I’m having a hard time coming up with an action figure line that has had retail releases separated by more than a decade. I don’t mean long-running lines of figures like G.I. Joe or Marvel Legends which have been around for decades, I mean a line that was started, ended, then re-started like NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures based on the work of Mirage Studios. That source is the original incarnation of the green machine made famous in the late 80s by a cartoon, video games, toys and movies. The Eastman and Laird turtles were of a different mold: more violent, less polished, and with less color. If you’ve ever been into TMNT then you likely know all of that already as it’s pretty well-covered at this point.
When NECA first got permission to do figures based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was via a deal they struck with Peter Laird and Mirage Studios to bring the original turtles from issue #1 to comic book shops. It was in 2008 when those figures hit stores, and they would be followed-up with a black and white variant as well as an April O’Neil. After that, things came to a halt. NECA unveiled a Shredder, but it was cancelled. It’s unclear if the line was ended because the sales weren’t there (NECA’s Randy Falk has indicated in the past that consumers aren’t that interested in pre-toon TMNT) or if Playmates had something to do with it being that they held the master toy license and had really never been challenged on it. Playmates definitely wasn’t happy, and would remain a challenge to getting non-Playmates TMNT toys to retail for awhile longer, but I suppose it doesn’t matter as the line did indeed come to an end.
Since then, things have obviously become better for NECA where TMNT is concerned. The company has been able to branch out while turtle nostalgia has taken off. Once Laird sold the property to Viacom, it seemed to open the door for non-Playmates action figures, likely because Viacom is big enough to toss its weight around if Playmates starts threatening legal action or something. NECA was able to find a loophole that allowed it to produce TMNT action figures as convention exclusives, and in 2016 the company finally got that Shredder out they had unveiled nearly a decade earlier. And he came with a trio of henchmen too making the Mirage subline feel relatively complete. As things progressed and NECA brought TMNT to retail, there wasn’t room for more Mirage Studios figures, until now.
Relaunching the Mirage Studios line in 2022 is Fugitoid, a character arguably made famous by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but who actually came first. Fugitoid is an interesting character when you factor in that the Mirage version of the TMNT are often associated with violence as Fugitoid is a noted pacifist. Not that it stopped NECA from including a small arsenal with their figure. He’s the displaced Professor Honeycutt who after an accident found his mind transferred to the body of his loyal, robot, sidekick. He never made the jump to animation in the original cartoon series, but still received an action figure from Playmates. He would show up in later iterations, and in future toy-lines, but the Mirage original has been waiting on the sidelines (like just about every Mirage version of a classic character).
Despite all of my talk about Fugitoid being the next figure in a long dead line, he is numbered 1 for this relaunch. While there are likely more fan-favorite characters out there, and there’s certainly a lot of collectors out there that missed out on the previously released figures, I would say Fugitoid is a worthy figure to kick things off. He’s certainly an interesting one and I’m curious how much of a reflection this figure is of what’s to come. From a packaging standpoint, I’m guessing he’s very indicative as he comes in a window box adorned with artwork by co-creator Kevin Eastman. It’s an attractive box, but not so attractive that I am tempted to keep it (the best kind of packaging). There are three editions of the figure released to retail : standard with black font, signature edition with blue font, and signature edition with black font. The standard edition is self-explanatory, while both signature editions come with a little piece of card art signed by Eastman. The black font variant is either an error or was originally planned to be a surprise. Fugitoid is being released via NECA’s Haulathon event which was originally advertised as featuring surprise variants at retail. Perhaps that was nixed in favor of just charging extra as the standard version is $32 while the signature version is $100. Even though the black version of the signature variant looks like the standard version, the UPC is correct if you find it at Target which has probably caused some confusion at the register. I also saw more than one confused collector who received a black version via Target.com and thought they were sent the wrong one. You can see the art card behind Fugitoid in the box, in case you’re confused about which version you may be staring at.
