Tag Archives: leonardo

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Sewer Samurai Leonardo

He’s traded in the shadows to learn the ways of the samurai.

Well, after looking at the Wave 6 Slash a couple of weeks ago we can now finally turn our attention to a Wave 5 release from Super7’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimates! series of figures: Sewer Samurai Leonardo. The thing with TMNT is, you have the four good guys, a few core allies, and then a whole bunch of bad guys or one-off guests. In the show, there was a constant presence from Shredder and his associates, but also often a mutant of the week as Shredder would enlist someone’s aid or create a new monster to throw at the turtles. This worked well for toys as Playmates always had new designs to work with. And they didn’t usually wait on the show anyway as the toyline seemed to introduce new characters more often than not with the show to follow. The only issue there is die hard fans are buying them all, but there’s also a ton of casual fans or kids that just bounce from one thing to the other and they only tend to recognize the good guys. What’s a toy company to do in order to sell more turtles? The answer is variants.

It was a long wait, but he’s finally here!

Playmates kept the original four turtles in circulation for much of the toy line. They’re technically still releasing them to this day. To keep the line interesting though, the company would take those characters and do something different several times a year. This first took place with the Wacky Action series in 1989. Those were new sculpts with wind-up features which is a fairly typical variant for a toyline to introduce. After that, Playmates started doing more “weird” versions of the turtles to the point where it’s one of the often cited things about the line today as people remember seeing Leonardo as a life guard and Raphael as a magician which is pretty damn goofy when you think about it. The variants started off a little more straight-forward though with the 1990 Disguised series. That line consisted of Raph the Space Cadet, Mike the Sewer Surfer, Don the Undercover Turtle, and Leo the Sewer Samurai. Of the four, I’d say only Raph as an astronaut seems particularly odd. Mikey was using surfer lingo in the show and Donatello was just sporting the disguise look from the same show. Leonardo as a samurai also felt pretty normal as the turtles often do feel more like samurai than ninja, so why not depict the stoic leader as a ronin? And now that Super7 has released all four base turtles, they too are turning to the variants and up first is Sewer Samurai Leonardo.

This guy has swords to spare.

Leonardo comes in Super7’s typical Ultimates! packaging with a green slipcover on the front that features an original logo for the figure and the classic logo on the rear. The shade of green on the slipcover this time seems just a touch more saturated than the others I have, but otherwise everything is pretty familiar. Inside is the same sewer deco with the figure behind a window box. First of all, I should say I am a big fan of the Playmates original for this figure. Leonardo was my favorite as a kid, so naturally, this was my favorite figure from the Disguise series. I don’t believe there is a Leonardo variant in that line that I enjoyed more than this one. Tragically, I no longer have that figure and I contemplated buying one just to have on-hand for when this came out. I obviously didn’t or I wouldn’t bothered to have mentioned that, but I am predisposed to like this figure and I’m going to do my best to be objective here, because subjectively I am practically bursting with glee just looking at him in the box.

He lacks a toe hinge, but you can still point him up on his toes if you desire.

This design for Leo is indeed samurai inspired, but he’s pretty garish. I don’t know if any real world samurai ever had this kind of color combo, but that’s part of what makes this line fun. First of all, we have this gold, open-faced, helmet which is non-removable. The portrait of the vintage figure was basically Raphael from the first wave. Playmates basically switched up the expressions for this line for variety (Donatello had Leo’s old facial expression and Raph had Donatello’s while Mikey was all new), but Super7’s looks more like the Wave 2 Leo’s mouth, but with Raph’s eyes. It’s slightly different, which also makes it more it’s own thing. I’m not bothered by it, but some might be if they want this to look exactly like the vintage toy. The chest plastron is armored and painted gold. It’s not a very shiny, or metallic, gold. It’s definitely less lustrous than the original and less than Super7’s Metalhead, but I don’t dislike it. I like the finish, but I know many others don’t.

These boxy sandals also help him to balance on one foot, though you’ll have to fight with his torso to keep him this way.

Beneath that armor, this figure is sporting sculpted chainmail which is where things get kind of weird because it’s blue. It works for a ninja turtle, but for an actual samurai would come across as pretty baffling. I love this shade though as it’s basically the same as Leonardo’s bandana. The sculpt itself though is pretty soft and I wish there was more detail. There’s some blue piping on the gloves and feet too and I like how that plays off of the torso. The pants and sleeves are black which creates a nice contrast with the blue and gold. The hands are now just sculpted hands with black rope over them where as the old figure had a bug or something sculpted onto one. I’m fine with that omission. Where the presentation does take a bit of a hit for me is with the red shoulder pauldrons and thigh guards. They’re sculpted and look nice, but there’s zero paint on them. They just stand out as plain, lumps, of red plastic. And it’s a soft red that reminds me of lipstick. I basically had the same issue with Slash and I don’t know why Super7 seems to refuse to paint shoulder parts on their figures because it’s an area that stands out, so why not make it look good? There’s also minor paint slop here and there, like on the neck and the red straps could have been hit with another coat as the black plastic shows through a bit. It’s the type of stuff you notice when looking the figure over, but not something that shows on a shelf save for a black smudge on my figure’s left, gripping, hand. I’ll probably try to take that off with a magic eraser since the only painted part of the hands is the black rope as Super7 has seemingly stopped painting the finger and toenails.

I love this blue trim on the shell and the belt is soft and pliable so it’s easy to stash additional weapons in it.

The thing I really liked about this figure as a kid were the accessories and the options for weapon storage. The original figure had a belt loop on the rear that was really intended for his banner, but could also store his sword. He also had a loop on the side of his belt to store his katana like a traditional samurai would. And on top of that, he also had a scabbard he could put it in and sling over a shoulder. This figure does the same and you actually have three standard swords and one short sword. Now the odd thing is the swords here look more like a ninja-to, or ninjatō, which is basically what Leonardo often has. They were always listed as katanas, but in actuality he almost never wielded swords that looked like a true katana. The Wave 2 Leonardo from Super7 gave him actual katanas, but this one has swords that look better suited for that figure. It’s bizarre. Now, there’s three of them here so one could take two and give them to the old Leo and keep one for this Leo (and he only needs one), so that might be intentional on Super7’s part since they do hear the criticisms out there. As for what we do have here, the swords are painted well and have a green accent, likely an homage to the original figure coming with all green weapons and accessories (and yes, you do get a green, unpainted, sprue with all of the weapons on it). I think they work for this figure, but I’m not sure I like the green with the prior figure. They’re also soft and some arrived warped which I do not like, but I hope to straighten them with some heat.

He doesn’t grip the kunai very well, but they can slot between his fingers.

In addition to the swords, Leonardo comes with a trio of kunai that are nicely painted with a steel and green finish. There are two throwing stars which are a different design from the Wave 2 figure. He also has a set of “Samurai claws” which he can hold in his gripping hands or the more style posed hands and they basically turn him into Wolverine. They too have the green accents, but also a hit of blue and blend in quite nice. These were not featured on the vintage release. His banner returns and it looks like bamboo held together by wrappings. It can fit in a loop on the figure’s belt and be displayed as so. The banner itself is soft goods and looks okay. It’s not the highest quality print, but better than a sticker like the old figure. His shield returns which is now fully painted. It’s gold with green, red, and blue on the front and it’s the only place on this figure where I think this color combo doesn’t work. I think I would drop the red, and maybe the blue, if I could. There’s a slice of pizza in case Leo gets hungry which has a sardine, or anchovy, on it to distinguish it from other slices we’ve seen. The fish has this really nice metallic blue paint on it and I kind of want to see how that would look for a blade. He also has his scabbard which now features an actual, nylon, string instead of a soft plastic loop so it’s easy to slip on and off, but the plainness of the string doesn’t look great going across his chest. He also has a second head, and this one is a unique creation for the figure that features a mask on the front. It’s pretty cool looking, though swapping heads is harder than I would like. The default one comes off and on fine, but the masked head looks to have a smaller indentation for the ball peg so it’s really hard to snap into place. It does further the trend though of the original portraits included with these figures being really tempting. I think I’m going to stick with the vintage look, but I bet I switch it up from time to time.

He comes with a solid assortment of hands, but lacks the ones I really want. They’re also so hard to swap, due to the combination of the new ribs added to the pegs and the softness of the plastic, that I don’t plan to ever remove the gripping hands which is a shame.

Not mentioned in that list of things are the hands, because I wanted to talk about that separately. This figure comes with 4 sets of hands: open, gripping, style posed, and fists. Out of the box, he has open hands and they’re really hard to get off the figure. I’ve never had this issue with a Super7 figure before, but definitely be careful. A lot of folks resorted to heating the forearm, myself included, out of fear of breaking the peg or even the hinge. You may think that since it’s just a peg that if you don’t exert any bending pressure that you’ll be fine, but sometimes the hinge can break in the hand leaving the peg stuck inside the arm. The other thing that sucks about these hands though is that we have 4 sets, but we don’t get the set that is most appropriate and that would be gripping hands with vertical hinges. The prior Leonardo came with such hands, all of the turtles did, and so did Slash and probably some others. Vertical hinges work best for melee weapons, and even guns for that matter. The horizontal hinge is useless and I’m shocked that’s what we got. I just figured that was something Super7 was sensitive to and when I saw the solicitation image that featured just the one set of gripping hands I assumed we were just getting vertical hinges, or a set was left out mistakenly. I was wrong, obviously, and it’s a disappointment and I wish that’s where the disappointment ended. To rub salt in the wound, the fists have vertical hinges, which is pretty useless for a fist. I think this was an error at the factory and they messed up which hinge went with which set of hands, but it either wasn’t caught during the approval process or Super7 (or the factory) declined to correct the error for one reason or another (likely cost).

The heads are also tough to swap, but not as bad as the hands. This new portrait certainly gives the figure a whole different vibe.

This figure was manufactured out of a factory in Vietnam. That’s not a good or bad thing on its own, but I think it’s worth pointing out for what’s to follow. My Wave 6 Slash came out of a factory in China and I was very happy with the articulation. And as far as I know, every Super7 figure I own was made in China. Given the pandemic, it’s not at all surprising to see that Super7 enlisted the help of a Vietnamese factory. We’ve seen Bandai do it as well, and it makes further sense since Waves 5 and 6 essentially arrived at the same time indicating they were made at different factories. I don’t know if Super7 used this factory for anything else, but the end result for the articulation is not good.

“Back off bub, that’s gimmick infringement!”

In general, this guy moves the same as past characters, but I’ll run it down here. We have a head on a ball peg that can rotate, look down, up, and has some room for nuance posing. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side until the shoulder pads get in the way. For some reason, the right shoulder pad on mine likes to curl under the shell when moving it and some red has transferred to the blue trim of the shell, so be careful with that area. I wish they had done what they did with Slash and actually pinned the pauldron to the bicep and not the shoulder as that allows Slash to move the shoulder pad out of the way via the swivel point. In addition to the biceps swivel, there’s a single-hinge at the elbow and a swivel point that’s fairly useless. This turtle doesn’t have elbow pads so he should be able to bend his elbows better than the others, but he still can’t quite hit 90 degrees. The wrists rotate and I already mentioned the horizontal hinges. I wish he had a forearm swivel so we could re-position the forearm guards, but that didn’t happen. In the torso, there’s a diaphragm joint that’s not very functional given the turtle design, but you get a little range. The hips peg in and hinge and he can raise them out for near splits and swivel at the ball joint. The knees are single-hinged and can’t quite hit 90, they also pivot, but the range is pretty poor. The ankles are hinged and can go forward and back, plus rock side-to-side.

