And now, Scary-Crayon reviews…
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Night Shadow Leonardo

One of the coolest things about attending the San Diego Comic-Con is being able to ogle and buy the exclusive figures firsthand. It’s not all carrots and apples, though. While there’s something undeniably exciting about viewing the products in glass display cases and having a representative physically hand it to you — as opposed to buying it based on (often photoshopped) online pictures and pulling it from a cardboard box left on your doorstep by the postman — there are also caveats. In addition to often having to stand in very long lines to obtain the items of their desire, attendees also have to deal with the frustration of approaching a line — and sometimes even standing in it for 20+ minutes — only to be told that the exclusives they wanted are sold out.

Night Shadow Leonardo -- angled view 1Night Shadow Leonardo -- angled view 2Night Shadow Leonardo -- angled view 3

Night Shadow Leonardo — Playmates Toys’s 2012 SDCC exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offering — is shaping up to be one of the more frustrating exclusives to get. I’m hearing various rumors: Playmates only manufactured 300 Leos to sell each day of SDCC; that the previously reports price of $20 has gone up to $30 at the con; and, most frustratingly, that Leo is selling out within an hour of the exhibit hall opening. Based on these, friend of mine — tOkKa of — and his TMNT-loving pals were gearing up to start waiting outside the exhibit hall at some ungodly hour of the morning in order to be first in line for one of the things. And I, being a TMNT-loving pal, was prepared to join him on this sleep-depriving adventure.

But among this crew was one Michele Ivey of Cowabunga Corner — a woman you might remember for her, shall we say, memorable appearance on VH1’s “Totally Obsessed.” (She’s not nearly as insane in person.) She had already obtained one of these Night Shadow Leos — apparently they’re selling out despite a limit of one per person per purchase (I guess you could get back in line later if you wanted another, assuming they hadn’t sold out by then) — and kindly allowed me a very close look at it. So here, by the light of my camera flash and Ivey’s iPhone light, is my review of an item I will never own.

First, the good. The sculpt is great — but that won’t surprise you if you’ve seen the 2012 Leonardo figure that’s currently hitting Target and Toys “R” Us stores. For the most part, the sculpting on this Leo is identical to that one’s. One of the more obvious differences between the retail figure and this item is the paint job: this bad boy is sporting a wicked black and green comic-shaded look (save the blue mask) that will really make it pop on a collector’s display shelf. To that end, the figure also comes with a very nice manhole cover base.

Night Shadow Leonardo (darker lighting) -- angled pic 1Night Shadow Leonardo (darker lighting) -- angled pic 2Night Shadow Leonardo (darker lighting) -- angled pic 3

But in addition to the swanky paint job and collector base (which the retail figures also lack, though they arguably make up for it with their host of weapons), there’s something else that makes this exclusive piece much different from the retail Leonardo toy — and it’s not a good thing at all. See, whereas the retail Leonardo is in fact an action figure, this SDCC exclusive is not. An action figure has multiple joints that makes it fun for both kids and collectors to play with. And, for some inexplicable reason, Playmates saw fit to remove all of the articulation from Night Shadow Leonardo. As a result, it’s pretty much a statue.

Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a very cool looking statue. But the fact that the articulation is gone is both baffling and upsetting. Why? Playmates already had the molds necessary to produce an articulated Leonardo figure; why bother making these new, solid molds for a figure that doesn’t move? Why hide the fact that it has no articulation? (Okay, Playmates didn’t technically say anything about its articulation one way or the other, but c’mon — anyone would expect that given its visual similarities to a retail figure that we know is fully articulated.) And why glue its neck joint stiff? Whereas the new tooling of this statue completely does away with most of the joints, the ball-jointed neck is still clearly visible — but it doesn’t move at all, so I’m guessing it’s been glued. While a figure with only one point of articulation is arguably just as useless as a figure with none, at least a ball-jointed neck would have given the figure a teensy bit of expressive potential. But now Leonardo — a freaking ninja — lacks the posing potential of even a basic My Little Pony.

Night Shadow Leonardo, shadowed by night!

So, at the end of the day, I won’t be owning this particular exclusive not because it’s too expensive (it is, especially for what it is) or because it’s too difficult to obtain (and it is much too difficult to obtain), but because it flat out sucks — or at least it does for someone who enjoys and was looking forward to an awesome action figure. I admit that it’s still a great-looking piece, though, and I think you’ll agree based on the photos. (I included the same shots with different lighting to give you a better idea of how Leo looks on the whole. Whereas the pics with the flash hopefully provide you with a closer look at the detail on the figure, the iPhone-lit pictures are a much better match for the colors on the actual toy.) If you like statues, the cool paint job and excellent display potential make it a worthy purchase… if you get the chance to buy it.

For my part, I’ll be putting my money towards an extra retail Leonardo. It’s already a better figure — and a nifty custom paint job will make it better than the static lump of plastic Playmates is trying to pass off as an action figure in every single respect.

— Wes —

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