Tag Archives: san diego comic con

Hot Wheels Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon

 

img_4586I’ve mentioned on many occasions in my toy reviews that action figures were my first love. That’s not entirely true, as before those came into my life there were cars. My dad was always into cars, so when I came along he made sure I had a bunch of them. I had Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and plenty of Tonka. I liked them quite a bit. My favorite was some black car of unknown make. I liked it best because the rear of the car featured a molding that, to me, resembled the exhaust on the Batmobile from the Adam West show. I don’t know how close it came to actually resembling that, or if my little brain just wanted it to, but it was enough. I’d eventually get a proper Batmobile when merchandise from the 89 movie started arriving, which was probably around the time I ditched the cars for good.

Despite my dad’s best efforts, I never became a car person. It was all super heroes following that. He’s given it another try with my own son, and it’s not looking good. My nephew is still into cars, so maybe that will be his gear head. Who knows? I tried helping him out a bit myself as I’ve bought a lot of Hot Wheels for my son and daughter. When Toys R Us was still a thing, it was an easy task to leave the store with a new one since they’re so inexpensive. Prior to my son coming along, I have no idea when I last bought a Hot Wheels product. As for the last one bought for me? That’s almost impossible a task to figure out. It may have even been that Batmobile. At least until now.

 

Mattel has a history of doing exclusives for San Diego Comic Con, and this year was no exception. In addition to a brand new Batmobile, they did a first:  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon, or Turtle Van for short. This nifty little piece of diecast is based on the classic Turtle Van from the old cartoon with an obvious nod to the toy counterpart from Playmates. It comes in a standard box with some modern artwork on it, and within that box is a cylindrical “sewer pipe” box with the actual toy sits inside. When you remove the slipcase on that you’re met with this attractive window box display. Inside is the vehicle and around behind it is a city backdrop with villains Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Interestingly, Bebop and Rocksteady look to be based on concept art from Playmates, specifically the mutating figures toy line as Rocksteady has his helmet and green jacket and Bebop his red coat. They almost look to be celebrating the presence of the Turtle Van, which is a bit amusing, but it’s a nice touch to see them featured.

 

The underside of this display features these little plastic tabs that can easily be bent to allow the base to slide out. Once done you have access to the toy inside, which sits on a black pedestal with an ooze covered manhole beneath it. The van is screwed down to this base, and if you want to remove it you need to cut away at the label on the underside. Mattel almost made this packaging tamper-friendly, but this label is glued down so if you want to free your van you’ll have to mangle the packaging a bit. I was going to, but opted not to as I’m just going to display it in the box anyway and I don’t feel like I need to roll this thing around to get the full experience. If you do remove it from the packaging there is a disclaimer on the packaging that it’s not compatible with playsets, not that it would be a good idea to go drop this thing into your Criss-Cross-Crash set even if it were.

 

The Turtle Van itself is quite an attractive little piece. Like most Hot Wheels products, it’s done up in diecast metal. The only plastic parts are the fin on the roof, the canons, and the swinging door. There’s a transparent elastic on that door to keep it open for display, but if you were to remove it then you would find it closes pretty easily. It does look a touch off because of the colored plastic on that door piece, but from a distance you likely wouldn’t notice. The wheels appear to be rubber coated, or all rubber, which is pretty cool. The logo on the front of the van is obviously the modern logo and I do kind of wish it was the classic one, but it’s no big deal since they’re so similar. The fin is unpainted, which makes it toon accurate though I’m torn on if I wish there was another logo or something there as well for an added splash of color. The top does not open like the Playmates toy, in case you were wondering.

 

You’ve likely noticed one other cool addition to this vehicle, or rather four. Each of the four turtles is represented in plastic form. Mikey is seated on that swing out door behind a laser turret while Donatello looks on from inside the van. Behind the wheel is Raph, and beside him is Leo. These little guys look pretty great, though Mattel was apparently reluctant to paint them up in greater detail. If you look closely you’ll see they have sculpted belts and pads that were left unpainted. Perhaps a confident collector would add some additional paint to these guys, but I’m not such a collector.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a Hot Wheels collector, but when I saw images for this thing I had to have it. My love for the Turtles combined with just how well this turned out made it hard to resist. Unfortunately, it was a San Diego 2019 Comic Con exclusive and was only available to those attending the show. Leftover stock sometimes goes up for sale after the event, but I never caught wind of anything like that happening with this set this year so I had to turn to eBay. The MSRP on this was about 20 bucks, but obviously I had to pay more. It’s definitely worth the $20 Mattel pegged it at, and depending on your level of fandom it may be worth more than that. I’m happy to have this one on my shelf as part of my TMNT collection. And if it seems like something that might interest you, then give it a look.

img_4595

“Umm, Donnie, how are we going to fit in there?”


