Tag Archives: mirage studios

NECA Mirage Studios TMNT Casey Jones

Casey has arrived to bust some skulls.

Where there be turtles, there be Casey Jones – the bad ass vigilante of New York City! Casey was an early addition to the comics and he’s basically been included with every iteration of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since. And in all of them he tends to wear a hockey mask and bludgeons bad guys with sports equipment. It’s a pretty simple design, but it has stood the test of time. When NECA Toys started dipping its toe into TMNT back in 2008 it was probably assumed that Casey was on the short list of figures the company was likely to put out. Unfortunately, the line only extended one figure past the turtles (April) and fans never got their favorite vigilante in plastic. Things have changed since then and Casey Jones is no stranger to NECA or plastic. He’s been released as part of the toon line and received three separate releases in the movie line. And now, at long last, he finds himself released as part of NECA’s line of action figures based on the artwork of Mirage Studios.

How many Caseys is too many? And I even skipped one of the movie releases.

Casey Jones comes in the now standard single pack release. It’s a trapezoidal window box emblazoned with original artwork by TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman. There’s product shots on the rear and a little cross-sell on the bottom. I’ll say upfront that this release from NECA is slightly controversial among some of the more hardcore members of the TMNT collector community. Like Renet before him, Casey comes in his reinterpreted IDW colors. That means a gray shirt instead of a red one and brown shoes in place of his black ones. I don’t know why NECA is doing things this way, but it looks like a red variant is coming too. Will it be stuck behind that Auto T bullshit the Mirage-accurate blue Renet was? Probably, but that hasn’t been confirmed. One would think the standard colors would be the standard release with the modern variant the slightly more expensive specialty option, but then that would make too much sense, now wouldn’t it? For all I know, this is the preferred look of the character by someone like Kevin Eastman. Personally, I don’t care that much because I’m used to seeing these books in black and white. Mirage Casey Jones is black and white in my head even though he had a red shirt on the cover of the Raphael one-shot. And unlike Renet, where I most definitely preferred the blue outfit to the red one, with Casey I’m less definitive. Red, gray, – it’s just a shirt. He at least stands out on my shelf a bit more considering the Foot all wear red and there’s Renet as well, but I certainly wouldn’t complain if he had a red shirt either. I guess if it’s that important to you then wait and find out how the red version is getting released. Or paint the damn thing yourself.

Casey seems to share some parts with the Foot.
He’s not exactly equipped to handle the Utrom, but then again, neither are the turtles.

With that out of the way, lets look at the figure for what it is. Casey Jones stands approximately 6.5″ tall which feels right for the line. He’s comprised largely of parts reused from Shredder and the Foot as he has the same upper arms, thighs, and probably torso as those releases. What’s new is the shirt overlay for the torso, the hands, calves, shoes, forearms, and namely the head. His default portrait is masked and I like that the mask is a separate piece that’s glued down to the face. It gives it some nice depth, even though the eye slits are painted and we don’t need to see his eyes underneath it. It’s very similar to the cartoon figure’s mask, but it is different and looks just as cool as it always does. There’s paint basically everywhere on this guy with a lot of black linework throughout which really helps it to pop on a shelf. He’s depicted in sweat pants and they have some sculpted wrinkles in them and the lower leg is a bit baggy which looks nice. This is a very lean Casey, which does match-up with how he was drawn in the comics. He’s not as bulky as the toon version, but he’s menacing enough in appearance. Despite that, I do wish he had a little extra bulk in the midsection as there’s a lot of plastic for the hips, especially on the rear of the figure, which is a little unsightly. Overall, he looks good, it’s just a character design that’s not made to impress so he’s a bit less exciting than someone like Renet or the Utrom.

You gotta have the hockey stick!

In terms of accessories, NECA outfitted Casey with a decent allotment. He’s basically known for having a bunch of weapons at his disposal, so NECA gave him his customary hockey stick, a pair of baseball bats, and a golf club. The stick and bats all feature sculpted tape around portions of them and are well-painted. The two bats are identical, which is a bit of a bummer, but I get why NECA wouldn’t want to sculpt two different ones for this release. At the same time, we’ve seen bats in other lines so it feels like they could have pulled from there. The club is a white wood style club and it looks fine, though it’s comically small. I’m not a big golfer or anything, but I have played the game and own a set of a clubs so I know how big they’re supposed to be. This club barely comes up past Casey’s knee so he must have found a youth model or something. It’s also very thin so he doesn’t grip it that well with two of his gripping hands. All of the weapons can be stored in his equipment bag. It has a square design to it so I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t look like a normal sports equipment bag or a golf bag, but it works. It’s easy to get onto the figure and looks fine. It’s brown and features the same black line work as the figure so it has a nice appearance.

I’m sure it wouldn’t feel too nice to get smashed over the head with this driver, but it sure is comically small.

Casey also has a few extra parts he can make use of. For one, he has a set of fists and a set of gripping hands. He wears fingerless gloves and those details are painted on. The gloves begin just past the hinge so that doesn’t get in the way and I can’t tell just which part of the hand is painted. Is it the gray glove portion or the fingers? Either way, the colors look fine and I’m not seeing any paint rub on the weapons so that’s a good thing. I do wish he had a different set of hands than the fists though. His gripping hands basically look like fists when he’s not holding anything so they feel redundant. Maybe some open hands, a finger pointing hand, or just different degrees of gripping hands would have been a better use of the budget. And this figure does commit the sin of not having the proper hinge on the gripping hands. Casey should have a vertical hinge, but instead he gets the mostly useless horizontal design. He has one extra, right, gripping hand as well and I think it’s meant for the golf club as it’s the only hand that gets a decent hold on that item. He does get an extra head and this one is unmasked. He’s a pretty ugly dude though so you might prefer to leave the mask on. He looks as he should, so that’s not a criticism of the figure, just the reality of the character design. Lastly, just like the movie version, he comes with a mask that can either be held or hung from the handle of one of his weapons stored in his bag. It looks quite nice and it’s a different mold from the mask on the default head as the eye slits are open. The straps are a soft plastic and, if you really want to, it can fit over the unmasked head, but you’re far better off just displaying him with the masked head than going this route unless you really like the look of the eyes from behind the mask.

That takes us to articulation and if you have Shredder or the Foot from this line then you know what you’re in for. The head is on a double-ball peg and he can look down okay and rotate, but looking up is blocked some by the hair. He can look up, it’s just only a little. He does have some nuance posing there, so overall I like it. The shoulders are your typical ball hinges. He has a hard time getting his arms up to a horizontal position, but the shirt is cut back enough that rotation isn’t a problem. I do wish NECA would improve these shoulders though as it’s a consistent issue. There’s a biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows that bend past 90 degrees with ease. He is fully painted so you may need to heat some of the joints, but for me, my figure was fine out of the box. We already mentioned the wrists and in the torso he has some kind of diaphragm joint that isn’t usable because of the shirt overlay. It feels like a ball joint and you get the tiniest amount of range there, so little that it’s not worth counting. The waist twist is fine, but not the prettiest due to how slender his abdomen is in relation to the pants. A ball joint probably would have looked nice and might have also functioned better. At the hips we have the standard ball and socket. Even with the “diaper” piece, Casey can damn near hit a full split so that’s good. They’re also not loose which is even better. There is a thigh twist there that works quite well and the knees are double-jointed and go past 90. There is a boot swivel at the top of the shoe and at the ankle we have a hinge and rocker. The range on the hinge is pretty poor as it only goes back a little and barely any forward. The ankle rocker also isn’t the best as it’s pretty steep and limited, plus it also feels a bit gummy so I’m worried that I’m stressing the peg more than spinning it on the joint.

“Enough standing around, let’s kick some ass!”

The articulation is rather basic. It’s par for the course for this mold and this line in general as NECA definitely does not prioritize making super-articulated figures. They want it to look like the comic first and foremost and then add a suitable amount of articulation where it makes the most sense. As a result, we have a figure that doesn’t really feature any eyesores brought on by the articulation, but it also isn’t very dynamic. The wrist hinges and the ankles are my biggest areas for critique, and to a lesser extent, the waist and shoulders. The limited ankle articulation makes him harder to stand than expected, and it’s not helped by the added weight on the figure’s back brought on by the bag. He’s not as tipsy as the movie Casey, but I do feel like NECA could have done better at the ankles. The wrists are what they are and it’s something NECA has lately been overlooking, unfortunately. I would like them to make it a point of emphasis going forward. I also do think they could have done the shirt overlay a little differently to give us some added range in the diaphragm. It shouldn’t be that hard to at least give us some twist there and I don’t think much sacrifice in the sculpt would have been needed, if any. I think it’s something just brought on by the desire to reuse parts for the torso from figures that had a full shirt and were never going to move there anyway so there was no reason to engineer it differently. Considering they’re planning on two releases, at least, for this figure, maybe a little extra tooling could have been done?

“When you’re the best of friends…”

At the end of the day, if you want a Casey Jones for your Mirage Studios TMNT display you’re going to get this figure. Or you’re going to get the red one. Or you’re going to get both! And I think, for the most part, those who do pick this figure up will be content with the end product. He looks pretty nice, there’s a decent amount of articulation, and he has the weapons most expected. I have some nitpicks with the figure and those nitpicks combined with the character having a less than impressive design result in me viewing this one as the weakest in the Mirage line, but that doesn’t him bad or anything. He’s pretty average for a NECA release, and at least for NECA, that’s still a good product. The paint is clean, I had no stuck joints, and perhaps most importantly, the price isn’t too bad. You should be able to find this figure at specialty shops and even Walmart where he’ll range from $35-$38 and that’s not bad in today’s climate. If the red version does end up being an Auto T release, expect to have to shell out $40 for that one. For some, the character has to have a red shirt and I get that, but for me, I’ll pocket the five bucks and go gray.

