Wingnut and Screwloose
Dingbat buddies who bite the baddies
Released in 1990
With the release of the Wingnut figure, we finally start to get into the more eccentric and crazy-looking figure that the ’88 Playmates toy line was known for. Wingnut and Screwloose are two characters that have had a huge impact on the Turtles overall history, despite the fact that he is not as well-known as many of the other allies of the TMNT. In the early nineties, Wingnut and Screwloose we involved in almost every bit of Turtles media. But here’s the thing, despite being in video games, cartoons, comics and having his own action figure, he never really made an impact the same was someone like Casey Jones or Usagi Yojimbo did, and I think the problem lied in his origin story. Or, should I say, his multiple origin stories.
Making his debut in the animated series in 1991, Wingnut and Screwloose were actually a pair of villains who brainwashed children in a military academy.
But in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comics, from Archie Comics, they were a pair of refugees that were shanghaied on Earth after Krang destroyed their home planet in an act of mass genocide.
And his figure is a funny mixture of both backstories. While Wingnut and Screwloose retain the look of their animated counterparts, they have a back story that closely resembles that of his comic book cousin. Wingnut wants to take out Krang, but in a humorous/cruel twist of fate, he’s just a clumsy oaf of a vampire bat that honestly wouldn’t hurt a fly; and his figure reflects this.
Wingnut is a towering, yet chubby, bat that is so rotund that his tiny wings can’t lift him off the ground. Fortunately, he’s befriended the Turtles, and Donatello hooks him up with a pair of metal wings that enable him to fly (just go with it). While he technically does have the standard seven points of articulation, it needs to be mentioned that two of them are his wings that actually plug into his back. So while is figure may be the “same” as the others in the line, there is a bit of a limit to the mobility of the figure when compared to the others.
With that out of the way, I can’t help but love the amount of detail in the figure’s wings. It’s obvious from the sculpt of the wings that these are made from scrap parts that were cut and welded to form a wing design, and that several pieces were then pieced together with rivets. It’s incredible that you can actually count the individual rivets in either wing and even see where Wingnuts actual wings fit into his metal ones, thanks to his natural wings being painted brown to separate them from his metal wings. I will say that his wings, while great, are only great half the time; as they are painted brown on one side, and the same dull gray as the metal wings on the backside. This was common practice for action figures back in he day, especially from Playmates, and it is still employed the same way today. If not more so, considering that paint is nerfed on some figures to keep the prices down. With that being said, the wings are still loaded with detail and personality, like grenades and bullet holes, and they have a great action feature allowing you to attach Wingnuts accessories to his wings, which is worth the price of admission for me.
I kind of think the rest of the sculpt is a crazy homage to Batman, seeing as how Wingnut is wearing gray spandex with dark blue armor, reminiscent of the blue and gray duds that Batman was sporting in the comics at the time. While it may just be a coincidence, it’s a little too on the nose for it to be anything more than a “oops” moment. He even comes packaged with a utility belt. How Playmates didn’t get sued over this, I’ll never know. Wingnut’s head sculpt is an incredibly accurate take on the face of a vampire bat. While it retains the Turtle tongue-in-cheek nature, it still leans a bit harder on the side of realism than some of the other heroes and allies within the TMNT ranks. That being said, it may be somewhat the point of this figure with this backstory. He’s a lovable loser who can’t fight; why wouldn’t he look like a beast when he means no harm t anyone?
And that leads us to Screwloose, the alien mosquito that hitches a ride on Wingnut’s back whenever they head into battle. Screwloose is one of the little buddy figures that is the same one-color piece of inarticulate plastic that we’ve seen before and we’ll see again soon. But this guy, like another “eye-catching” little buddy, is a mainstay of the series that is never far behind his winged friend when push comes to shove. This little guy fits nicely on Wingnut’s back thanks to his four arms. If nothing else, Screwloose helps cement the Batman homage even further for me, as Batman is rarely ever seen without a Robin of some sort.
While Wingnut’s character may suffer from a bit of identity crisis, seeing as he was handled by several different creators, this figures shows of the kind of creativity and forward thinking that the Playmates line would become known for. People always want to talk about the sheer number of variants that this toy line provided, but what no one ever wants to talk about, is the fact that the variants were only so many because we wanted them. Playmates were supplying a demand that was set by us…or more realistically, our parents. We just received these toys as gifts, very few of us had jobs back then and went out on our own and purchased these. Our parents saw a Turtle logo and picked it up for us, regardless of what was in the box. But, right under our noses, was a creative center that was creating whimsical heroes and over-the-top villains; and it all started with Wingnut and Screwloose. Their crazy design was just a taste of what was to come. In 1990, we started voting with our wallets, and we voted “More”. More toys, more vehicles, more playsets and cartoons…and we got just that. Some might say that in 1990, the Playmates toy line was starting to pad out their roster of figures, and some more people might say that this was the start of the sell-out period of the TMNT, but I say that you’re ignoring the fact that this brand can kind of go anywhere and become a success. Here we are, twenty seven years later, talking about an alien bat and mosquito. That doesn’t happen unless you’re onto something good. And Wingnut and Screwloose were the beginning of a toy line that was just starting to stretch its legs creatively.
Turtle Trivia: Wingnut was voiced in the 2012 series by voice actor Daran Norris. He also provided the voice for Batman in the animated short DC Super Friends: The Joker’s Playhouse.