When you’re doing a syndicated cartoon expected to air basically every day, you need to pull story ideas from anywhere you can. I think that’s why parodies are so popular in the cartoons of the 80s to the point where it didn’t matter if the show was parodying something kids would actually know. Take REX-1, who premiered in the episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series “New York’s Shiniest.” Rex is basically a RoboCop parody, and RoboCop was one of those bizarre R-rated films that was marketed to kids for some reason. He got a toyline and a cartoon series which dropped the violence of the film as well as the social commentary just to make a show about a good cop who happens to be a robot. Rex, being from a cartoon series designed to sell toys and make kids laugh, is more of a doofus, but also a product of his time. The episode leans into a crime-ridden New York City, which was very much the opinion of the city in the mainstream at the time, in need of a hero and it turns to a robot cop. It turns out bad in a way and I’m guessing it was more of a way to inject comedy, but seeing a cop with the power of REX-1 basically apply the law indiscriminately feels like the kind of thing that would happen in reality. The turtles basically have to do the programming themselves to make Rex a more appropriate arbiter of justice, and since it was the TMNT cartoon, they have to take down Shredder.
REX-1’s premiere episode came in season two, which may have been the most watched season of the show. It was when there weren’t a lot of episodes available, but in my market, that didn’t stop them from airing the program every week day. I saw this guy a whole bunch as a result so this almost one-off character (I know he came back for at least one other episode) ended up being rather memorable. Despite the exposure, REX-1 never received an action figure in the original Playmates line, but that toyline rarely went too hard on cartoon-only characters. They still tended to favor the comics or original creations because it was mostly Mirage Studios that came up with the toy designs. A character like REX-1 was probably created by the show, almost certainly, and it was probably easier for legal reasons to just stick with what they were doing on the toy front.
Because REX-1 was so well known, it felt like a foregone conclusion that NECA would eventually get to him. Especially once they started doing the “deluxe” releases that come in a VHS-styled box and are intended for solo characters instead of a multi-pack. It may have taken a little longer than some expected, but expectations have now been met and REX-1 is available in plastic form courtesy of NECA and Target’s Haulathon promotion. He comes in the expected VHS box which is quite massive this time around. I no longer have my Chrome Dome box, but it sure seems like it’s around the same size as that, and probably heavier. The artwork, once again provided by Daniel Elson and Aaron Hazouri, is fantastic and looks just like how I remember the old VHS tapes, style-wise. The only downside here is REX-1 comes at a new pricepoint of $50. As far as I can recall, the previous high for a deluxe release in this line was the previously mentioned Chrome Dome who came in at $40. That figure was released over 2 years ago so an increase of some kind was likely expected, but I was surprised to see NECA blow by the $45 price and go right to $50. We’ll get more into the value component of the review when I summarize everything at the end, but it definitely stung a bit to ring this one up at the register.
REX-1 is quite a beefy figure for the line. He stands at a shade over 8.75″ to the top of his hat which I’m just going to consider part of his head. This doesn’t make him the tallest figure in the line, but he just might be the heaviest. I was not prepared for how heavy the box would feel when I picked it up and most of that weight is concentrated in the figure itself. Rex’s upper body is very chunky, though rounded-off, and there’s a noticeable heft when lifting this guy up. If I had a postage scale I’d weigh him, but I don’t, so my un-scientific approach of just holding and comparing figures has lead me to be believe that REX-1 is the heaviest figure in the line. And the only one that strikes me as heavier from outside the toon line is the recently released Zog. Rex’s heft is largely contained to the torso as the legs are much slimmer. His design from a color and texture standpoint is very on-model with the show, but the proportions are a little off. The show wasn’t known for its consistency so if you do a search for the character you will find some images where the upper body is this shape. The head size seems to vary, though I favor the slimmer look he seems to have most often. This one is a little chunkier and seems to sit a little lower on the neck as well. The big difference though is the size of the feet. NECA gave this figure some pretty large boots and I think that’s just for stability. REX-1 had one of those toon designs where his upper body is massive, but his legs pretty thin. If you want your toy to have a similar build to the upper body, it’s going to need more at the base to keep him standing. And I’m happy to say he stands fine, so at least the design change works. As for the aesthetics, it’s going to vary from person-to-person. I think he looks pretty good and I like the sizing so I’m fine with the tweeks, others may think he looks too off and I wouldn’t say they’re wrong.
