Collectors my age who watched the original mini series for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles over and over likely all wondered the same thing at some point: what happened to the rest of Bebop and Rocksteady’s gang? When we first meet the dim-witted duo, they’re humans and part of a street gang harassing the people of New York. When they turn their attention towards a reporter by the name of April O’Neil, they run afoul of some local vigilantes who happen to be mutated ninjas. Shredder, identifying that his new foes are not human, decides to create some mutants of his own. We see the transformation of Bebop and Rocksteady to a mutant warthog and rhino respectively, while the rest of the gang gets mutated offscreen. We get one glimpse at them post mutation on a monitor in the Technodrome and then a very brief glimpse in the fifth and final episode of said mini series where they’re all in a cell. One lucky mutant, who we’ve come to know as Scrag, got to demonstrate Shredder’s reverse mutation ray which returned him to his human form and then he and the rest of the gang were never heard from again. Did Shredder, seeing how moronic Bebop and Rocksteady turned out, decide to just cut his losses and exterminate the rest? Maybe he returned them all to human form and set them free in New York? Or, perhaps wanting to have a little fun, did he and Krang tell them they were going home, but they actually dumped them in Dimension X where they almost certainly met their end?
There’s no canon explanation for what happened to the rest of the street punks. In reality, the mini series was commissioned by Playmates Toys to sell, well, toys. And it did its job so they were all set. Producer Fred Wolf saw more potential in the show and wanted to continue producing it and so they did leading to a second season and then several more. In going from the mini series to season two, it was likely decided that Shredder didn’t need a whole gang of mutants at his disposal. Bebop and Rocksteady would be enough as recurring characters and they could bring in other “villains of the day” to add variety. And since it was a kid’s show, there likely wasn’t any consideration given to telling the audience what happened with these other characters. Adults often underestimate kids and their capacity for knowledge and memory because I certainly wanted to know what happened with those other guys, but the show never brought them back. Now that I’m an adult and immersed in the collector community, I know my thoughts were not unique to me. Most kids wondered what happened to those punks, but aside from very brief appearances in supplemental media and ephemera, they’ve been forgotten. It’s only through those items that we even know them by name: Scrag, Grunt, Dopey, and Dumbo.
When NECA and Loot Crate returned for another round of TMNT crates, the bonus figure for those who purchased all four crates ended up being the infamous Scrag. This basically signaled to the collector community that these long ignored characters were on NECA’s radar, and not being one to shy away from deep pulls, the prospect of completing Bebop and Rocksteady’s original gang suddenly seemed like a foregone conclusion. The only catch was that Scrag had a pretty significant barrier in front of him. If you only wanted that figure it was going to cost you $200 as you had to buy four $50 crates. NECA has insisted that any figure exclusive to Loot Crate would remain so which is why most of the first wave of crates were variants of popular characters. Wave 2 was more specialized and while a character like Danny Pennington from the first film, who was featured in the first crate of Wave 2, could get re-released at mass retail with a different look a character like Scrag only has one look. And his figure featured components to display him as a human or as his mutated bat form, so that possibility was out. Would NECA release the rest of the gang if there was no way for people who missed out on Scrag to get him? Well, we have our answer, and it’s “Yes!” For this round of Haulathon, NECA has unleashed the gang and for the first time ever we have them all in plastic form. And as a result, we essentially have all of the main characters from that inaugural mini series in plastic as well so that’s pretty cool. These guys have been more than 30 years in the making so now the question is, “Was it worth it?”
The other problem with NECA releasing Scrag solo is that it meant the four missing gang members were now reduced to three. NECA prefers to release these figures in packs of two so someone was going to have to be paired with a non-gang member. Or, there was the possibility of NECA doing another three-pack like it did with the Neutrinos, but it turns out that the company had a satisfactory replacement in mind: Jersey Red. Jersey Red is the canonical replacement for Bebop, or Rocksteady, in the gang they once ran with. She debuts in the episode “The Gang’s All Here” when Shredder orders the pair to reconnect with their old gang. If you’re wondering how that squares with my prior paragraphs talking about how we never heard from them again, it still does as the gang is composed of all new characters. Red, as far as we were shown, never actually ran with the likes of Grunt, Scrag, etc and instead was more like a replacement for those guys. She is joined by Lugnut and High-Five in her episodes so maybe they’re on NECA’s radar. For now, she’s a suitable inclusion as far as theming goes even if she wasn’t a figure I ever actively wanted.