NECA San Diego Comic Con The Capture of Splinter Action Figure Set (TMNT)

 

img_4504.jpgOver the years, various toy companies have given their take on the venerable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And no company has done that more often than Playmates, holders of the master toy license from back in the late 1980s when the property made the leap from print to world-wide phenomenon. I have no idea how many iterations of Leonardo or Raphael that company has made over the years, but it wouldn’t shock me if the number is over 100. For whatever reason though, when it came to the biggest foe the Turtles faced Playmates often came up short.

The Shredder was the villain in the debut comic and naturally he was chosen as the main villain for the cartoon series. As a result, he was one of the four villains in the debuting toy line. That Shredder left something to be desired. Few of those toys resembled the cartoon, but Shredder was particularly off. He had a blue helmet with a purple mask that appeared to reference a cloth material in the sculpt. He had his various spiked pads and a piece of purple cloth that served more like a gi than an a cape (most of my friends ditched the belt and opted to display him as a shirtless, caped, villain). Worst of all, he had this weird crouching pose that made him so hard to stand. It used to drive five-year-old me crazy that I couldn’t get him to stand or get him to properly wield a sword or something.

The toy was bad, but surely a better one would follow. Right? Eh, not really. There was a Super Shredder toy that became my favorite Shredder toy, though he was comically out of scale when compared with the other figures. He also wasn’t exactly like the Shredder I wanted. There was a wacky-action Shredder and a Toon Shredder, who was just a cartoon-accurate repaint of the original figure. Arguably, a good Playmates Shredder didn’t arrive until the 2003 cartoon series, long past the point at which I cared about the old cartoon.

 

When Playmates decided to make figures based on the film version of the Turtles, it oddly chose to essentially skip the first film. Maybe the company was unsure of how successful the pivot to live-action would be, but there were no movie tie-in toys for that film, which is really surprising in retrospect. The sequel came quick though just a year later and for that Playmates did make figures. Shredder looks pretty neat in the first film, and while he was changed for the second, it wasn’t a drastic change. Basically, he wore purple instead of red and the edges of his helmet were now serrated like a sawblade. Playmates opted against doing a figure though and instead just made a Super Shredder. Opportunity wasted.

img_4528

I need more shelf space.

It took almost 30 years, but NECA has delivered where Playmates failed. Earlier this year, the company released a quarter-scale version of Shredder from the first movie. I want it, and it looks awesome, but I made the painful decision to take a pass. I was partly able to do so because I knew this set was on the way. For San Diego Comic Con, NECA delivered another set of action figures based on the 1990 film. Last year it was the Turtles, and this year it’s Shredder, Splinter, and a pair of Foot Ninja.

I’ve had really good luck with these NECA exclusives over the past couple of years, but I had to sweat this one out a bit. I landed my set on the last day of the presale, having failed the days prior. It arrived just at the end of July as it was shipped after San Diego Comic Con and I’m happy to finally have it in my possession. The box will probably strike people as being understated compared with the past two convention exclusives. Last year’s Turtles set came in a box resembling the original VHS of the film. This one settled for a simple black with the Foot bandana wrapping around it. The inner box has some photos of the set, as well as the actual figures in a window display. It’s a nice piece, it just happens to follow two spectacular looking ones between last year’s VHS box and the prior year’s Archie action figure collector case inspired look.

