Whether we’re talking about Playmates Toys or one of the many smaller companies who have acquired the license to make their own TMNT toys, one thing is perfectly clear: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one of the hottest properties in the world today. Who could have foretold this level of success over 30 years after the franchise began? As a matter of fact, the turtles have been so successful that we’re starting to see a resurgence of some interesting concepts from the heyday of the property.
Although this won’t come as any surprise to fans who have been following the latest Playmates lines, it’s still pretty cool to see some new action figures that provide a fresh take on what have become retro concepts. With the Battle Shells and Stealth Tech lines, Playmates is preparing to bring back some of the crazy and amazing TMNT toy concepts that made the franchise so much fun to collect back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Sure, we have yet to see a return of the Sewer Spitting line, but TMNT action figures like these serve as proof of the creative genius at work here. While their competitors have been focusing on making toys cheaper to produce and less functional, Playmates is always looking for new ways to either innovate or re-create previous successes. Considering that the toy industry has become largely stale since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were last seen in the market, even a return to form is very exciting.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that they’ve gone back to the drawing board. In the past few years they have revisited both the Metal Mutants and the Mutations line, and the Battle Shells toys are actually a part of that Mutations line. Whereas the original Mutations toys were fairly limited, this time around Playmates has actually developed a lot of new ideas to make these TMNT action figures even better than before.
To be absolutely clear, there has never been anything quite like the Battle Shells line before, but it is very similar in design to previous concepts. In addition, while there have been TMNT toys devoted to stealth in the past, this latest Stealth Tech series promises to provide a fresh take on the idea of being a ninja in the 21st century. These products have their roots in the past, but were only ever possible to create in the present.
Speaking of which, similar work is being done outside of the Playmates world of TMNT toys. Not only are we seeing a lot of great vinyl figures from companies like Funko and The Loyal Subjects, apparently we’re also going to get a line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys based on concepts that had previously been scrapped. Kevin Eastman himself is said to be working on the project with ThreeZero, attempting to craft a collectible figure that looks a lot like the little known fifth Ninja Turtle.
No, he’s not talking about Venus DeMilo – he’s talking about Kirby. Who is that? Well, Kevin explained that quite well on his own while talking about the line in a recent interview:
“From some of the earliest versions of the TMNT, say around issue numbers five and six of the original Eastman and Laird comics, I started drawing them a lot more muscular, more traditional superhero stylized look – considering the kinds of stories we were putting them in, it over all made more sense – as they are always training and fighting – that they would become stronger, in look and reality, to do the things they are doing.
Also, when we were working on a fourth TMNT film with New Line Cinema in the early nineties, it was never made, but I designed a fifth Turtle named Kirby, and he was bigger and stronger than the originals – I wanted to explore that design concept for this special edition series/sculptures.”
Imagine that. A line of TMNT collectible figures based on both popular comic book concepts and previously scrapped designs. Early images of these figures definitely look promising, as you can see for yourself. While Playmates works on action figures that will appease the younger audience and welcome them to the franchise, smaller companies like ThreeZero are working to bring older fans something special to celebrate their favorite heroes in a half shell. No matter how you look at it, that’s good news for shellheads of all ages.
Which TMNT toys are you most excited for? Are you more interested in playing with the Battle Shells and Stealth Tech toys, or would you rather have a nice collectible representation of the Ninja Turtles? Let us know in the comments below!