It was my pleasure a few years ago to review a wonderful mainstream flying toy provided by its inventor. Specifically, it was the EB Brands Flying Iron Man. This humanoid model was created by Greg Tanous of Forest Grove, Oregon. Greg started with full sized, 1:1 scale models, shrunk the design and well, the rest is history.
I recently heard from Greg and he was very excited about his latest invention which I’ll be presenting here. These are the Super G Free-Flight Wingsuits from Playmates and like Iron Man before them, these started as 1:1 R/C prototypes and the end results have some real heavy hitters licensing these neat little toys.
In fact, here’s Greg himself with his “little friend.” It’s easy to see how the toys earned their brand:
The first releases are the Marvel Comics icon, Spider-Man and Raphael from the new Nickelodeon animated series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There is some internet buzz about an equally iconic DC Comics character soon to be added to the lineup, namely Batman.
Now, I know these are not radio controlled nor are they hobby grade, although a lot of hobby-grade thinking went into their creation. Thrust is provided by the types of 7mm coreless motors and propellers one would ordinarily find on a “Tiny Whoop” quadcopter. Ditto the built-in 260mAh 3.7V lithium polymer battery. What sets these models apart aside from their unique design is a dual-function motor timer. The power button above the master power switch selects between what Playmates calls “quick stream” and “advanced glide” modes. More on that below.
Much research was done by Greg regarding the aerodynamics of wingsuits; there is surprisingly little info and he had to do with what he could. The lessons he learned from the full scale models were applied to gradually smaller versions down to the prototypes of these little models. Greg worked with a friend to develop the custom timer system which carries over almost intact to the consumer versions.
We begin our review with some brief backstories on the subjects.
First appearing in the August 1962 comic book anthology Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man was created by Marvel Comics writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko. He continues to appear in Marvel comic books as the company’s flagship character and mascot as well as in a number of movies, television shows, toys, clothing and video game adaptations set in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man, colloquially known as “Spidey” or “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” is the alias of Peter Parker. Parker is an orphan raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City after his parents were killed in a plane crash. A bite from a radioactive spider as an adult news photographer gives him his super powers proportional to that of a spider, hence the name. He is an “every man” kind of character with all of the problems of daily life despite his powers, including the ability to swing effortlessly between Manhattan skyscrapers with artificial web fluid shot from nozzles under his wrists. Adding to his problems is his boss at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson who runs constant smear campaigns against Spider-Man, but has no idea Parker is Spider-Man himself. Later storylines have Parker revealing himself to Jameson via a TV news interview; the two are related through marriage. Spider-Man’s appearance has changed little throughout the years. The model depicts a contemporary, comic book-style Spider-Man with his artificial webbing serving as wings. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in a comic book published in 1984 by Mirage Studios in Dover, New Hampshire. The characters started their rise to mainstream success when a licensing agent, Mark Freedman, sought out creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to propose wider merchandising opportunities for the franchise, including a January 1987 visit to Playmates by Eastman and Laird to discuss the marketing of action figures. The four are named after artists of the Renaissance: Raphael, Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo. Since hitting the mainstream, the TMNT have enjoyed incredible success with movies, television, toys, etc. In their universe, they live in the sewers of New York City as vigilante crime fighters and expert martial artists with the personality traits of teenage human boys, including a love of pizza. They began as four abandoned baby box turtles exposed to a radioactive substance in the sewers. As they developed in size and intelligence, they were trained in martial arts by their sensei, an abandoned pet rat named Splinter who was exposed to the same material and who once belonged to a martial artist. The model, tied in with the 2018 animated TV series Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, represents group leader Raphael, originally depicted with three-bladed sai fighting daggers. He is now a twin tonfas fighting stick–wielding alligator snapping turtle who is the “oldest, physically the biggest and strongest brother” at 16 years old. (Source: Wikipedia)
Size (LxWxH): 12 x 12 x 2.5″ (305 x 305 x 63.5mm)
Flying weight: 2 oz (59g)
Construction: EPS body with vinyl decals; polystyrene head, hands and feet; flexible plastic propellers, trim tabs and propeller guards
Motors: 7mm coreless
Battery: 260mAh 3.7V lithium -polymer
Claimed charging time: 30-38 minutes
Suggested skill level/operator age: No previous experience required; 8+
Creator: Greg Tanous
Distributor: Playmates Toys, 909 North Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 800, El Segundo, California 90245 USA
Catalog numbers (TMNT/Spider-Man): 56523; 56525
Suggested retail price (USD): $25.00
The Super G wingsuits come as complete packages with the following:
- Fully assembled model
- Micro USB charging cable
- Illustrated instruction sheet
- Later production runs will have spare propellers; they were unintentionally omitted from the initial run
All that’s needed to fly:
- A computer with a USB socket or a USB wall adapter
Given these are intended for a general, non-hobby audience to be sold in box stores and by mail order, the Super G wingsuits are very well packaged. Most kids would simply rip into the packaging, but then, I’m not most kids since I wanted to keep the packaging for storage. A hobby knife was all I needed to cut the strips of clear tape securing each model to its display box.
As seen below, the packaging and artwork are world class:
Online retailers show a weight of 1.5 pounds, or about 680g. That’s for a complete package to estimate shipping. The models themselves are incredibly light at two ounces, or 59g.
Except for the colors, stickers and plastic details, the models are identical.
