over 2 feet long (from snout to tip of tail). Owners use the handle and lever on its back to make Grimlock’s jaw open, setting off a load roar and making his eyes glow red. Or, press his teeth to hear chumping sounds. Now, with a simple conversion (squeeze the lever and pull back), he becomes his robotic form, 20 inches tall, revealing pop-out weapons and able to hold an included, massive laser sword. Touch teeth (now above his head) to hear guttural dialogue snippets such as “destroy.” The package also contains a 4-inch-tall version of Optimus Prime to mount on the Dinobot recreating a key moment of the “Age of Extinction” movie. His presence causes the T-Rex to pop out a laser cannon, triggering firing sounds while his eyes glow green.

SEE ALSO: VIDEO GAME GIFT GUIDE: Best picks for Sony’s PlayStation 4

For figure fans

Batman Sprukit (Bandai, $19.99, for ages 8 and older) – Build a 5-inch-tall, articulated version of the Dark Knight in this action-figure model kit. Owners will need to take a deep breath and prepare for at least a 60-minute challenge as they snap together 95 pieces to produce DC Comics‘ famed hero in his Arkham City costume complete with Batarang and grapple gun. It’s actually a very slick idea, but beware of over-playing with the hard plastic figure as parts could break. Best idea is to set a pose and show the Sprukit off to friends as more of a statue rather than play with the action figure. Other kits available include the Joker, Superman and Halo’s Master Chief.

Speeder Biker with Biker Scout (Hasbro, $39.99, for ages 4 and older) — The Star Wars Black Series line offers collectors affordably priced, highly detailed and articulated action figures capturing authentic reproduction of characters from the famed galaxy, far, far away. This soldier of the Empire was found in the movie “The Return of the Jedi,” where he was chasing Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in the Endor forest and slammed into a large tree. Nuances to the almost 11-inch-long bike include a well-defined lower engine assembly, a swiveling lower blaster and a perfect, worn paint job (with spots of scraped metal, rust and dirt). The 6-inch-tall figure features black-and-white costuming, grey pouches around his abdomen, muddied boots, a small removable blaster holstered on one of his boot and over two dozen points of articulation. Owners will also appreciate the translucent stand to display their new collectible.

Gotham City Bane Battle (Mattel, $49.99, for ages 3 and older)This mega collection of DC Comics-themed action figures feature 4-inch versions of Batman (grey blue costume), Robin (green and red costume), Batman Beyond, Red Hood, Azrael, Deathstroke and a towering, 6-inch-tall version of the Bat-breaking villain Bane. The smaller figures feature cloth capes (where applicable), plenty of articulation and the ability to hold an included pair of weapons (a large ax and pincers). However, the big bruiser Bane stars here. He has chains wrapped to serrated pieces of metal on his fists (easily removed) and the florescent green tubing ventilator (used to feed him the superpowering drug Venom) can be taken off to see his complete masked  face. Youngsters should feel free to appreciate the figures in maximum role-play mode with little fear of breakage as they create the ultimate battle in the Dark Knight universe.

For watchers

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Ultimate Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.99) — Possibly the best superhero movie of the year makes a perfect stocking stuffer for fans of the Homo Superior. Charles Xavier and Magneto team up they find a way to send Wolverine back in time to try and get their younger counterparts to stop a war between mutant and human. The all-star line-up includes Hugh Jackman as Logan, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Halle Berry as Storm, just to name a few comic legends brought to life. The 131-minute effort directed by Bryan Singer explodes from home entertainment widescreens in the Blu-ray format, especially for those with three-dimensional televisions (look out for the massive Sentinels) and does fantastic justice to Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s epic Marvel Comics‘ X-Men story from 1981. Take an iPad and install Fox’s Second Screen app to get a load of production goodies on Apple’s mobile device while watching the movie.

Marvel Knights: The Wolverine Collection (Shout! Factory, not rated, $29.93)This quintet of full-length cartoon motion comics highlight the life of the X-Men’s famed feral mutant along with some fantastic sequential art from such superstars as Andy Kubert, Leinil Francis Yu and Simone Bianchi. The five, DVD disc collection contains “Wolverine: Origin,” “Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk,” “Wolverine vs. Sabretooth,” “Wolverine vs. Sabretooth: Reborn” and “Wolverine Weapon X: Tomorrow Dies Today.” Each are roughly hourlong adaptations combining narration, voiceovers, sound effects, music and illustrations plucked from comic book panels that bring popular comic book mini-series to slightly animated life. Extras include interviews with some of the creators and staff at Marvel including writer Paul Jenkins and Joe Quesada, chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 7 (Paramount, not rated, $130.00)TV-watching Trekkers bid farewell to Capt. Jean Luc Picard and the crew of USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) in the mid-1990s. This Blu-ray set offers the last 25 episodes of the critically acclaimed television series that ran from 1987 to 1994 and includes the extended farewell “All Good Things …” Extras include select episode audio commentaries, many deleted scenes and the three-part, roughly 90-minute documentary “The Sky’s the Limit: The Eclipse of Star Trek: The Next Generation” — and will not disappoint. For those unaware, the entire Next Generation series has been meticulously remastered in the high-definition format through a painstaking restoration process with season sets having been released over the last two years. Gift givers may find themselves purchasing other sets to try to fill out a fans ultimate Next Generation collection (prices as low as $60 on some third-party websites).