In the battle of samurai vs ninja, who will emerge victorious?!

All of that is largely as expected. Super7 is what it is at this point and expecting double-jointed elbows is basically a fool’s game at this point. The articulation is always going to feel somewhat like an afterthought. What’s not acceptable is the tolerance. I already mentioned how swapping the hands and heads are a pain, but the joint in the torso and at other spots are far too loose. They’re awful, and really, they’re unacceptably bad given that this is actually the first wave of TMNT Ultimates! at the higher MSRP of $55 a piece. This guy is as floppy as it gets in the torso and it’s a damn shame. This has been a problem going all the way back to wave 1 that appeared to be steadily getting better. Each turtle since then has been a little bit better than the previous one. None of the four were perfect, but definitely better. This is absolutely a step back and should not have made it out of the factory in this condition. These are premium, collector-grade, action figures. This can’t keep happening. And I personally hate that it happened to the figure I was looking forward to the most, not just this wave, but this entire line up to this point. It’s bad enough that I’m not actually angry, I’m just really downhearted and bummed out about it. I got this figure direct from Super7, which I can’t recommend going that route anymore because of the cost and the fact that other retailers seem to get this stuff in first, and I probably could attempt an exchange, but I have no reason to think the replacement would be any better. I checked out other reviews and impressions and this seems to be a widespread issue not just with Leo, but Wave 5 as a whole. His upper body just wants to flop around and within the hips are slip points so as you widen his stance he starts to slide at certain points. The wrist hinge on my left gripping hand is also really loose and can’t support the weight of the shield. It’s just such a bummer especially because that torso joint brings so little to the table. If they can’t get it right they should just scrap it all together.

We’ll end with a weapon swap shot. I’m honestly leaning towards keeping them like this. The only thing I don’t love is the green trim on the classic Leo, but the Wave 2 katana works really well with the Samurai Leo’s color scheme.

How does one review such an experience? I think the sculpt on this guy turned out great, I’m largely content with the paint excepting the shoulders, and he has plenty of accessories including stuff the old toy didn’t even come with. On the other hand, we have a design omission when it comes to the missing hands that should never have happened. I just personally don’t get how that could unless the factory screwed it up and Super7 didn’t want to spend the money to redo them. The bigger issue for most though will be the unstable joints. This guy is tough to pose as a result. Once he’s standing he seems okay, but he’s limited to narrow stances and wide open stances with little in-between because the hips can’t stay in place and the torso keeps tilting to one side or the other. The hands and head are problematic to swap so you end up with a figure that can look passable on the shelf, but isn’t fun to mess around with because of the frustrations. For some, that’s fine because they’ll set it and forget it. I like to repose and mess around with my figures from time-to-time so it really bums me out when I want very little to do with that part of a figure. As a result, I can’t recommend this one to everybody. If you’re in love with the old toy as much as I am, then maybe you can justify adding it to your collection. For that person, they probably feel like this is a necessity for their collection. For anybody else, I say don’t bother. At least wait until it hits clearance and can be had for less than $55 because right now I can’t honestly say it’s worth the price and that really bums me out.

All right, one more for the road.

Hasbro Power Rangers x TMNT Donatello and Leonardo

Donatello and Leonardo are here to join the team.

It’s been a minute, but we’re back with another two-pack from Hasbro’s Power Rangers x Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of action figures. If you’re unfamiliar, this series is born from the Boom! comics crossover in which the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meet the turtles and somehow their powers end up getting handed over to them. I haven’t read the story, so I don’t know why any of that took place, but it did lead to some cool character designs and that’s why we’re here.

The first set I received was the Raphael and Tommy Oliver two-pack which was my introduction to this morphed turtle character sculpt. Because of that, this set is pretty damn familiar because, like many TMNT toy lines, the sculpt for each turtle is essentially the same. The only differences separating the turtles in this line are the unique, unmasked, head sculpts and the belts and weapons. And the other major difference is just the color scheme. With this set, Leonardo is logically the blue ranger, but since there is no purple ranger, Donatello had to take the black. It might have been kind of fun if the black ranger simply became the purple ranger in the hands of Donatello, but this is fine and I don’t fault Boom! for sticking with the traditional colors for MMPR.

It’s morphin’ time…dudes!

If you read my review of Raph and Tommy, then you know that I generally like this ranger turtle sculpt. It’s chunky and embodies enough of what makes the turtles unique while also mixing it with the classic MMPR look. For turtle fans, the biggest change from what we’re accustomed to is in the scale and proportions. These guys are big when the turtles are traditionally on the shorter side. They make Tommy look like a chump as they’re about the same height (six inches), but far more muscular. April, who is in the other two-pack I haven’t reviewed, is a little shorter than the turtles this time. The other big change is in the proportions as it relates to the head. The turtles usually have pretty big domes relative to their body, but here they’re much smaller and closer to more human proportions. It’s not something that I really notice with the masked heads, but swap to the unmasked ones and the contrast becomes obvious. Hasbro has to go off of the art, but I do think they could have gone a little bigger. Aside from that, the sculpt is fine and captures the fun mash-up this crossover embodies.

Both turtles get alternate methods of utilizing their weapons. For Leo, that means his swords combine, but for Donnie he just has a separate, standard, power axe.

Leonardo and Donatello, as mentioned before, are the same as Raphael. The only difference is they feature the chest strap on their belt (just like the vintage toys) which contains the center diamond. On Raph, that diamond is glued into the chest, but on Leo and Don it just pegs in as part of the belt and can be pulled off. Leonardo’s belt crosses over his left shoulder while Donnie’s comes over his right. The insignia on the morpher is unique to each turtle: triceratops for Leo and mastodon for Don. The holster on the rear of the belt is also unique as it’s catered to the weapon of choice for each turtle. Donnie’s is interesting because we’re accustomed to companies making a tube on his back, but Hasbro chose to do the same, but with a slit through the side. Instead of jamming the staff portion of his weapon through one end and out the other, you can just push it in through the slit which is made of a soft plastic. It doesn’t look as neat, but it is easy and there would be less of a chance of paint rub with this design, though his weapon isn’t painted on the staff portion.

If you want, they can go mask-less, though I don’t know how many would want to do that.

The body of each turtle is essentially three colors: white, gold, and the primary color. Hasbro is able to engineer these guys in a way that allows them to use mostly colored, unpainted, plastic. The only paint appears to be the gold bands on the arms, the white on the forearms, and the diamonds on the gloves and boots. On Donatello, the white isn’t really opaque enough on the forearms so the black plastic shows through a bit. It contrasts with the white plastic hands which have a slight off-white hue. By contrast, the boots are quite clean, but that’s because Hasbro was able to do them in white plastic. Oddly, the knees and elbows are an ever so slightly different shade of black. Since they’re a joiner for the articulation it could be they’re a different type of plastic. It was more noticeable on Raph, but with Don it’s probably only apparent to me because I’m looking for it. On Leo, it’s slightly more uniform than Raph, with the exception of his left knee which looks darker than the rest. His forearms at least look a little better, but there’s more paint slop in general on him than Don as well as mold release imperfections on his limbs.

Weapon storage!

On the helmets, we have a little more going on. There we get some silver for the mouth guard and some of the features like the triceratops horns and mastodon tusks. Maybe it’s the shape of the turtle head, but Leo’s helmet comes across a little plain. He still has the black visor with red eyes inside as well as the yellow triceratops eyes on the side, but it feels like there could be a little more going on here. It could also be just the shiny, blue, plastic which gives off a cheap look. Donatello’s helmet is a bit better as the mastodon design has more linework. None of it is painted though so it’s not as striking as the black ranger figure from the Lightning Collection nor does it look like the art on the packaging. The silver paint on his mouth guard also isn’t as clean. Both come with an unmasked option which look okay. The design for these turtles is a bit more froggy than I personally like, and the heads look really small on the body. Leo gets a stoic expression while Don has a traditional turtle mouth and features goggles and a skull cap instead of the standard mask. I’ll probably never use these heads in my display, but I like that Hasbro gives collectors options.

There’s a very different approach to the shade of blue used when it comes to Leo vs Billy.

On the accessory front, we have weapons, effects, and hands. Like Raph, Leo and Don each come with a set of gripping hands, fists, and open hands. The gripping hands are the same from turtle to turtle so they have a vertical hinge and a wide gap between the fingers to accommodate Raph’s sai grip. That’s not really useful for the other turtles, and the grip isn’t perfect for Leo which is on the loose side. I love the vertical hinge, though I wish Hasbro had cut out a bit more room for it as there isn’t a ton of range there. For weapons, the blue ranger’s lance has been split into two, short, swords. They can connect like the lance to form basically a really dangerous looking weapon, but I suspect most will have Leo dual wield swords, per usual. Donatello gets two versions of the power axe. One is basically the standard axe, only the quality is less than what was released previously as it’s very soft and gummy and I had a hard time getting the “pump” action to work. Trying to move it just caused the entire barrel to bend, but some hot water freed it up, though it’s still not a smooth action. He also has a pole axe version which is what fits into his belt. It’s kind of neat, though the paint job on it isn’t terrific. The bulky turtle hands also don’t grip the standard axe very well in a firing pose. They also each get an effect part. Donatello has a green, flame, effect while Leonardo has a blue lightning effect that’s very similar to what the blue ranger came with. I don’t know if I’ll use either, but I’d rather have them than not. And there isn’t really anything missing, just shortcuts taken to keep costs down that harm the figures in a mild fashion. I’d rather have better gripping hands than what was packaged with Raph, but it’s more of a nitpick than a true criticism.

The power axe mold is unchanged from the black ranger release, just the paint and overall quality is different, which means the blast effect from the prior release works with this one as well.

The articulation for both turtles is the same as what we saw with Raph, which is mostly very good. The pin-less engineering on the double knees and elbows works very well as they look nice and the range is better than 90 degrees in both places. The range in the ankle pivots helps to make standing them fairly easy, though the shell does add weight to the rear of the figure making it a little tricky to do just a standard, vanilla, upright pose. They have articulation in the torso, but the shell limits it to basically just a waist twist. Hasbro did cut the bottom of the front of the shell in two to better facilitate this. The joints are all pretty tight, but not to the point where I needed to heat anything. The only joints that don’t really work are the butterfly joints in the shoulders. There’s just no clearance because of the shell on both sides, so I don’t know why it’s here. Even with that limitation, these are some of the most dynamic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ever produced, probably surpassed only by the S.H.Figuarts versions. Obviously, the costume makes these almost a completely different animal in terms of aesthetics, but I can see why some people are interested in seeing what Hasbro would do with a proper line of TMNT figures.

