The Christmas Spot is just around the corner, but before we can get to there we have a new Christmas action figure release from NECA Toys to talk about: Santa Stripe! NECA has done an admirable job of mining material from the film Gremlins and it’s sequel Gremlins 2: The New Breed, and Santa Stripe is another fine example of that. This figure originates from a promotional image used for the film around Christmas 1984, and since Gremlins is a Christmas movie, it works on two levels. While Stripe never dons a Santa suit in the film, he did in that image and it’s hard to argue it’s not something well suited for an action figure release.
Stripe is essentially a re-release of the Ultimate Stripe figure released by NECA, which is more or less the same Gremlin figure that’s been released over and over. That’s not a criticism or anything, it’s just an observation. The base Gremlin figure is a roughly 6″ tall figure with solid articulation that can be added onto to achieve a desired end by NECA. There’s a gamer Gremlin, flasher Gremlin, caroling Gremlins, and so on. This one is different in that it’s a specific character, Stripe, and the only difference there lies in the face and head which contains his signature stripe of white hair and unique portrait. The rest of the package consists of soft goods and accessories to go along with the terrific packaging NECA products are known for with its Ultimates releases.
This festive rendition of Stripe comes in the five-panel window box package all of the Ultimates come in. The front panel features an update to the promo art the figure is based on and the rest of the panels contain product shots. There’s a window box revealing the figure inside and I must say this packaging is excellent because it’s easy to reseal. This is extra important for a Christmas themed release because I can see a lot of people taking this guy out for the holidays and then tucking him away with the other Christmas decorations in the new year.
Stripe comes packed with a solid range of articulation. His head has excellent range and can rotate and look up and down and the base of the neck is also articulated as well. His ears are posable which helps with the hat and his jaw is articulated as well. He does not feature the same eye articulation that the Ultimate Gizmo possesses, but he also doesn’t really need to express much range of emotions, he’s mostly just homicidal. The shoulders are on ball-joints allowing him to raise his arms almost to 90 degrees. The costume prevents him from going forward and back all the way, but I assume he could if it was removed. The elbows are single-hinged, but do rotate, though the costume again limits that function, and the wrists are hinged and can swivel. There’s articulation at the thigh and knee, but given the crouched position he’s in the range is rather minimal. Like a lot of insects which Gremlins seem to borrow some style from, he has what is kind of like a second knee above the ankle which gives him that crouched look. There’s nothing going on in the torso, so Stripe mostly just stands there with his arms and head being relied upon to add character to his posture. It’s, as I said, solid. It’s not spectacular, but given that these characters were rather stiff puppets in the film they’re not really begging for articulation as a means of being screen accurate. This figure also has the added burden of the soft goods, which is quite form fitting, but does restrict movement. I suppose the optimal way to pose him would be to remove the costume, pose him, then replace, but I’m the type who doesn’t like to mess with soft goods. Plus I think he looks good as-is.
It’s the accessories that make this figure, and that’s where NECA nailed this release. Santa Stripe’s uniform looks great on him and I like the inclusion of soft goods over molded plastic for the main uniform. While it does hinder the articulation, it’s just too authentic a look to make that trade-off not worth while. It’s a plush material that’s soft to the touch and the belt across the coat is quite sharp looking. It has Velcro in the back so don’t try and undo that buckle. The coat also has Velcro in the front and the pants on the seat. There’s even a little opening for his “tail” or carapace to stick out. The hat is the same plush material and has a wire running through it for posing. The beard is attached to the hat via an elastic which slips over Stripe’s face and stays on just fine. He also comes with a sack for whatever a Santa Gremlin delivers. It’s blue and the same plush texture of Stripe’s suit with gold moons and stars printed on it. A wire runs through it so you can shape and position it however you like. Rather than have an actual drawstring, a gold-colored rope is included to tie around it. It’s a bit of a pain, but maybe a drawstring would have interfered with the wire. Lastly, there’s a little, to scale, Gizmo that can fit in the sack or just hang around. It’s actually articulated, with rotation at the head, shoulders, and wrists which is nearly as much articulation as what is found in the larger Ultimate Gizmo. It’s painted and has sculpted fur and Gizmo has a permanent smile on his face. He’s adorable and the only thing that looks odd about him are that his hands are a bit big. The left hand especially just looks odd on mine and I initially thought he had two right hands by mistake, but I don’t think that’s the case. He also has a candy cane he can hold which I find hides the oddness of the hands a bit.
If you’re looking to pose Stripe in a manner similar to what’s on the front of the box, you may get discouraged. The limited rotation of the arms is a challenge, as is getting him to properly secure his sack over the shoulder since that rope isn’t attached. The only way to really do it without introducing other elements is by having the figure crouched so far forward that he’s almost horizontal and resting the sack on his back and using one arm for stability by placing his hand on the ground. If you don’t want Gizmo in the sack, then it’s much easier since it’s so light, but I suspect many may just resort to having Stripe hold the sack open at his feet with Gizmo either popping out or standing nearby. On the plus side, I guess I don’t have to try and construct a chimney to display with him.
Santa Stripe is definitely an eye-catching item to add to one’s Christmas display. Obviously, being more a horror-themed creature he’d probably stand out in most displays, but the bright and well-detailed Santa suit gives him that “pop” factor. He mixes well with the Ultimate Gizmo in his festive, Christmas, attire even if the scale isn’t perfect. I imagine he mixes even better with the winter caroler Gremlins sold in two-packs, but I don’t have a set of those (I’ve resisted that one, don’t tempt me further) and if you like Gremlins, or are more like me and just love everything to do with Christmas, this one should leave you feeling pretty happy.
Santa Stripe is presently being sold as a Target exclusive in the US for $29.99. He has sold out online, but should be hitting stores right about now. If he’s anything like the other Gremlins releases, he shouldn’t be too hard to find, but don’t sleep on him if you do run across him as I assume he’s limited to the holiday season. He could return in 2021, like the carolers, but I don’t believe that’s been confirmed. Happy hunting!
Wave 4 of NECA’s Target exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon line continues with its second two-pack release: the Triceraton Infantryman and Roadkill Rodney. The Triceraton has been adapted for basically all iterations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles save for the live-action films. The Triceraton frequently appeared in the collections of kids in the early 90s as it was a somewhat early release in the Playmates line of figures. Despite that distinction, it was a late addition to the cartoon universe not showing up until the Season 7 episode “Night of the Dark Turtle” where the character took a backseat to a crazed Donatello who basically fancied himself as Batman. As for the Roadkill Rodney, it was an early addition to the cartoon universe as it appeared in the original mini series that got the whole TMNT craze kickstarted. Despite that though, this tiny robot went without a figure entirely until now.
The Triceraton basically looks like a mutated triceratops, as the name would suggest. In the cartoon, they’re a race of space reptiles looking to conquer and enslave Earth. In order to make that a reality, the Triceraton Empire sends a whopping five units to Earth to get the job done. You can probably guess how that turned out. Among those numbers was Captain Zorax and his attendant, Zork. If you prefer those two to what we have here then you’re in luck as they should be released soon as a two-pack of their own. What is contained in this two-pack is the lowly infantryman (infantry…dino?) whom the Playmates figure was based on. The major distinction between the three is in the color of their scales as this fellow happens to be mostly orange with an armored onesie. Being a soldier, he’s packed with weapons and this two-pack is being advertised by NECA as an “army builder” set as many fans may want two or three of these brutes in their collection as opposed to one. Never mind the fact that many Target stores limit these sets to one per customer.
The Triceratons are a rather brutish race of reptiles and therefore are rather large. This figure from NECA captures that reality as it’s one of the largest in the series thus far standing at roughly 7 and a half inches tall which puts it on par with the likes of Leatherhead and Granitor. Being that he is a big dude, there’s a lot of parts reuse at work here and I suspect that will be very true of the other Triceratons to come. The arms and legs are likely shared with Leatherhead, as is the tail. It would not surprise me at all if the torso is as well, but it’s impossible to say given the presence of the armor in place. I don’t mind parts reuse at all, especially since it keeps costs down, but there are aspects where it’s a negative here as there are sculpted folds on the back of his leg that don’t make a lot of sense. They’re there because these were previously meant to be pants, but the Triceraton has decided to forgo such a restrictive garment. They’re on the back/side of the thigh, so it’s not super noticeable, but worth pointing out. The other shortcoming with this direction rests in the tail. In the show, the Triceratons have smooth tails, but since this guy is using Leatherhead’s tail, it has a dual fin running down the top of it. Again, reuse is par for the course with figures, but it does harm NECA’s credibility when they claim to be making the definitive versions of these characters when they’re not entirely screen accurate.
The obvious new pieces of plastic rest with the head, hands, and feet. And it’s the head that really needs to shine and indeed it does. While I prefer basically every version of the Triceratons to their cartoon counterpart (the Triceratoons?), I cannot argue that this figure doesn’t look the part. The shading and line work that has become a staple of this line are at incorporated here and the figure very much looks like it originated from a cartoon source. It’s pretty clean, though there’s some paint build-up at the base of one horn on mine and it’s a little messy around the eyes, but not too bad. If you have always longed for a cartoon version of the Triceraton, then this should satisfy that hunger, tail be damned.
In terms of articulation, there are no surprises here. The Triceraton is basically articulated just like Leatherhead before him, with the only difference really being the lack of a hinged jaw with this guy (a real missed opportunity, to be honest). The giant “fins” on the back of his head (I’m sure a paleontologist would be able to tell me the proper term for that part) are surprisingly not a deterrent to the head movement as this guy can look much higher than basically every other character NECA has done so far and can also tilt his head side-to-side quite well. Ball-joints at the shoulders and thighs allow for proper rotation, and double-jointed knees and elbows have become standard for basically everyone in this line except the turtles themselves. He has swivels and hinges at the wrist and the ability to swivel at the bicep and thigh. His feet are on ball-and-socket joints so they can rotate and rock a bit side-to-side. There’s articulation in the upper torso which is probably on a ball-joint, but the armor limits the movement here to basically a swivel. It’s soft plastic, so you can kind of force the character into the desired positions, but at risk of possibly marring the paint on that armor. He’s got plenty of range though for a behemoth who is mostly just going to blast away at his enemies and if you are able to army build these guys you shouldn’t have a problem finding a variety of styles and poses for your display. The only thing missing for me, and I say this a lot with this line, is a butterfly joint at the shoulders so he could properly two-hand hold his weapons. The way NECA does their torsos though, often layering rubbery plastic over a harder base to distinguish characters, basically makes such a joint impossible.
The Triceraton may be a large hunk of plastic, but he also comes packed with a vast assortment of weapons and accessories. This is an improvement over Traag and Granitor and I suspect it’s due to those rock boys not lending themselves well to parts reuse. The Triceraton has five hands; a set of gripping hands (which work as fists as well) and a set of open hands. He also features a trigger hand (right) and if I have one, small, complaint it’s that NECA didn’t just go ahead and give us two trigger hands since now all of your Triceratons are expected to be right-handed. As for weapons, he has the rifle/bazooka the Triceratons were shown wielding in the cartoon, plus two additional guns that appear to match what Bebop and Rocksteady were wielding in their debut episode. And yes, I am definitely giving those to my Bebop and Rocksteady for my display.
