Hero Cross HMF Donald Duck #006R

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

I have coveted the Donald Duck figure from Hero Cross for a few years now. If you’re not familiar with the company, Hero Cross is a toy manufacturer based in Hong Kong that specializes in hybrid figures that utilize both plastic and metal. Their main line is called the Hybrid Metal Figuration series, or HMF for short. They have managed to accumulate a few different licenses for this line of figure, and one of those licenses happens to be Disney. For Disney, Hero Cross has mostly stuck with classic characters, but has also branched out to include Pixar. My main interest though lies in the ducks, and in particular, Donald.

Donald Duck, for as prolific a cartoon character as he is, doesn’t have a ton of action figures to turn to. The best ones are based on his appearance in Kingdom Hearts, but that’s not a franchise I have a ton of affection for. It’s fine, but my Donald is not a wizard. Phat Mojo did a Donald in its line of DuckTales action figures based on the relaunch of that series, but it was a short-lived line of figures and the company never got a chance to improve upon its initial offering. There is one in that Disney Infinity relic of a toyline that the Disney Store sells, but it’s not great. There was also a Donald action figures based on his appearance in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but that was quite a long time ago now and that thing is lone gone. If you want a collector grade Donald Duck action figure right now, it’s basically Hero Cross or bust.

The size of the box relative to the size of the figure makes the toy seem huge!

Hero Cross first released a Donald Duck action figure in either 2016 or 2017. Being that it’s a Hong Kong import, a licensed product, and it includes metal components, it wasn’t cheap. I kind of found out about it late when my options were sketchy eBay listings or ordering direct from Hero Cross, but shipping was going to make the figure cost well over $100 at the time. I reluctantly passed, and that didn’t help matters as the figure was eventually retired from production and it only grew more expensive. Then last summer I was sitting on my couch watching TV late at night when a Twitter post from the podcast DuckTalks alerted me to the fact that Hero Cross was taking pre-orders for a new version of its Donald figure. Dubbed a V2.0, this Donald Duck was going to largely be the same as the one previously released, only now it was going to come with three unique heads and rather than sculpt his hat onto them, the hat would be removable and attach via a magnet. I kind of didn’t care about the changes, I was just psyched to have another chance at this figure and I pounced on it. The cost was around $60 for the figure, plus around $30 to ship it from Hong Kong, so it wasn’t much cheaper than what I had passed on previously, but this time I had buyer’s remorse. I had to pay upfront, and then wait.

The somewhat generic licensing art gets the most attention, but check out the comic art in the background!
The product shot on the side panel reveals a pose I’ll likely never achieve with my figure. Read on to find out why…

My Donald finally arrived in January of this year. The production cycle was a long one, but the shipping ended up being lightning quick since it was via FedEx Air. It left Hong Kong on a Thursday and was at my house in Massachusetts on the following Monday which is pretty incredible. Donald comes packaged in a simple, but effective, window box. It’s a royal blue with a Donald Duck logo done in orange. On the side of the packaging are product shots, one of which showcases Donald’s fancy new hat, and some licensing artwork on the back. It’s a no frills, but striking, box though it’s so small relative to the figure’s size that I don’t know how well it would display for a mint-in-box collector, but like most packaging these days, it’s pretty easy to reseal.

Check out the duck butt!

Donald Duck stands a little over 5 1/2″ tall. I was pretty surprised by how big he is. I kind of new how tall he was, but I also had avoided reviews and such because this line was completely new to me and I wanted the whole experience to reflect that. Not only is he a bit taller than I thought, he’s also just more substantial. I expected weight due to the metal, but he’s a thick duck. The metal parts appear to consist of the arms and legs. The head, hands, body, and feet are vinyl. It mixes pretty well, though the legs are definitely a lot shinier than the plastic feet. And with the metal there’s always a concern that paint will scratch or flake off and there is a tiny scratch in the knee joint on my figure’s left leg, but largely the paint looks pretty nice. Donald has a very round, smooth, head which is the biggest different from his initial release which featured an angry head that had some ruffled feathers. I obviously don’t have that figure, but based on images I’ve seen, that angry head is probably better than the rest so I kind of wish I had it, but it’s fine. This Donald does have an angry head too, but it’s smooth like the other two heads.

New for this version of Donald is a removable hat!

I think this Donald looks pretty nice, all things considered. I’m a little surprised with the sculpt of his shirt as the flap on the back of it is molded to the main part of the shirt. I would have expected it to be an actual flap and I think it would have looked better. Instead, it kind of reminds me of a Donald bath toy my kids used to have which was solid vinyl. He is depicted in the current licensing art colors, which as an old school Donald fan, is not my preference. That means he’s got a blue shirt and hat with gold buttons and trim and a red bowtie. I would have preferred a black bowtie, as that is what he usually wore in the classic shorts. I also would not have minded him in his comic black shirt. It’s not a big deal as this is definitely Donald Duck. The metal legs also do not hide the joints at all, so it is something you just have to get used to. It’s hard to argue with the end result though which is that this figure has a really strong base and he is not going to fall off of your shelf. The metal also gives him a high quality feel, which is necessary for a figure that retails for $60.

He can move, but can’t quite nail his classic hopping mad pose.

Being that Donald is a collector grade action figure, he features several points of articulation. Hero Cross totals it at 20 points, and it’s pretty substantial for a character with a unique body shape. Donald’s head sits on a simple ball pegs and it can move around quite well. He can look up, down, tilt, you name it. At least the default head (we’ll get to that). There is a joint at the base of the neck that provides a little more tilt, but it’s negligible. The shoulders are ball-jointed. He can raise his arms out to the side and rotate all around, but be aware of rub with the vinyl body. There’s a biceps swivel and a single hinge at the elbow allowing him to bend his arm 90 degrees. The hands are on pegs affixed to ball joints. There’s a hinge in there and they can rotate all around and tilt a bit in every direction. There’s a waist joint that appears to be a ball joint. It’s under the shirt and pretty generous, but again, I worry a little about the blue shirt rubbing the white vinyl lower body and leaving some smudges behind if manipulated a lot. The legs are a bit odd, since he is a duck, as they’re affixed via ball-joints, but they basically just swivel and tilt a little where the legs meet the body. There are single hinges and the feet are on ball-pegs so they can roll around all over the place. The metal gives him such a strong base that he can easily stand on one foot or simulate a walking pose as long as one foot is flat on a surface. He’s not terribly dynamic in his posing options, but that is more a limitation of the character’s shape than what Hero Cross did.

Donald can be happy, kind of mad, or very mad.

Donald comes with extra parts, but no real accessories aside form his hat. He has three heads: an open mouthed happy expression (default), a frowning expression, and a slight frown with his eyes looking left expression. Of the three, I definitely like the angry one the most as I think of Donald as just a grumpy, angry, character. Sadly, that head is the one that is the hardest to work with as the other two pop on and off with no issue, but the angry is super tight. Once on, it doesn’t really want to move much, but for a figure destined for a shelf it’s not a big deal. As for hands, Donald comes with a relaxed, open, left hand and a stiff, open, right hand (basically a hand wave). In the box are a pair of fists, a relaxed, open, right hand, and a pointing right hand. Missing is any kind of gripping hand, but in order to get those you had to get the box set release of Donald’s nephews. It’s a decent assortment that leaves room for improvement. A company like Bandai has taken to making the eyes swappable on its figures and that would be pretty neat with Donald. A more modular approach that allows eyes, bills, and such to swap is intriguing, but at least he doesn’t have any unsightly seams in his head. And Hero Cross is definitely going for as seamless an aesthetic as possible. The swappable hands make for some decent variety in the available poses, but there is a problem there that detracts from the figure.

Fuck.

And that’s they’re a pain to remove. And they’re such a pain, that mine broke not long after I opened it. I tried to remove the waving right hand he comes packaged with in favor of one of the others and it felt pretty snug. The head was easy to remove, and being that this just sits on a peg, I really wasn’t too concerned with breaking it. I applied consistent force, and tried wiggling it a little and the peg just came right off behind the ball joint of the wrist. The actual peg is really small as it’s basically a half-circle instead of a full one. My guess is they do it this way to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the the ball-joint in the wrist, but it’s pretty odd. Mostly though, I was super bummed, frustrated, angry, you name it, to finally get this figure only to have it break within a half hour. It feels like such a high quality item that it lulls you into a feeling like it couldn’t possibly break with normal interaction. Falling off a shelf is one thing, but trying to take advantage of a basic function? That surprised me. I honestly felt a little sick when it happened because I know how far this had to travel to get to me and how expensive it was just to ship it here, so I wasn’t expecting any help to come from Hero Cross. And if any did, I expected it to come at a cost.

Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!

Upon breaking, I reached out to Hero Cross via email and via a form on their website. No where could I find any information on quality control issues or refunds, so I wasn’t feeling too great about it. I reached out on Twitter and DuckTalks, the same podcast that brought this release to my attention, suggested messaging them on Facebook as that appears to be a place where they interact with their customers the most. Hero Cross did not respond to my initial email, but it did to the form I filled out online. After sending photos the correspondent told me they would check with the factory about a replacement arm. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks and reached out again, and they basically said the same thing as before. Then a day later I got an email saying they had good news: there were spare parts available in the factory and they would send me a new arm! They confirmed which arm I needed, my address, and sent along instructions for swapping it out.

This was the only pose that felt appropriate for the past month.

About two weeks after that, my new arm arrived in the mail via USPS. The arm is connected to the figure at the shoulder and held in place by a screw. It’s an interesting setup, but an easy one to work with without fear of breaking anything. Upon removing the screw, the shoulder comes apart as it’s two pieces of molded, painted, plastic. Once apart, the bicep can pop out and I swapped in the new arm that Hero Cross provided, replaced the plastic piece, and screwed it back together. Hero Cross sent an extra upper arm piece, but it was for a left arm. Maybe they anticipate people scratching or ruining that bit of plastic during the removal process, but I had no issues reusing the same one. They did not send a new hand, so I had to take the old hand and get the peg removed somehow. I basically just grabbed the ball it sits on with some pliers and tugged away. It was in there pretty snug and it was a pain, but I got it off. It helped that I didn’t have to worry about damaging the ball any longer. With Donald reassembled, he basically looks as he’s supposed to. After the reattachment though I’m left with a pretty loose biceps swivel. The screw feels snug so I don’t want to risk stripping it, but it could just be a case of the factory getting that in better than I can. It kind of sucks, but better than a broken hand.

It’s an odd construction as you can see the peg sits way up inside the hand. Worse though, only half the diameter of the peg is fused to the ball joint and that piece is expected to withstand the force of removing the hands many times over. The rear of the ball joint is fused to the peg in the arm in the same fashion. There’s no need for the hands to be so snug on a collectible intended for adults.

With the peg finally extricated from the hand I finally got a look at the thing. It’s long and sits way up inside the hand. It’s honestly a surprise to me that these breaking isn’t a common occurrence, but then again, I don’t know anyone who owns this particular figure so maybe it does break a lot? Even putting another hand on this new peg is a struggle, and you can probably tell in my post surgery photos of the figure that it’s not quite seated all the way. I’m basically afraid that once I get the hand on it won’t come off without breaking again.

Back together, so a reason to smile!

