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Baxter Stockman

by yo go re

When he was first introduced in the Mirage comics, Baxter Stockman (a character named after a fancy, high-end paper that was being used in comics back then) defied conventions: he was a black man, yes, but he was also a skinny scientist; this was back in the '80s, when black characters were always either athletic or overweight. The cartoon made him white, hopefully because it would have been considered gauche to make the series' most prominent black character a villain, and not because they thought a black scientist was unrealistic. Later continuities have given him his proper race back, but until now none have given him what was his most memorable trait: the body of a giant fly.

After promising and failing Shredder time and again to deliver and mutant army to take down the Turtles, Shredder decides he's had enough and mutated Stockman into a pest, Stockman-Fly. Realizing the Turtles have developed retro-mutagen that can mutate him back into a human, he hunts them down. The Turtles better have more than a fly-swatter to take down this mutant pest. Not only does Stockman-Fly possess super mutant strength and the ability to fly, he can also fire highly toxic acid vomit that will make the Turtles want to hibernate back into their shells.

The "fly" thing comes from the original cartoon. Why the writers decided they wanted to rip off the most famous Jeff Goldblum movie of 1986 is a mystery for the ages, but the Nickelodeon cartoon has brought it back, and we're glad to see it! His head is more insectoid than the 1989 figure, which was basically just a blue human face with large compound eyes - it seems to be inspired by the 1959 Return of the Fly design, with eyes on the sides of the head, prominent eyelashes, curving antennae, and even his labial palps. Palps! I'm not sure why they made his aristae curve upward, when all the art from the show has them curving down and back.

When he got mutated, Baxter was wearing what he usually wears: loafers, blue jeans, and a pink sweater; he couldn't very well change after, so that's still what he's wearing today. Sick, gnarled meat rips free of his sweater, and his right arm is a clawed nightmare. Those descriptions come straight from his official model sheet, but they're true. There's still a little tuft of afro piled on top of his head, and if you look in his mouth, a few human teeth remain in there. Gross!

The toy's articulation is usual for this line: mediocre. He has swivel/hinge shoulders and hips, a swivel waist, and a balljointed head. He's also got the benefit of swivel/hinges where his translucent green wings poke out of his back. Because of the direction the hinge goes, though, it's hard to find a good pose for them; plus, his hips are loose and floppy, and that extra weight on his back really doesn't do his center of gravity any favors.

But the biggest problem is, as always, the paint. Playmates cuts so many corners, I'm surprised they're not selling the world's most perfect sphere. We don't expect something that looks as perfect and beautiful as the prototype, with its washes and dry-brushing, but at least finish painting all the parts that are physically there. His socks should be black, his collar should be white, and all the little spikes sticking out in between should have brown paint apps of their own. They didn't even paint his mustache! All the Turtles figures need a customizer's touch to bring out their best, but that is felt especially keenly here.

Baxter is not left out when it comes to accessories, however: no, he doesn't come with a blaster or a stream of acidic spit, or even that silly techno fly-swatter the '80s toy had; rather, he comes with something to sate his muscine sweet tooth. It's a Choco-Log candy bar, partially unwrapped and devoured. It's molded in the same brown as his skin, though, so it gets lost when he holds it in his hand - another reason to lament the loss of the prototype paint. And in a great bit of planning, it's slightly too wide to fit in his human hand, but also slightly too small to fit in his fly hand.

Like steering into a skid, pop culture tends to over-correct its mistakes. You start only depicting minorities as stereotypes, but then you swing the pendulum over to only showing "positive" depictions, because anything negative would be seen as racist. Eventually it occurs to you that hey, maybe these people are just people, so instead of treating them differently, why not just write them normally and not give it a second thought? Baxter Stockman being a black guy doesn't mean old-school racism is back, it just means he's being treated like everyone else. But honestly, we wouldn't have minded a little positive discrimination if it meant Playmates had made this toy better than their average.

-- 05/10/15

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