Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I can’t remember when I was first aware of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but as a big comic book reader in the 1980s it was kind of inevitable that we’d cross paths.  Cleverly playing with some popular comic tropes, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a pop culture phenomenon almost by accident.

I do remember the Ninja Turtles and their creators getting a shout out in the “thank you” list of the “Among the Living” album by thrash metal kings Anthrax.  The book seemed quirky and original, it’s popularity boosted with a reputation for genuinely great writing and art.

Next came the cartoon, a couple of years later.  This was the turtles tidied up for a younger audience and it became a massive hit.  I was about 17 at the time (!), but enjoyed watching the cartoon occasionally as a bit of tongue in cheek fun.  I was being ironic, honest.

The toys that were made at the time were very cool; for the era they seemed very well designed and super detailed.  I was far too old for the action figures, but secretly coveted them from afar.

Eventually I picked up the figure of my favourite turtle, Michaelangelo.  He must have been on sale somewhere post turtles craze,’cos this would’ve been in my student days and thus, extremely poor.  He was a perfect ironic, “look how wacky I am” student possession.

Sadly, Mikey disappeared – I know not where – and once again, I was completely turtle-less.

Until a couple of years ago, when taking my daughter on one of her last trips to Toys R Us, before it closed for good.  They had on sale re-issued turtles, exactly like the old versions I loved, and they were cheap (ish).

I replaced Michaelangelo there and then, and over the next few days was so eager to complete a collection of all four turtles that I returned to buy others.  With a little bit of toy spotting help from my old pal Adam, I was soon in business with a full team of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

At the moment, I only have the full group of Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael.  It would be great to have Splinter, Shredder and more one day, but I doubt they’ll turn up cheap.

The four turtles are great figures, nicely stylised and featuring great detail.  And awesome weapons.

All four are still Mint in Box.  How long can I resist the urge to release the guys from their blister pack prisons?  Surely one night I’ll have had a little bit too much to drink, and decide to tear that plastic from the backing card…

What do you think readers?  Should the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stay in their boxes, or should I open them up?

Star Wars Figures – the Next Wave

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Actually, it was just a few months ago that I wrote a blog about my collection of original Star Wars figures.  Last time I looked at the initial run of 12 figures; this time here’s a piece about the next wave to come along.

I hadn’t managed to collect all of the first twelve before the next batch of figures were released (sadly, this would be a recurring situation in my figure collecting).

After the phenomenal success of the first toys in the Star Wars line, additional figures were introduced to provide fanatics like me with further material for our mini universe.  This development would introduce hours more fun recreating classic scenes from the movie, or indeed inventing your own.

 

Most exciting was the introduction of four creatures from the Mos Eisley cantina – always my favourite scene from all of the movies.  Although in those pre-home video days, I can remember having trouble recalling where some of these characters actually appeared…

Greedo – who was sometimes referred to as “Green Greedo” on some card backs (I always found that a bit daft) was easily recognisable.  Scouring my Star Wars story book revealed an image of Hammerhead, and repeated rewinds when the video finally materialised revealed Snaggletooth too.  Though this was a real challenge when watching the cropped for television version.

Walrus Man was a bit of a mystery, however.  Who was this strange, orange swimsuit wearing individual?  It wasn’t until years later that the chief suspect was confirmed, he was supposed to be the cantina bully who picked on Luke (later named Ponda Baba).

The detail of these aliens was variable – Greedo was, and still is, awesome.  Hammerhead and Snag were also very cool.  Walrus Man, on the other hand… 

No matter, I was a sucker then for obscure alien characters and I probably always will be!

I can clearly remember that the first figure that I got from this set was R5-D4.  He was from the Toy and Hobby shop in Chester.  The last one was Power Droid, who took me ages to find.  I think that figure finally turned up on a family trip to Skegness around 1982.

Death Star Droid was another nice replication, though repeated video viewings revealed that this silver version of the droid was seen on the Jawa Sandcrawler; a shiny black version appeared on the battle station.

