Tag Archives: teenage mutant ninja turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin #3

IDW recently dropped the third issue in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mini series The Last Ronin; the flash-forward, what if, story about the last of the turtles and his quest for revenge. I have so far enjoyed this series and have shared my thoughts here. The first issue was like a big introduction as it was largely about the hero infiltrating a future New York controlled by the Foot on a suicide mission that wasn’t successful, in more ways than one. In that issue, we saw that our hero is haunted by the ghosts of his brothers, possibly literally, but likely not as he interacts with them like they’re still alive. Issue number 2 was the first issue where the story is only partially in the present, and largely took place in the past as the writers and artists on the book started to peel back the layers of what happened to get us to this point.

In that second issue, we saw the death of one of the ninja turtles, as well as the death of a major villain. When that happened, I hypothesized that this would be the format for the next few issues. Plot developments in the present would be kept to a minimum, while much of the books would be devoted to showing us the death of a turtle. Sure enough, issue three is more of the same as we see a little bit more of what happened following the death of the first turtle and how we ended up where we are.

Seeing one of my childhood favorites killed off was actually a lot harder than expected. Even though the story begins with three of the four turtles deceased (and other allies unaccounted for), I didn’t really consider how I felt about these characters being dead. Nor did I really think about what it would be like to see their last moments, and it turns out, it’s hard! As such, I had a slight feeling of dread walking into this one as I pretty much knew what was coming. In some ways, I guess I’m happy to say it wasn’t that tough a read after all, but that’s also disappointing as well.

Our hero has a new problem he needs to deal with: teenagers.

The confrontation we see this time around concerns a character’s rise to power in the Foot and how that individual orchestrated this whole thing. Much of the book is spent in the past showing what happened, but when it gets to the “hard” part, the story takes an easy way out. I was left holding the book and saying to myself, “That’s it?!” as I flipped back and forth to see if I missed something. Everything leading up to the moment was fine and compelling, but the payoff just wasn’t really there. I don’t expect to see any of the turtles brutally murdered on the page, but this death was a bit confounding and the presentation almost Saturday morning cartoon-like. Some additional mileage is spent on the present time, and the story there moves a bit further than it did in issue #2. Things are moving, but the end game isn’t in sight yet, which is fine as I like the pace this story is setting.

As was the case with the first two issues, the artwork here is great. Esau and Isaac Escorza do a fantastic job bringing this world to life. The colors are muted and dingy befitting the subterranean setting throughout. I like the look of the turtles as they’re uniquely designed for this story. The human characters are a bit ho-hum by comparison, but it all looks fine so I’m not complaining. As was the case with the previous issue, there is a layout done by Kevin Eastman. It’s another flashback presented in black and white which is just a fun throwback to the original Mirage issues. I suspect that will continue at least into the next issue when we should see how the third turtle was dispatched.

We get to check-in with another villain from the past in this issue.

The Last Ronin #3 is a minor stumble for the series. I am enjoying the overall story, I was just less satisfied with this entry and less moved by what transpired within the pages. I still have high hopes and great expectations for the fourth issue, and I’m genuinely curious to see how this is all wrapped up. That conclusion is still many months away as I’m not even sure if the goal is to finish it before 2021 ends. The fourth issue is scheduled to ship in August, and I’ve got it on my pull list at the local comic book store. With the world coming back to life, I heartily recommend you not only check this series out, but support your local comic book stores in the process!


NECA TMNT Cartoon Street Scene Diorama

The long-awaited diorama has arrived!

It was early last September that NECA made available for pre-order a redesigned version of their Street Scene diorama tailored specifically to fit-in with the company’s growing assortment of action figures based on the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fans had been asking for this set for even longer as NECA had been featuring it in its own displays at trade shows for about a year and fans were eager for one of their own. The orders for the diorama were open for two weeks on NECA’s own webstore which meant they were all made to order. A large item such as this wasn’t attractive to a big box retailer like Target where NECA’s toon line of figures is sold exclusively in the United States. Initially, there wasn’t a release date attached to the orders, but NECA would clarify not long after that the company hoped to ship product sometime in Q1 2021. The state of shipping in the world being what it is, Q1 turned to April, to May, to now as the diorama has arrived, though not entirely as expected.

When the diorama was made available to order there was a bit of sticker shock felt by the collecting community. An item like this is always going to be fairly expensive, but fans had a decent gauge of what to expect as this was mostly a re-deco of an existing product that retails for around a hundred bucks. This set, however, was listed at $150 and included a $20 shipping charge meaning it was going to cost collectors roughly $170 to bring this baby home. The increase in price appears mostly to be attributed to the inclusion of a plastic tower on the roof of the diorama as well as some additional paper goods. It was also suggested by NECA that part of the cost increase was attributed to the packaging design which would feature new artwork and photography to distinguish it from the standard diorama sold at retail.

Heeeeeere’s Casey! (and Metalhead)

Well, some things apparently were changed between September and May as the diorama arrived in a plain, brown, box. It’s possible the art didn’t cost out after the orders were placed, or maybe the company scrapped the idea to either get the item to consumers faster or because it just didn’t make much sense. Packaging is nice and all, but how many mint-in-box diorama collectors are out there? There probably are some, but this is an item intended to be opened and displayed alongside the action figures from the line (or any action figures, I suppose) and it’s not really something that will necessarily be attractive to mint-in-box collectors. On the other hand, NECA said one thing, and delivered something else, so anyone angry about it has a right to be. I was always planning on tossing whatever box this came in so I’m not particularly broken up about it. And I sincerely doubt fancy packaging was expected to account for the price difference. It should also be noted, the company previously did a one-off TMNT themed diorama for the movie figures that was priced at $125 which is a better comparison. This is basically that set with more stuff. Is it 25 dollars worth of new stuff? That’s for the consumer to decide. My entirely speculative take on the whole packaging thing though is that NECA had to trim costs on the units and the packaging was the first to go. They only sold around 2,000 of these so the margins are likely small. That doesn’t excuse NECA not informing its customers of the change to the packaging. It’s basically always better to be upfront rather than surprise people with something that isn’t exactly a good surprise. At the end of the day though, a product was listed at a price and consumers were free to ignore it or toss a stack of bills at NECA. I, obviously, enjoy throwing money at NECA.

I hope Foot Soldiers don’t feel pain.

This diorama has been something I’ve really been looking forward to. That’s not because it’s particularly impressive or amazing. It’s just a fancy stand. I was looking forward to it though because my current display needs more room. I have been finagling a display out of my collection on a shelf behind a bar. I had to clear out a bunch of drinkware and liquor bottles to make room for the initial release of 8 figures, which has only grown over the months since the line was launched at retail. I had a hard time sliding the Rat King and Vernon set into it, and the recently released sets were non-starters. I needed to find a new spot for my display, and this set was my excuse to do some re-arranging.

Hiding in plain sight.

The actual diorama is fairly basic. It’s a bunch of plastic panels that snap together to form a stand and backdrop for your action figure display. It’s a three-level display once completed: street, balcony, roof. It’s colored and styled to evoke images of the classic 1980s cartoon series with an almost cream colored brick pattern and a cardboard backdrop featuring the iconic Channel 6 building. The included tower is intended to go on the roof and it was featured in an episode of the cartoon and is the unique item expected to get the most attention. There’s also a manhole cover, fire hydrant, and numerous paper goods dotted with familiar faces and references for anyone who grew up watching the show. It’s also not just a fa├žade as there is room behind the windows to place figures and objects so that you can have a villain lurking in the shadows or maybe place a cowardly camera man to shoot the violence on the streets.

The billboard also serves as an excellent way to cover a flight stand.

The controversial brown box comes in a an outer shipping box. It’s about 27″x14″x6″ so it’s a pretty sizable package. The diorama is designed to be assembled starting from the ground up. The walls basically tab into each other, but forcibly so they’re not going to fall apart. Each front-facing wall features removable components as this is a modular set. There are two blank walls, five windows, and one shutter and you’re free to arrange those however you want. The shutter is non-functional, but the windows are open and there are included window panes that snap into place. The window panes are fingerprint magnets though as well as dust and hair or pet dander and installing them means you can’t have figures reaching out or into the windows, so I didn’t use them. There are also several holes that bricks can peg into. NECA did it this way so you could peg additional accessories basically anywhere.

This corner will haunt me.

I didn’t run into any construction issues until I reached the top. Getting the top level to slide into the roof of the bottom was rather cumbersome and it seems to want to bow out. I was able to get it to a place I was happy with, but the following step was far more annoying. NECA included six support pieces intended to snap under the roof. I don’t see how these add a ton of support, but it didn’t matter since I could not get the pieces to actually fit the peg holes. I wrestled with it for far too long before just ditching them and it seems fine. The rear of the unit also is designed to have the backdrop peg in. You line it up and NECA included some push pins that are meant to hold it on, but all it did was fall for me. And I definitely should have done this on a large surface or floor, and not the shelf, because my backdrop fell and the corner dented which left me momentarily irate. I ditched the pegs and am just relying on good old gravity for the backdrop as my diorama is against a wall so it doesn’t really need to peg in.

A familiar poster.
Ace Duck is apparently far more popular than I realized.

Once the diorama is together there are quite a few accessories that can be added to the display. NECA included a pizza billboard that pegs into either side of the unit and looks pretty cool. There’s a second billboard that is modular in that NECA provided multiple cardboard art pieces so yo can customize your look (I went with Slash for Cash for now), most of which feature a pizza advertisement. There are little lamps that can plug into it too and NECA included a stand so you can either position it on the roof or it can tab into the side of the building. There’s an air conditioner that can peg into virtually anywhere you want it and a bunch of paper goods. There are three wanted posters and four Ace Duck themed posters. The wanted posters should look familiar to anyone who got the cartoon themed Loot Crate as stickers of them were featured there. These ones are a little larger and they feature Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and Scrag who were all featured in the actual show. I stuck all of them on with some blue sticky tack and they hold fine. I do wish there was a bit more variety though as I don’t think we need four Ace Duck posters. The last two accessories are a fire hydrant and manhole cover. They don’t tab into anything and are just meant to be placed wherever you wish. The manhole cover is a little weird since the street-level portion looks like a sidewalk, but whatever. It also doubles as something a figure could wield so that’s cool.

