Tag Archives: teenage mutant ninja turtles

NECA TMNT Cartoon Channel 6 Newsroom SDCC Exclusive Set

BREAKING NEWS: San Diego Comic Con exclusives are now shipping! Full story at 10.

Remember San Diego Comic Con? You would be forgiven if you did not since, like last year’s edition, the event was a virtual one once again. Only unlike the 2020 version, this one came with the expectation it would be virtual. It also coincided with a global shipping crisis, so combine that with the expectation that no one would be in attendance, the various companies who were on-hand for the virtual event had little reason to have actual product ready for distribution. Because as many know, SDCC isn’t about just unveiling new things, it’s about selling exclusive merchandise and for toy producers this is usually a pretty big deal.

When it comes to NECA, the company has had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed item for several years now. With the lines expanding to retail just a couple of years ago, NECA is now in a position where it can make its SDCC sets a little more off-beat. Last year, we saw the company release The Musical Mutagen Tour 4-pack of turtles based on their appearance in the so bad it’s good Coming Out of Their Shells tour from the early 90s. That set definitely fit the bill of one that likely would appeal to a small portion of the TMNT fanbase and not create the sort of intense demand we had seen in the past. As a result, some were disappointed to see NECA devote this year’s set to the Channel 6 news crew from the cartoon.

It’s a NECA four-pack, so expect fancy packaging!

Even though the members of Channel 6 were not mutants, or fighters, they were an integral part of the classic cartoon series simply by virtue of being there. April and her co-workers Irma, Burne, and Vernon were in more episodes than they weren’t so the now adults who watched the show have a pretty strong attachment to them. So far, we’ve seen April and Vernon receive a retail release in the toon line, but Irma and Burne have been shut out. Now, they find themselves in an exclusive set and some were a little irritated about it since they’re definitely characters deserving of a wider release. Those concerns seem to be a bit of a stretch though, as the set went up for sale in July and remained in stock for most of the day. And that was just the initial sale as more are headed to Target in the coming weeks minus some additional swag that was part of the online sale (and had to be paid for).

Even though San Diego Comic Con was in July, and this set was sold in July, it’s just now arriving at the homes of those who purchased it likely due to the shipping issues faced by everyone. When the set went up for sale, it wasn’t clear when it would be released or that it was even a pre-sale thing. It was then speculated by NECA that it might show up in October, but apparently even that was wishful thinking. It is what it is, but after the extended wait I’m here to tell you if this one was worth it, or not.

There’s some familiar faces.

The Channel 6 Newsroom set is a four-pack of action figures based on the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: April (as a mutated cat), Irma, Burne, and Vernon. Two of those figures will be familiar to collectors of this line as April is essentially a repaint with a new head and forearms while Vernon is a re-release of the same figure from the two-pack released back in January. He does have two new portraits, frightened and blindfolded, and the coloring on his clothing is slightly different, but otherwise he’s old news. The new figures are the long requested Irma and the less requested Burne. Irma is the secretary at Channel 6 and someone seemingly always in the orbit of April. She has several starring moments on the show, but despite that this is only the character’s second figure. And the first was this weird yellow and green thing put out by Playmates. Burne is the resident blowhard of Channel 6, a J. Jonah Jameson type who hates the turtles with little reason why. He’s an unlikable sort and not featured as prominently as the other members of the crew, but he’s a pretty essential character too. And like Irma, he only had the one release in the Playmates line, though his was actually pretty good for that line aside from the sculpted hamburger permanently in his hand. And like most of NECA’s four-packs, this one includes a bevy of accessories which, at the end of the day, are likely to be the only exclusive items in here when all is said and done. Well, that and maybe Cat April.

They’re free and ready to…report?

As has been standard with past NECA four-packs, this one comes in a highly decorative package. There’s a slipcase with artwork depicting The Catwoman of Channel 6 that has April in her cat form superimposed over a more scenic pic of the Channel 6 building. Slide that off and you get a five-panel window box that has April on the front as-if she’s broadcasting through a television. The flap is secured via Velcro and once opened the figures are present via the window along with all of their stuff. Mine arrived slightly damaged, which is a bit of a bummer since this is a box I actually intend to keep. The inner box has a puncture in it, though the slipcover is fine. Inside is a backdrop featuring the Channel 6 studio which should actually make for a decent display for the figures when removed. It’s pretty standard packaging at this point, though this one is a bit deeper than the other four-packs and will thus occupy more real estate on your shelf.

April looks fine, though for once I think NECA went too far with the added linework, particularly around her muzzle.
She can strike a good pouncing pose.

Before we get to the new figures, we should probably talk about the familiar figures and we’ll start with Cat April. This is from the episode “The Catwoman of Channel 6” where April is accidentally mutated and then put under Shredder’s control via a collar. It’s a fairly memorable episode, and a worthwhile variant to explore. The figure’s body is the same as the much maligned April we got before. That April is probably the worst figure in the line so far owing to the fact that it’s not in scale with the turtles and the head-sculpt is just not particularly good. This figure repeats the scale issue since it uses the same body, but it at least is able to rectify the head issue by giving April an all new cat sculpt. It looks quite nice and the collar is also present and removable if you pop her head off. The chest and forearms had to be altered as well by painting them to match the fur of her face and to give her claws. Because of that, it wouldn’t be a simple thing to include a standard April head to switch to as NECA would have needed to basically swap out the whole upper torso. And there’s also the matter of the tail which removing such would leave a hole in the figure’s rear. I’m not going to run down the articulation on this one again, but know that it’s fine and you now have a bendy tail to add to it.

Vernon’s back and he has lots of stuff this time.
Old Vernon left, new Vernon right.

Just like April, Vernon is essentially the same figure as before so I don’t feel the need to go over everything again. The only difference with this Vernon is his tie is a different color and his facial portraits are new. The tie thing is cartoon accurate as he had multiple looks. The other colors of his clothing have also been lightened a bit so his shirt is a paler pink and his jeans a lighter blue. That’s not likely to excite anyone, but what I think will please most is the new frightened expression he comes with. Vernon is a character with barely more than two emotions, smug and scared, and this captures that second one very well. It’s the expression I think of first with the character as it seemed to become his dominant trait as the show went along. The first release gave us smug, so it was nice to get this one. The second portrait is a blindfolded one, which looks fine, but has limited uses. Honestly, after taking a few pictures here I probably won’t use it again. I would have much preferred an agitated Vernon giving us a good trifecta of expressions of smug, scared, and angry to go along with the mutant rat parts released previously. I was tempted to grab a second Rat King/Vernon set just so I could have mutant Vernon on my shelf at all times, and now I can!

Irma! Nice of you to join us!
She can’t do much, but at least she can answer a phone.

All right, lets talk about the new characters and first up is Irma. I don’t think it’s a hot take to call Irma a fan favorite. Maybe kids watching the show didn’t think much of her, but I definitely find her as a source of entertainment in the show when I go back to it. Not much about this show holds up on adult viewings, but Irma might hold up the best. She’s depicted in her standard attire: blue sweater, red glasses, long skirt, yellow shoes. For her facial expression, NECA went with a concerned, or worried, look. I think they were aiming for neutral, but it comes off a little awkward. It’s not a bad look for the character as her eyebrows had a tendency to always be in that concerned position, but I wish we got a second portrait for a little variety.

This isn’t going to help her get a date.
She picks up an extra point of articulation with the jaw on the rat head.

Her unique attire makes her articulation a bit lacking. Her head is on a ball peg and she has sufficient range there though her hair keeps her from looking up. Her shoulders are ball-hinges and she has the same style of double elbows as April. Her forearms rotate where they meet her sleeve and her wrists are swivel/hinges. The torso doesn’t feature any articulation, but her waist is joined to the hip with a ball-peg so she can pivot and rotate. Unfortunately, the long skirt kills most of her leg articulation. I think she has ball joints at the hips and double knees below, but you won’t be getting much out of them. At the ankles are hinges and rocker joints.

Shredder always used turtle soup as a threat, but only Burne followed through.

Burne is our other new figure this time around and he’s quite different from his box-mates. Short and squat, Burne is definitely the heaviest figure in the box and the chunkyness of the sculpt makes me think of the vintage toy line. He’s depicted in his standard, very blue, attire of light blue work shirt, dark blue tie, and blue slacks. His default look out of the box is this angry expression where he’s almost twisting his head in rage. The other is a smug look. I’m not sure which I prefer. I think angry when I think of the character, but the smug one looks more on-model to me, though both have their charms. He’s painted cleanly and really looks the part so if you’ve been waiting 30 years for a toon accurate Burne this should do the trick.

“Is this some kind of sick joke?!”

Even though Burne is rather chunky, he’s still expected to be able to move well since he is, after all, an action figure. He’s got a ball-peg at the head with solid range, shoulder hinges, and single-jointed elbows. I thought they might use the same double elbows the other characters possess, but NECA opted for something that’s definitely cleaner. It’s just not super functional as I can’t get his arms to go straight, nor can he really bend past 90 degrees.. He’s got swivels and hinges at the wrist and a ball-joint in the waist that lets him move around pretty well, though he lacks torso articulation. The ball joints at the hips work well considering the roundness of this area of the figure, and NECA did include double-jointed knees that let Burne kick all the way back to his own ass. I can’t seem to engage both joints though no matter how much heat I apply, which is a bit frustrating. The ankles are hinged and pivot, but they’re very stiff and the hinges were painted a dark brown over blue plastic which looks bad once the paint flakes.

“Yeah, that’s MY girl.”

On the quality control front, this set is a bit of a step back from more recent releases. I had a lot of stuck and fused joints out of the box, in particular with Burne and April. Burne’s left knee just didn’t want to do anything, and after heating only the top hinge works. With April, her knees are also a pain point as the top hinge won’t go into a default pose. As you can see in my pictures, her knees are always slightly bent. She arrived that way, and heating them and then plunging them into cold water hasn’t done the trick. Just straight heat makes them rather gummy and are more likely to warp or damage them further if I persist. I’ll just keep her in a pouncing position, I guess. April also has paint-flaking issues on her arms with white or clear plastic beneath. Irma runs into the same thing as do the flesh portions on Vernon. It can lead to an eyesore which just makes me want to leave these figures alone once I find a pose I like and call it a day.

Check out all of the stuff!
These giant cameras are arguably the real stars here.

NECA included a fair amount of accessories with this set, and the big ones are the two studio cameras and lights. They look terrific and the paint on these is excellent. The lights can pivot and rotate and the cameras do the same. They all have plugs too which makes me want outlets that can accommodate them. There’s also a cat with a toy mouse and the cat’s head is on a ball peg so it can move a bit, but nothing special. There’s also a pair of turtle versions of Burne and Vernon that are pretty fun to look at and can be hidden in a display as the cowardly pair try to avoid getting squashed. There’s also a boom mic which is affixed via a non-removable cord to a messenger bag. The bag is similar to Dirtbag’s backpack in that it’s a soft plastic that can actually open.

Now we have a duo of rat people!
I guess the toy mouse is an April accessory?

As for more character specific accessories, we have a few. Irma has a pair of open hands and a wider gripping hand to go with the more relaxed gripping hands attached to her by default. And like the first release of Vernon, she has swappable rat parts to duplicate her mutant rat form. The only nitpick with her though is she should have visible non-mutated flesh by her ankles, but NECA “cheated” and instead made her leggings extend to her shoes rather than make her shins swap. There’s also a rotary phone that’s either for her or Burne, but either one can use it. It’s fun and in the same fashion as the Sam and Max phone from Boss Fight Studio pair I looked at earlier this year. For Burne, he comes with fists, but also has a pair of gripping hands and open hands that look like they should be typing. It makes me wish I had a desk to pair with him to set him up with the phone and Chrome Dome’s PC. He also has a bowl of turtle soup and a spoon to consume it with. There’s also a framed photo of his girlfriend, Tiffany, and the image is a rendered one that makes her kind of look like an action figure. Maybe an actual figure will be crafted in the future, though she definitely feels like a Loot Crate release. There’s also a framed photo of a “hunky reporter,” as the box refers to it, that I think was someone Irma lusted over. Vernon also has gripping hands and a pointing hand plus one more wider gripping hand. April has no extra parts.

In case you prefer your Vernon blindfolded.
Swag!

