Well, today is Tuesday, which means that it is actually Turtle Tuesday. So, as a lifelong fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I like to contribute something to Turtle Tuesday whenever I can because I am pretty much thinking about them every day anyway. Even amidst everything else that is going on in the world right now, we seem to be right at the edge of the floodgate being released as we enter in to what could very likely be a second golden age of TMNT action figures. It has been a long journey to get here, though, and today I wanted to toss it back to where it all got started for NECA.
Right now, NECA is giving us TMNT action figures based off of the original cartoon, 1990s movies, classic video games, and Mirage comics in a way I never thought we would see. Super 7 is ready to dive into the pool as well in the next couple of months with Ultimates! style updates on the classic action figures. Whew! That is a lot of turtles, but I absolutely love it, and I cannot wait to continue to my current collections and start with new ones as well. So, as we wait, it is a bit crazy to think that this whole journey to having updated and collector-grade TMNT action figures started all the back in 2008 with the release of NECA’s Mirage Comics figures at San Diego Comic Con. I know there are stories upon stories of how this was all able to happen, but happen it did, and even though it took some time to really blow it open, this was the critical beginning of what we are getting to experience now.
It’s funny though, because while I was all over the original color release of these figures at Comic Con, somehow, some way, the black and white version kept slipping through my fingers. I will admit that I did not put particular focus on gaining these at first since I had the color versions, but once we started seeing the video game and cartoon Turtles, I knew that this black and white group would be essential for my collection and the history it is building to represent. I was patient when looking though, as these have shot through the roof in terms of price on the secondary market, but a couple of months or so ago, I saw my opportunity and took it. I am so glad to finally have these guys in my collection, and the best part it, the box is actually signed by one Kevin Eastman, so that makes this even more special to me.
I was much too young to be a part of the original comic run of TMNT back in the 80s, but over time, I have become a great fan of the stories that laid the ground work for the mythos we know and love so well. I love the raw and gritty take on the storytelling, and the original style of the art matches the tone of the comics perfectly, but also gives those design cues that have carried over into so many subsequent incarnations. It is funny to think about the fact that the Four Horsemen handled the sculpting and design for these comic figures well over a decade ago, but these hold up to today’s standards in detail and articulation as well, if not better, than just about anything I own of the same age. Heck, if I had no point of reference that these came out so long ago, I would not bat an eye thinking these are a brand new release. These figures, especially for TMNT figures, were so ahead of their time, and much like the comics themselves, these figures help to set the framework for the standard we appreciate today.
Speaking to the overall strength of these, even though I have had the original red mask color versions of the figures since their release, these black and white versions feel like a completely different animal entirely. Sure, they are the same sculpts, but the repainted and stark contrast of the black and white really make these feel like completely different offerings and wholly a part from the comic set I have owned for years. The black lines applied to mimic the pencil and ink work of the comics was a pretty new approach when these were originally released, but I am able to actually enjoy it more on these figures, even though I have always been very impressed by the color versions. The minimal color approach makes the painted line work even more crucial with these figures, and even more than the others, these look like the stepped right off the page. Again, had I not known these were over a decade old, I would still be amazed by how effective this all is, so kudos to NECA for nailing it all those years ago.
Looking back at my childhood, I had a lot of action figures, and I collected a lot of lines. Being honest though, Masters of the Universe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the two biggest lines of my youth, and captured my imagination at every turn. I am still in love with both properties, so seeing my modern TMNT collection come together is pretty amazing. NECA has sooooooooo much coming our way in terms of new cartoon, movie, and comic figures, and, with the strange exception of this set, I have been a completist all the way. That has been rectified now, and I could not be happier about it. This is where it all began for TMNT, so having such spectacular representations of this original black and white artwork is really special. I hope that the Mirage Comics category can continue via NECA, and seeing the new Loot Crate Shredder is encouraging. I am ready for some Kevin Eastman versions, too.
What a time to be a TMNT fan. The current Turtle lines are what excite me the most as an action figure collector at the moment, so I am ready for anything and everything that comes next. There have been some lean years in the past, and it took a long time since the release of this set, but now that we are off to the races, TMNT has the potential to be not only have had a massive vintage line, but modern incarnations that can compete with it in scope and breadth. Cowabunga, dudes.