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Leonardo as the Hunchback

Universal Monsters x Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
by yo go re


See what's lurking the in shadows!
He has a mind for monsters!
Witness the horrifying backstory!
Katana wielding creature feature!
Shell-bent on revenge!

When Playmates did their two series of "Universal Studios Monsters" Turtles in the first half of the '90s, all the monsters were major ones - there were two Leonardos, for instance, turning him in turns into both the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. When NECA's first release was Frankenstein, it seemed like they were doing the same thing. Then this figure was announced, and all the expectations changed.

While a hunchbacked assistant is a stock horror character, it's not exactly what you'd consider a "Universal Monster." So when NECA revealed this is who Leonardo would be, and absent any public info on the direction of the line after, it seemed like their plan was not to do individual monsters, but to do entire sets themed around each monster: you know, four "Frankenstein" themed figures (Frankenraph, Hunchback Leo, Mad Scientist Don, and Angry Villager Mike), then four "Dracula" themed figures, then four Wolf Man, four Mummy, so on and so on. We know better now, but at the time the theory made sense.

Leonardo's head is just as oddly shaped as Raphael's was, but in a different direction: while Raph got the big square Frankenhead, Leo's cheeks stretch out farther to the side than usual, and he has an overbite that reveals his uneven teeth. His eyes are different sizes and don't even point the same direction. He has bushy eyebrows and a bit of a goatee under his chin. It's still weird seeing a Turtle with hair.

He wears filthy, tattered clothes, like you'd expect from a lowly servant: raggedy blue pants and a rough linen shirt, all held together with a rope belt. He's barefoot, but has thickly padded knee and elbow pads, plus a leather belt with a strap that goes up over his right shoulder. Big metal sutures pierce his skin, suggesting his boss has done some work on him, and metal shackles on his arms and left ankle, suggesting the work wasn't exactly voluntary. Massive cracks and holes run through his shell, which has a hinge on one side and a huge padlock on the other. His back does come up higher than his head, and he's so thick from front to back that the box he's sold in needs to be larger than all the rest.

The hinge isn't just for show. Leonardo's ginormous shell actually swings open, though the padlock goes entirely with it - were they at one point planning the shell to open in a different spot, and the lock would have served a purpose? Inside you'll find someone has installed wooden shelves, with room to hold (almost) all his accessories. Even when it's empty, there's a large spider living in there, a separate mold but permanently attached.

So what accessories does he have? Well, there are two katanas, of course, because a Leonardo is a Leonardo, and he's got to have those! They're not as thematic as Raphael's lightning bolt sais, but the set does include two flame pieces that can fit on the ends so it looks like he's holding torches. The tiny holes in his shell? They're so he can stick the swords through them for storage! Inside, there's a human skull that can sit on the top shelf, and a sciency jar with a removable brain floating inside it on the bottom shelf. On the "door" part you'll find two shovels and a bone, held in place partially by the swords and partially by cleverly designed divots in the surface of the shell. This is all very awesome stuff! You also get your choice of open hands, gripping hands, fists, or pointing hands.

In addition to the hinged shell, the figure has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, double-swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, swivel/hinge thighs, double-hinged knees with an extra swivel at the top, swivel shins, and swivel/hinge ankles. You wouldn't expect him to have a waist, since he's doing the whole "Storage Shell Turtle" thing, but nope, he's got a swivel there! The hinges are stiff, but everything moves just fine straight out of the box. Speaking of the box, there are diagramatic instructions on the bottom on how to put the swords in his hands so you don't mess up the spiky pommels.

As much as I liked Raphael as Frankenstein's Monster, I was still rather cool on the idea of Leonardo as the Hunchback - I'd preordered the next two releases after this, but didn't bother with Leo. I did give him a look when he got stocked at Target, and the gear all fitting in the shell won me over. Making Leonardo a Hunchback (not that one) was a strange choice, but it's paid off for them.

-- 10/06/22

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