The only downside with the Triceraton arsenal, is he can’t really wield the majority of his weapons convincingly. The trigger hand basically just fits his bazooka, and it’s a unique handsculpt for the Triceraton which features a larger opening and two fingers (as opposed to the three of Bebop/Rockstead/Leatherhead). The trigger hand works great with the bazooka since they were literally made for each other. It, and the open hands, are fairly soft and pliable which helps in getting the hand into his hand. The trigger hand is too big though for the other guns. You can kind of fake it with the rifle, but the shorter machinegun looks silly. The gripping hands he comes with are much harder and quite restrictive. You can get the machinegun into it, but it sits high and really calls out attention to the fact that the trigger is well above his hand. The rifle is harder to get in and if you’re determined to do so you’ll want to soften those hands up with some heat lest you want orange paint scraping off of the hands and onto the handle. The guns were definitely designed for Bebop and Rocksteady, and for them, the rifle works well. The machinegun is a bit loose in their trigger hand, but a great deal better than the Triceraton.
With this set you get not one, but two, Roadkill Rodney robots. That makes sense since the machines always showed up in pairs in both the cartoon and video games and because they’re rather small (about 3 1/4″) compared with most figures. Don’t let their size fool you though as there’s a lot of personality baked into these suckers. For starters, the sculpt is perfect and these guys look like they were pulled from the show. That’s to be expected, but it had to be stated as well. Since they’re armless, legless, robots there’s really very little articulation to speak of, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some clever engineering going on here. The “arms” rotate and bend, and there is a swivel above the wheel. The wheel itself can also spin like a proper tire would, though it’s rather stiff as it’s meant to hold its position once set. The front of each unit opens and a blaster can be pulled out. It appears to work exactly as it was depicted in the show, which is both a compliment to NECA and to the animators of that original mini series who could have just fudged it. It’s almost stupidly satisfying to open and close that portion of the figure, and best of all, it doesn’t feel super fragile.
Since these guys balance on one wheel, they need a way to stand. NECA included a smoke trail base that clips into a hole on the wheel to accomplish that feat, but that’s not the only thing NECA packed into this box. There’s also a pair of rock formation bases, but these aren’t intended for the main figure, just the heads! Yes, that’s right, you can remove the head from the figure and clip it onto this formation. Remove the top plate of the head and you even have a drill attachment that can be placed on the unit to make it look like it’s coming up through the ground. And for your figure proper, you have a battle damaged dome with three holes in it to accommodate one sai from Raphael. The only drawback is that NECA made the top of the head swap-able for the battle damaged portion. If they had made it a whole separate headsculpt then we could have effectively got four units out of one box. And doing it that way would also have eliminated the largest shortcoming with these robots which resides in how difficult it is to remove those headplates from the figure since NECA declined to sculpt an opening. Instead, you have to choose between displaying the figure proper, or just the head if you want to take advantage of the rock base. I suppose if you do add the rock base to your set you could use the rest of the body as just some discarded carcass on the battle field, but given the choice, I’d rather have two functioning robots. To sum it all up, since there’s a lot here, you get: two robots, two battle damaged domes, two drill bits, two smoke cloud stands, and two rock formation bases.
Lastly, the Roadkill Rodney robots (holy alliteration) also come with their signature weapons: the metal coils. The figures come equipped with short, bendy, coils on each side and a much longer pair to share. It was smart of NECA to make the long ones bendy so you can stretch them out and wrap an end around another figure, be it a turtle foe or a misbehaving Bebop and Rocksteady. It’s not fully poseable though, so while you can uncoil the tentacle it will immediately try to recoil itself. It makes it tough to pose with a turtle since those figures are so light and it’s also not quite long enough to wrap around their waist. You’ll probably prefer to wrap it around a forearm or something. That said, i’m quite eager to pair these guys with the upcoming Electrified Turtle figure featured in the next release from Loot Crate. That figure is intended to be from the classic arcade game, but I think an electrified turtle at the end of a cartoon Roadkill Rodney tendril will work fine in any TMNT display.
Being that this is an army builder set, this one has a bit of a utilitarian feel to it. The characters are a personality-less grunt and a pair of faceless androids, but they’re still pretty fun to look at and handle. It’s a bit surprising to get the Triceraton this early in the line since it came at the tail-end of the original cartoon’s run (the following season was the start of the redesigned “Red Sky” era), but I view that as a testament to how recognizable the Triceraton is to the entire TMNT franchise. For what he is, I think the Triceraton turned out well. He’s not really threatening to become my favorite in the line, but I’m happy to have him. The Roadkill Rodney, on the other hand, is a clever little design. Both figures though, feature unfortunate and preventable shortcomings. The Triceraton has all of these weapons, but only one works well. The Rodneys have a bunch of effects pieces, but the coils could have been done better and those little plates are really frustrating to swap in and out.
NECA is hoping collectors will want multiple sets, but I don’t know how successful that will be. In the cartoon, there were three Triceraton grunts so some devoted to having an accurate display may want 3 for that reason. There won’t be much variety in the display though since every Triceraton will be right-handed and will probably feature the same weapon since the other two aren’t a great fit. Having some extra Rodney robots popping out of the ground will add some character to any display, but is that worth another 52 bucks? I’m not sure. I was lucky enough to find a pair of these sets in-store. I bought both and sent one off to a fellow collector. I also was able to order one from Target that hasn’t arrived yet and I’m not sure if I’ll keep it or send that one along to another collector too. What’s tempting me most about keeping it is the chance to have another set of Bebop and Rocksteady guns in the event the Easter Bunny versions coming via Loot Crate do not have weapons.
As has been the case, this set is a Target exclusive and is profoundly difficult to find on shelves. It was sold online, briefly, on October 28th and is unlikely to be offered online again. Since it is an army builder, I’m cautiously optimistic that NECA will make the set available again sometime in 2021 as a made-to-order pre-order like it did with many of the sets released during the summer, but there’s no guarantee of that at this time. For now, your best bet is to stalk your local Target stores and figure out the local rep’s stocking schedule. And definitely ingratiate yourself to an online community of collectors who help each other out. A very helpful resource is the #CollectorsHelpingCollectors hashtag on Twitter as it’s literally just fellow collectors picking up the most sought after items and passing them along at cost to fellow collectors. And as always, don’t feed the scalpers!
After I posted my review of NECA’s take on Metalhead from the classic cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I thought I’d have a little break based on the upcoming release schedule for the line. Turns out, that break ended up being almost exactly one month as while I was out toy-hunting for my kids I happened upon the latest two-pack from NECA: Traag and Granitor!
And when I say it was a chance encounter, I mean it. This set started rolling out maybe a week or two ago in parts of the country. Like all of the NECA product based on the old TMNT cartoon, this set is exclusive to Target and a pain to find. The sets usually start showing up in California first and then gradually make their way east. As a denizen of the north east, I’m used to waiting a bit for them to show up in my area. Though in the case of Wave 3, I never saw a damn thing and had to purchase product from Canadian retailers that were willing to ship to the US. Well, either NECA or NECA’s vendor squashed that going forward so I was back to the old-fashioned way, since these guys have yet to appear on Target’s website (despite indications from NECA it was supposed to happen last Friday).
My kids love the show Bluey and a set for that toyline was supposed to release on the 4th. I went out looking for it locally, but while on my way my wife texted me to say she just scored a set online at Walmart. Since I was already out early on a Sunday, I decided to take a drive. While browsing Target’s app I had been keeping an eye on this set since it was supposed to go up any day now. I noticed when I looked at the stores in my area, there was actually one store across the border in New Hampshire that listed the item as in stock. I couldn’t do store pick-up though, and I have found it’s hard to get anyone at Target to answer the phone before 9, so I made the half hour drive to the store. Sure enough, the little inventory machines they have in some aisles indicated there were two sets in stock, but they weren’t on the shelf. I asked a clerk in electronics and he didn’t think they had anything since they never show on the app, but that he’d check in the back. Lo and behold, they did indeed have a set! It seems the store did its monthly inventory the night before, and someone actually scanned the sets into the inventory. This is unusual as a NECA rep is the one that stocks the section, not a Target employee, but in this case it worked out for me. It was especially surprising as I had yet to see anyone in the region on social media or even eBay list a set so this store may be one of the first in all of New England, maybe even including the tri-state area, to receive stock. Needless to say, after feeling rather snake-bitten with the last wave, I’m feeling quite fortunate today.
And it was a great set to get lucky with because Traag and Granitor are practically all new. Traag did receive a figure in the vintage Playmates line, but he looked nothing like his cartoon counterpart while Granitor never received a figure. And this was despite the two appearing in the first mini series as they debuted in episode four “Hot-Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X” when they crossed over into the dimension of the Turtles in pursuit of those pesky Neutrinos. And being made of stone means these guys are pretty unique looking to begin with so there’s little opportunity to reuse parts from already released figures. They’re big, dense, and chunky. I want to say beefy, but that doesn’t seem appropriate for beings made out of stone. And to top it all off, these guys have been a long time coming as NECA unveiled them years ago as part of the video game line, since both appeared as bosses in the original arcade game, but soon moth-balled them for the release we now have.
Traag and Granitor come in the standard window box format you should all be familiar with at this point. You get a nice look at the figures from the front with some licensing art beneath. The backdrop for the two has actually been changed from the sewer one we’re accustomed to and replaced with the Technodrome in Dimension X, which is very appropriate. The side and rear panels feature product shots of the figures in action while the rear also includes the series bio (sadly, not character specific) along with promotional shots of two of the sets to come as well as the previously released Metalhead. Since these boys are on the larger side, this is the oversized box previously used for Bebop and Rocksteady so if you’re a mint-in-box collector you’ll need to plan for a little extra room on the shelf for these guys.
In terms of likeness, Traag and Granitor are like a lot of this line – damn near flawless. Traag stands around 6 5/8″ while Granitor is slightly taller at 6 7/8″. Both feature a ton of sculpting to capture that rock appearance. They share some parts between the two in particular at the hands and basically from the abdomen down. The upper body is probably the same as well, but with different parts glued onto each to differentiate the two as they were quite different in the show. The plastic is very rigid and not that pliable, rubbery, stuff we’ve seen in some of the figures (in particular, the human figures like Casey and April) which really enhances the feel of the pair in-hand. Traag has very rocky shoulders while Granitor possesses a rock collar at the base of his neck and these huge shoulders and biceps. Of course, their heads are where they differ the most. Both are helmeted, but Traag has a flatter face and his open-mouth expression is a dead-ringer for how I continue to picture the character in my head. Granitor has this huge nose and these triangular eyes that make him look a great deal more evil than the general. If I have any criticism of the sculpt, it would be that Granitor’s head probably could be a little smaller as he was quite the pinhead in the show. I think the prototype head from a few years ago was a little better, but you’re not going to mistake this guy for someone else. The legs also probably should be longer, but I’m guessing these guys are just so big that NECA was limited to what it could do there and it was certainly more important to capture their massive upper-body.