More from NECA and Casey Jones!

NECA TMNT Mirage Studios Renet

Welcome to the first Turtle Tuesday of 2023! 2022 is the year that NECA returned to the Mirage Studios subline of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures it started way back in 2008. When the line was announced to return, it was essentially taking the place of the Turtles in Time figures that had been…

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NECA TMNT Movie Ultimate Casey Jones

I swear this blog is not just a NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blog, even though that’s what it has looked like lately. I’ve just been getting crushed with new releases lately, but it looks like a drought of some length will be incoming soon. Before that can happen though we need to talk about…

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NECA TMNT Cartoon Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier

Something that is likely common to most of humanity is a desire to be successful. We all measure success differently, be it professional, financial, or something else, but we all strive for it. And sometimes success can feel like a burden. Take NECA’s line of action figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property.…

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NECA TMNT Mirage Studios Utrom

Raise your hand if you knew who this was. Be honest!

We’ve become so accustomed to having the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in our lives that the name of the franchise has almost lost all meaning. Well, maybe not all, but I feel we mostly have lost sight of how ridiculous a concept this franchise is. And it extends to other characters in the franchise and I’m talking about Krang. Krang from the cartoon series is an oversized, talking, somewhat monstrous brain. In the context of the show, he’s perhaps not as outlandish a design as he would be in another show, but he’s still pretty out there. And then you add in his body. A large, bald, man in a red diaper and suspenders. Krang can’t go in his head like a normal brain would because then he’d no longer be visible so he has to go in the body’s stomach. I think it’s Vernon who draws attention to this factor in the fifth episode of the series when he sounds positively repulsed at the sight of a man with his brain in his stomach, and he’s right to be grossed out! Krang is one of the craziest designs from a popular franchise that I can think of.

These two make quite a couple.

And if you have a deep familiarity with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then you know Krang is taken from the original comics, only there his race of beings were called the Utrom. There weren’t many (any?) that were actually named, they were just alien brains that got around in robotic bodies. Like Krang, they controlled those bodies from the stomach area, but unlike Krang their bodies were far more mechanical looking. Think the endoskeletons from Terminator, as that’s more in-line for how they appeared. They were foes to the turtles, but also tied in with their origin, and I’d elaborate more, but ever since the 2012 show came along the Utrom and the Kraang from that series kind of run together in my head. Needless to say, they play a significant enough role in the original comics that an action figure from NECA made sense.

The Utrom from NECA stands at right around 6.625″ in height. It comes in the standard window box packaging with new artwork from Kevin Eastman on the box depicting the character. On the rear are product shots and a cross-sell for more figures in the line. Let’s just get right to the big talking point with this guy: the paint job. This figure is gorgeously painted. If you thought the Fugitoid figure looked terrific, wait until you see this. It is fantastic! I am in love with how this figure turned out. It’s sculpted in a light blue plastic, like a periwinkle, with white accents painted onto parts of it to go along with the usual black linework this line is known for. There’s also a hit from an airbrush that contains some gray paint and the effect is just wonderful. This looks like it jumped off of the the page, colored version, and I just love how stylized this looks. This is what I want from action figures based on comics. You can’t sculpt it in chrome, and just making shiny plastic isn’t going to achieve the same end result. The eyes are also painted yellow with a hit of yellow from the airbrush to create the illusion that they’re glowing. The Utrom in the figure’s stomach is also well-painted. The eyes and teeth are clean and there’s a wash applied to really bring out the nasty with this little guy. And with this amount of paint on the figure, there’s virtually no slop. No stuck joints. It’s about as perfect a paint job as one could get in this price range. If I have any nits to pick with it, it’s that a couple hits of the white look a little thin. Maybe the neck area and some of the details on the arms could have used another hit of the airbrush, but that’s all minor and just me trying to poke holes in this thing because, otherwise, it’s awesome.

The sculpt and paint on this guy are just incredible.

The wonderful thing about this figure too is it has a sculpt to match. There are tons of little details in the arms, especially, that look like wires and little machinations. I love the contrast of the smooth plates on the figure’s thighs and the ribbed portions underneath. The rear of the figure is really loaded with sculpted details which is commendable since that’s a spot NECA could have cheaped out on, but obviously did not. It all speaks really well to NECA as a company because they’re clearly committed to delivering the best, most accurate, representation of the character possible. Who knows if much or any of this figure can even be reused for other figures. I’m sure we’ll get a variant at some point, but we have numerous examples of other companies just half-assing their sculpts to present a compromised vision of a character in the interest of saving money on tooling and NECA is just putting them to shame. And something I should praise NECA for more often than I do is that they credit the folks who design their figures so a major shout out and hearty congratulations to sculptors Brodie Perkins and Josh Sutton with paint credited to Geoff Trapp and Mike Puzzo. We should also probably give a shout out to director Trevor Zammit as I assume he’s the one pushing to make these look like the source material and he just does a fantastic job with all of the TMNT lines he oversees at NECA.

And if you thought they would cheap out on the figure’s rear you’d have been wrong.

We’ve gushed over the look of this one, now let’s talk about the stuff it comes with. The Utrom has three sets of hands: fists, gripping, and trigger finger. All of the hands feature the horizontal hinge, our first disappointment of the release, but I do like that the fingers are soft plastic and getting the accessories into the trigger hands is relatively easy and free of paint rub. He also has a gun and it has a really fun design as it has these panels over it. It has some linework on it and the muzzle is painted rather simply, but well. There’s two red tools for the figure to wield. One resembles a wrench and the other is a bit more nondescript. I’m guessing it’s pulled right from the comic, but I don’t know exactly what it is. He also has a little canister with a straw in it. I think this is a drink for that actual Utrom in the belly, the only problem is he doesn’t hold it very well. The fingers on the trigger hands are flexible enough that you can wedge it in there with some effort, but a more relaxed hand would have worked better. Lastly, we have a second portrait for the robot that features battle damage. It’s right eye is hanging out and there’s a big gouge taken out of the top of the head that looks really cool. It’s nice enough that the temptation is there to get another figure, I just wish he had more battle damaged parts to swap to or even a second Utrom with a different expression to create a bit more variety. The Utrom that came in the comic con 4-pack years ago is much too big to fit in this guy.

Bang!

The accessories are solid leaving just the articulation for us to talk about. Like most of the figures in this line, the articulation isn’t going to be the strongest aspect of the release, but I think it’s going to be enough. There’s a ball joint in the head that provides rotation and some nuance posing. It looks down well, but not up. The shoulders are ball-hinged and you get all of the rotation you need, but the boxy shape of the shoulder means the figure can’t raise its arms out to the side. You get maybe 45 degrees there. There is a biceps swivel and it’s integrated very well into the sculpt. The elbow hinge is only a single hinge, but the design allows it to go past 90 degrees so that’s fine. The wrists swivel and hinge and I already mentioned the direction of the hinges is unfortunate. In the diaphragm, we do have a ball joint above the opening for the Utrom. It’s actually more functional than I expected as you get a little forward and back, some tilt, and a fair amount of rotation. At the waist is another twist and the hips are the standard ball and socket joint. There’s a thigh pivot there that provides just a little something for adjustment poses as opposed to a full thigh twist. The legs kick forward to a full horizontal position, though they do drift out from the body a little the higher you go. There’s no range going back, and the single-jointed hinge will get you a 90 degree bend. At the ankles we have a hinge that allows for plenty of range backwards, but nothing forward. The ankle rocker works fine. It’s decent and I think it’s enough for this character. He can do plenty of one-handed gun poses. I do think NECA could have sacrificed a little bit in the sculpt at the shoulders for more range, and the lack of vertical hinges for the hands is an ongoing problem. The actual Utrom in the body is not articulated, but I don’t think it needs to be.

The Utrom may not be a character that gets a lot of TMNT collectors excited, but the finished product is one of the best releases from NECA in a long time. I think this is easily my favorite from the Mirage line and I would put it up there with the best from the toon line as well. I can’t say enough good things about the paint job. This comic deco is fantastic and I love that NECA has the guts to try something like this with its figures. So many collectors dump on “cel-shading” when it comes to figure releases without realizing that most of the companies attempting that effect with their figures do a piss poor job. It takes effort and money to get it right as well as artistic vision. I’ve said it numerous times, but natural lighting cannot shade an action figure based on a comic book character the way that character is drawn in the book. It’s impossible. Comic book artists do their own thing that doesn’t work in reality and no one complains because it looks awesome. It’s stylized, but some of it is so prevalent that we don’t really think about it. I always use Venom as an example. We know his costume is black, but if you showed a panel from “Lethal Protector” to a kid he’d tell you the costume is blue because that’s how comic book artists shade black. And that’s what I want out of my figures. Major props to NECA on this one, they hit a homerun. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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NECA TMNT Mirage Studios Fugitoid

I’m having a hard time coming up with an action figure line that has had retail releases separated by more than a decade. I don’t mean long-running lines of figures like G.I. Joe or Marvel Legends which have been around for decades, I mean a line that was started, ended, then re-started like NECA’s line…

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NECA Mirage Shredder and Foot Clan NYCC Exclusive Set

The Shredder had a rough go at things for awhile when it came to plastic. He was featured rather prominently in the old Playmates line, though perhaps not as prominently as one would expect. Playmates never did do a movie version of him, aside from Super Shredder, and his figure was arguably the worst from…

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NECA TMNT Mirage Studios Renet

She’s traveled a long way to get here.

