The 20 Raddest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Toys You Probably Had
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures from 1988 to 1997 were in a class of their own. They were bigger than your average action figure from the time, and they were colorful, both literally and figuratively. Many of the toys had additional, gimmicky functions aside from the standard limb articulation.
There was a sense of whimsy and humor to the whole thing; the heroes had smirking facial expressions and geeky outfits, and the mutant villains had an unusual amount of gross detail. Both types suited most elementary schoolers just fine; they were tailored to that age group's sense of humor.
Here are the gems of the line--the most eye-popping Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures from your childhood. And if you enjoyed this, check out The Weirdest Marvel Merchandise and the 22 Craziest Themed Cereals for additional nostalgia fixes.
20. Bebop (First Wave)
The first wave of Turtles toys consisted of all four turtles--Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael--and Splinter, April O'Neil, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, and a Foot Soldier. And the best one of them was punk warthog Bebop, the only one with a Rubber head. He had a trash can lid for a Shield, and he looked the closest to his animated cartoon counterpart.
19. Baxter Stockman (Second Wave)
The mad scientist who created the Mousers, Baxter Stockman was half-human, half-fly. Stockman was part of the second wave of toys, and already, the designers had increased the visual detail considerably. He came with a with a fly swatter and an attachment to his back, which gave him two additional appendages and a pair of wings.
18. Leatherhead (Second Wave)
A mutated crocodile from the Florida Everglades, Leatherhead seemed more animal than human. He's one of the shortest figures in the line--he's leaning forward, as if he just learned to walk on his hind legs yesterday--and his mouth opens and snaps shut. He's one of the Turtles' most memorable villains, although he's formed uneasy alliances with the Turtles when their interests align with his.
17. Metalhead (Second Wave)
Shredder built Metalhead as an evil mecha-turtle, but the Turtles captured him and Donatello reprogrammed him to be good. Maybe it's the Transformers crossover appeal that made Metalhead so popular, but it seemed that every boy in my elementary school had a Metalhead action figure. The best part of Metalhead was his eyes. There was a hole at the top of his head where you could see his robo-brains, and if you shined a light on them, his eyes would glow bright red.
16. Samurai Leo (Third Wave)
The third wave of toys was the peak of the line. The toys had more detail than ever before (or since), and the turtles themselves received new costume variations that were cool and humorous without getting too goofy. This samurai-clad Leonardo looked appropriately fierce, with fitted armor that corresponded to his turtle anatomy.
15. Mike The Sewer Surfer (Third Wave)
Just look at how the colors pop on this action figure! Mike the Sewer Surfer is wearing a wetsuit, and he has friendly crustaceans hanging off of him. His surfboard had a spinning blade on its fore and pegs on its surface, so that he can slice up foot soldiers and hang ten all at the same time. We could easily imagine that Mike would have a costume like this; later in the toy line, things got way out of hand.
14. Undercover Don (Third Wave)
In the cartoon and in the movies, the Turtles wore trench coats and snap-brim fedoras to explore Manhattan undetected. The disguise's effectiveness became a self-aware joke over time, similar to how Clark Kent fools all of Metropolis with a pair of glasses. Donatello was the only turtle who wore this classic disguise as an action figure. His accessories included a novelty prop gun and a Groucho mask for extra concealment.
13. Slash (Third Wave)
Slash was an evil mutant from Dimension X, the war-torn wasteland that Krang hails from. He was a Bizarro-esque snapping turtle, with spiked nunchucks, a jagged sai, and a distinct dislike for pizza. Everything, from the crooked, sharp-toothed grin to the weathered skin, made Slash one of the toy line's best, outwardly evil additions.
12. Wingnut (Third Wave)
Wingnut was a bat. His little buddy Screwloose was a mosquito. And both of them looked wild beyond compare. Playmates did a thorough job with the biography card on the back of their packaging: Wingnut and Screwloose were two of the last survivors from the planet Huanu. Krang destroyed the planet, and Wingnut and Screwloose were sucked out of a portal and into the Earth realm. According to the biography, Wingnut is also a bit of a klutz. Like most bats, he cannot see well, but his echolocation is also overly sensitive, which means he bumps into a lot of things. Poor guy.
11. Mutagen Man (Third Wave)
This was the stuff of nightmares. There was very little that's whimsical or fun about Mutagen Man, the end result of Krang's laboratory experiments. Unlike the other toys, you could fill this one to the brim with water. His guts and organs could then float around whenever you shook him or moved him around. This action figure grossed out my parents and my sister, much to my delight.
