And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... April, the Ninja Newscaster by: Wes

If you've visited the action figure aisle at Target within the last week or so, you've probably seen something that made you giddy inside -- and no, despite my newfound love affair with the Power Rangers, I'm not talking about them. You see, back in 1984, a franchise was born that literally changed the lives of probably almost every American child of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I'm not saying that it gave meaning and purpose to our depressing existences or anything quite so grand, but rather that it changed our lives by dominating it in wholly unforseen ways. Before they came along, no one could have imagined that kids would feast on pizza roughly twelve times a week on the orders of cartoon reptiles. No one would have guessed that children would beg their parents for tickets to watch actors in terrible costumes jump around to pre-recorded music live in a concert hall. Hell, no one would have anticipated that 1991 would see an awesome non-educational PC game ('cause Carmen Sandiego and Super Solvers titles ruled) based on a licensed property -- those kinds of games are still pretty rare even in 2009. And who could have imagined that children would be so enamored with green, pudding-filled pastries that, decades later, these now grown individuals would still be petitioning the food company to bring back those verdant vittles? Rasputin might have predicted a lot of crazy stuff, but he never imagined that anything would permeate the lives of children (and, by extension, the lives of their parents) so completely as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

And now, 25 years after the Turtles first came out of their shells, Playmates Toys -- which is itself largely responsible for the Turtles' success, what with toys that far outshined most of the '90s competition -- is commemorating the Turtles' milestone anniversary by rereleasing the figures from the original 1988 lineup (along with a few additional fan favorites, like 1990's Slash). This seems to be a successful business plan, as my When the lovely April O'Neil goes for 70 cents, you *know* the economy is in bad shape.Target has already sold out of at least one shipment of the things, but not everyone is impressed. After all, these are figures that once retailed for $3.99 and sometimes went as low as $2.99, yet now Playmates is asking for $8.99 for the exact same figures. Sure, they come with a DVD and special packaging, but the die-hard fans already have those DVDs and the look of the new packaging is arguably inferior to the original artwork. What's more? It's not as if the original Turtles figures were as rare as, say, Scratch or Shogun Shoate -- for the most part, they're still readily available on eBay at prices that make $8.99 look like a ripoff even after shipping. While you'll probably have to pay more than $8.99 if you want an unopened 1988 TMNT figure, there's not a ton of incentive for someone who just wants the toy itself to grab one of these rereleases.

But for me? The real kicker is that the original 1988 figures were hardly the best of the old Playmates line. I understand the reason for going back to the beginning for the anniversary, of course, but I'm nowhere near as interested in these figures as I'd be if they'd released Wacky Action Slice 'n' Dice Shredder (probably the best "regular" Shredder of the old series) or the uber-angry Storage Shell Turtles... and you know I'd be in for a set if the Supermutant Turtles of the TMNT anime were back on the pegs. Now, the figures I've mentioned here can be more or less difficult to come by on the secondary market, but there are others -- which are also superior to most of the figures in the 1988 lineup -- that can be had for pocket change. I mean that literally in the case of April, the Ninja Newscaster, since I won her for 70 cents, still in the original packaging, in an eBay auction less than two weeks ago. Even with the $5.25 shipping fee, this April still cost over three bucks less than the upcoming rerelease of the 1988 April O'Neil will. I love a bargain; don't you?

"What's that, Master Splinter?""You want me to turn around and wiggle my ass?""Okay, but I don't see how this is going to help me against the Foot..."

