Talking Movies [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

The first issue of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was published in May of 1984. Since then, the TMNT have gone on to achieve worldwide mainstream success thanks not only to their original comics run but also a number of influential cartoons, videogames, and wave-upon-wave of action figures. This year, I’m emphasising third entries and time travel shenanigans in the popular franchise every Tuesday in May!

Talking Movies

Released: 19 March 1993
Director: Stuart Gillard
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Budget: $21 million
Stars: Brian Tochi/Mark Caso, Corey Feldman/Jim Raposa, Tim Kelleher/Matt Hill, Robbie Rist/David Fraser, Vivian Wu, Sab Shimono, Stuart Wilson, Paige Turco, and Elias Koteas

The Plot:
When reporter April O’Neil (Turco) purchases an ancient Japanese sceptre that allows those simultaneously holding it in different centuries to switch places in time, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles travel to feudal Japan to rescue her from the clutches of the villainous Lord Norinaga (Shimono), teaming up with rebel leader Misu (Wu) and, in the process, opposing Norinaga’s oppressive campaign against her people.

The Background:
As I’ve detailed previously, the TMNT were originally created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to be a violent pastiche of comic book troupes before being catapulted to mainstream success by the unbelievably popular 1987 cartoon. It was probably inevitable that this would lead to a live-action feature film, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) proved to be both a technically impressive financial success and a cult favourite. Although Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991) received comparatively mixed reviews, it still did well at the box office and I, for one, regard it as an under-rated entry in the franchise. The TMNT’s brand remained popular and successful, however, but there were a number of noticeable changes made for the third live-action film; first of all, Jim Henson’s studio was no longer involved in the production, and the animatronics created by All Effects Company were far less impressive. Secondly, their most iconic enemy, Oroku Saki/The Shredder, was entirely absent due to a slight case of death; and, finally, the film featured a time travel plot that took the narrative out of the sewers and often has it erroneously referred to as Turtles in Time. Although some of the original cast members returned after skipping the second film, and despite debuting at number one at the U.S. box office, TMNT III’s $54.4 million worldwide gross made it the least successful of the films so far, and the film was universally panned. Thanks to its dumbed down plot and characterisations, nonsensical narrative, and childish humour, TMNT III is widely regarded as one of the lowest points in the franchise; plans for a fourth film were scrapped and it would be nearly ten years before the TMNT made it back to cinema screens.

The Review:
Rather than opening up on the streets of New York City, a location more than prominent to the TMNT and the previous films, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III begins in 1603 Japan and finds Prince Kenshin (Henry Hayashi) being captured by samurai warriors as Mitsu watches on helplessly. We’re then reintroduced to the TMNT, still in their awesome abandoned subway lair, not through a fun or gritty action scene but, instead, through a musical montage that has the four show off their dance moves alongside their ninja skills. Sadly, this is one of the few times that the TMNT will actually use their weapons in the film, and an early warning sign that the film is going to be focused much more on slapstick buffoonery than its predecessors. Things haven’t changed too much for the TMNT since the last film; they’re still pushed to hone their ninja skills by their master and father figure, Splinter (James Murray), still obsessed with pizza, and Raphael (Kelleher/Hill) is still the gruff hot-head of the group who’s constantly frustrated that all of their efforts to keep people safe go unrecognised by the general public since they’re forced to hide underground. Because of this tantrum, he storms off in a huff and misses the gift that their ace reporter human friend April O’Neil shows off to them: an ancient Japanese sceptre she bought from a flea market.

The TMNT travel to feudal Japan to rescue April and end up winning over a group of rebels.

Back in the past, Kenshin, the son of powerful warlord Lord Norinaga, also stumbles upon the same sceptre alongside a scroll depicting the TMNT (or “kappa”, as he calls them) and reads aloud the inscription on the sceptre. This activates the sceptre in the present time and causes April and Kenshin to switch places (and, inexplicably, clothing thanks to the sceptre’s magic); since Donatello (Feldman/Raposa) “does machines”, he’s somehow able to use his computer to study the sceptre and work out that it operates by switching individuals of equal mass and weight in time. Oh, and there’s also an arbitrary time limit on how long the TMNT have to rescue April, meaning they only have sixty hours to complete the mission before the space/time continuum goes “out of sync”. Swapping places with four of Lord Norinaga’s Honour Guard, the TMNT find themselves garbed in ceremonial armour and in the middle of a raid upon a nearby village and, in the confusion, Michelangelo (Rist/Fraser) is captured by Mitsu and her fledgling rebellion. Luckily, he and the others soon earn the respect and admiration of the rebels after they save the life of young Yoshi (Travis A. Moon), one of the few things that Leonardo (Tochi/Caso) gets to do beyond showcasing his bizarre lack of brainpower. This, as much as the purity of the unpolluted landscape, brings Raphael a serenity he never knew existed; he also forms a bond with Yoshi, surprising himself by imparting advice about the boy’s temper and desire to fight rather than have fun and enjoy his childhood. While Donatello and Leonardo are determined to construct a replica sceptre to return them home, Mikey and Raph are actually tempted to remain in the past, where they’re accepted and revered.

While Lord Norinaga uses the old ways and Walker opts for artillery, neither are intimidating villains.

There’s no question that Lord Norinaga is a poor substitute for the far more intimidating Shredder; I think one of the most undeniable failings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is that it lacks a strong, iconic villain like the Shredder for the TMNT to go up against. A proud man who believes in maintaining his position and family name through power, Lord Norinaga is a power-hungry warlord shamed by his son’s rebellious ways and with a staunch belief in the might of his army. Lord Norinaga is aided by Walker (Wilson), an unscrupulous English trader who gleefully supplies him with gunpowder and other armaments and resources for his war. Walker scoffs at the Japanese clan’s ancient superstitions and their out-dated ways and is more of a futurist, believing in the unrivalled power of guns and artillery rather than ancient relics and fantasies. Surrounded by a gaggle of underappreciated buffoons, Walker is nevertheless intrigued by April’s spontaneous arrival in feudal Japan and goes to great lengths to track down the missing sceptre, including sacking a nearby village using his superior weapons and manipulating Lord Norinaga into purchasing his cannons and ammunitions in order to fend off the “demons” who now threaten his empire. A sneering, manipulative, and calculating opportunist, Walker delights in the fortune and power recent events bring him but is more of a pantomime villain than a truly intimidating foe; Michelangelo likens him to Clint Eastwood, but he’s more like the late, great Rik Mayall in his appearance and mannerisms.

Despite the bigger cast with new and old faces, most of them really don’t get much to do.

Although she played a prominent supporting role in the previous two films as an audience surrogate and a valued ally to the TMNT, April gets quite a bit more screen time in this third entry; when transported to the past, she’s branded a witch by Lord Norinaga and locked in a dungeon and the TMNT’s entire motivation this time around is going back in time to rescue her. Although April spends much of the film either locked in a cell or in need of rescue, April proves herself to be rather feisty and capable; she tries to play upon the superstitions of her captors to in an attempt to intimidate them and frequently hurls abuse their way. Since the TMNT need to swap places with those from the past, Michelangelo brings in their old ally, Casey Jones (Koteas), to watch over Splinter, their lair, and the time-displaced Japanese warriors. Sadly, this means that there really isn’t anything substantial for Casey to do in the film except babysit and be used for questionable comic relief, but Koteas does play a dual role in the film as April finds herself locked up alongside Whit after he unsuccessfully tried to lead a mutiny against Walker. The film is also populated by a number of new characters; Kenshin is the rebellious son of the warmongering Lord Norinaga, who openly opposes his father’s dreams of conquest and is anxious to get back to the past and reunite with Mistu. Though the headstrong leader of a vastly outnumbered rebellion, Mitsu also ends up becoming little more than a damsel in distress when Whit betrays them and takes her, and the real sceptre, to Lord Norinaga in a misguided attempt to broker a deal with Walker.

