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The Catwoman From Channel 6

Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles (1987)
by yo go re

"Boy, Michaelangelo, you and your dumb toys!"

Are you kitten me right meow? A freak accident turns April into a feisty feline, and frantic antics ensue in "The Catwoman from Channel 6"!

I didn't pay any attention to this set when it was solicited, but once it won a ToY Award, I was intrigued. So when my local Target actually stocked an SDCC exclusive for once, I had to buy it!

The packaging is just as awesome as reported. Sitting vertically on the shelf, it looks like the Channel 6 news building (the sides do, at least: the front has a logo and an image of April, while the back has stock photos of the toys). Slide that dust cover off, and now you've got a box that looks like an old CRT TV set, with April delivering the Happy Hour News, though designer Jason Langston did overlook one small detail: the dial is not actually set to Channel 6. Like, that's literally where TV station numbers come from, the spot on the dial where you could tune them in. Whoops! The front panel of the "TV" folds down, revealing a hardwood floor on the inside of the flap that lines up with the interior, the newsroom. That's got a desk, a big window, a map on the wall... it's a cool backdrop for the toys, especially considering how many scenes on the cartoon took place there, and an excellent presentation overall. No wonder it was a winner!

But you don't buy the set for the box, you buy it for the toys, so let's get cracking!

Channel 6 is on the air - and Irma's on the hunt for news. She may be April's best friend, but she's out to scoop her if she can. Nothing can stop Irma from her job, not even the fact that she's not very smart. [...] So beware newsmakers of the world, Irma's on the job and on the streets!

That's (part of) the filecard from the 1993 "Toon Irma" figure, the only previous toy this poor girl's gotten. She was introduced at the start of the cartoon, right after the initial miniseries. She's ostensibly the secretary at Channel 6, though she seems to do whatever job is needed for any given plot. Her entire personality seems to be "1950s girly girl," because she's vastly clumsy, rather dimwitted, faints at the drop of a hat, and seems to have no goals in life other than finding a man. Way to represent your gender, Irms! The box calls her "Irma Langenstein," but that name doesn't come from anywhere in the original show: it seems they're retroactively applying it based on the 2012 Nickelodeon incarnation of the character.

This is going to be the second review where we namedrop Alvin and the Chipmunks' Chipettes, because Irma is basically just a human version of Jeanette. Baggy blue turtleneck sweater, purple skirt, huge red glasses, brown hair pulled up in a ponytail/bun thing... it's the same design. The only difference is that Irma isn't a rodent.

To turn Irma into a rodent, the set includes an alternate head and forearms. Yes, that's a thing that actually happened in the series: Season 4's "Were-Rats from Channel 6" saw the Rat King mutating Irma (and Vernon) into human rats so he could use them to forage food for him. Hey, that's more of a plan than Shredder could usually muster. The arms swap fairly easily at the lower elbow joint, and the head pulls out with the neck (because otherwise she'd have a pink human throat and not a furry brown rat one). The set also includes a few alternate hands for her; make sure you don't lose her tiny watch when swapping them.

Irma was voiced by Jennifer Darling. Jennifer Darling played Callahan, the secretary to the Six Million Dollar Man's boss, Oscar. The 40-Year-Old Virgin had a joke about how ridiculous it was to own a toy of the Six Million Dollar Man's boss. And now here I am, buying an entire set of toys featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' friend's boss. It's all connected! Burne Thompson got a figure in the same 1993 series as Irma, so here's the bio from that one:

The hard-edged News Director with the soft middle is pounding the pavement in search of a scoop - of ice cream, that is! He's big, he's boss, he's Burne! And now he's here direct from the newsroom at Channel 6 and ready to go. You'll know when this loud-mouth's near-just listen for his blubbery blathering voice. And don't be fooled by his titanic tummy - this big-bellied boss is ready for action. [...] Remember the number one rule of good street reporting: eat first, ask questions later.

Burne's old toy made him into a total slob: he had a mouthful of food, his tie was undone, his pens were leaking through his pocket, his belly had popped a button, his shirt was untucked, and there was toilet paper stuck to his shoe. NECA's, on the other hand, actually make him look like the cartoon, where, sure, he was short and overweight, but he knew how to clean and dress himself. And although they included an alternate head for him, you just have a choice of smiling or yelling, not one where he's jammed half a sandwich into the inside of his cheek.

You get fists, open hands, or gripping hands for him. The set scatters its accessories all about, so it's hard to determine which is supposed to go with whom, but we can be fairly certain the photo of Tiffany, Burne's girlfriend, is his, and probably the rotary telephone, too. Though maybe that counts as Irma's, since she answered phones? Up to you! And while you're at it, why not give Burne the bowl of turtle soup and the spoon to eat it with?

