Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Metalhead (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

TURTLES! Did you think I forgot about the Turtles? Well, I kind of did. I was planning to stop buying these figures after the initial wave of core characters, because I don’t really watch the new series and I’m really looking to cut back on the different lines I’m collecting. Nonetheless, when I go into the toy aisle and there’s nothing else in there and I want me a cheap fix, it’s hard to turn down Playmates’ TMNT line. The Wally World here looks like they’ve all but given up on selling action figures that aren’t Iron Man 3 or Star Wars, but they do still have a well-represented section of TMNT with a lot of the new figures. I decided on Metalhead, who isn’t a new figure, but one that hasn’t been showing up on the pegs around here. In fact, this is possibly the first time I’ve seen him in the wild.

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It’s hard to walk past the Turtles section in the aisle without getting drawn into it and a lot of that has to do with the great packaging. It’s exciting, colorful, goofy, and just seeing it makes me want to start rummaging through the pegs even though I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anymore. It’s nice to see Playmates get it right again with this line. I was afraid the influx of variant gimmicky Turtles would choke the pegs, but all of this stuff seems to be selling and there’s almost always something new to see here. It’s also one of the few action figure lines that the local Walmart seems dedicated to support. Maybe there’s a connection there?

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The back of the card features the usual clip-out bio card and other figure available from the initial couple of waves. Looks like I’ve got them all except for Kraang. I’m not digging that new design for the android body, but if he’s the only figure standing between being complete up to this point then chances are I’ll pick him up eventually.

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My first impression of Metalhead out of the package is that he’s less refined than the other figures. The plastic feels rougher, there’s mold flashing, and the paint is rather sloppy. On any other figure it would be a letdown, but seeing as he is a robot cobbled together from salvaged scrap, it actually works in the figure’s favor. I’d like to think Playmates did this on purpose, but other than the paint, I’m sure that’s not the case.

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I do really dig the Nick re-design of this guy. He’s very Turtle-esque, but with some boxy and angular bits and a wire mid-riff that would make C-3PO proud. The sculpted nuts and bolts on his joints are a nice touch, and I absolutely love the fact that his turtle shell is a manhole cover. Brilliant!

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We all know by now that if you aren’t one of the Turtles, your articulation in this line is going to suffer for it. That’s the case with Metalhead too, although this guy fares a little better than many of the other non-turtle figures. The neck is ball jointed and the arms rotate at the shoulders and swivel just under the elbows. That’s all there is from the waist up. The legs make out better with hinged ball joints in the hips, hinges in the knees, and swivels just under the knees. In the end he has just enough useful points so I can have some fun playing around with him.

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Metalhead doesn’t come with any accessories, per say, but you do get an energy blast style missile that fits into the hole in his right hand. There’s no firing mechanism, but if you flick the back of it just right you can get some distance on it. I’m not usually a fan of the missiles, but I do believe I may display him with the blast coming out of his hand. It just looks cool.

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I picked up this guy for eight bucks and change and I’m really happy with that. In fact, I’m rather amazed that the price on these figures hasn’t gone up all that much. When they were first released they were between seven and eight bucks each. Nowadays they seem to have leveled out closer to eight and nine, but that still makes them some of the better deals in the action figure aisle. This line continues to provide simple and honestly fun figures at a great price, which is something that few of the other companies can seem to do these days.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rippin Rider (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

Once again, it’s Turtle Time! And if there’s one thing the 90’s taught me, it’s that ninjas love to ride motorcycles, and that goes double for ninjas who happen to be turtles. I already checked out the Sewer Cruiser, and the Rippin Rider is another vehicle in the same size assortment, but instead of being a crazy cobbled together creation, this one is more of a legit motorcycle for when the Turtles want to cruise the streets and hunt down Foot Clan without getting tied up in traffic. Originally, I was going to take a pass on this thing, but I found it for really cheap through a third-party seller on Amazon and even the shipping was next to nothing, so I figured, what the hell, my Turtles need a bitching ride.

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Of course, the problem with super cheap third-party listings and super cheap shipping is that you often get what you pay for. In this case, the seller literally just wrapped the toy in a plastic bag, put a shipping label on it, and kicked it into a post box. The box got pretty pulverized in transit, and while I would have preferred to have it for storage, it’s not a big deal. In this case, I think the low price was a worthy trade off for bad service. Anyway, the box is plenty colorful, with an exciting illustration on the front and a photo of the toy on the back calling out its features. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot to this toy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

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Unlike the Sewer Cruiser, the Rippin Rider comes mostly assembled straight out of the box. Indeed, the bulk of the bike is just a big hollow piece, although it’s still plenty sturdy and it’s lack of heft doesn’t really make it feel cheap or flimsy to me. Quite the contrary, kids could probably beat the hell out of this thing and it would still be fine. In addition to the motorcycle, you get an instruction sheet and a very small bag of parts along with a very small sticker sheet. The parts include a pair of yellow headlamps, a pair of foot pedals, a missile launcher and two missiles. The sticker sheet has only one sticker on it, and it goes right in front of the shell between the front of the handlebars. The rest of the parts just peg right onto the bike.

