?When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird tried to get Playmates to produce action figures based on their gritty-yet-still-totally-bonkers indie comic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Playmates refused unless the duo could get a wider fan base with a cartoon. So Eastman and Laird licensed TMNT to Fred Wolf’s animation studio in 1987 just to get some sweet toys. Once the cartoon became a surprise smash hit, Playmates flooded the shelves with TMNT toys beginning in 1988. Instead of trickling out the cast over the years leading up to the line’s premature cancellation as an industry standard dick move, Playmates released all of the main characters in the first assortment. After covering most of the supporting characters in the second batch, Playmates realized they they’d have a problem sustaining future assortments.
The company snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by releasing an endless stream of bizarre Turtles variants and making up a bunch of characters that had yet to appear in the comics or cartoons. Many of the new characters were designed by folks working on both the Mirage and Archie comics. The following are among the kookiest non-Turtle toys of the TMNT line, even by its guano-mad standards. There were often big discrepancies between their action figures and how these characters were presented in the cartoon and TMNT Adventures comic books. That’s what corporate synergy looks like when nobody bothers to compare notes.
11) Ace Duck
?Ace Duck was produced in the second wave of TMNT figures, before it perfected its ultra-detailed wacky aesthetic. This is as sincere a take on a humanoid duck in a bomber jacket and blue jeans as possible. Even his weapon of choice is a completely normal .45 pistol. But why was he made so early and so dignified when he wasn’t even a semi-important character? His card has some insane backstory about a test pilot who merged with a duck that Krang was trying to teleport to Dimension X so he could eat duck brains. Then it says the Turtles hired him to pilot their Turtle Blimp, which is universally ignored (in the comics, he’s just an alien wrestler in a much less classy Speedo.) The only time he appears on the cartoon is when Michelangelo is watching an Ace Duck movie marathon and he doesn’t even escape from the TV during a freak power surge. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the cartoon’s version of George Lucas must’ve combined Indiana Jones and Howard the Duck into the greatest franchise of all time. So the Ace Duck action figure only exists as a cruel reminder that the Turtles, not us, live in the best of all possible worlds.
?By the time Playmates made Tattoo they were only doing mutants and aliens, so this human who wasn’t a part of the Channel 6 News team was a complete anomaly. Producing a sumo wrestler in the series’ cartoony style renders him a borderline offensive ethnic caricature. His odd proportions look like they shaved Donkey Kong. As his name suggests, he comes with sticker tattoos. Unfortunately they look like the temporary tattoos kids get to pretend to be bikers instead of the more intricate and distinguished Japanese skin art. His bio says he has the power to bring his tattoos to life (contrary to him being powerless in the comics), which is a superpower that never makes a lick of sense. In the cartoon, Tattoo was revealed to be a mutated hamster working for the Shredder after he was electrocuted, because even its writers realized a regular sumo wrestler didn’t make sense in the context of the cartoon.
9) Ray Fillet
Ray Fillet (a.k.a. Man Ray) seems relatively normal for the TMNT line until you add up all the details. He has to wear flippers instead of having hydrodynamic webbed feet. His color changing shirt comes in several variations because it’s only practical for frustrating completists. Ray’s creators prevented him from appearing on the cartoon as a villain, yet were somehow fine with his toy seeming more bloodthirsty than the rest of the Turtles’ foes. One of his sidekicks, Scarface, is a living starfish who’s only useful if thrown like a shuriken. The other is named Fish Stix for all the dynamite sticks he has strapped to his back. Befriending sea life just to weaponize them against ninja robots and polluters seems very unethical for a marine biologist. Ray’s psychosis is emphasized by his deranged eyes and smile full of razor-sharp teeth, which leads me to question whether his sculptor ever looked at a manta ray. At least he looks more like one than Black Manta.
8) Wingnut and Screwloose
?Wingnut is an alien who refuses to take off his Adam West-era Batman costume even though it doesn’t fit him anymore. Yes, this spear-nosed bat is wearing the outfit of a man who dresses up like a bat. This makes him the most meta of all TMNT toys. His symbiotic mosquito buddy, Screwloose, spoils any chance of them winning for best group costumes by not dressing as Robin (like he does in the comics). It’s like they were made just to mock cosplayers and vex copyright lawyers. Unlike his inspiration, Wingnut wields three guns because he’s not scared of bullets. He predates Deadpool in putting his face on his belt buckle. He carries a live Earth-bat on his belt because he can’t afford batarangs or a fancy Wayne Tech bat-pager. Wingnut’s natural wings are too weak to fly, but he overcame this handicap simply by bolting giant sheets of metal to them. He won’t let physics tell him what he can’t do! This heroic duo drips with personality, yet the plankton chips writing the show made them generic brainwashing alien invaders.
?Giraffes are tall. So are basketball players. Why not combine the two? As can be expected, Halfcourt ended up putting his extendable neck through the hoop and taking it with him so nobody else could score. I’m skeptical as to how useful a basketballer would be against the hordes of Dimension X. It’s not even an original gimmick, since they already made Slam Dunkin’ Don. Halfcourt’s only weapons are a Tommy gun air-pump and a basketball filled with bees. Remember kids, the only people who fill their basketballs with bees are masochistic cheaters who hate victory. His sidekick, a bedraggled flamingo referee named Ruff, might be useful as a decoy. Playmates refused to paint his tongue dark blue even that’s the only thing kids think are nifty about giraffes. It looks like he’s wearing a #34 Philadelphia 76ers jersey. Could Halfcourt be a mutated Charles Barkley, the man who beat Godzilla?
