Welcome back to the second part of our TMNT “unmade” mega-wishlist! New York Comic-Con came and went, and now with new toys revealed, we look, we critique, and we… want more. Basically the exact same thing we did our entire childhoods, and for some of us, adulthoods. This freaky-topping pizza party is just getting started!
20. CUDLEY THE COWLICK
If an adult asked me in the 80s to explain what a “cowabunga” is, this would be pretty close. Possibly the strangest creation in all of TMNT (and THAT’s saying something!), Cudley is simultaneously a character/creature, a vehicle, and a playset all rolled into one! Long story
short, he’s a super-sized, trans-dimensional, floating cow head that can bring others anywhere by putting them in his mouth and spitting them out when he reaches his destination. As a child, I thought he was designed to be a toy and, turns out, at one point he was in the discussion to be in the line, possibly in the cancelled Mutanimals series. I still have dreams of a plush cow head with a clear slime “drooling” tongue that opens up to a carrying case. He’s both one-of-a-kind and all things at the same time!
Before you say, “We already got Krang,” Playmates, particularly towards the twilight of the original line, was already implementing different marketing strategies to incentivize the TMNT brand, whether it was by doing Toon Turtles, collectible trading cards & coins, or renditions of them by popular artists like the iconic Jim Lee. It wouldn’t have been too far out to think that a potential “Original Comic Book” sub-line could’ve been around the corner, especially in an anniversary year. Unlike Krang, these “brain-like aliens in robotic bodies” were generally peace loving creatures (with exceptions). I was obsessed with Krang as a kid, so Playmates wouldn’t have had to pull my leg to get me to buy a bunch of these. An(other) attempt at a Mirage comic book line today would still be welcome.
When you watch the TMNT films, there are actually quite a few requests we could make. We never got a Movie Star April or Casey Jones from either of the first two films. We got Super Shredder without ever getting an actual “default” Shredder. But longtime TMNT fans really wanted a figure of Shredder’s right hand man and Master Trainer of the Foot Ninja. Played by martial artist Toshishiro Obata and voiced by Michael McConnohie, his appearances weren’t just limited to the film, as his character appears as a boss in a couple of subsequent video games. Many fans consider him the original template of Shredder’s human second in command later filled by characters like Hun. The movies were well-received. In a growing mutated world, the random human character is more than welcome.
One of the most interesting sub-lines to come out of TMNT was the “Mutations” figures. Essentially it was Playmates’s take on Transformers, where you got a character that can “mutate” but transforming a human or turtle into their alternate, mutant forms. When a second wave came out I though for sure we’d eventually get Michelangelo’s favorite superhero, Bugman! Brick Bradley, equal parts Clark Kent, Arthur Curry, and Bruce Banner, turned from everyman to everybug to fight evil! And since Casey Jones wasn’t a regular in this series, he had the potential to be the Superman to April’s Lois Lane. He was even voiced by Dan Gilvezan, the same actor who played Spider-Man, in Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. A hero so nice, Michelangelo met him twice!
16. LOTUS BLOSSOM
Long before there was Karai, Aska, Mitsu, or even a more Splinter-trained April, the original femme fatale was Lotus Blossom. At the height of Turtle fandom, the TMNT enjoyed a 40% female fanbase. It would be years before Mona Lisa would come around, and April’s cat (and fish… and wasp… and turtle) mutation was resolved in one episode (or issue). Early on, female characters like April, Irma, and Kala the Neutrino, leaned on our green teens for support. That would end when Krang hired a female ninja to replace Shredder and face the turtles. Even though she was on the clock for the Foot, she developed a respect and mutual affection for Leonardo, eventually joining the good guys. While she only appeared in 2 episodes of the original show, Lotus Blossom’s personality traits parallel the much-later-debuting Karai to the point where some fans consider them different versions of the same character. While many female ninjas have appeared since, there is only one that can be called the first, and she should’ve been the first female after April to earn an action figure.
