Leatherhead is a fictional character in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. He was created in 1987 by Mirage Studios artist Ryan Brown, who also went on to create the Saturday morning cartoon series Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa for the ABC television network. He is a mutated, anthropomorphic alligator (sometimes a crocodile) and appears in all TMNT versions except for the movies and live action series.
Mirage Comics Edit
Originally Leatherhead was nothing more than an infant alligator which had somehow found its way into the sewers. While in the sewers, Leatherhead was found by a group of TCRI Utroms who decided to bring the creature to their headquarters. During his stay with the Utroms, Leatherhead was exposed to Mutagen which caused him to mutate into a humanoid and intelligent being.
Living with the Utroms, Leatherhead ended up being separated from his "family" when the TCRI building self-destructed. The now homeless Leatherhead was forced to live in the sewers where he was continually attacked by a big-game hunter called Mr. Marlin. During one attack by the hunter, Leatherhead met the Turtles. Aiding Leatherhead in defeating the hunter, the Turtles decided to allow Leatherhead to live in their old home.
Eventually two Foot Clan ninjas encountered an eye-patch-wearing Leatherhead in the sewers. Fearing that Leatherhead would kill them, the ninjas tried to get on Leatherhead's good side by promising to aid him in creating his Transmat Device. Accepting the help, Leatherhead and the ninjas set to work creating the Transmat, only to be interrupted by the Turtles. After a brief skirmish, the Turtles learned that the Foot ninjas were actually helping Leatherhead. Embarrassed by the incident the Turtles decided to aid the mutant alligator. Eventually the Transmat Device was complete, Leatherhead could finally reach the Utrom Homeworld. Unfortunately instead of teleporting Leatherhead, the device simply blew up in his face. This failure was too much for Leatherhead to handle and in a fit of rage, Leatherhead killed his two Foot assistants and vowed revenge on the Turtles, whom he blamed for wrecking his attempt to get "home."
Leatherhead later resurfaced in Volume 4. He makes an appearance at Master Splinter's funeral. He is then seen wrestling a mutated Raphael in the sewers before swimming off. It is unknown what his current relationship with the Turtles is, but Raphael's comment that he hopes he didn't hurt Leatherhead would make it seem as if they're at least on good terms.
He has also appeared in two issues of Tales of the TMNT Volume 2. In issue eight, a mentally unstable and delusional Leatherhead is discovered by Raphael to be building another Transmat Device. Leatherhead seems to harbor an insane grudge against Donatello, and nearly kills Raphael when he mistakes him for Donatello (all the four TMNT wear red bandanas in this version). Once the Transmat Device was finished, it suddenly kicked into operation and causes three Utroms to appear; these Utroms blast Leatherhead with a ray gun, and take him away, destroying the Transmat Device as they leave.
In issue twenty-three, the Turtles are recruited by the Utroms to save Leatherhead from a renegade group of Utrom radicals called "The Illuminated," the same ones who took him away in issue eight, in attempts to clone him into an army of mutants to aid in their world "cleansing" agenda. It is revealed that the Illuminated where secretly drugging Leatherhead, which caused him to subconsciously to build the second Transmat Device he was working on in issue eight, then wake up and remember little. It also caused his missing eye to heal and gave him a massive increase in size. The Turtles rescue Leatherhead, defeated the clones, and aided in the destruction of the Illuminated. Leatherhead returns to Earth with the turtles rather than going back to the Utrom home world. These events all take place between Volumes 2 and 4 of the Mirage series.
It is interesting to note that in the past, at several comic conventions, Leatherhead creator Ryan Brown has said he initially intended to kill the character off at the end of Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1, #6 by having the gator-man tumble into the underground gorge with the evil big game hunter but Turtle's creator Peter Laird nixed the idea opting to have Leatherhead survive and return to the sewers with the Turtles.
Brown returns to plot his creation after 19 years in the September 2007 issue of Tales of the TMNT. Out for a swim, Leatherhead encounters a group of aliens called Sigmurethites and attacks them. The alligator-man's Utrom guardian Dr. X also appears in this issue in a female scientist's exoskeleton.
