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ACTION FIGURE ZONE 10-14-02
BY RUDY PANUCCI

This is it!-the promised "All news" edition of the Action Figure Zone! We're
going to gaze into our crystal ball and tell you about some of the cool toys
you can start saving your pennies back to squander over the next year. Some of this news is vary early and tentative, but that's the fun part.

WAY IN THE FUTURE

Well, next year at least. We've got some early indications and hints about what we might expect to show up at Toy Fair next year. This is very sketchy info, with a little healthy speculation tossed in for dramatic effect.

Mattel will be looking to exploit their new relationship with DC Comics and AOL Time Warner, so it's safe to say that we can expect a February
unveiling of toys based on Batman, Superman, and The Justice League.
On top of that, there's a good chance that they'll be working on figures based on the new TEEN TITANS cartoon show that was recently announced for Cartoon Network. To quote from the Cartoon Network press materials, "Set in a future of intergalactic strife and interplanetary battles, TEEN TITANS features five teen superheroes each with special powers, led by Robin, the Boy Wonder. This group unites to form a defensive force to protect the Earth from a new generation of villains. An eclectic group, their powers complement each other so that when they band together, they become a superb fighting force. Their personalities, on the other hand, often clash. Discovering how to control their powers, these Teen Titans must learn to work and grow as a team while dealing with the trials and tribulations of being teenagers. " It looks like they're planning a somewhat Animsqrt(C)-inspired update of the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez incarnation of the team, with stylistic elements of DC's recent "Young Justice" comic book tossed in for good measure. Action figures are a natural. Mattel will also offer up figures and toys based on Cartoon Network's other new cartoon show, DUCK DODGERS, based on the classic Chuck Jones-directed Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1950s.
This series will follow the adventures of (Daffy)Duck Dodgers and Space
Cadet Porky Pig as they do battle with Marvin the Martian. While both of those series are a sure bet for future action figure lines, don't expect to see anything from them until Toy Fair 2004. The series won't premiere for at least a year-and-a-half.

Closer to realization, but still keeping our animated theme, the first images from "SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS" are available. As you may have heard, Hasbro will be treating us to action figures based on this
DreamWorks feature film. The interesting twist here is that they will be
released under the umbrella of the GI JOE ADVENTURE TEAM. Late word is that they will have Kung-Fu Grip, but not flocked hair. Could be an
impressive entry into a 1/6 scale historical era that is way under-represented.

Staying animated, but looking way, way ahead, we find "TERRANOIDS". BA20 Entertainment, the new UK kids' media outfit set up by BIONICLE
co-creator Alastair Swinnerton, has hooked up with the creative team responsible for some of the classic Judge Dredd comic strips for its first major project. BA20 has optioned a project from John Wagner (Judge Dredd), which also involves long-time Dredd and Batman writer Alan Grant, and fellow artist from the 2000AD/Judge Dredd crew, Cam Kennedy.
Together the trio have come up with TERRANOIDS a multiple-media sci-fi
project that is aimed at the kids 8+ market. The project's TV dimension
is a combo CGI/2D boys' action-adventure series; what Swinnerton described as "a graphic novel somewhere between Moebius and Akira."
The series is set on a distant planet that humans have populated with an
army of droids. When humans finally colonize the planet, the robots rebel and enslave all the human colonists except three teenage kids. Together they set out to rescue their parents from the rebel droids. With his experience from devising Lego's BIONICLE property, Swinnerton
intends to roll the project out into not only a TV series but movies, video
games, comics, books, toys and apparel. As exciting as this may seem,
you have to remember that we probably won't see toys based on this property for at least two years.

And since we're looking that far into the future, it's worth noting that Jeff
Smith, the creator of the cult hit comic book BONE is working on a four-issue mini-series starring DC's Captain Marvel. Under the title, SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL, this series could conceivably spark renewed interest in the Shazam property, and lead to animated series and action figure line. It may not, but it's worth mentioning here, just because I'm a fan of the "Big Red Cheese".

While we're on the subject of comics, it's worth noting that the Target
Exclusive 9" Penguin figure, along with an unexpected new Batman, is
showing up some Target stores. The price is $19.99 each. These are likely the final DC Comics releases by Hasbro, who gave up the license this year.
Meanwhile, DC Direct is releasing Superman, Braniac, and Bizarro directly to comic book stores, which reflects their new flexibility concerning their flagship characters. Look for more Superman and Batman items in the direct sales market over the next year.

THE COMIC SHOP BEAT

Upcoming cool action figures from Diamond Distributors, which can be
ordered now from your local comic shop include several interesting and
offbeat selections from the world of music, television, movies, and some
terrific action figures that are just toys.

