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TMNT: Turtles in Time
by yo go re

Before Jennika, before Mei Pieh Chi, even before April O'Neil in TMNT Adventures Special #11, there was the original "fifth Turtle" - Slash.

Slash was created by Mirage Studios staff artist Ryan Brown, a guy who doesn't get enough credit for all the TMNT work he did. He created a lot of the memorable non-Turtle characters - including Wingnut, Hothead, and the Chunky Cheese Pizza Monster - and was part of the team that took the Archie Comics series places beyond its cartoon inspiration (an opportunity that arose solely because the title, which started as nothing more than an adaptation of the cartoon, was missing so many deadlines that it was in danger of being in breach of contract). He also created the COW-Boys of Moo Mesa, which is kind of TMNT-adjacent, at least.

Slash had different origins in every medium that used him. The toyline said he was created by Shredder in Dimension X; the cartoon was close to that, making him Bebop's pet turtle who was mutated by Rocksteady and sent to Earth; according to the comic, he was an alien from the planet "Palmadise" who went on a rampage after his world was clear-cut by loggers; the videogame had no info about him, but he lived in 2,500,000 BC (the "Prehistoric Turtlesaurus" level, which is what the cardboard insert behind the figure in the box represents).

The game sprites were based more on the comic than anything else - we'll let you know how we can tell later in the review [ooo, way to keep 'em hooked! --ed.] - but the comic was mostly based on the toy, with the stylistic flair of Adventures artist extraordinaire Chris Allan. So this NECA figure has lopsided eyes and the sharp fangs, but his head is that classic pseudo-"animated" mushroomy shape so many of us grew up associating with the TMNT.

Despite allegedly being a foot taller and 50 pounds heavier than his heroic "cousins," Slash uses a lot of the same bodyparts as the Arcade Turtles (even though he was never in an arcade game, just the Super Nintendo port as a replacement for the "Cement Man" blob monster). The main differences are his clawed feet, spiked knee pads, hands with long Shredder-style blades tied to them, and the armored plates on his shoulders. Plus the rear shell, of course, because it has 17 sharp horns jutting out from it, something no previous Turtle has had. To show he's eeeeviiil. (Though the comics made him more heroic over time - gotta love a good redemption tale!)

In the game, his belt was just white - it was only two pixels high, there's only so much they could do. But this figure gets a belt that's fully detailed just like the original 1990 one, with an Ƨ initial in the center (yes, it's backwards, to show he's more wild an uncivilized; no, comic artists, it's not a Z), intricate skull-and-crossbone patterns in frames, a couple ninja stars, pouches on the back, and a small spike of some sort. It's pretty impressive that Trevor Zammit would sculpt all this on what's supposed to be a more simplified figure.

The paint, of course, is "8-bit" style, meaning the shadows are done in blocky chunks, rather than smooth lines. The idea is to look like pixels, and at that it succeeds. It's not a direct copy of how colors were placed on the sprites, but it captures the feeling. As we said, the belt in the game was white; here the belt is grey, with white used to pick out all those sculpted details. The ties hanging from his belt, the pads, and his gloves are various shades of purple (though his hands were definitely green and gloveless in the game), and instead of being truly black, the bandana is a dark navy blue. The toy's skin is slightly bluer than the game's, coming in about halfway between the real color and the color of the old toy. His armor is all white, as well, though the shoulder plates at least get some grey on the sides.

Slash's articulation is identical to the boys: balljointed head, balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge elbows and wrists, a balljointed torso hidden between the shells, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and balljointed ankles. It's not quite enough to get him into all his game poses - Slash was easily the toughest boss in the game, because he could cross his arms to block your attacks, then roll into a ball to bounce around the screen and spike you - but you can definitely have some fun with him regardless. Every single joint on mine was very stiff to get moving, however, so be careful you don't break anything.

The toy only comes with two accessories: a grenade he definitely didn't use, and a sword he definitely did. And that, patient reader, is how we know the game sprites were based on the comic. The toy, you see, had a crooked blade like this, but it was smaller - a "Psycho Sai," they called it. The comic team must have been given reference art with no context, however, because while it was drawn exactly like the accessory, it was the size of a sword. The game followed suit, and here we are. Like his armor, the accessories are grey and white. The grenade isn't from the toy or the game, so who knows what's up with that?

NECA's TMNT license is very carefully divided up. Movie figures go to Walmart, cartoon figures go to Target, and videogame figures go to mass market, which means nobody carries them and you have to order online. (Of course, you pretty much have to order the movie and toon figures online, too, but that's neither here nor there.) In fact, without the urgent hype surrounding the 8-bit figures that there is around the other two categories, you might just forget they exist at all. But Slash proves there's good stuff to be found in the lineup, and that maybe we should pay more attention.

-- 10/08/20

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