The Nitty-Gritty:
On the surface, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III tries to coast off of the success and reputation of its predecessors and the mammoth franchise as a whole; it recreates the subway set from the second film, returns many of the same voice actors from the last two movies, and even reuses the soundtrack from the first film, none of which really help to improve its presentation. While the first movie was (and, in my opinion, still is) the perfect blend between the violent source material and the more family-friendly cartoon series, the second leaned a bit more into humour and cartoony shenanigans; however, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III takes all of these latter elements and brings them right to the forefront. No longer are the TMNT shrouded by the darkness of night (which really doesn’t help hide how inferior their suits are) and they’ve been distilled down to the most basic of characterisations. Even Leonardo, typically the level-headed and intelligent leader of the group, is portrayed as a complete idiot here, and the focus of their dialogue is now firmly on cringey pop culture references, catchphrases, and idiotic statements that will probably make little kids laugh but will leave older viewers rolling their eyes. It is, essentially, a live-action cartoon and, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it is a noticeable downgrade considering the first movie was also a live-action cartoon but it didn’t treat its audience like they were juvenile idiots or pander to the lowest common denominator. Here, all nuance is completely cast aside; the TMNT are generally too busy making fools of themselves and messing about, so when heartfelt moments like Raph’s bond with Yoshi do occur they fall flat because of all the tomfoolery that proceeds them.

The suits are bad, the dialogue corny, and the film’s lumbered with an out of place time travel gimmick.

It’s undeniable that the TMNT suits, while still impressive practical and animatronic effects, have taken a noticeable downgrade. The actors seem to be able to move more freely in these suits, to be fair, but they look far less believable and much more like plastic, rubbery outfits than in the last two films. The heads are easily the worst aspect; the eyes are far less expressive, the mouths don’t sync up as well, and everything just feels much more cheap and low quality. By far the worst offender, though, his Splinter; not only does the wise old rat sensei look far worse than his previous incarnations, but he’s rarely ever shown in full body in a clear attempt by the filmmakers to hide his limitations and mostly just peeps out through window frames or sits in his chair. The action sequences are equally underwhelming this time around; while the TMNT are far more spritely in this film, and fights are filmed in full daylight, the TMNT continue to use their weapons either defensively or for comedic effect and everything seems far more choreographed and dumbed down, which is a shame considering how many more armed opponents the TMNT have to contend with in this jaunt. Additionally, the film is lumbered with an inexplicable time travel plot that really doesn’t seem to gel all that well with the atmosphere of the previous films; obviously, the TMNT have endured similar fantastical plots in the cartoons and comics but, for me, the natural next step is either interdimensional travel or facing an otherworldly, sci-fi threat like Krang and Dimension-X. Clearly, the decision to set the film in feudal Japan was a budgetary one, and that’s a shame as there was no way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III could hope to out-do the mutated opponents the TMNT faced in the last film when they’re stuck in the 17th century for the majority of the runtime.

Ultimately the TMNT are victorious and opt to return home for another cringey dance number.

With time fast running out, the TMNT have no choice but to join forces with the rebels in an all-out assault on Castle Norinaga in order to rescue Mitsu and reclaim the sceptre. This leads to them discovering that Lord Norinaga’s ancestor was previously defeated by four legendary kappa, and the odd insinuation that they’re somehow descended from these mythological creatures. It also involves a number of fight scenes pitting the TMNT and Mitsu against Lord Norinaga’s guards, and the rebels against his forces, though any kind of tension or danger is largely mitigated by an overuse of comical sound effects and embarrassing one-liners. Leo finally gets something significant to do, however, when he gets into an intense sword fight with Lord Norinaga that sees the warlord trapped in a giant bell after being bested. All the fighting bizarrely stops when Walker and his men hold everyone at gunpoint, such is the fear of his weapons, but he flees in terror after Leo ducks into his shell to avoid being killed by his cannon. Although Walker distracts them by throwing the sceptre at them to cover his escape, Whit ultimately finishes him off by blasting him with a flaming projectile and sending Walker plunging to his poorly-realised demise in the sea below.  Afterwards, the TMNT briefly debate whether they should return to the present; while Donnie is eager to return home and Leo considers staying, Mikey and Raph are strongly tempted to stay since Raph feels appreciated there and Mikey has, apparently, fallen for Mitsu. Ultimately, after a brief fake-out, all four return home, with April, and the status quo is restored, with Kenshin and Mistu being reunited and the TMNT enjoying one last embarrassing dance number to bring this mess to an end.

The Summary:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was one of the first movies I remember seeing at the cinema; like almost everyone back then, I was a big TMNT fan and excited to see them on the big screen, but I honestly don’t remember what I thought to it back in the day and barely even remember going to see it. In the years since, I’ve rarely returned to the film since there are far better TMNT options out there, so it seems redundant to waste my time watching one of the more inferior productions. It doesn’t help that everyone and their mother has talked at length about how bad this film is compared to its predecessors, which really doesn’t make me excited to drop the disc in when I could just watch the first, and infinitely superior, movie instead. I guess there’s enough here for little kids to find some enjoyment; it’s very cartoony and full of one-liners and slapstick and daft fight scenes, but it’s just depressing to see how the property got some dumbed down so quickly. The whole production looks and feels so much cheaper, from the suits to the voice acting and the plot, and I’ll always find it odd how the comics and animated stories were able to do a better job appealing to their core demographic than a big-budget live-action production. Even die-hard TMNT fans will struggle with this one, and it’s best left to gather dust on the shelf.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III? How do you think the film holds up against the other TMNT films? Which of the TMNT is your favourite and why? What did you think to the time travel plot and the increased emphasis on comedic slapstick? Would you like to see another live-action TMNT film using modern technology to create more practical versions of the TMNT? How are you celebrating the TMNT’s debut this month? Whatever your thoughts on the TMNT, leave a comment down below.

Talking Movies [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

The first issue of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was published in May of 1984. Since then, the TMNT have gone on to achieve worldwide mainstream success thanks not only to their original comics run but also a number of influential cartoons, videogames, and wave-upon-wave of action figures. Even now, the TMNT continue to be an influential and popular commodity, proving that some fads don’t die out…they just get stronger!

Talking Movies

Released: 22 March 1991
Director: Michael Pressman
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Budget: $25 million
Stars: Brian Tochi/Mark Caso, Adam Carl/Leif Tilden, Laurie Faso/Kenn Troum, Robbie Rist/Mark Caso, Paige Turco, David Warner, Ernie Reyes, Jr., and David McCharen/François Chau

The Plot:
Having defeated their nemesis, Oroku Saki/The Shredder (McCharen/Chau), the TMNT begin to grow restless about being hidden in the shadows. When their friend, reporter April O’Neil (Turco), does a report on Techno Global Research Industries (TGRI), she uncovers a possible link to their past through the mysterious mutagenic “ooze”. However, the TMNT are in for the fight of their lives when Shredder returns bent on revenge and uses the ooze to create mutant minions of his own!

