IDW recently dropped the third issue in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mini series The Last Ronin; the flash-forward, what if, story about the last of the turtles and his quest for revenge. I have so far enjoyed this series and have shared my thoughts here. The first issue was like a big introduction as it was largely about the hero infiltrating a future New York controlled by the Foot on a suicide mission that wasn’t successful, in more ways than one. In that issue, we saw that our hero is haunted by the ghosts of his brothers, possibly literally, but likely not as he interacts with them like they’re still alive. Issue number 2 was the first issue where the story is only partially in the present, and largely took place in the past as the writers and artists on the book started to peel back the layers of what happened to get us to this point.
In that second issue, we saw the death of one of the ninja turtles, as well as the death of a major villain. When that happened, I hypothesized that this would be the format for the next few issues. Plot developments in the present would be kept to a minimum, while much of the books would be devoted to showing us the death of a turtle. Sure enough, issue three is more of the same as we see a little bit more of what happened following the death of the first turtle and how we ended up where we are.
Seeing one of my childhood favorites killed off was actually a lot harder than expected. Even though the story begins with three of the four turtles deceased (and other allies unaccounted for), I didn’t really consider how I felt about these characters being dead. Nor did I really think about what it would be like to see their last moments, and it turns out, it’s hard! As such, I had a slight feeling of dread walking into this one as I pretty much knew what was coming. In some ways, I guess I’m happy to say it wasn’t that tough a read after all, but that’s also disappointing as well.
The confrontation we see this time around concerns a character’s rise to power in the Foot and how that individual orchestrated this whole thing. Much of the book is spent in the past showing what happened, but when it gets to the “hard” part, the story takes an easy way out. I was left holding the book and saying to myself, “That’s it?!” as I flipped back and forth to see if I missed something. Everything leading up to the moment was fine and compelling, but the payoff just wasn’t really there. I don’t expect to see any of the turtles brutally murdered on the page, but this death was a bit confounding and the presentation almost Saturday morning cartoon-like. Some additional mileage is spent on the present time, and the story there moves a bit further than it did in issue #2. Things are moving, but the end game isn’t in sight yet, which is fine as I like the pace this story is setting.
As was the case with the first two issues, the artwork here is great. Esau and Isaac Escorza do a fantastic job bringing this world to life. The colors are muted and dingy befitting the subterranean setting throughout. I like the look of the turtles as they’re uniquely designed for this story. The human characters are a bit ho-hum by comparison, but it all looks fine so I’m not complaining. As was the case with the previous issue, there is a layout done by Kevin Eastman. It’s another flashback presented in black and white which is just a fun throwback to the original Mirage issues. I suspect that will continue at least into the next issue when we should see how the third turtle was dispatched.
The Last Ronin #3 is a minor stumble for the series. I am enjoying the overall story, I was just less satisfied with this entry and less moved by what transpired within the pages. I still have high hopes and great expectations for the fourth issue, and I’m genuinely curious to see how this is all wrapped up. That conclusion is still many months away as I’m not even sure if the goal is to finish it before 2021 ends. The fourth issue is scheduled to ship in August, and I’ve got it on my pull list at the local comic book store. With the world coming back to life, I heartily recommend you not only check this series out, but support your local comic book stores in the process!
I’m not much of a car collector, but when I was a kid I went through a Hot Wheels and Matchbox phase. My favorite car was a small, black, one that I only barely remember. I have no idea what make or model the car was, but what I liked about it was that it had something on the rear that reminded me of the turbine on the back of the Batmobile from the Batman television show. As a kid, that was my Batman and I loved watching reruns of the 1966 show even though the cliffhanger endings always bothered me as a kid. I loved that car though, but I’d eventually replace it when the 1989 Batman movie arrived for with it came a ton of merchandise, including a Hot Wheels sized Batmobile. I don’t remember if it was actually a Hot Wheels brand or not, but it worked with the few sets I had and I very much liked having it. I also got out of cars not that long after though, so it would be the only tiny Batmobile I’d ever have.
When my son was around the age of 2, I started buying him Hot Wheels and one of the first priorities I had as a dad was to get him a Batmobile. And I did, getting him a variation of the ’89 Batmobile and later one based on the design from Batman: The Animated Series, but his love affair with small scale cars didn’t last very long. He still has a bunch of them, and also has the giant garage and some track sets, but he’s moved on much like I did when I was his age.
In my numerous trips to Target in search of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and assorted other action figures, I’ve come across a new line from Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand. It’s a line of Batman vehicles, but they’re not at the usual roughly 1:64 scale of a traditional Hot Wheels car. The regular BTAS Batmobile is rougly 3 1/8″ long while this new scale puts it at 4 1/2″. They’re also not the same price since they’re around 9 dollars after tax. I’m not sure what the scale of these cars are. Their construction though is largely the same as they’re a mix of diecast and plastic with Mattel using diecast on the more prominent pieces with the plastic often used for the base. And since they’re bigger, they look better and they stand out.
My childhood affection for the Batmobile is something that’s never really left me. When I bought those Batmobiles for my son, I was tempted to buy an extra for myself. I never did, but when I saw these larger ones it had me thinking these could be daddy’s Batmobile. I still didn’t jump right away, as that price was a turn-off initially, but I just couldn’t keep turning them down. Eventually I caved, repeatedly, and now I have a small assortment of miniature vehicles from Batman. On an individual basis, there isn’t much to talk about, but now that I have a small assortment I figured it made sense to take a look at them in a blog post. I’m going to start with the one that made me jump into this line first.
The 1989 Batmobile from the movie Batman might be my favorite. I say might be, because I really have a hard time deciding between it and the next two we’re going to look at. It’s just a cool design though that combines a flashy aesthetic with something that’s actually functional. This thing looks drive-able, even though it would be a bit long and cumbersome to steer. It’s sort of like the car Cruella DeVille drives, but with armor and a bat theme. Seeing the Batmobile self-drive in the movie was a huge thrill for a kid at the time, and when I got a chance to see the real thing at a car show I begged my parents to pay for a photo of us with the Batmobile.
This Hot Wheels version of the Batmobile pretty much nails the likeness. It’s cast all in black and has all of the little details you probably remember from the film like the ribbed rear panels, the ports for the machineguns, and even the little side hatch for that grappling hook it can fire. Mattel did take some liberties with the coloring though as maybe they felt it was just too black as presented on film. They used a metallic silver for portions of the engine on each side of the vehicle, on the gas tank access, and on the hubcaps. From what I can tell based on shots from the film, the gas tank access points weren’t black, but they definitely don’t stand out as much as they do here. I’m guessing their color was closer to a gunmetal finish. The hubcaps though are definitely too shiny and bright. They do have the little bat logo on the center, but they should be black and it does kind of bother me that they are not. It’s still better than the standard Hot Wheels I got for my son, which has a random, red, racing stripe on it for some reason.
What might bother me more though, is the little action feature Mattel included. The hatch on the Batmobile is functional and it slides forward to reveal the innards of the car. It’s not super detailed inside, but it looks pretty neat. What’s not neat is how they engineered it. In order for it to slide forward, Mattel had to cut a track into the vehicle’s hood. It’s an eyesore, and what kind of sucks about it is that the car is packaged with the hatch open so you don’t see this eyesore until you open the box. It looks fine when open, but I bet most people want to display it closed. I don’t really know of a way Mattel could have engineered this without cutting an ugly track somewhere into the car. Tracks on the side would have probably looked worse, and sticking in a hinge instead would be inaccurate. I think I would have just not included the feature if it was up to me, or maybe try to attach the hatch with a magnet. That though would have required the hatch be engineered differently too as it’s plastic, which is also a bit of a bummer as it’s noticeably more shiny than the diecast portion. It doesn’t ruin this toy, but it’s far from perfect.
The Batmobile from Batman: The Animated Series was my second purchase from this line, and unlike the 89 Batmobile, it’s pretty damn near perfect. It feels a bit more weighty than the 89 one as I think there’s more diecast in use here. It gives it a wonderful feel with a lovely matte finish. The hatch doesn’t function and instead it has a blue piece of plastic serving as the windshield. It’s a little odd, but it contrasts nicely with the all black exterior. And that’s basically the only nitpick I have with this one. The Batmobile from BTAS wasn’t black, but dark blue. Most of the toys though cast it in black, which always annoyed me. It’s similar to how many Batman action figures make Batman’s cape and cowl black instead of blue. The best solution is probably to make it black with blue highlights to make it look like it was pulled right from an animation cel, but if a company isn’t going to invest that much in the paint application, then just make it blue. The standard sized one my son has was given a dark blue, sparkly, paint job. It’s pretty cool, though the sparkles might have detracted at this scale, but at least they tried to capture that color-changing aspect of the source material.
Aside from that, I really can’t find anything to complain about. The “ribbed” portion of the hood looks great, the front-end is accurate, the hubcaps are the right color, and even the headlight placement looks good. I do think Mattel probably had to dull the points on the back of the car to adhere to safety standards, but it doesn’t harm the look of the car. There are no treads on the tires, which is a little odd, but you can’t really see the tires unless you flip it over so it’s not really an issue. Of some interest to me is the 2017 copyright on the bottom of this one so I guess this thing isn’t new, but it’s new to me.
The first Batmobile I fell in love with was indeed that 1966 one from the television show Batman. This Batmobile, based on a Ford concept vehicle, is definitely more of a style over substance vehicle. The previous Batmobiles we looked at are like luxury tanks or something, but this one is just a slick car. Except for that siren in the middle, that’s a little dorky. It’s all black though with logos on the doors and hubcaps. The open top design meant that Batman and Robin could just jump right in, rarely utilizing the doors, though it also meant that Batman might have been slow to respond to distress calls from Commissioner Gordon if it was raining out. The dual, bubble dome, windshield is such an “of its era” design that remains charming. By far though, my favorite feature of this Batmobile when I was a kid was that turbine on the rear of the car in which flames would burst when Batman hit the gas. That feature is so awesome and stylish that future versions of the Batmobile made sure to keep it.
The Hot Wheels version does a good job of replicating the car from the show. The proportions and front end look great, and they even sculpted a Batphone in-between the two seats. What hurts it a little is that this is a design that calls for finer details, and even though this is bigger than a typical Hot Wheels car, it’s not really big enough to capture those finer details. Some of the interior comes across as a red-orange blob because of paint limitations, and they chose to paint the siren the same color rather than use translucent plastic. There’s also a blemish on the passenger windshield on mine that’s disappointing, but not truly detracting. What really confounded me though was the presence of a trailer hitch. It’s weird to look at the rear of the car for that iconic shot from the show where the flames burst forth, only to see it obstructed by a trailer hitch, something that definitely wasn’t present on the actual vehicle from the show. If Batman wants to tow something he should probably just get a Bat Truck.
