Tag Archives: paul harding

NECA Cartoon TMNT Tokka and Rahzar

Memorable mutants from their not so memorable role.

There is certainly a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles product flying around these days, but I would guess collectors and fans of the property are paying the most attention to two toy makers in particular: NECA and Super7. One search for “NECA” on this blog will reveal that the company has produced a ton of TMNT action figures based on various iterations of the characters be it movies, television, or comics. As for Super7, their output is much slower and more specific, though they still have released 16 figures thus far and a handful of variants and have three additional waves already solicited. Super7’s approach is to essentially reproduce what Playmates made 30 years ago at a new scale and with modern technology. Both NECA and Super7 basically received permission to go full tilt on TMNT at the same time, and both have said they basically sat down at Toy Fair, explained the direction they were each going in, and basically have a handshake agreement to not step on each other’s toes which has held up just fine.

Sometimes though, multiple iterations of the property intersect. Playmates very much did its own thing when it came to characters and designs, and for awhile, the cartoon did as well. As the show went on though, the writers, artists, and so on started to just lift more from existing sources probably because it gets hard to keep coming up with new ideas for a show that’s pretty formulaic and largely exists just to sell toys. And since it’s a glorified commercial, why not just include the toys in the show directly?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before about this line, but these guys look like they jumped right off of the screen.

When it came time to make a sequel to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 film, the writers wanted to include some mutant henchmen for Shredder. When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird balked at including the cartoony Bebop and Rocksteady, new mutants were created in Tokka and Rahzar. Playmates foolishly felt the first movie would be a massive flop and did not support it with toys, but after it was a success, they were ready for the sequel and produced figures on several characters including the newly created mutants. Playmates wasn’t going to match the look of the costumes in the film, and it’s likely things were being worked on simultaneously, so their take on Tokka and Rahzar turned out a little different from how they appeared in the film. The film was another hit and the characters proved popular, so to no one’s surprise, Tokka and Rahzar made the jump to television. And since it was likely far easier to model them on the toys, that’s what the show did. All of this is to say I feel a little bad for Super7 since NECA has essentially provided us a set of figures that are based on the cartoon, which was based on the toys. It’s basically the same deal as what we saw with Antrax and Scumbug earlier this year.

Let’s just jump right to the comparisons! Left to right: Playmates Tokka (first run), NECA toon, and NECA movie.

Tokka and Rahzar come in the standard window box packaging we’re all used to at this point. They were initially offered as part of NECA’s Haulathon event and in a confusing fashion as they were sold on costumes.com. Apparently, it would have cost too much to create a new website. That website was also supposed to be for international customers only, but no one configured the site to actually lock out US residents so it ended up being a free-for-all when everything went up on March 18th. This set was said to be open to all in some places, but it was all terribly communicated and a lot of confusion was out there. I placed an order on that site, and a set arrived less than 2 weeks later even though product wasn’t supposed to ship until April (I’m not complaining). These guys are going to Target, and maybe online too, and it’s possible by the time this post actually goes live that all of this has been sorted out. For now, it’s a mess, but I got some toys out of it.

And now for the wolf. Same arrangement as before. I think my vintage Rahzar is the first run which had red paint around the eyes in error. Later releases featured black like the toon version.

As mentioned before, Tokka and Rahzar are based on their appearance in the episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Dirk Savage: Mutant Hunter!” and the designs for the characters are clearly based on their action figure counterparts from Playmates. It came pretty late in the cartoon’s life, episode 166 out of 193, so several people collecting this line barely remember their appearance. I personally was still watching, but I’d drop off the following season when the “Red Sky” era began and the show underwent a soft reboot of sorts. I remember being quite surprised to see this pair show up though, and even more surprised when they were intelligent creatures. Aside from resembling the movie characters to a certain degree, the pair are pretty damn different. They’re a bit morally ambiguous and largely out to satisfy their stomachs. Rahzar makes it very clear to Tokka that he’s his only friend in the world, which is about the only character development they really get. Rahzar seems to dislike everyone, but Tokka, and he does make some comment about no one being able to stop them so I guess they’re villains? Tokka is mostly useless though as he’s easily subdued and just exists to make Rahzar mad when something unfortunate befalls him. He gets captured by the mutant racist Dirk Savage, leading to a showdown between Savage and Rahzar that’s just a set piece for the turtles to save Savage and have him realize the errors of his ways. That’s the cure for racism in Hollywood, you just need to have the party the individual is racist towards save them. Problem solved! Tokka and Rahzar’s story just sort of ends there and they never show up again.