Given all of that, I have had no appetite to test the left hand. Hero Cross was kind enough to replace one defective piece, I don’t really want to test my luck with a second. And it is a credit to them that they stand by their product and are willing to send replacement parts across the Pacific at no cost to the consumer. I was heart-broken when my figure broke, so I’m happy to have that remedied. It doesn’t necessarily fix my confidence in the figure though. If a figure is designed to have a certain feature, that feature should function without a risk of breaking the figure. After my experience with the product out of the box and seeing how this hand joint is constructed, I can’t say I have any confidence in the feature working properly. I am at least happy that the swappable heads work all right, as that is more important to me than the hands. It also helps that this figure does not need to hold anything so the hands do not serve a function other than to change the pose. And while I definitely would like to have the freedom to do so, I can at least accept what I have here.

I can’t quite get that right hand to fully peg-on, but it will stay on, at least. And I don’t know that I want to seat it all the way as then I may never get it off again.
“Come here!”

What my experience with this figure did do for me is make me less likely to purchase more figures in the line. When I ordered this one, I was toying with the idea of adding the nephews and taking advantage of the gripping hand they come with, but now I’m less interested. And playing a role in that are new offerings on the way from other toy companies. Since placing an order for this figure, Super7 has launched a Disney Ultimates! line of figures. Only the first wave has been shown and it includes Mickey Mouse, Prince John, and Pinocchio. Their interest is in underserved characters (as far as collector grade action figures go) from the company’s animated films, so Donald Duck may not be a high priority for them right now, but he’s also insanely popular and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we get a Three Caballeros Donald or something. Beast Kingdom has also unveiled a Donald Duck figure in its Dynamic 8action Heroes line that looks rather promising. It features cloth goods instead of sculpted clothes and is something that is definitely on my radar. It doesn’t have a release date or a price, but the company is taking orders for a Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey and the MSRP is about $70, with a deluxe version at $100. Collecting Donald Duck figures isn’t going to get any cheaper any time soon, but it’s nice to have options.

“What are you smiling about?!”

Ultimately, I do not regret my purchase of the Hero Cross Donald Duck. The likeness is good and he certainly looks nice on a shelf. This figure probably won’t scale with any other lines, so that’s kind of a bummer, but also not a standard I think is fair to hold it to. I’m sure it scales fine with other Hero Cross HMF releases like Scrooge McDuck and the nephews. And there may come a day when I decide I do need to place him with some friends on a shelf, or maybe he’ll just be a featured piece in a more robust Donald Duck display (because, lets face it, I’m probably getting the Beast Kingdom figure and would definitely grab a Super7 one). This figure isn’t the ultimate Donald Duck figure that I wanted it to be, but it’s still worth having for a Donald Duck enthusiast like myself.

“I’ll get you, you little devil!”

Strong Bad Talking Plush

“Hey, what’s up? I’m Strong Bad. Pay no attention to the juice can propping me up.”

When it comes to anything post 2000, there isn’t a ton I have nostalgia for. One of the very few things though is Homestar Runner, and in particular, the character Strong Bad. Strong Bad was brought to my attention by my best friend when we were in college. He was not my roommate, officially, but he might as well have been as he was in my dorm all the time, save for when it was time to sleep. He somehow found out about http://www.homestarrunner.com and was playing catch-up with the Strong Bad email segment. The first one I can even remember watching was the infamous “Dragon” installment which spawned Trogdor: The Burninator. I talked about my affection for that segment when I reviewed the Trogdor board game over a year ago, but now I get to really talk about Strong Bad.

“Hey guys, it’s me, Strong Bad, back at the keys where you want me!”

Strong Bad is the villain of homerstarruner.com though he quickly supplanted the titular character as the most popular character featured on that website. Everyone loves Strong Bad, who is more rascal than dastardly. Created by The Brothers Chaps, Strong Bad speaks in a gravelly tone with a slight Spanish accent which matches his appearance of a Luchador with boxing gloves. The boxing gloves are an intentionally odd touch, but certainly a part of the character’s charm. The character has sibling characters in Strong Mad and Strong Sad, neither of which are as entertaining as Strong Bad. He also has a sidekick, or lackey, in the form of The Cheat who long ago received a plush doll all his own. Strong Bad did not, though there’s been Strong Bad merchandise over the years, but it was mostly stickers and apparel.

I love the floppy disk tag too much to remove it.

In 2020, Strong Bad got a brand new plush. Designed by artist Nina Matsumoto, this plush of the beloved web toon is adorable in its accuracy and pretty interesting in its construction. Sold exclusively through fangamer.com, Strong Bad sold out pretty quickly, but was re-stocked recently and I was able to grab one. Since this is a plush toy, there isn’t a ton to say about it other than what you see. Standing at 11″ tall, it absolutely nails the character aesthetic which is certainly aided by the fact that it’s a simple character design to begin with. The proportions are not exact to the web toon as if they were the head would probably be a little larger relative to the body, as would the boxing gloves. Instead, we have something that was perhaps designed to be more aesthetically pleasing all on its own and it definitely works for what it’s going for. The gloves are constructed of a faux leather material that is reminiscent of real boxing gloves and the mask features actual laces. It’s not removable, and the horror that would be underneath it if it were is too impossible to imagine, but it’s a nice detail to feature. The stitching seems clean, though I wish they didn’t need to put a seem right down his chest and abdomen. There’s a little bit of “fluff” protruding from the rear seem on the head and back of my doll, but the actual stitching doesn’t appear loose anywhere. He seems like he’s plenty durable, but the tag also says for ages 12 and up so don’t be surprised if your toddler wrecks him.

The “dukes” have been put up.

Even though this is a plush, it actually features some degree of articulation. There’s a wire frame of some kind running through the limbs of the doll. This allows for some posing in the arms and legs which was unexpected. No, you can’t really get him to stand on his own, but Strong Bad can kick his legs forward or raise his arms in a victory pose. It’s possible that over-working of these limbs could cause the skeleton inside to eventually protrude from the plush body, but so far I don’t get the sense there’s any undo stress being placed upon the doll by moving his arms and legs.

“Check out my cool laces!”

You can only cram so much majesty into a plush of Strong Bad without also jamming his actual personality into the doll, which is why this plush can talk. He has 15 voice clips built in that are activated by squeezing his face. It can be a little tricky finding the right spot, but it’s there. There’s no easy access to it should the battery run out, which all batteries do, but hopefully it lasts a long time. The phrases are pretty much what you would expect of a Strong Bad doll. There’s his mild brand of swearing (“What the crap?!”), a Trogdor sound, and some good attitude baked into this guy that should please any fan of the character. And even if you’re unfamiliar with Strong Bad, you still may enjoy listening to him if my kids are any indication.

What else is there to say? If you like Strong Bad, you’ll enjoy this talking plush. He retails for $36, and even though he’s presently sold out, Fangamer is planning a restock so head on over to their site if you’re interested and sign up for email notifications. He’s probably been a pretty nice seller for them and I suspect they’ll keep ordering more until they either lose the license or people stop buying. He’s been such a hit that I wonder if we can expect more characters to follow. I don’t know if I’d necessarily be interested in other characters from the Homestar Runner universe, but maybe a new Cheat to go with Strong Bad would be pretty cool.


Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut)

You’ll believe a man can fly…again.

When the original Superman was conceived for a theatrical release, the producers on the project were ambitious. Convincing audiences that a man could fly sure seemed like enough ambition for one film, but not Superman. Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided it would be more prudent to shoot the film and its sequel at the same time. Producer Pierre Spengler was onboard and they were able to find a director in Richard Donner willing to undertake the difficult task. At the time it made some sense since the films would be closely tied together thematically and the mercurial Marlon Brando was onboard to play Superman’s biological father, Jor-El. Brando was hard to secure and the type only willing to attend as little days of shooting as possible so shooting his parts for both films at the same time was basically a necessity. The production could reuse sets, the actors wouldn’t visibly change much, and it also meant Warner Bros. would have a sequel practically at the ready in the event the first film was the success everyone hoped it would be.

Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Tensions between the Salkinds and Donner arose during filming as much of the project could be kindly described as disorganized, at best. Production would have to be halted in order for the first film to be properly edited and released, and it sounds like everyone just grew to hate one another. With the film approximately 75% complete, Donner was relieved of his duties and replaced by Richard Lester. By then, the first film had been a success and Brando had started crowing about his share of the box office causing the Salkinds to drop him from the sequel. Lester inherited a mess and set out to re-shooting several scenes, and even changed the ending. Despite all of that, Superman II was warmly received by fans and critics and for a long time it was considered the pinnacle of super hero films with its status really only being called into question when films like Spider-Man 2, X2, and Batman Begins were released in the 2000s.

Lois demands that you hand over the Donner cut!

As a kid, I grew up watching the Superman movies mostly on cable and Superman II was probably my favorite, though I did enjoy the zaniness of Superman III and I don’t think I ever saw the much maligned Superman IV. I wasn’t at all aware of the controversy surrounding the first sequel though and only came to find out about that as an adult. It took me awhile, but I finally got around to viewing the Richard Donner cut of the film recently. Released in 2006, brought along partially by a settlement with Brando’s estate to use his likeness, Donner was brought onboard to recut the film using all of the footage he had overseen which had been discarded by Lester. Editor Michael Thau did a lot of the grunt work of putting the film back together, which Donner would basically give a “yay” or “nay” to finished pieces. This meant Brando’s character could be restored to communicate with Reeve’s Superman and the original ending could be seen for the first time. Every scene Lester had re-shot could also be tossed, with the only stuff kept being the scenes Donner never got to shoot (mostly featuring the villains rampaging through the Midwest). The only truly cumbersome piece is re-assembled from screen test footage and features a confrontation of sorts between Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Clark Kent in a hotel room. It’s fair to wonder if some of the more effects heavy shots would have turned out better in post production with a bigger budget than what was available for a restoration, but this is a fairly different film, but also a complete one despite the circumstances.

Hackman’s Lex Luthor is still here, but he’s been usurped by some guys in bad pajamas.

I have not seen the Lester cut in years, so I’m less interested in the comparisons with the Donner cut and more interested in how this holds up as a film. In my return to the original Superman, I found the film quite long and at times humorless. Superman is presented in a very earnest way which plays differently now than it did in 1978. A hero saying he fights for truth, justice, and the American way without a hint of cynicism is just a bit hokey today. If this Superman were featured in a modern film there would be a character snickering at how wholesome he is right after he says his line. These films seek to present Superman as an idealized hero, a myth made man, which might not be for everyone.

With Superman II, most of that earnestness is still preserved, but the film is more willing to explore Superman’s weakness. And I don’t mean Kryptonite. His weakness is Lois Lane and his infatuation with her which naturally leads to a yearning for a normal life. That is on display in this film with Superman literally giving up his powers, and starting a trend for super hero sequels, in order to live life as an ordinary citizen of Earth. His timing proves terrible though as three criminals cast out from Krypton at the beginning of the first film, General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran), just so happen to find their way to Earth. Being fellow citizens of Krypton, they too are enhanced beyond normal men by Earth’s yellow sun and are essentially three supermen themselves. Three against one are daunting odds to begin with, but a powerless Superman obviously stands no match and apparently neither do the militaries of the world. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is still a presence as he seeks to benefit from the chaos created by these new beings, but strangely he keeps the information about the effects of Kryptonite to himself never once attempting to use it against these new enemies.

Here comes the romance!

Superman II is a far brisker film since it doesn’t need to tell the origins of its hero and its villains are about as direct as villains get. It has a bit more action to it since Superman is pitted against villains that can actually match him blow for blow, and some of his powers were also held in reserve for the sequel. We get to see Superman utilize his laser eyes and his super breath in addition to his super speed and ability to fly. He doesn’t get to do anything as impressive as land an airplane, but there’s plenty of heroic feats for him to accomplish. The film is still at its best when Superman is doing more mundane things like saving a falling child while onlookers “oo” and “ahh.” The battle of Metropolis, which makes no attempts to disguise the fact that its New York, is not nearly as impressive to modern viewers as it would have been in 1980 which probably detracts from the spectacle some.

