|The Monstrosities of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
By the end of the year 1987, millions of children were caught in the tenacious grip of turtle mania. We just
couldn't get enough of the sewer dwelling, pizza loving anthropomorphic reptiles, who were schooled in the
martial arts by a lovable rat-man to battle a host of robots, aliens and mutants throughout the cartoon show's
original run. Most of us had no idea that the series was adapted from a darker, grittier comic book, and most
of us would move on to the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers in 1993, but the Turtles would continue their
animated adventures until 1997 and return for a brand new show in 2003. There was a third series between
these two, but nobody cares about that. Never mind that.
As with countless other franchises, I was roped into the turtles more by the monstrous villains and secondary
characters than by the starring protagonists, whom I scarcely even collected toys of.
As a series revolving around mutation, Turtles had some delightfully weird, grotesque characters, and a few
of the most grotesque action figures marketed to kids of the 80's and 90's...
I never owned this figure, but it's definitely one of the grosser of the series; a filthy, slobbering oaf with a giant
pizza-cutter for a leg, a severed pinky finger and neon green slobber. Presumably some madman who thought
mutagen could make him the ultimate pizza chef. He never appeared in the comic books or cartoons, and was
tragically toned down from his original, prototype concept, which had gorier paint and a secret surprise!
One of the few action figures I've seen of a humanoid cockroach, Scumbug is explained as a mutated
exterminator-turned-assassin under Shredder's employ, with the power to command swarms of ordinary
insects. His figure even came with a couple tiny roaches you can see in my fake bug collection, because I
need to remind you at every twist and turn that I am someone with a fake bug collection. I love Scumbug's
bulging yellow eyeballs, and his jaw is articulated to open and close as you turn his head!
|CARTOON APPEARANCE: "NIGHT OF THE ROGUES"
Regrettably, Scumbug was never given a starring role in an episode of his own, but appeared only as part of
a larger villain team-up. Along with fellow insect "Antrax," Scumbug was treated as a returning baddie out for
revenge. He is otherwise given precious little dialog, though he does have an entertaining argument with Rat
King over whether insects or rodents are destined to rule the Earth.
You all know (or certainly should know) how much I love flies, mad scientists, mutants, and especially mutant
fly mad scientists. Baxter here has it all, and was instantly one of my favorite toys the moment I laid eyes on
him. I even carried him around as an imaginary "friend" for the first few weeks, and pretended he was a real
live fly man only six inches tall. When it came down to actually playing with my turtle figures I set aside the
intended heroes (I only had Donatello, anyway) and promoted Baxter to the central protagonist of many an
adventure, even hooking him up with April O'Neil.
They...they lived together in the Ghostbusters firehouse...
Baxter first appears in the series as an ordinary human; a well-meaning, innocent inventor whose iconic
"mousers" - awesome little pest-control robots - catch the Shredder's eye as a possible weapon against
It isn't until the episode "Enter the Fly" that Baxter so beautifully transcends humanity. Growing weary of him,
Krang and Shredder actually attempt to execute Baxter in some manner of "disintegration chamber," but the
system malfunctions and merges the nutty professor with a stowaway fly in classic fashion. Even crazier than
before, the new Baxter blames Shredder, the Turtles and pretty much the world in general for the terrible
hand he's been dealt, and would return throughout the series as a renegade villain.
|CARTOON APPEARANCE: MULTIPLE
|CARTOON APPEARANCE: MUCKMAN MESSES UP
|Muckman (and Joe Eyeball)
|Calling to mind Swamp Thing and the Toxic Avenger, the sludgy, slimy Muckman is one of the most detailed
figures in the entire line, with a thick coating of finely-sculpted ooze, trash, worms, roaches and even a few
silverfish. How many action figures have silverfish all over them? The answer can only ever be "not enough."
Like many action figures of the 80's and early 90's, Muckman was designed to interact with fake slime, and
could do so in not one, but two different ways! Popping the banana-peel scalp off his head, you could fill his
cranium with ooze that would dribble from his mouth, while the detachable trash can accessory could empty
slime out through a hole in his stomach.
...Best of all, however, was Muckman's delightfully named lsidekick, JOE EYEBALL, a tentacled critter with no
less than three eye-stalks (one is his tail) sized just right to ride around in Muckman's can. Boy that sounded
When a pair of garbagemen are covered in mutagenic waste, the evil Shredder steps in and frames the Turtles
as responsible. Muckman and Joe go so far as to poison our heroes and kidnap their ladyfriends before
discovering the truth and saving the day. In the end, they are offered a cure for their hideous mutations, but
choose to remain "mutant heroes," because their former lives were apparently even worse than being slimy,
rotten monsters. Personally, I'd have called the episode "Muckman MUCKS up."
Joe Eyeball demonstrates impeccable taste at least twice in this episode. First when he chooses his own
mutant name, and again when he becomes infatuated with April's geeky friend, Irma Langenstein. He even
offers a handful of his own slime as a "parting gift." He's too good for you, Irma!
...but I'm always here.
|CARTOON APPEARANCE: ALMOST THE WHOLE SHOW
The most important character here, this disembodied, alien brain was the true villain of the original cartoon
show, the mastermind behind all of Shredder's operations. More significantly, he was single-tentacledly
responsible for my interest in the show to begin with. While all the other kids were talking about some sort of
kung-fu tortoises, I was still faithful to the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters alone...until I caught sight of this
grinning, veiny blob on the shelves of my local Kiddie City, packed with a great little mechanized walker.