Where I can’t render a single complaint with these two is with the paint app. This line just keeps getting better in regards to the paint and these guys look amazing. Traag, in particular, is an almost perfect recreation of a difficult deco to capture from the show. He’s mainly a red-orange, with a softer orange used for highlights that imparts a volcanic glow quality to the texture. Granitor is a bit cooler with shades of gray and both feature a lot of black line-work where appropriate. It’s all been applied in a very neat and clean fashion, which is especially impressive considering how much is here. There’s a little badge on the chest of each and both feature a belt complete with ammo and a holster for their gun. The belt is soft plastic, which has been the case with a lot of this line, so you do need to be a bit careful with the accents on it as they’re just glued on.
As far as articulation goes, these two are not quite as robust as some of the other figures in this line. That has a lot to do with the sculpt which only allows for so much. In terms of the points of articulation, it’s fairly similar with past figures. There’s a ball-joint at the head which affords the typical range of motion and both heads are on a neck with articulation at the base. Traag can look up, but not much down. Meanwhile, Granitor’s neck is quite long and thin and reminds me of an analog joystick on a video game controller, only without the tension that pulls it back to center. As a result, his range of motion feels a bit more dynamic and it’s a satisfying joint to play with, though also a bit scary since it’s so thin. The shoulders are on ball-joints and here Traag gets a bit more use as he can raise his arms outward, while Granitor’s massive shoulders are a hindrance, though his ball-joints are extended from his body more to at least provide for some functional range of motion. The elbows are double-jointed, though the top joint doesn’t have much range due to the bulky nature of the bicep. You still get close 90 degrees out of both. The triceps area swivels at that second elbow joint and the hands swivel and are on hinges. The hinges are pretty tight on mine, so a little heat goes a long way. The upper torso is on a ball-joint and you get a lot of twist there and it’s also nice and tight. The waist does swivel, but it was super tight on both of my guys to the point where I haven’t bothered to get it moving so be careful there (edit: I got it loosened up with just some added effort). The ball-joints at the thigh allow for some forward and outward motion, but nothing really backwards. There is a thigh swivel, but it doesn’t offer a ton. The knees are single-jointed at the hinge, but there is a tiny bit of swivel articulation at that point. The ankles are on hinges and have some outward, rocking, motion. Watch out for paint-flaking though as the entire boot and foot is painted over the base color. It’s not as visible as it was with Leatherhead at least, but still disappointing to see NECA isn’t casting the feet in the base color of the boot still.
The articulation is a bit less than what maybe some were expecting, but all in all I think it’s fine. These are big, bulky, rock creatures and they’re not looking to strike much in the way of dynamic poses. They basically lumber around, shoot their guns, and that’s about it. The upper torso is what really helps give them some posing options, and despite the fact that they’re rather top-heavy, they’re still fairly easy to stand. The only pose I wish I could pull-off that they just can’t do is to have them on one knee paying fealty to their lord Krang. Their arms are so long that they can even mostly pull off the ability to two-hand grip their pistol as they do in the show which is pretty cool as most NECA TMNT figures can’t do something like that since they lack a butterfly joint at the shoulder and chest.
Since these guys are so big and mostly new molds, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the only true negative here is the lack of accessories. It’s a business, so it’s to be expected, but still a bit disappointing. Both figures have a trigger finger right hand and an open, stylized, left hand. There are no optional hands to switch in and out, but I’m honestly not really missing them. Maybe a pointing finger for Traag, since he is a general after all, would have been fun, but it’s not a big loss. Their main accessory that both feature is a pistol. It’s a new sculpt and it’s painted up in a dark and light blue scheme that I find really appealing. It honestly probably has a bit more flourish to it as far as the paint is concerned when compared with the show, but that’s for the better. The only drawback is the hands of these guys are very rigid so you may want to heat up the hands before placing the gun in to avoid any paint scraping, which would be tragic. The pistols also fit into the holster on their belts in a snug manner. They also come with the Dimension X communicator many of the villains have featured in this line. In this case, the sticker decal is of Krang, but it appears to be the new Krang that’s expected to be released in November with the android body. The final, plastic, accessory is a mutagen canister. This time it’s painted gray instead of blue. It’s fine, though not really applicable to these guys and I think it’s just included because it was cheaper than doing a new one, like the weather bomb Traag unleashes. I was expecting that to come with them so it’s a bit disappointing to see it excluded, but again, I get it, it all has to do with costs. Lastly, they do come with three wanted posters each featuring one of the Neutrinos. They’re printed on a transparent plastic giving them a holographic effect which is pretty neat. They’re in a little bag taped to the underside of the blister so don’t throw it out by mistake!
Traag and Granitor are yet another addition to the many rogues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s great to see them as part of Wave 4 since, even though they appeared infrequently in the show, they felt important. That’s probably owing to their debut appearance in just the fourth episode and those early episodes just feel a lot more important to the show than what followed. It’s especially great to finally have a Granitor since he was overlooked back in the day. I’m very happy with how these boys turned out and my only real issue is trying to find room for these bulky beings on my shelf. I’m really going to need that street diorama, NECA!
Traag and Granitor is just the first two-pack in Wave 4 of this line. They’re being rolled out slowly across the US at Target, though considering I found my set in New Hampshire I would expect them to be in every state this week so start looking! There should also be an online release at some point, but that can be a real shit-show as product usually goes fast. Follow NECA on twitter (or me @samhainsgrim) with alerts switched on for your best chance to land them. This looks like it’s going to be a pretty awesome wave as up next on or around the 15th is the Triceraton Infantryman (Infantry-dino? Infantry-reptile?) and Roadkill Rodney (2) set followed by a big one on the 29th, Master Splinter and Baxter the Fly! The Triceraton officers, Zarax and Zork, finish things off on November 12th alongside the deluxe Krang with his android body. This line is hotter than hell right now so don’t go to sleep on it. NECA also isn’t offering any more made-to-order sets in 2020 so if you can’t get these guys at Target over the next couple of months the wait will only get longer. Plug yourselves into a toy community, stay vigilante, don’t feed the scalpers, and good luck!
It took longer than anticipated, but at long last I now have a complete Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Wave 3 from NECA as I have in my hands the Deluxe Metalhead! Metalhead was released back in July alongside the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier set at Target stores in the US. While distribution numbers are not particularly high for this line as-is, it seemed most stores that received stock only received two copies of Metalhead. Re-stocks over the ensuing weeks were sparse and it soon became obvious that Metalhead was the figure most sought after from this wave, simply because he was the hardest to obtain. It was hard enough that NECA even put Metalhead up on their webstore for a week in August as an open pre-order. Fans could pre-buy the figure and NECA would deliver at a later date (right now, estimated to be in November). It’s a pre-order model that Super7 has utilized for awhile now and it was something NECA had to hear a lot about from angry fans on social media that couldn’t find this guy in stores. It probably didn’t help that Super7 even had their own version of Metalhead up for pre-order for a large chunk of the summer.
Fans might be driving NECA up a wall with all of the complaining about how difficult it is to find their product, but at least they’re not complaining about the figure. And that’s because Metalhead is one fine hunk of plastic. This is the first of the deluxe line of TMNT figures from NECA which means it’s a stand-alone figure, not a two-pack, and it’s priced a little higher than the other figures. In this case, Metalhead will run you $30 at retail as opposed to the $26 we pay per figure with the two-packs, so it’s not a big change. The figures come packaged in NECA’s five-panel window box that it utilizes for a lot of its Ultimate releases and the figures in this line will largely consist of new tooling and sculpts that can’t easily be leveraged for other figures, thus justifying the added cost. Originally, NECA envisioned these deluxe figures having their own release in between waves of two-packs, but NECA’s move to stagger their releases (and the delays caused by COVID) obviously altered the company’s strategy. It remains to be seen how the next deluxe figure’s release, Android Krang, will be handled when it ships sometime this October.
First of all, the move to the deluxe format has one obvious advantage: the packaging. I’m not ragging on NECA’s window-box packaging for the two-packs, but it’s basically the same thing from release to release. With this deluxe release though, NECA did something fun. Referencing the old f.h.e. VHS releases of the cartoon, NECA created new artwork depicting The Mighty Metalhead. It looks just like an oversized VHS right down to the font utilized on the cover. The panel on the front opens up to reveal the figure and some nice photography of it in action. Mint-in-box collectors should be really happy with this release, and I even placed an order via NECA’s pre-order to potentially do just that. For this release though, I’m cracking this sucker open!
Metalhead is a big, beefy, boy despite not containing any organic matter. He’s noticeably taller than the turtles, coming in at about six and a half inches, and much wider too. He’s obviously based on his animated series look which was also similar to the old Playmates toy. The biggest change is in the vac-metal chest, which is just a shade of orange here, and in the absence of an exposed brain in his head. He’s mostly gray, with a yellow “mask” and green feet. I love the linework, as I usually do with NECA’s cartoon releases, and there’s some nice texture work as well. He looks great, like he was pulled directly from the cartoon, and has inserted himself into the conversation for best figure released in this line. I have no issues with the sculpt work here, though some of the paint leaves room for nitpicks. There’s a bit of slop in the linework, like with his feet, and some stray paint around the elbow pads. The paint on the rear knee joint also flaked off exposing gray plastic in an area that’s otherwise supposed to be black. It’s the rear of the figure, so it’s not a huge deal, but I was expecting a higher level of quality with the deluxe release instead of arguably a lesser one.
This big boy can also move, and when it comes to articulation, Metalhead’s unique construction actually affords him a little more movement than his organic brothers. He has all of the usual articulation: ball-jointed head, shoulders, and legs with single joints at the elbows and double-joints at the knees. His ankles are on ball-pegs and can go up and down and rotate with some rocker action. He swivels at the hips, biceps, and wrists and his hands have a hinge as well. What he has that the turtles lack is an articulated jaw and a waist swivel. The jaw adds a lot of expression to the figure and is done so well that it’s not even apparent his mouth can open when looking at him. The waist swivel is hidden by the belt and it adds in some extra poses for the figure, especially when using one of his attachments. Since it does mean his shell is in two pieces, he looks pretty bizarre from the rear when his waist is turned, but I’m guessing folks aren’t going to have his shell showing in their display. He also has an articulated lever on his back, an on/off switch from the show, which is a nice touch. It’s fun to play with, but if you’ve read or watched a review of this figure already then you know that it’s a piece one needs to be mindful of. It can snap, and you’ll want to make sure Metalhead is positioned on your shelf in a manner in which he’s unlikely to fall, lest he land on his back and break that thing off. He moves well, and the bulkiness of his sculpt interferes only a little. The pads at the elbows do appear to prevent him from bending a full 90 degrees and the lack of a butterfly joint can make it a little tricky to get him into a proper pose with his vacuum cleaner attachment, but inserting such a joint would have messed up the chest portion and I understand NECA being unwilling to make that sacrifice.
