Ask a casual fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who Scratch is and it’s possible they’ll have no idea who you’re talking about. Ask a collector of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures who Scratch is and their eyes will shift to one of longing. Scratch the cat was a late entrant in the classic line of Playmates action figures. He was originally released in 1993 when the basic assortment of TMNT figures had shrunk to just 7. In their place were figures based on a new movie, the toon subline, cave turtles, mutating turtles, and a bunch of other gimmicks. Kids had basically grown bored with the franchise, so Playmates was throwing a bunch of different tricks at them to try to cling to a demographic that had been obsessed with their product for a few years at this point. And a few years for a children’s toyline can sometimes feel like an eternity.
So it was that Scratch, Halfcourt, Hot Spot, and the other figures from ’93 went somewhat ignored. They were also produced in fewer numbers compared with the basic assortment of the prior years, and the people who were buying them were kids which meant they’d get beat up, broken, donated, etc. As a result, they’re even harder to find today and if you have a mint, carded, Scratch or one of those other guys from ’93 then you have yourself a decent little payday in front of you, should you wish to sell. And for whatever reason, Scratch has become “the one” from that assortment and for collectors of the line he’s become a bit of a grail piece, despite the fact that there are other figures more rare in the line. Because of his infamy, it’s not surprising that Super7 would turn to the character that went unloved nearly 30 years ago, but so many are after today.
In 1993, I was barely clinging to my TMNT fandom. I saw the third film and liked it enough and would get it on VHS later that year. I had Cave Turtle Leonardo from the prior year and was very smitten with that year’s Turtle Trolls. It was also the year I bought my final TMNT figure until 2003, a Ninja-flipping Raphael. Otherwise, I was really into X-Men and the offerings from ToyBiz. Plus, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers debuted that summer and set the toy world on fire as well. And I can remember encountering that basic assortment like Hot Spot, Mona Lisa, and yes, Scratch, and my take then was “Wow, these look stupid.” And they kind of were. Mona Lisa is fine, but Hot Spot? He’s a mutant dalmatian that is a fire fighter – how creative? Scratch is a mutant cat burglar who….wait for it…is a cat! They’re two of the laziest designs put out by Playmates and are totally unremarkable as characters and as action figures. If that’s the case, why did I bother with this updated version of a character that I think is kind of lame? The answer is: I don’t know! When the solicitation went up, I didn’t give it much thought. I guess I liked the idea of a figure with a ball and chain and I was intrigued by the presence of a diaphragm joint and what looked like a fairly ambitious paint job, by Super7 standards. I don’t know if that should have been enough to get me to drop $55 on the figure, but it did so here we are.
Scratch is one of those figures that can best be described as “what you see, is what you get.” He stands about 6.5″ in height and comes in a standard sized box. He’s sporting an old timey jailbird outfit, so white jumpsuit with black stripes. He’s got a cat burglar mask and a little hat too. Like many, many, figures from Playmates, he has one foot sporting a boot and one that’s bare. The booted foot is also shackled and a bluish-grayish ball is attached to the shackle via an actual chain. Around his neck is a piece of black thread with a small nail file attached for busting out of jail. His clothing is mostly in tatters as he’s either gotten into some scrums in prison or his escape act left him a bit worse for ware. It was a pretty bland design in 1993, and it’s really no better in 2022. I suppose the thinking here is that the large scale of this line can improve the sculpt and the added paint can elevate it. And I suppose it does. Kind of. His face is very expressive and every piece of exposed flesh is nicely textured to simulate fur. There’s no texture to the clothing, but there are numerous rips and the folds of which are sculpted on. I like that his prison uniform was apparently custom made because it continues onto his tail, though it’s pretty torn. The end of his tail is wrapped as well, like many a cartoon cat. The shackle on the left ankle is a bit odd though. It’s part of the sculpt, which was true of the original toy, but it feels like this is something Super7 could have improved upon by making it removable. The area between the curved bar of the lock and the actual lock itself is also filled in with plastic so it doesn’t look as good as it could. The actual ball portion can be removed since it’s just affixed via a small, weak, chain, so if you wish you can simply bend the last link and slide it off, though each time you do you likely risk the link just breaking all together.
