We made it! TOP TEN, baby! I sincerely hope NECA and Super7 are out there somewhere snickering at this list as they are sculpting some (or many) of these characters for their respective cartoon and toy-accurate figure lines. We all love different toppings on our pizza, so I’m not knocking mutant figures like Sandstorm, Halfcourt, or Hot Spot. But there’s zero doubt the top entries below would’ve infused so much more Turtle Power for many years to come.
As you dig deeper into the Turtle lore, you start to learn that not every character that looked like a mutant was a mutant. Case in point – most of the Mighty Mutanimals weren’t mutants. Dreadmon, second in command to his best friend, Jagwar, was more or less a werewolf, courtesy of voodoo. The whole idea of the Mutanimals were to be something in the turtle-verse that was completely different with a tone all its own. Unfortunately, with the trifecta of the show not going forward (most of the Mutanimals roster were already toys in TMNT with not enough newbies), the comic being cancelled, and the their stories becoming back-ups in TMNT Adventures, the creators thought the team would have more of a lasting impact if they were all murdered. And they were, much to the shock of my adolescent eyes. It might’ve been the first time I saw a death in kids media outside of Optimus Prime in Transformers: the Movie. And although he was gone from Archie Comics, he always remained alive on my toy wishlist.
You can’t bring the discussion of the Mighty Mutanimals without getting around to namedropping their fearless leader, Jagwar! A demigod with a human mother and a Jaguar god father (two words, not one) and not a mutant, he was the huge part of earliest Archie Comics stories and was a TMNT regular. Like many others, he was pitched to Playmates be his own toy in the TMNT line proper. Soon, he was on his way to getting BOTH the toy and toon treatment as part of the Mighty Mutanimals spinoff cartoon which was sadly shot down by Playmates. With his high number of appearances in the comics combined with his unique look, Jagwar became a huge “want/need” in the TMNT fan community by the early 90s. Sadly, the entire Mutanimals team didn’t even survive within their own comics. The combination of them being gunned down with their extremely cartoony style was like seeing a death in a Disney film. The internet is awesome if only that you can find images of Jagwar’s Playmates design pitch. Maybe someday we’ll see these via NECA, Super7, or Playmates themselves.
Having nearly every animal being involved in TMNT in some capacity, you’d assume that a shark mutant would’ve been a given. Shockingly, Armaggon wouldn’t debut until very late in the original Mighty Mutanimals comics in 1993. He was even a playable character to the TMNT: Tournament Fighters video game. His biggest failing was not appearing sooner. He just has that iconic look that’s very much on par with Bebop and Rocksteady. When all TMNT media was on the decline by the mid 90s, Armaggon was such an amazing design that snuck in right at the end. Even a small run of him like Scratch at the finale of the line would’ve been appreciated even if he’d be fetching top dollar.
7. QUEEN MALIGNA
It’s so very rare to have a female main antagonist in kids entertainment. There’s Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and the lesser known Queen of the Crown in The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. The Turtles had a lot of girl power on hero side of things, but rarely on the side of evil. Tempestra had promise, but was only in 2 episodes. The Archie Comics on the other hand had Queen Maligna, a major threat to both the Mighty Mutanimals and the Ninja Turtles. Positioned to appear as a major villain in the cancelled Mutanimals cartoon, she was a rival (and sometimes ally) to Krang. And not unlike Shredder and Krang, she had own lieutenants, Scul and Bean, and an entire army of Malignoids. Her design is really unique. It reminds me of Queen Slug-for-a-Butt in Earthworm Jim. I’m always down for more female villains and she was high on my childhood wishlist. Bonus fact: He-Man’s lead villainess, Evil-Lyn, is known as “Maligna” in Brazil!
6. LORD DREGG
Easily the original cartoon’s biggest menace to the Ninja Turtles outside of Shredder and Krang, Lord Dregg was a shocking omission from the original toyline. It felt like the cartoon was still willing to try new ideas and a more serious direction, and Playmates didn’t align with the cartoon in terms of character selection. The end of the road was mostly different versions of the main four TMNT and not much else. The cartoon went all out with Lord Dregg. Voiced by the iconic Tony Jay, Dregg was introduced as alien trying to pass himself off as a benevolent friend to Earth as he began to execute his true plans of, you guessed it, world conquest. But in the same formula as Shredder and Krang, it turned into an obsession with eliminating our beloved Team Green once and for all. We saw the destruction of Channel 6, new mutations, and new threats, not only from space, but far off in future as well. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became heroes for all of space and time. And it’s time we got a toy of the cartoon’s final boss, either in his default look, or a deluxe figure with his more impressive Morphogenesis Exoskeleton.
5. HUMAN BAXTER STOCKMAN
Baxter Stockman has gone through several transformations. In the original Mirage Comics, he was an African-American scientist and April’s boss. In the cartoon, he was a meek, caucasian scientist manipulated by Shredder. Although he came to be the housefly mutant was we know and love, he was being developed internally at Playmates as two separate toys. A human Baxter was one, and a mutant simply called, “the Fly” was the other. The two were later merged into one character and here we are. Baxter also had a longer run as a human character on the show before mutating. Years later, Playmates did two transforming “Mutations” assortments that gave us our only figures of a pre-mutant Hamato Yoshi (Splinter), Bebop, and Rocksteady, along with a civilian Oroku Saki, and a cat mutant April. I still would’ve loved to get a human Baxter at some point, including smaller, more scale-accurate mousers.