Metalhead required a lot of independent tooling to create, and if you’ve been collecting toys for awhile you should know that means the figure is probably going to be light on accessories. In the case of Metalhead, that’s not exactly true. He comes with the usual assortment of hands one would expect: fists, gripping, and open. To go with those hands are three distinct accessories that provide Metalhead with some varied display options. One accessory is a drill attachment for his hand. It has a little peg inside it that fits into the wrist socket and is the go-to accessory for many a robot in animation. His second optional hand attachment is pretty fun: a vacuum cleaner. It snaps in like the drill hand and contains a hinge joint at the base like, you know, an actual vacuum cleaner. Should NECA make good on its tease to release a sewer lair diorama, I foresee many Metalheads converted to the role of turtle maid. And lastly is Metalhead’s defining ability in the cartoon and Turtles in Time: his chest cannon. Metalhead’s “pectorals” are on hinges and open to reveal a peg-hole for his chest laser. In the show, it popped out of his chest, but that obviously won’t work for an action figure. The peg-hole approach works just fine and NECA even added a second hole to feed a little wire into it. It’s a hard, prehensile, wire, like what we’ve seen on the battle-damaged Foot Soldiers, and you do probably want to be careful with it so as not to strip-off any of the plastic coating it. This is my favorite of the accessories and I assume it’s the favorite of most of the collectors who get their hands on this guy.
Metalhead is a tremendous amount of fun as an action figure. He is a terrific likeness in regards to the source material, and if you’re like me and always wanted a cartoon-accurate version of the character, this release should satisfy that craving. The only thing disappointing about this figure is the availability. I wish I had received my copy before or during NECA’s pre-order window so I could have ended this review by posting a link of where to order, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that. Hopefully, anyone who wanted one got their order in or found another, scalper-free, way to get one. Wave 3 is still showing up in Target stores in the US, so there’s still a chance a store near you gets one. And I assume the factory order NECA places for those who pre-ordered won’t be an exact one-for-one order so there likely will be leftovers that either get made available on NECA’s website or get shipped to Target around the end of the year. It’s also possible he gets a new paint deco and release as part of NECA’s Turtles in Time figures in 2021, though probably without the vacuum.
That also closes the door on my look at the third wave of cartoon releases from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license. It’s been the most exciting wave yet for me as I had the first seven sculpts via the San Diego Comic Con release, so this was the first retail wave in which I was after every set. While there were some ups and downs, and I actually never found any of these in a physical store, I was left largely impressed and satisfied. I do think Metalhead is the star of the wave, and he should be since he’s the most expensive of the bunch, but that’s no slight on the likes of Casey Jones or Leatherhead as they were mighty impressive as well. As of right now, we don’t have a date for Wave 4. We know Krang in his android body is expected in October. He’s the next deluxe figure so we know he’ll cost at least $30, but he’s also damn big so it won’t shock me if NECA needs to up that price. International retailers are taking orders for the Granitor and Traag two-pack, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that is the next two-pack headed our way and it certainly would be appropriate if Krang arrives at retail alongside his two most loyal soldiers. Beyond that, Wave 4 should also include the much anticipated Splinter and Baxter the Fly two-pack, a two-pack of Triceraton officers Zorax and Zork, and another two-pack containing a Triceraton soldier and a pair of Roadkill Rodney robots. It’s going to be an expensive fall, so start saving now!
As for me, I’m happy for a break. It’s been a month of NECA posts on this blog, almost all of which were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles related. I’ll look to add a little more variety in September, though I still have one TMNT post in progress to come in a week or so. We’re also rapidly approaching fall, so I need to get Christmas on the brain and get to work on that feature for December. It’s always busy around here, even if the posts slow down.
There’s a line from one of my favorite Christmas movies, Bad Santa, in which the main character, Willy, says to The Kid, “Well, they can’t all be winners,” when The Kid pulls a candy corn out of his advent calendar. Bad Santa isn’t a movie for everyone, but the sentiment expressed by Willy in that moment could be applied to this latest two-pack from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line.
When it comes to the original cartoon series, the list of essential characters goes something like this: the four turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and April O’Neil. We have received versions of almost all of those characters from NECA, and now it’s April’s turn. All of the characters NECA has targeted thus far have arguably become the definitive take on that particular character from the show upon release. Some might argue in favor of a different set of turtles, but few would argue anyone has created a better Shredder or Bebop and Rocksteady. The expectations are now set for this line and fans pretty much assume that NECA will nail the likeness on any character it does, but maybe such an expectation is unrealistic.
Unfortunately, the line’s first lackluster offering is the ravishing reporter April O’Neil. When it comes to the sculpt released here, there’s a lot to be desired. April stands just a tick taller than her turtle allies, when she should at least be a head taller. I have her at 5 1/2″ and the turtles at about 5 1/4″. She has her yellow jumpsuit complete with white boots and all the details appear to be in place, but the proportions are off especially when it comes to her head. I think most fans are accepting of a figure that is maybe a little too short or too tall, but missing on the facial likeness is perhaps the greatest disappointment. Her face appears to be too full and round, and the size of her head is far too big for her body. I think that’s largely a product of her face being too large as her hair was fairly poofy in the show, but few would deny that something is off here.
When it comes to nailing down the scale and look for these figures there’s an admitted challenge. The original show could be wildly inconsistent when it came to scale, colors, and so on. When NECA did its initial figures for the Turtles, it cited the first series which was animated by Toei and was a mere five episodes. It allowed for the company to have a more consistent look to reference, which mostly came in handy when it came time to color the Turtles as the sculpts were actually reused from the arcade series. April appears in every episode from that inaugural season, and it would seem it would have made the most sense to base her sculpt on that season. Maybe that’s what NECA did, and maybe it didn’t, either way it’s a shame an integral character like April failed to live up to expectations.
I don’t want this to turn into a rant or anything, as a subpar NECA figure still gets a lot right. And when it comes to April she possesses a lot of the articulation one would come to expect of a NECA figure in 2020. For starters, her head is on a ball-peg and it’s pretty easy to pop her head off and on, which is good as it’s preferred for one of her accessories. She has ball joints at the shoulders and then she has some funky double-jointed elbows. There are basically two ball joints on top of each other. The first joint is in her sleeve, and the second is part of the bare portion of her arm. Her arms are quite thin, and I had to heat her up to get any movement out of the upper joint. The yellow portion of the joint is painted, and as you could probably guess if you’ve read my review of the other figures in this wave, the paint flakes off quite easily. Fortunately, the plastic is also yellow so it’s not nearly as much of an eyesore as it is with Casey, Leatherhead, and Slash. The bicep also swivels where the sleeve meets the arm and then it also swivels at the triceps at the second ball joint. April’s wrists are just on pegs and can rotate, she also has hinges in her hands, but they feel really fragile. The watch on her left hand is a separate piece of soft plastic and will fly off if you’re not careful when switching hands. April’s upper torso is on a ball joint just below her bust and she gets a lot of motion out of that joint which makes up for the lack of a waist swivel. Her thighs can rotate at the joint and are on ball-pegs, and she does have double-jointed knees, but the top joint doesn’t really do much. She can still bend her leg rather far at the knee so it’s not a big deal. There’s no boot cut on her, and her feet just have vertical hinges so no rocker or swivel motion is available. It kind of stinks because I envisioned displaying her on one knee with her camera sneaking a shot of a battle or something, but she can’t quite pull that off without being able to rotate her ankle. Oh well.
Aside from her head, the body sculpt is pretty good. The arms feel a little thin and flimsy, but they’re obviously trying to make her noticeably smaller and slimmer than the other figures in this line. I do still wish she was a little taller and fuller though, I don’t think she needs to be quite so thin. I do like the very bright yellow NECA went with and the black line work helps make the figure have that extra pop when looking at it. I do see some room to argue that maybe yellow plastic with a wash instead of so much paint might have worked just as well, or better. Some of that black line-work does get a bit messy in places, but overall it’s pretty clean. NECA did match the plastic of the foot hinge to the white of her boots, thankfully, but that also means from behind the white hinge is visible among the otherwise gray backside of her boots. If one part of the hinge has to be off, might as well let it be the back. There’s also some nice attention to detail with the little white, o-rings, on her pants and the tape recorder on her belt.
If April is a bit underwhelming, well at least she tries to make up for it with a bunch of fun accessories. She comes packaged with open palm hands and she has a set of gripping hands as well. She comes with a Channel 6 microphone as well as a corded microphone affixed to a reel-to-reel recorder. It’s on a strap, like a purse, and this is where it’s nice that her head pops off easily if you want it to go across her body. I suppose you could also just drape it over her shoulder too. She also has a Channel 6 camcorder which she can carry by the top handle or hold via the fold-down handle for when she wants to record something. She has her Turtle-com, which opens and closes, though doesn’t feature the face of a turtle on the inside. She also has the Maltese Hamster from the episode of the same name, which is a bit fun though it doesn’t do anything. Lastly, there’s a little, baby, pizza, monster. I have to assume an ultimate, adult, version is in our future at some point. He’s pretty cute, despite being vicious, and even though he’s non-articulated he’s packing a lot of personality in that sculpt.
With April being part of a two-pack, one would naturally look to the second figure in the pack to perhaps help elevate the total package. Unfortunately, April comes bundled with what I would consider the least exciting figure in this line so far. The Bashed Foot Solider is essentially the same Foot Soldier that has been released in two-packs with the Turtles and in a double-pack as part of Wave 2, only now it has a new torso with some battle damage. This one is referred to as the Bashed variant because the wound appears to be blunt in nature, perhaps a jab from Donatello’s bo staff, and is basically a rip in the clothing with some exposed metal and wires beneath. The effect is neat, but if this figure weren’t packed with a character as important as April then I’m not sure I’d have bought it. I think it would have been neat to bundle it with an undamaged Foot to give consumers more of a say in the matter. Bundling it with April feels like a bit of ruthless capitalism.
Now in the unlikely event you do not already have a Foot Soldier, the articulation here is the same. He has ball-joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips with swivels at the thigh and bicep. The hinge joints at the knees and elbows are double-jointed and the wrists are on pegs. He also has some ankle articulation and stands pretty well. He comes with the same the rifle other Foot and even Bebop and Rocksteady came with, but also has a new gun that’s bit more cartoonish looking. It’s not my favorite weapon design from the show, but I welcome the additional variety for the bad guys. He also has the same assortment of hands which include fists, gripping hands, and karate chop hands plus a pair of open hands that are new this time around. There’s another communicator, this one with an image of the Bebop action figure on the other end, and a pair of ninja stars. The ninja stars appear to be a deliberate throwback to the Playmates line as one is even brownish-orange like the old toys.
If that all sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same round of accessories the Slashed Foot Soldier came with as part of the Casey Jones two-pack. The only difference between those sets is the sticker on the communicator and the battle damage on the torso. I think many fans expected April and Casey to come together, so it was a bit disappointing to see that wasn’t the case. While I liked the battle damage of the Slashed Foot quite a bit, this one doesn’t excite me. It’s not that it isn’t done well or anything, but it hardly feels essential.
Which is the downside to these figures being released as two packs, because April does feel essential. Unfortunately, she’s a letdown as well so I can comfortably say this is the least glamorous two-pack released in this line thus far. And based on the promotional images for what’s up next, it looks like this will be the low bar for a long while. It’s definitely the set that fills me with the least amount of excitement. These things are hard to get a hold of, so there’s a sense of glee whenever one can be acquired, but the lackluster results mostly squash that enthusiasm. There’s little to sugar coat here, this April is a poor representation of the cartoon character. Since it’s largely her head that’s the problem, perhaps NECA can remedy that at a later date. The company has big plans for the lines and is exploring concepts for vehicles and even a sewer lair. Perhaps an alternate head is included with one of those along with alternate happy heads for the Turtles as well? It’s a long shot, but hopefully NECA is receptive to criticism and doesn’t just dig in its heels because mostly I’m just surprised this one made it past the approval stage. It’s the burden of success, I suppose.
