You had to be quick on the draw, but the brand-spankin’ new TMNT Classics Bebop and Rocksteady figures popped up on the Playmates website late last week. Running a bit ahead of the release curve, some lucky collectors (or those that just trawl the Internets all day) were able to snag them as they went in and out of stock at the store. Well, chalk it up to luck or having toys on the brain all the time, we were able to secure a set and we took lots and lots of pictures of this highly anticipated duo.
These two guys have been teased for a long time now, and while there is certainly a lot of collector interest in this TMNT Classics line, releases are happening slower than most people would like. We have had the four turtles for over a year now, so it is nice to finally have these two in hand, but I hope that Playmates sticks to their plans to get this line out a little faster in future.
A LOT has already been said about this dim-witted duo, and we have seen them evolve from prototype form to in-progress figures to final product. It has been a long road, and there have been a lot of changes along the way (some good, some otherwise), but at the end of the day, I am really glad they picked Bebop and Rocksteady to be the release right after the turtles. I know it probably would have made more sense to get guys like Shredder or Splinter or the Foot Soldiers first, but we have not had Bebop and Rocksteady figures since the ’90s, and, hopefully, we will get to see (at least) all of the first wave of the vintage TMNT figures in this line.
So what is the verdict, you ask? Well, to sum it up plainly, it is mixed. There are many things that I like about these figures, and several things that could have come out better in the final product. As I said, a lot happened in the production cycle of these figures, and while we were left with two well-sculpted and cool-looking action figures, we lost a considerable amount of paint detail, and some crucial articulation points got left by the wayside. Some of these things are just a normal matter, of course, in the making of action figures, but some of the choices that were made, especially sacrificing various articulation points for others, were not. Now, this Classics line is really Playmates’ first foray into making figures directly targeted at collectors, so this line is a work in progress, but in today’s environment of “one shot to get it right” toy making, the reality is that there is often very little room for error or unpopular choices with collector-grade action figures.
While these two share several of the same qualities, there is enough about them to actually warrant separate looks, so let’s talk about each one on his own individual merits.
I am going to start with Bebop because he has always been my favorite of the two, and for the purposes of this line, his figure turned out just a bit better than Rocksteady’s. That isn’t to say that the Rocksteady figure has some points on Bebop, but overall, the street thug punk rock warthog works better in his latest incarnation. Again, I know a lot of fans would have preferred Shredder or the like in these spots, but I have always loved Bebop and Rocksteady, and I think a lot of that comes from their very strong and visually interesting designs that have been present from the very beginning.
That is not to say that either of these figures are straight-up updates of any of their vintage designs, toy, cartoon, video game, or otherwise. Even though I know their looks from the old TMNT arcade game were based on the cartoon, I think they were just perfect in that game. These figures are a bit of an amalgamation of toy and cartoon with unique elements that make them land on something all-new in terms of design. They “feel” vintage-influenced, but this line is not like Masters of the Universe Classics in that most figures get a direct upgrade from their vintage counterparts.
Take Bebop, for example. Just in terms of his outfit, he has a lot of nods to the original action figure, but also to the cartoon. His bandolier, grenades, blue pants, and purple glasses certainly point to the old show, but the shoulder shells, necklace, and high tops all have their origins with the vintage figure. The turtles themselves followed a similar formula, so it makes sense that this is the direction Bebop has taken. I think that is the thing about the overall aesthetic of this line; it draws from the 1980s roots, but it still has a look and feel all its own.
Now that I have had some times to live with the six figures released thus far, I am good with that. I think the collector community has been conditioned to expect certain things from a “Classics” line, but just because this line has its own take on that, it doesn’t make it “wrong” or “incorrect,” and I actually like some of the new directions.
Bebop’s ugly mug is a good example of this. Here is a case where his face design is not really like either the figure or the old show. It is actually a lot wider and more gruesome than ever before. At first, it left me cold, but I have since grown to like it. He looks thick and mean, like he really can tear apart a quartet of teenage turtles.
Playmates did a good job of delivering on the sculpt too, and he looks more like an actual warthog than ever before. His head sits well on his broad body and recalls the anatomy of a an unmutated warthog too. I think the head sculpt (and a glaring shortfall with Rocksteady) is what really pushed me to liking this Bebop figure more. That said, I REALLY wish that Bebop had his ponytail as well as his actual pig tail. I am not sure why both of these were left off, but the ponytail feels especially absent because it would take a mutant-brained pig man to wear a Mohawk with a ponytail, and that is the main part of what makes Bebop who he is.
Overall, I really like the design and sculpt, so that makes it hurt that the paint applications on these figures came in well short of what were were originally shown. With Bebop, it is not so much that paint was left off of something like his shoulder shells or necklace, but there is not any wash or shading to speak of on this figure, and when you have such a strong sculpt, it is a shame that it is not further enhanced by some paint applications. This is especially apparent on the head because there are a ton of wrinkles and folds in those giant jowls. Similarly, the muscles in his arms and chest could have been highlighted with a few passes of the airbrush. So, on both Bebop and Rocksteady, the first big whiff is the lack of paint, and I hope that Playmates will here the collectors and not skimp on this in the future.
Another place where paint takes a hit is in all of the accessories included with these guys, from the straps to the stands. Comparing the stands to those of the turtles, they are missing more paint than even the original and are pretty much just the cast gray plastic in color. All of the weapons are very nicely sculpted, and one of the VERY few instances where you can draw from a single source of influence, but again, there is not a lick of paint on them. There is a ton of detail that could have been brought out on the drill and machine guns, so I am thinking I might take the brush to them myself so that they look even more impressive.
