It was back in April of 2021 that NECA did a month of preorders. Each week, a new item (and some restocking older items) was added to NECA’s webstore and they would stay up for about 10 days and anyone who wanted one could order one to be delivered later in the year. The first one that went up was the Ultimate Pizza Monster and I eagerly jumped on it not realizing the format. The following week, Ace Duck and Mutagen Man were added and the Pizza Monster was still up. Frugal shoppers noted that you could order both in a single order and save on shipping (15 bucks an order, not an insignificant sum) so when that set went up I held off. It worked out, because next week Antrax and Scumbug were put up so I bundled the two-packs together, hit submit, and returned to my life not realizing that by doing so I would delay getting the Ace/Mutagen Man pack by a good six weeks while waiting for the bugs to come in stock.
Was it worth it to save 15 bucks? Realistically, yeah, but while other collectors were getting their toys I was definitely feeling left out and a little jealous. The wait is over though as my order with both two-packs has arrived and now we can talk about the duck and…guy? Both of these characters originated in the Playmates toyline. In some ways, Ace was like the original toy creation as he wasn’t from the comics and he wasn’t created for the show. I think his design even originates with Varner Studios, but I could be mistaken. At any rate, most know him from the old toy because his appearance in the toon was a very brief cameo. In that universe, Ace Duck is a movie star. I get the impression he’s an Indiana Jones type and I assume he’s played by an actor in a costume and isn’t an actual mutant, but I suppose it also doesn’t matter. He shows up for all five seconds and then never again, a real blink and you miss it moment. As for Mutagen Man, he too started off as a toy that was then brought into the cartoon for his own episode. He followed a similar arc to other characters as he’s tragically mutated and then taken advantage of by Shredder making him a villain at first, before the turtles set him straight.
In terms of toys, one of these is quite conventional and one very much is not. Ace Duck is a humanoid character who just so happens to be a duck. He’s got sculpted feathers, large wings on his back, and a duck bill on his face. When I look at him I can’t help but think of the Howard the Duck movie from the 1980s. His engineering though is fairly familiar. I think a lot of what’s here is present on Vernon with the most obvious part being the hips and legs. As such, he’s basically right around the normal human height in the line at 6.5 inches. Ace is apparently a pilot with pale yellow feathers and a bomber jacket. The jacket is an overlay with the arms being fully sculpted. His default expression is in-line with the Playmates figure as it’s a bit neutral with exposed teeth on the sides. The hat is removable and just rests on his head as opposed to keying in to a slot. His belt is a separate piece that hangs loosely while his wings peg into his back in a manner similar to Baxter Stockman. They are removable, if that’s your preference, but he’ll obviously be left with a pair of holes in his back if you do so. Surprisingly, he doesn’t have a tail of any kind instead presenting a normal, human, butt.
Ace basically looks as one would envision and he features a lot of the trademarks of this line. NECA uses lighter shades of paint on the front of the figure and darker ones on the back. They did not opt for any shading on the yellow portions of the figure so nothing on the wings or head. The wings do feature some black linework which helps them to pop, while the feathers on the chest and neck area do not. Basically every inch of this guy is painted so you will encounter some flaking and stuck parts. The only flaking I’m not a fan of is at the ankles where the orange feet were apparently sculpted in either a pale color or clear. Basically, I’m trying not to move them a ton and preserve as much of the paint as possible There is some nice linework on the belt and I like the bomb illustration on the back of the jacket. A series of feathers beneath it appears to represent Ace’s kill count. As mentioned before, the hat just sort of sits there, but it looks fine. It’s fully painted and really the only blemish on my figure is some paint slop just above the bill of the hat. The belt hangs a bit looser than I would like, but otherwise looks fine. It is removable with the tab being hidden by the ammo box. There are two loops on the back for Ace’s grenades and a holster on the right hip that best fits his revolver. There’s even a tabbed flap that can be secured over it. Wouldn’t want it to fall out during flight!
Ace comes with a pretty loaded batch of accessories. There’s the previously mentioned revolver as well as a 9mm handgun. Both are grey with some black lining and look just fine. I definitely prefer the classic look of the revolver, but I also like having it holstered. It’s a conundrum. Ace also has a movie reel and a VHS tape perhaps simply owing to his nature in the toon as opposed to being direct callbacks to anything. I don’t know what I’ll do with either, but they definitely look terrific. Ace also has a pair of white grenades that kind of resemble the egg ones the vintage toy came with. They slot nicely into the belt or can be handled by the figure. There’s also another Ace Duck movie poster included like the ones that came with the street scene diorama. This is a new picture and it’s printed on a thicker cardstock so it should be more durable, but might be harder to adhere to the diorama as a result. I have a second diorama on order so I’m going reserve this for when that one arrives.
Out of the box, Ace comes with a neutral expression and he has a second head with angry eyes and a yelling beak. The beaks actually can be removed and swapped so you really get 4 expressions out of this guy, which is pretty cool. It’s basically the same idea as the Boss Fight Studios Dead-Eye Duck from a few years back. Ace also comes with 8 different hands he can use. In the box, he has a trigger finger left hand with a vertical hinge and an open right hand with horizontal hinge. The extra hands include a right gripping hand with vertical hinge, set of fists, a set of “finger bang” hands, and a left thumb’s up hand. Only the gripping/trigger hands have the vertical hinge, which is acceptable. The right gripping hand has a slight trigger finger pose, but it’s not as severe as the left hand. He has enough to dual wield, if you like, while also having a fair amount of expressive options.
Ace is similar to Vernon in terms of some of the sculpt, but also when it comes to articulation. He’s basically the same concept as he has the ball-jointed head and independently articulated neck. The shoulders are ball-hinged and the elbows feature those odd looking NECA double-joints that seem to only look passable on figures with sleeves. The hands swivel and hinge, while the torso features a ball-joint at the waist. This allows him to rotate and tilt, but the overlay prevents any real forward and back. And like many figures in this line, he might have a joint in the diaphragm, but it’s functionally useless. The hips are the now standard ball-joints and they’re a little loose, but not unacceptably so as we’ve seen with some other figures. The thighs do swivel a bit and the knees are double-jointed. The ankles feature hinges and rockers and they work fine, just watch out for the paint. Lastly, he has the wings on his back which are just like Baxter’s as they can swivel and hinge.
Which brings us to Mutagen Man. He’s certainly the more interesting of the two because his design is just so unique. And what do you do with a unique design? You make a unique figure. Mutagen Man is essentially a tank with arms and legs. He’s a bit stubby, as a result, making him shorter than a lot of the line at roughly 5.5 inches. The tank has a purple frame to hold it in place and is translucent from the front. Inside is poor Seymour Guts who is basically just a brain and a spinal column and a collection of stomach acid or something. He doesn’t appear to be too pleased with his mutation as he sports a concerned look out of the box. His limbs are at least intact, though they’re spotted with purple splotches here and there and something horrible happened to his feet. One is encased in a steel boot while the other is framed-up for support and features three, clawed, toes. He’s definitely a bizarre one, though the animated take on this character is far less grotesque than the original toy. It is, however, more emotive and thus more sympathetic.
Even with this guy being less detailed than the old figure, he’s still an attention grabber simply by virtue of how weird his design is. NECA did a great job of visualizing this guy as a toy, so my hat is off to the duo of Tony Cipriano and Josh Sutton, the credited sculptors for the set. The whole housing for this figure can come off. The hoses that peg into the front of the tank pop out and the shoulder harness is hinged and comes right off. This allows the user to pop off the front of the tank to manipulate, or swap out, the head inside. The green goop is all sculpted and the spinal column pegs into it and the head pegs into the back of the tank to hold it in place. You can move it a bit so that Seymour is looking left or right and the jaw can be manipulated too. You can also pull the whole thing out and swap it for an angry expression. It’s a little tricky to do the first time, but not scary. I will say, NECA probably should have included some instructions though as some might be left feeling confused about the whole setup (same with Ace’s swappable beaks). The only downside to this system is the left hose on my figure does not want to stay in the hole in the tank. The top hose and right one are fine, but the left constantly pops out and I don’t know if there’s anything I can do about it since glue is not an option.
