Turning up in today’s mail straight from dodgy old China was Leader Class Takara Jetfire.
He’s a tidy piece of kit, with lots of robo-kibble, a giant backpack and wings that make him rather topple heavy, and a swanky color scheme that I love to pieces. Best of all I got him for $40 AUD delivered to my sandy door in West Australia.
In Jet mode he’s shonking gigantic and pretty cool if you like jets and shit that flies. Which I don’t – don’t care about Seekers, or Jets or Top gun or any of that shit. Fuck off with all of it. But I do love Jetfire. He’s the exception and fuck you if you disagree.
Like the front of the box says “JET TO ROBOT”. That’s the kind of pants wetting box copy excitement I live for man.
Jetfire comes with a crap ton of accessories including modular weapons that can be pegged to each other, or on his arms, legs and hands in a heap of different combinations.
I love modular weapons of all types. Call it a fetish if you like, so bonus points for Jet Captain Sciencepants in my book for all those robo-kibbling extras.
It’s all the cool stuff you used to get (remember Roadbuster?) with Transformers before the lines were massively cost-cutty-costed-fuck-costed as the prices of Oil and plastics and keeping it real went skyrocketing upward to infinity and beyond.
Weird and wacky combinations are the order of the day, you can mix in shit from your ever deadly Box ‘o Weapons if you like into even weirder more stupid combinations. BAM!
The back of the box looks like this, it’s got Japanese writing so makes the toy and whole shebang at least 20% cooler in any fanboys book. Some Takara fan literally just spontaneously came in their pants seeing the back of this box, you know they did! It’s even got yellow fucking arrows that rotate or something and weird robo-former-chibi-animals in the corner for fuck knows what promotional reasons. Priceless!
What’s this, an obscure color pack in comic, the likes of which we never see in the West, starring my favourite Roboformer Scientist Extremus that I will never understand a word of?
But relax, I’ve done me own dodgy fan translation of the only part worth reading below. It’s all 100% accurate.
Yeah you can find actual translations online of various TF pack in comics – but why bother when most of the “stories” are absolute meaningless shit and it’s way more fun to make up your own story when you get bored.
If you’re good at Transforming and Jetfiring Out with toys like I am, you’ll end up with something like this and be tempted to smash the fucker to pieces when you can’t get the bits to go where you want them to when you want. Yeah I’m useless at Transforming toys.
Jetfire’s backpack is detachable, and you can angle his derpy fat nose cone up or down. Hide it in the up position and he falls over with his robo-backpack and kibble heavy wings (which are at least part of his irresistibly charming sweet Swanky Science Fighter 3000 good looks).
Or angle that nosecone section down and use it like a third leg to stop him falling over like a drunken Robert Cop at 80’s parties then hastily hide it behind your other smaller TF figures in a frenzy of drunken shame.
Did we cover the front of the box? I mean fuck, boxes are the only reason I buy toys, we better put that in there or Zombie Jesus will steal our souls.
Shit, it’s got more Japanese writing, that makes it better than anything Hasbro could ever shit out right? Also his weapons don’t have chrome, that’s like major brownie points for no-chrome Takara loving fetishists or people unintentionally blinded by overly reflective Chrome is it not?
Let’s see those sweet modular weapons again. Now excuse me I must jet off and go have dinner.
ALSO: BATTLE MASK!!! Totally nothing to do with MACROSS for legal reasons and stuff. Shut up about it or you’ll get sued.
Time to build another Mega Bloks set of figures. This time the mutant Rhino man who needs no introduction.
But first what does his head look like swapped onto a Foot Ninja’s body? It’s the question nobody is dying to know the answer to right now.
SO HOT RIGHT NOW.
Okay, enough of that bullshit – the build for the ninjas is the same as the other Bebop and Foot Ninja Mega Bloks set so I won’t bother with more pics -just see that post.
The base is mostly identical – different background pictures of course. We get Rocksteady’s gun, combat knife, two belt accessories (grenade and a shell thing) plus a black Sai – on the very right of below image, it’s hard to see. Oh and those manhole cover things you can stand the figures on, or ignore at your peril.
I used the stable table that belongs to my Mrs so I could build these sets (and some others) while watching Marvel’s PUNISHER show. Handy Hint For Expert Nerds: it gets really boring, really fast…ugh.
When I was done with this set, noticed the weird ass box art for Rocksteady. What’s up with that green shirt? Oh well, the box still looks cool. I kind of dig the alt color sheme.