Grunt and Jersey Red come in the standard window box we’re accustomed to at this point. Purchasing the pair will set you back $60 now, but $30 each for a pair of figures of new tooling is pretty much the going rate these days. We’ll talk about Grunt first. He stands at around 6.25″ to the top of his head and 6.75″ to the top of his mohawk. He is pretty absurd looking. Maybe to avoid doing anything that could be too realistic for a gang member, the design of Grunt looks more like a Judas Priest roadie or pro wrestler. He has a blond mohawk and sunglasses, but has declined to wear a shirt. Instead, he basically wears a harness that’s strapped to his chest with a big, gold, buckle in the center of his chest and back. He has an oversized gray belt with some pouches on it to pair with tight, black, pants and boots. I guess because he values some personal protection, he’s also got gray kneepads and a pair of bracelets to complete the look. He’s lean, but pretty muscular, and I don’t know if a guy looking like this approached me on the street if I’d laugh or be intimidated. It’s certainly a look though and NECA captured it well. Since he’s mostly black and fleshtone, there isn’t a ton of paint on this guy. Every spot of him is still painted, it’s just not a paint job that requires a ton of detail. The toon shading is only applied to the harness and the kneepads, but there’s still plenty of linework on the muscles and finer details. And what is there is very clean, there’s little or no blemishes on my figure and there’s no plastic look to the figure. The only thing I don’t like is that his eyes were left without pupils. They’re just white, but since they’re behind sunglasses I’m guessing NECA decided it didn’t need to paint them.
For accessories, Grunt has 3 sets of hands: fists, gripping, and a second set of gripping hands. That second set of gripping hands features claws on the fingers because they’re likely intended for his mutated form. Unfortunately, they’re cast and painted in his normal flesh tone so they’re useless. The hands are also on long, skinny, pegs and are quite challenging to remove. More so than they should be and the long peg just means more room for breaking so do exercise caution. As for what he has to wield with the gripping hands, he gets a sword. It’s a curved blade with a wrapped handle and I think this is a new sculpt. It looks fine and he was seen with a sword in the show. His main accessory though is his mutant form. Grunt was mutated into a green, lizard, creature, and since he declines to wear a shirt NECA needed to include more than just a head and some hands like it did with Scrag. The lizard form is an entirely new torso. The default torso separates at the waist and it’s pretty easy to do. The lizard part then just plugs in, and again, fairly painlessly. If you wanted to get a really good seal you may need to heat the lizard torso up, but it’s not necessary. He looks great and the paint and linework is all very clean. He has open, clawing, hands which thankfully look great since they’re the only hands he’s got. He’s got a long, flicking, tongue which is a nice touch and it’s going to be hard to settle on a display for this guy because this lizard creature looks so cool.
When it comes to articulation, Grunt is fairly basic for the line. The head is likely on a double ball peg so you get some up and down plus full rotation and some tilt for nuance posing. The shoulders are just pegged in on hinges so you get full rotation and they can come out to the side almost to a horizontal position. It might go further if you force it, but it’s probably not necessary. No biceps swivel on this guy which is a surprise. Instead, he gets a single hinged joint at the elbow that just pegs into the bicep so you get a swivel there. The elbow bends to about 90 so it’s functional, but a biceps swivel would look better, in my opinion. I’m guessing they didn’t want to break up the sculpt or were trying to save some money by tooling fewer parts. The wrists swivel and hinge and after being pleasantly surprised with the vertical-hinged REX-1 wrists, Grunt is back to just all horizontal hinges despite his lone weapon being a sword. In the torso, we have a ball-joint in the diaphragm. It will give the figure rotation with a decent amount of side-to-side tilt and very little forward and back. At the waist is a twist where the upper body pegs into the lower body so while it works it does tend to come apart slightly when twisting on it. The hips are the standard ball and socket joints and they go out to the side for full splits, kick forward all the way, and back slightly. There’s a thigh twist up there as well as double-jointed knees which go past 90 degrees. At the top of the boot we do get a swivel and at the ankle we get hinges and rockers. The hinges offer very little going forward and back, but the ankle rocker is pretty solid.
Grunt’s articulation is probably enough. I don’t like the elbows, but NECA doesn’t like doing double-joints on bare armed characters so I at least understand the thinking. I just wish he got to keep a biceps swivel. As for the lizard-man, the articulation is basically the same. His arms can’t quite get out to horizontal either and he lacks a biceps swivel. His diaphragm joint has less range and it’s partly because the straps on his chest sit lower and are on the part that wants to rotate. His head, which sits forward on his body, is also different. I think it’s still a double ball peg, but the orientation means that ball is pointing straight out so you get a head that can’t look up, can look down a touch, and doesn’t get a lot of side-to-side. You get plenty of tilt, but otherwise is limited and swapping to the mutant form is a downgrade in articulation.