This line isn’t just Batmobiles though. There’s actually a bunch of other vehicles, like Penguin’s duck and the Batcopter, but I didn’t want any of those things. What did catch my eye though is the Batwing from Batman: The Animated Series. The Batwing from that show is heavily influenced by the same vehicle from the film. Its proportions are altered slightly, but the general design of replicating the classic Batman logo is preserved. It’s definitely a cool vehicle, and I had the Kenner version of the movie Batwing as a kid and loved it. When I saw this at the store, which is from the second series of vehicles, it was an easy buy.
This Batwing is basically just a solid piece of black metal. It’s extremely satisfying to hold and I instinctively started flying it around my head and making soaring noises when I pulled it out of the package. Like the BTAS Batmobile, Mattel utilized translucent blue plastic for the windshield which looks pretty cool. The subtle, sculpted, details on the top of the plane look nice and sharp, and this thing is just all-together a little slice of cool. The points on it are dulled to a degree, but it’s not something that truly takes away from the toy. It doesn’t have any additional features, but Mattel did include a little flight stand. It’s just a ball peg that snaps into the underside which lifts the Batwing about 2″ off of the surface it’s on. The ball-peg connection means it can pivot a bit to either side or up and down to give you some display options. This one just simply gets the job done, and it might be my favorite of the bunch as a result, though that BTAS Batmobile is right there with it.
That 66 Batmobile is pretty cool too, but that trailer hitch is confounding. Or at least it was until I saw my latest purchase from this line: the Bat Boat! The Bat Boat from the 1966 television show is part of series 2 and with it comes a trailer. Now, I remember the boat from the show and the movie, but I don’t remember ever seeing Batman tow the thing with the Batmobile. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to hitch a trailer right where flames fire out of a car, but that era was definitely style over substance. It’s definitely a humorous image to conjure up of Batman waiting in line at a public boat launch towing his Bat Boat with the Batmobile, then struggling to launch or pull it out, getting his boots wet or his cape hung up.
The Bat Boat certainly looks the part though at it’s a metallic blue with white underside. This one is mostly plastic and it has a very light feel in the hand. It’s definitely not as cool as the Batmobile as it has these dorky flame decals on the side, but it does have that giant engine on the back so it was capable of shooting out flames as well. I do like the metallic blue finish it has though as the glossy look works well for the source material. The trailer is just all plastic, but it does have bat fins over the tires and the big, orange, bat logo on the hubcaps. The details around the hitch are actually pretty well done and it looks like a real boat trailer and the boat itself rests on it well enough. The actual connection to the Batmobile is a bit odd as Mattel basically put a ring at the end instead of an actual hitch design which is cupped and rests on top of the ball on the back of the vehicle. The ring design makes it look like the Batmobile hitch should snap into this ring, but it doesn’t really work with mine. Just resting it works okay and the Batmobile can actually pull this thing. Was it worth it to ugly the design of the Batmobile with that trailer hitch? I don’t know, but I guess I would have displayed the two connected if given the chance. I just wish the hitch was easily removed from the Batmobile. It is a separate piece so maybe I could work it out if I was determined. At any rate, if I never wanted the boat and hated that hitch I could definitely remove it, but I might destroy it in the process. Since I do have the boat, I’m not willing to take that risk.
That’s it for now though. As mentioned earlier, there are other vehicles in this line that are mostly different versions of the Batmobile or one of Batman’s other flying vehicles. I don’t really like any of the Batmobiles that followed BTAS, so I’m good. The only tempting one is the Super Friends Batmobile which looks a lot like the 66 version, but it’s blue and has softer features since it came from a cartoon. As for future vehicles, I’d probably be interested in the 89 Batwing, but I’m not into the 66 Batcopter or the Bat Ski Boat from Batman Returns. Maybe there are other Bat vehicles I’m spacing on, but for now, this is a fun little assortment of Batman vehicles and if it never grows beyond this then I’ll be perfectly content.
It was about a week ago in my write-up on the Dragon Stars World Martial Arts playset that I bemoaned my decision to pass on the S.H.Figuarts release of Jackie Chun and I hypothesized I might rectify that. Well, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind as here I am to tell you all about Jackie Chun! The martial arts master and winner of the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament has been cast in plastic and is ready to join my humble Dragon Ball collection. What motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this guy was largely my completist nature. The Dragon Ball set from Bandai is pretty small when compared with the assortment of Dragon Ball Z figures, so why not get them all? I have the first Bulma Bandai released in my Pile of Loot at Big Bad Toy Store so the only one I’m missing now is kid Chi-Chi. I can’t get past her costume though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever pickup that particular figure.
The reason I initially passed on Jackie is because he’s very similar to Master Roshi. Not only do they look strikingly similar, they’re literally the same figure. For the most part. The only difference in terms of sculpting is the head and lower leg area, but the torso is the same. Jackie just dresses all in a deep navy blue, almost black, as opposed to Master Roshi’s much more colorful attire. And if you didn’t notice right away that they’re essentially the same, the give away rests on the back of the figure where Bandai just glued in the plug piece intended to seal the peg hole for Master Roshi’s turtle shell accessory. It’s a minor eyesore on Jackie, but the figure is helped out by the fact that we’re dealing in dark colors here and it is on the back of the shirt. At the same time, it’s a bit annoying since the shirt is in three separate pieces and one has to wonder how much money was really saved by not redoing it. At least he has a peg hole if you want to utilize a more dynamic stand.
Being that he’s essentially the same figure as Roshi, the articulation is also the same. That figure had some good and bad to him, and a lot that has to do with the clothing. The shoulders flare out and the wrist area is surrounded by large cuffs so it all limits the articulation a bit. The shirt is also intended to be a long martial arts uniform, and since Bandai doesn’t utilize cloth goods, the only way to properly articulate that is to “scallop” the sculpt and insert a series of ball-pegs into the torso. It’s not the cleanest sculpt in the torso as a result, but it’s not truly an eyesore either. Again, the dark color of Jackie works to the figure’s advantage in hiding this somewhat, but I do wonder how he’d have come out with a cloth robe.
Bandai doesn’t use much paint with its S.H.Figuarts line, and it is a common complaint I hear from other collectors. Jackie is no except as he’s mostly just colored plastic. The only paint on the body of the figure is the white stripe and black fasteners down the center of the shirt and the gray soles of the shoes. The rest is reserved for the head and face where the eyes and eyebrows are well-painted. There may be a touch of a wash in the hair and beard as well which helps bring out the sculpted details and looks pretty sharp. His hair color has a gray to it, unlike Master Roshi’s all-white beard, which helps distinguish him further. The choice of doing the figure in a very dark blue as opposed to black is a little curious. As far as I can tell, his outfit is sheer black in the anime. And unlike many comic books, there’s no blue shading to speak of. I don’t know if this was based on information from Toei, or if Bandai just made an artistic decision not to go full black. As a result, under some light he looks a little blue and others a little gray, but always pretty dark. It’s not something that bothers me, I just find it curious. The finish is at least fairly matte which cuts down on the plastic sheen some figures in this line feature. Ultimately, the likeness is pretty on point and the sacrifices the figure makes in the sculpt to accommodate the articulation are worth it in the end.
If you wish to know precisely how he’s articulated, I’ll run it down for you here. If you’re familiar with the Master Roshi figure, then skip ahead. Jackie has a ball peg at the head and base of the neck and he has some pretty solid range. Surprisingly, he can look down quite well despite the presence of the beard, it’s looking up that he’s not great at. At the shoulders we have ball-hinges with a butterfly joint. He can raise his arms out to the side better than expected and the butterfly joint allows him to achieve his Kamehameha pose fairly convincingly. There’s a biceps swivel below that and single-hinged elbows. The elbow is probably the least impressive part of this figure as they’re on these big ball-hinges that look funny from some angles. They also can’t achieve a 90 degree bend due to the way the sleeves flare out. It’s close, but not quite there. At the wrist are ball-joints which is a good choice since the sleeve works to conceal the ball-hinge which can be unsightly on other figures. In the diaphragm is a ball-hinge mechanism that mostly affords tilt and twist. Twist too far though and you end up with some ugly gapping. The hinge allows the upper body to lift up and crunch forward, but the shirt doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. A lot of rubbing occurs and I worry about smudging if utilized too much. Below that is another ball-peg at the waist allowing him to rotate and tilt. At the hips he can kick forward about 90 degrees and spread his legs out to the side almost into a split. He kicks back a little bit and the double-hinged knees basically give him 90 at the knee. There are thigh swivels and the feet are on ball-pegs. They’re not great, but the cuffs at the end of the pants were going to limit him anyway. There is a toe hinge as well.
Jackie-Chun should be able to get into the poses he needs to be able to get into. Martial arts posing and energy blasting all are achievable. Helping him to do all of that are the loads of extra parts Bandai tossed in. Probably as a make-up for him containing a ton of parts reuse, Bandai made sure to give him an array of hands and facial expressions. He has the one head, but three separate faces. And like Master Roshi, you can swap the mouth and beard piece between the faces to mix and match expressions. You basically get angry eyes, serious eyes, and excited eyes to go along with a closed mouth, an angry yell, and a surprising, or singing, open mouth. That last one pairs with a microphone stick, as is the case with many Dragon Ball characters, there’s a serious side and a playful side to Jackie which this figure seeks to capture. As far as hands go, he comes with two crane pose hands which are unique as the peg basically goes into the underside of them to achieve the proper the shape. He also has two Kamehameha hands which are essentially the opposite as they peg into what I would call the top of the hands. He also has a set of peace sign hands, some chop hands, fists, martial arts pose hands, splayed open hands, and one gripping, right, hand for the microphone. Unique to Jackie are also swappable forearms. These are present so that he can roll up his sleeves. The arms separate below the elbow and the new ones just peg in. They don’t appear to be designated as left or right so either side works. They allow for more freedom with the hand articulation since this eliminates the cuffs from play, though another point of the figure that can come apart means there will be times you pull the arm off when you don’t intend to. A minor annoyance for an interesting feature. Lastly, there’s a 3 star Dragon Ball. This one has a pearl finish to it as I believe Bandai has already released seven standard balls so this new finish is being applied to the line going forward.
Posing and utilizing these parts is all pretty painless. The hands pop on and off with minimal fuss, though the left arm of mine features a loose forearm connection so often the whole thing comes off when I’m just trying to swap the hand. The extra forearm doesn’t seem to peg in snug either so it becomes a balancing act posing him with the sleeves up. Unlike with Master Roshi, I don’t feel like we’re missing any expressions as far as the hands go, though a “drunken master” face would have been excellent. What’s really missing though is an energy effect. A charging one would have been nice, or just a Kamehameha attack since this guy is the master of that technique. I am guessing Bandai wants to do a Kamehameha Master Roshi that’s all bulked up and that’s why we don’t have that here. At least this time we have the hands.