Sigh…

The main attraction is the large antenna tower that sits on the roof. It’s made of plastic and painted in a two-tone black and gray and looks sharp. There are two pieces that tab into it in the form of an extended antenna on top and a satellite dish that can go on any side. Unfortunately, my dish arrived broken as the center antenna was snapped off. I don’t know why they didn’t make it two pieces that snapped together to prevent damage in shipping, but it is what it is. I know a few other people had the same problem and I reached out to NECA’s customer service about a replacement and received a response that was essentially “we’ll see what we can do.” I don’t really expect anything as this was made to order and I don’t know if they had the foresight to make extras for such an issue. With past made-to-order sets, like Tokka and Rahzar, customers have basically been shit out of luck when running into problems.

One loaded diorama.

The finished diorama accomplishes two goals: it looks great and it provides a lot of room for toys. The unit itself is pretty large measuring around 19″ tall, 13″ deep, and 25″ wide. Factoring in the backdrop brings it to around 27″ tall so you need a fairly large area to display this thing properly. I was able to incorporate every figure I have in the toon line, though the posing had to be kept a bit vanilla to fit them all on. I also positioned the triceratons on either side of the unit and Metalhead, Casey, April, and Vernon are inside the unit. The bottom piece does result in a lot of wasted space as the building has a ton of room inside it. It’s at least a good spot to store extra hands, weapons, heads, and so on and keep them out of sight. It would have been cool if NECA found a way to better utilize that space, maybe with a panel that looks like a smashed wall so you could make it look like a figure is busting out or something. I can see some people adding lighting to make the figures placed behind a window stand out better, though it’s not something I plan to do.

Finally, a play pen for the juvenile Shredder.

The NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Street Scene Diorama largely accomplishes its goal. It’s not without some minor disappointment with the packaging and a broken accessory. I was at least able to glue my piece together so even if NECA doesn’t come through with a replacement (and I will update this entry if they do) I can at least display it and likely only I’ll notice that it’s been glued. I’m actually far more bothered by the damaged corner of the backdrop as that sticks out more to me. The only other real negative is my diorama is basically full! Whatever figure comes next is going to be a challenge to incorporate into the display, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have. I’m sure there will be those who wish they could buy a second, or even third, especially since the non-licensed version doesn’t really fit the look. NECA might one day put this set up for order again, or maybe they’ll re-color the standard version to match the color of this one, just without the accessories. Unfortunately, if you didn’t grab this last year it’s to the secondary market you must go where $150 probably seems pretty cheap now.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin #2

As covered here about a month ago, The Last Ronin is a lost Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story from the late 80s/early 90s that has just now been finally realized in the pages of IDW’s ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. Conceived originally by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, The Last Ronin tells the story of the last ninja turtle and, as a bit of a callback to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, his quest for revenge. The fully realized story is not shaping up to be some sort of Kill Bill clone, but as a referendum on vengeance and its fleeting nature. The story is one I compared with the classic X-Men plot Days of Future Past as it does contain a dystopian future where hope is either lost or nearly gone and most of the characters we know and love are either dead or in a position to envy the dead.

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that if you have any interest in the The Last Ronin then you should definitely read the first issue before even sniffing the second. I will not spoil anything in this mini review, but it would be easy to be spoiled even with just glancing at this book or by reading other reviews as I’m sure many are only concerned with spoiling the contents of this book, and not the preceding one.

And the main thing that can be spoiled is what was revealed on the final page of issue #1: the identity of the last turtle. In that first issue, we saw our hero infiltrate New York and have a tough go of it. Along the way we realized he’s possibly just clinging to sanity as he constantly talks with the spirits of his dead brothers. In this issue, he’ll even argue with them and debate strategy going forward. He is aware that this behavior may be off-putting to others, as he tries to hide it from his allies. And who might those allies be? Well, that’s kind of a spoiler too, but let’s just say some are familiar, and some are not.

Much of this book is devoted to showing how we got to where we are.

The main purpose for this book is to advance the story of our hero ahead just a little, while also fleshing out what brought him here. In what is likely to be a theme going forward, this issue primarily tells the story of the death of one of the ninja turtles via flashback. In doing so, we learn the catalyst for what created this current reality while also seeing what the hero has been doing ever since. As someone who grew up watching the cartoon and movies, seeing the death of one of my childhood heroes is definitely upsetting. It’s not gratuitous, but it is visceral. When I was a kid, I so much as never even saw the turtles bleed and thus I never could comprehend them befalling a gruesome injury or death. I’ve been exposed to the more violent side of the Mirage books since, but it’s still quite a thing to bare witness to.

Pictured: not Elektra.

As I said before, the main plot for the last turtle does not advance much in this book. The time spent with him is more quiet. It’s a time to reflect, recuperate, and ultimately regroup. I’m curious how the next book balances the flashbacks with the current period arc. The flashback is so full that nothing feels like padding. Even though the story doesn’t advance much, I don’t get a sense that the writers and artists are stalling because they want this to hit a specific amount of issues. It’s just a story that has taken 30 years to tell so it’s not going to rush anything.

A familiar art style for those who read the early stuff.

As was the case with issue #1, the artwork in this book is fantastic. The Escorza brothers are on top of their game and the fight scenes are drawn really well. They don’t hold back, but they also do not do a disservice to the quiet scenes or the more distressing scenes. Kevin Eastman breaks out his pencil to illustrate the flashback sequence of the last ronin character and his original escape from New York. It’s a fun touch to see Eastman’s rougher art juxtaposed with the super slick work of the Escorzas and it’s an appropriate part of the story for Eastman to add a personal touch. I’m curious if we’ll see more from him in issue #3.

Something about them seems familiar…

The third issue should be arriving around the end of the month, and based on the cover, it looks like we’re going to learn the fates of a few more important characters. I think that is going to be the formula for at leas the next pair of issues before we get a big blow-off in issue #5. It’s been an interesting, if a bit uncomfortable, ride through these first two issues so I am looking forward to the next, and yet dreading it at the same time. I also appreciate though that I’ve been made to care about these characters enough over the decades that a story like this both entertains and upsets me. If you’ve ever loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you owe it to yourself to hop aboard this runaway train.


NECA TMNT Turtles in Disguise

We got some new turtles on the block!

When NECA started on this journey into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon it first began with a video game. An adaptation of a video game, to be more precise. The 2016 San Diego Comic Con exclusive contained a four pack of the famous, green, pizza destroyers in a pixel deco. They were the first figures based on the turtles since the 2008 Mirage Studios figures which felt like the start of something special, then quickly came the end. Convention exclusives were the name of the game the following year when those same arcade inspired figures were re-painted in the colors from the now classic cartoon series and released as part of an 8 pack with Shredder, Krang, and some Foot Soldiers. By then, the craze had begun and collectors were paying crazy sums on the after market just to get these limited release figures. Relief finally came in 2019 when NECA was granted the license by Viacom to sell its TMNT products at retail. It’s an odd relationship, and the popularity has not really subsided one bit, but TMNT figures are definitely a lot easier to come by now than they were just a few years ago.

I was one of the lucky ones to get ahold of that 2017 convention exclusive set. I very much liked what I received, but there was no denying that the figures had begun life as something else. Now, it’s possible when NECA sculpted these turtles for release in that arcade pack they always intended on them being cartoon iterations as well, but for me, the sculpt definitely looked more game inspired than show inspired from the start. The colors and weapons and all of the extra stuff was there, but the head-sculpts just never screamed “80s cartoon” to me. Those figures have also aged and since NECA has made strides in the articulation department and as more new figures are added to the toon line the actual turtles start to look more and more average. I still like those initial figures, but I don’t get the same “ripped from the source material” impression from them as I do with Rat King, Splinter, or Casey.

The quarter-scale engineering is coming to the main line!

It was a little over a year ago now that NECA’s director and main public face, Randy Falk, made it know that the company was planning on re-releasing the green machine as a four-pack. It was being promoted as a way to get the turtles into the hands of those who were late to the party or just plain couldn’t find the four at retail. The original plan was to have the set out for Christmas, but the shipping industry being what it is, things changed. We did get a tease though when NECA sent out some retro inspired checklists for their TMNT product designed to resemble the Playmates card-backs of old. They were just digital files, but they contained images for the four new turtles and all were sporting soft goods trench coats and cartoon-inspired face sculpts. It wasn’t long before more images were unveiled and information was passed on to collectors that these turtles would indeed feature the new head-swapping tech being unveiled in the quarter scale line. There was also some new articulation and the set would feature a whole bunch of other stuff. When I initially thought it was just going to be a four-pack with some extra stuff, I wasn’t too interested, but once I saw those images I had to have it!

Regardless of your feelings on the Wave One release, you’re going to want these new turtles.

The Turtles in Disguise four pack finally hit Target stores in April. Retailing for $125, the set is expensive, but not so expensive that it causes any kind of sticker shock, apparently. Sets have been flying off the shelves as quickly as they show up and the auction sites are loaded with listings of people seeking as much as $300 for a set. The initial shipment appears to be just concluded and it was a modest one that appeared to contain just 2 to 3 units and didn’t hit every Target in the country. This has set off a bit of a frenzy, but NECA has assured collectors this is just wave one of three with the third wave expected to include more units than the first two combined. NECA knows people want this set, it is the actual turtles after all, and it appears to be doing everything it can to get as many to retail as possible (which probably had something to do with the delayed release, as well).

In my area, I had zero luck tracking down a set, but then a fellow collector came to my aid on Twitter. A special shout out is reserved for Robert (@drcipherpeaks) who sent this set across the country to me and wouldn’t even accept full payment for the very expensive shipping. A great guy and a true asset to the collector community whom I hope to be able to repay in kind some day. I probably could have held out and scored a set from a later shipment or even via a Target web drop or eventual NECA pre-order, but it’s always nice to have the hunt concluded as soon as possible, so many thanks again to Robert!

I love the artwork NECA commissions for these releases. Art by Dan Elson
Lets set these turtles free!

Like NECA’s deluxe releases in this line, the Turtles in Disguise four pack comes in a box adorned with some delightful f.h.e. inspired artwork. It’s a window box with a flap that conceals the figures inside who are presented in their disguises and with their accessories laid bare. There’s a street theme going on with the interior artwork and there are loads of Easter eggs to find which I won’t spoil. I will say that some of the characters hinted at in this artwork have already been revealed since this was released so it’s fair to assume any other character present in this artwork is sure to follow. It’s also quite big, measuring approximately 19″x 9 1/4″x 3″ so if you’re planning on shipping any of these to some buddies you may have some trouble tracking down an appropriate box. The turtles themselves sit in a tray alongside some of their accessories with a second tray underneath securing the rest of the accessories and many hands included with this set.

