Wednesday, August 18th, ended up being quite an eventful little day in the world of toy collecting. There were some reveals from major toy companies, leaks, and even those long neglected Street Sharks fans got something to get excited about late in the day. Personally, it was a good day for me too as I finally got to click “ship” on a Big Bad Toy Store Pile of Loot that includes my Super7 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wave 3. However, nothing prepared me for what Super7 had in-store for us (or technically didn’t) come the evening.
It started in the afternoon when Super7 posted a tease for a new license: an image of a glowing, green, rod with the vastness of space behind it. To the uninitiated, this may have been cryptic or even confusing. A glowstick? What could that be a reference to? For diehard fans of The Simpsons though, the image was unmistakable: an inanimate carbon rod! This rather plain looking object was the punchline to the episode “Deep Space Homer” where the show allegedly “jumped the shark” by sending Homer to outer space. It’s a ridiculous concept, but like a lot of classic era episodes of The Simpsons, there’s plenty of jokes to make it worthwhile.
Speculation was then running wild on social media about what Super7 had planned for The Simpsons. Most, including myself, assumed a wave of ReAction figures was forthcoming. If you’re unfamiliar with ReAction, that’s Super7’s retro, five points of articulation, throwback line of figures that are sold on elaborate cardbacks and can be found everywhere. They’re not my cup of tea as I have no nostalgic attachment to the Star Wars figure line from the 70s and 80s. They’re just ugly figures to me, but sometimes Super7 creates some interesting figures in this line so I wasn’t ready to dismiss the idea. The Nicktoons figures have turned out pretty well, so maybe The Simpsons could be pulled off just as well.
What I was hoping for though, was that Super7 would give The Simpsons the Ultimates treatment. We’ve talked about the Ultimates figure line a lot here, but for those just popping in, Super7’s Ultimates line is a 7″ scale action figure line that’s made to order. These are the figures that are decidedly modern in their approach to sculpting, articulation, etc. The Simpsons isn’t a brand that screams “Ultimates” since we’re not talking about sword-wielding ninjas and such, but I’m interested in figures that capture the likeness best and come packed with tons of accessories and facial expressions. Still, I assumed that would be far off, and if Super7 did want to do Simpsons in that style that they would start small (like they did with Ren and Stimpy) and maybe just offer a Homer or Bart or a one-off character.
And I was wrong! Later in the evening, the Twitter account @preterniadotcom tweeted an image of a Google search result for a Super7 Ultimates Deep Space Homer. The link went to a 404 error, but it’s mere existence was encouraging. The same account then dug a little further and was able to find a solicitation image that all but confirmed the existence of a Deep Space Homer action figure. As the name suggests, it’s Homer in his astronaut suit and he indeed comes packaged with our beloved carbon rod. He has extra hands and three different facial expressions. He also has a bag of chips and the colony of ants. It’s just a digital render, but it sure looks promising.
The fun didn’t stop there. Soon many people were messing around with the Super7 store URL and it wasn’t long before an image of the entire first wave of Simpsons Ultimates was uncovered. A user at thefwoosh.com was the first person I saw to uncover the image, but soon every social media account connected with toys was sharing it. The day began rather ordinarily, and then we got a Simpsons tease, then we got confirmation of an Ultimates figure, and when we all went to sleep we had an entire first wave. And it wasn’t just two figures, it wasn’t even the standard four, but five figures! Super7 clearly appears to be all-in when it comes to The Simpsons and I am here for it!
So who all is joining Homer in this inaugural first wave? Well, in true Super7 fashion, it’s a surprising collection of characters intended to appeal to the diehard Simpsons fan. Disney fans were confused when Super7 launched a Disney line last year consisting of Sorcerer Mickey, Pinocchio, and Prince Jon from Robin Hood because there was no Robin Hood. Super7’s approach is both strategic and also by the seat of their pants. They like to produce the figures that they simply want, and Super7’s Brian Flynn loves Prince Jon so he gets to be in Wave One. To them, that suggests to the consumer that “Of course Robin Hood will be in Wave Two,” but for fans unfamiliar with the company it’s just confusing. With The Simpsons, I’m pretty sure the same thing will happen because Wave One is Deep Space Homer, Moe, Poochie, and robot versions of Itchy and Scratchy from the episode “Itchy and Scratchy Land.” I don’t want to speak for Super7, but my guess is these are just favorite characters, episodes, and gags for the people at Super7. It’s also a tell to the Simpsons fanbase that they’re going to go deep. It’s a foregone conclusion that you’re going to get a Bart, Lisa, Krusty, etc. at some point, so they’re going to give you some of those deep cuts upfront so you don’t have to worry about Super7 not getting to them.
Of course, since everything except the initial tease is basically a leak (or a cleverly disguised reveal to get people talking) we don’t necessarily know what the plan is or what direction they’re going in. Maybe Super7 isn’t interested in doing a base Homer? I kind of doubt it, but we’ll have to wait and see. They’ll probably want to get someone out there soon to talk about the license and give fans a head’s up, but for now we at least know about five figures. And from what I see, they look terrific. I don’t know that I need Homer in a space suit, but I do like what Super7 is showing here so it’s not something I’m going to pass on. Moe looks as Moe should. He comes with his apron, rag, a Flaming Moe, and a bright red phone for prank calls. He even has an angry, screaming, face that should pair well with that phone. He also has a panda in a crate, because Moe gets his hands into some questionable business practices. Poochie also looks great and comes with his surfboard, skateboard, and all of the stuff he needs to take things “To the extreme!” The stars of the inaugural first wave though might be those robotic Itchy and Scratchy figures. They just look fun with Itchy featuring a removable skull top to expose his robotic innards and Scratchy possessing a removable face to do the same. They have various implements of destruction as well as items to feature in a parade. And, not to be missed, is the Bort license plate that comes with Scratchy (chef’s kiss).
Even though I get what Super7 is doing here, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a rather bold selection of characters for the first wave of a new IP. Is there a market for high end Simpsons action figures out there? I guess we’ll find out. Many are used to paying 10 bucks or so for the Playmates figures of 20 years ago. These will retail for $55 a piece so there’s likely to be some sticker shock. I’m familiar with Super7 so I know what to expect. I’m also used to paying that kind of money for a toy in 2021 so it should go without saying that I’m all in. And then there’s also the delay in actually getting these. Simpsons fans who have been out of the collector game for a long time will be surprised at the price, and then further surprised when they find out they won’t even get their figures for a year. Super7’s made-to-order model is basically designed in such a way that they almost can’t lose money on a figure offering, but if this wave underperforms it might mean a smaller Wave Two. I suspect they have a list of figures they really want to make and it’s possible nothing will stop them unless sales are truly abysmal, but it will be interesting to see the response to these. As for me, I have a long list of characters that I’d love to see, and I expect a lot of the figures to come will be episode specific. Surely there will be a Bart in Wave Two, but I’m also really hopefully for a Skinner and Chalmers pairing full of Steamed Ham references. Such a thing would surely get the social media a-buzzing!
Update 8/20/2021: The entire first wave is now available through Super7 at https://preorder.super7store.com/. If you want to order from a place that doesn’t charge upfront, more options should become available later in the day. I recommend at least heading on over to Super7’s store for more high-res images of the line including a look at the sleek packaging!
The year 2020 will forever be linked with the COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic that has stretched on into 2021 and may very well continue into 2022 at this point. The greatest tragedy of the pandemic is obviously the millions of lives lost to the virus, and I don’t want anyone to forget that the lives lost far surpasses the inconveniences we’re currently dealing with. One of those inconveniences just happens to be a global shipping crisis. When the virus first ravaged China, it causes factories and ports to shut down. Since many consumer goods are manufactured in China, that lead to shortages across the world and things have been slow to come back. Now, many factories are at least operational, but the ports have a huge backlog. Some companies are pointing the finger at the few shipping companies in operation and accusing them of unfair practices and price gouging as the cost to ship a container across the Pacific has exploded. This doesn’t figure to be something that will resolve itself anytime soon either, and some are already cautioning the American public that the holiday shopping season won’t look like seasons from years past.
One industry affected by all of this is the toy industry. Most plastic toys are manufactured in China or Hong Kong and have been affected by the factory closings and shipping situation. Release dates in 2021 have practically lost all meaning as a result and a March release became an April release, became a Q3 release, and so on. One company hit by all of this has been Super7. Super7’s business model is essentially to put a line of action figures up on their site for a one month preorder. When that month concludes, the company places a factory order for the amount of presales (plus extra for quality control and to sell at their physical store) and eventually consumers have something in their hands in roughly 8-10 months. The idea is to put a wave for their various lines up for sale every 4 months, so that by the time the first wave is shipping the third wave is available for pre-order. This model has been blown up though, and one line affected has been Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The first wave of TMNT figures from Super7 started rolling out last August and into September. Wave 2 followed in December/January and Wave 3 was expected around May. Well, delays pushed things back further into Q2 2021 and then the shipping industry struck. Up until just last week, Super7 was still waiting for the container holding some of the figures for this line to be unloaded at the port. They had the turtle from this wave, Michelangelo, in their warehouse nearly two months ago, but not the rest. It’s something that likely frustrates all parties involved since the product is there, ready to go, but still out of reach. Some retailers, like Big Bad Toy Store, managed to get some of their stock before Super7, which is unheard of. They didn’t get everything though, and many collectors are still waiting. It was actually last night that I finally saw someone post that Super7 is shipping their set of figures so at least the long wait for some is about to end.
As for me, I’m still waiting with no end in sight. I only ordered 3 of the 4 figures in the wave and I ordered them from Big Bad Toy Store. The store prioritized complete sets of orders before fulfilling a handful of singles and has now stopped fulfilling orders leading me to believe they’re waiting on more. Since I can’t tell you what I think about the likes of Michelangelo and Rocksteady right now, I’ll pivot and do a post I’ve been kicking around in my head for awhile.
If you’re unfamiliar with the line, Super7’s take on TMNT is to recreate the toys made famous by Playmates and realize them with a modern aesthetic and in a 7″ scale. As a result, it’s pretty easy to make a wish list since the figures the company produces will mirror those, for the most part. The company has said it intends to do at least a few figures in the line that Playmates never did (maybe more of the Punk Frogs?), and there are some that are off-limits due to licensing issues. For the most part though, I’m expecting we’ll get most, if not all, of the unique characters from the vintage line and some of the turtle variants. The company has already unveiled 5 waves of figures which cover all of the original 10 figures and a bunch of the later figures. They’re clearly not focusing on one year over another, so anything is fair game.
So what would I like to see next? Well, I have some thoughts. I’m not all-in on this line as I’m mostly cherry-picking my favorites, but if Super7 were to release any of the following I’d probably buy it.
If you polled collectors about what character they want to see next it would not surprise me in the least if Slash finished in first. The evil, mutant, turtle from Dimension X was taken from the Archie companion comic Mighty Mutanimals where he was actually a good guy. In what quickly became a trend, Playmates and the cartoon would take a Mutanimal and make him evil which apparently annoyed creators Ryan Brown and Stephen Murphy. When the cartoon wanted to make Ray Fillet a villain, they put their foot down which is why we ended up with just Ray, a weird, composite, fish, mutant.
I certainly respect the views of the creators, but unfortunately, evil Slash is my preferred take. Even the good guy version looks like a bad guy, and this guy is begging to be realized in a modern style. Super7 plays fast and loose with the scale so I’m curious how they’ll approach Slash. The vintage figure was quite squat and actually shorter than the hero turtles, but I’d prefer Super7 make him just a touch taller than the good guys. He certainly should be chunkier, and I’m curious if they’ll give him a proper neck or just stick with the vintage approach. I’m also quite curious to see how the company approaches the figure’s spiked nunchaku. They probably can’t do an actual, spiked, chain, so I suspect it will be bendy, molded, plastic, but maybe they surprise me with something more elaborate. I’m also curious if they stick with the solid purple blades on his hands, or do something more metallic. When the company did Shredder, they basically just stuck with the Playmates colors which is partly why I passed so I suspect they’ll treat Slash in a similar fashion. Mostly though, I hope they take their time with the headsculpt and really bring out those teeth. It would be a shame if they stay too true to the original and produce something soft instead.
