Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture


Welcome to the first day of The 2022 PopCult Gift Guide.

I’ve been offering pop culture-themed Christmas or holiday gift ideas in some fashion in this blog since our first year, back in 2005, and this year I plan to follow the format of our previous year a bit.

Each weekday for four weeks, starting today, I will have one post with five gift recommendations. There may be themes (today’s is toys), but they may also be random. Due to circumstances beyond my control, this year I have done less prep work than ever, so if you have any cool gift ideas, the last half of this guide is barely filled up. Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

I’m not going to obsess over price points this year. Some stuff might be cheap, some might be expensive. You get to sort out how much you’re willing to spend.

Let’s kick off Day One with the toy that has been our first pick for about a decade now…


After last year’s airplane, the HESS Toy Truck is back down to Earth in 2022 with a very cool Flatbed Truck carrying two Hot Rods. This is a 3-in-1 retro-design racing team, with 42 total lights and 4 realistic sounds.

The elongated, twin-axle Flatbed Truck is a vintage-style transport carrier, inspired by the original ‘First Hess Truck’ driven by Company founder Leon Hess in 1933. Designed in solid white with bold green fenders, body side striping and contrasting bed floor, the truck is accented with gleaming chrome details, including finely detailed embossed front grille, bumpers, light housings, fuel tanks, and exhaust pipes. The cab features 4 top-mounted buttons that activate 3 realistic sounds (truck ignition, truck horn, and hot rod racing action) and lights in flashing mode. A switch under the chassis will turn on the 24 brilliant lights, which can operate in either flashing or steady mode. The Flatbed conceals a handy pull-out ramp with slide-out activated hydraulic sound for easy loading and unloading on race day.

The pair of classic-coupe Hot Rods, one red and one green, have cutaway front ends with exposed sparkling-chrome supercharged-style engines. White racing stripes and colorful flaming body side graphics complete the sizzling style. Built for speed and traction, with skinny front and wide rear racing tires, each sports a mighty pullback motor that revs up and propels them down the drag strip in either flat or wheelie position! Each Hot Rod has 9 bright lights that operate in steady mode.

The only way to get this year’s HESS Toy Truck Flatbed with Hot Rods is to order it directly from their website. It’s Forty-two bucks, plus tax, but shipping and batteries are included. It’s a very cool addition to the HESS Truck Fleet, and it’s fun for all ages.


McFarlane Toys Super Powers Action Figures and Vehicles
Available only at Walmart

As much as I hate to recommend a Walmart exclusive, McFarlane Toys’ semi-revival of the classic DC Comics Super Powers action figure line from the 1980s has been an unexpected joy.

These are new figures based on the classic toys Kenner made in the 80s. They don’t have the action features that those toys had, but they still fit right in with a vintage collection and they carry on the tradition at a very affordable price. Figures are ten bucks, and the vehicles are just under thirty dollars each. That’s not bad at all for five-inch-plus action figures these days.

The assortments are small, making this a very affordable line. So far there are just two vehicles, and there have been two waves of three figures each. The first wave included Batman, Superman and the villainous Darkseid. The second wave included The Flash, John Stewart Green Lantern and The Batman Who Laughs (it’s some kind of Joker/Batman hybrid from comics I haven’t read). The vehicles are a Bat-wing and Supermobile (with punching power).

These are well-made figures, true to the original Super Powers line, and even with new designs, they spark a nostalgic glee among collectors, while still being great for kids.

You can find most of these figures in stores now, and except for Batman, who sells fast, they are usually in stock at

A perfect gift for DC comic book fans and kids of all ages.


Madmaniverse Mod Metal Lunchbox
Available for Pre-order at The Drawn Word

Our next pick is more “toyetic” than toy, but it’s really cool, features artwork of Madman by Mike and Laura Allred and if you are of a certain age, it will punch all the proper nostalgia buttons.

While this is technically a Pre-order, these cool lunchboxes have been unloaded from the cargo ship and are en route to the warehouse, so you will most likely get these before Christmas, but if martians attack or something, theyll get to you no later than January.

The fruit of a Kickstarter Campaign, this item is LIMITED to 500 pieces. It’s a cool metal lunchbox with NEW art on all six sides featuring the Madmaniverse by Mike and Laura Allred. It even has an embossed side.

Any die-hard fan of Madman will want this, and it’s also handy for those of us who have supported Kickstarter Campaigns for the Madman Yo-yos, buttons, fanzines and other cool knick-knackery that might need a cool place to live.

Order it directly from The Drawn Word.


Foodie Mini Brands
by Zuru

This year’s new entry in Zuru’s successful 5 Surprise line is Foodie Mini Brands, which allow kids (and adults) to collect branded minature fast-food and restaurant fare, which as a bonus, are all pretty well scaled to be compatible with Barbie and the original GI Joe, 12″ dolls and action figures.

These are a dioramist’s dream, allowing you to treat your Barbies or GI Joes to food from White Castle, TGI Friday’s, Sonic, Hardees/Carl’s Jr., Hard Rock Cafe, Subway and more.

This is a blind-box toy, so a lot of the fun is in seeing what you get when you crack open your capsule. In addition to tons of cool regular food items, collectors might encounter special gold versions of the items, or ultra-rare “frozen” pieces that capture a moment frozen in time, like a drink being spilled, or a cheeseburger being pulled apart.

These are great stocking stuffers for kids or adults who love miniatures, and they’re especially great for the doll or action figure hobbyist who wants to make cool dioramas.

Best of all, they seem to be everywhere, selling for $8.49 to $10, and some stores even have exclusive carrying cases or food court playsets.

So far I’ve seen these at Walmart, Meijer, Target, Macy’s, Amazon and dozens of other places.



I was not about to pass up recommending this one.

It’s another high-quality, old-school slot car set from the folks at Auto World, and this time they go for the Saturday morning jugular with a racing set that recreates one of the first big crossovers between pop culture properties Chances are you remember the classic 1972 TV movie titled Scooby-Doo meets Batman.

In the movie Scooby-Doo and the gang team up with Batman and Robin to solve s mystery and capture The Joker and The Penguin. Now you can race along with your choice of Scooby-Doo and the gang in the Mystery Machine or Batman and Robin, in the Batmobile in this new exciting electric slotcar race set.

You get 18 Feet of Track, a Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine 4Gear Slot Car and a 1966 Cartoon Series Batmobile 4Gear Slot Car. That’s not the classic TV show Batmobile. It’s the one they used in the animated TV Movie. It’s a nice detail for folks like your PopCulteer who might already have a Batman TV Show Batmobile or five. You also get 2 Speed Controllers, a Power Pack and a cardboard stand-up of a haunted house.

This will be the perfect gift for the person of a certain age who thought that Batman meeting Scooby and the gang was the coolest thing ever. As a bonus, their grandchildren will love it too! It’s a bit pricey at $189,99, but for the right person, it’s well worth it.

Availabe from select hobby shops, or direct from Auto World.

Check back tomorrow for more of The 2022 PopCult Gift Guide!


  1. Mark Otnes

    Awesome article! I must have those fast food miniatures. So cool!

  2. Thomas H. Wheeler

    I don’t mind shopping at Walmart, but I hate to recommend anything by McFarlane. That said, the Super Powers figures are nicely done, and I’ll be keeping my eye on almost anyone that Kenner didn’t get around to back in the day. I have no interest in that awful “Batman Who Laughs”, but I do have the John Stewart Green Lantern, and I’m impressed.
    Also, that Scooby-Doo/Batman slot car set looks cool, and consider the fact that DC just launched a new Batman-Scooby team-up comic book!

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