Tuesday, August 12, 2014

REVIEW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leatherhead

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. We are indeed Reviewing a figure from the Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line. And no, it's nothing to do with the new movie (which from what I gather is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in name only) but more to do with a recent experience in Target's toy department that opened my eyes to a few new collectible alternatives.  Allow me to 'splain...

When the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded onto TV (and movie screens and pizza boxes and boxer shorts and gaming consoles and cereal boxes and... well, you get the idea), I was ''too old'' to collect toys or be that interested. Sure, I'd seen the Turtles in comics (and I'd particularly enjoyed their crossover with The Flaming Carrot) but for whatever reason, I'd never really ''got'' into the concept. 

Fast-forward almost 30 years and I still had no interest in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - that is until a recent shopping experience. Whilst waiting for Mrs and Ms Iok to finish their clothes shopping I found myself with a lot of time to kill in Target's toy aisles and, with nothing else to do, I strayed from my usual territory to check out a few other toys. As I passed the section dedicated to everybody's favorite Heroes in a Half-Shell a figure caught my eye. And then another. And another...

You see, in my Turtle-indifference (and yes, that'a A Thing now) I'd been so blinded by the main characters (none of which I really found that interesting) that I'd failed to notice how interesting some of the supporting characters were. 

And now, whilst I may not be a complete convert to the Cult of TMNT, I've always been a fan of interesting ''creature'' designs. And as fans will know, there are certainly a lot of interesting creatures in the Turtleverse - including the subject of today's Review, Leatherhead.

NOTE: My knowledge regarding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is limited, at best. I never watched the cartoons growing up, I've never seen any of the movies (and my only knowledge of them comes from Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap), nor have I seen any of the new CGI series or indeed, the 2014 Bayfest. As such the following Review contains my persona thoughts regarding the figure of Leatherhead and is not intended as any form of analysis of the toy-as-character.

Leatherhead is a mutated alligator - based, I'd imagine, upon the Urban Legend about flushed alligators growing to giant size in the New York sewers. From what I gather there are a number of different origins for the character (and I'll freely admit I have no idea which version of him this figure is based upon) but they all seem to revolve around a similar, mutagen-based accident, similar to that which created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So with that brief origin out of the way, I'll jump straight to the figure itself.
Leatherhead stands at around 5'' tall and has a superb, imposing bulk to his design. His hunched, incredibly powerful-looking shoulders and back, long, sleek arms and spring-knee design all give a great impression of a creature that's dangerous and powerful. He's one part Godzilla, one part Rancor, one part Killer Croc, with a great overall silhouette that really sells the idea of him not being human. Because he's not. He's an alligator. And that comes through perfectly in the design.
There's some neat close-up detail, too, with Leatherhead's entire body being covered with scales, bumps and... ''knobbly bits'' as I'd call them (because I'm not an Alligatorologist.) But for all these details, the figure manages to retain its sleek look, particularly in profile, with the long, snout tapering into the cranial bulge and then across the broad shoulders, down the back and along the length of the tail.
There are also a few ''character'' details, with Leatherhead sporting bindings at his wrists and ankles. These parts are nicely done and do little to detract from the character's sleek lines. It would have been very easy for the character to have been given heavy shackles or bulky restraints but thankfully the designers had the sense to keep everything flowing smoothly.
Articulation is... OK. The head and tail feature single swivel joints, with the shoulders and hips utilizing a double-motion ball joint to allow the limbs a good amount of movement. Unfortunately though there are no elbow, knee, wrist or ankle joints, so you're fairly limited in the number of poses you can really set Leatherhead in. I can live with it, as thankfully the limbs are pre-sculpted in interesting positions but it's really more a case of modifying one of three basic stances than it is creating unique poses.

It's also worth noting that my Leatherhead's hip joints have become a little slack after trying out a few different poses. His shoulders are still fine though and this may be limited to my figure alone.
The design of Leatherhead's paintwork is good, although the execution is slightly off. Again, this will no doubt vary from figure to figure but my Leatherhead's chest - which is sprayed white - is somewhat unevenly applied. As a result, it's off-center and also a little patchy on one side. The rest of the details though are cleanly done, with the straps adding an extra little pop of color on what's a mostly green figure and facial details like eyes and teeth are cleanly done.

Although some figures in the line come with weapons or accessories, Leatherhead is not one of them - unless you count his removable tail (which must be attached out of the box.)

Final Thoughts
The last thing on my mind this weekend when I went into Target was starting on a new figure collection. Wait, that's not strictly true. Collecting a new line of figures was the second furthest thing on my mind. The last thing on my mind was that I'd be buying Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. And yet, here we are.