Jackie Chun looks pretty good opposite the kid figures when placed on the World Martial Arts Tournament set. He is, more or less, in scale with them. It’s not perfect, but that’s more of a critique of the kid characters which were sized-up for the figure release. Bandai seemed to prioritize scaling Master Roshi, and Jackie Chun as a result, with Kid Goku and Krillin so he looks kind of silly next to Bulma, who is just way too small. King Piccolo towers over him well enough, though that figure should probably be bigger than he actually is. Scale is a limitation of this line in general and Bandai just seems to approximate it as opposed to trying to make it totally accurate.
Adding Jackie Chun to my collection allows for me to pose him opposite Goku or Krillin, leaving Master Roshi to be more of a goof off to the side. I like that Jackie has the singing face and microphone for when I don’t want him on the battlefield, or I could just let him be the stern, wise, old, master watching silently. I liked the Master Roshi figure so it stands to reason I like this one. Is he essential for a Dragon Ball collection? Probably not, but it’s not as-if the character isn’t memorable. I hope Bandai continues to release more dedicated Dragon Ball figures so my display can continue to grow. They have Lunch/Launch coming this summer, but nothing has been announced beyond her. There’s still Pilaf and his gang, end of Dragon Ball Goku and Chi-Chi, Tien, and plenty more. I’d be interested in basically all of them, so hopefully Bandai comes through. Right now though, I have a fun little collection that’s pretty nice to have all on its own.
One of the main draws for me in getting the NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles diorama was that it was going to open up some more space for me. The diorama allowed me to move my TMNT collection from a shelf to a new place since now my display had a vertical component. This was necessary since that prior shelf featured my TMNT collection basically jammed together with my Bandai SH Figuarts Dragon Ball collection. I know some people out there like mixing their collections, but I am not some people. I prefer to keep my intellectual property separate and only display different IPs beside each other when I just have no other alternative or my collection in a certain IP is relatively small (which is why D&D’s Drizzt is standing next to Batman on a shelf).
It was several months ago that I grabbed a Bandai Dragon Stars World Martial Arts Tournament play set from a sale at GameStop. It was so long ago, that it was in the same order as the Capsule Corp motorcycle I reviewed. I had been eyeing this particular play set for a couple of months because it looked like something that would work well as a backdrop for my modest Dragon Ball collection. Normally, this isn’t the type of thing I buy since this is really more of a true toy intended for kids as they act out battles from the show and take advantage of the built-in play features the set comes with. However, I liked how it looked and when the price came down to a point that made sense to me, I jumped on it.
If you’re not into Dragon Ball collecting, basically what you need to know is Bandai has two, distinct, main, figure lines: SH Figuarts and Dragon Stars. SH Figuarts is the collector line and figures range from around $50 to over $100. Dragon Stars is the more general audience line aimed at kids and casual fans. That doesn’t mean collectors don’t or can’t collect the line, it’s just a line not specifically courting that market. The Dragon Stars figures are usually around $25, so not exactly cheap, but a far cry from the SHF product. Bandai is also able to pump them out quicker and the character roster is quite robust at this point. It started as a line focused on the latest iteration of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Super, but it also includes most, if not all, of the main characters from Dragon Ball Z at this point. And it’s that line that this play set is from.
Now, even though this is a Dragon Stars release, I would say the play set is not exactly to scale with that figure line. It would have to be positively massive to properly scale with any line, but I don’t know that it would appeal to collectors looking to pit Goku vs Piccolo or whatever. I only have one Dragon Star figure, Future Trunks, and he looks a bit silly standing on it. However, I grabbed this for my Dragon Ball display specifically eyeing it for Kid Goku and Krillin. It’s still not perfect, but as a backdrop and platform to draw attention it gets the job done. The set itself measures about 12 1/2 inches tall and 11 1/2 inches deep. The platform is about 15 1/4″ wide, and the backdrop extends about a half inch off either side. It’s not small, but not as big as it should be. How small is too small will be a bit subjective, but for what I want to do with it I think it works fine.
The set is essentially three parts: the ring surface, the rear wall, and the rear building. There’s a small gap between the rear wall and building, but not big enough to do much of anything with. If you had some paper cut outs of characters I suppose you could try slipping them in as spectators, but you’re not going to fit any figures in there. The main attraction of the set is its play features. Just as the ring and building tended to get beat up over the course of a tournament, so too can your set. The wall comes apart, mostly on its right side (the left side if you’re standing in front of it) to simulate damage as if something was thrown into it or a wayward energy blast smashed into it. The marquee is removable so you can display it ajar in a dilapidated state and a center panel in the ring can be lifted out. In its place you have a crater formation to swap-in which is pretty fun. These are all features I’m not going to get much use out of, but it’s cool to have should I want to change-up my display at all and that gap between the wall and backdrop can at least accommodate the wall fragments. There’s sadly no real way to store the optional crater though. I thought maybe I could get away with storing it underneath the platform, since it’s hollow, but there’s just enough stuff on the underside to make that problematic. I suppose the flat panel is easily stored though.
The set itself is just largely comprised of molded plastic. There’s some nice detail on the various ugly heads that adorn the structure, but no added paint effects to bring them out. A confident collector would take this and probably dry brush it to bring out some of that detail, but I am not confident in my abilities in that regard. In terms of accessories, there isn’t much to speak of. There’s just the bits of wall, the marquee or sign that goes over the entry way, and another sign that you can position wherever to go along with the crater piece. It would have been nice if Bandai tossed in an exclusive figure like the ring announcer, who likely would never see a retail release as a stand-alone figure, but not having one at least keeps the cost down. The only letdown for me is the tine, or point, alongside the entryway on my set is warped and bent. It’s made of a flexible material, maybe as a safety measure since it’s pointy, and I was able to fix it with some hot water.
In short, this set does what I need it to do. I think it looks great as a little battleground for Kid Goku and Krillin. Should Bandai ever do a Dragon Ball Tien then that could get interesting. Would he look too silly being that he’d be a bigger character? Possibly, but maybe not enough to bother me. I passed on the Jackie Chun release, and now I’m kind of rethinking that as I think he would look okay battling Goku. Should Bandai ever get to end of Dragon Ball Goku and Piccolo Jr. then I probably would keep them off of this thing, but since Bandai doesn’t have any plans to release either of those figures I’m not going to worry about it. For now, this is a solid, eye-catching, item that adds a little prestige to my humble Dragon Ball display. Hopefully, it’s a display that will continue to grow!
My children are unknowingly a terrible influence on my spending habits. It was last summer they started watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers awakening within me a long lost desire to acquire Power Rangers toys from back in 93/94. Recently, it’s my son discovering the Netflix Voltron series. Voltron was a show I paid little attention to as a kid. It was on early in the morning on week days and that was just a terrible time for me. I was not a morning person so I slept as late as I could and moved slowly through my morning routine. There was no TV watching for me as a result, but when some of my friends started insisting I check out Voltron I did take a peek. Years later, the show would return on Cartoon Network on week day afternoons and at that point I did give it an extended look, though it wasn’t particularly good.
What was undeniably good about Voltron though were the toys. My friend had a vintage, combining, Voltron toy. It should have predated he and I by a few years so I don’t know if he got it secondhand or what, but it was undeniably cool to have five toys that combined into one, bigger, better, toy. It was my first experience with the concept as I wasn’t a Transformers kid and Power Rangers were years away. The concept was better than the reality to some degree as Voltron was rather cumbersome. He articulated rather poorly, but back then, five points of articulation were pretty standard still so he wasn’t that bad. He was just a bit bland with a sword in hand since he couldn’t hold it in a natural way, at least in a natural way for a being made up of five robot lions.
Over the years, I have resisted the temptation to go after a Voltron. When the Netflix series showed up, Voltron returned to toy stores and comic shops in classic and updated versions. The lions were available individually and I think there were deluxe versions that put everything in one box. There have also been mega expensive Soul of Chogokin versions of the character for those who really wanted to take Voltron to the next level. I resisted those calls though, and I was probably most tempted by the Lego Voltron of a few years ago because that just seemed really cool to me, though I wondered how durable a Lego Voltron would be and ultimately passed. Now, watching the show with my son, I found myself wanting a Voltron all over again, but now the options are severely limited. Those lions that once retailed for 20 bucks or so are near 100 on the secondary market as they’re no longer in production. Suddenly, the Toynami Ultimate EX Voltron is looking like a bargain at $400! I tossed around the idea of getting a Mini-Pla model kit Voltron since it was a combining Voltron, but like the Lego Voltron, I had durability concerns. Especially since that’s another figure that’s going to run close to $100 now since it’s no longer being manufactured. I was left thinking I’ve gone this long without a Voltron, so maybe it’s not something I need.
I found myself at a comic shop over the weekend and there on the shelf was a brand new Super7 Ultimates! Voltron staring me in the face. This edition of Voltron is a pure action figure, so there’s no breaking him down into five individual lions. Part of the appeal of Voltron is definitely the combing element, but there’s also the practical reality that I would never display the character in lion mode. I felt like I couldn’t pass it up, and maybe the shiny, chrome, packaging had something to do with that so I bought it and brought my little robot buddy home.
It’s important to note that this is actually the second version of Voltron Super7 has released. The first one was referred to as a deluxe release and I’m not entirely sure it was considered a true “Ultimates” release. This new one is largely the same as both present the classic interpretation of the character, but it has a different deco and a minor change to the articulation. The first release featured a matte finish aiming to approximate the cartoon aesthetic. This edition swaps the matte out for a glossy approach as this is a very shiny figure. The blue and green especially possess a pearl quality in the paint and the silver bits do a nice job of faking metal. And to emphasize this new approach, the figure comes in a shiny, chrome, box that basically has a mirror finish. This is a snazzy figure, and it’s almost a shame the packaging comes with a slipcase which hides much of the shininess.
Packaging is cool and all, but the real star is the figure inside. Voltron stands around 7″ in height and he’s one chunky boy. There’s a lot of plastic on this guy which gives him a nice, heavy, feel in the hand. He’s very similar to the Hasbro RED Transformers, only bigger. Part of my reasoning in buying this guy was just to get a sense of how Super7 is going to handle these robot characters as the company has already solicited Transformers Ultimates! and is about to do the same for Power Rangers. It’s potentially going to be a neat, unofficial, line from the company as they build out a fleet of robot figures. The glossy paint job is what stands out the most about this guy and it’s largely applied well. There are a few nicks and small amounts of paint overrun here and there, but overall it’s pretty clean. The only spot I’m not happy with is the nose of the yellow lion which is scratched. I’m tempted to fill it in with a black marker. This Voltron is at the old price point of $45, so he’s in that odd space where he’s more expensive than your average retail figure, but not quite at premium figure pricing. And for what he is, the paint job is fair as they did a very good job with the finer details like the face and the shield logo on the chest.
