This article was written in partnership with Gamenomics & Comicology (GameandComic.com); re-published by TMNT: A Collection to archive the information (with permission).
We have something a little different for you today – a holy grail of collectibles for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans. The Mirage Studios A.C. Farley Leonardo Bust.
This collectible has an extremely interesting but tumultuous history; one that is not explained with much depth on the internet. Mirage Studios was the comic book publishing company founded by TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in the mid-1980s. As the TMNT started to skyrocket in popularity with the 1980s cartoon, major blockbuster movies, and the ongoing comic series, there was a whole team of people working at Mirage Studios on various parts.
One of the artists at Mirage Studious was Craig “A.C.” Farley who is probably most known for his covers from TMNT issues #50-62, known as the City at War story arc. A.C. Farley is an incredibly talented artist and there was a push to create a high-end collectible to celebrate Mirage Studios reaching its 50th comic issue milestone. Leonardo was the first bust created and there were rumors that each of the four turtles were planned to have their own bust created.
Initially, 500 of these Leonardo busts were planned in the production run. Mirage even put out a Leonardo’s Been Busted! teaser image announcing the bronze-tinted statues. As you can see on the box cover art below, there is a “1 of 500” printed at the bottom of the cover label. For clarity, these did not end up being individually numbered – each box says “1 of 500.”
Unfortunately, only about 80 of the statues were produced due to issues with the modeling company, Geometrics. These were designed to be cast in bronze-filled resin but, unfortunately, the 80 produced were made in white resin (photos below).
At this step in the story, it is important to note that, during the resin casing process, a mold release agent is applied that essentially creates a very thin film over the white resin.
Wanting to deliver on their advertised product to produce a bronze bust, Mirage contracted a local artist to paint each bust. However, despite being told about the mold release agent, the local artist did not wash the white resin thoroughly enough to entirely remove the mold release agent. As a result, the bronze-painted busts suffer from the paint flaking off of the resin; the mold release agent prevents a strong adherence of the paint to the bust (we have included a photo below of some flaking bronze paint from the shoulder of one of the busts). Of the 80 busts produced, only 20-30 were painted in bronze, making these even more rare. If you happen to own a white resin bust that you plan to paint, be sure to thoroughly wash the bust with warm water, soap, and a brush to get all the nooks and crevices cleaned. We would recommend washing and drying a second full time to ensure all of the mold release agent is washed off.
Each statue contains three main components: the Leonardo figure, the sewer grate stand, and two small swords that are intended to be glued onto the scabbards on the back of the bust. On the reverse of every bust is some writing engraved through the resin cast that includes A.C. Farley’s signature, TMNT, Copyright 1992, and Mirage Studios. The box that the bust comes in is a very basic white box with an information printout glued to the front of it.
It is really unfortunate that this collectible had such a difficult production run. In my opinion, this is one of A.C. Farley’s most brilliant creations and the bust is a really beautiful collectible. They occasionally appear on eBay but many are locked into the homes of collectors. As an aside, these statues display nicely in Ultra Pro Football display cases since the busts are slightly shorter than a football (approximately 9″ tall) when the swords are attached.