30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Like most children of the 80s, I grew up steeped in everything I could get my hands on related to TMNT.  Of course, as a child in the 80s, and not a teenager, that mostly meant the original Fred Wolf cartoon and the plethora of associated toys.  I had no childhood knowledge of the gritty, more violent Mirage Comics from Kevin Eatman and Peter Laird at the time, but I still loved the turtles dearly.

I’ve been reading the IDW comics and have wanted to write some blog entries for a while.  My thoughts on story arcs, a piece on the Alopex character, some things I particularly like, and chances to talk about the mainstay characters. And, of course, I’ve been wanting to compile all my thoughts on the upcoming movie “from producer Michael Bay” (honestly, if you’re the only guy behind the camera getting billed on trailers, then you earn all the flak and ire from those unhappy, so yeah, it’s “Bay’s turtles” to me so long as he’s getting top billing over the director).  So far, however, I’ve waited to write about the turtles.  Waited for this month. For May 2014.

For this month, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first appearance of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Shredder, and Splinter.  A comic series that still inspires today, a comic series that has no small part in my own ideas for a comic book or webcomic that I’m still working to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  Two guys took influence from their favorite comic creators of the time and released what has to be the most successful independent publication in the history of comics.  That’s a really cool story.

So I decided I would dedicate the month of May largely to TMNT.  Oh yes, I’m going to see Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past and I’m going to read other comics and play some other games. But largely, this month is dedicated to comics, games, cartoons, and movies involving four mutated turtles trained as ninja as well as pizza. Lots of pizza.

I actually spent last night watching the first five episodes of the Fred Wolf cartoon again.  The classic intro theme is still catchy as ever and the animation for the opening theme still holds up today.

The cartoon’s take on the turtles origin, with Splinter being Hamato Yoshi actually works pretty well and is still used in today’s incarnations in some way or another.  Cam Clarke and Barry Gordon are still the voices I most associate with Leonardo and Donatello, though I like later voice actors for Mike and Raph more, particularly Raphael.  Since the cartoon was for kids, Raphael’s personality took the largest change into one of more of a wise cracking sarcastic character rather than the most anti-hero archetype of the group.  Shredder was pretty cool in the first five issues with only occasional childish antics that grew more pronounced as the series continued.  And while Peter Laird is known to have not liked them, I think Bebop and Rocksteady were fantastic additions to the turtle continuity.  They suffered from bumbling henchman syndrome of a children’s cartoon, but the character have a lot of potential to be a serious threat, as IDW has been showing with their development of them.

I don’t know that, even with nostalgia encouraging me, I’d want to pick up the full 10 season run of the original cartoon, but going back and watching the original 5 episodes is still a lot of fun.  While I have my share of complaints with what has been seen and what’s known of the upcoming movie from Platinum Dunes, I do think that taking elements of the original cartoon could definitely work for a more updated and seriously toned film, but I’ll get into that later.

Happy birthday TMNT, here’s hoping to many more. Cowabunga, dudes.

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