Here we are already at day one of The 2021 PopCult Gift Guide. It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of the year again already.

We’re trying a new format this year. There will be one post every weekday in November. Each post will have five gift suggestions. Most days there will be some sort of theme. Today that would be toys.

I’m not putting a price limit on the gift ideas, but I will try to keep them somewhat reasonable, and most should be under fifty bucks. I’m also going to take the available supply into account, and recommend stuff that I know you can actually find in stores or online.

And with that, let’s jump in.

Hess 2021 Cargo Plane and Jet

Traditionally we kick off the PopCult Gift Guide with the HESS Truck for the year, but this year it’s not a truck.  It’s a cargo plane, with a jet tucked inside. You can only get this from the HESS Truck website, and it’s $39.99 (plus tax). That includes shipping and batteries.

The 2021 Hess Cargo Plane and Jet has landed in the fleet, all geared up for high flying adventure with 6 remarkably lifelike, button and motion activated flying sounds, and enough LED bulbs to light up the night sky!

The Cargo Plane is an impressive, six turbine engine, heavy-load transport aircraft. Colored in white with a green undercarriage, bold green striping, sparkling chrome nose cone and accents, the plane includes free-rolling, foldable landing gear, and 32 high-visibility lights that provide an impressive glow. A quick press of the taillight will release the rear cargo bay doors to provide access to the Jet. A hidden slide out ramp makes loading and unloading the expansive, internally illuminated cargo bay a breeze. With a nearly 14-inch-long fuselage and 15-inch wingspan, the Cargo Plane is the largest Hess vehicle ever!

The accompanying Jet completes this formidable flying duo. Designed for speed and aerodynamic maneuverability, the sleek Jet roars to action with a combination of button and motion activated sounds! 3 top-mounted buttons will flash the engine lights and activate realistic takeoff, flyby, and landing sounds. Tilting the Jet activates the Climb/Dive, Bank, and Cruise motion sounds. The strikingly bold white and green colors are enhanced with finely detailed inlays and chrome nose cone and accents. The Jet also has free-rolling, folding landing gear and 2 sets of spring-loaded retractable wings which allow it to travel covertly inside its Cargo Plane partner or fly solo missions.

The 2021 Hess Cargo Plane and Jet is sold exclusively, at, for $39.99 plus tax. 6 Energizer® batteries and free standard shipping are included. Only available while supplies last.

This is perfect for kids of all ages, including the ones nearing retirement age.

Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings
Second Edition
by Brian Heiler, edited by Rob Chatlin
Nacelle Company, LLC
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1737380108

Eight years ago I reviewed and recommended this book, and now it’s been expanded, updated and re-released by a new publishing company (owned by the producers of The Toys That Made Us). And I’m just going to repeat what I said about the first edition:

I love this book.

Let me explain. I am a toy collector. For my entire life, I have been attracted to the bright, shiny plastic objects in their colorful packages. I have a particular fondness for rack toys, the kinds of cheap-o toys that you find in drug stores, groceries and other odd places. I enjoy the mystery of the obscure manufacturers, the bizarre television tie-ins and the charm of the cheapness.

Although Rack Toys is a picture-heavy book, it’s still going to provide hours of entertainment. If you grew up in the 1960s, 70s or 80s, or if you have a healthy appreciation of Kitsch, this is the book for you.

Rack Toys is a pure jolt of nostalgic eye-candy. We’d expect no less from the man behind Plaid Stallions. It’s the perfect gift for any child of the 60s, 70s, or 80s.

You can order Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings from any bookseller using the ISBN number, or go to Amazon for a discount.

Vlad & Niki Super Hero Surprise
by ZURU Toys

I first told you about Vlad & Niki Super Hero Surprise last June, and I’m recommending them again as a fun holiday idea for the superhero-addicted young kid on your holiday shopping list. Originally a Target exclusive, these can now be found at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Books A Million.

Vlad and Niki, two young boys from Dubai, have one of the most successful YouTube channels in the world. The boys, (aged 8 and 6) began making unboxing videos in 2018, and have become internet superstars just by having fun.

Now, in partnership with Zuru Toys, Vlad and Niki are neck-deep in the blind box toy business, and they’re doing it in a big way. Vlad & Niki Superhero Surprise provides a complete unboxing experience, allowing kids to bring the included comic book & the story to life! Each super-sized surprise egg features over 20 surprises including mask and cape, Super Hero Vlad and Niki figurines, Baby Christian figurine, a dinosaur or robot figurine, two die-cast car, slime egg, light up skateboard, wrist snap-band, stickers, tattoo and much more.

There are two versions, one red and one blue, so if you have two kids, each one can get their own super hero surprise.

These toys are a blast, great for any kids who love superhero adventures, and you can read more about them HERE, and see my unboxing video HERE. Recommended for Ages 3+,  $29.99 – Available at TargetVlad & Niki Robot Battle, Vlad & Niki Dino Attack, Amazon, and  Walmart!

MEGO 14″ Frankenstein
$34.99 from many online retailers, including ZLC Collectibles

MEGO is back in a big way, and they just recently relaunched their 14″ figure line with a new and improved body. One of the best examples of this is their new, oversized Frankenstein figure.

This is an official Universal Monsters Frankenstein Official Edition Action Figure with terrific detail and amazing quality. The figure is fourteen inches tall, which means he’ll work pretty well alongside standard 12″ action figures, since Frankie is such a big boy.

The new, sturdy body design features 14 points of articulation, and the figure comes with an extra set of hands, in different poses.

With Halloween just wrapped up, you know you probably have somebody on your shopping list who isn’t ready to give up the spookiness yet. This is a great gift for the horror fanatic on your holiday shopping list.

Turbo Man
A Walmart exclusive by Funko

I have to admit, when the movie, Jingle All The Way came out back in 1996, I was not a fan. I had no interest in seeing a comedy with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad starring in it. And when I saw the Tiger Electronics action figure of Turbo Man, I was not impressed.

I’m pretty sure that in the action figure column I wrote for Toy Trader Magazine at the time, I called him “Turd-o Man.”

Even though I had a twinge of nostalgic glee at seeing a large (13.5″) action figure who lit up sort of like Captain Lazer did almost thirty years earlier, I was turned off by the cheesy sculpting and limited articulation (this was back in the days of Dragon figures with a zillion points of articulation).

Then, about ten years after the movie was released, I finally saw it on cable, and was mildly amused, and felt bad about dumping so much on Turbo Man. He couldn’t help his inherent cheesiness. In fact, it added to his charm. After all that, I sort of wanted one.

By that point, the figure had jumped up in price on the secondary market, and I didn’t want one badly enough to spend real money on him. Right now vintage figures are going for two or three hundred bucks

So it was nice to see that Funko, of all people, had created a faithful reproduction (maybe from the original molds–I’m not sure) of this obscure toy based on a mildly profitable, but critically-lambasted movie that was celebrating its 25th anniversary. God only knows why they did it, but it’s exclusive to Walmart. You can find it online and in some select stores (locally they only seem to have it at Southridge).

Anyway, if you know somebody who absolutely loves Jingle All The Way (which is currently at 17% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes), this is the perfect gift for them. It’s also good for people who love big clunky action figures that light up and make sounds, but felt they were too cool to buy one twenty-five years ago when they first came out.