Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Five Most Disturbing TMNT Figures!

The Plastic Playthings that Traumatized all of our Childhoods ... in the Most Tubular Way Possible!

As were most children of the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was totally swept up in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" frenzy. The license was pretty much inescapable -- the show played on syndicated television non-stop, there were multitudes of comics coming out every month, and between the NES and Game Boy, there were  close to a dozen or so side scrolling beat 'em ups to play in your living room and on car rides.

Looking back on it, the original animated series -- and especially the trilogy of live-action movies -- really haven't aged all that well. The plots are contrived, the dialogue is corny and frankly, most of the characters are one-dimensional -- clearly, this isn't "Batman: The Animated Series" quality stuff we're talking here.

That said, I don't think any one who grew up as consumer-minded youngsters in the early 1990s have ever truly forgotten the toys. Indeed, the line of Playmates action figures are some of the most beloved of the era, with exquisite craftsmanship that, to this day, remains pretty darned impressive.

Beyond the myriad stock character variations (did anybody else have the giant Krang action figure, or the soccer playing Raphael that really kicked the shit out of things via a wind-up gimmick?) and outlandish playsets and vehicles, there were also some weird one-off figures that, in hindsight, were quite gruesome and ghoulish. Today, I would like to look back at five of the most royally messed up TMNT action figures to ever go through the mass production process -- play time, I assure you, is about to get a whole lot more unnerving.


Just look at this thing ... it's like the Toxic Avenger stepped inside the teleportation pod from Cronenberg's "The Fly" with the Incredible Hulk! Coincidentally, Playmates would go on to manufacture "Toxic Crusaders" toys, too, but nothing in that line-up came close to matching the grotesque beauty of this figure. Think about that, for a minute ... "Muckman" alone is more messed up then anything that came out of a franchise based on fucking TROMA movies. 

As you could probably tell, Muckman's gimmick is that he's a living, breathing mountain of trash.Contextually, his backstory is that he's a garbageman who got mutated, which makes the figure even more unnerving. I mean, at least most mutations turn into some awesome chimera, like a manta ray or an elephant man. This dude had to work a low-paying job, face the scorn of other city employees and then, bam, he gets turned into a walking pile of rubbish. Needless to say, that's a lot to leave on the plates of six-year-olds, ain't it?

Obviously, the attention to detail here is just awe-inspiring ... the soda bottles and tin cans mutated into its skin, the sewer lid foot, and of course, the banana peel hairpiece. Why some publicly funded street artist hasn't turned this thing into a ten foot tall installation is simply beyond me. In terms of accessories, Muckman came with his own miniature pal, Joe Eyeball, and a garbage can, which I assume he used as an ECW-style pummeling weapon on foes. Really, the coolest/sickest thing about Muckman was that you could actually yank off the top of his skull and pour slime into his head, which proceeded to gush out of his mouth like a barfing co-ed. And if that wasn't enough, you could even squeeze goop through a perforation in his abdomen. And as we all know: what has more appeal to the kids than torso wounds and toxic waste vomit?

Mutagen Man!

Most TMNT villains were your basic "Island of Dr. Moreau" castoffs -- your bull-people, your groundhog-people, etc. Mutagen Man, on the other hand, is a gigantic, sentient fish tank filled with vital organs. Clearly, this needs some explication. 

According to the back of the toy packaging, Mutagen Man was some poor soul  -- ironically enough, named "Seymour Gutz" -- who was abducted by Shredder and vivisected(!) as part of some Mengele-esque science experiment. So, yeah, "Mutagen" Man is more or less Kane from "Robocop 2," except twenty times more fucked up and aimed directly at a child consumer audience. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I'm pretty sure most of those words used to describe "Mutagen Man" would be some sort of permutation of "messed up." As you have probably guessed, the appeal of the figure -- outside of the fact that it's more or less a sci-fi Auschwitz monster in plastic -- is that you can pour water inside the tank torso and watch the organs flutter around like snow globe particles. The character also came with a banana-colored slime gun, but really, why bring in firearms when you're already a walking exposed endocrine system? 

Pizza Face!

Pizza Face, at first glance, appears to be a fairly mundane figure -- at least by TMNT standards. I mean, shit, how many of those toys actually resembled something that looked liked a baseline human being? However, as you delve deeper into this Pizza Face character, you realize he's actually one of the more disturbing figures in the entire Turtles pantheon. 

According to his backcard, Pizza Face was a big, fat, Iron Sheik looking chef, who decided to bake himself inside a mutagen-coated oven to give him super powers or some shit. Apparently, the Turtles showed up and "rescued him," which pissed him off to high-heavens -- primarily, because it resulted in him becoming a half Italian, half pepperoni amalgam. Naturally, he would go on to align himself with Shredder to seek retribution. 

With a tomato and cheese encrusted apron (not at all subterfuge blood and pus, of course) and a pizza box/pizza cutter peg leg, good old Pizza Face is definitely one of the more disturbing figures released by Playmates. He also came equipped with a huge honking butcher knife and a blood red pizza throwing disc, which I assume worked in a fashion similar to the Gary Busey-halving death disc in "Predator 2." And for extra creepy points? As long as you can overlook his cardboard box left leg, he pretty much doubles as an unofficial John Wayne Gacy action figure, too!


Continuing our recurring theme of low-income workers being ironically transformed into hell beasts somehow tied into their former professions, we have Scumbug, a former exterminator turned cockroach monster. 

I really like how the insect fuses with human flesh on this figure. Yeah, the head is a bit too much (sorry, the giant lemon eyes and mile-way grin screams "misunderstood" more than "menacing"), but how about the bulging triceps mutating into icky purple bug exoskeleton? Shit, that really makes me want to ask some hard hitting questions about whoever it was that designed these damn toys. 

Accessory-wise, the figure is a bit on the disappointing side. Yeah, the exterminator pack is a little funny, but beyond that, there's not much to monkey around with. Even worse, you can't even fill it with water or ooze and spray other figures, which is a huge missed opportunity. Still, there's no denying Scumbug is a fairly fucked up idea for a figure -- which, considering his cohorts, is saying quite a bit. 


...and we encounter yet ANOTHER garbage-man-turned-monster figure. Were the guys at Playmates trying to make some sort of sociopolitical, quasi-Marxist statement with these toys or something? 

Well just slightly less unnerving than Muckman, Wyrm remains a similar semi-tragic figure -- although noticeably less slimy. A proud member of the "Unsanitation Department" (yuk-yuk!), Wyrm is just a pastel-colored mess, sporting a wardrobe so garish "Macho Man" Randy Savage probably would have considered it tacky. And the more I stare at this motherfucker, the more it becomes apparent that the toy was probably based on a sketch of Little Richard as a Blue Meanie. 

The figure came out right when the TMNT hype train was starting to go downhill, and Wyrm is sort of indicative of that epoch. Yeah, he looks cool and messed up and all, but he was nowhere near as creative as some of the earlier figures. The accessories, though, were pretty neat, at least -- I mean, the dude came equipped with both a mallet and a switchblade made entirely out of meal worms! 

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