One of the few non-Marvel comic books that I adored as a child were the adventures of Asterix the Gaul. The art was crisp, the characters funny engaging, and the scripts were very witty, with an effortless ability to speak to fans of different ages at the same time.
The basic set up: The Romans have conquered all of Gaul (France) apart from one lone outpost, the small village populated by Asterix and his fellow holdouts. They have a druid who makes a special potion which gives them superhuman strength, and they are such fierce fighters that the Romans are petrified of them.
There have been many attempts to bring these stories to the screen, and the latest version is the 3D computer animated movie, Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods.
The plot (based on the 1973 comic book story of the same name), sees the Gauls resist Roman colonialism in the form of a housing development being erected on the doorstep of their independent village.
This is a French-Belgian movie that has been dubbed into English by an eccentric British cast, including Jack Whitehall as Asterix, Nick Frost as Obelix, and the wonderful Matt Berry as druid Vitalstatistix. Other cast members even include Dick & Dom!
To me, Whitehall as Asterix is a bit too public school for the rural Gaulish villager/warrior, but Nick Frost makes a good Obelix. The satirical nature of the comics is well represent here.
For me, Asterix will always be something that belongs on the page – but this is the best screen version I have seen, and is a great introduction to the adventures of the indomitable gaul. Just make sure you buy any converts after watching this some Asterix comics.
Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods has an RRP of £19.99 (BluRay). We were set a copy for the purposes of this review.
I have a vivid childhood Christmas Eve memory of lying awake in bed, much later than I should have been, staring out of the window up into the star filled sky, with the hope of catching a glimpse of Father Christmas speeding through the sky in his sleigh.
However, instead of feeling all warm and nostalgic about this, I simply think how ridiculous it was.
The magic of Christmas?
I now wish I had been looking up at the darkened sky wondering about all the planets, stars, galaxies, and all the things we have yet to discover. I could have been contemplating our place in the universe. I could have been thinking about how amazing it is we send vessels into space to explore the heavens, and have manned space stations orbiting the Earth.
In recent years in the UK, we have been lucky to have the International Space Station (ISS) visible around Christmas time as it circles our planet. It’s even occurred on Christmas eve. When this happened a couple of years ago, we went outside to watch it and told our daughter it was Santa on his sleigh. As this bright light streaked across the sky in its low orbit – higher & faster than a plane, nearer than a star or planet, brighter than them all – it made for a very convincing one.
But I am now pretty ashamed that I did this. How I dismissed this wonderful feat of human engineering and exploration – for the sake of perpetuating the great Santa Claus lie.
Christmas fact vs. fiction
We are (I hope) teaching our kids that it’s wrong to lie – yet that is what we are doing every Christmas by reinforcing the Father Christmas myth. What are we teaching them about telling the truth by perpetuating this lie in their childhood?
While, as an atheist, I also wince at the nativity story being part of my daughter’s December schooling. Yes, I do believe there was a man called Jesus who did good things. No, I do not believe he was the son of God. But I do accept it is a powerful story which our children should appreciate, as it is central to western art, culture, and civilisation.
Another Christmas icon who was has a basis in reality is the original Santa, Saint Nicholas. He was a 4th Century Turkish bishop, and apparently he was famed for his kindness to children and generosity to the poor. He now has little relation to the jolly supernatural Father Christmas, who’s modern look owes more to Coca-Cola ad campaigns than Saint Nicholas.
Post-childhood, Christmas has never been about Santa (or Jesus) to me. It’s about coming together as friends and family, when the nights are darkest. To give thanks to those around us, reflect on the past year, and celebrate the new one as the days get lighter, and we can look ahead to the magical rebirth of life in Spring.
The Christmas lie: Telling kids the truth about Santa?
However, I’m not planning on bursting my daughter’s Santa Claus bubble. She has already picked up from too many places that Santa is a real phenomena. But I won’t lie to her about it any more either.
My daughter often ask me about mythical creatures. Recently, it was about dragons. I don’t believe dragons are real. But I can’t prove it, and more than that I’d love to imagine they exist – or at least existed – because I think they’re cool. So when my daughter asks me “Are there dragons in this world?”, I answer, “Well, I’ve never seen one.”
I’ve never seen Santa deliver presents on Christmas eve. And I know I never will. But I can’t prove that he doesn’t. So when quizzed about Santa, I talk only about what I know. That if he does deliver presents to every child on Christmas Eve, he would have to be pretty magical.
But I will not let the Santa lie overwrite the truth of human kindness, fellowship, & achievement, and celebrating the magic of nature.
The ISS is due to make another pass this coming week. While I may tell my daughter that some believe it’s Santa’s sleigh, I’ll tell her I believe it’s a space station, created by people, to undertake scientific research, the exploration of space, and help us understand our place in the universe.
Since publishing my annual alternative gift guide for girls, a few more products have come our way that could also make a great gift for a girl (or boy), so here are the top 5, listed in ascending price order.
1. Star Wars: Catalyst – a Rogue One novel
A tie-in novel for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this is set during Revenge of the Sith and sets the scene for the latest Star Wars movie.
This would make for a good ‘topical’ Star Wars gift, and a great way into the world of Rogue One.
Our first LEGO Friends set, the 4yo made light work of this 6-12 age recommended set.
While I remain a little uneasy about the LEGO Friends concept, the line has evolved and tackled many of the aspects of the brand that critics previously had issues with.
