So I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will probably still go hate-watch the new Michael Bay ninja turtles explosion. Sigh.
Turtles in Context – IDW issues 1-4 “Change is Constant”
by Marshall James (marshallunfocused.tumblr.com)
I am a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan and have been a lifelong follower of the comics, starting with the original Mirage run and the Archie Adventures series. The most current iteration of comics, published by IDW and helmed by Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow and TMNT-co-creator Kevin Eastman, has been the most satisfying interpretation of the lean green fighting machines to date.
One of the best parts about the IDW series is it’s determination to incorporate all the best parts of the previous incarnations into one solidified mythos. Seriously, anyone looking to reboot a franchise that has a disparate mythology with lots of distinct stories should study the IDW TMNT series. The writers and editors manage to pull from every corner of the TMNT multiverse to bring in interesting concepts, fan-favorite characters and locations, and even echo classic storylines.
This article series will explore such tributes, iterations, references, and story-lines to provide newcomers to the series with a point of reference for the classic history that came before; while at the same time providing some insight for other long-term fans who maybe haven’t explored as much of the TMNTverse.
So let’s begin with the first four issues of IDW’s series, collected in a trade entitled “Change is Constant.”
Issue 1 – 4
The brand new origin issue begins with Splinter, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello confronting Old Hob’s gang. It goes without saying that Splinter is the mutated rat-man ninja master who trains the Turtles, and all but Raphael are present. This separation is explained in the third issue but for now, Raphael isn’t with them and is himself lost and confused. This is a unique origin point for the TMNT and gives an interesting impetus for Raphael’s traditional outsider/loner figure role in the series. Previous TMNT stories seem to chalk up his behavior to being a teenager and feeling persecuted as so many teens do.
In fact, this brings up one of the factors that is a credit to the TMNT’s success: the primary four heroes are the same age-group as the target audience and each exhibits a pretty standard teenager niche:
Leonardo is the dutiful son, always seemingly the best and most focused of the brothers and therefore the one given the most responsibilities. He is the oldest brother and has the typical self-confidence and overprotective nature that comes with his age.
Donatello is the brain. A dutiful son like Leo but focused primarily on his hobbies and on learning, Don is the nerd with a superiority complex when it comes to brains and a slight inferiority complex when it comes to his physical skills. Don is often the voice of reason and the closest thing to a pacifist that a group of highly-trained ninjas could have.
Michelangelo is the care-free, laid-back party guy. He is everyone’s cheerleader, everyone’s friend, the baby brother. In many incarnations, he is also a writer and poet, a free-spirit. If Leo is the soul and Don the brain, then Mike is the heart.
Raphael is the rebel, the loner. He is quick to anger, quick to vengeance. He is all action and little planning, the inverse of Don in that regard. He quarrels the most with each of his brothers; he bristles at Leo’s authority, Don’s hesitancy, and Mike’s inability to take anything seriously. Raph is a pretty complex character but this IDW version finally has a distinct cause for his inescapable feelings of abandonment.
Old Hob is a new character, a mutated cat-man who has Splinter to thank for his missing eye. The “cat and mouse” allusion here might be enough to explain Hob’s existence but many point to the popular villain Verminator X from the Archie Comics TMNT Adventures as inspiration for Hob.
Verminator X, who’s original name was Manx, was an apprentice of Donatello’s in Earth’s future. He too was missing an eye but replaced it with cybernetic implants that also drove him mad. If Hob is indeed a reference to Verminator X, ownership of the character is likely what keeps him from being named Manx and therefore a direct corollary (like the TMNT or Shredder or Krang.) Dean Clarrain, principal writer for the TMNT Adventures series, created Verminator X and he likely still retains the rights. As such, Hob may be the first character to be created as an echo of an old character, though likely not the last.
Raphael overhears Casey Jones being beaten by his father, Arnold Jones, and then intervenes. Casey has been a character present in every TMNT series except the Archie Adventures series, and has classically always been a bit of a rough-around-the-edges anti-hero with a penchant for using sports equipment for weapons and a deep affection for April O’Neil.
In the original Mirage series, Casey is older and obsessed with action movies and gets it in his head to become a vigilante. While out ‘busting heads’ he first battles and then befriends Raphael and together they become a kind of secondary hero team in the books. Here, IDW’s Casey is younger, less maniacal, and literally beat-down. He is moody and depressed, stemming from his mother’s recent passing and his father’s resulting alcoholism-fueled spiral of abuse.
In flashback, we meet young April O’Neil, an intern at StockGen, a biotech research company owned by Baxter Stockman. The 1987 Fred Wolfe cartoon series may be the most famous version of the TMNT, and in that series as well as the live-action film series and the Archie Adventures comics, April is a television news reporter.
But in the original Mirage comics, April was a scientist working for megalomaniacal Baxter Stockman.
Fans of the cartoon show might remember him as the goofy white scientist who created the mousers and aided the Shredder for several seasons before being mutated into a fly-man, in reference to the classic horror film The Fly.
The original Baxter was black; the mousers he designed will appear later in this IDW series, and his penchant for flies will come up later in the series as he designs cybernetically-enhanced mutant “flyborgs.” The IDW series is harkening back to the Mirage origins for both April and Baxter, but in a stroke of genius, it is the company they both work for, StockGen, that synthesizes the mutagen that creates the Turtles. Now April is directly linked to the heroes’ origins which even lends a bit greater believability to her immediate comradery and desire to aid the mutants.
The company also employs scientists Chet Allen and Lindsey Baker. Lindsey is an entirely new character, but Chet’s name is a reference to the original Mirage series again; Eastman and Laird loved the name Chet and had several background characters with that name, they hid the name in the backgrounds of some panels, even went so far as to name the little boy who’s pet shop turtles would become the TMNT.
And in a way now, Chet is again the boy/man who’s turtles because the TMNT.
Notably this story-arc, the first of the series, only touches on part of the Turtles’ origin, their science-fiction side. But the TMNT have always had a dual-origin: one origin to explain why they are mutant turtles, and a spiritual origin of how they became ninjas. And that origin story will have to wait for the next arc.
most private thing im willing to admit: im not good at estimating how much pasta is enough for one person
there’s a tool for that
I’m sorry, does that scale progress from a child to a HORSE?
OMG GET IT
IM SO HUNGRY