Tag Archives: michelangelo

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Sewer Surfer Mike

Surf’s up, dudes!

We are back with one more look at Wave 6 of Super7’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of Ultimates! action figures: Sewer Surfer Mike. This, like every figure in the line so far, is a recreation of a Playmates Toys figure from the vintage line of TMNT action figures, and in this case it’s of Mike the Sewer Surfer. That was the Michelangelo included in the inaugural disguise series which was basically the first of the “wacky” variants that Playmates would do. Many more followed, but for me, that first wave was the most memorable and Michelangelo as a surfer dude made plenty of sense. And it was a toy I really enjoyed as a kid. Something about that pink and blue wet suit was just a pleasing aesthetic for me. I loved the sculpted details like the octopus on one of Mikey’s legs or that metallic paint on his sunglasses. He also had a little, crab, buddy that affixed to his surfboard and it was just a fun, silly, figure. And because of that affection I had for it as a kid I had to get the Super7 version. There was at least one other compelling reason to get this, which we’ll get to, but it was largely a no-brainer. I really liked all of those disguised turtles, it’s one of the few waves I had every figure from, and the nostalgia is strong here.

He certainly looks the part.

Mikey comes in the standard Super7 Ultimates! box with slipcover on the outside and window box within. Mikey stands around 6″ and is basically in-line with the other turtles, as expected. Since he features a new outfit that’s all done as part of the sculpt, everything about this guy is new. The only parts Super7 could reuse were the hands and maybe the shins. He’s done in as much colored plastic as possible, which for Mikey is that deep, forest, green that distinguishes him from his brothers. The wet suit feature some painted details and it’s done in an acceptable fashion. There’s a lot of additional, fun, sculpted bits on this guy in the form of various sea creatures. Mikey looks like he was vomited up by a whale or something as he’s got crabs (the good kind), sharks, and seawood all over the place and it’s something I remember fondly of the original figure. I’m a little surprised some of these aren’t removable, but they weren’t on the old figure so I don’t hate it. I’d have kept them on, but I understand if some are disappointed just like how some out there wanted Scratch’s shackle to be removable. It is interesting that the default portrait for this figure has Mikey with his tongue hanging out. That is not how the original figure depicted him as he instead had a sly smile and shades. The shades, by the way, are removable this time. The second portrait is more in-line with the original. It doesn’t matter since both heads are in the box, but I found it a bit curious. He still features a big, yellow, belt and I am a bit disappointed there isn’t more paint here. I thought Super7 did a good job making Slash’s belt pop more, but with this one it’s like they didn’t even try. Despite that, I think he looks good and I’m as charmed with this version as I was the original when I was a kid.

He’s got some board wax and these oversized throwing stars, but the board is the main attraction.

What certainly adds to the fun factor here rests with the accessories. Mikey’s got a decent spread, and it starts with the optional hands. Mikey comes with two sets of gripping hands (vertical hinge and horizontal), fists, and style posed hands. For those gripping hands he has his trusty nunchaku. These are of the molded plastic variety and Super7 added some seaweed to them in keeping with the theme. The original figure did not come with these so I like that Super7 gave us some. The only issue is they’re very gummy to the point where I find the texture unpleasent. It’s a shame, because the sculpt and paint are nice, but they’re so soft that I couldn’t even get them into his gripping hands. He also has three cans of wax, I guess to maintain his board, and I initially wasn’t sure what they were. They’re painted okay, my blue and yellow one isn’t lined up properly, but don’t do much for me otherwise. He also has his starfish shurikens which is something that did come with the old toy, and most important he comes with his surfboard. It looks like the vintage one as it’s cast in orange plastic and has a decal on it. It’s disappointing to see a decal in place of paint or a printing, but that’s what we got. The little crab guy is included, but he no longer clips into the board and instead is intended to just be placed on it which doesn’t work as well since the board needs to lean forward. There’s also a foot strap for the board in case Mikey wipes out. It looks pretty cool, but it’s really crying out for a display stand of some kind. Similar to the Optimus Prime figure Super7 did, the fins on the underside of the board make it a challenge to actually pose Mikey in a surfing position. He’s a bit annoying to pose because while he can peg onto the board, nothing else does and his sunglasses just rest on his head unconvincingly so there’s a lot of balancing going on. Lastly, he has a weapon sprue which contains the shuriken, nunchaku, crab, and wax cans surrounded by a block and tackle. It would have been cool to get the block and tackle as an accessory, though admittedly I don’t know what I would have done with it. Just like I don’t know what to do with the sprue. These are being phased out from future waves and I consider that no great loss.

As is often the case, two heads are indeed better than one.

Of course, we also have that other head which is more vintage inspired. Put that on your figure with the shades and the look is mostly complete (the fit of the shades is rather poor) which frees up that other head for another figure. It’s no secret that a lot of folks weren’t crazy about Michelangelo’s alternate head from the Wave 3 release of Ultimates! I’ve been using that head, because I overall liked the alt heads more, but it is my least favorite of the four. It’s just an odd expression. They were going for a smile or a laugh, but it’s very blocky and he has huge gaps between his teeth. This one kind of carries that weakness forward, but overall both heads do a much better job of getting Mikey’s termperment across. And the good news is that Super7 was able to match the colored plastic very well between this release and that past one so, if you want to, you can swap out the old head with one of these. I’m definitely going to do that with my display, though I haven’t yet decided which head I want for which figure. And I suppose the inverse is true if you really want your Sewer Surfer Mike to have one of the old heads. The classic, vintage, head doesn’t look terrible, though I can’t see myself going in that direction, but it’s always nice to have options.

