Back when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ruled the world, there was a lot of brand synergy between all of the various media being generated by this one mega popular piece of intellectual property. The comics came first followed by a toyline which necessitated the creation of an animated mini series to basically serve as a commercial. When the toys and cartoon took off, more episodes were ordered and certainly more toys were created, but the comics remained as they were. Which is to say they were pretty much intended for an entirely different audience. Enter Adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, whatever you want to call it. It was a comic that started off as an adaptation of the animated series, but pretty quickly became its own thing. Published by Archie Comics, it was the kiddie comic though it would actually get far more mature than the cartoon series ever did. Characters created for the toy line would show up in the cartoon and sometimes in the Archie books as well. When that happened there tended to be differences and we saw that with the first figure in this subline from NECA: Slash. Now we have another one in Man Ray, who non-readers likely know as Ray Fillet. The character is credited to Stephen Murphy and Ryan Brown, and it’s my understanding that the concept of Ray Fillet came first for the toyline, but was imported into the comic as Man Ray. The two look very similar, but there are some differences. As for the cartoon version, he was named Ray and really couldn’t be much more different. If we ever get a Ray toy we’ll get into that there, for now, let’s talk about Man Ray.
Man Ray debuted in issue number 5 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures and he had a fairly standard origin for this kind of property. Marine biologist Jack Finney touches a manta ray, comes in contact with the mutagen, and is turned into a mutant superhero. He looks like a humanoid manta ray and he can command sea creatures like a more famous hero from the pages of Detective Comics. He fights for all of the usual stuff, but also has an ecological bent which I can appreciate. Of course, we’ll ignore the fact that we’re talking about a mass-produced lump of plastic in the character’s image which is doing who knows how much harm to our present environment. Man Ray would also go on to join The Mighty Mutanimals, the offshoot series for TMNT, where he’d work alongside the likes of Slash, Leatherhead, and more. As the second release in the Adventures line, Man Ray is a logical choice. He seems to have a pretty strong following in the fanbase as a lot of people my age really liked that Ray Fillet figure, myself included. I also had his origin story, though I don’t think it was the comic, but rather an adaption as a children’s book that I have long since lost track of. And since he didn’t really appear in the cartoon series it also makes sense to get to him early as collectors will want the character as either the Archie Comics character or just as a stand-in for Ray Fillet in their toon display.
Man Ray comes in a slightly oversized box relative to Slash which once again features original artwork from artist Ken Mitchroney. I personally love Ken’s art and I think it has the right aesthetic to really separate it from both the work of Mirage Studios and the cartoon. The figure itself is also based on Ken’s style and this one is presently showing up as part of NECA and Target’s Haulathon. Unfortunately, by the time you read this the online drop will have past and possibly even restocks at the store as Man Ray was part of the initial wave of product. If he’s anything like Slash then he may hang around so it shouldn’t be too hard to get your mitts on this figure. And if you miss him entirely he should eventually show up at other retail outlets. He’s just debuting at Target, he’s not exclusive.
Once out of the packaging, Man Ray stands at approximately 6.5″ to the top of his head and closer to 7″ if you factor in the…horns? I don’t know much about manta ray anatomy. He’s clad in his green and yellow suit which I suppose is the character’s default look. He had several looks in the comics so bigger fans would have to tell me if this is the most appropriate. His skin is a very rich shade of blue and it’s what really stands out the most. I love it, but I also love the color blue, and all over his body are little areas of sculpted-in scales. The scales ate outlined in black, as are his muscles, and he has a very superhero look to him. The paint is super clean given the abundance of it and I’m really impressed with the piping on the costume and how well NECA handled the white stripes. He has those big fins on his back which are permanently affixed and there’s a tail that has to be inserted by the user. The tail and fins are done in a light shade of blue which contrasts nicely with the main body. The sculpt for the head looks terrific as he’s pretty angry looking and ready to throw down. The only blemish with the presentation I notice is with the boots and specifically the hinge there. He has a white stripe right down the center of the boot so NECA cast the hinge in white plastic. When the hinge is visible from the front, it’s a bit of an eyesore, but going with white is better than having a yellow gap. On the rear though you get a white block of color amongst all yellow because the stripe is only on the front. There’s not really much NECA could do about that without changing up how they articulate ankles. The April figure had a similar issue, but at least it’s a blemish largely confined to the rear of the figure and it makes sense to do it this way given that.
