Category Archives: Television

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series

A few years ago, I talked about my love of X-Men, the animated series, via a book review of Previously…on X-Men by Eric Lewald. That book chronicled the development of the 92 animated series that helped propel the Fox Kids Network to the top of the Saturday morning leaderboards through notes from the author and extensive interviews with the folks that helped bring that series to life. Now, Lewald is back with his wife Julia with a complementary piece all about the artists and artwork that went into creating that series, X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series.

There are probably a few individuals out there who first wrinkled their nose at the thought of an art book based on the animated series starring the X-Men. That’s because the show was somewhat famously underserved by Saban Entertainment who had little interest in sinking much money into the art and animation that went into the show. It’s not that the show was abysmal to look at, it’s more that it was always going to be compared with Batman: The Animated Series. Both shows launched in 92 on Fox, though X-Men only in a sneak preview with the proper launch coming in January of 1993. Batman was on weekday afternoons, while X-Men was allowed to reign over Saturday morning. The other big difference though was Batman had the might of Warner Bros behind it which produced the series and just licensed it out to Fox. X-Men had the backing of Marvel, which wasn’t what it is today. Marvel was a bit touch and go for many years even when it was starting to take over the news stand with a lot of help from the mutants who starred in this series. Rather than self-finance though, Marvel licensed it out to Saban who partnered with Graz Entertainment. The budget was never going to be the same, nor was the confidence. X-Men was unproven outside of the comic book world, and thus received just a one season order initially, followed by a second, before eventually the big order came in.

X-Men on the front, bad guys on the rear. What does it say about me that I think I prefer this to the cover?

Despite all of that, and a legend who had no idea how the property should be presented (::cough:: Stan ::cough::), the show was a smashing success. It’s interesting to look back on because I think many consider Batman to be the superior show. And yet, X-Men was the ratings champ and my favorite of the two. And when it came to my friends, most liked Batman, all loved X-Men. I don’t know why that is, though I have some theories. Batman was a known property and the show reflected the Tim Burton films. Whenever something goes from the big screen to the small one (especially in the 90s), there’s a feeling that the TV version is inferior. The X-Men may have lacked the recognition of Batman, but it also lacked any sort of baggage. Batman was also quite great at being a moody, superhero, show with a lot of style. It was also mostly rooted in that, where as X-Men was an ensemble with more characters to lean on. Batman was almost devoid of personality as a character by choice, while basically every member of the X-Men (well, maybe not Cyclops) was rather colorful able to display a wide range of emotion and even drop a one-liner or two. Or maybe it was just the prestige of being on Saturday morning? Either way, it was a good time to be alive.

It’s an art book, so expect a lot of artwork!

Both shows were part of a gradual maturation taking place in children’s cartoons. We basically had left the wacky and cheap 80s in favor of something that actually had respect for its audience. Shows like The Pirates of Dark Water and my beloved Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars were quite different in tone from the likes of Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Most of those shows still featured a character that could be turned to for comedic relief, and even Batman has the Joker. X-Men didn’t really feature that though. Morph could have been that character, but he was killed off rather quickly. It’s a drama starring people in bright spandex that captivated me as a kid. The serialized nature and some of the nuance of the show asked something of me, and I was willing to rise to the program as a mere 7 year-old. It’s no surprise to me that when I look back on my youth, X-Men is there and always will be as it was far and away my favorite program.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the book is getting to read the descriptions that go along with each storyboard panel.

And despite what you may think, a lot of really talented and devoted artists contributed to this show. Knock the animation all you want, but I’ve always been rather insistent that the show looks pretty great in stills. Sure, pick through it and you’ll find some weird stuff or miss-colored limbs and costumes, that’s true of a lot of shows from that era. Where this book is able to shine is with the stuff not broadcast. All of the developmental art that went into the show; costume ideas, height charts, storyboards, are quite rewarding to look at. When Lewald and his team were handed this property, there were decades of material to cherry-pick for the show and a lot of ideas were cast aside. There’s also plenty of production art, like cels and such, that are quite interesting to look at. Especially some of the backgrounds, like the lair of Mr. Sinister, which featured several layers of artwork to make it right.

And it’s not just art! The books is broken out into six chapters, plus an intro and an afterword, with each containing a detailed breakdown of what went into each section. Some of this stuff is lifted from the prior book, so it will be a bit familiar for those who read it, and some of the details are new. Since this book is focused on the art of the series, you’ll hear additional nuggets about what went into a character’s look or a particular background. There’s a lot of ink spent on the various cameos that occurred throughout the series and some of the other details may surprise and amaze. One such nugget came from Director and Storyboard Artist/Supervisor Larry Houston who pointed out how difficult it was to animate a character like Mr. Sinister. His irregular cape basically forced Houston to storyboard the character with as little motion as possible. Basically, the camera was either directly in front or behind him and he was basically never allowed to rotate. It’s fun to go back and watch the series with such information in hand and it gives some newfound appreciation for all of the work Larry and his team had to do before sending an episode off to Korea for animation.

When the X-Men ruled the world!

There’s a lot to unpack in this book and I don’t want to reveal too much since a lot of the enjoyment I had was uncovering things I either didn’t know or really paid little attention to. There’s also some nice additions to this one like a collection of all of the episode logs and a picture to go along with it. Some time is spent on looking back at the X-Men craze, like the Pizza Hut promotion and the action figure line from ToyBiz, which might make you wish for a third book that covers all of that tie-in merch. The book itself is also quite lovely. It’s hardbound with new cover art from Houston, I think. There’s no explicit “Cover” credit, just a case credit to Houston with ink by Rick Hoberg and colors by Laura Martin. It’s a bit confusing as the inside of the front and back cover are storyboards which were definitely done by Houston, so the credit may be referring to that. Regardless, the cover, featuring the main team including Morph and Bishop, and the rear cover featuring the villains of the series look great. Pages are nice and thick and the whole thing totals 288 pages. Since it’s mostly artwork, it’s not a tremendously long read, but it’s hardly brief. I mostly read it while sipping a morning or afternoon coffee (first starting my read, appropriately enough, on a Saturday morning) over the course of a week. It was a wonderful, leisurely, trip back to the 90s and my youth that not only left me wanting more, but also with a desire to go back and revisit the show once again.

One of my favorite inclusions in the book is the visual episode guide with accompanying logs, a tremendous resource to have on-hand.

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series is a great companion to Previously…on X-Men. It’s a book intended to satiate fans of the show, but would also probably entertain casual fans as well. I had a great time engaging with the art from the property, and while I already had a pretty terrific appreciation of the art that went into the show, I think those who might not have that same level of appreciation will likely leave with a bit more. Eric and Julia Lewald do a great job of recounting their time with the show and the various artists and executives they speak with bring a lot to the table. It’s my assumption that anyone with a love for this old show will be delighted by this book and it’s something I plan to flip through again.


Boss Fight Studio Astral Projection Jenny

Back off, Psylocke!

Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of how good an action figure in a particular line is when it’s one of the first released. I’ve been really impressed with all of the figures in Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line, but recency bias certainly plays in a role in my favorites. And the most recent have been (in order of most recent) Bruiser, the Storm Toad Trooper, and the four-armed Dead-Eye Duck. It’s hard to top the sheer spectacle and massiveness of Bruiser, and any toy with extra arms is inherently fun, especially when it’s a pirate duck. Back in November 2017 though, I was pretty floored by First Mate Jenny and this variant I just purchased from Boss Fight Studio has quickly reminded me of that.

Just like with Stealth Mission Bucky, we get updated card art and a character bio from Neal Adams and Larry Hama, respectively.

Jenny had a long wait to reach the vast majority of Bucky O’Hare collectors. She was famously, or infamously, dropped from the vintage Hasbro line of figures back in 1991 because the company didn’t think boys wanted a girl, cat, action figure. This despite the fact that her toy was already complete and in production and despite the fact that she’s Bucky’s freakin’ first mate! She was going to see release in wave 2, but the line was cancelled and who knows how many fully-carded Jenny action figures were destroyed. Some were saved and have made it into the hands of collectors over the years, but the vast majority had to wait until Boss Fight came along and rectified the whole situation.

Astral Projection Jenny comes with the same stuff you remember from wave one, only now it’s clear and purple!

And that first figure is wonderful. I was really looking forward to both Bucky and Jenny when Boss Fight announced them, but I was more so looking forward to Bucky because he’s the star, after all. It was Jenny that basically stole the spotlight though with her clever engineering, terrific sculpt, and fun accessories. Like Stealth Mission Bucky though, I initially passed on the variant Boss Fight put out. And that variant is Astral Projection Jenny. Jenny, being part of a secret society of psychic cats, has the ability to astral project her consciousness leaving her physical body behind. She’s basically depicted as a ghost-like being when doing this who can’t be seen, nor can she interact with the physical world. It’s an interesting choice for a variant for obvious reasons, which we’ll get into. I was somewhat surprised that Boss Fight went in this direction instead of doing an “Aniverse” Jenny that matched the figure’s colors to the cartoon which is mostly a matte gray armor finish and pink hair as opposed to silver and white. I don’t know if I would have been more likely to pick that one up sooner, but it was something that surprised me.

Jenny is an 80s girl at heart so the hair has got to be big!

Astral Projection Jenny is essentially the wave one version of the character cast in translucent plastic with some mild paint variations. Her body is painted, clear, plastic which gives her an ethereal quality. The white of her fur is done with a pearl coat, while the black is largely the same as before. Actually, it appears the black portions may be mixed into the plastic to give it a smoky quality, and probably because black over clear plastic wouldn’t achieve the desired effect. The silver of her armor also has a pearl quality to it as opposed to the chrome of the original and the hot pink gems are now purple. The hair has been given a light brush of teal to impart that ghost-like quality of this form. The only other change is with the effects pieces which have had the pink swapped out in favor of purple.

Jenny has likely awakened a few furries in her time.