One clear and obvious negative with this figure are these gummy, awful, nunchuks. I love the seaweed and such, but he can’t even grip them easily because they’re so gummy.

Now, the big deal with this line of late has been articulation. Wave 5, which arrived at the same time as Wave 6, was pretty much a disaster as far as loose joints are concerned. The Wave 6 figures I’ve looked at have been much better. Slash was pretty great, and while Scratch had some odd engineering choices, he was at least plenty sturdy. Mikey, being a Wave 6 release as well, is more of the same which is a good thing. He articulates just like the other turtles so we have a double ball peg at the head that has subpar range because of how low it sits on the unarticulated neck. The shoulders are ball-hinged and he can just about get his arms out to the side. He has a biceps swivel and the elbows are single hinges with rotation and it’s fine. The wrists swivel and hinge and the hands swap fairly easily. In the torso, is a waist twist that does little and at the hips Mikey can almost do full splits (it’s the sculpted eel on his left thigh that keeps him from achieving a true split), kick forward, and can’t really kick back due to the shell. There is a thigh twist and the knees are single hinges with a swivel. At the ankle, we get hinges and rockers which continue to be the strong point of the line. The rest is just basic. The range is mediocre as he can’t quite hit a 90 degree bend at either the elbow or knee, but there are at least no surprises. We know what to expect and that the articulation is going to be a weak spot for this line, at least what is here seems fine as far as quality control is concerned. I’d love to see Super7 do better, but we’re at a point that we should expect this level of articulation and either accept ir or pass because it’s unlikely to change.

Whether you go with the tongue head or the closed mouth, I think it’s an improvement for the wave 3 Mikey.

This is a figure that is not likely to excite many, but it’s probably not going to let many down either. It feels like it should be regarded as a new baseline for the entire series. There’s a good amount of paint on the figure proper and it’s applied reasonably well. Yes, it’s not pristine upon close inspection, but it’s good enough. The articulation is not impressive, but is up to the line’s own standard and at 6 waves deep it’s mostly on the consumer at this point if they’re letdown in that department. And the figure also comes with enough, though I definitely would have appreciated some new hands like open palms for a more traditoonal surfing pose or maybe a “Hang 10” gesture. At least there is already plenty of new tooling with this guy so it doesn’t feel like Super7 cheaped out on us. My only true criticisms rest with the belt and nunchuks. The belt just needs more paint as it shouldn’t be all yellow like that. At least hit the cans with something. And that gummy plastic utilized for the chuks needs to take a hike. I get that they were looking for a flexible alternative for the weapons, but this isn’t the right solution. Mostly though, if you’re into this line and have been generally pleased then you’ll like this figure and if you liked the vintage one well then it’s a no brainer. The fact that his second head works well with the older Mikey might be reason enough for some to drop the $55 it costs to get this guy.

The new heads for Mikey are a bit “toony” compared with the other brothers, but it works well enough as far as I’m concerned.

NECA TMNT x Universal Monsters Michelangelo as The Mummy

Grrr….pizza….

As the toyline and cartoon series started to go long, Playmates Toys turned to other ideas to keep the good times rolling on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Long thought to just be some quick fad, the turtles outlived all expectations into the 90s spawning multiple films and video games and a cartoon series that would total nearly 200 episodes. Such longevity was basically unheard of for such a blatant kid’s property and I have to think some of it is due to the creativity of Playmates. There were lots of variants of the turtles starting with different costumes and the introduction of action features into the toyline. Playmates would double-down on wacky variants with some featuring action features, like the sports turtles, or different gimmicks all-together like the beach turtles that could spit water. Talking turtles, mutating turtles, boxing turtles – basically everything was on the table. And when that started to run dry, Playmates turned to another tool: the brand mash-up.

In 1993 Playmates introduced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Universal Monsters line. It featured Michelangelo as Frankenstein’s monster, Leonardo as The Wolfman, Donatello as Dracula, and Raphael as The Mummy. It was apparently successful enough that Playmates would come back with a second wave the following year. Playmates would also combine TMNT with Star Trek and make an effort to cross-brands with various properties at Lucasfilm including Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In later years, there were other mash-ups with the likes of Ghostbusters and WWE so there is apparently an appetite among TMNT fans to see their favorite heroes combined with various other brands. It’s become a recognizable aspect of the IP to the point that when NECA announced it had acquired the Universal Monsters license basically everyone and their mother started asking “So, are you going to do TMNT X Universal Monsters?”

Mummy ninja pose.

