Nightwatcher's Patrol #5
Turtle Power! History in a Half Shell.
Notice the blood dripping from
the end of Leo's katana. Awsome!
the end of Leo's katana. Awsome!
"Four turtles, four brothers. Genetically reborn in the sewers of New York. Named for the great Renaissance masters. And trained...as ninja."
-Intro from TMNT
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That title means something different to everyone, whether you are an old fan or a new one we all have a fond familiarity with the little guys in green. Whether you grew up with the 1987 animated series or were just now introduced through the 2003 animated series, either way, the turtles have accumulated a huge cult following. (Heck, even the search bar picture for this web site is a Ninja Turtle). But what alot of their younger fans of today may not know is that it all started in a very humble black and white comic book in the mid 1980's. It also happens to be my all time favorite comic book.
The Turtles' Legacy Begins
"Grimm, gritty. My kinda place!"
-Raph (2003 series)
Laird and Eastman respectively
The year was 1984. The Terminator had seen it's original release that year and I had turned four and started pre school. Meanwhile, the two guys above had started a comic book phenominon with the first creation and publication of Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The first issue (shown above in it's first printing), was concieved when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were sitting in the living room watching TV and brainstorming one day when one of them drew a picture of an anthropromorphic turtle wearing ninja type clothing in an attempt to make the other guy laugh. They then started flashing their drawings back and forth until those little light bulbs came on an a new comic was born. With money from a tax return coupled with a loan from Eastman's uncle the boys bravely self published the first issue. They later used the money earned from the first issue to open Mirage Studios in Northampton, Massechusetts and continued it's publication. The origin story in the first issue was supposed to be a one shot deal that spoofed that of Marvel's Dare Devil, (for those who have read Dare Devil, you know what I mean by that). The original release of #1 was printed on news print the size of a magazine and was distributed through select area news papers. Because of this, many copies were discarded making whatever copies still exsist today one of the most saught after pieces of comic book memorabelia in the world. Hopefully some of you are seeing this right now ($$$$!!).
Meet the TMNT
As suggested above, the comic book was dark and gritty. The pages practically spilled violence, profanity and even blood and, yes, in this case the turtles would kill their enemies with extreme prejudise if nessessary. In short, this is not a children's comic book. It has now been released in four volumes as listed below:
Vol. 1 - The orginal story starting with the origin and ending with the massive thirteen part "City At War" story arc. Believe it or not they had to kill The Shredder twice before he finally stayed gone! There were also three three part mini sreies here, my favorite being The River. There was also Spaced Out which made a more comedic and cartooney take on the turtles. But I also like Soul's Winter which is easily the darkest turtles story ever told. This series had the feel of an anthology rather than an on going story so a side series called "Tales of the TMNT" was made to go with it and fill in the gaps.
Vol. 2 - The only part of the series released in full color, this was mostly a giant arc revolving around the return of Baxter Stockman. It was still dark and gritty but not as good this time.
Vol. 3 - This time the reins were taken over by Image Comics which pretty much messed everything up, mostly due to changes with the main characters, although they did make it black and white again. Splinter became a bat, Don became a cyborg and, beleive it or not, Raph got scarred up in the face and became the new Shredder! Over all, despite some cool crossovers with Image characters such as Savage Dragon and The Flaming Carrot, this volume was a huge flop.
Vol. 4 - Now simply entitled TMNT the book is back in the worthy hands of Mirage Studios. The turtles are now in their early thirties (ironically enough, that's also where I am), and are still living in their sewer lair. April and Casey are still married and raising Casey's step daughter Shadow who is now a teenager (she was born to Casey's first wife Gwen during City At War). Sensei Splinter went back to the farm house in Northampton where, sadley, he died of a sudden heart attack *sniff*. Leo gave him a traditional Japanese burial at the nearby lake while crying alone on the shore, it was a pretty heart breaking scene. Also, I understand that Mikey wrote a book about their earlier adventures and Oprah loves it. He also has a human girlfriend now thanks to the return of the Utroms and their revealing of their existance. The turtles can now mingle with the outside world, albiet as aliens. Unfortunately, the story has been left open ended and Laird has no idea when, or if, it will ever be concluded.
The Legend Continues...
It was now 1987 and a Ninja Turtles five part mini series aired on CBS. The mini series was part of a campaign to launch an official, full blown animated series. That series made it's debut the following year, 1988. The first cartoon was considerably light hearted and kid friendly compared to the comic book with the turtles being very childish and unable to take anything seriously (they would laugh at just about everything). And lest we forget their love for pizza, an unfortunate love they gave me which I'm still trying to lose the belly from today. No I'm not fat but I do have a little extra chub that I'm trying to work off of now. Damned turtles!
