Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine

2021-12-27 06:36:58 By : Ms. Anna Qiu

Dec 14, 2021 By Mark Redfern Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern and Mark Redfern

It’s been a tough couple of years, so when giving and receiving gifts this holiday season why not make it fun? No one needs boring socks and gift certificates. If it’s a sweater, then why not an “ugly” one featuring their favorite movie and TV characters? If it’s a TV, then why not a tiny one that only shows clips from the 1960s Batman show? If it’s bookends, then why not Andy Warhol ones inspired by the cover art to an iconic Velvet Underground album? With Part 5 of our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide we present some amusing collectibles, toys, and other gifts to brighten up the holidays of a child or those still in touch with their inner-child. Gifts to make the holidays fun (and fittingly, some come from fun.com).

Also check out the other parts of our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 1 on table top and board games, Part 2 on drinking, Part 3 on Blu-rays and DVDs, and Part 4 on video games.

This is perhaps the greatest Marvel LEGO set we’ve ever seen. Scratch that. It’s maybe one of the best LEGO sets, regardless of the fictional universe connected to it, we’ve ever witnessed. It is over two and a half feet tall (32.25 inches to be exact), contains a whopping 3,772 pieces, and comes with 25 Minifigures. This is the office building for the Daily Bugle, the iconic newspaper from the Spider-Man comic books and movies. Even though publisher J. Jonah Jameson has a crusade against the friendly neighborhood wall crawler, often calling him a menace and played pitch perfectly on the big screen J. K. Simmons, in his secret identity as Peter Parker Spider-Man makes ends meet working as a photographer for the Bugle, selling photos of himself in action.

This LEGO set features four detailed floors of the interior of the building, as well as the roof and exterior walls. The Minifigures are Spider-Man, Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Green Goblin, Gwen Stacy, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Daredevil, Sandman, Aunt May, Venom, Carnage, Punisher, Ghost-Spider, Black Cat, Firestar, Blade, Miles Morales, Spider-Ham, Betty Brant, Robbie Robertson, Ben Urich, Bennie the Cab Driver, Amber Grant, and Ron Barney. Of those, five are exclusive to this set: Blade, J. Jonah Jameson, Punisher, Black Cat, and Daredevil.

It’s pricy, but this would be the main present for any LEGO fan, young or old. Due to the complicated nature of its build, it’s recommended for 18+, but elementary or middle school fans could certainly construct with parental help. Once erected, it’s sure to be the centerpiece of any LEGO display. (Buy it here or here.)

It’s hard to fathom that the first Harry Potter movie is now 20 years old! When Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson were cast at such a young age (around 10 or 11), the filmmakers were certainly taking a chance. Would the actors be able to grow into their roles? Would they make it through what ended up being eight films, made over the course of a decade? The actors basically spent their entire young adult and teenage years making and promoting the Harry Potter films. And yet it all turned out wonderfully, the actors all continuing as fabulous adult actors and all the films generally well-regarded (and having made a total of $7.7 billion worldwide).

Another of LEGO’s impressive sets this year is the Harry Potter Hogwarts Chamber of Secrets one, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Warner Bros. movie series. It features the famous magical school and is themed after the second Harry Potter movie from 2002. It features 1,176 pieces and 10 main Minifigures, including Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Tom Riddle, Colin Creevey, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Luna Lovegood, Gilderoy Lockhart, Albus Dumbledore, Professor Sinistra, and Nearly Headless Nick (which is a glow in the dark figure). The set also comes with an exclusive golden Voldemort Minifigure. The interior features the school’s Great Hall, complete with a sorting hat, and there’s also a hidden corridor from which the included Basilisk snake monster can slither out of. It’s recommended for nine and up. (Buy it here and here.)

Also remarkably turning 20 this year is the first of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Diamond Select Toys have a wonderful line of deluxe action figures from the film and series 2 includes Mr. Frodo Baggins, the only one strong enough to be the bearer of the One Ring. The figure is in the likeness of actor Elijah Wood. He is approximately four inches tall and has 16 points of articulation. (Buy it here.)

Also available from Diamond Select’s Lord of the Rings series is this imposing action figure of the faceless creature that is Nazgûl. It is seven inches tall, towering over Frodo as he should. Yuri Tming and Eamon O’Donoghue designed the Lord of the Rings figures, which were sculpted by Gentle Giant Studios. Collect the first six figures in the series to have all the parts to assemble a 13-inch Sauron figure. (Buy it here.)