I, being an opener and not really interested in Kevin Eastman’s signature (no offense, Kev), went with the standard version. Fugitoid is a very unique entry in this line, or any NECA TMNT line, because of his design and construction. First of all, he’s cast in gray plastic and stands around 5.5″, but the deco designed by Geoffrey Trapp and Mike Puzzo aims to recreate the character’s look in the comic. It’s a very aggressive approach, and I have seen some turn up their nose at it, but I for one love it. He looks like he stepped out of a comic book and the shading really matches the unique look of the Mirage books, something natural lighting just can’t reproduce. He looks perfect and while Fugitoid is not my favorite design from the world of TMNT, it wouldn’t be hard to make the argument that his likeness is the best yet from any TMNT line by NECA.
Where things might change for people is how the figure is constructed and articulated. Fugitoid is basically a head, body, hands, and feet, joined by cables. He reminds me a lot of Blinky from Bucky O’Hare, and like the Blinky figure released by Hasbro in 1991, Fugitoid features bendy wires for his limbs. There’s no elbow or knee articulation, just bendy wire coated in plastic. It looks good, but you’re never going to get the same kind of posing out of this approach as you would plastic joints. Aesthetically though, it’s hard to imagine NECA finding a better solution. Where things are a bit more confusing is in the choice to go with just swivels at the shoulders and hips. NECA probably opted for that approach to preserve the aesthetic as much as possible, or perhaps there were issues with having the wired limb end at a ball hinge. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing as I think a ball hinge in both spots would have been fine from a visual perspective, and it would have given the figure much better range. At the head you have what is likely a ball joint that works just fine to let the character look up, down, and all around. The feet feel like they have a joint in there as they turn just fine and the hands can rotate. The upper torso can tilt and move forward and back slightly as well. Fugitoid is not going to be very dynamic, but it’s obvious that NECA opted for aesthetics over articulation and it’s hard to disagree with their choices here (excepting the lack of ball joints at the hips and shoulders).
Fugitoid does come with a lot of stuff, most of which isn’t really for him. He almost feels like an accessory pack as a result. He does have three sets of hands which just plug into the ends of his arms rather easily. He has just three fingers composed of coils that just sort of pop out of the ends of his arms. He has two sets of gripping hands, one tighter than the other, and a set of “open” hands. They’re more of a style pose hand, I guess, but quite suitable for the character. He also comes with four different guns all sourced from the comics: two blue pistols, one Triceraton pistol, and a blue, long, rifle. I don’t know exactly what issue each comes from, but they all look great as they have a similar deco to the figure. If guns aren’t your thing, he also has a set of Triceraton “handcuffs.” It’s a big lump of plastic that the hands are designed to go into. It can fit on Fugitoid, but is likely intended to be worn by a turtle. The other gun is definitely for the turtles as it’s from the Donatello one-shot. It’s a forearm canon that fits over the forearm and it’s really cool. I put it on my Donnie immediately and I don’t plan on taking it off. As for the other guns, I don’t know what I’ll do with them. It feels wrong to have Fugitoid posed with a weapon, but also equally wrong to put a gun in the hands of the turtles. I like the look of all of them, but I don’t know what to do with them.
NECA’s return to Mirage Studios is a welcomed thing and Fugitoid is a character worthy of getting things restarted. I wish he wasn’t exclusive to Target as the line had been billed as something for comic shops and specialty retail, but I suspect that’s where he’s headed once this Haulathon nonsense is over. He doesn’t seem terribly hard to find as I was able to get mine online, but also came upon sets at physical locations too. I think he looks great and his price-point is on the low end (provided you’re not talking about the signature version) for stand-alone NECA releases these days. Especially considering the tooling for this guy is unlikely to bare fruit elsewhere. The articulation is not great, and while the accessories are plentiful, they’re not all particularly useful. At the same time, what else is there to include for a Fugitoid? He’s not missing anything, so I’m fine with the accessory loadout. And more importantly, I love how the figure is presented. That deco is fantastic and I’m excited to see the line move forward. We’ve seen two of the next three releases: an Utrom body and Renet. The third is probably the one people are most excited for, Casey Jones, who has yet to have a full reveal. And it’s a given that the turtles are coming back too and it sounds like in a new form. Those old figures are great, but would merit updates in 2022. Plus they’ve been bootlegged to hell and back and it’s been rumored that the tools were actually stolen so it’s unclear if NECA could re-release them if they wanted to. My guess is we’ll see the new ones around San Diego Comic Con time. For now, I’m going to enjoy what we have and wonder about what other exciting plans are in-store for this line. It’s great to be a TMNT fan!