If you bought this set from NECA direct, then you also got some extra swag. If you’ve purchased a Loot Crate since NECA took over, then this basically feel like that. You get a t-shirt, pin, patch, badge, and poster. The shirt contains original, toon-inspired art, of the figures present in this set plus a few other characters from the show. It’s printed on blue and it’s okay, but the art is way off model when compared to the toon and some of the designs (like Burne) I do not care for. The patch is a Channel patch while the badge is a replica of April’s press badge. Unlike the badge we just saw with the movie April, this one is a nice, thick, plastic and feels like a badge should, I just really dislike the picture of April used for it. It’s the same one from the box of the April and Foot two-pack from last year. The pin is an enamel one of the news van and its fine if you’re into pins. The poster is an 11″ by 7″ print of the Channel 6 building. It comes rolled up so it’s a bit of a pain to flatten out. It might make for a decent backdrop though for your figures. The retail version of this box set released at Target won’t include any of these items, but it will also be cheaper as a result and the trade-off is probably better for those who find this in stores.

That new April can’t come soon enough.
“APRIL! WHY AM I ALWAYS SHOUTING?!”

The Channel 6 set from NECA is a solid release, it’s just not as fun or as exciting as some of the other four packs NECA has done. Irma is a great character, but her figure is so limited due to her design which really saps a lot of the fun out of her. I’m left wishing that NECA went the Super7 route and gave collectors the option of a sculpted skirt or a soft goods one. It’s really needed for her rat mutation as she just looks so static posed with Vernon in his mutated form. On the plus side, I don’t feel a desire to get a second Irma as a result to display both versions, I’ll probably just keep her unmutated. Burne is a solid representation of the character, he’s just also limited by his design. And he’s Burne, the least entertaining character from this assortment. As for Vernon and April, well, I don’t mind having a second Vernon so I can display the rat one too and he’s fine. April is still a bit off as far as scale goes, but I’d like this figure a lot if the joints weren’t so stuck and flaky. It’s a memorable version of the character at least and one I’m happy to have. NECA is allegedly prepping a deluxe April for the toon line to release in 2022, and I hope it’s just an all new figure to properly correct the scale issues.

“Oh no! April’s turned into a cat!” “Hey Leo, you remember your laser point?!”
The new characters scale pretty well. April is still off.

If you missed out on the NECA sale and want to add this set to your collection it should show up in Target sometime in December. I’m not sure what it’s going to retail for once there though as I believe it’s going to be more expensive than the Turtles in Disguise set, which was $125. It’s not cheap, but for now, this is the only way to add Irma and Burne to your collection. I suspect Irma will get a two-pack release eventually, but I’m less confident when it comes to Burne. We’ll see. Even though this set didn’t “wow” me, I’m still happy to have it as these are characters I want in my display. Hopefully, everyone that wants one has a chance to buy one and happy hunting to all who are braving the stores this holiday season!

“What is happening to me?!”
Had to make a new shelf for this one.

NECA TMNT Cartoon Wingnut & Screwloose

Don’t call ’em mutants.

For most fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the 1980s, you reside in two camps when it comes to how certain characters are remembered: either from the cartoon/comics, or from the Playmates toy line. For Wingnut and Screwloose, I suspect most associate them with the action figure, but there are those who think of them first as members of the Mighty Mutanimals, the Archie Comics sister book to their version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When it came to the toy line, many of those characters would be brought over and usually as villains. What many consider to be classic villains Slash and Leatherhead, actually started off as heroic allies of the TMNT. And when it came time to bring them into the animated universe, it was usually as characters based on the toys so to the rogue’s gallery they went. Even some of the few that were made heroes by Playmates would get the villain treatment, like Mondo Gecko, though he would come around by episode’s end.

For Wingnut and Screwloose, they too got the villain treatment despite being counted amongst the allies by Playmates. Their Playmates design also differed wildly from the comic as the toy maker preferred to envision Wingnut as a Batman parody. The mutant bat is clad in blue and gray evoking memories of Batman’s past. He’s also a little on the paunchy side, which might have been Playmates poking a little fun at actor Adam West. By the early 90s, the Batman most associated with the brand was the one featured in Tim Burton’s film. He was a brooding character sporting all black, muscled, features, even though actor Michael Keaton wasn’t exactly the brawny type. It was quite fashionable in those days to poke fun at the campy show from the 1960s and West’s “pure West” physique, while certainly not overweight or anything, was definitely not the muscled look the character had undertaken. Nevertheless, the design was quite interesting and Wingnut was a favorite of many of my friends. Screwloose, on the other hand, was just a sculpted lump of plastic, one of the earliest “buddy” accessories to be featured in the line. I’m actually not sure which buddy was my first, but I think it was either Screwloose or Joe Eyeball.

Such a lovely couple.

Why the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles decided to take a clear Batman parody, or homage, and make it a bad guy is beyond me. Sure, Wingnut is a bit fearsome looking, but I never confused him for a villain. The show decided to make him and Screwloose a pair of invading aliens, with Screwloose actually serving as the brains of the duo. Making them aliens actually kept them inline with their comic counterparts, who did start off a bit villainous before switching to the side of good, but otherwise they’re kind of their own thing here. The design for both is clearly taken from the toys, something the cartoon seemed more willing to do in later seasons, probably because it was hard to come up with a bunch of new designs with those larger episode orders. And now, NECA Toys has made it so we can have toon accurate versions of these characters for the very first time.

Wingnut is definitely one of the heaviest figures to grace this line.

Wingnut and Screwloose come in an oversized two-pack box. The actual design is standard, it’s just massive. The height and width are essentially universal for the line, it’s the depth where this one gets beefy. I have it at 5 1/4″ which is about an inch deeper than the recent Groundchuck and Dirtbag box. The box depth obviously varies, but for comparison’s sake the Casey Jones and Foot two-pack was a miniscule 2 1/2″. The end result is you know when you’re handling this one as to grip it across the top with one hand results in me being able to feel the skin between my thumb and index finger stretching.

These wings are something to behold.
He’s not much taller than a turtle, but he’s a whole lot chunkier.

The box has to be this big because Wingnut is an especially large figure. As far as height goes, he’s a rather ordinary 6 1/8″ to the top of his head and a full 7″ to the top of his ears. It’s his bulk though that makes him quite large as this is a big boy. The Playmates figure was a little on the soft side, but cartoon Wingnut is a bat that’s clearly let himself go. He’s got a huge backside and then when you add in the wings the figure gets even deeper. And because he’s so chunky, he’s got quite the heft to him. Screwloose, by comparison, is far more diminutive and is in-line with figures like Baxter and Splinter. He’s around 4 1/2″ tall and not particularly bulky or anything. Though it certainly makes him a lot bigger than the vintage toy. I don’t have my old toy for comparison, but I think most of the sculpted details of the figure were carried over to the show so he’s got a tank top, four arms, pants, and shoes to go along with his bug features like wings and a tail. I remember the figure having a little belly on him, and the cartoon retained that. It was interesting getting a better look at Screwloose as a kid when he showed up in the toon, and it’s nice to see him finally have a proper figure.

The Little Brigade.
Everything about this figure is big, including the gun.

Back to Wingnut. As I said, his design mimics the toy, but in bringing him to the show some details were either scrapped or simplified. He no longer has a logo on his chest and his uniform doesn’t feature any rips or holes. His face also just features less detail and his tongue is no longer permanently sticking out. The dominant color of his suit is a gray that appears to have a touch of purple mixed in. It complements the blue mask, gauntlets, and boots and the pale yellow of the belt and pouches is certainly evocative of classic Batman. In true NECA fashion, there’s lot of black line work painted on and the rear of the figure is cast in darker shades to evoke the cel-shading present in the show. In this case, the rear of Wingnut is very much a shade of purple while the blue is just a richer shade of blue. He has a somewhat menacing, teeth-gritting, expression on his face that was, more or less, his default look on the show. What really stands out though are those wings. Wingnut has these tiny, little, bat wings that probably weren’t suitable to handling his massive bulk, so either he or someone else outfitted him with metal wings that fit over them. They’re riveted and feature what look to be thrusters on the bottom and guns at the top. What’s really neat though is NECA was able to sculpt and paint the biological wings inside of them and the result is so impressive that I can’t tell if it’s one sculpt or two.

This is unfortunate.

What’s less impressive though, is some of the paint applications. The paint on the wings is phenomenal, but on the figure itself there are some problems and chief among them are the teeth. Wingnut is supposed to have pretty normal looking toon teeth, but with two fangs in the front that were illustrated to fit over the teeth, rather than apparently exist as teeth on their own. This apparently caused problems for the painting as it looks like those fangs are sculpted, but the factory just did normal, grid-like, line work for the teeth. It’s messy, and it seems to be a consistent problem with this figure based on the others I’ve seen. Beyond that, the other paint imperfections are largely minor. There’s some black lines that aren’t quite lined up with where they should be and some bleeding over the edges, such as with the blue on the fingers, in other places. It’s the type of variance one would expect. I will add, that after a mostly paint-flaking free experience with Dirtbag and Groundchuck, this figure is definitely a messy one to handle at first. Lots of painted joints, which means lots of paint flakes winding up on whatever surface you’re handling him over.

That’s quite the profile.

With Screwloose, the expectation is that he’d be a lot less interesting in comparison with his box-mate based solely on size. And that’s true, but he’s also less interesting just because his sculpt requires far less detail. He’s dressed like a bum, though his shoes are a bit fancier than a bum would dress, so there’s not a lot of texture work with him. Possibly because he’s mostly yellow, NECA didn’t really do much with the paint as far as the usual light on the front, dark on the rear goes. They mainly just did it with his shirt, while his purple pants appear to be uniform in color. His stomach is painted green, which I always felt was an odd choice on the part of the toon and he does have some green spikes on his arms. He’s painted well enough though, but he does have some of the older problems from this line. Namely, the paint on the joints will flake off leaving a clear plastic beneath. It’s definitely not the eyesore some of the other figures experienced, but it’s unfortunate. There was also some paint rub from his arms or back to the wings so mine have a little yellow on them.

Paint rub and flaking is more of an issue with this guy as you can see the white, or clear, plastic in some of the hinges has been exposed after just light manipulation.

In terms of articulation, these guys basically do what you’d expect of them. Wingnut’s head appears to be on a double-ball peg so he gets movement at the head and the neck, which is concealed in the body. He can look down, and if you have a flight stand capable of supporting his bulk, he can even look ahead in a horizontal flying pose. The arms are ball-hinged at the shoulders with those bulky, NECA, double-elbows. They twist above the joint, and below, and genuinely look fine because there’s so much going on with the costume. He can bend his elbow a little past 90, but if anything I have a problem getting his arm perfectly straight. He’s tight, and I can’t tell if he’s only supposed to go so far or not. At the wrist though we have the usual swivel and hinge system. In the upper torso, there’s a diaphragm joint right below his “bust” that allows him to tilt, rotate, and even crunch forward and back a bit. There’s no true waist twist, and the legs on the new ball pegs. They’re plenty secure, which is good for such a big figure. The knees are just single joints and they’re either really tight, or slightly ratcheted, as mine kind of click when I move them. They don’t offer much range as this is a character meant to always be hunched slightly, but they work fine as far as allowing the figure to stand effortlessly. His ankles are hinged, and they don’t have much range there, but they do have rocker-tilt which works just fine. Wingnut’s tail, tiny as it may be, is on a ball hinge so there’s some play there. The wings are also on ball hinges so they can rotate and “flap” as well as they probably need to.

These guys aren’t super poseable, but they’re still capable of looking cool on a shelf.

As for Screwloose, he’s basically the same. His head is just on a ball peg, but there’s enough range to let him look in basically any direction, he’s just going to have a bobble head from certain angles. All four shoulders are standard ball hinges and are quite tight. I think it’s due to them sitting fairly deep in the sculpt, but moving them around gets messy due to all of the paint flaking. The elbows are just single joints and they rotate as well. The knees are single hinges too and there’s a ball peg, I think, between the shirt and belly that lets him rotate and tilt ever so slightly in all directions. The wings are ball-hinged like Wingnut’s, though the tail appears to just swivel. It was also so tight initially that I wasn’t sure if it moved at all, but it just needed to have its seal “cracked.” I also think his ankles can pivot, but they sure don’t want to. He’s quite light though so he doesn’t need his ankles to do much in order to stand.

