Sunday, 22 November 2015

Quick Crappy Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dark Beaver

I finally get to talk about something Ninja Turtles! And by happy coincidence it’s a figure that allows me to strut my funky stuff show off my knowledge of Turtles history, you see this cartoon beaver actually has his origins in the earliest days of the franchise, in fact in the first things that really made it a franchise and not just an explicably popular black and white indie comic with a bizarre title. But first a little story: I went to Smyths toys for a reason that didn’t involve beavers at all, in fact I find I rarely go anywhere for beavers, beavers just tend to find me, I’m that sort of fellow and true to form Dark Beaver here found me – by falling on my head. I didn’t even known he was out, new TMNT figures have slowed down to a Monkey Brains shaped trickle of late and I was in fact just amusing myself with a head dropping Turtle, a figure then fell on me and being a boy raised on Care Bears and Captain Planet I dutifully put it back, only to see it was Dark Beaver, he had snuck into stores without my knowledge, it was fate, I bought a beaver – again.

The Dream Beavers (Dark Beaver, Dread Beaver, Dire Beaver and, um, Dave Beaver) are allegedly new characters introduced for the current Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. They debuted in the season three episode ‘In Dreams’ which was part of the show’s Exile in Northampton period that most TMNT incarnations must have wherein the Turtles are chased from New York to a farm house in Northampton, a tradition that dates back to the original volume of the original Mirage Comics series. It was one of the better episodes in the arc which, again true to tradition, was made up of mostly filler but joined together by Leonardo’s recovery from the arse-kicking he got the season before (that amongst other things made him sound exactly like Oz from Buffy…). The Beavers come from another dimension and can manipulate dreams to suck the life force from people in our dimension and were voiced by horror noteworthies Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) and John Kassir (the Cyrptkeeper). So if they only debuted last year what’s the connection to the infant days of TMNT? Well… two of the first licenced items the Turtles had, before Playmates Toys and cartoons and breakfast cereal, as a role playing book from Palladium called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness and a set of pewter figurines from Dark Horse Miniatures1 based on said book; both featured The Terror Bears who were pretty much the Dream Beavers but bears, they even had the same style of ‘tummy symbol’ – a skull with an additional element - and a similar power (mind powers) and MO though they didn’t drain the life from their victims they did take childish glee in torturing them in their own minds. So why aren’t the Dream Beavers Terror Bears? I don’t know2, though I think there’s been confirmation they were an influence, I mostly think it’s just down to the new show’s ‘reference preference’ (as I call it) – they had Robert Englund so they had to make a reference to Freddy Krueger and ‘Dream Beaver’ is a play on the song title ‘Dream Weaver’ so once again the team prefers to reference everything but the franchise their working on. Or maybe I’m just being narky because I bought TMNT & Other Strangeness in an act of blind ignorance as a child and have had an attachment to its characters ever since. Incidentally I had no idea what it was and thought it was a book to help you create fan characters, but I was six. Regardless this connection to the Terror Bears had elevated the Dream Beavers in importance in my mind (and hopefully in that of other old fans too). 

