Tag Archives: teenage mutant ninja turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Last Ronin

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

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

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

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

Things get pretty heavy for our nameless friend.

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

And things get bloody too.

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

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

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

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


NECA Quarter Scale TMNT Toon Raph

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

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

Raph and all of his bigness.

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

This is an action figure that comes with instructions!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Bebop

He don’t get mad, he gets stabby!

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a tight fit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rad Plastic

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

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

Ready to feel nostalgic?

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

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

This book will tell you how action figures are made.

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

Mikey in blue?! Blasphemy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Super7 TMNT Ultimates! Leonardo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Careful there, buddy.

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

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

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

If you prefer a more vintage look.

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

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


TMNT Loot Crate #3 – The Cartoon One!

It’s finally here!

When the second of 3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed Loot Crates arrived in December it had me thinking that #3 was pretty far off. To my surprise though, the gap between #2 and #3 ended up being less than what was initially forecast had the release schedule held true. And that’s great because the third and final crate in this series was the one I was looking forward to the most because it’s the cartoon themed crate. Crate #1 had a Mirage Studios theme while #2 had a video game theme (there was also a one-off crate before the first one that was movie themed), but Loot Crate chose to save the most anticipated crate for last.

And it’s a big crate!

The cartoon crate, which is based on the original 1987 cartoon series, was probably always going to be the most popular because it’s the cartoon that folks seem to have the most attachment to from a nostalgia point of view. That doesn’t mean it was destined to be the best though. For me, it was my most anticipated because I was in love with the exclusive NECA figure included: Bunny Rocksteady. And if you prepaid for all three crates from the start, you got a bonus figure: Bunny Bebop. At the time, we actually only knew about Bebop who was teased with a silhouette image while we knew Rocksteady would be the figure in the actual crate. It made sense that it too was Rocksteady in an Easter Bunny costume as seen briefly in an episode of the cartoon. It’s just the sort of goofy variant that I enjoy. While a repaint of the Mirage Shredder for crate one was pretty bad ass, it was the bunny boys that sold me on the entire crate subscription.

My view upon opening the crate.

Since this is Loot Crate, the figures are not the only thing featured. We’ll save those for last, but first let’s talk about what else is included. These things, in my opinion, are largely just junk. The stuff isn’t cheaply made or anything, it’s just not practical, for the most part. There’s always a shirt, which is fine, but then an assortment of things like pins and keychains. If you like that stuff, great, I personally do not desire it. Still, Loot Crate has surprised a bit by including a decent tumbler in the first crate and by including the fun television accessory in the second crate, so what’s crate #3 have in store for us?

Oh boy, a coffee mug!

First of all, this crate is huge. It’s much bigger than the other two and I assume that’s mostly due to the fact that it has two figures in it instead of one. It has a sticker on it featuring Bebop and Rocksteady as Easter Eggs. For those who are only getting Rocksteady, I don’t know if they got a smaller crate with a different sticker or if they got the same. As mentioned before, it’s cartoon themed and also apparently Channel 6 themed as well. This is similar to the first crate where a lot of the stuff had a TCRI theme and that logo was repurposed throughout. For this one, Channel 6 appears in three places: in the window box for the bunnies, on a trucker hat, and on a mug. The mug comes in its own box which features the Chanel 6 logo and the same artwork of April we saw on the two-pack release of her figure. It’s kind of an ugly April, but the box for the mug has the same Turtle Van coloring the figures come in along with the Channel 6 blue, white, and red logo. My box was pretty beat up which is unfortunate because I want to display this in-box since my house is full of coffee mugs. The mug itself is your standard mug with the Channel 6 logo. It’s not bad, but I feel like every house has a surplus of mugs and there are better TMNT mugs out there anyway.

For anyone who wants to cosplay as a Channel 6 cameraman.

The Channel 6 trucker hat is pretty basic. It’s just a snapback with the Channel 6 logo on the front. The logo is clean and attractive, but like the mug, I have a ton of baseball hats so I’m probably never going to wear this. I’ve placed it on top of my glass cabinet which contains some of my action figure collection for the time being.

This mug is fine, but it has virtually no chance of unseating my Donald Duck mug pictured in the background.

We also get some pins (you can see them in the first pic of the open crate)! These have been in every crate and this one comes with two pins on the same backboard. One features the baghead of a Crooked Ninja Turtle gang member and it’s kind of funny. The other is the somewhat forgotten mutated form of one of Bebop and Rocksteady’s cohorts, Scrag. He’s the sunglasses wearing, mutant, bat, punk, from the second or third episode of the series. He and the other punks are only shown once on a monitor and never seen again.

A pretty cool Shredder, not consistent with the theme, but cool nonetheless.

Next up, we have a notebook and sticker sheet. The notebook seems pretty thin and small, but it does feature some cool artwork of Shredder on the cover by artist Freddie Williams III. It’s not a depiction of Shredder from the show, but his interpretation of the character. The sticker sheet features a bunch of wanted posters of various gangsters from the show: Don Turtelli, Big Louie, Mr. Big, Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and human Scrag. These might be fun to incorporate into the cartoon diorama whenever it releases, but at the end of the day, they’re just stickers.

Stickers…cool.
Arrived in time for the figure, so you can match!

Lastly, we have the shirt. I was kind of hoping for another long sleeve shirt, but we get a t-shirt. It’s a yellow Mondo Gecko shirt and it’s designed to just look like Mondo Gecko’s actual t-shirt from the show which was basically the same as the one worn by the vintage Playmates action figure. It’s cool, and I like that they didn’t just put some TMNT licensing art or whatever from the cartoon on a shirt and did something unique.

It’s been a long wait, but it’s finally over!

All right, let’s get to the bunnies! These guys arrived in the same crate, but packaged in their own window box which largely resembles the packaging for the two-packs sold at Target. The backdrop this time is an exterior shot of Channel 6 and there’s product shots on the sides. On the back is a huge cross-sell that would have been up-to-date had it dropped in November (as originally intended), but is now missing the recent Rat King vs Vernon set. Bebop and Rocksteady are essentially the same figure with a different head. This isn’t at all surprising given the costumes they’re sporting and also because their regular release in NECA’s cartoon line was essentially the same figure just with different stuff layered over it. For this release, NECA redid the shoulders to include that tuft of fur on each and also redid the feet so they have oversized, rabbit, feet. The legs are recycled from Leatherhead as he had a smoother sculpt compared with the original Bebop and Rocksteady. The grooves in the wrists where their bracelets were previously have also been filled with white plugs. It’s noticeable up close, but I wouldn’t call it an eyesore. The main torso has been outfitted with a soft, plastic, overlay to simulate the rabbit costume and a cowl has been attached to each head. You could probably get this cowl off if you wanted to, but it’s glued on and who knows what would be left behind. The back of the head has been painted to match the cowl and it’s even possible the sculpts were cut to better fit the cowl. I doubt, for example, Bebop has his mohawk and ponytail. Plus, there’s already an uncovered head with each of the regular figures so why bother?

I love that cross-sell. I wish they would do this on all of their releases rather than just include the four most recent releases.

If you saw my NECA rankings a few weeks ago, then you know I love the Bebop and Rocksteady figures that NECA put out. Much of that love is for the overall aesthetics of those figures because they look ripped from the cartoon. It’s not necessarily for the engineering. Unfortunately, these figures are the same in terms of engineering so prepare yourself for some stuck joints. It’s probably exacerbated by the face that it’s pretty damn cold out too so my boys arrived feeling quite frosty. Considering these are limited release figures, you will want to be extra cautious. If you can stand to do it, maybe even let them just hang out for a day at room temperature before opening. If any joint though is even the slightest bit stuck, take it to a heat source. Be it a heat gun, hairdryer, or simple hot water – it helps. And if you’re like me, you might just do that anyway before attempting to really move anything because cold plastic can snap with little warning. And if these guys snap or break in any way, there’s no guarantee that Loot Crate will be able to replace it. My Bebop also came with a partially broken nose ring. It’s cracked, but not quite all the way through, but cracked enough that there’s a gap. If I could match the paint I could possibly seal it with paint. It’s a bummer, but not a big enough issue for me to seek a replacement or anything, and I doubt one would be available if I did. As long as I don’t mess with it I think it will be fine, but it just makes me a little more nervous about falls so these guys are going on the bottom shelf of my cabinet, for now.

This makes me happy.
Look at those adorable little tails!

When you do get these guys all loosened up, you’ll find their articulation is okay, but maybe not great. The head is on a ball peg and can rotate a bit, but the cowl is going to impede movement. They can’t really look up or down much as a result, but they still have articulated jaws and Bebop’s eyeglasses can flip up to reveal the horror beneath. The shoulders are on ball-hinges and will probably be quite tight. The elbows are double-jointed and the hands just peg in so they rotate and have hinges. There is torso articulation in the diaphragm, at least I assume there is because there was with the original figures. It’s rendered moot because of the way NECA did the costume. They didn’t want to create a new torso, so they made a soft, plastic, shirt of sorts that covers the joint. The hips though are the worst part because these were strangely engineered from the start. They’re a mix of a peg and disc system with ratcheted edges. This makes them hard to work with and also really limited. The figures that came after these boys that used the same base switched to a double-barbell system and it’s bizarre to see that wasn’t carried forward here. The knees though are double-jointed and the feet might be on balls now, but they hinge and rock fairly well.