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The sculpt is quite detailed and includes everything from the engine right down to the brackets holding on the quad exhaust system. The gas tank is designed to look like a turtle shell, but other than that the Rippin Rider is a pretty subdued and practical motorcycle design. It’s almost too subdued for the TMNT line. Even the colors aren’t too outlandish. The bulk of the bike is dark grey and black, with some bright green thrown in to make it pop. Still, it looks mighty nice standing there amongst my collection.

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In terms of play value, the Rippin Rider is primarily designed to hold a figure (or two!) and roll along and it does that very well. You do have the missile launcher, but it doesn’t actually fire. You have to flick the missiles out with your finger. There is a folding kickstand, which is great for holding the bike up on your display shelf. Even with a figure, the stand holds the bike perfectly upright. On the downside, the handlebars don’t even turn, which is probably the only thing about this toy that disappointed me.

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I got my Rippin Rider for $10 shipped and it feels like a pretty ok deal. Unfortunately, I think this thing is turning up at retail for around $15 and that would give me pause. I don’t think it’s a bad toy. On the contrary, it’s big and sturdy and I’m definitely going to use it to display one of my Turtles. It isn’t as fun or inventive as the Sewer Cruiser, but then I guess it isn’t meant to be. I’m not someone who requires a lot of play gimmicks with my toys, so the Rippin Rider’s simple nature doesn’t bother me at all. If you feel the same way, this vehicle probably won’t disappoint.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fishface (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

Last week I checked out the amazing Dogpound, who by the way is still sitting on my desk because just looking at him makes me happy. This week, I’m looking at another one of Shredder’s wacky new minions, Fishface. Like Dogpound, this guy was impossible to find during the Christmas season, but thanks to recent restocks, he’s starting to turn up on the pegs again. And yet, with eight pegs of TMNT figures, my local Walmart still only had one Fishface. The rest of the pegs seem to be filling up with the gimmicky Turtle variants. I haven’t decided on picking up those yet, but today we’re here to talk about Fishface. I like saying Fishface. Fishface!

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Have I mentioned how much I love Playmates’ TMNT packages? Yes, I have. Many times. Because of his unusual fishy shape, Fishface is carded on his side as if he’s running. Think about that for a moment. He’s a fish and he’s running. You just know wackiness is going to ensue and I’m really excited to get him out of the package, so let’s get right to it.

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So, Fishface is basically a fish with arms and a set of cybernetic legs and a water-breathing apparatus. It seems like if the Kraang could mutate him into a fish with arms, they could have gone all the way and given him legs too. Maybe it’s a dodgy process. Then again, a fish with legs is nowhere as cool as a fish that has to wear robotic pants to walk around, so I’m not complaining. I’m sure this kind of thing has been done before, but I still love the concept and Playmates has incorporated it beautifully into their TMNT line.

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The sculpt here is pretty awesome. Fishface has a great scaly texture all over his skin and a fin-mohawk protruding off the back of his head/neck. The combination of underbite and protruding teeth gives him a ton of personality, and he’s got the cold, yellow eyes of a killer. The mechanical sculpt of his robot pants really contrast nicely with his fish features and they even have sculpted treads on the bottoms of the heavy feet. Fishface is a bright and colorful figure, although in the interest of finding something to nitpick, I’ll concede that the red used for  the front of the face should have matched the back a bit more, and the bright orange used for the breathing apparatus is rubbish. I’d like to pick up a second Fishface and try to paint the apparatus, but he’s tough to find again and my customizing skills are crap, so I’ll make do.

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The figure contains more articulation than you might expect a fish to have. He has swivels in the neck and waist, his arms are ball jointed at the shoulders and have swivels in the wrists, and his robo-legs rotate at the hips. Not bad for a fish out of water!

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Fishface comes with a pair of rather unusual looking blade weapons. The sword has a katana blade, the other is a little dagger. They’re sculpted in grey plastic and he can hold them very well in either hand.

