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The Street Sharks were a short-lived but noteworthy TMNT clone that aired from 1994 to 1997. While these toothy crime fighters were ultimately doomed to flounder in relative obscurity, Mattel did produce a successful range of fun action figures that 90s kids eagerly sank their teeth into.
Bad guys beware – everyone’s favorite animated man sharks have just resurfaced! While the Street Sharks started a little fishy (cashing in on the TMNT craze), they managed to chew out a small niche alongside other derivative franchises like the Biker Mice From Mars (see our article covering the Biker Mice From Mars toys!)
Although the show is well-remembered by 90s kids, it’s the range of Street Shark toys that really made a splash – let’s dive in!
Just like the franchise that inspired it, the Streek Sharks cartoon follows a group of young men who are mutated into half-man, half-animal crime fighters. The show starts out with the boys looking for their father Dr. Robert Bolton, a professor working alongside Dr. Luther Paradigm on a “gene-slammer” capable of mixing the DNA of humans and various sea critters.
Of course, Dr. Paradigm wants to use the machine to take over the world, and Dr. Bolton disappears while trying to stop him. While looking for daddy, the Bolton Boys (John, Bobby, Coop, and Clint) are captured and transformed by Paradigm into the anthropomorphic hybrids we know and love.
In the next episode, Paradigm gets a taste of his own medicine when, in an encounter with the Sharks, his DNA is accidentally combined with that of a piranha (enter Dr. Piranoid). Dr. Paradigm creates more mutant animals throughout the series to help take down the Street Sharks.
The show raises many important questions, like “why did Paradigm turn his enemies into powerful mutant sharks?” But none of that’s important – all that matters is that you’ve now got a crew of mutant heroes and a villain for them to thwart.
Like any good 90s cartoon, the titular Street Sharks – Ripster, Jab, Streex, and Big Slammu – got their own action figures. Even though the show lasted only 40 episodes, Street Sharks toys were a big hit and screamed classic nostalgia for many 90s kids.
Following the trend set by the mega-successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line, Mattel released a variety of action figure variants and vehicles. Most figures had their own special action figures like Ripster’s roundhouse punch or Big Slammu’s overhead fist slam.
The Street Shark villains were also lurking on toy shelves, with characters like Dr. Piranoid, Slash, and Slobster getting their own figures. As the show progressed, the line would be expanded between 1994 and 1996 with new monstrosities (both good and bad).
Before spilling out onto our television sets, the Street Sharks were based on a few simple drawings. These sketches eventually morphed into the aquatic crime fighters we know and love but were originally imagined very differently.
In 2021 Mattel Creations released a limited edition range of Street Sharks toys based on three original concepts that never made it to production.
These alternate character designs include:
Karkass – This first concept sketch of Dr. Piranoid was far more literal, sporting a Piranha’s toothy grin along with removable fish fists.
Clambo – Half-mollusk, half-man, Clambo came equipped with multiple blasters, a camo shell, and a face only another bottom-dweller could love.
Ripley – The original Ripster. Ripley is soaked in 90s charm, featuring a Goldfish Gym tank top, sunglasses, shoulder-mounted football missile launcher, and a jawsomely toothy grin.
Just in case you forgot who was who, here’s the lowdown on the Street Sharks and their allies.
Ripster is the lead shark of the frenzy. He’s a great white who can bite through steel and has somewhat of a sixth sense. His action figure is also the most iconic, with its unique gimmick being the ability to wind up a devastating roundhouse punch.
Ripster got several action figure variations, including a 12″ talking Ripster and ‘Rip Rider Ripster’ which sat him atop a motorcycle.
Jab is the rather lazy hammerhead shark who likes to use his head as a battering ram during altercations. He’s also somewhat of a gifted mechanic and is seen using a jetpack in the first episode of the series.
When it came to his toy, Jab’s original action feature allowed him to fire his head from his body for some ‘jack-hammerhead action’. Unfortunately, this feature was removed in the second toy series, although he did receive a shiny metallic paint job.
Cool, calm, and collected, Streex is a self-proclaimed ladies’ man who is often seen on his rollerblades. Streex becomes a tiger shark with bright purple markings on his body.
Streex’s figure came with rollerblades and a unique gimmick where his claws would extend if you pressed a plug on his shoulder. Later variations of this speedy shark saw him swinging a hockey stick or rolling around as ‘Moto Streex’ on his motorized rollerblades.
The young, strong, sport’s loving Big Slammu is a whale shark who, true to his name, can create earthquakes with his signature ‘Seismic Slam’. He’s the dumb but loveable heavyweight of the group but doesn’t seem to have as much personality development as the others.
Big Slammu’s action figure (originally called ‘Boomer’) didn’t change much over series 1 and 2 of the toy line, keeping his single fist slamming action. In series 3 he would get the moniker ‘Slugger Slammu’ and come equipped with a pair of boxing gloves, ready to knock out the Street Shark’s latest challenger.
Another one of Dr. Piranoids experiments, the half-man, half-orca Moby Lick started off as one of the Shark’s most dangerous adversaries, but later turned into a powerful ally. He appeared in several episodes and got his own action figure with his signature bumpy pink tounge.
Some of the other good guys to get action figures include Melvin “Rox” Kresnik, Bends, and Mantaman.
Street Sharks’ Ripster figure, obviously. As the quintessential Street Shark, Ripster was a fan favorite and was instantly recognizable with his ripped muscles, massive blue head, and what appears to be cowboy boots. The 1994 Mattel Ripster was one of the better-selling action figures of the 90s, which explains why there are so many loose ones available to buy online today on sites like eBay.