10. Pizzaface (Third Wave)
There's something very wrong with Pizzaface, who has a particularly upsetting backstory printed on his profile card. The words can speak for themselves: "Pizzaface--Shredder's crazed culinary creator--had a plan to become the most powerful pizza chef ever. So he zapped himself in his Retro mutagen oven, hoping the energy would bake him with badness. But the hungry Turtle Teens burst into the parlor and pulled Pizzaface out." What, exactly, did Pizzaface envision as the end result of this experiment? If this is what half-baked looks like, imagine what full-baked looks like and shudder.
9. Muckman (Third Wave)
The grossness hit its peak with Muckman and his sidekick Joe Eyeball, a pair of trash monsters. Muckman was lumpy and covered with assorted rotting food and garbage. He had a manhole cover stuck to his left foot. In a funny bit of meta-humor, he has a clothespin pinching his nose; he's so dirty that he can't even stand the smell of himself. Muckman is also unusually interactive; if you pour Mutagen Ooze (sold separately) into his back cavity, it'll flow out of his stomach. You can also fill his head with Ooze, and it'll dribble out of his mouth.
8. Ray Fillet (Third Wave)
The half-stingray, half-man, former marine biologist had one of the most broadly appealing faces of the toy line. Just look at those big eyes and that smile. The gimmick behind this action figure was that it changed color, depending on whether it was run through cold water (purple and pink) or hot water (green and yellow).
7. Rappin' Mike (Fourth Wave)
The fourth wave of toys was still well-made, but any seriousness was by and large gone; by this point, the line had become a parody of itself, and mostly consisted of dressing the turtles in increasingly silly costumes. Rappin' Mike came with a portable turntable, a microphone designed to look like nunchucks, and a Flava Flav-esque clock around his neck. Yeeeeah boooy! You know what time it is!
6. Punker Don (Fourth Wave)
The Rocker line depicted Mikey as a rapper, Leo as a classic rocker, Raph as a heavy metal guitarist, and Donnie as a punk rocker. Donnie had the best look out of the four of them; he came with a badass leather jacket, ripped jeans, and an orange mohawk. His Bo was repurposed as a flute, which is more Jethro Tull than Sex Pistols, but we went with it anyway.
5. Dirtbag (Fourth Wave)
Dirtbag made me laugh as a kid. It was such an appropriate name for a villainous, mutant mole. According to the profile card, Dirtbag's archenemy was Splinter; the evil construction worker would tunnel and jackhammer through the sewers in pursuit of the ancient rat.
4. Sergeant Bananas (Fourth Wave)
This is simultaneously the laziest and most awesome toy of the fourth wave. I's big and bold and bright, but stylistically, it doesn't look anything like the others; it's more broadly cartoonish than, say, Slash or even Wingnut. The biography is extra weird: Sergeant Bananas was apparently an average primate until Shredder dumped Ooze all over his jungle gym. And then somewhere along the line, he picked up a military obsession? Whatever. Just go with it.
3. Space Usagi Yojimbo (Fourth Wave)
Usagi Yojimbo was a comic star from outside the TMNT universe created by Stan Sakhai. An anthropomorphic rabbit, Yojimbo was a wandering samurai hero from the Edo period of ancient Japan. He and the turtles had several crossovers in both the comics and the animated series; sometimes the turtles would be transported to Yojimbo's universe, and sometimes, Yojimbo would be transported to Manhattan. This action figure, which re-imagines Yojimbo as a space samurai, has a dangerous-looking cybernetic eye and a perfectly matched color scheme.
2. Wyrm (Fourth Wave)
Another "gross" character, Wyrm was a normal sanitation worker until he slipped in Shredder's garbage. Every new origin story gets increasingly mundane; apparently, Shredder throws out any extra Mutagen Ooze he's got lying around along with the rest of the week's trash. The resulting abomination was Wyrm, who had a worm-like appendage for one foot and normal (albeit blue) foot for the other. Wyrm also came with tiny, plastic worms, which you could hang on the corners of his mouth for extra repulsiveness.
1. Super Shredder (Fourth Wave)
Up until the fourth wave, the only standard-sized Shredder that Playmates released was from the first wave. There were endless Turtles variations, but there was only one, solitary Shredder. And if we're being honest? It wasn't a very good action figure. It didn't have Shredder's signature body armor. The face was sort of simple and basic looking. And the legs were bent into a weird, squatting formation. It looked fine when you posed it, but good luck trying to stage a battle with that pose.
Finally, to promote the release of TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze, Playmates released a second Shredder action figure called Super Shredder in 1991. He was big and scary, with massive spikes and mutated muscles. Now this was more like it.
Do you have a favorite TMNT toy from back in the day? Let us know in the comments!