The torso is pretty unique, but the limbs are also a bit funky too. Both arms feature these bands at the elbows, and the left arm has some weird handle just sticking out of it. It’s part of the character’s design, but I kind of hate the thing because I’m afraid it’s going to snap. The same can be said with the unusual mechanism on the figure’s left ankle. He basically has a brace, and in order for the articulation to work, the sides of that brace needs to be able to move and slide around. They’re kind of like pistons, but it’s just another thing that looks like it could be prone to breaking. He’s also got this funky left knee that looks like a chin. I wonder if he was supposed to have exposed bone in the cartoon, but the animators decided not to paint it as such? He also has these purple spots here and there on his arms and legs, and part of me feels like NECA missed an opportunity by not casting the pegs in purple plastic to make them appear to be part of the figure’s aesthetic, but then that probably wouldn’t have been consistent with the show.
Since Mutagen Man is so bizarre a design, he definitely doesn’t have the most articulation in the line. The head can turn a little and the jaw opens a bit, but aside from that, you get nothing in the torso and head/neck. The shoulders rotate and are hinged and he does have a biceps swivel, which was super tight on my figure. I had to heat up the right biceps to get it to budge. The elbows are technically double-jointed, but those bands he wears will limit the range to about 90 degrees. The hands rotate and swivel and all of his hands feature a horizontal hinge. My one, consistent, complaint with this line is the lack of vertical hinges. Ace Duck is proof that NECA is aware that a vertical hinge works best for basically any weapon, but they often go with a horizontal hinge anyway. Mutagen Man’s legs are likely on a ball and socket system, but they sit pretty far into the crotch so the range is very limited. The knees are double-jointed, but again, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than 90 there. That’s partly due to the bulky right boot, and the delicate left ankle brace. You do get your hinge and rocker, but be careful and go easy on that left one.
The actual points of articulation are okay on Mutagen Man, but functionally he’s more of a neutral pose character. That doesn’t mean NECA still didn’t include some accessories for this guy to play with. I already mentioned the other head, but he also has some hands he can swap. He comes with fisted hands in the box, but he also has a set of wide, C-grip, style hands, a right trigger finger hand, left open palm hand, and left standard gripping hand. The wide gripping hands are here for his tank accessory which in the show contained a solution that would basically keep him alive. The tank is nicely painted and snaps right into those hands rather effortlessly. The trigger hand is for this wild looking gun that is sort of intended for the figure, but as we saw with Muckman, this weapon is actually from a different episode. In that episode, Baxter wields it after I think he steals it from a fireman or something. It’s basically two tanks strapped together and it looks like it would either blast water or some kind of gas. The very D.I.Y. look of this weapon actually pairs well with Mutagen Man so I think I’ll display him with it. It is designed to be gripped with two hands though, and Mutagen Man just doesn’t have that kind of clearance in his arms to pull that off.
Ace Duck and Mutagen Man certainly are an unlikely duo, but they make for solid action figures. Ace is a testament to the consistency of the line. It knows what it wants to do and there’s an aesthetic this line is going for which Ace captures. The articulation is solid, the accessories numerous, and the overall package is quite good. It’s really the design of the character and the impact it had in the cartoon that holds it back from standing out more than it could. Mutagen Man does not suffer the same as his design is quite out there. It’s really fun seeing how NECA managed to work around the character’s design and create a figure worthy of the “action” description. It’s not a character that’s as fun to handle as some of the others in this line, or even Ace for that matter, but it’s certainly one that demands attention. The way in which the character’s expression can swap is ingenious, though I feel kind of bad because I’m unlikely to ever swap from that concerned look he comes packaged with. I would be surprised if either Ace Duck or Mutagen Man end up being anyone’s favorite in this line, but they’re hardly lacking and those who did purchase this set are probably pretty happy.
NECA offered this two-pack up on its website in April of 2021 as a pre-order item. That opportunity has obviously come and gone at this point, but the set should still hit Target at some point so if you missed out you’re not out of luck just yet. When they will ship though is anyone’s guess. I haven’t heard of any sightings of this or any of the other preorders showing up at retail so it’s possible the presale was so successful that nothing was left. Possible, but maybe not likely. Keep your eyes open though as once it does hit I don’t think it will fly off of shelves just going by the recent side character releases and should be rather attainable. It’s definitely a worthwhile set for those who are all-in on the toon line or have a nostalgic attachment to the old toys.
March 1st, 2022 at 12:48 pm
[…] Mutagen Man – He’s certainly one of the most unique characters from the show and toyline, he’s just not one of the most fun to actually handle. He’s pretty limited, and my version of the figure has a hose that won’t stay inserted in the tank which drives me crazy. The head-swap trick is pretty ingenious though and I definitely like having this guy in my display. […]