Welcome to the first Turtle Tuesday of 2023! 2022 is the year that NECA returned to the Mirage Studios subline of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures it started way back in 2008. When the line was announced to return, it was essentially taking the place of the Turtles in Time figures that had been sold through specialty shops over the past two years or so. These figures would be sold in a similar fashion as it was the small shops that would be able to place orders after being shutout of the more popular movie and cartoon sublines of TMNT. What NECA didn’t clarify at the time was that the Mirage figures (and Archie) would not be exclusive to those places, just available. When the company released Fugitoid earlier this year, it was via Target with the specialty shop places not getting the figure until months later. Since then, more has been revealed and for collectors it’s been a mixed bag as far as the experience goes. Specialty shops were given the figures Renet, Casey Jones, and the Utrom to solicit, but in the case of Renet and Jones, they were getting a variant based on the IDW re-colored issues. Renet is normally clothed in blue and Casey red, but the figures up for order featured a Renet in red and a Casey in gray. Is that a big deal? It depends on who you ask. A Blue Renet would eventually surface as a Walmart exclusive attached to some weird, NFT-like, distribution in which the consumer places an order either online (it has since sold out) or in-store that just gives them a code. They then go home and enter that code into a different website to take digital ownership of the figure at which point the collector can either “store” it or ship it. The turn-around on shipping was promised to be around two weeks, but turned into a month or more for those who participated. Oh, and the figures sold in this fashion (which also included black and white variants of the Mirage Foot Soldier and Shredder) retailed for 40 bucks, five more than the other versions.

Renet is no damsel in distress.

I personally wanted nothing to do with that arrangement. It sounds needlessly complicated, plus the toys are more expensive. Unfortunately, I did want the blue version of Renet, but I’m too stubborn to give in and jump through those hoops so when I eventually found the standard version at Target I just grabbed it. My experience with the character has mostly been in black and white anyway, so I’m not that attached to the blue color scheme, I just prefer it. It looks nicer. For others who grew up reading the colorized version of the old books they understandable have more attachment to the blue costume and I do not blame them one bit that the easy to order version of the character is essentially a variant with the true version locked behind an exclusive arrangement. That is, frankly speaking, bullshit and not the way I think NECA should be approaching this line. If part of the selling point of the Mirage line is to feature it at actual comic shops then it should be those places that get the standard version and send the IDW colors to Walmart. Instead it feels like NECA is admitting that variants of these characters aren’t going to be that popular so they’re making the more desirable version both exclusive and more expensive. It’s not a good look and given that NECA’s reputation has already taken a hit in 2022 thanks to the Loot Crate fiasco, it feels like another self-inflicted wound.

She can also go hoodless, if that’s your preference.

All that aside, Renet is pretty damn good figure. That’s the frustrating part as it would be nice to just voice with the wallet and skip the release all together, but the product is good and it’s not like sculptor Jon Matthews is responsible for how the thing is sold. Renet, if you’re unfamiliar with the character, debuted in issue number 8 or the Mirage Studios run. She is the Mistress of Time and carries the Sceptre of the Sands of Time which, as you probably could have guessed, affords her the ability to manipulate time. This leads to a time-hopping adventure with our heroes which would be adapted in both the 2003 cartoon series and the 2012 one (she kept her blue clothing in both, by the way). Given that there are so few female characters associated with the brand, it makes sense to turn to Renet fairly early in the relaunch to provide some variety out of the gate.

And if you want to go hoodless, she has this little piece to go over her neck that resembles the hood.

The figure arrives in the trapezoid styled box that Fugitoid came in complete with new artwork from Kevin Eastman. Renet stands approximately 6″ in height and feature the unfamiliar color combo or red and brown. Her default portrait features a red hood with a removable helmet that’s also red and accented with yellow. Her actual costume, which is essentially a one-pieced bathing suit, is brown and adorned with numerous clockfaces which are all sculpted details, and not decals. There’s some black linework to make the suit appear to be armored and she has gray shoulder pads, brown gloves, and brown boots. Every inch of this figure is painted and given the numerous clockfaces on the costume it’s really impressive that there’s little in the way of paint slop. If you go hunting for it you’ll probably find a clockface that isn’t perfect, but it’s rather remarkable how well the paint turned out. And I can say I saw three figures at Target and all three looked great. There’s the customary linework as well on the clothing and even some of the flesh portions like the knees and elbows. The only detail I don’t care for is the black line under her mouth which I just don’t think needs to be there. Otherwise, the paint is terrific.

The sculpt all around on this figure is exceptional for what is a mass produced item.

The sculpt for Renet is equally wonderful. The clocks I already mentioned and they’re a nice touch. The clock hands on each face are painted on so I guess if you have exceptionally high standards you can take NECA to task for not sculpting those, but I think they look good. Renet’s face and hair looks very true to the source material which was a bit rugged back in the day. Eastman will readily admit that he felt they had a hard time drawing females in the early days and it was something they worked hard to refine. I think she looks good though and her body certainly isn’t lacking for curves as she’s rather buxom. I like that her legs and arms have some shape to them though like she is strong and capable. This is in contrast to a lot of Marvel Legends where I feel their females tend to be too thin and lacking in muscle definition. Other sculpted details on the figure include wrinkles and creases in the gloves and boots which simulate the look of leather very well. The shoulder pads have sculpted indents in them too. Renet’s unusual helmet is also handled well with sculpted ridges and those weird ovals on the side.

And it’s not just the figure, the accessories are well-sculpted and well-painted too.
This scroll contains basically the only paint imperfections in the set. I can live with it.

Renet also comes packed with the standard assortment of articulation we’ve come to expect from NECA. The head is on a double-ball peg that allows her to look up, down, rotate, and tilt. Her shoulders are ball hinged and she can raise her arms out to the side to a horizontal position and rotate around. The shoulder pads flex so they don’t get in the way much, but I would recommend not rotating all the way around to not damage them. There is a biceps swivel plus double-jointed elbows which is great to see. NECA has, in the past, seemed resistance to double double-hinged elbows on characters without sleeves and I’m glad to see they’ve moved on from that fear. The wrists rotate and hinge horizontally. In the torso, there is a diaphragm joint, but it basically just affords some rotation with no forward and back. You will want to be mindful of doing much here too since the sculpted timepieces could get damaged. Because of that fear, I consider the joint functionally useless. At the hips are ball and socket joints that allow Renet to do splits. The crotch is a soft plastic so you do want to watch out for paint rub there, though mine seems okay. The thigh can rotate on that ball a bit and the knees are double-jointed. There is no boot swivel, and the ankles hinge and rock side-to-side. Lastly, we have the wired cape which is basically part of the articulation. It works very well and will allow you to position it as you see fit. My only issue with it is that it doesn’t always want to sit flush with her chest. The articulation here is serviceable. I wish she had some vertical hinges on her gripping hands and it would have been nice to get something out of the diaphragm joint. I like how the legs turned out though as they look terrific since the only visible joints are the knees. It’s a very clean looking figure so if the articulation isn’t going to amaze then at least it’s not contributing to some ugly cuts in the plastic.

This head looks awesome too, I just wish I had a place for it in my display.

Renet also comes with a pretty solid assortment of accessories. For hands, she has a set of open hands, fists, and gripping hands. For those gripping hands she has a scroll she can hold loosely. It’s brown and a yellow-gold on the parchment and is really the only instance of paint slop on my set as there’s a black blob on the yellow. She also has a dagger which is painted rather well and easily slips into her gripping hands as the fingers are fairly flexible on both. She also has her sceptre which looks terrific. The top of it is a monstrous, clawed, hand gripping an hourglass and it’s incredibly well-painted. The only thing that would make it look even better would be if it had an actual hourglass in it. The bottom of the staff also features another claw gripping a gold ball. Just a really cool accessory. Renet also have an alternate portrait with her hood down. There’s a piece of red plastic that serves as the hood which can be placed between her head and cape and the illusion is well conveyed. Her expression on the alternate head is one of concern which is contrast to the strong, stoic, default portrait. She’s also sporting a mullet, which is amusing. I don’t know if I’ll ever use this other head, but it looks good. Lastly, she has a third head which is actually not of her, but Lord Simultaneous. It’s done in transparent red plastic and is accentuated with some black linework and yellow eyes. It looks really cool as the face is screaming, I just don’t know what to do with it. I wish NECA had included a transparent stand for it, just a tall post, for display purposes. The head can be placed on the figure, but I can’t imagine many using this head for their display in such a fashion.

Never would I have imagined Renet serving as the centerpiece of Mirage shelf. Also, I need another shelf.

Renet the character is not one I have ever been particularly attached to, and the wrong color presentation initially lead me to believe I could pass on this release. Then I saw it in-store and found myself giving in, and that’s because this is a really well done figure. The sculpt is terrific and the paint somehow even better. I love the inclusion of the wired cape and she comes packed with plenty of accessories. And if you find her at retail, she should only cost you around $35. Some places tack on a few bucks, but if you shop around you can probably find a good deal on this one. Ignoring the garbage that is the release model for the blue version, this is worth your while if you want to add Renet to your Mirage Studios TMNT collection. The relative obscurity of the character means that Renet will likely be the favorite release in this line of few, but she might be the best overall figure that NECA has done so far in the Mirage line and that’s some pretty high praise.


TMNT Loot Crate Series 2 Vol. 3 – Unfriendly Shredder Crustacean

At long last, it’s Crate #2! Crate #3!

It was October 12, 2021 when I last posted a review of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed Loot Crate. It did not go well, but the review closed with some optimism for the future. I made mention of the delays impacting the latest series of TMNT themed crates from Loot Crate and NECA, but I made sure to praise the communication we were receiving from Loot Crate about said delays. 2021 was full of them, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise these things were impacted as well. All a supplier can do is keep the consumer informed and offer a reasonable timeframe for delivery. And Loot Crate was doing just that, until it wasn’t.

