Muckman and Joe Eyeball
The garbage-gathering ghoul and his parasitic pal
Released in 1990
I have so much love for this figure, which is incredibly ironic when you consider how much I hate clutter. Maybe it’s not irony, I’m not sure. Muckman and Joe Eyeball are two ordinary garbage men that are accidently mutated into walking piles of filth by a rare, experimental new strain of the same mutagen that turned four normal, pet shop turtles into the crime fighters we know today. The animated debut of the two junky and gunky heroes is actually pretty cool as this new mutagen (Compound X-7) that transforms Garson Grunge and Joe Junkee into Muckman and Joe Eyeball seemingly degrades the mutagen within the chemistry of the Turtles themselves, slowly killing them; at the very least, it nerfs their strength to the point of uselessness. Thanks to some quick thinking, 90’s cartoon-era science and a bit of the Compound X-7, the Turtles are able to immunize themselves to Muckman’s presence; which is good news, considering the two former garbage men mistook the Turtles for the ones that mutated them.
How do you make an action figure that is supposed to accurately represent a pile of walking garbage? I couldn’t even begin to figure that one out. Playmates Toys has done so, twice, with their Muckman figure. The figure, while being a solid object, perfectly captures the liquid, gooey, runny effect that would naturally present itself with a character like this. This may come as no surprise to you, but Muckman is covered head to toe in garbage. Not only covered heat to toe, but his head and toes are garbage, and his figure’s sculpt showcases this feature very nicely. From the banana peel stuck to his head to the manhole cover stuck to his foot, you could probably spend hours examining this figure and not catch all of the details presented with this guy. Muckman is home to discarded vegetables, fish bones, various earthworms and horseflies, old coffee can, soda pop bottles, and he even has a bicep made out of mushrooms. The amount of detail on this figure is staggering and it is arguably the most visually dense figure in the line, which does lead to a small problem with this figure.
This figure is basically two colors, green and orange, thanks to Muckman’s old sanitation coveralls, with small bits of yellow and gray thrown in for good measure. It would’ve been nice to have seen some more color thrown into this figure, but I can’t help but wonder if that would have helped or hindered the figure. Considering the amount of detail put into this figure, I think we were lucky to have gotten the color that we did, seeing as how this figure is basically two colors, it’s amazing that this figure doesn’t look flat when held in your hand. Besides, his look doesn’t stray far from his animated counterpart, which wasn’t always the case with this line, and the lack of color could’ve been a cost cutting solution, as the extra paint job would’ve jacked up the price of the figure. This is common practice with action figures, and not something that Playmates hasn’t done before or since.
But what about Muckman’s best friend, and partner in anti-crime, Joe Eyeball; well Joe is just like the other little buddy figures found throughout the line. He is a one-inch, solid piece of plastic that is a slightly lighter shade of green than Muckman, again, not straying too far from the design of the animated series. Joe is a small three-eyed…something that hitches a ride on Muckman’s back via a trashcan that attaches to Muckman’s back. Joe Eyeball looks like a goblin or gremlin type figure that looks like he’d be right at home in a film like Legend or Willow, but he’s so odd looking that he looks right at home riding on the back of a pile of garbage. He is a small mass of broken teeth and multiple arms, and the eyeball sticking out of his side is so weird and oddly perfectly placed that he just fits with Muckman more perfectly than most of the other little buddy figures. Whereas some of these other one-inch figures are just smaller versions of the figure they accompany, Muckman and Joe Eyeball are two completely unique characters that work just as well alone as they do together. If not for his size, Joe eyeball could’ve been his own figure in the line.
Muckman and Joe Eyeball a beautiful disaster when it comes to their respective figures. Their sculpt lacks a lot of color, but the details make up for it. They are so ugly, and such a mess to look at that they lend themselves to being viewed as a villain, but in reality, they’re anything but. If nothing else, these figures, as well as the episode that inspired them, is a great lesson in not judging a book by its cover. And for that matter, that you shouldn’t jump t conclusions as they did when they mistakenly blamed the Turtles for their mutation. But in time, Garson and Joe came to terms with their altered state in life; which might be a lesson in accepting yourself? Wow, this cartoon just has so many levels.
Turtle Trivia: Muckman and Joe Eyeball’s characterization were somewhat inspired by Jackie Gleason and Art Carney’s performances from the show The Honeymooners.
authors note: Back in the day, you could pour “RetroMutagen Ooze” in a hole at the top of Muckman’s head and it would creepily ooze out of his mouth. I didn’t comment on this because my mom never let me have the ooze when I was a kid. She said she didn’t want to risk ruining the figure, but I know she didn’t want to risk ruining her carpet with green slime. Can’t say I blame her.