Fun.com have an amazing line of Ugly Christmas Sweaters produced exclusively for the website. They are mainly themed to classic movies and TV shows, including The Matrix, Batman, Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz, Christmas Vacation, and more. One of their latest is a Lord of the Rings-themed sweater featuring Mordor, with the Eye of Sauron looking down on everyone. It’s 55% acrylic and 45% cotton. Be both the geekiest and merriest of all at the office holiday party or ugly Christmas sweater shindig. (Buy it here.)

Fun.com aren’t the only ones in on the nerdy Christmas sweater market, Numskull have some choice jumpers as well, including this official Shaun of the Dead one. Director Edgar Wright has had quite a year, releasing not one but two well received movies, The Sparks Brothers music documentary and the psychological horror film Last Night in Soho. But it all began back in 2004 with his first feature film to receive a proper release, Shaun of the Dead, a zombie comedy that is also one of the best zombie movies of all times. It also launched the movie career of star Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the film with Wright (previously they had both worked on the sitcom Spaced). This deceptive sweater features Shaun’s electronics salesman shirt, tie, and nametag, but other images from the film also creep in, such as the zombie hands rising from the bottom. It’s 100% knitted and not printed. (Buy it here and here.)

Numskull also have this official Knight Rider sweater featuring Michael Knight himself (aka David Hasselhoff). It’s amazing how much Hasselhoff has remained a cultural icon, despite mainly being known for just two TV shows that both premiered in the 1980s, Knight Rider and Baywatch. Even his biggest musical moment, singing at the Berlin Wall on New Year’s Eve two months after the East German government had opened the wall, was in 1989. Still, for Generation Xers who grew up loving Knight Rider he remains a touchtone, so much so that he appeared in 2017’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as himself because as a child the main character Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) imagined that the Hoff might be his estranged dad. Hasselhoff also performed the end credits song and appeared in its amazing video, which featured the rest of the cast. So it all goes back to that show about the talking car. And while this sweater is headlined by Hasselhoff, KITT does cameo. It’s also 100% knitted and not printed. (Buy it here and here.)

Can’t get enough Hasselhoff? Kidrobot has this cuddly plush doll featuring him in Michael Knight mode, leather jacket and all. Or as the Kidrobot site puts it: “Eight inches of hunk will take you from one to David Hasselhoff in a matter of seconds.” And remember, you don’t hassle the Hoff. (Buy it here.)

Want to live in a land where everyday in Taco Tuesday? The delicious folks over at Kidrobot have a new addition to their Yummy World line of plush items: Victorio the Veggie Taco. This adorable stuffie has a moustache and if you unzip it you discover some equally cute friends. The Kidrobot site describes them as a band, with Victorio as the lead singer, with “backup singers Celia, Sylvia, and Sam Cilantro, Alejandro and Abigail Avocado on the strings, the Tambourine Tomato Twins, the hottest drummer in Yummy World Larry the Hot Sauce Packet, and of course the infamous Bean Brothers on the horns.” The pillow-sized Victorio is cuddly not crunchy. (Buy it here.)

I’m not even a skateboarder, but I still wish Hoverboards were real, as did every kid who watched Back to the Future Part II when it came out in 1989. There was an urban legend at the time that Hoverboards had really been invented, but were kept off the market due to safety concerns. Alas it wasn’t true and years later we ended up with some product called a Hoverboard that neither hovered nor looked like boards. Oh well, Back to the Future fans can have a little hint of their childhood dreams with Kidrobot’s Hoverboard Plush, which is 28 inches long and is a full size replica, albeit much softer and less floaty. (Buy it here.)

In 2019 Hasbro put out a fun Transformers and Ghostbusters mash-up in which the Ecto-1 car from Ghostbusters turned into a robot named Ectotron. Now another iconic 1980s car has gotten the treatment, with Doc Brown’s Delorean time machine from Back to the Future transforming into Gigawatt, with the Flux Capacitor (the thing that makes time travel possible) in the breastplate. There’s also a Back to the Future and Transformers mash-up comic book series from IDW featuring Gigawatt (as well as Doc and Marty McFly, among others). Fun.com sent us the figure. (Buy it here.)

We have been covering Kidrobot’s HugMe Vibrating Plush range in our gift guides for several years now, including featuring Slimer from Ghostbusters, the alien from Alien, and Deadpool riding a unicorn. They are medium sized plush dolls that vibrant when you hug them (or when you clap or make a loud noise). Kidrobot has also made one for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who at the end of 1984’s Ghostbusters was the giant physical manifestation of the apocalyptic Sumerian deity Gozer, as thought up by Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz. The character was hilariously brought back in this year’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, where a bunch of mini Stay Puft Marshmallow Men terrorized Paul Rudd in a Walmart. (Buy it here.)