When I was a kid, I had no idea this guy was part of a race of space dinosaurs called Triceratons, and just thought his name was Triceraton. When the cartoon finally got to him I was forced to admit my head-canon was off. I don’t care though as this guy was pretty bad ass looking. And he was a character I frequently paired with Slash as they had a similar aesthetic with their bumpy skin and all together evil appearance. The cartoon Triceratons NECA gave us are pretty cool and true to the source material, but this guy is different. He’s still an orange, bipedal, triceratops with big guns, but he just looks all together meaner and more formidable. I’m also hopeful that Super7 makes this guy big! I’m talking Bebop size! He’d just have a ton of shelf presence with his bright, orange, skin if made at that size. I just hope they give him some more expressive hands as my only gripe with the Bebop figure rests in the static nature of his posture. At least the Triceraton has a snarling facial expression which will help give him a more dynamic feel all by itself.
I talked about this guy in my Toys that Got Away feature as he was a figure I saw at the store, but couldn’t buy at the time, and then never saw again. I don’t know what it was about Monty Moose that appealed to me. Maybe it was because I grew up in New Hampshire where a moose sighting wasn’t terribly uncommon? Or maybe it was the Canadian Mountie inspired attire that just looked cool to me. Whatever the case, I still think he looks rather unique and this is another figure that would be huge. The newly released Rocksteady has that long snout of a face that forced Super7 to package him him looking off to the side. Monty Moose has a similar visage, but also packs those massive antlers. Turn him to the side and you just create a new problem. He might need special, oversized, packaging to get the job done and I do feel like he’d come in pretty close in size to Bebop and Rocksteady since he is a freakin’ moose!
Earlier in this post I mentioned that some figures from the vintage line were off-limits due to licensing issues, and unfortunately that happens to affect Usagi Yojimbo. It wasn’t that long ago that Super7 founder Brian Flynn mentioned in an episode of The Fwooshcast that Usagi was coming and the contract was already signed, but since then things have apparently changed. Either Flynn got a little ahead of himself, or that agreement became null and void thanks to a new Netflix series featuring the samurai rabbit. Basically, anything Usagi is on pause right now which affects both Super7 and NECA who also have not featured the character in their TMNT line. I’m reasonably optimistic that things will get worked out, but there’s no guarantee.
And if they do get worked out, I suspect we’ll see a standard version of Usagi before we see the space one, even though if I had it my way I’d go with the radical space variant first. I guess some folks in the 90s just found space rabbits appealing because I have no idea why Usagi ever needed to go to space. It was pretty gnarly though and I used to pair him with Space Cadet Raph (who is all but assured to be released in Wave 6, 7, or 8) for intergalactic adventures in my bedroom. He had this neat mask molded to his face that kind of made him look like a Star Trek villain, plus a cape and and dome that fit around his ears. He got to pack a gun instead of his boring old katana, and it’s just the type of wacky character the line was known for and one I’d like to see get another shot at life.
The old Playmates line is incredibly nostalgic for me, and for various reasons. One reason is when I happen to remember getting a specific figure. Even though my grandmother bought me lots of TMNT stuff when I was a kid, I associate her with Walkabout because she and my grandfather gave him to me when they got back from a vacation. Normally, they’d vacation in a place like Mexico and bring me back a sombrero or t-shirt that probably advertised alcohol, but this time I got a turtle toy and I was pretty surprised and excited. The orange kangaroo Walkabout just looked different to me than many of the other toys in the line and there was just something about him that I really liked. Maybe it’s because a kangaroo was just an exotic creature to someone living in the US, maybe I was really enamored with Crocodile Dundee, or maybe I just liked that he had a tail and articulated knees? I don’t know, but if Super7 makes him I’m buying him!
When I talked about Slash I said I felt he was the character most fans were looking forward to seeing the most. Well, if he has a rival it’s probably Rat King as he’s another classic figure of a now classic character begging to be realized by Super7. Not much distinguishes Rat King from his cartoon appearance, he’s just more detailed and a little more gross. And speaking of gross, how will Super7 sculpt and paint Rat King’s dead cat belt?! There isn’t much Super7 will need to do with this figure, sort of like how it really didn’t have to do too much to Baxter Stockman. Just make him bigger, add some articulation, and paint every last detail that was in that old sculpt. And please, paint the damn accessories! If I have one, lingering, complaint with this line as a whole it’s that the turtles get their weapons painted up all nice and pretty while everyone else largely gets monochrome accessories that aren’t nearly as flashy.
Hothead is a figure I never had as a kid and I don’t ever recall playing with him either. He was a late comer to the line when I was getting pulled in different directions and would eventually devote my meager resources to X-Men. However, I do feel like I missed out on a cool figure in Hothead. I mean, he’s a mutant dragon – what’s cooler than that?! Or should I say what’s hotter than that? Regardless, he has a killer look and a neat feature that allowed his neck to extend. I suspect Super7 would have to include two necks with this guy, which kind of messes things up for them as they like to make the neck just part of the torso sculpt, but would they do this figure any other way? I guess they refrained from making Mutagen Man water-tight so maybe they’d ignore the extending neck feature and just settle on a middle-ground. Honestly, as long as he comes out looking good I’ll be interested, but I hope they come up with something interesting. A fully articulated neck, or bendy neck, would probably be the most extravagant way to go as he’d look so awesome if he could be positioned looking around and such. Ah, I shouldn’t get my hopes up though.
Another one I never had as a kid is Scale Tail, but I at least had friends who had this guy. He’s just another bonkers sculpt from Playmates and Varner Studios, who handled a lot of the figures in the line. He’s a mutant cobra, but one arm is composed entirely out of snakes while his forked tongue has been outfitted with a forked gun. He’s just ridiculous, and that’s really the only reason why I want to see Super7 tackle him. They’d definitely make him fairly large, not so much in height, but length, and it’s hard to imagine someone coming into a room and seeing that thing on a shelf and not immediately asking about it.
Rock’n Rollin’ Turtles
Super7 started with the main turtles with each figure anchoring one of the four waves. For the fifth wave, Sewer Samurai Leonardo is the anchor turtle leading most to believe that Super7 will do the rest of the “disguised” turtles across the next 3 waves. Recently, Super7 designer Kyle Wlodyga, during an appearance on The Fwooshcast, indicated that we will eventually see an entire wave of four turtles and my hope is they’ll be the Rock’n Rollin’ Turtles! One of the few figures to survive my purge many years ago is my Classic Rock Leonardo. He looks like Leonardo doing a Springsteen cos-play, and despite my not having any particular affection for the music of Bruce Springsteen, I just happen to like the figure. The leather vest, denim pants, turtle guitar – all solid gold as far as I’m concerned. The rest of the wave was a Rappin’ Mike, Punk Rock Don, and Heavy Metal Raph (more like Hair Metal Raph) which I do not currently own. I think I used to have Mike, but never Don or Raph. If Super7 did all four, I’d at have to consider getting them all, but I’d definitely get Leo to pair with my vintage one. There aren’t many turtle variants that I need to see updated, but these are pretty close.
Behind the Rock’n Rollin’ Turtles in terms of importance to me are the sports turtles. These included the likes of Michelangelo as a pro wrestler, Raph as a baseball player, and Leonardo as a quarterback, among others. I would not need to get all of these guys, but I really liked my vintage baseball Raph for some reason, and Mikey as a wrestler is just a lot of fun. Some of the others included a soccer Raph, basketball Donatello, and hockey Leonardo. Some of them are fairly charming, but definitely not essential (especially at $55 a piece if prices remain steady). Most of the other wacky turtle variants are things I don’t need. I have some nostalgic attachment to a few here and there (like Raph the Magnificent), but even as a kid they were figures I’d be excited to get, play with for a weekend, then retire. Unless they’re interesting visually, they have no appeal for me in a collector line.
That’s about it for me though. If Super7 gets to all of these figures then great, and if not, I guess I’ll have to live without them. I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy figures not listed above, but the rest aren’t figures I’m really rooting for. Some of that has to do with NECA as their cartoon Scumbug and Groundchuck are pretty close to that Playmates aesthetic, and since I’m all in on their toon line, it makes me less likely to get the Super7 offering. Had Super7 got to those characters first, then yeah, I probably end up with them similar to how I ended up with Baxter Stockman. That’s fine though. These things aren’t cheap and I have only so much room in my house to dedicate to toys.
Hopefully, retailers start getting their stock of TMNT Ultimates! Wave 3 and I can tell you how much I love the figures from that line. And hopefully Wave 4 remains on-track for Q4 2021. And hey, maybe some day I’ll be able to tell you what I think of Super7’s Disney Ultimates! which I ordered roughly a year ago. It’s 2021, baby, and release dates don’t mean a thing!
That is quite the mouthful, is it not? The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku is the latest action figure from Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts to arrive in Target stores in the US. This form of Goku is what happens when a Saiyan ascends to Super Saiyan God level, and then goes Super Saiyan again. Confused? You probably should be, which is why in-universe Goku proposed just calling the form Super Saiyan Blue because he just looks like his regular Super Saiyan self, but with blue hair instead of blond. And that’s cool! At least I think it is, but blue has always been my favorite color so that is all the explanation you really need for why I like it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, that might be because you stopped paying attention after the Dragon Ball Z hype dyed-down for this form is from the more recent Dragon Ball Super. And if you liked DBZ back in the day and have slept on Super, I recommend checking it out because it’s pretty fun.
The SHF line from Bandai and Tamashii Nations has become one of the premiere collector lines for action figure enthusiasts. It’s a super-articulated, 1/12 scale line that is known for its high level of quality. That can also mean a high price tag as well with many releases tagged for $60 or more at release. It wasn’t that long ago that the line was basically an import only affair, but US-based retailers have slowly been adding the line to their stores. Barnes & Noble and Gamestop were among the first places I encountered the line outside of online toy shops, but Bandai has wanted to make this a more accessible line and has partnered with American distributor Blue Fin Brands to make these things even more available. And also more affordable. That’s why you can now find some products at Target, which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And in order to appeal to a more casual Target shopper, Bandai has turned to Goku and a rather aggressive pricing strategy. Likely owing to the fact that the company is reusing the same mold over and over, Bandai has been able to price Goku at $35. He doesn’t come with as many accessories as other figures in the line, but he’s hardly bare bones. Bandai started with its standard Goku, then released the Kaioken version, and now it’s released the Super Saiyan Blue version. I suspect the new Full Power Super Saiyan Goku will show up as well.
This seems like a pretty good strategy to me, especially because I may have never bought this particular figure otherwise. I’ve somewhat reluctantly begun to expand my Dragon Ball collection to include some of Z and Super, and this figure is the first one I have in hand. As I said above, I like the Super Saiyan Blue look. It’s just Super Saiyan Goku, but with cooler hair. I never had the opportunity to get this figure before and the only other versions I’ve encountered in a physical store have been the model kits or the Dragon Stars edition, and neither really appealed to me. I have wanted to cherry-pick a bit from the Dragon Ball Super, and to some extent Dragon Ball Z, releases so I was happy to see this figure get reissued as it was originally a released timed with the film Dragon Ball Super – Broly.
