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NECA TMNT x Universal Monsters Michelangelo as The Mummy

Grrr….pizza….

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

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

Mummy ninja pose.

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

Mikey found someone to help him strengthen his impressions.

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

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

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

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

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

How ’bout a kiss, cobra?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NECA Cartoon TMNT Zach the Fifth Turtle and Smash

A bit of an odd duo today.

It happens often with children’s programming where someone, somewhere, gets the idea that the show needs an audience surrogate. That is often true of a show where the main cast is older than the target demographic, which was the case with the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the name implies, all of the characters are at least teens or older where as the show’s audience was probably something like ages 4-10. I don’t know if that’s why we got a character like Zach, but it seems like a pretty safe hypothesis. What kid watching didn’t want to battle the forces of evil alongside their heroes? What would that look like if a random kid from the audience dressed up like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with stuff they found around the house and ran off to fight crime? Zach is the answer to that question and he’s profoundly lame.

This kid’s a total geek.

Yes, even when I was a kid, I did not have any affection for Zach, the so-called fifth turtle. He showed up for the first time in the season 3 episode “The Fifth Turtle” and I thought it was preposterous. Sort of how I had a negative opinion of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, I felt like I was watching a very serious confrontation when I tuned into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every afternoon. If it weren’t for the turtles and the events I was seeing on television, Shredder and Krang would be ruling the world! I’m supposed to accept some dumb kid with a hockey stick could render aid to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I don’t think so.

Cool man, you got a rock.

Unlike my feelings for the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, my feelings for Zach haven’t exactly softened over the years. He’s a dumb part of a mostly dumb cartoon that I liked as a kid. He was a character I had no intention of ever purchasing, but lo and behold here we are. NECA bundled him with Smash, the leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang, a figure I felt the opposite about. And my collection of toon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures is pretty damn complete so I’m not going to pass on a new character. I’m just going to have to find things about Zach to like.

I can’t imagine this sight frightens Shredder all that much.

In truth, the general aesthetic for Zach is not unpleasant. He really does look like a cosplay any kid could come up with. He’s got the bandana, and since he’s not a green-skinned turtle he could go with the color green for his mask, though he’s got a red sweatband over it. To simulate a shell he’s got a green trashcan lid which is about as good as a kid can do there and it’s attached via a belt and also goes over his backpack, which is just plain useful to have. Oddly, he went with a turtleneck for his shirt. Well, the choice of a turtleneck makes perfect sense, it’s that he went with yellow instead of green. Maybe to simulate the plastron of turtles? Also, he’s from a season 3 episode and the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang was already a thing so a green shirt with something on the front would have probably looked too similar. After all, when I was a kid I had a DIY Halloween costume that was a green turtleneck with a plastron crafted out of brown paper bags, which is basically what the CNT Gang rolled with. For pants, Zach’s got olive drab cargo pants which is as good as anything, plus some fashionable red and white sneakers that are pretty similar to the ones Bebop wears. Maybe they shop at the same place?

Hockey stick users – unite!

For the figure, NECA basically nailed it once again. To the top of his head, Zach is about 4.75″ and to the top of his hair around 5.125″ which feels pretty good for the line. I actually wish Baxter Stockman had this kid’s legs. They did a good job of reproducing Zach’s “costume” and even preserved the ability for the figure to wear the backpack with the trashcan lid over it. It’s a little tricky getting it all on, but not too bad and the belt on the trashcan lid feels very sturdy. He’s got his big, goofy, flock of blond hair which survived the transition from 2D to 3D just fine. I like how there’s a sweatband texture to his sweatband and the shirt and pants feature the usual two-tone approach to the paint. In terms of criticisms, I really only have two. For one, his face looks a little too full to be Zach. It’s really distracting because he looks like a kid I used to know. It’s not terrible or anything, it could just be better. Also, the paint on his bandana could be cleaner, though my other main criticism resides with the sneakers. The bottom of the shoe is cast in white, but painted red, so when that paint inevitably flakes off of the hinge it leaves behind white plastic. I hate when NECA does that and it’s something they’ve been better at avoiding of late, but apparently not here.

Nobody wanted to be Zach back in 1990, but we all wanted to be Kid Vid.

The aesthetic is good enough, and the articulation is pretty much as expected, though not without its flaws. Zach’s head sits on a little double ball peg and I’m happy to report the peg stays in place when popping off his head, unlike Usagi. He’s got good range there and there isn’t really anything to get in the way, which is nice. There’s no joint at the base of the neck. At the shoulders, we have hinged ball joints and he can raise his arms out just past horizontal, so that’s good. At the elbows, we have the controversial NECA double elbows with a hinged ball joint above and below the elbow. NECA likes these on sleeved arms and they’re okay. The range allows the character to bend past 90 degrees, but it looks awkward. I still prefer this to the single hinge and swivel though. No biceps swivel and the wrists rotate and feature a horizontal hinge. Again, vertical hinges would be better on the gripping hands, but that hasn’t been a priority for NECA. At the waist is a ball-joint that largely lets the figure swivel with little else. The hips are ball and socket joints and Zach can almost do splits, which is enough. He cannot kick back, and kicking forward causes the leg to want to go out to the side because the “diaper” piece gets in the way. There’s a slight thigh twist there and at the knees we have standard double-hinged joints. On my figure they are super gummy to the point where the joiner piece wants to flex as opposed to the hinges actually working. Definitely be very careful as you don’t want to shear that piece. No boot swivel, but the ankles hinge and have an ankle rocker, just be careful if you like that red paint on the hinge.

Considering how cool a flip phone could make you in 2000, this thing must have done wonders for his popularity in 1990.

The articulation is largely acceptable and Zach can do what he needs to do. The only sore spot for me are those knees as they shouldn’t be that gummy. I wish they would use a firmer plastic for the joining piece because what’s there just feels too soft. The range though is pretty standard stuff for this line which is to say it’s adequate, but not impressive, and that’s okay. NECA clearly prioritizes the aesthetic when it comes to this line and I’m more than okay with that.

Zach is one of those figures that comes loaded with accessories. I’m surprised by the volume here especially because Zach appears to be mostly new tooling. He shares hands with the Neutrino men and some of the internals on the torso could be the same as well, but I think that’s it. The only place they saved some money is in some repeat accessories, but even they’re slightly different. Zach has his blue backpack which is a soft plastic that fits over his arms. It unfortunately does not open, but it has a tiny peg on the back of it that is removable and almost will surely be lost by many who own this figure. The peg is removable so that the trashcan lid can plug into it. The belt is glued to the lid and I found sliding it over his legs to be the easiest way to get it on. I don’t think it necessarily needs to plug into the backpack, but it does secure it a little better. I just wish that pack could open.

You will lose this peg. Just accept it.

Zach also has his Turtlecom, one opened and one closed. It has a hole in the bottom of it and a purple, plastic, hose that plugs into it. The other end is intended to plug into the bottom of the backpack because it did that in the show for some reason. If you want that look for Zach on your shelf, definitely plug that sucker into the backpack before putting the trashcan lid on because it’s a pain otherwise. Zach also has a big, blue, diamond that I only vaguely remember from one of his episodes and a shard of a crystal, again, something I only vaguely recall. He also has his hockey stick, which is painted gray and actually is different from the one that came with Casey Jones. He also has an assortment of hands including gripping, fists, open, and an extra right gripping hand. The two right gripping hands appear to be exactly the same. Maybe the factory was supposed to duplicate one of the other Neutrino hands and messed up? Or NECA just tossed in an extra since they’re so small and could potentially be lost. Zach also has a second, mask-less, head and a pair of goggles that can be worn with it. The goggles make him look like Burger King’s Kid Vid, but he was the best member of the BK Kid’s Club so I get why Zach would want to look like him.

A look at the new Chrome Dome head compared with the old one. Note the different paint job on the eyes to indicate that the new one is powered down. The jumper cable doesn’t work very well, but you get the idea. Good look with that dumbbell joint, it sucks!

Perhaps the oddest accessory is Chrome Dome’s head. It looks just like the head that came with the figure only now there’s a hinged piece on the forehead that can be flipped up to expose some of Chrome Dome’s “guts.” The eyes are also painted differently to indicate that the unit isn’t turned on. There’s also what looks like a jumper cable as there are two, white, alligator clips on each end of a gray-black cord. Unfortunately, the clips do not function and are just frozen in place, but in the episode “Night of the Rogues” Zach was able to hook up to Chrome Dome to reprogram him. You’re basically intended to use the cable with the computer that came with Chrome Dome, though there’s no place to clip it to so you have to just finagle it somehow. The clip can kind of attach to the innards of Chrome Dome’s head, but it’s prone to popping off. The head can also be swapped with the original head if you have the figure. I actually had two Chrome Domes so this was ideal for me. Unfortunately, Chrome Dome’s head probably wasn’t designed to be removed with ease because getting it off sucks. It’s connected via a double-ball peg and I couldn’t get the head to come off with the peg staying in it. It took me awhile to get it out of the head utilizing a couple different sets of pliers and a lot of hot water. As a tip, the old head is hollow so when you get it nice and hot you can basically squeeze it which helped me get the ball-peg out. I was also lucky in that I didn’t necessarily care if I damaged the head since I have two. That crown piece is definitely fragile so be careful. It would have been nice if NECA just included a second dumbbell joint with this one since that would likely cost pennies and save some aggravation. And if you’re thinking of just replacing the old head, note that the hinged piece doesn’t quite sit flush on the head so it’s definitely not seamless, plus the hinge is visible. Neat idea, it’s the execution that could be better.

The leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang has appeared!

That was way more words than I ever though I’d devote to a character like Zach, so lets now pivot to his box-mate: Smash. Smash is the leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and runs the Slash for Cash dojo. He’s depicted here in his CNTG attire which is the same as the goon, minus the paper bag hat. Smash instead feels secure just going with the red bandana and feels no need to cover his face. The body here is largely reused from Burne, which we most recently saw repurposed for human Rocksteady. The torso is definitely different though as Smash is noticeably taller than both. The upper arms are the same, but needed different forearms to account for the elbow pads and wrist straps. The thighs are probably the same as Burne’s, but the lower leg is different since Smash has pants that end above the ankles (he ready for a flood?!). He then has the same style shoes as the goon, but bigger. The head is obviously different and since he’s much bigger, and stockier, than the CNTG goon the overlay is different too so it’s actually surprising how much new tooling is here. I was expecting Smash to be much more in-line with the prior figures.

“Who’s the blond pipsqueak?”

And it’s good that NECA did that. I felt they should have with Rocksteady because he is just so small. Smash looks much better as a result, though he still has one issue in common and that’s those elbows. The hinge is above the elbow, so it looks stupid and I don’t know why they did it that way since his elbow only bends 90 degrees anyway. Just put the elbow pad where it should be. Aside from that, the aesthetics are solid here. The proportions for this body are still a little odd. I think maybe the head could be smaller or the shoulders broader, but it’s good enough. The paint is nice and clean on my figure with the only area being a little iffy is the mask. Some of the linework could be better there, but it’s still what I would consider good enough as that’s a delicate area. I still really like how this goofy costume turned out and Smash looks great with the rest of the gang.

