NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (comic)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been portrayed in just about every medium possible, but they started out as an independent comic book way back in 1984. Since then there have been television shows and movies, tons of comics, and even a live concert. They have been a merchandising juggernaut for almost 25 years, earning their creators millions and millions of dollars.

Of course, there have been toys. Lots and lots of toys. For the last 21 years, Playmates has been doing action figures, vehicles and playsets based on the various cartoons and movies, making the line one of the most successful and longest running toy lines of all time.

NECA is now producing some figures as well, but they've gone back to the roots of the Turtles, back to those early Mirage comics for their inspiration. They are doing up the four characters - Raph, Mike, Don and Leo - in several different package variations. I picked up the regular boxed set for tonight's review, but you can also pick up the figures individually with a greater number of accessories.

The boxed set costs around $40, which includes all four figures with their most critical weapons. 

Packaging - ***
The boxed set comes in a fairly standard box - but the MIBers will be able to store it quite easily, it actually looks decent on the shelf, and although there's more twisties than I like, you could theoretically remove and replace the figures with almost no damage to the packaging.

The artwork harkens back to the older style as well, making it a very attractive package.

Sculpting - ****
These are some of the best comic based sculpts I've seen in a very long time. They are not just comic accurate, but damn fine looking even if you have no reference to the old books. They've captured just the right amount of cartoon with just the right amount of reality, creating a perfect marriage of the two.

They've sculpted in some texturing of the skin, most notable on the front and back of the shell. The shell was done as two separate pieces, attached to the body with glue and posts. That was a smart idea, making the figures have a more three dimensional appearance. The deep cut lines on the body, highlighted with black paint, also add to this look.

Of course, they are really all pretty much the same sculpt in terms of the body and legs for all four turtles, but the hand sculpts are slightly different on a couple, and the head sculpts are all unique. There's not a huge difference in the various gritted smiles, but it's there, no matter how slight. Don has the most distinct head sculpt, as he's not showing any teeth at all.

The hand sculpts work well with the accessories. While the open areas might appear at first to be too small, the fingers on the hands are soft enough to pull open and place the accessories within. This makes the fit much tighter than usual, always a good thing.

The guys are about 5 1/2" tall, which makes them fit in pretty nicely with any 6" or 7" line, depending on how tall you feel a talking, upright turtle should be in comparison to the average person.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint is practically flawless as well, with very little slop and very nice cut lines. The use of the black lines to highlight the sculpt and give the figure the feel of the old black and white pencil drawings works extremely well, and just enough wash is used to give the figures a gritty appearance. There were a couple minor spots of slop on my set, but they were extremely minor, and these really are specialty market paint jobs at mass market prices (if you're buying the boxed set).

Fans of the cartoons and movies will notice immediately that the masks are all the same color. In the later shows these were done in different colors so you could tell Leo, Don, Mike and Raph apart, but in the original comics there was no difference. Thankfully, NECA stuck with that look.

Articulation - ****
Mcfarlane and NECA have become known as the kings of Nerd Hummels. Beautiful sculpts, but no articulation. Plastic statues of pop culture icons. And then Mcfarlane goes and produces the highly articulated Halo 3 figures, breaking their mold...and NECA does the same thing with the new Turtles.

These are advertised as 20 points of articulation, but that kind of depends on how you count. What doesn't depend on how you count it is that these have just about perfect articulation.

Let's start with the neck. At the torso, the long neck is a post and disc style joint. That means it can turn left and right around the post that goes into the torso, and move forward and backward on the disc. At the top of the neck is a true ball joint, up under the chin line of the skull. The combination of these two joints makes the head extremely poseable, with twists, tilts, and odd angles all very possible.

The shoulders are also ball joints, with joints on both sides of the ball. Combined with pin elbows and pin/post wrists, the arms can take just about any karate pose.

The hips are ball jointed too, again at both sides of the ball. These are also very unrestricted, with almost a complete range of movement. Any turtle can go from standing up straight to full splits, and everything in between with either leg.

The legs also have double pin knees and pin ankles, with an extra rocker joint at the base of the ankle. This rocker joint is a bit more restricted than the rest of the joints on the overall body, but it still adds a bit to any wide stance. Finally, there's a cut waist, rounding out the exceptional articulation.  Actually, this waist joint can crunch forward a bit, although it's not at the level of say a Marvel Legends figure.  The soft rubber front shell helps make this possible as well.

