Apparently mozzerella.... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
Twenty of their least conformed, all for one low price!

Matt - 5.26.02 /// Previous ArticleX-ENext Article

Don't ask me why I woke up with the urge to do this one, it's either a relapse or the side effect of bad clams. TMNT was my last childhood obsession - not my last obsession with stuff meant for kids, rather the last one where it was still socially acceptable for me to be into this kinda stuff. My worst fear is that I'll be trying to buy a house someday and a creditor will deny me, pulling up reports proving that I was still into toys past the acceptable age limitation. If that nightmare comes true, I might be cheating myself out of a great oceanside condo one day with this article, but at least you TMNT fans out there will have a supple way to kill fifteen minutes.

Today, for your reading pleasure, a look at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Rogues Gallery, a collection of some of the strangest characters this side of the sewer. (this article uses the TMNT joke book found with the Foot Cruiser for reference) These aren't all the most popular toys in the line, but they're certainly some of the more interesting ones. Well, maybe not interesting - weird may be a better word. It's hard to apply 'interesting' to a yellow sumo wrestler or a frog who wears sandals, so let's just roll out with a synopsis of twenty figures from the TMNT line that defied all explanations...

#1: Fugitoid: According to the bio card, Fugitoid is a robot/human hybrid. Some guy named Dr. Honeycutt transferred his brain to an android body, and while on the run, the Droid bumped into our hero turtles and decided they were pretty cool guys to hang with. Now occassionally fighting crime alongside the reptilian saviors, Fugitoid uses his grappling claw and 'skeletal servo-scanner' to get into all those weird, high places the Turtles can't.

Like some of the other TMNT characters, Fugitoid once had his own comic book that had positively nothing to do with this line. I'm glad they incorporated him, since the series sorely lacked in the robot department. Without Fugitoid, Playmates might not have had enough of a reason to use high-tech gold paint on the figures. Think of the horrors. Easily one of the most well-crafted of the entire line of figures, Fugitoid came out in 1990 to little fanfare despite being the only TMNT figure to that point to come with a head shaped like a football. Other features include a chestplate that opens up to reveal Fug's twisted mechanic heart.

#2 - Mutagen Man: If Fugitoid was a successful experiment in cyborg specialties and robotics, here's an example of what happens if you try doing it without really, really making sure you've read the instructions. Mutagen Man is the unlikely teammate of Shredder and Krang - they kidnapped some guy and did all these experiments to him, ending up with the mess you see up above. Now Mutagen Man can only sustain life if he's given precious doses of mutagen, so he carries out his orders despite knowing that, deep down, he's not really evil. Wow, a TMNT toy with moral issues. Makes you wonder if Mondo Gecko's flippant ways are just a front to cover his depression because he can't really skate.

The toy was great - you'd fill the torso with water, and stick in all these various little yellow plastic gizmos just to illustrate that the guy was a big walking garbage disposal. I've always fantasized about buying one of those feeder-fish guppies to turn Mutagen Man from mundane action figure into a tiny chic fishtank, but the idea never left the drawing board since Petland's guppies are usually all dead-on-arrival. Oh well.

#3 - Krang w/ Android Body: Krang, the pink brain who shared leadership with Shredder, was always my favorite TMNT character. There's something about a gurgling brain who spends the entire day in front of a 50' television making one-liners that really attaches itself to your soul. Originally, the Krang figure came with this lame gray walker that made him look like a five-year-old using a highchair at Denny's. Eventually, they got around to releasing his huge android body. Problem was, it cost far more than the normal figures, and for a time, was really tough to find. Truly, it seemed like all Krang figures were doomed to eternal damnation as pen-toppers or finger puppets. Until this figure came out.

Indeed, in time, they fashioned a Krang w/ android body figure on the same scale as the other toys, and kids everywhere rejoiced: finally, finally, we could create situation dramas with our Krang and Shredder figures without having the two of them look completely asinine, yelling at each other from a 15' pace. Of course, Krang still did look sort of ridiculous. After all, it's a living brain stuck inside a bald robot with 99-cent sunglasses. He's still a god, though.

#4 - General Traag: Speaking of Krang, here's his main minion from Dimension X - General Traag, the rock monster with proficiency in military operations. See, Krang used to rule Dimension X until being exhiled, but many of his rock troops still remained loyal to him, mainly because none of the other evil dictators in Dimension X had their own television shows. Traag wanted some of that play too, so when he was offered the chance to switch dimensions and fight a few seemingly helpless reptiles, he was all over it.