Goku is about as good as any other SHF release I’ve purchased, and that’s a good thing. To the tip of his hair, he’s just shy of 6.5″ which makes him about a half inch taller than the Super Saiyan Vegeta I have from the same line. That looks about right for late era DBZ and DBS as Vegeta was gradually drawn taller than his original appearance (apparently, being good causes you to grow in the world of Dragon Ball), but was always kept shorter than Goku. He sports his traditional organge gi with his own kanji on the front and rear (accurate to the film) and a knotted belt. His undershirt, wrist wraps, belt, and boots are navy and his skin is quite pale, which is often how it’s colored when in one of his super forms. His hair is a dark, pearl, blue which is basically how it’s colored when the character lacks an aura. I was a little surprised Bandai didn’t try to create the illusion of an aura, but this looks good too.
As is the case with most figures in this line, Goku doesn’t possess a ton of paint. The gi is done in orange plastic with a slight wash on the front to add a touch of depth. Basically, the only painted parts are the facial features, blue sleeves, blue wrist wraps, the flesh of his chest, the kanji on his chest and back, and the red stripes and knots on his boots. What little paint there is has been applied in a clean manner. My only gripe is with the opacity. The white on the kanji needs to be thicker as some of the orange bleeds through it. The same is true of the chest which looks like it’s cast in blue plastic to match the undershirt and it shoes through just a little. It’s not too noticable though and I’m genuinely pleased with how well the flesh plastic of his neck matches the painted flesh. In total, the paint is fine, but since this is sort of a “budget” release it’s easy to wonder if that plays a role in the thin paint on the kanji.
Beyond the paint, the sculpt for this figure is generally really good. Goku is a character than can be tough to get right for some reason as I’ve seen many figures where his head just looks too small. And I kind of felt that way about the standard Goku Bandai did and it’s why I never picked him up. Maybe it’s just the shape of the Super Saiyan hair, but this one looks better to me. His head might be a touch on the small side, but it doesn’t throw off the look of the figure. The gi looks terrific as far as the folds and such are concerned and they really did a great job hiding the articulation when Goku is in a vanilla pose. I’m especially happy with how the face turned out on all of the swap-able pieces. Anime characters like Goku sometimes end up with facial features that are too soft, but Goku does not suffer in that regard. His nose is pronounced whether looking at the figure head-on or from the side. I like the variety of expressions as they all very much scream “Goku.” The musculature of his arms looks “just right” to me. It’s easy to see why Bandai would re-release this base sculpt over and over because there isn’t much they could do to improve upon it.
People love the SHF line because of the sculpts, but also because of the articulation. Goku boasts as much articulation as pretty much any other figure in the line, which is to say he packs a lot. He has a single ball peg at the head/neck that lets him look down pretty far and up just a bit. Go too far back and a small gap will appear at the base of the neck. It’s okay, but not as good as some other figures. At the shoulders, we have the usual ball-hinge setup with a butterfly joint. The shoulder cuffs of the gi can be moved around as they’re just pegged into the arms which allows you to position Goku’s arms in almost any position you can think of, though he can’t quite reach across his body. Bringing the arms forward will, of course, create a large gap behind the shoulder, but he can do a decent Kamehameha so you’ll probably get what you want out of it. Unfortunately, the interior of the shoulder is cast in flesh-colored plastic when it should be orange so if you look at the figure from certain angles when in that classic pose it doesn’t look right. At the biceps, he has a swivel and below that a double hinge that does better than 90 degrees. The hands are on ball-hinges and the wrist cuffs hide the ball portion very well. In the torso, we have the SHF ball hinge so you can twist and pivot at the base of the rib cage, but also pull up on the figure to crunch him forward and back. At the waist is a twist, and below that we have what I think are ball pegs at the hips. He can kick forward and back just fine, but out to the side he’s a touch limited with his left leg, but for some reason his right is even more limited. I don’t know if the floating, plastic, “cap” Bandai used just isn’t lining up right on that side or what the deal is, but I don’t want to force it. He’s got a twist in the upper thigh, double-hinge knee, and ball peg at the ankle with a toe hinge. The ankle articulation isn’t great because it’s recessed so far in the boot. They could probably stand to do better there, but I have no issues standing him. The belt also features a peg at the knot so you can reposition it as needed. It’s a floating piece otherwise so it can also slide around.
The articulation is overall pretty good. It’s not the best SHF figure I’ve seen, but it does strike a pretty terrific balance between pleasing the sculpt and offering a wide range of motion. Really, the big negative is that butterfly joint and maybe the sleeves, which peg into the shoulder to move around, but can get kind of ugly in certain poses. They can be manipulated into something pleasing enough, but it feels like a better solution could be found. For $35 though, this figure is a terrific value. I don’t know that much really competes. Maybe the Tokka and Rahzar NECA released last year which averaged out to around 30-35 a piece? And I haven’t even mentioned the accessories. Goku comes with 4 portraits and four and half sets of hands. The facial portraits are stoic, smile, teeth gritting, and yelling. The hands are fists, open palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha hands, and one double-pointing “Instant Transmission” right hand. Basically, you get everything you need with no extras. It would be awesome to get a stand or energy effect, but given the price I’d say you’re getting a solid assortment. The only facial portrait one could ask for that isn’t here is maybe just a cheerful expression, but that’s definitely not needed for the Super Saiyan Blue form. And when it comes to the hands, there’s none I could want that isn’t here. Goku isn’t a character that needs gripping hands and he can do all of his signature poses with what Bandai provided in the box, save for the ones that need a stand.
And that’s what this is, a low cost entry point into the SHF Dragon Ball line. It definitely strikes me as a sound strategy as I can see some people seeing this in a place like Target and picking it up on a whim and that leading them down the rabbit hole that is the SHF line. It’s even worked on me to a degree as I now want a villain, or at least someone, to pair with Goku. I definitely would like to get my hands on a Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and I hope he gets a reissue at some point. I don’t know that I need the Broly to place on a shelf though. This is a line I intend to just cherry pick my favorite looks and characters and it felt right to add at least one Goku to the mix. And I like how he turned out. Could he be better? Yes, especially at that butterfly joint, but overall he looks nice and moves well enough that I think anyone who picks this figure up will be happy with it.
San Diego Comic Con has come to be a convention that means a lot of things. It only vaguely has anything to do with comic books and instead is more a celebration of, and I hate to use the term, “geek” culture: video games, movies, comics, toys, etc. It’s also a huge commercial event with many companies exhibiting wares like a trade show and also hawking rare, convention, exclusives to hungry patrons looking to get their hands on something unique. The problem is, these convention exclusives were once novelties, but in the toy industry, they’ve become practical necessities for fans of certain products and it creates a hyper-competitive environment full of broken websites, tapped-out wallets, and frustrated fans.
For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to be done remotely. At least with this year, companies had plenty of time to plan for that and many crafted special videos or hosted live panels to show off to fans what’s expected to come later this year and into next. Unfortunately, a global shipping crisis could not be foreseen so a lot of product that would have been sold at physical booths this year are still in transit. It certainly takes a damper out of things when, as a consumer, you fight scalpers and busted websites only to secure an order for something that won’t even ship for 6 to 8 months. In that case though, at least the consumer can be happy to have secured a coveted item and the waiting is just what it is.
It’s been an interesting season. I was musing on Twitter how this time of year that purports to celebrate the collector, toy, industry instead brings out the worst in the industry. As one would say though, it is what it is. I spent a lot of time, and money, going after the stuff I personally wanted and watched from afar as plenty of other fellow collectors tried to get the things they wanted. Some experiences went better than others, but I can at least say that I did get everything I really wanted, and the things I didn’t I passed on because it just wasn’t worth it to me.
The company always in my sights this time of year is NECA. I have been collecting NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles products ever since they started making the stuff back in 2008. NECA chose to use this time of year to only highlight items expected to arrive in stores between now and October, so while there weren’t a ton of reveals, there was certainly plenty to get excited about. On the film front, they had a new Casey Jones to feature that now comes with an unmasked portrait as NECA was able to get the likeness rights to actor Elias Koteas (with some help from April actress Judith Hoag) around the time the original figure was released. It looks great, though considering it’s basically the same figure I already have just with a new head and elbows means I may pass on it. Complicating the matter is Walmart posting a preorder just last night for a mystery two-pack claiming to be April and Casey from the farm portion of the film. There was no image to go with it, but being a TMNT product, it sold out. It’s dated for November so I suppose it’s not a surprise it was withheld from the show. Also from the movies is Shredder from the sequel, The Secret of the Ooze. He’s largely the same figure as the first film except he’s purple and has a new cape and helmet. Still, he looks pretty awesome and would pair quite well with Tokka and Rahzar.
From the cartoons, NECA had some two-packs that we knew were coming thanks to a Target leak, but had yet to see. Groundchuck and Dirtbag will be arriving together which makes sense since they debuted together in the same episode of the show. Dirtbag even has a nifty feature where he can separate at the torso and be placed in a sculpted pile of rubble like he came up from out of the ground (since he’s a mutated miner or something). The other big two-pack shown was Wingnut and Screwloose who too looked quite impressive. Screwloose in the cartoon was a much larger character than someone like Joe Eyeball so he gets a full figure this time around, which is awesome. He looks to be roughly the same size as Baxter. Those were the only new reveals, but they did show additional shots of some of the figures NECA put up for preorder earlier in the year and also teased a cartoon Tokka and Rahzar two-pack. For the comics, they only had a teaser for Fugitoid and nothing for the video game line was shown or teased which was expected as the comic line is intended to replace it.
As expected, NECA did have an exclusive set to sell this year as they have every year going back several years now. And for TMNT, they actually had two. The first is an exclusive Super Shredder that will be sold at Walmart stores. It’s another paint variant meant to resemble a European version of the old Playmates toy, similar to how the Shadow Master variant was an homage to a mail order exclusive of the same toy. This one is basically hot pink with metallic blue shoulder pads and spikes. It’s fine, though most fans were more interested in the cartoon 4-pack that went on sale at NECA’s webstore yesterday. Titled The Catwoman from Channel 6, the set contains four figures: Mutated Cat April, Irma, Vernon, and Burne as well as a bunch of unique Channel 6 themed accessories like cameras and little mutated versions of Vernon and Burne as turtles. It’s a pretty cool looking set as the box is done up like the deluxe releases with f.h.e. inspired artwork, but mostly it’s the first chance at an Irma and Burne. They may not be heroes or villains, but they were in a lot of episodes of the cartoon and it’s hard to have a display that doesn’t include them. Many were disappointed that the Cat April doesn’t come with a new, non-mutated, April head, but her skin tone is different as a cat and it wouldn’t have made sense. Irma comes with rat parts, like Vernon, while the cowardly cameraman has two new portraits to differentiate him from his prior release: a scared version and a blindfolded one. The set was sold with some “swag” like last year’s Musical Mutagen Tour and set collectors back $175. A version without the swag will arrive at Target in the coming months and retail for $150. I was able to place an order yesterday as the set remained in stock for awhile relative to other NECA exclusives, which means about 15 minutes. International versions are still available, and really the only downer is NECA has not provided a release window so I have no idea when this thing will ship.
In non-turtle news, NECA had some horror stuff to show based on Halloween and Gremlins II. I’m not really into that aspect of their business, but I am very interested in one of their newest intellectual properties: Gargoyles. Despite boasting that they have around six or seven sculpts already completed, NECA was content to just show two characters: Demona and Thailog. Demona had been teased already so this was just a chance to get a closer look at her, and predictably, she looks terrific. Thailog, being a clone of Goliath, was a bit underwhelming as he’s basically a Goliath variant. He has a new portrait that’s rather smug looking, and I like it, but I would have preferred to see another new sculpt. Demona was confirmed as the second release, and I believe Thailog was confirmed as the third, but no release window was given. Since Goliath still hasn’t shipped, it would probably be generous to expect both to arrive before October is through, but hopefully Demona can at least make it out before Halloween. Goliath is my most anticipated action figure release this year and I can’t wait to go hands-on with this line!