Dig that funky green border, logo and vintage style Turtles art on the side. I like the way Rocksteady is prominent on the box – clearly they know what the main appeal of this set is for fans. It’s rare to see decent toy box art that actually looks cool – and has decent poses for the mini-figures.
Here’s the set on my now crowded TMNT Mega Bloks bookshelf. I just shoved them on there for now, get em built and will sort them better later in the week – time permitting.
A final close up below of this wicked set.
Quick stupid ninja robot, stomp that rat before he chews on your circuits and diodes.
Some more mini-posts on the other smaller figures and set I got later this week – Baxter, Human Rocksteady and a couple other bits and bobs – like the second plastic TMNT garage thing I picked up as it suits the scale of these magnificent weirdos.
My first shipment of multiple TMNT Megablox / Mega Construx sets arrived this week from Amazon. I grabbed a couple of other cheap ones on ebay, but most of these sets have been gone for years from stores – and a lot of them probably never even made it to local retail where I live anyway.
After hunting around for the best prices, – the ONLY online store I found that was not charging MORE than retail price for these sets was Amazon. I usually avoid amazon as the postage to Australia is horrendously shithouse – often costing up to two times the price of say a $20-30 product in postage fees. Meanwhile I can buy all kinds of cool toys from China with flat rate shipping for next to nothing.
Enough whinging about postal fees, let’s take a look at what is in the damn set.
First up, you get Bebop in the display window, three unassembled Foot Soldiers, a brick base to put together, plus the piping and background scenery pieces. Also weapons for each character and a little connector piece to make this base join other sets if you choose to.
Inside the box are the mini-figures, weapons, and bits to make the base for them to stand on, and the cool little manhole covers that act as individual platform bases on top of the main thing.
Bebop is already assembled, and the three foot ninja are very easy to assemble via following the pack in color instruction sheet. The weapons include a Bo / Staff, Nunchuks, two throwing stars, a Katana sword and Bebops rifle / laser gun.
All the weapons are easily equipped, except the damn throwing stars. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but so far can’t get ANY figure to hold the bloody throwing stars.
If this were a Youtube video I’d say “here’s the back of the box” and then we would skip forward to see the toys already because boxes are boring and mostly go in the trash around these parts. But I’m gonna keep this one to put all the various instruction sheets from multiple sets in for now.
The smaller picture at the bottom of the box shows how this set can connect to others with the green brick base. I love that the green bricks are translucent, it gives a cool radioactive ooze / sewer vibe to it that fits the theme and color scheme of TMNT. It’s that care and attention to detail that really elevates the TMNT Mega Bloks set in my eyes above the LEGO TMNT sets – even if the build quality is inferior to LEGO.
Here’s the Bebop set almost fully assembled, with some dodgy poses to show off the cool articulation of the mini-figures. They have elbow and knee joints, the arms and hips are ball-jointed, elbows swivel and the hands can rotate the same as a lego figure. The heads are swappable too like LEGO figures.
Other body parts like legs are also interchangeable, but it’s not really recommended. The figures are slighter taller than lego figures, but not as wide in the torso and legs.
LEGO is made of a harder sturdier plastic, with simpler figures that you can swap parts over and over hundreds of times without fear of breakage. Mega Bloks / Construx are much softer plastic, better poseability as figures, but the joints pop off quite easily – and the more you do it the more potential stress marks you put on the limbs and joints. Swapping bits around even 5-10 times and there is good potential for something to break.
But I bought these for display rather than play, so it’s kind of a non issue once set up. One of my foot ninja hands is already nearly snapped just from holding a weapon that was slightly too big for his hand – a weapon from his own set. For that reason I would recommend LEGO anything over Mega Bloks for younger kids as it tends to not break even with several years of play.
Now that I am aware of that fragility , I will watch out for it in other sets – set them up and not messing with them too much will avoid these sorts of issues hopefully. It’s not a big thing with these figures, but something to be aware of.
For now, I’ve stuck a NICK foot ninja on this base from another set, cos Bebop is riding in style with his main man. I have not unboxed toon Rocksteady yet, (look for that post next week) so he is with his Out of the Shadows brother – despite the different aesthetics, they still look cool together. Each figure has a peg hole in their back for different accessories, or to peg on to the sewer pipe background that has loads of pegs.