This gun is chunky and long.
Raph, you’re probably going to want more than your sai here.

This set is definitely not the most dynamic as far as posing possibilities go. Screwloose just doesn’t have a ton of options, while Wingnut is mostly limited by his bulk. That doesn’t mean they can’t look interesting on your shelf, and NECA did include some accessories to help there. With Wingnut, we get three sets of hands: fists, open, and gripping. The gripping hands are meant to wield his massive bazooka. Initially I thought it was the Triceraton gun with some parts swapped, but this is all new and much bigger. It’s a gun he handled for all of 2 seconds in his lone cartoon appearance, but it is toon accurate. The grip is a touch loose, but that’s probably a good thing in order to avoid lots of paint rub when inserting it into his hands. And even so, you’re likely to experience some anyway. Screwloose, on the other hand, gets nothing. He has two open hands and two gripping hands and you can easily move them from one arm to another, but that’s all. He does come with a flight stand, and it’s the improved one we saw with the video game Baxter that has an extra joint in it. It’s still annoying in that you can’t have the claw at a true horizontal angle, but it works all right. Lastly, NECA included some paper goods. There’s a wanted sticker for Smash, leader of the Crooked Ninja Turtle gang, as well as Wingnut’s W logo from the toy and a sticker for a map. The map is from an episode where it’s discovered Splinter’s kimono hides a secret and you can stick it on your Splinter if you want. I probably won’t There are also four, mini, comic books for your turtles to read taken from the episode. A fun, little, touch, for sure.

Screwloose just gets a flight stand, but hey, at least he can fly!
Novelty toss-ins, or hints of what’s to come?!

Wingnut and Screwloose are a fairly iconic pair in the Turtle-verse owing mostly to their appearance in the vintage toyline. Their animated appearance was far more forgettable (especially since it was a Zach-centric episode and he sucks) and downright bizarre in some respects, but the designs were still fun since they basically mirrored the toys. As an action figure pair, there’s definitely some warts present, but nothing that comes close to ruining the experience. The accessories are a bit on the light side, but there really wasn’t much to source from the episode they were a part of and NECA even tossed in the deep cut that is the map sticker and included a flight stand for Screwloose. And possibly because they didn’t have to go too nutty on the accessories, this one comes in at a price point of $55, cheaper than Dirtbag and Groundchuck even though, like that pair, these guys appear to feature all new tooling. The only real issue I have are Wingnut’s teeth as they look rather bad and since they’re right on front of the figure’s face there’s no avoiding the issue. Again, it’s not enough of an issue for me to not recommend this set. These guys succeed like almost every other figure in the line in achieving that “pulled right from the cartoon” aesthetic, and a giant Batman parody and four-armed mosquito are inherently fun designs. I would definitely suggest adding this set to your toon display as it’s one of the better two-packs NECA has put out so far.

Chrome Dome still towers over all!

Wingnut and Screwloose are currently showing up at Target stores across the US. They appear to be arriving in solid quantities, and being that they’re cartoon appearance isn’t particularly memorable, the sets appear to be hanging around longer than a few minutes. Good luck!


NECA TMNT Cartoon Dirtbag and Groundchuck

Some new mutants have joined the party!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a mole trying to earn a living.

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

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

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

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

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

Look mom, no flaking!

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

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

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

They attack from above and below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

NECA TMNT Movie Ultimate April O’Neil – Signature Edition

The coat you’ve all been waiting for!

NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line has so been so successful that it’s allowed the company to branch out. It wasn’t that long ago that Playmates was the only game in town when it came to TMNT action figures and the company showed little to no interest in releasing anything other than the turtles themselves. If it was a toyline tied into a current cartoon, sure, there were secondary characters to get ahold of. The Playmates Classics line? Shredder and Krang were sculpted and shown off, then quietly cancelled. They did do Bebop and Rocksteady, but when it came to the movie line it was just the four turtles and fans were left wanting.

When NECA first started making figures based on the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they too focused on the usual subjects. The line was so popular though, that they soon found the courage to branch out. And that decision was made even easier when actress Judith Hoag, who played the turtles’ ally April O’Neil in that film, was enthusiastic about seeing herself molded in plastic. She was so eager to make it happen that she even talked Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones in the same film, to give his consent to do a proper Casey Jones figure which I reviewed just last month. Judith is pretty active on social media and was very active during the pandemic of 2020 so she was well-aware of the NECA experience and how frustrating it could be to acquire these figures. Her only conditions then for giving permission to use her likeness was that the figure had to be put up for preorder and she wanted to document the process through her social media channels. NECA was more than amenable to those requests and Judith, with coordination via NECA, was able to reveal the figure over a series of video installments earlier this year culminating in a preorder when all was said and done.

The figure comes in a box most should be familiar with (though now with a cool lenticular cover) and an ID badge in a padded envelope.

As NECA promised, the April O’Neil figure was put up on their webstore for preorder in April (obviously). Anyone who wanted one had a couple of weeks to log in and secure a copy. And, like clockwork, people were pissed. The online toy collecting community does not have a great track record when it comes to reacting in a calm, rational, manner when faced with disappointment. In this case though, there was some reason for the anger. During the reveal process, and even back to the announcement a figure was coming, a common request on Twitter and other outlets was for April to come with her yellow raincoat. The raincoat was worn by the character in her first scene when she stumbles upon a robbery and has to be saved by the turtles. It’s a scene that lasts maybe 3 minutes and then the coat is never seen again. A small detail, especially considering most expected NECA to depict April in a different outfit from later in the film when she’s properly introduced to the turtles, but one fans had a connection to. I don’t know if it was on purpose, though I suspect it was, that yellow coat was put on the character as an homage to the April kids were used to seeing in the cartoon when she almost always wore a yellow jumpsuit. They weren’t going to put Hoag in that outfit, an outfit no reporter has ever worn, but the yellow raincoat was plausible enough. It practically screamed to the kids in the audience, “Hey! It’s April!” and it felt right to see her in that color. I know it worked on me when I saw it in theaters as a wee lad, and yeah, I’d prefer a figure of April come with the coat than not.

I have to hand it to NECA, they did a solid job of finding stuff to pack-in with a news reporter figure.

When the figure was put up for order, the coat was included. However, it was included in the special “Signature” edition of the April action figure. What was the “Signature” edition? Well, as you could have probably guessed based on the name, it’s a version of the figure that comes signed by Judith Hoag. Or rather, it comes with a replica press badge signed by Hoag. The figure and packaging is the same, except NECA added the raincoat behind the blister in the box. It’s also limited, and fans were irritated that what was being billed as an easy purchasing process was being mucked-up with a special edition containing an accessory most fans wanted. The real kicker, though, was the price. The standard edition of the figure retailed for the usual $30. The signature edition was $100. Sixty bucks for an autograph and a tiny raincoat seemed excessive at the time, and still does. And yet, this edition sold out relatively quickly so if you didn’t make up your mind right away you missed out. I, being a sucker and completist, grabbed the signature version. We actually didn’t know the price until it went up for sale, so it felt like a hostage situation. The adrenaline got the best of me, but I was also holding out hope that we’d get a nicer product. Maybe something with the packaging, just anything. Instead, we got delays.

With the signature edition you get an autographed ID badge and a rain coat for your figure.

2021 has really been marked by issues with the supply chain, and toys have been hit especially hard. That’s not surprising as they’re nonessential goods and thus aren’t going to take priority over essential ones. It’s still frustrating to deal with. The April figure actually, remarkably, stayed on track. Most who ordered it in April with an expected release of July/August got their figure in that window. Unfortunately, those who paid for the more expensive option did not. NECA did not elaborate, but that version was delayed and one has to assume it was a production issue with the coat. The coat is a soft goods addition as opposed to a plastic one so it was probably manufactured in a different factory. The delay was described as a several months delay, and that came true as the figure started shipping in late October and I suspect most will get them in November. Mine arrived the first week of November putting an end to the lengthy wait, but the delay ended up bringing about another issue we’ll get to.

Some would say if you spend extra money on a special edition you should keep it mint-in-box. I am not one of those people.

If you stuck with me this long, well now I can actually tell you about the figure. April O’Neil comes in the standard five-panel Ultimates box NECA is known for. The front flap features the Shredder’s wall of TVs he famously tosses a knife at when April comes on the screen and the rest of the box is reserved for product shots of the figure. The front is a lenticular image and the TV screens transition from static to April’s visage and it’s pretty cool. April O’Neil is depicted in her outfit she wears when she’s rescued by Raphael in the subway and is brought to the turtles’ lair. It’s a skirt, vest, and blouse combo that is definitely of its era. As is April’s full perm hairdo. This is a seven inch scale line and April comes in right around that 7″ mark. She’s wearing high heals which help push her past the turtles in terms of height and basically puts her on equal footing with Casey. Where scale was a large issue with the Danny Pennington figure, it’s basically spot on here with April.

Portrait one: serious April.
Portrait two: fun-loving April!

The overall sculpt and looks of the figure definitely reflect April from the first film. The likeness is quite good, maybe not on par with NECA’s Doc Brown figures, but definitely good enough. She comes with two portraits: neutral and smile. Both have a slight wide-eyed quality to them, but they also both work pretty well. The difference between the two is a bit subtle and thus hard to pick a favorite, but they’re both appropriate for the character. The hair piece is the same on both, and I do wish one featured her hair pulled back slightly as it was when she was interviewing the police chief and assaulted by the Foot. The clothing, especially the blouse, is well-sculpted and the detail looks terrific. She’s sporting the somewhat infamous NECA double-elbows, but with bunched up sleeves the joints look fine. The knees are a different story. NECA opted for double-jointed knees and while the overall shape looks good, the joints above and below the knee are a bit awkward. Some may designate them an eyesore, but I wouldn’t go that far. Normally, I think the trade-off in articulation is worth the added cuts. This is an action figure, after all, not a statue. Here though it’s probably not the right joint as this is a character that doesn’t need tremendous range in her knees. A single joint would probably look better and would be similar to the change NECA made with the Casey figure and his elbows. And NECA apparently agrees as a running change has already been made to April that does just that. It eliminates the double-jointed knees for single hinges and this is presumably what collectors will see when the figure hits Walmart at some point (right now, she’s only out in Asia). And that’s the other issue I was referring to had this come out on time we’d have already had the figure before this change was revealed. Collectors probably still would be irritated, but it’s a little added salt in the wound to see a better version of the figure in the hands of collectors before you’re extra expensive version ships.

The knees I’ve heard far too much about at this point.
The rear of the knees are definitely unpleasant.

Knees aside, the sculpt is good enough. There will be variations though when it comes to the paint, as is the case with all mass produced figures. NECA painted on nylons onto April’s legs, a curious decision since casting them in the color they’re painted would have achieved the same end result. They still could have painted them, as NECA often does, but by not casting them in a similar color you get ugly chunks of flesh tone in the joints. The paint flakes off easily, or was never there to begin with as it is with the back of the knees and was on my figure’s left ankle. It’s an error NECA continues to make and is a frustrating one. It’s obviously a cost saving measure, but it’s also one of the lesser costs associated with figure production and an expense most collectors would rather shoulder than not. There are other small paint imperfections with my figure. The default portrait has a blueish mark on her forehead (and I don’t think it’s supposed to be a bruise) while her right shoe has a black blob near the toe. Beyond the paint, the shin on my figure’s left leg appears to be warped slightly and I can’t get her toe aligned with her knee on that side. I could try to heat and reform it, but considering her whole leg is painted I’d rather not risk it.

There’s a lot of articulation on this figure, but for the most part, she’s only suitable for fairly neutral poses like this.
You can certainly try though.

