Movies and TV franchises have a way of seeping into popular culture. We all have different experiences, but between Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, you can likely have a conversation with a large majority of the population.
Conversation starters are great to have in the house or around town. Anyone can dress up for a comic book convention (known as comic-cons these days) or for role-playing and such, but it’s those special collectibles that really get people excited and talking.
I came across quite a few licensed products this winter, but there were a few that really stuck out for various reasons. Some are a new take on a familiar theme, others are detailed replications of iconic items, and then there are the working electronics that simulate realistic actions from the movies.
These are the collectibles you’ll want in your home to make all your friends jelly.
6. Marvel Blankets by Pendleton Woolen Mills – $800
Pendleton Woolen Mills is a Portland, Oregon-based textile manufacturer that has specialized in woolen blankets and clothing since 1863. Native American-style blankets are what the company is really known for, and there’s nothing more Americana in the Age of Trumpacalypse than American-made blankets designed by Native American artists.
Unless, of course, you add in Marvel’s famous superheroes.
In 2016 and 2017, the general population was introduced to an event comic book fans know as Civil War through the Captain America film and Avengers TV series. The basic idea is instead of the classic superhero vs supervillain scenario, we saw our favorite heroes divide over an important American issue of privacy and registration.
Mutant registration has long plagued the mutants of the Marvel universe, but supers were relatively unquestioned until Civil War. It even spawned a rehash that recently wrapped up. Both are great metaphors for how modern citizens are divided over the ethical and moral direction of the country, each believing they’re heroes. In reality, both are simply learning how the natives have always been treated.
Each of these hand-numbered blankets is specially designed around Captain America, Spider-Man, and The Avengers symbology using the geometric shapes and patterns, along with the contrasting colors, prominent in Native American blanket art and is hand-numbered with a custom Marvel label and certificate of authenticity.
For those who missed the moral of Civil War in its original comic book form, the war between the heroes ends when both sides realize the destruction and fear left in the wake of them unleashing their powers. Both sides realize losses, and what seemed like a blurred line suddenly becomes clear – regardless of our individual beliefs, we need to learn to accept each other.
The blankets measure 64 bx 72 inches and are made from a pure virgin wool/cotton blend and bound by felt. Pick your favorite blanket for $250, or get the full set for $800 ($50 more than it would cost to buy them each individually). They’ll keep you warm during our inevitable nuclear winter.
5. Stuart Minion Cam HD WiFi Camera (Walmart Exclusive) $40.99
Let’s just be real here – minions have been on everyone’s mind ever since we saw them in 2010’s Despicable Me. Since then, a proliferation of Minion merchandise has been flying off shelves all over the world, and it’s really hard to decide on the cutest. From cupcakes to toys, blankets, plushes, electronics, and everything in between, minions are everywhere.
Stuart is a minion with a special purpose – it’s an HD WiFi nanny cam that has two-way speakers, night vision, and motion sensors. Created by Tend, it’s available exclusively at Walmart’s website and stores.
While this adorable camera has no technical issues, I do wonder how effective such a cute item is as a nanny cam. I can’t help but stare at it every time I see it, but then again I know it’s a camera. Your average person may not be constantly on the lookout for such things, and even if they do, it’s a great communication device to have in your home.
Minions are recognizable by young children, and it wouldn’t be difficult to train everyone in the family to use it as a communication device for specific purposes. Either way, the functionality is enough to set it apart from the pile of cute and cuddly minions wandering around this world.
For those of you who have been living under a rock and are somehow unaware of any yellow characters not Simpsons or SpongeBob SquarePants, minions evolved from single-celled yellow organisms at the dawn of time to serve their masters. Essentially it’s what you are to those in power.
4. The Royal Crown of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister by Factory Entertainment – $299.99
It’s difficult having a conversation with a white man or woman without Game of Thrones coming up. HBO’s popular show is on its way to its seventh season as George R.R. Martin’s book series on which its based (“A Song of Ice and Fire”) is soon to reach its 6th book.
Despite fantasy books never being associated with the popular crowd, Lord of the Rings and other movie franchises paved the way for Game of Thrones to become a major hit. Being on HBO, it’s of course filled with tits, ass, sex, and tons of the ol’ ultra-violence (even Dubya made a few unintentional cameos).
The most shocking moments of the first four seasons typically came at the hands of Jack Gleeson’s Joffrey Baratheon, a spoiled brat who became king at the age of 12 and is both ruthless and cowardly in his actions, leading audiences and critics to absolutely loathe everything about the character in both the book and show.
I won’t spoil anything for the few of you who want to watch it and still somehow haven’t, but for as villainous, unfair, and flat-out disgusting as Joffrey is, it speaks to how deep and fantastic of a character he truly is. That is to say our hatred of Joffrey speaks to our love, and this replica of Joffrey’s gold crown was recreated in painstaking detail by Factory Entertainment using an actual prop used on screen in the show.
For liberals in America, Donald Trump’s election to the position of President of the United States of America fills the pit of their stomach with the same bad feeling we felt at Joffrey’s every interaction with the Starks for four years of Game of Thrones. California is again talking about seceding, and Joffrey’s crown speaks volumes to how many on the left feel these days.
Just try to remember that even the Lannisters are heroic from the right perspective. Nobody is truly innocent when pursuing the Irone Throne, even Bernie Sanders.