That’s how that foot ninja is pole vaulting upwards in the picture, his back is pegged on to the pipe behind him. It’s a pretty cool feature and one I plan to make use of in other sets. The best use of it so far is the fly wings for Baxter Stockman, who appears in both his Fred Wolf era pale white scientist version, and his afro loving homage to Mirage Comics version from the NICK turtles show. One version has great wings, and the other does not. That will be my next post – comparing the two Baxter Stockmans, and why I’ve ordered a second set of one of them.
With this Bebop set done, I still have Samurai Leo with Mousers set, Toon Rocksteady Mutagen Set, Rocksteady and Foot Ninja sets to unbox. I’ve put toon Baxter together, and he will be in my next post. Here’s a quick preview.
So I was browsing away the toy aisle in Target this week when a particular toy caught my eye. City Pizza – a basic Lego set consisting of a van, small table, scooter and two lego figures.
Normally I don’t give a crap about LEGO (and I still don’t give a crap about LEGO right now…) but I’ve been getting into these TMNT Mega Bloks / Mega Construx toys lately – for the cool mini-figures more than anything else.
I’ve never bought any of the Mega anything sets before – but as recent posts here will tell you I’ve been on a Ninja Turtle toy buying kick lately.
For $20, I thought what the fuck – take a gamble and see if this van can be re-purposed from boring ass LEGO land and brought into the world of kick-ass TMNT Mega Bloks.
It works pretty well , I randomly stuck a big pole on the roof of the van from one of the TMNT sets – and Raph flipped out to get some of that high flying pizza.
Not to be beaten, the pizza chef dude had a go on the gymnast (or ninja stripper) pole and all while holding one of Leo’s Katana’s. He had his helmet on – he’s a professional after all and can’t afford to miss a day of work.
Raph chills out with the Slice that Satisfies and Rocksteady has a go at being the world’s worst delivery driver. For some reason his customers always pay even when the pizza is cold, late and soggy.
Leo carves up a slice in style – wearing his stupid goofy sunglasses that I can’t help but love. Leo, Rocksteady and his bike (not pictured) come from one of the Out of the Shadows sets, while Raph is the NICK toon version.
Later after mucking about with the van and mini-figures in various poses – I added the LEGO stickers to the van. The small bits of pizza and the stickers really stood out on the box – and once applied looked pretty cool. Overall I’m happy with this set re-appropriated as part of one of my new TMNT centric displays.
I showed these sets to my Mrs when she got home from work, she liked the scooter and got pretty agressive with it, and we both had a good laugh really. We tried putting the Lego lady figure (in the drivers seat above) on Rocksteady’s big bike – and she was impressed with the cool LED light up function on Rocksteady’s chopper.
The side bits on the van can hinge up and down, and the wheels roll really smoothly. I’ve just got a whole bunch of other Mega Contrux stuff from Amazon this week, and also ordered the Turtle Van / Party Wagon so expect some more of these short muck about posts soon in between more full articles on Transformers.
Ninja’s totally flip out all the time while being awesome
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how cool and amazing Transformers toys are.
The idea of the very first Transformer toys were realistic diecast toy cars – that also happened to turn into simplistic robots.
It’s easy to miss those old school toys were not robots that turned into vehicles, (or real world objects such as Soundwave and Megatron) they were vehicles with a bonus mode that resembled a very basic robot. You had to use your imagination. It was the branding and cartoon that made us think of them primarily as robots.
Over the years Transformers evolved from simple chunky bots into fully articulated action figures. They did not start off as action figures, but as toys that had a bonus feature – the transformation gimmick. You paid for one toy, but you basically got two toys for your money – making for increased play value.
Looking back from 2017 to the vintage Transformers, Diaclone and Micro-Change toys, it’s easy to miss the aim of the toy line was not poseability or articulation – it was all about play value and various gimmicks. Most kids don’t give a crap what poses a figure can pull off, it’s gotta be an engaging character, something they recognise, or full of bright cheerful colors or have some cool play gimmick to keep a kids attention. If a toy has all of those things that makes it even more desirable.
ALL ACTION, ALL THE TIME
The general idea of licensed action figures such as the Kenner Super Powers or MEGO’s was character accuracy, bright colors and toy gimmicks that made the toy appealing to kids. The term Action Figure often implied some type of action gimmick, or being tied to an action oriented licensed character – rather than just articulation.