I do also want to stress that it isn’t all bad. April is subpar, but anyone who sees her still knows it’s April O’Neil from the 80s cartoon. She has a ton of neat accessories and is certainly not lacking there. It’s hard to even come up with an accessory she should have come with that isn’t present. Maybe swap-able cat parts like the upcoming Vernon is going to feature? That’s just wishful thinking though, and how many collectors would prefer to display mutated cat April as opposed to a more traditional April? Probably few, though then again, that head…
For now, April will be a part of my cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles display. She’s April, so she has to be! I’m just thankful she has so many killer accessories so I can hide that melon behind a big old video camera or maybe wrap her up in Leatherhead’s net for the time being. This is the last two-pack of Wave 3 though, and as mentioned in the prior paragraph, more additions to the Channel 6 news crew are indeed on the way, but not until 2021. The next wave is probably going to be staggered like this one and it appears that the rock soldiers Granitor and Traag are up next. A deluxe Krang is coming as well in October and you know that will be a big hit. For now, at least until I get my hands on Metalhead, it appears I’ll get a reprieve from cartoon turtles, but NECA is hardly slowing down. Super Shredder, Toka, Rahzar, Splinter, Baxter, and on and on are all expected this year! Enjoy the breather while it lasts!
NECA’s incredibly popular and white hot action figure line based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series of the late 80s/early 90s has slowly rolled out its third wave. The wave consists of three two-packs and a single-packed deluxe figure, but perhaps to increase the numbers of individual items it can ship at once, NECA opted to roll them out one-by-one starting in late July and finishing by the end of August. The first two-pack was the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier, and now we’re onto the second which is the villains pack of the wave: Slash and Leatherhead.
In the case of both characters, this is the second attempt at both of these characters from NECA as both have been featured in the Turtles in Time line of figures. Slash was released back in the spring, and Leatherhead was part of the more recently released second wave. Leatherhead is basically a straight re-paint of that release, or that release is a re-paint of this one depending on which you consider “first.” Slash, on the other hand, is a little more involved. This is the first action figure of Slash based on his appearance in the cartoon series. The Playmates action figure was based on his comic appearance where he was actually a good guy and part of the Mighty Mutanimals (along with Leatherhead, it should be noted). His Turtles in Time sprite was also based on that source so cartoon Slash has received very little love in the ensuing years. As such, I get the sense this version of Slash isn’t remembered fondly by a large part of the fanbase, though I like him well enough. The Slash of the cartoon was more of a tragic figure, a contented pet turtle mutated and turned into a tool by those who held power over him. The cartoon wasn’t really equipped to truly explore the complexity of the character though, so they just sent him into Dimension X and when he came back he’s basically a typical villain.
If you thought a lack of enthusiasm towards Slash was going to make this two-pack easier to find, think again. This set is proving just as hard to find as any other in this line. Target at least was a bit more stealthy about the release on target.com which allowed online orders for this set to last a whopping ten minutes! Perhaps that will be the model for future releases.
Slash may be quite different in appearance from his Turtles in Time self, but the figure should still be fairly familiar. He uses the same body as the previously released Slash, which also used the same body shared by the turtles. The only difference is in the paint, head, and other embellishments on Slash’s person, most notably the spiky shell. The head is the most striking part as the cartoon Slash was an ugly, soft-bodied, turtle. He has full cheeks and pockmarked skin with ugly teeth reminding me of a jack-o-lantern. This Slash wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and his face captures that. It also features that metal headband that covers his eyes. It’s a perfect representation of the character from the source material.
Slash’s body only differs from the past Slash release in that he has metal fixtures on his body where the previous one had cloth and wood. He has a bright purple belt with a skull logo on it that’s really cool. I love how NECA’s belt has the extra part flapping off of the front, a nice attention to detail. The gloves and kneepads are a steel gray in color with a single, purple, spike on each. About the only thing he shares with his other self are the black elbow pads which are traditional in design. His skin-tone is basically a match for NECA’s Wave 1 turtles, an olive green, as opposed to the deep green of the video game figure. He also gets to have painted claws on his hands and toes where the video game one did not. He also has a large backpack strapped to his shell and across his chest. This backpack is not intended to be removable, though mine arrived damaged and I had to superglue the bottom “clasp” back onto it. It’s held so far, but it’s also only been a day.
Since Slash is the same base figure as the other turtles, he has the same articulation. There’s a ball-joint at the head that provides mostly for side-to-side motion, but the shell prevents much up and down motion. The neck has a joint at the base, but it doesn’t seem to offer much. The shoulders are on ball-joints with bicep swivels, single-jointed elbows, wrist swivels, and a wrist hinge. There’s a torso joint inside the shell, but again, the shell removes most of the function. It allows the hips to move a little left to right, with some slight twist. It’s subtle, but it’s not nothing. The legs are on ball-joints and rotate at the thigh as opposed to a true thigh-cut. The knees are double-jointed and the feet are on ball-pegs. They can rotate just fine, but have little up and down motion and minimal side-to-side. It’s all pretty basic, but it feels like NECA’s base turtle design could use another look, especially at the elbows, wrists, and feet.
In the accessory department, Slash is a curious case as his accessories are both abundant and lacking. As a surprise, he only has the one set of hands. Every figure in this line so far, excepting Krang who doesn’t have hands, has had multiple sets of hands for punching, gripping, trigger fingers, etc. Slash just has gripping hands, which is certainly better than having closed fists, but it’s odd he doesn’t have trigger hands or something more expressive. On the other hand, he’s able to wield the accessories he does come with just fine: twin katanas, a Dimension X rifle, a pistol, half-eaten pizza, baby Slash, and his precious “binky” which is a tiny palm tree. I love the design of the new rifle and I appreciate that the included pizza resembles the actual pies he munches on from his episode as opposed to just being the same pizza packed in with the turtles. And as stated, he can hold all of his weapons, and the only thing he can’t really grip is the palm tree, but you can finagle it into his hand. The swords he comes with are quite striking, and are my favorite swords this line has produced so far. He can store them in his purple belt too, which is certainly appreciated since he has so much stuff.
It’s great to finally have a cartoon-accurate version of Slash. Even though he only has the one pair of hands, it’s not a huge loss since he does have a ton of accessories likely to occupy both hands in a display. He does possess one other area for criticism though, and it is again with that base turtle body. Slash in the cartoon was pretty chunky compared to his fellow turtles while this figure is definitely quite lean and trim. It’s most apparent when comparing his head to the rest of his body. The width of his head basically reaches his shoulders on the figure, while in the show it sat inside the yellow “pectorals” of his shell because he was so squat. I’m fine with NECA reusing the limbs from the past figures, but I wish they had at least given him a wider shell. And in terms of scale, he was shown to be the same height as Rocksteady, but if anything NECA’s Rocksteady is a little taller than necessary. I also don’t hold that against either figure since the cartoon tended to be all over the place with scale. He also has some issues with paint to go along with the backpack issue I had. The paint on the hinges of his hands will rub off almost immediately out of the box. One hand on my Slash is still hanging onto it, while the other is not. There’s also a little bit of paint slop on the right knee pad, and I’ve heard from a lot of people their figure had really tight, stuck, joints out of the box, so beware. Mine was tight, but not too bad. I was able to get all of his weapons in and out of his hands okay, though with some paint flaking. Only the elbows gave me any trouble, but I was able to get them to move with plain old force as opposed to heat.
Slash’s box-mate, Leatherhead, had a figure in the Playmates line a bit more like his cartoon self, but this is still the first Leatherhead to truly go after that cartoon look. He’s a big boy, standing at about 7″ with a little extra thanks to his hat. He’s about the same height as Bebop, coming in at about 7 1/4″. His color scheme is also very much in-line with the cartoon version as his skin-tone is this odd blue-green with darker green used for the shading. It looks off at first glance, but go check out the old cartoon and you’ll see this color scheme is basically dead-on. The same is true for Leatherhead’s legs. I believe he’s wearing hip-waiters for trudging through a swamp, which means his pants and boots are one, uniform, color. In this case that’s blue, though with black used as the shaded part on the back. It makes the character look odd and it’s a knock against the character’s cartoon design, not the figure. Did they do this just so they could paint his legs all one color? Probably, because cartoons tried to be made as cheaply as possible. As a result, I can see why some might prefer the Turtles in Time version of the character which opted for a brighter green and gave him jeans with traditional boots on his feet.
The basic construction of this figure shares a lot in common with Bebop and Rocksteady, and might even share some of the parts. The chest is probably the same, but where Rocksteady has a rubbery shirt, Leatherhead has a plastic addition to simulate his scaled belly/chest. He also has his vest which is done up in soft plastic and is part of the same piece as the chest. There’s a lot of paint on this guy so take care when first messing around with him as some joints might be stuck. Mine was pretty loose though, much to my surprise. Unfortunately, he shares the same paint issues as Casey Jones where the ankles were cast in a neutral color as opposed to blue, so when bending his feet some white plastic can be exposed. It’s especially striking on Leatherhead since his legs and feet are all supposed to be one color. I heard there was a running change made to Leatherhead to eliminate this issue, but I haven’t had that confirmed for me. It’s rather mind-boggling that his legs were done this way, since it looks like his torso was cast in blue plastic so I don’t know why the ankle/feet weren’t as well. He also sports a rubbery belt over a sculpted belt, which is a bit odd. That rubbery belt has a hook on it for one of his accessories and I’ve seen several reviews already where that hook broke off, so again, beware.
Since Leatherhead appears to be some mix of Bebop and Rocksteady parts it’s probably not surprising to hear he’s about as well articulated as both. His head is a bit hunched forward so the ball-joint doesn’t afford much motion. He does though have a hinged jaw which is really important for a gator to possess. I don’t know if it’s just mine, but it doesn’t like to stay open and will basically slowly close after I pry it open. He has ball-jointed shoulders with bicep swivels, double-jointed elbows, and wrist rotation. His hands are big and possess hinges, but the range of motion on those hinges is limited to a degree. Any torso articulation that might be present underneath that plastic chest-piece is rendered virtually useless as a result of that piece. He does have waist articulation with ball-joints at the legs, thigh swivels, double-jointed knees, and ankle ball-joints with a little side-to-side range. The main difference for Leatherhead is the added tail functionality. It even comes packed separately and getting it onto the ball peg can be a bit tricky so don’t fret if you need to heat him up to get it on snug. It mostly just swivels as the ball is set back rather deep so he can’t do much with it. It still looks good, at least.
Since Leatherhead is a pretty massive chunk of plastic, his accessories are a bit sparse compared with Slash. He does come with extra hands so he has fists, open hands, and a single trigger hand. He has his weird ketchup gun, which is a pretty fun accessory and is meant to pair with that trigger hand. You’ll probably want to heat the hand in some hot water for a few seconds to make it more pliable before trying to force that gun into it as it’s a tight fit.
