The rip-roarin’, skateboardin’ reptile
There are so many characters found within the Playmates TMNT toy line that are so easily identifiable, that you’d be hard pressed to find a figure that could be labeled generic. It is staggering, the amount of figures that you can pick out by only knowing their name. And Mondo Gecko keeps this tradition alive with a look and sculpt that cements his place within the Turtles zeitgeist.
Let’s get the obvious part of this figure out of the way, yes, he is a mutant gecko. That’s not what I meant when I said you could single him out armed only with his name; although it does help. Mondo Gecko is exactly that, a mutated gecko that has adopted a skater boy motif, which is given life by the multiple skulls found on his shirt, knee pad and skateboard. But that’s not the best part of his given name. The term mondo, is used to describe the extreme nature of something. So while Mondo Gecko may just seem like an oxymoron molded in plastic, it’s actually a bit of a commentary on the figure himself. The whole mutant aspect of these characters is somewhat taken for granted in my opinion. It seems that some of these characters are just identified as being humanoid versions of the last animal or object that hapless victim latched onto. But with Mondo, in my opinion, the name is a decidedly on the nose description of who he is. He’s an extreme example of a gecko on two legs. Not only does this guy look like a five foot tall gecko, he’s also an extreme athlete with a rocket-powered skateboard. He’s the lead guitarist in a thrash-metal band. He’s a former thief whose girlfriend, Candy Fine, still loves in spite of his mutation. He’s a talented spy and a decent hacker who (almost) always gets results…whether they’re the results you wanted are up for debate, but still, the dude’s got skills.
Now, not all of these attributes are from one continuity, he’s no Batman, and that’s one of the great parts of these characters; none of them are a jack-of-all-trades, they’re specialists in one way or another. But they need each other to really make an impact. Mondo Gecko is a great example of this. While he may have been many things in past continuities, one thing has always been steadfast, his punk attire and attitude. In the beginning, Mondo was a bit of a loner, who preferred it that way. Once he got around the Turtles (and the Mighty Mutanimals) he came out of his shell a bit.
What really matters when it comes to this figure is the fact that he has one of the most dynamic looks of any of these figures. Every scale is painstakingly present, a testament to Playmates standards, at least from back in the 90’s. His flair for skating gear is charming, although I don’t think I’d ever willingly wear a yellow t-shirt outdoors. He also has the benefit of being one of the very few flat-footed figures in the line and this is all thanks to his turbo-charged sewer skateboard. The board has pegs that plug into Mondo’s feet that add a bit more flair to the figure as well as another level of (increasingly important) poses you can display him in.
Probably my favorite addition to this figure is the skate that’s tied to his tail, which, I would imagine, is there to ensure that Mondo never kisses the curb again. My only real complaint with this figure is actually part of his head sculpt, and no, despite my deep hatred of ponytails on guys, that’s not the issue here. No, it’s the braces on his front teeth. I know this sounds like a corny nitpick, and it is, because I am going to apply a bit too much logic here. If Mondo started out as a human that was mutated, wouldn’t his braces have busted when his jaw changed shape? Or if he started out as a gecko that turned humanoid, why the hell does he have braces on? Seriously, who took a look at Mondo’s grill and said to him: “You know, your central and lateral incisors could really use a good realignment.” I mean, who does that? This guy doesn’t have enough to deal with?
With that out of the way, I have to say that Mondo is a vibrant, well-detailed figure whose look stands up, even today. He may seem slightly counterculture, but considering he’s a mutant lizard, he doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to accomplish his look. Given his background as a metal head that is now a mutant, how were we expecting him to look?
It’s nice seeing this character still getting the attention he deserves today. He was a recurring character on the 2012 TMNT show from Nickelodeon. He’s also, once again, a founding member of the Mighty Mutanimals, this time from IDW Publishing. And perhaps most importantly, his character hasn’t felt the need to change with the times. His origin may change, depending on who is writing for him. But his rock and roll attitude and fun-loving persona have always been the bedrock of what makes this guy cool; much like the four Turtles themselves. Some characters don’t need to conform for whoever “today’s” audiences are. Sometimes, being a skater is all you need to be. Because we’ve all known this guy, the punk rocker who didn’t really care what the established order was. He was probably some dunce named Mike that we knew from elementary school. That guy, today he may be a bartender or a gas station attendant, but he’s still got that skateboard, and that may be all he needs. Something tells me that as long as Mondo has that skateboard, he’s going to be alright. And we’re still going to love him.
Turtle Trivia: Mondo Gecko was voiced by actor Robbie Rist in the 2012 animated series. Rist is also provided the voice of Michelangelo in the first three live-action films in the early 1990’s.