Take a look at vintage G. I. Joe and Action Man, and you’ll see amazing articulation that was not used used in many other toys for decades as its was just too cost prohibitive. The large scale Joes used the same basic idea as girls dolls – large toys that you can buy many outfits for thus increasing it’s potential play value. Their poseability and accessories set the action figure standard, but the large size (costs, mass market vs say hot toys etc) was mostly non transferable to other toy lines. As costs went up, and more and more licensed merchandise arrived in the form of action figures – over the years the toys got smaller.
When G.I. Joe eventually was relaunched he didn’t come back in his large scale cloth clothing form, he was shrunk down the same size as the new tiny Star Wars figures. Meaning they were cheaper toys to make, but they also were far more articulated than the Star Wars figures. And like the Star Wars toy line – the new smaller scale toys had legendary vehicles and accessories to play with.
FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY – THE ARTICULATED MAN
Even the basic idea of articulation existed much earlier than the action figure craze of the 1960’s. For example Ideal Toy Company produced a wooden articulated Superman toy back in 1939. And various dolls for girls over the decades had limited articulation, soft hair, eyes that moved etc. Going back even further we have wooden marionettes – puppets more than toys – but the idea of articulation based on a mammalian skeletal structure and movement patterns is there.
The action figure is basically a hybrid of features from other toys – mainly from girls dolls, with play gimmicks added from toys typically made for boys. The modern action figure still exists as a toy on chainstore shelves for kids but also exists as an adult collectible aiming at screen, comic or video game artistic accuracy over any play features or poseability, while mainline chain-stores boys toys are still heavily oriented around various gimmicks, accessories and ties ins such as vehicles.
For example my Grossery Gang Garbage Truck has a Garbage Catapult, the front dumpster lifts up on the arm forks, both the side doors open with peg holes for figures, there’s a gun turret and seat on one side and the wheels roll quite smoothly. Oh and the front canopy opens so you can put a figure in there.
The play pattern and emphasis is on ACTION. And those fold out doors mean you can store Transforming burgers or whatever other Junkfood Formers you got lying around in there.
From these different influences then – statues, marionettes, dolls and other odd toys and gimmicks we arrive at the hybrid toy – the action figure. Poseable, articulated, stylish, cool, full of attitude and toughness and can-do.
The modern action figure is like a marionette without strings that can hold its own poses on one end of the scale – or like a statue with limited articulation on the other hand – made to look stunning on display.
Those old Brickformers of my youth could not pull of an action pose to save their life. Fast forward to more modern toys like Combiner Wars Motormaster or Classics / Henkei Optimus Prime and we now have a toy robot that transforms into a cool vehicle AND is a competent action figure.
THESE ARE NOT THE BOTS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
The toy line that made action figures truly viable in the mainstream after vintage Joe died off was of course the Star Wars figures and vehicles from Kenner. The articulation was pretty limited, but the details were nice. The card backs were rather attractive and most important – they had a MASSIVE demand in stores and a CHEAP price point for toys that mostly resembled their source material.
Star Wars figures were toys kids could buy with pocket money, or parents might buy on a day out at the shops without breaking the bank. To my eyes they are small, ugly and stupid. Yeah I’m not a fan of those figures at all. But I respect the place they have in toy and action figure history, and I did enjoy seeing some of my mates collection when I was younger (I never owned any myself, and if I did I would likely burn them).
The Star Wars movies eventually being released on home VHS meant an extended life for Star Wars products and figures, along with their vehicles. The smaller scale Star Wars figures were such a hit, that when the G.I. Joe brand was relaunched by Hasbro – they went with the new cheaper downscaled 3 3/4 scale figures – mimicking the Star Wars figures, while adding in much needed articulation. This scale of action figure also had the benefit of fitting in the many large vehicles that populate the Star Wars and G.I. Joe lines without looking ridiculous as most toy lines typically do due to scale issues.
Star Wars and licensed superhero figures pushed the niche of the Action Figure to mass mainstream audiences through the seventies and eighties. Eventually, technology moved along to provide more accurate sculpting of facial features. This side technology of facial scanning grew out of the movie and video game worlds, and became a standard adopted, used and rapidly progressed in its accuracy for several years and used in many licensed products for actor likenesses, wrestlers, etc.
Meaning more accuracy and less reliance on sculpts from scratch. Previous portrait technologies involved the use of a camera, or the use of a person sitting really still for many hours while being painted. So facial scanning for licensed products is still pretty new in the history of humanity. Our cave man ancestors made do with sticks and stone toys presumably, and lots more imagination. They never imagined a future of three dimensional scanning creepily bringing dead actors back to life in movies, or giving us the highest possible raised position of an eyebrow on a sweaty muscle man.
Our modern toys still have to be physically designed, prototyped, and manufactured of course. But this fancy pants computer technology bullshit contributes and fast tracks the amazing movie accurate toys we see today in toy lines from Hot Toys, NECA etc, along with the more traditional artists sculpts and statues. Not to gloss over all the traditional design and pre-production work from artists in traditional and digital media that precedes the production of any high end toy or movie licensed product. Full credit to those hard working artists man!
THE BEASTS OF BURDEN
Eventually Transformers started adopting more of the standardized features of the action figure type of toys, and less of the features typical of diecast vehicles (well…Alternators…*cough*). While various features like light piping, ball joints and more appeared in selected G1 and G2 toys, it was the Beast Wars tie in toy line that made Transformers into fully articulated standarized action figures – rather than diecast vehicles that also turned into boxy robots.
The organic alt modes of Beast Wars allowed more freedom to run wild with new designs not limited by past Transformers designs, or styles of transformation. They were more Western action figure that happens to turn into a thing, rather than Japanese super robot…that turns into a thing.
For the first time subsidiary Kenner – famous for making Star Wars, Super Powers and Batman action figure lines was asked to make the new Beast Wars figures. Having failed to make any real impact with the Generation Two branding (and cancelled TV show) Hasbro was willing to take a chance with something radically different to anything that had come before in Transformers history.
Beast Wars remains a divisive line/brand with many fans loving it or outright hating it. But nobody (except lunatics) denies the impact it had on the evolution of Transformers toys – and that it basically saved the Transformers media brand and toys from probable extinction. I still can’t stand about 90% of anything Beast Wars related. But like Star Wars, Beast Wars has its significant place in Transformers toy history and Lore.
AND I’LL FORM… THE HEAD
So, with all that articulation and fancy bells and whistles making these modern Transformer toys so special, what else do they need? A cool look is important, but more than that you need personality and character.
Do kids want Bumblebee every year because he’s frigging yellow and named after a Bee? No they want him because of his winning personality and on screen shenanigans. Because he’s a recognizable iconic character like Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo or Spongebob. Its a challenge for any Writer/Creator/Imagineer of Transformers fiction to balance the robot modes with the alt modes. Stories set on Earth or Cybertron tend to have roads or an atmosphere conducive to flying. Roads justify vehicle alt modes, while worlds without roads make more sense to have Beast of flying forms for mobility.
Too much alt mode and we lose the character or get bored. It just becomes a piloted mech or fancy ATV. Too much humanoid sentient alien robot, and we lose what makes Transformers unique from mecha and super robot shows.
We like our robots of all flavors to have personalities. The most enduring characters are well defined in their personalities and values, but with room to do new things in stories, or the for audience to project something of themselves onto that character. The original Transformers toys came alive in kids imaginations, partly due to the old box bios – and partly due to the tie in cartoon and comics, the rest was imagination for them Brickformers. The toys themselves were rather beautiful, but limited in what they could do. The stories and characters were mainly influenced by american superhero fiction, thus making Transformers uniquely american, despite the toys being a totally different toyline rebranded and imported from Japan.
Astro boy, Optimus Prime and the Iron Giant are sentient robots full of personality and humanity, and while Gundam mecha are big robot suits piloted by humans – even these mecha has a personality and style to them that makes them far more than just “vehicles” even if they are ultimately the worlds fanciest all terrain (or no terrain) vehicles.
Transformers sit comfortably as a mix of toy, action figure, cool robot, and cool character/personality. Take Jetfire above – he’s a warrior/scientist, looks great as a robot and turns into a gigantic kick ass flying vehicle. Any one of these elements alone can be enough to sell a toy, or promote a tie in with licensed media. Add them all together and you have a recipe for keeping kids young and old entertained and coming back for more for decades.
In this image below from left to right: Transformers Animated Black Arachnia, TF Animated Bulkhead, Generation Two Sideswipe and TMNT Classics Mikey. The turtle toy can pull off just about any pose you can dream of, while in contrast G2 Sideswipe (a redeco of the G1 toy) can move his arms up and down a little and his wheels rolls smoothly in vehicle mode. Bulkhead has a fair amount of articulation, but his poses are limited by his size and weight – no kung-fu kicks for this Deskbot – unless you have the patience for it.