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And so the Nickelodeon TMNT line continues to delight me. For a while I thought I’d be able to contain myself to just the main figures I know and love, but Playmates has been working their magic with the new characters as well. I certainly haven’t regretted any purchases from this line, and it’s nice to be able to walk out of the toy aisle with a figure as cool as this for under ten bucks. Now I’m on the hunt for Metal Head.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Dogpound (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

It was a good Christmas for Playmates and their new TMNT line. The pegs were emptied out in all the Targets and Walmarts around these parts and the prices of many of the figures quickly doubled and tripled online. Of course, that’s not so good if you wanted to actually buy them. Thankfully, the TMNT section is slowly getting replenished and this morning I was able to find a couple of figures that I’ve been hunting for quite a while now. One of those figures just happens to be today’s feature… Dogpound!

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There’s the now familiar TMNT figure packaging. It’s bright, it’s obnoxious, it’s in your face. It also makes me want to buy these things by the cartful. The front shows off the figure wonderfully, and the back has a clip-out filecard for the character and pictures of all the other glorious figures. I’m not watching the show, but I’m happy to see that Playmates is adding to the Turtles universe by creating new characters. Dogpound is one of those newbies, so let’s see what he’s all about.

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Plastic is crazy expensive right now, but you wouldn’t know it from this guy. He’s a huge slab of plastic crammed into a basic assortment figure card. In fact, Dogpound is so big that you actually have to assemble him by plugging in his tail and back spikes. It reminds me of my Star Trek Mugatu, also made by Playmates. The figure is mostly hollow, and that’s probably a good thing, because he’s got quite a heft to him as it is. If he were solid plastic, kids would be killing each other by chucking Dogpound figures at each other’s heads in the schoolyards. Dogpound figures would be regulated and you’d need to go through a 10-day waiting period to buy them.

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Call me immature… or maybe it’s the couple of Jamesons I’ve had, but I can’t stop laughing when I look at Dogpound’s face. I’m serious. I’m giggling right now. Look at it. It’s hysterical. I don’t think that cheesy grimace narrow eyes and those big eyebrows will ever get old. He’s definitely going to stay on my desk for a while. Hell, I may carry this guy around in my pocket so that whenever I’m having a bad day at work I can pull him out, look at his face, and make everything better. I’m still giggling. Look at his face!

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Moving beyond Dogpound’s amazing mug, the rest of the figure is like a cross between a werewolf and Crash Bandicoot on steroids, with Sonic the Hedgehog’s spikey back. His fur is sculpted all over his body and he has little purple Hulk pants with spiked kneepads. His left arm is a lot bigger than his right and it has spikes coming out of his wrist to give him a little extra turtle shredding power. The coloring on the figure is pretty good, with a dissolve between the orange and white fur. I think my only complaint here is that the sculpted straps on his chest and back aren’t painted. I’m guessing Playmates blew some of their paint apps budget on this guy by making him so damn big. It seems like a good trade off.

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Unless you’re a turtle, articulation hasn’t been one of this line’s strong suits. Nonetheless, I would argue you get everything you need to have fun with these guys, and Dogpound remains true to form. He has ball joints in his shoulders and hips. His head can swivel, but because it’s located on the front of his torso, it doesn’t so much as turn, but cock from side to side. It’s like Dogpound is hearing a strange noise. He also has swivels in his forearms and his waist. Yes, hinges in the elbows would have been awesome, but I’m still pretty happy with what we got. Besides, I can pose him with his arms out wide like he wants a hug.

Dogpound doesn’t come with any accessories, unless you count his tail and back spikes. Because he’s so big, I don’t feel cheated by not getting anything with him.

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God, these figures are so much fun! I came pretty close to paying double for Dogpound online a couple of times. Obviously, I’m glad I waited and got him for $8.88 at Walmart, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed had I paid more. I love him to pieces and like most of the basic TMNT figures, he’s an amazing value at this price. He’s also a great addition to the TMNT roster. Just because I’m not watching the series doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what it’s adding to the TMNT mythos and characters like Dogpound definitely enrich the franchise. And yes, I’m still laughing at his face.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Sewer Cruiser (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

Yesterday’s pizza playset is going to be a pretty tough act to follow, but today we’re going to see what Playmates can do with a vehicle. No, this isn’t the first vehicle from their Nick Turtle line, but it is the first one that I’ve picked up. I usually talk price at the end of a feature, but in this case I’m going to bring it up now. You see, I was a little skeptical about buying this thing because it was only $11.99 and the box felt really light. I even had to double check to make sure this was scaled for the figures and not something else entirely. But after checking out the box for a bit, I decided, to go for it. Playmates’ new Turtles haven’t done me wrong yet, and I had nothing to lose except twelve bucks. Turns out it was a really good move.


