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Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Review of First Turtle Deluxe Limited Edition
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure

Mondo
Date Published: 2016-01-20
Written By: Michael Crawford
Overall Average Rating: 3.5 out of 4

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TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Introduction

In the land of the geek, there are fables and legends, stories of the great ones and how they came to be. One of those stories goes like this: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were sitting around watching bad television and brainstorming ideas when Eastman sketched out the concept of a 'teenage mutant ninja turtle'. The duo scraped together enough money to publish the first comic in 1984, and TMNT was born.

Toys followed very quickly, with Playmates starting up the first full line in 1987, at the same time the original cartoon aired. Since then, every version possible of the four characters and their army of friends and foes has been produced, from the early comic books to the various animated incarnations to the live action shows. All but one, that is.

Yep, the one that started it all, the sketch Mr. Eastman quickly produced on that fateful evening. But fear not, for the final hole in your collection has now been filled by Mondo.

Mondo is best known for t-shirts and posters.  Their posters are highly sought after, and they produce some terrific artwork on a wide variety of geek friendly licenses.  Their venture into toys and collectibles is relatively new, but they have dove in with both feet, and are producing prop replicas and figures in a variety of scales.  They even have more Turtles coming this year, this time in sixth scale.

This first release is more of a designer vinyl figure than true 'action' figure, and it's clearly geared for the serious shell head. They produced four different versions: a standard black and white version, designed to mimic the pen and ink drawing exactly; a deluxe version of this black and white design with extra goodies (reviewed tonight); and two full color versions, one wearing the red mask, one wearing the orange mask. Each of the regular releases cost $65, while the deluxe was $100. The deluxe was also limited to a release of just 300 - I haven't seen any edition sizes on the other three. These have long since sold out at Mondo - most of their products sell through quickly - and ebay is probably your best bet at this point.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Packaging - ***
The green box is fairly straight forward, with a single plastic tray inside holding the figure and heads. Unfortunately, they went with some twisty ties to hold him in (properly padded to avoid any paint damage) instead of something a bit more high end, like a plastic cover.  The deluxe version includes the 5" x 7" print of the original artwork in black and white, but this comes in a separate padded mailer, not in the box with the figure.

The box does say 'deluxe edition' on the front, but there's no indication of the edition size or number, and there's no Certificate of Authenticity.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Sculpting - ****
To mimic two dimensional art work in three dimensions requires tremendously accurate - and creative - sculpting. Without exceptional accuracy to the original art, the entire point of the figure is moot.

They've done a beautiful job here, capturing the smallest details of the drawing with sculpting, not just paint. The sharp edges and cut details make critical areas, like the eyes, the cross hatching, the mask, and the shell, come alive with depth and dimension. They didn't simply reproduce the 2D art with 2D paint, but sculpted every aspect. This creates a truly amazing representation of the original work that also takes ultimate advantage of the third dimension.

He's a reasonable size as well, coming in at about 6 1/2" tall in his slightly hunched pose. I love the determined set of the eyes and the battle ready pose, even if it isn't quite the turtle we all came to know and love.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Paint - ****
Capturing the look of a highly unique comic book character, particularly one in black and white, can be very, very difficult. I've only seen it done once with perfection - the Mignola Batman Black and White statue. This release is right up there with that one, achieving an amazingly accurate look through the perfect paint job.

Adding the sculpted detail is a huge part, but so is the slightly wavy, hand drawn look of the cross hatching and edging. Perfection in these areas wouldn't work here, since you're trying to give the figure a hand drawn appearance. Matching that is no easy feat, but they've accomplished it.

Another big positive is that the white is really white. A nice matte white, very much like a sheet of paper. In the figure comparison photo, this figure is standing near a couple white action figures - Stormtroopers. These figures are cast in white plastic, and because of that (and because they are wearing armor) they have a slightly translucent, slightly off white color. That would not have worked with what they were going for here.  Instead, they painted this figure white, with a nice matte finish. This does a much better job emoting that 'drawn on a sheet of paper' look, although it is more expensive to do.

While I went with a four star score here, that doesn't really mean there aren't ANY issues.  There is some globbing of the white in a few spots, and while the overall shaky quality of the black lines is good, there's a couple spots where it's more slop than shake. Still, the overall impression in hand is so solid, so good, that I couldn't bring myself to dock him.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Articulation - **
As I said earlier, this is more of a designer vinyl figure than a true 'action' figure, and to their credit, Mondo refers to it as a 'collectible' figure. There are five points of articulation -  a cut neck, cut hips, a cut shoulder on the right arm, and a cut elbow on the left arm. Because of the sculpt and design, there's really one one, maybe two poses here, but the hips do allow you to adjust the legs for maximum stability.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Accessories - ***1/2
The regular releases do not come with any accessories. This is only a valid category with the deluxe edition.

The figure comes with two additional heads. One is wearing an orange mask, the other a red. These can be swapped with the all white version fairly easily, and there's no fear of breakage or damage, yet the fit is tight enough that the heads won't fall off on their own or flop around.

The final extra is a 'letterpress' (think slight debossing) 5" x 7" print of the original artwork. This is on very heavy card stock, suitable for framing and placing behind the figure. While I'm not usually a huge fan of paper extras, this was a smart and useful addition.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Fun Factor - **1/2
This really isn't intended as a 'fun' figure for kids OR collectors. It's more of a 'put it on the shelf in the one pose' sort of thing, more of a nerd Hummel that you can talk about and show off to your fellow TMNT fans.

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Value - **
The regular releases cost $65. Designer vinyl figures tend to be expensive, thanks to low production runs and smaller company size.  While someone like Funko or DST might be able to produce figures cheaply, the small numbers and unique design of this figure is going to push the costs up. While the price isn't cheap, it isn't way out of line with the market. I'd go a half star higher in this category with the regular figure.

However, the deluxe edition bumps the cost $35, which is a pretty steep jump. While you get the two extra heads and the print, I'm not sure that's enough to justify that big of a price increase, hence the drop off of a half star from average.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing.

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Overall - ***1/2
There are really only two factors that could hold this figure back. One is the articulation, and for me personally, it has no real bearing on my Overall. I know this is a designer vinyl figure, and because of that my weighting for the Articulation category is near zero.

The other is Value. Had I reviewed the $65 regular black and white release, he would have been more likely to get the full four star treatment. The sculpt and paint work captures the line drawing amazingly well, and the price is reasonable considering the market.

But the extra $35 for the two heads and the print is a bit harder to justify.  This additional cost versus benefit is what pulled him down just enough to drop the half star Overall.

Either way, Mondo has filled a hole in the plastic representation of the history of TMNT, and filled it well. Serious Turtle fans should be quite happy with the final result, and I can't wait to see how their 1/6th versions turn out.

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ****
Articulation - **
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - **
Overall - ***1/2

TMNT First Turtle exclusive action figure by Mondo

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Where to Buy 
While some of the other Mondo products (like the sixth scale turtles) are available through other retailers, this guy was only at their webstore. He's long sold out now, however, so your best bet is to search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
I've covered a number of Turtle items over the years, including the recent 'classic' versions from Playmates, the movie Leonardo, one of the older cartoon movie lines, and some of the new tv cartoon figures as well. I also did a comparison of the classic and modern Mike from Playmates. And let's not forget the NECA series that is perhaps the greatest set of figures based on the characters ever produced!

You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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