The series eventually accumulated ten, count em', ten seasons and still holds a loyal cult following today. It was a pretty funny show: The Shredder was a pathetic whiney head, the real big boss was an evil, trans dementional alien brain named Krang who was modeled off of the Utroms and their best lackeys were two super mutant morons called Bebop (human/Wart Hog) and Rocksteady (human/Rhino). Also, April was a reporter for channel six news intead of a scientist. The series finally ended in 1996. It is considered today as the difinitive version of TMNT. Oh please, this cartoon was awsome and all but the comic book would have to be the winner, hands down. The cartoon also made quite a splash in merchandising, with toys, clothes, lunch boxes and, of course, video games, my favorite being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhatten Project for the NES.
I remember renting this game constantly from our local Blockbuster Video store which, of course, is now closed. Infact, this was part of my "pizza belly" problem. There used to be a really good pizza place right next door to our Blockbuster so we would go rent a game and/or movie first and then head over to get a slice. I suppose it was a bad idea to get pizza almost every time we went to Blockbuster but I was a young Turtles fan in my single digits and am also an only child, so I guess my Mom was just trying to give me a good childhood. A word of caution to all of you parents out there: please try not to kill your kids with kindness...or to much pizza. Anyway, I like this game because, despite the fact that Tatsu only appears as a boss in the Genisis game The Hyper Stone Hiest, this title had a plethora of villains who both did and didn't appear in the cartoon, and even Tokka, Razhar and Super Shredder from the second movie make appearances! And, of course, it was always great fun destroying the Foot Soldiers. I also liked how each turtle had his own special move this time. Leo's spinning Katana move is shown above in the picture on the left. I think he called it the "Tornado Blade". Oooh, I like that.
The Big Time
Come the early 90's the turtles' popularity had reached a peak and, naturally, a movie had to be made.
It's time to go back.
Released in 1990 the first live action movie revolved mostly around the comic books but also mixed in some elements from the current era's cartoon (ie, April being a news reporter, the turtles' love for pizza, etc). It remains a favorite among us turtle fans today, although I still remember alot of moms being quite shocked at the movie's dark and violent nature. Well I hate to brake it to them but it's based mostly on the comic so that would be the idea. I also remember hearing about some idiots who snuck into the NYC sewer system looking for the set of the turtles' sewer den. It was a sound stage you morons, it doesn't really exist. Yeesh! My mom took me to see the movie while it was still in theatres and I had a great time. I still have my original release VHS copy of the movie also which contains an old Pizza Hut commercial with some kids playing little league baseball. A great piece of nostalgia in it's own right. I also like the soundtrack to this movie, my favorite track being Partners In Kryme's "T.U.R.T.L.E. Power" which is concidered today as a classic turtles theme. I also like "The Shredder's Suite" because it fits the darkness of Turtles perfectly. I've taken the liberty of adding them here for your listening pleasure. Special thanks to youtube user Bromden 75, whoever you are you have great taste. Thumbs up dude! "I made a funny! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
The classic movie theme
This track still gives me chills!
Despite it's dark and violent nature, the first movie did so well that a sequal was bound to happen...and sure enough, in the summer of 1992 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was released.
"Muh, muh, momma?"
"Puny turtles try to hurt Shredder. Make Shredder so mad! Shredder smash puny turtles!! Rraaarrgghh!!!"
The second movie continues the comic book/cartoon hybrid story with the turtles trying to uncover the secret of their origin, only to find themselves in another battle with the not-so-dead Shredder. This time however, Shredder is not alone with The Foot in his effort to eliminate the turtles. He has gotten hold of a live cannister of ooze and two powerful animals to use it on, Tokka (snapping turtle) and Razhar (wolf). "The next fight will be different. The next fight will be freak against freak". Some of you may have noticed that the laboratory that the ooze came from was called TGRI here instead of TCRI. Also, Tokka and Razhar were the result of an agreement between New Line and the turtles' creators Eastman and Laird to keep Bepop and Rocksteady out of this movie. I also found out that Prof. Jordan Perry was going to be revealed as an Utrom at the end but they were afraid that he would be mistaken for Krang so it was cut out. This movie was more light hearted than the first but was popular never the less. I know Ninja Rap by Vanilla Ice is the most popular song on the soundtrack so I added it it below, have fun. "I made another funny! Ha, ha, ha, ha ha!"
