Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blast from the Past #304: Dark Horse TMNT lead miniature figures

One of the earliest and coolest TMNT licensing deals Kevin and I did was for little figures of the Turtles and some of their supporting cast, sculpted for the scale popular in role-playing gaming, by some very talented people (whose names I am afraid I don't recall at this point) and cast in lead. These were producd by a company called Dark Horse Miniatures. They did some great stuff. I'm not sure if they are still in business.

Originally, as I recall, to test the waters they produced a set of the four Turtles, packaged in a plastic bag with a generic "Dark Horse Miniatures" header card stapled to it.

These apparently sold very well, and to our delight they went on and produced a lot more of the Turtles, as well as their friends and ememies. (Although, to my recollection, they never made an April O'Neil figure.) I think the first non-Turtle characters they made were the Shredder, Splinter, and some Mousers. I love the Splinter -- the detailing in these figures, especially considering their size (most less than an inch in height) is amazing. And the way they did the action pose of the Shredder leaping over a crate is very cool. These are from some time after the first sets were released, when they upgraded their packaging to a "blister card" format. The card is still a generic "Dark Horse Miniatures" design.

And the hits kept coming! Here are the Fugitoid, Casey Jones, and a Triceraton.

I think these were the second group of figures of the Turtles they produced -- and I'm pretty sure the pose were inspired by the "Turtles in space" story arc in the original comics. I love the fact that one of the Turtles is wielding a Federation blaster rifle, and another is carrying a Triceraton blaster. (Minor historical fact: I am responsible for the design of both those weapons, and the Triceraton gun was inspired by a design I saw years ago in a "Magnus, Robot Fighter" comic book.)

Of course, I was VERY happy that Dark Horse continued to make more Triceraton figures, including these very nifty Triceraton commandos in their flying harnesses. Although I have meant to do it for many years, I have never actually put one of these things together! (Incidentally, the flying harness was also my design, quite likely inspired by the flying "astro-force" weapons platform Jack Kirby gave Orion of New Genesis in the "New Gods" comic book.)

At some point, Dark Horse Miniatures upgraded their packaging for the Turtles line with a TMNT-specific full-color backing card, for which Kevin and I produced the art. I am fairly certain that I penciled and inked the drawing, and Kevin did the colors.

All in all, this was an extremely cool series of figures, and I'm grateful that we had the opportunity to work with Dark Horse Miniatures. I have sometimes wondered how these little guys would look scaled up to regular action figure size -- probably pretty neat! -- PL


  1. Probably? More like definitely! :D As cool as the original Playmates action figures were, it would have been wicked if they had used the Dark Horse figures as a basis for the first line.

  2. Cool item! Shame hey r hard 2 find on ebay.

  3. I have a few of these. One of the folks at Dark Horse even gave me a painted Triceraton figure that is somewhere on my studio shelves.

    They also produced some neat Groo figures, including one of him squaring off against a dragon.


  4. Hey Pete,
    I noticed you said you'd like to see what these would look like sized up. If you're really serious about that, then knowing what a tech-guy you are maybe you'll find this article interesting:

    I saw this in an issue of "Popular Mechanics" last month while I was off my car for a repair and became so fascinated I didn't want to leave until I finished the article! You might want to check the article out if you have time, it would seem to be up your alley.

    Also, I've always loved and admired these figures. I picked one of the sets at a comic store back in the 90s as a kid, and always treasured having something that predated "turtlemania" so thanks for sharing the info and pics, brought back some memories!

  5. These are some of my earliest TMNT memories as I was introduced to the Turtles in mid-1985 with the RPG. Several years back in a fit of nostalgia i bought up as many of these guys, still packaged as I could to go along with my originals…which I so delicately painted in my basement all those years ago. Thanks for posting...good memories.

  6. I'm sorry to say I haven't found these anywhere. I guess this will spark an ebay search. Perhaps the Mirage dudes have this in stock for an auction? Really cool! Really detailed!

  7. The four turtles were made in a larger size by Dark Horse.

    Also the terror bears were made from the rpg books. I think those were your idea too?

    I have a few sets of these, some day I'll open them up and paint them.

    And Stan: Really cool about the groo miniatures. I never knew about those I'll have to look them up. Any chance we'll get Usagi miniatures some day? ;)

  8. Here's the large size Don on eBay:

  9. blast from the past! I loved these when they first came out, and I still have them tucked away at my mother's house. very cool!

  10. ..its the pimp haha.
    i knew the turtles referenced alot of comics,but i guess im too unobservant to notice the new gods designs.thats really cool

    (robot fighter too but i dont know too much about it)

  11. I had the ones you had to put together with hot glue. I remember cursing that damn glue. It stuck my fingers together and wouldn't come off for several days.

  12. Wow, talk about flashback! I originally tried to order these back in 1987 before the playmates toy line came out.

    Never got the miniatures though because they were sold out and discontinued. Being that I was only years old, needless to say I was really upset. lol! I remember sending payment for it and receiving a note from mirage stating they were discontinued.

    To this day I still wish I had ordered them earlier. Thanks for posting pictures up of what they might've looked like back in the day. Stirred up a lot of good memories.

  13. I am still using my Mousers with my Warhammer Squats. I still have 1 waiting for use after all these years. I wish I hadn't lost my Splinter though.

  14. The name of the artist was Ian Lungold He Died a few years back. I was his wife and we made these figures in our garage. Ian was devastated when he could no longer produce them. He did go on to do quite a bit on the Mayan calender He is on you tube

  15. I really wish I could get my hands on any set of these. I remember them from when I was younger but always had trouble finding them. If anyone knows when I can get any, loose or MOC, I'm very interested.

  16. Peter,

    I know this is a really old blog but I have been trying for years to track down the Dark Horse minis in the baggie. I have all the others. Is that photo yours? If so would you ever consider selling them? Id pay a hefty amount

    1. I only have one package of them, so I have no intention of selling them. -- PL

    2. Fair enough! Thanks for taking the time to get back to me......back on the hunt!

    3. I sold my original set (1st painted set in the store) back in 2008 on eBay (sorry). Here are some photos of them:

      I had painted all the banana's black like a ninja since up to that point all of the comics were in b/w and the plastic action figures were not out yet and the color was added to differentiate and make them easier to tell apart if I remember correctly.

      One of Ian's partners was Wolfgang Tripp, I can't remember the others, but have fond memories of playing various games upstairs in their Boise store.

  17. I managed to find a second hand set of the Turtles, Mousers, Shredder and Splinter on eBay for a nice price. They are all hand painted and look phenomenal!!

  18. I have a pack figurine for sale if you are not intérésé contact me email
    thank you