Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Random Ramblings: The Saga of the Replacement Turtles

All right... the time has come. I am officially getting ready to delete the content from Really Rather Random Guy (dot blogspot dot com) and in preparing for that, I wanted to import a bunch of the content that I know will then be lost forever, by bringing the posts over here to Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks (dot blogspot dot com). So, with that in mind, I thought I would preface these entries with the fact that they are indeed OLD blog posts from an OLD, now DEFUNCT blog, and cross my fingers and hope that folks will still want to read them.

So time for me to ramble a bit. Something I promised I was going to let myself do with this "new" blog that took the place of the of Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks site. And one of the things I genuinely enjoy thinking and writing about is how I played with toys as a kid. I mean the ways I used my action figures imaginatively to create whole worlds and epics that took place in those worlds. I had a lot of drama and action in those sessions. I was pretty complex...

...or something.
This wasn't even Halloween.

When I was a kid, I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved the cartoon, I loved the toy-line, and I loved the idea of a group of ass-kicking mutant ninjas. But I have a major confession to make:
I found the original four turtles a little boring after a while. My style of play incorporated a LOT of different characters from a LOT of different toy-lines. The main gist of most of my imaginative play was based on the comic books I was reading at the time, the majority of which were from the X-Men family of titles. While all of my other random action figures were developing optic blasts or berserker rages,  Leo, Raph, Mikey, and Donnie had a hard time fitting in with teams of super-powered misfits. They were so insular... so designed to be together... that I had a hard time working them into my interior storyline. They didn't get a lot of play honestly.

And that made them sad.
Until I read parts of this storyline:

Which blew me away. I never actually owned these comics as a lad, but I had flipped through enough of the stories while browsing the bookstore that I knew the basic gist: The main protagonists of the story are incapacitated and a REPLACEMENT TEAM is called in to clean up the mess left behind and save the day. The replacement team is made up of a seemingly disparate group of loners who come together to fight in honor of the fallen heroes. And from this seed an idea grew in my head....

Yeeeeeeah... we're the replacements! Rock n' rollin' 'til the break of dawn!
The Replacement Turtles! You will of course notice that with the exception of Mondo Gecko and Metal Head being sorta-kinda-close... NONE of these characters are actual turtles. But IT DIDN'T MATTER. All of a sudden when I would be playing with my action figures, the four main Turtles became VERY clumsy. They repeatedly became extremely susceptible to being taken prisoner by Shredder and his goons. And whenever that would happen, an alert would go out to four of the Turtle's closest allies: Usagi Yojimbo, Mondo Gecko, Metal Head, and Casey Jones! This alert went out... like... once or twice a day I would estimate. The four core turtles became more damsels in distress than heroes very quickly. This was right around the time that April O'Neil developed light-control powers ala Dazzler (Dazzler was a part of the Australian X-Men squad at the time so...) and started kicking ass on her own terms. 

This was happening in my head.
Where was I? Oh yeah... let's take a look at those replacement turtles!

First of the replacement turtles was the robot that was designed to emulate a Ninja Turtle as closely as possible. Metal Head! Metal Head was the replacement Donatello. He was the science-guy of the group, but with all the benefits of a super-strong android with lots of gadgets and deus ex machinas up the butt (sometimes literally). My Metal Head wasn't the robot-run-amok spazz they showed on the TV shows at the time, but he did have a bit of a Max Headroom (or, let's be honest, Konky of Pee-Wee's playhouse) stutter that he had no control over when communicating with his team-mates. 

Next up we have everyone's favorite psycho-sociopath... Casey Jones! He was my surrogate Raphael. Again, my Casey Jones was much less informed by the cartoon show, which had him portrayed more as a Dirty-Harry-Travis-Bickle-Punisher mashup played for comedic effect. I had him behaving more like the movie version of Casey Jones played by Elias Koteas (which was in turn, a bit more informed by the original comic-book version of Casey Jones) AAAAND Wolverine. Casey Jones was prone to random berserker rages in battle. I think he also developed a healing factor. I may have even tried to convince myself that he could sprout adamantium claws from the backs of his forearms. Yeah... he was pretty much just Wolverine. And let me tell you, it was HARD to have him develop a romantic relationship with April O'Neil when his hockey mask was not removable. But they managed... sort of?

The foundation of all my future relationships was this comic panel.

But I digress. 

Mondo Gecko filled the Michelangelo-shaped hole left by the missing turtles. He was the party animal of the group and quite often his skate-board functioned as a hoverboard allowing him to fly into action. He also shared a power-set with Nightcrawler and the Toad. He was able to cling to surfaces using hands and feet, and his prehensile tail was a deadly whip in battle. He was agile and bouncy, a whirling dervish in combat, and he snapped off surfer-dude one-liners much like a Point Break Spider-Man. I just want to take a moment to appreciate the sculpt on this guy as well. Mondo Gecko was-and-still-is one of my absolute favorite TMNT action figures.