You can see how the Sideswipe toys looks cool, but not much personality to him other than his sweet color scheme. Without a box bio or comic or cartoon – we don’t know much about Sideswipe. In contrast Mikey and Bulkhead are just full of personality and quite expressive. Even without looking at any tie in media, we get an idea of their character just from looking at them.
Bulkhead has cool gimmicks such as his jaw moves when he talks, and the voice clips are straight from the show audio – no second hand “toy only” off key voice actor shenanigans here. His arm buzzsaw spins, while his other arm has a claw grabbing action. Mikey has Nunchucks with fake chains so they hang and can be posed in any number of ways, while his base and foot pegs means he can ninja-kick with the best of em and not topple over.
WE MUST BRING BALANCE TO THE TRANSFORMATION
Stories like IDW comics Stormbringer bring us less “robots in disguise” and more robots in big action scenes, gung-ho dialogue with loads of characters and not much alt modes to be seen because it’s what fans – manchildren – want. But a good Transformers story in any media needs a balance of bot and alt mode to make it genuine, and not just a generic Robot story. Personally just give me a shit ton of fights and explosions and I’ll be happy.
Likewise, a good modern Transformers toy needs to be a balance of vehicle, cool robot and action figure and winning personality (or face ripping sadist executioner). It’s a balance that is not always quite right. Often one mode suffers for the sake or another. Most notorious are triple changers – at best two out of three modes look decent, with the third mode often suffering to accommodate the other two.
When a Bot transformation scheme, play factor and overall cool aesthetics comes together, it’s just magic. The infamous MP-10 Optimus Prime and his variants have a beautiful truck mode and a stunning robot mode that looks great many years after its creation. It’s also a highly articulated action figure, satisfying the third criteria of successful modern Transformers toy designs. It’s also a kick-ass representation of an iconic character, so it’s win/win/win and gets Bluebot Bears Big Stamp of Awesome.
Most modern action figures usually emulate the human musculoskeletal system (or an animal’ skeleton), and it’s implied ranges of normal movement.
In the below image is a Kenner Batman figure that can pull off a variety of action poses, next to him is RID Thunderhoof, who can do most if not all of the same poses Batman can do. He’s the modern Transformer robot, vehicle and action figure hybrid. The brickbots of my childhood (that I still love) generally can’t pull of these sorts of poses, and they were never intended to. To me it’s silly to complain any toy does’t have a feature it was never designed to have. Makes as much sense to me as complaining that pigs don’t have wings and can’t fart gold bricks.
The BVS movie Batman (in silver) next to The Rock also has articulation, but its rather limited and he can pull of almost zero action poses other than kneeling while falling over or raising and bending his arms in a straight linear line while dropping his poorly gripped weapon. Samurai Leo is even worse, he looks great but his articulation means his feet can’t go far and his arms are not flexible enough to pull off any realistic sword poses or combat stances.
Thunderhoof meanwhile can pull of some great poses, has a really cool transformation scheme, looks great in his tractor alt mode and (mostly) resembles his on screen persona. While there are better TF toys, Thunderhoof is a fine example of a modern Transformers toy done right and the evolution of the Vehicle / Robot / Action figure triangle, and a good place to end this post.
Optimus Prime art by Alex Milne / Marker Guru https://markerguru.deviantart.com/gallery/6117864/commissions
Superman toy image https://www.cgccomics.com/boards/topic/252921-rare-1939-40-13quot-superman-action-figure-1st-licensed-supes-merchandise/
Sunstreaker vintage toy image http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Sunstreaker_(G1)/toys
I still remember the day my Mum brought home the giant size Michelangelo. I assume she got it second hand or something like that, as it was in the boot of her car and had no box / wrapper or whatever it originally came in. It was pretty much in new condition, came with his nunchuks and his fabric belt – which has since been lost.
Fast forward a decade or so and I moved to Australia, leaving many treasured childhood toys and such in storage at my Dads place in Christchurch.
Fast forward another decade and I had some old items shipped over from New Zealand including Big Mike and the Twins (aka my Transformers G1 Doublecross and old TMNT Playmates figures).