Excepting the shackle, I think the sculpt looks pretty good from a technical standpoint. Whether or not you like the character design is certainly subjective. The paint though is a bit of a mixed bag. The fur is the standout. Scratch is basically a light brown with a red-brown overcoat. The hands, the feet, the face – all look good. The teeth and the mask are especially clean, though the factory screwed up Scratch’s missing tooth by basically painting the gap as if a tooth were there which just looks strange. It also looks like they missed the black outline for his right fang as it’s present on the left side. The jail suit is a little less impressive. Scratch appears to be mostly cast in white plastic so the black lines and the exposed fur are all painted effects. This is a sound strategy, but may have been a little too much for Super7 to handle. There are numerous places where the paint doesn’t go far enough to the edge of the clothing and doesn’t look great. It’s especially noticeable on the wrappings on his tail. The rip around his right shoulder also looks weird because the arm is cast in white, but it looks like the rip should result in an exposed armpit, but doesn’t. There’s also a scuff on one of the black lines on my figure’s left leg. Interestingly enough, some of the spots that look hard to paint turned out very well. There’s a thin rip at the base of his rib cage on his left side that’s nice and clean and the little slashes on his left thigh all look great. “Mixed bag” is probably the best way to describe this one when you’re talking paint.
Scratch, being one of the more generic character designs in this line, should be one of the best articulated as a result. There’s no shell to work around, he’s not super chunky, or an alligator, he’s basically a humanoid character that just happens to be covered in fur and features a tail. Again, you would think that would bode well for Scratch, but eh, more mixed bag. It starts at the head where Scratch is surprisingly locked down. He basically can’t look up at all and only down a little because his head sits so low on the neck, which is unarticulated. He does get a little tilt to each side and can rotate, but the lack of up and down is disappointing. At the shoulder, he can just hit horizontal and rotates all the way, of course. There is no biceps swivel once again, and instead we get an elbow swivel that can at least go all the way around. The hinge there can’t hit a 90 degree bend which continues to be a disappointment. Yeah, there’s little different between 90 and almost 90, but the goal here is to be able to go past 90 degrees. The wrists swivel and hinge and Scratch does have a vertical hinge for his trigger hand, so that’s a plus. In the torso we have a new joint not featured on other figures in the line which is at the diaphragm. It feels like a ball joint, and it allows Scratch to rotate a little bit and he seems to have more range rotating to his right. He can’t really bend back far, but he does crunch forward a bit. You also get some nuance posing which I like. It’s not amazing, but being able to break-up the torso like this adds more than you think. At the waist we have a twist that is surprisingly tight. He can’t go all the way around, or at least he doesn’t want to and I’m not going to force it. The hips can go out to the side to almost a full split and he kicks forward well and there’s a bit of a thigh swivel. At the knee, we have the standard single hinge and swivel which rotates all the way around on the right leg, but does more of a pivot on the left. The right leg can hit a 90 degree bend, or close to one, while the left knee barely does anything because of it’s shape. It’s a poor design as there’s nothing unique about this guy preventing better range. The ankle hinges and can rock to the side, and just like the knee, the right foot is far more functional than the left though the ankle rocker is more like a swivel on the right foot than a true pivot. Lastly, the tail is on a ball peg and doesn’t do much of anything save for swivel around. Trying to pose it any other way is likely to just result in it popping off.
The articulation continues to be a weak spot for this line and Scratch is, in some ways, more disappointing than most. As I said before, there’s nothing about this character’s design that should make the articulation hard to implement, but it still comes up short. With the knees and elbows, they’re just not allowing for enough room to add in the necessary range. Don’t do double-hinges if you don’t like them, but single-hinged joints should work better than this. A double-ball peg approach to the waist would add a lot of nuance as well, and Super7 needs to allow for more clearance at the head. I should also add, the joints on the knees are painted so you’ll want to be careful there. The right calf is actually cast in clear plastic, so it’s not too unsightly if some of that paint rubs off of the hinge. The left calf is in white and part of the stripe by his knee is painted onto it. The knee barely moves as it is so most should be okay, but it’s something to be mindful of. As far as tolerance goes, Scratch is definitely more in-line with Slash than he is with the Wave 5 releases. Most of the figure moves fine, though that diaphragm joint is a bit loose. It will flop a bit if you shake the figure, but otherwise seems to hold its pose okay. The hips are fine and so are the wrist hinges and waist.