The articulation isn’t great, but Smash can balance on one foot.

As for articulation, we already know that isn’t the strong suit of this base figure. Smash does at least one thing better, but for the most part he’s as expected. His head is on a double-ball and works great, no complaints there. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they’re okay. He can’t quite do horizontal, which is a bummer, but rotation is fine and not hindered by the shirt. The aforementioned elbows are not great, they swivel and hinge to about 90 degrees, and I already said what I said about the aesthetic. The wrists rotate and hinge and, again, all of the hinges on the various hands are horizontal hinges which is a bummer. There’s a ball-joint at the waist for swivel and he gets a little tilt in all directions as well. The hips are ball and socket joints and Smash can nearly do a split, but kicking forward and back is not a strength and he only gets a little rotation at the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and can bend past 90 degrees. The feet have the usual hinge and rocker combo and the one thing this figure does better than Burne/Rocksteady is that his feet are big enough to allow for one-footed stances. There are no surprises here, good or bad, so Smash is as expected. He’s not one of the better articulated figures in the line, one could argue he should be better, but it’s not terrible. We pretty much know what we’re getting at this point.

Mostly, Smash is likely to just be posed in a battle ready stance.
For those who prefer their Smash unmasked.

Like his underlings, Smash comes with a variety of weapons at his disposal. For hands, he has fists, gripping, and chop hands. He also has four different melee weapons: a hand axe, a knife, a kama, and a crooked dagger that looks pretty wicked. He also has a grappling hook with a yellow rope attached to it which is pretty neat. There’s also a second head included that features a yelling expression and no mask. It’s nice to have, but I can’t see myself ever using it. Swapping heads is at least easy as the double-ball is buried in that neck and isn’t likely to come out.

He does have a grappling hook, in case he ever wants to be Batman.

The Zach and Smash two-pack ended up being a pretty solid release. It’s a no-brainer if you grabbed the previous set, and if you happen to like Zach well then you have to get him. And if you’re like me and have a dislike for Zach, you can still talk yourself into it given that it’s a pretty well done set. This set is currently hitting Target stores as part of the Fall Geek Out event and should be available online as well. If you’re like me, then you preordered this sucker directly from NECA so no hunting required. Because it was already offered on NECA’s website, it’s unlikely a restock will happen anytime soon so get it now if you want it. I doubt it will be a much in-demand set, but you never know. And for now, this actually closes out the NECA preorders slated to arrive in 2022 for me. It’s kind of a weird feeling to have the year be “over” already. Other figures and sets have been revealed that I assume are coming later this year, but for now, I’m all caught up and it feels odd.

At long last, the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang lives again!

NECA Cartoon TMNT Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and Rock Soldier Two-Pack

They’re a bit of an odd couple.

When NECA launched its line of action figures based on the 80s-90s cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had no idea how deep I’d want it to go. I’m pretty sure I even made an offhand comment regarding the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang as a jumping off point, because who has been sitting here for the past 30+ years yearning for action figures based on those guys? Well, here we are. I long ago lost count of how many figures I have in this line and my list of wants is pretty damn small at this point so it’s time for me to tell you all about the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang. Oh, and we have some rock soldiers too.

The Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang debuted in the first episode of the second season, “Return of the Shredder.” In the episode, a gym leader named Smash is hired by Shredder and trained in the ways of the Foot and then sent out in the city to commit crimes. While doing so, Smash and his goons were to dress-up as the Ninja Turtles which meant green t-shirts and red elbow and knee pads. Smash wore a red bandana mask and positioned himself as the leader, while his various lackeys wore green paper bags over their heads. The imagery was ridiculous, but it worked, and the citizens of New York City actually confused this gang of ninja thieves with the Ninja Turtles. As a kid, it was not a favorite episode of mine. Season 2 was repeated a lot so I got to see it a lot and to me they just looked like lame villains. Of course, they were supposed to and the absurdity of the situation should have been read as comedy, but I was a kid and I took my turtles seriously. Now I look at these guys and they make me laugh. They’re ridiculous, so of course I want them on my shelf!

They’re proud representatives of the Slash For Cash dojo.

Last spring, NECA made the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and the Rock Soldier two-pack available on their website for pre-order along with another two-pack (don’t worry, I’ll get to it). They have now started shipping out while also showing up at Target as part of that store’s Fall Geek Out event. Previously, all of the preorders NECA sold on their website were basically guaranteed to arrive in the hands of collectors well before showing up at Target. These ones technically hit Target first, but for most the difference is about a week. I literally found them last Friday, and my order arrived Saturday. That’s fine, but I know some were a little irritated that the orders they prepaid for weren’t given more priority and I’m not going to tell people how they should feel about that: you’re either bothered by it or not. We can talk more about that when the Secret of the Ooze turtles start shipping.

They’re ninjas. Not particularly good ninjas, but ninjas nonetheless.

This two-pack is the line’s third “army builder” set. Army builder sets feature figures that were just generic fodder for the turtles to beat on. Collectors can be happy to have just one figure to represent the design from the show, while others are able to buy multiple sets to create an army just like on television. As such, I ended up buying three of these so I could have a full Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang of four once paired with Smash. It’s definitely cool to be able to do so, but like the Deluxe Foot Soldier, it also means ending up with a ton of accessories. It makes me wish they did different SKUs where you could buy a set of just figures and hands because there are enough weapons in one two-pack to outfit the whole gang. I guess it’s better to have too much than too little, so I’m not complaining, but if I could shave off 5 bucks or something I’d have been interested.

Those bag heads are pretty damn amusing to me.

Since this write-up has been so Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang focused we might as well start there. The CNT goon, or just goon from here on out, stands at around 5.875″ and is a mix of old and new parts, but appears to largely be new. The head is obviously new as he has the sculpted paper bag with the bandana sculpted on as well. He has a classic TMNT gritted teeth look painted on and the green is done with a more saturated green on the front and a paler green on the back. I love how these two shades of green play off of each other and it makes me wish the turtles followed this scheme. The bag is his actual head so there’s no portrait underneath it or anything and I think that’s fine as the proportions look terrific. His shirt is an overlay and the plastron on the front and shell on the back is sculpted in and it looks so good. I love the depth it adds and this costume basically looks better than what was worn on the show. The shirt is in two pieces with the bottom being like a skirt piece. The belt is sculpted onto that and this guy has his own unique feet as he’s basically wearing turtle slippers. He probably shares parts with Vernon, such as the neck and whatever is under the shirt. The thighs could be the same too, but I’m not positive. Either way, it doesn’t matter as what’s present is appropriate and what’s new looks excellent. The paint on all three of my figures is also very well done with the only blemish being a paint chip on the rear of the right elbow pad of one of the figures.

“Get a load of these clowns!”

It feels like the figures we’ve looked at of late haven’t had to do much as far as articulation goes. This guy is a ninja, be it a poorly trained one, but a ninja nonetheless so he needs to move. Thankfully, the articulation here is solid and for this line even good. The head is on a double-ball peg and the neck is on a ball peg as well so you get lots of range up there. He’s a little limited looking up and down, but that’s due to his head being a literal box shape. There’s a ton of nuance up there though and I think most will be pleased. The shoulders are ball-hinged and not restricted by the shirt as his arms can come up to a horizontal position and rotate around. The elbows are single-hinged with a swivel, but thankfully NECA sculpted and painted the point of the elbow above the joint, which was an issue with the SDCC four-pack reviewed recently. He can bend slightly past 90 and it’s acceptable. The hands swivel, and my one main complaint with the articulation is that all of the hands have a horizontal hinge when the gripping hands, at least, should feature a vertical one. That is an area NECA could stand to improve upon. At the waist there’s a ball joint that really just allows for rotation. The hips go out to the side quite far and there’s a thigh twist there as well. The knees are double-jointed and bend past 90 degrees. There’s a twist in the shin where the pants end and the feet have a hinge and ankle rocker. The rocker doesn’t work as well here as it does on some other figures due to the shape of the foot, but it provides for some nuance. Overall, probably adequate by the standards of modern action figures, but for this line it’s better than average.

All right, now we move onto accessories and this guy comes loaded. For starters, we have fist hands, gripping hands, chop hands, and splayed hands. There is a sword that appears to be a new sculpt which has a nice, wide, blade. There’s a spear weapon that looks like a longer version of those pokers some use to pick up trash. It’s just gray with a white tip, but it’s new so that’s cool. There’s one set of nunchaku and another flail type weapon that has a gray ball on one end. The handles of the nunchaku and flail are new pieces and not reused from Michelangelo, which is a surprise. There are also two shuriken weapons, one that is seven-pointed with a hole in the middle and another that has four points and has the silhouette of a fireball or something. As I said before, you basically get enough weapons in just one box for an entire display, but having multiples does allow you to display someone dual-wielding the swords or nunchaku. I’m quite happy with the selection here, I just wish there was a way to store weapons on the goons since there’s just so much.

We’re going to need some ground support, here.

Ok, time to talk about rocks. The rock soldiers were Krang’s army of bad guys from Dimension X. Mostly, we just saw General Traag from time-to-time, but there were a few episodes where Krang had a full-on army. Sometimes those armies just looked like Traag, but gray, and other times they were unique. They were more slender, possibly taller, and had an “X” on their chest. There was a red version and a gray one, and I honestly can’t remember if the turtles ever had to fight them or if they were just shown as some threat about to enter a portal that was ultimately closed. For me, they’re definitely not as memorable as the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang and I did not even recall the specifics of their design until re-watching the show as an adult. I remembered there being generic rock soldiers, but I couldn’t have drawn one from memory.

They come with more mutagen canisters because you can’t have enough of the stuff.

The rock soldier included in this set is the red/brown version. It stands at about 7″, maybe a tick over, and certainly looks the part. The sculpt and paint scheme is very similar to Traag with the dominant color being the pale red-brown that was used for shading with Traag. The figure doesn’t follow that bisected approach of most figures in the line instead relying on patches of different colors to simulate the cel-shading which honestly is the better approach. There’s a dark brown and a more red/brown in use with a lot of black linework to help really give this one some pop. Curiously, there are parts where the black linework just seems to stop, but it appears to be deliberate given that it’s present on all three figures I own. The “X” on the chest is raised and the whole body has a nice texture to it. The paint application being more complex than usual does mean there are more blemishes here and there, but nothing egregious. About the only thing I wish NECA did differently is put some shading on the head and helmet as there’s none. Even Traag and Granitor have some on their helmets. To my surprise, there’s almost no parts reuse from that set. Just the lower torso and maybe the elbows, otherwise this is an all new sculpt.

This pistol is one of the few things reused from the past rock dudes set. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work too well with this trigger hand.