Then I moved from rural Victoria to Perth / West Australia (for the second time) and Big Mike went back in storage for another few years. Unfortunately I left Mike behind at the last minute when I shifted as the bag he was packed in was too high, obscuring the back window in my car when I drove / moved interstate from Victoria to West Australia, a safety no-no in my book.
And then last week or so, Big Mike arrived along with boxes of my other old stuff. In the same week I got back my 1989 Big Mike, the NECA TMNT 1:4 Scale Movie Mike I ordered online about a month ago also arrived. What are the chances of both these fantastic toys turning up in my life in the same week? AWESOME!
I’m not good with math and odds, but damn it’s awesome to get both in the same week. And having not seen Mike for a number of years – I had him back for two whole years out of storage, before he went back to storage – and he feels like a new toy again.
Before I took a few pics for this post, I gave him a good rub down (sounds a bit too sexy) with some cleaning wipes, as he had years of dust caked in. Right in those hard to reach dirty turtle crevices and shell curves etc.
DAMN HE’S A GOOD TOY!!
I don’t know what it is, but the simple thing of just taking a basic toy, and upscaling it often leads to a really cool toy at a sensible price. Giant size Batman and Vader for example are two of my favourites -and there are other versions nearly double the size of these bozos around.
Big Batman, Big Mike, Big Vader, Fort Max, Big Bebop, Big Spider-Man – I just love larger scale toys.
Anyhow, enough of my fetish for large scale toys.
Let’s get back to Magic Mike…
For a simple toy, he has some impressive features. His face has that permanent scowl that is at odds with the animated Mikey – but fits more with the original Mirage Turtles (adding plenty of confusion to my younger self’s TV Turtles obsessed brain).
His nunchucks are the best best of ANY version of Mikey imo, yes even better than the NECA 1:4 Scale figure ones. The NECA ones are nice accessories, but don’t pose so great and look kind of bland in comparison to the big chunky orange Playmates ones that you can legitimately swing around like real nunchucks, even now 28 years after it’s manufactured date.
The back of Big Mike’s shell has a nice soft texture to it, and looks great. Something about the softer texture just elevates it above the smaller scale figures. NECA Big Mike (on the right) of course has as amazing shell, reflecting the care and detail that went into the Henson Workshop designs. Both versions of Mikey clearly don’t skip their squats.
A quick close up of Mike’s shell, and apparently he’s been branded with an M at the base of his head. He also has a product stamp with his year right on his Turtle butt, but we don’t need to see that.
The proportions of Big Mike’s head always looked bit off to to me, but then the original Mirage Turtles always had exaggerated comical proportions, that was very intentional. The infamous “first turtle” sketch by Kevin Eastman of Mikey is a joke character, you can see how goofy he is.
When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird launched their original indy comic – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VOL#1, the Turtles took on their iconic squished head, pointy nose and round joweled sneering mouthed look – and that look carried over to the first line of Playmates toys. In contrast the Fred Wolf cartoon would refine the look and go with their own version commonly known as Cartoon or ‘Toon / TV Turtles. Later volumes of the Mirage comics would further refine how the Turtles looked, and I have to admit the later versions are what I prefer over their stumpy forbearers.
In the later issues of the various comics, you can see some beautiful art that softened the look of the Turtles some, making them a bit more human and less silly angry 80’s ninja parodies. That softer look went on to influence just about every other version of the Turtles we’ve had since. From live action movies to video games, other cartoons, toys etc.
That softer friendlier (more human) face. Less hard edged Daredevil Miller Ninja Parody, this style helped TMNT became it’s own legitimate multimedia thing, beyond it’s origins as a trashy 80’s pop culture parody. Not to downplay the quality of Mirage TMNT VOL#1, it’s a great series full of cool art and sci-fi concepts with some big action.
The Jim Henson Workshop gave us some of the most memorable versions of the Turtles in the first live action film(1990) a New Line / Golden Harvest co-production
The Muppet Magic was alive and well in the live action film. I remember watching it in the cinema back in the day and many times since, including just last month. It’s a film that holds up pretty well – melding aspects of the original Mirage Turtles and the Fred Wolf cartoon into a cohesive whole that easily stands on its own with dark drama, competent stunts, amazing costumes and the right amount of humor. The suits and robotics for the heads /eyes combined with traditional puppetry was quite a feat to pull off. Most puppets cheat by having at least part of the puppet off screen, but the turtles had to be seen kicking, jumping, flipping out, fighting and pretending to eat pizza.
