Leatherneck (50th Anniversary)
Of all the Joes that never got a proper update during the 25th Anniversary, I think I was most disappointed about Leatherneck. Yes, he got released with a desert A.W.E. Striker, but he was such a poorly done FrankenJoe that I don’t even count that figure and it was re-released in more vintage-styled colors with a hard to find Rise of Cobra vehicle set. Yes, the GIJCC later redid him his standard jungle look, but they still relied a lot on the same poor parts selections Hasbro made when they first put him together. Leatherneck was the first Joe KansasBrother ever got, given to him by a family friend who found the figure abandoned at a lake somewhere in Kansas, so there are some pretty strong nostalgic ties to that particular figure. So when Leatherneck got announced for the 50th Anniversary line, saying I was excited was an understatement. Leatherneck finally got the figure modern he deserved, even if it took six years and four tries to do it right. However, he is pretty far from perfect. My sample isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen reviewed, but he’s still got a lot of the same problems that the 50th Anniversary figures had.
Leatherneck is built around the Retaliation Ultimate Roadblock figure, so I figure I should address the elephant in the room right now—that everyone says he’s “too big.” Seriously, I think ever review I’ve read of him devoted at least a full paragraph to lamenting Leatherneck’s size and “scale creep” in the line. I vehemently disagree with that criticism. While I can’t find pictures of Leatherneck from the cartoon online, I remember him coming across as a pretty big guy, and I have no problem with Leatherneck being built that was. I’ve known quite a few Marines in my day and the one thing they all had in common was that they were physically intimidating guys. Seriously, I’m 6’2”, and the Marines I’ve known have all easily had at least a couple of inches on me. Everyone keeps saying Gung-Ho should be bigger but honestly, I’ve always seen Gung-Ho as a guy who yes, is incredibly muscular, but I’ve never seen him as being all that tall. The Ultimate/Battle Kata Roadblock parts really work well for recreating Leatherneck’s classic look. The legs look like the vintage Leatherneck’s unusually tight pants and the pouch and holster on his thighs are just like what Leatherneck had back in the day. Battle Kata Roadblock’s sleeves are a little shorter than the 1986 Leatherneck had them rolled up, but beyond that they work okay. He is wearing gloves this time around, but I don’t mind that. Ultimate Roadblock’s torso is appropriately big but you’re not going to see it since Leatherneck gets a new piece to cover it and bring him in line with his classic look. The detailing on this piece is excellent. It’s got some nicely-sculpted wrinkles in it (just like he had in 1986) and the other classic Leatherneck details, like the grenades, the knife sheath and the padded shoulders are all still present. The open collar even does a good job of calling back to the original figure’s look. What saves the figure from being more of the same is the brand new head sculpt. This is what Leatherneck should look like. There is a lot of character in that face and I can see him being the uncouth and overbearing guy from Nebraska named Wendell we first met all the way back in 1986. The old filecard says you may not like him, but you can trust him and I really do get that vibe here. Heck, after learning about Leatherneck’s opinion of Lifeline and his behavior toward him in the comics, I can really see that here and it’s nice to see Leatherneck look like his old self again.
While I’ve praised the design of the figure, the paint work isn’t great. I’ve seen a lot worse samples on the pegs at Toys ‘R’ Us and I wasn’t necessarily down on him, but I also have to admit that Hasbro has shown they can do paint work better than this so he is kind of a step in the wrong direction there. There is some good stuff here, but I’m going to start with the criticisms first and get them out of the way. First and foremost, the paint work for his skin is atrocious. Strike One: His forearms and face colors really don’t match. Strike Two: The coverage on his forearms is weak and leaves a greenish tint to some flesh and some outright green spots that show where the paintwork got missed. Strike Three: The paint on his face is applied so heavily that the mold’s details get lost in it. Strike Four: He’s got a weird spot on the tip of his nose that looks like the figure might have been packaged before the paint was fully dry and some of the paint rubbed off somewhere along the line. I’ve seen worse examples on shelves, so I do count myself lucky that my Leatherneck looks mostly presentable, but they still really dropped the ball on his skin paint. The paint work on his chest straps is also a bit sloppy. It’s not as bad as it was on 50th Anniversary Blowtorch, but it’s still not great. The lack of camouflage on his shirt sleeves is also a bit odd. It leaves the arms looking a bit disjointed from the legs. While I’m not thrilled with the paint work, however, they did do a great job of recreating his classic 1986 look. It’s also a far better look than either modern Leatherneck that’s been released. The greens are a bit darker tone across the board compared to the vintage figure and I find myself liking it. Vintage Leatherneck wasn’t neon by any means but the green was just a little too bright for my tastes. Leatherneck is definitely rocking olive drab and I’m fine with that. He’s a Marine. The Marines I’ve known have always been more about functionality than look, and while Leatherneck’s color scheme isn’t flashy it works and that’s what counts.