NECA initially responded to such questions in a non-committal fashion, but it’s now clear that was always on their mind because it didn’t take long for NECA to unveil Raphael as Frankenstein’s Monster. Other reveals, and releases, have followed and NECA’s approach to the famous combination has become clear. It should be noted, that when both NECA and Super7 were awarded a license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the two individuals most in-charge of the direction of the lines, NECA’s Randy Falk and Super7’s Brian Flynn, got together to get a sense of where each company was going with the line. When NECA said it wanted to do toys based on the cartoons and movies, Super7 was delighted because their aim was to basically re-create the vintage toyline. It could be that gentlemen’s agreement between the two that is the reason why we’re not seeing the same turtle and monster combinations in NECA’s line as Super7 also has a Universal Monsters license and might recreate those old toys. Or, it could simply be NECA’s desire to do their own thing that is driving the creative process with this line.

Mikey found someone to help him strengthen his impressions.

And that process is to take the designs and likenesses from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and combine those with the film depictions of the Universal Monsters. It’s a great idea on paper as it takes a realistic depiction of the turtles and combines them with a realistic depiction of the monsters. The past versions of these figures (and Playmates revisited it in the 2012 line) were all cartoon-based and the realistic visual fits NECA’s strong suit when it comes to their Ultimates line of figures. It also opens the door for a version of April to feature the likeness of actress Judith Hoag and if any other human characters are featured it’s assumed they too will feature an actor’s likeness. NECA also seems to have deliberately avoided the past turtle and monster pairings. For the first time Raph got to play Frankenstein, Leonardo is Ygor the Hunchback (a character previously unexplored by Playmates), Donatello will be the Invisible Man, and Michelangelo the Mummy. Splinter is also onboard to play Van Helsing, and April has the distinction of being the only repeat pairing as she is once again the Bride of Frankenstein. More figures are expected and it will be interesting to see if NECA doubles-down on the turtles and gives everyone a repeat release as a different monster. There are certainly plenty of unexplored monsters by NECA and plenty of opportunities for more figures.

Now I personally am not a big fan of the Universal Monsters. I never bought any of the Playmates figures, and I wasn’t sure with this new line. When NECA announced Raph, I did pre-order it immediately, but I would eventually cancel it. I didn’t have an obvious place for it in my collection and I was certainly helped by my favorite turtle, Leonardo, having an unappealing mash-up. I have seen all of the released figures so far in stores and I think they look fantastic for what they’re going for, it just wasn’t something I felt I needed. Until I came across Michelangelo.

There’s some nice sculpt work on the shell, though the turtle glyph on the right is unpainted and I have to assume it’s a factory error.

I already said I’m not much of a fan of Universal Monsters, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be The Wolfman. That was the only figure I was tempted by back in the 90s since it was my preferred monster with my favorite turtle, but ultimately I decided I could do without. I don’t know where I’d rank The Mummy amongst the other monsters, but definitely more towards the bottom than the top so it’s a bit of a surprise that this is the one figure that moved me to make a purchase. It’s also just a testament of how good it turned out. Taking the 90’s costume for Michelangelo and dirtying it up with a mummy aesthetic is surprisingly brilliant. This figure looks amazing.

For starters, the textures achieved by sculptor Tony Cipriano looks incredible. The many wraps that adorn Mikey look like they could be soft goods to the point that it’s almost jarring to actually handle the figure and feel that they’re made of plastic. The texture of the skin on Mikey’s head has this very dried out and weathered appearance. His lips are cracked, there’s creases in the forehead, and various warts mar the skin. The bandana has a dark wash over it making it appear dirty and old and he has one eye that’s closed, or possibly missing, and another looking off into nowhere. It’s important the face capture an unsettling expression since Michelangelo is typically the comic relief and least threatening of the four turtles. The shell of the figure has more of a wood look to it as it’s washed out. It’s also adorned with various carvings like a couple of turtles, a Foot logo, ninja stars, and what might be a reference to the ooze canister. What’s visible of the plastron on the front is very cracked and weathered, but it’s mostly covered in wraps. The belt has a nice leather look to it with a gold scarab on the buckle. It’s sculpted throughout with more glyphs and weathering and looks terrific. The elbow and knee pads from the film are present and look as good as ever. They look a little bigger and bulkier when compared with the movie releases, but it’s also possible these will be on the Secret of the Ooze figures to come.

How ’bout a kiss, cobra?

Michelangelo looks amazing. I can’t get over how well this figure came out. If this were a 60 dollar boutique release I think I would still be satisfied, but it’s a $36 or $37 figure from Target which is mind blowing. There’s really nothing for me to complain about when it comes to the sculpt and overall look for this figure. What nitpicks I can come up with are basically paint-related. There’s a spot at the top of the wrap on the right thigh where the beige paint bled over to the skin. There’s a little of that down by the knee of the same leg as well. In the hands or around the heel there are small spots where the paint for the wraps was missed, but it’s all in areas that are only noticeable when you’re looking for such things. Since there is a wash on basically every spot of this figure there may be some figures where that’s missed or too heavy. There’s one glyph on the shell that’s missing the wash, but from what I have seen around the web, this is an error on all of the figures. The wraps inside the shell don’t feature a wash, but they’re areas that really aren’t visible unless you’re holding the figure in-hand and really inspecting it. The small paint imperfections seem acceptable to me at this price-point. The only cause for concern I see is that this is a complex figure and paint job so it might suffer from inconsistencies from figure to figure, but that’s not something I can predict with any degree of certainty and it’s personally not something I would be concerned with. Plus, that’s what window boxes are for!