MUSICAL NOTES

For some reason, there are several action figures due based on musical
artists. Vital Toys is offering up figures of Madonna and Snoop Dogg, and
Kiss is being mutated into something called GRUNTZ. For some reason, Vital Toys thinks that there's a market for faded "singer" Madonna in action figure form. They're releasing figures based on her only well-received film role from the nearly-twenty-year-old movie, "Desperately Seeking Susan. Madonna, who played the title role of "Susan," a free-spirited New York punkette makes her action figure debut (except for a nearly-impossible-to-find Dick Tracy figure) in this new series of figures based on her many costume changes in the film. Rabid Madonna fans can choose from: "Pink" (from Bathroom Scene); "White" (from Bedroom Scene); "Orange" (from Club Scene); or "Black" (in Pyramid Jacket). Each figure stands approximately 12" tall and features limited articulation. So basically, you get a statue with movable arms and a rotating neck for twenty bucks. I don't see this one selling too well. Slated to retail for thirty-five bucks, we have famed rapper and guy who was found "not guilty", Snoop Dogg. Snoop Dogg has gone from rap/hip-hop sensation to Hollywood star in such films as Bones and The Wash. Now here are three different versions of Snoop, sporting the latest "fly" threads: "Street", "Suit", and "Bandana". Each figure stands 12" tall, is fully articulated, features a real cloth outfit and comes in window box
packaging. Now that Snoop has gone Hollywood, maybe they'll get him to play Chuck Berry. If he has the acting chops he can pull it off, since he already resembles the rock pioneer. There have been KISS action figures for years. From MEGO to McFarlane, it seems like everyone has produced some form of rock and roll's top Kabuki Metal act. Now they're being transformed into something called "GRUNTZ", some sort of cross between those horrible "Urban" action figures and a bobble-head doll. . These Gruntz collectible 7 tall figures capture the boys of KISS in their full regalia, and feature bobble-head action on articulated bodies. This series will include: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley. Blister card packaging will enhance your purchasing experience as you fork over between ten and fifteen bucks each for these odd bits of plastic.

HOT OFF THE BOX

From the world of TV, we get treated to more Simpson's and Star Trek
figures, and nice set of figures from The Avengers.

First up, All your favorite Simpson's barflies will be drawn to the
Previews Exclusive playset , which recreates Springfield's one and only
watering hole, Moe's Tavern. Since no mass market retailer in his right
mind would sell a playset of a bar, this little gem will be going the "Diamond
Select" route. This package comes with the exclusive Duffman action
figure, available only with this set! Joy! Plug him onto the Tavern floor and he (and any other Simpson's figure), will utter original dialog from the hit
TV series which happens way too frequently in real-life bars anyway. A
special note: This set is priced at $46, which means that it should sell for the same price that your local Comic Book Guy is scalping all the other
Simpson's' playsets for. In other Simpson's news, Celebrity series 3 has gone the way of the dodo. Retailers didn't order many of this series, and so Playmates is making two figures intended for this assortment (Jim Varney as Cooder and Jon Lovitz as Llewellen Sinclair) available only to their online customers. Hank Scorpio (Albert Brooks) will be part of the regular line in Simpson's assortment number ten. Jackie Mason as Rabbi Krustowski won't be coming out because the famed finger-flipping comedian wants too much money. Also available through Playmates online club (http://www.simpsonscollectors.com ) is the set of Homer, Barney,
Principal Skinner, and Apu as the "B-Sharps". Oddly enough, ex-member Chief Wiggum will be included with a B-Sharps playset next year, which is slated to be a Toys R Us exclusive.

Art Asylum is going Borg-wild with their upcoming line. Star Trek's
biomechanical terrors, the Borg, have assimilated countless species
across the galaxy, moving from one planet to the next, assimilating all that
these worlds have. This new series of figures shows the results of the Borg's assimilation of various alien races, including Cardassians, H
irogens, and the Klingons! Each 7" tall figure features all the trademark signs that make a Borg a Borg, including replaced limbs, implants, and deathly coloration. I've always wondered about something: If Seven-of-nine was the seventh assimilation of the ninth Borg, would that mean that she's related somehow to Ernest Borgnine? These figures should hit in January, at a price around ten bucks.

Making their action figure debut are "THE AVENGERS". No, not Thor,
Captain America, and Iron Man, these are the British TV Avengers, John
Steed and Emma Peel. Scheduled to ship in April 2003, you'll meet a mysterious man in a bowler hat and immaculately tailored suit carrying an umbrella. At his side, a stunning woman in a leather cat suit. These are the Avengers, whose TV series typified the mood of the Sixties in Britain. Now these larger-than-life characters are brought to life as this wonderful pair of
12 collectible figures with over 40 points of articulation. Each figure sports a
detailed likenesses of actors Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg, and includes their trademark accessories and real fabric clothing. These are a bit pricey, but well worth it for die-hard fans of the show. Now if they'd only
do Patrick MacGoohan as "THE PRISONER",AP..

In one last TV note, Moore Action Collectibles has cancelled the remainder of their X Files line. They cite declining interest since the end of the television show, but I personally think it's a conspiracy.