When that October review concluded the expected ship date for Crate #2 was December. If you look at the title of this one, you will notice this is not a review of the second crate. We still don’t know when that is coming, but we have Crate #3! The last update we received from Loot Crate was via the company’s Twitter account on January 25th. I’m shocked the Tweet is still up, but in it the author acknowledged the frustrations of fans, but shared some good news: the items for crates 2 and 3 were in the warehouse and should ship in February! Hallelujah! Obviously, that didn’t happen since this post is going live on the last day of June. I can handle a missed shipping date, what I don’t like is being lied to. Those items clearly were not in warehouse and if the social media person simply made a mistake it should have been corrected, but that didn’t happen.

Loot Crate’s Twitter handle has basically gone dark since March. Rumors have swirled around the company since that there have been layoffs, missed payments, and pending litigation. A Facebook user claiming to work at a factory in China even shared an image of a bunch of apparent product for Loot Crate that was allegedly being held hostage at a factory because Loot Crate had yet to pay for it. I don’t know how much of that is true, or if any of it is, but I do know that their customer service has gone to shit and when responses have been made to emails (and for a while, customers were getting automated responses that the recipient’s inbox was full) they’ve been coming from reps that seem to represent Costumes.com and NECA.

I know this is what everyone wants to hear about, but we do have to talk about the other “loot” first.

Which brings us to NECA. NECA and Loot Crate are both owned by Joel Weinshanker, but they aren’t the same company. Whenever NECA’s social media has responded to questions from collectors about where their Loot Crates are they’ve been quick to point out that fact. And it’s not a lie, but NECA obviously knows more about the situation than we do. And when it comes to consumers conflating the two, they only have themselves to blame since they partnered with Loot Crate to offer exclusive figures. And the two companies are clearly intertwined since my NECA Mousers, purchased directly through NECA’s website, was shipped to me by The Loot Company. NECA can scream from the mountaintops that they’re separate from Loot Crate and be absolutely correct, but there’s no denying that this relationship with Loot Crate is hurting their reputation just as much as it is Loot Crate.

The packaging for the Claw Shredder fits in with the recently released Fugitoid.

I couldn’t talk about this crate without talking about the drama surrounding Loot Crate, but with that out of the way, how about we actually talk about this crate? Like the title says, this is actually Crate #3 which is the Mirage Studios themed crate. Like last year’s movie themed crate, this one is rather small compared with the 2020 crates. It seems clear to me now that rather than raise the price on these that Loot Crate opted to put fewer items in the crate. That’s fine by me so long as the figure isn’t compromised. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the first crate as the Danny Pennington figure is the worst NECA figure I own. It was bad and that crate felt like a real rip-off. I suppose the counter to that is “If you hated it so much, why don’t you sell it for more than 50 bucks?” and the answer is “Because I’m too much of a completist.” The movie line is rather small and the Danny figure is a unique character as opposed to a variant, so it is what it is.

Hey look! A pin! Normally these crates come with a little card that details the contents which probably would have told us which turtle this is supposed to be. This crate did not.

Let’s get the extraneous stuff out of the way first. This crate comes with two standard items that have appeared in every crate thus far: a pin and a shirt. The pin is of everyone’s favorite turtle. I say “everyone” because the comic turtles are indistinguishable from each other and the pin is of just the turtle’s head. Yes, it’s probably lifted from existing art so if you really must know which turtle the pin is of that’s probably do-able, but I don’t recognize the image to that degree and a cursory look through the first few issues of the comic didn’t turn up anything for me.

I would very much like to wear this shirt, but it’s a bit snug.

The shirt is more specific and features Raphael with the comic logo above. The word “Turtles” is printed in white with an image of Leo’s blood-soaked sword within it colored in red. The shirt is fine, but it lacks the creativity of some of the others we’ve seen. Loot Crate also sent me a size small shirt despite the fact that I ordered a medium. This seems to be happening to a lot of people and an informal Twitter poll turned up several instances of people receiving a size smaller than what was ordered. I have yet to see the inverse, which is annoying because collectors could at least swap with each other if that was the case. A few people did receive what they ordered, but they appear to be in the minority for now. I can at least pull off most small sizes, but this one definitely feels a bit tight especially at the neck so I don’t know if I’ll ever wear it. Maybe my daughter, who has a newfound love of the 2012 show, will welcome a new Raphael “nightgown.”

That explains the fit. It seems this is a common problem that Loot Crate is unlikely to remedy.

Lastly, we have a gimmick item in the form of an Utrom fanny pack. If you’re not familiar with the Utrom, they’re basically Krang in other iterations of the property. By printing the image of the alien on a fanny pack it simulates the wearer being controlled by a brain alien much like the robot bodies inhabited by the Utrom. It’s impractical in this day and age to sport a fanny pack, but cute, I suppose. Would I buy any of these items if sold separately? No, but I’m at least willing to wear the t-shirt so long as it fits. The rest is going in a drawer or something.

Ok, this I like for the sheer lunacy of it.

Which brings us to the main attraction: Claw Shredder. Shredder was rather famously killed-off in the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Despite that, he would be made the central villain of the cartoon and film series of the franchise and basically every version of the turtles that’s followed. Naturally, TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird felt they needed to bring him back and they first did so by way of a trio of failed clones. Claw Shredder, or Crab Shredder, is one of those failed clones and he’s pretty grotesque looking. He’s basically Shredder, but with an elongated face and arms that end in massive, hideous, claws. His legs are also mutated as well and he’s just an all together abomination. The figure comes in the new style of comic packaging we first saw with Fugitoid so in-box collectors should be happy to see he’ll fit in with that release and the ones to come. It’s numbered “LC01” which could signal an intent for future Loot Crate figures. It also ignores the previously released First Appearance Shredder Loot Crate figure which I suppose might bother some.

He looks like a hugger.

Claw Shredder stands at approximately 6.625″ to the top of his head and slightly taller depending on how high that middle tine on the helmet rises above the dome. The figure is a mixture of old and new parts. The torso, shoulders, and biceps are reused from the previous Mirage Shredder figure while the hips and thighs are from the updated Turtles in Time Shredder and Stern Pinball Shredder that featured the newer style ball and socket joint. What’s new is obviously the head which is largely distinguished from regular Shredder by the elongated mouth guard. The lower part of the legs and feet are new as this character has oversized feet wrapped in brown bandages and then the most noticeable difference are the monstrous, clawed, forearms. In addition to all of that, the shoulder pauldrons also feature new, longer, spikes.

Who needs Foot Soldiers when you have 3 Shredders?

I’m happy to report that this figure looks and feels like a standard NECA release. The plastic and the figure as a whole has a nice weight to it, there’s a good mixture of painted parts and bare plastic, and the presentation is just very good. I love the comic deco that NECA does which includes a lot of black linework, dots, and cross-hatches on the “metal” parts. It looks like the character from the comic and the paint applications are all very clean. There were some stuck portions due to all of the paint, namely the ankles, but no joints are cast in the wrong color so when some paint flakes off it’s not leaving behind a mis-matched color. Interestingly, the lower part of the shirt that hangs over the crotch and part of the thighs is a floating piece and isn’t locked down. The left and right forearms appear to be exactly the same, but the source art appears to illustrate them as being identical too. One could argue this figure should be more spindly, or thinner, than it is when compared with the comic, but I don’t think it would work very well as an action figure if done that way given how large and heavy the claws are.

I really like the scale of the Mirage line. These turtles are just the perfect size and all of the figures to follow have been sized appropriately.

Being that this figure shares a lot of parts with previous Shredder figures, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that it largely articulates the same way. Basically, the only joint this one omits is something at the wrist since it doesn’t really have wrists. The head is on a ball and the neck is independently articulated via a swivel and hinge at the base. It’s a little tricky to work that neck joint, but it does allow the figure to look up and down an acceptable amount. The shoulders are standard ball-hinges. The pauldrons will obstruct some movement, but you get what you expect there. The biceps swivel is intact and the elbows are still double-jointed. The elbows feel a bit gummy on my figure so I would caution doing too much there. In a rare feeling for me, I actually wish NECA had used those odd double-joints we sometimes see (like the first movie Casey) so we could get a swivel point there as the actual claws can’t rotate at all. The big, “thumb” claw does feature a hinge so it can kind of pinch though it’s not big enough to grab a turtle by the throat or anything. The waist swivels and on mine it was partially separated out of the box, but seems fine now. The legs are the previously mentioned ball and socket and you get some twist there along with the usual forward, back, and out to the side motion. They are very loose and floppy though similar to the cartoon Deluxe Foot Solider which is a bummer. Fortunately, the giant feet help alleviate any standing issues. The knees are double-jointed, and the ankles hinge and pivot. Initially, the ankle rocker didn’t really want to do much on my figure, but a little persistence cured that. It’s always a bit stressful to force the issue with a joint and even more so with these exclusive Loot Crate ones. I probably should have played it safe and hit the joint with some hot water, but I got away with it and the pivot points work well now.

Raph, meet the lord of the crab people.

The articulation is solid and about what I expected. I do wish his legs weren’t so floppy, but as I said above, he stands just fine. I only run into stability problems if I try to position his claws too close together as their weight will cause the figure to topple. And while the shoulders, biceps, and elbows are fairly tight, there are “slip points” in the shoulders and elbows that won’t hold a pose due to the weight of the claws. It makes the figure a bit finicky to pose, but the nature of the character’s design was always going to limit the posing somewhat. I wish there was a way to position the claws via a swivel somewhere other than the biceps, but otherwise I’m not crying out for more articulation here. Or at least, no more than I would a standard NECA release as I would like them to switch to a ball-peg system in the torso to allow for some more forward and back posing.