The busted nose ring makes me sad.
Ok, now I’m happy again!

What it comes down to, is we have two figures that aren’t particularly dynamic, but are certainly far from being statues. What’s important to me is the aesthetic of this ridiculous bunny costume which the articulation doesn’t interfere with. They’re meant to just sort of hang out and look silly, or maybe pose with a gun to emulate what was seen in the actual show. I do wish they used the updated hips and I also wish they had just re-painted the torso so we still had a functional diaphragm joint. That probably would have required at least one, new, sculpted piece if NECA wanted their bellies to protrude like they do here as the base abdomen was absent a potbelly. It’s obvious that the cost of one of these crate figures needs to be under the standard release, so it’s not a surprise, but I can still be a little disappointed by it. What they did do well was paint these guys and match the hinges to the proper base color. Rocksteady, in particular, seems to have denser line work on his face when compared with the first release and he really stands out. I should also note they’re a little bigger than before since they’re using Leatherhead’s legs. I have Bebop at close to seven and a half inches with Rocksteady at an even seven. Once you factor in the ears they creep over eight inches. And I love that their cowls are unique to each and Rocksteady has a bent ear like he did in the show. Both also have little, pink, bunny tails on the rear and overall NECA just nailed the look with hilarious results.

A close-up shot of the accessories.
I prefer guns to the remotes.

What’s an Easter Bunny without a basket? NECA certainly felt it was necessary to include such as each figure comes with a basket full of eggs. It’s the same accessory, but painted different to distinguish the two. I like Bebop’s a little more as his eggs are more colorful, but it’s a sharp, little, accessory. They also come with this remote-like device that Krang outfitted them with. I think it hypnotized people or something, but it basically just looks like an old school TV remote. It’s a tiny piece of plastic that likely didn’t cost much and it’s cool to have. They also come with the same array of hands as before. Each comes with fists in the box, plus a right trigger finger hand, a left gripping hand, and a set of open, stylized, hands. The open hands feature additional pink paint on the palms which is a nice touch. They can hold their baskets with either the open hands or the gripping hands and both gripping hands are suitable for the little remote. Chances are though, you have some extra rifles laying around you can outfit the pair with. I have them with the Triceraton guns for now, but I might switch them to the laser rifle which is a better match for what they were wielding in the cartoon.

Let’s bring in the old figures. You can really see the change in height here.

In the end, this Loot Crate is a lot like the others, which is to say it’s dependent on the action figures contained within. The shirt is something I will wear and I may have a use for the stickers since I did order a cartoon diorama for my display, but other than that I don’t expect to use anything in the crate. The figures though are awesome and the fact that the bonus figure was integrated into this crate makes it an easy pick for best crate in the series. I signed up for the Loot Crate subscription based on that one, single, silhouette, of bunny Bebop and I have not been let down. I very much enjoyed the Shredder as well, and the Shell Shock turtle is at least unique, even if it’s not something I probably would have bought at retail. These two I definitely would have purchased as a two-pack at Target or wherever. NECA’s approach with these figures is to make them fun, but not essential, but for me a goofy variant like this is damn near essential. It harkens back to the days of fun Playmates variants, only this pair actually appeared in the cartoon and wasn’t just made up to sell a toy or promote the invasion of Iraq, or something weird. Hopefully everyone who wanted these guys placed an order, because the after market is the only place to get them now and it’s going to cost you.

“Hey Boss, we brought you some colored eggs!” “I’m surrounded by idiots…”

This concludes the Loot Crate subscription for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but another is surely on the way. When will it be announced? Probably fairly soon. I think this one was announced in early spring 2020, so the next could come around then too. Based on an interview with NECA’s Trevor Zammit via the Fwooshcast on YouTube, it sounds like a batch of four with the same or similar theming is on the way so that means movie, comic, video game, and cartoon. It could change, but that seems like a safe bet. And my mind is already trying to imagine what figures will be included with those crates. It will likely be awhile before we know, but my overall experience with this series was a positive one so I will certainly sign-up again when the time comes.


NECA TMNT Cartoon Rat King vs Vernon

This might not be the mismatch you think it is.

When I last reviewed a NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles two-pack it was the Splinter vs Baxter Stockman set and I referred to it as potentially the last essential set for some. The key word there being “some” as I am not “some” and didn’t consider myself “some” when I wrote that, for there are more essential characters from the venerable cartoon as far as I am concerned. And the list of those remaining starts with the Rat King!

These two come packaged in the same window box we’re used to at this point. We’ve got character likenesses on the front which aren’t from the show, but are probably from the licensing art that Viacom has for the show. Rat King’s likeness looks pretty good though, and Vernon looks fine though it draws attention to the fact that he’s a cowardly sort, but his figure doesn’t depict that. NECA opted for something else which I think most will enjoy more, though. The rear features a cross-sell which just displays previously released figures so if you were hoping for a tease of what’s next you’ll be mistaken. And not to get ahead of myself, but I actually don’t know what’s next. It could be the deluxe Muckman, Mondo Gecko and Kerma, or our first punk frog two-pack. Time will tell.

Hey Vernon, the viewfinder is on the other side of the camera, buddy.

Rat King was cool, to put it simply. Some weird dude living in the sewer with a bunch of rats who has a unique look and speaks with this lethal sounding whisper. That patchwork costume, the double-wrapped face, he was creepy which made him a lot of fun on that old show because I was never creeped out by Shredder, Krang, or really any other villain. Most of that show was full of comic relief types, but Rat King had a different aura about him. He was a bit mysterious and his motives less defined than someone like Shredder. He wasn’t in a ton of episodes, but certainly enough to be memorable.

Look at that smug asshole.

And then we have Vernon. Oh, Vernon, the character you love to hate. Or maybe just hate – I don’t know. He was April’s co-worker and was sometimes behind the camera for on location shooting, but I feel like mostly he was just hanging around the Channel 6 headquarters acting like a dick. He was always telling April she was doing something wrong or going about something in the wrong way. At times he was portrayed like a rival, but mostly he was just a dick, and a cowardly one at that. Because he’s not a real villain or anyone that gets into fights on the regular, some may question the need for a Vernon. For me, he was a character that had a presence on the show, and he was in far more episodes than your garden variety villain. He is essential, for a different reason than someone like Rat King, but essential nonetheless. As is Irma, whom I suspect is not too far off.

Now Rat King vs Vernon? That does seem like a bizarre way to sell a two-pack of action figures on the surface. Mostly though, ignore the presence of the word “versus” and it starts to make sense and certainly the extra accessories for Vernon bring that home. There was an episode of the cartoon where both Irma and Vernon were exposed to mutagen via Rat King which caused the two to mutate. Vernon, a character who really only needs a camera and maybe some extra hands, in his mutated rat form is pretty interesting and since it was only his head and forearms that mutated, it was also really easy to work into this two pack.

“April!”
Get behind the camera, Vernon!

Vernon comes in right around the 6″ mark, actually a little over, and is featured in his classic attire of pink shirt, blue tie, and blue jeans. There’s even that little case on his belt which has an unknown purpose. Today, it makes me think of a cell phone case, but no cell phone in 1988 is going to fit in there. He sports a happy, yet cocky, expression that conveys his dickishness quite well. He comes packaged with gripping hands, but he also comes with these open, expressive, hands and a pointing, right, hand. His main accessory is a big ole Channel 6 camcorder with a big display on the rear. It’s much larger than the handheld that came with April as Vernon’s is the shoulder mounted style. The handle is articulated and can fold up so it looks appropriate when Vernon carries it by the top handle when he’s not shooting. You can kind of finagle it onto his shoulder too with his eye near enough the viewfinder and overall it’s a nice accessory.

“Oh please, sir, let me go!”
“No! What’s happening?!”

The best accessories though are definitely those were-rat pieces. Vernon’s arms detach at the forearm where they’re held on by pegs. His rolled up sleeves are a separate piece of plastic that fit over those pegs and can slide off if you’re not paying attention when prying the arms off, so be careful. Otherwise, they come off easy enough and the were-rat forearms pop right on with minimal fuss. Vernon’s head detaches at the base of the neck which is a little trickier to get off, but not as difficult as I was expecting. Be sure to grab the neck and not the head or else you might just pop the head off by mistake. I’m pretty sure it’s on a ball-peg, so you’re not likely to damage it or anything, but once the head pops off once it may pop off again with less effort which will only make it harder to get the neck off. Getting the rat head on is tougher and you should probably just heat it up before even trying. Once on though it looks great, and Vernon gains some articulation at the jaw too. It’s so fun that I’m torn on how I want to display this guy. I have a little bit more room where my villains are so he’s going there for now, but I see myself swapping back to regular Vernon and pairing him with April down the road.

If I’m being honest, he’s only slightly more intimidating like this.
He’s like Splinter with sideburns.

