And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leo as the Wolfman by: Wes

With the current Star Trek and Terminator Salvation figures from Playmates Toys receiving decidedly low marks from toy collectors and reviewers -- not to mention the bashing Playmates has endured since the release of NECA's impressive Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures -- my favorite toy company of old hasn't had the easiest time these days. Yet while I'll readily admit that Playmates' current offerings fail to match other companies' wares in terms of sculpting and articulation (though the company is doing certain things right, like distribution -- suck on that, Mattel), I find it difficult to bash Playmates at length. After all, this is the company responsible for two decades worth of TMNT toys... the toys that ruled my childhood and instilled me with a deep love of miniature plastic beings that endures to this day. Besides, as cool as the NECA TMNT figures are, it's not at all obvious to me that Mirage-themed, superarticulated Turtles are neater than some of Playmates' zanier offerings. Turtle Trolls may only have five points of articulation, but dig that crazy hair!

Comin' out to play.That said, I've only come to appreciate the delightfully oddball character of these figures in recent years. I never went for them as a kid (which, if other kids were like me, could explain why Playmates hasn't released similarly strange figures in the 2K3 or 2007 movie TMNT lines), but in recent years I've taken advantage of the ability to acquire these gems through the magic of eBay. Turtle Trolls, Universal Studios Monster Turtles, Michaelangelo as a freaking clown -- like Madballs, there's a certain unexplainable charm about these kinds of toys that makes me unable to resist them. While I'm not sure if Playmates is able to combine its current licenses to release Terminator Mutant Ninja Turtles or April O'Neil dressed as a Star Trek officer, I do know that I'd buy those figures without hesitation. Instead of trying to copy NECA by releasing its own Mirage-themed Turtles -- an idea that I really hate; trying to compete with NECA's offerings with inferior sculpts and less articulation just strikes me as pointless -- Playmates should revisit some of its more creative past ideas.

Anyway, you might be able to tell from Scary-Crayon's design that I dig horror films and things with spooky themes, and it was this interest that moved me to log onto eBay determined to acquire at least one of the Universal Studios Monsters TMNTs back in 2004. I'd initially planned to grab only Don as Dracula, since vampires are my favorite monsters (zombies are up there too, but Playmates didn't make a zombie Turtle -- there's an idea!), but I ended up coming across a "Buy It Now" auction with Dracula Don, Raph as the Mummy, and Mike as Frankeinstein for a great price. I opened all of those upon receipt (two were even featured in our New Year's 2005 Dusty Plastic HELL comic), but with three of the Turtles in hand I felt compelled to seek out Leonardo to complete the set. I eventually did get the figure towards the end of 2005, though for some reason I left it unopened... until now. (Or until earlier this year, when I took a few photos in anticipation of a future review -- hence the pictures with the black background.) So without further ado, let's take a look at that carniverous chelonian-canine creature: Leo as the Wolfman!

SUPER SCARY SCULPT & PRETERNATURAL PAINT:

That sculpted fur is pretty involved for a TMNT figure......and dig those rips and wrinkles!

First, taking a page from the more consistent toy review sites out there, I'm going to talk about the sculpt and paint on Wolfman Leo. Like many of the old Playmates' TMNT figures, Leo has quite a bit of sculpted detail: the fur is particularly intricate, and his tattered shirt and pants are also very nice with manifold rips and tears and wrinkles (dig those sculpted wrinkles in the pants around the base of the shell). The clothing details are a bit "softer" than the fur (which is surprisingly sharp for an old TMNT figure), but that's hardly unexpected and doesn't detract from Leo's looks in the least. Also, he's a mutant turtle-werewolf hybrid. Even a poor sculpt of something like that would look pretty darned neat, and this is a really well-done representation of the idea.

The fur? He gets it from his father's side.Ready to rip! And shred, and chew...One has to wonder why Leo was wearing clothes in the first place.

While the sculpt is fairly impressive and detailed for a 1993 figure and holds up relatively well even against today's mass-market offerings, the paint isn't quite as remarkable -- don't expect to find any subtle washes or airbrushing or any other advanced techniques here. That said, the paint is still very good and helps to highlight details of the sculpt that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. For instance, whereas similar features were left unpainted on many of the more detailed TMNT figures, all of the areas exposed by holes in Leo's shirt are painted to indicate the shell and plastron showing through. Even small bits like the areas above the belt and that hole by Leo's left breast haven't been overlooked.

Still, there are two noticeable flaws with the paint. Most of Leo's fur is unpainted -- as in, it is the color of the plastic -- but the few areas where it is painted don't match the plastic. It's most obvious where the head meets the body, but the exposed areas on the thighs suffer from the same problem. The second issue is less a problem with the paint itself than that the figure doesn't have a wash, as the bright off-white paint used for the shirt, eyes, teeth, and claws somewhat obscures the sculpted details, particularly on the shirt and teeth. (There's a perfectly good reason that Leo doesn't have a wash here -- we'll come to that in the extras section -- but still.) On the plus side, the off-white paint has a gritty texture that's pleasing to the touch.

ANIMALISTIC ARTICULATION:

Gotta love that early 90s articulation.

If you've ever played with an old school Playmates TMNT figure, you know what to expect here -- with few exceptions and variations, all of the old toys featured the same seven articulation points. The swivel neck allows Leo to look to either side (and behind him, if you're into the Linda Blair thing), though the slight upward tilt of the head means that he'll always be looking up (many of these photos are shot from a slight downward angle, so that's why he appears to be looking straight ahead). I think he's meant to be hunched foward, but the ball-jointed hips don't permit the forward (or backward) movement that would be necessary for that kind of pose -- they primarily work like swiveling V-hips with limited lateral movement. Accordingly, while the legs might be more useful for play situations, they only allow for one standing pose with minor adjustments.