After the NECA hysteria died down, my focus turned to Bandai. I am a casual collector of Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts line and it’s Dragon Ball figures, but one of their exclusives this year caught my eye. An anime accurate Nappa was going on sale following the manga-inspired version that was released a couple of years ago. I had seen that figure on display several times at a local comic shop and came close to pulling the trigger, but ultimately passed. I decided I would not do the same this time, but Bandai seemed to have other ideas. The sale started at 9 EST last night and it was doomed from the start. The website crashed and no one could check out. Twitter was flooded with complaints while the social media accounts for Bandai and Bluefin Brands tried to push patience. It was a repeat of last year, and despite promises to do better, Bandai came up short. After an hour of constant refreshing and baby steps, I finally got through, but others weren’t as lucky. It helped I was only going after one of the four Dragon Ball exclusives, the others being Goku, Whis, and Beerus. I would have liked to have grabbed Beerus as I enjoy that character, but I just didn’t feel like spending more money. Same for the special stands that were on sale which featured a custom base. At least with Nappa, I have an expected delivery window of August, so the wait for this exclusive should be fairly quick.
The longest wait though is reserved for Mondo. I am a first-time buyer of Monda, though I’ve seen their stuff before. They did a line of Mirage-inspired Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that were pretty cool and also have tackled Batman: The Animated Series. Their figures are 1/6th scale, so they’re around 12″ usually and quite expensive. Last November though, the company unveiled a figure in a new line: Wolverine. Not just any Wolverine though, Wolverine from X-Men the animated series. I was immediately interested despite the scale and cost and I only became more interested when the company teased it earlier this week. This thing comes with the photo frame of Scott and Jean that Wolverine broods over and has become a popular meme over the past few years. And to top it off, he comes packaged in a window box that simulates Wolverine laying on his bed pining for Jean. It’s ridiculous, and also ridiculously expensive at $200. A standard version should arrive sometime next year that will certainly be cheaper. How much cheaper I’m unsure of as the world of action figures continues to get hammered by shipping price hikes. This figure comes with a sad Wolverine head and we know that’s exclusive to this set, but is the picture? Or the alternate Morph head? The turkey leg?! Yes, he comes with a turkey leg.
Mostly, I just felt the need to show my support for anything X-Men animated as that has become my new grail toyline. NECA has crafted the TMNT lines of my dreams and are now going to dip their toes into Gargoyles. X-Men though was my biggest love as a kid and I’ve talked about my desire to see that cartoon get dedicated action figures based on it. Some will wave the retro-carded line by Hasbro in my face and say “This is X-Men animated,” but it’s not. Doing figures based on the designs of Jim Lee is not the same as doing an actual cartoon line. This figure from Mondo appears to get that right based on the paint deco which uses two shades of yellow, two shades of blue, and doesn’t have over-the-top detailing like stubble on Wolverine’s face or individually sculpted teeth. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until January (if not longer) to find out just how good this thing is as that’s the current expected ship date. Apparently, this wouldn’t have been ready to sell at a physical booth had the convention happened.
It was quite a week though, and it followed a week of reveals by Super7 the prior week which got G.I. Joe fans talking. The state of the shipping industry makes it hard to say how many of the products shown off this week will actually reach collector hands this year, but it’s fun to know what’s coming. Right now there’s a lot of waiting going on which is rarely fun, but often necessary. And I’m an adult capable of being patient when it comes to my toy hobby. Still, waiting on the chance to try and buy these exclusives was anxiety-inducing when it doesn’t have to be. It’s great companies are creating products people want, but why the artificial scarcity? And with so many of them not even shipping for months, why not just open preorders for most of them? I get it if you’re selling some goofy, expensive, variant that not everyone needs, but a character like Nappa from Dragon Ball Z in his show accurate colors should be something every DBZ collector has a chance at. NECA appeared to meet demand with its set, and they have more shipping to stores as well, so I give them high marks this con season. Plus, I think the exclusive figures in that set, namely Irma and Burne, will see release in the main line at some point too. Even the mutated April might get a re-release and if that happens the only truly exclusive things in that set will be the large cameras and alternate Vernon portraits. And that’s fine! I want to get the toys that I like and I want everyone else to as well. I don’t need these things to be hyper exclusive to have value for me. Some people see things differently, but I’m confident in saying they’re the minority in this day and age. It’s a time of year I both look forward to a lot and also dread. It’s over now though and I’m largely feeling good so…mission accomplished?
I’m back after a much needed break, and wouldn’t ya know, I’m back with another NECA toy review from its mega popular line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures! Today’s subject may not be the sexiest release from this line, but it’s one that is still worth talking about. The lowly Foot Soldier from the original TMNT cartoon series was basically just fodder for the turtles to smash, slash, and bash and chew up screen time. As the show moved away from letting the turtles even carve up robots with their weapons, the impact of the Foot was diminished, but they never went away completely. The Foot Soldier is a bit underwhelming on its own, but this deluxe, stand-alone, release, is made even more tame by the fact that it’s essentially a modified re-release of a figure we’ve had for a few years now. That, however, does not make this one the first skip-able release in the growing toon line.
The deluxe Foot Soldier comes in NECA’s Ultimates styled packaging which features a five-panel window box with impressive artwork and photography all over. Like the prior deluxe releases in this line, this one is adorned with f.h.e. inspired artwork to mimic an old VHS release. Titled “Trouble’s Afoot,” this one was handled by artist Dan Elson and very much looks the part as it stokes the flames of nostalgia. These boxes are so hard to toss because they’re so charming, and they do a good job of holding all of the stuff (and there is a lot of stuff with this one) contained in the box. If you’re a mint-in-box collector, then you should be very happy with this release.
This Foot Soldier release has been a long time coming. It was originally going to be the first deluxe release, but it was passed over in favor of both Metalhead and Krang to officially be released as #3 in the series. This decision ended up delaying this one for over a year, but few collectors were actually disappointed since the other deluxe releases were far more exciting. And that’s because this figure is largely the same was what was released back in 2017 as part of NECA’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive set. Following that release, Foot Soldiers were released in two-packs with a turtle as part of the first wave of Target exclusives and then again as a dedicated two-pack as part of Wave 2. Following that, special battle damaged variants were included in Wave 3 which featured new torsos, but largely retained everything else. Given NECA already gave us an army builder set and multiple other avenues to acquire Foot, some may have wondered why we would ever need a “deluxe” version, but NECA had an ace up its sleeve in the form of Alpha One.
Somewhat later in the cartoon series, there was an episode called “The Foot Soldiers are Revolting” which featured the super intelligent Alpha One. The Alpha One Foot Soldier looked like a regular Foot Soldier, but with an oversized head that resulted in the metal interior to burst forth from the purple hood. This Foot Soldier lead a rebellion against Shredder that lasted for an episode, and NECA could have just put this guy into another two-pack, but instead chose to release him as a solo effort. This does mean one deluxe Foot Soldier costs a few bucks more than the standard or battle damaged ones (30 bucks compared with the 52 dollar two-pack price), but NECA is hoping collectors will appreciate the packaging and additional accessories, as well as some new engineering.
Yes, that’s right, there is a bit more “new” here than some may have realized. NECA is pretty good about making running changes to its figures when a change is warranted. For years, this line has been criticized for joints that are too tight and hips that are prone to breaking. In my experience, I have not had any significant quality control issues with my figures, but that doesn’t mean issues haven’t come up. The Foot I had acquired as part of the box set were pretty stiff and ended up being my least favorite from that particular set, but they didn’t break or anything. This Foot has a re-worked neck joint which is largely done to make it easier to swap heads. It’s possible to swap heads on the original Foot, but the ball in the torso is likely to pop out first as opposed to the second one in the head so it’s not easy, or recommended. The other difference is in the hips which are now simple ball-pegs. The end result is a much looser, and freer, range of motion, but the downside is the looseness makes it a little harder to pose as the figure sometimes wants to just do splits. I ran into a similar issue with the Punk Frogs two-pack, but this is how NECA is doing hips now so I suppose we better get used to it. It’s better than the absurdly tight Bebop and Rocksteady hip joints, but it is disappointing to see one problem solved, only to be replaced by another. The other additional change is in the ankles, so much like the new turtles we got in the disguise four-pack, these Foot have true ankle rockers. Beyond that, the articulation is the same as the previous release. The only other difference is this Foot Soldier is noticeably brighter when it comes to the purple in comparison with the past release. I say “noticeably,” but it’s really only noticeable when you have an old and new figure standing side by side. And even then, you’re not likely to notice if they’re on a shelf.
Even with the change in hips, this new Foot still stands at roughly six and a half inches which is right in-line with the previous release. Where it is going to distinguish itself beyond the subtle articulation improvements is just in the amount of stuff. This guy comes with six sets of hands: fists, gripping, tighter gripping, trigger finger, relaxed, and a set of “chopping” hands. The plastic used for the hands is nice and pliable, which is necessary because the included accessories seem to range in thickness. Returning from prior releases is the long rifle with a suction cup end on it. The dark gray on this gun is ever so slightly darker than the previous version, but is otherwise the same. There’s a small, white, handgun which has been repeated a few times and the bulbous, blue, rifle from the damaged two-packs returns as well. The gray and orange ninja stars are present, as is the blue and purple mutagen canister. The sword with a yellow and brown hilt that was previously packaged in the SDCC set and with Shredder is included and we get yet another purple communicator, this one features the new Krang and has been released previously. I feel like NECA missed an opportunity to put a sticker of post shower Krang on this one, but oh well.
That’s all of the old stuff, what you probably want to know about is what’s new. Well, one of the guns is a mix of both. The rifle we’ve seen included with the other Foot Soldiers as well as Bebop and Rocksteady makes a return, but with a new purple and gray paint deco. It’s kind of silly, and I don’t know if they were ever colored this way in the show, but I like the end result as it looks like a Foot-specific gun and every soldier should color coordinate with its chosen weapon. We also have a long spear that’s nearly 8″ long. It’s definitely low tech amongst the other weapons, but looks pretty cool in the hands of the Foot. There’s a new sword with a white and gray deco that has a serrated edge. It looks similar to some of the Mirage weapons and is fine. There’s a fan that’s done in a peach and gold color scheme that looks sleek. I can’t recall if it was a special item in the show, or just a fan, but I think it there was one with magical properties? It’s been awhile. There’s a second Foot head with a yellow Foot insignia on the forehead instead of a red one which was basically just a color variation in the show. I know it was present in the Alpha One episode so it makes sense to have it here. There is also a cop hat if you want an Officer Foot. There is, of course, the Alpha One head which looks great and has the same range of motion as the other heads and I suspect it is this head most will choose to display. Lastly, Alpha One has his own, unique, handgun represented as well.
That’s a lot, and it’s a bit overwhelming. It feels like NECA is encouraging collectors to get multiples of this release and army build a group of Foot Soldiers with some variety in their arsenal. The only problem is that by buying multiples you double that amount of accessories and it’s just so much! It’s a good problem to have, but NECA probably could have omitted some of the repeat weapons like the old sword, blue rifle, and white handgun. I also wish they had a proper sash on the figure, instead of just a sculpted one, so we could store some of these weapons on the actual figure like the illustration on the box featuring a Foot Soldier with ninja stars in his belt. Instead, you basically have to pick what you like best and just put the rest out of sight. At least I have extra Foot Soldiers to best align my preferred weapons with my display.
The Deluxe Foot Soldier is definitely the lesser deluxe release of the three available, and will probably remain so after the next three drop (Mondo Gecko, Muckman, and Krome Dome), but that doesn’t make it worthless. The base figure represents an improvement over what has been released before, and we basically have every accessory under the sun now. The Alpha One head makes this a release to track down on its own as that is a unique character and one likely to remain exclusive to this set. Part of me hopes that NECA does a new Foot Soldier two-pack that’s like a budget release with less accessories, maybe even just hands, so we can make better use of the accessories we have here. That probably won’t happen, but I would not be surprised if these new Foot Soldier bodies are re-released as a standard two-pack with the Wave 2 accessories. Maybe they’ll include the new color scheme on the rifle as well.