Image Comics (Volume 3) Edit
After two children are found slain and half-eaten in the sewers Leonardo comes to believe that Leatherhead may have been responsible. Tracking down Leatherhead, Leonardo was surprised to find the mutant alligator unconscious and bound. Before he could free Leatherhead, Leonardo was attacked by King Komodo and his Monitor lizard minions, the actual killers of the children.
Engaging King Komodo in battle, Leonardo successfully managed to kill King Komodo's minions, only to end-up being knocked unconscious with his hand bitten off. Waking up hours later, Leonardo managed to free Leatherhead and the two, with help from Michaelangelo and Casey Jones managed to defeat King Komodo.
Afterwards Leatherhead, his feud with the Turtles forgotten, introduced them to Dr. X, an Utrom left behind from when the TCRI building collapsed. Together with Dr. X and the Turtles, Leatherhead managed to assemble a new Transmat Device, unfortunately, energy projected from the device ended-up luring a group of Triceratons to Leatherhead's lair.
Engaging the Triceratons in battle with the Turtles, Leatherhead managed to viciously maul several of them. Unfortunately, while battling the last remaining Triceraton, Dr. X and Leatherhead's Transmat Device malfunctioned and transported Leatherhead and the unnamed Triceraton to parts unknown.
1987-1996 animated series Edit
In the 1987 series, Leatherhead is an enemy of the Turtles who fought them on several different occasions. He started off as a giant alligator until he swam through a Mutagen-polluted (thanks to a previous botched mission by Krang & Shredder, the one that gave birth to the punk frogs) part of the swamp where he mutated to his current humanoid form. He resides in the swamp area of Florida, commonly known as "the Everglades". He hunted the turtle's allies, the Punk Frogs (Napoleon, Ghengis, Attila, and Rasputin) and then went after them. He then hunted the turtles on their own turf in the sewer. But while he searches for the turtles, he also meets the Rat King and wrestles him to the ground before he tried to fight against the turtles. Later, he partnered up with the Rat King, after their attempts to kill each other failed, to eliminate the turtles. In one episode called "Night of the Rogues," Shredder hired him and the Rat King; along with Slash, Tempestra, Anthrax, Scumbug, and Chrome Dome to help him and Krang destroy the Turtles. His overall clothing is a vest, rubber waders (rubber pants that go over boots & regular pants, held up by straps over shoulders), and a beat up hat; he speaks in a cajun accent. Usually carries bear traps & large crayfish on his person. He is depicted as survivalist and tracker. Original creator Ryan Brown went back and redesigned his Leatherhead character for this particular incarnation of the Ninja Turtles.
Leatherhead was voiced by Jim Cummings who also, coincidentally, went on to voice more of Brown's characters, such as the Dakota Dude and Saddlesore Scorpion from the Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa.
Archie Comics Edit
Leatherhead starts as an animal mutated by mutagen in all versions except from the Archie TMNT Adventures Comics, where he starts as a poor human named Jess Harley who lived in the swamps, and became transformed when the "witch" Mary Bones used the Turnstone on him. At first the Shredder lures Leatherhead to work with him until Leatherhead discovers that the Shredder is a villain. Leatherhead later becomes a wrestling hero at the Stump Asteroid and later a member of the Mighty Mutanimals. He and the other members of that group were killed before the end of the Archie Comics run with the Turtles characters.
Ryan Brown, at different convention appearances, has stated that his character Jess Harley is an homage to his favorite actor, Lance Henriksen, and is named after two characters from his favorite films, Jesse Hucker in Near Dark and Ed Harley from Pumpkinhead.
2003 animated series Edit
In the 2003 series Leatherhead is shown as a friend of the Turtles and is often referred to as "LH." He is voiced by F.B. Owens in seasons 2 and 3 and by Gary Lewis in season 4.