Fans of the eye beams had to wait until the sequel just to get a peek!

The film also spends a lot of time exploring just what it is that distinguishes Clark Kent from Superman. Some of the best comedy involves Lois trying to figure out if the two are one and the same and she goes to some incredible lengths to confirm her suspicions. Reeve and Kidder seem to possess better chemistry this time around though it can still be hard to see just what it is about Lois that makes Clark willing to give up everything just to be with her. There’s also no way to shake the feeling of deja vu the ending brings about, which was originally changed for that very reason. The ending Lester settled on was arguably dumber and was just different for the sake of being different. Both achieve the same end result, but neither is particularly satisfying.

Screen test footage had to be used to complete Richard Donner’s vision. It’s a little jarring, but not something that should impact one’s viewing pleasure.

One also cannot mention that with the loss of Donner originally came the loss of what was perhaps my favorite part of the first film: John Williams. His main Superman theme was present, but that’s all as creative differences with Richard Lester caused Williams to quit. Ken Thorne was brought on to score Superman II, but when Donner was asked to put his name on this new cut he wanted Williams back as well. Williams, unfortunately, was not able to score the film so Donner did the next best thing and simply reused much of the first film’s score and even some music that had not been used. Some of Thorne’s score is still present in the Richard Donner cut, but the presence of Williams really helps make the sequel feel like an extension of the first film.

He’s watching. Always watching…

The Richard Donner Cut of Superman II restores the sense of continuity the film shared with its predecessor. There’s no one who would watch these two films back to back and come away surprised they were mostly shot simultaneously. There’s a real, cohesive, feeling to both to the point where watching one and not the other almost feels silly. And yet, there’s no denying that Superman II is no longer a contender for the best super hero movie brought to cinema. While it’s probably still the best Superman film, I don’t find it as entertaining today as I once did. The villains are one-note and the film is quite eager to rely on the deus ex machina device to push its plot along. Superman has powers, then he doesn’t, then he does again despite being warned it was irreversible, and so on. Lex Luthor makes a proverbial deal with the devil, gets double-crossed by said devil, then makes yet another deal only to be double-crossed yet again! Some criminal genius. It’s a bit messy, but there are moments of fun and the more digestible run time means the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. Mostly, I’m left feeling happy for Richard Donner and fans of Superman that the original vision of the film was finally realized, even if it took more than 25 years for that to happen.


S.H.Figuarts Bulma’s Motorcycle (Dragon Ball)

Looking around my basement office and thinking back on all of the various toy reviews I’ve done over the years has made me realize that I’ve never done a vehicle review. Vehicles are not all that common in the collector community, usually they’re more of a kid’s toyline occurrence. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fun when they do come along or that I’m not interested in them, they just need to convince me a bit more of their worth and work in a display. Oh, and they need to not cost an arm and a leg. And recently, the cost of vehicles is a hot topic in the collector community and it’s a topic that probably isn’t going away as NECA is expected to unveil a Turtle Van in its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line at some point this year.

When it comes to Dragon Ball, there are a handful of vehicles that come to mind. Especially in Dragon Ball Z where Vegeta and the other Saiyans travel through space in those adorable little pods. There are a few other spaceships and the occasional car as well. In Dragon Ball, there were arguably more vehicles, though I don’t know that many are truly memorable. They were more of a necessity though as in that series few characters could fly so if they wanted to traverse the world they needed help. And the character usually able to aid the most in that regard was Bulma and her wonderful assortment of capsules. The famous Capsule Corp that her father founded created the technology to store vehicles, homes, food, you name it, in tiny capsules that could recall the product in seconds. It’s a fun concept for a television show and an especially convenient one if you don’t want to have to explain how the characters manage to carry so much stuff with them on their adventures.

Hooray for stuff!

One of the earliest capsules we see in the show is Bulma’s number 9 – her motorcycle. After Goku smashes up her car, Bulma is forced to turn to the bike to resume her journey for the seven Dragon Balls and Goku comes along for the ride which is essentially how the story begins. Bandai decided this moment was important enough to be immortalized in plastic and commissioned a version of the bike for its S.H.Figuarts line of products.

I hadn’t even thought of it until I got this set, but the capsule Bulma is holding is the #9 capsule so nice forward-thinking on the part of Bandai.

When Bandai first showed the bike I thought it looked great. When I saw the functionality that would be built into it and the accessories it came with, I was further convinced it would be a fantastic item to add to my Dragon Ball collection. When I saw the price, I was a little less enthusiastic. This bike retails for between $70 and $75, which is almost twice what the actual figure of Bulma costs. I knew I liked it, but did I like it enough to spend that kind of dough on it? Thankfully, a clearance sale at GameStop made it easier when I scored the set for 25% off. I had to wait a little while for it to arrive as apparently a lot of people were like-minded and the product actually sold out and my order was changed to backordered, but eventually GameStop came through.

She’s a beaut!
It’s almost a shame that the nicest part of the sculpt is arguably the tech around the handlebars, since that’s an area that doesn’t really show when displayed.

The bike comes in the same window box packaging we’re used to with this line. It has some nice product shots on the front and is using a white and teal color scheme. Once removed, the bike can either stand on its own via a working kickstand or be placed on an included stand. It’s about 7 inches long and scales well with the Adventure Begins Bulma figure that I reviewed last year. In fact, the bike is intended to work with her and even includes some new parts for that figure. The handlebars are functional and turning them will cause the front wheel to turn. The overall look of this bike is just fantastic. I love the rounded edges, the clean, white, finish, and the big, oversized, tires. The rear wheel is noticeably larger than the front wheel and we do have some diecast parts added in, such as the kickstand. There’s some nice sculpting down around the handlebars and the clear, curved, plastic, windshield removes easily to position a figure on the bike. There’s not a ton of paint on this thing, but since it’s basically white plastic I think it looks fine. There’s colored plastic for the turn signals and clear plastic for the non-working lights. The decals are all very cleanly applied and this is just a very pristine looking item.

Let’s go for a ride!
A frontal view of the happy teen.

The bike does roll on those tires which appear to be made of rubber, or a similar substance to rubber. They’re not as squishy or bouncy as some rubber tires, but it definitely isn’t a hard plastic. If play is your thing, you absolute can place a figure on this bike and have a good time. Since this is a collector line though, my guess is most will want to place this on a shelf. And if you do, the kickstand works fine. It’s quite tight, so tight that I doublechecked the included instructions to make sure it was meant to function before I really laid into it. The bike is probably too heavy to have a figure support the weight of it with one leg Akira style, but you can easily fudge that with the stand. The base of the display stand Bandai included is a simple plastic circle with the Capsule Corp logo printed on it. There are two inserts and there are three different stands to choose from that plug into the base. One stand is a simple straight up and down stand so the bike looks like it’s in motion. There’s an angled stand to make the bike look like it’s turning which is pretty neat and can be angled for either a right turn or a left one. And then there is a third stand that’s the wheelie stand which raises the front wheel higher off the ground than the rear. It’s a great variety of poses available and if there’s any room for complaint it’s that maybe the wheelie stand could have been more exaggerated, but at least as-is there are no stability concerns.

Left turn stand.
Wheelie!

In addition to the stands, we get some extra parts. There are two gripping hands for Bulma since she didn’t come with plain, old, gripping hands before. Interestingly, both hands are painted when normally the flesh-colored hand is just plastic. It’s strange because if ever you wanted to avoid having painted hands it’s with hands that will be gripping handlebars. The color looks a little off compared with her arm, but it’s not terribly noticeable. There’s also a new skirt piece for Bulma since her other skirt really wouldn’t allow for her to sit on a bike. This one has ridges in it for her knees to fit into to create a more natural sitting pose. Bulma simply separates at the waist to facilitate swapping the parts. It’s easy to get her apart, but a little frustrating getting her back together again as you need to contend with the skirt and her belt. There’s also a swappable rear seat on the bike which is easy to make use of. The extra set has a peg on it and it’s for our last accessory: a terrified kid Goku. This Goku, unlike the actual figure, is in-scale with Bulma so he’s pretty small. He’s a little painted guy with some very minor articulation at the head and tail. He’s meant to just be along for the ride and looks pretty great. I suspect many will pose the two on their shelf with Bulma sporting her terrified expression as the two pop an unexpected wheelie.

Goku seems to be enjoying himself.
It’s a bit crazy to see just how small Goku would have to be to be in scale with Bulma.

For a premium price you should expect a premium product, and Bandai delivered with this release. Not everyone is going to want a motorcycle in their Dragon Ball display, but any who do are likely to be very happy with this release. Especially if you’re able to get it on clearance like I did. It’s well made, high quality, and Bandai included basically everything it needed to. Whether you have Bulma sitting on it, or standing beside it, the big going to attract attention to your display. Maybe some will wish Bandai had gone even further and included some electronics, but I’m happy to not have had to pay for that since that’s something I’d rarely use. If you want Bulma to have a bike though, this is pretty awesome!

“Come on, kid, please put it down!”

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Bebop

He don’t get mad, he gets stabby!

This is a big figure. That’s the take-away and the thing any reviewer has to mention when reviewing Super7’s take on the classic warthog from Playmates. Back in ’88, Bebop was bigger than the turtles, but he was also really hunched over to the point where it was like his neck was coming out of his chest. This made sure the figure would fit on the blister card and not break the mold of a line that was just starting out and probably needed to keep costs down as much as possible. With Super7’s line of Ultimates! based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, no such compromise needed to be made. Bebop can be his big, beefy, self and it’s quite a sight to see.

I won’t make you wait for the big comparison shot with the turtles in this line.

The turtles in this line come in at 6″ in height. It’s a 7″ scale line so the turtles are a bit on the short side in this universe. Bebop is definitely the opposite as he comes in at 8″ at the top of his mohawk. More so than the height though is the fact that this guy is chunky! Just picking up the box after handling the Leonardo one drove the point home that there was a lot more plastic in this package than before. It’s a bit awe inspiring to behold this figure as it just so fundamentally changes how one views the character.

It only took the better part of 30 years, but Bebop finally has something he can call a logo all to himself.

Bebop comes packaged in the same window box style we’ve seen with the other releases. Even though he’s much larger than what’s been released so far, he still fits into the same sized box, though he certainly takes up more room in the window. The slipcover that goes over his box is purple, as all of the villains are, and features a Bebop face on a manhole cover on the front with drill bits on either side of his head. It’s a small thing, but I love how each character gets their own logo of sorts for this line.

That’s a tight fit.

This Bebop is, like the other figures in this line, a throwback to the old Playmates toy released in 1988. He’s very similar in terms of sculpting, even though he looks quite different at first glance. That’s due to that old figure having so many sculpted details that were left unpainted. Some may see the knee brace on this figure and struggle to remember if the vintage one had that. And it did, as it did the turtle skeletons and stich pattern pants. By far the biggest benefit to this new scale and approach is Bebop’s red, leather, vest. The texture and the saturation of the paint is just exquisite. It might sound ridiculous, but it was how this jacket looked in promotional shots that got me to buy into this figure. It’s a separate piece of soft plastic that fits over the torso which just adds nice depth to the figure. Especially considering a lot of the other effects are sculpted into the main body. The necklace, bracelets, belt – that’s all sculpted which is in contrast to the more recent NECA offering which went with chains for the belt and bracelet. It gives this figure a bit of a juxtaposition in terms of the presentation as the separate pieces (jacket, shoulder pads) really bring this guy to life while the sculpted-in parts preserve the toy aesthetic of the original.