Given that we have a big, chunky, guy here this is definitely a figure that doesn’t call for as much articulation as the goon, but what we have is again pretty solid. The head is on a double-ball peg with a ball-peg at the base of the neck. Since he’s basically a pinhead, he gets fantastic range. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and the boxy nature of them means he can’t raise his arms out to the side completely, but probably enough for most poses. The elbows are the weird NECA double-joints, so you get a swivel and a hinge above and below the elbow. Since it’s sculpted for the rock aesthetic, it looks just fine and provides for great range, he just lacks a true biceps swivel. The hands rotate and hinge horizontally. The diaphragm features a ball joint which mostly allows for rotation as there’s very little tilt in any direction. The waist does swivel and it was stuck on all three of my figures, but a firm twist is all it took to loosen it up. At the hips, we have the ball joints with a swivel point. The legs don’t go out to the side very far, but he can kick forward all the way and go back a touch. The knees are surprisingly single-jointed and can’t quite hit 90 while the ankles feature a hinge and rocker combo that gets the job done. There is a swivel point at the knee to make up for that, but it barely moves given the sculpt. To my surprise, one of my figures has a stuck, left, hip. I have never encountered a stuck joint there since NECA switched to the ball and socket hips, but that sucker does not want to move.

Excluding the hip issue with one figure, I would say the rock soldier articulates well enough. He can hold a rifle with two hands, assume walking poses, and there’s enough adjustment areas to create some variety. His proportions are also much nicer than Traag and Granitor who are a bit too short for my liking. I’m definitely glad they did not reuse those legs. There is one instance of a painted joint on this figure that doesn’t match the base color, but it’s on the rear of the knees so it’s not much of an eyesore. The paint will flake off there though, so be wary if that’s an issue for you.

I honestly can’t recall if the turtles ever had to actually fight the rock soldiers.

The rock soldier also has some accessories for us to talk about, but not as many as the goon. This guy has just four hands at his disposal: a set of fists, a trigger right hand, and a half open left hand. The partly open left hands is almost like a loose, two-finger, trigger pose and I think it’s primarily in this shape so that the figure can handle the included weather bomb accessory. That’s the accessory I wanted Traag to come with way back when and it’s from the show’s fourth episode. It’s just a little, black, ball with gray indentations on it. There’s a sculpted button and what would be the screen. I wish we had an effect to make it look like it was active, or that it could split in half, but oh well. It can be held in that left hand though and is fairly sturdy. For the right hand, we have a pistol that’s the exact same mold as what came with Traag and Granitor only now it’s painted gray and black. Unfortunately, the rock soldier does not have a holster for it and the trigger finger is extended too far to actually rest on the trigger. We also have two rifles. It’s painted gray with dark gray parts. The eyepiece on the scope is painted purple while the muzzle has some red in it. It’s fine and it fits snugly into the rock soldier’s trigger hand. I’m guessing we get two in case you want to give one to Traag or Granitor. Lastly, we have a blue mutagen canister. It’s the updated two-piece version and the contents are painted green. This one is only painted in one shade of blue with black linework and doesn’t feature the shading of past versions, but it’s cool to get a blue version of the two-piece one.

Traag seems happy to have an actual squadron at his command.

All in all, this isn’t a two-pack of characters people have been begging for nor is it the type that’s going to knock anyone’s socks off. It is, however, very good for what it is and it’s hard to imagine NECA doing a better job with either character. What complaints I have are pretty minor, and I’m quite impressed by the amount of new sculpting in place here and the amount of paint is typical NECA, which is to say it’s a lot and it’s impressive. This line continues to be a tremendous value and anyone looking to amass a small army of rock soldiers and get the gang together should be plenty satisfied with this one. The one stuck hip in my set is slightly concerning, but it is one of three figures and it’s not an issue I’ve seen with that style of joint so I feel pretty confident that I just got a bad one and it’s not giving me much pause for concern. I would say buy with confidence. This set is presently being shipped out to Target stores and should be on shelves now. As of this writing it’s also available online at Target’s website and retails for $55 making this one of the easiest sets to acquire yet.


NECA Cartoon TMNT Premonition of a Premutation SDCC 4-Pack

Straight from San Diego Comic Con 2022, it’s another NECA 4-pack of action figures from the classic cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It was a little over a month ago that San Diego Comic Con occurred, in person, for the first time since 2019. This was cause for a celebration, even if for those of us who take in the convention from the comfort of our homes saw little change. Even without the event taking place the past two years, it didn’t stop most companies from saving announcements for the summer time to get all of those who are into the sort of subject matter featured at the convention worked up into a frenzy. It also didn’t stop those same companies from making convention exclusives.

NECA has been in the business of making con exclusive sets for years now. And unlike some companies, they have always made sure to include those who couldn’t make it in on the fun. This would often mean selling the exclusives on their website during the convention, or shortly before, which was often quite successful, but also lead to sell-outs and some hurt feelings along the way. With the convention getting cancelled, the exclusives were shifted to retail, but this year marked the return of the NECA webstore sale. And going back several years now, one of the pillars of con season for NECA has been Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With the brand becoming the most popular thing NECA makes product for, the company has made sure to make a lot of stock available when it comes to these exclusives. And just like with 2021, NECA has turned to its toon subline of TMNT for another convention four-pack: Premonition of a Premutation.

It’s the figures you always wanted as a kid! Okay, well maybe not every body. Left to right: Baxter Stockman, Hamato Yoshi, Bebop, and Rocksteady.

As the name implies, this is a four-pack of popular characters from the show in their less celebrated pre-mutation forms. They are: Baxter Stockman, Hamato Yoshi, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Fans have been asking for these versions of the characters for years now and most knew it was only a matter of time given how popular the line is. Plus, the company already unveiled Scrag, one of the seldom seen gang members associated with Bebop and Rocksteady in the show’s earliest days, as a figure for Loot Crate that NECA swears will see the light of day some day. Obviously, even as a limited release item, NECA isn’t going to make Scrag and not the more popular punkers. Hamato Yoshi also felt like a given and we saw Baxter teased via the packaging on the Turtles in Disguise set last year. The only real surprise is that they were reserved for a convention exclusive four-pack, but given how easy it was to secure a set, this doesn’t seem like a bad thing. It only stinks for those who were only interested in one or two figures in the set and not all four since it wasn’t exactly cheap at $150 plus shipping. We also had to pay upfront and wait awhile if ordering online. I paid for this item on June 3rd and it was supposed to ship after the convention concluded on July 24th and I didn’t end up receiving it until August 24th. That was definitely a longer wait than usual for these convention exclusives, but it’s here now so let’s talk about it.

“Has anyone seen my glasses?!”

The set comes housed in the now standard NECA four-pack setup. It’s a long box with a front flap that’s secured by Velcro. All around the box is new artwork based on the cartoon featuring the characters and likely a few hints here and there about what could possibly be on the way. There are product shots on the rear, and the front flap lifts up to reveal the figures inside. They’re packaged all in a row with some of their accessories visible, and more behind them (basically just the optional hands). My box arrived in good shape and would have been suitable as a mint-in-box item, thought I did have one issue which we’ll get to momentarily.

He may have a net, but what he really needs is a fly swatter.

For me, and I think most collectors, the character I most wanted from this set has been Baxter Stockman so I’m going to start with him. Baxter made his debut in the show’s second episode as the inventor of the Mousers which would soon terrorize the turtles and especially their master, Splinter. It was fitting he debuted in the show’s second episode since he made his original debut in the second issue of the comic, though he looked much different. Baxter would become a lackey for Shredder, sort of a right-hand man, and he remained in that role into the show’s second season where he underwent his mutation into a fly at about the midpoint of that season. As a kid, I remember waiting for that to happen since I knew there was a mutant fly toy with the same name as the character I was seeing on television and I was pretty excited when that day finally arrived. NECA delivered the fly version of the character awhile ago now, which is kind of funny when one considers that the human version of Baxter appeared in the show more often than the fly one, but we all remember and love the old toy so it’s easily the dominant image when one conjures up the name Baxter Stockman. Baxter is also the only figure in this set to not get a figure in his human form back in the old Playmates days. The other 3 were all featured in the Mutations subline, so while not stand-alone figures, their human forms were at least represented in some fashion.

“Baxter! You’re of no use to me at this height!”

Let’s get it out of the way upfront: this figure is too short. A lot of this set contains reused parts from previously released figures to keep costs down. That’s fine when the reuse makes sense, but in the case of Baxter it really doesn’t. NECA reused most of the parts from the fly version, but when Baxter was mutated he also shrunk. In the show, he was shorter than Shredder, but about as tall as the turtles. Scale was not the show’s strong point, but it was fairly accurate in those first five episodes where Baxter debuted and I maintain that, whenever possible, that original mini series should be the go-to when it comes to character designs and scaling. Unfortunately, Baxter is about 4.25″ tall to the top of his head, a little taller when factoring in the hair, and when placed beside Shredder he looks ridiculous. He looks like some sort of goblin or something. He barely looks human because the scale is just so goofy and it really does drive me nuts. It’s probably not something that will bother everyone, but it does me. My figure also has another big problem: no glasses! They’re supposed to be attached to his head in the box and when I got my set I was surprised to see them missing, but figured they must have fallen off during transport and were in there somewhere. Nope, no glasses to be found. I emailed NECA right away and around 24 hours later received a response that said a replacement head will be shipped to me as soon as possible. We shall see, but I’ll certainly update this post should that happen.

I wish they had gone with the same grin he’s sporting on the box. This expression is just puzzling.

Aside from the height and glasses issues, the figure does do a decent job of recreating Baxter’s look. He has the same torso as the fly version which features the now black vest and yellow bowtie. The lab coat has been added and is fairly flexible and he has his sneakers instead of ugly, purple, feet. The head is okay, though a little oversized for the body in some respects. He has a somewhat neutral expression though his mouth is contorted in such a way that maybe he’s a little angry or in thought? He has his wild hair and it’s well-painted and fits the character. The face looks off-model from certain angles and might be due to how his nose angles up a bit. I think he looks better from the side than the front, but it’s not as-if he’s unrecognizable. It’s a decent depiction of the character, just not the homerun some of other figures in this line have been. Of course, mine has some ugly holes in the temples where his glasses should plug-in, but hopefully that’s only temporary.

“Good boy!”

As for his articulation, it’s about what one would expect. His head is surprisingly not impacted much by the hair. He basically can look in all directions and the only one that’s limited is looking up. The shoulders are standard ball-hinges and they raise out to the side almost horizontal and rotate. NECA used their controversial double-elbow with this guy which they do a lot for human characters in jackets or sleeves so you get rotation above and below the elbow and the bend goes past 90 degrees, it just looks weird because the piece in the middle is fairly long so rather than the elbow coming to a point when bent, it’s squared-off. The hands rotate and feature a horizontal hinge. The waist is connected via a ball-peg, but it basically only offers rotation as the torso is covered up by the plastic overlay for the shirt. The legs are ball-sockets and come out to about 45 degrees and he can kick forward enough and kick back just a little before the “diaper” piece gets in the way. The knees are double-jointed and work fine while the ankles feature the standard hinge and rocker combo. The cuffs of the pants get in the way a bit, but this isn’t a guy who will be doing much posing and what we have here is fine. The left foot on mine falls off frequently as I think they missed some glue at the factory, but that’s probably not a common occurrence.

Baxter has a tiny set of turtles that may be sparsely painted, but are still pretty cool nonetheless.