Articulation wise, Vernon is pretty familiar. He’s very much similar to April, even though I think he’s mostly all new parts. If he shares any parts with another figure in this line, it’s not obvious. His head is on a ball peg and so is the base of his neck so he’s got great range in that area. The shoulders are ball-hinges and he has the same double-jointed elbows as April which utilize a second ball joint above the elbow for a swivel. It’s kind of funky, but on figures with rolled-up sleeves like this it works pretty well. He has a swivel in the forearm thanks to the pegged in joint there plus the usual swivel and hinge at the wrist. His wristwatch is glued on, unlike April’s, so you don’t have to worry about it flying off when swapping hands. There’s probably some articulation in the torso, but his shirt is a soft plastic over a body and it steals any articulation that would be found there. And you really don’t want to mess with the diaphragm anyway since it would put stress on the shirt and possibly cause some cracking. He does have a waist twist and ball-jointed thighs that swivel. He has this rubber, “diaper”, over the crotch for his pants that restricts some of the leg movement, but it’s not too bad considering this is Vernon. He’s still capable of wide stances and such. His knees are double-jointed and you’ve got hinges and rockers at the ankles. Pretty typical, but technically a little more than we’re used to thanks to the forearm swivel. There’s certainly enough and I think he’s capable of plenty of expressive poses, which are aided by the extra parts.

There he is!
You can see a little of the brown paint smudges on the upper, inner, thigh

All right, let’s talk Rat King! I’m pretty impressed by Vernon, more so than I would have ever expected I would be for a Vernon action figure, but my focus is on Rat King. And he looks fantastic. This is the cartoon version of Rat King that I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I never had the Playmates Rat King, even though I wanted him, and I think that has made my desire to have this one all the more enhanced. He looks great though as NECA really nailed the likeness. He’s got this cocky grin with wild eyes and the patchwork nature of his shirt and pants just looks terrific. Again, this guy is mostly new parts because all of the stitching is sculpted in and there just aren’t many human males in this line. It’s basically these two guys, Casey Jones, and Shredder. He stands at about six and a half inches, which feels right for this line. Some characters have been either too short or too tall, but Rat King seems like he’s right on the money.

If you’re going to call yourself Rat King then you definitely need some rats.

The only area where Rat King could have been better is in regards to the paint. The actual paint job is pretty terrific. NECA also cast the hinges in the proper colors so when the paint flakes on those joints it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore. And it’s actually pretty clean, actually impressively so, considering all of the linework on this guy. It’s really just that diaper piece where things aren’t great. Before I even moved him out of the box I noticed paint rub on the back of his legs and inner thigh. It’s on the back of the figure so that’s obviously better than the front, but I have a feeling paint is going to rub off of that rubber crotch piece pretty easily so go easy on the thigh joints. I’ve also seen some people end up with cracking paint on that piece and when it flakes off it leaves behind a flesh color. Now Rat King basically wears rags so it’s probably not the eyesore it would be with another figure to see skin poking through, but I don’t know why they didn’t cast that piece in green to match the paint better. And it’s going to be an eyesore if you end up with a cracking crotch piece.

Bomb’s away!

We might as well talk articulation since it plays into that issue just discussed. Rat King’s head is hunched forward and on a ball-peg so it has the usual range of motion, but the hunch restricts it a touch. He’s got shoulder-hinges and biceps swivels and the stitching pattern goes all through both pieces so it still looks good in almost any position. He has double elbows and the hands rotate and have a hinge on them. He has a diaphragm cut that gives him some fun motion in the torso, though he has these straps going over his body which are a separate piece that you want to be mindful of. I don’t think he has a waist swivel. It didn’t turn and I don’t want to mess up those straps, so I’m going to assume it’s not there. His thighs are ball-jointed and, like I said, you’ll want to treat them gently. That diaper is going to limit how far his legs can move, even more so than Vernon because he’s thinner than Rat King, but my advice is only move him as far as that diaper wants you to and not beyond. There’s give there, and it will move, but you might not like the result. The knees are double-jointed and you’ve got hinges and rockers at the ankles. His articulation is fine. It could be better, and since they already had to sculpt so much new for this guy I wish they just sculpted a new crotch piece so they didn’t need that soft diaper, but he’s okay.

This has got to be Rat King’s ultimate fantasy right here.

For a figure with a lot of new sculpting, it’s actually surprising to see the amount of accessories that are included. For starters, Rat King comes with two, open, stylized hands in the box. He has a set of gripping hands he can swap to and a pointing, right, hand. He also has rats! He kind of needs them and he gets his own rather than sharing a rat with Splinter or something. They’re fun too as NECA gave two of them a curling tail so you can place them on the figure without the need to have peg holes. One fits very well on his shoulder, another can go around a bicep or leg and the third can go on his head or in his hand or something. If you place him on a shelf it’s then pretty easy to just place the rats right on him with little frustration. Rat King comes with his hypnotic flute that fits into his left gripping hand pretty well, less so the right one. He’s also got a bandolier that his soda can grenades fit into. He has two red ones and one blue one and it’s easy to slip over his head and the cans pop in and out easily. The cans also fit into his open hands well and look pretty cool. Lastly, he’s got the same gray cannister of mutagen the rock soldiers came with. He doesn’t need this, but I guess it’s good to have more? – EDIT: It’s actually not the same gray canister that came with Traag and Granitor, it just looks like it. This one can actually separate and there’s some pink ooze inside, so that’s pretty cool. And sneaky.

Here’s some size comparisons for you. Rat King with a turtle and one of the tallest figures in the line, Captain Zarax.
Here’s our dear rat boy with the same.

If it’s not obvious, I’m pretty much over the moon with this set. Both figures turned out well and they’re different from each other and from everything that’s come before so it just adds a little more excitement to the mix. They’re fun to pose with different characters. They can be with the Turtles, Splinter, April, or other bad guys. Vernon as a rat is really dynamic for posing opportunities and placement in a display. I really was tempted to buy two, and if Vernon had been packaged with Irma and she had rat parts too then I probably would have. I didn’t want or need two Rat Kings though, plus I don’t want to hog two sets for myself when they’re still hard to get. And that’s the last negative of the set, these are once again Target exclusives. We saw tremendous volume with Krang and the Splinter vs Baxter set because Target ordered direct from NECA to distribute on their own, rather than via NECA’s independent rep relationship. This set is back to that model so as a collector we’re back to stalking the stores when we know the local rep hits and hope for the best. I got lucky that someone on Twitter who follows me alerted me that the store near my house was just stocked late last Friday and I hauled ass to get there and get a set. If you don’t want to go to a store in the midst of a pandemic, I do not blame you one bit. An online drop at target.com is expected sometime this week which is why I’ve fast-tracked this review so I can get you that information! There is a placeholder page on Target’s website right now (search for NECA Rat King and make sure you select “include out of stock” in the filter to bring it up) and if you have the app you should go to it and turn on notifications. Sometimes those notifications work perfectly, sometimes they don’t, but it’s better than being left in the dark. Good luck out there and don’t feed the scalpers!

Run, girl!

Let’s Rank the NECA Cartoon TMNT Figures!

The collection swells!

So I swear I do not want this to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy blog. It’s definitely looked like one ever since Christmas ended though and that’s partly because of new releases and some technical difficulties. I have some posts I’m working on, but they’re not ready to go up yet and it’s a situation where it’s out of my control. However, this is a post I have wanted to do for awhile and it’s just been a matter of when to do it. In the review of the most recent release, Splinter vs Baxter set, I mentioned that particular set was the end of the essential figures for some folks. Not me, as I’m sticking with this line for awhile, but it was a sentiment I’ve seen expressed online more than once within the collecting community.

Given that, it’s a perfect time to take stock of where we are with the line. And specifically, what characters have been done well and which may have been underserved. I will say upfront that this line has largely been very good. Ignoring complaints about scarcity and scalpers, this line has delivered a great assortment of characters from the classic cartoon series and will be the measuring stick going forward for a lot of TMNT related releases. The old Playmates line of action figures was great, but most of the characters did not resemble their cartoon counterpart and that’s a void NECA has filled. And I have liked every figure so far, just some more than others. Despite what you may read online, a NECA figure is also not destined to fall apart in your hands. By all means, if you have bad experiences with NECA toys your opinion is valid, I just feel the need to point out that I own a lot of NECA product at this point and I have yet to have anything break. I have had one quality control issue so far and it was with the cartoon Slash who arrived with a detached strap on his backpack, something easily fixed with a dab of superglue. That doesn’t mean I don’t think NECA has room for improvement, but my overall experience has been very positive.

With that said, let’s move on to the rankings! I’ll link to my individual review and write-up where appropriate (but only once, so I don’t have four different links going to the same thing) if you want to read more of my thoughts as what is presented below will be a summary. And in some cases, my opinion may be slightly different than what it was originally since we’re going back a few years at this point. Let’s get started though with what is probably the consensus worst figure in the line:

She doesn’t look great, but at least she comes with a bunch of stuff!