BIGSHOT MOVIE STARS

From the world of movies, Comic Shops are getting quite a mix of different action figure characters. From THE CROW to GODZILLA and even
NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, there's plenty to draw the furious fans of filmdom into comic book shops to pre-order.

NECA offers up a fully poseable action figure of Eric Draven as The Crow,
featuring a removable trench coat and accessories. In addition he spouts
four electronic voice phrases pulled from the original film: "It's not a good
day to be a bad guy"; " Victims, aren't we all?"; " And I say I'm dead and I
move. "; and "It can't rain all the time." These are around thirty-five bucks in window box packaging. They look a heck of a lot like the latter-day appearance of WCW wrestler STING.

Godzilla has reappeared on our shores in a new line of action figures based on the real green guy, not that alien-looking thing from the US movie.
Fans can collect the entire family of Toho mon-stars with this GODZILLA
COLLECTOR'S ACTION FIGURES WAVE 2 series of 6 1/2" action figures
including the Kaiju King, his friends, and enemies. This wave is scheduled to include: Space Godzilla; Mecha-Godzilla; Mecha King Ghidorah; Anguirus; and Godzilla 2001. All of these little guys will be comfortably ensconced in a lovingly-crafted blister card.

Vital Toys is hitting us with figures based on Sylvester Stallone's Rocky. There's not much to say about these. They're good for fans of the movies, but of little interest to anyone else. Sometimes, you just gotta shrug.

Popping out sooner than those sets, NECA brings us NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a line of figures that come as close as they can to Hasbro's original highly-sought-after action figures without actually buying the molds. Included in this assortment are Jack Skellington, Sally, Dr.
Finklestein, the Mayor, Oogie-Boogie, Werewolf, Behemoth, Santa Claus and Santa Jack. I watched the movie just the other day on HBO, and it
really holds up well. In an odd twist, since Nightmare is owned by Disney, they're using characters from it in a new video game that combines all the Disney characters with a few new characters in an adventure designed by Squaresoft, the folks behind the "Final Fantasy" series. There's a good chance that Hasbro will produce action figures based on the game. Analysts and game experts expect KINGDOM HEARTS to be one of the biggest video game hits in history based on its track record in Japan, where it was released in April, and the enthusiasm of players who have previewed it. Don't be surprised if it's a major marketing phenomenon next year.

Finally, fans of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL will be thrilled and
delighted to learn that, in addition to The Black Knight, Tim The Enchanter,
and Roger The Shrubber, Sideshow Toy is releasing a special edition of
The Knight who says 'Ni!' , which towers to a height of 18 inches in what is
sure to be the tallest in the Grail collection. So tall in fact that they have
fashioned a special box for it, as cramming it in the old one is not sound
business perspicacity. This Sideshow offering is sure to appease the
demanding members of the 'Ni' appreciation society. This Knight of Ni
exclusive is a Limited Edition of 1000 pieces, and it's only available at
http://www.sideshowtoy.com.

HEY LOOK, TOYS!

In addition to all that stuff, we can look forward to several cool toys that
are just toys.

Fans of the 3 -ae" GI Joes will want to haunt their comic book stores waiting
for a special 8 figure set featuring the GI Joe team and their arch-nemesis
COBRA. Scheduled to ship in February 2003, with this set, you can re-live
the adventures of the Real American Heroes as they battle the forces of Cobra in a limited edition collector's pack featuring eight exclusive 3 -ae' G.I. Joe (Dial Tone, Roadblock, Wetsuit, Snake Eyes) and Cobra (Undertow, Firefly, Fast Blast Viper, & Storm Shadow) figures, with complete bio cards for each character on the back. Plus, this set comes with a copy of G.I. Joe #1 from Image Comics.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is coming back with a new series on the
Saturday morning FOX BOX and The TMNT also return in an all-new series of toys based on their return to TV. Each figure will be fully articulated and
meticulously detailed, right down to the detailing on their shells. All figures will include their authentic ninja gear as seen on the show. This set will
include: Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Raphael. There will be
several assortments and sizes to choose from and these will probably hit
the mass market in February.

Wrapping up our all-news column, we'll just take a moment to tip you off
about Stikfas. These little customizable kit-figures look to be slowly
building a huge following. Stikfas Action Figure Kit (AFK) is a super-articulated 3" figure you can assemble and configure in numerous
ways. With its unique design and solid parts, the Stikfas AFK is both playable and customizable. Armed with incredible poseability and 44 interchangeable parts, accessories, and labels, Stikfas aim to lead the way in a whole new toy revolution. The next series of figures will be available in Green, Tan or Black with new customizing options. This product looks to have huge crossover potential and could be the next big thing.

That's it for this all-news Action Figure Zone. Next week we'll take a
look at even more news, including updates from Sideshow Toy, Ertl and a new action figure called Construction Jack. I'll also have reviews of a ton of
stuff, including the new Adventure Team guys, and Sideshow Toy's Black Knight.

Later, Rudy