“Whoa dude, I’m going to have to recommend you don’t smile.”

The Mummy is basically known for one pose: a shuffling walk with arms outstretched. Because of that, it would have been reasonable to assume NECA would not prioritize the articulation on this guy, and while NECA definitely does indeed prioritize aesthetic, this figure still moves pretty well. The head is on a double-ball and has good range in basically all directions. The bandana knot just pegs into the head so you can rotate it if need be to help the figure look up. The default head is a little loose fitting on mine, but holds a pose. The neck is independently articulated as well, but mostly just helps the figure look down. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side just fine. The shell is going to get in the way a bit with rotation, but that’s nothing unfamiliar for TMNT fans. There’s no biceps swivel, and instead the figure has NECA’s double-jointed elbows with the hinge and swivel above and below the elbow. Because of the elbow pad, he can just barely bend the arms 90 degrees, but the swivel works fine. The hands swivel and hinge horizontally. At the waist, there is a twist, but it barely does anything. The hips are ball and socket joints and come out to the side for splits, but kick out and to the side when coming forward because of the plastron. The knees are double-jointed, but because of the knee pad, can’t quite hit 90 degrees. There is a swivel above the knee and the thigh also swivels, but just barely. At the ankle we have a hinge and rocker which works fine. It’s basically the same articulation as the movie figures, only with the double elbows. It’s not the thing the figure does best, but if you want your mummy in more “ninja” poses it’s certainly feasible.

You may think a mummy doesn’t need much in the way of accessories, but NECA apparently feels differently. For starters, Mikey comes with three sets of hands: “mummy” pose hands, gripping hands, and fists. The default, mummy, hands are basically posed how one would associate the mummy when it’s walking and reaching out towards a victim. They’re kind of curled and misshapen and since the thumb is under the fingers they can be considered loose, gripping, hands if you wish. As for what he has to hold, we have a set of nunchaku. Only now, the handles are gold-painted ankhs with brown tape around the handles. They have real chains, and there’s a gap on each side of the shell between the belt and shell they can be forced into if you like weapon storage. Mikey also has two pre-posed wraps that can be clipped onto a leg or arm for a little added effect. There’s a giant cobra which has a bendy wire through it that Mikey can hold, or have draped over his shoulders, or just have hanging around nearby. It’s in a hissing pose like it’s ready to strike.

The cobra makes me think of the Playmates figures and their “buddy characters” that can with so many figures.

Lastly, we have the best accessory: Mikey’s decaying, alternate, head. An image of a decaying Leonardo mask from the third TMNT movie has been floating around online for years, if not a decade. I believe it originated from an auction and it’s pretty damn hideous. Other images of decaying turtle costumes have followed, but that one is the most memorable and widely seen. Mikey’s alternate head is a clear homage to that one as the lips have been rotted away revealing two rows of big, flat, teeth. The flesh around the eyes has also receded leaving the face wide-eyed and a bit crazy looking. There are also chunks missing from other parts of the head and the bandana tails are a bit more wild looking. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to swap the knot between the heads, but as far as I can tell, they just peg into the head so it’s theoretically possible. The alternate head fits a little more snug than the default one and swapping them is pretty painless. It’s really hard to settle on one, though I feel like this alternate head captures a little bit of that Mikey humor inherent in the character and it might be the look I go with.

This figure actually presents a lot of display options. Classic Mummy pose? A Mikey nunchaku pose? Something with the snake? Default head or crazy, rotting, head? I’m planning on making Mikey a Halloween decoration that may live in his box (which I didn’t even talk about, but it’s beautiful) 10 months out of the year so it will be impossible to get all of these display options into one season. Maybe I’ll just need to find a place for him a little out of the way for the rest of the year. If you can’t tell, I love this figure and I absolutely recommend it. I don’t think it’s convinced me to buy the rest of the line, but if they hit clearance maybe I’ll reconsider. I think this guy displays just fine on his own, and if anything I’m more likely to invest in the accessory set for The Mummy than more TMNT x Universal Monsters figures.

Now the only thing left is to figure how to pose this guy on the shelf.

This figure was part of the Fall Geek Out event at Target. It was online as well, but I’m guessing that by the time this post goes live it will no longer be available there. This is the one and only Mummy Mike I saw in-store so it doesn’t look like he’s being shipped in the same vast quantities as the Leonardo figure from this line, but I could be wrong. If you missed the Target release, don’t fret. This figure is available to preorder in many of the usual places online and should be showing up in those same places eventually. Hopefully in time for Halloween.


Hasbro MMPR x TMNT April O’Neil and Michelangelo

The end of the road…for now.

We have arrived at the last two-pack in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers x Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of action figures from Hasbro and it’s that bodacious dude, Michelangelo, along with the ravishing reporter April O’Neil. There’s not going to be a whole lot to say about these figures at this point as, if you read last week’s review of Leonardo and Donatello, then you know that the turtles in this line are all essentially the same figure. And when it comes to April, she’s basically just a standard Lightning Collection pink ranger with some minor differences.

The two best Starburst flavors.