April O’Neil – April is an essential character to the cartoon and I think fans and NECA are in agreement there, but for whatever reason, NECA just didn’t get her right. Depending on who you ask, either her head is too big or her body is too small. It doesn’t really matter which is the true issue (it’s the body) as in the end we have a miss-matched figure that looks pretty goofy. Even absent that, her face just doesn’t really look like April. It’s very round and her expression is pretty blank. When I think of April I think of a fearless, cocky, go-getter reporter and that’s just not here. She isn’t terrible as the articulation is good and I like the paint app. She also has some great accessories. I’ll continue to hope for a redo on her though, maybe as a deluxe release with swappable parts referencing the times she was mutated on the show. I don’t expect that to happen, but a man can dream.

He’s not nothing without his body, but he’s definitely lesser.

Krang (Bubble Walker) – Krang was originally released as part of the San Diego Comic Con 8 – pack and then again as a two-pack with a turtle and once more as a two-pack with Shredder. For what he is, he’s fine and I like that this version of Krang really resembles the Season One depiction of the character. He is a little on the small side, but that wasn’t really apparent until the new version came out so I don’t consider that much of a strike against him. He’s mostly ranked here because he’s just limited by his design from the show. He’s just a brain with tentacles and his bubble walker doesn’t really do anything. The legs move, but they lack “knee” joints which is unfortunate. By far the coolest thing this figure did was have easily removable tentacles that could plug into the bubble walker, a much better way of doing things than what the classic toy did.

The Turtles (Style Guide Colors) – The brothers four saw themselves re-issued as part of the second wave and have the dubious honor of being the only figures on this list that I do not have (hence why there’s no link or pic). I just have no use for them. They’re the same figures from the SDCC set and Wave One, but painted a bright green to match the style guides put out for the property in the 80s and 90s. These were the colors utilized for notebooks, t-shirts, lunch boxes, etc. and because the property was so popular it’s this look that some people most associate with TMNT to this day. There was even enough demand for NECA to release them as two-packs (Leo and Don, Raph and Mikey) with a few extra paper goods thrown in for good measure. Again, I personally have no use for these, but acknowledge that some people probably get more out of them than I would.

These robots may not blow you away, but they sure do look pretty great for what they are.

Roadkill Rodney – Like Krang in his walker, Roadkill Rodney is a figure that’s just limited by its design from the show. It’s a robot with no arms or legs that rolls around Gizmoduck style and has extendable tentacles. NECA packed two of them in with the Triceraton Infantry figure in what was the line’s second army builder bundle. For what they are, these robots are cool and NECA nailed the likeness. The swappable parts, while unnecessarily challenging to make use of, look great and were a good idea. I like them enough that I bought a second set, this is just a figure that really had no chance to be one of the best in the line.

Foot Soldier/Bashed Foot/Slashed Foot – No line of TMNT action figures would be complete without the lowly Foot Ninja. NECA included two with the SDCC set and packed some in with Wave One turtles and as a two-pack, army builder, set in Wave Two. Wave Three then saw the introduction of the variants, bashed and slashed, and there’s actually a deluxe version still to come. This is a solid figure that really nails the likeness of the source material, it’s just hard to get too excited about a Foot Soldier. I do wish it had more articulation as this figure would really benefit from some torso articulation. The variants, of course, can’t have that, but the standard Foot would benefit greatly. The bashed variant is definitely the lesser one as it just has some exposed metal and circuitry inside it. The slashed variant is pretty great though and I love it for what it is. I wouldn’t mind a few more, though I doubt NECA would ever release a two-pack of slashed Foot and I don’t need more bashed ones.

He comes packing heat.

Triceraton Infantry – The Triceraton is best known from the original Playmates line, and the infantry ranked dino-alien is the one that resembles that figure the most. And that’s because it’s a big, orange, triceratops in an armored onesie. This figure is one of many to make use of the general body created for Bebop and Rocksteady, only it has Leatherhead’s tail with hands and feet to call its own. I do like how this guy turned out, and my main complaints were with some inaccuracies (the tail should be smooth, there are pants wrinkles because of the parts reuse) and the fact that this was an army builder not designed to be an army builder. A proper army builder should have some variety, but this figure has just one trigger hand and it only works well with the rocket launcher. The other guns, which resemble what Bebop and Rocksteady used in the show, work with the gripping hands and look kind of stupid without a trigger finger. I also wish he had an articulated jaw, something the other Triceratons possess. Still, on his own, this is a striking figure on the shelf and I liked it enough to buy two.

They’re here, but they don’t impress like their many rogues.

The Turtles – the Turtles have the somewhat dubious honor of being ranked in the back half of this list, despite being the stars of the show. They also have the added challenge of competition. Few companies have done a proper Shredder or Traag, but a lot of companies have taken stabs at doing figures of the Turtles. And these ones are showing their age. Originally released in NECA’s arcade set, the Turtles have been re-released a few times with little or no added engineering. Their articulation scheme is dated compared with the rest of the line, and they also stand out as many of the villains to follow feature a lot of paint given them a real matte finish while the Turtles are a bit glossy due to the presence of colored plastic. And I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that the general shape of these figures works better as a representation of the classic arcade game than it does for the cartoon. That said, while other companies may be able to boast that their Leonardo or Donatello is better than NECA’s, few can compete on price as these guys are basically $25 figures instead of twice that. And as we speak, NECA is prepping a release that’s a four pack of these figures with soft goods, new heads, and some re-tooled articulation. Maybe Raph will have better sais and the other boys holsters for their weapons (only Leo can accomplish that) to help move them up the ranks. For now, they’re fine, but there’s some obvious room for improvement here as well.

The only way to display this guy is with those blades!

Zarax – The Triceraton Captain who few remembered. He’s essentially the same as the Triceraton Infantry, only yellow and with different armor. He has an articulated jaw which works great and I love what such a thing can add to a display. He also has removable bracers for his wrists and can swap in some bladed ones which look pretty cool. Aside from that, his accessories are the same from the previous release and any faults that other figure had, this one does too. Only this figure does have different feet which unfortunately are plagued by NECA’s paint woes. The ankle hinge is painted to match the bootie this guy is wearing, but the paint will flake off almost immediately and the plastic underneath is flesh-colored (which in this case means yellow) and it looks bad. He’s not the first figure to suffer from this issue, just the most recent. Hopefully he’s the last.

I just prefer my dino aliens to be green.

Zork – Zork is the other Triceraton released with Zarax. I rank him ahead of Zarax because I just think he looks cooler. He’s green and has his own headsculpt which is a bit wider and spikier than the others. Any con is shared with Zarax, so I won’t repeat those. The pros are also the same, I just prefer green to yellow apparently.

Slash is here and he’s armed!

Slash – A lot of folks seem to hate on the cartoon version of Slash, but I for one enjoy him! Sure, the comic depiction that Playmates sourced from is cooler, but not every villain needs to look cool. Slash was a bit of a goof in the show, and NECA really nailed the likeness with the head-sculpt here. The body is recycled from the video game Slash, which was recycled from the other turtles only with spikes added to the shell and claws to the feet and hands. That does mean the articulation could be better, and Slash wears these half gloves that suffer from the painted hinges issue mentioned earlier, but the figure is able to bring it all home with an assortment of awesome accessories. He’s loaded with a pair of futuristic-looking guns, a pair of bad ass katanas, his precious binky, and an unmutated version of himself. And since his box mate has yet to appear on this list, you can basically infer that Slash has been part of one of the best two-packs so far. The only true criticism I have for this figure, and what keeps him from being higher, is just the reuse of the turtle body. Slash should be squatter, and chunkier, and reusing that mold did him a disservice. Not enough to truly disappoint, but it’s also something that comes to mind every time I look at the figure.

“I’m Casey Jones, and I’m here to fuck you up!”

Casey Jones – A fan favorite, Casey Jones has been there since the beginning. It’s no surprise that NECA turned to him relatively early and even felt he could anchor a two-pack all by himself since he was packed with one of the Foot variants. Casey comes equipped with an assortment of weapons he apparently acquired from a sporting goods store and a golf bag to store them in. He also has a bunch of extra hands and all in all looks really good. The only cons with this release is that this was the start of the painted hinge problem and it affects both his feet and his hands. And he’s also made of a really soft, bendy, plastic that gives the figure a cheap feel. His knees are prone to bowing as a result and he’s a more challenging figure to stand than most. Thankfully, most of the figures to follow have not been of this construction, though the paint issue will persist.

“I swear, I only want to talk to him.”

Granitor – Granitor had the distinction of being one of the earliest villains introduced in the show to never receive an action figure. NECA showed off a version of this figure a few years ago as part of its video game line, but it was before the cartoon was on the table for retail and it was apparently cancelled when the cartoon line took off. Granitor is a cool figure though who shares a lot of parts with his box-mate and fellow rock soldier, Traag. The only reason why I rank Traag ahead of Granitor is because I think Traag better reflects his cartoon appearance. Granitor has a lot of the parts in place like the pointy nose and big shoulders, but something is off. He probably should be taller and slimmer than Traag, and his head might actually benefit from being smaller. He looks good, but more so than the figures to come (and actually some that came before) NECA just didn’t quite nail the likeness. His rather lofty ranking is a testament to how fun he is to handle and the fact that he’s been missing in action since 1987.