Like all of the other cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases from NECA, this figure is exclusive to Target stores in the US. International collectors can find these at specialty shops, though all of the international releases seem to be lagging way behind compared with the US ones (I don’t think Canada, for example, has received a release for Krang yet) with the exception of China which has had this guy for about a month (among other upcoming releases). Target isn’t stocking this release, and hasn’t done any online sales for this line in months, so your best bet is to check often and figure out the local rep’s schedule to maximize your chances of finding this release on the shelf. Hopefully with this being a re-release and an army builder, they stick around on shelves longer than usual. Good luck, and don’t feed the scalpers!
It was about a week ago in my write-up on the Dragon Stars World Martial Arts playset that I bemoaned my decision to pass on the S.H.Figuarts release of Jackie Chun and I hypothesized I might rectify that. Well, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind as here I am to tell you all about Jackie Chun! The martial arts master and winner of the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament has been cast in plastic and is ready to join my humble Dragon Ball collection. What motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this guy was largely my completist nature. The Dragon Ball set from Bandai is pretty small when compared with the assortment of Dragon Ball Z figures, so why not get them all? I have the first Bulma Bandai released in my Pile of Loot at Big Bad Toy Store so the only one I’m missing now is kid Chi-Chi. I can’t get past her costume though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever pickup that particular figure.
The reason I initially passed on Jackie is because he’s very similar to Master Roshi. Not only do they look strikingly similar, they’re literally the same figure. For the most part. The only difference in terms of sculpting is the head and lower leg area, but the torso is the same. Jackie just dresses all in a deep navy blue, almost black, as opposed to Master Roshi’s much more colorful attire. And if you didn’t notice right away that they’re essentially the same, the give away rests on the back of the figure where Bandai just glued in the plug piece intended to seal the peg hole for Master Roshi’s turtle shell accessory. It’s a minor eyesore on Jackie, but the figure is helped out by the fact that we’re dealing in dark colors here and it is on the back of the shirt. At the same time, it’s a bit annoying since the shirt is in three separate pieces and one has to wonder how much money was really saved by not redoing it. At least he has a peg hole if you want to utilize a more dynamic stand.
Being that he’s essentially the same figure as Roshi, the articulation is also the same. That figure had some good and bad to him, and a lot that has to do with the clothing. The shoulders flare out and the wrist area is surrounded by large cuffs so it all limits the articulation a bit. The shirt is also intended to be a long martial arts uniform, and since Bandai doesn’t utilize cloth goods, the only way to properly articulate that is to “scallop” the sculpt and insert a series of ball-pegs into the torso. It’s not the cleanest sculpt in the torso as a result, but it’s not truly an eyesore either. Again, the dark color of Jackie works to the figure’s advantage in hiding this somewhat, but I do wonder how he’d have come out with a cloth robe.
Bandai doesn’t use much paint with its S.H.Figuarts line, and it is a common complaint I hear from other collectors. Jackie is no except as he’s mostly just colored plastic. The only paint on the body of the figure is the white stripe and black fasteners down the center of the shirt and the gray soles of the shoes. The rest is reserved for the head and face where the eyes and eyebrows are well-painted. There may be a touch of a wash in the hair and beard as well which helps bring out the sculpted details and looks pretty sharp. His hair color has a gray to it, unlike Master Roshi’s all-white beard, which helps distinguish him further. The choice of doing the figure in a very dark blue as opposed to black is a little curious. As far as I can tell, his outfit is sheer black in the anime. And unlike many comic books, there’s no blue shading to speak of. I don’t know if this was based on information from Toei, or if Bandai just made an artistic decision not to go full black. As a result, under some light he looks a little blue and others a little gray, but always pretty dark. It’s not something that bothers me, I just find it curious. The finish is at least fairly matte which cuts down on the plastic sheen some figures in this line feature. Ultimately, the likeness is pretty on point and the sacrifices the figure makes in the sculpt to accommodate the articulation are worth it in the end.
If you wish to know precisely how he’s articulated, I’ll run it down for you here. If you’re familiar with the Master Roshi figure, then skip ahead. Jackie has a ball peg at the head and base of the neck and he has some pretty solid range. Surprisingly, he can look down quite well despite the presence of the beard, it’s looking up that he’s not great at. At the shoulders we have ball-hinges with a butterfly joint. He can raise his arms out to the side better than expected and the butterfly joint allows him to achieve his Kamehameha pose fairly convincingly. There’s a biceps swivel below that and single-hinged elbows. The elbow is probably the least impressive part of this figure as they’re on these big ball-hinges that look funny from some angles. They also can’t achieve a 90 degree bend due to the way the sleeves flare out. It’s close, but not quite there. At the wrist are ball-joints which is a good choice since the sleeve works to conceal the ball-hinge which can be unsightly on other figures. In the diaphragm is a ball-hinge mechanism that mostly affords tilt and twist. Twist too far though and you end up with some ugly gapping. The hinge allows the upper body to lift up and crunch forward, but the shirt doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. A lot of rubbing occurs and I worry about smudging if utilized too much. Below that is another ball-peg at the waist allowing him to rotate and tilt. At the hips he can kick forward about 90 degrees and spread his legs out to the side almost into a split. He kicks back a little bit and the double-hinged knees basically give him 90 at the knee. There are thigh swivels and the feet are on ball-pegs. They’re not great, but the cuffs at the end of the pants were going to limit him anyway. There is a toe hinge as well.
Jackie-Chun should be able to get into the poses he needs to be able to get into. Martial arts posing and energy blasting all are achievable. Helping him to do all of that are the loads of extra parts Bandai tossed in. Probably as a make-up for him containing a ton of parts reuse, Bandai made sure to give him an array of hands and facial expressions. He has the one head, but three separate faces. And like Master Roshi, you can swap the mouth and beard piece between the faces to mix and match expressions. You basically get angry eyes, serious eyes, and excited eyes to go along with a closed mouth, an angry yell, and a surprising, or singing, open mouth. That last one pairs with a microphone stick, as is the case with many Dragon Ball characters, there’s a serious side and a playful side to Jackie which this figure seeks to capture. As far as hands go, he comes with two crane pose hands which are unique as the peg basically goes into the underside of them to achieve the proper the shape. He also has two Kamehameha hands which are essentially the opposite as they peg into what I would call the top of the hands. He also has a set of peace sign hands, some chop hands, fists, martial arts pose hands, splayed open hands, and one gripping, right, hand for the microphone. Unique to Jackie are also swappable forearms. These are present so that he can roll up his sleeves. The arms separate below the elbow and the new ones just peg in. They don’t appear to be designated as left or right so either side works. They allow for more freedom with the hand articulation since this eliminates the cuffs from play, though another point of the figure that can come apart means there will be times you pull the arm off when you don’t intend to. A minor annoyance for an interesting feature. Lastly, there’s a 3 star Dragon Ball. This one has a pearl finish to it as I believe Bandai has already released seven standard balls so this new finish is being applied to the line going forward.
Posing and utilizing these parts is all pretty painless. The hands pop on and off with minimal fuss, though the left arm of mine features a loose forearm connection so often the whole thing comes off when I’m just trying to swap the hand. The extra forearm doesn’t seem to peg in snug either so it becomes a balancing act posing him with the sleeves up. Unlike with Master Roshi, I don’t feel like we’re missing any expressions as far as the hands go, though a “drunken master” face would have been excellent. What’s really missing though is an energy effect. A charging one would have been nice, or just a Kamehameha attack since this guy is the master of that technique. I am guessing Bandai wants to do a Kamehameha Master Roshi that’s all bulked up and that’s why we don’t have that here. At least this time we have the hands.
Jackie Chun looks pretty good opposite the kid figures when placed on the World Martial Arts Tournament set. He is, more or less, in scale with them. It’s not perfect, but that’s more of a critique of the kid characters which were sized-up for the figure release. Bandai seemed to prioritize scaling Master Roshi, and Jackie Chun as a result, with Kid Goku and Krillin so he looks kind of silly next to Bulma, who is just way too small. King Piccolo towers over him well enough, though that figure should probably be bigger than he actually is. Scale is a limitation of this line in general and Bandai just seems to approximate it as opposed to trying to make it totally accurate.
Adding Jackie Chun to my collection allows for me to pose him opposite Goku or Krillin, leaving Master Roshi to be more of a goof off to the side. I like that Jackie has the singing face and microphone for when I don’t want him on the battlefield, or I could just let him be the stern, wise, old, master watching silently. I liked the Master Roshi figure so it stands to reason I like this one. Is he essential for a Dragon Ball collection? Probably not, but it’s not as-if the character isn’t memorable. I hope Bandai continues to release more dedicated Dragon Ball figures so my display can continue to grow. They have Lunch/Launch coming this summer, but nothing has been announced beyond her. There’s still Pilaf and his gang, end of Dragon Ball Goku and Chi-Chi, Tien, and plenty more. I’d be interested in basically all of them, so hopefully Bandai comes through. Right now though, I have a fun little collection that’s pretty nice to have all on its own.
One of the main draws for me in getting the NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles diorama was that it was going to open up some more space for me. The diorama allowed me to move my TMNT collection from a shelf to a new place since now my display had a vertical component. This was necessary since that prior shelf featured my TMNT collection basically jammed together with my Bandai SH Figuarts Dragon Ball collection. I know some people out there like mixing their collections, but I am not some people. I prefer to keep my intellectual property separate and only display different IPs beside each other when I just have no other alternative or my collection in a certain IP is relatively small (which is why D&D’s Drizzt is standing next to Batman on a shelf).
It was several months ago that I grabbed a Bandai Dragon Stars World Martial Arts Tournament play set from a sale at GameStop. It was so long ago, that it was in the same order as the Capsule Corp motorcycle I reviewed. I had been eyeing this particular play set for a couple of months because it looked like something that would work well as a backdrop for my modest Dragon Ball collection. Normally, this isn’t the type of thing I buy since this is really more of a true toy intended for kids as they act out battles from the show and take advantage of the built-in play features the set comes with. However, I liked how it looked and when the price came down to a point that made sense to me, I jumped on it.
If you’re not into Dragon Ball collecting, basically what you need to know is Bandai has two, distinct, main, figure lines: SH Figuarts and Dragon Stars. SH Figuarts is the collector line and figures range from around $50 to over $100. Dragon Stars is the more general audience line aimed at kids and casual fans. That doesn’t mean collectors don’t or can’t collect the line, it’s just a line not specifically courting that market. The Dragon Stars figures are usually around $25, so not exactly cheap, but a far cry from the SHF product. Bandai is also able to pump them out quicker and the character roster is quite robust at this point. It started as a line focused on the latest iteration of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Super, but it also includes most, if not all, of the main characters from Dragon Ball Z at this point. And it’s that line that this play set is from.
Now, even though this is a Dragon Stars release, I would say the play set is not exactly to scale with that figure line. It would have to be positively massive to properly scale with any line, but I don’t know that it would appeal to collectors looking to pit Goku vs Piccolo or whatever. I only have one Dragon Star figure, Future Trunks, and he looks a bit silly standing on it. However, I grabbed this for my Dragon Ball display specifically eyeing it for Kid Goku and Krillin. It’s still not perfect, but as a backdrop and platform to draw attention it gets the job done. The set itself measures about 12 1/2 inches tall and 11 1/2 inches deep. The platform is about 15 1/4″ wide, and the backdrop extends about a half inch off either side. It’s not small, but not as big as it should be. How small is too small will be a bit subjective, but for what I want to do with it I think it works fine.