Yeah, April, no one will be able to tell they’re turtles if they just wear a hat.

Since it’s the Turtles in Disguise set, it’s probably not surprising to see that the turtles arrives already in their disguises. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are all sporting blue pants and beige trench coats and happy expressions. Freeing them from their plastic prisons is actually quite painless as they’re each held in place by a single, plastic, strap that’s easily snipped away. Once out, they stand about 5 and a 1/2″ tall, just like their predecessors, and they should feel quite familiar to anyone who has those wave 1 turtles. The soft goods are done pretty well. The coat is tailored (by Nicole Falk), though not as extravagantly as the Raphael one from the movie line, and contains pockets and a belt to fasten around the waist if you prefer a closed look. Want them to go full flasher, simply pull the strip of fabric out of the buckle and let it all hang out. The collars are very stiff as the turtles usually wore them “popped” to better conceal their appearance in the show. You can push them down though if you prefer, and if you really want them to lay flat you could always get out an iron and go to town. The pants are far more simpler and include an elastic waistband to keep them up. They come with the pants tucked under the rear and front portion of the shell, though if you wanted to you could slide them over the front too. They’re very easy to work with.

Clothes are for suckers!

When you do take these figures out of the box for the first time you will probably want to remove the coats. Even if you intend to display these guys in disguise, removing the coat is still a good idea as you have no idea how the arms are positioned out of the box. Some of mine had the elbow turned all the way around so if I had tried to bend the arm with the coat on it wouldn’t have worked and could have possibly broke. Removing the coat is far trickier than getting the pants on and off. I recommend popping the hands off first to make it a little easier as the coat is tailored to be just big enough to get these on. The only drawback to this strategy is you may cause a wristband to pop off, which happened to my Donatello. They’re just glued on, so it’s not a difficult repair or I could just let whatever hand is in place hold it on. At any rate, I haven’t ripped a jacket yet and I’ve put these things on and taken them off a few times now. Just be patient and try not to force anything and you should be okay.

Take those pants off and celebrate!

Once the disguises have been removed you’re left with four glorious, naked, turtles! Seriously, the disguises draw attention to how naked the turtles are by default. These figures though are almost identical to the previously released figures, but with at least one obvious change. And that’s the head sculpt, which I’ll get into in more detail soon, but let’s just say these sculpts are far more toon accurate than what was released before. The other visual difference rests in the finish as these figures are noticeably glossier than the others. It’s a little bit disappointing because the rest of the line has a very matte look, but it’s not as bad in person as it looks in pictures. The chest and rear of the shell are still quite matte, it’s basically just the green skin that has a shine to it.

Good thing Mikey got a skateboard before his home boy Mondo arrives.

The visual distinctions are not the only differences though as these boys do sport some new articulation. Of the stuff that’s the same, we have a double ball, or barbell, joint at the head and base of the neck. It’s much smoother this time around and the figures have good rotation, tilt, and are capable of looking up and down. At the shoulders are ball-hinges and they were consistently the tightest joints on my set. There is a biceps swivel and another swivel at the elbow with a single hinge. The wrists are on pegs with hinges. All of the figures come with gripping hands by default with Leo and Raph having vertical hinges and Mikey and Donnie horizontal. Inside the shell, there’s a lot going on. There’s a ball joint in the abdomen that affords slight crunch and a little tilt. It also allows for a waist twist and you can turn their legs all the way around if you wish. This articulation is not new, but it’s far more loose than before causing some to think this is actually new articulation, but if you really want to, you can spin the legs on those old turtles too. What is new is below the waist we have the new style of legs. These are on ball pegs and they’re far more stable than before and allow for greater range. They can split, kick forward, and kick back. There is a thigh swivel, though it’s a bit limited. Below that we have double-jointed knees and new ankle articulation. The previous turtles just had ball pegs and weren’t the greatest. Now we have hinges and rocker articulation.

Do you like Choco Puffs (legally distinct from Coco Puffs) on your pizza?
Dinner’s over, time for a story?

These turtles are definitely better articulated than before. It’s a bit subtle, but it’s certainly noticed and appreciated by anyone who likes to open and pose their toys. These guys are all painted, including the joints, so you’ll likely have a breaking in period when first opening them. My set was mostly fine, but every turtle had tight shoulders and elbows. Mikey’s right elbow also has some orange paint slop on it that’s hidden when the arm is straight, but visible when bent. I might try to get that off with a Magic Eraser or just some careful scraping. The only turtle that needed some help was Raph. His right elbow and left shoulder were quite stuck. I submerged him in hot water for a bit and it only helped a little. I was actually able to get the right arm separated at the biceps peg and just let the elbow and forearm sit a little longer submerged in the hot water. At that point I was finally able to get it to move, and having it removed from the shoulder meant I didn’t have to worry about snapping the peg. The left shoulder was more stubborn, and perilous, as it’s hard to put pressure on the shoulder hinge without stressing the biceps, but I got it to go with only some minor terror. Aside from that, my set is pretty free of quality control issues. There’s a few paint imperfections here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary so I certainly feel fortunate in that regard. The only disappointment with the articulation is we’re still waiting for proper double-elbows. It can be done, NECA just apparently hasn’t found a way to do it that it likes.

I’ll let someone else make the head jokes.

All right, lets talk about those new heads! Each turtle has two different “skull tops:” angry eyes and wide open eyes. Each also features the last new piece of articulation at the knot in the bandanna. It’s a simple peg and hinge so you can reposition the “tails” as you wish. It’s a nice addition, and each skull piece has it unlike the quarter scale Raph who needs to swap the knot from each top, though the knot was molded in green and then painted to match each turtle. Like some of the ankle and wrist hinges we saw last year, the paint flakes off almost immediately leaving behind an eyesore. On a knot that’s always behind the figure’s head it’s at least not as big of an issue as an ankle or wrist hinge. The heads though separate below the mask and we have eight mouths which include two of each of the following shapes: neutral, smile, yell, open mouth smile. It’s a great load-out of expressions as they all work really well with each of the eyes. Take the smile and combine it with the wide open eyes and you get yourself a happy, gentle, turtle. Swap in the angry eyes and now you have a cocky smile like the turtles just pulled a fast one on Shredder. It’s a fantastic concept because it opens the door for NECA to do accessory packs down the road to give collectors either more of what’s already here or new mouths and eyes all together. Maybe they do a sewer lair set one day that includes bunk beds? They could offer closed eyes, snoring mouths, or even mask-less heads! A few people may be a little disappointed they can’t replicate the same expression across all four turtles at the same time, but I prefer what NECA did here as I want my guys to have some variety anyway. And these expressions are just so much more toon accurate than what we had before. Just take the open eyes and yell combo which results in a frightened turtle. How many act breaks did we see as kids where the turtles are making a face like that because some new danger was just introduced? When I look at that face I can hear that foreboding music that would always kick in at those moments. And unlike my quarter-scale Raph, I’ve had really no issues with the heads staying together so that’s also a huge plus.

Admittedly, they’re probably less upsetting for a normie without the masks.

And we don’t just have the eight turtle heads to talk about, we also have those creepy masks! Early in the show, April felt the disguise needed to be more convincing so she got the turtles these weird looking rubber masks. They look like a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Rodney Dangerfield. NECA included four of them in this set and they function as separate heads since getting a mask over those turtle heads would have resulted in something horrible. There are two each of a surprised face and a smiling face. The included hats fit on them really well, even better than they do on the turtle heads, and they’re a smart inclusion. Should NECA ever visit the idea of an accessory pack for the toon line it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few more of these with different expressions. They look great, but I do wonder how many collectors out there will actually display their set this way, unless they buy multiples. Photographers or those who just like to change their display frequently will certainly enjoy them though.

“Hello, my name is…Hughe…Mann…”
If you prefer a more Playmates inspired disguise.

Beyond the disguises, NECA also included a ton of extra stuff. We have a total of eight extra sets of hands included in this thing. The turtles all come with gripping hands, and the extras include four sets of open palms, two sets of thumbs up hands, a set of gripping hands with a wider gap in the fingers for Raph, and a set of pointing fingers which also work well with Raph as a stylized sai grip. It’s a solid assortment, though I might have preferred to swap out two sets of the open hands for two more sets of vertical hinged gripping hands, but it’s a minor quibble. This set is also loaded with pizza as we have two full pies, one of which appears to be sardine and ice cream, and a slice that looks nice and gooey. There’s a skateboard with a nice turtle shell logo in the center, though it’s strangely missing any kind of peg to securely fasten a figure to. There’s a “The Hare and the Tortoise” book which is from the first season and it’s well painted. We also have a massive 80’s boom box which was also featured in the first season (when the turtles wear a more ridiculous disguise that will undoubtedly be immortalized in plastic by NECA eventually) that’s neatly painted. There’s a Weird Pizza hat for Mikey from his short-lived stint as a delivery driver and we’ve also got a Pigeon Pete. He’s just a little lump of plastic, like gerbil Mike and fly Shredder, but he looks cute and he’s a fun inclusion. Lastly, there’s also the weapons of the Ninja Turtles. They’re the same as the original release except that none of Mikey’s ‘chuks can separate from the chain as this set does not include the whirling effect piece. I was kind of hoping NECA would opt to include the sai that came with the Turtles in Time Raph, as I just think they look better, but it’s not a big deal. And if you’re wondering, Raph and Mikey still don’t have holsters for their weapons. You can kind of slip them under the arms, which works better for Raph than Mike, but it’s not show accurate. I wish NECA would just rip-off Bandai and include a swappable belt piece for Mikey so we could have holsters for his nunchuks when we want them.

Now he has the hat to go with the pizza!
It’s easy to forget that the turtles spend just as much time in the cartoon wearing expressions like these as they do looking fearsome.

There’s a lot in this oversized box and a lot of it is good. What’s most important though is we have some new turtles that really capture how they appeared in the vintage cartoon. There are so many different variations of those turtles between the actual show, licensing art, toys, comics, and other sources of artwork so everyone’s concept of that 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle aesthetic can vary a bit. This figure line though is based on the show so I want them to look like they came right off of my TV. These new head-sculpts capture the look of the show from Season Two through the show’s main run up until the redesign in Season 7. My preferred look will always be that original opening title turtle with the beak line and saturated colors, but this is great as a general cartoon look. Those NECA originals were fine, but the head-sculpts came from an unknown source. Maybe it was simply a case of them being video game turtles first, maybe it was a bit of homage to the Playmates expressions, or maybe it was just the best attempt at the time. All I know is this is an improvement and if you collect this line then this set is a must have, regardless of whether or not you bought the originals or not.