As for the paint, Baxter looks pretty good. The lab coat is a mix of white on the front and a light blue on the read and inside. There’s a lot of black linework and I really like how the front pockets turned out. The line work on his face is very clean, as is the black on the shoes. There’s a very light scuff on part of the jacket and some parts where the paint came out a touch thick, but that’s only noticeable upon really close inspection. Some of the joints will flake, but they all appear to be painted in the appropriate color so it’s just a mild annoyance. Overall, the paint application is easily the strong point of the figure and I have no complaints with it.

Wise human Hamato Yoshi.

Our next figure is Hamato Yoshi, the man who would one day become Splinter the rat and mentor to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he seriously calls them that in the first episode, it’s so silly). Unlike Baxter, Yoshi does not reuse any parts from his previously released mutated form. Even the kimono is new as NECA chose to sculpt it rather than utilize soft goods. He stands a tick under 5.5″ to the top of his hair and basically looks the part. NECA did a good job with the facial likeness as Yoshi had a fairly unique look to him in the show. He wears his kimono more like a shirt in his human form with it tucked into some striped pants and fixed in place with a black belt. Curiously, there’s no shading on the pants, but the black lines are painted very well. There’s still shading on the top, but that’s it aside from the shading in the hair (which looks really good). I’ll just say the paint is well done with him, rather than devote an entire paragraph to it, and he definitely looks more on-model than Baxter.

“Life as a rat isn’t so bad, you get used to eating out of the trash.”

As for articulation, we would like a ninja master such as Hamato Yoshi to move better than Baxter and he does in some respects, but not in others. His head is on a double-ball-peg and gets good range of motion. There’s no joint at the base of the neck so he doesn’t look down super far, but far enough. The shoulders are ball-hinged and he can raise his arms out to the side okay while the shoulders of the kimono piece need to be worked around when rotating. It’s at the elbow where NECA made an odd choice to go with a single hinge and swivel. The biceps piece is cut at an angle and it makes it look like his arms are slightly bent all of the time. The puffy nature of the sleeves must have convinced NECA to do it this way, but he can just barely hit 90 degrees at the hinge and the swivel only works a little bit as it throws off the sculpt in most, non-neutral, positions. The wrists rotate and feature horizontal hinges and he has the same limited ball-joint at the waist as Baxter. At the hips, he can almost do full splits. He can’t really kick back though and kicking forward only goes so far until the legs want to shoot out to the side. The knees are double-jointed and NECA continued the paint on the top piece so they don’t look bad when bent, not on the bottom. He can bend his knees past 90 though and it looks okay. Above the ankle is a swivel point and below that we get the usual hinge and rock combo which works fine. One thing I wish he could do better than he does is sit, but otherwise he moves around fine.

Bebop sure had style back before he got mutated.

Next up is the tallest figure in the box and it’s Bebop. Bebop is also the first black character in the line and might end up being the only one as I can’t recall many others from the old show. He too also doesn’t reuse anything from his mutated counterpart, but he does appear to share some parts with Vernon. He stands around 6.25″ to the top of his head, and nearly a full 7″ when you factor in the mohawk. He’s pretty lanky looking, which seems close enough to the source material. He has the big red jacket and purple mohawk and matching glasses and the paint is all really well done. There’s shading on the torso, but not on the pants as they’re all black. I think I like the facial likeness on this guy the best out of all of the figures in the set and he may be my favorite overall.

Bebop looks pretty good, but these elbows are weird.

The articulation with Bebop is a bit similar to Yoshi in that I’m not crazy about the elbows. The head and neck are articulation via ball pegs and they work very well. He can even look up quite far with that mohawk of his so long as you turn the head first to avoid his giant collar. The ball-hinges at the shoulders allow the arms to be raised out to the side, but again NECA went with a simple hinge and swivel for the elbows. Bebop’s arms basically can’t be positioned straight and will always have a slight bend to them. When bent, you basically get 90 degrees out of it, but it looks odd because the actual hinge is above the elbow, which is sculpted and painted. They don’t make visual sense when bent and I wish I could say it was less noticeable than it really is, but he basically always looks “off” to a certain degree unless his arms are left in a neutral position. He has the same waist joint as the others and the hips are fine as he has the most range of anyone kicking forward and back in this set. He can almost do splits too, not that he needs to. This is also as good a time as any to say the hips are all nice and snug in this set, which is a noted improvement over some past releases. The knees are double-jointed and they work fine while the ankles are hinged and rock. There’s no boot swivel so don’t try to crank on those parts.

We might as well call him Mr. Big Head.

Lastly, we have Rocksteady who features a lot of parts reuse, but not from the rhino version of the character. Like Bebop, Rocksteady gets his parts from a member of the Channel 6 News Crew, in his case it’s Burne. This means Rocksteady is pretty short coming in at 5.5″. He’s probably a bit undersized compared with his character model, but not as severely as Baxter. His proportions are also a little odd as Burne featured a pretty big melon so Rocksteady does as well. His head was not this massive compared with his body in the show, but he’s at least still clearly Rocksteady and wouldn’t be mistaken for someone else. And since he’s based on Burne, he has another oddity in that he has two belts. The overlay on his torso features a belt sculpted onto the bottom while the pants on Burne featured a sculpted belt on the hips piece. It’s only noticeable if you’re looking for it, but it is odd. The paint on him is pretty good though with the pants and vest both featuring the usual shading, though the sleeves of his t-shirt are not shaded. There are some scuff marks on the rear my figure concerning the pants, but the front looks fine. The linework is all done really well, but overall I think he might be the weakest of the set. The giant head just bothers me more than Baxter’s shortness (I’m disregarding the missing glasses since that’s likely a me issue) and he’s another one I’d consider acceptable, but definitely not a strength of the line.

“Hey! Don’t even think about touching my soup, Ugly!”

Burne is possibly the worst articulated figure in the line so unfortunately that’s going to extend to Rocksteady as well. The head is on a ball-peg and that’s fine as he’s not restricted by the sculpt at all and can look in all directions. The shoulders are ball-hinged and they can get out to the side, but his elbows are terrible. They’re always bent a little bit, and more-so than we saw with Bebop. There’s just one hinge and when bent fully gets to about 90 degrees, but since the neutral pose is already bent you’re only getting a range of motion here of about 45 degrees. He also has the same issue as Bebop where the elbows are painted and shaped to be below the hinge and it just looks really weird. The hands rotate and hinge horizontally and the waist joint is a ball-peg that just basically allows for a twist with very little forward and back or side-to-side. The legs do not kick out very far, but he can almost do a split. The knees are double-jointed, but very tight. I can get the top hinge to work okay, but the bottom is fairly stubborn. Ideally, if only one worked you’d prefer it be the bottom so the kneecap stays in place. He can bend past 90 degrees though. There’s no boot cut and the ankles do the same thing all of the others do. Overall, he might be the worst articulated, though Baxter does have the long coat to contend with, but the only part I’m really disappointed with are those elbows.

Rocksteady’s elbows might be worse than Bebop’s.

Okay, that was a lot of words on some figures so now lets spend some more on accessories! Each character comes with a set of fist hands in the package and some additional ones to swap to. Baxter has a set of gripping hands with the left hand being looser than the right. He also has a more open, but still clenching, left hand and a right pointing hand. Hamato Yoshi has a set of gripping hands, karate chop hands, and a loose gripping left hand. Bebop has a gripping right hand, an open, but clenchy right hand, and two left loose gripping hands. Those two look almost the same, but I think one is slightly more closed than the other. Functionally, they’re almost the same though and I don’t understand why he doesn’t have a tight, gripping, left hand to pair with the right one. Rocksteady has a set of gripping hands and a set of open hands. The open hands are the same ones that Burne came with and they’re oddly shaped like maybe to be used as typing hands with the computer he came with? They’re weird and probably useless with Rocksteady.

“Hey Bebop! Get a load of these pipsqueaks!” “Yeah, they sure are ugly! Not as pretty as we are.”

In addition to hands, we have a whole bunch of other stuff too. Baxter comes with another Mouser and its the same as the one from the set released earlier this year. He also has the jeweled tracking device for some special crystal from a Season Two episode and there’s another tracking device that almost looks like it has a turtle shell in the center. They’re both painted very well and give Baxter something to hold onto. He also comes with a net for catching tiny turtles which are also here and come housed in a jar. The turtles are removable, but they’re one piece sculpted together and the only paint is green and yellow. They still look pretty neat and it’s certainly a fun accessory. The sculpt on the tiny turtles is also pretty damn impressive, as far as I can tell. The net is fairly basic and the actual net portion is soft plastic. I’m surprised they didn’t go for the real thing, but maybe that would have cost too much. Baxter Stockman is definitely well-stocked, pun intended, though and about the only thing missing is the remote for the Mousers. I’m seriously shocked that hasn’t been included with something yet.

These baby turtles are pretty damn great.

Hamato Yoshi is comparably much lighter in the accessory department than Baxter, but he has a few things. For one, he has a bo staff to arm himself with. It has some sculpted lines to simulate wood grain, but is otherwise very basic and just painted brown. He also comes with a translucent fishbowl and four baby turtles. They’re pretty damn cute and painted rather well considering how small they are. The only thing that stinks about them is it’s really hard to get them to stand on all fours inside the bowl. I’d probably have to get tweezers to do it properly. It would have been nice to get just a blob of mutagen for them to stand on outside of the bowl, and maybe one to go on the back of a shell, but this is fine.

Sometimes you just need some good tunes when committing acts of vandalism.

Bebop and Rocksteady essentially have a bunch of stuff they can share. Rocksteady has his stick that sort of resembles a baseball bat, but not quite. It’s a light brown with some black linework and certainly looks the part. There’s also a baseball bat if you prefer the real thing and it’s a very light brown with white tape painted onto the handle, but surprisingly no wood grain. It’s also not the same bat included with Casey Jones as this one is slightly smaller, so that’s also a surprise. There’s also a gray crowbar and an actual chain since I think it was Bebop who did sport one in the show. They also come with two cans of spray paint and the sculpt on these is really fun. It would have been cool if they could have attached the nozzles via small ball-pegs similar to the controls in Krang’s body, but they look cool. One is painted blue with a green, wavy, line across the center while the other is purple with the same green line. Rocksteady really can’t hold them though, but Bebop’s slightly wider clenched hand holds them well. Lastly, we get a new boom box which is different from the one included with the Turtles in Disguise set. It has a fairly simple design, but it’s painted well enough. The accessories are often a strong point with these four-packs, and with this set, that’s pretty much the case. What’s missing amounts to nitpicks, and it’s great to be able to add yet another Mouser to the family.

These two feel right at home in a darkened alley.

Overall, this a solid release from NECA. Compared with last year’s convention exclusive, I might like this one just a little bit more because we’re getting four, distinct, characters where as last year’s included another Vernon and Cat April wasn’t particularly high on my wants list. Plus, I can only get so excited for the news crew, even if I did want all of those characters on my shelf. With these four, I did want to add them all. The one I was probably least interested in is Hamato Yoshi, but a TMNT collection should include him so it’s not like I’m disappointed. He also arguably turned out the best out of all of the figures in this set. It’s really between him and Bebop, who would be perfect if not for the elbows. Baxter and Rocksteady are the two most off-model, and my Baxter obviously has the missing glasses which is a real bummer. I’m not one to complain as everyone makes mistakes and all products have a fail rate, but it does irritate me that two out of the past five shipments I’ve received from NECA featured an obvious defect readily apparently to anyone who would have looked at it. A missing accessory stored under the tray would be one thing, but the glasses are supposed to be right on the figure’s face! Does anyone inspect the product before shipping it?

