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AFZ 2004-03

ACTION FIGURE ZONE SUPERHERO SPECTACULAR

By Rudy Panucci

This week we look at superhero action figures. Not just the usual stuff from DC and Marvel, but we're going to get a sneak peek at some new superhero toy lines coming our way from Marx and Pixar. Plus we have tons of news, so much that our quickie reviews have been crowded out until next time.

ACTION FIGURE NEWS

Before we step into our superhero spectacular, we have some regular action figure news for you.

Dynamic Forces, has signed an exclusive deal with famed sculptor, Clayburn Moore, to create a line of statues, busts, dioramas, and toys that they say "will rock the collectors markets for years to come!". Moore used to run Moore Action Collectibles, which was a victim of the recent comics collectibles bust. Gaining his services is quite a coup for Dynamic Forces, as Moore has a stellar reputation in the business. It has leaked out that upstart wrestling federation NWA TNA has signed a deal with ToyBiz to produce action figures based on their star wrestlers beginning next year. This distant-second-place competitor to WWE has just premiered on the Fox Sports Network after a couple of years toiling on Pay Per View. ToyBiz is a good fit for them, since ToyBiz used to make action figures based on the defunct WCW federation, and might be able to save a few bucks by reusing WCW body molds, or in the case of TNA wrestlers like Raven, Jeff Jarrett, and Sting, they've already produced entire figures so they might be able to reissue the existing figures.

Not to be outdone, WWE and Jakks Pacific have announced the next batch of figures that we can expect to find over the summer. In the "Classic" line, we can look forward to Jake the Snake Roberts, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Ted Dibiase, and new versions of Bret Hart, Undertaker, and The Ultimate Warrior. Adrenaline Series 8 will feature premiere appearances of Victoria, The Dudleyz in their new gear, La Resistance, and Stevie Richards. Shelton Benjamin appears in Pay Per View series 5, along with Edge, Randy Orton, Triple H, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. K Mart will have an exclusive 2 figure set of the "Rock and Sock Connection", featuring The Rock and Mick Foley, along with Mr. Socko. Finally, Toys R Us will have an exclusive version of "The Elimination Chamber", a special caged ring that holds six wrestlers. Included with this set will be new sculpts of Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Not too shabby for a really cool gimmick ring that has a name more appropriate for the toilet.

SUPERHERO NEWS

DC Direct will be offering a limited run of Batman figures from Japan. BATMAN JAPANESE IMPORT COLLECTOR ACTION FIGURES WAVE 2 consists of four figures with extreme detail: Batman; The Penguin; Poison Ivy; and The Riddler. Manufactured by Japanese toy manufacturer Yamato exclusively for the Japanese toy market, these limited-edition Batman figures are available in the US & Canada only under special arrangement with DC Direct! Each figure includes a diorama base with accessories and they all sport sculpts that rival any action figures we've seen. These figures have been retro-solicited to arrive in comic book and specialty stores in late August, and will be a bit pricey, topping out at over twenty bucks in most places. They're limited to 8,000 pieces and average under ten inches, including the diorama.

Fans of DC's Superhero ladies should check out John Medieros' in depth reviews of the new Barbie versions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and Catwoman elsewhere here at Mastercollector.com. Fans of Captain Action should actively seek out Michael Eury's book on Captain Action. "Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure" chronicles the history of this quick-changing champion, including photos of virtually every Captain Action product ever released, spotlights on his allies Action Boy and the Super Queens and his arch enemy Dr. Evil, an examination of his comic-book appearances, and "Action facts" that even the most-diehard Captain Action fan won't know! It features a foreword, new cover, and unseen package illos by Murphy Anderson, plus historical anecdotes by the late Gil Kane, Jim Shooter, Stan Weston (co-creator of GI Joe, Captain Action, and Mego's World's Greatest Super-Heroes), and Larry Reiner and Larry O'Daly, formerly of Ideal Toys, plus never-before-published Captain Action artwork by Gil Kane, Joe Staton, Carmine Infantino, Jerry Ordway, and Murphy Anderson. You can order it at http://www.twomorrows.com It's a must-have item for any fan of superhero action figures. The previously-announced Spawn Samurai Two Pack, featuring a refreshed version of Samurai Spawn from Spawn Series 19 and the never-before-released Takeda the Archer figure will NOT be coming out at Wal Mart, as originally planned, but instead is available at Kay Bee Toys and Spawn.com. These are pretty sharp-looking figures, even if they bear no resemblance to the comic book characters.

Marvel has recently revamped their licensing division, and as a result, all previously announced figures are subject to delays. More details will be available when the dust settles.