For a ninja, balance is key.

Reviewing this set is pretty easy after having reviewed the Raph and Tommy set. If you liked what you saw there, then you’ll be pleased with what’s present here. Hasbro does skimp on the paint, but the sculpts are interesting and the figures are pretty well engineered. It all comes down to style: do you like this mashup of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? If so, then you’ll enjoy what Hasbro has put together. I think these make for a fun display whether you’re more of a MMPR fan or a TMNT one, and if you happen to like both, well then this was practically made for you. And I do like how Leo and Don turned out especially. The black and gold color scheme just works, while I’ve always been partial to Leonardo. I like the lance/katana cross more than Raph’s sai/power sword combo (it helps that Leo’s weapons are painted better) and I definitely like the versatility of both weapons here. Even though this two-pack is essentially the same figure times two, I think I like it a little more than the Raph and Tommy set. Sorry Tommy, you’re just not nearly as interesting as a turtle in a Power Rangers costume. Check back next week when we take a look at the final two-pack in this series: Michelangelo and April O’Neil.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about how the weapons combine!

NECA TMNT Turtles in Disguise

We got some new turtles on the block!

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.

The quarter-scale engineering is coming to the main line!

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!

Regardless of your feelings on the Wave One release, you’re going to want these new turtles.

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!

I love the artwork NECA commissions for these releases. Art by Dan Elson
Lets set these turtles free!

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.

Yeah, April, no one will be able to tell they’re turtles if they just wear a hat.

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.

Clothes are for suckers!

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.

Take those pants off and celebrate!

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.

Good thing Mikey got a skateboard before his home boy Mondo arrives.

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.

Do you like Choco Puffs (legally distinct from Coco Puffs) on your pizza?
Dinner’s over, time for a story?

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.

I’ll let someone else make the head jokes.

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.

Admittedly, they’re probably less upsetting for a normie without the masks.

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.

“Hello, my name is…Hughe…Mann…”
If you prefer a more Playmates inspired disguise.

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.

Now he has the hat to go with the pizza!
It’s easy to forget that the turtles spend just as much time in the cartoon wearing expressions like these as they do looking fearsome.

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.

I can’t overstate how happy I am with these new heads.

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!

Cowabunga!

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Leonardo

“Leonardo is the perfect turtle…” is the truest statement to ever appear on the back of a product box.

If you ask me what my most cherished childhood toy was I won’t hesitate to answer Leonardo. My original Playmates Leonardo was a figure I adored and played with for years. I would get other Leonardo action figures, but they were always a temporary joy. When I sat down to act out and play with my figures, it was the original Leo from 1988 that I reached for. And it’s one of the few figures from that line I can vividly remember getting since he (along with Donatello) was my first. I was so young that I was too short to even reach the pegs and my mom had to sift through the rows of figures for me to find that Leonardo.

When Super7 first debuted its Ultimates! line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I was noncommittal. It wasn’t until Leonardo and the rest of wave 2 was unveiled that I felt the pull. I could push aside the strings of nostalgia on that first wave, but it was Leo I could not resist. I then had to scramble to get Raph, and I was quick to pre-order the other turtles as they became available all eagerly awaiting the release of Leonardo.

Since Leo’s accessories are all the same as Raph’s, consider this your accessories pic.

Leo finally arrived in February after a lengthy wait. I pre-ordered him through bigbadtoystore.com which had pre-orders open for a long while beyond the usual Super7 window. It was certainly convenient, but it meant a long wait as, for whatever reason, BBTS seems to be the retailer who always receives Super7 releases last. While those who ordered direct from Super7 had their Leonardo in December, I was forced to wait nearly two months beyond that. BBTS did come through, and I was never in doubt about that part, and he’s largely as expected. Like all of the figures in Super7’s line of Ultimates!, he comes in a cardboard mailer with the product logo on it and the figure’s name. Open that and you get the actual box the figure comes in. It’s a three-dimensional, trapezoid, which probably has a proper name, but I was never into geometry. The green slipcase slides off and the figure is below in a nice window box. It’s the same packaging as the wave one figures and it’s great. One could argue lesser packaging would result in a cheaper price (the MSRP on Leo is $45), but at least it’s attractive and mint-in-box collectors are happy while openers have a reasonably easy to reseal packaging for moves and such.

It’s like seeing an old friend…who has had some cosmetic enhancements.
Are your swords hanging low? Well have we got a product for you!

Leonardo should be quite familiar to anyone who has Raphael. That’s because they’re the same figure. The only differences between the two are the head and belt. Even the little blemishes on the shell and creases of the skin are identical. Leonardo is designed to mimic the 1988 release so he’s an olive shade of green with a belt that features a crisscross design across the chest, white eyes, and a blue mask with blue pads. Super7 added a bit more embellishment to the buckle area of Leo’s belt seemingly swapping some of the gunmetal parts of Raph’s belt for a chrome color. I really liked the understated gun metal so this looks less neat to me and I even wonder if the extra chrome was a factory error that Super7 was forced to just roll with or if they just view it as a way to distinguish the turtles from each other. I guess we’ll see what the other figures feature down the road as the promotional shots of Leo, Mike, and Don feature a belt similar to Raph’s and not the final Leo belt. The shell is now a deep green color as opposed to the brown Raph had and the front of the shell is a deeper yellow, like a marigold, when compared with Raph. The headsculpt that Leo comes packaged with looks just like the Playmates Leo. He has that almost concerned look to him, but Super7 did adjust the angle of his eyes ever so slightly so it’s not as pronounced. I feel like I was always a little disappointed in Leo’s facial expression, and yet I find myself really loving this head for pure nostalgia reasons. There is a bit of shine on the head of my figure, under his right eye, that might not come across in the photos. I don’t know if they’re all like that, or if it’s just mine.

Imagine if he had swords like these in Turtles in Time.

Since Leo is the same figure as Raph, his articulation is the same. He’s got a ball-peg that his head sits on which allows for some up and down movement and side to side along with full rotation. I didn’t really touch upon it in my Raph review, but the only aesthetic with these figures I don’t care for is the gap between the head and neck as from some angles they look like amusement park actors in oversized costumes. From head-on, it looks fine though. The shoulders are standard ball-hinges with swivels at the biceps. The shoulders were really tight out of the box, but I didn’t need any heat to get them moving. Single-jointed elbows follow with wrist rotation and hinges, and he has hands with vertical hinges and horizontal, so that’s a major plus. There’s some rotation at the hips, which are still fairly loose, but not quite as bad as Raph’s, but the shell won’t allow for too much range of motion. The legs are on ball-pegs and can swivel and kick out forward and to the side just fine. The knees just peg into the lower leg with single-hinges and swivels below the kneepad while the feet feature a hinge and generous rocker. The ankle hinges were, by far, the tightest joints on my figure out of the box and I did run them under hot tap water to get them going. It’s a suitable level of articulation, though it doesn’t really rise above other brands and some would argue it doesn’t even meet them. The lack of double elbows and knees is unfortunate and I still don’t like how the knees are engineered. It feels like there’s a lot of stress on that peg holding them together every time I bend the knee. Since Leo and Raph are the same though, I suspect I’ll just have to accept what we have here is what we’ll get with Donatello and Michelangelo.

Even Leo is subjected to Zoom meetings these days.
I think he dropped it…

It’s great to receive updated articulation, but one of the major selling points of the Super7 Ultimates! brand is the wealth of accessories the figures come with. Leo has a plethora of hands at his disposal for holding his various weapons and accessories. He has vertically hinged gripping hands in the box, plus horizontal gripping hands and open style pose hands as well as a set of fists. They peg in and the peg is small and thin, but thus far I have not heard of any issues and haven’t experienced any myself. Leo also comes with the same slice of pizza as Raph and the same communicators: one open and one closed. The only difference there is the parts painted red on Raph’s are brown on Leo’s (why not blue?!). He also has the standard allotment of ninja weaponry including throwing stars, a small, triple, bladed knife, and that large, hooked, thing. It’s a lot of stuff, but plenty could argue a large chunk of the accessories are useless. Are you ever going to pose Leo with one of the other weapons or ninja stars? Not likely. And strangely, the paint app on the pizza slice is different from Raph’s. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it looks almost dirty.

Careful there, buddy.

Most importantly, Leo also has his trusty katana blades. This has been a minor point of contention in some of the collecting spheres I frequent as these swords are not accurate when compared with the vintage figure. There was some hope that Super7 would include two different sets of swords to appease collectors (as they did with Splinter’s robe including a plastic one and a cloth one), but apparently collectors didn’t make enough noise for that to happen. Leo’s old swords were basically fake katanas. They were referred to in all TMNT media as katanas, but looked nothing like an actual katana. Super7 decided to get authentic so Leo has two, long, curved, blades. It takes some getting used to, not so much because of the curved nature of the swords, but the length. Anyone fighting with two swords, especially two katana, looks ridiculous. Part of the nature of the brand though is to look ridiculous. These are giant, mutated, turtles after all. I do wish they were smaller though as it’s hard for me to suspend my sense of disbelief that this character could effectively wield these swords in this manner. I think I may opt for a one sword look for my more permanent display as a result. The actual swords though at least look great. The paint is nice and the handles are well done and they’re not warped and flimsy like Raphael’s sais. And they also fit in the holsters on the back of his shell fine, and despite their length, don’t look particularly silly.

The alternate head definitely has a different energy.
I wish his bandana tails had a bit more life to them. It’s very rare to have a turtles figure where the bandana knot and tails aren’t visible from the front.

Lastly, Leonardo comes with an alternate head. Like Raph’s, Leo’s alternate head is a brand new, stylized, headsculpt that’s an all new creation. It obeys the same rules of colored mask and blank eyes as the vintage toy, but has a more realistic expression and texture. There’s a warmth with the new one that creates the illusion of this character existing in the real world, as opposed to the cold, plastic, very toy nature of the original. The expression is similar, but clearly more angry, and I think I prefer it to the vintage look. It’s basically how I would envision a new Leonardo would look today if the line were just starting from scratch like the original Playmates line did once upon a time. And it’s a nice look, though I think Raph’s second head turned out a little better. It’s the straight bandana tails that change the head profile a bit for me and I would have preferred something more dramatic. Though if you like the vintage look, you have it with the default head and you even have a sprue of weapons and accessories in classic brown, though the swords are the updated, curved, ones. My affection for that old head would probably win out for my display if I didn’t like Raph’s alternate head so much. I want a uniform look and don’t want to mix vintage and alt heads, so for now, I’m going with this updated one.

If you prefer a more vintage look.

