The Flesh-etched Illustrated Man
Released in 1991
I’ll tell you what’s great about Tattoo, as a character, he’s taken a hindrance and made it his greatest strength. Within Tattoo’s backstory, you hear the tale of a fat kid from Japan that was laughed at for his size. Not wanting to hide who he was, Tattoo took it upon himself to train and compete in the great sport of sumo. Along the way, Tattoo, whose real name is Tai San in the Archie comics, was enlisted in a secret agent style sumo society…you read that right; Sumo secret agents.
Only in the 90’s…or Troma films.
So, to make a long story short, Tai San is now Tattoo, a massive dose of muscle that helps our green friends stomp out the Foot clan. As if his impressive bulk and immense strength wasn’t enough, the multiple tattoos that cover Tattoo can be brought to life to attack evil wherever it stands. Because being a giant sumo that can kick ass just isn’t enough for the kids these days.
Honestly though, tattoos coming to life from someone’s skin is nothing new, but it almost seems a little too horrifying for a kids show. But I don’t know if it was handled well because I never saw this guy in a single episode of the ’87 animated series.
But the figure is a great addition to the overall toy line. Even though Tattoo is one of the very few human characters in the Playmates toy line, that doesn’t mean he’s boring at all. Sure, he may be a sumo in shorts, but this characters bulk and strength makes him easily identifiable in a line of dynamic looking figures. Sure, he may be lacking the same type of striking color palate that these figures are known for, but the same attention to detail is there. Tattoo’s topknot is slick, his teeth are gritted and his shoulders even have ball joints, a rarity for 1991. While he may not be entirely flatfooted, Tattoo’s feet are wide enough to ensure an easy time standing him on your shelf for display (if that’s your thing). His black and green clothing and silver chains on each wrist standout as much as they do primarily because this guy is mostly flesh colored. While he’s not wearing much, Tattoo has a massive belt that is fitted with a large dragon’s head for a buckle that is filled with sickly scales and nasty teeth that, while only being a solid green color, breaks up the monotony and lack of vibrant color quite nicely.
Unfortunately, this also leads us to the figures biggest fault and namesake; his tattoos…or lack thereof.
While I do love the simplicity of this figure, in his various appearances across the TMNT landscape, Tattoo is a person that is shown to be heavily tattooed from shoulder to the knees. While he may not be wearing a body suit-style tattoo, he’s often depicted as having at least five or six massive tattoos. The figure on the other hand doesn’t show any body art at all. Instead, he comes with a small pack of stickers for you to decorate Tattoo as you see fit. While I can appreciate Playmates toys for wanting people to doctorate a figure to their liking, I just don’t understand why they didn’t make Tattoo’s tattoos part of the figures mold.
While I’m not in the toy making business, thus making my own critiques much easier for me, why couldn’t they have just made his tattoos slightly raised to illustrate the life found within them? I would imagine an argument could be made at that given the bulk of the figure, it would’ve been too costly to paint the tattoos on top of the cost of the amount of plastic used. But if that’s the case, why were so many other big figures in the line so colorful? Muckman, Dr. El and General Traag are loaded with color and they all dwarf most figures in the line. So what’s the deal here?
Unfortunately, the answer (probably) is that the stickers are a gimmick that was used to sell the toy. I know it sucks, but, to me anyway, this was nothing more than a tool to sell a product. And that’s okay because it was and still is a common practice back in the day.
Personally, I don’t have any of the stickers on my figure because having watched a few reviews of this figure online; it seems that the stickers just don’t hold up well over time. Whether you decide to place stickers on this guy or not, you’re in for a treat with this figure. He’s a bulky guy that can stand up to the best/worst the Shredder has to offer.
Turtle Trivia: In the original ’87 animated series, Tattoo was mutated from a hamster. He became a tattooed sumo wrestler from a hamster…you can’t make this stuff up, folks.