The year was 1984. Steve Jobs released the groundbreaking Apple Macintosh computer to the world, the product of a company started by two talented and resourceful guys in their garage. That very same year, two other equally gifted fellows named Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird self-published a black & white oversized comic book with a print run of 3,000 copies. The comic was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it launched a boom among small publishers of black & white comics by mid-decade. The Turtles were a clever parody of series such as Cerebus, The New Mutants, Daredevil and Ronin, the latter two written and drawn by industry megastar Frank Miller. Miller’s interest in the then burgeoning ninja subculture strongly influenced Eastman and Laird’s reptilian creations.
Just four years later, the Turtles were optioned by a little-known toy company called Playmate Toys. Taking a chance on the concept, Playmates released their initial wave of action figures and vehicles in the summer of 1988. The result was a mega hit along the lines of Kenner’s Star Wars and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy lines. Playmates became a toy industry stalwart, with the Turtles line topping the sales chart over the next ten years. As a result of the Turtles’ groundbreaking success, Playmates later took on franchises such as Dick Tracy and Star Trek among many other TV show and movie properties. Playmates has handled the Turtles’ presence in toy aisles and collectors’ shelves off and on to this day. Now, they are back once again with a full line of figures, vehicles and accessories even as the Turtles debut their newest TV series this coming September 29th on Nickelodeon. The toy line is based on the Turtles’ 2012 TV incarnation but a series of figures based on their classic looks is also on tap.
The Turtles have always been outgoing, righteous dudes who enjoy engaging in rigorous physical activities, with the original toy line featuring our heroes decked out in a variety of sports gear. Their vehicles have always complimented the Turtles’ fun-loving, adventurous personalities and the new toy line brings that timeless quality to the forefront. Two such examples are the Turtles’ Ninja Stealth Bike and the Foot Clan Dragon Chopper.
Each vehicle includes an exclusive driver figure. Assembly is minimal and any stickers to be found are already applied so there is less hassle. Parental supervision should be exercised in the disposal of twisty ties and factory tape as these will likely include scissors or some other similarly pointy metal object. Instructions are included which illustrate how to work the action feature. (You know there’s one if the Turtles are involved!) Collectors who now have kids of their own should enjoy passing the torch since these toys are clearly inspired by their 90’s predecessors, albeit with a sleeker, edgier feel to them.
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The Ninja Stealth Bike includes Raphael in his biker gear. His helmet is not removable but the clear visor flips up. His two familiar sais are present and you can store them on the back of his belt. Articulation is similar to the single carded figures, which is to say, a lot! The Stealth Bike rolls freely and has a nice, urban look to it suitable for patrolling the streets. It looks more like a three-wheel desert buggy and its roof is shaped like a turtle shell. This is where the gimmick comes into play. Once parked, you press a bottom on the back of the roof and it opens up into three sections. (Think Lamborghini here.) Unfortunately, putting the bike back into stealth mode isn’t as easy since the three separate pieces stay rather loose. In my case, the left side swings open by itself, leaving poor Raph vulnerable to possible drive-by fire if he finds himself on the wrong side of town. The reason for this is that the roof and door pieces’ tabs cannot be fully locked into their slots, otherwise they wouldn’t disengage once the button is pressed. If you’re a kid, though, chances are you won’t mind, although I remember noticing these design flaws back in the day on many a toy. The bike fits figures of different heights due to adjustable foot pegs.
Click on thumbnails for larger pics.
Since the Turtles are set to cruise the city searching for evildoers, you can bet that the Foot Clan isn’t far behind. Their main ride is the Dragon Chopper. The action feature here is more ambitious: Once you press the flip-switch on the bike’s rear section, the included Dragon Fang Foot Soldier does a 360 degree turn, hopefully landing on his feet or tail. This is easier said than done but still an interesting way to pass the time until you get the hang of it. The Foot Soldier figure features less articulation than Raphael although his sculpt is very dynamic. He includes a harness, two different swords in a single sheath, and a removable helmet with clear visor. The bike itself features a removable Foot Clan flag which is rather nifty. The instructions are a bit longer read than in the Stealth Bike’s case but you can go to www.Playmatestoys.com for more detailed information. The wheels on the bike don’t turn due to the action feature and as such, it would easily fall over depending on the surface it’s resting on. Ah, but that’s what the kick stand is for! You can move it up and down depending on whether your Dragon Chopper is stationary or in hot pursuit of the Turtles. The instructions point out that the figure won’t perform perfectly in every attempt at flipping him over, but as I mentioned before, trying it out is half the fun.
To sum up, the Ninja Stealth Bike and Dragon Chopper both have their minor drawbacks. Some collectors might prefer to keep these on display as they do look very cool. Kids both big and small on the other hand, are more likely to play the heck outta them. The action features are clever, and in the Dragon Chopper’s case, there is an Evil Knievel (or I should say nowadays, Robbie) quality to the way the Foot Soldier jumps in the air, unaware as to how he’ll impact the ground beneath him upon landing. Either way you “slice it,” it’s good stuff. In fact, the more pics I took of these toys for my review, the more I found myself enjoying the ride.
Stay tuned for coverage of the Turtles’ new mobile HQ, the Shellraiser, along with the Toys “R” Us exclusive oversized Battle Shell Turtles. And remember to watch the brothers’ TV return this September 29th on Nickelodeon!
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