Going back to his original black and white beginnings in the 6th issue of the 1987 Mirage Studio's comic Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leatherhead was originally an exotic pet who got flushed down to the sewer, somehow ending up in an Utrom base. After being exposed to the same mutagen that would eventually change the turtles, Leatherhead became a massive, humanoid croc. With intelligence mirroring that of Donatello's, he lived with the Utroms whom he considered his family. He was accidentally left behind during the Shredder's attack, which forced the Utroms to flee Earth. In his desperation to return to his family, he befriended Baxter Stockman and helped him create a new body while working on a transmat device so he could rejoin the Utroms. Leatherhead eventually met and befriended Michelangelo who found him living in the Turtles' old lair. After a battle between the Turtles and Stockman, Leatherhead learned that Stockman worked for the Shredder and attacked him. The resulting battle caused a cave-in, and despite Michaelangelo's pleas for him to follow them, Leatherhead seemingly gave his life for his new friends.
Leatherhead later reappeared, surviving because of his tough skin, as a prisoner and object of experimentation in the lab of Agent Bishop. After being freed by the turtles, he helped his old friends escape, and for a time lived in the Turtles' lair. However, Leatherhead's animal rages, already dangerous, were made more so by Bishop's experimentation. While in blind animal rage, Leatherhead struck Michelangelo, and woke up to believe that he had killed his friend.
Leaving the Turtles, a depressed Leatherhead found himself hunted by an extreme game hunter, Mr. Marlin, through the sewers. Luckily, he was saved by his friends who refused to give up on him and was delighted to discover Michaelangelo was alive and well. In the end, he chose to live away from his friends due to his affliction, living in a nearby chamber (an abandoned subway station resembling the Turtles' lair from the second and third TMNT movies) so he would always be nearby, but still able to ensure their safety.
Leatherhead appeared several more times to help the Turtles, primarily in their battles with the Foot and Agent Bishop. He even joined them in attacking the Shredder's secret launch pad, and attacked his family's enemy with unmatched fury. However, the Shredder's minion Hun got in the way, and the two fell into the silo. Both survived, and Leatherhead returned to his lair. He is later revealed to have helped Donatello create the Monster Hunter gear used by the Turtles against Bishop's mutant creatures. He is also shown to have formed a deep friendship with Don, and is deeply saddened when his friend is mutated and he cannot cure him.
Leatherhead worked together with the other Turtles to capture Donatello. Soon after, he helped them penetrate Bishop's headquarters at Area 51. There, he was forced to fight the mutated Donatello. Reminded of the trauma he had suffered, he was tempted to extract revenge on Bishop but managed to control his anger with the help of his friends. He then went on to prove his brilliance by using Bishop's resources to devise a cure for Bishop's outbreak, despite his personal grudge against the man.
Leatherhead appears in the Season 7 episode "Wedding Bells and Bytes" as a guest at Casey and April's wedding at Casey's grandmother's farm. He remarks to Angel that he always cries at weddings. During the Foot attack, he helps save the other guests the barn collapses and then helps fight the Foot.
Leatherhead is, here, rather reminiscent of another sauran scientific genius in comicdom, The Lizard. Both are brilliant scientists who struggle constantly with a bestial nature and violent outbursts. Also, Leatherhead wears a lab coat that is torn a bit at one sleeve, very reminiscent of Dr. Connors' missing arm (in human form).
Video game appearancesEdit
Leatherhead made an appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project as a boss in the sewer level, his appearance is that of his action figure. Leatherhead appears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Missions as a boss in Baxters lab though he looks different from his other appearances. He also appears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, both arcade & SNES versions, as the boss in the train level; before the fight, Leatherhead says, "Oh goodie, fresh turtles for lunch." He also appears as the first boss in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist. In these appearances he looks like his cartoon counter part from the original animated series.
Leatherhead has also made an appearance as a boss in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, although the cutscene shows him as an ally, although we see the cave-in caused by Stockman that causes Leatherhead to be buried beneath what remains of the Turtles' old lair.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare Leatherhead is shown in the background in a cutscene near the end of Episode 1. There is no reason given why he is there in space with the Turtles, Casey, and April. In reality, this is because the scene was taken directly from the cartoon, where he was with them for some time.