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Mutagen Man

TMNT Ultimates
by yo go re

Behold, the Living Lava Lamp!

Victim of Krang's insidious experiments, Seymour Gutz woke up from a lab table only to find himself hideously transformed into Mutagen Man - a pathetic, dripping, ever-changing mutating monster. Confined to a mechanical life support system that holds his mutating body together, Mutagen Man is now dependent on Ooze to replenish his deteriorating form. Forced to do Shredder's bidding in exchange for Retromutagen Ooze, Mutagen Man reluctantly performs dastardly deeds to get the substance his body so desperately craves.

In need of more characters to fill the ranks of their hit toyline, Playmates Toys accepted submissions from lots of artists, including the Turtles' creators themselves. In this case, Peter Laird created "The Unknown," conceived as a failed attempt to combine two species into one mutant. Playmates dropped the "un-matched limbs" angle, but kept the "organs in a jar" idea and turned it into Mutagen Man.

By any standard, Mutagen Man is a horrific figure. His skin has turned a dark yellow, and has begun sloughing off, revealing the dark maroon muscle tissue beneath. His fingers have large, sharp nails on the tips, and his feet (or at least the one foot we can see) now have three giant toes with white claws poking out, plus another on the heel. He wears a series of metallic blue appliances to help him maintain what's left of his human shape: rings around the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, a brace on his left shin, and a foot-shaped box that is presumably containing the ruined mess at the end of his leg. And that's before we even discuss the center of his body!

The 2012 Mutagen Man was a bundle of guts in a glass tube; 1990 Mutagen Man's protective shell is at least somewhat man-shaped, with a rounded dome on top and whar are clearly shaped pectoral muscles. Why was the body built this way? Was it something Shredder already had laying around? Was he just feeling artsy that day? The clear plastic trunk is surrounded by a purple framework of tubes and controls, and there are two yellow tanks on his back that pump life-giving mutagen into the neon pink plug at the top of his suit.

Inside that shell are the remnants of Mutagen Man's original body: his skull, brain, eyeballs, tongue, heart, lungs, one kidney, stomach, intestines, and... some round thing. Pancreas? Gallbladder? Something. Other than the big eyes, all the pieces are unpainted maroon plastic, which is a shame - so far Super7's Ultimates have been okay with improving the poor paint of Playmates' past, and they missed a perfect opportunity to do so again here. Yes, the original toy had pink insides like this, but the prototype shown on the back of his packaging showed them at least somewhat individually painted - a feature Super7 absolutely could have copied today. Maybe they were worried it would draw attention to how small his skull is? Far too small to have ever contained the brain and eyes seen here. Did it shrink in the laundry? There is a purple paint wash on the organs, but they could have done more.

One thing that's definitely improved today is the articulation. No, they didn't figure out some way to give him a neck or a waist - that would be nearly impossible - but they have vastly upgraded his arms and legs. Back then, action figures pretty much only had swivel shoulders and baljointed hips, but these days it's all about swivel/hinge combos. What a breakthrough! Mutadude moves at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. The shape of the knees makes it clear which direction they want his shins to point, and the fact that there are no thigh swivels means that is the direction they will always point. The hands pull out at the wrist, so you can choose whether you want gripping hands or fists.

Mutagen Man includes his Mutagen Machine Gun ("turn the Turtle Teens into Turtle tidbits") and a bunch of Gooey Garbage to put inside his body. It's all the same stuff the 1990 figure had - a baby turtle, a fish, a slice of pizza, an "eel," a bone, an apple core, and a wrench, but this time they're all different colors instead of just being flat yellow. I always thought the "eel" (as the old packaging called it) was a detatched eyeball or something, and that fish used to be a skeleton, but these are nice updates. There really isn't enough clearance between the brain and the jar for the apple core or turtle to fit inside - yes, you could push them in with force, but then how would you ever get them back out?

We also get the unpainted sprue frame holding duplicates of all the garbage. It's thematically designed, looking like sewer pipes rather than a wooden weapons rack, but it's still an embrrassing waste of plastic just like it is with every other TMNT Ultimates release, and Super7 really needs to stop. Stop, Super7. Stop. You're charging us too much money for these to waste any of it on stupid junk we have to throw away. They'd have been better off making the shell openable somehow, and giving us an alternate organ-stack that was fully painted.

Theoretically, you could full Mutagen Man's body with ooze and watch the little pieces float around in there, but I've never put slime in any of my toys before, and I'm not about to start now. What can I say? I was a clean kid. Mutagen Man isn't the greatest updated figure released in this line, but he's a clear signal that Super7 cares about the weirdos, not just the big names. And while we've had better versions of the main characters over the years, this is the best Mutagen Man has ever been.

-- 02/17/21

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