I suppose we should talk about the articulation though, since it bled into the talk about the sculpt. April is fairly conventional, though limited by her attire. The head is on a normal ball peg and the range is okay, but her hair is obviously going to present some posing challenges. The shoulders are simple ball-hinges and the double-jointed elbows provide bend slightly better than 90 degrees with swivels as well. At the wrist are horizontal hinges and swivels. There are no vertical hinged hands for April, which may not seem like a big deal since she’s not a fighter, but vertical hinges would work better with a microphone than horizontal. I wish NECA would just make that hand direction the default rather than horizontal. There’s likely a diaphragm joint in the figure, but the overlay for her clothing renders it useless. She does twist with a slight ability to pivot at the waist, and the hips feature the older style of joint, like every figure in this line so far. Her skirt is going to really limit what she can do there, so the range is almost inconsequential. The knees do give her bend past 90 and rotation above and below the knee, and the feet are hinged. There are ankle rockers on this figure, but again, be careful with the painted hinges. Because she has heals, she’s going to be a challenge to stand. NECA foresaw this and included a simple, black, disc stand that pegs into her foot. It’s all right, but she really would have benefitted from a more robust stand that grabs around the waist. Even if it was like a Barbie stand that didn’t pose, that would have been far more functional. She obviously doesn’t need a dynamic action stand, but she does need to stand.

Frozen pizza!
The bag is unfortunate.

In addition to the stand and alternate portrait, April comes with a few expected accessories. She’s got her microphone for conducting interviews and it has a long, bendy, cord on it. In the box, she has open hands, but she also has a set of gripping hands. The open hands can grip the mic, while the tighter hands get a more sturdy grip. NECA also included a pointing left hand and a right fist, because sometimes she needs to get her hands dirty. She also has a stack of frozen pizza for when the boys are hanging out at her apartment. In true NECA fashion, they’re parody brands and in this case we have Smellio’s, an homage to Elio’s (which I loved as a kid, but I bet it was awful), and Josh Pizzas. She also has her handbag and the sai she snatched from the crime scene. The sai is the same as what we’ve seen packed with Raphael, only the paint job seems lesser. Mine even has a silver blob on one of the tines. If you want to stash it in the handbag you’re in for a challenge. I couldn’t get it all the way in and I’m not sure if it’s even possible. You will want to be careful if you try though because the printing on the bag, which looks great, is also prone to peeling. I don’t know what the failure here is, if it needed an acrylic coating or if the printing isn’t suitable for softer plastic, but it’s a bummer. I’ve seen a few bad ones online so I at least had the gift of foresight as stressing the plastic obviously makes the problem worse. And even so, mine had cracking right out of the box anyway. If you want it to look as nice as it can, definitely go easy with it. No word yet on if the running change with the legs improved upon this aspect as well.

Not the fit I was hoping for.
Don’t you dare bad mouth my yellow coat!

Since this is the signature edition, we have the additions to speak of. First up is the press badge. It’s signed by Judith and looks fine, though it’s also paper. I was expecting an actual badge like what every office gives out to its employees, so this was a bit disappointing. This might be accurate to the film though, so that would certainly be one reason to do it this way. It’s in a plastic sleeve with a clip like a functiong badge would have and if you’re into cosplay then I guess this is just what you needed. The much talked about coat is also here and it’s certainly yellow. It fits on the figure, and if you really dislike those knees then here is a way to conceal them a bit. The fit is a bit bulky, but I suppose it’s better to be on the larger end than small as that would just make it hard to put on and take off. And I would argue it’s less bulky than the actual coat in the film. It’s stitched in several places and made of a shiny, vinyl, material so it certainly looks the part. The sleeves are permanently rolled up and there is a sash, but it’s mostly for decoration and not really functional. Honestly, the figure looks better without it, but I basically paid 70 bucks for the stupid thing so you’re damn right I’m displaying the figure with it on.

She can be a challenge to stand, but she does fit-in just fine with the rest of the line.

NECA’s movie April O’Neil figure from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bit of a tough one to properly rate. If this were just a figure I picked up at Walmart for 30 bucks then I’d probably be more enthusiastic about it. I think the peeling on the bag though is inexcusable and disappointing. That’s the type of thing a company can really affect its reputation with. It’s one thing for it to be poor, but to not address it is almost a worse sin. Had NECA come out and said it was replacing all of the handbags then it would possibly raise people’s opinion of the company and do more good than the harm of the faulty product. Similarly, NECA had an opportunity to do better with this signature release. Suppose they just tossed in the new legs as a way to make-up for the delay and to add a little more value to the set. I think fans would have been singing the company’s praises had it pulled such a move. The reality is, I don’t know how easy a fix that would be for the average collector, but presumably anyone paying 100 bucks for April is either a mint-in-box collector or an experienced one capable of switching out some legs. Doing so also isn’t unprecedented. Yeah, it would cut into NECA’s bottom-line on the release, but that’s exactly what Super7 did when it shipped out some Thundercats parts when the final release of those figures didn’t live up to their expectations. It’s the type of move that really helps foster good customer relations, but it’s also unnecessary since this stuff sells and likely will continue to sell well regardless.

It’s a shame they didn’t last.

Setting aside some of my disappointments with this release, I do want to say I think the figure is fine. A figure of April was never going to set the world on fire since she’s not a ninja turtle or a hideous monster. The likeness is well done and this April should fit in with the rest of your display. She poses well with Casey, and she also looks great beside the turtles so you have options. Most of the errors with the figures are of the unforced kind. NECA was way too ambitious with those knees and should have learned from the first Casey release that less is more. And the paint issues are also something the company repeats too often. If you’re just looking for this figure to hang out in a display though and look good, then I think most will be happy.

This shelf is pretty much full and there’s more on the way. What’s a guy to do?!

TMNT Loot Crate Series 2 Vol. 1 – The “It’s Dan now” Crate

They’re back!

Loot Crate’s first series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crates in 2020 were a massive success. The crates sold out and anyone who missed out found out acquiring them on the secondhand market would be most expensive, and that’s because each crate came bundled with a NECA exclusive action figure. NECA’s parent company rescued Loot Crate from bankruptcy a couple of years ago, so the two are kind of one in the same. It made sense for the two to team-up and for TMNT collectors it meant there were actually figures out there that were easy to obtain, provided you actually jumped in when the crates were first solicited.

Considering they were such a success, it’s no surprise that Loot Crate is back for round two. This wave went up for preorder earlier this year and it includes four crates. Each crate will take inspiration from one of the four main pillars of TMNT media: film, video games, comics, and cartoon. And to be more specific, the themes are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Tournament Fighters, Mirage Studios, and the ’87 cartoon. Basically, all are returning from themes from last year with the exception of Turtles in Time exchanging places with Tournament Fighters. And unlike last time, Loot Crate was pretty upfront with what the figures featured in each crate would be rather than just providing the theme. And also just like last time, subscribers who prepaid for all four get a bonus fifth figure, Scrag, from the cartoon to ship alongside the fourth crate. And also, just like last time (I know, I sound like a broken record at this point), the first crate out the door is the one based on the 1990 film and the figure is one Danny, or Dan, Pennington.

Never did I expect to own a Danny figure.

NECA and Loot Crate’s approach to the figures in this series is to give collectors something that might not make sense at retail. When it comes to the original movie, all of the heavy hitters have seen a retail release and even some not-so-heavy hitters have too. The only exception is Tatsu, but the actor who played him just isn’t interested in playing ball with NECA. Enter Danny. The youth in search of a father figure recruited by the Foot who has a change of attitude when he meets the turtle dad Splinter is a solid choice for a Loot Crate. He’s not in a ton of the film, but he plays a role and might even have more screen time than Shredder. He’s not a fighter, so he’s not the sort of character who needs a bunch of accessories and extra parts and he’s just not someone that excites retail partners. Of course, the flipside is that Walmart can’t seem to keep anything from the film line in stock, so why should Danny be viewed any differently? And that might be true, but the good news is that Danny has two looks in the film so if NECA ever wants to test him at retail they could release his other look there and find out.

Now, I grabbed the Shadow Warriors set, so I’m basically willing to buy anything from the first film. Danny wasn’t the figure that excited me the most when this round of crates was unveiled, but he was also someone I was more than willing to welcome into my collection. Plus, I wanted that bonus figure. If you’re unaware, each crate retails for $50 and the included figure is something lesser than a NECA Ultimate release. These figures are basically half of that $50 and the rest of the “value” comes from pins, a shirt, and other assorted stuff. Your mileage may vary with that stuff, but to me it’s mostly junk. The figure is what makes or breaks each crate and I’m happy to say that I was satisfied with each of the previous crates. With Loot Crate, I think the fear on the consumer end is that we’re paying more for a lesser product and any figure is going to be severely compromised with reused parts that don’t make sense or they’ll just be variants no one asked for. They’re being bought sight unseen, so there’s a trust element at play. Last year’s crates included two straight repaints: Spirit Splinter and First Appearance Shredder. I passed on Splinter, but the Shredder was a rather stunning repaint of a figure previously only available as a convention exclusive, so I was satisfied. The other figures included a glow-in-the-dark “shell shock” turtle and the bunny boys, Bebop and Rocksteady. I wasn’t too excited by the shell shock turtle, but it was a neat idea. The bunnies I loved because they’re just so silly, the exact kind of figure I want from something like this.

This…is not good.

Because of my positive experience with the 2020 crates, I had few concerns this time. The promo shots of Danny looked good, but myself and many others were concerned about the scale. The scale in this line is a bit funny largely due to the turtles themselves probably being too big, but for the most part NECA has been able to work around that by making sure the other figures (like Casey) are at least a little taller than the green dudes. Danny, portrayed by actor Michael Turney, is a little tricky. He shares scenes with his dad, Charles, who is not in figure form (yet?) as well as some with April and Casey. He’s not around the turtles a lot, but he’s definitely shorter than Casey and a little shorter than April. We also see him with Shredder and Splinter. That said, I was fine with Danny coming in as the shortest character in the line, but I still wasn’t prepared for this.

At least his shirt looks nice.

Danny (no way I’m calling this short stack Dan) comes in at a “whopping” 5 3/4″. For comparison, Oraku Saki is a touch over 6 3/4″ and he uses the same body as Shredder and the Foot. He towers over Danny, as does Casey and the turtles. In the scenes he shares with April, he doesn’t appear to be much more than an inch shorter than she. With Casey, the top of his head is right around the eyes. Here he looks like a 10 year old next to basically anyone in this line. It’s fine to quibble over a quarter inch or so, but this is pretty bad. And it’s made worse when one realizes why. Danny is so damn short because NECA opted to reuse the legs (and possibly more) of its John Connor from Terminator 2 figure. They’re denim, and they’re loose-fitting, so they look the part, but they’re way too small. And everything about the figure just seems small as a result like the arms and the head size. I expect some parts reuse with these figures, but it’s irresponsible on NECA’s part to reuse parts that just aren’t suitable for the character. They could have recycled parts from someone like Marty McFly and that would have been better, even if the fit of the pants is tighter than they want. As it stands, this figure looks ridiculous whether right next to another figure or off on his own and that’s a real shame.

Yuck.

And my issues with Danny don’t end there. He comes with two portraits: one with the Foot bandana and one without. The default one with the bandana leaves something to be desired. The paint on the eyes is not perfectly aligned with the sculpted out area for them and just looks sloppy. Mine isn’t as bad as some of the ones I’ve seen online, but if I was at the store sifting through a row of Danny Pennington figures I would have passed on this one. The other head is much better, but both also feature no flesh-colored paint. The prototype had a nice, matte, appearance, but this one is rather shiny and plastic looking. There’s also some brown from the hair on the ears of the alt head, so neither option for me is ideal. The arms on this guy are also really spindly and the forearms look excessively long. They’re very awkward looking, and the hands are curled into hooks as I think they too are recycled from the John Connor figure who was meant to hold onto handlebars. The only positives I can find with the aesthetics of this figure is that the facial likeness, on a basic level, is acceptable and the paint on the denim and sneakers looks nice. NECA also struck a deal with the Sex Pistols to recreate Danny’s Sid Vicious shirt and the quality of the print looks fantastic. I just wonder if they blew too much of the budget on that piece of authenticity and not on making a quality figure.

The alt head is a little better, at least.

Danny’s articulation is nothing to write home about. His head is on a tiny ball-peg and moves around okay, but he can’t look up which is a bit of a problem for such a short guy. His shoulders are ball-hinged and are quite stiff. He can’t raise his arms too far, but can rotate around. The elbows swivel and are single-hinged while the wrist rotates and hinges as well, but it’s tight and gummy and at times it’s hard to tell if the hand is rotating or the plastic is just bending. There’s a waist twist, but it’s severely limited by the oversized t-shirt. He has the old style hip joints and they’re rather tight and potentially fragile, so buyer beware. The thighs rotate a bit and the knees are single-hinged with swivels. The ankles probably do something, but his high tops prevent basically all movement down there. I would advise not forcing the issue because if it breaks who knows if Loot Crate can replace it (they had to cancel some orders of this crate because they oversold it).

