And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Courageous Righteous Bootleg TURTLES by: Wes

Longtime readers of the Scary-Crayon -- don't you just love how I introduce roughly 70% of articles that way? -- will recall that I've written about some of the excellent things one can find in Chinatowns before. I found zany import games in the Chinatown of Vancouver, BC, not to mention the nifty toys that I found in an actual Chinese town when I visited Shanghai. But while I did buy some pretty crazy VCDs in San Francisco that I have yet to review, perhaps the strangest Chinatown finds we've analyzed on SC have come from New York Courageous RIGHTEOUSCity. It was, after all, NYC's Chinatown that brought us Lavender and the almost unparalleled strangeness that is Protégé de la Rose Noire. I say almost because we've also reviewed Naked Blood, but still.

That said, dearest reader -- while the articles linked above will serve to introduce or reintroduce you to several of our "greatest hits" from years past -- I admit that I've been holding out on you, as, until now, I had yet to review two of my most favorite NYC Chinatown finds. Well, one of my favorite NYC Chinatown finds, since technically I found the pair at right about ten blocks north of Times Square, but I digress. Today, on the fifth anniversary of the site, I'm finally going to review the most prized bootleg toys in my collection. At long last, the gems for which I scoured all of lower Manhattan in 2004 will stand beneath the spotlight... or, rather, the dual lamps of the light tent I used to photograph them. The wait is over.

Behold: the Courageous Righteous Bootleg Turtles. Do their trendy threads not scream new? Do their defiant sneers in the face of danger not mark them as courageous? Judging from everything about them, are these heroes in a half shell not totally righteous? I'm referring to the packaging, you see, which describes the figures as such. Heck, it doesn't even call them "Turtles" -- given the size of the second word and the textured appearance of the letters (though they've used a brick font instead of a more "Turtle-y" one), it's as if "righteous" is the species to which they belong. You can also see four old school cartoon Turtles around the perimeter of the card, though for once Donatello got the short end of the staff since he isn't pictured at all. Instead, they've doubled up on Leonardo. This seems like a typical bootlegger's error, but it might be intentional: if you haven't noticed, this set contains two Leos. And then there's the price tag! I paid $2.00 for these bad boys, which isn't a bad deal at all. Of course, they're bootleg toys and the quality sucks (we'll get to that), but they're easily worth a buck each to me. They might even be priceless in my eyes.

Leonardo and Leonardo like "Troll Warriors" cosplay.Make sure to write "NO: 653" down in your casebooks, kids.

And here are Leonardo #1 and Leonardo #2 out of the package. While both figures share the same arms and legs, they get unique heads and torsos. The first sports a more traditional mask, whereas the second gets the full dorag look straight out of "Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation". So that's not too different from your average Turtle figure, but the torsos are where these guys get wacky: whereas the first has a yellow one with Richard Simmons-inspired paratrooper gear with pink, green, and silver paint applications, the second features a lime green torso with weird ninja armor and purple and gold paint. Speaking of the paint, it's actually quite good for a bootleg. The coverage is kind of weak in certain areas (like the ankles) and most of the paint on the details doesn't carry quite to their edges, but there aren't any obvious stray marks or other significant blemishes. The knots on the ends of their bandanas are unpainted, but then they weren't even attached when I got the figures -- they were just rattling around inside the packaging. I thought they were bonus flash accessories at first!

Also, as with many bootleg toys, the screws used to hold the figure together are completely accessible from the back, meaning that one could easily disassemble these figures if one were so inclined. There's not even any mystery as to their construction, as a side view reveals the huge seam that splits the toys -- pretty much every individual part of them consists of two huge pieces screwed together, with perhaps some actual glue used on the feet, hands, and heads. In addition to the screw holes and the buttons that activate the traditional bootleg "shine" feature, the backs of the bootleg Turtles also reveal the number 653 (which also appears on the front of the card). Its meaning is anyone's guess, but I like to think it's the first three numbers of some secret code that, when cracked, will provide the resourceful codemaster with a password that allows him or her entrance into the mythical warehouse that houses all of the rare, unsold bootleg toys in the world. If I had Ghostwriter to help me out, I would definitely get started piecing that puzzle!

Courageous RIGHTEOUS articulation and accessories!

So here are the bootleg Leo brothers with their full articulation breakdown and packaged accessories. With nine points of articulation each, they've actually got more joints than most of the official TMNT figures from the 90s. Heck, they've even got more articulation than some current TMNT figures. Unfortunately, it's not terribly useful -- given the awkward positions of the Turtles' right arms, they look a bit like they're perpetually reaching for their crotches or, with their arms raised, preparing to take shots of Master Splinter's sewer-brewed whiskey. As noted above, they also have the bootleg "shine": when one presses the buttons on their backs, the little LEDs on their belts light up. Or at least it does on Leo #1, as Leo #2's doesn't seem to work. (Maybe one of these days I'll unscrew him and tinker with that!) The Courageous Righteous Turtles also come with four weapons molded from the same yellow and lime green plastic as their torsos: two krisses, a guandao, and a Power Sword wannabe. They don't seem to have been designed or selected with the figures in mind, since a) none of the Turtles wielded these things in the official media and b) only with a lot of effort and a little creativity can one get these figures to hold these weapons at all. If it's the thought that counts, Leo and Leo would get a courageous righteous accessory score of zero. Speaking of numbers, they both stand 5.5" tall.