 

We’ll get to the big guy eventually, but lets not forget that before Shredder there was the Foot Ninja. NECA did a quarter-scale version of this character as well and released it early this year. Unlike Shredder, the Foot Ninja has a Playmates counterpart which was actually one of the better figures Playmates did during that era, save for the fact that he was made green for some reason. A quarter-scale version of this figure was a bold move, and hopefully one that has worked out financially for NECA as he’s what we would call an army-builder in the collector community. You can’t have just one, but at that size and price point few can justify acquiring more than one. In a seven inch scale though, the figure works just fine.

img_4514Just like the Turtles from last year, the Foot Ninja appears to be an almost exact scaled-down version of the larger figure. He looks great, and best of all there’s two! The texture of the costume is so realistic looking that I feel like I’m looking at a still from the film. There’s numerous weapons from the film and even a weapon rack to stack them on. Want to re-enact the nunchaku face-off with Mikey? You can. Maybe you just want to see them smash the floor of April’s apartment with those giant axes? Go for it. The only thing limiting you is your imagination. This figure is expected to get a single card release down the road at retail (Gamestop exclusive) and I imagine there will be lots of people interested in acquiring more and more Foot to pose with their heroes.

img_4515The Foot Ninja is dressed all in black and sculpted with a soft, plastic, material in many places. This helps make him have a really excellent range of motion even with those funny shaped shoulders and such on account of his costume. He’s all plastic, save for a strip of cloth around his waist just above his sculpted belt. At first, I didn’t understand why NECA would include that until I realized it functions as a great way to store weapons on him. And he has a lot of weapons. There are two nunchaku, one with a plastic strap similar to Mikey, and one with a chain linking the two handles. He’s also got a katana, a baton, and the aforementioned axe, plus a pair of sai and a bo staff for good measure. I do not recall any of the Foot wielding sai in the film, but I’m happy to have the extra weapons. The longer weapons can be stored on that included weapon rack, and the smaller ones in the fabric strip on the belt. He also has a pair of gripping hands and a pair of open palms. I have no complaints about this figure, but one obvious shortcoming is in the hand selections. The two Foot by default have punching hands which means they have to share the other two sets. Really, the default hands should have been gripping hands with the pair sharing the fists. If you want one of the ninja to hold a pair of sai, or nunchuks, or even the staff with two hands then that means the other one gets to hold nothing. They also share an extra knot for their bandana, but that doesn’t bother me.

 

Splinter is the lone all-new sculpt in this set. There is no accompanying quarter-scale version and as far as I know there is no planned one. 2020 will mark the film’s 30th anniversary and NECA will surely celebrate that in some fashion, so maybe a quarter-scale Splinter could be a part of that. Anyway, this is a depiction of Splinter from when he was captured by the Foot in the first film. He looks a little worse for ware, and even comes with shackles for you to hang him with. A separate to purchase diorama of that area he was held prisoner would have really made this set perfect, but beggar’s can’t be choosers. Splinter looks solid, with cloth accents used for his rags. He’s done-up all in plastic, in case you expected NECA to do something else with the fur. Because of that, he doesn’t look as picture-perfect as the other figures, but this is still a near spot-on likeness of the character. This battle-damaged version of the character is expected to remain exclusive to this set, so if you want your Splinter tenderized you’ll have to track one of these things down. Otherwise, a standard version is expected to be made available at some point in the future. Presumably his robe will be cleaner (though the guy lives in a sewer so it can’t be too clean) and maybe he’ll have a brighter paint deco. This one is fairly dark, and I do wish some red was added to his fur to warm him up a bit (since he was often under a harsh light in the film). Maybe he’ll also gain some swappable hands as this one just comes with shackles, which can be removed if you wish, but I’m a big baby so I haven’t tried.

 

As mentioned above, Splinter is light on accessories with the shackles being the main feature. They clip around his bicep area and are joined by a chain. He also has a crate to stand on that’s just a printed piece of cardstock. Plastic would have been better, but the figure appears to stand on it just fine without putting much force on it so I don’t think durability will be a major issue. His cloth robe looks great and even has a nice feel to it, almost grimy. There’s a fabric belt around it that’s really long. It kind of stands out too much and I’m tempted to remove it, though I probably won’t as I don’t really mess with the integrity of my toys. That robe hides a surprising amount of articulation as well, so if you want to remove the shackles and go nuts you can. My Splinter’s arms want to stay in that hanging position and I’m reluctant to force them, but I’m pretty sure they can be positioned more naturally (I might just need to remove the shackles). It’s a bit of a shame he can’t hold the nunchaku convincingly, but I’ll probably just display him in chains so it’s not really an issue for me. I don’t have a nice chain-link fence to hang him from, but that weapon rack seems to function as a decent stand-in.