You should probably stick your head in those things because you’re not going to like what I have to say about you.

In terms of accessories, Danny is very light. He has the second head I mentioned before and in addition to that he has a Walkman, or personal tape player. It’s cast entirely in a rubbery plastic, which feels really cheap. I think if he were a retail release, just the wire connecting the headphones would be cast in this while the rest would be a harder material. The chord is super long, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative. The paint is a bit sloppy on the headphones, but they do kind of fit on his head if you like that look. That’s it though. No extra hands, no Whopper, no nothing. I’m a little surprised they didn’t slip in a low cost item like a small picture of Leonardo like the one April gave him or maybe April’s wallet or the money he took from it. A bandana for him to hold, and drop at his feet, might have been fun too. And basically any extra hands would have been welcomed because the ones he has just don’t look natural.

Go ahead and do it, Shredder. I don’t care.

Well, Danny might be a dud, but what about the rest of the contents? Like I said, the figure makes or breaks this thing, but even so the rest of the items offer little. This is the smallest crate yet as the only other items are a shirt, set of coasters, and a set of pins. The shirt is this neon green, the same color as a TMNT camera I had back in the day, and features the manhole art from the theatrical poster of the film. It’s very loud, but since it’s long sleeved it has a chance of sneaking into my wardrobe. The pins are just two, oversized, portraits of a masked Casey and Raph. The coasters though are weird. They’re kind of soft and bendy, not really the type of material one associates with coasters, and the artwork on them is Mirage artwork. Why are we getting comic coasters in the movie crate? I don’t hate the choice or anything, it just surprised me.

If you were hoping for the rest of the crate to pick up some of the slack, well, you’re going to be disappointed.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with this crate. It’s easily the worst one yet and since it’s the first one from Series Two it’s hard not to worry about the ones to follow. I have three more to look forward to and if they all leave me feeling like this one did then I’ll probably have to bow out of this subscription service. This crate, to me, is what consumers fear when they sign up for these blind box type of releases. We all worry we’re just getting junk for our money, and this time that is mostly true. It’s just one though, so I’m trying to keep that in perspective, but this one isn’t up to the standards NECA and Loot Crate established last year.

Jerk can’t even sit. I give up.

Unfortunately, the wait to see if crate two is any better is going to be a long one. This crate was already pushed back from August, and now crate two isn’t expected to begin shipping until December meaning consumers aren’t likely to see it until 2022. This crate was marked as “shipped” on September 13th for me and I didn’t get it until October 6th. It is what it is as shipping overseas is crazy right now and it’s getting bad domestically as well. One thing I will say in Loot Crate’s favor is their communication is great when it comes to the delays and that’s all I ask for when it comes to such. Of course, it has to be said some people are having worse experiences as I alluded to. Some had their orders cancelled or delayed indefinitely, which is inexcusable for an item that was thought to be made-to-order. Loot Crate did have to close orders earlier than expected, but the fact that it couldn’t deliver on every order placed is not a good look. Yeah, we’re definitely not off to a good start here.

At least someone is willing to put their arm around him.

It’s just a start though and there’s time to recover. The hope here is that NECA and Loot Crate take the criticism to heart and that most give them constructive feedback. I’m happy to inform people when I get a good product from both, and for the most part my NECA reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so hopefully this experience is the exception. And if that proves to be the case, that’s obviously better than the alternative, but it’s still disappointing that Danny received such a bummer of a release because he’s probably not getting a redo. Hopefully, his dad didn’t have kittens when he got a look at how his son was treated.


NECA TMNT Movie Shadow Warriors

The set everyone has been waiting for! Okay, maybe not everyone.

NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures at retail began with quarter scale figures based off of the 1990 film. Since then, things have opened up for the company and toon and video game figures have followed as well as a line of movie figures in a 7″ scale line. And of the lines NECA has released to retail, I would still argue the movie line has been the best and most well-received, even if the cartoon line might be more profitable. The problem with that though is there just isn’t a lot of characters to mine from. Cartoons and video games are full of one-off and reoccurring characters to turn into action figures, but the movies are basically just the turtles, a handful of villains, and their allies. And some of them aren’t exactly exciting action figure options, while some that would be aren’t available due to licensing restrictions.

Bad News: You can only find this set at Walmart. Good News: it still retails for $50.

Given that, I suppose it’s not that surprising that NECA decided to turn the Shadow Warriors into their own two-pack. In the film, Master Splinter tells his origin to young Danny Pennington about his master, Hamato Yoshi, and describes him as one of Japan’s finest shadow warriors. Yoshi had a rival, Oroku Saki, who very much wanted to win the affections of Yoshi’s lover, Tang Shen. When it became apparent there would be blood, Yoshi and Shen fled to America, but Saki followed eventually murdering the lovers and taking Splinter’s ear for good measure. It’s a short scene in the film, but since we already have the turtles, Splinter, Shredder, Casey, and the Foot in toy form, why not give this a shot? And if some parts can be reused then all the better.

These two are essentially the same figure, which isn’t much different from the previously released Foot ninja.

The Shadow Warriors two-pack is essentially a Hamato Yoshi vs Oroku Saki two-pack, with an unmutated Splinter as well. Saki and Yoshi are both depicted in their training gi, which is black with a slight shimmer to it. Some of these pieces are recycled from the Shredder and Foot we’ve already received, but a lot is new too. It’s just that both figures are essentially the same save for the headsculpt. Saki comes packaged with his robe on while Yoshi is bare-chested. Both are capable of being displayed the same way though as NECA made the robe removable as well as the arms so you can just swap them with the included extra bare arms or sleeved arms, even though each character was only depicted in the film as packaged, and not together. Yoshi is displayed as he was in the flashback when training alongside Splinter, while Saki is basically in murder mode. Yoshi’s face is rather stoic, while Saki’s default portrait has a faint hint of a smile.

If you want to, you can have both figures dressed the same. Note: Honor not included.

When it comes to both figures, there are things to like and things to dislike about the presentation. I do like the texture of the clothing and the folds give off the illusion of real cloth. The robe portion of the gi works well-enough, and if you want to go off-script they look pretty cool if you make them sleeveless. The faces look fine too, though it’s certainly helped by the fact that the scenes in the film are shot in near blackness with the audience really only getting a good look at Saki. James Saito played Shredder in the film, but it looks like a different actor played him for the flashback this set is based on and he went uncredited. The actor who played Yoshi also wasn’t even credited so I can’t even look up an image to see how the likeness turned out. At any rate, Saki as represented by this figure looks like Saito, but I wish NECA had done a better job with his smile. When we first see him spin and look at the camera he has a wicked grin. I think they tried to do it justice, but it doesn’t look as good as it does on camera. He has a second face that’s bloody and scratched and looks fine, though again, it’s not the expression I would have chosen. In the film, he sports more of a scowl as he slices off Splinter’s ear, but here he has gritted teeth and looks quite enraged.

I enjoy the “shimmer” of the gi.
But bare-chested is also a solid look.

The only other issues I have with the presentation of these figures is tied into the articulation. NECA made some interesting choices when it comes to the torso. The head is on a ball-peg, but the neck is static. Below that is a diaphragm joint with the cut right above the abs and along the rib cage. It looks odd, and what is unfortunate is that you get nothing out of it. The figures barely pivot and twist there and there is almost no ab crunch achieved. NECA apparently thought articulating the base of the neck would look bad, but didn’t think the torso did, but also didn’t make it functional. It’s just a poor design. The shoulders are a little funky too as they slope down quite a bit. I think they do this to make the articulation at the shoulders appear more seamless on a shirtless body, since they also did the same with Goliath. It also may have been done to make sure the gi isn’t too bulky, but again, it does make the figure look odd in some poses. The good news is, you can always use the robe and problem solved, but Yoshi never wore the robe in the film.

Just a man doing ninja stuff with his pet rat. Nothing to see here.

The rest of the articulation at least works fine. Those shoulders peg into the body so they’re easy to remove and they’re just hinged. There’s no biceps swivel, but the arms swivel above and below the elbow as NECA is using those controversial elbows here. These guys are more ripped than Casey Jones was, so I think the arms look better, but they’re still weird as you get this big, middle, piece when bending the elbows all the way. They are partially hidden by the wrist-guards on the bare arms, and obviously totally hidden by the sleeved ones. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges on every included hand. Since these guys come loaded with melee weapons, this strikes me as a huge oversight on NECA’s part to not include vertically hinged hands. The horizontal hinges on the gripping hands are borderline useless. At the waist is a twist and below that are the old styled hips. These are ratcheted and caution needs to be taken with them. I was able to get Yoshi into a high kick, but I was pretty scared in doing so as these hips are notoriously fragile. The thighs do rotate a bit and the knees are double-hinged with a swivel above them. At the feet we’ve got a hinge and ankle rocker, which works really well and is nice and tight. Unlike some of my complaints with the aesthetics of the upper body, I will say the legs look terrific and these may be the best sculpted pants I’ve seen NECA release.

It’s murder time!

Despite the lack of neck articulation and the poor abdominal joint, these guys are able to achieve some pretty convincing martial arts poses. You won’t have much luck getting them to balance on one foot or anything, but that’s what stands are for. Because of the lack of properly hinged hands, these arguably display better in hand-to-hand combat poses. They both come packaged sporting fists, and if you want to you can swap them for chop pose hands or gripping hands. The right fist that came on Yoshi in my set ended up with some paint rub on it from his vambrace, which sucks. The other set of hands are gripping hands and they’re very tight. I could not get most of the weapons into their hands without first softening the hands with hot water which is annoying, but oh well. NECA at least included each set of hands for both figures, so they don’t have to share gripping hands or anything like the SDCC set did with the Foot Soldiers.

Get him, boy!
Okay, that might have been a bad idea.

If hand-to-hand combat is not your preference, NECA did see fit to include a fairly large assortment of weapons. The weapons, though, should be rather familiar if you’ve purchased the other movie figures as they’re all duplicates. You get in this set a pair of axes, a pair of katana, a pair of black staves, a pair of black tonfa, black nunchaku, and studded nunchaku. The black nunchaku has a plastic chord connecting the handles so it’s more posable, but potentially more fragile, while the studded set features a short chain. Again, this feels like a set that exists because it was fairly cheap to produce so it’s not surprising to see recycled weapons. We only see Saki in the film wield the katana, so it’s hard to be disappointed with the selection. Again, my only disappointed rests in the difficulty in getting the weapons into the hands and the fact that we don’t have the right hinges for most of them. At least if you have the weapons rack you should have little trouble filling it now.

Only sadness, and a thirst for vengeance, remains.
The martial arts pose Splinter is cool, the other one looks like a poop.

The other accessory is basically a third character: Splinter. And you get not just one Splinter, but two! That’s because this is pre-mutated Splinter so he’s just a little, unarticulated, sculpted lump of plastic. One Splinter is in a martial arts pose clearly inspired by the portion of the flashback, “Mimicking his movements from my cage,” which is a line my dad always repeated for some reason. Maybe because it was just so ludicrous, but the film plays it off so naturally. The other Splinter is a grieving Splinter after Saki slices off his ear and leaves him to mourn the death of his master. It’s rather odd looking as his body is just super long and definitely not the one I plan to display. Both rats have a peg hole in the base of them which allows them to peg into the base of a cage. The cage is done in a thin plastic and the bottom pops off rather than have an articulated door. It looks okay, but also rather cheap and I’m surprised NECA opted not to paint it. Maybe they feared the paint would just gum up between the bars? It does come with a stand though that the cage can be suspended from which is welcomed and even though it does look cheap, it might actually be my favorite part of the set. The only downside is NECA didn’t come up with a way for Splinter to easily get into scratching position on Saki. It can be done, but I wish they had included one more hand that was specifically for grabbing Splinter so that Saki could look like he’s trying to pull him off of his face.

I suppose we should do this.