I don’t know if it sounds stupid, but I’m obsessed with how good this jacket turned out.

The paint job on Bebop also walks that line a bit. There’s a lot of pink utilized on his snout and the underside of his neck. The original figure did feature a pink tint as well, though not to this extent. If it’s too much for you, Super7 did include a second head which is the same as the default one, but without the pink air -brushed on. The hair, shells, and shoes look terrific with their paint app, while the chain bracelet came out a bit chunky. We should probably see some of his flesh through the chains, but it’s just solid gray. The arms and the main body of the figure are just brown plastic and he does have a bit of a shine to him. He’s just so big that when you have something that’s low detail like his arms it really stands out. Maybe a wash or some fur sculpted into him would have improved this. His old, purple, mohawk is now more of a hot pink and it looks like they failed to paint the elastic at the end of his ponytail. It’s not a big deal, but again, with such a big figure everything stands out.

I think this drill gun showed up in the cartoon and it fired a laser, in case you thought it was just a power drill. That would explain why it has a scope on it.

In spite of those critiques, I will say the overall sculpt and look of Bebop is pretty fantastic. If you prefer your Bebop to look more like the old toy and less like the cartoon then this is going to make you happy. As a kid, I was the opposite as I wanted Bebop and especially Rocksteady to look like the characters I saw on TV every day. And yet, I am floored by this sculpt and am completely smitten. It’s just so demonstrably different from the NECA offering that I don’t even think they’re comparable. The NECA Bebop is my favorite figure in that line because they so perfectly nailed the aesthetic of that cartoon. And this one is terrific because he’s just not that character. This is a more monstrous Bebop. I assume if he were in a cartoon he wouldn’t be as dim as the one we got. He’d actually be something to fear rather than laugh at.

It’s a lot easier to put him in a “knife toss” pose than a conventional knife pose given how tight those gripping hands are.
The rare two-headed warthog.

A big figure like this presents some opportunity for articulation. Even though he’s a brute, he still needs to move. Bebop’s head is on a big ball peg. I was worried it would be hard to remove, but it actually pops off pretty easily. He can look up, down, tilt, and swivel. It’s a lot better than expected and also plenty sturdy. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and those big shoulder pads will limit how high his arms can come up. They’re also pretty tight, but that’s good for a big figure and the bonus of him being big is he at least feels less fragile. He has a hinge at the elbow and his arm also swivels there. The wrists swivel and have big, horizontal, hinges in them. Like the head, they’re surprisingly easy to pop on and off. There is a waist swivel, but it’s just a swivel and there’s no other torso articulation. The thighs are on ball-joints and they can swivel there. The knees are single-jointed and the right leg can swivel at the knee. The left cannot and that’s because he has that big knee brace and it’s pretty cool that Super7 respected that brace and didn’t just ignore it. He can also swivel above the ankle, below the cuffs of his pants, so the knee swivel isn’t missed. The ankles are hinged and can also rock side-to-side. Lastly, Bebop’s tail is now articulated. It’s just a swivel, but it’s cool to be able to position it a bit now.

The second head basically just omits the pink wash on the snout.
A close-up of the alt head.

Bebop’s articulation is just okay. The range of motion at the elbows and shoulders isn’t very good. You can argue it doesn’t need to be great, but it’s disappointing. More disappointing though is the lack of something in the torso. He really would benefit from a diaphragm joint that would allow him to twist a little and tilt. The articulation just makes him quite static. He really needs his size to command attention on your shelf because his posing just isn’t going to do it. What also works against him is his very neutral expression. It’s accurate to the vintage toy, but there’s just no personality there. Bebop relies on his attire and the fact that he’s a big, ugly, warthog to form an identity. It makes the second head feel like a wasted opportunity as since it’s just the same head, but with less paint, it took away a chance for Super7 to create something more expressive as it’s been able to do with Leo and Raph. Imagine a Bebop with a snarling mouth or even a hinged jaw, that really could have taken this one to another level.

As you can see, Bebop may have increased in size, but his accessories have not.

Somewhat playing into the nonchalent posing of Bebop are his accessories. He’s a lot of plastic and his tooling is unique. Maybe some of this will work for Rocksteady, but I am assuming Bebop is a high cost figure when compared with Leonardo. That probably plays a role in his accessories, which are limited. He comes with just one extra pair of hands and they’re fists. His standard gripping hands are so close to fists that these just feel like a waste. I would have much preferred a style posed hand in place of fists. Bebop also has his drill gun which is almost comically small in his massive hands. Super7 should have probably considered upscaling the gun to go with the figure, but instead, it’s actually a little smaller than the vintage one which makes no sense. The trash can lid is the exact same size and getting him to properly hold it is nearly impossible. His hands are super stiff and I had to heat them to get them to bend a little to try and force that handle into his hand. At best, I basically just got it to hook on his thumb. It’s so small though that it looks stupid. His knife is his best accessory. It’s a little tough getting it into those tight, gripping, hands of his, but once there it looks fine. It does make me wish they added a sheath for it on his belt though for storage. Or if he had an actual belt we could have slipped it behind that. Oh well. Like the turtles, there’s also a set of unpainted weapons on a sprue. Bebop’s are gray and I don’t know why you’d ever want them, but they’re there if you do.

The pink on the new figure is definitely a lot more pronounced than it was on the vintage figure.

Super7’s take on Bebop is both incredibly impressive and also a bit disappointing all at the same time. It averages out to a really good release though because what’s most important are the overall aesthetics of the figure, and that’s the part Super7 handled the best. The only reason to not like it is if you disliked the Playmates figure, and if that’s the case, why would you buy this? I suspect those who just want this line to match the vintage one piece for piece are very happy. I’m more of the type that wants Super7 to key in on the nostalgia, but also improve things where possible. I accept that they have a different philosophy when it comes to articulation too, as I know they dislike double elbows and probably aren’t fans of torso joints either. I’ll continue to call out where I think those joints make sense though, and maybe one day they’ll come around.

Here’s the one for folks who like to put Super7 against NECA. I love both of these figures for different reasons.

Bebop is a tremendously fun figure, and you still have a shot at getting him. Super7’s Ultimates! line is a made-to-order line, but retailers are free to order as many as they want and sell them and he’s still available in some places. The MSRP is $45, but you’ll probably have to pay a small markup at this point. And it’s small compared with what this figure will fetch going forward so if you want him, grab him. He’s the last of Wave 2 that I’ll be reviewing as I just wasn’t feeling Shredder or Mutagen Man, but when Wave 3 drops I’ll have at least 3 reviews coming your way so there’s something to look forward to!

Good luck, boys! This isn’t the moron you’re used to!

Rad Plastic

I think it was during the summer of 2020 while spending one of the many days of that year inside and isolated that I stumbled upon a Twitter post about an upcoming book titled Rad Plastic. I believe the tweet was from the account The Toys That Made Us, which is (was?) a Netflix series that chronicles the early days and success stories of toy lines from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It was interesting the tweet came from that account as one of the disappointments of 2019 for me was the episode of that show concerning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Toys That Made Us is the brainchild of comedian/director Brian Volk-Weiss. His background seems to be in television and comedy and it seems the approach to the series The Toys That Made Us is to select an important franchise and then find the story. It makes for an entertaining documentary, but Netflix constrains it to a mere 45 minutes or so per episode which just isn’t enough time to really dive deep into a subject that spanned years, or even decades. The unfortunate side effect of this approach is the series really doesn’t have much time to talk about what I want to hear about the most: the toys! And with the TMNT episode, it was able to talk a lot about the development of the property and its eventual acquisition and launch by Playmates, but then pivoted to a story about reuniting the co-creators of the franchise Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. It was a nice a story, it just wasn’t a story about the toys, which is what I wanted to hear about most. When I found out about Rad Plastic, it seemed like it would be the thing to fill-in that missing information for me.

Ready to feel nostalgic?

Rad Plastic is a book by Chris Fawcett and it’s all about the vintage Playmates toy line. Specifically, this is a book about the creation of an action figure. It goes into great detail spotlighting the incredible sculptors contracted by Playmates, most of which worked for either Varner Studios or Anaglyph. Fawcett confesses upfront he wasn’t big into TMNT and only really became interested in the toy line in 2017 when he stumbled upon some materials he felt really showed off how intricate these figures were. And while it’s easy to look back on that vintage toy line through the lens of a modern toy enthusiast and wonder what’s so special about it, those of us who grew up and owned those figures likely remember how wild and detailed those sculpts were. A character like Muckman was particularly incredible and much of the detail put into that figure by sculptor Alec McTurk went unpainted for the finished product and maybe was unnoticed by some. It’s not something that shows well in pictures online and it’s easy to overlook a figure from 30 years ago that’s been beat up and played with, but they really were something special.

After pre-ordering my copy over the summer, it was quite a long wait before the product arrived. Which is fine, as these things take time and COVID surely made its presence felt. The book is designed by Chance Sanderson to resemble the classic Party Wagon. Since this is an unofficial release, it doesn’t feature the classic logo or any of the turtles on the cover, but does feature their silhouette in the windshield and the book’s title is done as an homage to that logo. And I love that on the back of the book is a seemingly perfect recreation of the sticker that went on the back of the Party Wagon itself. The interior of the book is loaded with plenty of official artwork though and the pages are nice and thick. It’s also a heavy book as this is designed to go on your coffee table. It’s a hardcover and is approximately 11.25″ x 11.25″ and is about an inch thick.

This book will tell you how action figures are made.

The first chunk of the book goes over the creation process for an action figure. It covers everything from the design phase, to concept art, sculpting, mold creation, and finally production. It’s not exhausting, so it isn’t a particularly long section. The entire book is rather breezy and even though it’s 400 pages many will probably finish it in one sitting. That’s because the main meat of the book is a walk-through year by year of the vintage line that unfolds mostly in pictures. A lot of the pictures are test shots and resin models of the figures before production and in some cases there are prototypes for unreleased figures. There are blurbs to go along with each page as well as a handy checklist of the product released (and cancelled, in some cases) for that year. It’s not a complete capture of the product for that year as Fawcett is basically limited to what has survived all these years so if a hardcopy or test shot of a figure no longer exists, it won’t be shown here. He also covers play sets, vehicles, and extensions to the line like the giant figures and plush dolls.

Mikey in blue?! Blasphemy!

By far, the part of the book I enjoyed the most is the material concerning the inaugural wave of figures from 1988. That section contains a lot of the concept art that existed before the line was launched. This includes an interesting character sheet that shows Leonardo was originally going to wear orange and Michelangelo was going to sport blue. I found this amusing since, if you recall, the original title cards for the cartoon were miss-colored with Mikey as Leo wielding twin katana and Leo as Mikey getting ready to scarf down some pizza. There are several shots of the early villains in the line which were all going to be humans as well as shots of the original sewer lair which had some kind of god for a wall called The Face. Yeah, I’m happy that didn’t make it into the line or the show.

This guy was going to come with a gun that shot “snot” rockets. We really missed out.

The year-by-year stuff is all color-coded and the colors are visible when looking at the book from the side so it’s easy to jump to a section. Still, I find myself wishing there was an index in the back of the book so if I was looking for a picture of Sewer Samurai Leonardo, for example, I could quickly find it. And while the checklist is nice, I feel like this book would have greatly benefited from a visual guide as an appendix. Just a simple visual checklist that included a picture of each, finished, figure in its final packaging or loose, if that’s all that was available. Surely, there are collectors out there with an entire run of the Playmates line that would have been happy to show off and have their stuff make it into a book. I think even Peter Laird used to make sure he got copies of everything Playmates released, though I have no idea if he is still in possession of all of that material.