Aside from the change in color and choice of plastic, this version of Jenny is essentially the same figure as before. She has a lot of articulation for such a small, somewhat dainty, figure. Her massive poof of hair helps to make her the tallest, non Bruiser, figure in the line at right around 5″. She’s articulated at the neck, though her hair can limit her movement there. She has ball-joints at the shoulders with hinges and swivels at the elbow. Her hands are on pegs so there’s only swivel articulation there. She has a mid-torso swivel in place of a waist one with ball-joints at the thigh. The knee is on a single hinge with swivel articulation and she has a hinge and swivel combo at the ankle. Her tail is on a ball-joint and serves the added function of adding stability to the figure. Jenny’s frame is quite slim and her feet are tiny, so having that tail is most helpful for posing. I find she’s the most fun of all of the figures in this line to pose as a result, though that does come at a cost. At least with my original figure, I have a lot of paint-flake at the those ankle hinges where the chrome rubs off of the joint leaving behind black plastic. Boss Fight probably should have cast her feet in gray plastic to minimize this, but unfortunately didn’t have that foresight. I don’t think it will be as big of an issue with this version though since the plastic is transparent, but it’s something to look out for.

Jenny is also fun to pose because Boss Fight came up with some really fun effects pieces. For starters, her default hands are gripping hands which is odd since she doesn’t come with a gun. She also has fists and two styled hands, one that’s more open and one that looks like a heavy metal hand gesture or an “I love you” gesture. Two other hands are totally flat and surrounded with “psychic energy.” If you’re familiar with the Marvel Comics character Psylocke, these are essentially her psychic knives. They’re rather cool, though I actually prefer the other effects pieces which are these circular, star-burst, pieces that can be affixed to Jenny’s wrists before inserting one of the hands. They’re really fun and work exceptionally well with those styled hands, though fists work well too. It’s nice having two Jenny figures as now I can display one with the knives and one with the bursts.

With Wave 1 Jenny, and yo can see where the paint has flaked off on my Jenny’s ankle. It’s a minor tragedy.
Me trying to figure out an action shot of Jenny astral projecting.
Fun tip: a winking face from one side functions like an eyes-closed face!

In addition to all of that, Jenny also comes with four different faceplates, an improvement over Bucky’s three. Like with Bucky though, the range of expressions isn’t particularly diverse. Her default look is a smile and she also has an open-mouth version, a winking face, and another where the eyes are a bit narrowed with more of a wry smile. It’s a subtle difference from the default look. For most, the winking face is the clear winner since it’s very different from what the rest of the line features and certainly possesses a playful quality. I do like the more focused expression too, though I wish for this version that Boss Fight had re-painted the eyes to match the look of the card art, or just blank them out. I also wish we had a closed eyes face for the Wave 1 Jenny to make her appear to be astral projecting to work with this figure. Even making one of the face-plates that came with this figure the eyes closed one would have sufficed. That’s wishful thinking though. The important thing is I like these expressions and that it’s easy to swap from one to the other, unlike Bucky who is a bit of a pain.

Cheers!

Astral Projection Jenny is a fun spin on what was already a fantastic figure. My only gripe about the original release is the paint flaking issue, and I don’t see that being as big of an issue with this version due to the choice of plastic. Otherwise, she’s damn near perfect and getting this version was a great reminder that Jenny has a claim to the crown of best in the line. This is a hard line to pick a favorite though which is a great problem to have. If this is a figure that interests you, head on over to www.bossfightshop.com and grab one of your own. And if you want more Bucky reviews, check back soon for a review of the newest figure in the line, Bucky’s admirer and Jenny’s rival: Captain Mimi LaFloo.


Boss Fight Studio Stealth Mission Bucky O’Hare

He (quietly) goes where no ordinary rabbit would dare!

It’s been almost three years since toy maker Boss Fight Studio started shipping out it’s first figures in its Bucky O’Hare line of products. Ten figures have followed with an eleventh soon to be released and I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of the line since day one. When the product first launched, my family had recently welcomed a new addition. We were in a new house and getting acclimated to our new life. At the time, I was pretty cautious with money and I set some limits on myself, especially when it came to a hobby like toy collecting. And when it came to Bucky specifically, I told myself I’d stay away from variants. Well, my restrictions have loosened over the years and a recent sale at Boss Fight Studio has allowed me to go back and grab some of those variants I had passed on initially, variants like the third release in the Bucky O’Hare line: Stealth Mission Bucky O’Hare.

It may be “just a repaint,” but Continuity Comics contributed new card art from Neal Adams plus a new bio on the rear from Larry Hama.

This variant is basically a straight re-paint or recasting of the inaugural Bucky O’Hare figure. It’s actually the second Bucky variant I’ve purchased as I couldn’t resist the Holiday Bucky that Boss Fight Studio released alongside Dead-Eye Duck. As you could probably guess from the naming convention of the figure, this is Bucky in a stealth suit, which is the same as his standard suit only it’s black and blue with a camo deco. This isn’t a look that appeared in the animated series nor did it appear in the comics. It’s a look dreamed up by the designers at Boss Fight Studio and approved by Continuity Comics. They even supplied some new Bucky artwork for the card back which features the new look.

Gettin’ sneaky.

Bucky O’Hare stands at about 3.75″ which stretches to about 4.5″ if you include highest point of the ears. Since this a repaint it includes all of the same accessories and articulation as before. What you’re paying for is the new aesthetic, and I must say I do enjoy this black and blue look. The blue is more like a deep turquoise while the black is almost a graphite color in places. Bright green are the lenses of Bucky’s goggles which contrasts well with the deeper colors of the costume. His fur is still that light green we’re used to, only now it has streaks of black across it to break-up his image. Even his guns are black though there’s a slight blue hue to the metallic coating on them. It’s a sharp look, and even though it’s one I initially passed on that was entirely due to cost, not look.

Bucky auditioning for the role of Fall-Out Boy.

For a small figure, Bucky’s articulation is rather robust. His head sits on a ball joint that mostly rotates as opposed to being able to look up and down. The ears swivel, as does his little tail and his cape fits into a peg hole on his back with a satisfying “pop” and stays in place. The shoulder tassels and belt are separate pieces of plastic and can be moved and repositioned as desired. Which is necessary at times to free up the articulation at the shoulders, which are ball-jointed. He has single-hinged elbows with a swivel there and at the wrist where the glove meets the arm. There’s a waist swivel and ball-joints at the legs with single-hinged knees and a swivel there as well in place of a true boot-cut. The ankles are on hinges and they can rock side-to-side. There’s a toe hinge as well to top it all off.

Not much differentiates the two extra faces.
Face #1
Face #2
Face #3

Bucky’s big feet make him easy to pose and stand. To add some variety to those poses he has some swappable parts. First off, he does have two pistols which are his primary weapon and accessory. He comes packaged with trigger-finger hands on both arms so he can dual wield, if you so desire. The pegs on his belt are to store the pistols when not in use and they clip on rather easily. You can put them on the front, back, or side, though doing so adds some bulk. If you want to change-up his hands he has two additional sets. One set are fists and the other contains an open palm and a pointing hand. To swap them, just give a firm tug on the figure and off it comes. It’s a little tricky because there isn’t much to grab onto between the wrist and elbow of the figure, but I’ve never feared breakage there. Bucky also has swap-able faceplates, and unfortunately they’re the weakest aspect of the figure. The default face is a frown with a closed mouth. The other faces both feature an open mouth and one has what I would call a relaxed frown and the other a deep frown. It’s the type of thing where the difference between the two isn’t obvious right away. I’ve also always had a hard time getting the optional faces to sit flush on the figure. It can be done, it just requires more effort than it’s worth, in my opinion.

The comparison shot you’ve been waiting for!

There’s not much more to say than that. This is a re-paint of what I already considered a great figure to begin with. I love Bucky O’Hare and I love the design of the character and Boss Fight Studio really nailed the likeness. I wish the optional faces worked better than they do, but I also like the default face that’s there and so it doesn’t bother me that I can’t go with something else, especially since there’s not much difference between the three. Even though I had passed on this figure for more than two years at this point, I still always wanted it and figured I would get it at some point. My plan was to actually buy it in-person with my Aniverse Storm Toad Trooper earlier this year at Boss Fight’s retail location, but COVID messed that up and since they have no plans to reopen I just figured I’d go the online route. He’s a fun figure and I hope there’s more to come. If you would like to secure one of your own, head on over to www.bossfightshop.com to find it and other figures in the series.


NECA TMNT Cartoon Traag and Granitor

Reinforcements from Dimension X have arrived!

After I posted my review of NECA’s take on Metalhead from the classic cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I thought I’d have a little break based on the upcoming release schedule for the line. Turns out, that break ended up being almost exactly one month as while I was out toy-hunting for my kids I happened upon the latest two-pack from NECA: Traag and Granitor!

And when I say it was a chance encounter, I mean it. This set started rolling out maybe a week or two ago in parts of the country. Like all of the NECA product based on the old TMNT cartoon, this set is exclusive to Target and a pain to find. The sets usually start showing up in California first and then gradually make their way east. As a denizen of the north east, I’m used to waiting a bit for them to show up in my area. Though in the case of Wave 3, I never saw a damn thing and had to purchase product from Canadian retailers that were willing to ship to the US. Well, either NECA or NECA’s vendor squashed that going forward so I was back to the old-fashioned way, since these guys have yet to appear on Target’s website (despite indications from NECA it was supposed to happen last Friday).

My kids love the show Bluey and a set for that toyline was supposed to release on the 4th. I went out looking for it locally, but while on my way my wife texted me to say she just scored a set online at Walmart. Since I was already out early on a Sunday, I decided to take a drive. While browsing Target’s app I had been keeping an eye on this set since it was supposed to go up any day now. I noticed when I looked at the stores in my area, there was actually one store across the border in New Hampshire that listed the item as in stock. I couldn’t do store pick-up though, and I have found it’s hard to get anyone at Target to answer the phone before 9, so I made the half hour drive to the store. Sure enough, the little inventory machines they have in some aisles indicated there were two sets in stock, but they weren’t on the shelf. I asked a clerk in electronics and he didn’t think they had anything since they never show on the app, but that he’d check in the back. Lo and behold, they did indeed have a set! It seems the store did its monthly inventory the night before, and someone actually scanned the sets into the inventory. This is unusual as a NECA rep is the one that stocks the section, not a Target employee, but in this case it worked out for me. It was especially surprising as I had yet to see anyone in the region on social media or even eBay list a set so this store may be one of the first in all of New England, maybe even including the tri-state area, to receive stock. Needless to say, after feeling rather snake-bitten with the last wave, I’m feeling quite fortunate today.