Criticisms aside, this Rocksteady is certainly an improvement over the old one. I don’t have Bebop from that line, but if memory serves they made him white and I’m fairly positive the new one is an improvement. Same for Yoshi.

Frustrations aside, if you wanted human versions of these characters in your collection then this set should scratch that itch. Yes, two out of the four figures could have been better from a likeness point-of-view, but they’re not hideous or anything. They just aren’t as good as some of the other releases we’ve seen of late. None are threatening April for worst in the line, but none are challenging the likes of Chrome Dome for the top spot either. They’re merely adequate, but they didn’t really need to do much more than that. If you missed out on the web sales or the convention itself then you may be out of luck when it comes to this set. The after-market will definitely have some and it might not be the type of set that’s super sought after. There is no retail release planned though, but convention exclusives from NECA’s past have shown up recently on costumes.com so maybe keep an eye out there. It’s entirely possible that NECA didn’t sell every set and the extra will show up there or maybe even at Target? In other words, it might pay off to be patient, but it could also mean missing out completely. If this is a set you think your collection will be incomplete without, then it might make more sense to act now rather than chance it. Hopefully, your Baxter will have glasses.


NECA Cartoon TMNT The Neutrinos

Far out dude, a rare NECA three-pack!

Check it out, daddio! The totally frozen trio of Zak, Dask, and Kala have joined NECA’s line of action figures based on the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! The Neutrinos come straight from Dimension X, having debuted during the original mini series of the show now referred to as season one, in the fourth episode overall: Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X. Even though they share a dimension with Krang, these kids abhor war and prioritize having fun above all else, which is the antithesis of what Krang and Shredder stand for – so they must be eliminated!

The Neutrinos are a wacky premise in a fairly wacky cartoon. Perhaps created to give the kids watching at home an audience surrogate, they would return a few times after their debut and often with some wild antics taking place. Even though they’re supposed to appeal to kids of the1980s, they talk like beatniks with goofy 50s slang – maybe they just assumed kids were watching a lot of the Fonz on Happy Days? Because of their rather extreme personalities, the Neutrinos are something you either love or hate. I lean more towards the “love” side as they don’t particularly bother me and I’m pretty sure I was excited to see them return when I was a kid. Plus it doesn’t hurt that “Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X” might be my favorite episode of the show. It’s the episode where Donnie invents the Turtle Van and we’re introduced to the rock soldiers Traag and Granitor. It’s also the episode most responsible for making Leonardo my favorite turtle who already had a head-start in that department by virtue of wearing my favorite color and my favorite weapon of the four.

The Neutrinos and their stuff. If you need a refresher on who’s who, left to right we have Zak, Kala, and Dask with the Grybyx and Baby Tribble in front.

Like Usagi, the Neutrinos were put up for preorder on NECA’s website back in March and both sets arrived at the same time, which is pretty cool and pretty fast in this day and age. They represent the first 3-pack (unless you count the Triceraton and Roadkill Rodney set as a 3-pack) in the line as they couldn’t be split up since they always appeared as a trio. Since they are a 3-pack they’re priced accordingly at $75, which I assume will be the MSRP on this set when it hits Target stores later this year. We’re essentially paying $25 for each one which is actually lower than the usual two-pack pricing. And if you think that’s because there’s a ton of parts reuse among the three well then you’d be wrong. To my surprise, these three are fairly unique so lets get to it.

“You dudes like pizza?!” “Yeah, but not that kind, daddio!”

First of all, the Neutrinos are comprised of Zak, Dask, and Kala. Zak has the blue outfit, Dask the yellow, and Kala is the lone female of the group. This is their first appearance in NECA’s line, but all three actually were featured in the vintage line from Playmates with Zak getting a release in the standard line followed by a repaint in the Toon subline where he was joined by Kala and Dask. I had all three as a kid, though I passed on the Zak repaint when he got re-released, and I remember them rather fondly. Too bad I don’t still have them for comparison’s sake, but I remember them being surprisingly accurate when compared with the show, especially Dask and Kala. I also liked how Playmates did Dask’s unusual hair with two shades of blue, light blue on the inside and dark blue on the outside.

At least the Neutrinos being on the small side works well with their primary antagonists, the rock soldiers Granitor and Traag.

These three are fairly show accurate. Zak is the tallest at about 5.5″ to the top of his hair while Dask is a little bit shorter at 5.25″, but he also doesn’t have a ton of hair sticking straight up preferring to have his going forward. To the top of their foreheads they’re basically the same height. Kala is the shortest, though to the tip of her hair she’s about 5.25″ as well. Some were a bit disappointed when these figures were shown off because their proportions appear to be more in-line with some of their later appearances in the show. All three have pretty large heads relative to their body and are a lot smaller than the turtles. It’s show accurate, but not to their debut episode where I personally think they looked their best (as the show basically looked its best during that initial 5 episode run). In that, their proportions were fairly normal for a human on the show and they basically stood eye-to-eye with the turtles. Of the three, I’d say Dask looks the most on-model when comparing him to that specific episode. Kala would be rather close if she had a longer neck (she basically looks neck-less from the front). Zak is a bit more “toonified” by virtue of his giant ears sticking way out. Their proportions here are probably more representative of their other appearances in the show, but I’m of the mind that NECA should rely on those first five episodes whenever possible so even if there are more episodes with them looking like this, the debut is still the best way to present them.

Even though it’s 3 against 1, I wouldn’t call this a fair fight.

All right, aside from my nitpicking of the proportions, the overall looks is pretty good. Paul Harding was the sculptor on this set and he captured all of the intricacies of each character’s outfit. Dask has the giant shoulder pads, Zak his massive popped collar, and Kala her skirt and rounded shoulder pads. The only places NECA could reuse parts are largely in joiner pieces like the lower torso, knees, and hips on Zak and Dask. Those two might share thighs as well as I can’t tell if the fins on Dask are glued on or part of the same mold. It must have drove NECA nuts that the characters of Zak and Dask are reveresed when it comes to the legs with Dask having the fins on his thighs and Zak on the calves. Both also feature different feet. All of the pieces are fairly hard-sculpted too with few, soft, rubbery, overlays. It’s basically just the “diaper” piece over the hips that’s soft.

My Zak had a paint flaw out of the box, but nothing a Magic Eraser couldn’t solve.

For the paint, we get the usual NECA toon shading with bright on the front and darker shades on the back. On Dask, there’s a paint chip right on his chest which is a bummer as well as some excess at the tip of his left ear. Some of the linework on his left sleeve is also inconsistent with the line being thinner in places. On Zak, we have a figure that’s pretty clean with the only issue I have being the white paint on his ankles showing as not quite opaque enough. Obviously, they were painted white over blue here and sometimes that happens. Zak also came out of the box with an ugly blob of black on his left wrist that sort of looked like a tattoo or something (I had to go to the source material to make sure it was a defect). It was very unsightly, but thankfully it came off with a magic eraser. With Kala, there’s a spot of dark green on her torso that’s a bummer because it’s in such a prominent place, but otherwise she’s mostly fine. NECA uses a ton of paint, so the small imperfections are going to happen. There’s at least no instances of wrong color hinges or anything like that so overall I’d consider the paint applications here to be acceptable. They’ll certainly pop on your shelf.

The tiny feet and big heads make these guys tricky to pose. They’re not going to be able to do too much on your shelf without some help.

Now if you’re looking at these outfits and thinking “That can’t be good for articulation,” well then you would be correct. All three figures feature the same points of articulation. They ball joints at the head, neck, abdomen, and hips which also swivel. The shoulders are ball-hinges, the elbows single-hinged with a swivel, the wrists swivel and hinge, the knees are double-jointed, and the ankles hinge and rock side-to-side. That’s pretty standard for the line with the only thing missing being a waist twist and double-joints at the elbows. What doesn’t work too well are the shoulders, especially on Zak because of his odd setup. He can’t really raise his arms out to the side unless you first rotate them 180 degrees. Once you do that you can raise them about 45 degrees and then rotate them back which allows the shoulder pads to slide under the softer plastic on his torso. I’d be cautious about doing so though as you’re rubbing painted white plastic on blue and that could go bad. Dask and Kala don’t have this problem, though Dask’s shoulder pads won’t allow his arms to stick straight up, but that’s not much of a loss. Dask is the most limited when it comes to kicking forward and back as his “diaper” is rather tight and constricting with Kala’s skirt being the least constricting and Zak sort of in the middle there. All three feature really tight, slightly gummy, knees and it’s probably due to all of the paint. Their limbs are very thin, especially at the forearm, so if your set feels stuck definitely air on the side of caution with them.

More often than not, this is the end result. Especially if you try to use those hoverboards.

The actual range of articulation is a bit mediocre by the standards of more, highly, articulated lines, but not a huge surprise for this particular line. What is less enjoyable is the looseness of some joints. These figures are all top heavy by virtue of their big heads and that torso joint. Zak’s torso is pretty floppy, while Dask is a touch loose and Kala is fine. All three also feature tiny feet and weak ankles which makes all three a chore to stand up. Zak seems to stand the best because he has the largest feet, but he’s still a pain to keep upright on a surface. Dask is by far the worst though because he has skinny feet and the ankles on mine are very weak. Kala’s are tighter, but her feet are the smallest of the three so she’s no better. NECA foresaw this issue and included a small, transparent, plastic, disc stand for each figure. The problem with that is it’s very light so there’s no weight holding them down and it does nothing to solve the issue of the weak ankles. About the only way they work is to position the figures with one foot forward to help better distribute the weight and leave the disc on the rear foot. This seems to work with Kala. Zak is almost better off without the disc as it makes his base uneven and it’s too small to put both feet on it. I can get Dask to stand if I pitch his head forward as if he’s looking at his toes, but that’s hardly a good look. In short, don’t position these three close to the edge of a shelf.

If you have the vintage Playmates versions of these characters then these boards should feel familiar.

Also included to perhaps help out with the standing issue and the lack of a hover car are three hoverboards. These were never in the show, but are a callback to the Playmates action figures. I assume Playmates included them since the Neutrinos are known for driving a hover car, but that would be big and expensive. Playmates actually did release a hover car, but as a vehicle for Shredder and his minions which was strange, but a fun toy nonetheless. NECA may one day do a car if there’s demand for it, but for now we have the boards. Each one is fully painted and unique to the rider and comes with a stand similar to the ones included with the Turtles in Time turtles. They’re cool and all, but have the same problems as the disc stands in that there isn’t enough weight to them to really help in getting these guys to stand. They look cool and all, but I have no confidence in the figures remaining on them when I walk away since they have yet to last 15 minutes on my shelf.