So far I would categorize this review as merely okay, but Scratch has one last chance to impress and that’s with his accessories. Scratch is pretty well loaded with stuff and it starts with an assortment of hands. Scratch has a set of fists, gripping hands, style pose hands, and trigger finger hands. The gripping hands feature a different grip for each so one is tighter than other. His left trigger finger hand has a horizontal hinge, which is useless, but the right has a vertical hinge. I don’t know why they did it that way, but as long as we have one good trigger hand I’m content. Scratch also has an alternate portrait and this one features more of a closed mouth and side-eyed glance. I don’t normally like side-eye expressions, but something about this one works for me. It’s a little more toony in the eyes as there’s no exposed eyelid so I might settle on this one for my display. This expression also dates back to an uncovered clay sculpture for the original figure, which was done by Anaglyph, and was apparently considered for the final figure (image above is from the wonderful TMNT toy resource Rad Plastic). Getting the head and hands off is no problem, though seating the second head is a bit of a pain, but doable without heat.
For those hands, Scratch has a few items he can wield. I already mentioned the small file dangling from a rope around his neck, but he also has a large one he can kind of hold in the tighter gripping hand. It’s cast in that same blue-gray as the smaller file and the steel ball and it looks fine. There’s a dead fish for Scratch to apparently snack on that’s also the same blue-gray color, which is weird, but has some yellow, painted-on, eyes. There’s a claw hammer for Scratch to smack stuff with and it’s fully painted and fits well on the other gripping hand. There’s a sack of money and it’s really well painted. It’s flat on the bottom so it’s designed to be placed on a surface and it’s sculpted to look like the gold coins inside are spilling out. You can put it in his hand if you want though, but it will look weird. My favorite accessory though is the cake gun. It’s a handgun with a slice of cake over it implying that Scratch snuck it into prison in an actual cake and pulled this sucker out. It’s goofy, but reflective of the vintage line. I’m left wishing Super7 gave us the rest of the cake. Lastly, Scratch comes with a buddy figure named Jailbird. Again, pretty weak design as he’s just a bird in a prison uniform, but who didn’t like getting a little buddy figure in the vintage line? Jailbird is well painted and in a casual pose where he looks like he’s flipping a coin. I think he’s supposed to be a hawk, though he’s purple. He doesn’t stand totally upright, which bugs me a little, and features zero articulation. At least he’s fully painted. There’s also a weapon sprue for Scratch and it’s cast in yellow like the vintage toy, though it appears to be a paler yellow. The ball and chain accessory makes up the outer part of the sprue, with the file, cake gun, fish, and hammer inside it. The shackle doesn’t open or anything so I don’t see how you could get it on the figure without removing a foot. It’s more for those who want Scratch to wield yellow weapons though, but still feels rather pointless. It’s no surprise then that these look like they’re going to be phased out in the next wave.
At the end of the day, Scratch was a fairly unremarkable figure in the vintage line, and he’s close to that in the Super7 line. He’s a little better than unremarkable and that’s mostly accomplished with the accessories. I love the cake gun and the money bag is one of the better painted items I’ve received from Super7. The hammer, file, and dead fish are done well, but aren’t particularly exciting. I do like the alternate head, and the ball and chain is basically an accessory too and one that’s pretty fun. The vintage figure did not have the actual ball and chain, but did have the shackle, so I guess it isn’t a terrible thing that the shackle isn’t removable. You can make this display like the vintage toy, though going the extra mile there would have been cool. The articulation is subpar though. He’s better than some of the other figures in the line in that regard, but those figures were poorly articulated so that makes Scratch just underwhelming by comparison. I think Super7 can do better and I’d like to see them try. The paint is at least more ambitious than some of the figures in the line, even if it isn’t exactly a homerun. He’ll look fine on a shelf, but closer scrutiny leaves something to be desired.
Your fondness for Scratch will likely come down to your subjective reaction to the character design, which I don’t hate, I just find boring. There’s enough here in the accessories and overall look to leave me content, but this figure will never enter my mind when I’m trying to pick my favorite from this line. That’s also true of the opposite though as he’s far from the worst and if anything collectors should feel okay about the quality of the product coming out of Wave 6 considering how shaky Wave 5 turned out. And even as I say all of this, I can’t deny that I had more fun than usual snapping pictures of this guy, utilizing my own cat’s carrier, and such. Scratch is a corny design that’s been elevated due to the scarcity of the original figure and for many longtime TMNT collectors this is as close as they’re going to get to that figure. If you have always desired Scratch the action figure, then this should “scratch” that itch. It’s unarguably a better, more enjoyable, figure than the vintage release and should look fine with the rest of your collection. On the other hand, if you see a figure of a literal cat burglar and it does nothing for you then you probably won’t miss this one. I give it a measured recommend for that reason.
November 22nd, 2022 at 2:54 pm
[…] have kept them on, but I understand if some are disappointed just like how some out there wanted Scratch’s shackle to be removable. It is interesting that the default portrait for this figure has Mikey with his […]