Claw Shredder is thankfully a much better release than the figure in the last Loot Crate. It doesn’t feel like a downgrade from a standard retail figure and the only shortcoming is the complete and total lack of accessories. However, this isn’t a figure that really needs accessories which is partly what makes it an appropriate selection for just such a thing. The figure looks good in or out of the box, the quality is there, and it’s not just a repaint. Does it and the included “loot” add up to a $50 value? No, not really, but that’s apparent from the beginning as these sorts of things rarely feel like they’re worth the money. The good thing is if someone truly feels they’ve been had, the figure and items can probably be flipped for a small profit. I don’t know if this particular figure will be as in-demand as some of the others, and I suspect this time around more people ordered multiple crates with the idea of flipping some than before, so don’t expect to send your kid to college via Loot Crate. Ignoring the terrible consumer experience that has become Loot Crate, I am satisfied with what I got here. Hopefully we get a chance to add the other Shredder clones to our collections via a different delivery method. That four-armed clone would definitely make for an interesting figure.

I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get this new figure onto this crowded shelf, but somehow I did. I don’t think it can handle any more so I guess it’s time to build another shelf.

Don’t confuse that sentiment for me breathing a sigh of relief or anything. I am still owed two crates plus a bonus figure and I won’t feel any sense of relief until all of those are in my possession. We have seen the figure for Crate #2, Armaggon, and the bonus figure, Scrag, show up in the hands of some people in China and at least one comic book store in New Jersey located suspiciously close to NECA’s headquarters. That at least tells me that those figures are done and hopefully in Loot Crate’s possession, but it’s also possible they haven’t left China. Again, no one is saying anything and we only have one Tweet from January saying that stuff had been received into the warehouse. We have yet to see the figure for Crate #4, Dark Turtle, in anyone’s hands. Is that the figure supposedly being held hostage by the factory? Considering that’s the figure I was most excited about, I’m going to remain anxious until we have some confirmation it’s actually done and manufactured as that one did not make an appearance in the NJ comic store like the rest. Maybe that’s because the owner of the store, or an employee, kept it for themself? That’s possible, but at this point nothing would surprise me. I just want my stuff and I look forward to a day when I can say that I am done with Loot Crate and I really hope NECA is too.


NECA TMNT Mirage Studios Fugitoid

I’m having a hard time coming up with an action figure line that has had retail releases separated by more than a decade. I don’t mean long-running lines of figures like G.I. Joe or Marvel Legends which have been around for decades, I mean a line that was started, ended, then re-started like NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures based on the work of Mirage Studios. That source is the original incarnation of the green machine made famous in the late 80s by a cartoon, video games, toys and movies. The Eastman and Laird turtles were of a different mold: more violent, less polished, and with less color. If you’ve ever been into TMNT then you likely know all of that already as it’s pretty well-covered at this point.

It’s pretty cool to see Kevin Eastman’s art on an action figure box in 2022.

When NECA first got permission to do figures based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was via a deal they struck with Peter Laird and Mirage Studios to bring the original turtles from issue #1 to comic book shops. It was in 2008 when those figures hit stores, and they would be followed-up with a black and white variant as well as an April O’Neil. After that, things came to a halt. NECA unveiled a Shredder, but it was cancelled. It’s unclear if the line was ended because the sales weren’t there (NECA’s Randy Falk has indicated in the past that consumers aren’t that interested in pre-toon TMNT) or if Playmates had something to do with it being that they held the master toy license and had really never been challenged on it. Playmates definitely wasn’t happy, and would remain a challenge to getting non-Playmates TMNT toys to retail for awhile longer, but I suppose it doesn’t matter as the line did indeed come to an end.

This paint job is amazing.

Since then, things have obviously become better for NECA where TMNT is concerned. The company has been able to branch out while turtle nostalgia has taken off. Once Laird sold the property to Viacom, it seemed to open the door for non-Playmates action figures, likely because Viacom is big enough to toss its weight around if Playmates starts threatening legal action or something. NECA was able to find a loophole that allowed it to produce TMNT action figures as convention exclusives, and in 2016 the company finally got that Shredder out they had unveiled nearly a decade earlier. And he came with a trio of henchmen too making the Mirage subline feel relatively complete. As things progressed and NECA brought TMNT to retail, there wasn’t room for more Mirage Studios figures, until now.

And unlike some companies, NECA doesn’t cheap out on the paint when it comes to the rear of the figure.

Relaunching the Mirage Studios line in 2022 is Fugitoid, a character arguably made famous by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but who actually came first. Fugitoid is an interesting character when you factor in that the Mirage version of the TMNT are often associated with violence as Fugitoid is a noted pacifist. Not that it stopped NECA from including a small arsenal with their figure. He’s the displaced Professor Honeycutt who after an accident found his mind transferred to the body of his loyal, robot, sidekick. He never made the jump to animation in the original cartoon series, but still received an action figure from Playmates. He would show up in later iterations, and in future toy-lines, but the Mirage original has been waiting on the sidelines (like just about every Mirage version of a classic character).

The articulation on this guy is a bit weird. That’s probably as steep an angle you’re going to get for an “elbow.”
Looks like he’s giving up on pacificism.

Despite all of my talk about Fugitoid being the next figure in a long dead line, he is numbered 1 for this relaunch. While there are likely more fan-favorite characters out there, and there’s certainly a lot of collectors out there that missed out on the previously released figures, I would say Fugitoid is a worthy figure to kick things off. He’s certainly an interesting one and I’m curious how much of a reflection this figure is of what’s to come. From a packaging standpoint, I’m guessing he’s very indicative as he comes in a window box adorned with artwork by co-creator Kevin Eastman. It’s an attractive box, but not so attractive that I am tempted to keep it (the best kind of packaging). There are three editions of the figure released to retail : standard with black font, signature edition with blue font, and signature edition with black font. The standard edition is self-explanatory, while both signature editions come with a little piece of card art signed by Eastman. The black font variant is either an error or was originally planned to be a surprise. Fugitoid is being released via NECA’s Haulathon event which was originally advertised as featuring surprise variants at retail. Perhaps that was nixed in favor of just charging extra as the standard version is $32 while the signature version is $100. Even though the black version of the signature variant looks like the standard version, the UPC is correct if you find it at Target which has probably caused some confusion at the register. I also saw more than one confused collector who received a black version via Target.com and thought they were sent the wrong one. You can see the art card behind Fugitoid in the box, in case you’re confused about which version you may be staring at.

I do not have a specific memory for the pistols, but I know this one comes from the Triceratons.

I, being an opener and not really interested in Kevin Eastman’s signature (no offense, Kev), went with the standard version. Fugitoid is a very unique entry in this line, or any NECA TMNT line, because of his design and construction. First of all, he’s cast in gray plastic and stands around 5.5″, but the deco designed by Geoffrey Trapp and Mike Puzzo aims to recreate the character’s look in the comic. It’s a very aggressive approach, and I have seen some turn up their nose at it, but I for one love it. He looks like he stepped out of a comic book and the shading really matches the unique look of the Mirage books, something natural lighting just can’t reproduce. He looks perfect and while Fugitoid is not my favorite design from the world of TMNT, it wouldn’t be hard to make the argument that his likeness is the best yet from any TMNT line by NECA.

The little guy doesn’t even know what to do with this one.

Where things might change for people is how the figure is constructed and articulated. Fugitoid is basically a head, body, hands, and feet, joined by cables. He reminds me a lot of Blinky from Bucky O’Hare, and like the Blinky figure released by Hasbro in 1991, Fugitoid features bendy wires for his limbs. There’s no elbow or knee articulation, just bendy wire coated in plastic. It looks good, but you’re never going to get the same kind of posing out of this approach as you would plastic joints. Aesthetically though, it’s hard to imagine NECA finding a better solution. Where things are a bit more confusing is in the choice to go with just swivels at the shoulders and hips. NECA probably opted for that approach to preserve the aesthetic as much as possible, or perhaps there were issues with having the wired limb end at a ball hinge. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing as I think a ball hinge in both spots would have been fine from a visual perspective, and it would have given the figure much better range. At the head you have what is likely a ball joint that works just fine to let the character look up, down, and all around. The feet feel like they have a joint in there as they turn just fine and the hands can rotate. The upper torso can tilt and move forward and back slightly as well. Fugitoid is not going to be very dynamic, but it’s obvious that NECA opted for aesthetics over articulation and it’s hard to disagree with their choices here (excepting the lack of ball joints at the hips and shoulders).

Always remember to secure your turtles.

Fugitoid does come with a lot of stuff, most of which isn’t really for him. He almost feels like an accessory pack as a result. He does have three sets of hands which just plug into the ends of his arms rather easily. He has just three fingers composed of coils that just sort of pop out of the ends of his arms. He has two sets of gripping hands, one tighter than the other, and a set of “open” hands. They’re more of a style pose hand, I guess, but quite suitable for the character. He also comes with four different guns all sourced from the comics: two blue pistols, one Triceraton pistol, and a blue, long, rifle. I don’t know exactly what issue each comes from, but they all look great as they have a similar deco to the figure. If guns aren’t your thing, he also has a set of Triceraton “handcuffs.” It’s a big lump of plastic that the hands are designed to go into. It can fit on Fugitoid, but is likely intended to be worn by a turtle. The other gun is definitely for the turtles as it’s from the Donatello one-shot. It’s a forearm canon that fits over the forearm and it’s really cool. I put it on my Donnie immediately and I don’t plan on taking it off. As for the other guns, I don’t know what I’ll do with them. It feels wrong to have Fugitoid posed with a weapon, but also equally wrong to put a gun in the hands of the turtles. I like the look of all of them, but I don’t know what to do with them.

Best accessory in the set? This one!