The box is everything you’d expect from the TMNT line. It’s wacky, it’s colorful, and it features amazingly exciting artwork. This is every bit a package that you’d expect to find in the toy aisles 20 years ago and I mean that in every way as a compliment. Like most of the second wave of TMNT toys, this vehicle is part of the Mutagen Ooze line, meaning it has a gimmick that is meant to interact with the ooze. I haven’t decided whether I’m actually going to buy any ooze yet, but even if I do, I doubt I’ll be willing to gunk up my toys with it. The box is a really weird shape and it seems way too small to contain the zany awesomeness of a worthwhile TMNT vehicle.

But that’s because this thing is in pieces. Oh yeah, it’s toy building time! The Cruiser comes in a cardboard tray with two baggies full of parts, a small sticker sheet, and an instruction sheet. It’s pretty easy to put together and you can easily take it apart again to store it back in the box. Once together, the Sewer Cruiser is actually a really nice sized toy that fits the figures perfectly. Most of the pieces are hollow, but it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. In fact, I suspect it’s mostly hollow so that it can float, and while I haven’t tested out its ability to tread water, the package does indeed promise that it can.


The Cruiser is clearly one of Don’s wacky, cobbled together inventions. It’s made from a motorcycle chassis attached to a surfboard, with two ooze barrel pontoons, and a tailgating cooler on the back. It’s quite the imaginative piece and it’s positively (dare I say it?) oozing with great detail. If you look closely at the barrels, you can see a sculpted weld line where the Turtles welded together the two barrels in order to make the pontoons. That’s awesome! The motorcycle engine is detailed as are the rivets holding it together. Even the crosshatch seat has some broken straps to show wear and tear. I love how the cooler even has four cup holders on the top and a couple of fish sculpted into the bottom. This kind of detail in a toy is love, folks… pure love. Playmates loves you.

The coloring on the toy is straight out of the neon 90’s. It may have sucked for some toy lines (*cough* GI Joe *cough*) but it worked just fine for the Turtles and it still does. Most of the colors are the actual plastic and not paintwork. The motorcycle is grey, the barrels are bright neon green with black supports, the board is orange and turquoise and the cooler is red and white.

Any one of the turtle figures will fit just fine on the Cruiser, even with their weapons still stowed on their backs. However, there are two clips on the handlebars so you can store their weapons more conveniently. Indeed, even some of the lesser articulated non-Turtles can ride it pretty well.


The Sewer Cruiser isn’t exactly loaded with play gimmicks. In fact the only one is the ability to fill the cooler with ooze and tip it over in order to slime pursuers. If you don’t have any ooze, the toy comes with three little plastic splotches of grey ooze, which look more like tiny metal shavings or possibly ravioli. Chances are I’ll just use the cooler to hold shuriken.

In the end, the Cruiser is a solid and fun toy at an amazing price. I’ve often remarked how the Nick Turtles are the best value in action figures hanging on the pegs, so it should follow that the vehicles are too. I mean, seriously… twelve bucks for a fun vehicle for your Turtles to ride? I think I paid more than that for my last 3 ¾” Marvel Universe figure and he had minimal new sculpting and didn’t come with any accessories. Like I said before, folks, Playmates loves you!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Anchovy Alley (Pop-Up Pizza Playset) by Playmates

I’ll admit it. I’m ashamed at my decision to not buy Playmates’ epic Secret Sewer Lair playset. I’m the first collector to go around pining for the good old days when toy companies made playsets, and when someone finally steps up and releases one, I abstain. I wanted it really bad. I still want it really bad. But I keep looking at it and realizing that I have nowhere to put it. And even if I could squeeze it in somewhere, it would take up what little space I have left for all the other things I’m going to want to buy this year. I was tempted to just buy it to show my support and keep it boxed, but even the box is huge. Plus, I know I’d have to open it as soon as I got it anyway because I have all the willpower of a crack addict. Fortunately, Playmates threw people like me a bone by releasing a more compact way to display my Turtles… behold Anchovy Alley, the Pop-Up Pizza Playset. It’s proof that Playmates may actually be a bunch of geniuses and have just been trolling us for the last couple of years.

The box has all the trappings of the TMNT Nickelodeon toy packages illustrated as if to be wrapped around what looks like a pizza box with a sketch of the Turtles on it. Holy shit, this is cool! It’s so cool that I wish it was designed in two layers so the wrap-around could come off and I could have the Turtle pizza box by itself. In typical Playmates fashion, the box has a ton of information printed on it. But rather than feel like overkill like on the old Star Trek cards, this box makes me think the designer of the package was genuinely excited about the toy and had way too much caffeine. But the best is yet to be seen.