“All right son, I’ll take you to the dog park.”

Rahzar is obviously the larger of the two standing at around 7.25″ to the top of his hair. Tokka, is much shorter and chunkier coming in at around 5.25″. Both were sculpted by Paul Harding who has already made a mark on this line with expressive sculpts of Dirtbag and Groundchuck and it looks like NECA was so pleased with Tokka that they’re prepping the figure for a re-release as an Archie Slash, which makes sense since the Playmates Slash was repurposed into Tokka! Both figures are impressively sculpted. Rahzar has a lot of extra parts added to him like the broken shackles, forearm and thigh pads, and that grill on his chest. Tokka has various warts and similar blemishes on his body to go with a spiked shell that’s a dead-ringer for the old toy. He has elbow and knee pads plus those spiked shoulder pauldrons. I love the detail on both and the paint is what is expected of this line. The black linework is clean and really causes the pair to “pop” and we get that bisected shading as well with light on the front and dark on the back. The only overlay in use here is the green “diaper” on Rahzar so it’s hard to say if NECA expects to get much reuse out of his mold. If not, I love to see the commitment on display here from NECA to make the best possible versions of these characters uncompromised by cost-cutting measures.

Tokka’s shell features the same arrangement as the old toy for the spikes. There’s even the same linework on the center nubs.

When it comes to shortcomings from a presentation perspective, there’s very little to complain about here. We’re basically down to nitpicks as the paint around the spikes on Tokka’s shell is a little sloppy around the edges, but it’s pretty minor. The shurikens on his belt also have a soft appearance in the paint department, but again, it’s a nitpick. The only real blemish on either figure is with Rahzar’s right shackle. There’s a sizable blob of gray paint on it from the forearm guard that’s a bit of a bummer. The shackle is a separate piece that can come right off once the hand is popped off so, if I want to, I could easily take it off and try to touch it up. It’s tough to paint white over a dark color though so I don’t know that I’ll bother, but that really is it as far as issues. This is a very clean set.

These guys just want to eat and hang out, and honestly, I can relate.

Since our boys here only showed up in one episode, they didn’t really get to do much aside from eat and get captured by Savage. Given that, NECA included a bunch of food! There’s a turkey platter with about half of a bird on it, some sliced potatoes, and a big slab of salami, I think. There’s also a turkey leg and some bone-in-meat plus a whole fish which was something actually used as a weapon against Rahzar. There’s also yet another handheld, control, device that looks like a fancy adding machine. It’s the controller to the control cuff that actually came with the Mondo Gecko figure so, little by little, we’re building the arsenal of Dirk Savage (the foot trap that came with the Punk Frogs also belongs to Savage). Each figure also comes with a set of gripping hands and a set of open hands. I’m a little surprised there are no fists, but I don’t know that I actually miss them. The accessories are all painted very nicely, and even though I’m not sure what I’ll do with a big turkey platter, I’m happy to have it.

“Hey, gimme a bit of that.” “No.”

This line is certainly an appearance first, articulation second, sort of line, but these two boys move pretty well. We’ll start with Rahzar first who has a ball-jointed head. It feels like it might be a double-ball peg as he can look up very well, and bury his chin with rotation and tilt. There’s also a hinged jaw to add personality and it works very well. He’s most limited at the shoulders where traditional ball-hinges are hampered by the shoulder pads. The pads can slide a little, but he can’t really lift his arms out to the side much. He can rotate just fine though, and he has a biceps swivel, double-jointed elbows that get you 90 degrees or better, and wrist swivels with horizontal hinges. In the diaphragm is a ball joint that will mostly let the figure rotate, but you get some tilt and he can arch back and crunch forward a little bit. The hips are on ball-sockets and are nice and firm. You get a thigh twist there to go with double-jointed knees and the standard hinge and rocker combo at the ankles. All of those joints work quite well and I love that he has big feet because he’s easy to pose and stand. There were no stuck joints and they’re all cast in the most appropriate color of plastic too.