The Super7 Ultimates! Leonardo is basically the figure I thought it was going to be. And that’s good! As I expected to like this one. I do think there’s room for improvement, as there often is with anything, as the articulation is lacking, most of the accessories are useless, and the swords are too long. That sounds like a lot of negatives, but this is a $45 action figure so it should be held to a higher standard than a $20 one found at Target. Where it does succeed is just in the overall look and presentation of the figure. Even if a lot of the accessories are ho-hum, the extra head is great and the hands are what you want. He looks like Leonardo and really captures that Playmates look which was so obviously inspired by the art from the Mirage line of comics, but was also its own thing. He looks great with Raph and I have a feeling my display will only improve with the additions of Michelangelo (expected probably four months from now) and Donatello (hopefully before the end of the year). Leonardo is also yet another reminder of how awesome it is to be a TMNT collector right now. Turtle power, indeed!

You didn’t think I’d end this without a comparison shot, did you?
It’s a Leo convention! Left to right: S.H.Figuarts, NECA toon Leo, Super7, Playmates, Playmates ’03, which was really the first attempt at making over the classic ’88 figure and still kind of kicks ass today.


NECA Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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These guys don’t need no stinkin’ “turtle power.”

A dozen years ago, toy company NECA dipped its toe into the world of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the first time, and shockingly it failed to stick around. That’s incredible to hear for collectors currently chasing down Bebop and Rocksteady at Target, but it’s the truth. There are a lot of folks at NECA who grew up with the TMNT and my guess is they wanted to do something with the brand right from the start, but always getting in the way was Playmates Toys. Playmates, as we’ve covered in various other places, held the master toy license for the brand and was reluctant to allow others into their space. NECA was able to by way of making adult collectibles based on the original Mirage Comics release, which was something Playmates had little interest in. NECA released its product in early 2008 to great reviews in the toy world, but apparently sales just weren’t there. It could be that the licensing cost just made it unworkable, or the license was only available for a short window that just couldn’t be properly taken advantage of. Whatever the reason, the line only included the four turtles plus April O’Neil as it was cancelled before it could get to Shredder, who was shown off at conventions and left to haunt the dreams of TMNT collectors every where.

Since 2008, these action figures have become highly sought after. Those who passed on them initially even had multiple chances to rectify that before NECA said “good bye” for good. The original release was each character in its own blister package with a bunch of accessories. Following that, there was a boxed set with all four turtles and a second single-figure release, this one coming in a tube style package (sewer pipe?) with just the figures and their weapons as the other extras were scrapped. Lastly, there was another four-pack release, this one a boxed set variant depicting the brothers in black and white.

I grew up on the cartoon, mostly, and it was my favorite show for many years. I also knew about the comic origins of the characters, but never really sought it out. I would see some images of the comic art, like the cover for the popular Nintendo game, and I’d think it looked awesome. I also saw some others though that I thought were terrible and ugly. The funny thing is, most of those images I didn’t like were just covers or one-off pieces of art and weren’t representative of what the characters actually looked like in print, but I wouldn’t realize that for many, many years. When I first saw these figures though I thought they looked incredible. I pre-ordered a full set and eagerly waited for their arrival. I may not have had much interaction with the comic, but I was at a point where things that reminded me of something I enjoyed as a kid, but were more adult, was really appealing. And hyper-violent, gritty, and grim TMNT certainly fit that bill.

As you’re likely well aware, the four turtles consist of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. The four brother are depicted here as they would have appeared on the cover of Mirage Comics, and they are based on the first appearance of the characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. They’re green-skinned with brownish wraps and pads and all four sport a red mask. Each turtle comes with the weapons you would expect:  twin katana for Leo, a bo staff for Donnie, two sai for Raph, and a pair of nunchaku for Mikey. For the first time I’m aware of, Mikey’s ‘chuks were also linked by actual chain. It was perhaps the one detail most influential in me picking up this line. I thought it was so cool that basically every friend I had who had a birthday party in 2008 and had even a passing interest in TMNT received one of these Michelangelo figures as a gift from me. The weapons are well-detailed, and I love the gold accents on Leo’s katana. Donatello’s bo is articulated at the tape and I think it can come apart like the one that comes with other versions of the figure, though mine doesn’t seem to want to do that and I’m not interested in forcing the issue.

Since the turtles are all essentially the same, it should come as no surprise that each figure is essentially the same as well. That would be unfortunate if the sculpt was poor, but that’s not the case. These figures were sculpted by The Four Horsemen, whom action figure enthusiasts are more than familiar with in this day and age. Each turtle is articulated with a ball joint at the head, a hinge at the base of a very long neck (compared with the cartoon versions), ball-jointed shoulders and hips, bicep swivel, single-hinged elbow, wrist rotation and a hinge, thigh swivels, double-jointed knees, and an ankle hinge. At the time, this was probably the most articulation in any TMNT figure of one of the turtles, though over the years companies have found ways to sneak even more articulation into them, in particular with stuff under the shell. This level of articulation is fine though and I’ve never really desired more. NECA was smart to use a soft plastic for the chest which gives the legs greater range of motion than most would expect so you should be able to get some good posing going here.

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Each turtle comes with an alternate set of hands featuring their climbing spikes as seen in the first issue.

These figures move well, but also look pretty damn fantastic too. NECA used a nice, deep, green for the skin-tone with a darker green for the shell. There appears to be a wash over the figures as well so there’s a slight gradient to the skin tone with some brighter spots that works really well to make these guys come alive. Since the comics were in black and white, it makes these figures pop even more (unless you’re used to seeing the colorized versions of the comics that came later). There’s some nice, black, linework all over the figures and I especially love the little marks on the shell and chest. It really gives these figures a comic-book feel. The elbow pads and wrist straps are part of the sculpt, while the belt and kneepads are glued in place. The belt and the tassels on the masks are a soft plastic with a lot of give, though my Don’s belt was glued a bit askew. The green paint of the skin has a nice texture to it that is slightly rough and feels appropriate for the characters. The only difference separating each figure is the head sculpt, with each character sporting a different expression. Leonardo also has scabbards for his swords on his back while the other turtles do not have holsters of any kind for their weapons. Raph has unique hands which feature a wider gap between his fingers likely to support holding his sai with the center blade between them (I’ve never been comfortable doing this though as there’s little give in the sai and I fear breaking it). The oversized feet of these designs makes them quite easy to stand and I love the chunky legs they possess. And they have tails! If there’s room for criticism, it’s that NECA could have randomized some of the little details on the chests and shell for each turtle, but it’s not a big deal. There’s also some paint chipping on my figures, but I honestly can’t remember what was present out of the box and what may have been acquired through multiple moves since I bought these. As these were my favorite figures through those various moves, I took great care when storing and moving them though.

In terms of short-comings, there are few. I mentioned the paint chips and there’s some slight slop in spots, but nothing noticeable when these guys are on a shelf. The black lines on the mask of my Mikey figure are a bit light and not as pronounced as I would like them to be. He also has a blob of paint on the center of his shell. His hips are a bit loose, but he still stands well enough. The left hand of my Leo is super loose and has always been that way. It’s at least strong enough to hold his weapon, but move it at all and it will pop out. The only criticism I could levy at the sculpt concerns the shell, which sits a bit higher on their shoulders than it did in the comic. I only really notice it because it’s hollow and it looks a bit weird up close as you can see inside of it to the peg holding it on. It’s also a place dust loves to collect. Raph’s special hands also are a nice thought, but as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago the sai do not fit cleanly in them and I worry about them snapping. The added drawback is his wider fingers mean holding the said traditionally ends up quite loose. They won’t fall out, but you’ll want to position them after you place him somewhere and may have to fiddle a bit with his grip. Donnie’s bo staff also sits rather loose in his hands. If you want to do a one-handed pose he either needs the base resting on a surface or he has to hold it near an end where it’s a bit thicker, though if you play around you can get it to balance right (as seen in some of my pics).

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How it all started…

Each single-packed figure came with extra accessories in addition to their weapons. All four turtles came with a second set of climbing hands from that first issue of the comic as well as a baby turtle. The hands come off and on easily, though in reality I can’t imagine anyone displaying these guys with those climbing hands. Each turtle also came with a base: two sidewalks and two streets between the four. These bases connect to form one mini diorama that was a really nice touch. The same line work that’s on the figures is in play here as well and it looks awesome. Raph also came with a lamp post for his base while Leo came with a fire hydrant. Donatello comes with a can of ooze or mutagen while Mikey comes with three mini buzz saws. Raph also came with three little blades and those, as well as the buzz saws, aren’t in any of my pictures because they’re floating around in some crates. These weapons do appear in TMNT #1, but they still feel like kind of pointless accessories, and like the climbing hands, aren’t something you’re like going to want to display your figures holding. It probably would have been more fun to have additional hands instead, but the standard gripping hands each turtle has is plenty good. These guys were tools of vengeance in the comic, they didn’t hang out in the sewer playing video games and scarfing pizza, so you’re going to display them with weapons in hand.

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Mikey just hanging out.

Twelve years later, these four figures are still among the best TMNT action figures ever produced. I love the look, and going for that Mirage likeness was a great choice because it’s something that hadn’t been done before and has seldom been done since. Playmates did follow with their own version, but they’re nothing special and intended for more of a mass market appeal. There isn’t really anything I’d change about these guys even today. Could they have more articulation? Sure, but it’s also not like they’re starving for it. Plus I’d hate to disrupt the sculpt. Could they have more accessories? I guess, but there really wasn’t much else to take from in that first issue. And even so, they did deep cuts as-is with the additional weapons and climbing claws. Maybe fists for actual punches would have been neat, or open hands and finger-pointing hands for the sake of variety. If NECA were to re-release these though I don’t think they would need to do anything additional with them. If anything, a full Mirage-inspired street diorama would be pretty awesome.

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My attempt at the group shot from page one of TMNT #1.

Unfortunately, a re-release is not in the cards at this time. When asked about the possibility, NECA has indicated that the Mirage stuff just doesn’t sell nearly as well as the cartoon and movie inspired toys, so while there is some demand, it’s apparently not enough to warrant looking at re-releasing them. It’s possible NECA is playing coy, but I’ll take them at their word for now. It seems TMNT is just plain hot at the moment, so I imagine there’s room for more Mirage product perhaps when NECA is done with the Turtles in Time figures. And thankfully, roughly 8 years after the release of these figures a Mirage Shredder was finally released as a New York Comic Con exclusive(the box for which is prominently displayed in my images) along with some Foot Soldiers. Perhaps I’ll take a look at that next. And if you’re hoping for more Mirage stuff, a Mirage variant of Shredder is coming via Loot Crate in a couple of months so maybe that’s a potential avenue for more from this line. Otherwise, if you want these figures you’ll have to turn to eBay and you’re not going to like the prices. Happy hunting!

 


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

turtlesIICowabunga dudes, it’s the 30th anniversary of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie! On March 30, 1990, New Line Cinema together with Golden Harvest released a film to theaters that seemingly no one wanted to make. This isn’t that surprising considering when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird first started soliciting offers for a toy-line based on their comic book property there were also few takers. Still, considering how successful the cartoon and toys had become, one would think studios would have learned a lesson from the likes of Mattel and Hasbro in not passing on the property, but the Turtles concept was so uniquely weird that many just weren’t able to accept it as a bonafide franchise.