Flip the box over and the back shows the toy in action with some of the best copy I’ve ever read on a toy box. It invites you to “serve up a fresh slice topped with furious ninja moves!” Plus it has a whole catalog of great pizza related puns that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger proud. “Table for one!” “Special delivery!” “Hand tossed!” “You got served!” The folks at Playmates are obviously having way too much fun with this line and it makes it all the more endearing. It’s like suddenly they get it and most other toy companies don’t. Even if my interest hadn’t already been peaked, there’s no way I could pick up this box in the toy aisle and not buy this thing. Oh yeah, it even opens like a real pizza box and it’s so heavy and dense that it feels like it contains a solid brick of plastic.

And that’s because in a sense it is. The playset comes folded into a plastic box that very nearly fills out the entire inside of the package. There’s just room for four corner protectors, an instruction sheet and a sticker sheet. This thing is designed so well that when it folds up there’s barely a square millimeter of space that isn’t used up. Because the playset is designed to unpack itself, there’s really no assembly required. There are, however, some very large and crucial stickers, which take a lot of care to put on. I gave it my all and I still had a couple of creases in mine.

So, when it’s all folded up, the set is designed to look like a plastic pizza box. It’s passable enough with the traditional red checker pattern running around the side. The illustration on the package is reproduced smaller as a green stamp on the upper right hand corner. I think Playmates should have just reproduced the pizza box on the cardboard package here, or at least printed PIZZA on it. You get the idea what it’s supposed to be, but they could have gone a little further with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good. This baby will spend most of its time deployed on my shelf and whenever it is collapsed down, I’ll likely put it right back in the box.

When I say this thing unpacks itself, I really mean it. Once you fold it out you’re 99%  good to go. The only thing left to do is take the pizza shooter and the pizzas off the outside wall and put it into one of the three available sockets. It’s a simple spring loaded disc launcher and while I’ll likely choose to display my set without it, it makes for a very cool added play feature for the kiddies.


Once unpacked, Anchovy Alley stands 18-inches tall and has a similar set up to the Secret Sewer Lair in that part of the set is meant to be above ground and part below. The above ground is a colorful pizzeria with an awning, street lamp and opening doors. There’s only a small ledge to represent the street level, but it’s just enough to get a turtle to stand on it, even with their bulky shells. The streetlamp is spring loaded so you can attach a turtle to it, pull it back, and have him knock another figure right through the pizzeria doors. “Bahfangul! Wathca a-doin out there? Stop-a kicking da dirty foot clan into-a mia pizza parlor! Turtle Svacheems!”


The subterranean side is some kind of underground limbo that exists between the subways and the sewers. It offers up three levels of play, all connected with ladders, and includes a manhole cover that can launch figures into the air, and an opening sewer hatch on one of the walls. There are also some railings the figures can grab and swing on. The sculpted detail on the base is particularly impressive. You’ve got tires, dead fish, and all kinds of bottles and cans and other refuse. If I had the talent, patience and materials of a customizer, I would go to town painting the base of this thing.

The durability of the playset varies a bit. None of it feels cheap and when it’s unpacked it’s pretty solid. On the other hand, some of the rails feel really weak so I don’t know that I’ll have my figures gripping them that much. I could see them developing stress marks pretty easily.


The fact that Playmates actually named this thing, Anchovy Alley, rather than just Pop-Up Pizza Playset, makes me hope that they may do a few more. This formula is just too good to be a one-shot deal and other toy companies really should take notice. I’m not saying I want a pizza box that unfolds into a GI Joe playset, but Hasbro you could make it an ammo box or something. Use your goddamn imaginations because Playmates certainly is. Either way, this thing is proof that you can do a solid playset without taking up too much space on the retailer shelves… or setting too high a price tag. Anchovy Alley’s box takes up less space than most mid-range vehicles and only set me back $25. Whether you want to use it so your Turtles can mix it up you’re the Foot Clan or just want somewhere to display your figures, I can’t recommend this set enough. It’s awesome!

Tomorrow we’ll keep the Turtle goodness rolling with a look at the Sewer Cruiser.

FigureFan’s Disappointments of 2012, Part 1

Ok, we’ve seen my favorites, and now it’s time to check out the turds floating in last year’s punchbowl. Again, this was tough, because I try to avoid buying things that look like they will be crap. So maybe the word turd is a little harsh in some cases. Almost nothing on this list is total crap, but everything here definitely disappointed me in some way.