The Traag figure is reminiscent of a toy era all but forgotten - that being when they were made of higher quality, really hard plastic. Nowadays most figures are cheap rubber with flat paint, but not Traag. With this guy, you pretty much had a makeshift ninja star and could easily injure anyone by throwing it. Oddly, the toy had all these big, black bugs stick to his arms, which leads me to believe one of two things:

1) Traag was a general, but not of other rock creatures. Rather, he commanded a legion of big, black bugs.

2) It doesn't really mean anything, because half of the TMNT figures had bugs and/or lizards stuck to their back and it was generally accepted as natural behavior in their universe. They were the lapel pins and broaches of the sewer hoppers.

#5 - Genghis Frog: The Turtles weren't the only ones who got a facelift from retromutagen ooze. Over in Florida, a number of frogs got the same treatment. Only the frogs aren't ninjas, and there's no Miami Division of the Foot Clan, so they're not really crimefighters. They're still nice guys though, and that's enough to get Genghis listed on the 'heroes' side of the Turtle figure checklist.

What amazes me about all these mutations is how the various creatures' fashion senses are also mutated. Look at this guy's shirt! I understand they're in a tropical climate, but even for a talking frog, that outfit is just way too damn loud. He even came with a pair of sunglasses, but the lenses are solid blue so he doesn't wear them unless he's trying to sleep or tanning. Oddly, according to his filecard, Genghis weighs more than Fugitoid. I guess frog cuts are heavier than robot guts. Either that, or Genghis eats tons of Steakums. They are carnivores, you know.

#6 - Ray Fillet: The Manta Ray. Ray Fillet is interesting because, at one point, he was pulled from store shelves because of something having to do with his color-change mechanism. (under water, his vest would change colors) Of course, when something like that happens, collectors go absolutely apeshit and start hunting every last one of the figures down. I really wanted a Ray Fillet figure, so I ended up paying extra to get him from a dealer because really, what's money if you don't have a mutated manta in your toy collection?

A few months later, they re-released the figure again with the color-changing vest reinstated, so I guess I was the sucker this time. I've learned over the years to take rumors of a toy being pulled from shelves with a grain of salt - it almost never actually happens. Unless the toy in question has something that might injure a child, nobody at KayBee's going to take the memo seriously. A good example of this would be the 'Steve the Tramp' figure from the Dick Tracy figure line - allegedly pulled from shelves because it painted homeless people in a bad light, I always found it to be the easiest of all the figures to find. I think they start rumors like that to sell all their unwanted stuff. That's why there's always so many rumors about the 6,000 dollar interactive E.T. doll being pulled from the aisles.

#7 - Space Cadet Raph: When the line's popularity started waning, they went back to the basics and tried repackaging the actual stars of the cartoon in every which way they could. I understand why they did it, but it must've been annoying for kids who wanted new figures to wade through 15,000 variations of Donatello with a different number of teeth showing. The first few of the revamp lot weren't so bad, though, and I can't in good faith complain about a human/turtle hybrid in a bulky astronaut suit.

If the movies were any indication, it's no wonder Raphael was the one elected for a space program, since he couldn't stand having to pal around with the Turtles anyway. Sure, it's a little drastic to fly all the way to Venus to avoid unwanted social interactions, but Raph was always a bit of an extremist. Who else would go into battle with such confidence that they felt they could succeed only armed with two big forks? Raph was a visionary in faith. The figure came equipped with a clear helmet, lazer gun, and the inexplicable sword in case he ever came into a hand-to-hand combat situation in deep space.

#8 - Metalhead: The Robot Turtle! Much like every other hero not introduced in the first episode, Metalhead was created to aid Krang in his continuing mission to destroy any sarcastic reptiles. I received him at my 4th grade birthday party, held over in some arcade complex that used to be in Jersey. It was the Year of TMNT, so pretty much everything I got had to do with the series. We even gave out turtle-shaped lollipops in the loot bags. Definitely a banner year. I don't know if this was universal in all Metalhead figures, but mine made this clinky clangy sound when I shook it. I love action figures that double as maracas.

Most of these sorts of characters appeared once on the show, never to be heard of again. I guess the Turtles were really finicky with who they hung out with. Still, you'd think keeping someone like Metalhead around longer would have it's benefits. He could get the pizza for them, because as amazing as it sounds, it's much less strange for a turtle-shaped robot to go buy a pizza than an actual turtle.

#9 - Napoleon Bonafrog: Far cooler than Genghis, Napoleon boasted a much more brazen olive skintone and really great sandals. Overall, a far better frog. Somehow, he got shafted and it's Genghis who's listed as the leader of that group, but anyone who's seen the two knows Bonafrog has twice the panache and all the tools necessary to make him not only the ruler of frogs - but the ruler of all. Plus, he's one of the few TMNT figures who could stand without leaning against the wall.