“Tonight I dine on turtle soup!”

Shredder – This was the figure that really impressed in that initial SDCC 8-pack. Which means that for a little while this was the best figure in the line. Shredder has since been topped, but he’s still the definitive take on the cartoon version of the character. Like the Turtles, he was adapted from a previous arcade release, but unlike them it all works perfectly. He also gets a new headsculpt and NECA’s paint app on it looks great. Like the Foot, I do see opportunity for more articulation that could have been incorporated into his torso, but for the most part I have no complaints. He just looks a little dated now for the same reason the Turtles do as he has more colored plastic and less paint. Again, I’m not against colored plastic in place of paint (Bandai pretty much shuns paint and they put out great stuff), but it makes Shredder look more toy-like when positioned amongst the later figures which better capture that “ripped from the screen” look.

The disciplinarian has arrived.

Splinter – The most recently released two-pack brought us the first cartoon accurate Splinter. And once again, NECA really nailed the cartoon likeness. Splinter scales well with his surrogate sons, and I welcome the use of soft goods with the kimono. And more than anything, this guy has tons of accessories. Some no one asked for, but it’s still nice to have them. I didn’t have much to complain about when I reviewed him, and he’s ranked here because he’s just not as fun to mess around with as some other figures. Because of who he is, he lends himself better to simple poses as opposed to dynamic ones, but no one can deny that this is a rat that belongs on the shelf.

Traag is the general because he’s superior to Granitor in every way.

Traag – Krang’s general, Traag, got a figure in the old Playmates line, but it looked nothing like the character in the show. This was the first time we got a proper cartoon Traag and NECA knocked it out of the park. The only negatives with the figure is just the lack of accessories, but that’s because there’s so much plastic in the sculpt (and he was bundled with Granitor) that it likely prevented NECA from adding much else. He moves well though and has tremendous presence on a shelf. He’s basically the surprise sleeper of the line so far as I don’t know that many had Traag high up on their list of wants, but anyone who got him is probably pretty happy with him.

The only figure in this line capable of kicking some ass and then cleaning up the mess afterwards.

Metalhead – The first deluxe figure in the line, and thus the first solo release, was The Mighty Metalhead! And he’s awesome, a true cartoon-to-plastic creation that’s big and beefy with some fun parts. The more recently released Android Krang does make him appear a little less “deluxe” than he did before, but he was also cheaper. He was also a real pain in the ass to find last summer, but at least NECA put him up for order on their site leading to scores of people like me ending up with two by accident. Nonetheless, I’m not down on having two as he is a great figure. The only real negative is his articulation isn’t great due to the shape of his arms and such, but he also doesn’t need a ton and he’s perfectly capable of looking imposing on your shelf or tidying it up with his vacuum attachment.

“You’ll have to speak up, I’m wearing a towel.”

Krang (Android Body) – Bubble walker Krang is nice, but this is the Krang everyone wants. Krang in his weird body is a natural for NECA’s deluxe line. He snuck in just before 2020 ended and nearly stole the show. He’s big, he’s got a new Krang to go inside him, and he comes with a bunch of extra stuff. The only thing that stinks about him is that he has so much paint on him that he is prone to chipping and factory defects. He’s definitely the kind of figure you want to come across in-store in larger quantities so you have a chance to pick the best available. Thankfully, that’s what happened to me and I was able to find one with pretty terrific paint, but literally every other one I left on the shelf had some ugly smudge or chip somewhere. He’s a truly goofy looking figure, made more so if you slap that shower attire on him, but that’s TMNT!

Lets see you get out of this one, Leo.

Leatherhead – More so than any other figure, Leatherhead surprised me. I wasn’t really looking forward to him even though I like the character, but once I had him in hand I was pretty blown away. He looks awesome and he’s based on the Bebop/Rocksteady body so he’s big and moves well enough. NECA gave him an articulated jaw and also packed him with some fun accessories like his weird ketchup gun and shackles. I love this figure, and the only issue I had with him is the damn painted joints. The issue is just more pronounced with Leatherhead because his legs and boots are blue since he’s wearing hip waders, but for some reason they were cast in white plastic which really shows up in the ankles when the blue paint flakes away. Supposedly, there has been a running change with this figure that fixed it, but I haven’t seen evidence of that. I’ll be curious to see if it’s no longer a problem when NECA ships out its made-to-order Leatherhead/Slash sets next month. Despite that annoyance though, this is a great figure, just watch that hook on his belt which appears to be prone to popping off.

He’s about to say something stupid!

Rocksteady – The moronic duo of Bebop and Rocksteady were staples in the cartoon, and they were part of the first offering of figures from Playmates back in the day. They were, however, never toon accurate until NECA stepped in. Rocksteady, to put it plainly, looks perfect. He’s chunky, he’s got a gut, and his eyes capture that “dangerous but stupid” expression he seemed to always wear. When I lucked onto a set around Thanksgiving 2019, I had nothing to really complain about. He could have come with a helmet, but he rarely wore that so I don’t know if I would even use it. He’s probably a little oversized when compared with the Turtles, but he looks so good this way that I hesitate to really complain. This is the Rocksteady I wanted when I was a kid, and I’m really happy to have him now in my 30s.

Oh I do love this little fly boy!

Baxter – Old Baxter is a character I just have a soft spot for. I’ve always liked his design, and like with many figures in this line, I always wanted a cartoon accurate version of him for my collection. He’s tiny, but packed with articulation and, more importantly, personality and I find myself charmed more and more each day that passes with this guy in my possession. NECA gave him some great accessories and he’s one of the few figures I really don’t want more from. The only real criticism I had was the lack of articulation in his purple appendages, but it’s not a deal-breaker, by any means. Just a wonderful little figure that does what it needs to and more!

Trust me, this is not a mug only a mother can love.

Bebop – The mutated wart hog is my pick for best figure in the line. Like Rocksteady, I just had nothing to complain about with this figure. He has all of the screen-accurate details I expected and his size and proportions are even better than what we saw with Rocksteady. Sure, you can quibble with that size as far as being too big goes, but he looks great and I wouldn’t mess with him. Literally the only thing that bugs me with this figure is his wrist chain, which is a real chain. It looks wonderful, but it will fly off when you swap his left hand and it’s hard to get it to look as good as it did out of the box. If they had sculpted the chain on his arm it probably wouldn’t look as good, but it would also work better, so it’s both hard to complain and praise the decision. Otherwise, he’s fantastic and I’ll never need another Bebop. Oh, I’ve definitely bought more that you’ll get to read about some day, but I didn’t need any more. For now, Bebop is the high water mark for this line and if NECA never tops it that’s honestly okay, but I hope they do at some point.


NECA TMNT Cartoon Splinter vs Baxter

Got another two-pack for ya!

I didn’t intend for so many TMNT reviews to hit one after the other, but Christmas pushed a bunch of stuff into the final week of December and then some surprise difficulties with another review has moved this one up. So be it. 2020 had a final surprise in store for collectors of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. NECA had previously announced all of Wave 4 of its cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure line would release in the fall, before having a change of heart. The two most anticipated releases of the wave were pushed to 2021, the deluxe Android Krang and the two-pack of Master Splinter vs Baxter Stockman in his mutated fly form. In addition to being some fan-favorites, these two releases were important to collectors as they represented for many the last essential release of the line. Everyone’s mileage is a bit different, but I think all can agree that the most important characters in the show are (in some order): the turtles, April, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and Splinter. You could certainly make a strong case for the generic Foot Soldier, and maybe some would push for Irma considering she was in a lot more episodes than you may recall. No one would argue though that those 10 previously mentioned characters are not essential.

I guess these two were paired-up because of their similar height?

Well, as I said, 2020 had a final surprise and it’s that both the deluxe Krang and Splinter vs Baxter two-pack arrived early. They first popped up in California Targets in the middle of December and gradually worked their way east before the end of the year. I actually found my Krang on New Year’s Eve, but had to wait on Splinter vs Baxter until 2021. While it’s always nice to get something earlier than expected, I definitely wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of running out to stores and hunting for action figures during the holiday rush, COVID or not. The whole pandemic thing just added another layer of anxiety, but I suppose there’s enough fool in me that I did go out. I masked-up, armed myself with a ton of hand sanitizer, and went through stores as quickly as possible until I found what I was looking for. In the case of this particular set I’m reviewing today, I never actually found it myself and was helped out via the CollectorsHelpingCollectors hashtag on Twitter so a special shout out is reserved for user og3 (@OG_mulch) for helping a fellow collector out!

Check out the sculpting around the base of Baxter’s wings and extra limbs.