Have you ever seen a turtle get down?
Well that was fun and all but apparently New Line wasn't quite finished just yet. They gave us one more movie in 1993 and this time the turtles had their biggest challenge yet.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (aka TMNT 3: Turtles In Time) April gets switched with an angry prince from Feudal Japan via a magic scepter (the live action version of the Sacred Sands of Time Scepter from the comics) and now the turtles have to go back in time to find her. When the turtles arrive, however, they find themselves sandwiched between a corrupt Japanese warlord, a nasty English privateer with an unfortunate fetish for guns and Mikey's crush on the princess. Not to mention that they only have two and a half days before they get stranded in the past forever. Will the turtles be able to sort everything out in time or will they be ancient history (so to speak)? Industrial Light & Magic provided some cool special effects for the scepter and, over all, this movie is a real historical hoot . "You were expecting maybe, uh, The Addams Fimily?"
As I mentioned above, the 1987 (1988?) cartoon ended in 1996 and by 1997 we were given a new series. Sadly though, it was a failed attempt.
In a way, this was supposed to be a continuation from both the first cartoon and the movies but it failed miserably, in fact it only has one season. This was mostly do to the introduction of the new fifth turtle Venus as well as her destruction of Shredder in the first episode. Oh well, at least they got to do a cross over with Power Rangers In Space. I guess that was pretty cool. Of course it was also the only episode I've seen of Power Rangers In Space. *Sigh*
It took five years for the turtles to make their next move to the small screen, but at least this time it was well worth it.
Revolving more tightly around the comics this time, the new series was much darker and more mature than the first one. There is good reason for this, Peter Laird helped head the project so that story lines from certain issues of the comics could be used this time. This made the new show more authentic and, there for, much better (or at least I think it was). I had most of the double season DVD sets but they stopped releasing them after season 2 so seasons 3 and 7 never saw a release and we only got one half set of season 4. My DVDs now reside at my local library and I see that some one is already enjoying them. It makes me pretty happy to see that.
But wait, the turtles were not done with the big screen yet. Another movie was recently released.
Interestingly enough, this starts out three thousand years ago and carries into the present day. The turtles and their friends have to help Max Winters (aka Warlord Yaotl) and The Foot round up thirteen monsters and put a final end to Winters' terrible curse. It was a pretty good movie and the CGI animation was nice but it didn't really stand as tall as the first three movies. This is, however, were I got my retrojunk screen name from because I thought Raph's alter ego kicked ass (pardon my French).
We've gotten one more big event in the turtles long legacy so far.
The sweetest turtles moment ever!
Just last year (2010) we were treated to a TV movie called Turtles Forever which spanned almost their entire history by bringing the casts of the 1987 and 2003 cartoons and the original comic books together in one epic movie. The plot revolves around the 2003 Shredder trying to rid himself of all Ninja Turtles forever by killing the comic book turtles ("turtles classics" as 2003 Mikey called them) and subverting the entire turtles multiverse! Wow! This made for a really cool scene were many a fan, I take it, put the pause button to good use. I saw the full version (1 hour, 18 min) online but all they have given us on DVD so far is the TV edit (about 1 hour, 13 min). Time to start writing some letters to Nick again. This movie acted as both a grand finale to the 2003 cartoon as well as a special piece for the turtles' twenty fifth anniversary.
So what, you may ask, is next for our little green buddies? Well come 2012 they will be starting a new animated series on Nick, this time in CGI. There is also word of a new movie, possibly live action and CGI, in the works which is also being slated for release the same year. Looks like 2012 will be the year of the turtle. As a capper for this article I will leave you with this debate: there are currently two different concepts for the turtles' appearance in the next movie which may be a reboot revolving almost entirely around the comic book. I have slapped the pictures below, tell me which one you like better.
I think #1 looks more realistic but #2 is more authentic. Judging by what I've seen online they are going to use #2 but I'm not certain yet. I guess I'm on the fence about which one I like better though. You guys can even the score for me in the comments box below. Well, that about wraps up another article, I hope everyone enjoys our little walk down Ninja Turtle memory lane. I'm sorry my last two articles were so long but I like to cover all the bases, or at least as much as I can. I think I'm going to follow in another retro junker's footsteps and take a break for a while, but don't worry, I'll be back soon. I guess there's only one thing to say until next time: