Back in the early 90’s, Playmates Toys made virtually any kind of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures you could think of. It’s arguable that their bread and butter was earned by the many, many variants of TMNT figures made available. Everything from figures inspired by the Universal Monsters, to spring loaded figures that could…kick really hard(?). While we still get plenty of variants from the toy manufacturer, there is always room for more, and a the risk of sounding a little greedy, I present to you a list of figures I believe collectors deserve to have taking up more room on their shelves.
Coming Out of Their Shells Tour
The infamous live tour saw the Heroes in a Half-Shell put down their signature weapons and take up music in an effort to stop the Shredder from eliminating all music for the world. Hey, this wasn’t trying to be Shakespeare, and we weren’t asking it to be. While many a jaded fanboy will claim that this is the worst affront to all things TMNT now, they’re forgetting how incredibly popular this was back when we were children. Back in 1990, we just wanted more Turtles, and we didn’t care what it looked like. While Playmates Toys did give us variant Turtles figures that were affectionately dubbed the “Rock ’N Roll Turtles” we still never got to see the Turtles from the live show in all the jean vest-wearing glory. While the 1990 Turtles from NECA get all the glory, the real Hail Mary pass of Turtles figures are these guys and all their glam-rocking ways.
Taking the look of a much loved comic from Mirage Studios, these Turtles are based on Casey Jones’s apparent love of the Prohibition era. While the comic finds Casey and the Turtles looking for a brass cow (seriously), the look of these Turtles is actually kind of iconic. The Turtles are seen here trading in their ninja weapons for shotguns and brass knuckles while wearing fedoras and trench coats. Casey and April figures could also make an appearance as Casey’s shirt and tie mixed with his intimidating hockey mask make for a great mix that on paper, looks like it would be silly, but works in the context of the story. Plus, April in a pink dress and mink scarf just works to further establish the time and setting this story resides in.
While there have always been variants of the Turtles wearing various bits of armor or ninja gear, the Turtles seen in the Deviations spin-off comic from IDW Publishing is a great example of just how dark the TMNT comics can go when they want to. The Turtles in this story have been brainwashed and manipulated by the Shredder, and now serve as part of his Foot Clan; their mission, to eliminate Splinter. The comic shows off possibly the most dangerous version of the Turtles ever seen by fans, and the figures could really bank on this by focusing on the paint work and accessories, giving us figures that really prove that pizza time and cowabunga are a thing of the past.
This three-issue storyline from writers Michael Zulli and Stephen Murphy is…well, it’s something. The series finds the Shredder and Splinter engaging in literal psychological warfare with one another resulting in Splinter awakening his sons from their slumber as statues…I don’t really understand it. But the Turtles seen in this story are certainly awesome. Leaning on a more realistic slant in terms of their design, the Turtles are four stoic swordsmen that come to their fathers aid to confront the wicked Foot Clan. While the figures could run the risk of lacking real personality considering how similar they look, the real winner would be the sculpt and paint work on these figures by showing off the intricate designs found on their shells. While I would miss their signature weapons, showing the four Turtles as master sword fighters would help separate them from the pack in the long run.
Sewer Slashin’ Turtles
Back in 2014, a collector from Death by Toys made his own custom version of the Ninja Turtles that saw them take the form of horror movie slashers from popular films in the late 70’s and early to mid-80’s. Most notably Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface, and the best part of it is, is that he made them out of already existing Ninja Turtles action figures found in the original toy line from Playmates Toys, with detailed instructions on how to make them yourself. While I know these are another fans creation, and acquiring the licenses for each character would probably be a nightmare and virtually impossible, I think that making these figures a reality would be a nod and a wink to the old tradition of just doing anything with the Ninja Turtles and seeing that it just works.
The Turtles have something of a tradition of making “Mutations” action figures. Most notably the Turtles that can turn into baby Turtles. While these figures have always been and continue to be fun and popular, I think the time is right to give us full on Transformers that turn into iconic vehicles from the Turtles past. I’m not talking about Michelangelo turning into the Turtle van, I’m talking about the Turtle van being a friggin’ robot in disguise. There are so many possibilities here that these figures could be their own animated series. Seeing the Turtle van punch out the Technodrome would be a way of surprising fans and giving them something they probably never knew they wanted t see. Honestly, there were almost as many vehicles as there were action figures back in the early 90’s from Playmates Toys, so I think it’s time to dust off those old designs and talk to Hasbro about how you can make some Turtles in Disguise.