The non-stop mutating monster
Released in 1990
If there is a way to make a body-horror film accessible to kids, the Turtles found it with Mutagen Man. This woefully underappreciated character is a victim of happenstance when it comes to his mutation, or lack thereof.
Seymour Gutz was just an average delivery man when he was forced into a vat of raw mutagen and given nothing to mutate into. As a result, his body decayed all the way down to his nervous system, save for a few vital organs. Never willing to take miss an opportunity to take advantage of someone, the Shredder equipped Seymour with a containment suit that would keep him alive and said that he would repair Seymour’s ever-decaying form to its proper state if he could take out the Turtles.
There you have it; Sympathetic villain 101.
This figure is absolutely genius in its design. I mean, this figure is just a horror show on rapidly decomposing legs. While Mutagen Man’s insides may look like nothing more than a pink mass of…stuff, there is just enough detail in there to see that inside is a manthat is trapped. Aside from the obvious implications of his backstory, Seymour is tasked with taking out a Turtles, a task that he wants no part of, but in order to survive and retain his physical humanity, he must be willing to cross a few lines he never intended to, and that is played brilliantly across this figures face. I may be reading into this a bit too much, but inside the figure’s containment suit lies what used to be a man, and he’s screaming for help.
Outside of the figures transparent suit is two arms and legs that are covered in ripped flesh that reveals the sinew underneath, His fingers and toes have grown largely disproportionate and are accented by massive claws. You have to wonder if these appendages are what are left of Mutagen Man’s human arms and legs. If they’re not, who the hell do they belong to? Where’s that guy, and what’s left of him? Was he another failed experiment conducted by Shredder and Krang? We never find out, and I think that might be a good thing. Taking a look at this figure, you see the depths of villainy capable of Shredder and what lengths he’s willing to go to take down the Turtles.
One cool addition to this figure is the fact that you can open up his containment suit at the top and fill it with plastic “guts” that accompany his other accessories (Mutagen Machine Gun!!!!). Next, you fill the tank with water and watch the guts float around his suit, before they sink to the bottom. Think of it like a really evil snow globe that screwed over the guy stuck inside it. Personally, I never liked the idea of mixing my figures with water. Something about that just makes me think that my figure is going to rot or dissolve, even though I know these figures are made to withstand the average abuse dealt by any kid that isn’t Sid from Toy Story.
Mutagen Man is one of those rare figures within the 88 Playmates toy line that wasn’t afraid to step away from the comfort provided by a safe human/animal hybrid character. Mutagen Man, pun intended, goes for your guts. This guy makes a statement about the stakes found within the world of TMNT. It’s not all pizza parties and “cowabunga”. Sometimes, innocent people get caught in the crossfire of a war between good and evil. And when that happens, those people have to make a choice. Choose between becoming a monster, and staying true to who you are. Seymour is a good man forced to do bad things. Sometimes this happens. This has happened to all of us, albeit, not to such a dramatic effect. Looking at Mutagen Man “figure”, there is more than just a generic bad guy for the Turtles to punch. There is a walking moral conundrum. Be who you are, or be a slave. While the animated series did stray from this within the same episode that Mutagen Made made his debut, you can’t help but notice the incredible visage and impact that this figure made upon this line of toys. Sure, he’s a gross out character, but he’s also a figure of a man that was cheated and has to play someone else’s game to get his humanity back. After learning that, can you really blame him?
Turtle Trivia: In the animated series, which played out differently than his figure’s portrait, Mutagen Man was turned back into a human where he proceeded to go out on a date with April O’Neil; Proving that looks are all that matters.