And it was a great set to get lucky with because Traag and Granitor are practically all new. Traag did receive a figure in the vintage Playmates line, but he looked nothing like his cartoon counterpart while Granitor never received a figure. And this was despite the two appearing in the first mini series as they debuted in episode four “Hot-Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X” when they crossed over into the dimension of the Turtles in pursuit of those pesky Neutrinos. And being made of stone means these guys are pretty unique looking to begin with so there’s little opportunity to reuse parts from already released figures. They’re big, dense, and chunky. I want to say beefy, but that doesn’t seem appropriate for beings made out of stone. And to top it all off, these guys have been a long time coming as NECA unveiled them years ago as part of the video game line, since both appeared as bosses in the original arcade game, but soon moth-balled them for the release we now have.

Traag and Granitor come in the standard window box format you should all be familiar with at this point. You get a nice look at the figures from the front with some licensing art beneath. The backdrop for the two has actually been changed from the sewer one we’re accustomed to and replaced with the Technodrome in Dimension X, which is very appropriate. The side and rear panels feature product shots of the figures in action while the rear also includes the series bio (sadly, not character specific) along with promotional shots of two of the sets to come as well as the previously released Metalhead. Since these boys are on the larger side, this is the oversized box previously used for Bebop and Rocksteady so if you’re a mint-in-box collector you’ll need to plan for a little extra room on the shelf for these guys.

Buns of stone.

In terms of likeness, Traag and Granitor are like a lot of this line – damn near flawless. Traag stands around 6 5/8″ while Granitor is slightly taller at 6 7/8″. Both feature a ton of sculpting to capture that rock appearance. They share some parts between the two in particular at the hands and basically from the abdomen down. The upper body is probably the same as well, but with different parts glued onto each to differentiate the two as they were quite different in the show. The plastic is very rigid and not that pliable, rubbery, stuff we’ve seen in some of the figures (in particular, the human figures like Casey and April) which really enhances the feel of the pair in-hand. Traag has very rocky shoulders while Granitor possesses a rock collar at the base of his neck and these huge shoulders and biceps. Of course, their heads are where they differ the most. Both are helmeted, but Traag has a flatter face and his open-mouth expression is a dead-ringer for how I continue to picture the character in my head. Granitor has this huge nose and these triangular eyes that make him look a great deal more evil than the general. If I have any criticism of the sculpt, it would be that Granitor’s head probably could be a little smaller as he was quite the pinhead in the show. I think the prototype head from a few years ago was a little better, but you’re not going to mistake this guy for someone else. The legs also probably should be longer, but I’m guessing these guys are just so big that NECA was limited to what it could do there and it was certainly more important to capture their massive upper-body.

General Traag seemed to always be making this stupid face in the show.
Meanwhile, Granitor looks ice cold! He’s not planning on playing nice with those Neutrinos.

Where I can’t render a single complaint with these two is with the paint app. This line just keeps getting better in regards to the paint and these guys look amazing. Traag, in particular, is an almost perfect recreation of a difficult deco to capture from the show. He’s mainly a red-orange, with a softer orange used for highlights that imparts a volcanic glow quality to the texture. Granitor is a bit cooler with shades of gray and both feature a lot of black line-work where appropriate. It’s all been applied in a very neat and clean fashion, which is especially impressive considering how much is here. There’s a little badge on the chest of each and both feature a belt complete with ammo and a holster for their gun. The belt is soft plastic, which has been the case with a lot of this line, so you do need to be a bit careful with the accents on it as they’re just glued on.

As far as articulation goes, these two are not quite as robust as some of the other figures in this line. That has a lot to do with the sculpt which only allows for so much. In terms of the points of articulation, it’s fairly similar with past figures. There’s a ball-joint at the head which affords the typical range of motion and both heads are on a neck with articulation at the base. Traag can look up, but not much down. Meanwhile, Granitor’s neck is quite long and thin and reminds me of an analog joystick on a video game controller, only without the tension that pulls it back to center. As a result, his range of motion feels a bit more dynamic and it’s a satisfying joint to play with, though also a bit scary since it’s so thin. The shoulders are on ball-joints and here Traag gets a bit more use as he can raise his arms outward, while Granitor’s massive shoulders are a hindrance, though his ball-joints are extended from his body more to at least provide for some functional range of motion. The elbows are double-jointed, though the top joint doesn’t have much range due to the bulky nature of the bicep. You still get close 90 degrees out of both. The triceps area swivels at that second elbow joint and the hands swivel and are on hinges. The hinges are pretty tight on mine, so a little heat goes a long way. The upper torso is on a ball-joint and you get a lot of twist there and it’s also nice and tight. The waist does swivel, but it was super tight on both of my guys to the point where I haven’t bothered to get it moving so be careful there (edit: I got it loosened up with just some added effort). The ball-joints at the thigh allow for some forward and outward motion, but nothing really backwards. There is a thigh swivel, but it doesn’t offer a ton. The knees are single-jointed at the hinge, but there is a tiny bit of swivel articulation at that point. The ankles are on hinges and have some outward, rocking, motion. Watch out for paint-flaking though as the entire boot and foot is painted over the base color. It’s not as visible as it was with Leatherhead at least, but still disappointing to see NECA isn’t casting the feet in the base color of the boot still.

“Lord Krang, please forgive us for our posture.”

The articulation is a bit less than what maybe some were expecting, but all in all I think it’s fine. These are big, bulky, rock creatures and they’re not looking to strike much in the way of dynamic poses. They basically lumber around, shoot their guns, and that’s about it. The upper torso is what really helps give them some posing options, and despite the fact that they’re rather top-heavy, they’re still fairly easy to stand. The only pose I wish I could pull-off that they just can’t do is to have them on one knee paying fealty to their lord Krang. Their arms are so long that they can even mostly pull off the ability to two-hand grip their pistol as they do in the show which is pretty cool as most NECA TMNT figures can’t do something like that since they lack a butterfly joint at the shoulder and chest.

Stuff.
“Can I interest you in the finest retro-mutagen Dimension X has to offer?”
“Traag! You must eliminate those radical teenagers before they start a rock concert! No offense…”
“Have you seen this boy?!”

Since these guys are so big and mostly new molds, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the only true negative here is the lack of accessories. It’s a business, so it’s to be expected, but still a bit disappointing. Both figures have a trigger finger right hand and an open, stylized, left hand. There are no optional hands to switch in and out, but I’m honestly not really missing them. Maybe a pointing finger for Traag, since he is a general after all, would have been fun, but it’s not a big loss. Their main accessory that both feature is a pistol. It’s a new sculpt and it’s painted up in a dark and light blue scheme that I find really appealing. It honestly probably has a bit more flourish to it as far as the paint is concerned when compared with the show, but that’s for the better. The only drawback is the hands of these guys are very rigid so you may want to heat up the hands before placing the gun in to avoid any paint scraping, which would be tragic. The pistols also fit into the holster on their belts in a snug manner. They also come with the Dimension X communicator many of the villains have featured in this line. In this case, the sticker decal is of Krang, but it appears to be the new Krang that’s expected to be released in November with the android body. The final, plastic, accessory is a mutagen canister. This time it’s painted gray instead of blue. It’s fine, though not really applicable to these guys and I think it’s just included because it was cheaper than doing a new one, like the weather bomb Traag unleashes. I was expecting that to come with them so it’s a bit disappointing to see it excluded, but again, I get it, it all has to do with costs. Lastly, they do come with three wanted posters each featuring one of the Neutrinos. They’re printed on a transparent plastic giving them a holographic effect which is pretty neat. They’re in a little bag taped to the underside of the blister so don’t throw it out by mistake!

Pictured with fellow big boy, Leatherhead.

Traag and Granitor are yet another addition to the many rogues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s great to see them as part of Wave 4 since, even though they appeared infrequently in the show, they felt important. That’s probably owing to their debut appearance in just the fourth episode and those early episodes just feel a lot more important to the show than what followed. It’s especially great to finally have a Granitor since he was overlooked back in the day. I’m very happy with how these boys turned out and my only real issue is trying to find room for these bulky beings on my shelf. I’m really going to need that street diorama, NECA!

Poor Raph, he’s really going to need a few more allies.

Traag and Granitor is just the first two-pack in Wave 4 of this line. They’re being rolled out slowly across the US at Target, though considering I found my set in New Hampshire I would expect them to be in every state this week so start looking! There should also be an online release at some point, but that can be a real shit-show as product usually goes fast. Follow NECA on twitter (or me @samhainsgrim) with alerts switched on for your best chance to land them. This looks like it’s going to be a pretty awesome wave as up next on or around the 15th is the Triceraton Infantryman (Infantry-dino? Infantry-reptile?) and Roadkill Rodney (2) set followed by a big one on the 29th, Master Splinter and Baxter the Fly! The Triceraton officers, Zarax and Zork, finish things off on November 12th alongside the deluxe Krang with his android body. This line is hotter than hell right now so don’t go to sleep on it. NECA also isn’t offering any more made-to-order sets in 2020 so if you can’t get these guys at Target over the next couple of months the wait will only get longer. Plug yourselves into a toy community, stay vigilante, don’t feed the scalpers, and good luck!


NECA TMNT Cartoon Metalhead

Metalhead has arrived to join the ranks of friend or foe, you decide!

It took longer than anticipated, but at long last I now have a complete Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wave 3 from NECA as I have in my hands the Deluxe Metalhead! Metalhead was released back in July alongside the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier set at Target stores in the US. While distribution numbers are not particularly high for this line as-is, it seemed most stores that received stock only received two copies of Metalhead. Re-stocks over the ensuing weeks were sparse and it soon became obvious that Metalhead was the figure most sought after from this wave, simply because he was the hardest to obtain. It was hard enough that NECA even put Metalhead up on their webstore for a week in August as an open pre-order. Fans could pre-buy the figure and NECA would deliver at a later date (right now, estimated to be in November). It’s a pre-order model that Super7 has utilized for awhile now and it was something NECA had to hear a lot about from angry fans on social media that couldn’t find this guy in stores. It probably didn’t help that Super7 even had their own version of Metalhead up for pre-order for a large chunk of the summer.

