As the toyline and cartoon series started to go long, Playmates Toys turned to other ideas to keep the good times rolling on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Long thought to just be some quick fad, the turtles outlived all expectations into the 90s spawning multiple films and video games and a cartoon series that would total nearly 200 episodes. Such longevity was basically unheard of for such a blatant kid’s property and I have to think some of it is due to the creativity of Playmates. There were lots of variants of the turtles starting with different costumes and the introduction of action features into the toyline. Playmates would double-down on wacky variants with some featuring action features, like the sports turtles, or different gimmicks all-together like the beach turtles that could spit water. Talking turtles, mutating turtles, boxing turtles – basically everything was on the table. And when that started to run dry, Playmates turned to another tool: the brand mash-up.
In 1993 Playmates introduced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Universal Monsters line. It featured Michelangelo as Frankenstein’s monster, Leonardo as The Wolfman, Donatello as Dracula, and Raphael as The Mummy. It was apparently successful enough that Playmates would come back with a second wave the following year. Playmates would also combine TMNT with Star Trek and make an effort to cross-brands with various properties at Lucasfilm including Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In later years, there were other mash-ups with the likes of Ghostbusters and WWE so there is apparently an appetite among TMNT fans to see their favorite heroes combined with various other brands. It’s become a recognizable aspect of the IP to the point that when NECA announced it had acquired the Universal Monsters license basically everyone and their mother started asking “So, are you going to do TMNT X Universal Monsters?”
NECA initially responded to such questions in a non-committal fashion, but it’s now clear that was always on their mind because it didn’t take long for NECA to unveil Raphael as Frankenstein’s Monster. Other reveals, and releases, have followed and NECA’s approach to the famous combination has become clear. It should be noted, that when both NECA and Super7 were awarded a license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the two individuals most in-charge of the direction of the lines, NECA’s Randy Falk and Super7’s Brian Flynn, got together to get a sense of where each company was going with the line. When NECA said it wanted to do toys based on the cartoons and movies, Super7 was delighted because their aim was to basically re-create the vintage toyline. It could be that gentlemen’s agreement between the two that is the reason why we’re not seeing the same turtle and monster combinations in NECA’s line as Super7 also has a Universal Monsters license and might recreate those old toys. Or, it could simply be NECA’s desire to do their own thing that is driving the creative process with this line.
And that process is to take the designs and likenesses from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and combine those with the film depictions of the Universal Monsters. It’s a great idea on paper as it takes a realistic depiction of the turtles and combines them with a realistic depiction of the monsters. The past versions of these figures (and Playmates revisited it in the 2012 line) were all cartoon-based and the realistic visual fits NECA’s strong suit when it comes to their Ultimates line of figures. It also opens the door for a version of April to feature the likeness of actress Judith Hoag and if any other human characters are featured it’s assumed they too will feature an actor’s likeness. NECA also seems to have deliberately avoided the past turtle and monster pairings. For the first time Raph got to play Frankenstein, Leonardo is Ygor the Hunchback (a character previously unexplored by Playmates), Donatello will be the Invisible Man, and Michelangelo the Mummy. Splinter is also onboard to play Van Helsing, and April has the distinction of being the only repeat pairing as she is once again the Bride of Frankenstein. More figures are expected and it will be interesting to see if NECA doubles-down on the turtles and gives everyone a repeat release as a different monster. There are certainly plenty of unexplored monsters by NECA and plenty of opportunities for more figures.
Now I personally am not a big fan of the Universal Monsters. I never bought any of the Playmates figures, and I wasn’t sure with this new line. When NECA announced Raph, I did pre-order it immediately, but I would eventually cancel it. I didn’t have an obvious place for it in my collection and I was certainly helped by my favorite turtle, Leonardo, having an unappealing mash-up. I have seen all of the released figures so far in stores and I think they look fantastic for what they’re going for, it just wasn’t something I felt I needed. Until I came across Michelangelo.
I already said I’m not much of a fan of Universal Monsters, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be The Wolfman. That was the only figure I was tempted by back in the 90s since it was my preferred monster with my favorite turtle, but ultimately I decided I could do without. I don’t know where I’d rank The Mummy amongst the other monsters, but definitely more towards the bottom than the top so it’s a bit of a surprise that this is the one figure that moved me to make a purchase. It’s also just a testament of how good it turned out. Taking the 90’s costume for Michelangelo and dirtying it up with a mummy aesthetic is surprisingly brilliant. This figure looks amazing.
For starters, the textures achieved by sculptor Tony Cipriano looks incredible. The many wraps that adorn Mikey look like they could be soft goods to the point that it’s almost jarring to actually handle the figure and feel that they’re made of plastic. The texture of the skin on Mikey’s head has this very dried out and weathered appearance. His lips are cracked, there’s creases in the forehead, and various warts mar the skin. The bandana has a dark wash over it making it appear dirty and old and he has one eye that’s closed, or possibly missing, and another looking off into nowhere. It’s important the face capture an unsettling expression since Michelangelo is typically the comic relief and least threatening of the four turtles. The shell of the figure has more of a wood look to it as it’s washed out. It’s also adorned with various carvings like a couple of turtles, a Foot logo, ninja stars, and what might be a reference to the ooze canister. What’s visible of the plastron on the front is very cracked and weathered, but it’s mostly covered in wraps. The belt has a nice leather look to it with a gold scarab on the buckle. It’s sculpted throughout with more glyphs and weathering and looks terrific. The elbow and knee pads from the film are present and look as good as ever. They look a little bigger and bulkier when compared with the movie releases, but it’s also possible these will be on the Secret of the Ooze figures to come.
