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Rat King & Vernon

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
by yo go re

Time to get filthy!

In the comics, the character who would become the Rat King was originally just known as "The Monster," a psychologically fragile man who retreated from reality by pretending to be various monsters he'd read about in comics or seen in movies. He couldn't actually control rats, he just thought he could because they'd stopped attacking him (they stopped attacking him because he gave them food). He'd only appeared in one issue when the cartoon picked him up in Season 3, and made him one of the biggest recurring villains outside Shredder and his lackies. He was way more unpredictable, though, and in the 10 episodes he appeared in, you never knew what kind of character he was going to be. Hero? Villain? Anti-hero? Enemy-of-my-enemy? Psychic? Chemist? Roboticist? It was always exciting to see who he'd be this week.

One thing (almost) every version of Rat King has had in common is his appearance: tattered brown clothes and filthy bandages. The Mirage comics eventually said he was a petty thief who escaped from police custody in a hospital, but that was just one origin: the cartoon never gave any explanation for why he looked like that. (As a kid, I thought he had toilet paper wrapped around him, because he lived in the sewers.)

The sculpt is new. For a guy who lives in an underground tunnel, eats nothing but cheese, and apparently think he's an actual rat, Rat King sure gets depicted as a big, buff dude. The Konami videogames made him look like Arnold Schwarzenegger (or at least like Dutch) and had him perform wrestling moves. The cartoon wasn't quite that huge, but he's still as jacked as a guy who fell into a creatine storage silo. The stitches holding his costume together are sculpted and painted, and while most of his wrappings are sculpted directly on the figure, the ones around his stomach are separate, part of the rubber "underwear" the figure has to allow the hip joints to work properly.

That part does cause some paint problems: because it's flexible PVC, the paint applied to it can crack or flake off if it bends too far. Technically the wraps on his legs should be more orange than they are, and his leggings shouldn't be such a mint green, but this is close. Like all the cartoon figures, he's got darker "shadows" painted on his back.

Rat King's accessories begin with what he most definitely needs, rats! Three of them, with unique poses, ready to scurry all over him. Then there's a black bandolier that can hold three soda can bombs (which is similar to something that came with the 1989 Genghis Frog toy, but he did use cans like this in the cartoon). We get two red cans and one blue, because twice as many people throw Coke into the sewer as Pepsi. Getting the cans into the loops is a little tough, but just a question of partience. Next is the flute he used to Pied Piper his sewer rats, including Splinter - the daily newspaper comic strip revealed the flute's mind-controlling powers were the result of a microchip Krang had made, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's true for any other version. Finally, he has a canister of mutagen, but this one is special: unlike every other one NECA has made until now, this one can be cracked open to reveal the mutagen inside! It's pink and blue, because it was destabilizing by the time he found it. You may not even realize it can be opened, because the cap fits so tightly. A selection of alternate hands lets you choose how you want him to be gesturing, as well.

The second figure in this set is Vernon Fenwick, but since we've already reviewed him once, we're going to skip ahead a bit.

Even a man who is pure at heart and locks his doors at night may become a rat when the ratbane blooms and the moon is full and bright.

Hey, you recognize that poem! Or at least its inspiration. In Season 4's "Were-Rats from Channel 6," Rat King uses his expored mutagen to turn Vernon and Irma into mutant rats, then sends them out to forage for food. Fun fact: that's the first episode where mutagen was green, rather than the pink it had always been before! So just like Irma in the box set, Vernon includes alternate pieces to be-rat-ify him: a head and neck, and arms that swap out at the elbow. Trading the pieces is a little bit tough, but since I've got this set and the SDCC exclusive, I'll just be leaving this Vernon as a rat forever and letting the other one stay human.

The rat head has poofier hair than Vernon normally does, almost looking like a 1950s greaser or something. The jagged outline painted along the side of his snout is supposed to just be a fold in the fur (he and Irma were both drawn with them, though only his toy gets it painted on) ends up looking like a weird little mustache. His nose has the same sort of bend as Splinter's, tying the characters together nicely. The jaw is articulated, and two large incisors poke out from the front of his mouth.

Vernon's human head really is pretty great, it must be said: they sculpted him a look of smug, haughty, smarminess that is a perfect fit for the character; in the SDCC set review, we said fearful cowardice was one of his two default expressions, and this is the other. So if you just get one set or the other, you get a good representation of the guy from the cartoon; but if you buy both, you get his full range of emotions! The parts are interchangeable, of course, since this is the same mold (though the pink on this Vernon's shirt is a little darker and his painted wrinkles are a little larger, so they're not identical).

Since the Were-Rat is just Vernon's secondary form, the toy includes accessories for the human half of him, as well. There's a Channel 6 camera he can carry on his shoulder, for all those times he was trying to steal a story out from under April, plus your choice of hands: two gripping, to with the fingers splayed, and a pointing right hand. There's a watch on his human arm, and it's a separate piece - make sure you don't lose it when you're swapping hands.

This set was one of the ones I had to order from NECA's site, because it came out during that period when they couldn't seem to get their things into actual stores with any reliability. If it had just been Rat King and a plain Vernon, it wouldn't have been worth it, but the Were-Rat parts carried it over the line.

-- 04/21/22

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