Luke in his X-Wing Pilot outfit was the first time a character was re-released in a new outfit.  A great figure, I collected a few over the years to be additional Rebel pilots.  Like a lot of fans, my original Luke X-Wing was often recast as Wedge.

The great thing about this wave of figures was that it added minor character to my collection.  This went a small way towards recreating the world of Star Wars, with its hugely imaginative population of droids and creatures.  Populating my own mini scenes from the film was a major reason I kept collecting.

Finally, I must mention Blue Snaggletooth.  For those not n the know, the blue variation of this character was the first version produced and included in a US Sears exclusive set.  The toy manufacturer, Kenner, had scant resources to refer to (no lower body reference) and so produced a regular height figure, with kitsch silver space boots.  Lucasfilm then decreed that Snag was short and had hairy feet, so the version produced for the mass market was somewhat different.

To my knowledge, the blue variant was never released in the UK; I was unaware that this toy even existed till I started collecting again in the mid 90s.  I found this version in a comic shop in Rhyl, and after some soul searching, spent my savings and snapped him up for £90.  This is the most I have ever spent on a Star Wars figure, even the ultra rare toys were fortuitously bought for a couple of quid whilst still in the shops, years earlier.

I’m so, so glad I got him though!

A nice coincidence: the red Snaggletooth, always a favourite, was bought from a toy shop in Rhyl around 1979.  His blue cousin came from the same town twenty years later.

Never, ever, underestimate the wonder of Rhyl.

Star Wars Day – X-Wing Fighter Photos

Happy Star Wars Day!

It’s the 4th of May, and to celebrate Star Wars Day I thought I’d share with you some photos of something from my toy collection.  I’ve been collecting Star ars figures since I was five years old (a very long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away).  So it’s about time I featured some of those toys at the Virtual Hot Tub.  And what better time than now?

We have here a fairly recent item, Hasbro’s X-Wing Fighter released in 2013.  This was an exclusive for Toys R Us stores, luckily we got it in the UK too.  Any fan can tell straight away that this is actually Biggs Darklighter’s ship that he flew in the Battle of Yavin.  Biggs was Luke Skywalker’s childhood friend from Tatooine, though the assualt on the Death Star in Episode IV would be his last mission.

This item was release when Hasbro were re-visiting the classic packaging desing from the 70’s/80’s with their Vintage line.  It nicely mimics the original box artwork, but is updated with new shots.

The ship itself is a joy.  Nicely recreated in plastic, with loads of detail and nice features.  The wings open into attack position; the landing gear deploys and hides away nicely; and there’s even a hidden proton torpedo for if you get close enough to the exhaust port.  This X-Wing is larger than the original toy from years gone by, and more accurate in scale.

My absolute favourite feature of this ship is in the cockpit.  Yes, the targeting computer pulls forward and into position for the pilot to use the view finder!  Awesome.

Also shown here is the Biggs Darklighter action figure from the 2013 Black Series.  He’s a nice sculpt, though as I already owned a previous (very good) rendition of this figure I nearly didn’t buy him.  I’m glad I did – the older version doesn’t fit in the X-Wing cockpit, but this newer one does.  Removable helmet too!

To finish things off, I added R2-Q2 – the droid who flew with Biggs in the Death Star attack.  There’s a handy slot behind the cockpit for rhis R2 unit to fit into.  R2-Q2 is from the 2006 Astromech Droid Pack Series 1.  He’s had a long wait for his ride to show up.

I waited a while to pick this ship up, and eventually the price came down in TRU.  It would have been worth paying full whack for though.

Enjoy Star Wars Day everybody.  May the Force be with you!

Godzilla

What’s that?  Godzilla was last week?  Well never mind – I want to jump on that bandwagon anyway.

Here’s another item from my toy collection – an original Godzilla toy.  This an official Godzilla that I picked up years ago in Toys’R’Us.  I was about 24 at the time.

Godzilla stands about six inches tall, and is ready to stomp a mini Tokyo at any given moment.

I’ve not seen the new film yet, but the original is a classic – make sure you watch it.

Godzilla