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Review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Classic Comic Book action figures

Playmates Toys
Date Published:
Written By:
Overall Average Rating: 3 out of 4

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Introduction

Back in 2008, there was a bit of a lull in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not much was happening in the media, and not much was happening with collectibles. During this lull, NECA produced one of the greatest action figure sets of their career - and that's saying a lot. They released the four turtles in their classic comic book style, rather than the cartoon or movie style that Playmates had produced for so many years.  This set was an instant hit, and won awards and accolades from collectors around the world.

Now in 2014, Playmates is cranking along with a ton of turtle product based on the new cartoon, new movie, and even their own classic figures. They've added into this mix their own take on the comic book look, and have released them as part of their overall mass market series.

I came across these guys at a local Wal-mart, but you should also find them at most Toys R Us, Target and Meijers stores, just to name a few. Retail is likely to be around $10 each, but depending on sale pricing, you may find these down around $8 at certain retailers.

Click on the image below for a Life Size version
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Packaging - ***
While the packaging isn't collector friendly, it is very colorful and bright. They've switched up the palette to a blue-ish base this time, making them stand out on the pegs with the other green hardbacks. They have the usual personalization, and the usual photos of other currently released figures on the back.  It's a nice touch, although a little more comic book style flair would have been good.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Sculpting - ***
Glancing at these online and in the packs, I thought the sculpt was going to be my favorite aspect.  There are parts that I really, really like. And then there's one aspect that I really, really don't.

Let's start with the positive. These do mirror the original comics pretty well, especially the shape of the heads and shells. I also really like the use of sculpted texture to approximate the hash or cross hatch style of shading that was used in the black and white books. It looks great, and it's sharply defined enough to stand out.

Scale is good, with these guys coming in at about 4 inches tall. All four bodies are pretty much identical, and it's only the expressions that really set them apart.

And that's where things went wrong. They started with one head sculpt - Michelangelo's - that has both sides of his mouth open, grinning and showing teeth. Then they took this sculpt and filled in the grin, getting three additional 'unique' heads. Fill in both sides, one head; fill in the left side, another head; fill in the right side, another head. I can't complain with the logic, and even NECA didn't do four completely unique heads with their series.

But rather than do it properly, they did it with all the style and grace of a bad kindergarten project. You can actually see where they jammed clay into the gap and didn't even properly shape or smooth the fill. Ugh.

They did change up the flow of the 'tails' on the bandannas/masks a bit, to give each a little personality. A little more effort would have gone a long way to making these stand out, but instead, they fall well short of the NECA versions in this crucial category.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Paint - ***
The paint work is generally clean, but there's not a lot here. Most of the pieces, including the various limbs, are cast in the color you see. I like the choices for the shell, front and back, but I'm not a fan of this shade of green. It may simply be the lack of any highlights or details on the skin, especially since there's nothing to highlight the sculpt. Some black highlight lines would have gone a long way to making them pop.

The overall lack of paint detail is pretty striking too. The chuks are all red, handles and chain. The swords and sais are all gray. The majority of the paint detail is on the figures, but even there it's slim pickens.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Articulation - ***
So far, the original NECA figures are whipping the butts on these new guys, and the bloodbath continues with the articulation.

They do have a true ball jointed neck, and you should be able to get plenty of good head poses out of it. It's the highlight for this category, literally sitting above the mediocrity of the rest of the joints.

The pin style ball shoulders have a reasonable range of movement, and the pin/post style elbows (some people call both of these hinge joints) allow the lower arm to turn and bend. But there's no cut bicep, and there's no wrist articulation of any sort. That is a huge problem, making it extremely tough to get good poses with the weapons. Poses they should be able to take, they simply can't.

There is no waist joint, and the shell would make one pretty ineffectual anyway. The hinge hips, pin knees, and pin ankles do allow for some decent leg poses, but without the wrist articulation, you'll find it frustrating to work with these guys.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Accessories - ***
While the sculpts and paint work on the accessories is a bit dollar store, they do all have their required weapons.  The staff, swords, sais and nun chuks are all here, so outfitting each character with his appropriate arsenal is easy enough.

Considering the price point, I can live with the number and quality in this category, but it does make me pine for the good old days.

There is one other item in the package: a little, thin card, sort of like a trading card but fairly cheap. Seriously, it's not worth mentioning.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Fun Factor - ***1/2
If they had just added those damn wrist joints - how much difference one little thing can make.  With wrist joints, these get another half star easy, because they are solid toys with good play value. Kids clearly love the TMNT line, and it continues to sell well after decades on the pegs. It's not just because of the license - Playmates does know how to make fun, well made, action figures.  They just missed this one by a joint.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Value - ***1/2
When NECA released their original style figures back in 2008, they were around $10 - $12 each, or you could snag the four pack for $40 - $45. Playmates is producing these for $8 - $10 each, which is a solid value compared to the rest of the action figures on the pegs today. In fact, this is easily their best quality, and part of the reason that they failed to top NECA in the other categories. I'll explain that in the Overall section.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing.

Overall - ***
The original series of comic based Turtles produced by NECA will forever live as one of the greatest releases of all time. They got everything right, and clearly loved the property. For Playmates to beat that would have taken a miracle.

Playmates was also trying to produce their original set as part of their standard action figure line up, a series that retails for ten bucks and hangs on the pegs at every mass retailer. Making that a priority added some constraints, and it shows with the final product.

There are any number of minor issues that you can choose to focus on, but for me there are really two that hold these back from a potential half star bump overall. First is the wrist articulation. Even just a cut joint there would have gone a long way to making these much more posable and playable.

Second for me is the silly-putty alteration on the smile. It's clunky and cheaply done, and hurts the otherwise solid sculpt.

For those who want comic style turtles and don't want to pay $200 - $300 (yep, that's the going rate these days on ebay for the NECA set), these are a decent but flawed alternative.

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

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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Where to Buy 
Your local Toys R Us, Target or Meijers is the place to be! Expect to pay around $8 - $10 each, depending on the sales.

Related Links -
I've reviewed a number of other Turtles, including a recent 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 I talked so much about in this review!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles classic comic figures by Playmates

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

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