As is typical of a NECA release, REX-1 comes loaded with paint and the quality of that application is going to vary, but hopefully not too much. I had my choice of two in store and I selected what I felt was the one with the best paint, but it has some issues. There’s a little blue on one of the gray stripes on his shoulder and there are other small scuffs here and there. The only one that bothers me is there’s a little blob of dark gray at the base of his jaw on the figure’s lower right side. This wasn’t visible in the box because his head was tilted down and I think this is rub-off from inside the neck area as there’s a splotch of the same color in there. I think the jaw is gray plastic so I’m tempted to try to remove it (I was wrong, it’s blue plastic painted gray), but it’s also a delicate piece so I’m torn. There’s also paint rub at the knees which was the result of the gray pieces over his shins just being stuck to the thigh. It’s not visible when his legs are straight up and down and the plastic is at least navy blue so I could probably get this to come off without much risk (the base plastic may be navy, but it’s still painted over). Another spot likely to suffer from paint rub are the gray stripes in the hips. There’s actually a fair amount of clearance between the crotch piece and the hips likely to combat this issue, but push it too far and it will definitely happen. These are the types of flaws expected of a mass-produced item with this much paint. You basically take the good with the bad, and the good is that there is a ton of paint! A lot of companies skimp on that aspect of their figures so I will always prefer this approach to one that favors bare plastic. I like the shade of blues in use here and how it contrasts with the gray and white portions. The finish is quite matte and the cel-shading is effective. A lot of the more complex apps are also done very well like the name tag, the lines on the hands, or the black in the eyeglasses.
As a big figure, articulation is a bit of a wild card when it comes to REX-1. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and once I felt how heavy he was I only knew that it needed to be tight. Loose joints will kill a figure like this and I’m happy to say it’s not much of a concern. The head is likely on a ball joint and the figure looks up a little, down quite a bit, and can rotate some as well. The shape of the head prevents him from being able to spin all the way around, though a more determined person could pull it off. He gets some nice tilt for nuance posing and the jaw moves up and down a bit exposing his mouth. At the shoulders, we get the standard hinged peg and Rex can raise his arms out to the side almost to horizontal and rotate around. Again, a more determined individual could possibly get more, but you do have those gray stripes on the shoulder so I wouldn’t advise it. There’s a biceps swivel past that and then a single hinge at the elbow. It’s ratcheted so there’s no looseness and it gets to about a 90 degree bend. At the wrist, we have the customary swivel and hinge setup and I’m happy to say that the trigger hands have the preferred vertical hinge setup. Also, every wrist hinge in my set was stuck out of the box so you may need to heat them up to get them going. In the torso, there’s a diaphragm joint that basically just provides a bit of nuance posing. I’m not sure what they were going for or if the joint is just the result of how the figure was assembled, but it’s basically squared off inside. You can rotate there, but the figure fights you. Since it’s internal, I guess it doesn’t matter if the plastic is getting torn up, but I personally wouldn’t go too far there. There’s also two hinged pieces on the chest that lift up to reveal some of REX-1’s internal components. The hinges are tight enough to stay open without issue and the stuff inside is well-painted. It’s a nice touch.
Below the diaphragm joint is a waist twist that’s just a waist twist. The hips connect via ball and socket joints and this robot can basically do full splits and twist at the thigh. Kicking forward is not very good though. I don’t know if the joint is just super tight or if it’s ratcheted, but he really doesn’t want to go forward. I was able to force it two “clicks” which wasn’t enough to get either leg to horizontal. They don’t want to go back, and more often than not, when I try to kick the leg forward it feels like the peg is just bending and I’m not interested in breaking my new $50 toy to push it. I found more success going out to the side and then forward, but again, the figure feels like it doesn’t really want to kick forward and I feel like I’m playing with fire. The knee is a single hinge and doesn’t quite get to 90 degrees. Below that is a hinge and rocker combo at the ankle. Because of the big, gray, piece that goes over the foot and up the shin, it’s hard to really get at that hinge. It doesn’t seem to want to go forward much even though I can’t see anything stopping it and really only goes back for me. I have not heated anything, but at least the feet are tight so he isn’t falling over. The rocker works okay and I’m finding myself just adjusting his posing by widening his stance more often than not and using the rocker. He’s not the type of character that needs to do much, but the lower half is a bit disappointing.