Kidrobot’s HugMe Vibrating Plush range also features this King Kong one. The great ape, who recently fought Godzilla in the big screen smash Godzilla vs. Kong, stands 16 inches tall here. He even features a little crown, in honor of his royal status as ruler of monsters. (Buy it here.)

King Kong’s adversary Godzilla gets the Tiki Mug treatment, courtesy of Mondo. Designed and sculpted by Hector Arce, each mug is handmade. We were sent the matte black version, but there’s also a heat ray blue version. Plus there are two versions featuring King Kong. (Buy it here.)

Speaking of geeky drink ware, Fun.com is selling this Baby Yoda mug. Yes, we know his name is officially Grogu, as my 8-year-old daughter likes to point out, but Baby Yoda has a nicer ring to it. The four and half inches high ceramic mug can hold 20 oz. and is microwave and dishwasher safe. It is officially licensed and made by Silver Buffalo. Both sides feature the same cute drawing of Grogu. Sip some tea and coffee while you anxiously wait for the new season of The Mandalorian to drop (although it’s not excepted until sometime next year, so that’s a lot of coffee). (Buy it here.)

Rumors have been spreading that Charlie Cox might be returning to the role of Daredevil or at least his secret identity of lawyer Matt Murdock in this month’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, even though he hasn’t shown up in any official trailers or photos. In an interview with CinemaBlend Marvel orchestrator Kevin Feige did at least confirm that if Daredevil were to appear in the MCU he would be played by Cox, who was Daredevil in the well received Netflix series of the same name from 2015 to 2018 (which was when all of the Marvel Netflix series were cancelled). The Netflix show was gritty and violent, this seven inches tall statue from the Animated Statue series from Gentle Giant and Diamond Select Toys takes a more humorous tone, featuring the Man Without Fear as more of a kid with maybe a bit of fear, looking like he’s about to fall over. (Buy it here.)

Daredevil’s love interest and sparring partner Elektra didn’t really get a fair shake on the big screen, with Jennifer Garner playing the assassin in 2005’s poorly received film, a spinoff of 2003’s also not well-liked Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck as the blind superhero, years before he was Batman. This was also all pre-MCU and it’s easy to forget what a bad state Marvel’s big screen endeavors were in before Robert Downey Jr. put on the Iron Man armor. French actress Élodie Yung took over the Elektra role in the acclaimed Daredevil TV series from Netflix, with the character debuting in season 2 and also appearing in the Defenders miniseries. Yung’s version was closer in spirit to Frank Miller’s comics creation. More recently in the comics, Elektra has been filling in as Daredevil while his alter-ego Matt Murdoch does prison time for manslaughter. Gentle Giant and Diamond Select Toys’ Elektra Animated Statue is more playful in nature, with the hero sporting a big smile and holding her twin sai weapons gleefully up in the air. Paul Harding sculpted the statue, which is six inches tall. (Buy it here.)

Diamond Select Toys is also selling an alternate version of the Elektra Animated Statue that was originally a 2020 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive (a year when the con was all-virtual because of the pandemic). It features Elektra in a white costume and ninja paper dolls at the end of her weapons. Only 250 of these were made. (Buy it here.)

Thor: The Dark World is nobody’s favorite MCU film. New Zealand director Taika Waititi saved the franchise with 2017’s follow-up, Thor: Ragnarok, which brought a unique sense of humor and style to superhero movies and we can image is a lot of fans’ favorite MCU entries. Waititi has returned for the fourth film headlined by the Asgardian Avenger, Thor: Love and Thunder, giving hope that the franchise will stay on track. Natalie Portman is back as love interest Jane Foster, after sitting out Ragnarok, and in Love and Thunder she gains Thor’s powers. The sequel also features the Guardians of the Galaxy. We’ll have to wait until July 8, 2022 to see how it all shakes out. In the meantime, there’s Gentle Giant and Diamond Select Toys’ Thor Animated Statue. This irreverent take on the God of Thunder features a more childlike version, complete with a beanie propeller helmet. It is six inches tall. (Buy it here.)

Speaking of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Animated Statue line also features this winning statue of the group’s leader, half-human/half-alien Star-Lord (real name Peter Quill). It features the irreverent hero in a dynamic pose: on the run and ready to fire at whoever or whatever is chasing him. It’s just over nine inches tall. (Buy it here.)