He looks like one of those horned toads every kid thinks of when they decide they want a pet frog. Then they go to the pet shop only to find that the only frogs left are either boring, sick, or really newts. More frogs should be like Napoleon. Hell, more people should be like Napoleon. The frog, not the French guy. I don't want everyone acting out scenes from Bill & Ted.

#10 - Slash: The evil mutant turtle, some of you might remember Slash's fascination with plastic palm trees from the cartoon. Shredder's idea was that, since neither he or his henchmen could defeat the Turtles after six trillion attempts, maybe it was best to send one of their own kind after them. The results didn't prove any differently. If I remember correctly, it took all of ten minutes for our heroes to figure out a way to get Slash aboard a spaceship, hurling him into space for all of eternity. Oh well, it was worth a shot, right?

Seriously, could anything defeat the Turtles? I remember being so frustrated with this as a kid. Krang would hatch a scheme so brilliant that even I would recognize it as topnotch, but sure enough, the Turtles would just throw a stick at whatever ultraweapon was coming at them, causing the entire thing to explode and the villains to escape using those neat modules. Shredder and Krang were really fighting a losing battle here. The writers of the show were clearly in Camp Turtle.

Slash came with a bunch of demented version of the Turtles' weapons, if only to illustrate that he was fighting for fascism and not the forces of good like the rest of the world's mutant reptile ninjas.

#11 - Tattoo: A big, fat, yellow sumo wrestler. Bet you didn't see that one coming. The only human we've covered so far and still, he's the strangest of the lot. Oddly, Tattoo was a hero character, which means that, at some point, a friendly icebreaking convo between the Turtles and himself had to take place...

Donatello:'re Tattoo. I've heard good things.
Donatello: Look, the pizza thing is a sight gag. All we really eat are koi.
Donatello: I hear we're going to be fighting crime together from now on.

Equipped with a long staff and a sheet of sticker 'tattoos', this was the underdog figure we could really rally behind. It'd seem that a giant naked yellow man wouldn't have a place in the TMNT universe, but with a little love and the realization that fat toys equal fun toys, Tattoo ends up being the Turtles' favorite ally outside of anyone mutated with pink goo.

#12 & #13 - Tokka and Rahzar: From the second live-action TMNT movie, here's Shredder's evil mutants. They don't have quite the same charm as Rocksteady and Bebop, but they're still worth noting because they costarred in a flick with Vanilla Ice. On the surface, both appeared to share a vicious streak totally unmatched in the realm of TMNT. In truth, they absolutely sucked because all you had to do was spray them with a fire extinguisher and they'd become useless in battle. If we're talking sheer aesthetics though, there's few better than Tokka and Rahzar.

The accessories didn't come straight from the flick. Example: Rahzar comes with a green tombstone, so unless there's a cut Cemetery Battle scene on the DVD, they took a few creative liberties. Not included in this article is the Super Shredder figure from the same film - you know, Shredder after he drank a canister of mutagen, and somehow, his outfit mutated with him? Mutagen's powerful shit.

#14 - Merdude: It's sad that Merdude didn't get a better shake. Added to the line at a point where TMNT was already well past it's peak popularity, this and some other interesting figures were never really picked up by most kids. As I've said before, there's usually a three-year 'hot' period with these types of genres. It's not an exact science, but look around and you'll find that it's true. Once you get past that point, it's all downhill no matter what you're throwing at the public. In TMNT's case, they tried virtually everything to extend the life of the line - a totally different show, transforming figures, new villains - but nothing really seemed to help. The lore might still be quite popular with hardcore fans, but as far as profits go, the well ran pretty close to dry in the mid-90s.

Merdude is a victim of late marketing. He could be the greatest character ever forged for an animated series, but nobody can be sure since 99.99% of the world never heard of him. Personally, I think we all need to take a step back and make a little room for Merdude in our lives. Surely we can find a suitable spot for a mutant mermaid with an eye-patch. People like that don't come along often, so if you get anything from this article at all, I hope it's a better appreciation for pirate mermaid men.

#15 - Casey Jones: The Boba Fett of the TMNT universe, Casey's been met with much fanfare for his entries both in the toon and in the movies. Honestly, they really made a great casting choice with Elias Koteas in the first film. He brought an intangible quality to the character that helped the overall movie seem a lot more, what's the word, crucial? By all rights, the movie could've been a cartoony heap of nonsense and still done tremendous business. Hell, nobody really expected the movie to be anywhere near good. Now I know it's no masterpiece, but go watch the first TMNT flick again and tell me it's not a hundred times better than it had any right to be. There were a lot of great elements to the movie, but Casey Jones might've been the brightest spot on the drawing board.

