Pop!: 2011 TOY FAIR SHOWCASE

Fri, March 4th, 2011 at 9:58am PST

Comic Books
Jorge Khoury, Columnist
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From February 13 - 16, Manhattan was once again the nexus of the universe as the past, present and future of the toy industry collided at the 108th Annual American International Toy Fair. Roaming the Javits Convention Center floor, attendees witnessed the familiar sight of wonderful and imaginative toys from yesteryear alongside exciting playthings destined to be the next big thing next holiday season. Toy Fair is an annual sales mecca where toymakers and toy retailers from around the world converge, its premises closed to the general public and all children under 18 years of age.

Despite advances in technology and shifts in culture, toys will always remain a powerful medium. What child doesn't need his imagination provoked; what adult doesn't need to rekindle their youthful exuberance? Many of us share childhood memories of our favorite playthings with friends, and we strive to one day to hand those same experiences down to future generations. As always, this year's Toy Fair showcased items tailored to all ages and served notice that you never outgrow toys when it comes to inspiring imagination and industry.

As this was my first visit to the colorful show, I had more than enough enthusiasm to explore each and every booth in search of anything that captured my eye. Here's the best of what I saw:

KOTOBUKIYA

Amongst all of their great products, Japanese toy distributor Kotobukiya had these three beauties present: the intimidating Cloud City Darth Vader ARTFX+ statue (a May 2011 release), the sleek Wonder Woman statue from the "DC Comics X Bishoujo"" series (June 2011) and a beautiful Colossus Statue from their "X-Men Danger Room Session" series (July 2011). The craftsmanship and sheer size of the Colossus statue makes it the most impressive three-dimensional representation I've ever seen of the metallic X-Man. Kotobukiya are also the folks releasing the upcoming R2-D2 and Han Solo (in carbonite) ice trays.

GENTLE GIANT

Within the Diamond Direct booth, I finally saw several of the super-sized "Star Wars" 12" action figures -- and they're spectacular! Gentle Giant has gone to great lengths to accurately produce the look and feel of the original 1977 wave of Kenner "Star Wars" figures in beautiful foot-tall specimens. If you were a Generation X kid that cherished the vintage 3¾" incarnations, this new wave is guaranteed to give you a sensational bliss of seventies awesomeness. Several figures have already been released; the essential Luke Skywalker 12" comes out this summer at a store near you.

BIF BANG POW!

Bif Bang Pow! has released many fine toys based on popular media franchises over the years, but the Mystic Seer replica is my holy grail. This devious contraption of fortune telling was originally featured in "Nick of Time," a 1960 "Twilight Zone" parable written by the legendary Richard Matheson. In the episode, a young couple (actors William Shatner and Patricia Breslin) awaiting car repairs, find themselves stranded in a small town diner where they discover the coin-operated Mystic Seer in their booth has all the answers to their future.

The life-sized Mystic Seer replica looks beautiful and true to the one featured in the show. It has a working coin mechanism and dispenses fortunes to anyone daring enough to meet their destiny. It comes out this July with a suggested price of $249.99.

MIMOCO

Mimoco formally premiered their Batman series of Mimobot designer USB flash drives at Toy Fair. This cool-looking set includes Batman, Robin, Joker, Catwoman and a nifty1939-era Batman limited edition version. The USB flash drives are sold in 2 GB to 16 GB memory capacities and come preloaded with Batman-related Mimobot wallpapers, screensavers and avatars. Now you can entrust all your important files to the Caped Crusader.

TONNER

I bumped into a glamorous 22" Wonder Woman standing tall beside her DC 13" and 17" female contemporaries at the fanciful Tonner Doll Company booth. These collectible dolls command a lot of attention due to their trademark detailed costuming and expressive faces. Tonner has produced the following DC character dolls: Artemis of Bana Mighdall, Black Canary, Supergirl, Wonder Woman (13" and 22" editions), Catwoman, Dove, Raven and Starfire.

MONOGRAM INTERNATIONAL INC.

Monogram produces the type of items that I used to be crazy about as a kid: Marvel superhero stationary! I've seen their products everywhere. The company also makes a remarkable array of Marvel-licensed products, including bobble heads, banks, desk collections, drinkware, figurines, key rings, magnets, light-up jewelry, paperweights and bust banks. Their upcoming Thor bank, series of Marvel Superheroes erasers, and a sweet-looking "Tron" Light Cycle stapler commanded my attention.

BLUE FIN DISTRIBUTION

Blue Fin will be unleashing a very impressive, hyper-articulated Mega Man X figure from Bandai's Collectibles division, "Tamashii Nations." This colorful X comes out later in the year for around fifty dollars. The popular video game character has never looked more cunning and regal.

COMIC IMAGES

The New Jersey-based company named Comic Images has been around for over twenty years -- they were well known for making trading cards and T-shirts based on comic book characters before it became trendy and fashionable in the early 1990s. At Toy Fair, the company showed off their product line and previewed upcoming merchandise for 2011 that features characters from "Star Wars," the Marvel Universe and the classic Universal Movie Monsters line-up. I'm keen on impressing folks with those Darth Vader and Chewbacca slippers coming out later this year.

BE AMAZING! TOYS

Be Amazing's agenda is to bring "the fun back in science and educational toys!" and their new Geyser Rocket car lives up to the slogan. This snappy science kit lets you build a soda-powered car that can travel 200+ feet by "turning potential chemical energy into kinetic cool," aided with some Mentos candies. I saw a demonstration and was totally floored by how fast this thing moved. According to the salesperson, it can go up to 30 miles per hour. The fun that one could have with one of these unstoppable soda-powered cars seems limitless.

UNIVERSITY GAMES CORPORATION

University Games formally launched Colorforms' Sixtieth Anniversary with a gigantic celebratory set honoring the occasion at the show. Colorforms is an old friend of mine from childhood. I spent hours rearranging those vinyl images,from popular superheroes to television show characters, upon the laminated backgrounds. Good times. Anyway, these new limited numbered sets feature "350 brightly-colored geometric Stick-Ons™ of five different colors in an elegant spiral bound book, reversible two-sided play board and presentation case featuring Colorforms' history." By the way, the classic 1984 Michael Jackson Colorforms set is coming back to stores; maybe its success could trigger a relaunch of even more popular sets from the past.

POOFIN

We spend our entire lives looking for like-minded friends, people and things that understand what we're really about and help define us. Imagine if you could store all your cherished memories, objects and traits in one single place? Well, Poofin might be exactly what you seek. It's a star-shaped plush that enables kids of all ages to store up to fifty favorite charms -- brilliant good-luck pieces which can feature the images of the people, places and things that one adores. You can even order custom charms from Poofin.com directly. The affection of the Poofin Star will never let you forget the best attributes that lie within you. Isn't that power of positivity what toys are really supposed to be about?

SHOCKER TOYS

Shocker Toys, another exciting New Jersey toymaker, has been extremely busy building a splendid line of six inch action figures featuring notable characters from the world of comics and anime. Their Indie Spotlight Series features The Tick, Jack Staff, The Phantom, Dan Garret "The Blue Beetle", Black Terror, The Heap and more legendary heroes. The anime spotlight line includes characters from the worlds of Viz, Toei and Funimation. Look out for all of these during 2011. Spoon!

Special thanks to Eric Nolen-Weathington and Jason Hofius

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TAGS:  pop!, toy fair, star wars, batman, action figures

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