WandaVision kicked off Disney+’s MCU shows in true style, with the initial episodes each pulling inspiration from a classic sitcom of a different decade, before slowly revealing what was really going on. Overall it’s been nominated for 84 different awards, including eight Prime Time Emmys, and has won 21 awards overall. WandaVision has also already appeared on multiple best TV shows of 2021 lists. When Paul Bettany was first cast in the voice role as J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark’s AI, in the first Iron Man movie, he had know idea that it would morph into perhaps his most recognizable role as Vision (it’s the first thing mentioned on his Wikipedia page). Whether or not Bettany’s Vision will return remains to be seen. For now, fans can pick up Gentle Giant and Diamond Select Toys’ Vision Animated Statue. The five-inch tall statue features the android in his classic green, red, and yellow costume. He is mounted as though he is floating. (Buy it here.)

Vision’s wife, Wanda (aka The Scarlet Witch), gets the Marvel Select action figure treatment from Diamond Select Toys. It’s seven inches tall with 16 points of articulation. The figure comes with a second head, one with her head cloaked, and extra hands (which are gloved). It’s modeled after Elizabeth Olsen’s likeness and features The Scarlet Witch’s costume from the latter episodes of WandaVision. The show garnered her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. Fun.com sent us the figure. (Buy it here.)

Anarchy in the MCU? As witnessed in the animated modern classic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there have been many versions of Spider-Man over the years. How about a punk rock version? Hobart Brown is Spider-Punk. Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel created the character, who first appeared in 2015 and was part of the comic book Spider-Verse storyline. While Spider-Punk hasn’t shown up on the big screen yet, he was in the Marvel’s Spider-Man video game for the PS4 and PS5 and that’s where Diamond Select Toys’ Spider-Punk Gallery Diorama pulls from, as part of the Marvel Gamer Verse series. Caesar designed the statue, which was sculpted by Cortes Studios. It’s 7 inches tall and the electric guitar is removable. (Buy it here.)

My heart still breaks that 1991’s The Rocketeer wasn’t enough of a box office success to warrant a sequel. The ending nicely set things up for the further adventures of pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell), mechanic A. “Peevy” Peabody (Alan Arkin), and actress Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly), but as also happened with other early ’90s films The Shadow, The Phantom, and Dick Tracy, audiences showed that they were less than interested in period superhero movies. The Rocketeer might have been the best of the four films, but it neither launched a franchise nor Campbell’s career as a leading man. An animated TV series on Disney Junior was launched in 2019, featuring Cliff’s seven-year-old granddaughter Kit as the new Rocketeer, but it was too childlike to appeal to adult fans and younger viewers likely weren’t familiar with the character. So it was cancelled after one season. There is still hope, however, with a new Rocketeer film in the works at Disney+, with David Oyelowo potentially starring as a former Tuskegee Airman who inherits the jetpack.

Diamond Select Toys’ The Rocketeer Premiere Collection Resin Statue features the Cliff Secord version of The Rocketeer, modeled after his appearance in the 1991 film rather than Dave Stevens’ original comic books (not that the looks are that different). Caesar designed the statue, which was sculpted by Rocco Tartamella. It is 10 inches tall and features Cliff ready to lift off, fire from his rocket-pack blowing in the wind. (Buy it here.)

If you’re looking for a more economical Rocketeer collectible gift, Diamond Select Toys also has a vinyl figure as part of their Vinimates line. It is 4.7 inches high and has a moveable head. (Buy it here.)

There’s also a variation of the Rocketeer Vinimates figure that features a yellow helmet and a more weathered look to his costume. It was originally a 2020 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive. (Buy it here.)

For New York Comic-Con 2020 there was another exclusive version of the Rocketeer Vinimates figure, this one in black & white to match how the hero might appear in the newspapers and newsreels of his 1930s era. (Buy it here.)

The classic arcade game, 1942, can finally be yours in a cool smaller form. Originally released in 1984, in the vertical shooting game you are a World War II flying ace fighting in the Battle of Midway. Your aim is to reach Tokyo to destroy the Japanese fleet. While it’s a bit odd that a Japanese company would design a game taking place in the Pacific Theater of World War II, where the Americans are the heroes and the Japanese are the bad guys, 1942 was a hit in Japanese arcades in the ’80s.

New Wave’s Replicade version features the original arcade game in a smaller size and you also have the option of playing its sequel, 1943. The game cabinet lights up and the sound is impressive for its size. What’s more, it comes with an external joystick and an HDMI port, which allows you to play the game on your big flat-screen TV.