The set is essentially three parts: the ring surface, the rear wall, and the rear building. There’s a small gap between the rear wall and building, but not big enough to do much of anything with. If you had some paper cut outs of characters I suppose you could try slipping them in as spectators, but you’re not going to fit any figures in there. The main attraction of the set is its play features. Just as the ring and building tended to get beat up over the course of a tournament, so too can your set. The wall comes apart, mostly on its right side (the left side if you’re standing in front of it) to simulate damage as if something was thrown into it or a wayward energy blast smashed into it. The marquee is removable so you can display it ajar in a dilapidated state and a center panel in the ring can be lifted out. In its place you have a crater formation to swap-in which is pretty fun. These are all features I’m not going to get much use out of, but it’s cool to have should I want to change-up my display at all and that gap between the wall and backdrop can at least accommodate the wall fragments. There’s sadly no real way to store the optional crater though. I thought maybe I could get away with storing it underneath the platform, since it’s hollow, but there’s just enough stuff on the underside to make that problematic. I suppose the flat panel is easily stored though.
The set itself is just largely comprised of molded plastic. There’s some nice detail on the various ugly heads that adorn the structure, but no added paint effects to bring them out. A confident collector would take this and probably dry brush it to bring out some of that detail, but I am not confident in my abilities in that regard. In terms of accessories, there isn’t much to speak of. There’s just the bits of wall, the marquee or sign that goes over the entry way, and another sign that you can position wherever to go along with the crater piece. It would have been nice if Bandai tossed in an exclusive figure like the ring announcer, who likely would never see a retail release as a stand-alone figure, but not having one at least keeps the cost down. The only letdown for me is the tine, or point, alongside the entryway on my set is warped and bent. It’s made of a flexible material, maybe as a safety measure since it’s pointy, and I was able to fix it with some hot water.
In short, this set does what I need it to do. I think it looks great as a little battleground for Kid Goku and Krillin. Should Bandai ever do a Dragon Ball Tien then that could get interesting. Would he look too silly being that he’d be a bigger character? Possibly, but maybe not enough to bother me. I passed on the Jackie Chun release, and now I’m kind of rethinking that as I think he would look okay battling Goku. Should Bandai ever get to end of Dragon Ball Goku and Piccolo Jr. then I probably would keep them off of this thing, but since Bandai doesn’t have any plans to release either of those figures I’m not going to worry about it. For now, this is a solid, eye-catching, item that adds a little prestige to my humble Dragon Ball display. Hopefully, it’s a display that will continue to grow!
My children are unknowingly a terrible influence on my spending habits. It was last summer they started watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers awakening within me a long lost desire to acquire Power Rangers toys from back in 93/94. Recently, it’s my son discovering the Netflix Voltron series. Voltron was a show I paid little attention to as a kid. It was on early in the morning on week days and that was just a terrible time for me. I was not a morning person so I slept as late as I could and moved slowly through my morning routine. There was no TV watching for me as a result, but when some of my friends started insisting I check out Voltron I did take a peek. Years later, the show would return on Cartoon Network on week day afternoons and at that point I did give it an extended look, though it wasn’t particularly good.
What was undeniably good about Voltron though were the toys. My friend had a vintage, combining, Voltron toy. It should have predated he and I by a few years so I don’t know if he got it secondhand or what, but it was undeniably cool to have five toys that combined into one, bigger, better, toy. It was my first experience with the concept as I wasn’t a Transformers kid and Power Rangers were years away. The concept was better than the reality to some degree as Voltron was rather cumbersome. He articulated rather poorly, but back then, five points of articulation were pretty standard still so he wasn’t that bad. He was just a bit bland with a sword in hand since he couldn’t hold it in a natural way, at least in a natural way for a being made up of five robot lions.
Over the years, I have resisted the temptation to go after a Voltron. When the Netflix series showed up, Voltron returned to toy stores and comic shops in classic and updated versions. The lions were available individually and I think there were deluxe versions that put everything in one box. There have also been mega expensive Soul of Chogokin versions of the character for those who really wanted to take Voltron to the next level. I resisted those calls though, and I was probably most tempted by the Lego Voltron of a few years ago because that just seemed really cool to me, though I wondered how durable a Lego Voltron would be and ultimately passed. Now, watching the show with my son, I found myself wanting a Voltron all over again, but now the options are severely limited. Those lions that once retailed for 20 bucks or so are near 100 on the secondary market as they’re no longer in production. Suddenly, the Toynami Ultimate EX Voltron is looking like a bargain at $400! I tossed around the idea of getting a Mini-Pla model kit Voltron since it was a combining Voltron, but like the Lego Voltron, I had durability concerns. Especially since that’s another figure that’s going to run close to $100 now since it’s no longer being manufactured. I was left thinking I’ve gone this long without a Voltron, so maybe it’s not something I need.
I found myself at a comic shop over the weekend and there on the shelf was a brand new Super7 Ultimates! Voltron staring me in the face. This edition of Voltron is a pure action figure, so there’s no breaking him down into five individual lions. Part of the appeal of Voltron is definitely the combing element, but there’s also the practical reality that I would never display the character in lion mode. I felt like I couldn’t pass it up, and maybe the shiny, chrome, packaging had something to do with that so I bought it and brought my little robot buddy home.
It’s important to note that this is actually the second version of Voltron Super7 has released. The first one was referred to as a deluxe release and I’m not entirely sure it was considered a true “Ultimates” release. This new one is largely the same as both present the classic interpretation of the character, but it has a different deco and a minor change to the articulation. The first release featured a matte finish aiming to approximate the cartoon aesthetic. This edition swaps the matte out for a glossy approach as this is a very shiny figure. The blue and green especially possess a pearl quality in the paint and the silver bits do a nice job of faking metal. And to emphasize this new approach, the figure comes in a shiny, chrome, box that basically has a mirror finish. This is a snazzy figure, and it’s almost a shame the packaging comes with a slipcase which hides much of the shininess.
Packaging is cool and all, but the real star is the figure inside. Voltron stands around 7″ in height and he’s one chunky boy. There’s a lot of plastic on this guy which gives him a nice, heavy, feel in the hand. He’s very similar to the Hasbro RED Transformers, only bigger. Part of my reasoning in buying this guy was just to get a sense of how Super7 is going to handle these robot characters as the company has already solicited Transformers Ultimates! and is about to do the same for Power Rangers. It’s potentially going to be a neat, unofficial, line from the company as they build out a fleet of robot figures. The glossy paint job is what stands out the most about this guy and it’s largely applied well. There are a few nicks and small amounts of paint overrun here and there, but overall it’s pretty clean. The only spot I’m not happy with is the nose of the yellow lion which is scratched. I’m tempted to fill it in with a black marker. This Voltron is at the old price point of $45, so he’s in that odd space where he’s more expensive than your average retail figure, but not quite at premium figure pricing. And for what he is, the paint job is fair as they did a very good job with the finer details like the face and the shield logo on the chest.
The sculpt, on the other hand, is done quite well. This definitely resembles a transformed Voltron so the lion “feet” are a bit stretched and rectangular as that is how they looked on TV. There’s a lot of layers to the sculpt in the chest which is nice to see and really adds depth and character to the figure. The lion head hands look great and remain one of the coolest aspects of the character design. The wings on the back of the figure are a softer plastic so there’s little chance of them breaking. And I can’t stress enough just how good this figure feels in the hand. There’s a lot of different textures to the sculpt and the heaviness is perfect.
Such a chunky and oddly designed character is going to be a challenge when it comes to articulation. Since this is a non-combining Voltron though, it’s pretty important that Super7 do a great job on that part as we’re giving up an important play feature in order to improve the sculpt and articulation. And with this figure, there’s some good, and there’s some not-so-good. For starters, the head is on a ball hinge, but the boxy nature of the upper torso means he can’t do much more than turn his head. You get a little up and down, but it’s minimal. At the shoulders, Super7 did get a little creative as they used two, big, ball-hinges to increase his range at the joint. You can slide the arm up and down a great deal and even get him to reach across his body as a result. Beyond that, you also get the usual rotation. Below the should is a biceps swivel and single hinge, followed by a “wrist” swivel and horizontal hinge. Elbows remain a disappointment with Super7 as he can’t do 90 degrees. It’s also odd they didn’t give him vertical hinges at the hand given he’s a sword wielder, they’re usually really good about getting that part right. In the torso, we have a ball hinge in the diaphragm (I guess) that lets him rotate mostly, but there’s a tiny bit of tilt and crunch. There’s a waist twist below that as well. At the legs, he can kick forward to 90 degrees and kick back a bit. Below that is a thigh swivel, which is new for this edition of Voltron, followed by a single-jointed knee hinge that does achieve a 90 degree bend. At the ankle, we have a hinge and rocker, but both are fairly limited due to the blocky nature of the feet.
It’s an okay assortment of articulation, but there definitely is stuff missing. The lack of double elbows is to be expected of Super7, they have an aversion to them for aesthetic reasons, so I’m not that broken up about it. What is borderline unforgivable though of a modern collectible is for the legs to not be able to lift out to the sides. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s unacceptable for an action figure in this price range to lack such a basic point of articulation. Even the cheap, Hasbro Megazord is able to widen its stance, and that adds a lot to the figure’s posing. It speaks to a larger issue I have with Super7 where it seems that when they run into a part of a figure that gets a little tricky they just punt on the articulation. I like their emphasis on sculpting and not marring that with too much articulation, but sometimes they get too timid. I think they could have done a ball joint here without really harming the sculpt, but they opted to do something different. At any rate, it was something I was aware of before I bought the figure and I did really consider passing largely because it’s so disappointing a feature to not have. I’m glad I was aware of it though because I would have been pretty bummed if I found out about it when I opened the thing.
Articulation is useless without some fun accessories to pose Voltron with and Super7’s Ultimates! are known for including a fair assortment of those things. For starters, Super7 included an extra pair of “hands.” It was a bit weird to see that the jaws on the lion head hands were static, but that’s probably to make the grip tighter. The open hands basically replace a jaw hinge and also allow Voltron to act out his dramatic posing following the combining animation in the show, though the feet can’t roar (and I’m fine with that). In addition to the hands, Voltron also comes with not one, but two, swords! The default option is an all chrome, vac-metal, blade that really shines. It’s a throwback to the old toy and it looks especially great when the light hits it just right. He also has a matching shield that’s just as vibrant as the blade. The only downside to vac-metal accessories is the substance can be brittle. My shield has a little chip on it which is a bummer, because otherwise it looks rather glorious. If you think the sheen is overpowering though, there’s a second sword with a pearl blue hilt and glow-in-the-dark blade. The glow-in-the-dark plastic gives the sword a laser quality in natural light, and of course in the dark it glows with a greenish hue. It’s a fun accessory, though I suspect most will opt for the vac-metal blade. As for me, I might just go with a dual-wield display because I really like both. The accessories are also easy to work with. The gripping hand-heads have soft plastic teeth so it’s easy to pop the swords and shield in and out. Swapping hands is also pretty much effortless as they pop out with ease.
The end result is a pretty good Voltron action figure. Yes, it’s not without its problems, number one being articulation, but it makes up for those shortcomings with a good sculpt and truly eye-catching paint job. The weapons are fun, and there’s just enough articulation that I can find some decent poses. And what really works in the figure’s favor is availability and affordability. Super7’s Ultimates! is famously a made-to-order affair, but retailers typically order more than they pre-sell so he should be easy to find as long as you don’t wait too long. And at $45, he’s far cheaper than basically every other Voltron on the market right now. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
It was early last September that NECA made available for pre-order a redesigned version of their Street Scene diorama tailored specifically to fit-in with the company’s growing assortment of action figures based on the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fans had been asking for this set for even longer as NECA had been featuring it in its own displays at trade shows for about a year and fans were eager for one of their own. The orders for the diorama were open for two weeks on NECA’s own webstore which meant they were all made to order. A large item such as this wasn’t attractive to a big box retailer like Target where NECA’s toon line of figures is sold exclusively in the United States. Initially, there wasn’t a release date attached to the orders, but NECA would clarify not long after that the company hoped to ship product sometime in Q1 2021. The state of shipping in the world being what it is, Q1 turned to April, to May, to now as the diorama has arrived, though not entirely as expected.