Fans might be driving NECA up a wall with all of the complaining about how difficult it is to find their product, but at least they’re not complaining about the figure. And that’s because Metalhead is one fine hunk of plastic. This is the first of the deluxe line of TMNT figures from NECA which means it’s a stand-alone figure, not a two-pack, and it’s priced a little higher than the other figures. In this case, Metalhead will run you $30 at retail as opposed to the $26 we pay per figure with the two-packs, so it’s not a big change. The figures come packaged in NECA’s five-panel window box that it utilizes for a lot of its Ultimate releases and the figures in this line will largely consist of new tooling and sculpts that can’t easily be leveraged for other figures, thus justifying the added cost. Originally, NECA envisioned these deluxe figures having their own release in between waves of two-packs, but NECA’s move to stagger their releases (and the delays caused by COVID) obviously altered the company’s strategy. It remains to be seen how the next deluxe figure’s release, Android Krang, will be handled when it ships sometime this October.

First of all, the move to the deluxe format has one obvious advantage: the packaging. I’m not ragging on NECA’s window-box packaging for the two-packs, but it’s basically the same thing from release to release. With this deluxe release though, NECA did something fun. Referencing the old f.h.e. VHS releases of the cartoon, NECA created new artwork depicting The Mighty Metalhead. It looks just like an oversized VHS right down to the font utilized on the cover. The panel on the front opens up to reveal the figure and some nice photography of it in action. Mint-in-box collectors should be really happy with this release, and I even placed an order via NECA’s pre-order to potentially do just that. For this release though, I’m cracking this sucker open!

Metalhead is a big, beefy, boy despite not containing any organic matter. He’s noticeably taller than the turtles, coming in at about six and a half inches, and much wider too. He’s obviously based on his animated series look which was also similar to the old Playmates toy. The biggest change is in the vac-metal chest, which is just a shade of orange here, and in the absence of an exposed brain in his head. He’s mostly gray, with a yellow “mask” and green feet. I love the linework, as I usually do with NECA’s cartoon releases, and there’s some nice texture work as well. He looks great, like he was pulled directly from the cartoon, and has inserted himself into the conversation for best figure released in this line. I have no issues with the sculpt work here, though some of the paint leaves room for nitpicks. There’s a bit of slop in the linework, like with his feet, and some stray paint around the elbow pads. The paint on the rear knee joint also flaked off exposing gray plastic in an area that’s otherwise supposed to be black. It’s the rear of the figure, so it’s not a huge deal, but I was expecting a higher level of quality with the deluxe release instead of arguably a lesser one.

This big boy can also move, and when it comes to articulation, Metalhead’s unique construction actually affords him a little more movement than his organic brothers. He has all of the usual articulation: ball-jointed head, shoulders, and legs with single joints at the elbows and double-joints at the knees. His ankles are on ball-pegs and can go up and down and rotate with some rocker action. He swivels at the hips, biceps, and wrists and his hands have a hinge as well. What he has that the turtles lack is an articulated jaw and a waist swivel. The jaw adds a lot of expression to the figure and is done so well that it’s not even apparent his mouth can open when looking at him. The waist swivel is hidden by the belt and it adds in some extra poses for the figure, especially when using one of his attachments. Since it does mean his shell is in two pieces, he looks pretty bizarre from the rear when his waist is turned, but I’m guessing folks aren’t going to have his shell showing in their display. He also has an articulated lever on his back, an on/off switch from the show, which is a nice touch. It’s fun to play with, but if you’ve read or watched a review of this figure already then you know that it’s a piece one needs to be mindful of. It can snap, and you’ll want to make sure Metalhead is positioned on your shelf in a manner in which he’s unlikely to fall, lest he land on his back and break that thing off. He moves well, and the bulkiness of his sculpt interferes only a little. The pads at the elbows do appear to prevent him from bending a full 90 degrees and the lack of a butterfly joint can make it a little tricky to get him into a proper pose with his vacuum cleaner attachment, but inserting such a joint would have messed up the chest portion and I understand NECA being unwilling to make that sacrifice.

Metalhead required a lot of independent tooling to create, and if you’ve been collecting toys for awhile you should know that means the figure is probably going to be light on accessories. In the case of Metalhead, that’s not exactly true. He comes with the usual assortment of hands one would expect: fists, gripping, and open. To go with those hands are three distinct accessories that provide Metalhead with some varied display options. One accessory is a drill attachment for his hand. It has a little peg inside it that fits into the wrist socket and is the go-to accessory for many a robot in animation. His second optional hand attachment is pretty fun: a vacuum cleaner. It snaps in like the drill hand and contains a hinge joint at the base like, you know, an actual vacuum cleaner. Should NECA make good on its tease to release a sewer lair diorama, I foresee many Metalheads converted to the role of turtle maid. And lastly is Metalhead’s defining ability in the cartoon and Turtles in Time: his chest cannon. Metalhead’s “pectorals” are on hinges and open to reveal a peg-hole for his chest laser. In the show, it popped out of his chest, but that obviously won’t work for an action figure. The peg-hole approach works just fine and NECA even added a second hole to feed a little wire into it. It’s a hard, prehensile, wire, like what we’ve seen on the battle-damaged Foot Soldiers, and you do probably want to be careful with it so as not to strip-off any of the plastic coating it. This is my favorite of the accessories and I assume it’s the favorite of most of the collectors who get their hands on this guy.

Metalhead is a tremendous amount of fun as an action figure. He is a terrific likeness in regards to the source material, and if you’re like me and always wanted a cartoon-accurate version of the character, this release should satisfy that craving. The only thing disappointing about this figure is the availability. I wish I had received my copy before or during NECA’s pre-order window so I could have ended this review by posting a link of where to order, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that. Hopefully, anyone who wanted one got their order in or found another, scalper-free, way to get one. Wave 3 is still showing up in Target stores in the US, so there’s still a chance a store near you gets one. And I assume the factory order NECA places for those who pre-ordered won’t be an exact one-for-one order so there likely will be leftovers that either get made available on NECA’s website or get shipped to Target around the end of the year. It’s also possible he gets a new paint deco and release as part of NECA’s Turtles in Time figures in 2021, though probably without the vacuum.

That also closes the door on my look at the third wave of cartoon releases from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license. It’s been the most exciting wave yet for me as I had the first seven sculpts via the San Diego Comic Con release, so this was the first retail wave in which I was after every set. While there were some ups and downs, and I actually never found any of these in a physical store, I was left largely impressed and satisfied. I do think Metalhead is the star of the wave, and he should be since he’s the most expensive of the bunch, but that’s no slight on the likes of Casey Jones or Leatherhead as they were mighty impressive as well. As of right now, we don’t have a date for Wave 4. We know Krang in his android body is expected in October. He’s the next deluxe figure so we know he’ll cost at least $30, but he’s also damn big so it won’t shock me if NECA needs to up that price. International retailers are taking orders for the Granitor and Traag two-pack, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that is the next two-pack headed our way and it certainly would be appropriate if Krang arrives at retail alongside his two most loyal soldiers. Beyond that, Wave 4 should also include the much anticipated Splinter and Baxter the Fly two-pack, a two-pack of Triceraton officers Zorax and Zork, and another two-pack containing a Triceraton soldier and a pair of Roadkill Rodney robots. It’s going to be an expensive fall, so start saving now!

As for me, I’m happy for a break. It’s been a month of NECA posts on this blog, almost all of which were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles related. I’ll look to add a little more variety in September, though I still have one TMNT post in progress to come in a week or so. We’re also rapidly approaching fall, so I need to get Christmas on the brain and get to work on that feature for December. It’s always busy around here, even if the posts slow down.


NECA TMNT Cartoon April O’Neil and Bashed Foot

The true subjects of today’s post.

There’s a line from one of my favorite Christmas movies, Bad Santa, in which the main character, Willy, says to The Kid, “Well, they can’t all be winners,” when The Kid pulls a candy corn out of his advent calendar. Bad Santa isn’t a movie for everyone, but the sentiment expressed by Willy in that moment could be applied to this latest two-pack from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line.

When it comes to the original cartoon series, the list of essential characters goes something like this: the four turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and April O’Neil. We have received versions of almost all of those characters from NECA, and now it’s April’s turn. All of the characters NECA has targeted thus far have arguably become the definitive take on that particular character from the show upon release. Some might argue in favor of a different set of turtles, but few would argue anyone has created a better Shredder or Bebop and Rocksteady. The expectations are now set for this line and fans pretty much assume that NECA will nail the likeness on any character it does, but maybe such an expectation is unrealistic.

Unfortunately, the line’s first lackluster offering is the ravishing reporter April O’Neil. When it comes to the sculpt released here, there’s a lot to be desired. April stands just a tick taller than her turtle allies, when she should at least be a head taller. I have her at 5 1/2″ and the turtles at about 5 1/4″. She has her yellow jumpsuit complete with white boots and all the details appear to be in place, but the proportions are off especially when it comes to her head. I think most fans are accepting of a figure that is maybe a little too short or too tall, but missing on the facial likeness is perhaps the greatest disappointment. Her face appears to be too full and round, and the size of her head is far too big for her body. I think that’s largely a product of her face being too large as her hair was fairly poofy in the show, but few would deny that something is off here.

When it comes to nailing down the scale and look for these figures there’s an admitted challenge. The original show could be wildly inconsistent when it came to scale, colors, and so on. When NECA did its initial figures for the Turtles, it cited the first series which was animated by Toei and was a mere five episodes. It allowed for the company to have a more consistent look to reference, which mostly came in handy when it came time to color the Turtles as the sculpts were actually reused from the arcade series. April appears in every episode from that inaugural season, and it would seem it would have made the most sense to base her sculpt on that season. Maybe that’s what NECA did, and maybe it didn’t, either way it’s a shame an integral character like April failed to live up to expectations.

The image on the left is what I think of when I hear the name April O’Neil.