4. STUMP WRESTLING TMNT
I know it must weird to see more TMNT variants this high on the list, but I had to take an exception. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird toyed with the idea of second, individualized costumes as far back as 1983. Eventually, they kept the iconic “bandana, elbow pads, and kneepads” look, but Archie Comic’s Ryan Brown and Stephen Murphy felt those designs were too amazing to leave unseen. These looks were then incorporated it into their Archie “Adventures” storyline as intergalactic wrestling attire. Growing up a wrestling fan, I LOVED these costumes, and Raphael, in particular, kept wearing his for a very long time after the arc wrapped up. Of all the random TMNT themes we had to sift through, the idea that we never got the Turtles as professional wrestlers is such a crying shame. I’m still holding out for them to see the light of day somehow, someway. This article might just be me trying to manifest them into existence. I’m not gonna deny that.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t shy about having strong women in their storylines. While no female is as iconic as April O’Neil, the fighting femme fatale that can hold her own with the TMNT was sort of a revolving door. The cartoon introduced Lotus Blossom, who had the potential of being a mainstay, but was sort of one and done. Ninjara in the TMNT Archie Comics added some girl power to Team Green as April became to train to be able to hold her own in a fight. But Mirage finally filled the gap with the most influential Ninja Turtles character to come out in the 90s in Karai. My own introduction to her was actually as a boss in TMNT: Tournament Fighters video game. I though it was cool to see another female warrior, and a boss at that. Later I discovered she debuted in the iconic “City At War” storyline in the Mirage comics. The Turtleverse finally had another female beyond April that was a major player. She would go on to become a heavy hitter in nearly every TMNT incarnation thereafter. But her original Mirage comic look that started it all is sorely needed as a neo-vintage figure. The only reason she doesn’t place higher is because vintage-wise she was so late to the game, but Karai deserves to be front and center, hand-in-hand (or Foot) with the others.
2. PUNK FROGS (ATTILA the FROG & RASPUTIN the MAD FROG)
Incomplete teams have always been a high crime in the world of action figure collecting. It always feels like a contradiction when the packaging says “Collect the ALL!” and then proceed to not offer them all. Typically, it’s the females that are sacrificed, either held off or abandoned entirely. In the case of TMNT, that very thing happened to the Punk Frogs. Four frogs were mutated and trained by Shredder in a plot to have a mutant, fighting counterpoint to the Ninja Turtles. Genghis Frog fought with a battle ax. Napoleon Bonafrog has a whip. Attila the Frog battled with a flail, while Rasputin the Mad Frog was an ace archer with a bow and trick arrows. Playmates capitalized on that and introduced Genghis Frog early on in the line. Napoleon Bonafrog was later introduced in a unique design, looking nothing like his mutant brother or TV counterpart. And then, for whatever reason, Attila the Frog and Rasputin the Mad Frog never came out at all. When the Toon Turtles line came out I thought for sure we’d get a second assortment and the both of them would be newly made toys (Attila and Rasputin are inverted color repaints of the other two!) to accompany refreshes of Genghis and Napoleon. As of this writing, I am still patiently waiting.
1. The STONE WARRIORS OF DIMENSION X (LT. GRANITOR & ROCK SOLDIERS)
For many MANY TMNT fans, the first 5-episode miniseries that comprised the inaugural season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is gospel, and, as far as I’m concerned, is the bar. Gorgeous Toei animation, that iconic theme song, Shredder was an actual threat, and it was this seamless combination of thugs and street crime mixed with space alien science-fiction. So it’s no wonder that the top spot would go to the only characters missing as toys from the get-go: The Stone Warriors of Dimensions X. While Shredder had Bebop, Rocksteady, and the Foot Clan, Krang also had his own army of Rock Soldiers, led by General Traag and Lieutenant Granitor. Although Krang ’s forces made several appearances throughout the show, for whatever reason, no one except for Traag seemed to be worthy of action figure immortality. Army builders are always fun and TMNT was loaded with them. Granitor would find his way into videos games and future iterations of the franchise, but Playmates still left some major toy gaps. We got almost everyone else from the three Neutrinos, and staff of Channel 6, and even their Channel 6 Newsvan and News Cycle. NECA showed a promising prototype of Granitor, so hopefully someone will finally scratch that itch without it costing as much as Scratch himself.
With Super7 and NECA crushing the collectible TMNT brand, there isn’t a better time than right now to be a fan of Turtle toys. It takes me back to how I could enjoy Archie and Mirage simultaneously with the cartoon when we were kids. As far as i’m concerned, it’s the more the merrier as everyone wants in on that Turtle pizza pie. Now let’s hope that this time everyone gets a piece.