A different 1993 subline also gave us "Mutatin' April," a figure very loosely based on the same episode as this one. On the cartoon, April was accidentally "Brundlefly"ed while investigating Shredder's teleportation platform, and turned into a giant tabby; for the old toy, she looked more like a cheetah. But here's a selection from that figure's bio anyway:

What's the perfect disguise for April? A ferocious feline, of course. Once you help her Mutate into a cat, she can catwalk her way right into Shredder's lair for the scoop of the century. If she gets caught, don't worry - she's one tough tabby that can claw and scratch her way outta any mess. Not just anyone can fuss with this kitty's fancy fur! [...] Just one more bit of advice: don't mutate April and Splinter in the same room together! Me-ow!

This April O'Neil uses most of the same molds as the existing NECA figure, with the trunk slightly remolded so she can have her bendy tail. The most important and obvious difference is her head: this one isn't 50% too large for her body! Also it looks like a cat. The "cartoon" outlining around her muzzle is a bit too heavy, so it ends up looking like she's just wearing a false nose, rather than that she's mutated into an animal. Her hands now have sharp claws, and she's wearing the purple collar that Shredder used to mind-control her. You could take that off, if you can get her head off the balljoint.

Some might say that this would have been a perfect opportunity to release a properly sculpted human head, and given her alternate human arms similar to Irma's swappable bodyparts, but that wouldn't work with her open jumpsuit: NECA was able to fake it on Irma by leaving her legs white instead of picking between human pink and rat brown, but she's a minor character compared to April O'Neil, and the fans surely would have been upset if April was suddenly wearing a shirt under her yellow jumpsuit.

When the action hits the fan and the streets are ablaze with hard-hitting news, you can always find Vernon right there - right under his desk in the Channel 6 newsroom. He's a colorful coward who knows all fears. The only thing that gets this rascally reporter going is trying to scoop April on a news story. But even weasels are ready for trouble. [...] After the streets have cleared of action, Vernon loves to direct the news crew and shoot his own story - in the foot!

For whatever reason, while Irma and Burne got redesigned pretty drastically for the 1993 Toon Turtles line, Vernon was an almost perfect adaptation of the cartoon character: white shoes, blue pants, a pink shirt, dark suspenders, and a loose necktie. Why does this unlikeable chump get such attention to detail when the other two didn't? This isn't NECA's first Vernon Fenwick figure, but that doesn't mean he doesn't bring anything of value to the set.

For one thing, his expression is new, and deeply suited to his character: he's grimacing in fear or cowardice, which was one of his two default expressions on the show. There's a second head as well, this one wearing a red blindfold - that could either be from when he was being tortured to reveal info about kimonos, or when the Turtles had to bring him to their lair to operate some equipment, but didn't want him to know where it was.

Vernon also gets some extra hands, plus a boom mic, headset, and camera bag - he may have been a crummy reporter, but when he was serving as April's cameraman (or whatever other technical role the episode would have for him), he was surprsingly competent. The boom's cord is permanently attached to the bag, and the bag's flap is soft enough PVC that you can open it, though there isn't anything to put inside it.

We're not done with accessories yet, though! To add to the diorama scene formed by the packaging, we get two studio lights and two TV cameras. There's a "Hunky Reporter" photo that probably belongs to Irma, considering she gives Tina Belcher a run for her money when it comes to being boy-crazy. (Interestingly, neither this nor Burne's Tiffany photo way up above are actually cartoon images: they both look like 3D renders, presumably so they blend better with these physical action figures? If that's the case, nicely done, NECA!)

If you remember Slash's Animalizer Ray, you may already know why this set includes turtlized versions of both Burne and Vernon. We also get the stray cat that April got crossed with, and the wind-up mouse toy Michaelangelo used to distract the tiger Cat-April sicced on them (though mine is missing the key sticking out of its back).

I got this set mainly because I found it sitting on the shelf in front of me, not because it was something I desperately wanted. But the packaging is cleverly designed, and the figure choices (including the accessories) make a lot of sense. If you ordered this from NECA directly in the few moments it was up on their site, you also got a bunch of random swag along with it (press pass, patch, pin, poster, and P-shirt-- er, T-shirt), but the version you might find at Target if you're lucky enough and the toy gods smile on you doesn't have any of that. None of these characters are technically getting their first action figures here, but it's still cool to get a bunch of TMNT secondary characters.

Now when do we get a fixed human April, NECA?

-- 03/10/22

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