The sculpt, on the other hand, is done quite well. This definitely resembles a transformed Voltron so the lion “feet” are a bit stretched and rectangular as that is how they looked on TV. There’s a lot of layers to the sculpt in the chest which is nice to see and really adds depth and character to the figure. The lion head hands look great and remain one of the coolest aspects of the character design. The wings on the back of the figure are a softer plastic so there’s little chance of them breaking. And I can’t stress enough just how good this figure feels in the hand. There’s a lot of different textures to the sculpt and the heaviness is perfect.
Such a chunky and oddly designed character is going to be a challenge when it comes to articulation. Since this is a non-combining Voltron though, it’s pretty important that Super7 do a great job on that part as we’re giving up an important play feature in order to improve the sculpt and articulation. And with this figure, there’s some good, and there’s some not-so-good. For starters, the head is on a ball hinge, but the boxy nature of the upper torso means he can’t do much more than turn his head. You get a little up and down, but it’s minimal. At the shoulders, Super7 did get a little creative as they used two, big, ball-hinges to increase his range at the joint. You can slide the arm up and down a great deal and even get him to reach across his body as a result. Beyond that, you also get the usual rotation. Below the should is a biceps swivel and single hinge, followed by a “wrist” swivel and horizontal hinge. Elbows remain a disappointment with Super7 as he can’t do 90 degrees. It’s also odd they didn’t give him vertical hinges at the hand given he’s a sword wielder, they’re usually really good about getting that part right. In the torso, we have a ball hinge in the diaphragm (I guess) that lets him rotate mostly, but there’s a tiny bit of tilt and crunch. There’s a waist twist below that as well. At the legs, he can kick forward to 90 degrees and kick back a bit. Below that is a thigh swivel, which is new for this edition of Voltron, followed by a single-jointed knee hinge that does achieve a 90 degree bend. At the ankle, we have a hinge and rocker, but both are fairly limited due to the blocky nature of the feet.
It’s an okay assortment of articulation, but there definitely is stuff missing. The lack of double elbows is to be expected of Super7, they have an aversion to them for aesthetic reasons, so I’m not that broken up about it. What is borderline unforgivable though of a modern collectible is for the legs to not be able to lift out to the sides. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s unacceptable for an action figure in this price range to lack such a basic point of articulation. Even the cheap, Hasbro Megazord is able to widen its stance, and that adds a lot to the figure’s posing. It speaks to a larger issue I have with Super7 where it seems that when they run into a part of a figure that gets a little tricky they just punt on the articulation. I like their emphasis on sculpting and not marring that with too much articulation, but sometimes they get too timid. I think they could have done a ball joint here without really harming the sculpt, but they opted to do something different. At any rate, it was something I was aware of before I bought the figure and I did really consider passing largely because it’s so disappointing a feature to not have. I’m glad I was aware of it though because I would have been pretty bummed if I found out about it when I opened the thing.
Articulation is useless without some fun accessories to pose Voltron with and Super7’s Ultimates! are known for including a fair assortment of those things. For starters, Super7 included an extra pair of “hands.” It was a bit weird to see that the jaws on the lion head hands were static, but that’s probably to make the grip tighter. The open hands basically replace a jaw hinge and also allow Voltron to act out his dramatic posing following the combining animation in the show, though the feet can’t roar (and I’m fine with that). In addition to the hands, Voltron also comes with not one, but two, swords! The default option is an all chrome, vac-metal, blade that really shines. It’s a throwback to the old toy and it looks especially great when the light hits it just right. He also has a matching shield that’s just as vibrant as the blade. The only downside to vac-metal accessories is the substance can be brittle. My shield has a little chip on it which is a bummer, because otherwise it looks rather glorious. If you think the sheen is overpowering though, there’s a second sword with a pearl blue hilt and glow-in-the-dark blade. The glow-in-the-dark plastic gives the sword a laser quality in natural light, and of course in the dark it glows with a greenish hue. It’s a fun accessory, though I suspect most will opt for the vac-metal blade. As for me, I might just go with a dual-wield display because I really like both. The accessories are also easy to work with. The gripping hand-heads have soft plastic teeth so it’s easy to pop the swords and shield in and out. Swapping hands is also pretty much effortless as they pop out with ease.
The end result is a pretty good Voltron action figure. Yes, it’s not without its problems, number one being articulation, but it makes up for those shortcomings with a good sculpt and truly eye-catching paint job. The weapons are fun, and there’s just enough articulation that I can find some decent poses. And what really works in the figure’s favor is availability and affordability. Super7’s Ultimates! is famously a made-to-order affair, but retailers typically order more than they pre-sell so he should be easy to find as long as you don’t wait too long. And at $45, he’s far cheaper than basically every other Voltron on the market right now. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
It was early last September that NECA made available for pre-order a redesigned version of their Street Scene diorama tailored specifically to fit-in with the company’s growing assortment of action figures based on the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fans had been asking for this set for even longer as NECA had been featuring it in its own displays at trade shows for about a year and fans were eager for one of their own. The orders for the diorama were open for two weeks on NECA’s own webstore which meant they were all made to order. A large item such as this wasn’t attractive to a big box retailer like Target where NECA’s toon line of figures is sold exclusively in the United States. Initially, there wasn’t a release date attached to the orders, but NECA would clarify not long after that the company hoped to ship product sometime in Q1 2021. The state of shipping in the world being what it is, Q1 turned to April, to May, to now as the diorama has arrived, though not entirely as expected.
When the diorama was made available to order there was a bit of sticker shock felt by the collecting community. An item like this is always going to be fairly expensive, but fans had a decent gauge of what to expect as this was mostly a re-deco of an existing product that retails for around a hundred bucks. This set, however, was listed at $150 and included a $20 shipping charge meaning it was going to cost collectors roughly $170 to bring this baby home. The increase in price appears mostly to be attributed to the inclusion of a plastic tower on the roof of the diorama as well as some additional paper goods. It was also suggested by NECA that part of the cost increase was attributed to the packaging design which would feature new artwork and photography to distinguish it from the standard diorama sold at retail.
Well, some things apparently were changed between September and May as the diorama arrived in a plain, brown, box. It’s possible the art didn’t cost out after the orders were placed, or maybe the company scrapped the idea to either get the item to consumers faster or because it just didn’t make much sense. Packaging is nice and all, but how many mint-in-box diorama collectors are out there? There probably are some, but this is an item intended to be opened and displayed alongside the action figures from the line (or any action figures, I suppose) and it’s not really something that will necessarily be attractive to mint-in-box collectors. On the other hand, NECA said one thing, and delivered something else, so anyone angry about it has a right to be. I was always planning on tossing whatever box this came in so I’m not particularly broken up about it. And I sincerely doubt fancy packaging was expected to account for the price difference. It should also be noted, the company previously did a one-off TMNT themed diorama for the movie figures that was priced at $125 which is a better comparison. This is basically that set with more stuff. Is it 25 dollars worth of new stuff? That’s for the consumer to decide. My entirely speculative take on the whole packaging thing though is that NECA had to trim costs on the units and the packaging was the first to go. They only sold around 2,000 of these so the margins are likely small. That doesn’t excuse NECA not informing its customers of the change to the packaging. It’s basically always better to be upfront rather than surprise people with something that isn’t exactly a good surprise. At the end of the day though, a product was listed at a price and consumers were free to ignore it or toss a stack of bills at NECA. I, obviously, enjoy throwing money at NECA.
This diorama has been something I’ve really been looking forward to. That’s not because it’s particularly impressive or amazing. It’s just a fancy stand. I was looking forward to it though because my current display needs more room. I have been finagling a display out of my collection on a shelf behind a bar. I had to clear out a bunch of drinkware and liquor bottles to make room for the initial release of 8 figures, which has only grown over the months since the line was launched at retail. I had a hard time sliding the Rat King and Vernon set into it, and the recently released sets were non-starters. I needed to find a new spot for my display, and this set was my excuse to do some re-arranging.
The actual diorama is fairly basic. It’s a bunch of plastic panels that snap together to form a stand and backdrop for your action figure display. It’s a three-level display once completed: street, balcony, roof. It’s colored and styled to evoke images of the classic 1980s cartoon series with an almost cream colored brick pattern and a cardboard backdrop featuring the iconic Channel 6 building. The included tower is intended to go on the roof and it was featured in an episode of the cartoon and is the unique item expected to get the most attention. There’s also a manhole cover, fire hydrant, and numerous paper goods dotted with familiar faces and references for anyone who grew up watching the show. It’s also not just a façade as there is room behind the windows to place figures and objects so that you can have a villain lurking in the shadows or maybe place a cowardly camera man to shoot the violence on the streets.
The controversial brown box comes in a an outer shipping box. It’s about 27″x14″x6″ so it’s a pretty sizable package. The diorama is designed to be assembled starting from the ground up. The walls basically tab into each other, but forcibly so they’re not going to fall apart. Each front-facing wall features removable components as this is a modular set. There are two blank walls, five windows, and one shutter and you’re free to arrange those however you want. The shutter is non-functional, but the windows are open and there are included window panes that snap into place. The window panes are fingerprint magnets though as well as dust and hair or pet dander and installing them means you can’t have figures reaching out or into the windows, so I didn’t use them. There are also several holes that bricks can peg into. NECA did it this way so you could peg additional accessories basically anywhere.
I didn’t run into any construction issues until I reached the top. Getting the top level to slide into the roof of the bottom was rather cumbersome and it seems to want to bow out. I was able to get it to a place I was happy with, but the following step was far more annoying. NECA included six support pieces intended to snap under the roof. I don’t see how these add a ton of support, but it didn’t matter since I could not get the pieces to actually fit the peg holes. I wrestled with it for far too long before just ditching them and it seems fine. The rear of the unit also is designed to have the backdrop peg in. You line it up and NECA included some push pins that are meant to hold it on, but all it did was fall for me. And I definitely should have done this on a large surface or floor, and not the shelf, because my backdrop fell and the corner dented which left me momentarily irate. I ditched the pegs and am just relying on good old gravity for the backdrop as my diorama is against a wall so it doesn’t really need to peg in.
Once the diorama is together there are quite a few accessories that can be added to the display. NECA included a pizza billboard that pegs into either side of the unit and looks pretty cool. There’s a second billboard that is modular in that NECA provided multiple cardboard art pieces so yo can customize your look (I went with Slash for Cash for now), most of which feature a pizza advertisement. There are little lamps that can plug into it too and NECA included a stand so you can either position it on the roof or it can tab into the side of the building. There’s an air conditioner that can peg into virtually anywhere you want it and a bunch of paper goods. There are three wanted posters and four Ace Duck themed posters. The wanted posters should look familiar to anyone who got the cartoon themed Loot Crate as stickers of them were featured there. These ones are a little larger and they feature Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and Scrag who were all featured in the actual show. I stuck all of them on with some blue sticky tack and they hold fine. I do wish there was a bit more variety though as I don’t think we need four Ace Duck posters. The last two accessories are a fire hydrant and manhole cover. They don’t tab into anything and are just meant to be placed wherever you wish. The manhole cover is a little weird since the street-level portion looks like a sidewalk, but whatever. It also doubles as something a figure could wield so that’s cool.
