NECA’s line of action figures based on the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a wonderful source of nostalgia for 80s/90s kids even as the line heads into more obscure territories. In socializing with individuals of my age, it feels like a lot of those 5 and 6 year-olds who were watching the first few seasons of the show outgrew it come the early 90s. By then we were in the midst of a cartoon boom and the quality of shows was increasing with seemingly every new show. Practically overnight, the cartoon that was really just a not so cleverly disguised toy commercial started to fall out of favor. You still had your Street Sharks and Biker Mice From Mars, but there were also a ton of one and done type shows that came and went. With TMNT, the show seemed to get more mileage out of the fact that it started to take from the toyline, rather than dictate it. It used to be that a character would appear in the show, then eventually make its way to store shelves, but giant episode orders probably made it easier to just grab a toy and integrate it into the show practically 1:1. And so we have Dirtbag and Groundchuck.
I remember this pair showing up in stores roughly at the same time. I never had the Playmates Dirtbag, but I did have Groundchuck and he was one of my favorite designs from the line. I liked his armor-plated leg and the harsh shade of red that was his fur seemed cool to me. He had a crossbow weapon and a Foot logo tattoo on his arm and he became one of my chosen enemies. I even played with him so much he eventually fell apart, something that never happened to any of my other TMNT toys. He and Dirtbag eventually made their animated debut in the episode “Planet of the Turtleoids,” the same episode as Chrome Dome and Kerma. They were supposed to be the new Bebop and Rocksteady, but they had little interest in taking orders so that’s how the writers were able to move on from them. They were actually competent villains for the turtles, so that right there makes them fairly unique amongst the rogues from that show.
Since Dirtbag and Groundchuck arrived in the show as a pair, it made sense for NECA to release them as a pair. This year, we’ve seen toy companies do their best to adapt to the shipping crisis and uptick in factory rates and NECA has made some changes to this year’s releases as a result. We saw the figures Mondo Gecko and Muckman split into deluxe releases and we’ve also seen an uptick in price. With Dirtbag and Groundchuck, there was just no getting around the issue of costs. These two are, as far as I can tell, entirely unique as far as tooling goes. We’ve seen NECA get a lot of mileage out of the Bebop and Rocksteady base here and there, but that won’t work for this pair. As a result, we have the priciest two-pack in the line as this set retails for $65. Some may balk at the increase, at this time last year a NECA two-pack was $52, but I for one would rather receive an uncompromised product than a cheap one. No, I don’t particularly like paying more money for something, but I understand the economics in play.
Dirtbag and Groundchuck are an impressive pair. And that’s what you want if a set is going to set you back a few more bucks than the usual. Dirtbag is around 5.5″ and Groundchuck is closer to 6″, maybe a tick above when he’s standing up as straight as he can. This is veteran sculpter Paul Harding’s first contribution to the line and he really set a high bar for himself going forward. These two guys should remind anyone who owned them as kids of those vintage Playmates toys, but mostly they look just like they stepped out of the television. Dirtbag has all of the little things I remember from his brief appearance on the show and stuff that I don’t. He’s rocking the one boot, one bare foot, look and his limbs feature sculpted fur. He’s got these two-toned overalls with an olive green on top and black on the bottom to go along with a hot pink backpack. It’s a pretty gnarly getup, but it almost looks ordinary for a character from this show since it’s not as outlandish as some of the other stuff. Like his box-mate, for instance. Groundchuck sports this tattered, blue, tunic with shaggy fur underpants. He’s got a lavender belt that evokes images of Batman and a pair of bull’s eyes, one over his heart and one on his left knee, to add a dash of yellow. He has a bright green tuft of hair on his head which is poking out from under this futuristic half-helmet thing that even covers his right horn. His right leg almost looks robotic, but I think it’s just armor. Why he chose to armor one leg and little else I don’t know. He does feature some plating over his left thigh and he has this big shoulder contraption over his right shoulder. His left shoulder has a more conventional shoulder pad while both of his fingerless gloves have spiked or studded knuckles. He’s a totally 90s design and I am here for it!