The Background:
As I’ve explained before, the TMNT were originally a violent pastiche of comic book troupes created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird who were catapulted to mainstream success by the unbelievably popular 1987 cartoon. Perhaps inevitably, this led to a live-action feature film; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was a technically impressive financial success that went on to become a cult favourite. Interestingly enough, though, as much as I love that film, I actually saw its sequel first. Produced on a budget nearly twice that of the original, TMNT II featured a few cast changes and Eastman and Laird using every piece of their influence and creative control to ensure that Shredder’s henchmen from the cartoon didn’t appear in the film. Although TMNT II went on to receive mixed reviews due to it being dumbed down compared its predecessor, it stillmade over $78 million at the box office (though this was significantly less than the first film). However, despite TMNT II’s less-than-stellar reputation, I have an incredible amount of nostalgia for it and prefer to think of it as an under-rated entry in the franchise.

The Review:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze picks up an unspecified (but presumably short) period of time after the end of the last movie; with the Foot Clan all-but eradicated following the Shredder’s apparent death, New York City has settled down quite a bit and it appears that all of its inhabitants have taken to stuffing their faces with delicious pizza rather than causing trouble to their fellow man.

The TMNT grow restless after the victory and befriend an awe-struck pizza delivery boy.

Sorry, did I say all? Well, that’s not quite true as we find our new audience surrogate, Keno (Reyes, Jr.), stumbling upon a late-night robbery while out delivering (you guessed it) pizza. Though a bit of a little bastard (he body shames a couple of girls when they turn him down despite the fact that they look pretty fine to me), Keno’s a good kid just trying to make his own way so when he finds a group of low-level scumbags robbing a mall, he doesn’t hesitate to intervene using his impressive martial arts skills. While his intentions are good and he’s more than capable of holding his own, Keno is hopelessly outnumbered but, luckily for him, he’s saved when the TMNT intervene. Since their old sewer hideout was compromised in the last film, the TMNT and their mentor and father-figure, Splinter (Kevin Clash), have moved into the new apartment of their human friend, April O’Neil, and have filled their time by mostly ordering pizza. You may be wondering what happened to Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) between movies and, sadly, this answer is never provided; instead, Keno bonds with the TMNT after discovering them on one of his many trips to April’s apartment with their pizza and specifically forms a fast friendship with the similarly hot-headed Raphael (Faso/Troum).

While Raph prefers to be proactive, Mikey continues to fall back on buffoonery.

Essentially, the TMNT remain very much the same characters as in the last film, although their more childish characteristics have been dialled up quite a bit; all of them, even field leader Leonardo (Tochi/Caso), are far more prone to spouting quips and surfer talk during fights and are growing incredibly restless with having to hide from the outside world, especially after saving the city. As before, it is Raphael who most strongly embodies this; when Keno finds that the Foot are actively enlisting new recruits, both characters explicitly disobey Splinter’s direct order not to investigate and Raph ends up captured as a result, apparently having learned nothing about the value of teamwork from the last movie. Of all the TMNT, it is Michelangelo (Rist/Caso) who again best encompasses the TMNT’s buffoonery; he’s the first one to spout a pop culture reference, lapse into tomfoolery, or incur a punishment from Splinter for his foolishness, and yet, despite all of that, he actually ends up being instrumental in defeating the Shredder’s mutant goons.

The TMNT are disappointed to find that their creation was a simple industrial accident.

The TMNT’s immature and restless nature is of considerable aggravation to April, who is torn between enjoying the company of her strange friends and finding their laziness and untidiness irritating in her cramped apartment. Similarly, Splinter tries to emphasise that his “sons” cannot ever hope to be a part of normal society and most devote themselves to the life of ninjas, hiding in the shadows in order to protect them from reprisals. When April’s news report on TGRI promises to answer lingering questions about their past, the TMNT are excited to investigate further, especially Donatello (Carl/Tilden). However, Donnie is disheartened to learn from Professor Jordan Perry (Warner) that their creation was simply a mistake caused when one of TGRI’s canisters of mutagenic ooze was lost down a sewer some fifteen years ago.

Shredder is enraged when his mutant minions turn out to be little more than super strong babies!

With the Foot in disarray at the start of the film, Tatsu’s (Toshishiro Obata/Michael McConnohie) hopes of taking the reins are almost instantly supplanted by the returning Shredder, who pulls himself from the wreckage of his defeat, crafts himself a far more fearsome-looking armour, and specifically sends the best of his few remaining men to follow April in order to enact revenge against the TMNT. In the process, the Shredder acquires the final canister of the mutagenic ooze and arranges for Perry to be taken hostage so that he can use the substance to create mutant minions of his own. The results are not the more familiar Bebop and Rocksteady but are, instead the infantile Tokka (Frank Welker/Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Frank Welker/Mark Ginther) who immediately (and amusingly) imprint on Shredder as their “Mama” and pose a significant physical threat due to their sheer size and ferocity.

The Nitty-Gritty:
While I can understand people lamenting that the sequel adopts more of the kid-friendly archetypes from its animated counterpart than the first film, I don’t really feel like this is a detriment to Secret of the Ooze; the presence of additional jokes and gags doesn’t diminish from the film’s darker elements (the Shredder, in particular, cuts a far more intimidating figure thanks to his new armour). Additionally, having more slapstick elements doesn’t mean the film isn’t entertaining and amusing; if the first film was a compromise between the comic and the cartoon, the sequel is a pretty close live-action approximation of the cartoon and also delivers one of my favourite exchanges in the entire franchise (Mickey’s “Yeah, a little too Raph!” line is just golden!) The film also greatly benefits from its increased budget, which not only results in the TMNT’s impressive new lair in an abandoned subway but also far more exterior scenes in and around the city and even an appearance and song by rapper Vanilla Ice.

While cartoonish action is the order of the day, the suits and fighting are still impressive.

Additionally, and crucially, the turtle suits still look fantastic and are, arguably, better than in the first film. The film also features bigger and more elaborate fight scenes and the martial arts are still incredibly impressive considering how hot and heavy and uncomfortable the suits must be, though it can’t be denied that the action has been significantly dumbed down. Unlike in the first film, the TMNT never actually use their weapons in combat, which is startlingly emphasised in the opening fight scene where they dispatch each of the robbers using slapstick shenanigans and improvised weaponry from the mall. Cartoonish sound effects punctuate a lot of the fights and actions in the film but they are used relatively sparingly and to amusing effect and one of the standout sequences sees Raph and Keno sneaking their way into, and attempting to fight their way out of, the Foot’s new recruitment centre.

After disposing of Tokka and Rahzar, the TMNT must do battle with the Super Shredder!

The addition of mutated antagonists for the TMNT to fight is a welcome one; while I would have much preferred Bebop and Rocksteady, Tokka and Rahzar are a more than suitable substitute thanks to their savage appearances. As you might expect, given how the film leans more towards the comedic than its predecessor, the two are also the source of much comedy; being “intellectually inferior” by Perry’s design to try and render them less of a threat, the two are easily manipulated by Shredder. Despite having the numbers advantage against Tokka and Rahzar, the TMNT are continuously overpowered by their greater strength and are forced to turn to a more scientific solution to defeat them and reduce them to harmless, regular animals. With his minions taken out of the picture, and driven to the edge by his numerous defeats and humiliations, the Shredder opts to drink the last vial of ooze and transforms himself into the hulking “Super Shredder” (Kevin Nash). The resulting finale is a far less technically impressive contest between the TMNT and their archenemy as, rather than making short work of the TMNT with his superior martial arts and skills like in the first film, the Super Shredder is little more than a silent, monstrous foe who goes on a self-destructive rampage on a pier. Though outmatched by Super Shredder’s incredible strength and unrequited rage, this ultimately doesn’t matter since Shredder ends up destroying himself for an ending that is a sadly anticlimactic end for their most famous enemy.

