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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!