Leatherhead comes with a pair of lobster/crayfish which often hung from his belt in the show. They can’t really hang from his belt here though, which is a bit odd. There are two loops on his belt they can kind of dangle from, but they’re not on his hips. In the promo shots, it looks like NECA just crammed the tails under the belt. He also has a shackle accessory with a real chain attached to it, good for catching turtles and pesky TV news reporters. There’s a bear trap that can open and close and also clips to his belt via that fragile hook. And lastly, he has a net and rope which was apparently the compromise to offset the cost of plastic with him. It’s a fun accessory to have as Leatherhead can round up some turtles (and maybe some frogs in the future) and even suspend them from something if you want to as the net has a string at each corner.
Slash and Leatherhead are fun additions to the cartoon line. While I have some nitpicks about each, they’re both overall quite successful at being representations of the source material and are instantly recognizable. They’re also a good choice at this stage in the line as they’re both quite memorable since they appeared in a whole bunch of TMNT media during peak Turtle-Mania. I get the impression from the fandom that Leatherhead is the star of the show here, but I am one of the few who really liked the cartoon take on Slash so I think I prefer to him Leatherhead, but only slightly. I find my eyes are definitely drawn to Leatherhead more than I expected. Either way, this is the star two-pack of Wave 3 and not one to miss if you’re into this line.
This set is currently exclusive to Target stores in the US, and if you’re having difficulties tracking a set down help might be on the way. NECA recently took pre-orders for the Deluxe Metalhead figure on its own webstore with the promise to make other figures from this line available in the future. It also recently opened another batch of pre-orders for the movie Casey and Raph pack as well as Super Shredder. It might take a little while, but it would seem NECA understands the frustrations in the collector community and is committed to making sure every TMNT fan gets a shot at owning these figures. Which is certainly a plus as these figures are too good to remain so scarce.
If you’re looking to get your hands on these guys they’re currently up for pre-order RIGHT NOW on NECA’s website! They’ll be available until the morning of September 4th so don’t wait too long. Also up for pre-order is Bebop and Rocksteady, quite possibly NECA’s best two-pack so far.
Awhile back, I decided to rank the various incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from worst to best. Occupying that dubious last place spot were the Turtles featured in The Coming Out of Their Shells tour. That may sound like the title of a TMNT sex tape, but it was something else entirely. If you weren’t around in 1990, that was the height of Turtle-mania. The movie had just come out, the cartoon was into its third and biggest season yet, Playmates was putting out new toys and play sets left and right, it was insane! And to add to it, was a ridiculous stage show where actors would come out in TMNT costumes, dance around, mime playing instruments, while a recording played over the loudspeakers. These guys went all over the country with this show which featured some Broadway elements, I suppose, as it was kind of like a play and not just a concert. There were some pre-recorded segments which would play during costume changes and a bunch of this material even made it to VHS. The soundtrack was sold on cassette and CD while virtually everyone who cared about TMNT in 1990 would be exposed to the classic tune “Pizza Power” via Konami’s Turtles in Time video game.
Now I am not backing down from my ranking. Those costumes are kind of scary. The Turtles have these big, crocodile, maws that flap around with little nuance while their eyes look ready to pop out of their heads. Below the head the costumes are mostly fine as they’re basically rubber suits not unlike what we saw in the films, only a little worse. The performers found it too difficult to run around in shells though, so those were quickly dropped from the costumes and replaced with denim vests. Definitely the weirdest part of the whole thing were the sneakers and leg warmers. Ninja Turtles running around in sneakers just looks weird, especially because their feet are normally quite large, but when you put sneakers on an actor you end up with something much smaller. And while it’s fine if you liked the music back when you were 6, few would try to argue that it’s any good. It’s simple, lousy, pop music. And while “Pizza Power” is a bit of an earworm, I would hesitate to actually call it good.
San Diego Comic Con 2020 couldn’t happen this year, as expected. Did that stop NECA from doing a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures as a convention exclusive? No! That’s how we ended up with this delightful abomination: The Musical Mutagen Tour. Coming Out of Their Shells must have had some interesting rights issues thus necessitating a change in title, but these figures very much are based on that tour. NECA made this set, along with an accompanying swag pack, available via Target since there was no convention. International purchases were also made available at NECA’s online store. I was able to secure a set via Target’s website sale, which sold out of them pretty quickly. Not “seconds” quickly like the cartoon stuff, but definitely “minutes.” It just showed up around me last Friday at brick and mortar and appeared to sell out fast. I was checking Target in the morning and later in the day and it arrived in between visits. The only thing left behind was an empty shelf and the t-shirt box, which appeared to be XL only at the two Targets I frequent.
When it comes to convention exclusives, companies usually like to do something fun or off the wall. Usually these end up being simple variants, but with NECA and its TMNT product it had been more essential than the garden variety con-exclusive. That’s because the license for TMNT made it either impossible, or just plain difficult, to sell action figures at retail. Well, with those restrictions lifting in recent years it’s allowed NECA to do something downright goofy this year. And that’s what a con exclusive should do. These aren’t the easiest, or cheapest, things in the world to get, but they’re also not supposed to be the type of set that everyone needs, let alone even wants. And for these particular Turtles, this is probably a set not everyone wants because as I said these are the worst Ninja Turtles ever. I am a sucker for the stupid and goofy though when it comes to toys, so while I did have to give this one more thought than I had in years past, I still ultimately decided that I wanted this thing. Did I make the right call?
This set comes with a slip-cover over the box. The outer cover has some nice artwork on the front and the reverse has a faux tracklist and a Raphael mask to cut out (which I assume no one will). Slide that sucker off and you have a box that resembles touring equipment. There’s some fun graphics on it and from a distance it looks like a legit case you’d find an amp in or something. It has a window flap on the front held down by tape, cut that sucker and two flaps fold out to reveal the figures inside. The box is meant to resemble a stage and it does a good job of it, though the material is a bit too thin for it to work as a true display piece without a little work. The figures are seated in a plastic bubble which lifts out so the backdrop isn’t marred at all.
This set includes all four of the Turtles and each should feel pretty familiar for NECA collectors. The bodies of each figure are almost identical to NECA’s movie line of TMNT figures with the only differences being the shell and head. The feet are obviously different because they have sneakers now, and they look just as ridiculous in 2020 as they did in 1990. The switch from bare feet to shoes seems to have added a little height to the figures as well. There are soft goods leg warmers in place above the feet and draped over each figure is a denim vest. Each turtle has a different logo associated with them and each jacket features the tour poster graphic on the back as well as that turtle’s name. The vest can be removed pretty painlessly exposing the shell underneath if you don’t like that look, but I for one find this little piece of fabric incredibly charming. The only other change is in the various pads and belts which are all different to match the old stage show. There’s little tassels and such done in plastic, but it’s not super rigid so you don’t have to worry too much about breaking anything. The articulation is the same as the movie figures.
The biggest change lies in that head. Oh boy, is that thing ugly! And intentionally so as these guys look just like their tour counterparts. Each head is essentially the same just with a different colored mask, as the actual costumes were back in the day. Each turtle has a headset glued to their cranium which can be forcibly removed if you want, but would leave behind a garish hole in the side of the figure’s head. There’s a wire coming down from that headset that doesn’t connect to anything, but it’s bendy so you can kind of do whatever you want with it for your display. By far, the coolest thing about these headsculpts is the hinged jaw. Opening these things up just adds a level of horror to them that brings back some memories. The hinge is also well-hidden so that when their mouths are closed it’s almost hard to tell they can even open. It’s a cool feature, and I’m curious if NECA will attempt this with other movie figures, like maybe Secret of the Ooze versions?
Each turtle comes with his own instrument and hands designed to play said instrument. Leo and Mike have guitar-shaped instruments. I say “guitar-shaped” because the string count on each is irregular so neither resembles a proper instrument, but on stage Mike “played” guitar and Leo bass. Donatello has a keytar, which is fantastic, and Raph has some sort of electronic beat machine. Raph also has a second instrument, a green saxophone, as he played that on the VHS release. Of course, nothing is stopping you from switching the instruments around as they work with all of the figures. There are optional hands you can switch in and out if you desire. There’s two sets of wide open hands which are unique to this set and two sets of thumbs up hands which always come in handy during a performance. On the figures, Donnie has pointing hands, Leo loose gripping hands, Mikey tighter gripping hands, and Raph has loose open hands.
NECA did opt to include a few other accessories. You may recall some of the Turtles wearing “eye bling” on some of the promotional material for the show and those are here as well. Leo has this Star Trek-like thing and Mikey has an actual star. Each is included and can fit over the eye of any figure, they simply pop on or off, adding a little extra sparkle. During the original show, the Turtles would also toss these foam, disc, pizzas around and one such pizza is included. It’s appropriately awful looking and is made of a really squishy, pliable, plastic that works well as a foam substitute.
If you’re a stickler for likeness, then you might note that there are some things missing. On the actual figures, the stage versions all wore shirts tied around their waste. It basically amounted to a colorful strip of fabric, but none of the turtles are sporting that here. They also had microphones and stands during the actual production. I know, it makes no sense since they’re all wearing headsets. They wore those during the show too. There was little attempt to make the production look realistic since it was meant to amuse six-year-olds, though I am tempted to see if I can track down some mini microphone stands for my display.
If you were interested in making this set even more “special,” NECA also released an accompanying swag pack. The figure set retails for $125 and the swag adds an extra $25 to the price tag. It’s definitely not essential, but I ended up with one simply because the online order forced it upon me. For what it is, it’s fine. Inside the box is a t-shirt of the box art with “tour dates” on the back corresponding with San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con (which technically hasn’t been cancelled yet, but most assume a cancellation is coming). Also included is a backstage pass lanyard, a concert ticket (courtesy of that famous pizzeria, Pizza Roof), and a set of guitar picks. It’s cute, and kind of excessive, but if you’re a completist then you’ll likely feel compelled to grab both if the opportunity presents itself. If your set came from Target’s website, like mine did, then you won’t get the box the stuff comes in. They just stuff it in the shipping box, which is fine.
NECA’s Musical Mutagen Tour set is a comic-con exclusive done right. It’s goofy, silly, yet strangely endearing. NECA managed to perfectly capture the ugliness of those old costumes as well as the spectacle of the stage show. Whether you have good memories or bad of these guys, this set still manages to tickle the nostalgia bone and it’s just a riot to look at. I love the grandeur of it with the stage backdrop, the detailed instruments, the denim vests, it makes me want to put “Pizza Power” on repeat as part of the display. I suspect anyone who has the Arcade 1-Up Turtles in Time cabinet will probably set that thing to attract mode and try to find a space to display these figures alongside it. Had I gone for one of those it’s something I’d definitely be looking to do. And the good news is, that unlike most of NECA’s TMNT stuff, this isn’t something that should appeal to everyone. If it’s something that is for you though, then you’ll be happy to have it and hopefully you won’t have to go nuts trying to find it.