They seem to scale just fine with the turtles.

Tokka is similar, but being another turtle character, he has some limitations of his own. His head basically sits forward on the sculpt so he’s more limited in the up and down department, but he does have a really nice jaw hinge to make up for it. This dude can open wide! Like Rahzar, he has shoulder pads too that prevent him from bringing his arms out to the side, but he gets good range out of the double-elbows despite the elbow pads (why can’t we get these on the hero turtles?) and has a biceps swivel and standard wrist articulation. Like the turtles, he appears to have some joints in the torso, but unlike the turtles, it’s pretty useless. I can’t get any twist out of them, but braver folks than me might be more willing to really crank on that joint. The hips are ball and socket joints and he has the same thigh twist, double knees, and ankle articulation as Rahzar. Tokka’s feet are really impressive as he can bend each one back all the way so the foot lines up with the leg and he can bend it really far forward. It gives the figure a great base and I’ll definitely be happy to have a Slash with this kind of articulation later this year.

“Tokka, you and I are all we got!” “Have you been watching those Fast and Furious movies again?”

I feel like I’ve been saying this with a lot of the two-packs of late, but this set is another contender for best in the line. I’m partial to the bugs from a design standpoint, but I can’t imagine these two turning out any better than they did. These guys are picture perfect recreations of their animated look and the sculpt, paint, and articulation really comes together nicely. I suppose the accessories aren’t the most exciting we’ve seen, but it’s not as if there was much in the show associated with them. I guess we should be mad at the designers of the toon for not giving them some of their action figure accessories.

Tokka and Rahzar have started off as another Haulathon exclusive, but I suspect NECA will make every effort to get these figures into as many hands as possible so if you missed the initial drop keep your eyes open. Basically every set these days to hit Target brick and mortar has been relatively easy to get ahold of, excepting maybe the turtles themselves. I’m willing to bet Tokka and Rahzar will follow a similar pattern and hang around for a bit. Maybe I’m underestimating their popularity due to their appearance in The Secret of the Ooze, but that remains to be seen. If you can’t tell, I definitely give these guys a strong recommend so get out there and hunt these bad boys down like you’re Dirk Savage himself, just don’t be a racist!


NECA TMNT Cartoon Dirtbag and Groundchuck

Some new mutants have joined the party!

NECA’s line of action figures based on the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a wonderful source of nostalgia for 80s/90s kids even as the line heads into more obscure territories. In socializing with individuals of my age, it feels like a lot of those 5 and 6 year-olds who were watching the first few seasons of the show outgrew it come the early 90s. By then we were in the midst of a cartoon boom and the quality of shows was increasing with seemingly every new show. Practically overnight, the cartoon that was really just a not so cleverly disguised toy commercial started to fall out of favor. You still had your Street Sharks and Biker Mice From Mars, but there were also a ton of one and done type shows that came and went. With TMNT, the show seemed to get more mileage out of the fact that it started to take from the toyline, rather than dictate it. It used to be that a character would appear in the show, then eventually make its way to store shelves, but giant episode orders probably made it easier to just grab a toy and integrate it into the show practically 1:1. And so we have Dirtbag and Groundchuck.

I remember this pair showing up in stores roughly at the same time. I never had the Playmates Dirtbag, but I did have Groundchuck and he was one of my favorite designs from the line. I liked his armor-plated leg and the harsh shade of red that was his fur seemed cool to me. He had a crossbow weapon and a Foot logo tattoo on his arm and he became one of my chosen enemies. I even played with him so much he eventually fell apart, something that never happened to any of my other TMNT toys. He and Dirtbag eventually made their animated debut in the episode “Planet of the Turtleoids,” the same episode as Chrome Dome and Kerma. They were supposed to be the new Bebop and Rocksteady, but they had little interest in taking orders so that’s how the writers were able to move on from them. They were actually competent villains for the turtles, so that right there makes them fairly unique amongst the rogues from that show.