Now let’s talk about Grunt’s box-mate: Jersey Red. Jersey Red is the rare female in this line, but I’m happy to say we actually have a couple more females to talk about from this wave of Haulathon releases. She was previously teased via a wanted poster included as a sticker in one of the Loot Crates and as a paper insert for the street diorama. She’s a heavy set woman in a halter top and jeans with a flock of red hair that reminds me of Guile from Street Fighter 2. She also has these red, cowboy, boots that will make her a challenge to stand in any pose that isn’t just straight up and down. The design is a bit understated compared with Grunt, but effective nonetheless. She’s not a character I ever needed in plastic, but what’s here looks good and true to the show. She does have the toon shading on her jeans and boots and the paint hits are all applied cleanly. As far as I can tell, nothing on this figure was reused from a previous one so she’s all new.
For accessories, Red has an assortment of hands: fists, clenching, a right trigger finger hand, and a left, wide, gripping hand. The wide gripping hand is included so she can hold one of her accessories. The first is a white bottle of some sort. In her debut episode, Shredder was trying to spread some new mutation serum so that might be what this bottle is for, but otherwise I don’t know. For the trigger hand, she has a gun. It’s a big, white, blaster of some kind that certainly looks like it came from the show. I don’t know if Jersey Red was ever seen wielding this gun, but it looks like something Shredder might have passed out to the gang when they brought them onboard in her debut episode. It’s not a lot of stuff, I’m guessing most of the accessory budget went to Grunt’s lizard half, but I don’t think she really needed anything else. She’s a brawler, but she’s got a gun too and if you want to outfit her with melee weapons you probably have a bunch laying around at this point. I know I do.
As for articulation, Jersey Red is a bit limited. She has the standard setup at the head which allows her to look up, down, all around, and she has some tilt. The shoulders rotate all around and hinge out to the side to just about horizontal. She basically has the same arm setup as Grunt since her arms are bare so no biceps swivel and a single-jointed elbow. She basically hits 90 degrees at the elbow bend and the wrists swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are of the horizontal variety. In the torso, she has a diaphragm joint that lets her rotate just below her bust and that’s basically all it does. She has a waist twist below that which is just okay. Since it’s not a ball joint, twisting her too far breaks up the sculpt at the waist so it’s of limited use. At the hips, we have the standard setup, but she has a rather large “diaper” covering her crotch so she can’t do splits like Grunt can nor can she kick forward very far and she can’t kick back at all. She does have a thigh twist up there, but her knees are single-jointed. They swivel there as well, but the bend doesn’t quite hit 90 degrees. She does have a boot cut so those swivel and the hinge and rocker combo at the ankle work well enough, but because her boots are heeled it’s not nearly as useful. You’re not going to do a whole lot with her feet, but if you keep it simple, she actually stands pretty well. There are peg holes on her heels if you feel a simple stand is warranted, but she’s stable. I should add, nothing on either figure was too tight or too loose. I didn’t have to heat any of the joints and the only heat recommended is maybe for connecting Grunt’s mutant half to his lower body or getting his hands out, and if you’re real concerned about paint rub with the white blaster, heating the trigger hand first would help there though I had no issues without it.
Grunt and Jersey Red is not a two-pack that is going to set the world on fire, but it’s executed fairly well. The only real bummer is the gaffe with the mutant gripping hands for Grunt. Some companies would attempt to fix this by offering replacements somehow, but I don’t expect that to happen here. My guess is if they ever do a second production run it will be corrected there. NECA has done this in the past and indicated that customers could get on a list for replacement parts, but I’ve never seen anyone actually receive said replacement parts. The last time something like that happened was with the Rat King who had a faulty crotch piece that flaked paint. If that matters to you then you may want to sit this one out. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that this set ever gets another run. These are obscure characters and if you don’t have Scrag all ready then you probably won’t even bother. Unless you’re the rare Jersey Red fan. The rise in price also doesn’t help. If I were grading these separately, I’d say Grunt is fine and a pretty fun figure to mess around with. Jersey Red looks good, but isn’t particularly fun to handle as she’s too limited. If I could have passed on her I probably would have, but I’m also not looking to offload her or anything. If you want to complete the original gang then sure, go for it. If you don’t care or don’t have any of those previous releases (including human Bebop and Rocksteady) then you can probably pass on this one.
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