Man Ray comes with a bunch of stuff in his rather large box and the first thing we tend to talk about are the hands. In the box you have fisted hands, wide gripping hands, a right trigger finger hand, a left relaxed hand, and a left splayed hand. The very wide gripping hands are so he can carry his harpoon gun in a more casual manner as seen on the cover of his debut appearance. The trigger finger hand is to hold said harpoon gun in a more conventional manner, though the trigger finger just barely can touch the actual trigger. The gun looks fine though as it’s brown and gray and features a lot of line work on it. Man Ray also has a second portrait which is this cocky, almost flirty, sort of grin. This is the type of fish Troy McClure would love to have an encounter with. Man Ray also comes with a little sea turtle who I guess is a stand-in for his summoning powers. He’s cute and really well painted, but is otherwise a slug figure. He also has a little buddy, Bubbla, who looks like a lobster or crayfish type of creature and was apparently based on the little buddy figure the toy came with, Fishsticks, though they look nothing alike. Bubbla looks a bit irritated, but he’s well painted and stands nicely on a shelf and is a fun inclusion.
Where these NECA reviews have been going off the rails a bit lately is with articulation, and perhaps to no one’s surprise, Man Ray isn’t going to impress here. For one, we’re dealing with a character that has no neck and giant fins on his back. Despite the no neck, the head is on a double ball peg which is mostly good for rotation. He can tilt forward and back a bit, but really moving the head at all breaks up the sculpt and he looks pretty silly as a result. It can kind of shimmy side-to-side which works better than rotating it, but it is what it is. The shoulders are the usual ball-hinged joint that just pegs in. The arms will go as far as they can until they strike the fins and raising them out to the side won’t quite get to horizontal. There is a biceps swivel and below that a single-hinged elbow. There’s a generous cut-out in the forearm for the hinge so it will bend a tick past 90 degrees. The wrists rotate and hinge and all of the hinges are a horizontal hinge including the trigger hand. The hinges are also cut a bit off-center which I assume is intentional. They’re all also super tight and most won’t work for me. Swapping hands is at least easy, though swapping heads required heat.
In the torso, we get a diaphragm joint that feels like a double ball peg system. Man Ray doesn’t bend back very far, nor does he crunch forward much, but you do get a generous amount of tilt on the joint plus rotation. You probably want to be gentle though so as not to scuff the abdomen. There’s no waist joint and the hips are the standard ball joints. Man Ray can basically do splits as the diaper overlay is cut way back which I like a lot. The thigh will swivel a bit on the joint and below that we have double-jointed knees. They’re very tight and manipulating them past 90 degrees is a challenge because they strike the fins. Kicking backwards also doesn’t work very well for the same reason, but he can kick forward a decent amount though his legs want to go off towards the side when doing so. There is no boot cut and the ankles have the previously mentioned hinge joint and rocker, both function well. Lastly, we have the tail which is a ball-hinged joint that gets decent range. The tail itself also has a bendy wire running through it for a little extra something. Man Ray stands pretty well, but the tail can also add stability if you feel it’s warranted or if you have him in a more unnatural pose. There is a lot of weight to this figure, but it feels like it’s pretty well-distributed and the big feet and tight joints will help to keep him upright.
Man Ray is a pretty typical release for NECA and it’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings. The sculpt and paint are all terrific while the articulation is just so-so. Man Ray does have some hurdles to deal with unique to his design, so I can forgive NECA for that. I think he’s going to move well enough and it’s hard for me to quibble too much with the articulation setup given how nice the sculpt turned out. And when it comes to the look of this guy I’m pretty much in love. I love the colors, I love the expressiveness of the face sculpts, and the detail work is fantastic. The accessories are solid and I might just display him in a superhero pose without the gun because I don’t think he needs it. The only other thing left to discuss is the price tag which comes in at $40 making Man Ray not as cheap as Slash and some other recent releases, but less than Zog. I guess he’s a little more involved than some other figures, but it’s hard not to get the feeling that NECA started at $40 and then added on stuff to get to that price like the turtle and Bubbla. Slash was somewhat bare bones, but also using an older mold. Jagwar, another character we will be looking at in due time, is $35 with all new tooling, lots of accessories, and plenty of paint. Maybe NECA figures to reuse some parts from that one later on? I’m not sure and I don’t know the economics of the situation I just know what’s on my shelf and what it cost me. At $40, Man Ray isn’t the value some other figures are. I do think he looks great though so I’m not exactly saying he isn’t worth it, but I do wish he could have been cheaper. And for fans of the Mighty Mutanimals, I suspect he’ll be worth it to them too as NECA is building up that team and it certainly seems like a priority for the company so I suspect we’ll be talking about them for awhile to come.
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