Michelangelo, like Donatello, has to assume a different preferred color and for him it’s yellow. This isn’t completely foreign to Mikey as the original arcade game had him as yellow instead of orange for some reason, and even the follow-up, Turtles in Time, kept the yellow buttons and joystick (though his character sprite was corrected to feature the orange pads and mask). Mikey is the standard turtle ranger body sharing more similarities with Raph due to both having a belt without a shoulder strap. His weapon slots on the belt are unique to him as is his helmet, which takes the form of the sabretooth tiger from MMPR. Mikey can actually claim to being the best looking ranger in this set since it’s very easy to paint white over yellow. He’s a very a bright yellow and the white paint on his gloves covers up the yellow plastic quite well. Unfortunately, the yellow diamonds on his boots are painted terribly because nothing can be perfect. He also has a red spec under the tiger nose on his helmet that I’ve been trying to scratch away. There’s also still a lack of paint, in particular with the helmet, but that’s par for the course with Hasbro. The lower part of the shell does stick out more with my figure. One could attribute that to Michelangelo’s almost exclusive all pizza diet, but it does look like the tab underneath the gold piece isn’t seated properly and it doesn’t seem to want to go in. It’s a minor imperfection, but an imperfection nonetheless. His articulation is exactly the same as his brothers, so I don’t feel a need to go over it a third time. It’s good though.

Not sure about that effect piece for Mikey.

For April, she is essentially just the pink Power Ranger with one obvious difference: no skirt piece. I don’t know why that was eliminated, but it appears to be consistent with the comic. I don’t mind as the skirt is just a restrictive piece when it comes to articulation and doesn’t really add much to the look of the character. In comparing her with my Lightning Collection Kimberly, I do notice a new helmet design. This one is noticeably taller and not nearly as long when viewing it from the side. I don’t know if this was a running change for the pink ranger figures or if it’s just more accurate to the source material for this comic. I am surprised that Hasbro would re-sculpt it though and I do think it’s more pleasing to look at. Otherwise, her shade of pink is also noticeably brighter. Her torso is still a darker shade of pink than the rest of the figure, but it’s less noticeable here and at least the limbs, diamonds, and the pink portion of the helmet look to be a similar shade of pink. The prior figure was all over the place and my pick for worst in the line, so at least if Hasbro is making me rebuy it, it looks better. The only thing that looks worse is the morpher on the belt as Hasbro omitted the silver paint, as it did for the turtles as well. Her articulation is the same as the previously released yellow and pink ranger so if you want a complete rundown check out that review.

It’s so hard to get April into a good bow pose.

The accessory loadout is also quite familiar here as both figures come with extra hands, an alternate portrait, weapons, and an effect piece. Unlike the last set, we do have some extra stuff which I’ll get to. First though, let’s talk about Mikey who has fists, gripping hands, and open hands. These are the same hands released in the other sets, only Mikey can actually benefit from the wide-fingered sai grip hands as his weapon can fit between the fingers. And his weapon is a mash-up of the power dagger and nunchaku. Basically, he has four daggers instead of two and they’re joined by a chain. The chain is sculpted plastic, which I’m kind of torn on. I like the look of real chain, but that sucks for posing and would look terrible in the combined blaster (not that these look much better). The plastic chain here though is just boring gray with no paint applied to even simulate steel. They’re also not very long so most classic, Mikey, two-handed poses are unachievable. I also wish the chains were bendy to the point that they held their shape for better swinging poses. There’s a purple effects piece that doesn’t look great because it’s hard to come up with a convincing swinging pose. Even the box art just kind of gave up and depicts Mikey just standing there with the piece dangling. It’s a good concept for a weapon, it’s just the execution that’s cheap. The dagger portions of each ‘chuk also key together which looks better on the combined weapon and when inserting them into his holsters. His weapons are the toughest to holster, though rather, getting them in isn’t too hard, but getting them out can be a pain. I feel like I’m going to break them every time so I’ll probably refrain from doing it too much.

Go Team Yellow!
Hasbro at least improved the coloring on the pink ranger body.

As for April, she comes with the weapons one would expect, plus some extra stuff. She has a pair of gripping hands out of the box, and strangely, Hasbro didn’t include Kimberly’s arrow nocking right hand which works much better with the included arrow than the standard gripping hand. She also has a left fist and right open, chop, hand. As for weapons, she has the same as Kimberly including the line’s only blade blaster. It has the white and red deco as opposed to the silver Kimberly’s came with, but is otherwise the same. The bow is now silver instead of white and the included arrow is a hot pink that basically matches her costume as opposed to Kimberly’s gray. She also has the translucent, pink, blast effect arrow that is slightly darker than Kimberly’s. Since this is April, to make her feel more like that character Hasbro included a stick microphone and camcorder. The mic has a white, triangular, box on it, but there’s no graphic for the station April works for so it looks kind of stupid. The camcorder is a shoulder-mounted design and it’s fine. It’s just black, molded, plastic and the only paint is on the lens. I get why she comes with this stuff, but I don’t know if I’ll actually use it. I’d definitely trade the microphone for a proper collapsed blade blaster she could holster, but that’s a criticism I have of the Lightning Collection as a whole.