Electric Tiki will be offering a very limited action figure/statue, The Retro Lone Ranger Statue! Up for pre-order is their website/ Comic Con exclusive Retro-Lone Ranger as he first appeared in his red shirt/ black pants combo! "Retro" Ranger stands 12" tall and comes in a decorated box with a special certificate of authenticity. Designed and sculpted by Ruben Procopio! This special edition will be limited to 200 pieces with half that amount being reserved for the San Diego Comic Con this July! Limit is 2 per customer. Expected delivery date on these are July/August! Check them out at http://www.electrictiki.com

Playmates Toys has scored the toy rights to the upcoming animated series "Atomic Betty". Playmates Toys has set January '05 for the roll-out of its ATOMIC BETTY line, which will encompass dolls, playsets, action figures and toy accessories based on the eagerly anticipated animated series which makes its debut on Cartoon Network this fall. ATOMIC BETTY follows the adventures of Betty, a little girl with a big secret. To her friends and family, she's the sweet and brainy girl next door, but when the galaxy beckons, she sheds her humdrum persona and becomes: "Atomic Betty, Galactic Guardian and Defender of the Cosmos." While the citizens of Earth carry on with their every day lives, Atomic Betty zips across the galaxy on daring and valiant missions, from saving a race of space monkeys from a giant caterpillar invasion to rescuing a kidnapped ambassador from a ruthless king. She's a hero to the universe, but on her home planet Earth, Betty's just one of the gang. Expect a huge rollout at next year's Toy Fair, even though the toys should be in stores before then.

MARK TARGET MARX THE SPOT

Marx Toys & Entertainment Corp. has announced that they've formed a joint venture with EVERGREENRIVER Entertainment, Ltd. to introduce a new multi-media line of super-action hero offerings based on original fictional character - "Mark Target and the Amazing Unstoppable PSYCHO BACKHO," by creator Ernest Autumn Van Den Heuvel And we go to the press release for more information…..

"With a reputation for innovation and rich heritage in the action figure toy category, Marx Toys will be expanding its 2004 product line with an exciting new PSYCHO BACKHO theme. Robert Bambery, President/CEO of Marx Toys, believes this strategic partnership will enable Marx Toys to reestablish itself as a premier toy maker.

"We will not abandon our traditions and values as a toy company and will still continue with our historic toys from years past, but we feel that the time has come to step forward and begin developing a new line of original products that are geared more toward the youth culture of today. Upon meeting Mr. Van Den Heuvel, and seeing the characters he's developed and the direction he was headed, we knew immediately that our relationship together was going to be an essential part of the next step for Marx Toys." stated Bambery.

"With over ten years in development, PSYCHO BACKHO creator, former professional heavy equipment operator and President/CEO of EVERGREENRIVER Entertainment, Ernest Autumn Van Den Heuvel is very excited to announce this new Venture with Marx Toys and the further development of his imaginative creation.

In a description of his vision, Van Den Heuvel stated, "Superhero Mark Target and his supercharged PSYCHO BACKHO are designed to penetrate the core of a young person's imagination and lead him or her into an avenue of creative play that builds self-esteem, promotes positive values, stimulates learning and establishes an important link between child and environment."

"The newly formed venture is currently structuring a $35 million financing arrangement for their new product line which will include the initial release of a novel, comic book and a host of merchandise and collectibles created by Van Den Heuvel and a live-action feature film aimed at the 23 million construction workers who have never had a super action hero. This is a huge target market of a $117 billion a year industry."

So Marx is betting the farm on a comic book property that looks interesting, if not surefire. The "Psycho Backho" cast consists of:

Mark Target - Heavy Equipment Operator turned half-man, half-alien by the greatest power surge the world has ever seen.

Syc - One of the largest backhoes on Earth. Transformed into an awesome, half digging, half intergalactic flying power machine when the lightning strikes.

Varse - The Avalynian Master who is trapped on Earth by the fierce lightning bolt without the tools he needs to return home.

Zaygo - The young alien pilot, who was trained for this mission but now finds herself needing to learn Earth's ways just to survive.

Lou Swires - The young evil computer genius who konws how valuable the aliens and Syc are to the one issue which drives him - greed.

Dr. Pinbeam - One of the world's great scientists, he turned to evil when he realized the world would always pay a hefty price for what he knows.

Dr. Zenburner - The brilliant but cynical scientist who knows there are aliens in our midst, but doesn't know how to find them.

Jackie Summers - The everyday teen who is suddenly thrown into the Psycho Backho saga when he finds the means to communicate with Mark and the aliens

Back to the press release: "The creation of Psycho Backho is inspired by actual events which are partly based upon author Ernest Van Den Heuvel's electrocution at age eighteen by 50 Kv of electricity when he climbed a high tension tower with his brother, his twenty-eight years of heavy equipment operation, and his spectacular photography which he believes caught two unidentified flying objects on film. The result is the birth of a metal-heavy SuperActionHero who combines the adventurous spirit that has always fuelled great stories, with a morally responsible theme that emphasizes combat only in the context of saving the planet from destruction by those who abuse its resources. Psycho Backho conveys the message of how to break through the everyday confusions of life by seeing truth, love, self awareness, and acceptance of what we are. It is loaded with the redeeming values of morality, truthfulness, reality, positive thinking, forward progress, and right action."

This could be interesting. The concept has some appeal, but it also seems a bit like Bob The Builder on drugs, which may well be a winning formula. It's good to see Marx may make it back to mainstream retail after a couple of shaky years.

That's it for our Super Hero Spectacular edition of Action Figure Zone. Next time we'll take a look at GI Joe on the eve of the big convention, and bring you a double-dose of quickie reviews.

Later, Rudy