No conversation about iconic action figure lines is complete without coverage of the “heroes in a half shell”, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The original figures released by Playmates in 1988 introduced a generation of toy fans to these characters, and it set the stage for decades of figures to come from not only Playmates, but a number of other companies as well.
Four Horsemen Studios actually got a crack at the TMNT when NECA approached us in 2007 to work on a series inspired by the original Eastman and Laird comic book art of the Turtles. At the time, we figured that would be our one chance on this property, and we were thrilled with the result – but when our friends from Super 7 asked us to be involved in their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ULTIMATES! figures, we jumped at the chance!
A Fun Twist on Turtles Toys
Over the years, TMNT figures have been based on a variety of sources, including those aforementioned comic art-inspired figures, to figures from the cartoons, to the live action films, to new iterations of the characters from new cartoons and movies and more. When we began talking with Super 7 about their new line of figures, we were immediately excited for the twist they were putting on the property – these new figures would be based on the classic toys from the late 1980s and early 90s! These would be toys using the updated quality available to us today, but with the design style and overall aesthetic of those older figures. That opened the door for some fun ideas that we could explore! For example, the original toys had weapons that came attached to a plastic sprue. You had to remove the weapons, which were all a single color, to use them with your figures. For the ULTIMATES! Line, we thought it would be lots of fun to do that with these throwback figures as well!
In the end, Super 7 decided to include 2 sets of weapons with these toys – one single color set attached to a sprue like the vintage line, and a second set of weapons fully painted to use when displaying the figure. Talk about the best of both worlds!
Another fun aspect of this project was getting to work with the amazing Nate Baertsch! Nate did all the concept art for these new toys and he absolutely nailed the style needed for these figures. You can see the art he did for the first wave of these figures below.
From the very beginning of this new line, Super 7 and Four Horsemen Studios wanted to feature a mix of primary characters, like the Turtles themselves, alongside some of the more obscure denizens of the TMNT universe and classic toyline.
Each of the first four waves in the line would include a single turtle, starting with Raphael in Wave 1. Joining Raph in this initial offering were Master Splinter, Baxter Stockman, and a Foot Soldier, making for a nice mix of heroes and villians right from the start!
With the popularity of the first series of these figures, Wave 2 was not far behind. Once again there would be a turtle – this time it would be Leonardo! The rest of the lineup for this wave included Shredder, his minion Bebop, and bringing one of the more obscure characters from the Turtles universe into the line – Mutagen Man!
One of our favorite features in this second wave is the alternate head for Shredder. That head is a nod to the way some of the vintage Shredder figures were painted, with the rim of his helmet colored the same flesh as his face and eyebrows painted on the helmet, almost as if the rim was a really pronounced brow instead of his metal helmet! Fun little things like this alternate head are things we love to work into the line when we can!
The third wave of ULTIMATES! would include the fun-loving Michaelangelo alongside April O’Neil, the robotic Metalhead, and Rocksteady. Once again this was a fun mix of core characters alongside a figure like Metalhead, which was great fun to design and which we all think will really add so much cool variety to a display of these toys.
The fourth wave of TMNT ULTIMATES!, which was just unveiled recently, rounded out the four brothers with the release of Donatello. Joining the turtles in this wave and in their fight against evil is Casey Jones, complete with his arsenal of sporting-equipment weaponry!
The other two figures in this wave were definitely from the “somewhat obscure” ranks of the property, which made them great fun to add to the line - the radical Mondo Gecko and the nasty duo of Muckman and Joe Eyeball!
More to Come!
The great thing about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ULTIMATES! line is that there is still so much more Super 7 and Four Horsemen Studios can explore for these toys! There are still a ton of key characters left to do, and even more obscure and fun characters who were are really hoping we get to redesign in toy for as an ULTIMATES! figure.
Published on 10.09.20