Which brings us to the main event, Shredder himself. This is the figure I have wanted since I was a kid first seeing these characters I loved so much on the big screen. Even more so than the Foot Ninja, he looks like he was ripped from the screen. His magenta outfit has that slight sparkle to it and the helmet looks like it’s actually made out of metal. The faceguard pops off to reveal the scarred visage of Oroku Saki underneath and it’s a quite satisfying and fun accessory to play with. He comes with various extra hands and weapons, including his hidden dagger he tries to take out Splinter with. His weird, shiny, zebra-print, cape is also here and it’s a heavy cloth material that convincingly drapes over the character. It looks great and it really causes a dilemma as to how to pose him on a shelf since he rarely sported that look in the film. I’ve opted for the no-cape look for now, but I might change in my mind in a month or so when I get sick of looking at the current pose I have going on.

 

The body of Shredder appears to be the same as the Foot Ninja. I suppose that’s a bad thing if you wanted your Shredder to be taller than his minions, but otherwise it’s fine as the body sculpt looks excellent. There’s a lot of softer sections of plastic making posing free and easy. His extra parts are also snug against his limbs, but can be manipulated if necessary. Mine needed some adjusting out of the box and at no point did I fear breaking anything. Like the Foot Ninja, he has a strip of fabric across his waist for storing a weapon or two, an obvious necessity for Shredder given the events of the film. He also has his long spear weapon to combat his foes with. He has additional hands as well including a pair of gripping hands and two open palm hands. The material his helmet is made of is soft plastic so getting the faceguard on and off is pretty simple. His face looks amazing and it’s almost a shame to keep it hidden under that faceguard, but he just looks so cool with it on!

img_4509

Hang there, until you die!

That’s not to say that Shredder is perfect. He’s almost perfect, but there’s one shortcoming with him and it resides with that helmet. It looks awesome in promotional images, and the texture of it is also well-sculpted, but that soft plastic which makes it easy to slide the faceguard off and on can also bend. Most of the images I’ve seen from consumers all tend to have an issue where the left side (Shredder’s left) curls into the figure or bubbles out. I’ve tried messing with it a bit, and I don’t know if hot water or a hair dryer would help or hurt (the heat might make it curl more). It’s not something I feel like I need to contact NECA over, but it does bother me a bit. Since removing him from the packaging and messing around with him it has improved, so it may settle into the right position eventually. The only other nit I can think to pick with these figures is that the Foot and Shredder don’t have the necessary amount of movement in the shoulders to hold the axes over their head in a swinging motion. That’s minor though, and really the only solution would be additional joints in the front of the shoulders which would harm the aesthetics of the figure. Given the choice between the two, I think NECA got it right.

img_4517

Maybe all that hardware’s for making coleslaw?

Overall, this is a really satisfying set that should please Turtle fans out there. If you happened to get one of these and you’re not satisfied with it, I’ll just add that NECA has some of the best customer support you’ll find. I haven’t had to do it, but I’ve encountered people who felt there was a problem with a part of their figure and NECA either replaced the part or the entire figure at no charge, often with no questions asks. It might take a few weeks, but they always deliver and stand by their product. The only real fault I can find with this set is the lack of extra gripping hands for the Foot Ninja, but if I’m really bothered by that I could always try and buy more Foot Ninja when they hit retail. Otherwise, the rest is just nitpicking here and there. At the end of the day, these are some really finely sculpted action figures and it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to top what NECA has done here.

 

The only other major shortcoming many people might add is that this sucker is a convention exclusive and thus, if you don’t have it, you can’t get it unless you’re willing to pay a scalper. The good news is that there’s a high likelihood of these figures all hitting Gamestop either by the end of the year or early next year. NECA all but confirmed that and if I had to guess the only exclusives with this particular set might be the weapon rack and shackles on Splinter and possibly some of the weapons the Foot get to play with. The single-carded Foot Ninja will likely have a full assortment of hands and the extra bandana knot and I’d be surprised if Shredder was changed at all. So if you missed out and you’re real upset about it, just be patient and keep your eyes open as these guys will sell fast once they’re made available. Earlier this year, Gamestop had issues fulfilling all of the pre-orders online for the Turtles so a pro-tip for you is if you have a local Gamestop preorder in store. Everyone I know that did so got their set and it was only the online orders that were cancelled. I don’t go into Gamestop too often, but every time I have I’ve taken a peek to see if they have the Turtles and I’ve never seen them so they’re still selling extremely well.

img_4521

Now I will finish what I began with your ear!