NECA’s return to Mirage Studios is a welcomed thing and Fugitoid is a character worthy of getting things restarted. I wish he wasn’t exclusive to Target as the line had been billed as something for comic shops and specialty retail, but I suspect that’s where he’s headed once this Haulathon nonsense is over. He doesn’t seem terribly hard to find as I was able to get mine online, but also came upon sets at physical locations too. I think he looks great and his price-point is on the low end (provided you’re not talking about the signature version) for stand-alone NECA releases these days. Especially considering the tooling for this guy is unlikely to bare fruit elsewhere. The articulation is not great, and while the accessories are plentiful, they’re not all particularly useful. At the same time, what else is there to include for a Fugitoid? He’s not missing anything, so I’m fine with the accessory loadout. And more importantly, I love how the figure is presented. That deco is fantastic and I’m excited to see the line move forward. We’ve seen two of the next three releases: an Utrom body and Renet. The third is probably the one people are most excited for, Casey Jones, who has yet to have a full reveal. And it’s a given that the turtles are coming back too and it sounds like in a new form. Those old figures are great, but would merit updates in 2022. Plus they’ve been bootlegged to hell and back and it’s been rumored that the tools were actually stolen so it’s unclear if NECA could re-release them if they wanted to. My guess is we’ll see the new ones around San Diego Comic Con time. For now, I’m going to enjoy what we have and wonder about what other exciting plans are in-store for this line. It’s great to be a TMNT fan!

The days of this shelf being able to hold all of my Mirage figures may be coming to an end.

TMNT Loot Crate – First Appearance Shredder

It was back during the winter that Loot Crate announced a series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle crates for 2020. At the time, Loot Crate had done one previous crate that was apparently intended to test the waters to see what the appetite was for this sort of thing among the TMNT fanbase. It didn’t hurt that NECA was a part of the crate as it contributed a limited edition action figure of Splinter from the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The figure was the same as the retail version except he was now colored blue to mimic the color of the character during the “spirit scene” in the woods where Splinter appears as a ghost and encourages his pupils.

Because that crate was well received, it wasn’t a surprise to see Loot Crate come back to the property for another round. This time, however, Loot Crate had three distinct crates to sell. Each would be themed after a different aspect of the brand and each would include a NECA action figure. Fans who bought all three in advance would also get a bonus fourth figure presumably shipping with the final crate. At the time, Loot Crate was aiming for a June, September, November release for the three crates respectively. As spring turned to summer though, it started to become apparent that something had gone wrong.

Say it with me now, “What’s in the box?!”

Be it COVID, supply, or something else entirely, the first crate was delayed from June to July, and then ultimately started shipping in August. I received mine this past weekend after it was delayed further during the shipping process. I came home on a Sunday to find the crate sitting on my stoop in the rain getting nice and soggy. Loot Crate evidently literally just sends the crate and doesn’t put it in another box. Thankfully, there are apparently no porch thieves after TMNT products in my neighborhood.

We got “stuff” here!

This is my first experience with Loot Crate. The subscription box of what largely looks like junk has never really appealed to me. I just have a lot of “geek” stuff in my house as it is, so a box of “stuff” isn’t something I really want to find room for. Plus, I always roll my eyes at services like this that advertise something along the lines of “you pay $50 for a box of mystery products guaranteed to be worth twice that!” If businesses were in the business of underselling its wares it wouldn’t remain in business very long. Then again, Loot Crate did file for bankruptcy almost a year to the day so maybe it wasn’t boasting a falsehood. The buyer ended up being NECA, which is how the action figure side of the business was worked into the Loot Crate model. The two operate as separate entities, which is why when fans were asking Randy Falk of NECA what was up with the first crate he referred fans directly to Loot Crate as NECA had delivered its product presumably on-time.

The inclusion of the NECA action figure is the only reason why I decided to give Loot Crate a chance. I still largely don’t care about the stuff in the box, but I do like getting new TMNT figures! Since this is a subscription box, NECA isn’t aiming to include essential figures for the TMNT collector in these things. Instead, they’re variants or repaints intended to be a bit off-beat so fans who passed on them don’t feel entirely left out. When the service was announced, only the identity of the first figure was revealed – First Appearance Shredder. Since then, it’s been revealed that the next figure is an electrified turtle from the arcade game and Rocksteady in an Easter Bunny costume for the third crate. The bonus figure is Bebop in the same costume. It’s the pair of bunny guys that really got me excited, so it will be awhile before I know if I made the right move or not by signing up. For now, we’ve got a Shredder to talk about.

First of all, the Mirage Studios Loot Crate does indeed come packed with a bunch of stuff. The crate itself is black with the Mirage TMNT logo on the front along with the required Nickelodeon and Loot Crate logos. My box did sit in a gentle rain on Sunday and was a little beat up, but the interior seemed dry so no harm no foul, I guess.

Inside the crate is the stuff you would probably expect to find in such a product. There’s a keychain with Michelangelo and Kunk on one side and “Chet’s Toys” on the reverse. I assume that’s the toy store from the Michelangelo one-shot, but I didn’t confirm that. There’s also a weird looking credit card with a rubber TCRI slipcase to fit into. This is apparently supposed to be an Utrom TCRI ID card and possibly the one belonging to Baxter Stockman. The reverse of the slipcase is adhesive if you want to stick it to something, maybe for cos-play? There’s an enamel pin featuring Fugitoid which looks similar to a Figpin brand pin, but not quite as impressive looking. There’s a black TCRI tote bag and under the logo it says “Company Picnic North Hampton ’84.” There’s also a white t-shirt with the same logo. Lastly, there’s a white travel mug that too shares the same TCRI Company Picnic logo. It’s rather official looking which makes it a shame that it says right below the logo copy-write 2020 Viacom.

Most of that stuff is just “stuff” to me. I might use the keychain, but I don’t know how well it will hold up on an actual keyring. It doesn’t look very durable, so I may just leave it as-is. I have a million tote bags at this point as it’s been the go-to free gift of many retailers for close to ten years now. Interesting, it kind of replaced the free travel mugs I used to see getting passed out often as part of promotions in the city. I’ve purged a lot of them, so I actually do intend to use this TCRI one. It looks sharp, and the quality seems decent. I’ll wear the shirt, though I honestly have no need for more t-shirts and the ID card is just junk. The pin is fine though, if you like pins.

Obviously, what’s going to make this crate is the included action figure. The First Appearance Shredder is based on his appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 from Mirage Studios. It’s a repaint of the previously released Mirage Shredder which was part of a San Diego Comic Con exclusive set a few years ago alongside three Foot Clan members. Those figures, along with the Mirage turtles released over ten years ago, are great figures sorely in need of a re-release. Because of that, any of them make for suitable exclusives in a Loot Crate such as this since the secondary market demands a premium for them. Conceivably, 50 bucks for a Mirage Shredder alone is almost worth it for anyone looking to add him to their collection since that would be a good price on eBay.

Shredder was originally sculpted by The Four Horsemen and is a well-constructed action figure. Because this is a repaint, it shares all of the same points of articulation as the previous figure. He’s got a ball-joint at the head which allows for all of the usual range of motion. There’s ball-joints at the shoulders, bicep swivels, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivels, and a wrist hinge. He can rotate at the waist and his legs are connected via ball-joints. The legs rotate at the upper thigh and feature double-jointed knees, calf swivels, ankle rotation, ankle rockers, and a toe hinge. About the only thing really missing is an ab crunch or some kind of articulation in the torso, but this is par for the course with NECA as they don’t like to break-up the torso of their figures.

Obviously, the main difference here is the paint application. This Shredder is intended to simulate his shadowy first appearance so he’s colored almost entirely in black and dark blue. The helmet and various armor pieces are all painted a steel gray with some generous black shading applied. He’s a pretty striking looking figure and I prefer this look to a straight black and white variant, though collectors that have a black and white set of turtles might disagree. The only other difference is this is a figure from 2020 so it feels different from the old one. My older Mirage Shredder is a bit heavier and the plastic doesn’t feel quite so pliable. The new Shredder isn’t rubbery feeling like some of the newer figures this summer (i.e. – Casey Jones and Turtles in Time Shredder), but there is a noticeable difference. I prefer the weightier feel of the older version, but this one feels fine too. The joints mostly moved well right out of the package (which is a nice window box with a black and silver design) with only a few feeling a bit stubborn. None required heat though and I soon had him moving around all right.

Shredder comes with some accessories as well and they’re new for this release. He does come with fist hands and has the same optional gripping hands as well. I’m happy to report that the blades on each hand did not warp in the packaging this time, as they had with my SDCC set. Shredder doesn’t wield any weapons in that first issue, so my guess is the weapons included here are meant to liven up the Foot from the prior release. There’s a new sickle on a chain weapon that looks pretty rad. It’s similar to the chained weapon from the Mirage set and I do like those chains. The other weapon is a bow and arrow that does indeed function. The arrow can be knocked like an arrow would on a regular bow and there’s enough tension on the string to shoot it roughly 8 to 10 feet.

The weapons looks pretty cool, but they do have one drawback. And that is Shredder can barely hold them. His gripping hands are just too loose so he can’t get a good hold on any of them. Placing the sickle in his hand means it’s going to slide all the way down the blade. The bow is even trickier and I never really got him to hold it. I did bust out the older set, but the problem there is they are all basically the same figure with different embellishments, so their grip wasn’t really any better. I did get one of the Foot Clan members to hold the bow by basically getting him to pinch it. I even managed to do the same with the arrow and got him back onto my shelf in this position. I’m just waiting for it to eventually pop out. Hopefully that arrow doesn’t sail too far when that day comes. The thing is pretty hard and pointy so it’s also not something you want to get hit with.