Moving on to Rocksteady, while I don’t like him as much as his warthog friend, there is still a lot to enjoy in this figure. I think the sculpt is just as strong as Bebop’s, and there are a ton of details, especially in the head, but I think that is the main spot where Rocksteady falls behind for me. In the end, though, it is all a matter of personal taste because I just don’t care for this aesthetic take on him as much as I do Bebop’s. His head is nicely detailed, but I just cannot get into it as much. Where Bebop has a big head that dovetails right into his giant shoulders, Rocksteady’s head feels kind of small to me. Rhinoceroses have big, wide heads with long horns on their snouts, so this sculpt is too skinny, and I think I would have liked to have this head modeled after the old cartoon look, at least in terms of shape.
That is not to say that his sculpt isn’t cool, because the lines and personality in the face look great, and he certainly does look mean. The rest of the sculpt is nice too, and while it takes a lot of influence from the show with (again) the bandolier and grenade, the shells on the belt and his helmet certainly look like the old toy.
Speaking of his helmet, I think it is awesome that they made it removable. While his old toy was obviously stuck with it, he was actually seen more often without it on the classic show, so you can choose your own adventure. That said, the helmet takes a major hit because it lost a ton of paint applications and the goggles are now stuck in the same cast green as the rest of the helmet. It really is a shame, but again, I think I might be able to bring it back to a higher level with some simple paint applications.
The paint also takes a weird turn with his pants. While it is easy to see the color influence in the tank top from the show, his pants are grey, a color they have never been before. That would not be a bad thing, so to speak, except that they are pretty much the same color grey as Rocksteady’s cast skin. So, while the camouflage patterning is still there, sometimes it looks like body paint over his bare legs. This is really too bad because paint on those legs would have been able to take him in a more accurate direction (whether it be toy or cartoon) and it would have broken up a lot of the grey too.
Articulation is the next head-scratcher with these two and there is a lot to consider. I am not really sure where to start because while I think that I like the number of points on them since I thought the turtles had too much, some of the choices on what to leave and what to remove from the prototypes are very frustrating. I really like the ball shoulders, floating torso, wrist hinge, and double knees. I think these are all essential points on modern super-articulated action figures, and all of these points work really well and flow nicely without being loose.
However, the lack of ankle articulation and thigh twists REALLY hurts these figures, especially Rocksteady. Thigh twists and ankle hinges mean a lot to the balance and poseablity of an action figure, and when they are missing both, it really limits posing options. Rocksteady is especially hit hard on this because it is a struggle to get him to stand naturally in a neutral pose. Bebop has heavier shoulders and a bigger head, so he carries his weight over the tops of his shoes. Rocksteady is heaviest in the hunch of his back, so since he is back-heavy, those articulation points are essential. Rocksteady will need to stand splayed-legged, and even then, the soles of his feet won’t be standing directly on the ground.
I know that Playmates said that points needed to be cut to keep costs down, but they REALLY should have dropped the double elbow joints and possibly the double knees in lieu of these two points. Bebop and Rocksteady have such big biceps that the double joint does basically nothing in terms of posing options. Yes, I hate to call foul on double knees, but again, I think the other joints would have been more beneficial for these two. So, if articulation HAD to be cut, I wish they would have been considerate of what is important and what is not quite as crucial. I don’t want to sound overly fickle, but I think this is going to ruin these figures for a lot of people. Like I said, I am bothered by it, but it doesn’t make them a complete failure in my eyes, I just hope that Playmates is taking notes.
The last big discussion point I want to hit is the scale of these two figures. There has been a loud outcry that these two figures are too small in comparison to the turtles, and while I would have preferred that they were a bit taller, I think we, as a collective fan base, have brought that perception on ourselves. The old action figures and cartoon, which are undoubtably the most famous renderings of Bebop and Rocksteady, don’t feature giant versions of them. In fact, I am not sure where we got that from because I cannot find any source material (at least well-known) where they are big.
If you look at the vintage figures, Bebop and Rocksteady are pretty much exactly the same height as the turtles. Sure, they all had bent knees, but they were very close nonetheless. The same is true about the cartoon because if you go back and watch (I did), they are also very close in height. So, while I would have preferred that they were bigger, I cannot really fault Playmates with the scale because they are actually consistent with their vintage counterparts and influences. In the end, it will come down to how much it bugs you when you compare them to the Classics turtles, but if you want them to be big, put them with the new Nick turtles, or with the comic figures from NECA.
So yeah, I think these figures are, for the most part, a mixed bag, but I actually like them better than I was anticipating. The lack of paint detailing and the articulation choices are mostly to blame for this, and I REALLY hope that Playmates is learning from all of this because I would hate to see a Splinter without detailed paints or a Shredder that cannot make every ninja pose under the sun. Yes, the discussions on the interwebs will be split: some will love them, some will hate them, and most will be somewhere in between. That is where I have landed, and while I do have some beef with them, I am glad to have them because I adore the characters, and I think most fans will be (mostly) glad to have them in their collections.
Bebop and Rocksteady are going in and out of stock on the Playmates site, but look for them to show up at Toys R Us and specialty stores soon too. I have linked Big Bad Toy Store below, so go preorder them; it cannot be long before they come into stock.