The Turtles originated in the pages of Mirage comics, but it was the cartoon that really catapulted the franchise to the heights it eventually reached. Despite that, the original film was a nice olive branch to those who first fell in love with the property as a comic. That first film took very little from the cartoon, basically just the colored masks, April’s profession, and an affinity for pizza, and took far more from the comic. The basic plot was lifted almost directly from that source material with just a few changes. The end result was a tonally dark film as the Turtles dwelled in the murky sewers of New York City and did most of their fighting at night. It was also probably a practical choice to obscure the costumes and puppets (in the case of Splinter) a bit to maintain realism. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was brought in to create those wonderful suits and the film holds up pretty well for what it is even today.

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Grab your pizza and pork rinds and celebrate – the first TMNT movie is turning 30!

The only problem I have with that first film is that I already reviewed it on this blog years ago. With no new media based on the film to talk about here, I’m forced to get a bit creative with my celebration of that film and instead turn to the 1991 sequel. Incredibly, New Line was able to fast track a sequel and have it land in theaters on March 22, 1991 –  just days before the first film turned 1! It’s basically another instance of the powers that be having misgivings about the franchise. Everyone assumed the property was a fad and would die out quickly. And while Turtle-mania did probably peak in 1990, it certainly wasn’t dead come 91 and the original cartoon series wouldn’t air its season finale until 1996. Part of the reason the sequel was fast-tracked is because of how few believed in the first film. Even Playmates, holder of the master toy license and party responsible for the creation of the cartoon, passed on creating toys for that film assuming it would bomb. There wasn’t a ton of marketing tie-ins for that film, and even TMNT branded Pork Rinds (as seen in the film) arrived well after the film premiered.

A sequel was basically a way to course-correct for those poor decisions leading up to that first film. The quick turn-around though meant some actors weren’t available for the sequel, and some didn’t return for other reasons. The Casey Jones character was not brought back, though he did return in the sequel to this one. Judith Hoag was also recast as April O’Neil with Paige Turco. It is alleged that Hoag had made a fuss on set of the first film in defense of the stunt actors and that was partly to blame. Since this film has a different director, it could just be he wanted to cast an actress that more resembled the character in the cartoon (something that will impact other areas of the film). Robbie Rist and Brian Tochi return as the voices of Michelangelo and Leonardo, respectively, while Raphael (Laurie Faso) and Donatello (Adam Carl) were recast. Ernie Reyes Jr, a stunt double for Donatello on the first film, impressed the producers enough to get a role in the sequel as a proper actor playing the pizza deliveryman Keno, who understandably crosses paths with the Turtles. Shredder was also recast, now played by Francois Chao and voiced by David McCharen. Kevin Clash is also back as the voice and puppeteer on Splinter.

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Paige Turco hopefully got a nice pay day for this thing.

Director Michael Pressman sought, either on his own or at the urging of other parties, to make this film resemble the cartoon more than the first film had. As a result, co-creators Eastman and Laird had little input on the film. They wanted to continue the story began in Mirage Comics and bring in the scientist Baxter Stockman and have the secret of the ooze match-up with the comic in being alien in origin. Pressman and others apparently disagreed and pretty much the only thing it appears Eastman and Laird got away with was keeping specific elements of the cartoon, such as Bebop and Rocksteady, out. The film downplayed the dark and grime and removed almost all of the violence in favor of slapstick. The Turtles basically never utilize their weapons outside of the opening fight scene, and even there they barely use them. Michelangelo would rather pop bad guys with a yo-yo and sausage links, swung around like nunchaku, and just generally act goofy. Most of the scenes are also brightly lit, and while there’s some conflict between brothers Leo and Raph, it’s hastily done and the stakes feel smaller as Raph no longer comes across as a troubled soul.

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Shredder is back and he’s got mutants of his own this time.

For the plot of the film, Pressman and writer Todd Langden take the picture to a pretty logical place. After being dispatched at the end of the first film, Shredder returns rising from a landfill where he was apparently dumped (the NYPD and Sanitation Commission apparently unknowingly dumped a body left in a garbage truck) and has setup shop in a junkyard. His motivation is now simply revenge, but he needs help. For that, he turns to TGRI, the company responsible for creating the ooze that turned four baby turtles and their caretaker rat into the beings we know and love today. He kidnaps TGRI scientist Professor Jordan Perry (David Warner) to enlist him in creating super mutants of his known, settling on a wolf and a snapping turtle he’ll name Rahzar and Tokka (both voiced by Frank Welker), respectively.

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Donnie had some reconstructive beak surgery between films.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be forced to deal with Shredder and his new minions, as well as the remnants of the Foot Clan. Adding to the drama is their search for a new home, having been cooped up in April’s swanky new apartment since the events of the first film. It’s a straight-forward plot that does fine with its modest 88 minute running time. Fans likely expected Shredder to return, as he always does in the cartoon, and while they probably wanted to see Bebop and Rocksteady it wasn’t a surprise to see surrogates in their place. Tokka and Rahzar are surprisingly even dumber than the warthog and rhino as they’re barely intelligible, but balance that out with impressive strength. I know some fans to this day are disappointed the proper duo wasn’t realized here, it’s hard to argue with the end result though as Jim Henson’s Creature Shop did an amazing job with both characters.

Henson’s Creature Shop is actually the film’s greatest strength. The Turtles were all re-tooled between films and remain plenty convincing. Michelangelo is basically the only one of the four that looks almost identical to the costume in the first film, as he had expressive eyes in that film while the other three seemed to have their eyes obscured by their masks. Now all four have a more approachable appearance and there’s definitely less grit here. Donatello is the one that looks the most different as his head-shape is completely different. I don’t know why this is the case, but he also feels like the character changed the most in general from film-to-film, possibly to de-emphasize the performance of Corey Feldman or maybe just to nerd him up to bring him more in-line with the cartoon. Shredder’s costume also looks great, and the big surprise at the end (yeah, you probably know what that surprise is, but I’ll still retain some mystery for a 29 year-old film review) also looks pretty great.

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The Turtles would rather fight with toys than weapons this time around. In the film’s defense though, I thought Mikey’s yo-yo routine was hilarious when I was 8.

Sadly, other than the costumes there isn’t much to like about this film. The script has been punched-up to be far more jokey and all-together less serious. Unfortunately, the script seems to think little of its audience and the jokes barely please 8-year-olds. The only true laugh in this film is one line by Mikey in the junkyard when they first spot the individual they’re looking for. Again, I’m not spoiling anything here. Otherwise, everything else is stupid and predictable. The fight choreography, apparently partly owing to the fact that the new masks had even worse visibility than the originals, is abysmal. The bad guys just stand around to get punched or kicked or hit with some jokey object and the Turtles basically never get hurt. Some complained the first film was too violent, but at least it showed the consequences of that violence. This film does not.

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David Warner is one of the newcomers for the sequel.

This is also the type of film one watches and just feels bad for the actors involved. David Warner does his best with what he’s given, and he’s actually game for some of the corniness of the script. Turco unfortunately has less to work with while the April character is firmly placed in the backseat for this one. The Keno character feels like an audience surrogate. He’s a teen, but possesses enough child-like enthusiasm to potentially allow kids to relate to him. He’s given some of the worst lines in the film, but again, I can’t really fault the performance of Reyes Jr. for my dislike of Keno. To perhaps no surprise, Keno has never resurfaced in any other media based on this franchise.

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Yes, this really happened in 1991.

I liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II as a kid, and that’s the only audience the movie cared about. I liked seeing my favorite heroes back in a live-action setting, and seeing the new mutants was a trip. I even liked the “Ninja Rap” and I actually have some affection for that even to this day as it’s the moment the movie just says “Screw it, this is what this film is about,” as it embraces it’s corn-ball nature. And the costumes are great, but just about everything else is dumb. All of the things I liked and still enjoy in the original film aren’t here, aside from the costumes. None of the questions that film left open at its conclusion are even addressed here. We don’t know what happened between April and Casey, and we never really get a rematch between Turtles and Shredder. It’s a shame, as the costumed actors (Michelin Sisti, Mark Caso, Kenn Scott, Leif Tilden as the four turtles) are still asked to do some pretty impressive stuff considering all of the gear they’re wearing, but not in a visually interesting manner. As a result, I cannot recommend this movie unless you’ve watched the first film so many times that you’re just desperate to watch something different. Though I hope you will have sense enough to stop here and not go onto the third film.

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“You mean, you don’t like us anymore, dude?”

If you want to watch this film or its much better predecessor (and you should watch that if you’re reading this on the date of publication) you can find all of the original films on Netflix. They’re also available on DVD and Blu Ray and should be quite affordable.


NECA 1990 TMNT Movie SDCC Set

neca TMNTFor the past several years, the folks over at NECA have been making San Diego Comic Con an annual event for fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I mean, it’s always an event, but it’s been especially fun for TMNT fans because NECA has been able to release limited action figure sets based on the property. These sets have been wildly popular and thus a bit hard to get ahold of for fans not attending the event. They often sell-out and command big mark-ups on the secondary market. As a result, while enthusiasm remains high, there can be some backlash for those who are unable to secure a copy at MSRP.

The reason for all of this is essentially Playmates. Playmates was a partner with Mirage Studios and Fred Wolf Productions in bringing the TMNT from print to the small-screen. In the 1980s, getting a show to air for boys often necessitated a pairing of show with toys in a symbiotic relationship. The franchise was viewed as risky, and creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had a hard time finding a toy company to make their dream happen. Playmates eventually jumped-in, but got a pretty nice deal out of the whole thing thanks to the desperation of those trying to make money off of this thing. As a result, they still hold the master toy license for the franchise and can dictate who can and can’t make toys based on the franchise here in the United States.

About 10 years ago, NECA was able to release a set of TMNT based on their original Mirage look. They were specialty shop toys and were very well received. NECA would also release an April O’Neil and show-off a Shredder, but it never made it to retail. At this time, Playmates was still consumed with making toys based on the Fast Forward cartoon produced by 4Kids and likely didn’t feel threatened by another company releasing collector toys based on the comics. Eventually, maybe after seeing the success NECA was having or due to diminished interest in the cartoon, Playmates would engage the collector crowd with their own Mirage Turtles which may be why NECA’s line ended with April.

Ever since then, NECA has had to find a way to create product based on the franchise (a favorite of NECA Director of Product Development Randy Falk) that works for them as well as Playmates and Nickelodeon (the current owner of TMNT). As a sort-of compromise, NECA has been allowed to produce 6″ scale figures as convention exclusives only. In addition to being allowed to sell them at conventions, they’re also permitted to sell them online as a pre-sale in advance of the event, but not after or in perpetuity. The only exception has been the quarter-scale line which NECA has been allowed to produce and release to retail, presumably because Playmates has no interest in figures at that scale.

Via these convention exclusives, NECA has been able to finish off their old Mirage line by releasing a set containing Shredder and some Foot soldiers. They also did figures based on the original TMNT arcade game and just last year released a massive set of 8 figures based on the first season of the 1987 cartoon. For 2018, NECA may have felt pressure to out-do that 2017 set and once again turned to the 1990 film – which is perhaps the greatest version of these classic characters. For the past two years, NECA has been releasing these figures in its quarter-scale line, a line I loved and own each figure from. A lot of fans have been begging for a release of these same figures in a 6″ scale and now they finally have their wish.