Splinter vs Baxter comes packaged in the standard NECA window box. It’s a thinner box than some of the more recent releases as these are two of the smallest figures in the line so far. The only one smaller is the Roadkill Rodney. Not that we’re going to hold their size against them as these two boys more than make up for their small stature. And perhaps to compensate, there’s a ton of stuff included with this release, most of which belongs to Splinter. Some of it should be very familiar, but some of it is pretty obscure and I’m not even sure where it all comes from, but I’m happy to have it! More than accessories though, I am just thrilled beyond belief to finally have cartoon accurate depictions of both of these characters. The old Playmates line featured a Splinter that didn’t really resemble any version of the character. There was a slight resemblance to the Mirage Studios depiction, but he was kind of his own thing. And there weren’t a ton of Splinters to follow, and none really resembled the cartoon look. As for Baxter, his Playmates version was close, but like a lot of that line there was a lot more detail and grotesqueness with the figure that the cartoon chose to ignore. Playmates also wasn’t that concerned with scale so even though he was a fly he was the same size as basically everyone. For the cartoon, they took the already short Baxter Stockman (he was the same height as the turtles, pre-mutation) and shrunk him further when he was mutated resulting in a rather diminutive villain. They also gave him a sweater vest, but kept the bowtie, which just further separated him from the action figure.

Enter: The fly!

I get the sense that Splinter is the figure fans are most excited for, but I want to talk about Baxter first. I touched upon it a bit in my review of the Super7 Baxter Stockman, but this character was one of my favorites in the cartoon. And since I never got the original toy, it actually made me drawn to him more. He was used sparingly in the show, and he was able to be a sort of perfect villain for the show because he could be threatening, funny, and even sympathetic. He was as much a villain for the turtles as he was for Shredder, whom he blamed for his transformation into a fly. And I love the design! He’s got that big fly head with tiny wings and those purple appendages coming off of his back. He’s just a fun design.

Aww, he brought flowers!
And he brought a friend.

For this figure, NECA absolutely nailed it. First off, I love his size. Like a lot of characters in the show, he could be inconsistent in how he was portrayed, but generally speaking, Baxter should be shorter than the turtles. And he is here as he stands around 4 3/4″ when standing upright. The proportions also look pretty good with Baxter having a rather large head given that he has those big fly eyes. The paint though is where this thing shines. The way NECA painted the eyes is especially striking. This line does a great job of really giving the impression that these characters stepped out of a television set, but Baxter might be a new highwater mark as far as that goes. And I think it’s partly due to the fact that Baxter is basically fully clothed as the shading NECA has utilized for this line works really well here. NECA also matched all of the hinged pieces to the appropriate color this time around, so no paint-flaking that reveals the wrong color underneath as we saw with Leatherhead and the Triceratons. Oh, there’s still plenty of flake though as NECA continues to paint over joints, but at least once removed it doesn’t leave behind an eye sore.

“Hey, dude, you’re lucky I left my fly swatter in my other shell!”
“Lucky, am I?”

Little Baxter comes packed with an impressive array of articulation. Mine did feature some pretty stiff joints out of the box. Some of that is likely due to arriving rather cold since it did come by mail to the north east in January, and some of it is just the usual assortment of stuck joints this line is known for. Strangely, the joint that gave me the most trouble out of the box was the head which is just a simple ball-joint. I held him under running, hot, tap water for a bit and was able to get it to move. It sounded like there was some paint or something just holding it fused and once broken his head spun just fine. He has good rotation up there with a little ability to look up, but he can look down quite far which is useful if you intend to place him on a flight stand. His shoulders are pretty standard, ball and hinges, but at the elbow he features NECA’s somewhat unique double-joint. There are two hinges at the top and bottom and the arm can swivel at the top joint. He can bend well past 90 degrees as a result, but be a little careful as after the head this was the part that was toughest to free up. The hands are pegged in and can swivel. There’s also a hinge, but the hands sit fairly deep into the cuff of his dress shirt so it doesn’t do much. There’s what seems to be a ball-joint at the waist hidden under the vest that allows for some rotation and a little pivot. The legs are secured via a ball-joint, but they lack the usual amount of swivel we see in this line. He can swivel his thighs maybe 45 degrees or so, it’s not much. The knees are double-jointed and his feet are hinged and can rock side-to-side. The feet are also stuck pretty well on mine, so be careful. Lastly, Baxter has those wings and extra limbs on his back which are all attached via a ball-joint and hinge. I wish NECA had added additional hinges to the purple “arms” and some pinching articulation at the claws, but they’re largely just decorative.

I hear people enjoy comparisons.

Baxter is able to move around quite well which comes in handy since he has plenty of stuff he can be posed with. For starters, Baxter comes packaged with fisted hands, but he also has a pair of gripping hands and a pair of trigger finger hands. I’m glad NECA gave him trigger finger hands since it could have been argued he didn’t need to come with them since his main weapon, the trans-mutation ray, doesn’t have much of a trigger. You may recall this weapon from the cartoon as it allowed Baxter to mutate Shredder into a fly and Michelangelo into a gerbil. It’s mostly white and features a dial on the rear of the gun by the sights that allowed Baxter to select what animal he wanted to apply to his victim. It’s well-painted and looks great, though I wish that dial could actually move. Mine has a black blemish across the top too that I hope to rub off. Baxter’s hands are painted purple and are pretty stiff so it’s probably not a bad idea to heat his hands before trying to insert this gun into them lest you want ugly purple smudges on it. Baxter also comes with his computer buddy who helped him escape Dimension X. I don’t remember if he had a name, but he’s basically a computer monitor with attached keyboard. The screen is a lenticular image so he can display different emotions and it’s pretty cool. He has an opening for a socket underneath, so I’m curious if NECA will sneak a body into another pack for him, even if it’s non-articulated. The doku flower is also included, which poisoned April in the same episode Baxter debuted his fly form. I’m actually not sure if this is a Baxter accessory or a Splinter one, as it could be the gazai plant which was used by Splinter to cure April. Both plants looked identical in the episode. What will likely entertain people the most though is the included fly Shredder and gerbil Mikey. Both are non-articulated, but they look pretty great. The paint is applied well and Mikey is actually quite cute.

“What the devil?!”

It’s an impressive haul for Baxter, and like I said, I appreciate NECA including proper trigger hands with him so he can also wield any of the other guns from the show (like the small handgun that apparently belongs to Splinter, but kind of looks like the gun Baxter used in “Enter: The Fly”) with ease. Maybe some wanted a goofy accessory like a stack of sugar cubes and I know people are aching for Mousers, but I suspect those will be included one day with a human version of Baxter. I’m happy with this loadout and it’s cool that his computer buddy could even just function as a computer in a display for someone like April, if it’s so desired. The inclusion of the trans-mutation ray also makes it more fun to compare this figure to the Super7 version since that one came with the same weapon, albeit, unpainted.

Your ninja training has begun!

Baxter is impressive, and his box-mate Splinter is much the same. He stands basically at the same height as Baxter with his ears taking him up to approximately 5″. This is a depiction of Splinter from early in the show when his fur was a lighter brown and his kimono a deeper magenta. In later seasons, his fur would change to a much darker brown and his kimono lightened to a shade of pink, or maybe it just looked lighter by comparison. This is my preferred look though and it makes the most sense since the main turtle figures we have feature that olive flesh-tone from the show’s early seasons. Splinter has a rather stern and serious expression on his face which is appropriate for the character. NECA’s toon shading they utilize is blended really well with the sculpted fur which is different as it’s usually more pronounced. I think it works quite well. There’s a minor paint imperfection on my figure where a blob of the light brown is present on the back of his neck, but it’s partially hidden by the kimono. His body doesn’t have the toon shading on it and is painted the darker brown as it’s hidden by the kimono. His hands though are cast in the light brown so it looks odd when his wrists are visible. The kimono itself is a soft goods addition which I think is the way to go with this figure. I just wish NECA had done something different with the belt as it’s just a black ribbon tied in a knot. It sits too high on the character’s chest as his lower abdomen is very round making it hard to put it in the right place. A plastic belt like the old Playmates toy or the more nylon one Super7 used might have worked better. Or they could have sculpted a channel for the belt to fit in. It would have made the figure look a bit ugly when disrobed, but who is going to display Splinter without his kimono? They also could have just made the figure less round which probably would have worked the best.

Well, he apparently didn’t put much thought into their names.

The articulation on Splinter comes largely as expected. He has articulation at the base of the head and where the neck meets the torso. It’s very stiff on mine even after heating it multiple times so I’m not sure if this is just my figure or if the articulation is doing what it’s supposed to. He can look down, but I can’t really get him to look up and turning his head is also a bit challenging. It’s hard to get just the head to turn without the lower joint trying to as well. And that one is sculpted fur to fit over the body so it’s a bit rough and definitely not a fun joint to mess with as it feels like it’s rubbing quite a bit on the torso. His jaw is articulated, but mine looks miss-aligned. It’s like he has a cross-bite and I’m tempted to see if I can get it into a better position with a heat gun, though I’d probably have to remove the soft goods lest I want to set them on fire. The arms are standard joints at the shoulder and feature double-joints like Baxter’s. They move very well considering you have to contend with the soft goods. My only concern is that the top pin holding the elbow joint together on the left arm of my figure looks pretty jacked up like it was damaged during insertion and pushed in too far. I’m only pointing this out because it seems to be rather widespread with this figure. He moves fine right now, but I’m definitely being careful there. The wrists are the same peg and hinge joints we’re accustomed to. There is a diaphragm cut and the legs are joined with standard ball-joints. The shape of his rump prevents him from kicking back, but he can kick forward and balance on one foot so ninja kicks are still on the table. His knees are double-jointed in a very rat-like manner as they angle backwards. There’s a hinged joint at the ankle and also a toe hinge. Thankfully, that ankle joint is cast in white so no paint blemish down there, but the toe hinge is a bit ugly as there’s a gap between the wrappings and toes. Lastly, Splinter’s tail is connected via a ball-joint and moves much better than any of the other tails we’ve seen in this line. It’s also a wire with plastic sculpted over it so there is some bendy quality to it. It’s not a lot, but better than the movie Splinter from NECA.