In addition to the hoverboards, we do have a handful of other accessories and two mini figures. Our first accessory is this little, chunky, gray, box that reminds me of portable televisions from the era. It’s a communicator that Donatello uses in the show to contact the Neutrinos all the way in Dimension X, if I’m not mistaken. There’s a handheld device that looks like Egon’s PK Meter from Ghostbusters that I think was called a spectral analyzer. There’s another handheld device that’s a tracking one used for another accessory in this set which I’ll get to it. There’s yet another one that looks like a mashup between a flashlight and a microphone and I have no idea what it does in the show. Lastly, there’s a ray gun or something that resembles a bullhorn. Sometimes NECA includes a list of the items in these sets, and sometimes they don’t, and this is one of the sets where they didn’t. We also get an assortment of hands. For the boys, there are two sets of gripping hands and fists, and one set of open hands and a loose open hand that almost looks like a devil horns gesture. Kala gets open hands, fists, a gripping right hand, and a right “Peace” sign hand. Kala’s hands are a little smaller than Zak and Dask’s, but she could use one of the boys’ hands if she wants and vice versa without it looking too ridiculous.

These two don’t do much, but they are pretty cute.

In addition to all of that are two mini figures. First up, is Princess Tribble from the episode “Four Turtles and a Baby.” For some reason, every show during this era needed to do an episode with a title that was a pun on Three Men and a Baby. The Neutrinos are not featured in that episode, but she is a Neutrino child so it makes sense to include her. She’s in a seated position and her head can rotate and her arms are on ball hinges. She’s also looking up given how her eyes are painted so she can resemble a baby with its arms up expressing a desire to be picked up by an adult. It’s cute. The other mini figure is the Grybyx, Kala’s pet which escapes from Dimension X and arrives on Earth in the episode “The Grybyx.” In that, he gets mutated as he’s basically the show’s version of a mogwai and becomes a rampaging beast, but here he’s in his much smaller and cuter form. He’s positioned in a crouch and his only articulation is a ball-jointed head, but he’s well painted and rather cute so it’s all good. The tracking device I mentioned earlier is from the same episode and was used to try and locate the Grybyx.

Mikey certainly looks happy to have his favorite gal join the party.

That’s all, and it’s a pretty solid collection of stuff. I don’t know what half of it is, but it’s not like the Neutrinos were associated with many accessories in the show aside from their kick ass rides. This set from NECA is yet another solid addition to the collection. My only gripes are that I wish these figures were based more on their appearance in the first season and that they weren’t such a pain to stand. It’s nice that NECA included the disc stands to try and help, but these three need something more substantial unfortunately. I have so far been able to get them to stand only for short durations, and that’s with and without the aid of the stand or hoverboard. I’d love to have Kala holding her pet, but that seems unlikely. In the meantime, I’ll keep them away from any edges and sort of on their own as I don’t need them taking anyone else out during one of their falls. If you want to add these guys to your display keep your eyes on Target as they should show up there eventually, possibly as part of a collector event scheduled for September. Yeah, I hate those things, but sometimes we have to deal with them. Also keep your eyes on costumes.com as NECA has been randomly dropping stuff on there lately including old exclusives and new ones like the Mousers. Hopefully everyone who wants this set can eventually get it.


NECA Cartoon TMNT The Tale of Usagi Yojimbo

The samurai rabbit joins NECA’s toon line!

The early issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released by Mirage Studios include a few guest stars here and there. One of them comes from the pages of Usagi Yojimbo, the samurai rabbit by the name of Miyamoto Usagi. The pairing of samurai rabbit and ninja turtles was a big enough success that it migrated to television during the original run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For some reason, the character Miyamoto Usagi was named Usagi Yojimbo in the show. I don’t know if it was deliberate or a mistranslation, but because of that a whole generation of kids grew up referring to the samurai rabbit character created by Stan Sakai as Usagi Yojimbo. To his credit, Sakai doesn’t seem bothered by this as he has let Usagi be utilized for pretty much every iteration of the turtles that followed. I’m sure he was compensated for that, but he seems totally willing to let this association continue and that’s why I’m here talking about NECA Toys’ latest deluxe release in its line of action figures based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Usagi Yojimbo.

Usagi seems to pondering if we may have some turtle variants in our future.

Whatever you refer to him as, know that I’m just going to call him Usagi for the duration of this post. Usagi, as stated, is the latest deluxe release in NECA’s toyline which means he comes in that VHS style packaging with artwork by Dan Elson and Aaron Hazouri that is just so hard to throw away. It looks terrific and it’s loaded with product shots of the figure in action which is easily displayed by opening the front, fifth panel which is seated by a piece of Velcro. Usagi was put up for order on NECA’s website back in March as an open preorder and he’s just now making his way into the hands of eager collectors even faster than Storm, which I noted was the shortest wait between preorder and release I’ve had since 2019. This should be followed by a general release at Target stores across the US and other online outlets in international territories, but that could be a few months off given how long it took some past preorders to do the same. Target has a collector event planned for September so that’s a safe bet for when this figure (and others) may appear.

Yep, that’s Usagi all right.

Usagi stands about 4 5/8″ to the top of his head and 5.5″ to the top of his tallest ears. He’s depicted in his show accurate black and blue attire with a gray sash around the waist and purple wraps around the base of the ears. He even has those circular, brownish, emblems on his vest that always looked like chocolate chip cookies to me as a kid. He comes out of the box with a very serious expression on his face (he’s a rather serious character in the show) and he has some open hands. He also has a set of gripping hands and fists and overall he looks great. Usagi is easily one of the best in this line based on likeness which is a testament to his simple design and the quality of the sculpt from Paul Harding and the paint of Geoff Trapp and Mike Puzzo. There’s virtually no paint slop on my figure and the black linework this line is known for looks crisp and I really like the subtle fur texture sculpted into the exposed fur on the character.

He may not be particularly dynamic, but he does make up for that in stability.

Usagi looks terrific, though some sacrifices were meant to get there. His articulation is a bit impacted as a result. The head is on a double-ball-peg and is articulated at the base of the neck as well. He can look all over the place and there’s no complaints there. The ears can swivel too. The shoulders are ball hinged and he can get to about horizontal when lifting them out to the sides. The elbows are just single-hinged and feature a swivel, but the cut of the joint is at an angle and you’ll need to be mindful about paint rub. The hands swivel and are hinged horizontally, also known as the “wrong way,” and at the waist there’s a ball joint that basically just allows for a twist. At the hips he can pretty much do a full split, but he really doesn’t kick forward very far nor does his leg go back much at all. That seems due to the baggy pants which also only let the single knee bend go about 45 degrees. The ankles are seated deep in the cuff of the pants so they too don’t have much range. The rocker is okay, but the forward and back is negligible.

More figures should come with tiny dinosaurs.

For a samurai rabbit, it is a bummer to see the articulation so limited. Usagi basically can’t even do a two-handed sword grip, but his feet are big and sturdy enough that he can stand on one foot so it isn’t all bad. It’s obvious why he’s like this though so I have a hard time critiquing NECA too hard for the articulation when the aesthetic of the figure is so good. It’s just the trade-off collectors of this line have come to expect. The only improvement that would have made sense is double-jointed knees or a butterfly joint at the shoulder, but I don’t know if I own any NECA figures with such a joint so it’s not like I was expecting it.

He looks like a little kid being forced to dress-up against his will.

As far as accessories go, Usagi comes packing quite a bit. I already mentioned the hands, but Usagi also has a pair of swords at his disposal. One is a katana while the other is listed as a wakizashi. Basically, you have one long sword and one short one and there’s a set of scabbards for each to go into that’s molded together. The scabbard can be affixed to the figure via a black, elastic, sash that’s very similar to what we’ve seen in the movie line with Shredder and the Foot. Just slip it over the figure and stick it on his waist. It will mostly disappear in the waist joint, but it can hold the scabbards just fine. Mine did start to fall out after a day or so though either due to the elastic stretching or part of it getting hung-up on the ball joint at the waist. Usagi also has two additional weapons: a kunai and a katar, which is that fist-dagger that came with all of the Playmates turtles and fit into the rear holster on Raphael’s belt. They’re well-painted and nice to have. We also get a little dinosaur, the Tokage, which is from the Usagi Yojimbo comic. It’s a fun little thing to have, plus who doesn’t want a tiny dinosaur?

NECA didn’t provide much room to work with, but with a little hot water and some persistence, you can fix this if it happens to you. And if you’re looking for an IPA recommendation, Sip of Sunshine is my go-to.

We also have a second portrait that features some teeth and ears draped along the skull. The ears are swappable between the heads, but I have thus far encountered a lot of difficulty swapping the heads. The head is connected to the neck via a double-ball-peg and the bottom peg in the neck is the one that keeps popping out as opposed to the ball in the head. It’s so small that I can’t pull it out with with my fingers, so I had to resort to tweezers (I wasn’t sure my needle nose pliers would even get in there). With some advice and ecncouragement from Twitter user Uncle Jesse (@Mesademon149), I was able to dig the peg out with hot water and said tweezers. Even after lubricating the portion that inserts into the head, I still have been unable to get the peg to function properly so I’ve had to dig this thing out a few times so I need to pick a face and stick with it.

This cloak is pretty bad ass.
“My name is Usagi: Jedi Master.”

Lastly, we have some extra clothing. There’s a soft goods cloak that’s a dark gray with a wired hood. It’s easy to slip on and it looks terrific and there’s a black ribbon included to be utilized like a sash. I just wish there were belt loops on the cloak to better utilize the sash, or just another elastic band. I’m guessing it was a knotted robe in the show as I don’t remember, but I would take the trade-off. Usagi also has hit hat, a type of kasa or Jingasa, that most likely see and just think of as a samurai hat. It looks like it’s made of wood and is very well painted with a light brown on top and a dark brown inside. There’s a lot of nice linework on it as well. There’s a strap made of a thing plastic sculpted onto it to hold it on Usagi’s head and it works well with the flat ears. The strap is supposed to connect to the hat at four spots, but mine is only attached at two. Thankfully, it’s one on each side so it works, but it looks a little silly. I might try to glue those little strands in place, but then again, I’m not really planning on displaying him with the hat anyway. I thought I same promotional shots of the figure with the hat on his back, but I could be mistaken. If not though, it’s not something I would try as I don’t think those straps would hold up. They look quite fragile, so user beware.

“Rabbit, those turtles are your enemies! It’s they who trapped you here in this dimension!”
“Foul being! Your treachery shall not go unpunished!”

Overall, Usagi is a dynamite release form NECA that just has a couple of hiccups. The articulation doesn’t bother me much, it’s really just the inability to swap the heads easily that’s irritating me. The cloak is really good though and I’m torn on how to display my figure because of how much I like that thing. I wasn’t expecting to use it, but now I’m reconsidering. The weapons are great, and the other other critique I really have is the absence of vertical hinges on the gripping hands. He’s a samurai, NECA, give him the right hands! NECA is sometimes very good about that, and sometimes not, it makes it hard to know what to expect.

