I first got into comics in 1986 when I was 8 years old. It was my cousin Greg that turned my brother Doug and I onto them and we were instant Marvel Fanboys. Even though we grew up loving characters like Batman and Superman we didn’t spend a cent on DC books. We were Marvel zombies all the way. Marvel and DC were the big 2, and every other comic book publisher was dwarfed by them. As a kid I was barely aware of the smaller companies out there so the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, published by Mirage Studios, was completely off my radar. I don’t even know if the Cardboard Jungle would have carried those books. Apparently those original turtle books were quite dark as they were intended to parody some of the darker toned comic books being written at the time by the likes of Frank Miller. My friend Shaun (whom we called Spanky) ended up buying some of those old black and white turtle books after the brand became a huge phenomenon and I remember reading them and thinking they were pretty bleak. I recall one issue had a mutated leech named bloodsucker who was really freaky.
In the original Turtles series Leatherhead was a sewer alligator who, after he was mutated, befriended the turtles. He wore nothing but some bandages wrapped around his forearms. Since I hadn’t read the original comics, I never knew this. I didn’t realize the character dated back that far. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.
I got into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles around the same time that most other kids my age did, when Archie Comics began publishing their own more kid-friendly comics and the cartoon hit the air waves in the late 80s. The first time I ever saw the character Leatherhead was when he was introduced into the animated series. The animated version was an alligator from the Florida everglades who swam into some mutagen and became a Crocodile Dundee like tracker with a Cajun accent. If memory serves, this version of Leatherhead was a straight-up bad guy who didn’t do any paling around with the turtles.
I never got the Leatherhead action figure from the 80s. In part because I grew out of my turtle phase rather quickly and in part because I thought that figure sucked. The 1989 Leatherhead was oddly contorted and it was hard to tell whether he was supposed to be bipedal or walk on all fours; he was just kind of awkwardly hunched. He wore a floppy hat, a hairy vest and blue jeans, and he carried a shotgun and a bear trap. It was a a weird figure.
The 2012 Ninja Turtle revival has brought us, in my opinion, the best ever Turtle figures so my fingers were crossed that improved versions of some of the baddies and secondary characters would soon follow. The new versions of Shredder, April, Splinter, and Krang didn’t give me much hope but then they released a pretty sweet new version of Metal Head so I remained optimistic. I’m still waiting for improved versions of Be-Bop and Baxter Stockman (the fly version) but in their most recent wave of figures Playmates has given us this brand new Leatherhead.
How does it compare to the original? Well, it’s way better. Gone are all the cliched accessories and silly clothing. Instead we get a stripped down mean-ass looking version of the character. The new animated series adopted the origin story from the original comics with Leatherhead being an ally of the turtles and he’s back to wearing nothing but bandages. I loved the bandaged feet and hands on the new turtle figures and I love it on Leatherhead; they just look cool. This Leatherhead is hunched but clearly bipedal so he doesn’t look like such a freak amongst the other figures. The sculpting on this figure is great with plenty of detail in the scales and teeth. I love the beady yellow eyes and the black circles surrounding them. This figure looks menacing.
The figure isn’t perfect though. His articulation is sorely lacking. He has joints at the arms, legs, head and tail and that’s it. No movement in the elbows, knees, waist, or torso. A few extra joints in the tail would’ve been a nice touch as well. Also this figure is quite small. The snap on tail makes him a decent length but he’s only about as tall as Michelangelo. In the cartoon Leatherhead towers over the turtles so I wish they had opted to make this guy a deluxe sized figure.
Overall I dig it. Nice sculpt, nice paint. 7 out of 10.