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TMNT Ultimates
by yo go re

Nothing says "Halloween" like an evil cat! ...I'm sure that's the last reference we'll make to that this month.

He's been sentenced to nine life terms; he's busted outta jail nine times - now this flea-bitten feline is free to frolic with the fetid Foot Clan. Scratch is the meanest street cat you're likely to meet. And, if perchance you do run into this Mutant mongrel, run him over before he scratches you senseless! But beware - cuz Scratch is a master of trickery. That's how he gets outta jail all the time! He may fool the fuzz by offering them a piece of his criminal cake gun. Then it's SWIPE! SWIPE! - and Scratch is off runnin' with his swindlin' sidekick, Jail Bird.

If you know Scratch, it's not from owning his toy, but from his status as being possibly the most expensive vintage TMNT release around. He was released in 1993, which wasn't the end of the line, but was the last time they released a series of "random new mutant characters." So the end of the line, under-ordered, small production run... it all adds up to a figure that can go for quite a few bucks today. Thousands, even loose. So here comes Super7, updating this weirdo about 15 years sooner than any sane plan would have them doing it.

Scratch never appeared in the comic or on the cartoon; and for once I'm sure of that, not just forgetting some episode he was in! The only outside media he's ever been in was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue, a 1993 Game Boy release, where he was the game's boss. And since the game was a Metroidvania where you had to rescue all the other Turtles, the only character Scratch has ever canonically fought is Michaelangelo.

Scratch's design is the sort of on-the-nose pun TMNT loved so much: he's dressed like an old-timey prisoner, because he's a cat burglar. Striped prison uniforms originated in the 1820s at New York's Auburn Prison (along with other practices which, while better than what had gone before, can still be seen as ancestors of America's inhumane prison culture today). His jumpsuit has big rips in the sleeves, around the neck, and across the figure's back. All that despite seemingly being tailored specifically for him: why else would there be a sleeve for his tail? He's wearing an eye mask and a cap, and has a ball and chain permanently clamped around his left shin; the original toy had the manacle, but no chain, so that's an upgrade. You ever wonder why so many TMNT characters would have one human foot one mutant foot, instead of a matched set? That was something Playmates speficically requested over and over, because they felt it was an important part of the toys' appeal.

The 1993 figure had fur that was basically Garfield orange, while this one tones it down to a more realistic shade. Or shades, since the fingers, toes, and face/chest are lighter than the rest of the fur. His nails are white, and he's got sleepy green eyes. There are four thin claw marks on his left thigh, and his prisoner number - 0009 - is tampoed on his chest. The idea of any prison uniform is to make it instantly apparent that any escapees aren't just a random citizen walking down the road, but the purpose of the Auburn system's stripes was to remind prisoners of the bars they were stuck behind, even when they were looking away from them.

The old toy moved like all the Playmates toys of the time: swivel neck, shoulders, right forearm, left elbow, waist, and tail, plus balljointed hips. Super7 may mostly copy the old sculpts (1993 Scratch didn't have a bandage on his tail), but they definitely improve the movement. In 2022 we get a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed chest, swivel/​hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, swivel/hinge ankles, and a balljointed tail. His cat foot is posed arching on its toes, so you'll have to bend the knees to different degrees to keep him level. The way the shirt rips are sculpted sometimes makes the chest hard to move, but you just need to work around them to get things going.

This release includes one of the thematic weapon sprues, even those those were long dead by 1993. His is yellow, like the old toy's accessories, but I'd rather have the $10 or whatever price this adds to the MSRP in my pocket than going to waste like this. His main weapon is a gun poking out of a slice of cake, as though someone had smuggled it in for him and he didn't even bother to take it all the way out. The cake and icing are different colors, and the green candles on the top have yellow flames. There's also a dead fish, which he uses like a club, and a big split-open bag of coins. A file hangs on a cord around his neck; on the original, that was just a part of the sculpt, but here it's a separate piece. There's also a solo file and a hammer, neither of which come from the old toy. We also get a selection of different hands, and an alternate head with one side of the mouth closed and the eyes turned to look back over his shoulder.

Since Scratch began his life as a sidekick pack-in to another character, it's a bit funny that by the time he made it to store shelves, he had a sidekick of his own. In the style of the '90s toys, it was just an unpainted lump of yellow plastic, but today we get a fully painted piece: a tough little bird with blue feathers and yellow beak/legs, wearing a striped uniform and hat just like his big buddy. Jail Bird is posed with one leg crossed, like he's leaning back casually, one hand in his pocket, and the other flipping a big silver coin. He's a real toughie! While Scratch was created by Ryan Brown, this little stool pigeon was the invention of his good pal Dan Berger; and since Mirage actually respected its workers and let them keep the copyright to things they created, Ryan and Dan split the Playmates royalty check when it came in. We wonder how it works now, under Nickelodeon?

Scratch isn't a prominent character, or a fan-favorite, or even one most people have even heard of. He's in this line because he's notorious for being wildly expensive and for nothing else. But a cat cat burglar is a cute idea and really catches that classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vibe, so good on Super7 for putting him in more fans' hands.

-- 10/27/22

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