The Summary:
Even now, considering my unashamed fondness for the first film, I still find Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze a thoroughly entertaining watch in its own right. In many ways, the film is the perfect bridge between the original Mirage Comics and the popular 1980s cartoon since it has just the right blend of cartoonish buffoonery and action and dark, poignant moments. Sure, it’s disappointing that the TMNT don’t use their weapons offensively but it’s not like they were cutting their enemies up into bits and pieces in the first film and anyone who’s watched the cartoon would be more than used to this depiction of the TMNT by this point. The addition of mutated antagonists was a welcome one; while Bebop and Rocksteady would have been my first, preferred choice, it was a natural way to escalate the conflict from the first film. Featuring a bunch of genuinely amusing gags and moments, some fun action, and incredibly impressive practical suits and animatronics, The Secret of the Ooze has plenty of appealing features to it that make it a more than worthy follow-up to the last film and I will defend it until my dying day as being an entertaining experience in its own right that deserves far more attention than it gets.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze? How do you think the film holds up against its predecessor and the other TMNT films? Which of the TMNT is your favourite and why? What did you think to Tokka and Rahzar and would you have preferred to see Bebop and Rocksteady instead? What did you think to the increased emphasis on comedic slapstick compared to the last film? Would you like to see another live-action TMNT film using modern technology to create more practical versions of the TMNT? How are you celebrating the TMNT’s debut this month? Whatever your thoughts on the TMNT, leave a comment down below.

Talking Movies [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The first issue of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) was published in May of 1984. Since then, the TMNT have gone on to achieve worldwide mainstream success thanks not only to their original comics run but also a number of influential cartoons, videogames, and wave-upon-wave of action figures. Even now, the TMNT continue to be an influential and popular commodity, proving that some fads don’t die out…they just get stronger!

Talking Movies

Released: 30 March 1990
Director: Steve Barron
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Budget: $13.5 million
Stars: Brian Tochi/David Forman, Corey Feldman/Leif Tilden, Josh Pais, Robbie Rist/Michelan Sisti, David McCharen/James Saito, Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, and Kevin Clash

The Plot:
New York City is under siege by a crime wave perpetrated by masked hoodlums calling themselves the “Foot Clan”. When reporter April O’Neil (Hoag) tries to bring their organisation to light, the Foot’s leader, Oroku Saki/The Shredder (McCharen/Saito) orders her death but she is saved by four turtles, mutated into humanoid form and trained in martial arts and the way of the ninja, who live in the sewers. When the TMNT’s master, Splinter (Clash) is attacked and held captive by the Foot, they must work to set aside their differences, end the Shredder’s schemes, and finally settle an old grudge between him and their master.

The Background:
I’ve talking in great detail about this before but you must be surprised to learn just how dark and violent the TMNT originally were; created and self-published by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird back in 1984, the TMNT were influenced by the works of Frank Miller and comic books like Daredevil, the New Mutants, Ronin (Miller, et al, 1983 to 1984), and Cerebus (Sim and Gerhard, 1977 to 2004). As such, the four mutated ninjas were rendered in striking black and white and exposited stoic, stilted dialogue (largely through text boxes) in a clear pastiche of Miller’s trademark art and writing style. The extremely popular 1987 cartoon catapulted the TMNT to mainstream superstardom, transforming them from dark, violent anti-heroes to cute, cuddly, kid-friendly “Hero” Turtles. As such, for many children (myself included), our first taste of just how violent the TMNT could be was this live-action feature film, which blended elements of both the cartoon and the comics to create what is, for me, the quintessential TMNT movie. To bring the TMNT to life, the filmmakers wisely went to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to create highly sophisticated suits and animatronics, giving the film a truly timeless feel not just because of nostalgia but the sheer quality of the film’s practical effects. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, unsurprisingly, debuted at number one at the box office and went on to earn over $200 million, meaning it was a massive success. Perhaps due to the film’s subject matter and target audience, critics were somewhat divided on their opinion of the film but it has gone on to be a cult favourite for many and, of course, spawned two sequels (one which I believe to be under-rated and the other which was hot garbage).

The Review:
The film begins by showcasing and emphasising the crimewave that is sweeping through New York City; April narrates in her broadcast the particulars of these events and we see how teenagers and youths are picking pockets and stealing stuff all over the place and delivering it to the Foot Clan. This sets up right away that the city is, in effect, under siege and the police are powerless to really stop it and hints towards possible corruption in the police department as a result of the Foot’s influence. Despite the warnings of Charles Pennington (Jay Patterson), her boss, April is determined to run with the story; she’s that typical reporter cliché we’ve seen hundreds of times in a multitude of media, always chasing the story and butting heads with those in authority, and seemingly ignorant to any threat against her person. This backfires on her when the Foot confront her, apparently looking to kill her, but she puts up a decent fight despite the odds being stacked against her, which really helps sell her as this tenacious and ballsy character.

April is a strong, ballsy ally to the TMNT who isn’t afraid to stand up to injustice.

April gains additional layers as the film progresses; though she first reacts with fear and horror at the appearances of the TMNT and Splinter, she soon becomes captivated by their origin story, sympathetic to their cause, and befriends them, showing genuine affection towards each of them and offering them a place to stay after Splinter is abducted and presumed dead. She also has a lot of friction with Casey Jones (Koteas) at first but the two eventually warm to each other as they spend more time together; though she doesn’t really factor into the film’s finale, she’s the glue that holds the characters together and drives the plot into motion. Plus, even better, she never becomes a simple damsel in distress and is, instead, both an audience surrogate and a useful ally when the TMNT are left directionless after Splinter’s kidnapping.

The TMNT are kept in shadows and given distinct markings and colourations.

The film does a great job keeping the TMNT hidden and obscured in the early going; they strike from the shadows and are only heard, rather than seen, until dramatically leaping into view in all their practical and animatronic glory. Each of the TMNT has a distinct look (Michelangelo (Rist/Sisti) is shorter and pudgier, and Leonardo (Tochi/Forman) is leaner and more toned, for example), colourations, and blemishes to help distinguish them beyond their different bandana colours. Each also sports a different and unique voice and accent, with Raphael (Pais) favouring more of a Brooklyn twang and Mikey having that “surfer dude” style of speech that the TMNT were known for in the cartoons.

Raphael’s hot-headed nature causes him to clash with Leo and results in him being seriously hurt.

Additionally, each has their own personality and character arc in the film to help separate them and make them relevant; of them all, though, it is Raphael who gets the most recognisable story arc as he is the angry, antagonistic, hothead of the group. He expresses both ager and frustration at having lost his sai in the beginning, frequently defies Leo’s authority and leadership, and makes numerous trips to the surface in a ridiculously basic disguise. Of all the TMNT, Raph is the one who takes Splinter’s abduction the worst, reacting with a gut-wrenching cry of anguish and lashing out at both friend and foe alike. He ultimately pays the price for this when he is jumped and beaten by the Foot and spends the second act of the film semi-conscious in a bathtub. Faced with his mortality, he makes amends with his brother and the TMNT begin training anew as a complete group to take the fight to the Foot Clan.

Leo is forced to hold his brothers together in Splinter’s absence and reconcile with Raph.