My eight-year-old daughter Rose says: “I like 1942 because it’s cool how you are in the air, but it’s not just planes you fight but also boats with cannons. I also like how there are power-ups.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

We were watching an episode of Teen Titans Go! the other day, one of my eight-year-old daughter Rose’s favorite cartoons but also a show with another retro references that it will amuse parents. The episode, fittingly titled “Video Game References,” was making fun of 1980s video games and soon enough there was a spoof of Spy Hunter, in which Cyborg is pursued on a computerized road by a villain named Pie Hunter. Rose’s face excitedly lit up as she got the reference, for we had been playing Spy Hunter for weeks via Basic Fun’s Arcade Classics line of retro mini arcade games.

The game originally hit arcades in 1983. It was inspired by James Bond and initially was going to be tied into 007 and feature the James Bond theme, but licensing issues prevented that. And perhaps all the better, for Spy Hunter is forever tied to Henry Mancini’s theme for the 1950s TV show Peter Gunn instead. Gameplay is fairly simple. You’re in a spy car loaded with machine guns and you have to take out your enemies without being forced off the road. The miniature version is just as fun as the full-size arcade one and in our family we’ve been trying to beat each other’s high scores. Rose is #1, I’m #2, and my wife Wendy comes in at #3.

Rose says: “I like Spy Hunter because I still have the high score and it’s also fun when you don’t and you’re trying to get the high score. I like how it’s old school and I like when you drive around and then at one point you go into the water or get to an icy road. And how when you get knocked off the road a truck brings you back and when you get knocked off into the water a boat picks you up.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Holy tiny TV Batman! Basic Fun’s Tiny TV Classics range are miniature TVs (1.57 x 2.36 x 2.76 Inches), each themed to a different movie or TV show from a separate era. They are actual working TVs with fully functioning remote controls to change channels or the volume.

We were sent the Batman version. It features various clips from the classic 1960s Batman show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. All the clips just play through or you can switch between them. Watch Batman use his cape to deal with a stampede of bulls heading towards Robin. Witness the Boy Wonder survive being pushed off a building by the Riddler by grabbing onto a Batarang with his teeth. “Holy molars, am I ever glad I take care of my teeth,” Robin says. “True, you owe your life to dental hygiene,” replies Batman. It would be great for a dollhouse, but also is simply a fun item for your desk or mantelpiece. Also available are Tiny TVs featuring clips from South Park, Friends, and Back to the Future, with each TV designed to look like one from the time the show first aired in the case of South Park and Friends (whereas the Back to the Future one looks like a TV from 1955, when most of the movie takes place). (Buy it here.)

McFarlane Toys have been doing a great job the last few years producing action figures based in DC Comics characters, including ones modeled after iconic comic book runs and current movies (such as their spot-on figures featuring characters from this year’s The Suicide Squad). But their DC Retro series digs a little further back in time, to the 1960s Batman series. It may have been campy, but as a kid I didn’t care. Reruns would air in the early afternoon on weekdays, before I’d get home from school. But those rare snow or sick days I’d make sure to excitedly watch it. The only problem was that episodes often ended on cliffhangers and if I was back at school the next day then I couldn’t tune into “the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel” to find out how the dynamic duo got out of whatever sticky situation that often amounted to them being tied up or otherwise trapped by a colorful villain.

McFarlane’s Batman figure is six inches tall, has 12 points of articulation, a cloth cape, and comes with “Pow!” and “Kapow!!” sound effect bubbles you can attach to their arms. You can pair this Batman figure with the Tiny TV Classics Batman and have your action figure watch himself on TV. Also available from McFarlane Toys are Robin and The Joker figures, as well as a Batmobile and a Batcave Playset. (Buy it here.)

The pièce de résistance of Kidrobot’s 2021 offerings is their Andy Warhol Resin Banana Bookends, produced in partnership with The Andy Warhol Foundation. Even if you’re not a diehard fan of the legendary pop artist, this is an image you’ve most likely seen. After all, it graced the cover of one of the greatest albums of all time, 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico, which turns 55 next March. These bookends are hefty and stand 9.5 inches tall. In an homage to the original album cover, the bookends have magnetic fronts that can be removed (or peeled) to reveal the inside of the bananas. We are currently using the bookends to hold a copy each of all 68 of Under the Radar’s back issues! (Buy it here.)

And that’s a wrap, but stay tuned for more gift guides featuring music reissues and box sets and books and graphic novels.

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Dec 21, 2021 Issue #69 - 20th Anniversary Issue