By contrast, I don’t think we’re missing out on anything when it comes to The Face.

Since the book is right at 400 pages, my suspicion is adding even a single page would have upped the costs by a non immaterial amount, but it’s also possible that just wasn’t Fawcett’s goal with this book. This is not a guide for collectors nor does it contain much information on where these characters originated, outside of the ones in the first wave. I would have loved to hear who came up with Monty Moose or Walkabout and where the inspiration came from. It’s possible such information has been lost to time, or maybe it wasn’t particularly interesting to begin with. That would be a different book though. This one wants to highlight the sculptors and designers who worked on the line. And if you’re someone like me who enjoyed and collected that line growing up, it will probably satisfy your thirst for nostalgia. I know I couldn’t suppress my grin as I flipped through this book and remembered the figures I owned and the ones I coveted and even the ones that let me down (those talking turtles were trash). It wasn’t planned to work this way, but this was a welcomed tandem with the recently released Super7 action figures which celebrate the Playmates line in their own way.

The lists are nice, but a visual guide would have really cemented this book as a must have for TMNT fans.

If you’re a fan of the turtles and want to check this book out for yourself, copies are available at www.radplastic.com. I do not know if more printings will be done, so consider this a limited time released for now. If you want it, don’t wait, and if you do get it I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it quite a bit.


Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Leonardo

“Leonardo is the perfect turtle…” is the truest statement to ever appear on the back of a product box.

If you ask me what my most cherished childhood toy was I won’t hesitate to answer Leonardo. My original Playmates Leonardo was a figure I adored and played with for years. I would get other Leonardo action figures, but they were always a temporary joy. When I sat down to act out and play with my figures, it was the original Leo from 1988 that I reached for. And it’s one of the few figures from that line I can vividly remember getting since he (along with Donatello) was my first. I was so young that I was too short to even reach the pegs and my mom had to sift through the rows of figures for me to find that Leonardo.

When Super7 first debuted its Ultimates! line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I was noncommittal. It wasn’t until Leonardo and the rest of wave 2 was unveiled that I felt the pull. I could push aside the strings of nostalgia on that first wave, but it was Leo I could not resist. I then had to scramble to get Raph, and I was quick to pre-order the other turtles as they became available all eagerly awaiting the release of Leonardo.

Since Leo’s accessories are all the same as Raph’s, consider this your accessories pic.

Leo finally arrived in February after a lengthy wait. I pre-ordered him through bigbadtoystore.com which had pre-orders open for a long while beyond the usual Super7 window. It was certainly convenient, but it meant a long wait as, for whatever reason, BBTS seems to be the retailer who always receives Super7 releases last. While those who ordered direct from Super7 had their Leonardo in December, I was forced to wait nearly two months beyond that. BBTS did come through, and I was never in doubt about that part, and he’s largely as expected. Like all of the figures in Super7’s line of Ultimates!, he comes in a cardboard mailer with the product logo on it and the figure’s name. Open that and you get the actual box the figure comes in. It’s a three-dimensional, trapezoid, which probably has a proper name, but I was never into geometry. The green slipcase slides off and the figure is below in a nice window box. It’s the same packaging as the wave one figures and it’s great. One could argue lesser packaging would result in a cheaper price (the MSRP on Leo is $45), but at least it’s attractive and mint-in-box collectors are happy while openers have a reasonably easy to reseal packaging for moves and such.

It’s like seeing an old friend…who has had some cosmetic enhancements.
Are your swords hanging low? Well have we got a product for you!

Leonardo should be quite familiar to anyone who has Raphael. That’s because they’re the same figure. The only differences between the two are the head and belt. Even the little blemishes on the shell and creases of the skin are identical. Leonardo is designed to mimic the 1988 release so he’s an olive shade of green with a belt that features a crisscross design across the chest, white eyes, and a blue mask with blue pads. Super7 added a bit more embellishment to the buckle area of Leo’s belt seemingly swapping some of the gunmetal parts of Raph’s belt for a chrome color. I really liked the understated gun metal so this looks less neat to me and I even wonder if the extra chrome was a factory error that Super7 was forced to just roll with or if they just view it as a way to distinguish the turtles from each other. I guess we’ll see what the other figures feature down the road as the promotional shots of Leo, Mike, and Don feature a belt similar to Raph’s and not the final Leo belt. The shell is now a deep green color as opposed to the brown Raph had and the front of the shell is a deeper yellow, like a marigold, when compared with Raph. The headsculpt that Leo comes packaged with looks just like the Playmates Leo. He has that almost concerned look to him, but Super7 did adjust the angle of his eyes ever so slightly so it’s not as pronounced. I feel like I was always a little disappointed in Leo’s facial expression, and yet I find myself really loving this head for pure nostalgia reasons. There is a bit of shine on the head of my figure, under his right eye, that might not come across in the photos. I don’t know if they’re all like that, or if it’s just mine.

Imagine if he had swords like these in Turtles in Time.

Since Leo is the same figure as Raph, his articulation is the same. He’s got a ball-peg that his head sits on which allows for some up and down movement and side to side along with full rotation. I didn’t really touch upon it in my Raph review, but the only aesthetic with these figures I don’t care for is the gap between the head and neck as from some angles they look like amusement park actors in oversized costumes. From head-on, it looks fine though. The shoulders are standard ball-hinges with swivels at the biceps. The shoulders were really tight out of the box, but I didn’t need any heat to get them moving. Single-jointed elbows follow with wrist rotation and hinges, and he has hands with vertical hinges and horizontal, so that’s a major plus. There’s some rotation at the hips, which are still fairly loose, but not quite as bad as Raph’s, but the shell won’t allow for too much range of motion. The legs are on ball-pegs and can swivel and kick out forward and to the side just fine. The knees just peg into the lower leg with single-hinges and swivels below the kneepad while the feet feature a hinge and generous rocker. The ankle hinges were, by far, the tightest joints on my figure out of the box and I did run them under hot tap water to get them going. It’s a suitable level of articulation, though it doesn’t really rise above other brands and some would argue it doesn’t even meet them. The lack of double elbows and knees is unfortunate and I still don’t like how the knees are engineered. It feels like there’s a lot of stress on that peg holding them together every time I bend the knee. Since Leo and Raph are the same though, I suspect I’ll just have to accept what we have here is what we’ll get with Donatello and Michelangelo.

Even Leo is subjected to Zoom meetings these days.
I think he dropped it…

It’s great to receive updated articulation, but one of the major selling points of the Super7 Ultimates! brand is the wealth of accessories the figures come with. Leo has a plethora of hands at his disposal for holding his various weapons and accessories. He has vertically hinged gripping hands in the box, plus horizontal gripping hands and open style pose hands as well as a set of fists. They peg in and the peg is small and thin, but thus far I have not heard of any issues and haven’t experienced any myself. Leo also comes with the same slice of pizza as Raph and the same communicators: one open and one closed. The only difference there is the parts painted red on Raph’s are brown on Leo’s (why not blue?!). He also has the standard allotment of ninja weaponry including throwing stars, a small, triple, bladed knife, and that large, hooked, thing. It’s a lot of stuff, but plenty could argue a large chunk of the accessories are useless. Are you ever going to pose Leo with one of the other weapons or ninja stars? Not likely. And strangely, the paint app on the pizza slice is different from Raph’s. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it looks almost dirty.

Careful there, buddy.

Most importantly, Leo also has his trusty katana blades. This has been a minor point of contention in some of the collecting spheres I frequent as these swords are not accurate when compared with the vintage figure. There was some hope that Super7 would include two different sets of swords to appease collectors (as they did with Splinter’s robe including a plastic one and a cloth one), but apparently collectors didn’t make enough noise for that to happen. Leo’s old swords were basically fake katanas. They were referred to in all TMNT media as katanas, but looked nothing like an actual katana. Super7 decided to get authentic so Leo has two, long, curved, blades. It takes some getting used to, not so much because of the curved nature of the swords, but the length. Anyone fighting with two swords, especially two katana, looks ridiculous. Part of the nature of the brand though is to look ridiculous. These are giant, mutated, turtles after all. I do wish they were smaller though as it’s hard for me to suspend my sense of disbelief that this character could effectively wield these swords in this manner. I think I may opt for a one sword look for my more permanent display as a result. The actual swords though at least look great. The paint is nice and the handles are well done and they’re not warped and flimsy like Raphael’s sais. And they also fit in the holsters on the back of his shell fine, and despite their length, don’t look particularly silly.

The alternate head definitely has a different energy.
I wish his bandana tails had a bit more life to them. It’s very rare to have a turtles figure where the bandana knot and tails aren’t visible from the front.

Lastly, Leonardo comes with an alternate head. Like Raph’s, Leo’s alternate head is a brand new, stylized, headsculpt that’s an all new creation. It obeys the same rules of colored mask and blank eyes as the vintage toy, but has a more realistic expression and texture. There’s a warmth with the new one that creates the illusion of this character existing in the real world, as opposed to the cold, plastic, very toy nature of the original. The expression is similar, but clearly more angry, and I think I prefer it to the vintage look. It’s basically how I would envision a new Leonardo would look today if the line were just starting from scratch like the original Playmates line did once upon a time. And it’s a nice look, though I think Raph’s second head turned out a little better. It’s the straight bandana tails that change the head profile a bit for me and I would have preferred something more dramatic. Though if you like the vintage look, you have it with the default head and you even have a sprue of weapons and accessories in classic brown, though the swords are the updated, curved, ones. My affection for that old head would probably win out for my display if I didn’t like Raph’s alternate head so much. I want a uniform look and don’t want to mix vintage and alt heads, so for now, I’m going with this updated one.

If you prefer a more vintage look.

The Super7 Ultimates! Leonardo is basically the figure I thought it was going to be. And that’s good! As I expected to like this one. I do think there’s room for improvement, as there often is with anything, as the articulation is lacking, most of the accessories are useless, and the swords are too long. That sounds like a lot of negatives, but this is a $45 action figure so it should be held to a higher standard than a $20 one found at Target. Where it does succeed is just in the overall look and presentation of the figure. Even if a lot of the accessories are ho-hum, the extra head is great and the hands are what you want. He looks like Leonardo and really captures that Playmates look which was so obviously inspired by the art from the Mirage line of comics, but was also its own thing. He looks great with Raph and I have a feeling my display will only improve with the additions of Michelangelo (expected probably four months from now) and Donatello (hopefully before the end of the year). Leonardo is also yet another reminder of how awesome it is to be a TMNT collector right now. Turtle power, indeed!

You didn’t think I’d end this without a comparison shot, did you?
It’s a Leo convention! Left to right: S.H.Figuarts, NECA toon Leo, Super7, Playmates, Playmates ’03, which was really the first attempt at making over the classic ’88 figure and still kind of kicks ass today.


Hasbro Dungeons & Dragons Drizzt Do’Urden and Guenhwyvar

Just a man and his cat.

I was quite surprised when Hasbro unveiled a deluxe action figure set starring the Forgotten Realms hero, Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt was a character I was familiar with going back into my middle school days when I traded Star Wars novels for Dragonlance. Even though my nose was buried in stories about Raistlin Majere and Tanis Half-Elven, a lot of the other kids around me were reading the latest from R.A. Salvatore. Drizzt was an instant hit, a dark elf warrior exiled from his subterranean home turned good guy. He was armed with a pair of magic scimitars, had a magic panther as a sidekick, and was basically unbeatable in combat. When I had exhausted Dragonlance, a campaign setting for the game Dungeons & Dragons that saw its peak in the 80s, I finally checked out what was coming out of the Forgotten Realms setting and would eventually read several books starring the legendary drow.

