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Man Ray

TMNT Adventures
by yo go re

From the makers of "End Apartheid" and "Save the Rainforest" comes "Protect the Oceans"!

Hero of the deep and fishy friend to the Turtles - the Mighty Mutanimal Man Ray and his lil chum Bubbla are here to save the oceans!

Created by Ryan Brown (in honor of his new writing partner Stephen Murphy), Man Ray debuted in TMNT Adventures #5, the first issue to not be an adaptation of a cartoon episode, meaning he's the series' first original creation. He was once marine biologist Jack Finney, until coming in contact with mutagen flowing out of the sewers and into the bay.

The character appeared in the comics the same time he was being developed as a Playmates action figure, which is why they have different names: either Playmates couldn't clear the naming rights for "Man Ray," or they just thought "Ray Fillet" was a better thing to call a toy. Either way, they're the same character. While the 1990 toy had sharp fangs, this one follows the art by keeping them square.

In his first appearance, Man Ray's wings were attached to his wrists, but they quickly became separate. Rather than wearing a swim shirt, like the Playmates version, he just has costume colors directly on his body. The lines between the colors are fully sculpted, as are the few scales we see. He's a large, bulky character, even in a style where everybody is large and bulky. He's the team muscle, basically. He's sculpted by Tony Cipriano, who's captured the comic art style excellently. And all without repainting Bebop, somehow! Magic!

The Fred Wolf cartoon had a problem with adapting Playmates' characters to animation - namely, they kept making them all villains even if they were heroes in the toyline. When they tried to do the same to Man Ray, Ryan Brown called them up to complain; Fred refused to change the story, so Brown and Stephen Murphy just straight-up rejected the script. Rather than rewrite it, they just called the villain "Ray" and redesigned him so he didn't look like the toy. TV Ray was a green guy with a red Speedo and a single fin on his head - the real Ray is a great shade of blue with yellow boots, and green and yellow with white stripes separating the panels. His wings and tail and a lighter blue, and there's solid black outlining to suggest the comic style.

Devil rays get their name from their cephalic fins - the TMNT Adventures comic taught me that. They're not horns, obviously, but here they fill that role: on a real manta ray, they help funnel water into its mouth, which is on the front of its body (as opposed to stingrays, where the mouth is underneath), but for this character they're up on top. The figure includes two heads: one with the mouth open, angrily, the other with the mouth closed and looking very smug. We also get our choce of four pairs of hands: fists, relaxed, spread, or holding.

Man Ray has a balljointed head, but the way his head joins his body limits its use. He's not really a guy who has a "neck," you know? The sigure also has swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel/​hinge wrists, a balljointed chest, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/​hinge ankles. His tail is packaged separately, and needs to be plugged onto the barbell at the base of his wings. The groupings of dots under the tail reveal it's bendy, too. The wings just cover the entire rear side of the figure, which is as it should be: "manta" is Spanish for "blanket," so the connotation is "big flat thing you drape over your shoulders." Perfect!

NECA gives these figures accessories straight from the comics, so Man Ray includes the harpoon gun he threatens Shredder with in issue #5, and what is presumably the Kemp's ridley sea turtle he teaches us about in issue #17. If they'd given it a little six-pack rings to slide over its flipper and neck, it could have been the one Donatello rescued in #16. I've got plenty of old twist ties handy, maybe I'll make my own. And then there's his pack-in, Bubbla the Glublub. No, you did not just have a stroke.

Released in 1990, Ray Fillet was one of the first Playmates TMNT figures to include a little sidekick. Ray's was "Fish Stix," a weird little guy with goggles, a WWI doughboy helmet, and a bundle of dynamite strapped to his back. Was he a demolitions expert? A suicide bomber? No one knows! The comic also gave Ray a small buddy, but it was much different: still aquatic, but some kind of bipedal shrimp/lobster/anglerfish combo. I think it's supposed to be a reference to those old "sea monkey" ads? Anyway, his species are called the Glublubs, and his name is Bubbla. Thus, Bubbla the Glublub.

This figure is sculpted with his hands on his hips and a sour look on his face - the way he was introduced in issue #16. He's actually much friendlier than this expression would suggest. His body is mostly orange, with yellow for his fins and red for his arms. I'd rather get the happier expression, but this makes sense. Because TMNT Adventures was meant to be a buffer between the dark Mirage books and the light cartoon, you either may or may not expect that (actual spoiler warning right here) Bubbla gets shot and killed by a regular gun with a regular bullet in his first appearance. What the hell! A happier expression would help us overlook that fact.

Like Poe, I had the original Ray Fillet as a kid, and he was a favorite. I was looking forward to the Super7 Ultimates update, but they chose the wrong colors for it, which was disappointing. But the Archie Comics version may have been just as iconic as the toy, so NECA making one in their line is even better.

-- 07/13/23

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