However, the other Sharks (Streex, Jab, and Slammu) sold well too. After all, fans of the show would naturally want the whole set!
We all have our favorite characters. Did you ask for Ripster for your birthday in 1995? Or were you more of a Street Sharks villains fan? The Street Sharks action figures did have a few makeovers throughout the height of the show’s success. There were four original toy series in total.
While it would be easy to spend all day talking about our jawsome heroes, what about the Street Sharks villains?
Of course, for the Street Sharks to be successful Mattel knew they would need their own set of signature bad guys. Luckily, Dr. Piranoid and his unhealthy obsession with genetic engineering meant that there was never a shortage of monstrous mutant sea life for the Street Sharks to battle.
The arch-nemesis of the Street Sharks, Dr. Piranoid (formerly Dr. Luther Paradigm) is a Lex Luthor-type character whose scientific genius is brought down by his insatiable lust for power (or at least a lust for creating fish people). Despite accidentally injecting himself with piranha DNA, his mutation was less transformative than it was for others, and he can switch between human and mutant depending on his mood (which helps him turn the city’s authorities against the Street Sharks).
His action figure was released along with the first wave of Street Sharks toys. This figure actually had a lot of play value with a spinning head that went from human to mutant and a launchable missile. In a later release, he got an upgraded figure called ‘Power Bite Paradigm’ featuring his new mechanized power suit.
Along with the Dr. Piranoid toys, 90s kids were also bestowed with the Seaviates action figure line.
What’s a villain without his minions? While not the most memorable TV bad guys of all time, we do have to hand it to the aquatic-themed, fishy puns behind the Seaviates’ names.
One of Dr. Piranoid’s earliest lackys, Slobster is actually a combination of lobster DNA and villanous figures from history like Genghis Khan. Vicous and constantly salivating, Slobster mysteriously dissapeared as of season 3 of the show.
His action figure had an impressive level of articulation compared to other Street Sharks toys, with all his limbs and joints being moveable. Interestingly, his figure features what looks like a shark bite on his crotch area (think of that what you will).
Appearing at the show’s start alongside Slobster, Slash is a mutated swordfish with a drill bit on his nose who speaks with a hissing lisp. Despite appearing quite fearsome, he was often the source of comedic relief on the show, with a running gag of him getting his nose stuck. Still, Slash was ultimately dropped by season 3.
Slash’s action figure featured a detachable nose drill (which, predictably, was frequently lost by 90s kids). A fin on the figure’s back would also cause the nose drill to spin.
Again, we really have to hand it to the creators of the fish puns. The third of Dr. Piranoid’s malicious experiments, Killamari is the evil squid who can shoot venomous harpoon stingers from his mouth to try and kill his victims. He had an ongoing rivalry with Slash, who mocked Killamari for initially being unable to speak. On the show, he actually wore a speedo in reference to the fact his DNA was sourced from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Killamari’s action figure came with two stinger darts that he could hold in his upper tentacles as weapons. They could also be inserted into his mouth and fired by pressing switches on his back (his mouth could also shoot water). Unlike the show, his figure had six legs instead of two and, devastatingly, no speedo.
Another fan-favorite toy was the sea slug thug named Repteel. Repteel was actual the manager of a run-down hotel that was accidentally destroyed by the Street Sharks, so he swore revenge and allowed Dr. Piranoid to inject him with the DNA of a moray and electric eel. Repteel’s motto was, “I’ll turn those sharks into sushi!” (despite being better suited to sushi himself).
Repteel’s action figure was released in series 3 and featured a voltage backpack, as well as the ability to launch eels from his hands and mouth. Like the other Street Sharks villian toys, the design of his action figure was much more terrifying than how he appeared in the show.
Of course, we can’t talk about Street Shark toys without bringing up this hilarious video of Vin Diesel pitching them at the New York ToyFair 1994. The video was produced before the TV show aired when the Street Sharks still had their original working names.
In the video, Vin enthusiastically shows off the action features of each of the main Street Sharks. Funnily enough, Vin uses a Troll TMNT figure as the test dummy – an unsubtle jab at the competition that you just don’t see these days (let’s face it, marketing in the 90s was just so much better!)
Right before the video ends, Vin also has fun playing with Big Slammu’s rubber Hand Shark, demonstrating its “Rocky Balboa” action.
Check out the video below – we promise you won’t regret it!
The early to mid-1990s were more about cartoons and toys than video games and tech-related media. The Street Sharks met their demise right before the video game mania hit, sadly leaving us without a game to play.
You might be surprised to learn that Street Sharks cosplay is very much a thing. Like most great cosplay costumes, you’re going to have to do this one yourself. There aren’t too many ready-made Ripster adult costumes floating around on the internet. But that hasn’t stopped people from crafting and wearing Street Sharks cosplay to some of the world’s biggest comic conventions.
Sorry to burst your bubble – the Street Sharks Movie doesn’t exist. There are plenty of fans out there who have been begging for a live-action film, but we never got to see it come to fruition.
The show turned out 40 episodes over three years but the sharks never actually made it to the big screen. While we don’t have a Street Sharks movie, we have what some might consider the next-best thing thanks to a digital artist named George Evangelista. George is a digital artist specializing in re-envisioning some of the best 90s franchises.
Wondering what the Street Sharks would look like today? George created some live-action versions of our favorite characters, and boy, did he come through with the vision!
The artist isn’t actually a big fan of the show, but he got so many requests to give the Street Sharks a makeover that he decided to do some research and give the people what they wanted.
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The Street Sharks made their TV debut in 1994. Mattel introduced the Street Sharks toy line the same year.
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