As for the future of this line, expect more! Nothing is certain, but Randy Falk at NECA was quick to remind folks during his interview with Pixel Dan that next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first TMNT film. Expect something from the company to mark the occasion. As for what that could be, your guess is as good as mine. NECA also confirmed it will make figures based on the sequel, The Secret of the Ooze. Whether or not those include quarter scale versions is unknown, but I think it’s safe to say if you’re a fan of two prominent adversaries from that picture then you’ll probably be happy, eventually. And of course, NECA is continuing its line of TMNT with cartoon themed figures in two-packs at Target (Bebop and Rocksteady should be showing up this fall) and also video game themed figures at specialty shops. Expect Turtles in Time themed toys, including Slash, to start showing up at those places this fall. Right now may be the best time ever to be a TMNT fan, so start saving!


Toy Collecting While Adulting

neca 2019 sdccLast Thursday was World Turtle Day, or something like that. I thought about looking up the reason why that is, but I decided I’d prefer not to know. Instead I get to just associate it with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as NECA, the toy company that has become a favorite of TMNT fans worldwide. And that’s because it has become a bit of an annual tradition with NECA as it looks to that day on the calendar to announce its latest TMNT themed collectibles due to arrive for San Diego Comic Con in the summer. It’s an exciting time as a turtle toy collector, but this year there was some dread on my part.

For the past several years, NECA has really been killing it with its TMNT products. It started way back in 2008 when the company released its set of turtles based on their original appearance in the pages of Mirage Comics. Licensing issues with Nickelodeon and Playmates, the holders of the master toy license since the 1980s, prevented NECA from really going too much further with the line. A loophole, or just a voluntary opening on the part of Nick and Playmates, allowed NECA to return to the license as convention exclusives. NECA could create figures based on the brand and sell them at San Diego Comic Con and only there (eventually, it opened up to include NECA’s webstore as well). And I believe they also had to be a part of a set and not an individual release.

video game shredder foot

One of NECA’s earlier SDCC sets – arcade game Shredder and Foot Soldiers.

Nickelodeon and Playmates would not allow NECA to create figures based on the original cartoon series, so the company had to get a bit more resourceful. Its first solution was to make figures based on the video games complete with “digitized” paint. They also supplemented the original Mirage line with a set featuring Shredder and the Foot Clan. Eventually, likely due to the success of these products, the license started to loosen with its restrictions. NECA was allowed to create quarter-scale versions of 90s movie turtles and sell them at retail. These super-sized action figures are lovingly detailed and some of the best toys I’ve had the pleasure of owning. The license then loosened further to allow NECA to release a set of turtles and villains based on the 1987 mini series for sale at SDCC in 2017. Then last year the company followed with a set of scaled-down movie figures, but more importantly, they came with an announcement.

leo vs shredder two pack

NECA has finally received the go-ahead to distribute to retail. These Target Two-Packs have been in constant demand since release.

Last year was the final year for NECA and its TMNT product being locked into the convention exclusive category. NECA was finally granted the ability to head to retail with only minimal restrictions. The movie turtles could be sold individually, and NECA partnered with Gamestop to sell them in their stores and on their website. They were a huge success as they sold out quickly. Restocks have disappeared just as fast and hopefully the supply will keep rolling in. NECA also was able to partner with Target for its figures based on the 87 cartoon. These figures had to be sold as two-packs and retail for $50. They also could not be stocked in the toy section, but rather electronics (basically, where Target keeps its vast assortment of Funko merchandise). These figures have been just as hard to find as the movie figures, and it sounds like they’re here to stay as NECA showed off a Bebop and Rocksteady tentatively scheduled for release this fall.

neca bebop rocksteady

And look who is coming this fall!