Something that is likely common to most of humanity is a desire to be successful. We all measure success differently, be it professional, financial, or something else, but we all strive for it. And sometimes success can feel like a burden. Take NECA’s line of action figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Since these toys hit retail over a year ago they’ve been a challenge to get hold of. Exclusive arrangements with big box retailers, who definitely do not specialize in collectible toys, can make simply tracking them down difficult. And when anything is hot, it attracts the attention of re-sellers, or scalpers, as they are often referred to as. With unemployment at record highs, the temptation to make a quick buck off of a toy might be even more tempting than it normally would be. Collectors who simply want a hunk of plastic that resembles a cartoon they watched 30 years ago are forced to fight a system not designed for them in addition to the scalpers, bots, and other collectors. Not to mention a global pandemic.
As such, tempers have been running a bit hot lately on social media. Follow NECA on Twitter and likely any tweet will be met with a reply, usually several replies, about folks complaining about their inability to find TMNT product. The most cheeky and overused response is usually something like “Check out this eBay exclusive!” but sometimes things can get downright abusive. NECA’s Creative Director, Randy Falk, even went on the Pixel Dan show recently just to talk about TMNT and the difficulties in getting product to fans. It’s one part rant, one part informational, with a little room for announcements and optimism towards the end (and I encourage you to check it out if you have any interest in NECA’s Tokka and Rahzar set). It has become a rather insane situation, and collectors come out looking the worse for it based on the reactions of a few, but NECA is at least acknowledging that some change is needed so hopefully things can improve.
One way to combat this scarcity is simply to buddy-up! I have had no luck finding the newly released Target exclusives in my area, but a fellow collector out in Illinois has hooked me up with one of the releases: the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier Two-Pack. This two-pack is the first two-pack in Wave 3 of NECA’s line of figures based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series from 1987. In an attempt to get more product on shelves, NECA has opted to release this wave in a staggered fashion. This Casey two-pack arrived first alongside the single figure release of Metalhead. Later this week, the second two-pack is scheduled to start rolling out and the third will follow two weeks later. That next two-pack might be even more hard to get as it features the villainous duo of Slash and Leatherhead. This third will feature April O’Neil and a “bashed” Foot Soldier. Fans in the UK had the whole wave dropped all at once so you may see fans from across the pond with all three sets already. What hasn’t been clarified is if Metalhead will continue to ship with the other two-packs. I sure hope so, because he’s been difficult to find with most stores apparently only receiving two per shipment. As a result, he is going for roughly triple the MSRP on eBay at the moment, which is a shame because he looks like a contender for toy of the year and one that deserves to be in the hands of collectors as opposed to scalpers.
This two-pack marks the second such two-pack headlined by Casey Jones this summer, the first being the movie version of Casey Jones with Raphael in disguise. It’s kind of amusing that both versions of Casey have arrived bundled with a variant of a previously released figure, but maybe that speaks to the popularity of the Casey Jones character that NECA thinks he can carry a two-pack with a variant alongside him. Casey Jones is definitely one of the most memorable allies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the old show and action figure line. He had a strong presence in the comics and obviously the first film. The hockey mask look is striking, and in the cartoon he was voiced by Pat Fraley doing an obvious Dirty Harry impersonation. He only appeared in five episodes and was basically just some crazed vigilante whom the Turtles had to hold in check, but he definitely left an impression. He didn’t form any real personal connections with anyone which is a distinction between this Casey and the others.
NECA’s action figure of Casey is based off of his first appearance in the show. His costume and weapons are quite screen accurate as he has the cut-off shirt and sweatpants look. He carries a golf bag over one shoulder that you have to pop the head off of the figure to slip on and the bag can hold all of his included weapons. He stands a little over six inches making him taller than the Turtles, but shorter than the villains. He is fully articulated,as one would expect, with articulation in the following places: ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, bicep swivel, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivel, waist swivel, ball-jointed diaphragm, ball-jointed legs, double-jointed knees, and ankle joints on a hinge with some pivot motion from side to side. This is fairly standard of NECA which tries to avoid things like cut thighs and ab crunches so as not to take away from the look of the figure. The only consistent complaint I see for this figures is the lack of hinges in the wrist area that allow the hands to move in four directions as opposed to just in and out.
The sculpt work on Casey is pretty damn fantastic. He looks like he’s pulled right from the show. NECA did a great job adding subtle detail to the mask, which is non-removable as he never took it off in the old cartoon, to really allow the character’s personality to shine through. He’s also a rather fit dude, but the sculpt doesn’t go overboard with the muscles. A lot of Casey’s attire is done with a separate piece of soft plastic which gives the figure a nice feel and texture. The little strings on his sweatpants are in this soft plastic so they have some play as is his shirt and shoulder pad. The pliability of the plastic allows for some movement in the diaphragm area, though the shirt does hinder it as well. The shoulder pad also limits some of the range of motion on his left arm. The only articulation I personally miss is a butterfly joint in the shoulder area which would have allowed him to do more forceful looking, two-handed, weapon swings. My figure was quite loose and ready to rock out of the box, so no heat was needed to get things working. His elbow and knee hinges though have a very rubbery feel to them. I worry about durability down the line. Hopefully my fears are unfounded.
The paint job should seem familiar to fans of this line. You either like it or don’t when it comes to NECA’s shading. They apply a darker shade of paint to the backside of their figures to mimic the shading from the show. Sometimes this looks fine, and sometimes it comes across as overdone. With Casey, I think it mostly works on his clothing, but looks a bit silly on his arms. Natural lighting should take care of this without the need for the added paint, but it appears this tactic is here to stay at this point. The paint itself though is rather cleanly applied with little slop. NECA did a great job matching the plastic arms to the paint on the exposed knees. NECA also likes to use a lot of black lines to give the figures added pop. I’ve seen some complaints of this online, but it’s something I’m a fan of.
The only area I see for criticism is just in the amount of paint and choice of plastic. There’s a lot of paint on this guy and I worry about it flaking off down the road. It’s already an issue on the ankle joints and wrist hinges where NECA used a flesh-toned plastic and then painted green to match the boots and brown for the gloves. This paint has a tendency to flake off (or the entire hinge was never painted to begin with) leaving an exposed area of flesh tone in the middle of the boot and at the base of the glove. Casey’s wristbands do hide the hinge on the hand fairly well, so it’s more of an issue with the boot. NECA would do well to have the factory match the color of the foot with the plastic rather than paint in future releases. The paint also has a tendency to rub off when it comes to the hands. This is particularly an issue on the bone-white hockey stick which already has a brown smudge from inserting and removing it into Casey’s hands.
Casey is known for having a small arsenal on his person at all times, and NECA doesn’t disappoint here. In addition to the golf bag he uses for storage, Casey has the following weapons: a hockey stick, a goalie stick, a baseball bat, a metal bat-like rod, and a mallet. All feature a lot of black linework giving them a real toon appearance. I think my favorite is the traditional hockey stick, but that mallet is certainly fearsome looking. In addition to the weapons, he also has a few extra hands. He comes packaged with closed fists for when weapons aren’t needed and has a set of gripping hands. He also has an optional right hand with a pointing gesture, and a left hand giving a thumb’s up. The gripping hands seem to work just fine with all of the accessories. Some probably wished for an open hand or double thumb’s up hands, but this allotment certainly gets the job done.
And of course, Casey is not alone! Joining him in this two-pack is the Slashed Foot Soldier. Initially, many fans simply assumed that Casey and April would be packed together since they were first unveiled side-by-side and the two characters have an established relationship outside of the cartoon universe. That didn’t come to pass though and instead both come with a battle damaged Foot Soldier. I was initially disappointed with this development as I’m not the army builder type, but I will say this particular Foot Soldier is pretty cool.
The majority of the figure is the same as the previously released Foot Soldier. The only difference is in the torso which features the battle damage. The clothing has been ripped away exposing some of the robotic parts inside. All of this is sculpted really well and you can see where parts were severed and intended to match up and so forth. There’s one thick wire that’s still connected and it holds the two halves together. It’s bendable, though coated with plastic so you will want to go easy with it to avoid cracking that plastic coating. This allows the figure to be displayed as he’s in the process of being torn in half. He could be doubled-over, in mid-slash, or even pulled apart entirely. It’s a very descriptive figure and one toy photographers might actually want multiples of. It wouldn’t shock me if down the road we get a refresher wave that bundles the two battle-damaged Foot together if there’s a demand for it, and maybe then Casey and April will be bundled together as well.
The Foot looks great and his battle damage is quite possibly the best application of that concept I’ve ever seen. He also comes with accessories though so he’s more than just a prop. He has the same hands and rifle as the previously released Foot, plus he has a new, more bulbous, gun that undoubtedly showed up in the show at some point. He also has the same communicator released with several figures previously, only this one has a sticker of Rocksteady on it. If you’ve been collecting everything, that means you should have a communicator with Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady now which is a fun little touch.
The Casey Jones and Slashed Foot two-pack is a worthy addition to NECA’s cartoon line of TMNT product. Casey is a fan-favorite and I think fans will be very pleased with how he turned out. While the Slashed Foot may not be something fans were crying out for, it’s a fun, gimmicky, figure that works well in a display especially considering he comes with a figure who’s a big fan of slashing, as is. There will be a handful only interested in Casey, but I’m sure if that’s the case they won’t have much trouble unloading this extra figure considering how in-demand this line is. This set is sold exclusively at Target in the US and at various specialty shops outside of the country. Since NECA stocks its own product at these stores they won’t show up on the website or on inventory tracking sites like Brick Seek except for under rare circumstances so get out there, make some phone calls, and good luck!
I need to send out a special “Thanks” to the fellow poster over at thefwoosh.com for hooking me up with this figure at cost. Without him, I may have never encountered it in the wild. And that’s the thing I want to stress in this review – help each other out! If you’re a collector, get onto social media or a forum and find fellow collectors that can help you and that you can in turn help out. I see too many selfish collectors who buy up stock with the intention of keeping one for them and flipping the others to in effect “pay” for the one they kept. That’s just using the rest of the collecting community to fund your hobby and it’s a dick move. So if you happen upon these things don’t be shy about buying two and selling one at cost to a collector in need. Some don’t live near a Target, or might be immunocompromised and shouldn’t be out in public places right now. If there’s another collector at the store then by all means don’t take one out of their hands, but we should do what we can to try and make sure these don’t fall into the hands of scalpers. And it should go without saying, but don’t buy from scalpers. If people weren’t paying 80 bucks on eBay for this set, then no one would bother trying to sell them. It’s tough out there, but you don’t have to go it alone.
I have been rather fortunate when it comes to toy collecting in recent years. When I was a kid, toy collecting meant going to Toys R Us or a similar store and seeing what was on the shelf. Catalogs, commercials, and card backs were my main source of information. I assume there were newsletters and other avenues for the older collectors, but for a kid that was basically it. Today though it’s way different. Kids who collected have turned into adults who collect and it’s become a large market that seems to keep on growing. As a result, there’s extensive coverage of new and upcoming toys at conventions and trade shows. The brick and mortar toy store is also basically dead in the US, and most people get their toys online. The “toy hunts” I used to go on as recently as the 2000s have mostly vanished for me, until recently that is.
