The Samurai Bashin’ Bear
Released in 1990
Panda Khan’s real name is actually Li Yang. He was created by the team of Dave Garcia and Monica Sharp for the comic book titled A Distant Soil. From what I understand, they worked out a deal with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that was similar to the deal that Stan Sakai worked out for the use of Usagi Yojimbo and Space Usagi. In fact, on all three of those figures, you can see that those creators are given a copyright credit, where Mirage Comics is given credit on all other figures in the line. Unfortunately, Panda Khan never appeared in any episodes of the’87 animated series, and to my knowledge, has never appeared in any of the comic series to feature the Turtles.
Also, from what I can tell, this is the only figure of Panda Khan/LiYang to have ever been put into production, making this figure something of a time capsule of what comics and figures were being made back in the late eighties and early nineties. That, to me, is worth the price admission alone. Believe it or not, Panda Khan is readily available online for purchase. You can find him loose, with accessories, for a pretty fair price. If you’re looking for a carded figure however, that’ll cost you a bit more. The difference between the two seems to be, as of now, about one hundred dollars so; buyers beware.
With all of that out of the way, let’s move on to the figure.
I am constantly amazed by the sculpts of these figures that Playmates were able to come up with. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to convey that a plastic figure has a full head of hair, much less being covered head to toe in fur, but (and this won’t be the last figure like this) this guy that he is covered in fur as a bear would be and totally conveys the look he should possess, from what is shown. Most of his body is covered in bulky, heavy-looking samurai armor and chainmail that seems to match his comic book counterpart, but again, I haven’t read the comic so I can’t tell you how accurate his look is to the actual book. His armor seems to be somewhat in line with the armor seen on the Usagi Yojimbo figure. This may be a coincidence seeing how varied the designs of actual samurai armor can be.
The backstory of this figure is kind of amazing; Panda Khan is a descended from a race of giant pandas that live on Earth a thousand years in the future. Through circumstance, like Usagi, he is transported to our time with no way of returning home. Living by the code of the Khan, he finds himself aligned with the Turtles in their fight against Shredder and Krang. And it’s a good thing to, Khan stands at a mountainous eight feet tall, a feature that isn’t conveyed in the figure though. He stands just as tall, f not a bit shorter than the actual Turtles themselves. But hopefully you were a child with an active imagination and you could just picture him towering over Shredder. It is cool to have one of the very few figures in the line just be a tank for the Turtles. But the size of the figure is the one aspect that’s lacking in this figure.
When I get to them I’ll elaborate more, but there are some figures that I consider “big guy” figures. Guys like Dr. El, Monty Moose and Sergeant Bananas that are physically much taller and broader than other figures in the line. If nothing else, they’re sculpted in a way that gives the look and feel of size than a guy like Panda Khan. The only reason I take issue with this is the fact that Panda Khan is billed as the tallest good figure in a toy line that includes a mutant giraffe. So why the stocky build? Oh well, it’s not a deal breaker. Scale Tail, a popular villain in the toy line, is billed at twenty feet tall (uncurled) and yeah, that didn’t happen.
Other than his height, he still boasts the standard seven points of articulation, and a cool assortment of weapons; to include a gou hook, a katana sword and a massive battle axe that no big guy should leave the house without. But for whatever reason, he comes equipped with a “fusion blaster” pistol. Again, I don’t know that actual backstory of this Khan, but they have guns in a samurai civilization. I guess in a thousand years they would be plentiful.
Finally, I want to mention Panda Khan’s head sculpt. This dude wants you to know that you’re going to die at his hand. His barred teeth and red eyes let you know that your last day is about to be a bad one. This guy may not be an angry guy, but it’s obvious from his sculpt that he is in the middle of a battle that he is determined to win.
Turtle Trivia: Despite his appearance in the TMNT toy line, Panda Khan has not appeared in any other form of Turtles media.