The Shadow Warriors two-pack is a set that I didn’t need, and in fact, wasn’t actively seeking out. I happened across it at Walmart, the only retail location allowed to sell the movie line, and picked it up for a friend only to find out another friend found him a set that very same day. I ended up keeping it rather than trying to offload it onto someone else or return it, and I’m fine with the decision. These guys look pretty cool, they’re just characters I didn’t need for my display to feel complete. It’s also worth noting, we never saw Yoshi and Saki face off in the film as depicted here. When Saki actually attacks Hamato Yoshi he’s in a construction outfit. This set is capturing both characters independent of each other as Yoshi is really meant to tie-in with Splinter. Does this mean we’ll get a figure of Yoshi in overalls and a hardhat? Never say never, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

And we can end on a comparison shot too.

NECA TMNT Cartoon Napoleon and Attila

Time to hang loose with a couple of frogs!

It took almost five months, but the Punk Frogs are now complete. NECA, recognizing that they were about to release the same sculpt four times, decided to space out the frog two-packs in its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of cartoon action figures. Genghis and Rasputin arrived back in May, while Napoleon and Attila started showing up in Target stores across the US about a week ago. NECA also made the new set available on its website for an in-stock sale, but if it’s anything like the first two-pack, it should be a fairly painless set to track down at retail.

No surprises with the packaging here, your standard turtle van inspired box.

When I reviewed the first two-pack, I was mostly satisfied, but not really blown away. In the months since I’ve grown a bit more dissatisfied with the set due to one flaw we’ll get to in the articulation portion of the review, and as a result I wasn’t really that excited to find this set at retail. I can’t just have two frogs though, so of course I bought it, and it’s mostly what I expected which is both good and bad.

Just like with the first set, the factory head is much easier to work with than the second one

If you have the first set, then this one offers no surprises. The frogs were all basically the same character model in the show with only minor differences. Each one was a different shade of green and the shirts they wore were distinguishable via the pattern on them. Two feature stripes, and two feature polka dots, and the colors are just the inverse of one another. They also have a different shape to the medallion on their necklace, and like the turtles, each features a different weapon of choice. The two prior frogs, Genghis and Rasputin, had polka dots on their shirts and triangular medallions. Napoleon and Attila feature stripes and a circular medallion. Napoleon’s dominant color is yellow with red-orange stripes while Attila has red-orange as his dominant color with yellow stripes. The stripes also aren’t too intense as it’s basically relegated to one large stripe around the abdomen and at the cuffs of the sleeves. Napoleon also has lilac colored shorts while Atilla’s are a more pale shade of blue. They both feature NECA’s toon shading which features light shades on the front and a darker paint on the back. The shirts are very understated, but it’s more pronounced on the skin and shorts. It’s fine, but after seeing the more elaborate Chrome Dome paint job this certainly feels a lot more “ho-hum.”

“We were setup! Honest!”

Adding to the visual display are the optional parts NECA included. Like the prior two frogs, Napoleon and Attila come with a pair of portraits: smiling and scared. It would have been nice if NECA could have offered different headsculpts with this release, or at least one unique one instead of the same two. They both work fine, the frogs often featured this dopey grin and the scared look works as well, it’s just a bit bland for a display. I assume most will display all four together and you’re not going to have two be happy and two scared as that wouldn’t make sense if you like to have some drama to your display and when they all look the same it’s just boring. I get it, as it keeps costs down, but it’s still something I can gripe about. As for the hands, that’s where NECA offered something unique. Each frog is packaged with standard gripping hands that hinge horizontally. Attila gets Rasputin’s recycled loose gripping hands which made sense for Rasputin’s bow, but doesn’t serve a tremendous purpose here. His unique hands though are thumb’s up hands while Napoleon gets the same fists as Genghis plus some “Hang Loose” hands. Since the cartoon decided to make the frogs all different shades of green, the hands really aren’t interchangeable like they are with the turtles, which is a bummer. That’s not NECA’s fault though.

“Who took this picture of us in our birthday suits?!”
Okay, I lied, NECA didn’t actually sculpt nude frogs to recreate that scene from the toon.

What is NECA’s fault though rests with the articulation on these guys. Again, if you have the prior set you know what you’re getting, but to run it down quickly these guys have: ball-jointed heads, ball-hinge shoulders, single-hinge elbows, elbow swivels, wrist swivels, wrist hinges, diaphragm joint, waist twist, ball hips, double-jointed knees, ankle hinges and rockers. Nothing was stuck on mine and the hinges are cast in the proper color so even though you’re likely to experience some paint flaking it won’t leave behind the eyesores some of the other figures possess. What isn’t good, are the wrists and hips. None of the included hands feature the proper hinge. Both frogs wield melee weapons, but don’t have vertical hinges. It really should have been the default choice for the gripping hands, but that wasn’t the case. And the other shortcoming concerns the looseness of the hips. I touched upon it in my review of the first two frogs, but those two only got worse over the months. Genghis is the only figure in my display to take a shelf dive this summer and it’s largely due to his hips just getting weaker. When you try to stand these guys, they have a tendency to want to do a split. It’s frustrating, and the problem persists here too. It can be easily remedied by the consumer, just pop the legs off (they come off fairly easily and the ball peg is quite durable) and apply a small coat of super glue. Wait for it to dry (I can’t stress the importance enough of that step) and then re-attach the legs and the added layer of glue should help to tighten things up. Should we have to do that as consumers? No, but at least the remedy is an easy one.

These frogs are nude though.
Something Playmates never gave us: all four frog together at last!

Napoleon and Attila have some unique accessories, and some familiar ones. Napoleon’s weapon of choice is a whip and NECA opted to cast it in rubber with a wire running through it like an old bendy figure. The end result is it functions, though it doesn’t look particularly great, especially the split ends on the whip. And with this weapon, the vertical hinges are really missed. Attila’s weapon is a spiked ball and chain flail. It’s not the same as what we saw with Android Krang as the ball is smaller and so are the chain links. Like those though, the chain is real which is cool, but obviously limits posing. The other accessories are two, un-mutated, frogs and two bags of loot. The loot sacks are the same as the one Mondo came with, only now they have a dollar sign painted on them. The only new item is the photo album they come with. It has three pictures inside and all are of NECA action figures. One is all four frogs, one is Rocksteady and a turtle, and the third is Bebop and I think Slash? It’s a cute accessory though and I’m largely okay with what we have here. I do wish we could have received a second version of each weapon, a frozen in place flail and the same for the whip with a more finely-sculpted end.

Unlike turtles, these frogs are not known to eat pizza.
It’s four against one, and yet I still like Leatherhead’s chances.

If you buy this set then you know what you’re getting, assuming you have the first one. The figures look good, but are limited in terms of their expressions and ability to properly wield their weapons. They’re held back further by the looseness in the hips which is going to vary from set-to-set. I assume the best-case scenario is they’re just loose, but tolerable, where as I know some have frogs that basically can’t stand without some modification or assistance. The only other difference this set has with its predecessor is in the price. It would appear the two-packs are getting a slight markup at Target as this one cost me $55 as opposed to the usual $52. I honestly didn’t even notice until someone else pointed it out and had to check my receipt for confirmation. Sure, I don’t like paying more for what is essentially the same set as what I got five months ago, but I also get it. The shipping industry has gone bananas and we’re setting new records on a weekly basis for the amount of container ships stranded at sea because there’s no room at the ports. It’s just something we’re going to have to deal with over the coming months because it’s costing companies like NECA more money to deliver product to us, so naturally, some of those cost increases are coming our way. As for what’s next for this line, I’m actually not sure. I think the next two-pack to come to retail is supposed to be Groundchuck and Dirt Bag, but it could also be any one of the solicited two-packs NECA sold through its store earlier this spring or even the Pizza Monster deluxe figure. With the state of the industry as it is, there’s really no telling when stuff will arrive, but I don’t think this is it for the line for 2021. And if the next release is that Groundchuck and Dirt Bag set, it figures to be a lot more exciting than this one.

Space is an issue.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin #4

“Blood in Snow”

The wait was a bit longer than originally anticipated, but the fourth issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flash-forward story The Last Ronin has arrived. If you are not familiar with this story, The Last Ronin was a concept first kicked around by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird back in the late 80s/early 90s about a final story for the turtles. One, last, ronin, makes a final stand against the Foot with the memory of his family burning in his heart. It’s in some ways a parallel to the original story where the turtles set out to kill the Shredder to avenge their master, only their master was still alive. With the success of films like Logan and their comic counterparts, it made sense for the creative team to adapt this story now especially after Waltz and Eastman concluded their run on the main comic.

The first issue of The Last Ronin told the story of the last ninja turtle. The unnamed ronin infiltrated New York City, now under the control of the Foot Clan, on a suicide mission to avenge his family. The final panel reveals who the identity of this character is, and in my reviews of each so far I’ve not revealed that spoiler so I don’t plan to now. We’ll just call him Ronin. It almost doesn’t matter anyway as this turtle is like an amalgamation of all four as he wields all of their weapons (and then some) and has become consumed by his quest for vengeance. All trace of his normal personality is basically gone. Since that issue though, the following two took place in both the present (which is the future) and the past and showed how one of the turtles met his end. As a result, not a whole lot of plot has moved forward in the present timeline.

Issue #4, subtitled titled “Blood in Snow,” has what feels like a shorter flashback to reveal the fate of the final turtle and moves things forward in the present timeline far more than the others. When I read issue #2, I actually found it a bit challenging because it basically bothered me to see one of my childhood heroes fall. Issue #3 surprised me in that I didn’t get the same feeling, and as a result, it disappointed me a bit. Issue #4 is more of the same. It’s not that I expect these to be gratuitous in their depiction of death and violence, it just doesn’t do much to tug on the heart strings. There was a lot of room especially in this issue for some tragic drama, but the writers and artists chose not to lean into it giving the flashback more of a procedural feeling than an emotional arc.

Let’s not do this.

The plot that takes place in the present is, unfortunately, no better. It’s very cliché with its plotting. One moment had me rolling my eyes as our Ronin has taken on a protégé. In this issue, the characters are assaulting a fortress that is a key to breaking into the main Foot headquarters and Ronin goes ahead telling his pupil not to follow. Of course, he gets into some trouble and his protégé does indeed make the save leading to this exchange:

Ronin: I thought I told you to stay put!

Protégé: You did. I didn’t.

Ronin: Terrible discipline, excellent initiative. DON’T do it again!

How many times has such an exchange taken place in movies and comics? The characters also just march along with not much of a climax. There’s a villain from the past at the end, but the villain receives no development and is entirely dependent on the reader just being familiar with them. And the showdown really doesn’t land. I get the sense that more energy has been put into telling the story of how the turtles were defeated with little regard for this current timeline. We don’t even know how New York ended up in such a state, you would think the US government would have some issues with it, but I can at least understand the creative team not wanting to tell that story. What is unfortunate is that their main story just lacks drama and excitement. I fully expect the next issue will just feature Ronin leading a last ditch attack on the tower where the leader of the Foot waits. All or most of his allies will fall, but it will end with the two facing off at the top of the tower with likely both falling. And I’m not saying that can’t work as an outline, but they really need to land on some of the bigger moments to make it work.

The future stuff looks good, but I found myself really enjoying the setting of the flashback portion.

What hasn’t been a letdown though is the artwork. The Escorza brothers handle the majority of the work and they continue to do a good job. There’s plenty of good action panels and they really do a terrific job with the flashback sequence which features some characters in rather resplendent armor. Eastman does contribute 4 pages as well and continues to handle the portions where the Ronin character narrates his own flashback. His pages are done in black and white and feature his own, unique, artwork. For fans of the original Mirage line, these panels are a delightful throwback. A novelty, but a fun one. Newer readers might see them as weaker since Eastman’s art is not and has never been as polished as many of his professional peers, but that was part of the TMNT charm back in the day. And it was good enough to make him quite wealthy.

I’m guessing we’re not quite done with flashbacks as we need some Eastman art in Issue #5.

