It’s the first Turtle Tuesday in a little while that I don’t have some new TMNT review to post. Given that, I think it’s time to revisit the rankings I did last year for NECA’s toon line of action figures. This has become NECA’s most popular line, and while it has cooled a bit since last year, that also could just be due to better distribution making it easier for collectors to get their hands on these things. NECA has done preorders and direct sales going back to April of last year and it’s made a world of difference. And it’s a great thing to be able to simply enjoy this line for what it is and not be frustrated with how hard it can be to get some of these.
Last year, I had 21 distinct rankings for this list and now a little more than a year later it’s doubled! The amount of figures has actually more than doubled as we’ve seen some variants come out and some figures I’ll rank together (like the frogs and various Foot Soldiers). It was a very busy year for the line and it’s pretty damn impressive how many new releases made it out given the ongoing global shipping and factory issues.
Forty-two is a lot of figures to rank so let’s not waste any more time. Where a figure is a repeat from last year, I’ll include the prior ranking. The order for those older releases is largely the same, but there were some changes here and there as certain figures have fallen out of favor a bit, or I’ve gained new appreciation for. There are no rules here aside from this is how I feel right now in this moment. Some of these are rather fluid, though I feel pretty good about my number 1, and about my number 42…
April O’Neil (21) – She’s still in last place because her sculpt just isn’t great. She’s also still hard to get, but NECA is prepping an update for 2022 so stay tuned.
Krang (Bubble Walker)(20) – Also still in second to last place, just not a fun release, and not really one that could be. It’s very much limited by the design, and the walker itself looks fine, but has a cheap feel. It could have used real knee joints and ball-joints where the legs meet the “bubble.”
Kerma – Figure or accessory? He’s just enough of his own thing that I gave him a ranking. He looks great, but he doesn’t articulate much because he was released as an accessory. I do draw a distinction between him and Joey Eyeball though, who won’t be ranked.
Turtles (Style Guide)(19) – The original turtles are a bit dated and these ones are colored to resemble licensing artwork. You either like them, or you don’t. Still the only release I entirely passed on in this line.
Roadkill Rodney (18) – This one’s fine, but there’s not much to him. A perfect example of how just because something is ranked near the bottom of this list doesn’t mean it isn’t worth owning.
Cat April – The good news is the body on the previously released April looks fine, it’s just too small. Cat April recycles that body and includes a new head that’s better proportioned for said body. It’s April mutated as a cat though, so it has limited appeal, hence why it was supposed to be a convention exclusive. She also doesn’t stand well and there’s just something missing here.
Irma – Similar to the Roadkill Rodney, this is a figure that looks good, but is limited by the design. In this case, it’s Irma’s skirt which basically makes her a glorified statue as her leg articulation is useless. The optional rat parts are kind of fun though.
Foot Soldier (All versions) (17) – The Foot have been released in standard and two separate battle damaged variants as well as a deluxe option in 2021. The deluxe one is probably the best as it has updated lower leg articulation and a ton of accessories (including the ability to create a new character, the Alpha Foot), but it does suffer a bit from loose hips syndrome. It’s a good all-purpose army builder though and gets the job done.
Burne – April’s blowhard boss, Burne is an essential character to the show who doesn’t exactly translate well to the world of action figures because there’s just not much for Burne to do besides stand there and look pissed. Or smug, depending on your mood. As a short, squat, guy he doesn’t articulate very well, but we needed a Burne in the line and he’s solid.
Screwloose – Screwloose was just an accessory in the Playmates line, but NECA made him his own thing. He looks pretty good, but he essentially comes with no accessories (aside from a flight stand) and has limited articulation when compared with other small fries Baxter and Splinter. Fine, but unremarkable.
Vernon/Vernon 1.1 – Vernon received not one, but two figures in 2021! Both are the same sculpt aside from the portrait, though the convention exclusive Vernon had slightly modified colors. That one came with my favorite expression for the character, scared, but the two-pack version came with the mutated rat parts so it’s hard to choose a favorite here. I’m just glad to have both because now I can display rat Vernon and normal Vernon.
The Punk Frogs – Finally, all four frogs have been released in figure form! The vintage line famously only did two, and one of them did not look a thing like the cartoon version. These four are definitely toon accurate, but they have the worst ball-socket hips in the line with some barely able to stand because of how loose they are. NECA also only did two different expressions so they’re a bit boring. A case where NECA did the minimum and did that well, but skimped on any extra bells and whistles to make them special.
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.
Triceraton Infantry (16) – This guy was pretty solid when he came out, and he’s still pretty solid more than a year later. A good representation of the character in toon form. My only complaint is the lack of a hinged jaw which the other Triceratons received, but the grunt did not.
First Edition Turtles (15) – The original four. NECA nailed the coloring, the head-sculpts were a little iffy, but acceptable. The articulation is dated though and there’s no reason for the company to revisit them now that we have the new four-pack.