Now, I’ve been fortunate in that I was able to secure the SDCC sets each of the past two years so I haven’t had to hunt for the figures at retail. NECA launched an ambassador program last fall in which fans are asked to photograph Target’s NECA section each week and send it in. I’m a local ambassador and have yet to see these TMNT figures in person in my store. Either the store never got them or they sold out so fast that I never came across them (I have seen them once in a different Target). I won’t be so lucky in the fall when the new figures drop and will be in the thick of things as I hunt for these sought after toys.

This year though brings another SDCC exclusive from NECA and it’s basically what most fans thought it would be. Earlier this year, NECA released a quarter-scale version of the Foot Soldier from the 1990 movie with Shredder to follow in May. I have longed for a movie accurate Shredder ever since I was a kid and the upcoming figure (who may be shipping now) looks beautiful. I’ve had him on pre-order since they went up and have been very much looking forward to adding him to my collection. As expected though, the convention exclusive this year is a complement to last year’s set in that it contains scaled-down versions of Shredder, the Foot, and introduces a brand new sculpt:  Splinter. The photos NECA released look fantastic and the set is virtually guaranteed to please.

neca shredder q scale

NECA’s take on Shredder from the 1990 film looks incredible.

So what’s the problem? Well, money for one. The quarter-scale Shredder retails for about $125.00 which is no small number when you’re talking about a toy. As an owner of the four turtles who were released at a similar price point, I can say it’s worth it based on their level of quality. The SDCC set will retail for $120, and if these figures receive single-card releases down the line they’ll likely run $25 a piece. The set comes with some extras and will likely have some kind of specialty packaging to justify the added cost. For me though, it caused me to reevaluate if I need two Shredders – a quarter-scale and a 7″ version. Had NECA not gone this route for the convention exclusive then I could have pushed it out of my mind and perhaps gone ahead with a less than responsible solution, but my sensible side has been crowing quite loudly.

2019 has gotten off to an expensive start for me. We had a family vacation over a year in the making in January to Disney World. It was an awesome experience, but then I got to come home to all kinds of fun literally on my first day back. We had some scary trees in the yard that needed to be taken down. Then both vehicles required over a grand a piece in maintenance and repairs for unexpected, non-crash related reasons. And then to top it off, a series of unexpected medical bills resulting from a hand injury I suffered which necessitated surgery (and will require additional surgery next month). That part of life has been no fun, and as a family of four in which I am the sole financial provider, it has caused me to reevaluate my spending habits.

neca SDCC shredder splinter

As awesome as the quarter-scale Shredder looks, it’s hard to choose over this equally incredible looking set.

Which brings me back to Shredder. I hated to do it, but I felt it was the responsible thing to make a choice. Having both seemed like a luxury I couldn’t do right now. Summer is coming, the kids have birthdays, they need new clothes, my son will be starting school in the fall. I’ve already cut way back on my discretionary spending, I haven’t bought a video game in over a year, and I’ve been forced to limit my toy hobby as a result. All self-imposed, but what feels like the right thing to do. I decided I can still collect NECA TMNT and Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line, but all others are being phased out for now. And if I have to make a choice between quarter-scale Shredder and the upcoming set, well, it wasn’t much of a contest.

I cancelled that pre-order. The quarter-scale Shredder looks amazing and I already regret my decision, but the SDCC set will feature four figures that will be much easier to find shelf space for compared with one figure who takes up a lot of real estate. I’m sure NECA expected some of this as toy collectors do typically favor the smaller scale figures over the large ones. Some collectors I know just collect the quarter-scale just to support the line in hopes it will lead to 7″ versions. Being an adult sucks. If given the choice, I would have been a kid forever. “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid…” was like my motto as a child. There are perks to adulthood of course (beer), and I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything, but man being a kid without responsibility was pretty great.

This doesn’t mean I’ll never return to old shell-head. Maybe things open up later this year, or maybe Santa Claus can bail me out. For now, it means I’ll be there when pre-orders open up for the SDCC sets hoping to score one somewhat secure in knowing if I don’t get lucky this year well these figures will likely show up eventually at retail. That childhood dream of a movie accurate Shredder is very much alive. This post isn’t intended as a pity party, just musings on what it means to be an adult with an expensive hobby. Toy collecting is fun and something I’ll likely never give up, but I have to limit myself, even when I don’t want to.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


%d bloggers like this: