Contemplating my upcoming 20 hours of car time with two young children, I’ve been forced to reach back into long-buried memories of summer road trips with my family. I think the trip to the Grand Canyon stands out, not only because I nearly died from food poisioning, but because the Western landscape never changes. When you’re twelve, and reading in the car makes you motion sick, and the pad of mad libs is a scribbled-upon wreck, those few hours in the car can stretch to millenia.
Determined to ensure a better fate for my offspring, I set upon the local Target for meat to throw to the ravenous wolves. The trick – finding things that will keep them occupied, but have few extra parts that can get lost between seat cushions (or under the seat, or in the track on the door, or in a juice-flooded cupholder), and are relatively inexpensive. Also, he’s 7 and she’s 2…so finding things that will tickle both their fancies is, well, difficult. Lucky for me my daughter is a geekette in training and loves her older brother’s toys, so I go with what I know he’ll like (trusting that she’s going to being clamoring for it, regardless).
Enter Superhero Squad and Batman Brave & The Bold
action inaction figures. They come two to a pack, they have no accessories, and they’re not too big. Perfect fuel for rousing backseat adventures.
These brightly colored hunks of plastic are firmly aimed toward a young audience. As I mentioned, they have no accessories and little to no articulation. But what they lack in playability, they make up for in character. On the DC side, there’s Mattel’s Batman Brave and the Bold line. Based on the current, already rather-stylized cartoon, these are an oddity in that they actually look like their source material (rather than a preschool-ed up version). Whereas when I was a kid, toys like this would be press-molded plastic with little to no paint on them, these are full-fledge sculpts with a generous amount of detail (both sculpted and painted). The Batman/Etrigan
set are one of my favorites…because who doesn’t love wee little demons and evil Batmen in medieval armor? The Bats/Gorilla Grodd
pack break the rules a bit by including a freaking HUGE Grodd (he was used in the full-sized figure line); but I’ll forgive it because it makes Grodd look even more imposing…and Bats has the best cranky old man expression I’ve ever seen in plastic.
Oh yeah, the designers of these toys? Seriously tweaked in the humor department. Especially when it comes to Marvel Super Hero Squad.
Now, a lot of these are your standard fare…Spider-Man. Hulk. Captain America…all with the expected villains. But then something gets in the water over at Hasbro, and they decide to mess with kids’ minds. Take, for instance, the Thor and Thorbuster Iron Man
two-pack. How do you explain away the fact that Thor comes with his buddy who’s crafted armor specifically designed to melt his face off? Even better is Ghost Rider. He’s the teeniest-tiniest, gosh-durned cutest little skull-faced vengeance demon that ever did ride a flaming Harley. I fully expect them to release an Ultimate Blob/Yellowjacket two-pack at some point so that kids can recreate the moment he bit her head off. Fun! Of course, most kids (hopefully) won’t know the convoluted backstories that go with most of these figures and will just enjoy the sheer variety of figs that are available (I’ve seen first-hand their power to render kids completely unable to make a decision).
So, with a few packs in hand, I’m on my way to making a grab-bag of comic-themed goodness to pass back every couple of hours. This being the first real Road Trip we’ve done as a family, I’m hopeful that our new plastic pals will keep them occupied (for 5-10 minutes, at least).