Let’s talk a bit about Dirtbag first. I’ve already mentioned that his sculpt is awesome, but so is the paint work. His design doesn’t call for anything outlandish, but what is here works. He’s mostly a soft gray with a darker gray used to shade his backside. The same is done for his shirt, light green on the front, dark on the back, and his mining helmet as well. There’s a lot of black linework on this guy which adds so much depth to him. And it’s just remarkable how clean everything is. I would expect some of the lines to be a little out of whack here and there, but there’s literally none of that with this guy. The eyes, the inner ear, the inside of his mouth – it all looks fantastic. Also worth noting, all of his hinges appear to be cast in the most appropriate color of plastic. The one consistent eyesore with this line that keeps coming back are painted hinges with a poor choice in base color beneath. Those stand out too readily, but with Dirtbag it all looks good. You will only run into that issue with the back of the ankles because the hinges are done to match the shade of gray from the front of the figure, not the rear, and that’s fine. It would be stupid to do it the other way around. Even the left boot was cast in brown plastic and the fingerless gloves were done in red. I suppose there’s a risk that paint might come off of the fingers on the gripping hands, but there’s not much that can be done to prevent that. For now, I haven’t had any issues there.
Dirtbag (and Grounchuck for that matter) is also on the chunky side. His torso his wide and his legs a bit squat. Because of that, articulation isn’t going to be his strong suit, but it’s not a huge minus either. His head can really only swivel, if there’s any up and down I haven’t been able to figure it out. He does have an articulated jaw, a commonplace for this line that’s welcomed, so he’s not lacking in personality there. The shoulders are ball-hinged and lift out to the side all the way into a T position and can spin around. There’s a biceps swivel past that and double-jointed elbows. He’s a pretty jacked mole, so the size his of his biceps don’t really allow the elbows to bend past 90 degrees, but it’s not something I miss. The hands rotate at the wrist and all feature horizontal hinges. At the waist we have a big ball peg so he can rotate and tilt a little, but he can’t crunch forward or bend back. At the hips are the newer NECA ball and socket which I am happy to report are not loose. He doesn’t kick out very far forward, but he’s not really a martial arts kind of rodent. There is a thigh twist and the knees are double-jointed. At the ankle, we have hinges and rockers which work very well. On the rear of the figure we find a tail and a backpack. The tail is on a ball peg, but it doesn’t do a whole lot, though it can come in handy for adding a little stability to the figure. At the backpack, which is constructed of a rubbery plastic, is a flap that actually can open and close. I haven’t tried sticking a small accessory in it out of fear that it will be hard to get out, but it’s a cool little detail. What I have enjoyed doing with it is wedging the pole of his shovel underneath the flap so it goes straight across his back. The hold is plenty tight and it’s something that can be done to add weapon storage, which I always like.
With Groundchuck, we have a similar story. For one, the paint is so eye-catching with this bovine. There’s fur, metal, cloth, and just a lot going on. And it’s fairly clean, though not as clean as it is with Dirtbag. There are paint blemishes present on Groundchuck that I wish weren’t there. There’s a spot of missing white on the armor of his left thigh and the cow skull belt buckle has some scratching too. Those are the only ones that stand out, but there are a few nicks here and there which is customary with mass market figures and especially those with as much paint as this guy. The black line work though, is once again, pretty damn stellar. The line on the right legs are sculpted in and painted while the armor on the left thigh is scalloped and a really fun texture. I love how NECA painted both portions with a lot of white in the middle and gray on the edges. I find the shading on Groundchuck’s body to be a little more subdued than some other figures in this line as the red of the fur and blue of the tunic is just a little darker on the rear of the figure in comparison with the front. That’s not a critique, but an observation, as the metallic bits are shaded aggressively and look terrific as a result. The only spots where I feel a little more paint might of helped make the figure look even better are just small details like the fingernails and the row of teeth on his upper jaw. The bottom row has the black line work all throughout, but the upper row is just white. That’s likely because it’s really only noticeable if you’re looking at the figure from below the head, but when you’re reviewing a figure it’s something you’re going to see as you approach the figure from many angles, including ones that likely won’t factor into a display.