That’s a fine looking piece of cardboard.

Hasbro has owned Dungeons & Dragons through subsidiary Wizards of the Coast for over two decades now, but few knew if the company really planned on doing action figures. Plenty of 80s kids have longed for stuff based on the old cartoon series, while folks like me who grew up with the novels published by TSR have wanted to see some of those characters captured in plastic. Drizzt kind of came out no where though and Hasbro elected to sell the set, which includes his panther, Guenhwyvar (who I am just going to call Guen from now on because that name is ridiculous), through its Pulse storefront. This generally means collectors could pre-order the figure and expect delivery months later. Hasbro was likely skittish about going straight to retail with the figure because it was an untested character at a premium price ($40), though there are plans to distribute it through other retailers in the future (I think).

I love the artwork on display here.

For me, I liked Drizzt well enough when I was reading the books decades ago. He’s cool, though his stories got very repetitive for me so I would never call him one of my favorite literary characters. I won’t deny though that he’s perfect for an action figure and his popularity makes him a great first choice for a figure. I saw it, and I thought it looked cool, and eventually placed a pre-order. My decision to buy this figure was one part enjoyment of the actual piece, and one part a desire to just support the brand in hopes of getting a Raistlin down the road. That property, Dragonlance, has some legal troubles though that will probably make it difficult for me to get what I want, but I can dream, can’t I?

There’s a lot of stuff in that box.

Drizzt arrived after a delay of about a month. All kinds of shipping problems in December threw things into disarray, but thankfully Drizzt wasn’t on that ship that lost a ton of cargo in a storm. The figure comes packaged in a very nice box with an unusual shape. The front is curved and embossed with a dynamic illustration of Drizzt and Guen. Sliding that off produces a window box with the figure itself and a nice, wintery, backdrop. It’s easy to reseal, which is always a plus with figures that come with a bunch of extra stuff, and would be attractive for mint-in-box collectors, though to display with or without the slipcover would be a tough call.

He’s free!
I think of his open hand as his kitty-patting hand.

Drizzt is a little tricky to extricate from the plastic bubble inside as he has this big cloak that slips through the plastic, plus his scabbards go through it as well. Once removed he’s a pretty sturdy figure with a fair amount of heft to him due to that cloak. He stands right at six inches and seems like the kind of figure that could slip into other displays fairly easily. His armor is incredibly detailed with lots of little paint flourishes through out. My figure is pretty much devoid of any signs of paint slop or quality control issues of any kind. His joints were all free and easy out of the box and there are no defects I can spot. This is a very well made figure, though also still pretty familiar to anyone who collects stuff from Hasbro. I really like the gray-purple of his flesh and you can see the purple in his eyes. He has an angry facial expression with windswept hair perfect for a battle pose. He has a pair of gripping hands with vertical hinges (finally, Hasbro!) that have just enough of an opening in them that it’s fairly easy to slip one of his two swords into each hand. He looks great, and this is a later version of Drizzt as opposed to a first appearance. It reminds me of the look the character sported in the artwork for The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy. There’s a lot of black, green, and gold and the leather portions of his armor have a touch of blue. It’s textured really well too and looks like worn leather, though the armor is so pristine that it doesn’t look like something he’s ever actually battled in. The fur lining on the cloak is well done and there’s a hood sculpted into the back of it that’s been pushed back. This is just really nice and it’s good to see Hasbro sink a little more money into this release than it would a mass market figure for Walmart or Target. As they should, since they’re charging a premium for it.

If you really want to see what this figure can do you have to ditch the cloak.

If you’ve had a Hasbro figure recently, then you should know what to expect in terms of articulation. Drizzt’s head sits on a ball peg so he can look around, but his cloak plus his hair will severely limit that head articulation. Of course, you can remove the cloak and get better articulation, if you wish. The base of the neck is also on a ball peg which aids him in looking up and down when the cloak is not an issue. The shoulders are ball-hinges with a slight butterfly joint as well. The pauldrons on his shoulders can be manipulated a bit to get them out of the way when posing. He has swivels at the shoulders, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivels, and the previously mentioned vertical hinges. In the torso he foregoes a diaphragm joint in favor of an ab crunch. I am on record as not caring for ab crunches, but this one at least looks fine. He can also twist at the waist and swivel at the thigh, which are ball-hinged. He has double-jointed knees and can swivel at the foot. He also has hinges at the ankle and a generous rocker. It’s a solid assortment of articulation and Hasbro did a good job of working with the intricate armor on this figure to get as much articulation into it without disrupting that sculpt. The skirt pieces of the armor are very flexible so they only interfere a bit. I would have preferred a diaphragm joint in place of the ab crunch, but it’s fine.

Kitty statue.
Extra stuff that will mostly entertain actual players of Dungeons & Dragons, something I haven’t done in over 20 years.

Drizzt comes packaged with quite the assortment of accessories and optional parts. He has two heads: an angry one and a smug one. I really like both, but I tend to prefer that cocky look to the yelling one. He also has two hairstyles which you can swap between the two heads. One is windswept and the other is static. I had a hard time getting the static hair to work in tandem with the cloak, but others may have better luck than me. The cloak can be removed by popping off the head, but be careful when doing do as sometimes his neck will release which is kind of a pain. Try to hold the neck in place as best you can. He also has an extra set of hands which include a fist and an open left hand. The fist is kind of useless and I would have preferred two style hands, but oh well. The open hand works with his little, black, kitty statue which is supposed to be Guen. That’s what the cat is when not in the material world. There’s also a D20 die done in a sparkly, black, green color that’s pretty neat for people who play D&D. Drizzt also has a necklace he can wear which features a little unicorn head. This is the symbol of the goddess he worships or identifies with. It fits over his head fine, but gets lost when the cloak is on too. It’s also too light to have a natural hang and I find I prefer the character without it, but it’s there if you like it. There are also monster cards hidden behind the cardboard insert in the box. I know some of them, like the beholder and ice dragon, but some I don’t know what they are. I wish they had a little bio or something on them instead of some fake language.

You probably don’t want to mess with this guy.
Let’s add a little magic to those blades!

Of course, Drizzt also comes with his prized, twin, scimitars: Twinkle and Icingdeath. They’re well sculpted and painted and look terrific whether in-hand or sheathed. I find they don’t necessarily match up with the descriptions given for each in the books, but there have been prop Drizzt swords made over the years and these seem to match those. I think it’s Twinkle that has this neat metallic, blue, finish on the pommel that’s especially nice looking. The vertical hinges of his hands help in wielding them properly and Drizzt just looks cool with a blade in each hand. He also has two effects pieces for the blades that looks like ice magic, or something. They slide onto the blade and lend themselves well to dynamic poses. The only drawback is they add considerable heft to the swords. If there is one issue I have, it’s that Drizzt’s arms are a little loose for his swords. I still was able to get him into some interesting poses, but I’m concerned if I leave him on a shelf with these things on the blades his shoulders may weaken until he can’t keep his arm up. In particular, the left arm is the one I have the most concern with. I suspect this may vary from unit to unit.

Say, “ahhhh”

Lastly, Drizzt is accompanied by his good pal, Guenwhyvar. I don’t know why Salvatore settled on such an obnoxious spelling, but he has a tendency to do that with a lot of stuff in his novels. The panther is about six inches long and quite sleek with a lustrous black coat with maybe a hint of purple in some places. There’s a lot of points of articulation on this cat too. There’s a ball-joint in the torso that provides some ability to pivot, a ball-joint at the base of the neck, and a ball-joint at the base of the head with a hinged jaw. The legs appear to be ball-jointed at the base, but can’t do much other than move forward and back a little. The rear, right, leg is pretty tight on mine too. Each knee can swivel and bend and there’s another hinge past that and a third hinge at the foot. That’s on the hind legs, the front legs have one less hinge. The feet can also rock side to side. The tail pegs into a ball joint and kind of just hangs out. It’s a lot, but it’s not all functional. I can’t, for instance, get the kitty to sit in a convincing fashion. She can get into a pounce position, but for the most part I think people will just pose her in a fairly neutral position looking a bit menacing with that mouth open.

“Just five more minutes then I’ll feed you.”
As much as it pains my wallet to admit, he would look cool with an orc to slice and dice.

That’s a lot of stuff for one figure release, and I think this is a great value at $40. Of course, since it is a mail away situation you’ll have to pay shipping to acquire Drizzt so his real cost is more like $50, but it’s still pretty good considering a Lightning Collection Power Ranger is about $20 and of lower quality. For your money, you get a really nice looking and functional action figure plus a fully realized panther figure. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a few shortcomings. I wish the engineering on the panther was a bit better, and I find myself really surprised that Drizzt didn’t come with one more hairpiece that included his hood. Maybe they couldn’t figure out a way to get a hood to fit over the existing hood and didn’t want to turn that into a separate, floating, piece like they have done with the masks on some of the Marvel Legends. Otherwise though, there’s nothing really missing or that I wish the figure came with. I mentioned wanting a second open hand in place of the fist, but I don’t know if I can resist posing him with both blades drawn anyway.

I figured I should probably toss-in a comparison shot with other lines since this is a new line for Hasbro.

If this is the start of Hasbro’s descent into the old TSR portfolio, then this a great way to kick off a line. I suspect Dungeons & Dragons will never be a huge part of the Hasbro figure lineup, but if they can get a couple figures out a year that would be better than what came before it. My hope is for them to head to Dragonlance, but I’d be pretty surprised if the company didn’t hang around Forgotten Realms for awhile and fill out Drizzt’s allies. They may also look to the iconic Monster Manual for some creature ideas in place of characters from the various novels. Unless this figure fails to sell, but I’m pretty optimistic that it will attract enough attention to warrant more figures. If you like what you see here and want Hasbro to do more, you can head over to their website now and order your own Drizzt. I think you’ll be pleased with what you receive.

It’s cold and lonely in the north: get a cat.

TMNT Loot Crate #3 – The Cartoon One!

It’s finally here!

When the second of 3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed Loot Crates arrived in December it had me thinking that #3 was pretty far off. To my surprise though, the gap between #2 and #3 ended up being less than what was initially forecast had the release schedule held true. And that’s great because the third and final crate in this series was the one I was looking forward to the most because it’s the cartoon themed crate. Crate #1 had a Mirage Studios theme while #2 had a video game theme (there was also a one-off crate before the first one that was movie themed), but Loot Crate chose to save the most anticipated crate for last.

And it’s a big crate!

The cartoon crate, which is based on the original 1987 cartoon series, was probably always going to be the most popular because it’s the cartoon that folks seem to have the most attachment to from a nostalgia point of view. That doesn’t mean it was destined to be the best though. For me, it was my most anticipated because I was in love with the exclusive NECA figure included: Bunny Rocksteady. And if you prepaid for all three crates from the start, you got a bonus figure: Bunny Bebop. At the time, we actually only knew about Bebop who was teased with a silhouette image while we knew Rocksteady would be the figure in the actual crate. It made sense that it too was Rocksteady in an Easter Bunny costume as seen briefly in an episode of the cartoon. It’s just the sort of goofy variant that I enjoy. While a repaint of the Mirage Shredder for crate one was pretty bad ass, it was the bunny boys that sold me on the entire crate subscription.

