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Raphael as Frankenstein's Monster

Universal Monsters x Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
by yo go re

Okay, enough seriousness - it's time for some fun!

Here's a brief explanation of what's happening: NECA currently has a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license; NECA also currently has the Universal Monsters license; thus, NECA is doing a TMNT x Universal Monsters line. Brilliant! The first release in the line is Raphael as Frankenstein's Monster.

It's alive! Raphael as Frankenstein's Monster!
He's been shell shocked!
See! A terrifying turtle with attitude!
Pure terror from the sewer!
Warning! The monster is loose!
Beware his shocking sai!

Playmates actually did two series of "Universal Studios Monsters" Turtles as a distinct subline back in 1993 and 1994. This isn't meant to be an update of those old figures, just another iteration on the same idea. As proof of that, while Playmates obviously did a Frankenstein (you don't skip one of the Big Three), theirs was Michaelangelo, not Raphael. Different!

Franken-Raph is sold in a usual box with a beautiful illustration on the front by Daniel Horne, and a photo collage on the back that's peppered with old-school monster movie marketing blather. We already know the next three releases in this line, so the boxes are going to look pretty nice with all the big headshots lined up next to each other.

When this line was announced, we didn't know whether the style would be animated, comic, or what. It's not quite "live action movies" style, but that's a closer descriptor than any of the others. Sculptor Tony Cipriano has loaded the figure up with small details, like wrinkles and skin texture, that mean Raph will blend in better with Tokka and Rahzar than Bebop and Rocksteady. But make no mistake, this is still its own thing.

Since this is an official Universal Monsters product, Raphael is allowed to have the flat Frankenstein head - his green skin blending in with that perfectly. It's a little weird to see a Turtle with hair, but it would be weirder to see this one without. His mask is sutured to his face, and his mouth is open slightly in an unhappy groan.

He wears the usual Frankenstein outfit of a tattered dark jacket and pants with clunky, thick-soled boots (split into two toes here so we still know it's a Turtle wearing them), but he's also got his knee- and elbow pads worn above it. Instead of the usual TMNT belt, there's a length of chain wrapped a couple times around his waist. The jacket somehow manages to disappear under the shell, which would usually be wrong, but since this Raph is supposed to be cobbled together from various dead bodyparts, maybe his shell really is separate? It's already sculpted with big cracks and gashes, and a large patch on the right side has needed to be repaired by bolting part of a sewer cover in its place - how thematic! There's a pressure gauge attached to the left side, with thin pipes running into the cracked shell, and two tubes coming out the top: one connecting to a similar dial over his heart, the other meeting the bolts on his neck. Finally, a thick metal bar is riveted to the lower part of his back, serving as the only thing holding his belt in place.

Since the Universal horror movies were in black and white, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are bright colors, this toy splits the difference with its paint, giving us dark, desaturated colors. Other than the silver staples holding his wounds closed, the brightest spot on him is the yellow of his front shell, and even that's dark. His red mask is barely any lighter than his brown pads, the entire suit looks like it's covered in a healthy layer of grit. They even painted his fingernails a different shade than his skin!

The articulation is unsurprising. The action figure has swivel/hinge ankles (side note: I don't remember Frankenstein having bolts on his ankles like this, but Playmates' Frankenstein Michelangelo had the same things, so either he did, or NECA is homaging that), hinged lower knees, swivel/hinged upper knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, a balljointed waist, swivel/hinge wrists, double-swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge shoulders, a balljointed neck, and a balljointed head. Several of the hinges were very stiff, which isn't unusual, but none of them broke and none of them required anything but effort to get moving.

The hands Raph has in the packaging are open and reaching, and really underscore how weird the TMNTs' fingers look when they're not in a fighting pose. We do get two alternate pairs: one pair of fists, and one pair designed to hold his sais. Keeping with the Frankenstein theme, the blades on those are stylized bolts of lightning and the handles look like lab equipment, metal contact balls with an insulated handle. Silver loops bolted to his jacket allow the weapons to be stowed when not in use.

I was planning to skip the Universal Monsters/TMNT line, because while it was a cute idea, sometimes you just want to save some money, yeah? But seeing Frankenstein Raphael in person really impressed me, so I gave the toy a chance. This isn't just a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cosplaying as a Universal Monster, it's a true blending of the two properties, and that's great. You may not need to go all-in on this line, but it's absolutely going to be worth checking out the rest when they arrive.

-- 06/16/22

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