I can’t overstate how happy I am with these new heads.

NECA’s Turtles in Disguise four-pack is currently exclusive to Target in the United States. I do not know if there are any international plans in the works. I have to assume this set of figures will be made available outside of the US eventually. It will either be this exact set, or maybe special two-packs or something. I think what is happening right now is that NECA knows this is a hot item and it’s prioritizing the retail release in the US because that’s where TMNT is most popular and demand is highest. The second wave of releases for this set should either be underway or soon to be so if you haven’t found one yet, keep checking. And should all three waves come and go, plus the online drop, and you find yourself still without a set of poorly disguised reptiles then worry not, as NECA indicated they will eventually do pre-orders so long as demand is there (and it will assuredly be). I get it though, if you don’t have one now and you’re after it then it can get disheartening, and even infuriating, to see others have better luck or see the many listings on auction sites. The only cure for scalpers is to not feed them so I encourage all collectors to avoid doing so, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your decision. And if you need help, turn to social media. Find collector groups, hashtags, and trends and see if you can even find some local collectors. With a line this popular, a little help goes a long way. Good luck!

Cowabunga!

NECA TMNT Cartoon Rasputin and Genghis

It begins now: the invasion of the (not so) Punk Frogs!

During Season Two of the classic cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the world was introduced to the Punk Frogs. Despite their name, there was nothing particularly punk about these mutated amphibians as they all dressed like they were going to a Jimmy Buffett concert. They make a few return appearances in the show, and given that they’re four identical characters save for some color changes, it’s no surprise the characters made the leap to plastic. Oh, actually, only two of them did. Genghis Frog was a 1989 release in the Playmates line of toys and he, more or less, looked like the cartoon version. His skin tone was a deeper green and his shirt blue instead of purple, but he looked the part about as much as any character in the toyline did when compared with the toon version. He did come with a cool tongue gun that never appeared in the show where he instead would wield a rather ordinary axe, but that was par for the course with that line in which the toy designs were often far more imaginative than what would appear in the show. The only other frog to get the toy treatment though was Napolean Bonafrog, who looked nothing like his toon counterpart. The toy turned him into a horny toad or something similar, an odd change, but at least it was a new sculpt.

The Playmates line actually wasn’t big on repaints and parts reuse with the most notable being Slash and Tokka or the toon Shredder which was just a repaint of the original figure. NECA on the other hand? They love it! That’s not intended as a criticism of the company’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure line as the cartoon had a bunch of these style of characters. All four frogs in the show look the same. Their skin is just a different shade of green (like the Playmates turtles, which oddly all shared the same skin tone in the show) and their clothing was colored differently as well to distinguish the four. With the cost of making toys rising across the industry, figures like the frogs become even more desirable as it’s a way to get new characters to market at a smaller cost than some other two-packs in the line. And now, thanks to NECA, the Punk Frogs who never made it to plastic get a new lease on life.

Frogs and stuff.

Initially, I had no plans to purchase this set at retail. I had pre-ordered it through a foreign retailer at only a slight markup so I was content to wait on the frogs. Plus, I’ve been incredibly busy with work this month so I haven’t even had time to hit the stores in search of them. I was only passing through a mall location Target over the weekend to get to a jewelry store for a Mother’s Day gift and there just happened to be one Rasputin and Genghis set hanging out on the shelf. I didn’t hesitate to grab it as I know other collectors in my area are in search of these, so I knew I was going to find a happy home for these guys with no problem. Then I got home and started looking them over. Probably contributing to my interest is the fact that the last NECA two-pack I got was back in January, and eventually my curiosity got the best of me. Worry not, local collectors, for I will have an extra set available at some point this summer, and at least it gives me something to talk about here in May on this blog.

“Sir, you’re clearly a giant frog in human clothes.” “No, I’m not.”

As I alluded to earlier, Genghis and Rasputin are essentially the same figure. With the turtles, NECA used the same body for all four, but gave each a unique head-sculpt. With the frogs, NECA just gave each one the same two head-sculpts to alternate. At least I think that’s what is going to happen as I’m not certain the next two-pack of frogs will feature the same two head-sculpts, but I want to say they do. The frogs stand at about 5 1/4 inches making them just a tick shorter than the original release of the turtles. Since they’re frogs, they’re designed to stand with their knees bent which will make them appear noticeably shorter than their reptilian allies. Genghis is a pale green with a purple shirt that features orange polka dots while Rasputin’s shirt is basically the inverse. Genghis has some fashionable light purple shorts while Rasputin goes with red. Both have the same sculpted necklace and bracelets and bisected paint scheme that this line is known for. Aside from the color differences, the only other physical distinction between the two is the pattern of the freckles on their snout. The paint is used liberally and you’ll probably fine some flaking when you move the joints for the first time. It’s all quite clean though, especially around the eyes, and NECA is once again utilizing soft plastic for the clothing which provides for flexibility when working the articulation. As is the norm for this line, these frogs look pulled right from the cartoon.

You could get some juicy frog legs off of these boys!

NECA always seems to prioritize the look of the figures in this line when it comes to articulation, and these boys are no different. Their head sits below the shoulders as they have that hunched over look in the show which really limits the articulation at the head. It’s on a double ball-joint, but the head sits so low in the chest that it basically can just rotate. At the shoulders, we have ball hinges and the elbows are single-hinged, but do swivel. The hands rotate and have a horizontal hinge. In the chest, there’s a diaphragm joint that provides plenty of twist and a little bit of forward and back, though no tilt really. There’s also a waist joint that provides a swivel. At the hips, we have the new style of joints, but they’re pretty loose on Genghis and super loose on Rasputin. Rasputin can be a challenge to stand as a result as his legs will gradually slide apart. They kick forward and out to the side, but the crotch piece keeps them from going back. The thighs swivel below the shorts and the knees are double-jointed. At the feet, we’ve got the usual hinge and rocker combo.

“Rasputin! You better call them turtle fellas up north!”

The frogs check most of the boxes when it comes to articulation, about the only obvious missing piece is double-jointed elbows. Even with out them, they can achieve a 90 degree bend at the elbow so it’s not a huge loss. Where they feel limited is in the shoulders and hands. The shirt would have seemed to provide cover for a butterfly joint, though that’s something NECA rarely, if ever, utilizes. It’s only worth pointing out because they just feel stiff and Rasputin is an archer who really can’t wield a bow. The other missing item is properly hinged hands. Genghis sports an axe and could really use some vertically hinged hands, but NECA declined to include them. More annoying is that the same hinge would have been more useful for Rasputin, who comes with two sets of gripping hands, neither of which features the proper hinge. The default gripping hands for these figures really should have featured the vertical hinge, which honestly should be the default for most figures, but rarely is. They all wield melee weapons, so it’s a bizarre oversight. NECA seems to always get it right when it comes to Leonardo, but rarely seems to with everyone else. And since we’re talking NECA, stuck joints seem to always be a popular conversation topic. With the frogs, the joints were definitely stiff, in particular the knees and elbows, but nothing too bad. I didn’t need heat for anything and was able to break them in without much fuss.

“Sorry, Genghis, but I don’t know how to use one of them there telephones!”

NECA included in the box basically everything these figures required, and some of which it did not. Each frog features three sets of hands, and since the characters sport different skin-tones, they’re not interchangeable. Genghis has gripping hands, pointing hands, and fists while Rasputin has the same gripping hands, loose gripping hands for using his bow, and a pair of peace sign hands. They also have two heads: one smiling and one that looks concerned or scared. The hands pop in and out pretty easily, but the heads are far more stubborn. Genghis has his battle axe which looks fine and features some sculpted distress marks on the axe head. Rasputin has his bow with quiver and four arrows. Three of the arrows are traditional looking while the fourth has a bomb or something at the end of it that looks like a Bullet Bill from Super Mario Bros. His bow features real string, like the same we saw in the Mirage line, and while it features a spot to knock an arrow it’s quite difficult to find a natural pose with the arrow in position. Plus the string doesn’t seem too durable so it’s probably not wise to actually use it, though if you’re wondering, it does work!

The rest of the accessories include a pair of turtle communicators and pre-mutated frogs. The Turtle-Coms are the same as what we’ve seen released with the other turtles as they’re in the open position and feature blank screens. The little frogs are non-articulated lumps of plastic and most have noticed these boys are quite thick. The final two accessories are a futuristic, laser, bear trap that I think was used by Dirk Savage in the show. You can slide a froggy foot into it or drape it over the non-mutant frogs. It looks cool and might be fun to mess around with. There’s also a disguise which fits over either head-sculpt that’s a hat with novelty glasses and is from the episode where Genghis takes a trip to New York. It’s quite fun and I like how NECA was able to engineer it to just rest on the frog heads without having to click into place. It stays on just fine too and there’s a good chance I’ll display at least one frog with it on at all times.

Now the wait to complete the quartet of frogs has begun!

The Rasputin and Genghis two-pack from NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line is another solid effort from the company. I feel like this is turning into the toyline of B+ releases. They’re remarkably consistent at delivering characters that look the part, but at the same time, there seems to always be something holding each release back just a touch. And often, that something is more of an oversight than anything like the missing vertical hinges on the hands. I would also consider the hips a drawback with my set too, though I don’t know if most are as loose as mine. It’s still a fun set though, despite the few shortcomings, and the base, frog, sculpt is quite charming and certainly looks the part. This set is exclusive to Target and appears to be arriving in solid quantities, about 6 per store, and given that they’re not hugely popular characters they may not be as hard to find as some of the other sets from this line. I found mine in a busy Target on a Saturday, basically a time of day I’d expect to find nothing, so maybe that’s a positive indicator for those hunting this set, or maybe I just happened to walk in 10 minutes after they were put out. There will probably be an online release through Target as well, and NECA has become quite dependable when it comes to making second runs available through its website as a pre-order. Basically, the only figures to not be placed on pre-order so far include the turtles, Casey Jones, and April as I think everything else has been. It’s likely the frogs will be offered there as well eventually, but that’s likely a long ways off from happening meaning delivery is even further away. Collectors can at least be comforted in knowing these are attainable, it just might take some longer than others to get their hands on them.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin

I don’t read a lot of comics these days. Actually, I suppose I never truly read a lot of comics even when I was very much into X-Men and Spider-Man. Back in the 90s, I received most of my comic lore from trading cards. They were cheaper and fun to collect. When it came to actual books, I was rarely allowed to get one though I certainly would try to get my mom or dad to buy me one when at the grocery store. The most comics I read probably came when I was in college and I had the money to buy trades of all of the famous stories I had heard about growing up: The Dark Phoenix Saga, Watchmen, Death in the Family, etc. I also got into modern stories and for awhile I kept up with Marvel’s Ultimate Universe until I either ran out of money or grew bored with the hobby.