Overall, I do like this depiction of Shredder. I’ve always liked the color combo of black and blue and basically every comic has used that as a cheat for when a character is shadowed. The steel color of the helmet mixes really well with it and I’m torn on which version of Shredder I actually prefer. When side by side, the prior model almost looks boring with it’s mostly flat, gray, helmet. It’s disappointing the weapons didn’t work out better, but I did get that bow to work with one figure so that’s cool. The real question is would I have spent 50 bucks on this figure if it was just available to buy? Probably not, but that’s only because I have the existing one. If I had missed out then it would be a different story, as I definitely wanted a Shredder to pair with my set of turtles. I don’t feel like I was taken advantage of or anything like that as if I didn’t want this figure I probably could flip it for 50 bucks. Basically, what I’m saying is this version of Shredder is nice, but he’s just the appetizer.

Yeah, my Mirage display has two Shredders now. I’m cool with it.

The next Loot Crate in this series is still scheduled for a September release, though I’m skeptical considering this one was two months late. Whenever it does show up though, I’ll be here with a look at the next figure so long as it doesn’t interrupt my Christmas posts. Yeah, it could take that long.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (1987)

This summer has been a very TMNT kind of summer around here. It’s getting to the point where I might have as many posts about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as I do Glenn Danzig music. Well, this is the rare post to feature both.

When Mirage Studios started to gain recognition thanks to the success of the TMNT comic book, founders Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman needed to hire more staff in order to churn out material in a reasonable amount of time. One of those hired was artist Eric Talbot, a former classmate of Eastman’s and apparently a fan of rock, metal, and punk music. One of Talbot’s earliest assignments was composing short stories for supplemental books and reprints of the original run of comics, which is how we ended up with the story “Ghouls Night Out.”

“Ghouls Night Out” was included in the reprint of issue #5 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles printed in November of 1987. This is actually a pretty noteworthy issue of TMNT as it contains a special announcement in the middle of the story which officially blows the lid on the licensing deal Laird and Eastman had made with Mark Freedman. Included in the announcement are details about Playmates toys and its first wave of TMNT action figures due out in 1988 as well as the announcement of the animated mini series which was set to premiere the following month. This was the first time fans of the property were introduced to Bebop and Rocksteady and read the name Krang. There’s even a double page ad that follows with the inaugural lineup of turtle toys. Pretty cool!

“Ghouls Night Out” follows the main story and is eight pages of mostly art. In it, a turtle (most fans seem to assume it’s Donatello because he carries a spear at one point, but it could be any of the four) is patrolling a grave yard at night when monsters soon descend upon him. He’s forced to run for his life from the zombies, Frankenstein’s monster, a wolfman, Nosferatu, and others. Most of the Universal Monsters basically get to make an appearance. The story ends when the turtle wakes up in April’s apartment having fallen asleep watching a monster movie marathon on television.

Might be hard to make out, but some familiar names are on those tombstones across the top.

The story is pretty simple, but what drives it is the artwork. The cloaked turtle, wicked monsters, and ghoulish scenery are what sells Talbot’s story. What attracted me to it though was the obvious connection to The Misfits, one of my all-time favorite bands. The title is a reference to the song of the same name, and the very first page features a message on a tombstone thanking The Misfits with the year of the band’s demise also present. Above the title is a row of tombstones which feature arguably the most popular lineup for the band: Jerry Only, Robo, Doyle, and Danzig.

The following pages contain other references as well. The band Metallica can be found on some headstones on page 2 as well as the entire staff of Mirage Studios. And for good measure, some other artists that likely influenced Talbot, such as Frank Frazetta, are tossed in as well. It’s a story that’s supposed to be spooky, but it’s almost cute due to all of the shout-outs Talbot included. I also really dig his turtle design and if anyone at NECA is reading how about an action figure of this cloaked, spear-wielding, mutant? NECA even has a licensing agreement with The Misfits so might as well work in that tombstone too!

I don’t know where this one came from, but it swaps out The Misfits for just Danzig. The colored reprints of this story kept The Misfits.

This is an interesting little nugget of TMNT history and a fun find for a Misfits/Danzig fan such as myself. I’ve seen other versions of the headstone image online with The Misfits removed and replaced by Glenn Danzig. I don’t know if Talbot redid the art at some point or if a fan did that. It’s pretty cool that this thing exists and it’s another piece of my Misfits/Danzig/TMNT collection.


NECA Mirage Shredder and Foot Clan NYCC Exclusive Set

img_1522The Shredder had a rough go at things for awhile when it came to plastic. He was featured rather prominently in the old Playmates line, though perhaps not as prominently as one would expect. Playmates never did do a movie version of him, aside from Super Shredder, and his figure was arguably the worst from the inaugural line. All crouched over and such, he was a nightmare to stand and there was little that was intimidating about him. When the Turtles started making a comeback with the collector community, he received further humiliation. NECA released its Mirage Comics TMNT in 2008 and showed off the sculpt for a potential Shredder. That line either didn’t sell well or Playmates interfered because that Shredder was cancelled before release ending the Mirage inspired line of TMNT product. Playmates would go on to do its own retro line dubbed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics. They released the Turtles followed by Bebop and Rocksteady. Results were mixed, but at least it was new product. Playmates shocked the toy world when it unveiled a prototype for Shredder and Krang that looked pretty damn amazing. Had it been released it probably would be the best action figure Playmates ever put out. Sadly, it was not to be and that line was also cancelled. When Playmates did a Mirage inspired line of its own, it too overlooked Shredder. Bandai and SH Figuarts were the most recent to disappoint TMNT collectors. After releasing a wonderful set of turtles inspired by the old cartoon, a Shredder was unveiled. The figure didn’t look as good as the Turtles, but it would have still likely been the best Shredder released up until that point had it been released. As you could have guessed based on where this paragraph had started, it too was cancelled before release.

At least with that most recent disappointment, NECA was there to lift us up! Shortly after that Shredder was unveiled, NECA revealed its own Shredder sculpt based on the classic cartoon that was superior to the Bandai one and bundled him in a massive set containing all four turtles, Krang, and a pair of Foot Soldiers for good measure. It was a set made exclusively for San Diego Comic Con, but all of those figures have since been released to retail. Before that set came along though, there was the 2016 set from New York Comic Con. This one rectified that first disappointing cancellation as it contained NECA’s Mirage inspired Shredder, and to top it off, he was now joined by three of his minions. Better late than never, fans were happy to finally pair those figures from 2008 with some enemies almost a decade later. It was actually the second Shredder released by NECA, as earlier that year the arcade box sets were released with figures designed to resemble how they looked in the classic arcade game from 1989. It’s a set that has proven to be quite profitable for NECA ever since.

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Assemble the Foot!

Shredder and his gang of Foot Ninja come packaged in an extremely attractive window box. It’s adorned all around with images from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 where Shredder and the Foot debuted alongside their nemesis. On the back is a photo of the figures with a few extra and Shredder has word bubbles commanding them to attack which are directly lifted from the source material. Flip up the front flap and you’re treated to more images from the comics as well as a look at the figures themselves. Behind them is a nicely done street scene which also makes for a solid photo backdrop!

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I guess Donnie is the only one unhappy these guys got let out of their box.

I’ve had this set since it was released, but never opened it until now. When I saw it was being released, I bought it out of a sense of obligation. It was much easier to secure a NECA exclusive back then as I just saw it was available and went ahead and placed my order. My attention though was on the cartoon property and the figures coming out in support of that and when this set arrived I just wasn’t feeling it for some reason. Rather than make room on my Mirage shelf (which is admittedly small), I decided to just position the box behind my set of turtles and leave it at that. It’s an unusual move for me as I am not a mint-in-box collector, and even if I was, the design of this box makes it easy to remove the figures without damaging anything. These guys are designed to be played around with, and finally I was smart enough to do just that.

By now, these Shredder and Foot figures should look and feel rather familiar. Much of the parts utilized here have been recycled from (or will be recycled for) the other Foot and Shredder releases from NECA, excepting the movie line which is its own animal. Shredder is virtually identical to the video game figure, and he also shares arms, hips, and legs with the cartoon one as well. The Foot also share the same parts as their video game counterpart, and the legs, arms, and waist are shared with Shredder as well. The only thing sculpt-wise separating Shredder from his minions is his head and torso. I don’t point this out as criticism or anything, because the main base for these four figures is quite good. They feature ball-jointed heads, shoulders, and leg sockets with double-jointed knees and elbows. There are swivels at the bicep, thighs, and shins and the waist rotates as well. The hands have rotational articulation as well as a hinge joint in each. The feet can pivot at the ankle and rock side-to-side as well. And there’s also articulation at the toe. These guys are rather loaded and capable of quite a few dynamic poses. About the only thing missing is an ab crunch, but that would have taken away from the sculpt. The joints are all nice and tight and should be worked a bit out of the package. The only joints that felt dangerously tight were the shoulders, but I was able to work them loose without the need for hot water or direct heat.

The two Foot Soldiers in this set are basically the same figure. The only thing separating the two is the headband on one, which is actually a bit of an artistic touch as none of the Foot sported this movie-styled headband in the first issue. I’m not super familiar with the colorized version of the old books, so it’s quite a bit of fun for me to see these guys in color. Like the Turtles, there’s a lot of black linework to really bring out that comic feel. NECA could have taken it further with some of that dot work that was on the Turtles and present in the book, but perhaps that would have looked a touch too messy. I really like the soft gray color of the mask and pants as it really gives this version of the iconic Foot Soldier his own flavor. The burnt red tunic is complemented by soft plastic on the skirt portion so the figures have a great range of motion. All of the figures in this set come packaged with fists for hands, but also have a second set of gripping hands. And since they have so many fun accessories, you’re likely to pull those fists off pretty quickly to get those gripping hands in. A nice, firm, tug will lift them out easily enough and the other hands insert without much fuss.