When the diorama was made available to order there was a bit of sticker shock felt by the collecting community. An item like this is always going to be fairly expensive, but fans had a decent gauge of what to expect as this was mostly a re-deco of an existing product that retails for around a hundred bucks. This set, however, was listed at $150 and included a $20 shipping charge meaning it was going to cost collectors roughly $170 to bring this baby home. The increase in price appears mostly to be attributed to the inclusion of a plastic tower on the roof of the diorama as well as some additional paper goods. It was also suggested by NECA that part of the cost increase was attributed to the packaging design which would feature new artwork and photography to distinguish it from the standard diorama sold at retail.
Well, some things apparently were changed between September and May as the diorama arrived in a plain, brown, box. It’s possible the art didn’t cost out after the orders were placed, or maybe the company scrapped the idea to either get the item to consumers faster or because it just didn’t make much sense. Packaging is nice and all, but how many mint-in-box diorama collectors are out there? There probably are some, but this is an item intended to be opened and displayed alongside the action figures from the line (or any action figures, I suppose) and it’s not really something that will necessarily be attractive to mint-in-box collectors. On the other hand, NECA said one thing, and delivered something else, so anyone angry about it has a right to be. I was always planning on tossing whatever box this came in so I’m not particularly broken up about it. And I sincerely doubt fancy packaging was expected to account for the price difference. It should also be noted, the company previously did a one-off TMNT themed diorama for the movie figures that was priced at $125 which is a better comparison. This is basically that set with more stuff. Is it 25 dollars worth of new stuff? That’s for the consumer to decide. My entirely speculative take on the whole packaging thing though is that NECA had to trim costs on the units and the packaging was the first to go. They only sold around 2,000 of these so the margins are likely small. That doesn’t excuse NECA not informing its customers of the change to the packaging. It’s basically always better to be upfront rather than surprise people with something that isn’t exactly a good surprise. At the end of the day though, a product was listed at a price and consumers were free to ignore it or toss a stack of bills at NECA. I, obviously, enjoy throwing money at NECA.
This diorama has been something I’ve really been looking forward to. That’s not because it’s particularly impressive or amazing. It’s just a fancy stand. I was looking forward to it though because my current display needs more room. I have been finagling a display out of my collection on a shelf behind a bar. I had to clear out a bunch of drinkware and liquor bottles to make room for the initial release of 8 figures, which has only grown over the months since the line was launched at retail. I had a hard time sliding the Rat King and Vernon set into it, and the recently released sets were non-starters. I needed to find a new spot for my display, and this set was my excuse to do some re-arranging.
The actual diorama is fairly basic. It’s a bunch of plastic panels that snap together to form a stand and backdrop for your action figure display. It’s a three-level display once completed: street, balcony, roof. It’s colored and styled to evoke images of the classic 1980s cartoon series with an almost cream colored brick pattern and a cardboard backdrop featuring the iconic Channel 6 building. The included tower is intended to go on the roof and it was featured in an episode of the cartoon and is the unique item expected to get the most attention. There’s also a manhole cover, fire hydrant, and numerous paper goods dotted with familiar faces and references for anyone who grew up watching the show. It’s also not just a façade as there is room behind the windows to place figures and objects so that you can have a villain lurking in the shadows or maybe place a cowardly camera man to shoot the violence on the streets.
The controversial brown box comes in a an outer shipping box. It’s about 27″x14″x6″ so it’s a pretty sizable package. The diorama is designed to be assembled starting from the ground up. The walls basically tab into each other, but forcibly so they’re not going to fall apart. Each front-facing wall features removable components as this is a modular set. There are two blank walls, five windows, and one shutter and you’re free to arrange those however you want. The shutter is non-functional, but the windows are open and there are included window panes that snap into place. The window panes are fingerprint magnets though as well as dust and hair or pet dander and installing them means you can’t have figures reaching out or into the windows, so I didn’t use them. There are also several holes that bricks can peg into. NECA did it this way so you could peg additional accessories basically anywhere.
I didn’t run into any construction issues until I reached the top. Getting the top level to slide into the roof of the bottom was rather cumbersome and it seems to want to bow out. I was able to get it to a place I was happy with, but the following step was far more annoying. NECA included six support pieces intended to snap under the roof. I don’t see how these add a ton of support, but it didn’t matter since I could not get the pieces to actually fit the peg holes. I wrestled with it for far too long before just ditching them and it seems fine. The rear of the unit also is designed to have the backdrop peg in. You line it up and NECA included some push pins that are meant to hold it on, but all it did was fall for me. And I definitely should have done this on a large surface or floor, and not the shelf, because my backdrop fell and the corner dented which left me momentarily irate. I ditched the pegs and am just relying on good old gravity for the backdrop as my diorama is against a wall so it doesn’t really need to peg in.
Once the diorama is together there are quite a few accessories that can be added to the display. NECA included a pizza billboard that pegs into either side of the unit and looks pretty cool. There’s a second billboard that is modular in that NECA provided multiple cardboard art pieces so yo can customize your look (I went with Slash for Cash for now), most of which feature a pizza advertisement. There are little lamps that can plug into it too and NECA included a stand so you can either position it on the roof or it can tab into the side of the building. There’s an air conditioner that can peg into virtually anywhere you want it and a bunch of paper goods. There are three wanted posters and four Ace Duck themed posters. The wanted posters should look familiar to anyone who got the cartoon themed Loot Crate as stickers of them were featured there. These ones are a little larger and they feature Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and Scrag who were all featured in the actual show. I stuck all of them on with some blue sticky tack and they hold fine. I do wish there was a bit more variety though as I don’t think we need four Ace Duck posters. The last two accessories are a fire hydrant and manhole cover. They don’t tab into anything and are just meant to be placed wherever you wish. The manhole cover is a little weird since the street-level portion looks like a sidewalk, but whatever. It also doubles as something a figure could wield so that’s cool.
The main attraction is the large antenna tower that sits on the roof. It’s made of plastic and painted in a two-tone black and gray and looks sharp. There are two pieces that tab into it in the form of an extended antenna on top and a satellite dish that can go on any side. Unfortunately, my dish arrived broken as the center antenna was snapped off. I don’t know why they didn’t make it two pieces that snapped together to prevent damage in shipping, but it is what it is. I know a few other people had the same problem and I reached out to NECA’s customer service about a replacement and received a response that was essentially “we’ll see what we can do.” I don’t really expect anything as this was made to order and I don’t know if they had the foresight to make extras for such an issue. With past made-to-order sets, like Tokka and Rahzar, customers have basically been shit out of luck when running into problems.
The finished diorama accomplishes two goals: it looks great and it provides a lot of room for toys. The unit itself is pretty large measuring around 19″ tall, 13″ deep, and 25″ wide. Factoring in the backdrop brings it to around 27″ tall so you need a fairly large area to display this thing properly. I was able to incorporate every figure I have in the toon line, though the posing had to be kept a bit vanilla to fit them all on. I also positioned the triceratons on either side of the unit and Metalhead, Casey, April, and Vernon are inside the unit. The bottom piece does result in a lot of wasted space as the building has a ton of room inside it. It’s at least a good spot to store extra hands, weapons, heads, and so on and keep them out of sight. It would have been cool if NECA found a way to better utilize that space, maybe with a panel that looks like a smashed wall so you could make it look like a figure is busting out or something. I can see some people adding lighting to make the figures placed behind a window stand out better, though it’s not something I plan to do.
The NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Street Scene Diorama largely accomplishes its goal. It’s not without some minor disappointment with the packaging and a broken accessory. I was at least able to glue my piece together so even if NECA doesn’t come through with a replacement (and I will update this entry if they do) I can at least display it and likely only I’ll notice that it’s been glued. I’m actually far more bothered by the damaged corner of the backdrop as that sticks out more to me. The only other real negative is my diorama is basically full! Whatever figure comes next is going to be a challenge to incorporate into the display, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have. I’m sure there will be those who wish they could buy a second, or even third, especially since the non-licensed version doesn’t really fit the look. NECA might one day put this set up for order again, or maybe they’ll re-color the standard version to match the color of this one, just without the accessories. Unfortunately, if you didn’t grab this last year it’s to the secondary market you must go where $150 probably seems pretty cheap now.
When NECA started on this journey into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon it first began with a video game. An adaptation of a video game, to be more precise. The 2016 San Diego Comic Con exclusive contained a four pack of the famous, green, pizza destroyers in a pixel deco. They were the first figures based on the turtles since the 2008 Mirage Studios figures which felt like the start of something special, then quickly came the end. Convention exclusives were the name of the game the following year when those same arcade inspired figures were re-painted in the colors from the now classic cartoon series and released as part of an 8 pack with Shredder, Krang, and some Foot Soldiers. By then, the craze had begun and collectors were paying crazy sums on the after market just to get these limited release figures. Relief finally came in 2019 when NECA was granted the license by Viacom to sell its TMNT products at retail. It’s an odd relationship, and the popularity has not really subsided one bit, but TMNT figures are definitely a lot easier to come by now than they were just a few years ago.
I was one of the lucky ones to get ahold of that 2017 convention exclusive set. I very much liked what I received, but there was no denying that the figures had begun life as something else. Now, it’s possible when NECA sculpted these turtles for release in that arcade pack they always intended on them being cartoon iterations as well, but for me, the sculpt definitely looked more game inspired than show inspired from the start. The colors and weapons and all of the extra stuff was there, but the head-sculpts just never screamed “80s cartoon” to me. Those figures have also aged and since NECA has made strides in the articulation department and as more new figures are added to the toon line the actual turtles start to look more and more average. I still like those initial figures, but I don’t get the same “ripped from the source material” impression from them as I do with Rat King, Splinter, or Casey.
It was a little over a year ago now that NECA’s director and main public face, Randy Falk, made it know that the company was planning on re-releasing the green machine as a four-pack. It was being promoted as a way to get the turtles into the hands of those who were late to the party or just plain couldn’t find the four at retail. The original plan was to have the set out for Christmas, but the shipping industry being what it is, things changed. We did get a tease though when NECA sent out some retro inspired checklists for their TMNT product designed to resemble the Playmates card-backs of old. They were just digital files, but they contained images for the four new turtles and all were sporting soft goods trench coats and cartoon-inspired face sculpts. It wasn’t long before more images were unveiled and information was passed on to collectors that these turtles would indeed feature the new head-swapping tech being unveiled in the quarter scale line. There was also some new articulation and the set would feature a whole bunch of other stuff. When I initially thought it was just going to be a four-pack with some extra stuff, I wasn’t too interested, but once I saw those images I had to have it!
The Turtles in Disguise four pack finally hit Target stores in April. Retailing for $125, the set is expensive, but not so expensive that it causes any kind of sticker shock, apparently. Sets have been flying off the shelves as quickly as they show up and the auction sites are loaded with listings of people seeking as much as $300 for a set. The initial shipment appears to be just concluded and it was a modest one that appeared to contain just 2 to 3 units and didn’t hit every Target in the country. This has set off a bit of a frenzy, but NECA has assured collectors this is just wave one of three with the third wave expected to include more units than the first two combined. NECA knows people want this set, it is the actual turtles after all, and it appears to be doing everything it can to get as many to retail as possible (which probably had something to do with the delayed release, as well).
In my area, I had zero luck tracking down a set, but then a fellow collector came to my aid on Twitter. A special shout out is reserved for Robert (@drcipherpeaks) who sent this set across the country to me and wouldn’t even accept full payment for the very expensive shipping. A great guy and a true asset to the collector community whom I hope to be able to repay in kind some day. I probably could have held out and scored a set from a later shipment or even via a Target web drop or eventual NECA pre-order, but it’s always nice to have the hunt concluded as soon as possible, so many thanks again to Robert!