And finally, we have the Leo of the group... Usagi Yojimbo. I know that this guy was really only a sort of fluke guest-star on an episode of the show (having his own successful comic series completely unrelated to TMNT), and this begat a couple of action figures as well... but in my mind Usagi Yojimbo was Leonardo's best friend the way Raphael and Casey bonded in so many of their iterations over the various incarnations of the show. Ironically, my Usagi Yojimbo never developed many super-powers. I believe he was able to channel energy through his sword ala Silver Samurai... but that was about it. Basically his power was to kick EVERYBODY'S ASS ALL THE TIME. He was the leader of the replacement turtles because he was pretty much just the bunny version of Leonardo.

And here's everyone all together. I chose to photograph the vintage turtle allies with the modern-day turtle figures for a couple of reasons. 1.) In my personal opinion, the newer versions of the turtles are superior to the old in almost every way. I can't imagine as a lad EVER growing bored with these four turtles. This is how I wanted my turtles to look as a kid. 2.) My vintage turtles are WOEFULLY incomplete. Raph and Donnie are missing their belts and Raph has extensive paint-loss damage to his belly. Almost all of the quartet's weapons are lost to time. 3.) I really wanted to see how the sculpts on the vintage ancillary characters stood up to the modern turtles. And they look AWESOME. I think the only real weak link here is Casey Jones in his weird sweat pants and lime green tennis shoes... and hairy mid-riff. (Side-note... I am STILL on the hunt for a modern-series Casey Jones. If anyone spots one, e-mail me or message me on Twitter or something. WANT. UPDATED TO ADD: Since this was written, I have found the new Casey Jones action figure. No worries. Crisis averted.)

That's all the crazy I have in me for tonight kids! Be sure to keep your peepers peeled here for further ramblings, rants, and other random ravings in the near future!


  1. I used comic book stories a lot in my play sessions too when i was a kid.

  2. Awesome post Derek. It's kind of like Avenger's West Coast, X-men's Blue team and Justice League Europe. They might not be the big guns, but they're still heroes.

  3. +1,000,000 for the inclusion of the Ultron/Number Nine panel from Daredevil's "Acts of Vengeance" tie-in.

    God, I miss Number Nine and Brandy Ash. Amazed that no-one has ever referenced them since those old Ann Nocenti-scripted DD issues.

    This is really great, Derek. I always love knowing how others used to [or maybe still!] play with their toys. Especially fond of odd pairings or mixing of toy-lines.

    Oh, and weird that people seem to have trouble finding the "new" Casey Jones. I feel like I see 'em on the shelf at work all the time. I'll keep you posted.

    1. Still??? Still play with my toys??? (Who told you?) I don't play with them like I did back then, but I had a blast setting these guys up to photograph. I just love toys SO much.

      And that scene from that run of Daredevil has always stuck with me! I actually really loved how Nocenti organically embraced the whole concept of Ultron showing up in DD. You could almost have eliminated the entire AoV concept and this story would still have made just as much sense. A rattled and schizoid Ultron trying to make sense of himself in the woods... his attraction to the man-made Number Nine... the whole thing was pretty poetic. But that's something I've always really liked about Nocenti's comic work. She comes off as a bit melodramatic at times, but when it works it WORKS.

      I searched FOREVER to find a shot of that panel online (because Ultron seems to be gaining some popularity online right now for some reason... and surprisingly googling "Number Nine" didn't really help much. I finally figured it out and found it, but for a while I was convinced I was going to have to dig that issue out of my collection and scan it if I wanted to use it.

      I KEEP finding the guys I already have, like Mutagen Man and Kirby Bat... so I know he's been there because those are the characters he's packed in with. But no Casey yet. And I love his new look.

  4. I've been seeing the new Nick version of Casey Jones pretty frequently in Targets around the MN area here, so I'm sure it may just take some time until they're everywhere. It's a pretty great figure and does allow for mask removal, even tho his face is painted like a skull underneath.

  5. Great post! It takes me back to when my brother and I played out our own Toy Story (this was before the movie mind you). Our characters included 3 main characters, all plush toys: The Pink Panther, The Bull (Where The Wild Things Are), and The Little Caesar. We dyed "Wild Thing's" hair Rodman style and put several safety pins in his ears. He bullied Pink Panther and Caesar. Wild Thing was afraid of our cat though. This is just one of the many toy story arcs I remember.

    I remember picking up a new Casey and I might still have it stashed away somewhere. I'll dig for it and let you know.

    1. Oh thank you Mason, but this is a written-in-the-past post that I imported from my other, older, dying blog. I forgot the line about looking for Casey was even in there! I actually own the new Casey now, but thank you for thinking of me!

  6. Comic books were always a springboard for my action figure play sessions...i used ideals and concepts from them to create bold and exciting worlds of adventure...Yup that's right i bootlegged my happy fun times with action figures from the funny pages lol.


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