The first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out in 1984. Originally it was more or less intended to be a one-shot deal, an independent comic put together by two guys in Northampton, MA. Of course, TMNT not only became a huge success in its own right (and later spawned a merchandizing empire) but it also gave independent comics a huge boost.
But that first comic, which you can read in its entirety on Mirage Studios' official TMNT site, was indeed meant to be a one-shot (and a parody of the "dark and gritty" comics of the period, such as Frank Miller's Daredevil), and as such it contained the beginning, middle and end of the Turtles concept: it told of their origin, the relationship between their mentor Splinter and the evil Shredder, and depicted the Turtles' battle with the Foot clan and the death of Shredder himself.
For a guy who died in the very first issue of TMNT, Shredder's done pretty well for himself. Of course, the logistics of a cartoon requires a recurring villain, so in both the '80s cartoon and the new one Shredder plays the role of the constantly-thwarted heavy.
(I mean, really. Why can't Leonardo just stab Shredder? Why can't He-Man just behead Skeletor? Why can't Duke just snipe Cobra Commander?)
With a new cartoon comes new toys, naturally. These figures are put out by Playmates, who are returning to the property that put them on the map in the first place.
Of course, a lot has happened in action figures since the first ground-breaking TMNT line (one of the first real "wacky" toy lines). Fortunately, Playmates has paid attention to that fact, and this version of Shredder is a lot better than the last one.
For one thing, he's actually wearing metal. As my esteemed colleague yo pointed out, the new Shredder looks a lot more like a modern samurai than any previous incarnation. In fact, he looks an awful lot like the Silver Samurai, a Marvel villain.
But I like the sculpting - Shredder looks suitably pointy, though he does seem a little short when compared to the Turtles themselves. Nor am I a fan of his pose - his left leg is thrust forward, almost like a ballet dancer. It looks a little... well, not that there's anything wrong with that...
The metallic, shiny paint apps are nice, but they are very prone to scratching, leaving black marks all over.
Shredder comes with a whole cache of weapons - two ninja throwing stars, a bladed staff, and two swords that can be connected by the handles to form a double-sword (not unlike that of Darth Maul, only they don't glow, obviously). The accessories themselves - particularly the staff - look a little more cartoonish than the figure may warrant, but it's still cool.
If these new figures lack the punch of, say, the Masters of the Universe revamp, that's mostly because the figures were pretty good the first time around. The original MOTU line was (at least in the early days) little more than a game of mix-and-match, re-using molds left and right to create a "new" character. A redesign, using the small stylistic cues from the first line, was easy to do. Playmates has done the exact opposite: they've toned down some of the wackiness of the original line and treated TMNT with, well, a tad more dignity. We have no idea how long-lived this newest incarnation will be - again, there's no real nostalgia factor involved - but we'll give Playmates credit for making a cool toy line.