TMNT Classics: Donatello by Playmates… The Classic Turtles are great figures, but they got upstaged on my “Favorites List” by the smaller modern guys in a major way. Nonetheless, Donatello represents here for one reason and one reason only, because of his mad eyes. Ok, I suppose that’s two reasons. The point is that by giving him wonky eyes, Playmates not only ruined the figure, but seriously marred the entire set. How can anyone appreciate their team of turtles on the shelf when Donny is standing there in the back looking like he got kicked in the head one too many times. It’s a crazy example of how one brush stroke can mar an otherwise excellent toy.

DC Universe All Stars: Superboy Prime… Besides turning out as a terrible looking figure, Superboy Prime earns Mattel a Disappointment Award for doing the bait-and-switch. The final product saw major changes from the pre-release images, and while that is bound to happen from time to time, the changes here made a great looking promo figure turn into a terrible release. Even worse, with hardly any brick-and-mortar stores actually carrying the DCU All Stars, I had to buy the figure online, so my disappointment wasn’t realized until I got the thing in hand and it was too late. It’s not often that I can say I regret buying a DCUC figure, but I certainly regret picking up Superboy Prime.

Marvel Legends: Extremis Iron Man… Because I only allowed each toyline to appear once in each list, this slot was a tight race between Extremis Iron Man and Future Foundation Spider-Man. In fairness, on its own this Iron Man is a fairly competent figure, but as soon as you put him up against some of the other figures in Hasbro’s new Marvel Legends line he comes up wanting. He’s too small, not terribly well articulated, and overall underwhelming. I kind of get the feeling that he was just here to fill a slot in a quick and dirty manner (that’s what she said?). And to keep the comparisons rolling, his paint and sculpting don’t even live up to many of the older, smaller and cheaper 3 ¾” Iron Man 2 figures. At least Hasbro released him in two versions, so that the crappy Stealth variant would make the regular one look better.

Duke Nukem by NECA… You’ve got to hand it to NECA, in an effort to be as accurate to the game as possible; they obviously wanted to capture the disappointment of Duke Nukem Forever in action figure form. And they did! NECA’s Duke features a solid enough sculpt, but the articulation is downright weird and the paintwork, particularly on the flesh tones, leaves a lot to be desired. And then there are the accessories. Sure, kudos for the cigar, which I promptly lost, but how can Duke come with just a handgun? Where’s his arsenal? And, no, the fact that he has feet doesn’t count as a “Mighty Boot” accessory. Duke should have come with a cool assortment of weapons, instead all he came with was disappointment.

Avengers: “Sword Spike” Thor… While most of Hasbro’s 3 ¾” Avengers figures were disappointments, this version of Thor earns a place on this list because he represented the ultimate in toy company hubris and laziness. Hasbro took what was essentially the exact same figure from the previous year, cut out most of its articulation, gave him a new shitty weapon and put him on an Avengers card. They even kept the same name, which in the new context made no sense because he now came with a halberd and not a sword. To add insult to injury, a lot of stores had this figure hanging just a few pegs away from the better articulated Thor-branded figure… on clearance! It’s the retail equivalent of Hasbro unzipping their pants, pulling out their Mjolnir and slapping us in the face with it.
Ok, that’s enough disappointment for one day. I’m going to take some Topamax and gin to level out my mood and I’ll be back tomorrow with the final five.

FigureFan’s Favorites 2012, Part 1

 

Happy New Year, folks! Let’s jump right in with the first five delectable items on my Favorites list. I’ll point out that these are not in any order because that would have taken more effort and the whole point of this song and dance was to get me a week off… let’s go!

 

Masters of the Universe Classics: The Wind Raider by Mattel… As much as I give Matty Collector a hard time, I can’t deny they produce some amazing toys and figures. But as I mentioned in a recent feature, I didn’t give a lot of attention to the MOTUC line in 2012. Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist grabbing the Wind Raider, and I’m certainly glad I did. Besides being the only vehicle released in the line so far, it is one big, beautiful, and very high-quality toy. At about $60 shipped, it certainly wasn’t cheap, and yet I was still totally impressed and satisfied with it when it came out of the box. The fact that Matty has managed to make it readily available for purchase throughout the year is even better. This piece really belongs in every MOTUC collection.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Nickelodeon’s Ninja Turtles by Playmates… Yep, I’m cheating on this one, because I’m using one slot for four figures. I make no apologies, because how could I choose just one of the Heroes in a Half Shell? Some may be surprised to find the smaller, modern versions of the Turtles on this list, rather than the larger Classic-inspired figures, but when you get down to it, these little guys are just more amazing. The new designs are fantastic, the sculpts and articulation are great, and they’re also some of the best values hanging on the action figure pegs today. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t like the show they’re based on! It’s no surprise that the TMNT sections were cleaned out at most retailers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I often lament the kids growing up today without the kind of kick-ass toys I had as a kid, but these figures actually make me jealous of those damn kids.