Zarax (14) – The Triceraton leader, as far as we know. He looks cool and has unique, bladed, weapons. I liked him when I got him, and I feel the same way about him then as I do now.
Zork (13) – Same as above, minus the blades, and green!
Slash (12) – The controversial toon design of Slash. He actually received a running change in 2021 swapping out that mediocre hip connection for the new ball-peg design and the new ankles. It’s a change that’s for the better, though not enough to seek out if you have the first one. I have always liked the goofy toon Slash so I like this guy. I wish he used a different body from the turtles as he should be chunkier, but he’s good as-is.
Muckman and Joe Eyeball – Our first, true, deluxe figure on the list, Muckman is plenty good. No, his toon design isn’t as fun and crazy as the old toy, but that’s animation for you. This guy is still cool and his sculpt is pretty damn impressive. The only downers with Muckman is he’s very light on accessories considering the gun he comes with isn’t even his. Joe Eyeball is cool though, but what he really needed was some muck effects parts to hold since that’s how he attacked in the show. His chunky design also isn’t fun to pose so he basically just stands there on my shelf.
Wingnut – The Batman parody turned out pretty fun, but similar to Muckman, he’s a chunky guy who doesn’t pose well. The sculpt though, especially the little wings inside the big ones, is terrific. The only negative really is he has those weird double-elbows and basically every figure of him I’ve seen has a crappy paint job when it comes to the fangs. Still a fun figure though.
Granitor (10) – I was a bit high on the rock soldiers last year, maybe too high. Granitor is a good figure, though his utilizing the same body as Traag means his proportions are not toon accurate. This set was also light on accessories so it’s basically you either love the sculpt, or you don’t. I very much like it, I just like others more.
Ace Duck – Ace Duck in figure form is about as good as he can be. His articulation is solid, he has plenty of accessories, and NECA was wise to make the beak removable so he has more variety than most in this line. He’s just Ace Duck who isn’t one of my favorite characters and he was barely in the show so my affection is limited.
Mondo Gecko – A character I had a tremendous amount of affection for as a kid is Mondo Gecko. The skateboarding lizard was designed to be cool, and he mostly is. NECA’s version is also just fine: good sculpt, has skateboard, solid accessories. The paint is a little iffy as NECA did that annoying thing where it painted the joints after not casting them in the right color plastic, but that’s pretty much the only negative wit this guy aside from the sort of steep cost ($40). He does come with Kerma, and apparently it was the board that knocked the costs out of whack, so it is what it is.
Shredder (9) – Shredder is a great sculpt that’s just becoming a bit dated at this point. The articulation is not terrific, and there are some little inaccuracies here and there when compared with the toon. Still, I’m not sure it’s dated enough that we need a new Shredder. Some torso articulation and better legs would certainly improve the figure, but I don’t know if it would be enough to get me to buy a new one. Maybe if they tossed in a wired cape?
Casey Jones (11) – I was a little hard on Casey last year. He’s not without some issues as he has the painted joints eyesore and there’s a gummy quality to the plastic on him that I don’t like. On the other hand, he looks terrific, has a bunch of weapons, and poses reasonably well. If he could stand a bit better and didn’t have the painted joints issue, he’d rank higher for me. And maybe NECA will fix those problems because he’s due for a re-release. He and April are basically the only characters not to be re-released at this point and there are a bunch of collectors who are missing out.
Traag (7) – Traag succeeds much better than Granitor at matching the source material. He’s still lacking in accessories, but if you got Muckman then at least you picked up a new gun for him.
Turtles in Disguise – A four-pack of the turtles with new head-sculpts that can separate at the bandana to create multiple expressions, plus they have better leg articulation and a ton of extra stuff. Want the turtles to go full disguise with those creepy masks? Go for it. I still think the heads need some tweaking, they’re very wide, but the expressions are more faithful to the cartoon than what we had previously which felt more like Playmates homages. The only downside is the glossy finish on the figures which really stands out as basically every other release in the line has a matte appearance. NECA reissued the set with a matte paint job on the head pieces, but the some of the bodies still appear glossy, while some don’t. And since they come wearing their disguises, you basically have no idea what you’re getting until you open the set making it hard to commit to a repurchase.
Bunny Bebop and Rocksteady – I had no idea where to rank these guys. The Loot Crate figures are essentially the same, only one has a Bebop head and one a Rocksteady head. They came with some extra hands, Easter baskets, and a little remote weapon. I love them. The engineering on the legs is unfortunately no different from the regular Bebop and Rocksteady, but otherwise these look terrific. And they make me smile. Your mileage may vary, but I am very much charmed by this duo.
Splinter (8) – What can I say? NECA nailed Splinter. He looks fantastic. He’s not exactly a blast to pose, but I don’t care, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Leatherhead (4) – Leatherhead is great, I’m just less forgiving of this body now than I was in 2021. He has terrible hips and ankles and I do wish his head had more range. Otherwise, he looks the part and he doesn’t need to pose much to be fun as a result.