6) Muckman and Joe Eyeball
?Muckman could pull double duty as Urban Camouflage Swamp Thing. He’s hollow, so kids could pour Retromutagen Ooze (sold separately) out of his mouth, chest and bazooka onto the carpet. When not oozing, his slack jaw, removable scalp and gaping chest wound recall an especially pungent zombie. He claims to wear as clothespin on his nose to keep the stench in, but the smart money says he’s lying. What really vaults him over the top is his partner, Joe Eyeball. He’s a parasitic gremlin with snail eyes, vestigial limbs, and an extra eye in his tail. Both sanitation workers were mutated simultaneously by the same chemical, so how did they turn out so different? I don’t know what the shell he’s supposed to be, but Joe Eyeball makes turning into a garbage monster look like a perfectly sensible event by comparison.
5) Mutagen Man
?Mutagen Man was a courier named Seymour Gutz who fell into a vat of Mutagen Ooze that melted off his skin and gave him the power to shapeshift. THAT’S NOT HOW MUTAGEN WORKS! It anthropomorphizes animals and gives people the attributes of whatever animal they were last in contact with. That’s a huge component of the TMNT mythos to cavalierly flip off. Anyhow, Seymour has to wear a life-support containment suit that shows off his organs. His ghastly condition lands in the Uncanny Valley of not being detailed enough to be realistic nor exaggerated enough to be comical. Medically dubious objects ranging from a goldfish to a crescent wrench float inside of his suit when he’s filled with colored water like the world’s most disgusting snowglobe. When he dries out, they just sink into a shameful jumble of infections like a metaphor for his life. The poor schmuck wasn’t even given a pair of matching boots for his custom exo-suit.
4) Napoleon Bonafrog
A simple repaint of Genghis Frog would’ve sufficed here, but Playmates splurged on a brand new sculpt for his brother. The problem is that Napoleon doesn’t resemble his cartoon counterpart in the slightest. He’s based on the horny toad, which is a desert lizard that can “bleed” from its eye sockets, and not an Okeefenokee Swamp-dwelling amphibian. Calling him a toad on his packaging further confuses the issue of how he could ever be classified as a Punk Frog. Did Flyboy, his informant that looks like a brain-dead preschool version of Baxter Stockman, write his bio? His ill-fitting pastel clothes and peace necklace make him look like a Hippie pensioner. His murderous grimace of fangs indicates that you made him miss the Early Bird special.
3) Scale Tail
?Despite his dumb name, Scale Tail is one of the coolest snake-man toys ever made. His segmented tail balances on the giant winged belt buckle he wears just to be fashionable. He’s got a jet pack because those make everything cooler. Did I mention he has a double-barreled machine gun for a tongue that moves when you wiggle his hood? So he’s either a cyborg or that’s typical of his alien species. What’s really weird is that his right arm is made of three snakes that aren’t even fellow cobras. That’s as creepy as human with an arm made of three babies. There’s another cobra head attached to the gun on his tail. I’m not sure if it’s just for decoration or if it’s an organic component that fires the blaster autonomously. Scale Tail single-handedly fulfills the conjoined twin quotient for the entire toy line. What’s even crazier is that this bizarre yet intimidating adversary never appeared on the show or any of the comics.
?Flatworms don’t lend themselves well to anthropomorphism. An action figure of one is always going to look strange, but Playmates took it to a whole new level for Wyrm. His fingers are disgustingly phallic ridged tendrils, adequate for gripping his monkey wrench with a porcupine randomly stuck to it. He epitomizes Playmate’s “one tattered shoe and one exposed mutant foot” formula (later adapted by Todd McFarlane as the successful “one normal boot & one ridiculously ginormous boot” formula) by having his exposed foot be an undulating tentacle festooned with suckers. His purple suckers clash with his yellow underbelly to make look him extra unsavory. But his head is where it really gets crazy. When you tug on his hair, Wyrm’s bloodshot eyes waggle out of his warped pancake head so you don’t have to buy peyote to be freaked out by him. His goofy blunt-toothed grin dims the horror slightly into disquietingly creepy territory. Can you see the family resemblance between him and Jar Jar Binks? His giant maw is hinged so that he can feast upon his easily lost worm accessories in a semi-cannibalistic fashion. So he’s kind of like Cookie Monster if Jim Henson was H.P. Lovecraft — a pure muppety nightmare fodder.
?Instead of being afflicted with acne, this slovenly ethnic stereotype was literally made out of pizza, which I guess means he has mozzarella skin and bleeds tomato sauce. This insane chef voluntarily cooked himself in an oven of ooze to acquire the power of pizza. This ought to be the example of a half-baked idea used in every dictionary (or at least the multilingual ones). Anyone who thinks they’ll become more powerful by transforming into a popular foodstuff obviously has crippling self-esteem issues. He could alternate between a cleaver and a pizza slicer stuck in a pizza box as his right leg. It doesn’t take a podiatrist to realize that neither is an ideal prosthesis. He’d be a terrifying bastardization of the Turtles’ favorite food if he wasn’t the most idiotic character in the entire series. I reckon Pizzaface is so obscure because the Turtles ate him early on as a mercy killing.