...but Shredder gained the upper hand when a gentle breeze disarmed the Turtles.One of these things is not like the others...

Fifteen minutes later (which is roughly how long it took me to get them to hold the frigging accessories even remotely securely), we see the brothers Leonardo with their weapons and alongside an actual TNM Leonardo for comparison purposes. One of the more interesting things about this pair is that, while they appear to be TNM knockoffs, I can't identify the figures on which they were based. The heads strongly recall certain TNM figures, and these Turtles sport long shorts and wrapped ankles like the Thunder Thrashers figures, but I don't recall ever seeing any Turtle figures with those weird Saturday Night Slam Masters meets "G.I. Joe" outfits. (If you can identify the sculpts, don't hesitate to drop us a line or comment in the blog!) The awkward right arms and oddly long fingers on each hand don't seem to come from any legitimate TMNT figures either, which is probably a good thing. Long fingers are creepy enough as it is -- but on a mutant turtle clad in a pink, green, and yellow jumper with garish silver suspenders and a red light on his belt? Positively nightmarish.

Know our name and fear: we are MICHELANGELO.Leonardo's always in control; the wise guy is... Donatellp?

But wait! While I had spent roughly an entire week searching for bootleg TMNT figures and finally thought my quest was complete when I acquired the Courageous Righteous Super Leonardo Brothers on my last day in NYC, I headed into Chinatown anyway for one final swoop -- and lo and behold, I found this $5.99 four-pack as well! Actually, I discovered them alongside a giant bootleg plush Donatello with a $9 price tag, but I couldn't bring myself to buy it. For one, unless we're talking about large knockoff Transformers, $9 is too much for a bootleg toy. Secondly, whereas I am sadly aware that many legitimate toys are assembled by young children, I imagine that bootleg toys are made by chain-smoking old ladies. Stuffed animals are made to be cuddled. And unless Elisabeth Sladen happens to be a chain smoker (in which case I'd still dock her several hotness points), I can't reconcile the idea of chain-smoking grannies with things designated for cuddling. So I simply had to pass on the bootleg stuffed Donatello -- two bootleg Turtle finds were sufficient for me.

Anyway, unlike the Courageous Righteous set, the packaging on these guys is far less interesting or inspired -- it's more or less stolen from the 2K3 figures -- though it's odd that Michelangelo gets special attention on the front insert when all four Turtles are present. Perhaps that was to make up for the misprinting on the back, where they've not only mixed up Michelangelo's and Donatello's names, but also misspelled the name of our favorite machine-doing terrapin. While it's hard to say who should be angrier here -- Don got the wrong name and had his name typo'd, but Mikey's sort of nameless since he actually got the wrong, misspelled name -- apparently the bootleg toy makers decided it was most important to appease the motherchukker.

And you thought Mini-Mutants were lame!Mikey needs an umbrella, ella, ella, ey ey ey.

And then they decided to throw Don a bone as well by giving him Leo's belt. Take that, fearless leader! So here are the 2K3 bootleg brothers out of the package. There's no fancy articulation breakdown graphic with accessories and alliterative adjectives for these guys, since they have neither: they're small (precisely 3" tall; check out this size comparison), unarticulated figurines. With belts that somehow don't wrap all the way around their shells. And especially crappy paint jobs. Check out the second picture above -- maybe Mikey got top billing on the front of the package to make up for the fact that it looks like a bird shat on his shell. Not that this is anything out of the ordinary for a bootleg toy, but the paint on these figurines is so bad that it reminded me of an old Michaelangelo candle I have... which prompted me to take a closer look at these guys' heads. And now I'm under the impression that they might really be candles, since Leo has a hole in his noggin and Raph has what appears to be a wick protruding from his. I'm somewhat tempted to light them up, except for all I know they're made of dynamite as part of some devious Chinese conspiracy to make TMNT fans explode. Even in the absence of such a nefarious plot, these things are probably made with lead and chlorine and other dangerous materials that would cause me to die immediately after taking a single fume-tinged breath.

So in this article, we've seen two kinds of bootlegs. One kind is endearing because of a uniquely weird flavor, unconventional color choices, and apparently unidentifiable design elements; the other is noteworthy only because it sucks so badly. Even toys of the latter kind can be amusing, particularly if they have wicks extending from their heads that may or may not cause one to die in a scene not unlike every third minute in a Michael Bay film, but it is the former kind -- toys like the Courageous Righteous Bootleg Turtles -- that can make one feel glad to be alive. Hey, you have fulfilling employment, meaningful friendships, and significant others; I have odd bootleg toys. Don't judge me. :P

Final observations: if the Courageous Righteous Turtles had both been Raphael instead of Leonardo, nobody would have mocked them for this. On the contrary, TMNT fans all over would have praised these knockoffs for their offbeat interpretation of the Turtles as seen in Image's Volume 3 comics! And, regarding the crappy 2K3 bootlegs, why is Raph the only one with a wick? Well, he always did have an explosive temper. Ha, ha, ha.

-- Wes --
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