I was one of the lucky few to score a set during the pre-sale on NECA’s website. Two versions were offered:  the set of four turtles and a set of four turtles with a diorama. The set ran for $125, and the diorama set was $250. The diorama is going to be released to retail in a slightly more generic format, but it captures the grit of NYC from the 1990 movie. It’s also huge, which is why I passed on it as I don’t really have room for it. I was content to just settle for the set of action figures, and I am quite pleased with the product delivered to me roughly two weeks after San Diego Comic Con commenced.

The four brothers come housed in packaging designed to mimic the original VHS release of the 1990 film. It’s obviously over-sized to properly house the figures and all of the images of the characters have been replaced with photos of the actual action figures and it’s pretty damn remarkable how close to the actual thing these look. If it weren’t for the fact that Donatello is smiling on the original release, you probably would be fooled by the cover. The reverse side has the film critic quotes replaced with quotes from folks in the toy (and wrestling) world praising the set. It’s not as durable or as resplendent as the case released with last year’s set, but my fondness for this movie means I probably prefer this one to last year’s Archie inspired case.

The outer case is a sleeve that slides right off once you get past some tape. Behind it are the figures in a window box setup. They’re not as easy to remove from the packaging as last year’s action figure case inspired design as the feet are actually through some holes, but you’re unlikely to destroy the packaging when removing these treasures. In addition to the four turtles and their weapons, NECA also included a second set of bandana tassels, four sets of interchangeable hands, an ooze canister with removable top, and an entire pizza broken out into individual slices housed in a paper box. The sets of hands should be familiar to those with the quarter-scale versions as they’re all from there: a set of slightly open hands, a set of completely open “high-five” hands, a set of thumb’s up hands, and a set of pointing hands. It’s slightly disappointing that we don’t have four open palm hands to recreate a cowabunga pose, but otherwise it’s more than adequate. The turtles themselves have tighter fist hands by default for holding their weapons.

The hands and bandana tassels are all easily swapped in and out. Action figures that take advantage of swappable parts are often tight and even a little scary, but these figures are pretty effortless. If anything, the pegs on the other hands are moved too freely as that’s the only challenge in pushing them in as they want to move around on you a bit, but it’s no big deal. The wrist bands on each turtles are now molded to the figure which also makes swapping the hands easier. The bandanas are just as easy. The quarter-scale version had fabric tassels, but these versions opted for plastic which is why there’s some options presented. You basically can just decide if you want your turtle’s tassel to flow left or right. It’s not as good as the quarter-scale ones, but it’s fine.

The real star of the accessories though has to be that pizza. It may sound ridiculous, but it might be my favorite part of the set. NECA earlier this year released a set of baby turtles for their quarter-scale line that contained a box for the pizza released with the main figures as well as the rest of the pizza. This is basically a down-scaled version of the same. The box is designed to resemble a Domino’s box as seen in the film only it’s from Tile Game Pizza instead due to obvious licensing issues. It looks remarkable and there’s tons of little detail including a coupon taped to the top and little grease smears. It’s so lovingly detailed that it borders on absurd and it makes me want to order some pizza every time I look at it.

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It slices, it dices…

The figures themselves, the real stars of the set, are down-scaled versions of their quarter-scale cousins. This means they possess basically all of the pros and cons of those figures, and in case you’re wondering, there were very few cons. Let’s get to the few differences first, shall we? I already mentioned the bandana and wrist band difference, but the only other main difference is the loss of Donatello’s straps for his bo staff. You can basically just jam his bo under his belt to achieve the same thing though. This also may be unique to my set, but my Raph is also a bit cross-eyed in comparison with the quarter-scale version with his right eye looking down instead of straight-ahead. He has really narrow eyes so it’s not that noticeable unless you’re holding the figure right in front of your face. A difference in a positive area though is these guys have slightly more articulation than the larger toys. And since they’re lighter, their joints don’t have to be as tight and they can be posed a lot easier as a result.

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Do you like penicillin on your pizza?

The figures are a nice, soft, plastic that reminds me of the old Playmates Movie Star Turtles I adored as a kid (and still have). The texture on the flesh is exquisite and perfectly captures the look of the film. Each figures uses the same base body with a different belt, head, and shell. The shell itself is actually the same, but each turtle has unique blemishes and such with Raph’s being significantly more battle-damaged. The only drawback to the figures using the same base is that they’re all the same height. It’s an issue the quarter-scale ones possess as well. They were all different heights in the film, though the only one that stood out is Mikey who was shorter than his brothers. He looks a little off as a result, but it’s obviously not a deal breaker.

If you were lucky enough to get ahold of this set then you will likely have a ton of fun trying to recreate poses from the film. Especially if you grabbed that diorama or have some fun custom ones of your own. These guys really look stripped from the film and it’s so rewarding to pair them up with the quarter-scale versions. NECA is prepping an already gave a peek at their quarter-scale Foot Soldier and a Shredder is expected as well. Naturally, this has fans hoping for 6″ versions of the same to pair with these to really complete the set.

If you were unable to score one of these sets then I have some good news for you. NECA recently reached a deal that will allow them release TMNT product at retail in a 6″ scale. Randy did say the movie figures will remain convention exclusives, but maybe that only refers to this specific set. Could single-packed figures make it to retail? Who knows? I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but maybe hold off on paying eBay prices for now and take a wait and see approach. These figures are so damn good that it’s kind of a shame if they remain exclusive to this one set, but at least we have them as-is and I can’t wait to see what NECA does next with the franchise. They have yet to disappoint.


Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “Mystic Mayhem”

rise_of_the_tmntOn July 20th, Nickelodeon offered up a preview of its newest take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dubbed Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new show is the heir-apparent to the one Nick ran from 2012-2017. Simply titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that show was a modern re-telling of the story we’re all familiar with. It was presented in CG and featured the main characters from the comics and older television shows while mostly adhering to the personalities that had been long established throughout the various media. It was the fourth attempt at bringing the Turtles to television, and by all accounts it was pretty successful. Likely no future version of gang green will ever be as impactful as the 1987 series, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a success.

The show was well-received and it was one that even I, a 30-something, mostly kept up with. It likely ended for business reasons, though possibly artistic ones as the show-runners may have felt they had told all of the stories they wished to tell. I think it’s more likely the network felt the toy franchise was mostly tapped out and there were probably new contracts that needed to be negotiated. Television shows for older kids are also transitioning away from CG and back to 2D as technological advances have made that medium a lot cheaper, and easier, to work with. Which is likely one of the many reasons we are here today talking about a new version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arriving just a year after the previous one ended.

riseofthetmnt-skylight-turtles-700x318Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an entirely new show with a new cast of characters. In some ways, this is the most ambitious reboot we have ever seen for the franchise. The 1987 series took the most recognizable characters from the Mirage comics and adapted them for television while also stripping out the violence. Each turtle was given his own personality, something they kind of lacked in the comics, and Shredder was made the main villain and given an accomplice in Krang. Ever since that series found success, it would seem each successive iteration tried to incorporate more of the original comic. Starting with the 1990 movie, Raphael would see his prickly and combative nature made his default personality, the tone would be a touch more serious, and Shredder more deadly. The 2003 4Kids series practically adapted the early books, and even Michael Bay’s turtles tried to keep some of that spirit, while also bringing the turtles closer to their cartoon counterparts.

The 2012 series did the same while also making sure to make everything appear modern. It’s biggest change was making April O’Neil and Casey Jones adolescents, but it mostly took the comic and cartoons that arrived before it and melded them together. It was a show that really wanted to appeal to adults who grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and likely hoped these adults would get their kids hooked. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is attempting to no such thing. For the first time since that 87 series debuted, this is a version of the Turtles made to appeal to kids first and foremost. It doesn’t care if you’re familiar with the property. It doesn’t even need to be a TMNT show, but the brand recognition is certainly easier to sell than a new IP.

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April and Splinter are two of the more radical redesigns, but also two of the most effective.

Of course, some things will naturally never change. The Turtles are still Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello. They live in the sewer with their sensei Splinter, a mutated rat, and reside in New York City. Their only human friend is a girl named April. What’s different is both radical and superficial. For the first time, each turtle is actually a different sub-species of turtle. Most notably is the large and spiky Raphael who is a snapping turtle and kind of looks like the old Slash. Donatello is a soft-shell turtle, and as a result, he creates backpack-like shells to wear to protect himself. Leonardo is now a wise-cracking turtle and Raph is an ineffective leader, as the two have sort-of swapped personalities from the 87 show. When the episode opens they all have their signature weapons, but that will change by episode’s end. Splinter is not the stoic Ninja Master we’re used to, and instead is a chubby little rat who likes to fall asleep in front of the television. April is once again a kid, though just how young is hard to gauge. She’s also African American and sports a pair of oversized glasses. In some respects, she reminds me of Irma from the old cartoon.

The episode opens with some light crime taking place in New York and the Turtles on the prowl. We’re supposed to think they’re patrolling the city as usual, but they’re actually just looking to discreetly take a dip in a rooftop swimming pool. It will become clear soon enough that these turtles are not proper ninjas. They don’t really know what they’re doing or appear to have any designs on fighting crime or anything. April is kind of just there and we’re not sure what the relationship is, but at least they appear to be having fun. The palette of the show is incredibly bright and vibrant, but the animation is not smooth in the least bit. Everything feels loud as characters move suddenly and quickly as if frames of animation are skipped. I don’t think this is a cost-cutting decision, but an artistic one to make the show feel heightened and manic and strikes me as an example of the show going for kids.

john-cena-tmnt-villain

On the right, new villain Baron Draxum, and on the left a big, white, blank, space.

The Turtles will encounter a weird teleporting dog/cat creature that takes an instant shine to April. It’s being pursued by some sketchy looking individuals and the Turtles feel compelled to help. This will result in them taking a trip through an inter-dimensional portal where they’ll meet the big baddie of the series, Baron Draxum, and also acquire new weapons. All except Donatello that is, who prefers to stick with his techy-looking bo staff. From here on out, Raph will wield twin tonfa in battle while Leo downgrades to one sword. Michelangelo will wield a kusari-fundo and all of their weapons have some mystical property that they’ll likely need to learn more about as the series moves along. Baron Draxum is a large, some-what Shredder-like figure, who is apparently behind the mutation of the Turtles. He has scores of underlings presumably, and some odd mosquito things that carry mutagen. The episode is an establishing one, and it’s likely the Ninja Turtles will need to get a touch more serious following this episode if they want to challenge Draxum in the future, since their fighting prowess is severely lacking.