That’s not an ugly portrait, but it doesn’t look like April.
This portrait, on the other hand…

Like the other figures, these two come with an unmasked portrait. Michelangelo’s is a wild, open-mouthed, expression that’s befitting of the character, but could use more paint. Hasbro painted his tongue and teeth, but left the rest of his inner mouth green which is a bit odd. Maybe it’s the expression, but this one looks especially goofy on the turtle body. As for April, it looks like Hasbro recycled the Evangeline Lily head from its MCU line for her and stuck a different hair sculpt on it. It doesn’t look bad, but it also doesn’t look anything like the character from the comic so I suppose that does make it kind of bad. It at least looks better on April’s body given she’s better proportioned, but I doubt I’ll use it since I plan to keep the turtles with their helmets on.

Mikey’s daggers peg into each other to at least keep them tidy on here (or when holstered), but they still look goofy.

As promised, I will mention the combining effect that’s available to all who collect the entire line. Just like with the standard Lightning Collection releases, the weapons can combine to form the giant, blaster, the Power Rangers are fond of using. The turtle version is mostly the same, and yet not as fun. The bow and power axe are exactly the same so they combine in the same manner. One of Raph’s sais slots into the top where the power sword goes, but it’s not as long as said sword so it doesn’t look quite as neat. Leo’s swords and Mikey’s dagger-chuks clip underneath the bow and this is where it starts to look dumb. Because Leo’s swords tab together to form a lance, only one actually has a hole on the bottom to resemble a gun barrel with the other having a plastic tab. Mikey’s chuks apparently go in chain forward which just looks ridiculous. I mean, the whole thing is supposed to look ridiculous by nature, but this takes it further with the weapons appearing to not even be able to fire. If the chains could detach on at least one set of the ‘chuks that would be fine, but Hasbro didn’t want to go that route. This could also be comic accurate, for all I know, and if so then this is a criticism of the design and not the toy. It’s still a fun novelty, but it’s not as neat looking as the MMPR version.

Group shot!

That’s it though. Again, if you have enjoyed the prior two-packs then you’ll like this one. This might be my least favorite of the three though as Mikey’s weapons aren’t as fun to mess around with and April is just a basic Power Ranger, with an odd, unmasked, head sculpt. I’m at least relieved to see that Hasbro made some improvements to the Kimberly figure I was so down on, but it also could have been improved further given her torso is still an odd color. Hasbro also did a comic shaded variant of the pink ranger which might have made more sense for this line, though she would have clashed with the other releases so I get why they didn’t go that route.

Lets bring Tommy in.

This may be the last of the two-packs for this line, but it’s not the last release. That honor falls to Shredder as the green ranger. I haven’t been able to get my hands on that one yet, but rest assured, when I do I’ll be back to tell you all about it.

And now with the OG team. Billy’s back there, I swear.

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Michelangelo

Turtle #3 is here!

It’s been a longer wait than expected, but Wave 3 of Super7’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimates! has finally arrived. The original plan was for a new wave of figures to start shipping every 4 months, but COVID had other plans. When we last looked at a figure from this line, there was snow on the ground, we were all trapped in our homes waiting on a vaccine, and Valentine’s Day cards had yet to hit the clearance rack. Now we’re in the dog days of summer, people are arguing over masks again, and kids are heading back to school. It is what it is, but at least the wait is over and collectors now have 3/4ths of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles assembled for Michelangelo has arrived!

This packaging shot is the only time you will see the extraneous “ninja” weapons.

If you’re unfamiliar with this line of action figures form Super7, this line is an homage to the original Playmates line of action figures first launched back in 1988. Actually, it’s less an homage and more like a straight remake with the figures boosted to fit in a 7″ scale with updated articulation, paint, and sculpting. Some look so much like the old toys that from a distance one might think they’re the same, just bigger. Up close though the differences become more obvious. With the turtles themselves, they especially look more updated than some of their friends and foes. Those old figures had permanently bent elbows and knees and while you could approximate such a pose with these new figures, it’s not something most would want to do. The turtles also come with a secondary portrait that’s a lot different from the original so if that’s the chosen method of display then they’ll actually look quite different. All of the main details are still in place though including the white eyes, facial expressions, belts, and skin tone.

Yup, that’s Mikey.
How do you store your ‘chuks? Chains up or chains down?

And if you’ve handled Raphael or Leonardo, then you know what to expect from Michelangelo. The party dude is essentially the same figure as his brothers. The only thing that distinguishes the turtles from one another is the color of their skin, shell, mask, pads, and the shape of the belt which needs to be customized to serve the turtle’s chosen weapons. Michelangelo sports a deep, forest, green for his skin which has always looked great with the orange mask and pads. As a kid, it was toss-up for me which shade of green I liked best between Mikey and Raph, but I think I can safely say I prefer Mikey now. His default head still sports that side grimace with the right side of his mouth baring teeth and the left not. He has four loops on the rear of his belt to store his chosen weapon, the nunchaku, and a yellow M is emblazoned on his belt buckle so he doesn’t forget his name. He looks good and there is a black wash over parts of his body to accentuate the muscle tone. It does, unfortunately, seem to be on the default head and gives his orange mask a dingy quality. There’s also a bizarre factory error on my figure concerning the left ankle (pictured below). It looks like the cut was done incorrectly for the ball-hinge. Since his foot can only rock, not twist, it means it can never lineup with his knee and looks weird. It’s probably only something I’ll notice, but it’s definitely one of those things that once seen cannot be unseen. One of the horizontal hinged hands has a similar issue. Regardless, it’s not enough of an issue for me to initiate a return and exchange, but I did reach out to Super7 to see if they are willing to send a new lower leg (which just pegs into the knee) and I’ll update this post accordingly if they do indeed provide such.

