Time for more TMNT characters! This time, I grab a quartet of villains from assorted times in the show’s history!
Always dead-on target, Groundchuck aims to please Shredder. This mutated weapons expert is the Foot Clan’s hooved hoodlum of choice. Chunky and beefy, Groundchuck is Grade A when it comes to grinding up the Turtles. Pushing the Teens to their limit with his electro-prod and Turtle-tethering crossbow, Groundchuck’s a cut above the rest. It’s lights out for our half-shelled heroes when Groundchuck takes aim with his tranquilizing dart wrist gun. This horned hood has declared open season – and the Turtles are fair game!
And now we come to one of my absolute favorite toys ever- Groundchuck, who for some reason I always called “Bulldrome” (did I just throw away his original packaging too soon, or what?). He looks AMAZING. Like some combination of 1980s (bright colors! ’80s sci-fi!) and 1990s (Cyborg! Guns!) stereotypical character designs onto one character. He’s squat like a lot of TMNT toys were, but still strong and vicious-looking, and stand-outish. In a series that could often default to “Bulky Guy + Standard Uniform + Animal”, he actually looks different by being a non-standard color, having metallic bits everywhere, and packing those yellow “target” symbols on his suit.
Sadly, I never once saw an episode featuring him- one specific memory I have is hanging out with some random kid at an… outdoor concert? One of those ones with a children’s entertainer singing songs about Sneakers and Spike McCool (holy god I actually remember the names of the songs… and the fact that my sisters ruined the tape we bought from the guy by putting it in one of those ’80s-era “Voice Recorder” Boom Boxes for kids, and recording their random vocal noises over some of the songs). And since he was wearing a TMNT-related t-shirt, we started talking about the show, and when I mentioned Groundchuck, he talked about having seen the episode, but mentioning that the character died in it (he didn’t, but the kid got the “he was punching some giant dome” bit right).
Of course, this is only scarcely-relevant to the character, but really- he didn’t get up to much in the show. He was created alongside Dirtbag, teamed up with the Shredder, but got trapped on the Planet of the Turtleoids in a two-parter episode. Neither he nor Dirtbag ever reappeared. Here, Jim Cummings voiced him with a Southern cowboy accent with a lot of cowboy phrases like “Greenhorn”. Interestingly, Groundchuck completely houses Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady immediately and ignores orders, then easily overpowers the mutants when they try again. I also love the name of the place they’re robbing- “The Museum of Excessive Opulence”.
Unlike almost every other character who appeared in the TV show, we never got another version of Groundchuck- even in IDW or the Nick Toon. The only other appearance of the character outside the ’80s toon and the toyline is as a Stage Boss in TMNT III for the NES.
Put your ear to the ground and listen for Dirtbag, the militant mutant mole man. He’s a crazy coal miner and a mad mole all rolled into one. Dirtbag tunnels through sewers like a chisel through cheese. This mutant mole’s main mission is to seek out and destroy his arch enemy Splinter. And sewer searchin’ can’t be easier with Dirtbag’s gear: a rancid rat pack and chisel knife. The sewers are sure to crumble under the weight of Dirtbag’s jack hammer gun – the deadliest pneumatic tool in the world! And Splinter better stop snoozin’ in his meditation chamber, ’cause Dirtbag’s got a mind-numbing 4-pointed pick. Nothing can stop this tunneling terror – not walls, not boulders – maybe not even the Turtles! So listen hard and listen long, for the next sound you hear could be Splinter splintering!
Dirtbag came out four years into the toyline, and looks pretty “Basic”, all things considered. He appears alongside the bull Groundchuck in a pair of episodes called The Planet of the Turtleoids (they were supposed to be a gorilla & lion, but those animals escaped thanks to the alien Turtleoids, and a mole & bull were put in their place by Rocksteady & Bebop). Shredder decided they would be his henchmen, but they rebelled against his authority, and were soon captured and sent to “Shell-Ri-La” (naturally, the name for the Turtleoids’s planet), where they teamed up with an evil dragon (god this show) and were eventually trapped on the planet. Later, they appeared allying with an evil Space Pirate. Both were minor losers, capable in the first fight but swiftly beaten on the follow-ups- Dirtbag tried to escape using the sewers, but he was easily trapped because who knows sewers better than the Turtles?
Heckled for being humongous, this heavy hero took his fat into his own hands and joined a secret sumo society to defend his honor. There he was branded Tattoo. Henceforth, he decided to engulf his entire body with tattoos to live up to his name. Now that he’s done up his dermis, Tattoo takes his tonnage to the Turtle Teens to help them fight the Foot. Armed with only his massive muscles and skin illustrations, Tattoo beats the baddies with his bare hands. To further fool the Foot, Tattoo’s tattoos even come to life. And when he’s not using his scary skin, this inked individual flexes his forearms and funnels his fat to flatten the Foot. What’s more – the green guys really like him, ’cause his tattoos remind them of pizza topping!
Tatoo is a great case of the kind of character you’d NEVER see after the 1980s were over- not only is he a weird combination of Japanese ethnic stereotypes (the sumo wrestler combined with the tattoos of the Yakuza gangs), but he’s also so yellow that he actually looks JAUNDICED.
He’s different in the two continuities- in the Archie book & toys, he was a bullied kid who decided to use his fat for good, joining a “secret sumo society” to defend his honor- he gets the TMNT to rescue his pet chihuahua from the Yakuza, who wanted him to throw his next fight. In the cartoon, he was a HAMSTER mutated into a human being by the Shredder- the Turtles encountered him vandalizing a pet shop, and elecrocuted him to get him back to rodent form. Shockingly, despite the cartoon mostly being used to sell toys, this occupies only the first few minutes of a two-parter, and he lasts a single fight before being transformed back- the remainder of the two-parter introduces Dirtbag & Groundchuck and involves the Turtles flying off into space. So it’s a really weird cameo for this guy. Like they were short on time for episodes and didn’t want to base one around him, but needed to still include him?
Krang’s tired of taking on the Teens without professional help. So he’s brought in a new low-life bad guy. And when it comes to low-life, no one is lower than Scale Tail. He’s known as the highest paid bounty hunter from Dimension X. Scale Tail never fails to bag his bounty – and now he’s after the Turtles. This sleezeball is no slouch, ’cause he’s fully armed (okay, so they’re more like tentacles). Scale Tail’s got everything a belly-slidin’ psycho needs to cash in on the Turtle Teens. That venomous backpack holds more than just lunch! And be careful with that wattage whip – it’s electrified! Oh, and the most exciting aspect about Scale Tail – he can swallow the Turtles whole. So be on the lookout for Scale Tail, the dangerously digesting double-dealing Snake.
Scale Tail is another Toy-Only character, coming out in 1992- it’s only fitting that a series about mutant reptiles would EVENTUALLY feature a snake. He’s actually a pretty cool toy, and his concept is classic- why NOT just hire intergalactic bounty hunters to go after your arch-enemies? He’s one of those guys who could have gotten a lot more focus, but there just wasn’t time for him- he debuted in 1992, and the show was doing much shorter seasons by then. The only other appearance of Scale Tail in the franchise is as a Stage Boss in the 1993 Radical Rescue Game Boy game. The closest thing any other version of the franchise has to him is what Karai turned into in the Nickelodeon series- a snake-monster with snakes for arms.