Splinter, I think it’s upside-down…

Splinter probably won’t demand a ton of posing ability from most collectors, but he is a ninja and should be able to move like a ninja. I think NECA did just okay in that respect. I really wish they could have figured out a scheme that allowed him to cross his legs in a meditative pose or got some more torso articulation into him as well. I feel like they could have taken advantage of the fact that this is a robed figure, like they kind of did with the movie version, to fit torso articulation into him that may not have been super aesthetically pleasing, but would have been covered up. He looks the part, which is most important, he’s just not quite the homerun I was expecting after seeing the promotional images.

That’s a lot of stuff for both figures.

Even more so than Baxter, Splinter is loaded with extra goodies. He comes with gripping hands instead of fists, but also has five extra hands to work with. I should clarify they’re more like relaxed gripping hands as he has a set of tighter gripping hands he can swap for. He has a set of what I would call martial arts posed hands, or maybe even meditative hands. One even looks like Bart Simpson’s infamous Touch of Death. The other is a two-finger pointing hand. And lastly, he has a right, single-finger, pointing, hand. All of the hands are painted light brown and feature sculpted fur and claws, though the claws are unpainted (which is consistent with the show).

When a walking stick literally won’t cut it.

Splinter has all of those hands because he has a lot of stuff to hold. The relaxed gripping hands work great with his books and scroll. He has two books, one is open and features depictions of the artists that inspired the names of the turtles and the other is closed. The scroll, which is from an episode of the show and did something, is unfurled and he can hold it via either end. He also has his walking stick which the relaxed hands can fit over for standing poses. The tighter gripping hands come into play with the sword and gun. The sword is the Sword of Yurikawa taken from the episode of the same name. It looks a lot like one of Leo’s non-stylized katanas, which is to say it doesn’t really look like an actual katana. It has a yellow-gold hilt and short blade, but best of all, it comes with a flaming effect piece which is cast in translucent orange plastic and slides over the blade. It’s pretty cool and if you prefer your Splinter to be less of a pacifist this should work. If you think that blade is too elegant though, there’s a gun. I don’t recall where this gun came from, but it’s a small pistol. Splinter also has a Yin Yang medallion that he can wear and a dojo mat to meditate on. The mat is kind of cool as it’s made of a springy, foam-like, material instead of paper of cloth. Lastly, we have a little rat. It might have made more sense for a Hamato Yoshi to come with a rat, but I’m not complaining. The martial arts pose hands can even allow the rat to sit in Splinter’s palm.

When necessary, Splinter can turn up the heat.

That’s a lot of stuff, and there was so much in the box that NECA had to put the extra hands on their own, separate, tray and tape it to the underside of the main bubble tray. It’s something I really appreciate about NECA and this line as when figures seem to come in under budget they fill the set with extra stuff until they hit their standard baseline. They could have just shipped a set with a larger profit margin than usual, but didn’t, and that’s cool. I give a lot of credit to brand manager Trevor Zammit for spending probably far too much time with this cartoon to find all of this stuff and to director Randy Falk for encouraging him. Of the two figures, I think I prefer Baxter as he both looks fantastic and has the articulation needed to make him wonderful. I do wish he had a little more articulation in those purple appendages he’s got, and I wish NECA in general would start supplying vertically-hinged hands for proper weapon wielding. And I also largely like what we have with Splinter. He looks like the character from the show, and while I found more room for criticism with him, I still think he turned out well enough. You won’t hear me asking for a better version anytime soon.

And when that doesn’t work, he’s also packing heat.

This puts a capper on NECA’s release schedule for 2020 as far as TMNT is concerned. It was quite a year for the line with lots of frustration, but also lots of damn good toys. Trying to figure out a favorite is an exercise for another day, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s next. Next up is a Rat King and Vernon two-pack and I am super stoked to add a cartoon accurate Rat King to my collection. Also announced are the punk frogs, Ace Duck, Mondo Gecko, Muckman, Chrome Dome, and a four-pack of turtles all featuring cloth goods trench coats and new headsculpts. There’s also the cartoon city scape diorama set to ship to those who ordered it last year sometime this quarter. 2021 is going to be busy, but hopefully rewarding. Once again, thanks to those in the collecting community who helped me secure this set and good luck to the rest of you. Remember, don’t feed the scalpers! Good luck, and happy hunting!

At long last, the family is together.

NECA TMNT Cartoon The Wrath of Krang!

Bring the wrath!

We’re back for 2021, and right now it looks like a lot like 2020 as we have a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure to talk about – Android Krang! Hopefully, this doesn’t mean 2021 is a lot like 2020 going forward, but if it’s going to copy anything from 2020 then let it be the toys. There were a lot of toy releases in 2020 that caught my fancy, so much so that this blog is practically a toy blog 11 months out of the year and a Christmas blog the other month. As long as the toy releases remain this good, then that’s fine by me!

One of the weirder characters from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is Krang. It’s easy to lose sight of just how weird he is because he’s in nearly every episode. He’s overexposed so it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he’s largely portrayed as a rather large, thick, dude in a Speedo with a brain in his stomach. Krang was obviously inspired by the Utrom from the original line of Mirage Studios comic books, but in the hands of Fred Wolf Productions he became quite an intriguing character. An oversized brain with a face and tendrils, he was there from the start and Playmates quickly introduced an action figure into its toyline. That version of Krang was depicted in his “bubble walker,” which was basically a bubble with robot legs he could sit in. The toy also had robot arms that could be attached to it, though when it came to the cartoon I do not recall ever seeing such a thing (the bubble walker in general was rarely seen). From the moment we meet Krang in the series, he’s demanding Shredder create a body for him based on some blueprints he keeps waving around. By the end of the original mini series, he has that body and that was the version of Krang we came to know and love.

When NECA first tapped into the cartoon property for a comic con exclusive set, it included Krang with that same bubble walker Playmates had run with for its first version of Krang. All probably assumed NECA wanted to do a proper body for Krang, but at the time no one knew how far the company was going to be permitted to go with this property. When the inaugural wave was first unveiled, NECA referenced the expected body with their version of Krang waving a set of blueprints in action figure Shredder’s face. The following year, the body made its debut! Titled “The Wrath of Krang!” this release marks the second in what NECA calls the deluxe line of figures following last summer’s release of Metalhead. The deluxe line is essentially reserved for larger figures and figures that require their own unique tooling that won’t bare fruit later. Metalhead retailed for $30, while Krang retails for $35 likely due to the amount of accessories included and the figure’s increased size. It’s still a Target exclusive, so if you’re sick of hunting for toys at that store I’m afraid Krang is no different. However, if a figure was worth the trouble it might be this one as Krang in this form is definitely an essential character and one no TMNT collector likely wants to go without.

The only downside to NECA’s retro packaging is you’ll likely want to keep it.

Krang comes packaged in NECA’s Ultimates styled packaging which is the five-panel window box. The artwork on the box is a direct homage to the TMNT VHS releases by F.H.E right down to the font and art style for the characters depicted. Credit for the concept goes to brand manager Trevor Zammit with the actual packaging and illustrations credited to Chris Raimo and Dan Elson. It’s really a sight to behold and definitely hits all of the right nostalgia notes for those who grew up with the property. I’m able to bring myself to toss the standard two-pack boxes, but I can’t trash these ones. They’re just far too charming.

The original Krang (left) really captures the season one look while the new one is designed to fill-out the opening in the body and is more reflective of the other seasons.
The new Krang may be larger, but he still fits in the bubble walker. His tendrils are more secure in his body too, which I assume to is to prevent them from dislodging inside the body.
“Krang, would you shut up about that stupid body!”

Krang is relatively easy to remove from his package and presumably would be easy to re-insert should you desire. Once removed, he stands around eight and a half inches tall before inserting the antenna into the top of his head (which he comes with an extra, in case you lose or break one). Krang is packaged separately from his body and needs to be placed inside the body’s stomach opening. To do so, you have to remove the top half of the body from the bottom above the yellow cavity. The body is pretty rigid and NECA did not include instructions. The easiest way I’ve found to take him apart is to push from the inside against the side wall to release the body from a little tab in each side and front. Once you get one side out, it comes apart easy, but definitely don’t force it or you could scratch the paint. Once apart, Krang can be placed inside it and has a little plug that will hold him in place to a point. He can’t be shaken or turned upside down and expected to stay put, but if you’re sticking him on a shelf he should be fine. There are two joysticks inside the body to simulate Krang’s control over the body and they can slip inside his tendrils. They’re both on ball-joints and can be manipulated which is a really cool touch. The Krang figure is also brand new as the previously released one was deemed too small to work. He has a different expression that I’d say is fairly neutral and his tentacles are shaped to work with the joysticks. He still fits in the bubble walker though, if that’s something you want to do.