Sadly, when it came to the animated realm, they really blew it with one aspect of Casey's mantra: for a guy who kicks so much ass with so little prejudice, he's got a pretty eerie penchant for pastels, no? I mean it's no wonder he carries a golfsack full of weapons around...hate mongrels worldwide probably try to bash his skull incessantly. Still, it was nice to have an extra good guy on the show who wasn't used primarily for pizza jokes or banana peel slip hilarity.

#16 - Leatherhead: God damn, what was I thinking doing 20 of these? I could probably find a way to mutate myself into a big turtle in half the time and with less fuss. Plus, I'm taking a big gamble here, assuming that you guys actually give two shits about old TMNT action figures. For all I know you read the top two paragraphs and moved on to greener pastures, like net porn or Asteroids games rendered in Flash.

Leatherhead was the main villain for the assorted frog characters we've already covered. He wasn't particularly important aside from an ability to cram the word 'gumbo' into one episode of the show in excess of seven dozen times. The real reason I'm including him on this list is because, in toy form, his lower jaw was detachable. Leatherhead w/ Special Heroin Damage? For whatever reason, this eventually became one of the rarer figures to pick up, and costs much, much more than most of them on the collector's market nowadays. You can pick up most TMNT figures for a song on eBay, but Leatherhead will cost you dearly. I guess you can really fuck with your pricing when you totally control the gators-wearing-hats action figure market.

#17 & #18 - Mighty Bebop & Robotic Bebop: See, when they kept re-releasing the Turtles in a billion different outfits, it was annoying. But when they did it with Bebop, it was just genius. The world can never have too much Bebop. I have this TMNT Easter special cartoon, and in it, Bebop ends up dressing like a rabbit, hopping around collecting eggs for ten minutes while shooting people with a 'fright ray.' It's just one of those defining moments of life that stick with you till you're dead. They never made or marketed an Easter Bebop, but they gave us two other variations.

Mighty Bebop had the guy fitted into a Superman suit, only Superbebop is cooler than Superman because he wears Converses. Robotic Bebop, as explained on the file card, was created by Shredder to compensate for the real Bebop's uncanny knack for doing everything wrong. It's humorous to picture Oroku Saki lovingly crafting a robot snout, making sure the scale remains 1:1 so the likeness is true to Bebop. Shredder might be a sucky villain, but he's a terrific artist. And, he's got great elbow pads.

#19 - Baxter Stockman: Just behind Krang on my Top TMNT Characters List that I keep in my wallet is Baxter Stockman, the misguided genius scientist turned lunatic mutant fly. Baxter really clicks on all cylinders: he creates cool robots, he's powerful enough to give the Turtles a run for their money, and he vomits on stuff before eating it. You're really in a win/win situation with this guy. Aside from being one of the best characters on the show, he was way above the rest as a boss character in the first TMNT arcade game...

Appearing in his human form, you'd think Baxter would have half his later charm. Not so. Here, he attacks the Turtles in a flying voting booth, throwing Mousers all other the place while shouting syllables of encouragement to himself. In toy form, we get the fly version: a big-eyed bug bastard equipped with a sonar fly swatter and a pair of detachable wings, in case he ever needed to take 'em off to get fit for a tuxedo or something.

#20 - Rat King: A cult icon among TMNT fans, Rat King was great because he was listed as a neutral character on the file card - no allegiances to the good guys, no allegiances to Shredder, Hell it's hard to get the guy to even commit to the rats. He wasn't really 'evil' on the show, moreover just a weird guy who happened to do crazy, illegal things using a rat army. It's hard to blame him for anything since hobos who live in the sewers, talking to rats are either destined for a life of mitigated crime, or in other cases, granted the opportunity to mutate into a rat themselves to train turtles in the art of ninjitsu. It's not Rat King's fault he drew the short end of the stick.

Armed with a rat-crossbow, grappling hook, and utility belt, Rat King was the Batman of the Underground, only he wasn't rich and never battled Frank Gorshin. Still, his ability to call upon only the powers of only albino rats is an impressive feat, so I can see why so many people love the guy. It's especially hard not to appreciate the action figure, which is accessorized with various chicken drumstick bones. Fashion first in the sewers.

And with that, we're finally done. I think I'm gonna go build a mini-Technodrome out of tin foil and a basketball now. If it pans out well I'll have blueprints in the next article.

- Matt
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