The trajectory for The Last Ronin appears clear with issue #4 concluded. With only one issue left in the mini series, and the flashbacks seemingly complete, we’re ready to see this revenge story come to its conclusion. I do feel like The Last Ronin began with tremendous momentum and spark, but each issue to follow has been weaker than the one preceding it. I’m hopeful they’ll rebound and stick the landing. It’s possible the story just wasn’t necessarily big enough for five issues and maybe that’s the problem, but we’ll see. I don’t expect Alan Moore writing or anything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it could definitely be better. As such, I began this series giving it a strong recommend, but at this point I might suggest to newcomers to wait for the trade paperback edition at this point. We’re also in for a bit of a wait, it would seem. Issue #4 was delayed about a month and the fifth and final issue has yet to be solicited by the publisher. That means it’s probably slipped to 2022 at this point. This year has been one of delays so I’m not surprised by any at this point. Hopefully the extra time allows the team to do something special. I want this story to succeed, and I am eager to see how it concludes.


NECA TMNT “The Colossal Chrome Dome” – Deluxe Chrome Dome

Chrome Dome – he’s bigger than you think.

Many television shows have what is sometimes referred to as “event” episodes. These are often episodes that complete long-running arcs, have an extended runtime, and might even be featured in a more prominent timeslot. It’s usually something for shows that take themselves rather seriously do. A show that featured very little of this sort of thing was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Like many 80s properties, that toon was developed with the main purpose of selling toys. Sure, the writers, artists, and directors who worked on the show probably tried to do their best to make something worthwhile, but for the most part, each episode was a self-contained story often introducing a new hero or villain that Playmates Toys wanted kids to run out and buy. Especially after the second season when the show really took off.

All right, he’s not quite as big as the box would lead you to believe.

One of the few moments where the show aimed a little higher was with the season five finale “Planet of the Turtleoids.” This one was hyped a bit by the network the show aired on as a one-hour special which aired a little over 30 years ago on August 31, 1991. It still kept the turtles in their usual Saturday morning timeslot, but it at least felt like something that was more important. The episode brought in the villains Groundchuck and Dirtbag as well as featured a golden Technodrome – how’s that for fancy? The most memorable villain introduced in that episode though, was Chrome Dome. Chrome Dome was a colossal robot created by the Shredder and Krang to, what else, destroy the turtles. And he was indeed colossal as he was basically the same size as the new Technodrome. This was quite different from the toy version which, like basically every figure in the series, was around four inches tall. If my memory serves, the toy preceded the episode so we as fans had no idea just how big the character was supposed to be. The card back didn’t list a height, but it did list a weight of 600 pounds. A giant, metal, robot would probably weight tons as opposed to pounds, so safe to say we were surprised and we should have been.

Seriously though, this box can barely hold him.

In order for NECA to do Chrome Dome properly and have him scale with the rest of the line, he’d basically have to be the same size as the quarter scale Raphael or maybe as tall as the diorama itself. Lucky for NECA, Chrome Dome returned in the season seven episode “Night of the Rogues.” In that appearance, he was still a big boy, but not to the degree he was originally. He was more like 9 or 10 feet tall in that appearance. This works perfectly for NECA’s deluxe line of TMNT figures. Recently, we looked at both Muckman and Mondo Gecko, characters that were forced into the deluxe line due to their unique tooling and accessories and not so much for their size. Chrome Dome brings both and it’s actually a little surprising he matches Mondo’s retail price of $40. This dude is a beast as he towers over the previous biggest figure in the line, Krang, and he has the beef (steel?) to match. For collectors, this guy is the new centerpiece for NECA’s cartoon line as anyone who sees such a collection will probably immediately have their eyes drawn to Chrome Dome.

I love weapon storage on a figure.
Here come a bunch of pictures to illustrate how big this figure is. First up, we have Android Krang and Metalhead.

Just how big is NECA’s Chrome Dome? About ten inches tall. Even telling you that, and showing you all of these pictures, can’t properly convey how big of a figure he is. The box he comes in, lovingly illustrated by Dan Elson just like the other deluxe releases, is pretty heavy and it barely holds Chrome Dome. He uses up the entire inner blister. The box is the same height as the one that housed Krang, but it’s deeper by nearly an inch. Once extricated from his paper and plastic confines, Chrome Dome is immensely impressive. NECA adjusted its cel-shading paint to go with something that feels more accurate to what they’re going for. Rather than bisect the figure with light shades on the front and dark on the back, he simply has embellishments all over. His chest is white with black piping and NECA added angular gray swaths of color to create the illusion of light falling over him just like the actual cartoon would have done. The same is done on his face and abdomen and the white patches on his arms and legs have gray added as well and the blue kneepads utilize a darker blue to accent that. It looks phenomenal and I hope more figures down the road present an opportunity for this sort of approach. He really pops like no other release in this line and the closest comp in terms of paint is the rock soldiers. This sort of approach probably wouldn’t work for every character to come, but maybe if they do a robot Bebop and Rocksteady? I’m suddenly excited to see them attempt such a figure!

Did you think Super Shredder was large? Hah! Chrome Dome laughs at Super Shredder!
Super7? Bandai? None can match Chrome Dome!

The paint is terrific, in terms of how it’s stylized and in application. There’s a lot of room for things to go off the rails, but for the most part it’s clean. Upon closer inspection, there are a few problematic spots, but the only true drawback is some smudges on the white of the chest and rear of the “dome.” It’s something that can happen when a figure uses a lot of matte white, but it’s not noticeable from a shelf and wasn’t even something I spied through the box. There appears to be some missing gray on the right shoulder disc as the left one is painted gray all along the edge, but the right is not. Also of interest is there appears to be some lubricant in the same area in the biceps swivel. There’s none present on the left arm so maybe this side just got a little extra “juice.” I’ve wiped it off a few times, but it’s still a little shiny. Needless to say, it’s good to see NECA using lubricant though to reduce over-tightness at the joints.

If you want Chrome Dome to look small you have to bring in another scale.

The sculpt for this bad boy is basically just as nice as the paint. He looks just as he did in the show with his samurai inspired head and various ridges and vents sculpted into his body. Every black line painted on this guy is also sculpted, same for the black rivets. He has these big, wing-like, appendages on his back that are quite sturdy. I always thought it was an odd part of the character’s design, but it does give him a bit more presence. What I find myself really liking is the sculpt of the hands. His fingers have this boxy shape to them, very robotic in a sci-fi way, and they just look so cool. The open, style-posed, hands he comes with in the box are quite fun and that boxy aesthetic is also apparent in the other hands. The old cartoon wasn’t known for great designs or cool looking characters, even a lot of the characters that looked great as toys were downgraded for the show, but Chrome Dome stands out as just being a really bad ass looking robot.

He kicks too.

And NECA made sure this beast could move. NECA managed to get the standard articulation into this guy even though he’s so big, and they did it without the need for ratcheted joints. The most limited part is right at the top. His head can’t really look up thanks to how large the helmet is and the ability to tilt is limited. The good thing is, he doesn’t need to look up at anyone. At the shoulders, we have standard ball-hinges with a biceps swivel just past that. His elbows are double-jointed, and the lower hinge is pretty tight on my guy. I should note, however, I did not have to heat any of his joints. At the wrist, he can rotate and swivel. In the abdomen is a big ball joint. It’s tight at first, but he can crunch forward and back a bit and tilt side-to-side. There’s a lot of paint there though so I would advise to be gentle so there’s no paint rub. At the waist is a twist and below that are the ball and socket legs we should all be getting used to seeing at this point. Chrome Dome’s have a nice tolerance there though, where some of my figures have been overly loose. There’s a thigh twist past that and double-jointed knees. There’s a sculpted “boot” line, but no twist there so don’t try. At the ankles he has hinges and rockers plus a toe-hinge. I don’t think you’ll need that toe hinge for anything, but it’s there.

Lets do some martial arts poses.

It’s a standard allotment of articulation for Chrome Dome, but it’s always a little surprising anytime a big figure like this comes around packed with this much. That’s because bigger figures mean more weight, and any articulation point is a chance for the stability to falter. I am happy to say that Chrome Dome stands just fine. His legs have become a little looser since removing him from the box and breaking him in, but he’s yet to fall over or anything. With the aid of a simple NECA disc stand, I was even able to get him into a one-foot pose. The only shortcoming I’m finding with the articulation is just with the shoulders and the lack of a butterfly joint. I don’t know if NECA could have pulled it off without breaking up the sculpt on the chest, but if Chrome Dome could reach across his body to grasp a the handle of a sheathed sword that would have been cool. Even without that though, the combination of his size and what’s there for articulation should be plenty to find some dynamic poses for your shelf.

Because he really needs two swords.
The belt clasps at the back, but I’m not brave enough to remove it. Plus, I like the look of it anyway.

Chrome Dome probably doesn’t need any weapons to crush his foes, but his figure still comes with some anyway! Chrome Dome has not one, but two, belts. In the show, I believe he just had the sculpted blue belt while the Playmates toy had the second belt with sheaths for his swords. NECA replicated that with the outer belt being pretty true to that old toy as it even has a clasp on the back if you want to remove it. There are two, blue, sheaths on the left side for his twin katana. The katana have this neat, techno, design to them. They’re mostly white and gray with blue on the handles and they very much stylistically fit it in with the other weapons Shredder and his minions wield. They slide into the sheaths rather snugly, but they can fit all the way. The only drawback is you will most likely experience some paint rub with a little blue getting onto the white portion of the blade. The same is true on the handles when fitting them into his hands as it’s a tight fit. To wield the swords, Chrome Dome comes with a set of gripping hands. They have vertical hinges and swapping hands is painless. There was a bit of paint on all of the hinges of the spare hands so breaking them in is a bit of challenge, but the plastic is also black so once that paint flakes off it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore.

Bang!

If swords aren’t your thing then there’s a blaster too. Chrome Dome is a big boy so he needs a big gun and this thing is quite large. It’s painted in a white and gray scheme and NECA included a right, trigger, hand to wield it. The hands on this guy are very stiff with almost no give, so if you want him to hold this gun you will almost certainly need to heat the hand first. I just used running, hot, tap water and that worked just fine. His trigger finger fits in exceptionally well too and it’s quite satisfying to look at. If you prefer he store the weapon, there’s a peg on the right side of the floating belt. Now, I am not sure how NECA intended for this to go on. Some have been able to get it to peg on as there’s a hole towards the rear of the gun. It’s a shallow hole though, so it doesn’t peg in very well. What I have done is utilized the rear of the gun which has what looks like a molded hinge. The peg on the belt is like rubber, and I simply stuck it through this hinge which works fine. It keeps the gun low so it’s not up in his armpit and it hasn’t fallen. I’m probably going to display him with gun in hand though, but if I wasn’t this is how I’d store it.

“Oh, Shredder, come on! I am the superior machine, come push MY keys!”

In addition to the weapons, Chrome Dome also has an assortment of hands and a computer. He has the open, style-posed, hands in the box, plus a pair of fists and a pair of “chop” hands. It’s honestly more than I was expecting and it presents a conundrum in terms how to pose him on the shelf. I love the style-posed hands, but I also love having him hold his swords and gun. I’ll probably never use the fists or chops, but I can see how others might. The computer is an interesting inclusion. If memory serves, it’s from “Night of the Rogues” and Zach, the “Fifth” Turtle, uses it to retrieve some information out of Chrome Dome. I don’t remember if it’s his computer or Donatello’s. Zach is featured on the box though, so expect a figure of that lame, little, dork some day. The accessory is well done though, and it even features a floppy drive. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it in the near term, but I do know it would look nice in a lair set, or maybe even inside the Turtle Van.

“Ugh, Mikey, I don’t think now is the time to whip out your little hook.”

Chrome Dome is a spectacle of an action figure. He’s so big, and so well detailed, that he commands attention. If it wasn’t already clear in this review, I am in love with this figure. I think it’s my new favorite in this line. He has to be! It’s just so impressive from every aspect that’s important for an action figure. And at an MSRP of $40, I don’t know how NECA does it! I don’t want to sound like a corporate shill, but I sometimes don’t know how NECA does what it does. Mondo Gecko might have seemed a touch underwhelming at 40 bucks, but Chrome Dome is the opposite. And I compare him to some of the other stuff I get and it just blows me away. The Super7 Michelangelo I reviewed recently is more expensive than this guy, and so is the comparatively massive Rocksteady. I know it’s a whole different release strategy, but it’s hard not to compare these things as a consumer because at the end of the day I am getting a figure of a certain quality at a certain price. I don’t care about production numbers and parts reuse, and it’s hard not to see how NECA is putting everyone to shame with such a release. And it’s shocking because this guy features no parts reuse and I don’t see how NECA will benefit from these molds again. Maybe they’ll do a video game variant? I’m definitely not expecting another release in this line that is this much of a value though so get him while you can, because it’s possible future runs won’t be $40.