Leo’s character arc is subtle but present; he’s the field leader of the group but they are all relatively untested in live combat so there are some kinks to work out in the dynamic. Obviously, the most explicit example of this is seen in his frequent clashes with Raphael but we also see Leo struggling to hold his brothers together in Splinter’s absence and he is the only one balanced enough to successfully contact Splinter through meditation and eventually comes to lead the group in their battle against Shredder.

Don and Mike are often paired up but aren’t quite as prominent as their brothers.

Conversely, Donatello (Feldman/Tilden) doesn’t really get much of an opportunity to really stand out or do much in the film, showcasing none of the intelligence or technological ability he is generally known for; however, he is the only one to use bigger, more verbose words in his vocabulary, to notice when April’s apartment is becoming structurally unstable, and to help fix up the vehicle at the farmhouse so these elements aren’t entirely absent. He also attempts to address the implications of Splinter’s absence to the team and bonds with Casey during the sojourn at April’s farmhouse and gets a lot more to do than Mikey, who is the childish goof of the film and exists mainly to complete the group and act as the comic relief. He doesn’t even get highlighted during April’s narration at the farmhouse and has few stand out moments beyond being a loveable goofball and his cringe-worthy, but amusing, series of impressions.

The TMNT work best as a team, where they are a formidable force despite their bickering.

Still, the appeal of the TMNT has always been the group dynamic rather than the individuals; when Raph is injured, the team is noticeably fractured and struggles to coordinate their efforts without all four of them and, though they often clash and are very different, even volatile personalities at times, they work best when they are a team. The film really uses their amusing bickering, interpersonal conflicts, and complex interactions to sell the idea of the TMNT being four teenaged brothers; of course they don’t always get along and they are far from perfect but this serves only to highlight them as relatable and full-realised characters even when some of them get ore screen time and development than others.

Splinter is the TMNT’s wise mentor and father-figure whose absence affects them greatly.

The TMNT are guided in their growth and development by Splinter, their mentor and father-figure; each of the TMNT has a different relationship with Splinter, who is a calm and wise teacher who indulges but often despairs over their more childish ways and personality quirks. Leo treats Splinter with a reverence and respect, Mikey takes him somewhat for granted and isn’t willing to think about life without him, Don is the opposite and worries about Splinter’s mortality, and Splinter struggles to get through Raph’s anger. Splinter spends much of the film as Shredder’s captive but, while he is clearly suffering and, perhaps, close to death during this torture, he not only remains tight-lipped but is also able to impart his knowledge on to Charles’s son, Danny (Michael Turney), and make contact with the TMNT via semi-telepathic meditation. Splinter also gets his own arc in the film, having raised the TMNT using teachings he learned as an ordinary rat and, ultimately, confronting and besting the man who killed his master.

Violent vigilante Casey Jones becomes a snarky, ass-kicking ally of the TMNT.

April isn’t the only audience surrogate in the film though; we also get one of my favourite characters in the franchise, Casey Jones, the hockey mask wearing, sports-gear-wielding vigilante who initially clashes with Raphael before falling in with the TMNT and forming a friendship with them, especially Donatello. We don’t learn a massive amount about Casey or his motivations beyond vague hints towards an injury keeping him from going into professional sports, that he’s extremely claustrophobic, and that he appears to a homeless vagrant but Koteas brings a real likeable charisma and snark to the role and Casey ends up helping out a lot in the film’s finale by rescuing Splinter and confronting Shredder’s main henchman, Tatsu (Toshishiro Obata/Michael McConnohie).

Shredder cuts an intimidating figure but his plot to turn teens into ninja thieves is a bit suspect…

Speaking of Shredder, he’s a far more subdued and calculating individual compared to his boisterous animated incarnation. Rather than wishing to conquer the city, the world, or employ resources from another dimension, Shredder’s entire plot seems to be about building an army of ninja warriors and thieves, turning disillusioned teens into petty crooks and fostering their resentment of authority figures by allowing them to indulge their every whim. It’s not entirely clear what his larger endgame is but it’s enough to amass him a formidable criminal enterprise and to have the city in a state of…maybe not fear but definitely apprehension.

Shredder is easily able to best the TMNT in combat before being summarily defeated by Splinter.

Of course, it turns out that the Shredder is actually Oroku Saki, the man responsible for killing Splinter’s master. This isn’t revealed until right at the very end of the film, moments before the Shredder’s defeat at Splinter’s hands, but the TMNT’s battle against the Shredder is highly emotionally charged nevertheless thanks to the beating the Foot deliver to Raphael, Shredder being behind Splinter’s abduction, and Shredder’s assertion that their father-figure is dead. Unlike his lowly minions, Shredder is a formidable combatant, able to easily match and best the TMNT in a four-on-one battle and exuding menace and authority through this very presence.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Having grown up watching Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles as a child, I had no idea how dark and violent the original TMNT comics were; the film was in stark contrast to the TMNT media I was exposed to on a semi-regular basis and, at the time, I saw it as a darker, more serious reimagining of the concept. Still, it impressed me then and it still impresses now not just as easily the best live-action adaptation of the comic books but also how closely it sticks to the original comics. A few elements are changed here and there and the TMNT look and act a lot more like their animated counterparts, but this is all to the film’s benefit as the early comics took a while to actually make distinctions between the otherwise-interchangeable TMNT.

The movie has a clear edge to it that is more like the original comics than its kid-friendly cartoon.

It always bugged me how the TMNT have these weapons and martial arts skills and yet never seemed to use them; the film doesn’t show them skewering or slicing up their enemies like in the comics but it does make far better use of their weapons and skills to portray them as competent and dangerous combatants. That’s not to say that the film isn’t violent, though; it’s full of a violent and disturbing subtext that suggests a threat just as real as the gore seen in the comics. This is seen in the Foot’s merciless beatdown of Raphael and the big fight between the remaining TMNT in April’s apartment, which sees the Foot swinging axes and other edged weapons with clear deadly intent and the film’s glorious interpretation of the Shredder as a razor-clad foe who clearly means business and has much more in common with Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) than the bungling fool seen in the cartoon.

The film strikes just the right balance between goofy humour and violence.

One of the film’s most violent scenes comes when Tatsu, Shredder’s gruff, intense, mostly-silent underling beats one of their teenage inductees to within an inch of his life. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Tatsu does kill the boy and that a line was dubbed in to keep the victim alive but, even so, that (and the fact that the TMNT carry the clear bruises and injuries of their many battles) really sells the notion that the film isn’t some goofy cartoon and means serious business. The fact that it is able to take a concept as ridiculous as the TMNT and treat it so seriously is to be commended; the TMNT and Splinter are the most outrageous aspects of the film, with everyone who sees them reacting in shock, fear, disgust, and incredulity but, once you accept that these mutated beings exist, the film is almost the exact opposite of its animated counterpart. There’s humour, of course, largely thanks to the TMNT’s goofy antics and sense of humour but, for the most part, it’s a dark and gritty take that is a fantastic compromise between the violent comic books and the more kid-friendly cartoon.

Family and fatherhood are central themes to the movie’s plot.