I’ll admit – by the time I graduated high school in 1999, I had never heard of Harry Potter, aside from a friend explaining what his dog’s name (Voldemort) meant. It wasn’t until late 2002 that a girl finally convinced me to watch the first movie and I fell in love.
Soon I was reading all the books, catching up on the movies, and caught up in the whirlwind that made J.K. Rowling one of the richest people on the planet. The franchise continues to expand, as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is being added to Universal Studios theme parks around the world.
Dumbledore’s Army is an important group in the Potter book series, as the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry form a secret group mimicking The Order of the Phoenix as an underground railroad of sorts to teach forbidden dark arts defense tactics when a totalitarian regime was in power.
This resistance to Delores Umbridge was founded by Hermione Granger, the most ethical protagonist of the group, and taught by Harry, the most capable wizard. During club meetings, students with no experience fighting in the real world learned how to summon a patronus, duel, and protect themselves from Death Eaters, which comes in hand later in the series on several occasions.
Everyone in the group signed a scroll to join Dumbledore’s Army, and the most popular characters are represented on a replica scroll.
In 2016, a prequel series was released based on the short stories collected in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was written as a guidebook to introduce muggles to the magical world of Rowling. A new Harkins opened in town for the release of the movie, so my roommate and I went to check it out the week of Thanksgiving.
Fantastic Beasts moves the Potter world from England to the United States, where muggles are called nonmaj, and a whole new prequel world unfolds around the dark wizard Grindelwald, whom Voldemort learns Albus Dumbledore dueled and defeated to take possession of the Elder Wand.
Like everything American, Fantastic Beasts wands are sleeker, brighter, and better made than those across the pond, and this wand set represents a whole new generations connection to the wizarding world.
Regardless of which side you’re on, wands from The Noble Collection are perfect replicas of all your favorite wands. While a death eater collection would’ve been great in its own right, the DA is more relevant today than its ever been.
2. The Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver by The Wand Company ($110)
While a replica wand display is cool, it has nothing on a functional wand. The Wand Company takes things further by creating replica wands and other sci-fi and fantasy props that use gesture controls to become a universal remote. We received their latest release, the Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver, which is a sturdy, metal, and highly detailed replica of The Doctor’s favorite tool and closest thing to a weapon.
Doctor Who is a BBC series about a time-travelling alien from a race called Time Lords who travels around in his space ship (called the TARDIS) disguised as a phone booth from 1963 London. Simply known as The Doctor, he can travel to any point in time and space, but typically enjoys England during human history.
Though immortal, The Doctor does have a few issues. First, he’s lonely, and constantly picks up a travelling companion (sometimes two), knowing their time is limited as they’re mortal. Second, whenever an actor’s run is up and it’s time to recast, The Doctor must die and be reborn (similar to Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix).
Peter Capaldi is the 12th (and, as of January 2017, current) Doctor, and this is the sonic screwdriver he receives from the TARDIS at the end of Series 9 after losing his original to Davros, leader of the Daleks. For most of the season, he’s wearing black Ray-Ban sonic sunglasses instead.
This sonic screwdriver has multiple modes and memory banks to allow programming for a variety of tasks. After pairing it with a Samsung remote, I was able to walk around the house turning TVs on and off, changing the channel, and controlling the volume with ease.
It takes two AAA batteries (not included) and you’ll have to unscrew it to replace them, so don’t lose the mini screwdriver that comes with it.
I had no issues programming or using the remote and spent a week playing with it before finally resorting to my normal remote. Still, it makes for a great display to weed out the people who understand what in the hell Doctor Who even is.
1. Star Wars Battle Drones by Propel ($199.99)
I’m not a big Star Wars fan. I don’t necessarily hate it, and I’ve seen most of the movies, but I’m not one of those guys who lives and breathes the franchise. May fourth isn’t a holiday, and I sincerely judge anyone who tells me any movie with the word “Star” in it is their favorite.
With all that being said, the Tie Advanced X1 drone I received from Propel during last year’s holiday season is easily the coolest licensed toy I’ve come across so far in my life for several reasons.
First, it’s a drone, but not just any drone – Propel has been making radio-controlled devices since 2006 and has steadily improved. It’s also a Star Wars drone, recreating spaceships from the movie in painstaking detail. Third, it’s an augmented reality drone that lets you battle other players in up to 24-person wars occurring at 35 miles per hour.
Everything about this drone is a home run, and it has the best packaging I’ve seen, not just in the toy category, but in pretty much any product ever. As I opened the box of my new tool of the Empire, I was greeted by an assortment of sound and music clips directly from the movies.
While I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, there’s no denying how cool this movie replica is. The detail is nice, but it’s being able to take the reins of your favorite space ships in a (somewhat) real-life battle is what takes the cake. Your lightsaber was just made obsolete.
And even though I’m not the biggest fan, I do understand the relevance of Star Wars in modern society. The White House was forced to reject a petition to build the Death Star after it reached enough signatures to be considered, and let’s face it – we elected Emperor Palpatine to rule us.
But there will always be a rebel force, even if some of them are annoying hippiecrites and armchair activists. A common enemy tends to bring people together from all walks of life. Personally I couldn’t care less which side is in power, because it corrupts both sides – Jedi and Sith.