Michelangelo looks amazing. I can’t get over how well this figure came out. If this were a 60 dollar boutique release I think I would still be satisfied, but it’s a $36 or $37 figure from Target which is mind blowing. There’s really nothing for me to complain about when it comes to the sculpt and overall look for this figure. What nitpicks I can come up with are basically paint-related. There’s a spot at the top of the wrap on the right thigh where the beige paint bled over to the skin. There’s a little of that down by the knee of the same leg as well. In the hands or around the heel there are small spots where the paint for the wraps was missed, but it’s all in areas that are only noticeable when you’re looking for such things. Since there is a wash on basically every spot of this figure there may be some figures where that’s missed or too heavy. There’s one glyph on the shell that’s missing the wash, but from what I have seen around the web, this is an error on all of the figures. The wraps inside the shell don’t feature a wash, but they’re areas that really aren’t visible unless you’re holding the figure in-hand and really inspecting it. The small paint imperfections seem acceptable to me at this price-point. The only cause for concern I see is that this is a complex figure and paint job so it might suffer from inconsistencies from figure to figure, but that’s not something I can predict with any degree of certainty and it’s personally not something I would be concerned with. Plus, that’s what window boxes are for!
The Mummy is basically known for one pose: a shuffling walk with arms outstretched. Because of that, it would have been reasonable to assume NECA would not prioritize the articulation on this guy, and while NECA definitely does indeed prioritize aesthetic, this figure still moves pretty well. The head is on a double-ball and has good range in basically all directions. The bandana knot just pegs into the head so you can rotate it if need be to help the figure look up. The default head is a little loose fitting on mine, but holds a pose. The neck is independently articulated as well, but mostly just helps the figure look down. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side just fine. The shell is going to get in the way a bit with rotation, but that’s nothing unfamiliar for TMNT fans. There’s no biceps swivel, and instead the figure has NECA’s double-jointed elbows with the hinge and swivel above and below the elbow. Because of the elbow pad, he can just barely bend the arms 90 degrees, but the swivel works fine. The hands swivel and hinge horizontally. At the waist, there is a twist, but it barely does anything. The hips are ball and socket joints and come out to the side for splits, but kick out and to the side when coming forward because of the plastron. The knees are double-jointed, but because of the knee pad, can’t quite hit 90 degrees. There is a swivel above the knee and the thigh also swivels, but just barely. At the ankle we have a hinge and rocker which works fine. It’s basically the same articulation as the movie figures, only with the double elbows. It’s not the thing the figure does best, but if you want your mummy in more “ninja” poses it’s certainly feasible.
You may think a mummy doesn’t need much in the way of accessories, but NECA apparently feels differently. For starters, Mikey comes with three sets of hands: “mummy” pose hands, gripping hands, and fists. The default, mummy, hands are basically posed how one would associate the mummy when it’s walking and reaching out towards a victim. They’re kind of curled and misshapen and since the thumb is under the fingers they can be considered loose, gripping, hands if you wish. As for what he has to hold, we have a set of nunchaku. Only now, the handles are gold-painted ankhs with brown tape around the handles. They have real chains, and there’s a gap on each side of the shell between the belt and shell they can be forced into if you like weapon storage. Mikey also has two pre-posed wraps that can be clipped onto a leg or arm for a little added effect. There’s a giant cobra which has a bendy wire through it that Mikey can hold, or have draped over his shoulders, or just have hanging around nearby. It’s in a hissing pose like it’s ready to strike.
Lastly, we have the best accessory: Mikey’s decaying, alternate, head. An image of a decaying Leonardo mask from the third TMNT movie has been floating around online for years, if not a decade. I believe it originated from an auction and it’s pretty damn hideous. Other images of decaying turtle costumes have followed, but that one is the most memorable and widely seen. Mikey’s alternate head is a clear homage to that one as the lips have been rotted away revealing two rows of big, flat, teeth. The flesh around the eyes has also receded leaving the face wide-eyed and a bit crazy looking. There are also chunks missing from other parts of the head and the bandana tails are a bit more wild looking. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to swap the knot between the heads, but as far as I can tell, they just peg into the head so it’s theoretically possible. The alternate head fits a little more snug than the default one and swapping them is pretty painless. It’s really hard to settle on one, though I feel like this alternate head captures a little bit of that Mikey humor inherent in the character and it might be the look I go with.
This figure actually presents a lot of display options. Classic Mummy pose? A Mikey nunchaku pose? Something with the snake? Default head or crazy, rotting, head? I’m planning on making Mikey a Halloween decoration that may live in his box (which I didn’t even talk about, but it’s beautiful) 10 months out of the year so it will be impossible to get all of these display options into one season. Maybe I’ll just need to find a place for him a little out of the way for the rest of the year. If you can’t tell, I love this figure and I absolutely recommend it. I don’t think it’s convinced me to buy the rest of the line, but if they hit clearance maybe I’ll reconsider. I think this guy displays just fine on his own, and if anything I’m more likely to invest in the accessory set for The Mummy than more TMNT x Universal Monsters figures.
This figure was part of the Fall Geek Out event at Target. It was online as well, but I’m guessing that by the time this post goes live it will no longer be available there. This is the one and only Mummy Mike I saw in-store so it doesn’t look like he’s being shipped in the same vast quantities as the Leonardo figure from this line, but I could be wrong. If you missed the Target release, don’t fret. This figure is available to preorder in many of the usual places online and should be showing up in those same places eventually. Hopefully in time for Halloween.
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