I don’t want this to turn into a rant or anything, as a subpar NECA figure still gets a lot right. And when it comes to April she possesses a lot of the articulation one would come to expect of a NECA figure in 2020. For starters, her head is on a ball-peg and it’s pretty easy to pop her head off and on, which is good as it’s preferred for one of her accessories. She has ball joints at the shoulders and then she has some funky double-jointed elbows. There are basically two ball joints on top of each other. The first joint is in her sleeve, and the second is part of the bare portion of her arm. Her arms are quite thin, and I had to heat her up to get any movement out of the upper joint. The yellow portion of the joint is painted, and as you could probably guess if you’ve read my review of the other figures in this wave, the paint flakes off quite easily. Fortunately, the plastic is also yellow so it’s not nearly as much of an eyesore as it is with Casey, Leatherhead, and Slash. The bicep also swivels where the sleeve meets the arm and then it also swivels at the triceps at the second ball joint. April’s wrists are just on pegs and can rotate, she also has hinges in her hands, but they feel really fragile. The watch on her left hand is a separate piece of soft plastic and will fly off if you’re not careful when switching hands. April’s upper torso is on a ball joint just below her bust and she gets a lot of motion out of that joint which makes up for the lack of a waist swivel. Her thighs can rotate at the joint and are on ball-pegs, and she does have double-jointed knees, but the top joint doesn’t really do much. She can still bend her leg rather far at the knee so it’s not a big deal. There’s no boot cut on her, and her feet just have vertical hinges so no rocker or swivel motion is available. It kind of stinks because I envisioned displaying her on one knee with her camera sneaking a shot of a battle or something, but she can’t quite pull that off without being able to rotate her ankle. Oh well.

April could stand to be taller and probably not so thin.

Aside from her head, the body sculpt is pretty good. The arms feel a little thin and flimsy, but they’re obviously trying to make her noticeably smaller and slimmer than the other figures in this line. I do still wish she was a little taller and fuller though, I don’t think she needs to be quite so thin. I do like the very bright yellow NECA went with and the black line work helps make the figure have that extra pop when looking at it. I do see some room to argue that maybe yellow plastic with a wash instead of so much paint might have worked just as well, or better. Some of that black line-work does get a bit messy in places, but overall it’s pretty clean. NECA did match the plastic of the foot hinge to the white of her boots, thankfully, but that also means from behind the white hinge is visible among the otherwise gray backside of her boots. If one part of the hinge has to be off, might as well let it be the back. There’s also some nice attention to detail with the little white, o-rings, on her pants and the tape recorder on her belt.

April is not lacking in the accessory department.

If April is a bit underwhelming, well at least she tries to make up for it with a bunch of fun accessories. She comes packaged with open palm hands and she has a set of gripping hands as well. She comes with a Channel 6 microphone as well as a corded microphone affixed to a reel-to-reel recorder. It’s on a strap, like a purse, and this is where it’s nice that her head pops off easily if you want it to go across her body. I suppose you could also just drape it over her shoulder too. She also has a Channel 6 camcorder which she can carry by the top handle or hold via the fold-down handle for when she wants to record something. She has her Turtle-com, which opens and closes, though doesn’t feature the face of a turtle on the inside. She also has the Maltese Hamster from the episode of the same name, which is a bit fun though it doesn’t do anything. Lastly, there’s a little, baby, pizza, monster. I have to assume an ultimate, adult, version is in our future at some point. He’s pretty cute, despite being vicious, and even though he’s non-articulated he’s packing a lot of personality in that sculpt.

With April being part of a two-pack, one would naturally look to the second figure in the pack to perhaps help elevate the total package. Unfortunately, April comes bundled with what I would consider the least exciting figure in this line so far. The Bashed Foot Solider is essentially the same Foot Soldier that has been released in two-packs with the Turtles and in a double-pack as part of Wave 2, only now it has a new torso with some battle damage. This one is referred to as the Bashed variant because the wound appears to be blunt in nature, perhaps a jab from Donatello’s bo staff, and is basically a rip in the clothing with some exposed metal and wires beneath. The effect is neat, but if this figure weren’t packed with a character as important as April then I’m not sure I’d have bought it. I think it would have been neat to bundle it with an undamaged Foot to give consumers more of a say in the matter. Bundling it with April feels like a bit of ruthless capitalism.

Now in the unlikely event you do not already have a Foot Soldier, the articulation here is the same. He has ball-joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips with swivels at the thigh and bicep. The hinge joints at the knees and elbows are double-jointed and the wrists are on pegs. He also has some ankle articulation and stands pretty well. He comes with the same the rifle other Foot and even Bebop and Rocksteady came with, but also has a new gun that’s bit more cartoonish looking. It’s not my favorite weapon design from the show, but I welcome the additional variety for the bad guys. He also has the same assortment of hands which include fists, gripping hands, and karate chop hands plus a pair of open hands that are new this time around. There’s another communicator, this one with an image of the Bebop action figure on the other end, and a pair of ninja stars. The ninja stars appear to be a deliberate throwback to the Playmates line as one is even brownish-orange like the old toys.

If that all sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same round of accessories the Slashed Foot Soldier came with as part of the Casey Jones two-pack. The only difference between those sets is the sticker on the communicator and the battle damage on the torso. I think many fans expected April and Casey to come together, so it was a bit disappointing to see that wasn’t the case. While I liked the battle damage of the Slashed Foot quite a bit, this one doesn’t excite me. It’s not that it isn’t done well or anything, but it hardly feels essential.

Let’s see what you had for breakfast!

Which is the downside to these figures being released as two packs, because April does feel essential. Unfortunately, she’s a letdown as well so I can comfortably say this is the least glamorous two-pack released in this line thus far. And based on the promotional images for what’s up next, it looks like this will be the low bar for a long while. It’s definitely the set that fills me with the least amount of excitement. These things are hard to get a hold of, so there’s a sense of glee whenever one can be acquired, but the lackluster results mostly squash that enthusiasm. There’s little to sugar coat here, this April is a poor representation of the cartoon character. Since it’s largely her head that’s the problem, perhaps NECA can remedy that at a later date. The company has big plans for the lines and is exploring concepts for vehicles and even a sewer lair. Perhaps an alternate head is included with one of those along with alternate happy heads for the Turtles as well? It’s a long shot, but hopefully NECA is receptive to criticism and doesn’t just dig in its heels because mostly I’m just surprised this one made it past the approval stage. It’s the burden of success, I suppose.

Smile for the camera, Donnie.

I do also want to stress that it isn’t all bad. April is subpar, but anyone who sees her still knows it’s April O’Neil from the 80s cartoon. She has a ton of neat accessories and is certainly not lacking there. It’s hard to even come up with an accessory she should have come with that isn’t present. Maybe swap-able cat parts like the upcoming Vernon is going to feature? That’s just wishful thinking though, and how many collectors would prefer to display mutated cat April as opposed to a more traditional April? Probably few, though then again, that head…

In terms of battle-damaged figures, it’s pretty hard to top that slashed Foot Soldier.

For now, April will be a part of my cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles display. She’s April, so she has to be! I’m just thankful she has so many killer accessories so I can hide that melon behind a big old video camera or maybe wrap her up in Leatherhead’s net for the time being. This is the last two-pack of Wave 3 though, and as mentioned in the prior paragraph, more additions to the Channel 6 news crew are indeed on the way, but not until 2021. The next wave is probably going to be staggered like this one and it appears that the rock soldiers Granitor and Traag are up next. A deluxe Krang is coming as well in October and you know that will be a big hit. For now, at least until I get my hands on Metalhead, it appears I’ll get a reprieve from cartoon turtles, but NECA is hardly slowing down. Super Shredder, Toka, Rahzar, Splinter, Baxter, and on and on are all expected this year! Enjoy the breather while it lasts!


NECA TMNT Cartoon Slash and Leatherhead

You’re gonna like this one, I guarantee!

NECA’s incredibly popular and white hot action figure line based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series of the late 80s/early 90s has slowly rolled out its third wave. The wave consists of three two-packs and a single-packed deluxe figure, but perhaps to increase the numbers of individual items it can ship at once, NECA opted to roll them out one-by-one starting in late July and finishing by the end of August. The first two-pack was the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier, and now we’re onto the second which is the villains pack of the wave: Slash and Leatherhead.

In the case of both characters, this is the second attempt at both of these characters from NECA as both have been featured in the Turtles in Time line of figures. Slash was released back in the spring, and Leatherhead was part of the more recently released second wave. Leatherhead is basically a straight re-paint of that release, or that release is a re-paint of this one depending on which you consider “first.” Slash, on the other hand, is a little more involved. This is the first action figure of Slash based on his appearance in the cartoon series. The Playmates action figure was based on his comic appearance where he was actually a good guy and part of the Mighty Mutanimals (along with Leatherhead, it should be noted). His Turtles in Time sprite was also based on that source so cartoon Slash has received very little love in the ensuing years. As such, I get the sense this version of Slash isn’t remembered fondly by a large part of the fanbase, though I like him well enough. The Slash of the cartoon was more of a tragic figure, a contented pet turtle mutated and turned into a tool by those who held power over him. The cartoon wasn’t really equipped to truly explore the complexity of the character though, so they just sent him into Dimension X and when he came back he’s basically a typical villain.

If you thought a lack of enthusiasm towards Slash was going to make this two-pack easier to find, think again. This set is proving just as hard to find as any other in this line. Target at least was a bit more stealthy about the release on target.com which allowed online orders for this set to last a whopping ten minutes! Perhaps that will be the model for future releases.

Slash may be quite different in appearance from his Turtles in Time self, but the figure should still be fairly familiar. He uses the same body as the previously released Slash, which also used the same body shared by the turtles. The only difference is in the paint, head, and other embellishments on Slash’s person, most notably the spiky shell. The head is the most striking part as the cartoon Slash was an ugly, soft-bodied, turtle. He has full cheeks and pockmarked skin with ugly teeth reminding me of a jack-o-lantern. This Slash wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and his face captures that. It also features that metal headband that covers his eyes. It’s a perfect representation of the character from the source material.

Slash’s body only differs from the past Slash release in that he has metal fixtures on his body where the previous one had cloth and wood. He has a bright purple belt with a skull logo on it that’s really cool. I love how NECA’s belt has the extra part flapping off of the front, a nice attention to detail. The gloves and kneepads are a steel gray in color with a single, purple, spike on each. About the only thing he shares with his other self are the black elbow pads which are traditional in design. His skin-tone is basically a match for NECA’s Wave 1 turtles, an olive green, as opposed to the deep green of the video game figure. He also gets to have painted claws on his hands and toes where the video game one did not. He also has a large backpack strapped to his shell and across his chest. This backpack is not intended to be removable, though mine arrived damaged and I had to superglue the bottom “clasp” back onto it. It’s held so far, but it’s also only been a day.