That’s not supposed to be that way. You can see the outline for where the cut was probably supposed to be made for ankle articulation.

Where Mikey differs from his brothers is in some small ways. The rear of his shell is basically black where Raph’s was a light brown and Leo a deep green. His belt is all black and the trim on his belt buckle and the rings in the belt is ever so slightly darker than the same on Raph’s, and a lot darker than the chrome used on Leo (which sounds like that was a factory error and re-releases of Leo should be closer to Raph and Mikey). The front of his shell is fairly yellow, which surprised me a little because Leo’s was darker, with more orange mixed in, than Raph’s. Mikey’s though is pretty much the same shade of yellow as Raph though making me wonder if Leo was supposed to match and it’s just a factory variance. Oddly enough though, one difference that looks weird is Super7 declined to paint Mikey’s finger and toenails. Leo and Raph both had a bright, yellow-green, color to their nails that looked fine on Raph, but a little like nail polish on Leo. Maybe they didn’t like how it looked on Mikey who features the darker skin tone. They could have gone with another color though rather than not paint them at all, but it’s not something that stands out on a shelf either so I guess it’s just me nit-picking.

I hate taking this picture because Raph’s heads are not fun to swap.
And that’s because I choose to display Leo and Raph this way, so this is likely how Mikey will have to be displayed.

In terms of articulation, Michelangelo is exactly the same as his brothers. As such, I don’t feel the need to break it down completely again since you have that in my reviews of Raphael and Leonardo, so instead I’ll just say what’s good and bad about it. For one, Super7 does not like double-hinged joints. It’s something we just have to agree to disagree with when it comes to Super7. I will say, Mikey’s joints are at an appropriate tolerance which is an improvement over his predecessors. His extra hands and head also swap a lot cleaner. Maybe all of that extended time sitting in a hot shipping container did some good? The only joint that is a little tight is at the shoulder, but that’s a strong joint so it’s something I don’t worry about breaking. The hips, a point of contention with the past figures, seem tighter and Mikey stands just fine. The lack of a butterfly joint and the fact that his arms can’t quite bend at 90 degrees are more of a problem for a ‘chucker like Mikey. I can’t, for example, get him to do the ‘chuk over the shoulder with the other hand reaching across the chest/belly to grab it pose. The ‘chuks aren’t quite long enough, nor can he reach all the way across his body. He can at least hold one handle of the nunchaku while the second is in a belt loop.

The most popular nunchaku pose? At least absent a whirling piece.
Chains are awesome, but it does suck that they can’t be posed.

Where Mikey is the same, but different, from his brothers is in the accessory loadout. Obviously, he’s got to have his ‘chuks and Super7 decided to give him three sets. One is all painted, plastic, versions of the nunchaku he came with in ’88, only now the chain is sculpted instead of plain. The second set is painted as well, but features actual chain links between the handles which has basically become the standard ever since NECA’s 2008 release of the Mirage Michelangelo. Both have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to displaying the figure as the real chains give the figure an added sense of realism, while the plastic version allows for gravity-defying posing. The plastic links have a slight bendy quality to them so you can try to position them in a manner that makes it look like Mikey is swinging them. Both sets can fit into the rear holsters on his belt just, albeit quite snugly, though I prefer the chained versions for that since it’s not going to put stress on the weapons like it would the all plastic version. The third set is another pair of plastic nunchaku, but unpainted like the vintage toy. It’s attached to a sprue/rack along with the other “ninja” weapons likely no one uses. Something I’m just now noticing is that all three turtles feature a slightly different shade of brown for their weapons rack. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but might bug some people. I, personally, never take them out of the package so I have no right to complain.

Michelangelo comes with the box, but he’ll need help from his brothers if he wants to score a slice.
The alternate head has been a point of contention in the fanbase. I think it’s okay, but yeah, it could have been better.

In addition to the nunchaku, Mikey also comes with painted versions of the generic weapons all of the turtles came with and have come with: ninja stars, that hooked thing, and the little knife weapons. He also has an assortment of hands including gripping, fists, and style posed hands. He also has another set of gripping hands with a vertical hinge instead of a horizontal one. The second head follows in a similar aesthetic to his brothers in that it’s a bit more realistic, with actual wrinkles and lines to accentuate his expression and basically bring him to life, albeit in a comic book sort of way. Where his alternate head differs though is that Mikey isn’t just wearing an updated version of his old expression, but one entirely different. It’s an all toothy, open mouthed, grin and it definitely takes a little getting used to. It reminds me of the 2k3 Michelangelo from Playmates, as well as that popular GIF of the costumed Mikey head grinning. It’s an appropriate expression for Mikey, but I’m not super enthused with the execution. There’s a rather sizable gap between each of his teeth that looks odd and it made painting the mouth a great deal more difficult. It’s a little sloppy. On a shelf, it’s probably not noticeable, but it should look better. It puts me in a bit of a tough spot with the figure as I’ve gone with the alternate portraits for Leo and Raph in my display, but those old toys ones just don’t blend well with that look. So while I want to go default here, I’m likely go with the alternate head just for balance. It’s not a terrible look or anything, but I definitely have a clear preference for the vintage head with this figure where as with Raph I definitely preferred the new one, and with Leo it was more 50/50.