A central theme in the movie is that of family and fatherhood; Danny is an angry, angst-ridden teen who resents his father and wants to rebel against him (and authority in general). His emotional confusion is a pivotal sub-plot as he struggles to fit in with the Foot, doesn’t feel like he belongs or is appreciated at home with his Dad, and becomes conflicted after befriending Splinter. Shredder acts as a surrogate father to Danny and his teenaged wannabe ninjas, offering the cheap thrills of sin and indulgence in return for their unwavering loyalty, and Splinter acts as a father to the TMNT. His absence deeply affects each of the brothers and he, too, misses them greatly during his capture and torment; this comes to a head during the group’s meditation practice where he expresses his love and pride for his “sons” and the five are reunited in the finale. The theme here is that family isn’t perfect: the TMNT continuously bicker and are somewhat dysfunctional as personalities despite how well they work together when in battle, Shredder is clearly using and manipulating the kids under his command, Danny has to accept this his father is only acting in service of his best interests, and Charles has to learn that Danny is becoming his own man now and to not treat him like a kid.

The film’s impressive effects and animatronics allow the TMNT to convey a wide range of emotions.

Of course, the real star of the film are the incredible practical effects used to bring the TMNT and Splinter to life; the TMNT suits are incredibly well realised, full of distinct details and little nuances to distinguish each character and make them feel alive and real. Though their eye masks could be better (they look fake and glued to the their heads rather than being actual fabric coverings wrapped around their eyes), the animatronic heads are an incredible technological feat allowing the TMNT to express a range of emotions, expressions, and even eat pizza convincingly. Splinter looks the most like a practical puppet thanks to his frail frame and less humanoid proportions but he is nevertheless and impressive practical effect, looking wizened and being very expressive and dynamic in his range of motion, and I especially like how he has a wet nose.

The Summary:
Even now, some thirty years since its release, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to impress; the practical suits and effects used in the film make it a timeless classic that is way better than it had any right to be and ensures that it holds up under close scrutiny in today’s digital age not just thanks to nostalgia but also because of just how much clear love and effort was put not just into bringing these ridiculous characters and concepts to life but also treating them with a level of respect and reverence that you rarely saw in adaptations of such concepts back then.

Nostalgia is a contributing factor but TMNT still holds up really well even after all these years.

As a compromise between the dark and violent comic books and the bright and goofy cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still works surprisingly well; it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to a straight one-to-one adaptation of the original concept since the TMNT’s wider appeal and commercialisation lie sin their accessibility and recognisable elements like their “surfer dude” attitudes, obsession with pizza, and individual colour schemes. Nowadays, it’s widely known how violent and dark the original concept was and we’ve seen those elements work their way back into the franchise’s later animated incarnations but it was this film that was the first to bridge that gap and to showcase just how much the original concept had been changed to appeal to a wider, more mainstream audience.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


What are your thoughts on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Do you think the film still holds up today or do the rubber suits and practical effects put you off? Which of the TMNT is your favourite and why? What was your first exposure to the TMNT as a kid and which of their various incarnations is your favourite? What do you think Shredder’s endgame was in the film and would you like to see another crack at the source material using modern technology to create more practical versions of the TMNT? How are you celebrating the TMNT’s debut this month? Whatever your thoughts on the TMNT, leave a comment down below.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7

Week Nine (Final): Issue Seven

Well, here we are; it’s been a long few weeks but we’ve finally reached the last issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Color Classics Volume One (Eastman, Laird, et al, 2018). This full-colour volume collects the first seven issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s initial run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) comics, plus two one-shot issues featuring Raphael and Michelangelo (here referred to as “Michaelangelo”). Unlike the family-friendly TMNT that took childhoods by storm through the cartoons and action figures, these turtles are darker, far more serious, all dress in red, and routinely cut down their foes while also getting bloodied and battered up. These initial comics books introduced many TMNT staples and plot points that would be heavily featured in the first two live-action movies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991), as well as inspiring many episodes of the cartoons that followed. We’ve seen the TMNT confront and kill the Shredder, the dishonourable ninja behind the death of their master Splinter’s master, battle Baxter Stockman’s robotic Mousers, befriend and turn to April O’Neil when Splinter goes missing, and be teleported across space by the T.C.R.I.’s (alien brains inside robotic bodies) and battle the dinosaur-like Triceratons! We’ve also seen Raphael form a begrudging alliance with Casey Jones, a violent and sadistic masked vigilante, Mike deliver some Christmas cheer, and now, finally, it looks like the TMNT are finally on their way back to the familiar sights and sounds of New York City.

TMNTComic7Uninvited Guests
The TMNT arrive with some uninvited guests…

Speaking of which, issue seven opens up outside the T.C.R.I. building where the police and national guard have arrived and established a perimeter on account of the massive, suspicious beam of energy that had struck the building like a bolt of lighting from the sky. This is, of course, the Transmat Device finally beaming the TMNT back home; the T.C.R.I.’s stand ready to stun the turtles (since the last time they met, the TMNT attacked them in a frenzy after discovering Splinter being held in their facility) but are shocked to see that they didn’t just bring the TMNT back to New York…they also brought the TMNT’s new ally, Professor Honeycutt, and a whole bunch of angry Triceratons!

While the T.C.R.I.’s try to stun the Triceratons, the TMNT just straight-up kill them!

Though weakened and unacclimatised the Earth’s atmosphere, the Triceratons know a Transmat Device when they see one and immediately attack the T.C.R.I.’s to seize it. Caught in the middle, the TMNT join the fray and attack both groups; although the T.C.R.I.’s take care to try and stun the aliens rather than out-right kill them, true to form the TMNT have no such qualms about fatally wounding the Triceratons during the fight. With the Triceratons either dead or stunned, the TMNT are finally reunited with their master and father-figure, Splinter, and finally allow the benevolent T.C.R.I.’s to explain themselves rather than flying in all guns blazing. It’s been a long road but the TMNT are at last reunited with their mentor and it’s very satisfying to see this reunion get a nice full-page depiction.

The aliens explain their part in the TMNT’s origin.

After April arrives at the T.C.R.I. building and quickly leaves as she feels unable to help, learning that the military is preparing to force their way into the building to find out exactly what is going on, Splinter recaps the events of his escape from the Mousers and being cared for by at T.C.R.I. This leads to the T.C.R.I.’s explaining an extended version of the TMNT’s origin from issue one; it turned out that, twenty years ago, about a hundred of the aliens crash-landed on Earth during a peaceful scientific expedition; only a third of them survived the crash and, with no way of getting or contacting home, they assumed the guise of normal, everyday civilians and slowly accumulated the wealth and capital to purchase the T.C.R.I. building and begin constructing a Transmat Device to get back to their home world. During the construction of this device, they had to transport technology and salvage from their crashed ship and, during one of these runs, the fated canister of ooze fell from their truck and gave birth to the TMNT as we know them today. So, after all that, the TMNT are literally the by-product of alien technology; who would have ever thought that would be a thing

The TMNT finally return home.

Unfortunately, all the fighting in the building has damaged some of the aliens’ systems and, to make matters worse, the military have finally forced their way in. The T.C.R.I.’s send their automated defences to subdue the soldiers but, when they realise the machines aren’t deadly, the military bust out the heavy ordinance to force their way further into the facility. Thanks to the assistance of Professor Honeycutt, the Transmat Device is repaired but, with the soldiers seconds away from breeching the Transmat room, the TMNT and Splinter are forced to follow the aliens into the beam to parts unknown once more. Back in April’s apartment, it is revealed on a news report that the T.C.R.I. building was destroyed in the aftermath to ensure that the aliens’ technology didn’t fall into the wrong hands. Though she laments the fate of her strange new friends, April is overjoyed when the TMNT and Splinter materialise in her bathroom, finally back home once more.

The Krang-like aliens are more benevolent than their appearance suggests.