Marvel Legends: Steve Rogers & Thor by Hasbro… I really tried to break this tie, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it. In 2012 Hasbro brought Marvel Legends back with a vengeance, and there were lots of solid efforts. This entry originally started as a three-way tie with Arnim Zola finally getting edged out. Steve Rogers and Thor are both prime examples of what I look for in a great action figure. I’d say that of the two, Rogers is more fun to pick up and play with, but Thor’s heft and sculpt capture everything there is to say about the character. If anything, these two figures showed me that Hasbro was trying to do things right with Legends this time around.


Doctor Who: “The Chase” Collector Set by Character Options… You can call this my token Doctor Who slot if you wish, but I’m putting it here anyway. Based on an episode that aired in 1965, the bulk of this set is comprised of a Mechanoid, a robot that looks like a giant Christmas tree ornament that we saw once and never again. The bottom line is that it’s almost impossible that this set exists and yet it does, and for that I love it to pieces. Doctor Who may have grown into a huge international success, but classic and obscure items like this one are geared toward a very niche market, and I congratulate Character Options for making them. The fact that it had a couple of extra classic Daleks was just icing on the cake!

Transformers Commemorative Series:  Powermaster Optimus Prime by Hasbro… Sneaking onto the list as a technicality is this amazing Toys R Us exclusive. Hasbro released Powermaster Prime way back in 2003, but I featured him this year and he isn’t old enough to be a “Vintage Vault” entry, so here he is! Easily one of my favorite Transformers releases of all time, this set is so hefty and so beautifully packaged, that it puts most of the Transformers SDCC Exclusives to shame. This toy features a plethora of modes and all kinds of little custom tweaks to give it even more playability. There’s so much cool interchangeable stuff here that it reminds me of the glorious old Micronaut sets that I grew up with. This “Commemorative Edition” was also the first time that the superior Takara version of the toy was released stateside. I paid $50 for this beauty back in the day, which was a good enough deal that I eventually picked up a second set to leave packaged. Even during times when I have the bulk of my Transformers collection put away, Powermaster Prime is always out on display. I just love him that much.

Swing by tomorrow, and I’ll wrap up my Favorites List with the last five entries…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Foot Soldier (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

Ok, one more Turtles feature and then I’m moving on to randomness for the rest of the week. I had originally planned to do a double feature on April and the Foot Soldier, because I didn’t think I had a whole hell of a lot to say about either of these figures. But then I kind of got all ranty on April, so that’s why we’re getting to look at Foot Soldier all by his lonesome. It’s not that this is a bad figure. Not at all. But he’s a faceless minion for the Turtles to beat up, so he obviously doesn’t have a lot of the same personality and excitement as some of the others. Either way, it’s Monday and I’m in the doldrums, so let’s press on and see what he’s all about.


The packaging! Blah, blah, I love the packaging! Blah, blah. I want to meet it at a bar and buy it a couple of drinks and take it home and tell it how great it is. If you want to see some more in depth thoughts about these packages check out my past Turtles features. To sum it up quick and dirty: Playmates, you done good here.

Does anyone remember the early proto shots of this figure? Remember those goddamn crazy swirly eyes? If you don’t, you can look really closely on any of the Wave 1 packages where they show the other figures, including this one, and you’ll see what I mean. Well thankfully, those didn’t make it into the final figure. In the end Playmates went with a simple red paint job over a sculpt that makes the eyes look rather insectoid. It’s an odd choice, either way, but it looks appropriately creepy.

Apart from the averted eye disaster, the Foot Soldier is a pretty solid looking figure. I like the cheesy foot emblem on his headband, and the overly stylized forearms and lower legs don’t bother me as much as I thought they would. There’s a hint of sculpted detail to his outfit, but it’s kind of soft. As a minion, this guy certainly gets by.

Articulation is very simple. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders and hips, and his arms can swivel just below the elbows. He can also swivel at the waist. The common idea among mass market action figure design these days seems is to cut articulation. Playmates was able to retain it for the Turtles, but everyone else, including the Foot Soldier here, conforms to the prevailing strategy. I was still able to have some fun futzing about with him, but the lack of hinges in the elbows and knees is sorely missed.

