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35th Anniversary Set

by yo go re

In 2014, Playmates created a set of TMNT figures based on the original Mirage comicbooks. It was an idea they'd had before, but this time, NECA wasn't there to step on their toes. Anyway, they've now brought those molds back out in a Walmart exclusive four-pack.

35 years ago, Peter laird and Kevin Eastman created and published a dark, edgy, black and white comic called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The original Turtles all wore the same color mask, red. Their different signature weapons were the one thing that differentiated them from each other at that time. These figures celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the same black and white color version of the comics, with the exception of an exclusive red detail on their bandanas.

Well, that back-of-the-box text really covers everything we'd have to say, doesn't it? Let's soldier on, using the bios from the back of the 2014 releases.

Quick to anger and slow to cool off, Raphael has mastered his twin sai blades. But not his own temper. Easily the most fearsome and fearless fighter of the group, Raphael often leaps into battle no matter what the odds... and often without looking first.

It's rather fitting that Raphael would be the first in this box set, because he's already been released like this once before (sort of): at SDCC 2014, Playmates had an exclusive black and white Raphael (in the world's ugliest packaging). Of course, that one was purely black and white, while these, obviously, have the special red bandanas - another fine reason to start with Raph. Then again, maybe it's just to tie in with the awful new cartoon, which has unthinkably made him the leader.

Known as being brave, dedicated and a master of his twin katana swords, Leonardo is the hero's hero - a force of good fighting against the minions of evil. And he's got a really cool shell!

Yeah he has! Though it's not really different from anyone else's. All four of the Original Comicbook Turtles used the same body sculpt, and that certainly wasn't about to change for this set. The idea was to make them look like drawings, sort of like the DC Direct BlueLine figures, but where those used the normal molds with fancy paint, these tried to sculpt in all the crosshatching, which made them look like nothing so much as toys that a dog had gotten ahold of and chewed on. The paint definitely helps with that (though nothing could be done with the way their snouts end up looking like they have a huge scar running across them).

Among his brothers, Michelangelo possesses the most natural athletic abilities. His physical prowess, along with an enthusiastic imagination, comes in handy when action is needed to escape a dangerous predicament. Mikey displays his show-stopping persona and skills with the nunchucks.

The figures haven't only been done in black and white, even below the eyes - each of them gets their own unique apps, contouring and highlighting the shared mold differently. The easiest place to see this is on their scutes, where there's some grey paint used to create shadows; different shadows for everybody! And once you've noticed that, you'll also start to see how the painted crosshatching is placed uniquely on each figure. It's not as good as NECA's B/W Turtles, but then, Playmates isn't as good a company as NECA, and isn't usually aiming at the same audience.

The usually calm and collected Donatello has difficulty containing his enthusiasm when encountering new technologies. Or when working on a new invention or being hot on the trail of a scientific breakthrough. Plus his kick-butt mastery of the bo staff, makes him one unique turtle.

The body proportions are fairly accurate to the original comic art (which wasn't a paragon of consistency, it must be said), and each of the boys gets a unique head: teeth gritted on the left for Raph, on the right for Leo, on both sides for Don, and not at all for Mikey. Though of course, with no identifying features other than their weapons, you could change that easily. The shared body does mean shared articulation, though, and the articulation is terrible. The heads are balljoints, and then there are swivel/hinges for the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. No ankles, and worst of all, no wrists. Can you imagine trying to get any useful ninja poses when you can't even turn these toys' hands? It's frankly embarrassing.

The figures may be crap to play with, but there's no denying that they look good. They're particularly striking in the packaging, which is designed to look like someone ripped apart a bunch of TMNT art from all over the years and made a collage out of it - the Eastman & Laird comic, the Archie comic, the IDW comic, the '80s cartoon, the modern cartoon, the Nickelodeon cartoon... pretty much every artsy source you'd want to see represented. Behind the figures in the tray is a grayscale version of the same, plus a reprint of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 with a new Kevin Eastman cover. Reading the comic now, you can really see them wearing their influences on their sleeves, at least when it comes to the "Ninja" part of the name: the narration and dialogue read almost exactly like Alan Moore's satire of Frank Miller.

The 2014 Original Comicbook Turtles were a neat idea, but the execution was junk - this is one case where painting the details would have been preferable to sculpting them. Five years later, this 35th Anniversary set does at least give us something unique and really cool to look at, but the underlying flaws aren't things that can be painted over.

-- 08/17/19

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