It bares repeating that Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a show very much aimed at today’s children. It’s not a show made for me, and that’s fine as the children of 2018 deserve their own TMNT. As a show, it feels very similar to Cartoon Networks Teen Titans Go! It shares a similar look and the show wants to make kids laugh and is less concerned with wowing them via action sequences. The characters take nothing seriously, and I suspect they’ll have some failures along the way. The structure of the show is also to be two 11 minute cartoons for each episode, so the scale of each plot is obviously small.

raph and mikey

I couldn’t get much of a read on Michelangelo in this debut episode, but he definitely doesn’t seem as goofy as other iterations.

The voice cast struck me as fine. Ben Schwartz is Leonardo and he’s essentially just playing Dewey Duck from DuckTales. I thought it would be odd seeing Leonardo act in such a manner, but it was fine. Omar Benson Miller is Raph and he’s obviously being tasked to play a very different Raphael. He’s a leader, which just feels off, and he’s a bad one too, but not because of the usual Raph traits. He’s more indecisive and uncertain as opposed to abrasive and headstrong. Donatello is played by Josh Brener and he’s more or less the same Donatello we’re used to, with maybe a touch of dryness. Michelangelo is played by Brandon Mychal Smith and is the character I felt the least impressed by. I just didn’t get much of a sense for his personality, though he did refer to himself as an artist. The press material labels him a prankster, but we didn’t really see that side of him in this episode. This episode was probably too concerned with establishing Leonardo as the new Mikey type at the expense of the other turtles.

albearto

Looks like there will be no shortage of interesting villain designs.

Splinter is voiced by Eric Bauza, who had previously voiced Tiger Claw for the last TMNT series, doing a stereotypical Japanese master voice. It almost feels out of place with so much of the other personalities mixed-up, though his personality is obviously different as well. He’s rather funny looking, and I presume he will have to actually train his sons eventually. We didn’t see much of the lair, but it appears to follow in the same mold as the other cartoons in that it’s lavishly outfitted with Donnie’s tech. April is voiced by Kat Graham, and she’s another character I didn’t get much of a read on. She seems more heroic than the actual turtles, and obviously felt an instant connection with the little dog/cat creature she acquires in the episode. WWE’s John Cena is Baron Draxum and I forgot he had been cast in this series. Draxum looks like a high resolution Xavier Renegade Angel, which isn’t a compliment, but his personality seems interesting. He doesn’t want to be a foe to the Turtles, though he obviously will be, and he came across as less cartoonish than the villains from the 87 show, which surprised me. He may prove to be a worthy foe after all.

rise toys

And don’t forget the toy-line! Meat Sweats is also an awesome name for a mutant pig.

I can see what Nickelodeon and executive producers Andy Suarino and Ant Ward are going for with this show. I also know that very little of it appeals to me. I welcome the change back to 2D, but I’m not crazy about the design of the characters. They’re a bit too similar to the Bay Turtles, which I found gross, but I concede they have a marketable look. I just feel it’s a bit too similar to other shows out there and it doesn’t strike me as unique. I did not enjoy the janky animation techniques and I hope they tone that down. The pivot to humor is fine, and it does feel like Teen Titains Go!, but it’s not naturally funny like that show. I didn’t watch it with any children present, so maybe they’ll disagree with me, which is what matters most. This isn’t a show I’ll seek out and watch as I did the 2012 show, but as a parent it won’t bother me if my kids start watching it. I like seeing the TMNT brand relevant, so for that reason I hope it’s a success.

“Mystic Mayhem” is just the debut for the show. Additional episodes are available right now online via Nickelodeon’s website and app. The actual series premier is scheduled for September 17, and the ever important toy line is expected to launch in October. Each episode will consist of two segments, but this first episode was one long segment. If you’re an adult fan of the brand I would still say give this one a peek just to check it out. Maybe you’ll like it, most likely you won’t. In a world where a lot of cartoons are hitting wider audiences (OK K.O.!, Gravity Falls, Craig of the Creek, etc.) it’s a little disappointing that this one does not, but not everything has to. Sometimes it’s fun for kids to have something that’s just for them.


Neca 1/4 Scale TMNT Movie Michelangelo

IMG_1679The good thing about NECA’s Michelangelo, the final turtle to be released from their quarter-scale line of action figures based on the 1990 film, is that it’s just like the previous three turtles to be released. The bad thing about it is that it’s just like the previous three turtles to be released.

Let’s start with the good. Mikey is made of the same high quality parts that his brothers are made up of. The paint applications are excellent, the texture of the skin spot-on, and the articulation better than you would expect of a 16″ turtle. He comes with an assortment of extra hands, which are basically identical to what his brothers feature, as well as the customary slice of pizza which fits so much better with Mikey than it does the other three. He has his twin nunchaku which are connected by a pair of nylon ropes to simulate his ‘chuks from the film which did not feature actual chains. He also sports a sublime bag of pork rinds, a unique accessory exclusive to Mikey and another that feels oh so appropriate. His head sculpt, which is naturally the only part of his body different from the others, features a happy expression as opposed to a grim one which also feels appropriate for the character. His wide-eyed gaze makes him look a bit less “alive” than his narrow-eyed brothers, but I wouldn’t trade this head sculpt for another.

Mikey is also just as poseable as the other three, though his choice of weaponry makes finding good poses a little more challenging. The rope between each end of the nunchaku  is pretty short. On the back of his packaging, there’s a picture of him with one end of his nunchaku going over his shoulder so his left hand can grasp it under his arm while his right hand holds the other end. Try as I might, I can’t come close to replicating this pose with my figure. I don’t know if they had to stretch the ropes to pull it off or dislocate the left arm or something. That’s okay though, Mikey isn’t really itching for a fight anyways and I’ve chosen to pose him on my shelf without his weapons at the ready opting instead for pizza and pork rinds.

That’s basically the good stuff. However, there are some flaws with Mikey not really shared by his brothers. For one, he has no holsters for his weapons. There’s a gap between the shell and belt under each arm that they can be wedged into, but in the 1990 film he had holsters on the rear of his shell (they would be moved to under the arm for the sequel) that NECA opted not to include. Curiously, NECA also sent out a promotional image to most retailers featuring Mikey balancing his nunchaku on his finder, but this special piece is not included. Supposedly it’s part of an upcoming set of baby turtles. If that’s the case, the image probably should have been circulated to promote that set and not this figure. However, the thing that bothers me the most about Mikey is his size. Since he uses the same body as his brothers he’s the same height as them as well. In the film, Mikey is noticeably shorter than his brothers and it really stands out to me when he’s posed alongside them. I suppose I could drop him to one knee or try to pose him sitting to hide this fact, but it does bother me, probably more so than it will most people though.

Because of the inaccuracies of this figure, I do feel Michelangelo is probably the worst of the four turtles released. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad figure though. I still think he looks great on his own, and I’d never buy three quarters of the TMNT and not the fourth. I love his head sculpt and I really love that he came with the bag of pork rinds. It’s such a throw-away moment in the film, but for some reason I always loved that scene of Don and Mike avoiding another Leo and Raph confrontation by stuffing pork rinds in their faces.  It also amused me as a kid to see the turtles eating something other than pizza.

This isn’t the end of NECA’s quarter scale line of figures based on the original film. As I mentioned earlier, a set of four baby turtles based on the origin flashback scene is on the way and they’ll also come with a box of pizza in addition to Mikey’s extra piece. I will admit I’m really not interested in that set, so don’t expect a review here. What I am interested in is the Shredder due out sometime next year. He hasn’t been unveiled yet, and NECA isn’t displaying anything at the New York Comic Con so we probably have to wait until Toy Faire to see him. I have high expectations. Another version of Raph is also coming and as far as I can tell it’s a re-release of the figure we have, but with a trench coat, hat, and backpack in addition to his sai. Supposedly, sales of this edition of Raph will determine if NECA goes ahead with a foot soldier figure. I kind of hate it when toy companies do this as it’s basically a lesser form of blackmail, “Re-buy this figure if you want this one. Oh, but he has a new hat!” I would have loved it if NECA had included the coat and hat with the first release, or made it available by itself, but I’m not buying another 100 dollar figure that’s essentially one I already have in the hope that it will lead to a future figure. That and honestly I don’t have much interest in a quarter scale foot solider. I would just want multiples for a small army, but at $99.99 there’s no way I’m buying more than one. So Shredder will likely be the final piece of this line I collect, and that’s fine as I primarily want the four turtles and their arch nemesis. If a Casey Jones comes around I’ll give it some thought.

Donatello was slightly scarce, as was Raph, but it seems NECA has upped their production numbers so a set of the four turtles is not hard to come by. You can find them at various specialty shops online and NECA sells direct through eBay too. And sometimes they even show up at Toys R Us. This is probably the best set of TMNT figures I own, and I own some good ones. I know some out there are holding out for a smaller scale version, but at this large scale I can’t deny they look awesome. I heartily recommend all four, but I understand that at $99.99 MSRP they’re not for everyone. It’s still great to finally have a quartet of turtles based on the original movie as that’s the best they’ve ever looked, in any medium. Don’t sleep on this set.


NECA San Diego Comic Con Exclusive TMNT Animated Series Action Figure Set

IMG_1436Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the franchise that won’t go away for me. I’ve been involved with it since the 80s when the cartoon series debuted and the first line of action figures started popping up in retail. I dropped the series when The Next Mutation came around, but picked it right back up when the 4Kids version of the Turtles debuted on Fox in 2003. And always there was a line of toys to go along with them that I happily indulged in. The only toy line I’ve really passed on was the current line that ties in with the Nickelodeon show. Even though I like that show, I never felt the need to go buy the toys. I thought, perhaps, I was finally maturing, but nostalgia for the original 1987 cartoon series has pulled me back into the world of TMNT toys.

Last year, Bandai gave us its take on the fearsome foursome based on the 87 series through its SH Figuarts brand. I reviewed all four and they were very impressive, but also costly. Those toys exist because they’re technically imports, though some retailers carry them in the US. When it comes to the real domestic products, Playmates still has a stranglehold on all things TMNT when it comes to action figures. Because of this, toy companies have had to get creative or get discouraged from even trying. NECA has been the leader in US TMNT toys and they’re willing to jump through the loopholes to get their versions of the Turtles to the public. When they wanted to do a set last year, they had to base it on the original TMNT arcade game which meant a bright, faux-digitized paint app for the figures. When NECA wanted to do a line of figures based on the 1990 movie, it meant they had to release them in a massive quarter-scale (and they’re awesome). Not satisfied, NECA has wanted to get cartoon accurate Turtles to market and finally got the clearance to do so. The catch, of course, was that it had to be a convention exclusive. Also possibly apart of the stipulation, was that it had to be a box set, which is how we ended up with this brand new set.

NECA’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive set of the TMNT is proving hard to get. NECA was granted permission to sell them on their website as pre-orders to be delivered the week of the convention. In addition to that, the set is available to buy at the convention the old fashioned way. It’s an eight figure set with a price tag of $200 that comes housed in a box meant to resemble the old action figure carrying cases of the 80s and 90s. I was fortunate enough to score one of the pre-orders which went live last month over the course of 4 days (and each day they sold out in about a minute) and my set arrived at my door last night. NECA is referring to this as the definitive take on the 87 Turtles, so how did they do?