It’s well-painted, but yeah, my Mikey won’t be wielding this thing.
I feel like Super7 missed an opportunity for a pun here.

We’re not done though as Mikey still has a few more accessories. Unlike his brothers, he does not come with any Turtlecoms or even a slice of pizza. Instead, he has his trusty Turtle Hook weapon/grappling hook that he featured in the cartoon. The Turtle Hook started off as this piece of equipment all of the turtles seemed to carry, but it would eventually become Michelangelo’s weapon of choice because certain parts of the world had some issues with the nunchaku. It makes the Turtle Hook something that’s both loved and hated, we all loved it as a fun accessory, but hated to see Mikey running into battle with just a grappling hook. It’s a smart inclusion for a toy though, and while I like the look of it, I must say this is my least favorite attempt at the Turtle Hook to date. It’s non-articulated, and the string attached to it is very plain and lacks something that would make it easier for the figure to hold. Both Bandai and NECA put a piece of plastic at the end of their Turtle Hooks, but Super7 elected not to. It’s probably not something I’ll display with my figure, though I suppose I prefer it to another Turtlecom. Mikey’s other unique accessory makes a lot of sense for him though and it’s one I do like: a box of pizza. There’s only one slice left in it, and there’s some “cheese” stuck to the top of the box, and it’s just a smart inclusion for Mikey. I do wish the box could open and close though, but it works for a display. The pizza in it is permanently glued in at an odd angle which kind of stinks since you can’t fill it with more slices. It also seems a touch small given the size of the slice. I’m guessing a lot of collectors will choose to display Mikey with the pizza though alongside the slices that came with Leo and Raph as opposed to a more battle ready pose. It certainly works well with his alternate head.

Like father like son. My old Mikey was certainly loved over many years.
I really should have dug out my 2003 Mikey for this, but he’s buried under a bunch of stuff in storage.

Super7’s take on the party turtle arrives largely as expected. That’s what happens when a mold is reused for four different characters. The good thing is that mold looks pretty great and packs enough functionality to make this a worthwhile figure to own. And if you already have Raph and Leo, well then you’re going to get Michelangelo. Super7 did right by the character when it comes to his signature weapon, and I do appreciate Mikey getting a couple of unique accessories to help differentiate him from his brothers. I do wish he didn’t come with more ninja stars and those generic weapons, but I also understand what Super7 is going for with this line. Thankfully, there’s only one more turtle to go and then we can hopefully bid those things goodbye. Hopefully, the wait for Donatello won’t be as long as the wait for Michelangelo was as that would mean a 2022 release for Donnie. I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers until then. And if you want to know more about Wave 3 of Super7’s TMNT Ultimates! line then check back soon as we have a couple more figures to talk about!

Now that we’re done here, it’s pizza time!

UPDATE: After reaching out to Super7 about my Mikey’s weird ankle joint, I was asked to contact the retailer first to see if they had replacement parts on-hand, so I did. I emailed Big Bad Toy Store and about 2 days later I heard back. They were sending me a new Michelangelo at no cost to me and didn’t even want the other one back. That’s some pretty awesome customer service. I’m no shill, and I don’t have any advertisements on this blog or receive review samples, so I’m just telling you as a consumer that Big Bad is pretty great. The unit was partially defective through no fault of theirs and they still made it right. Now, I’m guessing they get reimbursed by the manufacturer when these things happen, but it doesn’t change the fact that it makes things really easy on the consumer when retailers just replace product with zero hassle.

A tale of two heads: matte (left) vs shiny (right)

And upon receiving my new Mikey, I did notice something that escaped me in my initial review. Truly, it wasn’t really something I could have seen unless I had two figures in front of me that featured this distinction. And that is, my new Michelangelo has a coating on his default head that gives it more of a textured, matte, finish. It’s subtle, but it’s something that’s on Leo and Raph. And with Leo, I noted in my review that he had a little swath on his face where this was missing and it seemed to be widespread. I have no idea why this is the case with Michelangelo though. There’s only been one factory run so it’s probably not a running change, unless it was something that was supposed to happen and the factory noticed it mid-production, but it’s pretty odd. It’s hard to predict if this will be an issue in the collector community to the point that Super7 will be asked to respond. I definitely prefer the matte look, but maybe some will like the glossy appearance since it more resembles the original. Who can say? If it matters to you though, there’s not a lot you can do since most of these are purchased online. If buying from eBay, you can inspect pictures. If you find it in a comic book store then obviously you can get a better look at it, but you’ll also likely be asked to pay a significant mark-up.

The alt heads. I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything with these two if not for the regular heads being more apparent. Matte left and “glossy” right.

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!

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.

april and splinter

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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