There’s often widely popular figures that people will admit leave them flat, usually they’re figures that are a little more out there than the rest of the design, that are generally popular, but will have some detractors, examples of this are generally figures like the B.A.T.. For me, the one figure that does nothing for me, but is a fan favourite, is the 1986 Leatherneck figure.
1986 was the year of major characters getting replacements, that were very similar to the original character, but different enough to justify the new character. So while, Gung Ho and Torpedo were available into 1985, they were replaced in 1986 with Leatherneck and Wet-Suit. Leatherneck checks a lot of the same boxes for the design that the first Joe Marine also checked. Both are wearing Marine Corps hats, both are moustachioed, and, while the shirtless in a vest design of Gung Ho isn’t shared, there’s a fairly strong similarity to it with Leatherneck’s tan vest that breaks up the green of the figure.
It’s something that was constant within G.I. Joe (Like how Falcon is quite similar to Flint), so I don’t find it entirely egregious, and there’s enough notable differences, to separate the two. Had a comic pack Gung Ho been made, at some point in the repaint era, using the 1986 Leatherneck head could’ve been a fairly solid use of the mold, and probably the only one I’d actually like to see.
The torso of Leatherneck is an interesting thing, because if you look at it, it’s incredibly similar to the equipment the 1984 Mutt figure is wearing, but there’s just a little more ambiguity to the design, that it instead just looks like it doesn’t match up with the rest of the figure, leaving Leatherneck looking a little out of sorts, since his limbs don’t match the torso.
Outside of the torso, the colouring is quite strong, I wish the green was a little more in the olive drab part of the spectrum, but it works for what it is. The brown camouflage isn’t the greatest pattern, but it’s unique and helps the figure a lot, and probably works better than it would have, had it been a more traditional G.I. Joe style. There’s a lot of colours on the figure, with the black and silver highlights really helping the contrast on the figure, without being too much. In fact, the lack of any additional “bright” colours, shows how well the colouring of the figure was done. A lot of Joes, would often get a splash of red to help them truly be eye catching, but Leatherneck is coloured well enough, that it isn’t required.
A sculpting area of Leatherneck, I’m not a fan of, is how plain his lower legs tend to be. If there was ever a figure that needed a weapon strapped to his lower leg, it’s Leatherneck. While his lower legs aren’t out of proportion or anything, the plainness of them provides an optical illusion of the figure having chicken legs. On the other hand, the sculpting on the Marine Corps logo on his hat or his wristwatch are quite well done details.
The overall design for the figure is quite strong, with lots of neat little details, but for some reason combined the figure doesn’t really do much for me. There’s a design strain through the 85-87 line up, where there’s figures with exaggerated aspects to their designs, big heads and a slightly more cartoonish vein to aspects of the figures. Leatherneck is one of these figures, with other such luminaries as Beachhead, Fast Draw, Psyche Out and Bazooka. It’s not a bad thing or anything, it’s just that I’d prefer a figure more in the vein of Flint, than Leatherneck.
Leatherneck’s biggest contribution to the G.I. Joe line, was his M-16/M-203 combo. It’s a gun that despite being oversized, is quite well done from a sculpting stand point, and had a solid colouring to it, for a year that didn’t include too many black weapons. The gun was a popular choice during the repaint era, so there’s plenty of options for it’s availability. It’s probably the third best of the Plain Jane M-16 sculpts from the early part of the G.I. Joe line, behind Grunt’s, and the one that came with Footloose, which outside of the strap’s fragility, might be one of the finest guns released in the G.I. Joe line.
I like the character of Leatherneck quite a bit, his most memorable trait in the comic book was the fact that he was constantly chewing out his teammates over things he found objectionable, be it Outback escaping while others went into the gulag, or over security issues like the Defiant being hidden under the PIT III. It was a refreshing change of pace, and helped Leatherneck stand out, as too often there weren’t any true conflicts between Joes, unless it was played up for yuks like Scarlett and Clutch.
While I don’t think about it too often, it’s a useful character trait for photography, as it allows an opportunity to show conflict, in a photo that is made up entirely of G.I. Joe members, something that’s often hard to pull off easily, because it’s an idea that’s somewhat the antithesis of the whole G.I. Joe team concept. However if Outback and Leatherneck are squaring up somewhat in a photo, it’s an identifiable enough aspect of the G.I. Joe media, that it’s immediately recognizable.
It’s funny, despite my overall dislike of the figure, I tend to use him. The 1986 figures all tend to be solid figures, that work well together. Leatherneck is also blessed with being a figure that photographs quite well, probably due to the vibrancy and multitude of colours used on his figure. I don’t rank Leatherneck very highly on my list of figures, but that’s just the way the things go sometimes, as I often don’t use figures that are my true favourites as much as I do ones that photograph particularly well.
I couldn’t tell you what exactly it is about Leatherneck that leaves me cold, but there’s something. I don’t think this is a mold that we missed out on not seeing in the repaint era, and despite being a big fan of desert figures, I’ve never once been motivated to get this figure’s only repaint, the Special Mission Brazil figure, which should indeed say something about my overall opinion of the Leatherneck figure.