“By any chance, would you two be interested in helping a poor, defenseless, turtle?”

Since Dirtbag and Groundchuck arrived in the show as a pair, it made sense for NECA to release them as a pair. This year, we’ve seen toy companies do their best to adapt to the shipping crisis and uptick in factory rates and NECA has made some changes to this year’s releases as a result. We saw the figures Mondo Gecko and Muckman split into deluxe releases and we’ve also seen an uptick in price. With Dirtbag and Groundchuck, there was just no getting around the issue of costs. These two are, as far as I can tell, entirely unique as far as tooling goes. We’ve seen NECA get a lot of mileage out of the Bebop and Rocksteady base here and there, but that won’t work for this pair. As a result, we have the priciest two-pack in the line as this set retails for $65. Some may balk at the increase, at this time last year a NECA two-pack was $52, but I for one would rather receive an uncompromised product than a cheap one. No, I don’t particularly like paying more money for something, but I understand the economics in play.

Who would have thought a mutant mole would be so cool? The bull is kind of a given though.

Dirtbag and Groundchuck are an impressive pair. And that’s what you want if a set is going to set you back a few more bucks than the usual. Dirtbag is around 5.5″ and Groundchuck is closer to 6″, maybe a tick above when he’s standing up as straight as he can. This is veteran sculpter Paul Harding’s first contribution to the line and he really set a high bar for himself going forward. These two guys should remind anyone who owned them as kids of those vintage Playmates toys, but mostly they look just like they stepped out of the television. Dirtbag has all of the little things I remember from his brief appearance on the show and stuff that I don’t. He’s rocking the one boot, one bare foot, look and his limbs feature sculpted fur. He’s got these two-toned overalls with an olive green on top and black on the bottom to go along with a hot pink backpack. It’s a pretty gnarly getup, but it almost looks ordinary for a character from this show since it’s not as outlandish as some of the other stuff. Like his box-mate, for instance. Groundchuck sports this tattered, blue, tunic with shaggy fur underpants. He’s got a lavender belt that evokes images of Batman and a pair of bull’s eyes, one over his heart and one on his left knee, to add a dash of yellow. He has a bright green tuft of hair on his head which is poking out from under this futuristic half-helmet thing that even covers his right horn. His right leg almost looks robotic, but I think it’s just armor. Why he chose to armor one leg and little else I don’t know. He does feature some plating over his left thigh and he has this big shoulder contraption over his right shoulder. His left shoulder has a more conventional shoulder pad while both of his fingerless gloves have spiked or studded knuckles. He’s a totally 90s design and I am here for it!

Just a mole trying to earn a living.

Let’s talk a bit about Dirtbag first. I’ve already mentioned that his sculpt is awesome, but so is the paint work. His design doesn’t call for anything outlandish, but what is here works. He’s mostly a soft gray with a darker gray used to shade his backside. The same is done for his shirt, light green on the front, dark on the back, and his mining helmet as well. There’s a lot of black linework on this guy which adds so much depth to him. And it’s just remarkable how clean everything is. I would expect some of the lines to be a little out of whack here and there, but there’s literally none of that with this guy. The eyes, the inner ear, the inside of his mouth – it all looks fantastic. Also worth noting, all of his hinges appear to be cast in the most appropriate color of plastic. The one consistent eyesore with this line that keeps coming back are painted hinges with a poor choice in base color beneath. Those stand out too readily, but with Dirtbag it all looks good. You will only run into that issue with the back of the ankles because the hinges are done to match the shade of gray from the front of the figure, not the rear, and that’s fine. It would be stupid to do it the other way around. Even the left boot was cast in brown plastic and the fingerless gloves were done in red. I suppose there’s a risk that paint might come off of the fingers on the gripping hands, but there’s not much that can be done to prevent that. For now, I haven’t had any issues there.