If you dig the live action movie, this article by Aaron Couch is a great read with all sorts of wonderful insights, trivia and behind the scenes details on New Line / Golden Harvest / Henson Workshop production.
Part of what makes the NECA lice action Movie Magic Mike so great is all the skin texture and details, but man that head sculpt and eyes really sell it.
Those eyes and face bring so much personality to the big NECA Movie Mikey, it’s like he walked right off the screen and into your toy collection (and shrank along the way I guess).
When I was a kid Mikey was my favourite from the ninja turtles cartoon. The fun loving jokester, the party dude. In my teens and twenties, Raph became my favourite character, because of the Mirage comics and the post 2000 animated shows.
Below is a few different Mikey figures, the goofiest face has to go the modern Platinum Dunes Mikey movie figure in the middle, while the most grim goes to the Nick figures (smallest ones) and the old Playmates Big Mike with his sneer that does definitely not make me think of parties, sewer surfing or any kind of good time.
It’s a shame I lost his belt years ago, he looks kind of funny without it.
NAKED TURTLE ALERT!
Here’s a quick comparison with Donnie from the old toy line, (because I don’t know where the hell little Mikey has gotten to) you can see how much they upscaled Mike to make a few more of them fabulous Turtle Bucks.
Well that’s about it man. Time for some sewer surfing, pizza and a good monster film. Another post soon on NECA Movie Mike (the big dude on the right in the photos).
Boxed Giant Size Mikey image from http://toyworth.com/browse/action/figure/Teenage/Mutant/Ninja/Turtles/86.html
TMNT Original Mike Illustration by Kevin Eastman, image from http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/comic-con-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-co-creator-selling-first-drawing-of-tmnt-for-2-mil-exclusive-1201267835/
TMNT VOL 1 comic art panel from https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/422845852493027255/
Turtle Bucks Image from http://mascotjunction.com/turtle-banners/
World Map image courtesy of http://geology.com/world/world-map.shtml
Hollywood Reporter TMNT live action movie screen grab from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-untold-785653
Mikey holding cat comic cover image from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michelangelo Christmas Special by Mirage Studios
Another short post this time with 80’s icon Bebop, in his Out of the Shadows movie 11″ scale figure form.
If you like pork belly, or pork butt – then this is the toy for you. He’s got plenty of both spilling out of his pants, and he ain’t got no shame about letting it all hang out.
A mix of his classic punk rocker look with some Biker elements thrown in there, it’s a really stunning figure, and full of cool details like his Brudda from Anudder Mutant Mudder – Rocksteady.
I don’t know what it is about that belly, but it reminds me of Kung-Fu cinema legend Sammo Hung. With the addition of some nunchuks, old porkbelly becomes another Fatty Dragon. He’s just unstoppable, if not his half assed Kung-Fu kicks, his bad breath will kill you for sure.
Like the large scale Rocksteady figure, there is just the right mix of menace, mayhem and mischief to this Bebop figure. He’s part 80’s cartoon goofiness, but with a bit more of the movies realism that makes him more menacing. I think the sculpt is a really nice middle ground that is pleasing to fans new, young old and indifferent.
I could not ask for a nicer large scale toy of my favorite dumb and dumber lunkheads really. I have no interest in expensive statutes, I don’t like model kits and I like to be able to pose my toys in different displays. And for that he’s perfect.
The hair, teeth, shades and nose ring are killer, they look great at any angle. Like Rocksteady, Bebop has some leather and metal studs (on his pants rather than vest). A big bling ring, a spiked wrist collar and his weapon of choice is a meaty thick crowbar for smashing ‘dem Toitles shells like a pinata.
The bone necklace is a nice nod to his old school cartoon appearance, while the extended hair down his back shows off his movie likeness, and is closer to some real life Warthogs choices in fashionable back hair and wild mohawks.
If you want to pull off some half-assed Big-Belly-Kung-Fu- poses like the smaller scale figure, large and in charge Bebop has the same articulation. He can do a near full split, and his legs have a good range of motion, and his pork belly rotates nicely allowing for some dynamic poses, or slovenly ones – the choice is yours.
If you’re looking to start a Rocksteady Crew – then look no further – these two mutant mofo’s are full of 80’s style and attitude, mixed in with the Out of the Shadows aesthetic. I just love both of these figures, eventually I’ll have a nice shelf of TMNT only stuff on display and these lads will be taking center stage for sure.