While the package proclaims the inclusion of a “Ninja Arsenal,” the reality is somewhat different. You don’t get a cool sprue tree loaded with weapons, like we did with the Turtles and with April. Instead you get a couple of swords and a couple of throwing stars. Footsy here has a set of functional scabbards that peg into his back and hold his two swords very nicely. The swords are simple molded black pieces that he can hold in either hand. He also comes with a set of throwing stars, which he can also hold surprisingly well. So, not a lot of gear, but what’s here is good. But let’s face it, he could have come with a bazooka and he wouldn’t have stood a chance against the Turtles.

Overall, I like this figure well enough. There’s just something about this line that is so much fun and endearing to me. He’s nothing crazy special, but for the going price of these figures, he’s a decent enough goon for the Turtles to beat on. Then again, with the lack of articulation and paint apps, it seems like he should have been offered up in an army builder two-pack for just a couple of dollars more. I will likely pick up one more of these just so I can have them flanking my Shredder on the shelf, but on my next pass through the toy aisle, I’m going to start grabbing the Wave 2 figures.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: April O’Neil (Nickelodeon) by Playmates

TMNT is still the only figure line hanging on the pegs at my local big box that I’m currently collecting. There’s still no sign of any more Marvel Legends Wave 3 turning up and the Transformers section is literally all Bumblebees and Hot Shots. But that’s fine, because the Nick TMNT figures are still some of the best values out there and I’m happy to pick some more of them up every time I make a grocery run. If nothing else it keeps me out of that expensive Lego aisle. But today was a day I was dreading. The day I actually picked up April O’Neil. I bought her because I felt I needed the figure in my collection, even though considering my thoughts on the character design, buying her went against all reason.


I’ve gushed on and on about the packaging for this line, so I’m not going to do it anymore. It’s gorgeously retro, it’s nostalgic, it’s functional, and it makes me want to buy the figures. Case in point, even April looked good enough in the package that I was willing to toss her into the cart. As always, the back of the card includes a file card, and in this case, it is quite possibly the file card for Sari Sumdac from Transformers Animated line. Apparently they’re both teenage chicks with attitude who fall in with the heroes because her genius father was abducted by the bad guys. Ok… time out.

Seriously, guys, how f’cking lazy is that? Look, I will likely never watch this show. It’s not because I won’t give it a chance or I don’t think it can be good, but I just don’t have the time for more than a handful of TV shows a week and a TMNT cartoon isn’t going to be one of those. But what was wrong with the portrayal of April as an independent professional journalist? Can little kids today not relate to an independent career woman as a role model? Do female toys have to be the slutty goth offspring of monsters for them to be marketable? “But, FigureFan the old April always got kidnapped and the Turtles had to save her, so she wasn’t really a strong female role model and…” SHUT UP! I’m making a point! I don’t care how much attitude this new April has, this just seems like a regression. Ok, that’s enough, let’s look at the figure.

Ugh. This over stylized design in animation today pisses me off so much. I’d even take Filmation’s atrociously gratuitous reuse of stock animation footage over this shit. Whether it’s Sari or Miko or Brave or this April, it all just feels so lazy and everything looks like everything else and I totally hate it almost as much as I hate hyperbole. I know, I’m a dinosaur and I think everything was better back in the day. But I calls it likes I sees it.

In terms of transferring the character design to figure form, I’d say this figure mostly succeeds. Playmates got her outfit down pretty well, although I think the white on yellow tampo for her shirt is too hard to see and they should have went with different coloring to make the figure pop more. It may be show accurate, but the show was designed to sell toys, so they maybe should have planned that out better at the drawing board. Still, the sculpted ruffling in the fabric of her shirt and shorts is nice detail for this kind of figure. On the other hand, April’s face sculpt looks a lot softer than all of the other figures in the line, making it hard to define important details, like her mouth. I should also note that this whole figure looks kind of grungy. It’s something about the plastic used for her yellow top and the skin tone of her face. She doesn’t have that bright and toyish charm that the other figures have.

April’s articulation falls in line with the other figures in this line which are not Turtles. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, and hips, swivels in the forearms, and a swivel at the waist. There isn’t a lot of poseability here, but I’m going to give April a pass, since her limbs are so skinny and soft that I doubt they could support hinges in the elbows or knees.

April comes with a bowstaff and a sprue tree of other assorted gear. It’s interesting that she comes with more weapons than either Splinter or Shredder. I kind of dig the fact that it’s supposed to be training gear and her sword actually has a wood grain sculpted into the blade to point out that it’s a training sword. That’s a cool little touch. The downside is only one of her hands is really designed to hold anything.

And there you have it. April failed to win me over, but then I didn’t really expect her to. There are a few nagging issues with the figure beyond just the character design. That all having been said, I don’t regret buying her. She was only nine bucks and I really wasn’t about to collect a Turtles line without getting April.