My view upon opening the crate.

Since this is Loot Crate, the figures are not the only thing featured. We’ll save those for last, but first let’s talk about what else is included. These things, in my opinion, are largely just junk. The stuff isn’t cheaply made or anything, it’s just not practical, for the most part. There’s always a shirt, which is fine, but then an assortment of things like pins and keychains. If you like that stuff, great, I personally do not desire it. Still, Loot Crate has surprised a bit by including a decent tumbler in the first crate and by including the fun television accessory in the second crate, so what’s crate #3 have in store for us?

Oh boy, a coffee mug!

First of all, this crate is huge. It’s much bigger than the other two and I assume that’s mostly due to the fact that it has two figures in it instead of one. It has a sticker on it featuring Bebop and Rocksteady as Easter Eggs. For those who are only getting Rocksteady, I don’t know if they got a smaller crate with a different sticker or if they got the same. As mentioned before, it’s cartoon themed and also apparently Channel 6 themed as well. This is similar to the first crate where a lot of the stuff had a TCRI theme and that logo was repurposed throughout. For this one, Channel 6 appears in three places: in the window box for the bunnies, on a trucker hat, and on a mug. The mug comes in its own box which features the Chanel 6 logo and the same artwork of April we saw on the two-pack release of her figure. It’s kind of an ugly April, but the box for the mug has the same Turtle Van coloring the figures come in along with the Channel 6 blue, white, and red logo. My box was pretty beat up which is unfortunate because I want to display this in-box since my house is full of coffee mugs. The mug itself is your standard mug with the Channel 6 logo. It’s not bad, but I feel like every house has a surplus of mugs and there are better TMNT mugs out there anyway.

For anyone who wants to cosplay as a Channel 6 cameraman.

The Channel 6 trucker hat is pretty basic. It’s just a snapback with the Channel 6 logo on the front. The logo is clean and attractive, but like the mug, I have a ton of baseball hats so I’m probably never going to wear this. I’ve placed it on top of my glass cabinet which contains some of my action figure collection for the time being.

This mug is fine, but it has virtually no chance of unseating my Donald Duck mug pictured in the background.

We also get some pins (you can see them in the first pic of the open crate)! These have been in every crate and this one comes with two pins on the same backboard. One features the baghead of a Crooked Ninja Turtle gang member and it’s kind of funny. The other is the somewhat forgotten mutated form of one of Bebop and Rocksteady’s cohorts, Scrag. He’s the sunglasses wearing, mutant, bat, punk, from the second or third episode of the series. He and the other punks are only shown once on a monitor and never seen again.

A pretty cool Shredder, not consistent with the theme, but cool nonetheless.

Next up, we have a notebook and sticker sheet. The notebook seems pretty thin and small, but it does feature some cool artwork of Shredder on the cover by artist Freddie Williams III. It’s not a depiction of Shredder from the show, but his interpretation of the character. The sticker sheet features a bunch of wanted posters of various gangsters from the show: Don Turtelli, Big Louie, Mr. Big, Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and human Scrag. These might be fun to incorporate into the cartoon diorama whenever it releases, but at the end of the day, they’re just stickers.

Stickers…cool.
Arrived in time for the figure, so you can match!

Lastly, we have the shirt. I was kind of hoping for another long sleeve shirt, but we get a t-shirt. It’s a yellow Mondo Gecko shirt and it’s designed to just look like Mondo Gecko’s actual t-shirt from the show which was basically the same as the one worn by the vintage Playmates action figure. It’s cool, and I like that they didn’t just put some TMNT licensing art or whatever from the cartoon on a shirt and did something unique.

It’s been a long wait, but it’s finally over!

All right, let’s get to the bunnies! These guys arrived in the same crate, but packaged in their own window box which largely resembles the packaging for the two-packs sold at Target. The backdrop this time is an exterior shot of Channel 6 and there’s product shots on the sides. On the back is a huge cross-sell that would have been up-to-date had it dropped in November (as originally intended), but is now missing the recent Rat King vs Vernon set. Bebop and Rocksteady are essentially the same figure with a different head. This isn’t at all surprising given the costumes they’re sporting and also because their regular release in NECA’s cartoon line was essentially the same figure just with different stuff layered over it. For this release, NECA redid the shoulders to include that tuft of fur on each and also redid the feet so they have oversized, rabbit, feet. The legs are recycled from Leatherhead as he had a smoother sculpt compared with the original Bebop and Rocksteady. The grooves in the wrists where their bracelets were previously have also been filled with white plugs. It’s noticeable up close, but I wouldn’t call it an eyesore. The main torso has been outfitted with a soft, plastic, overlay to simulate the rabbit costume and a cowl has been attached to each head. You could probably get this cowl off if you wanted to, but it’s glued on and who knows what would be left behind. The back of the head has been painted to match the cowl and it’s even possible the sculpts were cut to better fit the cowl. I doubt, for example, Bebop has his mohawk and ponytail. Plus, there’s already an uncovered head with each of the regular figures so why bother?

I love that cross-sell. I wish they would do this on all of their releases rather than just include the four most recent releases.

If you saw my NECA rankings a few weeks ago, then you know I love the Bebop and Rocksteady figures that NECA put out. Much of that love is for the overall aesthetics of those figures because they look ripped from the cartoon. It’s not necessarily for the engineering. Unfortunately, these figures are the same in terms of engineering so prepare yourself for some stuck joints. It’s probably exacerbated by the face that it’s pretty damn cold out too so my boys arrived feeling quite frosty. Considering these are limited release figures, you will want to be extra cautious. If you can stand to do it, maybe even let them just hang out for a day at room temperature before opening. If any joint though is even the slightest bit stuck, take it to a heat source. Be it a heat gun, hairdryer, or simple hot water – it helps. And if you’re like me, you might just do that anyway before attempting to really move anything because cold plastic can snap with little warning. And if these guys snap or break in any way, there’s no guarantee that Loot Crate will be able to replace it. My Bebop also came with a partially broken nose ring. It’s cracked, but not quite all the way through, but cracked enough that there’s a gap. If I could match the paint I could possibly seal it with paint. It’s a bummer, but not a big enough issue for me to seek a replacement or anything, and I doubt one would be available if I did. As long as I don’t mess with it I think it will be fine, but it just makes me a little more nervous about falls so these guys are going on the bottom shelf of my cabinet, for now.

This makes me happy.
Look at those adorable little tails!

When you do get these guys all loosened up, you’ll find their articulation is okay, but maybe not great. The head is on a ball peg and can rotate a bit, but the cowl is going to impede movement. They can’t really look up or down much as a result, but they still have articulated jaws and Bebop’s eyeglasses can flip up to reveal the horror beneath. The shoulders are on ball-hinges and will probably be quite tight. The elbows are double-jointed and the hands just peg in so they rotate and have hinges. There is torso articulation in the diaphragm, at least I assume there is because there was with the original figures. It’s rendered moot because of the way NECA did the costume. They didn’t want to create a new torso, so they made a soft, plastic, shirt of sorts that covers the joint. The hips though are the worst part because these were strangely engineered from the start. They’re a mix of a peg and disc system with ratcheted edges. This makes them hard to work with and also really limited. The figures that came after these boys that used the same base switched to a double-barbell system and it’s bizarre to see that wasn’t carried forward here. The knees though are double-jointed and the feet might be on balls now, but they hinge and rock fairly well.

The busted nose ring makes me sad.
Ok, now I’m happy again!

What it comes down to, is we have two figures that aren’t particularly dynamic, but are certainly far from being statues. What’s important to me is the aesthetic of this ridiculous bunny costume which the articulation doesn’t interfere with. They’re meant to just sort of hang out and look silly, or maybe pose with a gun to emulate what was seen in the actual show. I do wish they used the updated hips and I also wish they had just re-painted the torso so we still had a functional diaphragm joint. That probably would have required at least one, new, sculpted piece if NECA wanted their bellies to protrude like they do here as the base abdomen was absent a potbelly. It’s obvious that the cost of one of these crate figures needs to be under the standard release, so it’s not a surprise, but I can still be a little disappointed by it. What they did do well was paint these guys and match the hinges to the proper base color. Rocksteady, in particular, seems to have denser line work on his face when compared with the first release and he really stands out. I should also note they’re a little bigger than before since they’re using Leatherhead’s legs. I have Bebop at close to seven and a half inches with Rocksteady at an even seven. Once you factor in the ears they creep over eight inches. And I love that their cowls are unique to each and Rocksteady has a bent ear like he did in the show. Both also have little, pink, bunny tails on the rear and overall NECA just nailed the look with hilarious results.

A close-up shot of the accessories.
I prefer guns to the remotes.

What’s an Easter Bunny without a basket? NECA certainly felt it was necessary to include such as each figure comes with a basket full of eggs. It’s the same accessory, but painted different to distinguish the two. I like Bebop’s a little more as his eggs are more colorful, but it’s a sharp, little, accessory. They also come with this remote-like device that Krang outfitted them with. I think it hypnotized people or something, but it basically just looks like an old school TV remote. It’s a tiny piece of plastic that likely didn’t cost much and it’s cool to have. They also come with the same array of hands as before. Each comes with fists in the box, plus a right trigger finger hand, a left gripping hand, and a set of open, stylized, hands. The open hands feature additional pink paint on the palms which is a nice touch. They can hold their baskets with either the open hands or the gripping hands and both gripping hands are suitable for the little remote. Chances are though, you have some extra rifles laying around you can outfit the pair with. I have them with the Triceraton guns for now, but I might switch them to the laser rifle which is a better match for what they were wielding in the cartoon.

Let’s bring in the old figures. You can really see the change in height here.

In the end, this Loot Crate is a lot like the others, which is to say it’s dependent on the action figures contained within. The shirt is something I will wear and I may have a use for the stickers since I did order a cartoon diorama for my display, but other than that I don’t expect to use anything in the crate. The figures though are awesome and the fact that the bonus figure was integrated into this crate makes it an easy pick for best crate in the series. I signed up for the Loot Crate subscription based on that one, single, silhouette, of bunny Bebop and I have not been let down. I very much enjoyed the Shredder as well, and the Shell Shock turtle is at least unique, even if it’s not something I probably would have bought at retail. These two I definitely would have purchased as a two-pack at Target or wherever. NECA’s approach with these figures is to make them fun, but not essential, but for me a goofy variant like this is damn near essential. It harkens back to the days of fun Playmates variants, only this pair actually appeared in the cartoon and wasn’t just made up to sell a toy or promote the invasion of Iraq, or something weird. Hopefully everyone who wanted these guys placed an order, because the after market is the only place to get them now and it’s going to cost you.

“Hey Boss, we brought you some colored eggs!” “I’m surrounded by idiots…”

This concludes the Loot Crate subscription for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but another is surely on the way. When will it be announced? Probably fairly soon. I think this one was announced in early spring 2020, so the next could come around then too. Based on an interview with NECA’s Trevor Zammit via the Fwooshcast on YouTube, it sounds like a batch of four with the same or similar theming is on the way so that means movie, comic, video game, and cartoon. It could change, but that seems like a safe bet. And my mind is already trying to imagine what figures will be included with those crates. It will likely be awhile before we know, but my overall experience with this series was a positive one so I will certainly sign-up again when the time comes.


NECA TMNT Cartoon Rat King vs Vernon

This might not be the mismatch you think it is.

When I last reviewed a NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles two-pack it was the Splinter vs Baxter Stockman set and I referred to it as potentially the last essential set for some. The key word there being “some” as I am not “some” and didn’t consider myself “some” when I wrote that, for there are more essential characters from the venerable cartoon as far as I am concerned. And the list of those remaining starts with the Rat King!