So he has a noteworthy backstory, but does he have a noteworthy figure? Well yes it’s noteworthy in that it’s the only TMNT figure that looks like a £1 Halloween novelty and noteworthy in that it features possibly the worst paint apps on a Turtles toy ever and has lead me to believe that Playmates has instigated a ‘all Q-tips all the time’ policy in whatever Chinese sweatshops they have these things turned out in. The Tummy Symbol (on mine at least) is very well done and nice and sharp and one of the things really worthy of praise on the toy, I assume it’s just done with a spray and a mask but it still looks great, but a cruder individual might suggest there rest of the paint was applied with the employee’s dick – it’s soft, it’s blocky, it looks like paint, it’s not very good. I know that this era of TMNT figures has been the weakest in the paint department, undoubtedly done in the name of saving money in a world where action figure sales are ever decreasing in the shadow of the almighty Xbox and I suppose it’s the price you have to pay for the amount of new tooling we get on these (pretty much every character is an original sculpt) but DB here just seems particularly shitty. The silver lining here is that he looks totally passable from a distance and I rarely intend to hold him close to my face or study hi-res photographs of him once I’m done with this QCR. If I had to choose I’d rather his paint was this way around and that he didn’t have a crappy, fuzzy Tummy Symbol and really perfect eyes, but ideally I’d like both to look sharp. His articulation flat out sucks but I find his sculpt very pleasing, he’s been given a great posture and it’s hard to pose him in a way that doesn’t make him look like a physical threat, funny if you’ve seen the episode and know that they do in fact not pose a physical threat at all in the real world, but good for your villain toy. Actually it’s quite hard to pose him in general thanks to aforementioned sucky articulation. He ‘boasts’ a ball-jointed tail that looks like a uncooked crinkle cut chip (not pictured, I forgot, sorry) and joints at the hips and shoulders, these are that combination hinge-swivel thing that approximates a ball joint, fine for the wrists of wrestlers but not really very good at emulating the movement of a shoulder or leg, it severely limits poses, I wanted him in a ‘muahahaha I am so powerful’ pose but his arms don’t fake a ball joint in those directions so he had two have ‘bearing down on your prone corpse’ poses.  It is undoubtedly something that children won’t care about in the slightest – if you don’t believe me I’d like to direct all imaginary adult collectors to their prized collections of vintage Star Wars, Masters of the Universe and Thundercats, even an approximation of a ball joint is closer than most of those got and we never moaned. 

He is the wrong fucking colour red though, children may notice that. 

So yeah, I’m pretty negative on Dark Beaver as a reviewer but as an enjoyer I don’t regret buying him at all because he’s terrific fun, I honestly think that’s more to do with him being a giant beaver of doom than being a good figure but some people are just born lucky and I guess this is the toy equivalent; so long as he’s a giant beaver of doom he gets a pass and he won’t ever not be a giant beaver of doom. And anyway I’ve spent far more on far cheaper knock-off and bootleg figures so I’d be a bit of a hypocrite to complain about dropping a tenner on Dark Beaver when I’ll spend $15-$20 on Galaxy Heroes – which fyi are bootlegs of knock-offs of knock offs of He-Man. He also doesn’t feel as cheap as he looks, he’s nice and sturdy and again his sculpt his good for his intended purpose (though perhaps simplistic by TMNT standards): a decent amount of fur is sculpted in but not enough so it overpowers or makes the articulation stick out (see: every modern Chewbacca figure) and they’ve managed to keep his claws looking nasty even after having obviously gone through a blunting process to make sure he’s safe for the intended age range. It is worth pointing out that he doesn’t have the warts the Beavers do in the cartoon, even as an unpainted detail (which Playmates usually LOVE) and also that mine has slightly crooked buck teeth; it was bent behind the jaw in the package and looked really fucking painful, I sorted it out best I could in an attic with nothing but a pair of scissors and my incisors but you can still see it’s a little bent, I should think this is an isolated incident though so don’t judge the head sculpt on my one’s wonky toothy-pegs. In the end though he’s not that great, but he’s good enough, I think that’s damming with faint praise but whatever.

"Welcome to prime time, bitch"

1 not to be confused with Dark Horse Comics who may or may not have been involved in a recent small-scale sex scandal
2 Though I’ve long suspected that there may be rights issues with the characters created for the Palladium books, there’s some evidence to the contrary – the Dark Horse Miniatures and two characters (Usub Gerstalk and Labb Ratt) appearing in one of the Konami video games, as well as obviously them being designed by Mirage Studios staff - but I find it strange they’ve never appeared elsewhere, even in the 4Kids cartoon – which mined just about everything from Mirage, well the parts of Mirage that signed the retroactive work for hire contracts anyway (mind you they didn’t use Complete Carnage and Radical either…).

No comments:

Post a Comment