One of the last comic storylines I really dove into was the inaugural Mirage Studios Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. IDW Publishing started handling the property following the sale of the franchise to Viacom and the company put out these massive, hardcover, collections of the original Eastman and Laird run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I blogged about all five volumes here, if you want to search for them, and I mostly jumped into them because I grew up a big TMNT fan and I had never really checked out the original books. I certainly knew of them, and I think I had read the inaugural issue on more than one occasion, but I had never gone deep. It was pretty fun, though when I was finished checking those out I found I had little curiosity in the other TMNT stories, be they more older ones like the Archie comics or the new ones published by IDW.

Late last year though, a lot of TMNT fans started singing the praises of a new TMNT story titled The Last Ronin. It’s basically a future “what-if?” styled story that could best be described as the TMNT version of the classic X-Men story “Days of Future Past.” I really didn’t know much about it, only that there was some really cool artwork based on the story being circulated online. I decided it was something worth checking out, though by the time I had done so the first issue had sold out. Thankfully, it was still attainable via online shops with only minimal markup. I eventually ordered a copy, and I also subscribed to the rest and even grabbed the Director’s Cut reprint of the first issue recently and I’m glad I did.

The Last Ronin tells the tale of a lone turtle in the future. He’s bundled from head to toe in robes and armor and is outfitted with the weapons longtime turtle fans know and love: katana, sai, nunchaku, bo. He sports a black mask and he’s a bit paunchy compared with other versions of the TMNT I’m used to, but that wasn’t something I read much into beforehand. Once I had the first issue in hand though, it was obvious this was an older turtle and when we meet him he’s sneaking into New York City which is now a Hell hole because this is a dystopian future story. High walls surround the city and massive skyscrapers have created a dual class system where the wealthy live above the city and the poor are left to fend for themselves at ground level, and below. The Foot run the show, though we don’t know who leads them, while our protagonist narrates to himself (and the reader) what’s about to go down.

Things get pretty heavy for our nameless friend.

It would seem this is a turtle on a suicide mission. He wants to sneak in and cause trouble in hopes of taking down whoever leads the Foot now. And as he talks to himself, he talks to the dead. It becomes obvious that this turtle is one of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the rest are dead. We don’t know which one (that’s saved for the end of the first issue), but it almost doesn’t matter as whoever this is he’s undergone a lot of trauma and has changed considerably.

And things get bloody too.

I really don’t want to say anything more about the first issue as I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s a very action-packed issue as our turtle friend encounters trouble pretty much from the onset. It’s in-line too with the Mirage comics of old as there’s a considerable amount of violence and this turtle clearly plays for keeps. He also gives as good as he receives as this isn’t a superhero type of character capable of being a true one-man army. He’s plenty capable, for sure, of causing a ruckus and fending off multiple enemies, but he’s no Superman. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable read for someone who grew up adoring TMNT as it’s really not fun to think of them as dead, but here we are.

The Director’s Cut of issue #1 shows off a lot of the original treatment for this story. This plot originates from the 1980s when TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird dreamt up a finale of sorts to what they started. It never got made until now, and a lot was changed in the interim, but it’s pretty cool to see the original vision. Some of the writing can be hard to read, as it’s just scanned notes from 30 years ago, but it’s definitely worth a look. There’s also a look at the concept art for the series with annotations from Eastman that are pretty informative. I wouldn’t call the Director’s Cut essential for those who want to experience The Last Ronin, but if you’re interested in getting a copy of issue #1 I’d recommend it over the standard release.

The story for this one is shared amongst Eastman, Laird, and Tom Waltz with Eastman and Waltz handling the actual script (Laird’s credit appears to stem from the original story and I didn’t get the impression he had much involvement with it beyond that). Layouts were done by Eastman and pencils and inks were done by Esau and Isaac Escorza and the art in general looks terrific with colors by Luis Antonio Delgado. The team does a great job of evoking some of that rough Mirage art from the 80s but with a more refined touch. The colors are mostly muted which suits the grim atmosphere of the story with some of the flashbacks featuring a soft, glow, to them. There are several variant editions out there if that’s your fancy all with different covers. The main cover is by the book artists and the Director’s Cut cover features art by Eastman. The book is printed on thick paper as this is a special release. The cover is also thick and durable and it comes with a slightly higher retail cost of $8.99 per issue with the Director’s Cut coming in at $10.99.

The Last Ronin is off to a great start. It definitely seems to hit the tone it’s going for as this is a downer of a story. There’s a lot to uncover as this five part series moves along and issue #2 is already out with #3 expected in May. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, I definitely recommend checking it out as I think it’s going to be an interesting ride. Of course, you could always wait for the inevitable TPB edition but that may not come until 2022 so why wait? And if there are any action figure makers reading, we need a Last Ronin figure!


NECA Quarter Scale TMNT Toon Raph

There he goes, thinking he’s the best turtle once again.

My first NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles product was the original release of the Mirage Studios quartet released in 2008. Nearly a decade went by before I bought another TMNT product from NECA, and that item ended up being the quarter scale movie Donatello. It was love at first sight for me and Donnie, and I eagerly awaited the following three turtles to complete my display. Following those, I’ve stayed away from the quarter scale largely because it’s expensive and takes up a lot of space. Those figures are over a foot tall and are quite beefy and it’s just more convenient to collect at a smaller scale. When NECA first announced it was going to bring the cartoon turtles to the quarter scale, I initially wasn’t interested. What would I would do with more giant turtles? The first one on the release schedule was Raphael, and I kept my eye on it, but wasn’t really feeling the pull to go for it. Then the figure was delayed from the jam-packed Fall 2020 to Q1 2021 finally arriving when there’s little action in the toy world. Maybe that was the reason for my renewed interest as once I go several weeks to a month without a new toy I get anxious. Seeing reviews online was enough to do me in, and here I am with a quarter scale Raph.

Raph and all of his bigness.

When I say I had little interest in the figure when announced initially, I am mostly referring to Raphael. I did plan to get at least one quarter scale turtle because one of my favorite Christmas presents ever was the Playmates Giant Sized Leonardo. I loved that big-ass turtle and I marveled at the changes made in going from 4″ to 14″. The “pleather” belt, pupils in the eyes, ankle articulation – it all seemed awesome to me at the time, even if by today’s standards that’s still a pretty basic figure. The only negative with that toy was Playmates was too cheap to include two swords. I no longer have that guy, but he was immortalized in a clock my grandfather made for me that he based on that toy and I still have that to this very day. It’s in my son’s room now and if he ever breaks it he’s in some major trouble.

This is an action figure that comes with instructions!

I caved though, and now I have a big, beefy, toon, Raphael on my shelf. I was able to order him from Big Bad Toy Store, which has since sold out, so apparently there are a lot of folks out there who slept on this thing for awhile, only to change their mind once released. I did try to find him locally first, but no comic shops around me seemed to carry him which was a bummer. Even though this is a big figure, I was still taken aback by the sheer size of the box he arrived in. This figure is actually smaller than the movie figures, so I kind of had it in my head to expect small, but there’s just no making a quarter scale figure small.

You have to look at the underside of the box to find the other brothers.

Raphael comes in a window box done up in the same style as the Target releases. NECA originally wanted to do retro packaging, but couldn’t get permission from Playmates to make that happen (which possibly accounted for the delay). There’s some nice photography on the box though demonstrating the product. Hidden on the bottom of the box is the cross-sell with the other three turtles set for release (Donnie is next and should arrive over the summer) and a demonstration of the features of the figure. The main selling point, aside from the aesthetics of a giant turtle, resides in the head. These figures come with two heads, but each head can separate at the bandana to create up to four, distinct, expressions. Not all of the turtles will come with the same pair of mouths, so once all four are collected you should have quite a bit of variety for mixing and matching. It’s a great idea, and it’s one that is also being brought to the 6″ line next month with a deluxe four pack being sold exclusively at Target.

The bigness of this figure means you’re going to see all of my bar stuff in every shot.
Because I know you want to check out what he’s got going on out back.

Extricating Raph from his box requires some work. This is not collector friendly packaging, which is actually liberating to a degree as I didn’t mind destroying it and trashing it when done. Once removed, Raph stands roughly 14″ tall. If you have the series one Raph from the toon line sold at Target, then he should look fairly familiar. The color scheme is basically the same with that olive green skin-tone. NECA uses an even darker green on the backside of the figure and the same is done with the red of the bandana and various pads as you have a bright red on the front and a dark red on the back. There’s some black line work at play to really bring out that cell-shaded look and the shell is a soft brown, as it was in the show, and not deep green like some of the licensing art. The obvious major change is just in the expression on the head. Raph’s default look is that big, happy, open-mouthed, grin. The other head features angry eyes and a yelling mouth while the smaller version of the character has a more neutral expression with gritting teeth. I’ve always felt the headsculpts on the standard turtles from NECA were the weakest aspect of the figures as they’re just not very representative of the cartoon and this is a major improvement.

Gotta go with the angry head when the sais are out.
Unless there’s pizza involved, then happy is the way to go.
This big boy can move around a bit.

