Review & pics by: Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Eagle's Edge Leatherneck
1986 was the “Year of the Updates” -- a time in which many Joes were replaced with new characters with the same specialties. It was an effort to freshen up the line by expanding the team’s roster and yet still keep things fairly plausible. As such, characters like Stalker, Breaker, Snow Job, Gung-Ho, and Doc found themselves sharing roles with new Joes such as Beach-Head, Dial-Tone, Iceberg, Leatherneck, and Lifeline. These were the characters who came into prominence in Sunbow Season 2 and who eventually replaced their earlier counterparts. Yet, characters like Leatherneck evolved beyond being mere replacements and became strong characters in their own right. However, it took Hasbro a good many years to finally give Leatherneck his own unique head sculpt in the Generation 3 era. Was the result worth waiting for as part of the 50th Anniversary? Read on and find out one Joe fan’s opinion!
For this 50th Anniversary line it seems that “what’s old is new again.” Rather, I should say “what’s recent is reused once more.” In the interests of savings on tooling dollars, the G.I. Joe team’s second marine is built upon a pre-existing frame-- that of the Retaliation Battle Kata Roadblock. This gives Leatherneck all of the strengths and weaknesses of that figure as well as the exaggerated stature. It’s been said on every Facebook group and forum from here to Cobra-La but Leatherneck really is a giant when compared to other figures in the line. A great deal of how much a Joe fan enjoys this figure is going to depend on how much that fact bothers him or her. There’s no way around it-- he’s bigger than Resolute Roadblock, FSS Big Boa, SDCC Sgt. Slaughter, and even an original Sgt Savage figure. That’s right-- we’ve reached the point where Gen 3 Joes are finally larger than Sgt. Savage which pushed the scale envelope up a few notches when it debuted back in 1994.
One question that might come to mind is “Why is he ranting on and on about the figure’s height when he seemed to like the Battle Kata Roadblock?” That’s a very good question and much of it has to do with the figure’s head sculpt. At the 2013 G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention in Indianapolis, Hasbro surprised fans with a late-Saturday reveal of several more “concept case” figures. Some of those shown-- Destro, Flint, Lady Jaye,Beach Head, Leatherneck, HEAT Viper-- have all seen inclusion in the 50th Anniversary line. (Others such as Storm Shadow, Rock-N-Roll, and GUNG-HO are still sadly absent but more on this later.) These figures appeared to be some of the best sculpted Joes yet seen from Hasbro including the team’s two primary Marines. Previously in the 25th line, Gung-Ho and Leatherneck were produced over and over using the same head sculpt-- for BOTH of them. As such, the lines between the two characters blurred to the point where they both just might as well have been a new character called “Jar Head”. Yet, in that concept case reveal, both Marines were shown with unique head sculpts.
Whoever paired Leatherneck’s head up with this body failed to take one simple factor into consideration and that is the size of the human head in proportion to overall human body. To appear proportionate, the average person is about 7.5 heads tall whereas a heroic figure is about 8.5 heads tall with a larger chest and longer limbs. The rough size of the head, however, does not vary that greatly when compared to the overall human form. Look at the Battle Kata Roadblock figure and you’ll notice that his head seems slightly small when compared to his body. However, place him next to Flint, Duke, and Joe Colton and you’ll see that his head really isn’t that much larger than theirs-- in spite of the height different. His head appears a bit smaller because his body is that much larger.
Now, take a look at Leatherneck. You’ll notice that his head looks completely normal on his frame which it should on an average-sized person. The problem is that Leatherneck, who has always been presented as muscular but hardly a hulking figure, isn’t average-sized. He’s a significantly larger than his peers-- including his forever-partner Wetsuit. This, aside from the incredibly poor paint apps on the figure, is my issue with Leatherneck. Fine-- if someone at Hasbro wanted to make him taller and stretch some mileage out of the Roadblock body that’s fine. However, with his current proportions, Leatherneck is more on par with the late Richard Kiel, the 7’5” actor who portrayed the metallic-mouthed Jaws in both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Mr. Kiel suffered from a condition known as acromegaly-- where the human body produces excess growth hormone and results in abnormally large stature. If you look at images of Mr. Kiel, his proportions are oddly similar to those of Leatherneck. I’m sure I’ll be accused of being nitpicky but doesn’t the 50th anniversary of the line that helped cement Hasbro’s once-dominant position in the boys’ toy market deserve better?
In terms of gear, Leatherneck’s kit isn’t much-- but thanks to the Battle Kata body he can store most of it easily. Leatherneck comes equipped with the following:
The knives and the M2 should look familiar-- they were both part of Roadblock’s gear in his Retaliation released. The M-16 appears to be new-- or at least this is the first time it has been released in gray, which is a fitting homage to Leatherneck’s original vintage kit. There is no backpack included so it’s not quite a perfect homage but the gear works well enough. The ammunition belt isn’t the most flexible accessory in the universe and I find that it just sits in the “ye olde parts box” most of the time but it does make for nice diorama fodder.
At the end of the day, is Leatherneck worth picking up? After my previous height rant, my answer might surprise many readers out there. There’s a lot to like with this figure. His uniform is a near perfect update to the vintage figure thanks to the added vest and the Battle Kata Roadblock body offers terrific articulation and detailing and the new head sculpt is a terrific update on the original vintage head. Even the figure’s kit works to make this a Generation 3 update to Leatherneck that isn’t just another Gung-Ho clone. However, the dodgy paint apps and the general disregard to the character's prior scale make this a bit of a connundrum. If taken on his own, the Leatherneck figure is actually a "decent" update to the original. However, when placed next to other Generation 3 Joes he looks-- well, off. He's too tall, his paint is too amateur in application and he really doesn't look like a Hasbro-produced Joe but instead resembles a decently-done knock-off. It's this last part that's the real rub as the concept case figure looked really good albeit a bit tall. Now, Leatherneck just towers over poor old Wetsuit and looks like he was painted by an amateur like me instead of by one of Hasbro's production lines.
The Bottom Line: Like many pieces in the 50th, Leatherneck comes close to the mark in some areas but falls short in so many others. The quality here just isn't up to Hasbro's usual standards.
Questions? Comments? Think that Leatherneck isn't too tall but is just right?
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