Depending on who you talk to, many fans pinpoint different events as to when the original TMNT jumped the shark. If changing the look and tone of the show after the third movie wasn’t enough, someone decided adding a smart-mouthed adolescent that the turtles seemed to hate one minute and then hail as the bravest guy ever the next, would be even better. It was incredibly heavy-handed, but at least they added some much needed diversity to the franchise. Getting a Carter figure would actually entail two as he was also a mutant. A mutant… human… monster? He simply changed into a stress-induced, yellow-skinned version of the Hulk. He secured a spot on the main team through seasons 9 and 10, as a sort of unspoken fifth turtle. I understand that the show was trying to break the repetition of the previous years, but that shipped sailed. Still, like the villainous Lord Dregg, he had tons of airtime, and that alone solidified him as a major player in the first animated franchise. He definitely deserved plastic immortality.
We’ve all had that video game we had a problem beating (the first TMNT NES game, for example). Tempestra was a video game vixen brought to life, feuded with Leonardo and almost defeated the Turtles. She later appeared in a villain all-star team-up “Night of the Rogues” as the acting leader of bad guys brought together by Shredder. The main standout for her is that there was no recurring female villain in the original show. She was extremely powerful and underutilized. Sometimes less is more, and the lack of appearances possibly added to her potential. Either way, we needed a Tempestra to complete that rogues roster.
True story: my favorite secondary character in the original Playmates line was Fugitoid. He was so different and I loved his design, color scheme, and weapons. It would be years of waiting for him to show up in the cartoon before learning he was a character from the original Mirage comics, actually preceding the Turtles themselves. It made me wonder who else from that universe could be toys. I still remember going to flea markets and seeing this old Mirage TMNT comic featuring a woman in a blue leotard covered in tiny clocks with Kirby-esque headgear, cape, and staff. It wasn’t until the later 2003 and 2012 series that I learned the story of Renet – the apprentice of Lord Simultaneous, and keeper of the Time Scepter. And like Fugitoid, I immediately took to her right away, and naturally wanted an action figure of her. Maybe it had to do with her being an incredibly busty teenager who didn’t appear in the cartoon might confuse parents or that she existed prior to the height of Turtle-mania. At any rate, it’s time (pun intended).
12. SAVANTI ROMERO
And speaking of time, another character long overdue is Renet’s nemesis, Savanti Romero. Along with Renet, he was featured in both subsequent TMNT animated series in 2003 and 2012. Some heroes are only as good as the villains, and Romero is a such visually striking character. It’s great seeing much of the older Mirage stuff being realized later on. Better late than never. A toy of him was sorely needed back then. He would’ve been a shoe-in in Playmates “Cave Turtles” sub-line. The closest we ever came was the scarce release of a Shogun Shoate action figure. Shoate, who was better known as Chote in the Mirage comics, was a samurai who battled the Turtles on behalf of “an evil wizard with no name.” Spoiler: Turns out he had a name. It was Savanti Romero.
Considering the number of mutants in the TMNT universe along with the volume of girls following the brand, you’d think the female quota would be higher. But shockingly female characters in the cartoon were mostly human. Eventually the toys gave us Mona Lisa, a love interest for Raphael, who was originally supposed to be a female turtle. The Archie Comics went in their own direction and introduced a humanoid fox (not a mutant) named Ninjara. She was a powerful fixture within the main group, and for a while was Raph’s live-in girlfriend. At one point she was on her way to being a toy as part of the development of the Mighty Mutanimals cartoon. Although not an official Mutanimals member in the comics, they wanted a strong female in the lineup and she made the cut for the show, only to be dropped entirely by Playmates. We were so close. So close!
And we are getting closer… to number ONE. Thanks for walking down inter-dimensional memory lane. Stay tuned for part three, where we count down the TOP 10 TMNT toys woulda/coulda/shoulda been made in the vintage line. And be sure to comment and let us know who were your favorites, and most wanted from Playmates, Super7, NECA, and so much more at toy-wizards.com!