The Foot Elite is a surprising addition to the set as he wasn’t featured in the first issue. These guys came later as they basically took over for Shredder after the Turtles kill him in the first issue (sorry….spoilers!). He’s the same figure as the standard Foot save for his head and cape. The head features a large straw hat that’s non-removable. Beneath that is a flowing piece of red fabric and a metal faceguard concealing an all black face beneath. The faceguard is different from Shredder’s as it has a more pronounced edge down the center and it looks really cool. The red fabric surrounding the head is a hard plastic, but he still has a pretty good range of motion at the head. The cape is made of a soft, rubbery, plastic and has a tattered appearance. The right edge is folded back a little to make the figure look a touch more dramatic than if it just hung there. I love the line detail on the hat and the distress effects on the cape are a nice tough. This guy also has some forearm guards with a square design on them that continues onto his hands. It just makes him a bit more special to look at than the generic Foot. He’s definitely one bad ass looking dude.

And that brings us to Shredder, the figure most probably desired more than any other in this set. Shredder does not disappoint as he looks like he was yanked from the pages of Mirage Comics. The Mirage Shredder is a bit unique when compared with other forms of the character as he featured a more bucket-like helmet. The faceguard has a rounded appearance to it and it covers far more of his face than it did in the cartoon, for example. The rest of the helmet is more or less the same though and it looks great. There’s some nice linework on it and the other metallic portions of Shredder’s costume to give it that comic appearance. I also like that the raised portion of the top of the helmet is a separate piece and those tines that wrap around it like a claw even come off the back of it which looks really cool. Shredder also has a little extra material on his tunic that hangs in the front and back and it too is done with a soft plastic so as not to hinder movement. The shoulder pads and spikes are actually quite firm with the forearm, shin, and hand ones noticeably softer. NECA decided to color Shredder’s face entirely black and go with white eyes. The actual comic switches between this look and a more natural one with pupils in the eyes so this was NECA basically choosing what it felt looked best and I won’t argue with the results.

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It’s time for a rumble!

There’s very little to nitpick when it comes to this set of figures. Most of the nitpicks I do have unfortunately rest with Shredder. The fisted hands he comes packaged with pretty much all got warped in the package from what I’ve seen making his blades look sad and pathetic. Thankfully, the alternate gripping hands came out fine and look great on the figure, I just wish NECA had packaged him handless so it could have protected both sets of hands as well as it did the gripping hands. It’s possible some heat could get them back into shape, but I haven’t tried. My Shredder’s left shin guard is also a bit funky. It doesn’t appear to be seated all the way in the peg hole, though since it’s glued in there it doesn’t wobble or anything. It’s mostly only noticeable from the side or rear. The hands on all of the figures are also a touch too stiff and inserting any weapon that can’t be slid in (like the knife with the spiked hilt) is tough. I think I nearly broke the thumb off of one figure trying to get that thing in there. Otherwise though, I really have no further complaints with the sculpt and general look of these guys. NECA did a great job bringing these comic characters to life, so much so that it’s a shame they haven’t really touched the Mirage stuff since.

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Check out all of that loot!

If you weren’t sold on the figures themselves, then maybe you will be once you get a load of these accessories. This quartet comes with a bunch of weapons and they’re all pretty damn awesome. Initially, I was a little disappointed there wasn’t one of those three-handled-nunchaku included (as depicted in the comic art on the box), but when I saw what we had I quickly forgot about it. In this box you get two katana, a dagger, a curved dagger with spiked-ball hilt, a ninja star, a large ninja glaive weapon, a large bladed weapon similar to the old Playmates one that fit on the back of Raphael’s shell, and the coolest of all, a mace and some other nasty looking bladed thing joined by a chain. That chained weapon is a thing to behold and I absolutely love it. All of these weapons were utilized by the Foot in the comic so it’s all authentic. The only challenge is choosing what to display and what not to. I do wish NECA was better at giving its TMNT figures a means of storing weapons on their person so I could get them all in, but this is a pretty good problem to have. And to top things off, there’s an Utrom included as well. For those unfamiliar with the comic, the Utrom is an alien race that was the inspiration for Krang in the animated series. They were also faithfully depicted in the 2003 series and the Kraang from the 2012 cartoon are essentially Utrom. He’s an ugly little dude and NECA even slipped in some articulation on two of his tentacles.

If you have a set of the Mirage turtles, then this set is basically a must have as well. The only true negative is scarcity. Though in fairness, this set is not nearly as pricey on the secondary market as some of NECA’s other TMNT product. I guess the company was right when it said the Mirage stuff just isn’t nearly as popular as the rest. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, but expect to pay around $150 if this is something you desire which really isn’t all that bad for something that’s been out of print for four years. NECA is returning to the world of Mirage for the Loot Crate due out in a couple of months that features a new take on Shredder. Perhaps if people keep letting the company know it wants more Mirage stuff it will eventually happen, but for now this is all we have. What we have though is pretty sweet and these figures look dynamite alongside the Turtles. It may have taken longer than expected, but we have our Mirage Shredder and he was improbably worth the wait.

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Now they take their rightful place on my Mirage shelf, right below the Glenn Danzig album.


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 – The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5

tmnt vol5It’s been a long break in between posts about this subject. So long that I’d rather not point it out any further! At long last though I have finally finished reading fifth volume of The Ultimate Collection, a line of hardbound, oversized, compendiums of comic books spanning the Eastman and Laird era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Mirage Comics. The volumes are published by current TMNT comic publisher IDW and are presented in their original black and white appearance with new artwork by Kevin Eastman used for the back and front cover. Both Eastman and TMNT co-creator Peter Laird provide thoughts and reactions following each issue as they provide insight into their thought process and elaborate on where an idea may have come from.

This fifth volume is essentially the finale to this series, though two additional volumes follow. This one wraps up the City at War arc (issues #56-62) which was basically the grand finale for Eastman and Laird. At this point, they already had stopped drawing and inking the books and had moved onto managing the brand more than anything. These seven issues were originally published in 1993 when TMNT was past its peak, but still very much a money-maker. Artist Jim Lawson had basically taken over all of the pencil duties and was even contributing to the story at this point. Keith Aiken and Jason Temujin Minor handled the inking while Eric Talbot did the tones and Mary Kelleher the lettering.

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Karai has arrived and is ready to make her move.

In case you haven’t read my write-up on Volume 4, City at War tells the tale of the Turtles returning to New York to find that the Foot Clan has split into various competing factions with the loss of Shredder. Karai, leader of the Foot Clan in Japan, has arrived to clean things up and she’s targeting the heroes in a half shell who are currently holed up in an abandoned water tower. Splinter is injured and trapped by the Rat King, making his mainline debut. Meanwhile, April is off living in LA with her sister Robyn while Casey is engaged to a pregnant woman named Gabe and trying to start a new life himself after giving up on chasing April.

I found many of the issues in Volume 4 of this collection to be long and slow. It didn’t help that I wasn’t enamored with Jim Lawson’s take on the Turtles and I was badly missing the art of Eastman and Laird. Even though their art was often rough and had an amateurish quality at times, it was a good fit for the property and it was also improving. It was rewarding to see that maturation take place right before my eyes.

For this round of issues, my enthusiasm is much higher. It gets right to the point with the revelation of who is holding Splinter captive and also has Karai spring her Foot ninja on the Turtles early. This sets up the main conflict which is Karai’s wish to take out Shredder’s remaining Foot Elite, and she wants the Turtles to help. There’s a good scene of the brothers debating the merits of jumping back into the fray. They acknowledge, for the first time, that a lot of the violence is the result of their lost master’s quest for revenge. They were born to avenge Splinter, and they were successful, but their actions have not lead to a better New York for anyone. It’s a really introspective look at the Turtles and not something I was expecting. My only disappointment is that it didn’t eventually lead to a conversation on the subject with Splinter himself.

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Splinter goes through some real shit in these books.

For April, these issues also bring her back to New York. Her father passes away suddenly forcing her and her sister to come to New York for the services. Once there, she decides to stay, and it’s only a matter of time until her path crosses with her old friends. For Casey, tragedy brings him back as well in a rather bold way. The writing for him isn’t as strong as it is for the Turtles, but it still covers subject matter I wasn’t really expecting. For Splinter, he spends much of his time in a delirium and his sequences are pretty visceral. I am not sure what the overall message is supposed to be with Splinter, I guess they wanted him to embrace his primal side at the expense of his learned humanity. It was interesting though and it was nice to finally care about Splinter.

As would be expected from a title with the word “war” in it, there’s a lot of action across these pages. This is where Lawson gets to shine as an artist. His style seems to improve throughout and by the time I made it to the end I was onboard with his Turtles. He is able to convey movement so well and some of the detail work is gorgeous. This is easily a much nicer book to look at than the previous one, and Lawson is the main force behind that.

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I was way more into the artwork this time around and a lot had to do with the brilliant sequencing by Jim Lawson.

The story is a pretty satisfying one, though the ending is a bit unexpected. This is possibly the best arc Mirage ever tackled and much of the good stuff is contained in these issues. I am definitely glad I finally got around to going through it, even if I’ve had it since it was released. Eastman and Laird don’t provide too much in their comments. Eastman is at least good at setting the mood and placing the reader back in 1993. After that, he mostly just gushes about the talent involved in this project. Laird is a bit more critical and willing to point out things that didn’t work, though ultimately he just plain has very little to say.

A sixth volume in this set was released following this one, but it’s just one-shots and short stories not done by Eastman and Laird. A seventh volume is supposedly on the way as well which is basically going to be an art book. If you’re like me and just wanted to experience the original creators’ interpretation of these characters, then the five volumes are the only ones you need to concern yourself with. I’m not sure if any are still in print, but they have yet to become expensive to acquire. This is a good gift for any Turtle-loving person in your life. Though I feel obligated to point out that these stories are intended for mature audiences as these aren’t the pizza-loving dudes from the cartoons, but chances are if you’re even interested in these works you’re well aware of that fact.


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