Lots of accessories with this guy.

Since Slash is the same base figure as the other turtles, he has the same articulation. There’s a ball-joint at the head that provides mostly for side-to-side motion, but the shell prevents much up and down motion. The neck has a joint at the base, but it doesn’t seem to offer much. The shoulders are on ball-joints with bicep swivels, single-jointed elbows, wrist swivels, and a wrist hinge. There’s a torso joint inside the shell, but again, the shell removes most of the function. It allows the hips to move a little left to right, with some slight twist. It’s subtle, but it’s not nothing. The legs are on ball-joints and rotate at the thigh as opposed to a true thigh-cut. The knees are double-jointed and the feet are on ball-pegs. They can rotate just fine, but have little up and down motion and minimal side-to-side. It’s all pretty basic, but it feels like NECA’s base turtle design could use another look, especially at the elbows, wrists, and feet.

In the accessory department, Slash is a curious case as his accessories are both abundant and lacking. As a surprise, he only has the one set of hands. Every figure in this line so far, excepting Krang who doesn’t have hands, has had multiple sets of hands for punching, gripping, trigger fingers, etc. Slash just has gripping hands, which is certainly better than having closed fists, but it’s odd he doesn’t have trigger hands or something more expressive. On the other hand, he’s able to wield the accessories he does come with just fine: twin katanas, a Dimension X rifle, a pistol, half-eaten pizza, baby Slash, and his precious “binky” which is a tiny palm tree. I love the design of the new rifle and I appreciate that the included pizza resembles the actual pies he munches on from his episode as opposed to just being the same pizza packed in with the turtles. And as stated, he can hold all of his weapons, and the only thing he can’t really grip is the palm tree, but you can finagle it into his hand. The swords he comes with are quite striking, and are my favorite swords this line has produced so far. He can store them in his purple belt too, which is certainly appreciated since he has so much stuff.

It’s great to finally have a cartoon-accurate version of Slash. Even though he only has the one pair of hands, it’s not a huge loss since he does have a ton of accessories likely to occupy both hands in a display. He does possess one other area for criticism though, and it is again with that base turtle body. Slash in the cartoon was pretty chunky compared to his fellow turtles while this figure is definitely quite lean and trim. It’s most apparent when comparing his head to the rest of his body. The width of his head basically reaches his shoulders on the figure, while in the show it sat inside the yellow “pectorals” of his shell because he was so squat. I’m fine with NECA reusing the limbs from the past figures, but I wish they had at least given him a wider shell. And in terms of scale, he was shown to be the same height as Rocksteady, but if anything NECA’s Rocksteady is a little taller than necessary. I also don’t hold that against either figure since the cartoon tended to be all over the place with scale. He also has some issues with paint to go along with the backpack issue I had. The paint on the hinges of his hands will rub off almost immediately out of the box. One hand on my Slash is still hanging onto it, while the other is not. There’s also a little bit of paint slop on the right knee pad, and I’ve heard from a lot of people their figure had really tight, stuck, joints out of the box, so beware. Mine was tight, but not too bad. I was able to get all of his weapons in and out of his hands okay, though with some paint flaking. Only the elbows gave me any trouble, but I was able to get them to move with plain old force as opposed to heat.

Slash’s box-mate, Leatherhead, had a figure in the Playmates line a bit more like his cartoon self, but this is still the first Leatherhead to truly go after that cartoon look. He’s a big boy, standing at about 7″ with a little extra thanks to his hat. He’s about the same height as Bebop, coming in at about 7 1/4″. His color scheme is also very much in-line with the cartoon version as his skin-tone is this odd blue-green with darker green used for the shading. It looks off at first glance, but go check out the old cartoon and you’ll see this color scheme is basically dead-on. The same is true for Leatherhead’s legs. I believe he’s wearing hip-waiters for trudging through a swamp, which means his pants and boots are one, uniform, color. In this case that’s blue, though with black used as the shaded part on the back. It makes the character look odd and it’s a knock against the character’s cartoon design, not the figure. Did they do this just so they could paint his legs all one color? Probably, because cartoons tried to be made as cheaply as possible. As a result, I can see why some might prefer the Turtles in Time version of the character which opted for a brighter green and gave him jeans with traditional boots on his feet.

The basic construction of this figure shares a lot in common with Bebop and Rocksteady, and might even share some of the parts. The chest is probably the same, but where Rocksteady has a rubbery shirt, Leatherhead has a plastic addition to simulate his scaled belly/chest. He also has his vest which is done up in soft plastic and is part of the same piece as the chest. There’s a lot of paint on this guy so take care when first messing around with him as some joints might be stuck. Mine was pretty loose though, much to my surprise. Unfortunately, he shares the same paint issues as Casey Jones where the ankles were cast in a neutral color as opposed to blue, so when bending his feet some white plastic can be exposed. It’s especially striking on Leatherhead since his legs and feet are all supposed to be one color. I heard there was a running change made to Leatherhead to eliminate this issue, but I haven’t had that confirmed for me. It’s rather mind-boggling that his legs were done this way, since it looks like his torso was cast in blue plastic so I don’t know why the ankle/feet weren’t as well. He also sports a rubbery belt over a sculpted belt, which is a bit odd. That rubbery belt has a hook on it for one of his accessories and I’ve seen several reviews already where that hook broke off, so again, beware.

Since Leatherhead appears to be some mix of Bebop and Rocksteady parts it’s probably not surprising to hear he’s about as well articulated as both. His head is a bit hunched forward so the ball-joint doesn’t afford much motion. He does though have a hinged jaw which is really important for a gator to possess. I don’t know if it’s just mine, but it doesn’t like to stay open and will basically slowly close after I pry it open. He has ball-jointed shoulders with bicep swivels, double-jointed elbows, and wrist rotation. His hands are big and possess hinges, but the range of motion on those hinges is limited to a degree. Any torso articulation that might be present underneath that plastic chest-piece is rendered virtually useless as a result of that piece. He does have waist articulation with ball-joints at the legs, thigh swivels, double-jointed knees, and ankle ball-joints with a little side-to-side range. The main difference for Leatherhead is the added tail functionality. It even comes packed separately and getting it onto the ball peg can be a bit tricky so don’t fret if you need to heat him up to get it on snug. It mostly just swivels as the ball is set back rather deep so he can’t do much with it. It still looks good, at least.

NECA got creative with some of Leatherhead’s accessories.

Since Leatherhead is a pretty massive chunk of plastic, his accessories are a bit sparse compared with Slash. He does come with extra hands so he has fists, open hands, and a single trigger hand. He has his weird ketchup gun, which is a pretty fun accessory and is meant to pair with that trigger hand. You’ll probably want to heat the hand in some hot water for a few seconds to make it more pliable before trying to force that gun into it as it’s a tight fit.

Leatherhead comes with a pair of lobster/crayfish which often hung from his belt in the show. They can’t really hang from his belt here though, which is a bit odd. There are two loops on his belt they can kind of dangle from, but they’re not on his hips. In the promo shots, it looks like NECA just crammed the tails under the belt. He also has a shackle accessory with a real chain attached to it, good for catching turtles and pesky TV news reporters. There’s a bear trap that can open and close and also clips to his belt via that fragile hook. And lastly, he has a net and rope which was apparently the compromise to offset the cost of plastic with him. It’s a fun accessory to have as Leatherhead can round up some turtles (and maybe some frogs in the future) and even suspend them from something if you want to as the net has a string at each corner.

Slash and Leatherhead are fun additions to the cartoon line. While I have some nitpicks about each, they’re both overall quite successful at being representations of the source material and are instantly recognizable. They’re also a good choice at this stage in the line as they’re both quite memorable since they appeared in a whole bunch of TMNT media during peak Turtle-Mania. I get the impression from the fandom that Leatherhead is the star of the show here, but I am one of the few who really liked the cartoon take on Slash so I think I prefer to him Leatherhead, but only slightly. I find my eyes are definitely drawn to Leatherhead more than I expected. Either way, this is the star two-pack of Wave 3 and not one to miss if you’re into this line.

“Got a couple of live ones here!”

This set is currently exclusive to Target stores in the US, and if you’re having difficulties tracking a set down help might be on the way. NECA recently took pre-orders for the Deluxe Metalhead figure on its own webstore with the promise to make other figures from this line available in the future. It also recently opened another batch of pre-orders for the movie Casey and Raph pack as well as Super Shredder. It might take a little while, but it would seem NECA understands the frustrations in the collector community and is committed to making sure every TMNT fan gets a shot at owning these figures. Which is certainly a plus as these figures are too good to remain so scarce.

If you’re looking to get your hands on these guys they’re currently up for pre-order RIGHT NOW on NECA’s website! They’ll be available until the morning of September 4th so don’t wait too long. Also up for pre-order is Bebop and Rocksteady, quite possibly NECA’s best two-pack so far.


S.H. Figuarts – Dragon Ball Kid Klilyn (Krillin)

When Dragon Ball became Dragon Ball Z, many of the old heroes and villains got left in the dust as Goku ascended to a level of power far beyond anything anyone would have comprehended. One of the last holdouts though was Krillin (Klilyn in Japan). Krillin was never on Goku’s level in DBZ, but he always managed to hang around nonetheless. It wasn’t really until the Majin Buu Saga that Krillin finally dropped off and gave up the whole fighting thing, which is more than I can say for the likes of Tien and Yamcha.

In Dragon Ball Z, Krillin basically was there to play the role of Goku’s best friend. In the original Dragon Ball, he had a different role at the start. Krillin was Goku’s rival, a cunning, dastardly, trickster willing to do whatever was necessary to gain an edge. Goku was good-natured and naive, and Krillin was always willing to exploit those qualities in Goku during their training with Master Roshi. The two would eventually become friends and Krillin would, for the first time, see his existence reduced to tragic catalyst for a Goku arc foreshadowing perhaps his most famous role as the motivating factor for Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan. What an existence – everyone just remembers you for dying!

No Dragon Ball action figure collection would be complete without Krillin. The bald, diminutive, monk, is a fan favorite from Dragon Ball as he’s almost a constant source of entertainment. He’s one of the many go-to characters for comedy on the show, but when the need arises he can also throw down and even masters the legendary Kamehameha wave just like his more famous rival. It’s no surprise then that Bandai and Tamashii Nations decided to do a figure for its S.H. Figuarts line based on the young version of Krillin from the early days of Dragon Ball.