So, since I'm hardly a mint-on-card collector, here's the lovely Miss O'Neil free of her plastic prison. While she's certainly the most attractive April figure of the old line -- and quite possibly the prettiest April that Playmates has ever released -- it's easy to see why she likely won't be getting a rerelease. The original 1988 April was clad in her form-fitting, cartoon-accurate (mostly; I can't imagine that Burne Thompson would have been too pleased to see his star reporter bearing the Turtles' logo proudly between her shoulderblades) yellow jumpsuit, but this April? In keeping with her ninja theme, she's wearing... a black-and-white leopard print nightgown. Huh? The headband is acceptable enough, and one could make a case for the boots and green armor -- at the very least, it looks vaguely like the gear worn by the masked behemoth in every respectable troupe of ninja assassins -- but the nightgown is totally out of place. It's even backless. The only thing I can imagine is that, being a human trapped in the form of a rat and thus unable to get close to sexy women lingerie under normal circumstances, Splinter convinced April that this was a traditional ninja outfit in order to make their training sessions a little more... stimulating for him. One can only imagine how many times the old rat instructed April to practice her split kicks while he went behind the curtain to "meditate."

All the boys think she's a spy.

Above, you see the figure with its articulation breakdown and included accessories. (Aside from the snarky references to April's armor and nightie, I can't take credit for the accessory names -- those come directly from the packaging.) Like many '90s action figures, April was mostly limited to the basic five points of articulation -- neck, shoulders, and hips -- though she one-upped much of the competition by adding a waist swivel. Take that, DC Direct! April wasn't quite so cutting-edge in the accessory department, however, as she followed the trend of most figures back then by coming with a bunch of unpainted weapons. I thought that was lame even as a kid, as is the fact that April's outstretched left hand renders her unable to hold more than one weapon at a time. (Given April's rather dainty hands, even her right hand grasps them fairly loosely.) That said, it is kinda cool that April has one of each of the Turtles' signature weapons in addition to her trusty "samurai-style" camcorder, and -- while I never would have noticed this in my youth -- I like that each of her weapons has the letter "A" scratched into it. I was going to mention Hester Prynne here, possibly with a repeated reference to the inappropriateness of April's ninja outfit and the potentially questionable nature of her "training" with Splinter, but she's probably marked her tools in order to distinguish them from the neon blue weapons wielded by other aspiring ninjas. Hey, if April ever loses her sai, she'll at least be able to describe it accurately when filing a property loss report! I guess she learned from Raph's mistake in the first TMNT film.

I *dare* you to catcall this comely combatant!Despite appearances, the most dangerous April is not the one in the center.April, the Ninja Newscaster: dazzling and deadly.

As noted previously, I really do think that April, the Ninja Newscaster is the most attractive of all of the April figures Playmates released in the 80s-90s... even with the slight cross-eyed look that mine has. She's not the best overall April of the old line -- I'd give that title to April II; with her trademarked yellow jumper and updated sculpt, she's the figure Playmates should have rereleased -- but even that figure had a chipmunk cheek thing going on compared to this sleeker, battle-ready version of everyone's favorite Channel 6 reporter. (While this April's portrait card estimates her weight at 105 pounds, the same weight as April II, it's entirely possible that our girl converted some of that baby fat to lean muscle in the process of acquiring her l33t ninja skills!) The only thing holding this April back is the ridiculous outfit, though it admittedly isn't that bad. Okay, it really is, but aside from the colors it's not terribly different from April's outfit in the Genesis version of TMNT: Tournament Fighters. This figure was later repainted into Cave-Woman April, where the animal hide ensemble seemed much more appropriate. It also enabled her to tame velociraptors with sex appeal alone.


Thus ends our review of April, the Ninja Newscaster. When writing toy reviews, especially of figures released over a decade ago, I don't really expect readers to go out and buy the toys based on my recommendation. As much as I may like a given figure, I'm not here to drive action figure sales: I'm here to (hopefully) provide you with a few laughs while simultaneously offering an honest assessment of a figure from my collection. But the truth is, if you're planning to pick up the 1988 April rerelease when it comes out, you probably would do better to follow my advice and put your money towards a Ninja Newscaster April on eBay. Or any other April, for that matter, since almost all of the old Aprils (Cave-Woman April being a notable exception), including various repaints of the first figure, can be found new for $13 or less even after shipping. And if you want the old 'toon episodes on DVD, the first couple of volumes come pretty cheap as well.

-- Wes --
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