Like NECA’s deluxe releases in this line, the Turtles in Disguise four pack comes in a box adorned with some delightful f.h.e. inspired artwork. It’s a window box with a flap that conceals the figures inside who are presented in their disguises and with their accessories laid bare. There’s a street theme going on with the interior artwork and there are loads of Easter eggs to find which I won’t spoil. I will say that some of the characters hinted at in this artwork have already been revealed since this was released so it’s fair to assume any other character present in this artwork is sure to follow. It’s also quite big, measuring approximately 19″x 9 1/4″x 3″ so if you’re planning on shipping any of these to some buddies you may have some trouble tracking down an appropriate box. The turtles themselves sit in a tray alongside some of their accessories with a second tray underneath securing the rest of the accessories and many hands included with this set.
Since it’s the Turtles in Disguise set, it’s probably not surprising to see that the turtles arrives already in their disguises. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are all sporting blue pants and beige trench coats and happy expressions. Freeing them from their plastic prisons is actually quite painless as they’re each held in place by a single, plastic, strap that’s easily snipped away. Once out, they stand about 5 and a 1/2″ tall, just like their predecessors, and they should feel quite familiar to anyone who has those wave 1 turtles. The soft goods are done pretty well. The coat is tailored (by Nicole Falk), though not as extravagantly as the Raphael one from the movie line, and contains pockets and a belt to fasten around the waist if you prefer a closed look. Want them to go full flasher, simply pull the strip of fabric out of the buckle and let it all hang out. The collars are very stiff as the turtles usually wore them “popped” to better conceal their appearance in the show. You can push them down though if you prefer, and if you really want them to lay flat you could always get out an iron and go to town. The pants are far more simpler and include an elastic waistband to keep them up. They come with the pants tucked under the rear and front portion of the shell, though if you wanted to you could slide them over the front too. They’re very easy to work with.
When you do take these figures out of the box for the first time you will probably want to remove the coats. Even if you intend to display these guys in disguise, removing the coat is still a good idea as you have no idea how the arms are positioned out of the box. Some of mine had the elbow turned all the way around so if I had tried to bend the arm with the coat on it wouldn’t have worked and could have possibly broke. Removing the coat is far trickier than getting the pants on and off. I recommend popping the hands off first to make it a little easier as the coat is tailored to be just big enough to get these on. The only drawback to this strategy is you may cause a wristband to pop off, which happened to my Donatello. They’re just glued on, so it’s not a difficult repair or I could just let whatever hand is in place hold it on. At any rate, I haven’t ripped a jacket yet and I’ve put these things on and taken them off a few times now. Just be patient and try not to force anything and you should be okay.
Once the disguises have been removed you’re left with four glorious, naked, turtles! Seriously, the disguises draw attention to how naked the turtles are by default. These figures though are almost identical to the previously released figures, but with at least one obvious change. And that’s the head sculpt, which I’ll get into in more detail soon, but let’s just say these sculpts are far more toon accurate than what was released before. The other visual difference rests in the finish as these figures are noticeably glossier than the others. It’s a little bit disappointing because the rest of the line has a very matte look, but it’s not as bad in person as it looks in pictures. The chest and rear of the shell are still quite matte, it’s basically just the green skin that has a shine to it.
The visual distinctions are not the only differences though as these boys do sport some new articulation. Of the stuff that’s the same, we have a double ball, or barbell, joint at the head and base of the neck. It’s much smoother this time around and the figures have good rotation, tilt, and are capable of looking up and down. At the shoulders are ball-hinges and they were consistently the tightest joints on my set. There is a biceps swivel and another swivel at the elbow with a single hinge. The wrists are on pegs with hinges. All of the figures come with gripping hands by default with Leo and Raph having vertical hinges and Mikey and Donnie horizontal. Inside the shell, there’s a lot going on. There’s a ball joint in the abdomen that affords slight crunch and a little tilt. It also allows for a waist twist and you can turn their legs all the way around if you wish. This articulation is not new, but it’s far more loose than before causing some to think this is actually new articulation, but if you really want to, you can spin the legs on those old turtles too. What is new is below the waist we have the new style of legs. These are on ball pegs and they’re far more stable than before and allow for greater range. They can split, kick forward, and kick back. There is a thigh swivel, though it’s a bit limited. Below that we have double-jointed knees and new ankle articulation. The previous turtles just had ball pegs and weren’t the greatest. Now we have hinges and rocker articulation.
These turtles are definitely better articulated than before. It’s a bit subtle, but it’s certainly noticed and appreciated by anyone who likes to open and pose their toys. These guys are all painted, including the joints, so you’ll likely have a breaking in period when first opening them. My set was mostly fine, but every turtle had tight shoulders and elbows. Mikey’s right elbow also has some orange paint slop on it that’s hidden when the arm is straight, but visible when bent. I might try to get that off with a Magic Eraser or just some careful scraping. The only turtle that needed some help was Raph. His right elbow and left shoulder were quite stuck. I submerged him in hot water for a bit and it only helped a little. I was actually able to get the right arm separated at the biceps peg and just let the elbow and forearm sit a little longer submerged in the hot water. At that point I was finally able to get it to move, and having it removed from the shoulder meant I didn’t have to worry about snapping the peg. The left shoulder was more stubborn, and perilous, as it’s hard to put pressure on the shoulder hinge without stressing the biceps, but I got it to go with only some minor terror. Aside from that, my set is pretty free of quality control issues. There’s a few paint imperfections here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary so I certainly feel fortunate in that regard. The only disappointment with the articulation is we’re still waiting for proper double-elbows. It can be done, NECA just apparently hasn’t found a way to do it that it likes.
All right, lets talk about those new heads! Each turtle has two different “skull tops:” angry eyes and wide open eyes. Each also features the last new piece of articulation at the knot in the bandanna. It’s a simple peg and hinge so you can reposition the “tails” as you wish. It’s a nice addition, and each skull piece has it unlike the quarter scale Raph who needs to swap the knot from each top, though the knot was molded in green and then painted to match each turtle. Like some of the ankle and wrist hinges we saw last year, the paint flakes off almost immediately leaving behind an eyesore. On a knot that’s always behind the figure’s head it’s at least not as big of an issue as an ankle or wrist hinge. The heads though separate below the mask and we have eight mouths which include two of each of the following shapes: neutral, smile, yell, open mouth smile. It’s a great load-out of expressions as they all work really well with each of the eyes. Take the smile and combine it with the wide open eyes and you get yourself a happy, gentle, turtle. Swap in the angry eyes and now you have a cocky smile like the turtles just pulled a fast one on Shredder. It’s a fantastic concept because it opens the door for NECA to do accessory packs down the road to give collectors either more of what’s already here or new mouths and eyes all together. Maybe they do a sewer lair set one day that includes bunk beds? They could offer closed eyes, snoring mouths, or even mask-less heads! A few people may be a little disappointed they can’t replicate the same expression across all four turtles at the same time, but I prefer what NECA did here as I want my guys to have some variety anyway. And these expressions are just so much more toon accurate than what we had before. Just take the open eyes and yell combo which results in a frightened turtle. How many act breaks did we see as kids where the turtles are making a face like that because some new danger was just introduced? When I look at that face I can hear that foreboding music that would always kick in at those moments. And unlike my quarter-scale Raph, I’ve had really no issues with the heads staying together so that’s also a huge plus.
And we don’t just have the eight turtle heads to talk about, we also have those creepy masks! Early in the show, April felt the disguise needed to be more convincing so she got the turtles these weird looking rubber masks. They look like a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Rodney Dangerfield. NECA included four of them in this set and they function as separate heads since getting a mask over those turtle heads would have resulted in something horrible. There are two each of a surprised face and a smiling face. The included hats fit on them really well, even better than they do on the turtle heads, and they’re a smart inclusion. Should NECA ever visit the idea of an accessory pack for the toon line it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few more of these with different expressions. They look great, but I do wonder how many collectors out there will actually display their set this way, unless they buy multiples. Photographers or those who just like to change their display frequently will certainly enjoy them though.
Beyond the disguises, NECA also included a ton of extra stuff. We have a total of eight extra sets of hands included in this thing. The turtles all come with gripping hands, and the extras include four sets of open palms, two sets of thumbs up hands, a set of gripping hands with a wider gap in the fingers for Raph, and a set of pointing fingers which also work well with Raph as a stylized sai grip. It’s a solid assortment, though I might have preferred to swap out two sets of the open hands for two more sets of vertical hinged gripping hands, but it’s a minor quibble. This set is also loaded with pizza as we have two full pies, one of which appears to be sardine and ice cream, and a slice that looks nice and gooey. There’s a skateboard with a nice turtle shell logo in the center, though it’s strangely missing any kind of peg to securely fasten a figure to. There’s a “The Hare and the Tortoise” book which is from the first season and it’s well painted. We also have a massive 80’s boom box which was also featured in the first season (when the turtles wear a more ridiculous disguise that will undoubtedly be immortalized in plastic by NECA eventually) that’s neatly painted. There’s a Weird Pizza hat for Mikey from his short-lived stint as a delivery driver and we’ve also got a Pigeon Pete. He’s just a little lump of plastic, like gerbil Mike and fly Shredder, but he looks cute and he’s a fun inclusion. Lastly, there’s also the weapons of the Ninja Turtles. They’re the same as the original release except that none of Mikey’s ‘chuks can separate from the chain as this set does not include the whirling effect piece. I was kind of hoping NECA would opt to include the sai that came with the Turtles in Time Raph, as I just think they look better, but it’s not a big deal. And if you’re wondering, Raph and Mikey still don’t have holsters for their weapons. You can kind of slip them under the arms, which works better for Raph than Mike, but it’s not show accurate. I wish NECA would just rip-off Bandai and include a swappable belt piece for Mikey so we could have holsters for his nunchuks when we want them.
There’s a lot in this oversized box and a lot of it is good. What’s most important though is we have some new turtles that really capture how they appeared in the vintage cartoon. There are so many different variations of those turtles between the actual show, licensing art, toys, comics, and other sources of artwork so everyone’s concept of that 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle aesthetic can vary a bit. This figure line though is based on the show so I want them to look like they came right off of my TV. These new head-sculpts capture the look of the show from Season Two through the show’s main run up until the redesign in Season 7. My preferred look will always be that original opening title turtle with the beak line and saturated colors, but this is great as a general cartoon look. Those NECA originals were fine, but the head-sculpts came from an unknown source. Maybe it was simply a case of them being video game turtles first, maybe it was a bit of homage to the Playmates expressions, or maybe it was just the best attempt at the time. All I know is this is an improvement and if you collect this line then this set is a must have, regardless of whether or not you bought the originals or not.
NECA’s Turtles in Disguise four-pack is currently exclusive to Target in the United States. I do not know if there are any international plans in the works. I have to assume this set of figures will be made available outside of the US eventually. It will either be this exact set, or maybe special two-packs or something. I think what is happening right now is that NECA knows this is a hot item and it’s prioritizing the retail release in the US because that’s where TMNT is most popular and demand is highest. The second wave of releases for this set should either be underway or soon to be so if you haven’t found one yet, keep checking. And should all three waves come and go, plus the online drop, and you find yourself still without a set of poorly disguised reptiles then worry not, as NECA indicated they will eventually do pre-orders so long as demand is there (and it will assuredly be). I get it though, if you don’t have one now and you’re after it then it can get disheartening, and even infuriating, to see others have better luck or see the many listings on auction sites. The only cure for scalpers is to not feed them so I encourage all collectors to avoid doing so, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your decision. And if you need help, turn to social media. Find collector groups, hashtags, and trends and see if you can even find some local collectors. With a line this popular, a little help goes a long way. Good luck!