With how muscular the characters become in DBZ, it’s easy to forget just how round they are as kids.

Krillin is depicted in his fighting, Turtle School, gi. And since the only distinguishing features between he and Goku in the anime when both wear this uniform is their head and Goku’s tail, it should be no surprise that the two share the same traits in figure form. Krillin is essentially the same figure as the Kid Goku from before, so he possesses all of the good qualities of that figure, plus all of the lesser qualities. For starters, Krillin is probably a tick taller than he should be when placed next to some of the other characters like Bulma. This is likely a result of the scale in place as going any smaller on this action figure would probably mess up Bandai’s pricing structure. When your figures retail for $55, you can only go so small. It’s not a big deal, though I do find a little fault in the proportions. In particular, both Goku and Krillin are a bit too lean and muscular. In the anime their bodies are more egg-shaped than they are in action figure form. These figures mostly look the part when in fighting poses as they’re more spread out, but if they’re just standing around then it becomes more noticeable. Krillin also has those same, spherical, elbow joints that look a bit funny when the arm is straight, but fine when bent. The knees also lack kneecaps and look a bit off from certain angles. This is the result of the character being so short and it’s a shortcoming that basically comes with the territory. Aside from the head, the only other difference between he and Goku is Krillin has no need for a peg hole on his bottom for a tail, so one isn’t present.

Aside from those gripes, the figure is actually rather nice to behold. The folds in Krillin’s gi are integrated well into the articulation and all of the little details one would expect are here. The Turtle School logo looks sharp and clean and where paint is required the lines are sharp and defined. There’s little in the way of paint embellishments, which is true of all of the figures I’ve reviewed in this line, but the figure also isn’t really crying out for much. The head sculpts are also a spot-on likeness for Krillin. He looks great and this figure presents a dilemma as it’s hard to settle on any one expression. Krillin has a basic smile expression that’s more than serviceable, but also this smug expression that really gets at the heart of this more juvenile Krillin. And then of course there’s the open-mouthed yelling face which is perfect for battle poses. The determining factor will likely be what accessory you choose to highlight in your display, which is also a tough call.

For a little figure, Krillin is packed to the gills with articulation. He has a ball joint at the head with good side-to-side motion, but very little up motion. Unlike the larger figures in this line, there’s no additional neck articulation, but it’s also not something really needed. There’s a ball-joint at the shoulders as well as a butterfly joint which is crucial for achieving a proper Kamehameha pose. There’s a swivel at the bicep just under the shoulder and those kind of wonky elbow joints. They’re not double-jointed so Krillin can only go to 90 degrees when bending his elbows. There’s full rotation at the wrists and hinge joints as well. At the torso, Krillin has articulation in his diaphragm plus a waist swivel. There’s an additional abdominal hinge in there as well, but Krillin can’t bend very far back without exposing the joint in the middle of his torso. The legs are on ball joints and can swivel below that ball joint. Knees are single-jointed and the ankles are on balls that provide for full rotation, a hinge, and side-to-side. His tiny, little, feet even have a toe hinge.

The figure is rather top heavy, since Krillin has such a massive melon, so standing and positioning the figure can be a bit tricky. With just a little patience though, several poses are achievable without a stand, which is a good thing since unlike Kid Goku, Krillin does not come with a stand for the sole purpose of positioning him. He does come with an action stand for his Kamehameha effect which is probably to make up for the fact that Goku came with his Flying Nimbus cloud. Bandai included optional parts to turn it into a posing stand for Krillin, but why would you want to use it for that when you have a Kamehameha wave? He also comes with 11 different hands which include the following: a pair of fists, a pair of Kamehameha hands, a pair of wide open hands, a pair of peace sign hands, a set of martial arts posing hands, and a special gripping right hand for grabbing Goku’s tail. Beyond that, he has a six-star dragon ball and a Kame rock from when Master Roshi gives he and Goku a task of finding a particular rock.

Probably my favorite expression for Krillin.

The dragon ball accessory is basically the same as what is included with the other figures, and the rock is a nice touch, but the real star is obviously that effects piece. The Kamehameha wave has some nice shading on it to achieve that desired look of a blue energy blast. I do wish the paint was a little less heavy though to expose what I assume is translucent plastic underneath. The stand allows you to position the blast out in front of Krillin to simulate him firing the Kamehameha. It’s a fun thing to play around with and the articulated stand means you can angle the blast any way you want. If you have a extra figure stand, you could even position Krillin in the air firing the blast towards the ground. With Krillin being such a small figure, it was imperative that Bandai include something fun like this with the figure, and they made the right choice by going in this direction. And as stated before, there is an optional “grabber” piece that can be installed on the stand should you wish to use it for the purpose of posing Krillin or another figure.

Krillin is an outstanding addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball action figures. While it is an easier figure to nitpick when compared with some of the others, at the end of the day this is still a great representation of the character from Dragon Ball. He looks right at home on my shelf with the others and I think the likeness here is even better than it was with Goku. He’s an essential character from the show, and I’m definitely glad I’ve added him to my collection. Hopefully, I can add a few more characters before all is said and done.


S.H. Figuarts Tao Pai Pai (Mercenary Tao)

This is the story of a man and his flying, pink, pillar.

We’re back with another Dragon Ball review and this one is another bad guy, maybe THE bad guy: Tao Pai Pai. Known to English-speaking audiences as Mercenary Tao, and for the rest of this review as simply Tao, Tao is a martial arts expert who has perfected the dreaded Dodonpa, or Dodon Ray, and is an adept killing machine. He’s even been known to kill people with his tongue, folks. Tao is quite possibly the most hated enemy from Dragon Ball since he’s a ruthless killer and also one of the few to defeat Goku in hand-to-hand combat.

The S.H. Figuarts version of Tao depicts the character in his most familiar form. He’s clad in a navy and pink martial arts uniform with the phrase “Kill You!” emblazoned on the rear of his tunic in a blood red font. He has a single braid coming off of the back of his head tied off with a cute little, red, bow. He’s not particularly intimidating to look at, but in the source material he projects an aura of confidence that’s a bit unnerving.

Tao stands a tick under 6″ making him taller than the likes of Bulma, but much shorter than someone like King Piccolo. He features a lot of the same articulation one would expect from this line. His braid is on a ball joint so it can lay on his back or be positioned in a wind swept pose. A ball-jointed head gives him some nice range of motion and additional neck articulation adds some side-to-side pivot and allows him to look at his feet. The shoulders are on ball-joints with butterfly joints that allow him to reach across his chest a bit, though the bulk of his sleeves hinders a bit. There’s bicep swivels and double-jointed elbows. The hands are on ball-pegs and hinges and can rotate and point in and out. The waist is on a ball-peg and there’s diaphragm articulation as well. Bend his upper body too far back and you will see an exposed gap in the chest, but you’re not likely to have need to bend him that far. The crotch area is the 2.0 Figuarts joint so it works well, but is quite busy to look at. Tao minimizes this with the skirt of his tunic which covers the front and back. His legs are on ball-joints with rotation in the thigh as well. His knees are double-jointed, but the bulkiness of his pants hinders some of the articulation gained by the additional joint. The ankles are on ball-pegs and can rotate and rock side to side. There’s also a toe hinge for good measure.

Unlike most Figuarts figures I have, Tao wasn’t quite ready to go out of the package. I’m used to dealing with stuck joints with figures from other companies, but not usually Bandai. My Tao’s right thigh was stuck at the hip so when I tried to bend the leg out, like a split, the leg popped right off. I had to grab the peg and really give it a good tug to get the joint in the inner thigh to start working. My Tao’s left food also didn’t have much side-to-side motion. The peg is a dumbbell peg in the foot, and I think what was happening is the ball at the top was moving, but the one in the foot was stuck. I popped the foot off and immersed it in hot water and was then able to rock the peg back and forth a bit. It’s still not great, but better than before.

The comparison shot.

As is the case with the other figures in this line, the paint application is minimal, but the sculpt work is otherwise damn near flawless. Tao comes with a neutral facial expression that’s perhaps a bit of a scowl. The paint on his tunic is sharp and clear and there’s no mess on the red detailing. The skirt piece is a soft, pliable, plastic that really doesn’t hinder the articulation much. I know some people want to see more elaborate paint applications with this line, but at this point it is what it is and I personally think the sculpt work looks great in natural light. The only aspect of the sculpt that doesn’t look great are the knee joints, but only from the back so it’s not really an issue.

He’s a master tactician when it comes to psychological warfare.

Tao comes with an assortment of extra hands and heads. He has a screaming head for when he’s getting serious as well as a tongue-sticking out head for when he needs to kill. The tongue is definitely a funny inclusion, though if I had to choose I would have preferred a cocky grin. Tao comes packaged with fists, like basically all of the figures in this line, and has two additional sets of hands: open palms and Kung Fu, forked, hands. The other additional hand is a pointing right hand for the Dodon Ray. He also comes with a seven star dragon ball. I know some wish he came with his cybernetic parts from Dragon Ball Z, but I wouldn’t display him in that form so I’m not really sweating it. That version of the character is better reserved for a stand-alone release.

The major accessory for Tao though is his big, pink, pillar. In the source material, Tao couldn’t fly so he’d just smash a nearby pillar or tree and throw it through the sky. He’d then jump on it to ride it to wherever he needed to go. It’s ridiculous, but definitely something that’s memorable. Bandai deemed it so memorable that it was essential, so Tao comes with a plastic pillar and a unique flight stand to position it on. This thing is perhaps needlessly complicated because Bandai is so committed to the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it decided exposed peg holes could not be tolerated. Instead, there’s an included set of plugs to place in the pillar when it’s not in use that conceal any and all holes. There are six holes in total so that Tao can ride it akin to a surfboard or stand with his feet together at the back or center of the pillar. The pillar is hollow and can split apart which is how you remove the installed pegs. It’s also handy for storing any plugs that in use, so long as you don’t mind the rattle.