Leatherhead is a really fun ''monster'' figure. I like that the design is fairly timeless and that he could fit in with a variety of different toy lines, from Masters of the Universe (I'm calling dibs right now on Ga-Tor) to Batman (he'd make a great Killer Croc stand-in) or Spider-Man (he's a far superior Lizard than the awful movie version) and even (at a push) as a Cobra experiment-gone-wrong. Some lines have a distinct style that doesn't cross over or ''play well'' with others but there are few such worries here. Leatherhead looks great, period, regardless of whatever toy line he's from.

It's a shame his articulation is so limited but at least Playmates had the right idea when it came to maximizing his pose-ability with only a few joints. It would have been easy to simply use single-plane articulation but the ball joints included here do a good job of adding a good range of motion. As he stands, Leatherhead is never going to be the most pose-able of figures anyway, simply as his bulky torso and stunted legs don't really allow for a wide range of movement (and the fact that they're all bespoke parts is a factor too, unless Playmates were to put the figure out at twice the price) so it's not a major issue. He can skulk, he can menace and he can fight, which is pretty much all you need him to do.

And yes, the paint app is a little loose but I can forgive that. It's not like he's wearing clothing that's mis-painted or that the body details have to actually conform to any specific pattern, really. It's animal hide and animal hide does tend to have an organic randomness to it. Add to that the fact that he's a mutant and then there's really not much to argue about. So don't.

Overall, Leatherhead is a really fun figure. At around $9, there's a lot of plastic here and the figure feels robust and solid (like good toys should) but also has some interesting close-up detail older fans and collectors will appreciate. He's one of those rare toys that feels toy-like without feeling cheap and manages to be both a fun plaything and interesting collectible.

I'll certainly be on the look out for a few more of the ''non-regular'' characters (and maybe even one day I'll go Full Turtle) but if, like me, you've never paid the toys much attention, maybe now is the time to do so. There are some interesting, fun and very unusual designs in the line and if you dig creatures or toys with a touch of the weird to them, then Leatherhead (and some of his ilk) is well worth your time.

A fun, cool-looking figure that will appeal to fans of the Turtles and ''monster'' toys.

Image Gallery


  1. Take a look at the 4 main turtles as well. Your looking for the ones that have the weapnos rack like item. They are the versions featured on the back of the Leatherhead box. Those specific figures have some great articulation and comic book-esque sculpted detail at the same price as the Leatherhead. I have collected this toy line (as well as many other toylines) and I still find those first four figures to my favorites. While they have a resemblence in description to the Nick show they do not bare the computerized blocky design of the current show.

    1. My plan is to try and grab a few of the weirder characters like Mutagen Man (I'm a sucker for semi-transparent plastic), Fishface, etc but I'm sure I'll eventually end up with some of the Turtles too - at least the ''default'' style ones. Part of what had always put me off the line was the number of ''special'' versions they released of the core characters. I don't want Super Chef Leonardo or Pizza Robot Mikey. And I notice the new line does indeed have some weird D&D-esque versions of the foursome, which I'll be passing on. But yeah, we'll see how it goes and just maybe I'll pull the trigger on those figures, too...

    2. The many versions of the four brothers can get crazy, I will admit, but the D& D ones you mentioned are not just random incarnations, they are featured on one of the episodes of the new show.

    3. That I did not know.

      I still don't like them, though. :)

  2. Great review! I don't get much chance to see the new show so I really don't know what motivates these characters either, but I do enjoy a lot of the supporting character designs.

    Although I'm not a GI Joe collector guys like Leatherhead and Slash, which have been scaled down for their action figure incarnations, would probably work great in that line as brutish additions to Joe and/or Cobra.

    And I too would definitely recommend checking out the main turtles: http://toyriffic.blogspot.com/2013/06/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles.html - I'm not really a fan of the cgi renditions and their action figure counterparts, but the first 'main four' releases have a wonderful comic-book/action figure aesthetic that is all their own.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the Review, Eric!

      Yeah, the fact that these characters are less well-known was what appealed to me. I could see my True Legends mythological heroes battling them as much as I could Duke and Snake Eyes battling him in a Cobra lab.

      And thanks for the recommendation. I may eventually cave-in and get them but right now my eye is firmly on the weird supporting cast!

  3. My only issue with this guy is his size....he should be much larger than he is.

    1. Yeah, I had a feeling he was supposed to be a little bigger but I didn't mention it as I'm not completely familiar with his character, so I was trying to avoid falling too far into territory that would showcase my ignorance. :)


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