The main attraction is the large antenna tower that sits on the roof. It’s made of plastic and painted in a two-tone black and gray and looks sharp. There are two pieces that tab into it in the form of an extended antenna on top and a satellite dish that can go on any side. Unfortunately, my dish arrived broken as the center antenna was snapped off. I don’t know why they didn’t make it two pieces that snapped together to prevent damage in shipping, but it is what it is. I know a few other people had the same problem and I reached out to NECA’s customer service about a replacement and received a response that was essentially “we’ll see what we can do.” I don’t really expect anything as this was made to order and I don’t know if they had the foresight to make extras for such an issue. With past made-to-order sets, like Tokka and Rahzar, customers have basically been shit out of luck when running into problems.
The finished diorama accomplishes two goals: it looks great and it provides a lot of room for toys. The unit itself is pretty large measuring around 19″ tall, 13″ deep, and 25″ wide. Factoring in the backdrop brings it to around 27″ tall so you need a fairly large area to display this thing properly. I was able to incorporate every figure I have in the toon line, though the posing had to be kept a bit vanilla to fit them all on. I also positioned the triceratons on either side of the unit and Metalhead, Casey, April, and Vernon are inside the unit. The bottom piece does result in a lot of wasted space as the building has a ton of room inside it. It’s at least a good spot to store extra hands, weapons, heads, and so on and keep them out of sight. It would have been cool if NECA found a way to better utilize that space, maybe with a panel that looks like a smashed wall so you could make it look like a figure is busting out or something. I can see some people adding lighting to make the figures placed behind a window stand out better, though it’s not something I plan to do.
The NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Street Scene Diorama largely accomplishes its goal. It’s not without some minor disappointment with the packaging and a broken accessory. I was at least able to glue my piece together so even if NECA doesn’t come through with a replacement (and I will update this entry if they do) I can at least display it and likely only I’ll notice that it’s been glued. I’m actually far more bothered by the damaged corner of the backdrop as that sticks out more to me. The only other real negative is my diorama is basically full! Whatever figure comes next is going to be a challenge to incorporate into the display, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have. I’m sure there will be those who wish they could buy a second, or even third, especially since the non-licensed version doesn’t really fit the look. NECA might one day put this set up for order again, or maybe they’ll re-color the standard version to match the color of this one, just without the accessories. Unfortunately, if you didn’t grab this last year it’s to the secondary market you must go where $150 probably seems pretty cheap now.
When it comes to classic cartoons, few would argue against the merits of Warner Bros Studios’ Looney Tunes. Pretty much all of the major studios were invested in cartoon shorts in the 1930s into the 1960s and Warner was a gold mine for hilarious content. The Leon Schlesinger produced Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes churned out characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig like a well-oiled machine. Visionaries such as Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, and many more helped shape these characters and define cartoon comedy for generations. Everything that followed in animated comedy owes something to the Looney Tunes and the influence of those shorts cannot be overstated.
Despite their popularity, the characters of Looney Tunes have teetered on the brink of obscurity for years now. In the 80s and 90s, it was easy to find these characters and shorts on many networks in various packages. I would watch Nickelodeon’s Looney Tunes almost every night when I was a little kid as it was the last piece of programming on the network before Nick at Nite kicked in. And I loved pretty much all of the characters featured, yes, even Bosko, though I was always partial to the Road Runner shorts. The characters remained in the public eye through other shows and a fairly popular apparel line with the franchise probably peaking with 1996’s Space Jam, a bad movie with some decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but one that is definitely a source for millennial nostalgia. Following that, there was a bit of a decline. Networks like Nick and Cartoon Network invested more of their resources into original programming and stopped licensing the shorts from Warner, while that company also sank money into new properties and kind of left Bugs and his pals behind. There was a movie in 2003 titled Looney Tunes: Back in Action and attempts to create new cartoons and rehabilitate old ones, but nothing really made much of an impact or had much staying power.
Now, the Looney Tunes are primed for a resurgence. New shorts are airing as part of HBO Maxx and they at least look good. I have yet to watch any since I’m not a subscriber, and I think that has hurt the property’s growth as I really don’t encounter much chatter online about these new shorts. There’s a new Space Jam film starring LeBron James set for release this year, and that could certainly help catapult these characters into the public conscious as nostalgia seekers who enjoyed the original movie as kids might use it as a vehicle to introduce their own children to these characters.
Perhaps we owe the new Space Jam for the Looney Tunes merchandise that is on the way. We certainly do for the line of Space Jam themed action figures now popping up at retail, but perhaps we also owe Space Jam a thanks for this new line of Minifigures from Lego featuring the Looney Tunes. There definitely is a shortage of Looney Tunes toys in the market. Before 2021, there wasn’t much to speak of at all in both the kid demographic and the collector market. With Disney now getting love from the likes of Super7 and Beast Kingdom, it would be nice to see the Looney Tunes experience the same. For now, we’ll have to take what Lego is providing and be happy that at least someone is making Looney Tunes toys in 2021.
The wave of 12 figures features some heavy hitters, and some not-so-heavy hitters. As far as I know, this wave of figures is the only Looney Tunes product Lego has unveiled, so if you were hoping they arrived with an actual set you may be disappointed. That could partly be due to the fact that there are no obvious locales to spotlight in a set. Bugs Bunny lives in a hole and many cartoons just take place in a forest. The Tweety cartoons take place in a generic house, while Porky is a bit more of an everyman who can be featured everywhere. Maybe Lego will get creative and do something like Duck Amuck! as a set, or the abstract Wacky Land. There are possibilities, for sure, just nothing obvious. Well, aside from Space Jam sets which may or may not be coming.
Like other waves of Minifigures, these all come in blind bags and are sold pretty much anywhere Lego is sold. They’re 5 dollars a bag and you can take a chance and just grab some off the rack or spend some time feeling them out. This set is not particularly hard to discern for those determined not to get doubles as, like the Disney and Simpsons waves, these characters feature unique head-sculpts which goes a long way in determining who is who. The only characters who really have a similar head-shape are Tweety and Porky, but both feature additional pieces that are a dead give-away like Tweety’s circular bricks for building his mallet and Porky’s rectangular sign. Overall, this is a small release though as the last Disney wave contained 18 figures to just 12 here. Some of that 18 may have been due to parts reuse (Huey, Dewey, and Louie were essentially the same figure 3 times), but I was still surprised at how small this wave was. Especially considering the characters left out, but maybe that’s a good sign that Lego is planning more? Or maybe Lego deemed some of the remaining characters too risqué for the company’s liking. Oh well, at least it’s easier on the wallet this way.
We’ll go in the order Lego displays the figures in on the included checklist, so first up is Lola Bunny. Lola was created for the original Space Jam and she is likely present in this line because of the new movie and because there are so few female characters from Looney Tunes to represent. This version of Lola sports a yellow tank top and purple shorts which really draws attention to the fact that she’s basically just adult Babs from Tiny Toons. She has a scrunchie in her ears which makes them look like a ponytail and it’s those ears you want to be on the look-out for when searching for this character. She also has a basketball, but it’s just an orange sphere with no printing with a hole on one end so that she can actually hold it. She looks fine, though I find it a little odd her mouth is basically just printed and not sculpted at all. I don’t know if anyone collecting this line really wanted Lola, but she turned out all right at least.
Next up is the iconic Bugs Bunny. He has his own unique head sculpt from Lola, though he does feature the same printed on mouth as her. His ears are the dead give-away when looking for him and he comes with a carrot, because he’s Bugs Bunny. This is the standard, licensing art, Bugs most are familiar with. He has white hands and the fur around his mouth is tufted as opposed to smooth. His tail, to my surprise, is just printed on his back. I was expecting a separate piece that went in-between his legs and torso. He looks pretty great though and is basically what one would expect of a Bugs Bunny Lego.
Wile E. Coyote is next up. Since I did so love the Road Runner cartoons when I was a kid I was really looking forward to getting that duo. Wile E. looks terrific. His head features probably the best sculpting in this wave as he has the tall ears, the snout that sticks way out with a slight droop, and the cheeks that puff out. There’s even a little sculpting on his eyebrows. He features a tail add-on that’s a bit odd. It’s a long, bushy, tail that looks like it belongs to a fox or raccoon. In the shorts, Wile E. always featured a rather diminutive tail, but Lego likely recycled this from a past figure. I do prefer it to a printed tail, at least. You can position it in either an up position or a down one. His accessory is an anvil that has to be assembled. It’s a bit odd looking for an anvil, but it gets the job done. Mostly, I just love how the face turned out so I’m happy.
Next up is Road Runner himself. This figure could have turned out really bizarre, but I’m happy to say he actually looks pretty good. The character is basically all legs with a small, but long, body. He’s essentially the opposite of a blocky Lego, but with a little effort they got him looking great. His head features the expression one would expect and it also has separate plumage that pegs into the top. At the waist is a tail piece that was possibly created just for this figure, while the arms are wings likely recycled from last year’s Big Bird. The legs are a bit plain as Lego declined to give him bird feet, but the overall aesthetic works well enough. His accessory is a bowl of bird seed, perfect for the coyote to lay down as a trap that will inevitably backfire in some way.
Tweety is our next figure and he’s a bit of an odd choice. He’s certainly popular enough to be featured in this inaugural wave, he’s just way out of scale with everyone else. Lego used their child legs for Tweety, which are non-articulated, to make him as small as possible, but he still looks pretty ridiculous next to any of the other characters. He might have made more sense as a small, non-articulated, figurine. His paint scheme is simple, so Lego could probably make him look fine. They took that approach with the Simpson pets. They didn’t though, and even though he’s out of scale, he at least looks okay. The head-sculpt is nice and he comes with a big mallet to smash Sylvester with that at least helps to make him look a little smaller. He’s still odd though because the cartoon character is almost all head with a tiny body and huge feet. He also has a printed tail like Bugs and Lola. Definitely not my favorite of the line, but not a total swing and a miss.
If you have Tweety, well then you need Sylvester too. Sylvester might be the most authentic looking of the line. His proportions look pretty good even adapted for this blocky Lego style, and Lego opted to give him a nice tail too. His head-sculpt looks terrific and his included accessory is the always useful baseball bat. Maybe he would have looked better with a frown, but otherwise I have no complaints. His likeness is almost so spot on that it makes him boring.