I don’t think that KansasBrother had Leatherneck’s gear when he was growing up. I think all that our family friend found was the figure, so I never realized how great Leatherneck’s original equipment was. Hasbro did a great job updating his original equipment, though they did add something he didn’t have back in the day at the expense of a backpack and I’m not sure how I feel about that call. Starting off small, Leatherneck has weapons to fill all his holsters and sheaths. There’s a small boot knife, a great pistol and a small knife for the sheath on his chest. However, it should be noted that the knives don’t really fit that well in his hands. That’s fine, though, since they both look awfully dinky in his hands. I realize combat knives are a standard size, but it would be nice if one of his knives at least looked decent in his hands. The pistol is a great piece, though mine was pretty tightly stuck in his holster when I got him out of the package. I did eventually get it loose, but at one point I was wondering if Hasbro had shifted to a non-functional holster for this figure. Leatherneck’s primary weapon is a great representation of the M-16. That’s what he had back in 1986 and that’s what he has now. It’s a great piece and it also has the same underslung grenade launcher. It’s nice to see that Leatherneck’s choice in weapons hasn’t changed after all these years. It’s a classic real world weapon and I love seeing Joes with realistic American military gear in their hands. Leatherneck did lose his backpack, but he picked up another weapon…the same big machine gun that Ultimate Roadblock came with. While it’s not necessarily a weapon that screams Leatherneck, it looks pretty impressive in his hands and now that I have two of them in my collection, I’m really tempted to swap out the Tomahawk’s two machine guns for these since they can plug into the gunnery arms of the modern Tomahawk. Even if I don’t go that route, the machine gun does look pretty impressive slung across Leatherneck’s back. It also comes with the requisite belt of bullets that can plug into it but I didn’t grab a picture of it since I honestly find it a little annoying to get the bullet belt positioned right for pictures.
Leatherneck is a figure that I think really represents the 50th Anniversary line as a whole. He was a highly demanded figure that Hasbro honestly botched pretty badly the first time around. However, given a second chance, they really did a great job with him. If it weren’t for the paint quality control issues that have plagued this line, I’d say they knocked it out of the park with Mr. Metzger here. Unfortunately, the paint issues do detract a little from my enjoyment of this figure. Yes, they’re not as bad as I thought they were when I first opened him, but he’s still got some problems that Hasbro really should have found a way to address. For me, the biggest problem is the mismatched skintone. I can (and have) forgiven a lot of things on figures over my years as a Joe collector but when two places that are obviously supposed to be the same color but aren’t don’t match it bugs me. Maybe I’m just a little overly anal retentive, but I find it even more maddening when it’s something like a person’s skin. That being said, though, much like Low Light, I think I was a lot more down on Leatherneck when I first got him than I had any right to be. Yes, he’s not perfect but he’s also a heck of a lot better than any of the previous attempts to create a modern Leatherneck. His brand new head is a thing of beauty and mine’s not nearly as bad off as many I’ve seen, so I’ll take that as a win. Add in the fact that he comes in a three pack with a great version of Destro and a re-release of a hard to find Pursuit of Cobra figure and it’s hard to resist the appeal of Leatherneck as well. He may not be what everyone else saw Leatherneck to be, but honestly, this size fits my conception of the character so I’m fine with it. This is a solid figure, but unfortunately, Hasbro needed to pay a little closer attention to the work their factories were turning out here.