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Antrax & Scumbug

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
by yo go re

Okay, I'm ready to call it: not only have I never seen any episodes of the 80s TMNT cartoon, I may never have even heard of the property at all!

I'm used to being surprised that certain characters appeared on the cartoon, but when NECA announced this set, I was 100% unaware that Antrax was an existing character: I wondered if maybe he was a show-original creation. Nope, here's the text from his 1992 action figure:

When Antrax comes marching in, heads will roll! He's mean; he's deadly - and worst of all, he's quadridexterous! That means he has four arms (just count 'em)! This insidious insect used to be the only executioner in Dimension X. That was until yesterday, when Krang, on his annual scouting trip for Turtle tearing talent, spotted this top crop choice! Krang was impressed with Antrax's skill with the ante-up axe and the beat 'em back bat. Krang offered Antrax money, power - even cable T.V. (with all the channels, of course). Antrax accepted and became Krang's own judge, jury and Turtle executioner. Dimension X is now a tad nicer place to visit, but the Turtles are now more worried than ever. Besides his battling bites and unnatural devotion to Krang, this awesome-armed ant will turn any Turtle pizza picnic into a panic party.

Okay, so he's an alien, rather than a mutant. That might explain why his face looks more like a dog or something than like an ant. Seriously, look at that big snout, that's not a myrmicine trait! Plus, he's got teeth in his mouth, so the red things on the front that are supposed to be his little mandibles end up looking more like a weird mustache. This is true to the animation, so we don't lay the blame at NECA's feet, but it's still not good.

The body definitely gets a stronger "ant" feeling: the skin is black and he has four arms, plus a big abdomen (that's a "bug butt," for you scientific types) that's inexplicably got red bands around it. It was a long path to making him an executioner, but he certainly dresses the part, with a purple hood, a leather strap around his chest thorax, a pseudo-gladiator-style skirt, and purple boots that the toes on his left foot have burst out of. For some reason, there's a cuff with a broken segment of chain around one of his two right wrists - the '92 toy had the same thing, just unpainted, but we're still left wondering why it was part of the design to begin with. The little red circles on his arms are sculpted in, and there are giant red veins on the front and back of the upper armses. On the old toy, the "pads" that are on this one's elbows and knees were actually sunken down below the surface, like his internal anatomy beneath his outer carapace.

The articulation is as expected, just with the addition of an extra chest balljoint, since the chest is extra tall. Also swivels for the antennae and mandibles. And the butt. Butt swivel! Almost verything moved perfectly smoothly straight out of the tray, with only the upper pair of biceps needing a little extra force to get moving. Because he's got four arms, and thus four hands, he logically includes four weapons: there's a massive execution's axe, with deep dings along both blades; a wooden club with spikes sticking out all eight sides; a short sword with a spiked handguard; and a smaller dagger that can fit in the sheath on the back of his waist. The spikes on the sword and club are legitimately sharp, so be careful playing with them!

I may not have been familiar with Antrax, but I definitely knew Scumbug! I even had his figure, back in the day. Here's his 1990 bio:

Sent to eliminate the bug problem in the Technodrome, a mild-mannered exterminator got accidentally oozed and mutated into the scampering, sickening Scumbug. Unable to face other customers, Scumbug saddled up with Shredder as his ace assassin. Armed with his poisonous pinchers and a tank full of Anti-Turtle Spray, this rude roach chews his way through almost anything. His power claw and bullet-proof shell make him a tough Turtlebustin' bug. And when the going gets rough, this roach gets other bugs to rally 'round him. Using his super-sensitive antennae as a telepathic link to insidious insects, Scumbug's the Pied Piper of the creepy and the crawly. You'll know when you're near his army just listen for the crunch.

Scumbug is one wild-lookin' figure! He's still wearing the remnants of his exterminator uniform: a light blue shirt with a black necktie, dark grey pants, and blue boots. Or, well, one boot, at least - the other is long gone, thanks to the inhuman foot on that side. His shirt and tie are ripped off right through the middle, exposing his lumpy lavender midsection, and there are holes in the thighs of his pants. Although only his left hand is insectoid, the right arm still has disturbing spikes poking out through the skin. A large set of roach wings covers his entire back like a shell, though you won't get to see all of it because his backpack tank is non-removable. His antennae are pulled together into a topknot, for some reason, and it appears his brain is exposed to the open air. There's a spot just above his bug-foot that's supposed to be human skin, but is painted the same color as his pants; an easy enough mistake to ignore.

His articulation is again the usual assortment, and again worked just fine. The range of motion in the head is a little lacking - he can't really look up, andd can ever barely look straight ahead - but he does get something not a lot of figures do, an articulated jaw. Apparently being released two years earlier than Antrax meant Scumbug got a better facial design, because while he's still got human teeth in his mouth, his insectoid pincers come from in there, too, instead of from his nose. His eyes bulge out so far NECA almost could have done Mogwai-style articulation for those, too!

Scumbag's main weapon is the sprayer for whatever it is he keeps in that tank on his back. In the package, it's attached to the side of the tank that would have him hold it in his left hand, but you can change that if you like: the hose just slips right off the tank and can be changed to the other side. He also comes with a small purple and silver thing that could be a phone or a sensor or a pair of scissors, but is actually used to project an energy net(?) in the episode. Weird. There are three of the cutest roaches you've ever seen, similar to pieces the 1990 figure came with, just painted and more adorable.

And then, as NECA often does, there's one more accessory that doesn't really belong to either character. It's a large purple... device. Some kind of computer thing that was probaby either made by Krang or Donatello, and is used to control or locate or analyze something or other. Does it really matter what it is? It's got buttons and wires and a handle, and even a little... viewing screen(?) in the middle. It's a thing. [A "fission detector" from Season 3's "Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers" --ed.]

If you, like me, don't remember seeing Antrax and Scumbug in the old cartoon, there's no shame in that: they only ever appeared in one episode, "Night of the Rogues," which saw Shredder recruiting a bunch of the Turtles' enemies to create one big Legion of Doom type team. So it was Rat King, Leatherhead, Slash, Chromedome, a show-only character named Tempestra, and then these two bugs. Thing is, neither Antrax nor Scumbug had ever appeared before, though everyone acted like they had. Weird! And then they never appeared again. NECA's now released six of the seven villains in that episode, so surely we'll end up getting a Tempestra at some point in the future.

-- 05/19/22

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