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by yo go re

What a piece of trash!

Muckman is a friend of the Turtles. He was once a sewer worker turned garbage man named Garson Grunge until he was hit with a canister of Mutagen Ooze and became a mutant pile of living garbage. He may look scary but he is on Team Green!

So. This figure was announced in 2015, but by the end of the year he'd been "pushed back." Fans were understandably upset - and vocal about it - so Playmates un-cancelled him and put him in Series 19, due to be released in early 2017; unfortunately, Series 15, in 2015, was the last one to actually reach stores in any numbers you'd call "substantial." Or "at all." It didn't help that Target got an exclusive pre-release of the Series 19 figures - minus Muckman and a couple others - prior to Christmas 2016, so had no interest in carrying the actual series a month later. Toys Я Us had some of Series 20 (the ones in samurai armor) and Walmart jumped straight to Series 21 (with the "monster" Turtles), leaving Muckman functionally unreleased, with samples that did make it out selling for up to $300 at one point.

Muckman is an update of an '80s toy/cartoon character, redesigned by Jose Garibaldi (based on concept sketches by Ciero Nieli) to fit the 2012 series' aesthetic: taller, straighter, but also more deformed. He's hunched to the side, with a large blister on top of his right shoulder exaggerating the effect. The head is proportionally much smaller, and bald on top rather than covered in goop - that's meant to be skull, not scalp, but we'll discuss paint later on. He still has a banana peel resting on top of his head, though.

The figure itself was sculpted by Varner Studios, who have been making TMNT toys since the beginning. Some of the details have carried over from 1990 toy, like the bony left hand, the hole through his stomach, and even the clothes pin on his nose. He was even intended to have the manhole cover stuck to his left foot, though that was unfortunately cut before production. The rest of the sculpt is absolutely packed with small details - fruit, mushrooms, bottles, cans, a car headlight, a small bag of trash, a boot, a milk carton, a mouse trap, etc. - but you'll have to look at the digital files to really appreciate it all, thanks to the paint.

Modern Muckman is brighter than vintage Muckman, more neon, but still a mainly green body and orange coveralls. The drum of lard in his right foot is painted red, his banana peel is yellow, and his visible bones (the left arm, the spine) are white. So's the fish skeleton plastered to his chest. The frog climbing his right leg is green, and his yellow eyes have black rings around them. Playmates even paid to paint the little coil of intestines that fall out of his stomach cavity! To help bring out the details, there's a yellow drybrushing on the arms and chest. It doesn't seem like much, and obviously falls way short of the animation model and even the paint master, but you just need to look at the back of the figure to see what a difference it really does make.

Like usual, the articulation is not overly impressive. Playmates Turtles figures are never that mobile, so Muckman just has a swivel head and swivel/hinge shoulders and hips. He doesn't have the "mutagen oozing" action feature of the old toy, nor any accessories. The cartoon updated Muckman's old little sidekick "Joe Eyeball" into being his actual eye, able to move around on its own like a weird little snake. It would have been hard to make that part of the action figure, but not impossible, so it's annoying they didn't, even as a separate piece. Same with the manhole foot.

Like we said, Muckman was nearly impossible to get, one of the rarest, most in-demand figures in the entire series. But in 2018, Playmates started a collectors' club, the "Sewer Squad," meant to help promote the then-new Rise of the TMNT cartoon. As a member, you could trade in the "Pizza Points" from the toys' packaging to get Lootcrate-style boxes of goodies - at one point, you could spend 50 points (and pay $8 shipping) and get a box with the ultra-rare Muckman! Presumably, Playmates had made more copies of him than they were able to get into stores, since the line ended. The figure in the Sewer Squad box is polybagged, rather than carded, but is otherwise 100% identical to the first release. When that particular Sewer Squad promotion ended, the excess stock was listed on Amazon, so instead of paying a hundred bucks for Muckman, you can get one for $9.99, eligible for free shipping. You'll also get some stickers, a poster, and a child-sized Leonardo mask, but that's just extra. Ten bucks is a little more than the 2012 TMNT figures cost in stores, but compared to the price scalpers were trying to get for him? It's more than reasonable! Imagine if you could have found the famously rare Scratch for like a dollar over retail in 1995.

-- 03/26/20

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