These two come packaged in the same window box we’re used to at this point. We’ve got character likenesses on the front which aren’t from the show, but are probably from the licensing art that Viacom has for the show. Rat King’s likeness looks pretty good though, and Vernon looks fine though it draws attention to the fact that he’s a cowardly sort, but his figure doesn’t depict that. NECA opted for something else which I think most will enjoy more, though. The rear features a cross-sell which just displays previously released figures so if you were hoping for a tease of what’s next you’ll be mistaken. And not to get ahead of myself, but I actually don’t know what’s next. It could be the deluxe Muckman, Mondo Gecko and Kerma, or our first punk frog two-pack. Time will tell.

Hey Vernon, the viewfinder is on the other side of the camera, buddy.

Rat King was cool, to put it simply. Some weird dude living in the sewer with a bunch of rats who has a unique look and speaks with this lethal sounding whisper. That patchwork costume, the double-wrapped face, he was creepy which made him a lot of fun on that old show because I was never creeped out by Shredder, Krang, or really any other villain. Most of that show was full of comic relief types, but Rat King had a different aura about him. He was a bit mysterious and his motives less defined than someone like Shredder. He wasn’t in a ton of episodes, but certainly enough to be memorable.

Look at that smug asshole.

And then we have Vernon. Oh, Vernon, the character you love to hate. Or maybe just hate – I don’t know. He was April’s co-worker and was sometimes behind the camera for on location shooting, but I feel like mostly he was just hanging around the Channel 6 headquarters acting like a dick. He was always telling April she was doing something wrong or going about something in the wrong way. At times he was portrayed like a rival, but mostly he was just a dick, and a cowardly one at that. Because he’s not a real villain or anyone that gets into fights on the regular, some may question the need for a Vernon. For me, he was a character that had a presence on the show, and he was in far more episodes than your garden variety villain. He is essential, for a different reason than someone like Rat King, but essential nonetheless. As is Irma, whom I suspect is not too far off.

Now Rat King vs Vernon? That does seem like a bizarre way to sell a two-pack of action figures on the surface. Mostly though, ignore the presence of the word “versus” and it starts to make sense and certainly the extra accessories for Vernon bring that home. There was an episode of the cartoon where both Irma and Vernon were exposed to mutagen via Rat King which caused the two to mutate. Vernon, a character who really only needs a camera and maybe some extra hands, in his mutated rat form is pretty interesting and since it was only his head and forearms that mutated, it was also really easy to work into this two pack.

“April!”
Get behind the camera, Vernon!

Vernon comes in right around the 6″ mark, actually a little over, and is featured in his classic attire of pink shirt, blue tie, and blue jeans. There’s even that little case on his belt which has an unknown purpose. Today, it makes me think of a cell phone case, but no cell phone in 1988 is going to fit in there. He sports a happy, yet cocky, expression that conveys his dickishness quite well. He comes packaged with gripping hands, but he also comes with these open, expressive, hands and a pointing, right, hand. His main accessory is a big ole Channel 6 camcorder with a big display on the rear. It’s much larger than the handheld that came with April as Vernon’s is the shoulder mounted style. The handle is articulated and can fold up so it looks appropriate when Vernon carries it by the top handle when he’s not shooting. You can kind of finagle it onto his shoulder too with his eye near enough the viewfinder and overall it’s a nice accessory.

“Oh please, sir, let me go!”
“No! What’s happening?!”

The best accessories though are definitely those were-rat pieces. Vernon’s arms detach at the forearm where they’re held on by pegs. His rolled up sleeves are a separate piece of plastic that fit over those pegs and can slide off if you’re not paying attention when prying the arms off, so be careful. Otherwise, they come off easy enough and the were-rat forearms pop right on with minimal fuss. Vernon’s head detaches at the base of the neck which is a little trickier to get off, but not as difficult as I was expecting. Be sure to grab the neck and not the head or else you might just pop the head off by mistake. I’m pretty sure it’s on a ball-peg, so you’re not likely to damage it or anything, but once the head pops off once it may pop off again with less effort which will only make it harder to get the neck off. Getting the rat head on is tougher and you should probably just heat it up before even trying. Once on though it looks great, and Vernon gains some articulation at the jaw too. It’s so fun that I’m torn on how I want to display this guy. I have a little bit more room where my villains are so he’s going there for now, but I see myself swapping back to regular Vernon and pairing him with April down the road.

If I’m being honest, he’s only slightly more intimidating like this.
He’s like Splinter with sideburns.

Articulation wise, Vernon is pretty familiar. He’s very much similar to April, even though I think he’s mostly all new parts. If he shares any parts with another figure in this line, it’s not obvious. His head is on a ball peg and so is the base of his neck so he’s got great range in that area. The shoulders are ball-hinges and he has the same double-jointed elbows as April which utilize a second ball joint above the elbow for a swivel. It’s kind of funky, but on figures with rolled-up sleeves like this it works pretty well. He has a swivel in the forearm thanks to the pegged in joint there plus the usual swivel and hinge at the wrist. His wristwatch is glued on, unlike April’s, so you don’t have to worry about it flying off when swapping hands. There’s probably some articulation in the torso, but his shirt is a soft plastic over a body and it steals any articulation that would be found there. And you really don’t want to mess with the diaphragm anyway since it would put stress on the shirt and possibly cause some cracking. He does have a waist twist and ball-jointed thighs that swivel. He has this rubber, “diaper”, over the crotch for his pants that restricts some of the leg movement, but it’s not too bad considering this is Vernon. He’s still capable of wide stances and such. His knees are double-jointed and you’ve got hinges and rockers at the ankles. Pretty typical, but technically a little more than we’re used to thanks to the forearm swivel. There’s certainly enough and I think he’s capable of plenty of expressive poses, which are aided by the extra parts.

There he is!
You can see a little of the brown paint smudges on the upper, inner, thigh

All right, let’s talk Rat King! I’m pretty impressed by Vernon, more so than I would have ever expected I would be for a Vernon action figure, but my focus is on Rat King. And he looks fantastic. This is the cartoon version of Rat King that I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I never had the Playmates Rat King, even though I wanted him, and I think that has made my desire to have this one all the more enhanced. He looks great though as NECA really nailed the likeness. He’s got this cocky grin with wild eyes and the patchwork nature of his shirt and pants just looks terrific. Again, this guy is mostly new parts because all of the stitching is sculpted in and there just aren’t many human males in this line. It’s basically these two guys, Casey Jones, and Shredder. He stands at about six and a half inches, which feels right for this line. Some characters have been either too short or too tall, but Rat King seems like he’s right on the money.

If you’re going to call yourself Rat King then you definitely need some rats.

The only area where Rat King could have been better is in regards to the paint. The actual paint job is pretty terrific. NECA also cast the hinges in the proper colors so when the paint flakes on those joints it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore. And it’s actually pretty clean, actually impressively so, considering all of the linework on this guy. It’s really just that diaper piece where things aren’t great. Before I even moved him out of the box I noticed paint rub on the back of his legs and inner thigh. It’s on the back of the figure so that’s obviously better than the front, but I have a feeling paint is going to rub off of that rubber crotch piece pretty easily so go easy on the thigh joints. I’ve also seen some people end up with cracking paint on that piece and when it flakes off it leaves behind a flesh color. Now Rat King basically wears rags so it’s probably not the eyesore it would be with another figure to see skin poking through, but I don’t know why they didn’t cast that piece in green to match the paint better. And it’s going to be an eyesore if you end up with a cracking crotch piece.

Bomb’s away!

We might as well talk articulation since it plays into that issue just discussed. Rat King’s head is hunched forward and on a ball-peg so it has the usual range of motion, but the hunch restricts it a touch. He’s got shoulder-hinges and biceps swivels and the stitching pattern goes all through both pieces so it still looks good in almost any position. He has double elbows and the hands rotate and have a hinge on them. He has a diaphragm cut that gives him some fun motion in the torso, though he has these straps going over his body which are a separate piece that you want to be mindful of. I don’t think he has a waist swivel. It didn’t turn and I don’t want to mess up those straps, so I’m going to assume it’s not there. His thighs are ball-jointed and, like I said, you’ll want to treat them gently. That diaper is going to limit how far his legs can move, even more so than Vernon because he’s thinner than Rat King, but my advice is only move him as far as that diaper wants you to and not beyond. There’s give there, and it will move, but you might not like the result. The knees are double-jointed and you’ve got hinges and rockers at the ankles. His articulation is fine. It could be better, and since they already had to sculpt so much new for this guy I wish they just sculpted a new crotch piece so they didn’t need that soft diaper, but he’s okay.

This has got to be Rat King’s ultimate fantasy right here.

For a figure with a lot of new sculpting, it’s actually surprising to see the amount of accessories that are included. For starters, Rat King comes with two, open, stylized hands in the box. He has a set of gripping hands he can swap to and a pointing, right, hand. He also has rats! He kind of needs them and he gets his own rather than sharing a rat with Splinter or something. They’re fun too as NECA gave two of them a curling tail so you can place them on the figure without the need to have peg holes. One fits very well on his shoulder, another can go around a bicep or leg and the third can go on his head or in his hand or something. If you place him on a shelf it’s then pretty easy to just place the rats right on him with little frustration. Rat King comes with his hypnotic flute that fits into his left gripping hand pretty well, less so the right one. He’s also got a bandolier that his soda can grenades fit into. He has two red ones and one blue one and it’s easy to slip over his head and the cans pop in and out easily. The cans also fit into his open hands well and look pretty cool. Lastly, he’s got the same gray cannister of mutagen the rock soldiers came with. He doesn’t need this, but I guess it’s good to have more? – EDIT: It’s actually not the same gray canister that came with Traag and Granitor, it just looks like it. This one can actually separate and there’s some pink ooze inside, so that’s pretty cool. And sneaky.

Here’s some size comparisons for you. Rat King with a turtle and one of the tallest figures in the line, Captain Zarax.
Here’s our dear rat boy with the same.

If it’s not obvious, I’m pretty much over the moon with this set. Both figures turned out well and they’re different from each other and from everything that’s come before so it just adds a little more excitement to the mix. They’re fun to pose with different characters. They can be with the Turtles, Splinter, April, or other bad guys. Vernon as a rat is really dynamic for posing opportunities and placement in a display. I really was tempted to buy two, and if Vernon had been packaged with Irma and she had rat parts too then I probably would have. I didn’t want or need two Rat Kings though, plus I don’t want to hog two sets for myself when they’re still hard to get. And that’s the last negative of the set, these are once again Target exclusives. We saw tremendous volume with Krang and the Splinter vs Baxter set because Target ordered direct from NECA to distribute on their own, rather than via NECA’s independent rep relationship. This set is back to that model so as a collector we’re back to stalking the stores when we know the local rep hits and hope for the best. I got lucky that someone on Twitter who follows me alerted me that the store near my house was just stocked late last Friday and I hauled ass to get there and get a set. If you don’t want to go to a store in the midst of a pandemic, I do not blame you one bit. An online drop at target.com is expected sometime this week which is why I’ve fast-tracked this review so I can get you that information! There is a placeholder page on Target’s website right now (search for NECA Rat King and make sure you select “include out of stock” in the filter to bring it up) and if you have the app you should go to it and turn on notifications. Sometimes those notifications work perfectly, sometimes they don’t, but it’s better than being left in the dark. Good luck out there and don’t feed the scalpers!

Run, girl!

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