This has a male and female minifigure, is an imaginative set to construct, and the overall amusement park theme it’s part of is an active one that would be just at home in the LEGO City line.
And while the Friends line is ostensibly aimed at girls, there is no reason at all for this fun set not to be a great gift for a boy either.
And you also get a hot dog outfit that fits any of your minifigures. What’s not to like!
3. Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection BluRay
After Star Wars and the Marvel movies, I’m thinking it’s about time to introduce my daughter to the world of Harry Potter.
All 8 films are part of this attractive looking BluRay boxset, and having only seen half of them myself, I’m really looking forward to enjoying this series as a family.
I’m particularly keen for my daughter to engage with the character of Hermione, especially as Emma Watson is now such an outspoken champion for girl empowerment and women’s rights.
4. IAmElemental – Wisdom Warriors
A magnificent gift for a girl, boy, or an adult collector of action figures, this latest IAmElemental set is pretty stunning.
Packaged in a sturdy metal ‘lunchbox’ tin, the Wisdom Warriors set come in a range of bold colours and designs, with added extras such as stands, information cards, and best of all the Wisdom Workbook, a collection of puzzles, exercises, and info related to women, wisdom, and the warriors themselves.
5. Xbox One S Minecraft Bundle 500gb
Encompassing video gaming and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths), the Xbox One S Minecraft Edition would make a very impressive headliner Christmas gift for any lucky child or family.
The Xbox One S is a powerful gaming machine, that is also a great media hub for watching content. Minecraft, with which this version of the console comes bundled with, is the open world gaming phenomenon of the past decade, inspiring a cult of committed fans.
These combine to make this a great gift with girls in mind especially – as the worlds of gaming and STEM remain dominated by boys and men, and girls could do with encouragement to engage with them too.
I received some of the items here free of charge for the purposes of review. This list also uses Amazon affiliate links.
Beginning as a Kickstarter that kickstarted the market for empowering female action figures aimed at girls, ‘IAmElemental’ toys finally hit the UK – and we finally got our hands on a set to see what all the fuss was about.
Ok, a brief history of IAmElemental: The brainchild of Julie Kerwin and Dawn Nadeau, the concept was born in 2012, which is also the year I became the father of a daughter. Like me, they were painfully aware that the market for superhero toys was pitched squarely at teenage boys and men – so the few female superhero action figures available were usually highly sexualised, with big boobs and skinny waists.
But unlike me, Julie & Dawn did something about it and IAmElemental was launched as a Kickstarter in 2014, becoming fully funded in just 2 days.
The IAmElemental line offered a clear point of difference. The anatomically correct female action figures were athletic, not sexual. They stressed courage, power, and wisdom over attractiveness. And they also discarded a convention of the action figure market, deeming that consumers (boys) liked very strict and detailed narratives.
IAmElemental offered no such world building, with each figure possessing power related to their character, and leaving much of the rest open for the child’s imagination.
I have always admired these figures from afar, but now the latest series, the Wisdom Warriors, are available in the UK I’m really happy to be finally able to see them in reality.
IAmElemental Series 2 – the Wisdom Warriors
The toys come wonderfully presented, in a special ‘lunchbox’ tin, that contains all 7 female action figures plus stands & shield accessories, a fact card for each, as well as a bracelet (for the shields) and a special wisdom workbook full of facts and activities.
It makes for a really attractive package that should impress any child on opening (and adults too – I was suitably wowed as well).
While it’s all well and good to have noble intentions for a toy, the final product needs to live up to the promise. Basically, it needs to be a good toy that children want to play with.
Well, it really does live up to the promise.
These female superhero action figures are awesome. Well made, with 9 points of articulation (POA), they have stylish designs & sculpts with bold colours and imaginative outfits. They look magnificent, and it’s so great to see how well these designs work in reality.
My daughter was keen to find out the name and brief story behind each character, and was then off inventing scenarios and adventures. The figures articulation is great, as are the interchangeable accessories (wings, shields, etc.). The stands are great too – while the figures can stand on their own, it means imaginative playtime isn’t unnecessarily wasted on trying to get the figures to stand in the right positions.
For more about what’s in the box, check out our unboxing video:
IAmElemental – Do we still need female action figures for girls?
The mainstream female action figure market has improved since these toys came on the scene a couple of years ago, but only a little.
As far as I am concerned, there is still nothing like these around. This is an empowering action figure line aimed at girls (but not at the exclusion of boys) which encourages children to use their imagination. The women also exude strength, stature, and confidence.
I have no qualms about describing these as action figures for girls, as that is who they are targeted at. But that should in no way dissuade anyone from buying these for boys too. In many ways, it is just as important for boys to play with these too – creating stories involving strong powerful looking women.
These Wisdom Warriors are a great addition to our daughter’s toy box, and her adventures with them are just beginning.
If you like the look of these I Am Elemental Wisdom Warriors female superhero action figures, we’re really lucky to have a set giveaway – so please enter this competition below for your chance to win (UK residents only).
This I Am Elemental Wisdom Warriors Set has an RRP of £69.99.
This set of female superhero action figures is also available directly from IAmElemental. Enter the code ‘UKFREESHIP’ for free shipping to the UK. We were sent the product for the purposes of this review.
Who is your favourite Wisdom Warrior and why? Please comment below.