The set comes housed in an attractive case. It’s decorated with all new artwork by Archie Comics artist Ken Mitchroney and depicts the Turtles outside the San Diego Convention Center with Shredder and Krang on the reverse. The case is likely made out of cardboard with a vinyl outer coating. Two clasps on the side made of metal close it up, though the case isn’t too rigid making the clasps hard to engage. This is clearly a case designed for decoration and to add a “Wow!” factor to the presentation, it’s not something you would have wanted to ferry back and forth between home and grandma’s like the case you probably had when you were a kid. I do find it a bit odd they went with an Archie look as the Turtles on the cover do not resemble the television show, but at least it’s original and not a stock image.

The set itself contains eight figures:  Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Shredder, Krang, and two Foot Soldiers. The figures are packaged in a black plastic trays with a transparent outer shell that fits over it like a clamshell design. The trays are stacked in two layers, with the Turtles on top and the Foot on the bottom. The packaging is designed to be resealable, though it’s probably not durable enough to withstand repeated use. The figures themselves were pretty easy to remove, though some of the accessories were a bit trying (and there’s a lot of them, more on that later) and I worried I’d crack the plastic shell casing, but it held up.

If you’ve purchased prior NECA TMNT sets, then this one should feel some-what familiar. The Turtles are essentially the same figures released last year, just with a cartoon-specific paint application. Shredder is a composite of the two Shredders released last year (the arcade one and the Mirage Comics one), but with an all new head sculpt and re-tooled abdomen. The Foot Soldiers also borrow parts from last year’s Mirage Foot, but obviously with new head sculpts and new arms to represent the very long-armed look of the cartoon. The only all new sculpt is Krang, and that’s because he’s a pretty unique character and not one NECA has released before.

Let’s talk about the heroes first. The Turtles feature a dark, almost olive, paint-app for the majority of their body with a darker green used for shading on the backside of their limbs. Lots of black lines are used for definition and the look is certainly striking. The skin tone is quite close to that of the cartoon’s first season, especially for the scenes taking place in dimly lit areas like the sewers. The decision to add shading is a bit of a controversial one in the collector community; some like it, most don’t seem to care for it. I don’t think it works as natural light would have accomplished the same thing. A paint wash may have been a better approach, but it’s not something that kills the figures or anything. The colors of the pads and masks are vibrant, and each turtle sports a fighting expression. The articulation is pretty standard, and NECA hides the joints and cuts well within the sculpt. The only drawback is the hips feel a bit loose and some more ankle articulation would have been welcomed. The shells look great, and there’s no noticeable paint slop on any of mine. The only production error appears to be with Raph’s pupils, as one is centered in the eye and the other towards the top of the eye, making him look weird from head on.

The actual sculpt of the figures is also pretty solid. They’re about 5 1/2″ tall and fit nice in scale with Shredder and the Foot. The wrist bands and pads are all part of the sculpt and not separate pieces, and they look pretty good. NECA was able to get the kneepads to sort of hide the knee joints like an actual pad, though the elbow pads sit above the elbow joints. I’m always torn on what facial expression these 87 Turtles should possess since the show was so light-hearted and campy. In a perfect world, NECA would have included swappable heads, but those obviously add a lost of cost. Grim and serious works for Leo and Don, though I wish Raph’s sarcasm could have been reflected and Mikey’s more jovial nature. NECA also ran into the challenge of how to mold the head. These sculpts worked really well in nailing the likeness of the arcade TMNT, but they’re a little too frog-like for the cartoon. That’s partly because the Turtles in the cartoon look very different when they’re presented head-on or at an angle, versus a profile look (just watch the opening credits). The season one Turtles often had a vertical line on their beaks to give the impression of a sharper mouth that was mostly dropped after season one. NECA wisely didn’t try to incorporate that as I don’t think it would have turned out well had they. Overall, I do really like the look of these figures, though I think they come up just a tad short if they’re trying to be the definitive take on these characters.

The accessories for the Turtles are numerous and appropriate. Each character comes with his specific weapons which means Leo has two katana, Raph a pair of sai, Don a bo staff, and Mikey twin nunchucks. Don’s bo is especially well-detailed and probably the finest bo staff the character has ever come with. It also breaks apart in the middle which can make storing it in his belt a bit easier to manage as it’s really tight. Leo’s swords are quite broad and resemble a falchion more than a katana. This is consistent with the show, though the broadness might be exaggerated some (though his swords were kind of all over the place and not very consistent in the show). He has holsters too for his blades and they too are also really tight. I couldn’t really get them in and didn’t want to force it, though I’ve seen holstered pics online so it’s certainly possible. Raph’s sai are probably the worst of the bunch as they’re really out of scale and resemble tuning forks. Raph also carried his sai in his belt near his buckle on the show which isn’t possible with the figure as the belt is glued on. It would have been nice it NECA had found a way to make it possible without taking away from the look, but I see why they wouldn’t want to add a pouch or something where there really isn’t supposed to be one. Mikey’s nunchucks are twin pieces of plastic connected by actual metal linkage, a practice NECA basically started with its Mirage version of the figure 9 years ago that has been adopted by pretty much everyone since. One ‘chuck handle can detach and a “spinning” chuck attachment can go in its place, which is a pretty nice feature. Like Raph though, he can’t store his weapons in his belt, though I suppose you could wedge them under his arm if you wanted. In the show, Mikey stored them on his shell in little holsters that basically disappeared when he was holding his weapons (Don and Leo’s holsters often did this too, especially after season one) and NECA must have valued the look of his holster free belt over one that basically never existed in the cartoon.

Additional accessories include four turtlecoms; two are open and two are closed, that look awesome. There’s also an additional four pairs of hands that can be used on any turtle, since their wristbands are part of the arms. There’s a box of pizza from Weird Pizza with one slice missing. That slice is also present and even has a hole through the center for placement on Raph’s sai. The turtle-hook, which showed up in later seasons, is also here if you wish to change-up Mikey’s weapon. It’s slightly oversized but that’s likely because the hooks actually come out of it slightly. It’s not a great effect, but still appreciated.

Naturally, these editions of the TMNT invite comparisons with the Figuarts ones from last year. I think, overall, the Figuarts ones are superior, but they should be since they retail for around $65 a piece. Their articulation is better, the swappable heads help make the likeness better, and I really love that Bandai came up with those swappable belt pieces so all of the Turtles can holster their weapons. NECA’s chosen skin tone is definitely closer to that of the main show, while Bandai’s resembles the opening credits and later seasons. The Bandai Turtles also each had four pairs of hands, while the NECA ones share a community of hands. If I had to pick one I’d take the Bandai ones, but I wouldn’t feel disappointed if I only had these NECA ones. Both look great and they complement each other pretty well as now we have turtlecoms and a closed turtle-hook.

Of course, the NECA Turtles have one big advantage over the SH Figuarts ones:  they come with a Shredder! Shredder, for some reason, has really received some bad treatment from toy manufactures. Even from NECA, who delayed the release of their Mirage Comics Shredder by eight years (with part of that being attributable to Playmates, but mostly to a marketing decision). Toy manufacturers are scared that Shredder and other villains won’t sell. Playmates cancelled their own toon Shredder after showing prototypes, and Bandai has yet to bring theirs to market even though he was unveiled over a year ago. And the old Shredder toys from the original line? They were terrible, with Shredder having blue spikes and no shirt, plus that really weird semi-crouching pose. Naturally, this Shredder is the crowned jewel of the set as he’s a near perfect likeness to the cartoon. He comes in at nearly 7″ tall making him much larger than the Turtles. The head sculpt is perfect and conveys a lot of personality despite the restrictive nature of the character’s helmet. The spikes are a nice, soft, pliable plastic and the fabric cape adds a nice touch. I had to watch old episodes of the cartoon to spot any differences, and the only inaccuracy I could find was with the shoulder pads that featured fewer spikes on television, but I’m not going to complain about some additional spikes! My only other criticism would be the two-tone paint job is again a bit overdone, especially on the helmet, though overall it works better on Shredder than it does on his adversaries. His open hands also have some excess plastic from the mold that’s a bit ugly, though if it really bothers me I could probably trim it off with a razor blade.

Shredder comes with a few accessories of his own to go along with his excellent sculpt. He has a katana of his own, which is unique to him, for sword-fighting with Leo. He also has a gun that resembles the retro-mutagen ray from the cartoon and looks good in his hands. He has three sets if hands: fists, gripping hands, and open hands. He also has a com-link with a little picture of Krang on it as well as a blue canister of mutagen. I do not remember this blue canister from the show, but I’m sure it existed. I only remember the standard glass one with glowing, pink, mutagen contained inside.

The two Foot Soldiers are identical to each other. They are slightly stooped over and feature those long limbs they were known for. They too come with three sets of hands each:  fists, gripping fists, and open hands in a karate chop like pose. There’s also a rifle and a large gun with a bowl-shaped end which was featured in the cartoon and also with the Playmates version of the character as well. The two-toned paint works well on the Foot, probably due to their clothing have a lot of molded creases and folds, and it’s hard to find any fault with these figures.

Lastly, we have Krang, who too looks fantastic. He’s a light pink and features his trademark scowl lots of lumps and veins. Liberal use of black lining gives his face added definition, though they may have gone just slightly overboard with it. His tentacles are on ball joints and are also easily removable. This is so Krang can hop into his bubble walker and the tentacles clip onto outside joints to resemble the cartoon look. When not in his bubble walker, he also has his little tripod from the first season that he scooted around on before Shredder completed his body. This is a great touch by NECA as I don’t think this has ever been done before. It snaps into a recessed area on his underside so it stays in pretty well.

The villains really help round out this set as NECA hit a homer on each figure. It’s nice to have a new set of the Turtles without having to worry if they’ll ever have some villains to tangle with. Naturally, there are people who probably wish they could get more Foot Soldiers for display purposes, but that has more to do with licensing than NECA’s wishes. I have no idea what the future is for this property as it concerns NECA. The popularity of this set leads me to believe that NECA would like to do more, but it may have to wait until next year. Fans undoubtedly would love a Bebop and Rocksteady and Krang is just over here begging for a body. Other characters like Splinter, April, Baxter Stockman, and others would probably be welcomed too. I personally have no desire to go in too deep, but I definitely am hoping for more. If the property dies here though, it’s still a very satisfying collection of figures that will display well for years to come. I hope to be done with buying anymore action figures of the Turtles from this show, and I may even pass on the Bandai Shredder should he ever see release as I’m more than happy with this one. If you have the opportunity to get this set at a reasonable price, I fully recommend it.

UPDATE 2019! – If you’re finding this late and want to get a set of your own, in early 2019 NECA announced a new relationship with Target that will allow them to sell these figures at retail. The catch? Playmates mandates they not be in the toy section and retail for at least $50. NECA has a spot in electronics and as of this update you should start seeing TMNT two-packs on shelves either really soon or already. Each turtle comes with one villain and all of the accessories from this set are spread across the releases. Check them out if you can because these are absolutely worth owning and future figures are expected in the fall of 2019! Happy hunting!


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