The always jealous Daffy Duck is another obvious inclusion in this wave of figures. Daffy is based on his later appearances which align with the licensing art for the character as opposed to his rounder, wackier, version. I love his head-sculpt and Lego made sure to attach a small, white, neck to it so he would have his trademarked ringed neck look. He also recycles the “duck butt” that Lego utilized with Donald and Daisy Duck to give him a touch more depth. His accessory is a “Rabbit Season” sign which makes about as much sense as anything for Daffy. Like Sylvester, one could argue it would have been more appropriate to give him an angry expression, but I like what we have here and as someone who loves Daffy Duck I am quite pleased.
Speedy Gonzales is next up, and like Tweety, he suffers from the same scale problems. Unlike Tweety, he doesn’t really make up for it with a nice head-sculpt. Speedy is one of those characters that was rarely shown head-on, and his head just doesn’t translate well to 3D. At least not at this size. His sombrero is molded to his head while Lego tossed in a mouse tail accessory. It’s a bit weird because it’s molded in the same color as his fur so he has a strip of fur between his shorts and shirt. If he was a character with an exposed belly all of the time this would be fine, but he really isn’t such a character. He uses the kid legs again, which is unfortunate because he can’t even be placed in a running pose as a result. His accessories are four cheese wedges, which is fine, though maybe a can-opener to torment Daffy would have been more fun. I think overall, he looks better than the sum of his parts when placed among the others, but he is one of the lesser figures in the wave. He also seems to be short-packed as he was the hardest for me to find when he really should be one of the easiest when feeling out bags because of his unique head shape.
The Tasmanian Devil is next up and he’s an interesting figure. First of all, he uses these short, stubby, legs like Tweety and Speedy, but his are actually articulated. Why doesn’t Lego just do this for all of their shorter characters? His head is rather massive and fits over much of his torso reminding me of a theme park mascot. It looks great though and helps to preserve the character’s stocky physique. Lego also included a whirling disc for him to stand on, in addition to the usual black stand. It doesn’t really work well as something to spin, but it’s a nice touch. He also has a turkey leg and a pie, since he sure did like to eat in the old shorts. He also features the same tail as Wile E. Coyote, and like that character, I question its suitability here. The Tasmanian Devil always had a stubby tail and I think over the years it’s a tail he’s mostly lost as the character’s design has been tweaked. I suppose if I really am bothered by it I could just remove it.
Marvin the Martian is our most conventional figure in this bunch. That’s because his head is just the usual small, round, peg done-up in black with two large eyes printed on it. For his helmet, Lego actually made it and the brush (?) on top of it all one piece rather than have it peg in. He also has a skirt piece, the only soft goods in the wave, and his little, green, blaster. He looks the part, though I wish they could have given his sneakers a bit more love, but Lego seems to prefer the square aesthetic of the feet. He looks good though and I quite like his little gun.
Petunia is the character in the line many might struggle to remember. She wasn’t featured a lot in the Porky shorts, and may be best-remembered as being one of the included toys in the McDonald’s Super Looney Tunes Happy Meals where she was Wonder Woman. Prior to Lola, Petunia got extra work since she was one of the few female characters featured in Looney Tunes, and she’s probably included here for that reason. Her head is actually different from Porky’s as her braids are part of the sculpt so this isn’t a case where she’s included to save money. I don’t really know if the outfit she’s wearing is what she featured in the old shorts the most. My guess is this is just the licensing art being used as a reference. She comes with a tea kettle and two tea cups so I guess her character is one that enjoys tea? She’s definitely not a character I would have requested so I find it hard to get excited over her figure. It’s fine though.
And rounding out the set is the always last Porky Pig. I don’t deny Porky’s popularity, but he’s never been a favorite of mine. He’s got his licensing art attire here which is what he often sported at the end of shorts: a blue jacket, red bowtie, and white gloves. He looks like Porky though and his accessory is the obvious “That’s all Folks!” sign that most definitely belongs in a Looney Tunes display.
Overall, I do quite like this line of Minifigures from Lego. While I prefer some characters to others, the only one that feels like a “dud” to me is Speedy, and even he’s really not that bad. I actually like him more than Lola and Petunia, but objectively speaking his likeness isn’t as good as theirs. Really, the biggest negative I can come up with is the character selection, and that could have been addressed easily by making the wave 15 or 18 figures instead of 12. My hope is that Lego is just holding back some popular characters for a second wave as Looney Tunes doesn’t feature a cast as deep as Disney, or even The Simpsons. It’s still hard to get over the fact that we have a Bugs though, without an Elmer! He’s definitely the biggest omission. Some may feel the need to point that Lego may not be too keen on giving us an Elmer with a shotgun, but he has other looks too. His more domesticated, bowler derby wearing, version doesn’t need a gun, or they could just go straight to What’s Opera, Doc? Elmer. Yosemite Sam is another one with gun concerns, but Lego has loads of pirate figures with musket-styled revolvers that would work fine for Sam.
Hopefully a wave two is in the works, because there are other characters to include like Foghorn Leghorn, Grannie, and Pepé Le Pew. There are also plenty of opportunities for variants of some of the characters present in this wave and I would not be at all surprised to see Toon Squad versions mixed-in, even if I’m not asking for them. Time will tell what Lego and the toy world has in store for the Looney Tunes, but it’s at least great to see these characters finally getting some more merch and a chance to shine.
As covered here about a month ago, The Last Ronin is a lost Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story from the late 80s/early 90s that has just now been finally realized in the pages of IDW’s ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. Conceived originally by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, The Last Ronin tells the story of the last ninja turtle and, as a bit of a callback to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, his quest for revenge. The fully realized story is not shaping up to be some sort of Kill Bill clone, but as a referendum on vengeance and its fleeting nature. The story is one I compared with the classic X-Men plot Days of Future Past as it does contain a dystopian future where hope is either lost or nearly gone and most of the characters we know and love are either dead or in a position to envy the dead.
It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that if you have any interest in the The Last Ronin then you should definitely read the first issue before even sniffing the second. I will not spoil anything in this mini review, but it would be easy to be spoiled even with just glancing at this book or by reading other reviews as I’m sure many are only concerned with spoiling the contents of this book, and not the preceding one.
And the main thing that can be spoiled is what was revealed on the final page of issue #1: the identity of the last turtle. In that first issue, we saw our hero infiltrate New York and have a tough go of it. Along the way we realized he’s possibly just clinging to sanity as he constantly talks with the spirits of his dead brothers. In this issue, he’ll even argue with them and debate strategy going forward. He is aware that this behavior may be off-putting to others, as he tries to hide it from his allies. And who might those allies be? Well, that’s kind of a spoiler too, but let’s just say some are familiar, and some are not.
The main purpose for this book is to advance the story of our hero ahead just a little, while also fleshing out what brought him here. In what is likely to be a theme going forward, this issue primarily tells the story of the death of one of the ninja turtles via flashback. In doing so, we learn the catalyst for what created this current reality while also seeing what the hero has been doing ever since. As someone who grew up watching the cartoon and movies, seeing the death of one of my childhood heroes is definitely upsetting. It’s not gratuitous, but it is visceral. When I was a kid, I so much as never even saw the turtles bleed and thus I never could comprehend them befalling a gruesome injury or death. I’ve been exposed to the more violent side of the Mirage books since, but it’s still quite a thing to bare witness to.
As I said before, the main plot for the last turtle does not advance much in this book. The time spent with him is more quiet. It’s a time to reflect, recuperate, and ultimately regroup. I’m curious how the next book balances the flashbacks with the current period arc. The flashback is so full that nothing feels like padding. Even though the story doesn’t advance much, I don’t get a sense that the writers and artists are stalling because they want this to hit a specific amount of issues. It’s just a story that has taken 30 years to tell so it’s not going to rush anything.
As was the case with issue #1, the artwork in this book is fantastic. The Escorza brothers are on top of their game and the fight scenes are drawn really well. They don’t hold back, but they also do not do a disservice to the quiet scenes or the more distressing scenes. Kevin Eastman breaks out his pencil to illustrate the flashback sequence of the last ronin character and his original escape from New York. It’s a fun touch to see Eastman’s rougher art juxtaposed with the super slick work of the Escorzas and it’s an appropriate part of the story for Eastman to add a personal touch. I’m curious if we’ll see more from him in issue #3.
The third issue should be arriving around the end of the month, and based on the cover, it looks like we’re going to learn the fates of a few more important characters. I think that is going to be the formula for at leas the next pair of issues before we get a big blow-off in issue #5. It’s been an interesting, if a bit uncomfortable, ride through these first two issues so I am looking forward to the next, and yet dreading it at the same time. I also appreciate though that I’ve been made to care about these characters enough over the decades that a story like this both entertains and upsets me. If you’ve ever loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you owe it to yourself to hop aboard this runaway train.
When NECA started on this journey into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon it first began with a video game. An adaptation of a video game, to be more precise. The 2016 San Diego Comic Con exclusive contained a four pack of the famous, green, pizza destroyers in a pixel deco. They were the first figures based on the turtles since the 2008 Mirage Studios figures which felt like the start of something special, then quickly came the end. Convention exclusives were the name of the game the following year when those same arcade inspired figures were re-painted in the colors from the now classic cartoon series and released as part of an 8 pack with Shredder, Krang, and some Foot Soldiers. By then, the craze had begun and collectors were paying crazy sums on the after market just to get these limited release figures. Relief finally came in 2019 when NECA was granted the license by Viacom to sell its TMNT products at retail. It’s an odd relationship, and the popularity has not really subsided one bit, but TMNT figures are definitely a lot easier to come by now than they were just a few years ago.
I was one of the lucky ones to get ahold of that 2017 convention exclusive set. I very much liked what I received, but there was no denying that the figures had begun life as something else. Now, it’s possible when NECA sculpted these turtles for release in that arcade pack they always intended on them being cartoon iterations as well, but for me, the sculpt definitely looked more game inspired than show inspired from the start. The colors and weapons and all of the extra stuff was there, but the head-sculpts just never screamed “80s cartoon” to me. Those figures have also aged and since NECA has made strides in the articulation department and as more new figures are added to the toon line the actual turtles start to look more and more average. I still like those initial figures, but I don’t get the same “ripped from the source material” impression from them as I do with Rat King, Splinter, or Casey.
It was a little over a year ago now that NECA’s director and main public face, Randy Falk, made it know that the company was planning on re-releasing the green machine as a four-pack. It was being promoted as a way to get the turtles into the hands of those who were late to the party or just plain couldn’t find the four at retail. The original plan was to have the set out for Christmas, but the shipping industry being what it is, things changed. We did get a tease though when NECA sent out some retro inspired checklists for their TMNT product designed to resemble the Playmates card-backs of old. They were just digital files, but they contained images for the four new turtles and all were sporting soft goods trench coats and cartoon-inspired face sculpts. It wasn’t long before more images were unveiled and information was passed on to collectors that these turtles would indeed feature the new head-swapping tech being unveiled in the quarter scale line. There was also some new articulation and the set would feature a whole bunch of other stuff. When I initially thought it was just going to be a four-pack with some extra stuff, I wasn’t too interested, but once I saw those images I had to have it!