I love this figure. Settling on a pose is going to be a challenge, but that’s a good problem to have.

And if you do want a Chrome Dome of your very own, he can currently be found at Target. I got mine direct from NECA as they made some available online a little over a week ago (he thankfully shipped a lot quicker than Mondo and Muckman), but he appears to be arriving in large numbers at stores right now. This line is getting easier to obtain as I’ve seen Mondo and Muckman with some degree of frequency, so hopefully Chrome Dome is the same. He is the type of release though that could entice casuals because he is just so neat looking, so if you want him for your collection I would suggest not sleeping on it.


NECA Turtles in Time Baxter Stockman

“Big Apple, 3 AM”

When NECA finally received access to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license to release product at retail, the company decided to focus on three pillars: cartoon, movie, video game. The cartoon product, being the most sought after, was exclusively sold at Target stores in the United States. The movie line, probably nearly as desirable as the cartoon, but not as deep, was to be sold exclusively at GameStop and has since been moved to Walmart. The third pillar, and probably the least desirable, was the video game brand. Those figures were to be sold across various comic and specialty shops. Basically, anyone who sells collector-grade action figures can place an order for these. Which, incidentally, made it possible for a retailer like GameStop to at one point sell both movie and game figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The design of the original cabinet was so bizarre. This odd Baxter fits right in that.

The video game line was always going to be the lease desirable because it’s the most gimmicky. All of the figures feature a pixelized deco to create the illusion that they came out of a video game. Only, this sort of thing is basically impossible to properly replicate since pixels, by their nature, are arranged in a very strict fashion and any three-dimensional object that can bend and move in the third dimension is going to break those rules. It also was a line designed primarily for repaints and re-releases. The turtles themselves had been originally released as a comic con exclusive already along with Shredder and the Foot. They were based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, but NECA’s line for retail was to be based on Turtles in Time. Still, the turtles didn’t change enough from one game to the next to warrant new sculpting, so instead the pixel deco was modified slightly and each figure came bundled with a surf/hover board based on the bonus level Sewer Surfin’. As for the rest, well most could just be repaints of the cartoon line or re-releases with slight modification. Shredder, for example, had his shoulder pauldrons adjusted while Slash received a new head to differentiate him from his toon counterpart. And since these were priced under the usual NECA Ultimates price point, they tended to just come with a few extra hands and a weapon or two.

It seemed like that was all the line would be. NECA also expressed interest in winding it down in favor of a new line based on the original Mirage Studios source material, even though there were still a few boss characters missing. NECA didn’t want the line to just fizzle out though, so it decided to do a couple of special releases. One is a two-pack of Bebop and Rocksteady which is due any day now, while the other was the line’s first Ultimates release: Baxter Stockman.

The video game version of the character always struck me as a great deal more creepy than the cartoon one.

Baxter, like many characters from the game and this line, have a cartoon counterpart. NECA released Baxter alongside Splinter in early 2021 so NECA double-dipping with a game repaint was not a surprise. The only thing was, it didn’t make a ton of sense. Baxter in the cartoon is a diminutive, mutant, fly. He’s a pip-squeak. In the video game though he’s pretty beefy. Maybe because he’s a boss Konami felt he needed some presence because he’s as big as the turtles, if not a little bigger. He also looks just a little different. His head is a bit more grotesque and he has this one, ugly, tooth that makes him look like an old man. NECA could have just faked it and did Baxter up in a different color scheme and called it a day, but most probably would have called them out on it.

Two different interpretations of the same character. I do love how that toon one turned out.

Rather than make Baxter a lesser release, NECA did the opposite. They upped the price to an Ultimates tier which gave the company the freedom to do a new sculpt. Now, some of his parts are probably sourced from other, non-Baxter, figures, but some is also unique. He also got his own, unique, packaging in the Ultimates styled box with the fifth panel for product shots and artwork (and the front of the box is basically NECA’s interpretation of Baxter in the same style as the turtles were presented on the original arcade cabinet). It also meant more accessories! Baxter comes with the usual assortment of extra hands, but he also has two guns, a flight stand, and an effects piece with a stand of its own! It’s quite the package, and it’s nice seeing NECA sink a little extra love into the video game line.

Thank goodness his union kept their dental plan.

Baxter stands at around six and a quarter inches, making him nearly two inches taller than his cartoon version. He has shaggy, red-orange hair, and bulbous pink eyes and a hideous grin. He has a purple sweater vest and red bowtie to go along with some tattered, white, dress sleeves and blue pants. It’s tough to get a good look at a sprite in a 16-bit video game, but this looks pretty consistent with the arcade game. His flesh is a fuchsia or hot pink which also includes those extra arms on his back. The wings are just lightly sculpted and feature a powdery, pink finish, that are ever so slightly transparent, but functionally not. The pixel paint job seems less intense than some of the other figures released. It’s mostly on the front of his vest and sides of his pants while the gray shading on his sleeves is given a boxy edge. They really didn’t attempt anything on the head, save for the diamond pupils in his eyes, nor is there any on his wings or extra appendages. I think it looks fine and I prefer the pixel effect to be underplayed as opposed to overplayed, and the paint application in general is quite clean. In terms of parts sharing with the cartoon Baxter, I can’t see any. I thought they might have the same pincer arms, but those are different as well. The hands, feet, arms, torso, even the bowtie are all different. He probably shares legs and arms with Vernon from the toon line, and whatever is under the sweater vest as well, but this guy is largely unique.

He’s trying to look tough, but he really could use some more meat on his bones.

All of the ingredients are there for Baxter to be a visual splendor, but I do think he has one obvious flaw. He’s just not chunky enough. The character model in the game was about as tall as the turtles, but noticeably thicker. This Baxter has the height, but he’s pretty thin. I’m sure some of this perception is magnified by the fact that he’s kind of hunched over in the game and squat. Even if I try to scrunch him up though the effect still isn’t achieved. Is it a deal-breaker? Well, almost. I really waffled on this release for a bit as I liked it, but just didn’t think it was a terrific likeness of the video game art. I really only gave in because of availability and my own desire to just get a new toy. Plus, even with the likeness issue, it looked like a fun toy because of all of the stuff. Anybody interested in this figure will just have to decide for themselves if the likeness is good enough or not. I think NECA brings it on themselves here since a lot of their toon figures look like they stepped right out of the television so that’s a standard we’ve come to expect for their TMNT figures, whether they’re based on a cartoon, movie, or video game.

Baxter, I told you not to try to swallow a fistful of sugar cubes.

In the game, Baxter attacks from the air and land so such a character needs to be able to achieve a variety of poses and this Baxter is more than up to the task. He’s pretty loaded when it comes to articulation. His head sits on a ball-peg and has some solid functionality there made even better by the fact that his head sits on a rather large neck with a hinge at the base. This does help him achieve that stooped look he has in the game when on his feet, and if in the air, he’s able to look down at his target just fine. At the shoulders, he has the usual ball-hinges and they have a terrific tolerance for moving around and out to the side. For this guy, NECA used their slightly unusual double-elbows that the cartoon Baxter had. When these elbows are used on a sleeveless character like the movie Casey Jones they look really bizarre, but on a character in a dress shirt like Baxter they look fine. He can bend well past 90 and the arms swivel above the elbow as well. And since you can point that hinge wherever you need it, Baxter can basically bend almost as well as a character with a butterfly joint at the shoulder. He can reach across his chest, achieve two-handed, gun holding positions, or even choke himself! At the wrists, he can rotate and hinge, but all of his hands have in-out, horizontal, hinges which is unfortunate as vertical ones are better for handguns. He has some articulation under his shirt, but it’s not particularly functional as the shirt doesn’t feature a cut anywhere. He can crunch forward slightly, but mostly his waist is available to swivel. At the hips he has ball-joints underneath one of those soft, “diaper,” pieces. I’m happy to report that the diaper appears structurally sound with no cracking or flaking present on mine, though the hips are too loose for my liking. He does have a slight thigh twist there and the standard double-knees. On the rear of the figure, his wings and pincher limbs are the same as cartoon Baxter. They swivel and hinge where they meet the body, but there’s no “elbow” or pinching articulation which is kind of a bummer. Lastly, he has a hinged jaw which I always love on NECA’s figures. They just add so much personality without hindering the sculpt and with Baxter the same is true.

He didn’t like my mocking his toughness earlier, so now he’s got a gun.
Make that two guns.

Baxter’s articulation is pretty impressive. The pincher limbs lacking a little more is basically a nitpick. My only real criticism rests with the loose hips. I’m able to get Baxter to stand, but sometimes the legs kick out to the side and he tumbles over. It’s less an issue with this figure than it was with the frogs because he’s made for a flight stand, but he should still be able to stand on his own without fear of falling. He can definitely achieve basically any pose from the game, be it standing, hovering, or even his damage pose. Beyond that, he can achieve any sort of flying pose you could want. He has no problems lifting his head and looking straight-ahead when flying parallel with the ground. And since virtually none of his joints came stuck and his joints are all cast in the proper colored plastic, he’s really a joy to mess around with. I said the likeness gave me pause, but I’m happy to say my assumption that this guy would be fun was definitely the correct one to make.

Sorry Leo, you’re the sacrificial lamb today.
This is fun, but damn, does it require a lot of space. The surface of my deep freezer is definitely not a permanent solution.

And Baxter is made fun because he has a nice assortment of accessories. In terms of optional hands, he has three sets: fists, open, and trigger/gripping hands. For weapons, he has two guns: a submachine gun, and a revolver. These are taken from the game as the boss fight begins with Baxter wielding the machine gun and then he loses it and switches to the revolver-styled weapon. Of course, that one doesn’t fire bullets, but a gigantic hand thing. When flying, it comes out like a yellow, goopy, slap while on the ground it would form into a fist. NECA provided this hand effect weapon, though it doesn’t match the game. Rather than use a slap or fist, they went with a grabby hand as they likely felt that would work better with the turtle figures. I do wish they had included a fist part to swap as the hand can swivel and probably separate there, but I’m mostly fine with this artistic license the company took. It pegs in rather snugly to either gun, so if you want the machinegun to fire the hand it can. The guns and hand have the same pixel deco as the figure and look fine. NECA also did what they should have done with the toon Baxter and tossed in a flight stand. It’s similar to the one they sell at retail and it’s functional. It’s not my favorite flight stand, but it works. This one has an added hinge which make it better than the retail version so maybe they plan on replacing it with this new model. There’s also a second stand for the hand effect since it’s pretty hefty. It just clips onto the “body” of the effect and helps to keep it suspended in the air. It works for straight-on poses and for angled, flying, poses. The only thing that sucks is the hand is so heavy it doesn’t work great when it’s actually clipped onto a turtle. That makes it even heavier so you have to account for that somehow in how the turtle is positioned, but it’s also so high off the surface that it makes it hard to do that. You almost need a third stand for the victim. It can be finagled, and the accessory is still fun and welcomed, but it can get frustrating trying to achieve the “perfect” pose.

The added functionality to the stand plus Baxter’s excellent head/neck articulation means he can achieve a variety of flying poses.

The Turtles in Time Baxter Stockman is a figure that looks great, even though it doesn’t perfectly match the source material, that’s also a lot of fun to pose. NECA put the effort into this release to make sure it came with everything it needed and the results speak for themselves. I was very close to passing on this one, but I’m glad I changed my mind. Now, my only regret is not having the actual video game turtles to pose with him. I should have them eventually, but for now I basically have a collection of gaming villains ganging up on one electrified turtle. I don’t know which turtle that is, but it sure sucks to be him. As for Baxter, the only other downside is trying to decide how to pose him. I like the two-handed weapon pose, but the hand effect is too fun not to use. On the other hand, pun intended, utilizing that attachment means dedicating some serious shelf space to this one figure as the hand is about seven inches long, not including the gun it has to peg into. These are good problems to have though and I’m very happy with my purchase. Baxter Stockman ended up being a worthy first video game Ultimates release for TMNT and now he’s got me hoping that he won’t be the last!

That poor, poor, turtle.

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