To attach Tao to the pillar, Bandai included swap-able feet plates. I’ve never seen anything like this. Basically, you pop off the soles of Tao’s shoes and replace them with a set that have pegs on the bottom. There’s a set with pegs that go straight down and a set that are pointing out. The pointing out set is meant for when Tao is standing with his feet together on the pillar and will go straight into it when his feet are angled towards each other. And to add a little more pizzazz to the set, the flight stand comes in three pieces: a base, the piece that attaches to the pillar, and an optional joiner piece. The optional piece adjusts the pitch of the pillar so Tao is either flying at a horizontal angle or one with the front pointing up at a slight angle.

The best I could do with the angled foot pegs. Only the right foot is in.

The pillar is very ambitious and quite an idea, but it’s far better on paper than in reality. For one, as neat as it is to hide the peg holes on the pillar, it should be pointed out that it kind of looks like a piece of sidewalk chalk. It’s funny such care was taken to hide the holes when what was really needed was some shading or just additional paint to help sell this better as a chunk of rock. Tao’s foot plates also have a tendency to pop out, especially the angled ones with my set. I’d insert the right one and it would literally shoot out of the pegs. Perhaps they’re too tight? I’m not sure, because they also come out very easily when trying to position him on the pillar. I had a hell of a time trying to get the angled ones to work right. I think part of it was due to my Tao’s left foot being limited due to the stuck ankle joint, while some of it is likely just poor engineering. I got him onto the pillar in that position, but only if I just attached one foot and let the other float. It didn’t inspire much confidence. The “surfing” position works much better. It’s still finicky, but I at least achieved the desired position. I’m still a little disappointed though as I really wanted to display him in that more confident, nonchalant, pose of standing with his feet together, but oh well.

To better sell the flight stand, Tao also comes with optional skirts for his tunic. He’s meant to pull apart at the waist which allows you to lift off the pieces that he comes wearing by default. The tunic skirts are in two pieces, a rear and a front, and the peg holes were engineered in a way to prevent you from mixing the two up. Getting them onto Tao is easy and really does add to the figure’s presentation. They may not have hit a home run with this figure, but when you get it right it sure does look impressive.

I can think of a few more characters I’d like to add to this display.

Tao is an ambitious addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball figures. He does stumble in some ways, but the overall package is still impressive. He’s a great villain in the series and a welcomed addition to the roster of characters. My Dragon Ball collection is rounding into form and there are only a handful of characters that I’d like to add to it. If you have one of your own, it’s hard not to want to add Tao Pai Pai to the ranks.


Batman Beyond – The Complete Series (Blu Ray)

Last year, when Warner Home Media announced a new Blu Ray set for the series Batman Beyond, I decided to wait. I had been an early consumer for the similar Batman: The Animated Series set the prior year and had some misgivings. The price on that set fell and a slimmed down version was even introduced at retail that really only omitted the outer box and Funko items. Plus, I had ordered that set from Amazon and had to go through multiples because the company packaged it so poorly. I also wasn’t in any hurry to order Batman Beyond since I had the DVD sets and had never really found them lacking in a visual sense.

My patience was rewarded as a recent Amazon Lightning Deal came up for the complete Batman Beyond Blu Ray package. Like Batman, Batman Beyond received both a deluxe release and a retail release, only this deal on Amazon ended up being the deluxe version marked down even lower than the retail version. I decided to pounce since it’s been awhile since I engaged with the property, and if I was going to do a re-watch, might as well make it a high-definition one.

Batman Beyond tells the story of Bruce (reluctantly) passing the mantle of Batman to Terry

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Batman Beyond was the sequel series to Batman: The Animated Series. In actuality, it was the replacement. Series creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had operated under the assumption that The New Batman Adventures would continue beyond the one season order the WB network had given it. Instead, the network decided that Batman needed a refresh. Were they right? Probably not, as Batman has proven to be a timeless character. The New Batman Adventures wasn’t quite on par with the Fox seasons, but it was still pretty good and had legs. It would have been nice if the network had given it one more season, or even a half season, while also informing the crew that would be it. Then we could have received a proper finale, but instead we got Batman Beyond and a series of Justice League shows followed.

Given that, it would be easy to approach Batman Beyond with significant baggage. After all, the premise is essentially “Let’s make Batman younger by essentially making him Spider-Man.” If you told that to me before ever letting me watch the show I would instantly have a bad impression. It sounds like the foolish decision of a network executive and not a creative decision by an actual story-teller. Against all odds though, the show somehow worked. It made people care about a new, teen-aged, Batman and it also managed to serve as a bookend to the animated series by largely continuing that show’s continuity. Sure, there was a pretty big gap in time between the two properties and a great many loose strings are never addressed, but just by having Bruce Wayne (still voiced by the incomparable Kevin Conroy) onboard added an instant credibility to the program.

Batman Beyond is set in the year 2039. Gotham has apparently run out of room for expansion and has grown up instead of out. Colossal skyscrapers cover the landscape with roads upon roads on top of one another. The main character is Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle), a teenager who loses his father to a murder making him the ideal candidate to replace Bruce Wayne as Batman. As Batman, Terry is empowered with a futuristic suit that allows him to fly, turn invisible, fire a seemingly endless amount of batarangs, and even stick to surfaces like a certain wall-crawler I already referenced. He’s a bit more jokey than his predecessor, and several episodes act as a teaching moment for him as well. This is a Batman in training, though by the end of the show he is pretty much the real deal. It’s a bit amusing to see how future Gotham looks considering modern Gotham looked like it was frozen in the 1940s. It’s about what you would expect, though most automobiles appear to still possess wheels.

The setting is not really what’s important here. What is most interesting about Batman Beyond is watching an elderly Bruce Wayne manage a kid who has taken up his mantle. It arises in an unnatural way with McGinnis initially stealing the suit to investigate his father’s murder. Wayne is shown giving up his alter-ego in the first five minutes of the show, but also given a motivation to want to see Batman return to Gotham. And that’s Derek Powers (Sherman Howard), who has basically taken Wayne’s company from him turning Wayne Enterprises into Wayne-Powers. He’s setup early on to be the primary foil to Batman and Wayne, though the rogue’s gallery will be filled out quite a bit over the ensuing 52 episodes. It’s a lot of fun though to watch Terry and Bruce bust heads with each other as they seldom agree. They find a working relationship though, and it helps that we have the relationships between Bruce and his prior wards to fall back-on. It’s easy to see that this Bruce is trying his hardest not to repeat the same mistakes as he did once before, and the fact that he’s physically compromised in his old age actually helps him to be more patient with Terry than he was with both Dick and Tim.

To sum it up, Batman Beyond is indeed worth your time as a series, even if you have reservations about the whole thing. It does the impossible in being a worthy follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series. Chances are, if you’re reading this you already know that. What’s more pressing is did Warner do right by the series with this set? Considering it is now being sold for almost half of what it was initially, I would say yes.

Being a late 90s/early 2000s show means this one really isn’t all that old, relatively speaking. The masters were all preserved and when the show received a transfer to DVD it came out great. In high-definition, it looks every bit as a good and obviously a little better. Blacks are deep and the brighter colors pop as expected. There’s no grain to speak of with this series, and everything has a very clean presentation. This was one of the last shows to be animated largely in a traditional manner for DC as they still used ink and paint on celluloid for the main animation. And unlike say Spider-Man 94, there’s no glaringly awful CG effects in use. Nothing is really working against the show in its transfer to HD, and that’s a good thing. Warner Home Video also wisely resisted any temptation to crop the image which seems like a given, but you never know when such will pop up.

The new extra features are all relegated to a bonus disc. There’s a round-table retrospective with the creators and actors of the series, though notably absent is Paul Dini. It’s mostly just 45 minutes or so of the people involved congratulating themselves for making a good show. There’s some interesting moments, like Bruce Timm acknowledging some of the controversial moves for the series following its completion that the others at the table get to weigh in on, but it’s not as juicy as it could have been. If you’re at all versed on this show, you probably won’t learn much from this discussion. There’s also a retrospect on Batman called Knight Immortal which consists of still images and some clips and surprisingly no talking heads. A lot of the main players involved with the character are heard from and it’s a decent look at Batman. Lastly, there’s a history of Detective Comics present. It’s a bit dry, but if you love DC then you’ll probably enjoy sitting through it. All of the DVD special features are also present.

The reverse side of the lenticulars.

Like the set for BTAS, this one doesn’t have any commentaries or anything like that added, just what was already available on DVD. Also like that set, it includes the feature associated with the series, in this case the excellent Return of the Joker. If it weren’t for Mask of the Phantasm, Return of the Joker would be my favorite Batman animated film and it’s still one of my favorite Batman films in general, possibly in my top 5. It’s the uncut version too, as expected. There’s also an optional digital version of the collection that can be downloaded. I haven’t redeemed my code though so I can’t speak to the quality (the BTAS set came with a standard definition digital copy) and I’m also note sure if it includes Return of the Joker.

This little booklet is just a glorified table of contents. No creator notes or anything.

Where this set differs from the BTAS one is in the presentation. It comes in a cardboard box with a window display for a chrome Batman Beyond Funko Pop! rather than mini ones. It’s a normal-sized Pop! so you probably know if you like it or not. Inside the box is a pretty standard Blu Ray set. It’s a hard cardboard slip case with folding digi-book styled case that houses the discs. It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s at least functional. While I loved the presentation of the leather-bound book for the BTAS set, getting the discs in and out was painful. There’s also some lenticular images and a little booklet that serves as a table of contents. It’s fine, just not particularly flashy. I imagine the standard retail release just omits the outer box and Funko figure.

If you want this show on physical media and in HD, then this is something you should seek out.

Batman Beyond – The Complete Series is essentially as advertised. If you had been waiting for a complete collection on Blu Ray, then you should be satisfied with this. Especially if you were able to get it on sale. If you like the show, and you’re still into physical media like I am, then you should probably grab it. Is it essential if you already have the DVDs? Probably not. The bonus features are something you’re likely to watch once and then never again. It would have been great if Warner had made an attempt to make this the full Batman Beyond experience by including the character’s appearances from other shows on here. That would have been especially useful for someone like me who has no interest in buying any of those other shows. And if this is something you want, I’d suggest grabbing whatever version is cheaper unless you really want that exclusive Pop! figure. Lastly, if you like Batman: The Animated Series but never gave Batman Beyond a chance, it’s worth the price of admission. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.


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