The Turtles in Disguise four pack finally hit Target stores in April. Retailing for $125, the set is expensive, but not so expensive that it causes any kind of sticker shock, apparently. Sets have been flying off the shelves as quickly as they show up and the auction sites are loaded with listings of people seeking as much as $300 for a set. The initial shipment appears to be just concluded and it was a modest one that appeared to contain just 2 to 3 units and didn’t hit every Target in the country. This has set off a bit of a frenzy, but NECA has assured collectors this is just wave one of three with the third wave expected to include more units than the first two combined. NECA knows people want this set, it is the actual turtles after all, and it appears to be doing everything it can to get as many to retail as possible (which probably had something to do with the delayed release, as well).
In my area, I had zero luck tracking down a set, but then a fellow collector came to my aid on Twitter. A special shout out is reserved for Robert (@drcipherpeaks) who sent this set across the country to me and wouldn’t even accept full payment for the very expensive shipping. A great guy and a true asset to the collector community whom I hope to be able to repay in kind some day. I probably could have held out and scored a set from a later shipment or even via a Target web drop or eventual NECA pre-order, but it’s always nice to have the hunt concluded as soon as possible, so many thanks again to Robert!
Like NECA’s deluxe releases in this line, the Turtles in Disguise four pack comes in a box adorned with some delightful f.h.e. inspired artwork. It’s a window box with a flap that conceals the figures inside who are presented in their disguises and with their accessories laid bare. There’s a street theme going on with the interior artwork and there are loads of Easter eggs to find which I won’t spoil. I will say that some of the characters hinted at in this artwork have already been revealed since this was released so it’s fair to assume any other character present in this artwork is sure to follow. It’s also quite big, measuring approximately 19″x 9 1/4″x 3″ so if you’re planning on shipping any of these to some buddies you may have some trouble tracking down an appropriate box. The turtles themselves sit in a tray alongside some of their accessories with a second tray underneath securing the rest of the accessories and many hands included with this set.
Since it’s the Turtles in Disguise set, it’s probably not surprising to see that the turtles arrives already in their disguises. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are all sporting blue pants and beige trench coats and happy expressions. Freeing them from their plastic prisons is actually quite painless as they’re each held in place by a single, plastic, strap that’s easily snipped away. Once out, they stand about 5 and a 1/2″ tall, just like their predecessors, and they should feel quite familiar to anyone who has those wave 1 turtles. The soft goods are done pretty well. The coat is tailored (by Nicole Falk), though not as extravagantly as the Raphael one from the movie line, and contains pockets and a belt to fasten around the waist if you prefer a closed look. Want them to go full flasher, simply pull the strip of fabric out of the buckle and let it all hang out. The collars are very stiff as the turtles usually wore them “popped” to better conceal their appearance in the show. You can push them down though if you prefer, and if you really want them to lay flat you could always get out an iron and go to town. The pants are far more simpler and include an elastic waistband to keep them up. They come with the pants tucked under the rear and front portion of the shell, though if you wanted to you could slide them over the front too. They’re very easy to work with.
When you do take these figures out of the box for the first time you will probably want to remove the coats. Even if you intend to display these guys in disguise, removing the coat is still a good idea as you have no idea how the arms are positioned out of the box. Some of mine had the elbow turned all the way around so if I had tried to bend the arm with the coat on it wouldn’t have worked and could have possibly broke. Removing the coat is far trickier than getting the pants on and off. I recommend popping the hands off first to make it a little easier as the coat is tailored to be just big enough to get these on. The only drawback to this strategy is you may cause a wristband to pop off, which happened to my Donatello. They’re just glued on, so it’s not a difficult repair or I could just let whatever hand is in place hold it on. At any rate, I haven’t ripped a jacket yet and I’ve put these things on and taken them off a few times now. Just be patient and try not to force anything and you should be okay.
Once the disguises have been removed you’re left with four glorious, naked, turtles! Seriously, the disguises draw attention to how naked the turtles are by default. These figures though are almost identical to the previously released figures, but with at least one obvious change. And that’s the head sculpt, which I’ll get into in more detail soon, but let’s just say these sculpts are far more toon accurate than what was released before. The other visual difference rests in the finish as these figures are noticeably glossier than the others. It’s a little bit disappointing because the rest of the line has a very matte look, but it’s not as bad in person as it looks in pictures. The chest and rear of the shell are still quite matte, it’s basically just the green skin that has a shine to it.
The visual distinctions are not the only differences though as these boys do sport some new articulation. Of the stuff that’s the same, we have a double ball, or barbell, joint at the head and base of the neck. It’s much smoother this time around and the figures have good rotation, tilt, and are capable of looking up and down. At the shoulders are ball-hinges and they were consistently the tightest joints on my set. There is a biceps swivel and another swivel at the elbow with a single hinge. The wrists are on pegs with hinges. All of the figures come with gripping hands by default with Leo and Raph having vertical hinges and Mikey and Donnie horizontal. Inside the shell, there’s a lot going on. There’s a ball joint in the abdomen that affords slight crunch and a little tilt. It also allows for a waist twist and you can turn their legs all the way around if you wish. This articulation is not new, but it’s far more loose than before causing some to think this is actually new articulation, but if you really want to, you can spin the legs on those old turtles too. What is new is below the waist we have the new style of legs. These are on ball pegs and they’re far more stable than before and allow for greater range. They can split, kick forward, and kick back. There is a thigh swivel, though it’s a bit limited. Below that we have double-jointed knees and new ankle articulation. The previous turtles just had ball pegs and weren’t the greatest. Now we have hinges and rocker articulation.
These turtles are definitely better articulated than before. It’s a bit subtle, but it’s certainly noticed and appreciated by anyone who likes to open and pose their toys. These guys are all painted, including the joints, so you’ll likely have a breaking in period when first opening them. My set was mostly fine, but every turtle had tight shoulders and elbows. Mikey’s right elbow also has some orange paint slop on it that’s hidden when the arm is straight, but visible when bent. I might try to get that off with a Magic Eraser or just some careful scraping. The only turtle that needed some help was Raph. His right elbow and left shoulder were quite stuck. I submerged him in hot water for a bit and it only helped a little. I was actually able to get the right arm separated at the biceps peg and just let the elbow and forearm sit a little longer submerged in the hot water. At that point I was finally able to get it to move, and having it removed from the shoulder meant I didn’t have to worry about snapping the peg. The left shoulder was more stubborn, and perilous, as it’s hard to put pressure on the shoulder hinge without stressing the biceps, but I got it to go with only some minor terror. Aside from that, my set is pretty free of quality control issues. There’s a few paint imperfections here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary so I certainly feel fortunate in that regard. The only disappointment with the articulation is we’re still waiting for proper double-elbows. It can be done, NECA just apparently hasn’t found a way to do it that it likes.
All right, lets talk about those new heads! Each turtle has two different “skull tops:” angry eyes and wide open eyes. Each also features the last new piece of articulation at the knot in the bandanna. It’s a simple peg and hinge so you can reposition the “tails” as you wish. It’s a nice addition, and each skull piece has it unlike the quarter scale Raph who needs to swap the knot from each top, though the knot was molded in green and then painted to match each turtle. Like some of the ankle and wrist hinges we saw last year, the paint flakes off almost immediately leaving behind an eyesore. On a knot that’s always behind the figure’s head it’s at least not as big of an issue as an ankle or wrist hinge. The heads though separate below the mask and we have eight mouths which include two of each of the following shapes: neutral, smile, yell, open mouth smile. It’s a great load-out of expressions as they all work really well with each of the eyes. Take the smile and combine it with the wide open eyes and you get yourself a happy, gentle, turtle. Swap in the angry eyes and now you have a cocky smile like the turtles just pulled a fast one on Shredder. It’s a fantastic concept because it opens the door for NECA to do accessory packs down the road to give collectors either more of what’s already here or new mouths and eyes all together. Maybe they do a sewer lair set one day that includes bunk beds? They could offer closed eyes, snoring mouths, or even mask-less heads! A few people may be a little disappointed they can’t replicate the same expression across all four turtles at the same time, but I prefer what NECA did here as I want my guys to have some variety anyway. And these expressions are just so much more toon accurate than what we had before. Just take the open eyes and yell combo which results in a frightened turtle. How many act breaks did we see as kids where the turtles are making a face like that because some new danger was just introduced? When I look at that face I can hear that foreboding music that would always kick in at those moments. And unlike my quarter-scale Raph, I’ve had really no issues with the heads staying together so that’s also a huge plus.
And we don’t just have the eight turtle heads to talk about, we also have those creepy masks! Early in the show, April felt the disguise needed to be more convincing so she got the turtles these weird looking rubber masks. They look like a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Rodney Dangerfield. NECA included four of them in this set and they function as separate heads since getting a mask over those turtle heads would have resulted in something horrible. There are two each of a surprised face and a smiling face. The included hats fit on them really well, even better than they do on the turtle heads, and they’re a smart inclusion. Should NECA ever visit the idea of an accessory pack for the toon line it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few more of these with different expressions. They look great, but I do wonder how many collectors out there will actually display their set this way, unless they buy multiples. Photographers or those who just like to change their display frequently will certainly enjoy them though.
Beyond the disguises, NECA also included a ton of extra stuff. We have a total of eight extra sets of hands included in this thing. The turtles all come with gripping hands, and the extras include four sets of open palms, two sets of thumbs up hands, a set of gripping hands with a wider gap in the fingers for Raph, and a set of pointing fingers which also work well with Raph as a stylized sai grip. It’s a solid assortment, though I might have preferred to swap out two sets of the open hands for two more sets of vertical hinged gripping hands, but it’s a minor quibble. This set is also loaded with pizza as we have two full pies, one of which appears to be sardine and ice cream, and a slice that looks nice and gooey. There’s a skateboard with a nice turtle shell logo in the center, though it’s strangely missing any kind of peg to securely fasten a figure to. There’s a “The Hare and the Tortoise” book which is from the first season and it’s well painted. We also have a massive 80’s boom box which was also featured in the first season (when the turtles wear a more ridiculous disguise that will undoubtedly be immortalized in plastic by NECA eventually) that’s neatly painted. There’s a Weird Pizza hat for Mikey from his short-lived stint as a delivery driver and we’ve also got a Pigeon Pete. He’s just a little lump of plastic, like gerbil Mike and fly Shredder, but he looks cute and he’s a fun inclusion. Lastly, there’s also the weapons of the Ninja Turtles. They’re the same as the original release except that none of Mikey’s ‘chuks can separate from the chain as this set does not include the whirling effect piece. I was kind of hoping NECA would opt to include the sai that came with the Turtles in Time Raph, as I just think they look better, but it’s not a big deal. And if you’re wondering, Raph and Mikey still don’t have holsters for their weapons. You can kind of slip them under the arms, which works better for Raph than Mike, but it’s not show accurate. I wish NECA would just rip-off Bandai and include a swappable belt piece for Mikey so we could have holsters for his nunchuks when we want them.