These guys stand fantastic on their own in a million poses. Anything you can think up you can do - they are that flexible. The articulation is also very well hidden by the sculpt, making them look terrific while they take those uber-cool poses.

Accessories - ***
The idea behind the boxed set is to get the critical accessories with each figure, so that you have an alternate budget minded way of getting the figures.

Mike comes with his trademark nunchuks, two pair in fact. The chains holding them together are metal of course, and they look terrific in a ton of poses.

Leo comes with his swords, and these fit nicely in either his hands or the scabbards on his back. The paint and sculpt are excellent, and the scale is just about right.

Don has his traditional bo staff, with another great sculpt and paint job. I think Don is my favorite of the four, and the staff can be used in a ton of poses.

Finally, there's Raphael with his sais. These can fit in his hands a number of ways, even in a slightly more traditional way because of the hand sculpt. It doesn't work quite as well as I'd hoped, but it was interesting that it was even possible.

While the swords fit in the scabbard for Leo, the other weapons can be carried in the soft rubber belts on either side of the torso.

If you do go with the single carded figures (or the NYCC boxed set that was available last weekend), you'll get additional accessories. Each figure comes with mini normal turtle version of themselves, alternate climbing hands, and a piece of a diorama/base. Each one also comes with an extra weapon - the Ooze canister with Don, throwing stars with Mike, throwing knives with Raph, but I'm not sure if any additional weapon comes with Leo. Obviously, the Accessories score for the single packed figures would jump up to a four star ranking for me.

Fun Factor - ****
Sure, these figures are intended for adult fans of the original comic books, but they are also excellent toys. The articulation is tight and smooth, with no cheap feeling joints that would break in a kid's hands. The accessories look and work terrific, and Turtles have always been such a successful license because of the conflict inherent in the concept. These toys would be great for any kid who's a big fan of the more recent cartoons or movies, and could be an opportunity for you to introduce them to the roots of the characters.

Value - ***
You can pick up this boxed set version for about $40 at more than one retailer, even less if you pay attention to my Where to Buy section. At just ten bucks each, you're getting the critical weapons with each figure, and they match up pretty well with the standard mass market pricing. Considering the exceptional quality of these figures, they are really more in line with specialty market figures, which cost $15 a pop these days, even for figures with just a couple accessories.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much.  I'd take a little care with the soft rubber belts - don't put too much continuous strain on them, as they may end up breaking.

Overall - ****
NECA has released my first serious contender for best line of the year. The sculpts are amazing, and the articulation is surprisingly good. Here's a perfect example of the sculpt and articulation working together to produce perfect action figures.

Yes, the necks might look a little long, but that's actually very accurate to the old comics. It also means that you'll have far more posability in the head and neck than usual, allowing for some really cool poses. Fans should be extremely happy with these, and I highly recommend picking them up while you can. I just wish I'd seen these before NYCC, so that I could have tried to get the exclusive boxed set with all the accessories. Now I'm going to have to break down and buy the full set of regular figures too!

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ****
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***
Overall - ****

Where to Buy -
Stores like Hot Topic or FYE may have the single figures, but the boxed set is probably easiest to get online:

- Urban Collector has the boxed set for $37.73.

- Clark Toys has the singles in a set of four for just $50, or the singles for $15. This boxed set is $40.

- Circle Red has the boxed set for $43.

- CornerStoreComics has the boxed set for $44, or the single carded figures for $13 each. You can get the single carded figures in a set of four for $48.99.

- Amazing Toyz has the singles for $13, or the boxed set for $44. They also have the preorders up for the 'tube' versions (the single figures with only basic accessories) for $45 for all four.

- Time and Space Toys has the set for $45.

- YouBuyNow has the boxed set for $45, the singles for $15, or the four singles for $58.

- and for the UK collectors, Forbidden Planet has the singles for 10 GBP each.

- or you can search ebay using the sponsor MyAuctionLinks.

- Related Links -
With all these years of toys, you know I'd have a few reviews:

- I reviewed a couple of the figures based on the last cartoon.

- there's also two guest reviews (here and here) of some of the cartoon Playmates figures.

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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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