When NECA was finally allowed to expand upon their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings it meant I had a whole new line to dive into. The loosening of the master license by Playmates was still pretty restrictive though and it largely kept NECA to doing annual convention exclusives. That’s how I landed my set of 1987 Turtles two years ago in a gloriously massive set of 8 figures. This year though, NECA was finally allowed to seek distribution through conventional means that still kept the product somewhat separate from whatever Playmates was doing. This meant GameStop exclusive single-carded movie figures which had previously been a convention exclusive or restricted to quarter-scale. It also meant those toon Turtles were coming to retail and for that NECA partnered with Target.
Since Target also sells toys it meant there would be a conflict with Playmates. Even though Playmates is only producing Turtles based on the new cartoon Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there’s still a sensitivity there. As a result, NECA was forced to make sure their product is differentiated even more than it already was in the form of two-packs that retail for around $52 each and they had to stock the product in the back of the store, usually behind electronics. Their distribution method is a bit tricky too as the product gets shipped to Target, but is then stocked by a NECA employee. As a means of keeping track, NECA even launched what it called an Ambassador program, which is essentially a Street Team which musical acts and record labels often utilized back in the 80s and 90s, and these ambassadors basically make sure the area looks tidy and sends a picture to NECA on a weekly basis.
That dumb artwork is mandated by Nickelodeon, unfortunately.
I am a part of that program as I have a Target right in my town. I also work from home a few days a week so I have the flexibility to get there. When the Turtle sets started arriving though, I never saw one in my store. I would eventually see some months later at other stores when I thought to look, but they were definitely a bit hard to come by. No matter, as I already had them thanks to the convention set I had previously purchased. That all changed though with wave two. Back at Toy Fair, NECA unveiled the crown jewel of wave two: a two-pack featuring the dim-witted duo of Bebop and Rocksteady. Based on their cartoon appearance, this was basically the first screen accurate version of the characters ever. Back in 89, Playmates released the duo in their inaugural wave of figures, but they were hardly cartoon-accurate. Bebop mostly looked the part, but Rocksteady had a black tanktop for some reason and his seldom worn helmet was part of his sculpt. As a kid, this bothered me because I was a bit of a pedant when it came to toys, but I still loved them for what they were.
Since this pair was not part of a con exclusive set, it meant I was going to have to hunt for them. The second wave of these figures was set for release on November 26, but due to the unique distribution of the figures it meant some started showing up the week before. They even went up on target.com briefly the prior Friday, though Bebop and Rocksteady either never did or sold out in a flash. The other figures in the wave are all repaints and re-releases: a two-pack of Leo and Don, Raph and Mikey, and a two-pack of Foot Soldiers. The Turtles have been repainted in a bright green shade to more reflect the promotional art as opposed to the actual show, while the Foot Soldiers are basically army builders. All very cool, but I’m a bit limited by funds so I had to just focus on the new sculpts.
Because NECA basically stocks these figures themselves, Target employees are often unreliable. I found if I called a store the best they could tell me is if they were physically out or not. One employee was actually really helpful and knew that they were in the back, but they were waiting for the NECA rep to put them out. That was on the 22nd, and I made sure to check that Target the next morning. I got there about a half hour after opening and found the Turtles and Foot, but no Bebop and Rocksteady. Kicking myself for not being there right at opening, I proceeded to head to the next nearest Target where I found nothing. I would visit 8 other Targets that day driving over 100 miles in the process and found nothing at all of them. I kept an eye on Target’s website all weekend, and even asked my wife to check out our nearest Target on Monday while I was at work. Finally though, the day of this post, I found what I was looking for and at my store, no less.
What felt like a long and exhausting hunt was really only a few days and largely the result of my impatience. Had I just waited until the official release of yesterday, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money, but it’s all part of the experience. While it’s deflating to walk into store after store and find nothing, there’s also nothing like the rush of excitement when you finally do find what you’re looking for. I would and do trade that for the ease of an online preorder when possible, but it was nice to have that experience again.
All of the figures in NECA’s cartoon wave are packaged in window boxes with a color scheme that brings to mind the Turtle Van. NECA is unfortunately forced to use Nickelodeon’s licensing artwork on the packaging. This means the 2012 logo and character portraits of an unknown origin. The Turtles look fine in this loose style, but Bebop and Rocksteady look pretty terrible. Well, Rocksteady looks fine, I suppose, it’s mostly just Bebop that looks dumb. You don’t want to display these guys in box though, so I recommend just stashing that thing away.
So how are these guys? Well, in short, they’re a pair of beauts! Some might say these are faces only a mother could love, but they sure put a smile on mine. Bebop, largely by virtue of his glasses, has a bewildered expression on his face that I remember fondly. Meanwhile, Rocksteady has more of a disheveled look. There’s a craziness in his eyes that suggests he thinks he’s smarter than he really is, but anyone who watched the cartoon knows that’s not the case. His gut protrudes from under his yellow tank top and if you wish you can have his jaw hang open.
They’ve got the guns, but make no mistake, the Turtles always have the advantage.
Prying these bad boys loose was a bit of a challenge as they’re big and they’re bulky. Once I had them in hand though I was in love. Bebop is the slightly more impressive of the two just because of what his look involves. He stands about 7″ tall so he towers over the Turtles and is just a bit taller than Shredder. NECA used actual metal chain links for his wrist bracelet and belt which is really neat. The front clasp on the belt is glues to the figure so you don’t have to worry about it sliding off completely while the forearm has a little hook on it to keep the bracelet in place. Every part of his outfit is a separate piece of soft plastic as opposed to just sculpted on, including the bandolier strapped across his chest and under his red jacket. He has a necklace of teeth and those big turtle shells on his shoulders. His hair is even colored correctly with the mohawk on top in purple and his pony tail in brown. His glasses flip up as well to reveal eyes that are almost entirely black, likely to make sure he looks best with the glasses down. His mouth can open into a yell, though I definitely prefer him with the mouth closed. My figure has no paint defects I could find, and NECA used a shading to similar to what it did with the other figures so the back of his arms and head are in a slightly darker brown. The line work and the paint app just makes this guy “pop” no matter what is displayed around him. A true sight to behold.
Rocksteady may be slightly less impressive than Bebop, but he’s no slouch either. This version of Rocksteady is from season two of the show onwards, basically the version most are familiar with. In the first mini series, he sported a helmet at times and also had camo pants. This version has brown pants and no helmet. I know some fans were hoping for an included helmet, but it might have required a different headsculpt to facilitate and this headsculpt is perfect as is. Would I have liked one? Sure, but I don’t know if I would have displayed him with it. Everything else though is pretty much perfect right down to the single grenade on his chest strap and the lone turtle shell on his hip. I love that his belt is slightly askew and also that he’s just a hair shorter than Bebop at 6.5″. He also looks pretty great with his mouth open or closed, and like Bebop I couldn’t find an imperfection on mine. The only disappointing thing about him is that his knife isn’t removable from its sheath, and since it’s a bit loose, don’t try to pull it out. The linework is just as well done as Bebop’s and it really gives the impression that this is a guy with a rather soft physique.
“I’m surrounded by idiots!”
As these are big boys, one probably expected them to feature less articulation than the Turtles. And they probably do, but if so it’s not by much. A lot of the same joints are in place including ab crunches and ball joints at the hips and shoulders. There’s hinges in the wrists and cut biceps, double-jointed knees and elbows, waist articulation, and ankle pivots and hinges. The sculpt and added costume parts hide a lot of the articulation, but it does also hinder it. They may have a similar amount of points of articulation, but the functional articulation is certainly less. It’s a trade-off that makes sense though given these guys are brutes as opposed to nimble ninjas and the sculpts are really fantastic. The joints on mine were fairly tight when I opened them up. There’s a lot of paint here so that was expected. I was able to loosen things without the aid of hot water or a hair dryer, but just be gentle with your own set. Bebops legs are a touch loose and I do find him harder to stand than Rocksteady. That’s also partly due to his sweet high-tops limiting his range of motion at the ankle which is, again, a trade-off worth making. I can’t really get both feet on the ground and I might end up buying some NECA stands for these guys. Rocksteady is easier to stand, though his head is more forward. He’s limited in his poses as well, and again, a stand may be a wise investment as I’d hate for these guys to take a tumble and chip some paint.
“Uh oh, looks we’re surrounded.”
Accessory wise, these two come with everything you would expect them to come with. Out of the box both sport fists, but they each have a set of open hands and hands for holding their weapons. These extra hands are the same between the two, just colored differently. Both apparently shoot right-handed as their trigger finger grippers are right-handed parts. There are two rifles and two pistols for the two to share and they’re the same as what was included with Shredder and the Foot Soldiers. They also have a communicator to share between the two of them and affixed to it is an image of the NECA Shredder, which is quite cute and pairs well with Shredder’s communicator that has an image of Krang on it. Maybe a future release will feature these two on communicators, if one doesn’t already exist. Some might lament the absence of Bebop’s drill-gun, but like Rocksteady’s helmet, it was one of those things rarely featured. Usually they just had the nondescript laser weapons you see here. Removing the stock hands is just a matter of twisting and pulling gently. Beware with Bebop though as his left hand is largely responsible for keeping that chain bracelet on and it could go flying off if you’re not careful. I wish the pegs on the hands were a little thicker as they appear a bit fragile to me, but they’ve held up well thus far so my concerns may be for naught. The hands are also painted plastic, and sadly paint is prone to chipping. I had a hard time getting the trigger hand to fit into the handle on the pistol blaster and chipped Bebop’s fingers a bit. I decided from then on to play it safe and just use the more generic gripping hand on the pistols and reserve the trigger finger for the rifle. As an added little touch that may or may not be intentional, there’s a tiny peg on the communicator that can be fit onto Rocksteady’s belt. Pretty cool!
Rocksteady even has a place for that communicator.
Pairing these guys up with the other figures from NECA is a ton of fun. They look the part and they fit in scale-wise. In the show they might have been a little smaller, but that is largely due to inconsistencies within the show. They certainly look the part here and my bet is NECA was able to source the proportions from the style guide which hopefully dated back to 1987. These guys are in hot demand right now, but I encourage those of you on the hunt to remain patient. NECA knows it has a hit on its hands with these and I would expect they will make every effort to flood Targets around the country with them, and they’re also heading to the UK too. NECA even sent out an email to their ambassadors asking them to check with their local store to make sure these guys are either on the shelf or sold out, which is something they haven’t done for any other release. And if these guys don’t excite you enough, 2020 sure sounds like it’s going to be a blast! We’ve already seen finished, painted, prototypes for Slash, April, Casey, the Triceraton, Leatherhead, Roadkill Rodney, and Metalhead. Krang’s android body is also on the way and NECA hasn’t exactly been shy about confirming that Baxter Stockman should be expected at some point. And if video games are your thing, NECA’s latest in its TMNT video game series is expected to ship in February to specialty shops and includes renditions of Leo, Donnie, and the Foot Solider from the popular Turtles in Time game as well as a version of Slash from that game as well. 2020 is going to be a very exciting, and expensive, year for Turtle fans and we have NECA toys to thank for it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I’m also not losing sight of the present as Bebop and Rocksteady rival anything the company has put out yet. Don’t sleep on these guys, Turtle fans!
Last 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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.