Leo gonna CUT YA!It works! Now to bandage that foot...

The arms are most useful for altering Leo's look, as the shoulder swivels allow him to raise or lower his arms as necessary. In addition, the right elbow swivel allows him to extend his bent arm either towards or away from his body, and the left forearm swivel allows him to turn his wrist. That last one sounds kind of pointless, and it doesn't alter his appearance much when he's unarmed, but -- especially considering how long some of Leo's weapons are -- it can significantly change his pose when he's holding one of his various accessories. While Leo's no superarticulated figure, you can get a handful of decent poses out of him by standing him at different angles, adjusting the arms, and using the accessories for additional dramatic effect.

ABOMINABLE ACCESSORIES & FRIGHTENING FEATURES:

I'd hate to be a Foot Soldier during a full moon...Unsurprisingly, Wolfman Leo comes with several accessories to aid in his feral full-moon fight with the Foot: the Fiendish Foot Trap, a Boney Katana, a Silver Bullet-shootin' Gun, and the Wolfhead Cane. Leo's weapons are unpainted, of course, but at least red plastic makes more sense than some other color -- you can always pretend that the tools are completely stained red with the blood of Leo's previous victims.

I'm not entirely sure why Leo came with the trap -- which looks to be a reuse of the accessory that came packaged with the 1989 Leatherhead figure -- but I suppose it works well enough given the hunting theme. That said, the Boney Katana is definitely a more appropriate accessory for being a grislier (and gristlier!) version of Leo's signature weapon. (In fact, considering that he traditionally wields two katana blades, I'd rather have had another of those in place of the trap.) The Wolfhead Cane and Silver Bullet-shootin' Gun are also welcome accessories for their references to the Universal films and general theme: a wolf-themed cane was featured in 1941's The Wolf Man, and we all know that werewolves are typically susceptible to silver bullets. Here, the cane features a masked turtle-wolf head and two-toed base similar to those of the transformed Leonardo, whereas the gun appears to have just been fired. (I initially thought it was a harpoon gun of sorts, but considering that the cardback depicts the gun without the bullet, I now think that the point is meant to represent a bullet flying out of the muzzle.) Sure, both of those weapons were used against the werewolf in the classic films, but they're still nice touches... even if Leo does hate guns. Seriously, does anyone remember how, at least once per issue of the old Archie comic, Mister 'Nardo would vocally proclaim his dislike of guns? Dude hates guns more than the Batman, and yet here he's in the process of firing one at an unfortunate foe. I guess that's his wolf side pulling the trigger.

Leo's wolf side also makes him do something else he's never done before: glow in the dark! Yes, although that off-white paint might obscure some of the sculpt's fine detail, it also causes him to give off a ghastly gleam when you turn out the lights. It's a really difficult feature to photograph, but here's my best shot (with a bit of photoshopping to make it more visible). Although I'm not sure how much adult collectors will appreciate the feature, I imagine kids loved the heck out of it back in the day -- things that glow in the dark are always that much more enjoyable, as evidenced by the widespread fondness for fireflies and the general disgust with which we regard the housefly (Baxter Stockman being the exception). The Taiwanese understand this.

Other bonuses worth mentioning include the collectible profile card and a $3 discount coupon for admission to Universal Studios Florida. The profile card isn't quite as cool as some of the ones that came with earlier figures, what with the lack of certain categories and a false favorite movie (I found it very neat that many of the profile cards had actual movies -- even more so now, since I've actually sought out some of those movies in recent years), but it does add to the personality of the toy by going on about his desire to dismember and devour Foot Soldiers, enemy mutants, and possibly unattended pets. (Speaking of the packaging -- of which the profile card is technically part -- the drawings of the Monster Turtles on the front of the card are pretty nice. However, like the profile itself, this isn't quite as personalized or fun as some of the earlier figures' cards.) And while the Universal Studios coupon was an excellent addition considering the nature of the figure, it expired on December 31, 1995. I suppose it could be fun for you if you enjoy expired amusement park coupons, though!

FREAKISH FINAL THOUGHTS:

Hide your children -- the Teenage Mutant Ninja MONSTER Turtles are on the prowl!I could tell you to rush out and buy this figure or to save your money, but I'm not sure it would matter. If you're familiar with any of the old TMNT figures, you probably know exactly what you're getting with Leo as the Wolfman -- aside from being covered in green fur and clothed in tattered garments, he's just like most of Playmates' old TMNT toys. That said, Wolfman Leo's probably the best out of the first wave of Universal Studios Monster Turtles. His sculpt is the most detailed and interesting, he comes with clever weapons that integrate well with the wolfman theme and make specific reference to the 1941 classic, and his luminescent paint doesn't entirely mute the sculpt (see Mummy Raphael) yet is prevalent enough to make him look good in the dark (compare to Frankenstein Mike, who barely has any). He's not a particularly rare or pricey toy, so you can generally find him for $5 loose and $12-15 carded (before shipping) on eBay. I'm not sure I'd pay that much for him unless the shipping was cheap (I forget how much I did pay, but it probably wasn't more than $12 shipped), but he's definitely a worthy purchase if you're into werewolves, 90s TMNT figures, weird toys in general, or any combination of the above. I'm not even the biggest fan of werewolves, but I can't deny the appeal of one that also happens to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. For a toy that's over fifteen years old, not only does Leo rock the sewer -- he huffs, puffs, and blows it down.

-- Wes --
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