For collectors

Man of Steel: Superman (Sideshow Collectibles, $379.99) — Collectors hooked on Warner Bros.’ 2013 live action movie starring actor Henry Cavill as DC Comics‘ iconic hero will unwrap and display this masterpiece faster than a speeding bullet. A team of Sideshow artisans crafted an impeccable 1:4 scale version of the latest Superman standing over 21-inches tall and incorporating a mixed media concoction of PVC, fabric and polystone. Entrenched atop a base displaying a buckled, Metropolis street, Clark Kent’s alter ego arrives in a tightly fitted, hand tailored replica of his new costume, complete with a fully poseable cloth cape and looking, as well as feeling, ripped from the movie set. The likeness to Mr. Cavill is dead on, highlighting his dimpled chin, blue eyes and pumped up body as he stands ready to slug General Zod with both of his hands clenched into fists. For gift givers that can afford the homage, it will be a piece of pop culture art not soon forgotten for the lucky owner.

Prison Tower and Gate (McFarlane Toys, $64.99) — Todd McFarlane and his band of crazed toy makers now dabble in the Lego and Mega Bloks universe with hybrid building sets paying homage to AMC’s legendary zombie show, “The Walking Dead.” This 620-piece construction set offers part of a location where Rick Grimes and his band of survivors held off the Governor, his minions and hungry undead. It includes a guard tower, barbed wire fence, gate, light post, assorted weeds and articulated, roughly 2-inch tall mini-figures (they also need built) of Glen Rhee and a pair of zombies (one crawling and one walking). Of course, with this set completed, keen collectors will start amassing other kits such as Daryl Dixon with Chopper ($19.99, 154 pieces) as well as buildable figure packs ($2.99 to $14.99) to begin assembling the ultimate dioramic apocalypse starring their favorite humans and walkers.

Superman and Wonder Woman Holiday Kiss (DC Collectibles, $99.99) — Sculptor Tim Bruckner brings to three-dimensional life the art of Jim Lee in this intricately designed, 9-inch tall, mixed media statue. A perfect holiday-themed gift for the modern comic book loving fan in the family, it presents the Man of Steel with his arm around his favorite Amazonian warrior and getting ready to kiss her under the mistletoe. The pair hovers atop clouds slathered in glitter while dressed in the latest version of their iconic costumes.

For readers

Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years (DC Comics, $39.99)Since 1939, Bob Kane’s Caped Crusading vigilante has existed in sequential art. Lovers of this Dark Knight get an eye full in this 432-page, full-color, hardbound book offering 23 stories spanning Batman’s rich history with DC Comics. Highlights include his first appearance (Detective Comics No. 27) as well as important events such as his broken back at the hands of Bane and introductions to such pop culture icons as Superman, Robin, Batgirl, the Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Catwoman, and even a visit from Santa. Just as impressive, the work of near every legendary creator associated with chronicling his journey gets represented. Appreciate prose from Dennis O’Neill, Bill Finger, Paul Dini, Chuck Dixon and Greg Rucka, and bask in the artwork of such superstars as Mr. Kane, Neal Adams, Sheldon Moldoff, Frank Miller, Jim Aparo, Dick Sprang and Greg Capullo. Gift givers should also consider opening the wallet for “The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years” (DC Comics, $39.99) to present an equally impressive array of sequential art stories starring the Clown Prince of Crime.

The Walking Dead Omnibus: Book 5 (Image Comics, $100) — This deluxe, slip-cased, hardcover edition offers 24 compiled issues to fans of the best zombie comic book series ever written. Specifically, issue Nos. 97 to 120 covering writer Robert Kirkman’s chronicling of the adventures of Rick Grimes and his group of survivors amidst a horrendous plague. Best of all, for mature gift receivers with tired eyes, the 524 pages use high-end glossy paper stock and are beautifully oversized (12.7 inches tall by 8.6 inches wide) making it easy reading of prose as well as appreciating of Charles Adlard’s gruesome artwork.

DC Comics: A Visual History, Updated Edition (DK Publishing, $50) — This slip-cased, indexed encyclopedia pays homage to the renowned comic book publishing and its collection of colorful characters. Meticulously broken down each month and covering the time period from 1935 to 2014, the book contains 376, full-color, oversized pages (roughly 10 inches wide by 13 inches tall) presenting bite-sized information nuggets and full-page illustrations. Owners learn near everything about the history of DC as well as plenty about comic book stalwarts ranging from Booster Gold to Hal Jordan and some guy named Bruce Wayne. The book also includes two prints, one of Batman and the other of Superman, drawn by artist Jim Lee and very suitable for framing.

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art (DK Publishing, $50) — Those looking for a no-frills exploration of the amazing work done on comic book covers will appreciate this 320-page, full-color, slip-cased, hardbound book saluting Stan Lee’s favorite sequential-art publishing company. Hundred of covers showcase the work of Marvel Comic’s superstars over the past three quarters of a century in this massive coffee table monograph (roughly 11 inches wide by 14 inches tall). Look for full-page classics such as John Buscema’s Sub Mariner No. 1 cover from 1968 to Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four No. 1 art from 1961 or more modern masterpieces such as Todd McFarlane’s Incredible Hulk No 340 cover from 1988 featuring Wolverine. The book also includes two cover prints, one of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 (the first appearance of Spider-Man) and the cover of Iron Man No. 1 (a reboot of the character in 2005), and both suitable for framing.

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