There’s certainly room for a samurai rabbit amongst ninja turtles, but what about an Easter Bunny? Hmm…

This figure was $35 when it went up for preorder in March and hopefully it stays that way at retail. NECA Ultimates have been trending toward $38 of late so it may come in a little more pricey. This guy features tons of unique tooling so the value is there and I honestly don’t know how NECA does it considering what some other companies are charging for repaints these days. Usagi Yojimbo is a memorable character from the show, so anyone who has been collecting this line is likely going to grab him and he’ll be money well spent.

“Hey dude, you ever have pizza?” “Pizza…?”

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 Cartoon TMNT Mousers Pack

I hope you have plenty of rats, because these Mousers brought their appetite.

It’s been a little while since we had a Turtle Tuesday around here. NECA was keeping me quite busy in March with release after release and really putting a hurting on my wallet. Not only were sets hitting stores, but items were going up on NECA’s website for preorder, all of which require payment upfront. It almost became exhausting especially since the capper on all of that was a Turtle Van in April, and as you can probably guess, that thing ain’t cheap!

One of the surprise solicitations of 2021 was for a set of Mousers. The Mousers are from the comic and made the jump to animation pretty early in the show’s life. They have since appeared in nearly every iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to follow. In most versions, if not all, the Mousers are an invention of Baxter Stockman and are intended to solve New York City’s rat problem, but they often hide a more nefarious purpose. Being that the turtles are lead by a mutated rat, it’s pretty easy to see how the Mousers can work their way into a story for the series. And most of the toy-lines have sought to introduce them as well to varying degrees. The original Playmates line featured an oversized Mouser as part of the wacky action line of figures, while the 2003 line made them a pack-in accessory and portrayed them at the appropriate size. Pretty much ever since this line took-off, collectors have wanted to see NECA introduce the Mousers. They previously did some for the Mirage line as a convention exclusive and their April figure came with a pair, and NECA has finally come through.

A familiar box, but much smaller.

The Mousers from NECA come in a small, toon-style box, that reminds me a bit of the boxes the bunny Bebop and Rocksteady came in for Loot Crate. It’s just a lot smaller in comparison with the NECA two-packs since Mousers aren’t exactly big. This set was retailed for $40 and is a NECA website exclusive, but individual Mousers are likely to be worked into the retail line as accessories (this year’s San Diego Comic Con set includes Baxter Stockman and a Mouser). It’s great to see NECA just come right out with a pack like this as if they had released a Baxter with a Mouser or two people would be trying to army build Mousers while getting stuck with multiple Baxters. Even Super7 has made collectors wait a couple of years after including their, lone, Mouser in the first wave of Super7 Ultimates! as they have a Mouser pack due to arrive at some point this year.

Look at all the tiny robots!

With this set, NECA is providing each buyer an assortment of Mousers. There’s enough here that many collectors will probably be satisfied with just one, but others can likely easily talk themselves into multiples since the variety is done well. So what’s in the box? Well, each box comes with four, complete, unblemished, Mousers. Their design matches the toon as they have a slight curve to their head as opposed to the more rounded look of the comic version. They’re painted white and gray, with the gray acting as the “toon” shading and the proportions look spot-on. They’re over 2″ tall, but they’re construction affords a range of posing in which they can be more upright or hunched over. They’re quite bird-like in their design with thin legs, clawed feet, and “knees” that can bend forward or back. There’s a single stripe of red for the glowing “eye” on the head, and the interior of the mouth is sculpted and painted a slate gray. There’s black on the joints too and gray on the “neck” of the robots. The sculpt is basically perfect. It’s not a demanding design, but credit where credit is due. The paint job is also nice and free from slop. There’s a little excess black on the hip of one of mine, but otherwise the set is pristine.

The battle damaged ones are pretty damn fun.

Now, four Mousers is nice, but not 10 bucks a piece nice, so it’s good that there’s more! There’s an additional, complete, Mouser with a bashed-up head. It’s lovingly dented and scratched and the red light has been extinguished on this one because it has a hole going through the top of the head that can accommodate Raph’s sai. Both pieces of the head are re-sculpted for this and the mouth hinge still works while the body is the same as the others. The sixth Mouser is more destroyed as it has a bashed head that’s a different sculpt from the other bashed Mouser. The neck is extended to imply the cable has been forced out and there’s a new body as well. It’s nicely dented and even features an adorable mouse popping out of a hole in it along with some wiring. There’s an added, non-removable, cap on the bottom which does look a little odd since it’s not on the others, but maybe it’s there for a reason I forgot. One leg is the same, while the other is a new piece that has a frozen knee joint and the foot is broken off. Lastly, we have a completely smashed Mouser that’s in three pieces: head, neck, and the rest. There’s sculpted wiring in the husk of the body with more sticking out of the neck of the headpiece. Between the battle damaged and the non, this is quite a little collection of Mousers and certainly strikes me as enough for a display.

Poor Splinter. He used to be displayed enjoying a nice book, now he has to deal with these things.

I touched on it a little already, but I should take some time to rundown how much articulation is in these little guys. Each Mouser has an articulated jaw, even the busted ones, which opens quite far. They’ll have no problem gobbling up rats or latching onto a turtle limb. The head is on a ball joint, and the neck too is connected to the torso via a ball joint basically making it a double-ball-peg joint. They can look up and down and get some nice nuance in the tilt. The only thing they can’t do well is look to the side. They can a little, but probably not as much as the robots in the show. The hips are just simple swivel points. It would have been nice to get some rotation out of there, but it’s suitable for what these need to do. The knee is a hinge that goes in both directions and there’s an ankle hinge as well. An ankle rocker would have been cool, but I can see why NECA went with the hinge as it’s much closer to the design in the show. Plus, without a ball joint at the hip there’s little need for an ankle pivot. It’s a neat and tidy assortment of articulation which definitely prioritizes the aesthetics of the sculpt, but also doesn’t really feel like any sacrifices were made so overall a good job.

Mousers need rats, and rats demand cheese and pizza. Not sure who requested the VHS tape, but it’s delightfully nostalgic!

To sweeten the package, NECA did toss in a bunch of extras. These are mostly limited to the various rats we’ve seen bundled with figures like the Rat King previously as well as the sitting rat that came with Splinter. There are 6 rats in total, three are reissues of the ones that came with Rat King but painted in a light gray with a brown tail. The sitting rat from the Splinter/Baxter set also has lighter fur and a re-colored tail and NECA painted the feet gray instead of brown. There are two, new, rats in this set: one on all fours and one that’s on its hind legs with the forelegs against its chest. That one is the cutest one yet and while it’s good to have rats with Mousers, I may take the Rat King re-issues and add them to him since they have the coiled tails. Also included is a wedge of cheese the sitting rat can hold, the VHS tape that came with Ace Duck previously (only now with a little blue paint on the label area), a slice of pizza that we’ve seen before, and a little drone robot that looks like a fly. It’s another Baxter invention and something to hide in a display. I’m curious if the controller for it has been released or will be in the future to pair with the Baxter figure.

With the Super7 version. That one is a little bigger and is colored to be in-line with the Playmates figure, but it has way less articulation..

The accessories are fine, and even though I don’t know that I need so many rats, I can’t deny the wisdom of including them here. Plus there’s not a lot that can be released alongside Mousers. Another controller maybe? A new panel for the street diorama with a hole munched through it? That would obviously be more ambitious than what is here, but I can’t say we’re truly missing anything.

And Rat King gets some new rats out of this set, what’s not to love?

NECA’s Mousers set is a solid addition for those who want Mousers in their TMNT display. For 40 bucks, it’s not hard to see the value here as the small army of damaged and undamaged Mousers is sure to eat up some shelf space and there’s some extra rats to keep them busy too. And most importantly, the actual figures turned out very well and I think fans will be quite pleased. Unfortunately, this was offered only through NECA’s webstore and isn’t coming to retail. Several have made it onto AliExpress for basically MSRP so check there if you missed out or if you just want more. The mere fact that they’re available there means these weren’t made-to-order so it’s possible that NECA ordered extra and might make them available again at a later date. And as mentioned earlier, we’re likely to see these guys pop-up here and there as an accessory in other releases. If you want this specific set though I’d suggest you act fast as this is one likely to rise in value on the after-market since collectors love army builders.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Bronx

The good doggo has arrived!

Well, here’s something different. Bronx, the good gargoyle dog, is NECA’s fourth entry in its relatively young line of action figures based on the beloved Disney Afternoon series Gargoyles. And not only is Bronx here all on his own, he’s also got something for his buddy Goliath that collectors of this line have been begging for. Unfortunately, he also arrives as part of NECA’s Haulathon event, a gimmicky collector event taking place at Target that should be over by now. Unlike his line-mate, Demona, Bronx appears to have shipped in rather large numbers. Also unlike Demona, he was never put up for order on Target’s website so those who want him have been forced to trek to the store in hopes of catching him on a shelf. Or, you get a friend like I did in @JoePoppingOn who came through for me again with a Bronx! That’s three figures he helped me acquire so a very, hearty, “Thanks” are in order for him. Give him a follow on Twitter, especially if you’re located in the US north east.

Articulated jaws are cool.

Bronx comes in NECA’s standard Ultimates styled packaging with artwork on the front and product shots throughout. The front flap opens to reveal the figure inside and showcase the accessories, with one accessory displayed about as prominently as the actual figure. We’ll get to that, but first we need to talk about Bronx. Bronx, being more like a dog than human, is a quadruped who gets around on all fours. He’s also wingless, so at last he’s a release in this line that’s relatively easy to fit onto a shelf. He scales well with Goliath and the others when placed beside them, and because his form doesn’t showcase giant pectorals, he’s probably the most on-model release when compared with the show. NECA is obviously not going for a true on-model look with this line, so for Bronx, it’s more like a bonus for those out there who wish the company was aiming to do just that.

Yup, that’s Bronx all right.

The sculpt for Bronx is essentially what one would expect of NECA where the character is concerned. He’s a lovely shade of blue with a pale gray on his underside reserved for his lower jaw and belly. His eyes are all white and always displayed in that fashion, unlike the other gargoyles who only go all-white when trying to intimidate others. I like how the paint is applied to give them an almost glowing appearance as the white is soft on the edges and more stark in the center. His body has the usual gargoyle anatomy with spikes here and there. Not only does Bronx lack wings, he also features a far shorter tail giving him a really compact appearance. He’s all front end too with a smaller backside. He looks awesome, and even though the Bronx design from the show was never a particular favorite of mine, I find myself really liking the look of this figure because NECA just plain nailed it.

He’s a big boy.

Even though Bronx stands on all fours, he’s articulated in a very similar manner to his line-mates in some ways, but he’s also different in others. For one, Bronx has articulation at the jaw so he can open and close his mouth and look a bit more fearsome, if need be. His head is on a double ball-peg and it’s reinforced with another ball peg at the base of his massive neck so he gets terrific range looking to the side as well as up and down. He also has plenty of tilt and he’s very expressive in that area. His front legs are joined to the body via ball-hinges and he has “elbow” joints, ankle joints, and toe joints. His legs can spread out wide and kick forward and back. The torso has a rubbery overlay, indicating that NECA intends to do more figures in this style down the road, which does kill whatever torso articulation is hidden underneath that. His rear legs are affixed via ball joints just like the other gargoyles and he has knee joints that move very little as they’re always intended to be bent. Past that, his feet are done in the same fashion as the front ones with ankle hinges, rockers, and toe hinge and rocker. Because of his design, Bronx isn’t going to be super dynamic, but I think NECA did a good job here of getting articulation into this figure without sacrificing really any of the aesthetic. And I wish they’d add neck articulation to the other figures.