I applaud Dirtbag for his willingness to rock a pink backpack.
The backpack is functional too. You can either put small items in it or wedge his shovel in there like so.

Dirtbag (and Grounchuck for that matter) is also on the chunky side. His torso his wide and his legs a bit squat. Because of that, articulation isn’t going to be his strong suit, but it’s not a huge minus either. His head can really only swivel, if there’s any up and down I haven’t been able to figure it out. He does have an articulated jaw, a commonplace for this line that’s welcomed, so he’s not lacking in personality there. The shoulders are ball-hinged and lift out to the side all the way into a T position and can spin around. There’s a biceps swivel past that and double-jointed elbows. He’s a pretty jacked mole, so the size his of his biceps don’t really allow the elbows to bend past 90 degrees, but it’s not something I miss. The hands rotate at the wrist and all feature horizontal hinges. At the waist we have a big ball peg so he can rotate and tilt a little, but he can’t crunch forward or bend back. At the hips are the newer NECA ball and socket which I am happy to report are not loose. He doesn’t kick out very far forward, but he’s not really a martial arts kind of rodent. There is a thigh twist and the knees are double-jointed. At the ankle, we have hinges and rockers which work very well. On the rear of the figure we find a tail and a backpack. The tail is on a ball peg, but it doesn’t do a whole lot, though it can come in handy for adding a little stability to the figure. At the backpack, which is constructed of a rubbery plastic, is a flap that actually can open and close. I haven’t tried sticking a small accessory in it out of fear that it will be hard to get out, but it’s a cool little detail. What I have enjoyed doing with it is wedging the pole of his shovel underneath the flap so it goes straight across his back. The hold is plenty tight and it’s something that can be done to add weapon storage, which I always like.

There isn’t a matador alive who would mess with this bull.

With Groundchuck, we have a similar story. For one, the paint is so eye-catching with this bovine. There’s fur, metal, cloth, and just a lot going on. And it’s fairly clean, though not as clean as it is with Dirtbag. There are paint blemishes present on Groundchuck that I wish weren’t there. There’s a spot of missing white on the armor of his left thigh and the cow skull belt buckle has some scratching too. Those are the only ones that stand out, but there are a few nicks here and there which is customary with mass market figures and especially those with as much paint as this guy. The black line work though, is once again, pretty damn stellar. The line on the right legs are sculpted in and painted while the armor on the left thigh is scalloped and a really fun texture. I love how NECA painted both portions with a lot of white in the middle and gray on the edges. I find the shading on Groundchuck’s body to be a little more subdued than some other figures in this line as the red of the fur and blue of the tunic is just a little darker on the rear of the figure in comparison with the front. That’s not a critique, but an observation, as the metallic bits are shaded aggressively and look terrific as a result. The only spots where I feel a little more paint might of helped make the figure look even better are just small details like the fingernails and the row of teeth on his upper jaw. The bottom row has the black line work all throughout, but the upper row is just white. That’s likely because it’s really only noticeable if you’re looking at the figure from below the head, but when you’re reviewing a figure it’s something you’re going to see as you approach the figure from many angles, including ones that likely won’t factor into a display.

Look mom, no flaking!

The articulation for Groundchuck is more or less the same as Dirtbag with only minor differences. He has all of the same points of articulation, minus the tail and backpack. I’m not sure why a mutant bull was designed without a tail, but that’s how it was. His head does feature a bit more play than Dirtbag’s, but it’s not drastic. He mostly looks straight ahead and down a little, with some room for tilt. His jaw doesn’t seem to open as far, but there’s enough there to change up his disposition. His shoulders are going to be somewhat impacted by his shoulder pads, but it doesn’t stop his arms from lifting out to the side all the way. He’s also traded a waist cut for a ball peg in upper abdomen. It mostly just affords rotation there, but he can tilt a little bit to the side as well as forward and back. The legs and arms are entirely the same, except with Groundchuck comes the added fun of having a character with hooves for feet instead of something more traditional. Even though they’re hooves, they still have the usual amount of ankle articulation and he’s really not a challenge to stand. Since he has kneepads like the turtles, his knees can’t quite achieve a 90 degree bend, but I don’t think that’s something that will be a problem for this figure. Also worth noting, that the hinges in the legs are painted on the rear, but the paint isn’t flaking! I don’t know what NECA did or if they did anything different, but it’s pretty cool.

