Being a comic book fan in 1995 was a very, very weird time for a twelve year old boy. The first part of my childhood was spend reading about/idolizing bright, smiling hopeful men in tights, while the awkward adult-ish era of my childhood was reading more comics with barley dressed women and hearing about how my favorite heroes sucked and weren’t extreme enough. I would like to personally thank Todd McFarlane for this debacle, even though I know he didn’t accomplish this on his own.
While the Turtles were largely unaffected by this, there was a series of comic books that were actually produced by Image comic books. The comic was “dark”, gritty and presented in black and white. And while many fans refuse to acknowledge its very existence, there were action figures produced that were (in)directly inspired by the Image books. Whether you liked the comics or not, this was more than likely a major push by Playmates Toys as a way to garner attention to their line of Wild C.A.T.S. action figures, based on the comic of the same name by superstar artist Jim Lee.
Jim Lee actually developed four original designs for the TMNT that wouldn’t ape the style of their comic book counterparts. Instead, Lee would come up with four completely original designs that saw the Turtles really get a shot of adrenaline and Jolt Cola. The Heroes in a Half-Shell all sport armor, chain mail, tech weapons, capes and an added three hundred pounds of muscle. They are most certainly Image Comics figures, and they were even released with a small run of Savage Dragon action figures.
Unfortunately, there was never a Leonardo figure released.
Seeing the Turtles without there stoic leader is a bit of a shock to say the least. And to this day, there has only been one official image of the figure’s existence; a Playmates Toys catalogue from that year’s Toy Fair.
While I can overlook the Thor-inspired helmet, the rest of the figure looks pretty damn cool. Everything from the chain mail, to the massive swords to a red…three-quarters T-shirt does look like something Leonardo would wear while paling around with a Chicago=based cop that happens to be an amnesiac dragon-man.
Sadly, mysteriously, this figure was never produced and there has also been no official word as to why from Playmates Toys. Obviously, there’s no point in it now, but the thought of Turtles toys being released in the 90’s without a leader may sound blasphemous, but in ’94, it could be argued that the popularity of the Turtles was just starting to dip slightly. It’s possible that the line of Image Comics-based action figures just wasn’t popular, and there’s even a hilarious theory that there was a shortage of blue paint in the mid-nineties that kept this figure from production.
Funny as that last one is, it just can’t be true…right?
The internet being what is is saw a few fakes being put up on ebay. Some looked legit…
…while others shit the bed.
It’s too bad that this figure will never see the light of day, but if it were ever to see release, I know that I would buy it, and I know several collectors around my old age would do the same. This also makes me hope the figure is never released from a modern toy manufacturer. A company like NECA or Super7 would only see the money they could gain and not the piece of Turtles history they could contribute to and only see to produce a figure for the most money possible. But if Playmates were ever to go back to this well and give us the figure we were shown back in ’94, I would relish the chance to complete this incomplete band of brothers.