Superheroes command the stage at N. American Toy Fair
In this image provided by IAmElemental, the company revealed its new female superhero action figure collection at this winter’s Toy Fair in New York. Wisdom was inspired by ancient astronomer and teacher Hypatia. IAmElemental’s toys are designed to spark creative play through emphasis on positive character traits as super powers. Last year’s collection, Courage, was inspired by Joan of Arc. (IAmElemental via AP)
Kim Cook, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 9:56AM EST
NEW YORK -- Superheroes were a force to be reckoned with at this month's North American International Toy Fair, the annual trade showcase for all that's new in playthings.
Many were tied to movie or comic-book franchises, while others took the idea of the superhero in new directions.
Toy companies have been busy keeping up with movies like Marvel's Avengers series, including the upcoming "Captain America: Civil War"; as well as Warner Bros.' "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" movie, due out in March; the recent "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"; and other offerings of the genre.
Toy-fair booths at the Javits Convention Center here this month featured dozens of collectible figures for adults and lots of toys for kids.
Hasbro debuted a "Captain America: Civil War" collection of figures and playsets, as well as role-play items like a shield with a hidden button that launched Nerf darts. High-tech masks had multi-colored light scopes and electronic armour sounds.
There were superhero bobble heads, bedding, decor, even housewares. How about a Batman cookie jar? A Star Wars BB-8 alarm clock?
Pocket-size Mr. Potato Head figures aimed at the preschool market featured interchangeable parts: You could put Black Widow's head on Hulk's body, for instance.
Lego had a wide range of Super Heroes building kits tied to films and comic books. A collection called Mighty Micros, targeting ages 5-12, includes a superhero, villain and vehicles in each set; Spiderman vs. Green Goblin, for instance, or Captain America vs. Red Skull.
Vandor's booth offered Star Wars soup mugs, Captain America water bottles, insulated lunch bags illustrated with comic book covers, and a metal lunch box shaped like a Ninja Turtle shell.
Entertainment Earth showed capes for Spiderman, Supergirl, Batman and Batgirl to decorate chair backs, perhaps giving homework hour the gravity of an important mission. There were also nesting-doll sets featuring Batman or Star Wars characters.
One addition to the Marvel toy line was Pepper, Iron Man's girlfriend and now, apparently, a super girl in her own right. Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Black Widow also have action figures and accessories.
Even Thomas the Tank Engine has been adopted by the comic universe. Fisher-Price has combined the little trains with DC Comics Super Friends.
"Superheroes are very current and relevant," says Fisher-Price spokesman Mike Pisor. "We thought this would be a great way to leverage the noise around the Batman vs. Superman epic drama unfolding this year. We know that kids who love trains also love action figures and vehicles."
The Toy Fair revealed some new twists on the superhero genre, too.
Theatric Toys has a costume kit in their "Props in a Bag" line; included in a handy-for-sleepovers drawstring bag is a felt cape, utility belt, mask, cuffs and scenic backdrop. Create a story of your own to video, then download an app to add kid-friendly special effects.
Daphne Kaufer, an entrepreneur in Redwood Shores, California, put a little cape onto a water-resistant, insulating EVA backpack sized for preschoolers. The SuperME packs come in fun colour combos and graphic designs, and everything's lightweight and washable.
IAmElemental, founded by New Yorker Julie Kerwin, introduced a new addition to its line of female superheroes. Drawing inspiration from ancient warriors as well as modern superheroes, Kerwin's toys have powers like wisdom, empathy and bravery. Joan of Arc was her first character, representing Courage. At this year's Toy Fair, the latest muse was revealed: Hypatia, an ancient Alexandrian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician.
"This woman was a STEM (the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math) superstar before STEM was even a word," laughs Kerwin.
The collections consist of seven articulated figures, suitable for ages 4 and up.