Disembodied brains are a classic trope of sci-fi horror, but so rarely are they represented so well in a children's
plaything, even to this day. Krang became my first Turtles figure, my whole introduction to the franchise, and
eventually, a sort of "commissioner" character to my heroic Baxter Stockman.
I was not disappointed when I made the jump from toy-owner to toon-viewer, and was even more enamored by
Krang's gurgling, croaking television performance than by his action figure. Until the wonderful decision to
mutate Baxter, Krang was practically my sole reason for tuning in week after week, and I even pretended to BE
him (in his bubble walker, no less) whenever I was called by other kids to "play turtles."
Krang was loosely based on a friendlier alien race, the Utrom, from the original comic books. Krang, however,
was said to be an alien "warlord" who had lost his original, natural body, leaving only his brain. By the fifth
episode, he acquired a powerful new android carrier, a weird pin-headed humanoid with a cockpit in its
stomach. At some point, Peter Laird pitched a concept for Krang's "original" body as an action figure, but
Playmates rejected the idea. In the episode "Invasion of the Krangezoids," he was revealed to have a very
different natural form - that of a Tyrannosaur-sized reptile - when he created several clones of himself that
grew full bodies.
|COMIC & COMMERCIAL APPEARANCE
|While definitely one of my favorite action figures, the original Wyrm is leaps and bounds cooler-looking, with a
far more monstrous stature, eerily human hair, saw-like teeth and a set of wicked secondary jaws. Driven by
ravenous hunger, he uses his many suckers to drain the body fluids from his prey. He debuted in issue #10 of
Archie Comics TMNT adventures, and was actually created by the same chemical spill as Scumbug. The two
monsters battled one another and appeared to be destroyed in an explosion, but would reappear in issue 52,
settling their differences shortly before their final demise.
Wyrm was later redesigned - a merging of the comic and toy features - as concept art for "The Mighty
Mutanimals," a turtles spin-off comic that was pitched unsuccessfully as its own cartoon show.
Wyrm is the first and quite possibly the last action figure you will ever see of a mutated planarian worm,
amusingly mis-spelled by his package (and even parts of his comic debut) as "planetarium" worm. His eyeballs
are lifted straight from Ed Roth's famous Rat Fink character, and are designed to bulge from their sockets
when his hair is pulled. The back of his hat serves as a lever to open and close his mouth, and he originally
came packed with tiny, red worms for him to "eat." His figure bio has him pegged as a "mild-mannered" mutant
sanitation worker that actually hangs out with fellow trashophiles Muckman and Joe eyeball, though Wyrm's
original appearance was decidely less friendly...
|CARTOON APPEARANCE: ENTER MUTAGEN MAN
|At last, we come to not only the creepiest character in the entire Turtles franchise, but among the contenders
for creepiest of any 90's children's show or toy line. Designed by Peter Laird, Mutagen Man was first conceived
as a character called "The Unknown," an amalgam of parts from different creatures held together by
In his finalized toy form, Mutagen Man is one of my single favorite action figures of all time, consisting of a
brain, skull and organs suspended in a clear plastic body with decaying, cybernetic appendages. You were
meant to fill the body with water and a little bit of slime, along with tiny pieces of "garbage" he came packaged
with to turn the whole toy into a really nasty snowglobe. Best of all is his background story, one of the darkest
ever attached to a 90's action figure:
"Victim of Krang's insidious experiments, Seymour Gutz woke up from a lab table only to find himself hideously
transformed into Mutagen Man - a pathetic, dripping, ever-changing mutating monster. Confined to a
mechanical life support system that holds his mutating body together, Mutagen Man is now dependent on
Ooze to replenish his deteriorating form. Forced to do Shredder's bidding in exchange for Retromutagen
Ooze, Mutagen Man reluctantly performs dastardly deeds to get the substance his body so desperately
Though his design is a tad less graphic, Mutagen Man's morbid story is preserved to the letter in his first and
last animated role. Seymour Gutz is an innocent, meek and cowardly delivery boy when he shows up at the
wrong address and gets himself dunked into a big old vat of unstable mutagen. Shredder quips that Seymour
is "coming all to pieces," and we're treated to a quick glimpse of this very phenomenon in the scene above. It's
brief and it's "cartoony," but the principle of the whole thing is damn near chilling.
By the next time we see Gutz, we can, well, see his guts. When he demonstrates a talent for temporary
shape-shifting, Shredder turns the mutagen junkie into the unwitting minion described by his above bio.
Ultimately, Shredder severs Mutagen Man's feeding tube and leaves the sobbing freak to his death, but the
turtles show up just in time to patch up his suit and hatch a counterattack. Unlike Muckman, Seymour is all too
eager to accept the cure for his condition, but when told to make his final, permanent transformation, he
decides this is his chance to shed his wimpy old self, and his new look lands him a date with none other than
April. We will never know exactly how far this date went, but having just done time as entrails in a fishbowl, I'd
say he's earned a lot more than dinner and a movie.
|Why April, I had no idea.
Unfortunately, Wyrm would make an animated appearance for only a toy commercial, in which we're treated to
a couple seconds of him threatening our heroes; "Not so fast, turtle scum!" Odd, I thought he was Muckman's
friend? At least we know how he would look and sound in an episode, and the pop-out eyes look pretty neat in