The figure may look like a larger version of the standard release, but it’s actually a little different. This turtle is actually packing more articulation than the old one, which was a bit of a surprise. The head is on a double barbell styled joint so it moves inside the head and inside the neck. The neck is also articulated so you get a pretty good range of motion out of the old noggin. The shoulders are still standard ball-hinges and there’s a biceps swivel past that. The elbows though are now double-jointed like his movie counterpart. Also like the movie figures though, the elbow pads limit just how useful those elbow joints are and you’re basically only going to get 90 degrees out of the joints, but it looks better than the smaller one which placed the elbow pad above the joint. And that pad doesn’t just float in the joint either, there’s actually a little ball-peg that it clips onto. I don’t think it’s something you have to necessarily worry about breaking, but maybe just be mindful of it. The wrists still swivel and possess horizontal hinges and the inner shell has some articulation points, but they don’t really function at all because of the shell. At the legs, we have ratchets to help this figure hold his pose since he is quite heavy. The legs can go out to a full split and kick forward pretty far. The front part of the shell is pretty soft so it doesn’t hinder the kick too much, but the rear shell will keep him from kicking back. The knees are double-jointed, but like the elbows, the kneepads will get in the way a bit. I could get past 90 though, so all in all it’s pretty good. There’s a slight swivel at the knee and the ankles have been redone. The smaller figures just had their feet on ball pegs, but now we have true hinges and rockers which is really needed for posing because this guy actually doesn’t have a thigh swivel. I’m pretty surprised by this omission, but I’m guessing it’s for stability reasons. He moves better than he has any right to, and best of all no stuck joints! The only tough ones were the knee joints, but I assume they’re tight for a reason as loose legs would kill this figure. His bandana knot is also now articulated with a hinge, which is cool.

All the stuff. Note I do not have the Turtlecom all the way opened.
Now that Turtlecom is fully opened!

This guy comes with quite a slew of accessories for mixing and matching. Some of these accessories are definitely going to be repeated with the other turtles, like the pair of pizza slices which actually snap together. I suspect once all four are out we’ll have a full pie. The hands are familiar to anyone with the smaller figure: two gripping hands, two pointing hands, and two thumb’s up hands. The gripping hands feature the wider gap between the fingers so Raph can hold his sai with the center blade between them. The pointing hands also function as stylized sai-holding hands, though they don’t fit as neatly as the movie sai and hands. Best of all, the hands are actually quite soft so it’s easy to put accessories in his hands and there’s little risk of paint rub. To go along with these hands, are Raph’s trusty sai which don’t look quite so huge in this scale as they do with the smaller figure. Raph still can’t holster them in a toon-accurate manner, but they fit under his arms when not in use. He also has a Turtlecom that actually opens and closes now. Getting it all the way opened requires a little tug that may seem scary the first time you do it. Once opened, the shell ends are very loose and floppy making it hard for it to hold its shape when actually placed in the figure’s hand. I still think the added gimmick of it actually opening and closing is worth having over the previous method of one static closed Turtlecom and one static open Turtlecom. Lastly, there’s the dripping slice of pizza with the hole through it for placing on Raph’s sai as he does in the original cartoon intro.

The pieces we have to work with.
And the peg they sit on. It’s pretty easy to get his head off, but at the cost of them not staying on very well. It’s definitely one of the hardest things to get right about an action figure with swapping parts.

Of course, we need to talk about that big selling point: the face swapping. Raph’s head comes off very easily, possibly too easily, which is needed to change-up those portraits. The bandana knot just pegs into the back of the head. It’s quite snug, so go easy with it. Separating the top of the head from the bottom isn’t too bad as you can hold it in one hand and push from the bottom inside the head to pop it apart. Once you do that with both heads, you can swap to create expressions. He basically has four: happy, angry, scared, and a sort of wicked expression that is easily my favorite (angry eyes plus the smile). Unfortunately, mixing and matching doesn’t work as well as I had hoped. The two default heads snap together fine, but trying to combine happy eyes and yell or angry eyes and smile does not work as well. The happy and yell combination, which creates a scared Raph, is super tight. It took a lot of effort and repeated attempts to finally get it to snap together. I probably should have got out the head gun, but I did eventually get the thing in place with pure muscle without damaging it. It might seem like an odd choice, but in some respects, this scared face feels the most authentic to me since the turtles do react in a surprised, concerned, and even frightened manner to all kinds of dangers in the show. I might have to go with this look for at least one turtle when all is said and done. The look I was most interested in for Raph, that wicked smile, has a worse issue. It’s too loose! The two pieces will click together, but just the slightest breeze will cause them to come apart. I’d get them together okay, but then once I put the head back on they’d fall apart. It’s frustrating, because the only remedy I can think of is to just glue the pieces together, but that defeats the purpose of the gimmick. Very carefully, I did manage to get the head on and even posed Raph on my shelf with this expression. It’s held, for now, but this doesn’t seem like the type of thing that’s going to get better with time, only worse. Right now, my hope is that one of the other brothers comes with a smiling mouth that works better with Raph’s eyes. It looks like I’ll have to wait awhile though as Donnie appears to come with the yell and a closed mouth, but Leo and Mikey are both shown with big smiles. And maybe once I have a bunch of these guys I’ll be more open to gluing one head together. I’ve seen other reviews that did not have the same complaint, so this could be unique to my set, but I really hope the other figures work better than this one as this is the main selling point of the line, as far as I’m concerned.

Well, that’s no good.
And that’s no better. He’s right to look scared!

The issues I ran into with the expressions definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm for this figure. I do enjoy that he has this big, nice, weighty feel to him and the quality seems to be there as well. As it should be since this figure retails for around $125. He’s shorter than the movie version, but actually feels more substantial. And this is an eye-catching piece with enough posing options that it should be pretty fun to assemble a squad of four. NECA is aiming to release one per quarter and get them all out in 2021. Donnie is next, and we don’t know who will follow him, but eventually I will have my Leonardo! I am also very much looking forward to that four pack and I hope it won’t be a huge chore to acquire it when it’s finally released because these new portraits just work so much better for the source material than the grim ones we got a few years ago.

I’m guessing folks want some comparisons.
Quarter scale Raph and puny, insignificant, Raph.

This bad boy appears to be selling quite well, so if you think this is something you’re going to want then you probably won’t want to wait too long. There will be no restocks, according to NECA, until all four brothers are released and I’m pretty sure they’re looking to do more movie quarter scale figures in 2022 so it could be awhile before Raph is readily available once again. And if you’ve been collecting NECA TMNT, you know how hot it is right now and how crazy the after market can get. The good news is that hot after market means if you buy this guy and decide you don’t have the room or just plain don’t like him you can probably get your money back without too much trouble by flipping him. I do like the look of Raph, and I think I’ll appreciate him even more when I get my toon setup all situated once NECA releases the cartoon diorama it solicited last year. There’s going to be a lot of turtle power added to my house this year.

He’s going to have to chill with the movie figures for now. Hopefully no slight breezes enter my basement to knock his head off.

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Bebop

He don’t get mad, he gets stabby!

This is a big figure. That’s the take-away and the thing any reviewer has to mention when reviewing Super7’s take on the classic warthog from Playmates. Back in ’88, Bebop was bigger than the turtles, but he was also really hunched over to the point where it was like his neck was coming out of his chest. This made sure the figure would fit on the blister card and not break the mold of a line that was just starting out and probably needed to keep costs down as much as possible. With Super7’s line of Ultimates! based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, no such compromise needed to be made. Bebop can be his big, beefy, self and it’s quite a sight to see.

I won’t make you wait for the big comparison shot with the turtles in this line.

The turtles in this line come in at 6″ in height. It’s a 7″ scale line so the turtles are a bit on the short side in this universe. Bebop is definitely the opposite as he comes in at 8″ at the top of his mohawk. More so than the height though is the fact that this guy is chunky! Just picking up the box after handling the Leonardo one drove the point home that there was a lot more plastic in this package than before. It’s a bit awe inspiring to behold this figure as it just so fundamentally changes how one views the character.

It only took the better part of 30 years, but Bebop finally has something he can call a logo all to himself.

Bebop comes packaged in the same window box style we’ve seen with the other releases. Even though he’s much larger than what’s been released so far, he still fits into the same sized box, though he certainly takes up more room in the window. The slipcover that goes over his box is purple, as all of the villains are, and features a Bebop face on a manhole cover on the front with drill bits on either side of his head. It’s a small thing, but I love how each character gets their own logo of sorts for this line.

That’s a tight fit.

This Bebop is, like the other figures in this line, a throwback to the old Playmates toy released in 1988. He’s very similar in terms of sculpting, even though he looks quite different at first glance. That’s due to that old figure having so many sculpted details that were left unpainted. Some may see the knee brace on this figure and struggle to remember if the vintage one had that. And it did, as it did the turtle skeletons and stich pattern pants. By far the biggest benefit to this new scale and approach is Bebop’s red, leather, vest. The texture and the saturation of the paint is just exquisite. It might sound ridiculous, but it was how this jacket looked in promotional shots that got me to buy into this figure. It’s a separate piece of soft plastic that fits over the torso which just adds nice depth to the figure. Especially considering a lot of the other effects are sculpted into the main body. The necklace, bracelets, belt – that’s all sculpted which is in contrast to the more recent NECA offering which went with chains for the belt and bracelet. It gives this figure a bit of a juxtaposition in terms of the presentation as the separate pieces (jacket, shoulder pads) really bring this guy to life while the sculpted-in parts preserve the toy aesthetic of the original.

I don’t know if it sounds stupid, but I’m obsessed with how good this jacket turned out.

The paint job on Bebop also walks that line a bit. There’s a lot of pink utilized on his snout and the underside of his neck. The original figure did feature a pink tint as well, though not to this extent. If it’s too much for you, Super7 did include a second head which is the same as the default one, but without the pink air -brushed on. The hair, shells, and shoes look terrific with their paint app, while the chain bracelet came out a bit chunky. We should probably see some of his flesh through the chains, but it’s just solid gray. The arms and the main body of the figure are just brown plastic and he does have a bit of a shine to him. He’s just so big that when you have something that’s low detail like his arms it really stands out. Maybe a wash or some fur sculpted into him would have improved this. His old, purple, mohawk is now more of a hot pink and it looks like they failed to paint the elastic at the end of his ponytail. It’s not a big deal, but again, with such a big figure everything stands out.

I think this drill gun showed up in the cartoon and it fired a laser, in case you thought it was just a power drill. That would explain why it has a scope on it.

In spite of those critiques, I will say the overall sculpt and look of Bebop is pretty fantastic. If you prefer your Bebop to look more like the old toy and less like the cartoon then this is going to make you happy. As a kid, I was the opposite as I wanted Bebop and especially Rocksteady to look like the characters I saw on TV every day. And yet, I am floored by this sculpt and am completely smitten. It’s just so demonstrably different from the NECA offering that I don’t even think they’re comparable. The NECA Bebop is my favorite figure in that line because they so perfectly nailed the aesthetic of that cartoon. And this one is terrific because he’s just not that character. This is a more monstrous Bebop. I assume if he were in a cartoon he wouldn’t be as dim as the one we got. He’d actually be something to fear rather than laugh at.

It’s a lot easier to put him in a “knife toss” pose than a conventional knife pose given how tight those gripping hands are.
The rare two-headed warthog.

A big figure like this presents some opportunity for articulation. Even though he’s a brute, he still needs to move. Bebop’s head is on a big ball peg. I was worried it would be hard to remove, but it actually pops off pretty easily. He can look up, down, tilt, and swivel. It’s a lot better than expected and also plenty sturdy. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and those big shoulder pads will limit how high his arms can come up. They’re also pretty tight, but that’s good for a big figure and the bonus of him being big is he at least feels less fragile. He has a hinge at the elbow and his arm also swivels there. The wrists swivel and have big, horizontal, hinges in them. Like the head, they’re surprisingly easy to pop on and off. There is a waist swivel, but it’s just a swivel and there’s no other torso articulation. The thighs are on ball-joints and they can swivel there. The knees are single-jointed and the right leg can swivel at the knee. The left cannot and that’s because he has that big knee brace and it’s pretty cool that Super7 respected that brace and didn’t just ignore it. He can also swivel above the ankle, below the cuffs of his pants, so the knee swivel isn’t missed. The ankles are hinged and can also rock side-to-side. Lastly, Bebop’s tail is now articulated. It’s just a swivel, but it’s cool to be able to position it a bit now.

The second head basically just omits the pink wash on the snout.
A close-up of the alt head.

Bebop’s articulation is just okay. The range of motion at the elbows and shoulders isn’t very good. You can argue it doesn’t need to be great, but it’s disappointing. More disappointing though is the lack of something in the torso. He really would benefit from a diaphragm joint that would allow him to twist a little and tilt. The articulation just makes him quite static. He really needs his size to command attention on your shelf because his posing just isn’t going to do it. What also works against him is his very neutral expression. It’s accurate to the vintage toy, but there’s just no personality there. Bebop relies on his attire and the fact that he’s a big, ugly, warthog to form an identity. It makes the second head feel like a wasted opportunity as since it’s just the same head, but with less paint, it took away a chance for Super7 to create something more expressive as it’s been able to do with Leo and Raph. Imagine a Bebop with a snarling mouth or even a hinged jaw, that really could have taken this one to another level.

As you can see, Bebop may have increased in size, but his accessories have not.

Somewhat playing into the nonchalent posing of Bebop are his accessories. He’s a lot of plastic and his tooling is unique. Maybe some of this will work for Rocksteady, but I am assuming Bebop is a high cost figure when compared with Leonardo. That probably plays a role in his accessories, which are limited. He comes with just one extra pair of hands and they’re fists. His standard gripping hands are so close to fists that these just feel like a waste. I would have much preferred a style posed hand in place of fists. Bebop also has his drill gun which is almost comically small in his massive hands. Super7 should have probably considered upscaling the gun to go with the figure, but instead, it’s actually a little smaller than the vintage one which makes no sense. The trash can lid is the exact same size and getting him to properly hold it is nearly impossible. His hands are super stiff and I had to heat them to get them to bend a little to try and force that handle into his hand. At best, I basically just got it to hook on his thumb. It’s so small though that it looks stupid. His knife is his best accessory. It’s a little tough getting it into those tight, gripping, hands of his, but once there it looks fine. It does make me wish they added a sheath for it on his belt though for storage. Or if he had an actual belt we could have slipped it behind that. Oh well. Like the turtles, there’s also a set of unpainted weapons on a sprue. Bebop’s are gray and I don’t know why you’d ever want them, but they’re there if you do.

The pink on the new figure is definitely a lot more pronounced than it was on the vintage figure.

Super7’s take on Bebop is both incredibly impressive and also a bit disappointing all at the same time. It averages out to a really good release though because what’s most important are the overall aesthetics of the figure, and that’s the part Super7 handled the best. The only reason to not like it is if you disliked the Playmates figure, and if that’s the case, why would you buy this? I suspect those who just want this line to match the vintage one piece for piece are very happy. I’m more of the type that wants Super7 to key in on the nostalgia, but also improve things where possible. I accept that they have a different philosophy when it comes to articulation too, as I know they dislike double elbows and probably aren’t fans of torso joints either. I’ll continue to call out where I think those joints make sense though, and maybe one day they’ll come around.

Here’s the one for folks who like to put Super7 against NECA. I love both of these figures for different reasons.

Bebop is a tremendously fun figure, and you still have a shot at getting him. Super7’s Ultimates! line is a made-to-order line, but retailers are free to order as many as they want and sell them and he’s still available in some places. The MSRP is $45, but you’ll probably have to pay a small markup at this point. And it’s small compared with what this figure will fetch going forward so if you want him, grab him. He’s the last of Wave 2 that I’ll be reviewing as I just wasn’t feeling Shredder or Mutagen Man, but when Wave 3 drops I’ll have at least 3 reviews coming your way so there’s something to look forward to!

Good luck, boys! This isn’t the moron you’re used to!

Rad Plastic

I think it was during the summer of 2020 while spending one of the many days of that year inside and isolated that I stumbled upon a Twitter post about an upcoming book titled Rad Plastic. I believe the tweet was from the account The Toys That Made Us, which is (was?) a Netflix series that chronicles the early days and success stories of toy lines from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It was interesting the tweet came from that account as one of the disappointments of 2019 for me was the episode of that show concerning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Toys That Made Us is the brainchild of comedian/director Brian Volk-Weiss. His background seems to be in television and comedy and it seems the approach to the series The Toys That Made Us is to select an important franchise and then find the story. It makes for an entertaining documentary, but Netflix constrains it to a mere 45 minutes or so per episode which just isn’t enough time to really dive deep into a subject that spanned years, or even decades. The unfortunate side effect of this approach is the series really doesn’t have much time to talk about what I want to hear about the most: the toys! And with the TMNT episode, it was able to talk a lot about the development of the property and its eventual acquisition and launch by Playmates, but then pivoted to a story about reuniting the co-creators of the franchise Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. It was a nice a story, it just wasn’t a story about the toys, which is what I wanted to hear about most. When I found out about Rad Plastic, it seemed like it would be the thing to fill-in that missing information for me.

Ready to feel nostalgic?

Rad Plastic is a book by Chris Fawcett and it’s all about the vintage Playmates toy line. Specifically, this is a book about the creation of an action figure. It goes into great detail spotlighting the incredible sculptors contracted by Playmates, most of which worked for either Varner Studios or Anaglyph. Fawcett confesses upfront he wasn’t big into TMNT and only really became interested in the toy line in 2017 when he stumbled upon some materials he felt really showed off how intricate these figures were. And while it’s easy to look back on that vintage toy line through the lens of a modern toy enthusiast and wonder what’s so special about it, those of us who grew up and owned those figures likely remember how wild and detailed those sculpts were. A character like Muckman was particularly incredible and much of the detail put into that figure by sculptor Alec McTurk went unpainted for the finished product and maybe was unnoticed by some. It’s not something that shows well in pictures online and it’s easy to overlook a figure from 30 years ago that’s been beat up and played with, but they really were something special.

After pre-ordering my copy over the summer, it was quite a long wait before the product arrived. Which is fine, as these things take time and COVID surely made its presence felt. The book is designed by Chance Sanderson to resemble the classic Party Wagon. Since this is an unofficial release, it doesn’t feature the classic logo or any of the turtles on the cover, but does feature their silhouette in the windshield and the book’s title is done as an homage to that logo. And I love that on the back of the book is a seemingly perfect recreation of the sticker that went on the back of the Party Wagon itself. The interior of the book is loaded with plenty of official artwork though and the pages are nice and thick. It’s also a heavy book as this is designed to go on your coffee table. It’s a hardcover and is approximately 11.25″ x 11.25″ and is about an inch thick.

This book will tell you how action figures are made.

The first chunk of the book goes over the creation process for an action figure. It covers everything from the design phase, to concept art, sculpting, mold creation, and finally production. It’s not exhausting, so it isn’t a particularly long section. The entire book is rather breezy and even though it’s 400 pages many will probably finish it in one sitting. That’s because the main meat of the book is a walk-through year by year of the vintage line that unfolds mostly in pictures. A lot of the pictures are test shots and resin models of the figures before production and in some cases there are prototypes for unreleased figures. There are blurbs to go along with each page as well as a handy checklist of the product released (and cancelled, in some cases) for that year. It’s not a complete capture of the product for that year as Fawcett is basically limited to what has survived all these years so if a hardcopy or test shot of a figure no longer exists, it won’t be shown here. He also covers play sets, vehicles, and extensions to the line like the giant figures and plush dolls.

Mikey in blue?! Blasphemy!

By far, the part of the book I enjoyed the most is the material concerning the inaugural wave of figures from 1988. That section contains a lot of the concept art that existed before the line was launched. This includes an interesting character sheet that shows Leonardo was originally going to wear orange and Michelangelo was going to sport blue. I found this amusing since, if you recall, the original title cards for the cartoon were miss-colored with Mikey as Leo wielding twin katana and Leo as Mikey getting ready to scarf down some pizza. There are several shots of the early villains in the line which were all going to be humans as well as shots of the original sewer lair which had some kind of god for a wall called The Face. Yeah, I’m happy that didn’t make it into the line or the show.

This guy was going to come with a gun that shot “snot” rockets. We really missed out.

The year-by-year stuff is all color-coded and the colors are visible when looking at the book from the side so it’s easy to jump to a section. Still, I find myself wishing there was an index in the back of the book so if I was looking for a picture of Sewer Samurai Leonardo, for example, I could quickly find it. And while the checklist is nice, I feel like this book would have greatly benefited from a visual guide as an appendix. Just a simple visual checklist that included a picture of each, finished, figure in its final packaging or loose, if that’s all that was available. Surely, there are collectors out there with an entire run of the Playmates line that would have been happy to show off and have their stuff make it into a book. I think even Peter Laird used to make sure he got copies of everything Playmates released, though I have no idea if he is still in possession of all of that material.

By contrast, I don’t think we’re missing out on anything when it comes to The Face.

Since the book is right at 400 pages, my suspicion is adding even a single page would have upped the costs by a non immaterial amount, but it’s also possible that just wasn’t Fawcett’s goal with this book. This is not a guide for collectors nor does it contain much information on where these characters originated, outside of the ones in the first wave. I would have loved to hear who came up with Monty Moose or Walkabout and where the inspiration came from. It’s possible such information has been lost to time, or maybe it wasn’t particularly interesting to begin with. That would be a different book though. This one wants to highlight the sculptors and designers who worked on the line. And if you’re someone like me who enjoyed and collected that line growing up, it will probably satisfy your thirst for nostalgia. I know I couldn’t suppress my grin as I flipped through this book and remembered the figures I owned and the ones I coveted and even the ones that let me down (those talking turtles were trash). It wasn’t planned to work this way, but this was a welcomed tandem with the recently released Super7 action figures which celebrate the Playmates line in their own way.

The lists are nice, but a visual guide would have really cemented this book as a must have for TMNT fans.

If you’re a fan of the turtles and want to check this book out for yourself, copies are available at www.radplastic.com. I do not know if more printings will be done, so consider this a limited time released for now. If you want it, don’t wait, and if you do get it I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it quite a bit.


Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Leonardo

“Leonardo is the perfect turtle…” is the truest statement to ever appear on the back of a product box.

If you ask me what my most cherished childhood toy was I won’t hesitate to answer Leonardo. My original Playmates Leonardo was a figure I adored and played with for years. I would get other Leonardo action figures, but they were always a temporary joy. When I sat down to act out and play with my figures, it was the original Leo from 1988 that I reached for. And it’s one of the few figures from that line I can vividly remember getting since he (along with Donatello) was my first. I was so young that I was too short to even reach the pegs and my mom had to sift through the rows of figures for me to find that Leonardo.

When Super7 first debuted its Ultimates! line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I was noncommittal. It wasn’t until Leonardo and the rest of wave 2 was unveiled that I felt the pull. I could push aside the strings of nostalgia on that first wave, but it was Leo I could not resist. I then had to scramble to get Raph, and I was quick to pre-order the other turtles as they became available all eagerly awaiting the release of Leonardo.

Since Leo’s accessories are all the same as Raph’s, consider this your accessories pic.

Leo finally arrived in February after a lengthy wait. I pre-ordered him through bigbadtoystore.com which had pre-orders open for a long while beyond the usual Super7 window. It was certainly convenient, but it meant a long wait as, for whatever reason, BBTS seems to be the retailer who always receives Super7 releases last. While those who ordered direct from Super7 had their Leonardo in December, I was forced to wait nearly two months beyond that. BBTS did come through, and I was never in doubt about that part, and he’s largely as expected. Like all of the figures in Super7’s line of Ultimates!, he comes in a cardboard mailer with the product logo on it and the figure’s name. Open that and you get the actual box the figure comes in. It’s a three-dimensional, trapezoid, which probably has a proper name, but I was never into geometry. The green slipcase slides off and the figure is below in a nice window box. It’s the same packaging as the wave one figures and it’s great. One could argue lesser packaging would result in a cheaper price (the MSRP on Leo is $45), but at least it’s attractive and mint-in-box collectors are happy while openers have a reasonably easy to reseal packaging for moves and such.

It’s like seeing an old friend…who has had some cosmetic enhancements.
Are your swords hanging low? Well have we got a product for you!

Leonardo should be quite familiar to anyone who has Raphael. That’s because they’re the same figure. The only differences between the two are the head and belt. Even the little blemishes on the shell and creases of the skin are identical. Leonardo is designed to mimic the 1988 release so he’s an olive shade of green with a belt that features a crisscross design across the chest, white eyes, and a blue mask with blue pads. Super7 added a bit more embellishment to the buckle area of Leo’s belt seemingly swapping some of the gunmetal parts of Raph’s belt for a chrome color. I really liked the understated gun metal so this looks less neat to me and I even wonder if the extra chrome was a factory error that Super7 was forced to just roll with or if they just view it as a way to distinguish the turtles from each other. I guess we’ll see what the other figures feature down the road as the promotional shots of Leo, Mike, and Don feature a belt similar to Raph’s and not the final Leo belt. The shell is now a deep green color as opposed to the brown Raph had and the front of the shell is a deeper yellow, like a marigold, when compared with Raph. The headsculpt that Leo comes packaged with looks just like the Playmates Leo. He has that almost concerned look to him, but Super7 did adjust the angle of his eyes ever so slightly so it’s not as pronounced. I feel like I was always a little disappointed in Leo’s facial expression, and yet I find myself really loving this head for pure nostalgia reasons. There is a bit of shine on the head of my figure, under his right eye, that might not come across in the photos. I don’t know if they’re all like that, or if it’s just mine.

Imagine if he had swords like these in Turtles in Time.

Since Leo is the same figure as Raph, his articulation is the same. He’s got a ball-peg that his head sits on which allows for some up and down movement and side to side along with full rotation. I didn’t really touch upon it in my Raph review, but the only aesthetic with these figures I don’t care for is the gap between the head and neck as from some angles they look like amusement park actors in oversized costumes. From head-on, it looks fine though. The shoulders are standard ball-hinges with swivels at the biceps. The shoulders were really tight out of the box, but I didn’t need any heat to get them moving. Single-jointed elbows follow with wrist rotation and hinges, and he has hands with vertical hinges and horizontal, so that’s a major plus. There’s some rotation at the hips, which are still fairly loose, but not quite as bad as Raph’s, but the shell won’t allow for too much range of motion. The legs are on ball-pegs and can swivel and kick out forward and to the side just fine. The knees just peg into the lower leg with single-hinges and swivels below the kneepad while the feet feature a hinge and generous rocker. The ankle hinges were, by far, the tightest joints on my figure out of the box and I did run them under hot tap water to get them going. It’s a suitable level of articulation, though it doesn’t really rise above other brands and some would argue it doesn’t even meet them. The lack of double elbows and knees is unfortunate and I still don’t like how the knees are engineered. It feels like there’s a lot of stress on that peg holding them together every time I bend the knee. Since Leo and Raph are the same though, I suspect I’ll just have to accept what we have here is what we’ll get with Donatello and Michelangelo.

Even Leo is subjected to Zoom meetings these days.
I think he dropped it…

It’s great to receive updated articulation, but one of the major selling points of the Super7 Ultimates! brand is the wealth of accessories the figures come with. Leo has a plethora of hands at his disposal for holding his various weapons and accessories. He has vertically hinged gripping hands in the box, plus horizontal gripping hands and open style pose hands as well as a set of fists. They peg in and the peg is small and thin, but thus far I have not heard of any issues and haven’t experienced any myself. Leo also comes with the same slice of pizza as Raph and the same communicators: one open and one closed. The only difference there is the parts painted red on Raph’s are brown on Leo’s (why not blue?!). He also has the standard allotment of ninja weaponry including throwing stars, a small, triple, bladed knife, and that large, hooked, thing. It’s a lot of stuff, but plenty could argue a large chunk of the accessories are useless. Are you ever going to pose Leo with one of the other weapons or ninja stars? Not likely. And strangely, the paint app on the pizza slice is different from Raph’s. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it looks almost dirty.

Careful there, buddy.

Most importantly, Leo also has his trusty katana blades. This has been a minor point of contention in some of the collecting spheres I frequent as these swords are not accurate when compared with the vintage figure. There was some hope that Super7 would include two different sets of swords to appease collectors (as they did with Splinter’s robe including a plastic one and a cloth one), but apparently collectors didn’t make enough noise for that to happen. Leo’s old swords were basically fake katanas. They were referred to in all TMNT media as katanas, but looked nothing like an actual katana. Super7 decided to get authentic so Leo has two, long, curved, blades. It takes some getting used to, not so much because of the curved nature of the swords, but the length. Anyone fighting with two swords, especially two katana, looks ridiculous. Part of the nature of the brand though is to look ridiculous. These are giant, mutated, turtles after all. I do wish they were smaller though as it’s hard for me to suspend my sense of disbelief that this character could effectively wield these swords in this manner. I think I may opt for a one sword look for my more permanent display as a result. The actual swords though at least look great. The paint is nice and the handles are well done and they’re not warped and flimsy like Raphael’s sais. And they also fit in the holsters on the back of his shell fine, and despite their length, don’t look particularly silly.

The alternate head definitely has a different energy.
I wish his bandana tails had a bit more life to them. It’s very rare to have a turtles figure where the bandana knot and tails aren’t visible from the front.

Lastly, Leonardo comes with an alternate head. Like Raph’s, Leo’s alternate head is a brand new, stylized, headsculpt that’s an all new creation. It obeys the same rules of colored mask and blank eyes as the vintage toy, but has a more realistic expression and texture. There’s a warmth with the new one that creates the illusion of this character existing in the real world, as opposed to the cold, plastic, very toy nature of the original. The expression is similar, but clearly more angry, and I think I prefer it to the vintage look. It’s basically how I would envision a new Leonardo would look today if the line were just starting from scratch like the original Playmates line did once upon a time. And it’s a nice look, though I think Raph’s second head turned out a little better. It’s the straight bandana tails that change the head profile a bit for me and I would have preferred something more dramatic. Though if you like the vintage look, you have it with the default head and you even have a sprue of weapons and accessories in classic brown, though the swords are the updated, curved, ones. My affection for that old head would probably win out for my display if I didn’t like Raph’s alternate head so much. I want a uniform look and don’t want to mix vintage and alt heads, so for now, I’m going with this updated one.

If you prefer a more vintage look.

The Super7 Ultimates! Leonardo is basically the figure I thought it was going to be. And that’s good! As I expected to like this one. I do think there’s room for improvement, as there often is with anything, as the articulation is lacking, most of the accessories are useless, and the swords are too long. That sounds like a lot of negatives, but this is a $45 action figure so it should be held to a higher standard than a $20 one found at Target. Where it does succeed is just in the overall look and presentation of the figure. Even if a lot of the accessories are ho-hum, the extra head is great and the hands are what you want. He looks like Leonardo and really captures that Playmates look which was so obviously inspired by the art from the Mirage line of comics, but was also its own thing. He looks great with Raph and I have a feeling my display will only improve with the additions of Michelangelo (expected probably four months from now) and Donatello (hopefully before the end of the year). Leonardo is also yet another reminder of how awesome it is to be a TMNT collector right now. Turtle power, indeed!

You didn’t think I’d end this without a comparison shot, did you?
It’s a Leo convention! Left to right: S.H.Figuarts, NECA toon Leo, Super7, Playmates, Playmates ’03, which was really the first attempt at making over the classic ’88 figure and still kind of kicks ass today.


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