And that’s a wrap for the TMNT’s first seven issues. Honestly, the concept started off strong with a ridiculous parody of the likes of Frank Miller and then went truly off the rails by introducing mad scientists, killer robots, and aliens all within the first four issues! It’s absolutely bonkers but it absolutely works and, best of all, this issue is full of the TMNT action I’ve come to love about these early issues; the TMNT get down and dirty with the Triceratons once more, cutting and stabbing them to death in the melee and once again carry the wounds of such a battle, which is always a mind-boggling sight to see after how watered down the TMNT would become in the subsequent cartoons. Speaking of which, it is equally still just as strange to see the brain-like aliens act so benevolently considering how much of a constant threat Krang was to the TMNT over the years. The T.C.R.I.’s aren’t given much of an explanation or even a true species name in these issues and all we really know about them is that they came to Earth with apparently-nonviolent intentions and were stranded there for twenty years; they never try to harm or kill anyone, even when their robotic shells are being blasted to smithereens, and, right when you think they’re going to abandon or betray the TMNT at the issue’s end, they stay true to their word and return the TMNT back home with the fully-recovered Splinter.

These aren’t the TMNT you knew from the cartoons!

Honestly, I am regretting that it’s taken me this long to properly get into these original interpretations of the TMNT. I knew of their darker, more violent original incarnation and remember reading at least the first two issues in an original printing but, once the Color Classics books were released, I knew that this would be the best time to finally explore these first few issues and see what the TMNT were originally all about. Will I get another volume and continue the story, or perhaps take a stab at the much-lauded IDW series? Well, probably not as I like to buy the physical books and I only have so much space but, after reading this first volume, I have to admit that I am very tempted to make room for some more TMNT action and seeing how Eastman and Laird developed these iconic characters into fully-fleshed out personalities.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What are your thoughts on the original, more violent versions of the TMNT? Did you read this first issue when it first came out or, like me, did you discover it after the TMNT took the world by storm? What did you think about the original versions of Shredder, the Foot Clan, Baxter and the Mousers, Casey Jones, and April? Have you read the Color Classics books? If so, what did you think? Do you, perhaps, prefer the IDW comics? What is your favourite piece of TMNT merchandise? Whatever your thoughts and memories of the TMNT, feel free to leave a comment below and, if you’d like to see me bring back Turtle Tuesday or cover other TMNT media, please let me know.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6

Week Eight: Issue Six

When I bought first Color Classics (2018) volume of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, I went in a little bit blind. I knew that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) were far darker and more violent characters and I knew that they killed the Shredder in their first issue and went on to both befriend April O’Neil and battle Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers, but I never expected that the TMNT would be beamed into the far reaches of space within the first seven issues! Since issue three, the TMNT have been searching for their missing mentor and father-figure, Splinter. Their search took them to the mysterious T.C.R.I. building and saw them teleported to the alien city of Peblak, where they befriended the “Fugitoid”, Professor Honeycutt (a humanoid scientist’s consciousness trapped within a robotic body) and were hounded by the forces of General Blanque. After Honeycutt, the only one capable of constructing a Transmat Device and returning them home, was kidnapped by the dinosaur-like Triceratons, the TMNT gave chase and ended up choking to death in the cargo hold as the Triceraton ship docked with their technologically-enhanced asteroid base.

The TMNT are held captive as collateral.

Issue six picks up right where issue five left off, with Honeycutt being brought to the command deck to witness the awesome sight of the Triceraton homeworlds, a whole series of asteroids all hollowed out and filled with space-faring technology and domed cities. While Honeycutt is taken to meet with the Triceraton’s leader, Prime Leader Zanramon, the Triceratons stumble upon the TMNT in the cargo hold. They’re sat in deep mediation, presumably to lower their heartbeats and control their breathing and make the most of the limited oxygen; however, it also leaves them helpless, allowing Zanramon to hold them captive in his attempt to force Honeycutt to construct a Transmat Device to aid their wars.

The TMNT engage in a brutal fight to the death!

However, despite the threat to his new friends, Honeycutt remains resolute in his decision not to construct a Transmat Device for any reason as the threat to life is just too great, even if it means the TMNT will die. The story then jumps back to Earth to check in on April, who is beside herself with worry as the TMNT and Splinter have been missing for some time now. A news report reveals that the national guard have been called in to investigate some strange goings-on at the T.C.R.I. building, which does very little alleviate her fears and worries. Back at the Triceraton homeworld, the TMNT are forced to enter the Triceraton arena in a fight to the death. Luckily, the TMNT have been provided with oxygen kits to allow them to breathe and they’ve been allowed to keep hold of their weapons and, even better, the wrist injury that had slowed “Michaelangelo” down over the last few issues is no longer a problem, meaning that the TMNT are able to battle at full force, inflicting bloody, fatal wounds to their Triceraton opponents.

Backed into a corner, the TMNT are suddenly bathed in a familiar light…

Spotting Honeycutt in the Prime Leader’s executive box, the TMNT hatch a plan to hijack a floating platform and attack the Prime Leader and his guard. The battle is swift and the TMNT rescue Honeycutt and take Zanramon hostage, forcing him to guarantee them safe passage to his personal ship. Once again arming themselves with laser rifles, the TMNT engage in a shoot-out right as they reach the docks and Zanramon is killed in the crossfire (by his own troops, no less). Pinned down, the TMNT beat a hasty retreat to a nearby elevator only to find it full of yet more Triceratons. However, right as they are about to be gunned down, the TMNT, Honeycutt, and a handful of the Triceratons are bathed in a familiar light and disappear from sight… This is first TMNT issue I’ve looked at since beginning Turtle Tuesday that doesn’t really focus on the titular mutant turtles for the majority of its pages. Instead, we’re shown and told the specifics of the Triceraton society and spend the first half of the story with Honeycutt being threatened and April being reduced to a helpless wreck.

When the TMNT get to fighting, the issue really picks up.

Things finally pick up once the arena battle begins, in which the TMNT return to their violent, bloody glory, slicing up the Triceratons, cracking their skulls, and skewing them in their life-or-death battle. It’s always great to see the TMNT cutting up their opponents with reckless abandon and this continues as soon as they get their hands on those laser rifles and start gunning down Triceratons without hesitation. None of them really get much of a chance to stand out in this frantic setting, however, and all we really garner from this issue is that the TMNT are increasingly desperate to get back to New York.]

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What do you think of the Triceratons as a TMNT enemy? Would you have preferred to see this issue spend more time with the TMNT or did you enjoy seeing Eastman and Laird expand the scope of their off-the-wall comic book series? Did you know that T.C.R.I. actually stood for “Techno-Cosmic Research Institute” and do you agree that this is a ridiculous name? What is your favourite arena-based fight in comics, videogames, or movies? Whatever your thoughts, drop them in the comics below and come back next Tuesday to see where the TMNT end up this time!

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Week Seven: Michelangelo One-Shot

When I talked about Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I mentioned that, of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) as originally conceived by of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Raphael has stood out the most in terms of personality. Given that all of the TMNT look and sound the same and are only really separated by their individual weapons, it stands out even more when one of them shows a bit more personality in these early issues. But, while Raphael has stood out the most, each of the TMNT has showed glimpses of their individual personalities…except for “Michaelangelo”. Up until now, “Michaelangelo” has simply been a ninja turtle; it took him fives issues to exude anything even resembling a personality and even then it wasn’t anything that impressive. We’ve seen him able to hold his own when sparring with Raphael, and even best his brother in combat, receive an injury when battling the Foot Clan and having to deal with the handicap of this injury, and he was possibly (most likely) the turtle who got drunk on one alien alcoholic beverage. Apart from that, he may as well not really be there; Leonardo has been the voice of reason and given the TMNT direction, Donatello has offered technical and scientific expertise (though basic), and Raphael has been depicted as an emotional hot-head who struggles with his temper but “Michaelangelo” has just been…there…

Mike takes the time to have some fun in New York at Christmas.