The articulation for Groundchuck is more or less the same as Dirtbag with only minor differences. He has all of the same points of articulation, minus the tail and backpack. I’m not sure why a mutant bull was designed without a tail, but that’s how it was. His head does feature a bit more play than Dirtbag’s, but it’s not drastic. He mostly looks straight ahead and down a little, with some room for tilt. His jaw doesn’t seem to open as far, but there’s enough there to change up his disposition. His shoulders are going to be somewhat impacted by his shoulder pads, but it doesn’t stop his arms from lifting out to the side all the way. He’s also traded a waist cut for a ball peg in upper abdomen. It mostly just affords rotation there, but he can tilt a little bit to the side as well as forward and back. The legs and arms are entirely the same, except with Groundchuck comes the added fun of having a character with hooves for feet instead of something more traditional. Even though they’re hooves, they still have the usual amount of ankle articulation and he’s really not a challenge to stand. Since he has kneepads like the turtles, his knees can’t quite achieve a 90 degree bend, but I don’t think that’s something that will be a problem for this figure. Also worth noting, that the hinges in the legs are painted on the rear, but the paint isn’t flaking! I don’t know what NECA did or if they did anything different, but it’s pretty cool.
One way companies have been able to keep costs manageable this year is by cutting back on accessories. NECA said “Screw that,” with this set as this pair is pretty well loaded. Both characters come with fisted hands in the box, but also have a set of gripping hands and open hands. All of the hands feature horizontal hinges and the same lovely paintjob. They’re easy to swap too as NECA seems to be using softer plastic with shorter pegs lately. The only downside is the hands might pop out when you don’t want them too, especially as you break in the hinges, but that’s certainly better than the alternative. Groundchuck has his own stylized pistol that ends in a bull skull complete with nose ring. It’s ridiculous, but appropriate for the show and character given the era. His gripping hands aren’t classic “trigger finger” hands, but they’re also soft enough that getting his index finger onto the trigger shouldn’t be a problem. As far as I know, that’s the only Groundchuck specific accessory in this box with the rest belonging to either Dirtbag or another character all together.
Dirtbag, being a miner and a fighter, needs tools and weapons. He’s got a pistol like Groundchuck, but unlike Groundchuck his pistol doesn’t really contain any Dirtbag theming. It does look like a nail or rail gun, which feels appropriate for his workman-like appearance. There’s a small, handheld, device that looks like a cross between a TV remote and an electric razor. I think this is a tracking device used by Donatello, if it fell into the hands of Dirtbag or Groundchuck I don’t remember, but rest assured it is absolutely pulled from the show. Dirtbag also has his shovel, which can be used for digging or cracking skulls, and he has an oversized drill that I guess helps him tunnel through the earth. He can easily hold it with two hands in front of his body, though the drill bit doesn’t rotate.
Lastly, Dirtbag has a rather unique accessory that just looks like a ring of rocks. This is to simulate him coming up from the ground, similar to what we saw with the Roadkill Rodney figures, but on a bigger scale. To achieve the desired result, you have to pull the figure apart at the waist and then just sit his torso in it. Getting him apart the first time can be a little scary since the factory likely really shoves these things together tight. It’s a double ball peg that’s in there, so it should be hard to break. Even so, I used some hot, running, tap water to soften it up (I did not need to heat any other joints on these figures) and was able to pull him apart. Putting him back together was also a snap. It’s pretty cool and provides for another display option. I’m torn on how Dirtbag will ultimately end up on my shelf. I think this is an accessory that may come and go as I change things up here and there. All of these accessories though are lovingly painted and detailed. The gripping hands are also pretty soft so there shouldn’t be too much of a problem preventing paint scuffing as they’re swapped in and out, but as always, take care when doing so. These are, after all, “adult collectibles.”
NECA’s latest two-pack from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line is one of its best. This one is right up there with Bebop and Rocksteady for me, and I’m hard pressed to think of a better one. Dirtbag and Groundchuck aren’t the most well known characters from the show, but their presence in the classic toy line (which basically mirrored their later cartoon appearance) makes them more familiar than than someone like Kerma, even though he appeared in the same episodes. These sculpts are phenomenal and I really hope Paul Harding will be making many more contributions to this line and basically any line I collect. This pair is certainly helping NECA end 2021 with a bang, and what’s really awesome for collectors, is there’s more coming since these guys were released alongside another all new two-pack and the other sets solicited earlier this year should be on a boat somewhere. NECA made this two-pack available on its website earlier this month, but they should be hitting Target right now. Take advantage of the fact that some people won’t remember this duo and snatch a set if you see one. You will not be disappointed.