There’s a lot in this oversized box and a lot of it is good. What’s most important though is we have some new turtles that really capture how they appeared in the vintage cartoon. There are so many different variations of those turtles between the actual show, licensing art, toys, comics, and other sources of artwork so everyone’s concept of that 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle aesthetic can vary a bit. This figure line though is based on the show so I want them to look like they came right off of my TV. These new head-sculpts capture the look of the show from Season Two through the show’s main run up until the redesign in Season 7. My preferred look will always be that original opening title turtle with the beak line and saturated colors, but this is great as a general cartoon look. Those NECA originals were fine, but the head-sculpts came from an unknown source. Maybe it was simply a case of them being video game turtles first, maybe it was a bit of homage to the Playmates expressions, or maybe it was just the best attempt at the time. All I know is this is an improvement and if you collect this line then this set is a must have, regardless of whether or not you bought the originals or not.
NECA’s Turtles in Disguise four-pack is currently exclusive to Target in the United States. I do not know if there are any international plans in the works. I have to assume this set of figures will be made available outside of the US eventually. It will either be this exact set, or maybe special two-packs or something. I think what is happening right now is that NECA knows this is a hot item and it’s prioritizing the retail release in the US because that’s where TMNT is most popular and demand is highest. The second wave of releases for this set should either be underway or soon to be so if you haven’t found one yet, keep checking. And should all three waves come and go, plus the online drop, and you find yourself still without a set of poorly disguised reptiles then worry not, as NECA indicated they will eventually do pre-orders so long as demand is there (and it will assuredly be). I get it though, if you don’t have one now and you’re after it then it can get disheartening, and even infuriating, to see others have better luck or see the many listings on auction sites. The only cure for scalpers is to not feed them so I encourage all collectors to avoid doing so, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your decision. And if you need help, turn to social media. Find collector groups, hashtags, and trends and see if you can even find some local collectors. With a line this popular, a little help goes a long way. Good luck!
During Season Two of the classic cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the world was introduced to the Punk Frogs. Despite their name, there was nothing particularly punk about these mutated amphibians as they all dressed like they were going to a Jimmy Buffett concert. They make a few return appearances in the show, and given that they’re four identical characters save for some color changes, it’s no surprise the characters made the leap to plastic. Oh, actually, only two of them did. Genghis Frog was a 1989 release in the Playmates line of toys and he, more or less, looked like the cartoon version. His skin tone was a deeper green and his shirt blue instead of purple, but he looked the part about as much as any character in the toyline did when compared with the toon version. He did come with a cool tongue gun that never appeared in the show where he instead would wield a rather ordinary axe, but that was par for the course with that line in which the toy designs were often far more imaginative than what would appear in the show. The only other frog to get the toy treatment though was Napolean Bonafrog, who looked nothing like his toon counterpart. The toy turned him into a horny toad or something similar, an odd change, but at least it was a new sculpt.
The Playmates line actually wasn’t big on repaints and parts reuse with the most notable being Slash and Tokka or the toon Shredder which was just a repaint of the original figure. NECA on the other hand? They love it! That’s not intended as a criticism of the company’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure line as the cartoon had a bunch of these style of characters. All four frogs in the show look the same. Their skin is just a different shade of green (like the Playmates turtles, which oddly all shared the same skin tone in the show) and their clothing was colored differently as well to distinguish the four. With the cost of making toys rising across the industry, figures like the frogs become even more desirable as it’s a way to get new characters to market at a smaller cost than some other two-packs in the line. And now, thanks to NECA, the Punk Frogs who never made it to plastic get a new lease on life.
Initially, I had no plans to purchase this set at retail. I had pre-ordered it through a foreign retailer at only a slight markup so I was content to wait on the frogs. Plus, I’ve been incredibly busy with work this month so I haven’t even had time to hit the stores in search of them. I was only passing through a mall location Target over the weekend to get to a jewelry store for a Mother’s Day gift and there just happened to be one Rasputin and Genghis set hanging out on the shelf. I didn’t hesitate to grab it as I know other collectors in my area are in search of these, so I knew I was going to find a happy home for these guys with no problem. Then I got home and started looking them over. Probably contributing to my interest is the fact that the last NECA two-pack I got was back in January, and eventually my curiosity got the best of me. Worry not, local collectors, for I will have an extra set available at some point this summer, and at least it gives me something to talk about here in May on this blog.
As I alluded to earlier, Genghis and Rasputin are essentially the same figure. With the turtles, NECA used the same body for all four, but gave each a unique head-sculpt. With the frogs, NECA just gave each one the same two head-sculpts to alternate. At least I think that’s what is going to happen as I’m not certain the next two-pack of frogs will feature the same two head-sculpts, but I want to say they do. The frogs stand at about 5 1/4 inches making them just a tick shorter than the original release of the turtles. Since they’re frogs, they’re designed to stand with their knees bent which will make them appear noticeably shorter than their reptilian allies. Genghis is a pale green with a purple shirt that features orange polka dots while Rasputin’s shirt is basically the inverse. Genghis has some fashionable light purple shorts while Rasputin goes with red. Both have the same sculpted necklace and bracelets and bisected paint scheme that this line is known for. Aside from the color differences, the only other physical distinction between the two is the pattern of the freckles on their snout. The paint is used liberally and you’ll probably fine some flaking when you move the joints for the first time. It’s all quite clean though, especially around the eyes, and NECA is once again utilizing soft plastic for the clothing which provides for flexibility when working the articulation. As is the norm for this line, these frogs look pulled right from the cartoon.
NECA always seems to prioritize the look of the figures in this line when it comes to articulation, and these boys are no different. Their head sits below the shoulders as they have that hunched over look in the show which really limits the articulation at the head. It’s on a double ball-joint, but the head sits so low in the chest that it basically can just rotate. At the shoulders, we have ball hinges and the elbows are single-hinged, but do swivel. The hands rotate and have a horizontal hinge. In the chest, there’s a diaphragm joint that provides plenty of twist and a little bit of forward and back, though no tilt really. There’s also a waist joint that provides a swivel. At the hips, we have the new style of joints, but they’re pretty loose on Genghis and super loose on Rasputin. Rasputin can be a challenge to stand as a result as his legs will gradually slide apart. They kick forward and out to the side, but the crotch piece keeps them from going back. The thighs swivel below the shorts and the knees are double-jointed. At the feet, we’ve got the usual hinge and rocker combo.
The frogs check most of the boxes when it comes to articulation, about the only obvious missing piece is double-jointed elbows. Even with out them, they can achieve a 90 degree bend at the elbow so it’s not a huge loss. Where they feel limited is in the shoulders and hands. The shirt would have seemed to provide cover for a butterfly joint, though that’s something NECA rarely, if ever, utilizes. It’s only worth pointing out because they just feel stiff and Rasputin is an archer who really can’t wield a bow. The other missing item is properly hinged hands. Genghis sports an axe and could really use some vertically hinged hands, but NECA declined to include them. More annoying is that the same hinge would have been more useful for Rasputin, who comes with two sets of gripping hands, neither of which features the proper hinge. The default gripping hands for these figures really should have featured the vertical hinge, which honestly should be the default for most figures, but rarely is. They all wield melee weapons, so it’s a bizarre oversight. NECA seems to always get it right when it comes to Leonardo, but rarely seems to with everyone else. And since we’re talking NECA, stuck joints seem to always be a popular conversation topic. With the frogs, the joints were definitely stiff, in particular the knees and elbows, but nothing too bad. I didn’t need heat for anything and was able to break them in without much fuss.
NECA included in the box basically everything these figures required, and some of which it did not. Each frog features three sets of hands, and since the characters sport different skin-tones, they’re not interchangeable. Genghis has gripping hands, pointing hands, and fists while Rasputin has the same gripping hands, loose gripping hands for using his bow, and a pair of peace sign hands. They also have two heads: one smiling and one that looks concerned or scared. The hands pop in and out pretty easily, but the heads are far more stubborn. Genghis has his battle axe which looks fine and features some sculpted distress marks on the axe head. Rasputin has his bow with quiver and four arrows. Three of the arrows are traditional looking while the fourth has a bomb or something at the end of it that looks like a Bullet Bill from Super Mario Bros. His bow features real string, like the same we saw in the Mirage line, and while it features a spot to knock an arrow it’s quite difficult to find a natural pose with the arrow in position. Plus the string doesn’t seem too durable so it’s probably not wise to actually use it, though if you’re wondering, it does work!
The rest of the accessories include a pair of turtle communicators and pre-mutated frogs. The Turtle-Coms are the same as what we’ve seen released with the other turtles as they’re in the open position and feature blank screens. The little frogs are non-articulated lumps of plastic and most have noticed these boys are quite thick. The final two accessories are a futuristic, laser, bear trap that I think was used by Dirk Savage in the show. You can slide a froggy foot into it or drape it over the non-mutant frogs. It looks cool and might be fun to mess around with. There’s also a disguise which fits over either head-sculpt that’s a hat with novelty glasses and is from the episode where Genghis takes a trip to New York. It’s quite fun and I like how NECA was able to engineer it to just rest on the frog heads without having to click into place. It stays on just fine too and there’s a good chance I’ll display at least one frog with it on at all times.
The Rasputin and Genghis two-pack from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line is another solid effort from the company. I feel like this is turning into the toyline of B+ releases. They’re remarkably consistent at delivering characters that look the part, but at the same time, there seems to always be something holding each release back just a touch. And often, that something is more of an oversight than anything like the missing vertical hinges on the hands. I would also consider the hips a drawback with my set too, though I don’t know if most are as loose as mine. It’s still a fun set though, despite the few shortcomings, and the base, frog, sculpt is quite charming and certainly looks the part. This set is exclusive to Target and appears to be arriving in solid quantities, about 6 per store, and given that they’re not hugely popular characters they may not be as hard to find as some of the other sets from this line. I found mine in a busy Target on a Saturday, basically a time of day I’d expect to find nothing, so maybe that’s a positive indicator for those hunting this set, or maybe I just happened to walk in 10 minutes after they were put out. There will probably be an online release through Target as well, and NECA has become quite dependable when it comes to making second runs available through its website as a pre-order. Basically, the only figures to not be placed on pre-order so far include the turtles, Casey Jones, and April as I think everything else has been. It’s likely the frogs will be offered there as well eventually, but that’s likely a long ways off from happening meaning delivery is even further away. Collectors can at least be comforted in knowing these are attainable, it just might take some longer than others to get their hands on them.