Check out the range on that neck!

Bronx doesn’t fly, or use weapons, or even have hands, so he doesn’t have much in the way of accessories. For Bronx, there’s really just two: a second head and a hunk of meat. The second head features a wide open mouth and is a touch more fearsome looking than the standard one. It would still feel a bit unnecessary if not for the big slab of meat he also comes with. I don’t know that I’ll really incorporate it into my own display, but the meat can fit into the mouth of the second head so he can hold it, or it can be placed at his feet. The meat looks fine and it’s painted, but at the end of the day it’s just a piece of meat.

The alternate head features a jaw that’s sculpted open.
He deserves a treat.

What collectors are really intrigued by is the last accessory: Goliath’s closed wings. Also referred to as caped wings by the fandom, these are for the Goliath figure and are posed as the character often did in the show by hooking them below his chin like a cape. This is a casual, walking around, look for Goliath and has the bonus of reducing the amount of space he takes up on a shelf. To put them on, you need to pop off the head and wings from the Goliath figure and then just drape it over the shoulders. They’re a soft, flexible, material, but still feature the same paint and detailing as the open wings. There are two pegs on the rear to slot into the figure and these basically just keep things together. Once the head is replaced, the look is complete and it’s…okay. Goliath’s body was sculpted to be in attack mode, so his head isn’t really positioned in a casual manner making it look a bit awkward. If he had a joint at the base of the neck, this could be worked with, but alas he does not. The head is also even more locked-down than before as his hair keeps him from really being able to turn his head. He can look down a little, but that’s it. Still, now that the display is four figures, the extra room is welcomed so I’m probably going to stick with this look, but what I really want are just relaxed wings.

A more studious look for the clan leader.
They do go well together.

Bronx is a terrific entry in this young line, and he might be my favorite. I’ve mentioned how the other figures are so cumbersome that they’re not very fun to mess around with, but Bronx doesn’t suffer from that at all. He’s a joy to play with and pose, and while his accessories do nothing for me, the actual figure is great. The caped wings for Goliath are certainly a welcomed addition, but I am lukewarm on the end result. It’s okay, and maybe I’ll like the look more with an Elisa to pair him with, but it seems clear to me that the figure wasn’t really sculpted with this look in mind. I think NECA is generally very good at balancing aesthetic with articulation and function, but with this line I don’t think they’ve been as successful. Hopefully we see some improvement going forward and that these extra wings which are sorely needed aren’t few and far between.

Even with Goliath’s new wings, I still feel this shelf is maxed out. Good thing the next release isn’t slated until the fall.

As mentioned before, Bronx was part of Haulathon at Target. He was up briefly on the Haulathon website, but I literally know of no one actually receiving the figure via that site as seemingly all, or most, of the orders ended up cancelled. He seems to still be shipping, so check your local stores if you’re after this one. He has since gone up for pre-order in the usual places with an expected June delivery, so while you may have to wait, you shouldn’t have to go to the secondary market to add to the clan.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Demona

Demona is here to prove Tuesday isn’t just for turtles.

When NECA launched it’s line of action figures based on Disney’s Gargoyles, it seemed to imply that Demona would be figure number 2. She was not. That honor went to Thailog, the Goliath clone, and that might have had something to do with the many factory delays and shipping woes that were impacting the entire industry. It’s a lot easier to pivot from Goliath to a figure like Thailog at the factory when almost all of the molds are the same. The other promise from NECA was that none of the Gargoyles figures were slated to be sold as exclusives. They were all general release and collectors could expect to be able to preorder them from their preferred retailer. Well, that went out the window with NECA’s Haulathon event which was split between a website for Halloween costumes and Target stores. And as you could probably have guessed at this point, Demona ended up falling into that event.

Sadly, flight stand not included.

Demona is the rogue gargoyle from the show. Goliath’s former lover, she’s basically the Magneto of the series as she has a justifiable distrust of humans, but turns that mistrust into all-out hatred. She doesn’t want to live alongside humanity, she wants to crush it. Armed with advanced weaponry, magic, and a wealth of knowledge given her extreme lifespan, she’s a formidable foe for Goliath and company and a worthy third figure in the line. Since she’s not a Goliath repaint, she’s also just the second, unique, sculpt we get to experience. With Goliath and Thailog, I had some nitpicks, but was generally satisfied with the finished product. With Demona, that’s pretty much still true, but she does introduce a new problem that I really hope isn’t one going forward.

Like Goliath, she brought reading material. Unlike Goliath, her book can actually open and close.

Demona is sold in the standard NECA Ultimates five-panel window box. It’s a bit smaller than Goliath’s since Demona is a smaller character. Not only is she shorter than her former beau, she’s more slender as she has a very feminine physique that mixes with the gargoyle anatomy. She has a big tuft of red hair that looks quite nice and the pale blue-gray of her skin lines up well with her appearance in the cartoon. Like Goliath, she’s inspired by the cartoon, but has added detail to make her look a bit more “alive.” It’s a bit less pronounced as she doesn’t need giant, rippling, muscles and it’s mostly seen in the texture added to her clothing. She basically just has a top and loincloth with the bottom piece being separate while the top appears to be part of the mold. Either that, or the torso is cut-out to fit it so it can be glued down. It’s interesting as I suspect NECA will want to reuse much of this mold for Angela at some point, but her top is different. Maybe Disney just didn’t want people sneaking a peek under Demona’s top? Which does raise the question: why do female gargoyles have breasts? They’re an egg-laying species, most of which don’t nurse their young, but they are fantastic beasts so I guess they can follow different rules.

Good luck deciphering that.

Demona has a very striking appearance, and one thing I rather like is that NECA used actual metal hoops for her earrings and her anklet. This could potentially make her more fragile, but they seem secure and fine. Her proportions look nice, and like Goliath, her wings are painted in a two-tone fashion with a purple shade used for the membrane. Also like Goliath, the wings are huge and made of ABS so there’s no give to them. They’re going to take up a lot space, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Aside from that general complaint, my only other issue with her is that her face looks just a little off. I feel like her face should be longer and more narrow. Instead, it starts off rather wide and quickly comes to a point at her chin giving her a slightly scrunched appearance. It’s not terrible or anything, but I think she could look a little better.

Your kids probably won’t like this face.

Demona comes with more stuff than we’re used to, and she even has a new feature that I wish Goliath had. And that feature is she uses faceplates instead of swapping an entire head. Bandai has been doing this for years with its figures, and I’m surprised it took NECA this long as it would have been easy to do with Goliath. Her face pops off easily and she has a screaming, red-eyed, face to go in its place. It’s appropriately unsettling, so much so that I almost don’t like looking at it, but it definitely works. Demona also has various hands including open, clawing hands, fists, a trigger-finger right hand, and a modified gripping left hand for her book or gun. She has two, giant, guns. One is a bazooka while the other is some kind of laser canon. The bazooka has a trigger and a more conventional design that’s easy to get the character to grip, while the other gun is more cumbersome with no actual trigger. I’m assuming it appeared that way in the show so I’m not faulting the toy here, just pointing it out for review. She also has her Grimorum Arcanorum which is really cool. It’s well-sculpted and the paint looks awesome as it has this distressed look to it and it can even open. It’s also sculpted to have a page torn out and that missing page will come with a future figure – a nice attention to detail.

The laser canon is a bit awkward with no actual trigger leaving Demona to wonder how she’s supposed to hold it?

The accessories are certainly appropriate, and the only thing missing is what’s missing from all of the figures so far and that’s a flight stand and additional wings. The wide open wings are essentially gliding wings so a flight stand is almost a necessity, but obviously would add cost to the figure. I’d happily take an increased cost if it meant alternate wings though. I know I sound like a broken record, but these things are too much to manage now that we have three figures.

That’s the best I could do.

Demona may be smaller than Goliath, but she essentially articulates the same. The head is on a double ball-peg, but her hair keeps her from being able to look up which is unfortunate for flying poses. NECA could have fixed that with either a second hairpiece or with a hinge in it, but chose not to. She can look down, tilt, and swivel. There’s no lower neck joint and her shoulders are ball-hinges. She can raise her arms out to the side without much trouble and has a biceps swivel, double elbows, and wrists that swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are horizontal, which is unfortunate for the trigger hand. Demona has a ball joint in the torso below her bust and a waist twist below that. Her hips are the standard ball joints and she can kick forward and back, since she doesn’t technically have an ass. There’s a twist there as well and she has single-jointed knees since the gargoyle anatomy only requires that much. The ankles are hinged and can rock a bit with another hinge at the toe that also has a rocker. The tail pegs into the rear of the figure and is bendy plus there’s a hinge at the peg. At the wings, she has hinges and they’re on pegs so they can rotate up and down and also swing out.

The rocket launcher, on the other hand, is quite easy to work with.

It’s with the wings that a new problem emerges for Demona. In many respects, I think she articulates better than Goliath as there’s less bulk to maneuver around, but what kills her is the tolerance of the wing joints. They are far too loose and are downright floppy. Her wings immediately slump to the table and posing them on their own is impossible. I’ve had to prop them up on Goliath and Thailog or just let them hit the shelf to pose her. She’s a challenge to stand, so I guess the wings help in that regard, but it’s a problem and it seems to be rather widespread. I’m going to have to try to remedy this somehow, either with super glue, tape, or something that can be added to that peg to tighten things up. It’s a problem that the figure really can’t have since the wings are so huge and it’s something NECA needs to tighten up now. I’ve refrained on trying to remedy it for the time being so that my images with this review are true to what the figure is out of the box.

I think three, winged, gargoyles is the most this shelf can handle.

Demona is a figure that is largely as expected. She looks the part well enough and has essentially the same articulation as Goliath, just with a new problem in the form of the wings. If not for that, I think I’d find her a little more entertaining than Goliath, but instead I find this figure to be rather frustrating as I try to pose it on my shelf. That’s also true of the other releases in this line as they’re so cumbersome that they’re really not a lot of fun to handle. They look pretty great when placed in a pose that looks nice, but they make you work to get there. NECA plans to include extra wings with the non-winged characters in the line, but that’s not going to do it. We really need options right out of the box, or else I think a lot of people will drop this line after a figure or two. Maybe I’m wrong, but despite this figure being overall a solid release, I’m finding my enthusiasm for this line waning which is hard to believe given how excited I was a year ago when the line was announced.

Demona was part of the Haulathon event and some stores are still receiving stock of her and she should set you back around $36. The distribution appeared poor to start, with some stores only getting one unit or none at all, but Target did make her available online so hopefully those who wanted her got her. I never found this figure in stores, so a special shout-out to @JoePoppingOn who helped me in tracking her down and the next figure in the line. The figure is also now up at various online retailers, some with a mark-up so it pays to shop around. Those figures are presently slated for a June release so hopefully that holds true and everyone who wants it can get one.


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