These deluxe releases from NECA tend to come with a lot and REX-1 mostly lives up to that. He doesn’t have as much stuff as some of the past releases, or unique stuff, but he probably has enough. For hands, we get a whole bunch: fists, trigger finger hands, chop hands, wide open, and a right hand holding a hex nut. I think he was inspecting some evidence left behind in the show, but I can’t remember. I’m sure it’s scene specific. REX-1 also comes with his tongue. I wasn’t sure what the thing was when I pulled it out of the box and I’m thankful it was listed on the box. You can pivot his jaw down to reveal his “mouth” which is just a slot for the tongue. It’s cute, and likely something fun for toy photographers. Rex also has a pair of his sidearms. They’re a flat gray with some black linework and the trigger hands fit into them okay. They will leave behind white paint though, if you warm the hands up first that might help, but it’s just something you have to deal with. The guns can also peg into the gray circles on his hips for a holstered look and that works just fine. For when refreshment is needed, REX-1 also has a trusty can of oil to suck on. He has to use the same trigger hands for it, but they work fine. Again, be wary of paint rub. His last unique item is his controller which can be held by another character. It’s well-painted and looks just as good as the many other trinkets found in abundance with this line. Lastly, REX-1 has a trio of black VHS tapes for his reprogramming. They’re the same tapes we’ve seen with other releases so there’s nothing special here, but it’s a fun accessory and I’m happy to have more to pile up around the television set from the recently released accessory bundle.
REX-1 was a release I think a lot of folks had been looking forward to and for them I think they’ll be pleased. The looks is what matters most with this line and NECA did a solid job in that regard. I do think some of the accuracy was sacrificed to make a more stable figure and I’m content with the trade-off, but others may not be. The paint has its issues, but overall does give the figure a more premium look. He has enough stuff, and the only real disappointment for me is the articulation. It’s never the strong suit of NECA, but I don’t like how scared I am of breaking this figure when I move the legs so that’s a bummer. And then of course there’s the price of $50. Compared to past NECA deluxe releases, it’s disappointing to see a rise in price without a rise in quality or components. Understanding that this is all unique tooling, but it’s always preferable to feel like you’re getting something extra when something suddenly costs more. That was true of Chrome Dome who really came loaded with stuff and I didn’t even blink at his price, but with REX-1 it’s not apparent. Does the figure need more? No, not really, but this is a line that likes to toss-in unrelated accessories just to flesh out some packaging and we don’t get any of that.
At the same time, compare this release to other similarly priced figures and it doesn’t look so bad. NECA has been able to resist the price hikes we’ve seen with other toy producers so in a way they’re a victim of their own creation. Compare this to most of the Super7 Ultimates that come in at $55-$65 these days and the value appears tremendous. Unique tooling, lots of stuff, an abundance of paint apps – yeah, it’s no contest. And then compare it to Hasbro which recently announced a Spider-Man figure that’s 100% reuse for $35 and won’t have as much stuff as this figure and likely little paint and NECA looks even better. While I wish this guy came in at $40 or $45, I can’t really call it an outlier in the pricing department. I guess it is what it is and you’re either happy with it or you’re not. I am curious if NECA will try to reuse these molds for an “evil” REX-1 that was basically the same character model, but with a black and red look. Normally I’d say it’s a no-brainer, but does NECA think it can sell us the same figure twice at this price? Probably, but that remains to be seen. I don’t know if I’ll bother with that one if the time comes, but then again, I feel like I’ve said that a lot and here I am with a REX-1, Jersey Red, Grunt, and so on. If your collection needs REX-1 then you’ll probably want to get this. If you’re lukewarm on the character, then I’d understand passing especially considering how much stuff just got released. And if you’re having trouble finding this figure in-stores, you can try Target’s website tomorrow (as of this posting) at 9 AM EST when this figure is expected to be sold there. The obscure nature of the character and the price tag should make it a fairly easy release to get ahold of once the initial rush has subsided. Good luck and definitely don’t pay a scalper for this one.
More from NECA’s deluxe assortment of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
NECA TMNT “The Colossal Chrome Dome” – Deluxe Chrome Dome
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NECA TMNT Cartoon Metalhead
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NECA TMNT Cartoon “Another One Bites the Crust” Pizza Monster
When NECA launched its line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures based on the classic cartoon series there was much rejoicing, followed by much consternation. The line was successful, some would say too successful. Product was hard to track down for collectors as only a handful of units were released to each store which…Keep reading
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