The Cowboys of Moo Mesa wish their sidearms were this cool.

One way companies have been able to keep costs manageable this year is by cutting back on accessories. NECA said “Screw that,” with this set as this pair is pretty well loaded. Both characters come with fisted hands in the box, but also have a set of gripping hands and open hands. All of the hands feature horizontal hinges and the same lovely paintjob. They’re easy to swap too as NECA seems to be using softer plastic with shorter pegs lately. The only downside is the hands might pop out when you don’t want them too, especially as you break in the hinges, but that’s certainly better than the alternative. Groundchuck has his own stylized pistol that ends in a bull skull complete with nose ring. It’s ridiculous, but appropriate for the show and character given the era. His gripping hands aren’t classic “trigger finger” hands, but they’re also soft enough that getting his index finger onto the trigger shouldn’t be a problem. As far as I know, that’s the only Groundchuck specific accessory in this box with the rest belonging to either Dirtbag or another character all together.

They attack from above and below!

Dirtbag, being a miner and a fighter, needs tools and weapons. He’s got a pistol like Groundchuck, but unlike Groundchuck his pistol doesn’t really contain any Dirtbag theming. It does look like a nail or rail gun, which feels appropriate for his workman-like appearance. There’s a small, handheld, device that looks like a cross between a TV remote and an electric razor. I think this is a tracking device used by Donatello, if it fell into the hands of Dirtbag or Groundchuck I don’t remember, but rest assured it is absolutely pulled from the show. Dirtbag also has his shovel, which can be used for digging or cracking skulls, and he has an oversized drill that I guess helps him tunnel through the earth. He can easily hold it with two hands in front of his body, though the drill bit doesn’t rotate.

“Hey! Don’t worry, I’m supposed to do this!”

Lastly, Dirtbag has a rather unique accessory that just looks like a ring of rocks. This is to simulate him coming up from the ground, similar to what we saw with the Roadkill Rodney figures, but on a bigger scale. To achieve the desired result, you have to pull the figure apart at the waist and then just sit his torso in it. Getting him apart the first time can be a little scary since the factory likely really shoves these things together tight. It’s a double ball peg that’s in there, so it should be hard to break. Even so, I used some hot, running, tap water to soften it up (I did not need to heat any other joints on these figures) and was able to pull him apart. Putting him back together was also a snap. It’s pretty cool and provides for another display option. I’m torn on how Dirtbag will ultimately end up on my shelf. I think this is an accessory that may come and go as I change things up here and there. All of these accessories though are lovingly painted and detailed. The gripping hands are also pretty soft so there shouldn’t be too much of a problem preventing paint scuffing as they’re swapped in and out, but as always, take care when doing so. These are, after all, “adult collectibles.”

They look appropriately intimidating when paired with turtles.
“Back off, dirt bag!” “Hey, how did you know my name?!”

NECA’s latest two-pack from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line is one of its best. This one is right up there with Bebop and Rocksteady for me, and I’m hard pressed to think of a better one. Dirtbag and Groundchuck aren’t the most well known characters from the show, but their presence in the classic toy line (which basically mirrored their later cartoon appearance) makes them more familiar than than someone like Kerma, even though he appeared in the same episodes. These sculpts are phenomenal and I really hope Paul Harding will be making many more contributions to this line and basically any line I collect. This pair is certainly helping NECA end 2021 with a bang, and what’s really awesome for collectors, is there’s more coming since these guys were released alongside another all new two-pack and the other sets solicited earlier this year should be on a boat somewhere. NECA made this two-pack available on its website earlier this month, but they should be hitting Target right now. Take advantage of the fact that some people won’t remember this duo and snatch a set if you see one. You will not be disappointed.

“Now, I can rid myself of those imbeciles: Bebop and Rocksteady!”
Because every figure needs to be compared to Chrome Dome.

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