Some assembly required.
He looks happy (you’ll have to take my word on that).

The first thing you’ll notice once in hand, aside from the size, is that this guy has a lot of paint on him. NECA seems to love paint with this line and very little on this guy is just colored plastic. Even the body’s flesh tone is paint on top of a similarly colored plastic. The end result is a figure that looks like it was ripped from a cartoon, but it also means he’s susceptible to paint imperfections, chips, and the like. I was lucky to find this figure at retail along with five other sets so I was able to look at them all and choose the best one. Of the six, only two featured minimal imperfections. The others had eyesores on their chest or arms that couldn’t be ignored. Would they have stopped me from buying one had they all been like that? Probably not, but I might have kept the figure in box in hopes of finding a better one later. It’s definitely something to be aware of and if you’re buying one online or receiving via trade or something then buyer beware.

You’ve got to admire Krang’s confidence in his choice of fashion.
The handle and “butt port” seems to imply it’s also been built for fun!

Aside from the paint issues, the only other item to concern yourself with are the joints. I’ve seen many reports of tight or stuck joints, and that’s usually a symptom of the paint getting into them. I didn’t have any stuck joints, but I did have the usual paint flaking from the elbows and knees as I worked them a bit. I probably worked this one less than most NECA releases as his joints were fine on mine and to avoid more paint flaking. I don’t need him to do anything too extravagant, so I didn’t push it. The actual look of the figure is very cartoon-accurate. I like the scale quite a bit and I think NECA settled on the appropriate height and mass for the figure, which is tougher than it sounds as his size fluctuated a lot in the show. And I’m not referring to the few times he literally grew in size. All of the little touches I recall are present too, like the handle on the back of the body and even a port, which I don’t remember, right on his ass. Was this for charging the body? He has red hands, which I believe were quickly changed to flesh colored in the cartoon, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they went back and forth as that show was not a model of consistency. The sculpt is great though, and the only room for criticism resides in the face. When the figure was first shown, he had a more pronounced frown with the mouth shaped a little differently. I’ve seen some express a preference for that, but I don’t really care or feel that one is any more appropriate than the other. The only other oddity is with the eyes in which the left eye slit is larger than the other. This also wasn’t present with the prototype and I have no idea if it’s intentional or not. It’s one of those things that you may not notice, but once you do, it cannot be unseen.

“Bring me my rock soldiers!”
“I said rock soldiers!”

Krang articulates in basically all of the manners necessary, though he’s functionally a bit more limited than most of the other figures in the line. The actual Krang features ball-jointed tendrils that can be popped out if you want to make use of the bubble walker. The body features a ball-jointed head that mostly just rotates. The shoulders are hinged and on ball-joints, but the oversized shoulder pads restrict a lot of the range. The shoulder pads are soft so you can force the arms higher, but keep in mind it will probably put stress on the paint on those shoulder pads. The elbows feature a single hinge, but do swivel. The hands swivel as well and have a hinge, but they sit pretty deep and that hinge is largely rendered moot. There is a waist swivel below the yellow compartment for Krang. It’s a little loose on mine, but I was able to seat it a little better out of the box and there’s no gap issues. The thighs are are on ball-joints and the red underwear or trunks is a soft plastic that can be moved around, but you’re still not going to get a ton of range from that area. The thighs do swivel and the knees are double-jointed. The feet are on hinges and I think they should rock side-to-side, but mine may be stuck and I don’t want to push anything. If this figure is going to have durability issues it will likely be with those feet as I’ve seen a few broken ones on social media. This guy isn’t really meant to be posed in too dramatic a fashion. He doesn’t need to as his size alone gives him plenty of shelf presence since he’s easily the tallest in the line (a title that will be short-lived as NECA is prepping a Chrome Dome for 2021). He can be made to look like he’s swinging one of his arms or aiming a blaster and that’s really all he needs to do. He stands all right by himself, but he’s definitely a top-heavy figure and those tiny feet do not do him any favors. Because of all the paint on him, I think I will also reinforce him with a stand as one fall could really do some damage to the aesthetics of this one.

Ready to bust shells.
For when a gun seems too clean.

Krang comes packaged with a whole mess of optional parts and items. Way more than what came with Metalhead. For starters, he comes packaged with open hands and comes with two sets of gripping hands. One set is a relaxed gripping hand and the other a tighter one. He doesn’t actually come with anything that he needs to grip, but if you wanted to give him a gun or communicator you have the hands to do it. It would have been cool if one of the sets of hands was flesh-colored to match his other appearances in the show and it’s a detail I’m honestly a little surprised NECA didn’t capture. In addition to the hands, he has other attachments that can take the place of his hands. He has a set of lasers that definitely look like something that would be featured in the cartoon. He also has a pair of flails with actual chains that look really neat, though I wish one had a rigid, plastic, chain for style-posing rather than both featuring the real thing which just hangs from the arm. There’s also an axe head that can be attached to one hand and a circular saw to the other. The circular saw is pretty cool as it actually spins, but sadly a factory error means every saw was assembled incorrectly and the back of the blade is exposed. The only way to fix it is to break it and re-assemble as it’s on a peg. The reverse side is properly painted and looks awesome if you have the courage to do it, but I’m still getting there. I’m not expecting NECA to offer replacements and if it does get corrected it will be with the next factory order so we’re probably on our own with this one.

Only slightly more ridiculous than his usual look.
Aww, what a cutie!

In addition to the assortment of weapons, Krang also comes with some fun stuff that’s definitely on the lighter side. Remember the episode where Shredder contacts Krang on their video communicator only to find Krang recently emerged from the shower? If that’s something you do remember fondly, you can recreate that look for your Krang! NECA included a shower cap that rests on his head. Just remove the antenna, put it on, and replace the antenna! There’s a bar of soap on a rope that fits around his neck and a blue, felt-like material to wrap around him for a towel. It’s goofy and I love it and it might make people want to buy two so they can display both versions. Krang also comes with the blue prints for his body and what looks like the Foot Knucklehead. They’re printed on paper and might look nice in a diorama. Lastly, there’s also a mini figure of Baby Shredder. He gets exposed to a fountain of youth or something in one episode and reverts to a toddler. The figure has a great, bratty, expression on his face and even features some articulation. The head is on a ball-joint as are the arms. There’s also a hinge in the middle of his torso so he can sit or stand. The paint is nice and clean and his shoulder blades feature mud, or sand, which is a reference to the episode. It’s silly, but fun, nonetheless.

He’s got a day care business on the side.
PSA from Krang: normalize breast feeding.

The deluxe, or ultimate, release of Krang largely lives up to expectations, which were pretty high for this guy. NECA nailed the likeness and made sure to include a ton of optional, but worthy, accessories. It’s really tough to settle on a display for him because there are just so many options and the desire to have multiples is pretty strong. He looks great beside his fellow rogues or in combat against his enemies and I do get the sense that NECA went the extra mile to really make sure that this figure felt special. And that’s a great feeling to have with any purchase and especially with collectibles. The only drawbacks I really find with him rest with the paint and the saw error is a bummer. There’s no denying that all of the paint utilized for this figure helps give him that cartoon look, I just wish it could be applied more consistently. I also wish it was a little easier to separate the two halves of the figure, but once I have the figure inside I don’t really need to pull it apart anymore. He’s easy enough to reset, it’s just getting his tendrils around the joysticks that often necessitates more intervention.

“So, do we like, look at the head of the brain in the stomach?” “I don’t know, Mikey, just hit him!”

NECA’s The Wrath of Krang is currently a Target exclusive. There is some hope that eventually NECA will offer a made-to-order method of production with this one as it figures to be a figure that’s very much in-demand with collectors, more so than other releases. NECA is currently still working to fulfill all of the made-to-order items it offered last summer so I wouldn’t expect any news on that front until late winter or spring, at the earliest. The other silver-lining though is that both Target and NECA seem to be on the same page with this release and he’s being shipped in far greater numbers than we’re used to. Most stores appear to be receiving one or two cases with each featuring six Krangs. There’s still some confusion on how they’re being stocked though as images have circulated on social media of the shipping containers indicating that these are to be stocked and handled by Target employees. This differs from every other NECA release which is handled by an independent rep. Normally, that rep comes in once or twice a week and puts out new stock and Target employees largely have little to do with it. With them being handled by Target though, this means stock actually gets scanned into inventory and employees may be more willing to help collectors find them. It’s still a free-for-all though as my nearest store appears to still be leaving these to the rep. Target has yet to offer this release online as it has for every other TMNT release so if you’re having no luck locally you at least have an online release to (hopefully) look forward to. And if you’re really having trouble, get on Twitter and look for the CollectorsHelpingCollectos hashtag. Chances are, someone will have access to this figure and will be willing to help you out without any mark-up. It’s a great way to beat the scalpers and it’s nice to know that fellow collectors are looking out for each other. Good luck, and happy hunting, as this is a release not to be missed!


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