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Bebop & Rocksteady

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
by yo go re

I love having to drive 70 miles to buy a toy!

NECA was never very happy about its TMNT figures having to be convention exclusives, so once they managed to get a little wiggle room in that restriction, they immediately began putting all those existing figures into the market in new ways (so the exclusives would remain special). GameStop got single-packs of the movie boys, while the cartoon collector's case got split into four two-packs at Target. The first series each featured one Turtle and one enemy; those apparently sold well enough to warrant a second series, this time with the Turtles paired together, two Foot Soldiers, and the one set that everybody desperately wanted, Bebop and Rocksteady.

Of course, NECA being NECA and Target being Target, the set never showed up most places. Some fans did find it, and share pictures of their good fortune, but the great majority of us faced nothing but empty shelves. NECA even got their "ambassadors" to ask stores directly (the week after Thanksgiving) to put stock out. If you were lucky enough to be on Target's site in the nine-second window when the set was available there, you could order it, but even with NECA imploring fans "don't feed the scalpers," it was still months of a page saying nothing but "out of stock." The long-awaited restock is slowly and randomly trickling out, though, so keep your hopes up!

Bebop is the mutant punk rock hog who could slam dance his way through any crowd. This roadhog warrior dares to shave his head in blatant opposition to the establishment and his parents. Behind his mohawk ponytail, cool shades and all-star tennis shoes lurks the heart of a pig, ready to pulverize the Turtles. Guided by the evil Shredder, Bebop is willing to roll in the mud to snort out the Turtles. His two turtle shoulder pads cover a grotesque array of safety pins, tattoos and junk food.

That's taken from the 1988 figure, because the back of this packaging just has generic text about the Turtles - something that would make sense for those releases, but is disappointing for our purposes. It does underscore that Bebop, despite his name, is a punk. It's easy to forget he used to be human, with his own human life and human personality (although if he was willing to throw in with Shredder and Krang, he was probably into punk not for the music or the message, but because it was a handy excuse to be violent).

Like Playmates' Classics figure, this is based on the old cartoon; unlike Playmates' Classics figure, this one actually looks like the old cartoon. Mostly. If you compare the toy to the model sheets, you'll see that he's missing the stitches and patches on his pants, and his skin is smooth when it should be slightly furry. But he does have all the right costume accessories, including the band around his left thigh, the real chains around his left wrist and his waist, the studded band on his right wrist, the grenades on his vest, the turtle-shell shoulder pads, and even the little bones that make up his necklace.

The head is not as groteque as the Playmates one, because that's not what the animation looked like. Again, there should be a furry texture, not just skin. Remember, Bebop is a warthog, not a random pig - he's more Pumbaa and less Babe. They gave him his nose ring and the ponytail hanging down from behind his mohawk. His glasses are hinged, so you can lift them up to see his eyes behind there. they're painted a super creepy black, for some reason. It's not what they looked like on the cartoon.

Just like the previous "cartoon colors" toys, the ones in this two-pack have bright, flat colors all over their body, plus darker "shadows" painted on their backs. It looks a little weird at first that Bebop's ponytail is brown, rather than purple, but that's actually true to how it was in the cartoon for some reason. To further the parallels to animation, there are a few solid black lines accentuating the anatomy and creating a semi cel-shaded appearance.

There are a few little problems with my figure, not all of which would have been immediately apparent from looking at it in the packaging. The band on his leg was attached too low, and crooked, so there are now a few spots of gray paint transfer on his black pants where I fixed it; the bandolier that crosses his chest is not properly glued into the inside of his vest; and the links on his chain belt were assembled in the wrong order, meaning the smaller chain that hangs down off the handcuff "buckle" gets hung up on the "belt" part. (Plus, the belt isn't attached to anything in the back, so it keeps falling down past his butt.) Nothing major, and nothing that ruins my enjoyment of the toy, but it's pretty annoying that every time you swap his left hand, you have to re-wrap that wrist chain.

Rocksteady's tough rhino body makes him a turtle-bashing powerhouse. His lack of smarts makes him dangerous. This mutant mammal is big trouble with his Retro-Mutagen Gun: one shot can level a whole building or a shelled turtle. Off-duty, Rocksteady loves to fry up a mess of juicy turtle burgers for the whole hungry Foot Clan. Rocksteady's fieldglasses survey the area for anything that looks like a Turtle. (He's mistakenly blasted six soccer balls). This G.I. rockhead blatantly displays his victory kills with the turtle scalps he wears around his belt.

Again, we've just taken that text from the old toy, which is why it references things this one doesn't have. The important thing is he's more of a military man than Bebop, and yet they somehow ended up in the same gang (which may have been the cartoon's version of the Purple Dragons, the gang from the original Mirage comics). Other members of the gang included Grunt, Dopey, Dumbo, and Scrag, and although they also get mutated in the cartoon (lizard, shrew, sloth, and bat, respectively), they never became stars like these two.

Rocksteady is built a lot like his buddy, with a broad upper body and thinner legs. The original toy wore camo pants and a black tank top, while the animation model put him in khakis and a yellow shirt. The shirt rides up slightly, exposing his belly. That's despite being held down by both a bandolier over his left shoulder and thin string over his right (that's the one with a grenade hanging from the front and a wooden sword on the back). The wristbands he wears have three short studs on the outside, then are smooth on the insides. There are pockets sculpted on the front of his legs, and although his belt is a separate piece, it's designed to sit off-center so you can see the turtle shell hanging on his right hip.

NECA's Rocksteady looks distinctly friendlier than Playmates' version, with his yellow eyes set closer together (on the front of his head, rather than the sides) and no snarl. He's got the same cel-shading as Bebop, with darker panels of color on his back and thin black outlines everywhere that matters. Looking at the style guide, Rocksteady should be shorter than Bebop, but here they're the same general 6¾" tall.

Both figures share the same points of articulation: swivel/hinge ankles, swivel shins, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, balljointed chest, swivel/hinge wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head. My first thought upon opening the set up and getting the figures free from their plastic straps? "It's a real shame they didn't do articulated jaws, too." And then it turns out they did! Both mutants have a hinge that allows the mouth to open, so they can gape in amazement as the Turtles kick Shredder's butt one more time.

They both come with the same accessories, too: alternate hands (gesturing and holding), and two of the Dimension X guns that Krang provided them with (the gray rifle and the white pistol). There's also the little purple communicator device, this time with a picture of Shredder.

Playmates' Classics Rocksteady and Bebop were... okay... for their time, but NECA's are vastly superior in every way. Well, every way other than "availability." It was easier to get convention exclusives from the other side of the country than it was to get toys that should (theoretically) have been available in stores right down the street. We're glad that NECA found more outlets after Toys "Я" Us contracted a terminal case of late stage capitalism, but if they're going to be making toys this nice, they need to improve their distribution. Like, a lot. A lot a lot. Or find some way to do preorders.

-- 04/11/20

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