Pizza Monster – The giant pizza monster is a terrific sculpt with some poor quality control when it comes to the ankles. Many a collector has broken them, and one of mine even arrived broken in the box. It’s enough of an issue that I basically just leave them alone. It makes him harder to stand, and those hips are too loose, but get him in a good pose and he’s a lot of fun to look at.
Rocksteady (3) – Same as Leatherhead. Rocksteady looks fantastic and I love how NECA was able to give him a paunch. I do wish he had a removable helmet, but that’s about it. This is mostly just a reaction to the lousy lower half and fragile hips. Mine has not broken, but I know many have. What’s disappointing is that NECA has re-released he and Bebop, but has yet to replace the leg system.
Dirtbag – One of the star two-packs of 2021, Dirtbag is the preferred figure in the set of many, but I lean Groundchuck. Dirtbag looks every bit as awesome, his design is just more conventional. He does have the added perk of being able to separate at the torso to simulate him emerging from the ground, but his articulation is a bit limited particularly in the head area. Obviously, it’s not enough to really damage the experience considering how high I have him ranked.
Krang (Android) (5) – The mighty Krang is mighty impressive. Really, the only shortcomings with this figure is the pose-ability. What can you really do with this design? He’s a top-heavy dude with tiny feet. I do kind of wish the ball and chain weapon had plastic, pre-posed, chains as they just don’t look great on the shelf. I’ve basically gone with a standard hand and one gun hand ever since I got him. Also, his entire body is painted and prone to chipping which makes handling him a bit stressful. Still, I think he’s as good as can be and is an essential release in the line.
Baxter (2) – Was I a bit generous with Baxter a year ago? He was very new, so maybe a recency bias was in play, though really it just came down to him looking like he should. Baxter in his fly form looks terrific, and he came with a bunch of stuff and NECA jammed a ton of articulation into that little body. I have no bad things to say about this figure, and I also always loved the character’s design.
Antrax – The executioner! And one of the newest, and greatest, figures in this line. His negatives can be summed as a lack of vertical gripping hands and a lack of just extra hands. Maybe you can nitpick the posing too, but otherwise, the sculpt and paint are fantastic and he has a bunch of weapons. The character design is fun, and the figure equals that. A homerun for NECA.
Groundchuck – With this one, I maybe letting my affection for the vintage toy play too great a role in my ranking, but I don’t care. It’s my list and I’ll rank ’em accordingly. He’s a terrific figure though and that design; bright red-orange, metal bits here and there, it’s just cool. Or it was cool to me as a kid, and I’m sticking with it. He’s got the ridiculous, personalized, cattle gun too and I just have fun posing him and looking at him.
Bebop (1) – Formerly my number 1, Bebop is exactly what I want him to be from a likeness perspective. It’s just all in that old engineering that made me rethink my ranking of him. Plus, 3 of the last 4 on my list are all newer releases so I really only moved one figure ahead of him. Fix those damn legs and he’s back in contention for number 1.
Rat King – The sewer dweller was part of the first set released after my last ranking post and the fact that I still think this highly of him more than a year later is testament to how good he is. In short, his sculpt is perfect and the paint on my figure is exquisite. I love all of the stuff he comes with and just the presence he has on the shelf. The only negative with this guy is that crotch overlay which is prone to flaking. Newer versions of the figure supposedly corrected that, but I have been unable to confirm that for myself. If you got a good one out of the box, as in one that didn’t already chip, and you knew of the issue, then your figure is probably fine. It only happens when really flexing that piece. It limits the posing to a degree, but not as much as you think.
Metalhead (6) – I don’t know why I had Metalhead at six when I think he’s damn near perfect. He looks the part, he’s big, and chunky, and has some fun accessories. He was the first deluxe release, and he’s still one of the best. I love this guy!
Scumbug – Yeah, the moment I saw the solicitation for this one I knew I was going to be over the moon with him. Scumbug looks like an updated version of the Playmates toy with some richer colors and a slightly more chunky appearance. He is awesome, but if you don’t like the character’s design then you probably aren’t as high on him as I am. I loved the old toy, so I think he’s terrific. And he has enough stuff and articulation to make him the second best figure in the line. Who would have thought that was possible a year ago?!
Chrome Dome – The biggest figure in the line is also the best. Chrome Dome is impressive. He’s huge, he’s well-articulated, and his paint applications are exactly what I want from this line. And to my surprise, NECA loaded him up with a bunch of extra hands and accessories and still managed to keep the price tag at 40 bucks. He’s not only the best figure in the line, he’s the best value in the line! I just think about some of the figures I’ve spent 50, 60, 100 bucks on that aren’t as impressive as Chrome Dome. NECA has a way of putting out exceptional figures at crazy prices. Maybe no one wants to hear that in the current climate of rapidly rising prices, but it’s the truth. Don’t sleep on Chrome Dome because it’s hard to imagine anyone being let down by this guy.