Raphael was out of the box first and he had enough of a charge to test him. Two switches and the charging socket are located between the shoulders. The master power switch is turned on and the motor start button is then pressed. A short press gives the default six-second “quick stream” run time; two presses run the motors for twelve seconds in “advanced glide mode.” In either mode, the LED blinks either once or twice in response and the operator is given the full advantage of the time given. There’s a two-second delay before the motors start and the model released. When the battery is in need of recharging, the motors will only turn for a few seconds and the LED will glow red. The controls are in plain view on the back of each model:
I mentioned earlier that power the setup is very much like that of an R/C quadcopter. When the motors start, they do so with surprising speed and thrust, not to mention sound due to the protective rings around them. There was no way I was going to let this thing go in the house! The Super G wingsuits are for outdoor use only over a grassy area. Indoors, unless one is flying in a gym, imagine an out-of-control R/C airplane slamming into shelves, wall hangings, TVs, etc.
Charging the models via a USB wall adapter took a little over 30 minutes each; the LED charge indicator changes from red to green when charging is complete. After that, it’s fun time at the park!
The beautifully written instruction sheet with its engineering quality drawings ranks with hobby-grade documentation and in many instances, surpasses it. Too many times have I complained about insufficient and/or incomprehensible instructions. Not so with the Super G wingsuits. Operating instructions, warnings and other product confirmation are clear, concise and and leave no question as to the safe operation of the model. It highly recommends adult supervision for children 8 and younger and I agree.
A large, open and preferably grassy area is a must, one without trees or power lines. These are free flight models, after all. The short front/rear coupling not only keeps the wingsuit looking human (or humanoid), it allows for a whole lot of random aerobatics. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the model is launched into the wind or with it since it finds its own groove.
Up went Raphael at the vast grassy parade grounds of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and Southwest Community Church on the border of Indian Wells and Palm Desert, California. What a blast! A tap on the button for a six-second run while holding the model upwards at a slight angle was met with a perfect (and perfectly entertaining) first flight! He flew just fine right out of the box with no need to adjust the trim tabs; I suspect those won’t be used much by end users anyway.
Unlike a properly adjusted rubber-powered free flight model which flies straight out while hopefully circling back, the random nature of the wingsuit meant that landings were only a few feet away. Although I wasn’t in direct control as I would have been with an R/C model, the visual fun of a looping, swooping, anthropomorphic cartoon turtle made up for it.
Spidey was another story. He simply wouldn’t fly. Oh, he’d climb out fine, but he’d stall and “faceplant” within a couple of seconds! Adjusting the trim tabs made it worse. What to do?
I sent it up to Greg on his suggestion. The culprits were the propellers; they lacked sufficient pitch straight out of the box. Once he twisted some pitch back into the props and he removed a black thread wrapped around one of the motor shafts which I failed to notice, zoom! The videos below will attest to that. How I managed to miss this, I’ll never know.
Greg was experimenting with other propellers and found that propellers for the Hubsan X4 quadcopter available in bulk from a number of sources for practically nothing, really woke up old Spidey! Crazy high climbs and down range landings in the fifty-yard range were now the norm, a real difference from my first attempts! A bulk package for less than two bucks with free delivery may be found here at eBay.
Among the props Greg tried were for the old Walkera QR series quadcopters…and they worked! Here’s Greg’s Spidey with a pair:
Seen head on, the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles version of Raphael with stock props has a rather sinister look. I like it.
I point out the propeller problems with Greg’s blessings. The initial production run comes with no spare props because of a factory oversight. Weak or no performance is easily corrected by twisting the very flexible prop blades for more pitch or for the more adventurous in our audience, a change to the Hubsan units. In short, as long as the motors operate properly, the model will be OK with a very simple adjustment. Greg was kind enough to forward a package of Hubsan props and similar units were used in the video below.
With one foot firmly planted in the dawn of model aviation and the other planted in 21st Century technology, the Playmates Super G Free-Flight Wingsuits may well be the toy to have for their ease of operation and as a very inexpensive means to introduce youngsters to the wonders of model aviation. These are toys with a genuinely exciting twist on flight for all ages and skill levels. Buy ’em, fly ’em and thanks to generous return policies on the part of Target, Amazon and Walmart, return ’em if they fail to meet expectations. Rugged, lightweight construction means that Raphael and Spider-Man will stand up to a lot of flights and hard landings, especially when flying over grass. I honestly cannot recommend flying these over asphalt.
We’re still a long way off from the Christmas shopping season as this review is being published, but a strong TV campaign coupled with tie-ins with some of pop culture’s most popular subjects may very well mean that these toys will be flying off retailers’ shelves and over parks in your neighborhood very soon.
Many thanks to Greg Tanous, inventor of these marvelous little models. Paul von Mohr is a managing partner of Meo Mio, LLC, the marketing firm which arranged to send these terrific samples. Nathan Maat, as always, mans the administrator’s desk here at RC Universe for the benefit of you, our worldwide audience.
Hurry and get a Super G wingsuit for the Spider-Man or TMNT lover in your life!
We begin with my “mashup” of Greg’s videos showing his successful repair of Spidey:
Greg is pretty stoked about his invention as seen here:
Here’s the :30 national TV spot for Spider-Man:
Of course, it wouldn’t be the same without Raphael:
More than one million viewers have looked at the Spidey :15 spot!
Not to be outdone, Raph has racked up nearly 1.7 million views:
There’s even a factory instructional video which applies to both versions:
Pluses and Minuses
- Very well made
- Outstanding documentation and outstanding online tutorials
- Affordably priced
- Performance is excellent and can be made even better with hobby propellers
- Highly resistant to crash damage
- Lots of flights between charges
- Fun for kids who may or may not be ready for radio control
- Possibly the ultimate toy for fans of these characters
- Charges quickly with the supplied USB cable
- A lot of hobbyists are going to try their hand at making an R/C model out of these
- Fun for adults and experienced pilots as well
- The factory propellers might result in diminished performance if pitch isn’t increased
- Battery is built in, although that won’t stop hobbyists