So it is slightly surprising to me that, of all the TMNT, it was Mike who received his own one-shot comic; as the only of his brothers to receive a one-shot at this point was Raphael, this seems to imply that Mike was just as strong a stand out, breakout, character as his temperamental brother but, honestly, I haven’t seen any evidence in this early issues to make a case for that. If anything, it feels like Leonardo should have gotten the one-shot treatment over Mike but, here we are. Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle takes place before the TMNT were transported across space but after Splinter turned up missing; the TMNT are still staying at April O’Neil’s apartment and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s Christmas time in New York City and “Michaelangelo” is out exploring the city in the middle of a picturesque, stereotypical snow-covered Big Apple. Though he laments that he probably wouldn’t be able to take up ice skating, he jumps at the chance to try “sliding”, enjoying being out and amongst his fellow New Yorkers.

Mike stumbles upon a robbery taking place.

Rather than heading home, Mike decides to head to the shops to do some Christmas shopping but comes across a lost cat; taking a liking to the freezing kitty, Mike tucks him into his big winter coat and takes the cat with him to a nearby town store. Enamoured by the large array of toys and games on offer, Mike heads inside and, whilst playing, names his newfound friend “Klunk”; however, Klunk gets spooked by the toys and runs off to the toy shop’s warehouse. Following, Mike comes across a gang of masked individuals taking a truck full of this season’s most-popular toy (“L’il Orphan Aliens™”), which is due to be donated to a local orphanage. The thieves, however, knock out the driver and intend to steal the truck and sell the toys to make a profit so Mike, naturally, gives chase.

Mike busts up the thieves and retrieves the truck.

Grabbing hold of a loose light chord, Mike is dragged through the streets as the truck speeds away; after securing Klunk instead the truck, Mike makes short work of a couple of the goons but loses the truck when the driver speeds away. Desperate to get Klunk back and finish the job, Mike takes a chance on the driver driving erratically and without any real purpose and, luckily, catches up to the truck and takes out the driver by smashing through the front and driver’s side window. Mike plans to drive the truck back to the store but attracts the attention of New York’s finest, who have been on the lookout for the stolen vehicle, and Mike is forced to smash his way past the cops and an armed barricade. Ditching the truck down a nearby alley, Mike doesn’t want to just leave it for the cops to impound and, instead, opts to head back to his brothers at April’s apartment.

The TMNT deliver the toys to the orphange for a feel-good moment.

Mike (randomly called “Michelangelo” for the first time, though this correct spelling of his name wouldn’t stick for some time) doesn’t have to try too hard to convince the rest of the TMNT to help him out and, together, they take April’s van down to where Mike ditched the truck, load it up with the L’il Orphan Aliens™, and deliver the toys to the orphanage while dressed as Santa Claus and his helpful little elves. Compared to Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is every schmaltzy, feel-good Christmas story you’ve come to expect from comic books. Literally the only thing this one-shot contributes is that it finally shines a light on “Michaelangelo” and allows him to stand out from his brothers. As realised in this story, Mike is like a wide-eyed kid; he enjoys being out in the city, especially amongst the snow and at Christmas time, and delights in playing with and being around all the toys and games. This contrasts quite severely with what little personality he has shown thus far as he’s seen to be relatively stoic, focused, and adept at martial arts rather than the laid back, pizza-loving surfer dude he would later become. Otherwise, there’s not really much else on offer here and it doesn’t really add much to the current ongoing arc of the TMNT struggling with the loss of their mentor and father-figure, Splinter. It’s nice to see Mike’s personality fleshed out a bit but, similar to Raphael’s one-shot, it’s not as though these developments are actually translated to the subsequent issues that I’ll be looking at for Turtle Tuesday. As a one-shot, feel-good Christmas tale it’s decent enough but I always feel like such stories are a bit of waste of time as I’d much rather get to the action or the character development more than celebrate the “true meaning of Christmas”.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think about this one-shot TMNT comic? Do you think Mike deserved his own spin-off or would you have preferred to see a different character get that honour? What do you think about schmaltzy Christmas tales in comics, cartoons, or movies? Whatever you think about this issue, or the TMNT in general, feel free to leave a comment below and come back next week as the TMNT continue to fight their way through alien goons and return home.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5

Week Six: Issue Five

These last few weeks, I’ve been going back over Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles original comics every Tuesday for “Turtle Tuesday”. In the last issue, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) finally found their lost master, Splinter, being held in suspended animation in the mysterious T.C.R.I. building. However, in their haste to jump into battle with the T.C.R.I. inhabitants (sentient brains inside robotic endoskeletons), the TMNT were caught in a teleportation beam and vanished from sight. Issue five continues right where the last issue left off, with the TMNT materialising in an unknown place, surrounded by gun-wielding soldiers and accompanied by a cute little alien robot.

The TMNT find themselves lost on a strange, alien planet.

Fighting their way to freedom, the TMNT soon discover that they’re not in New York City anymore; instead, their in the futuristic city of Peblak, an alien city on an alien world inhabited by all kinds of…aliens. Their new companion, Honeycutt, recognises the device that transported the TMNT to be very similar to a theoretical machine he had in mind, the Transmat device, however the TMNT’s hopes of Honeycutt being able to transport them home are quickly dashed when Honeycutt reveals his long and convoluted origin.

Honeycutt had no interest in his inventions being used for warfare.

It turns out that Honeycutt was once a human scientist working on the Transmat Device for the government; however, as they wanted to use it as a means of warfare, he abandoned the project to focus on his Mentawave Helmet, a device capable of boosting the wearer’s capacity for telepathy and telekinesis. However, while answering a distress call from his worker robot, Sal, Honeycutt was struck by a freak bolt of lighting while wearing the helmet and tangled up in some wires with Sal. When he awoke, he found his human body was destroyed and that the Mentawave Helmet had, somehow, transferred his consciousness into Sal’s body. General Blanque, whose soldiers the TMNT fought in the opening panel, discovered Honeycutt’s charred remains and blamed it on Sal, declaring him a Fugitoid, ordering him to be hunted down and destroy. A really out of place and tacked on aside at the bottom of the page, however, reveals that Blanque knew about what had really happened (…somehow) and actually wanted to capture Honeycutt to abuse his Transmat technology.

The TMNT are attacked by Blanque’s troops while scoping out a nearby bar.

Either way, the TMNT and Honeycutt decide to work together to get off-world and escape Blanque’s forces; however, while scoping out a nearby bar for a pilot or a means to escape the planet, they are attacked by Blanque’s forces once more. Despite being slightly intoxicated by the alien alcohol, the TMNT manage to hold their own thanks to acquiring the soldier’s laser rifles. Just as all hope seems lost, the bar is attacked by a group of Triceratons, massive aliens that resemble bipedal Triceratops dinosaurs. The Triceratons capture Honeycutt and the TMNT give chase, resulting in a chase scene through the skies of the city using flying cars. Still reeling from the affects of the alcohol, and being unfamiliar with the alien craft’s controls, the TMNT are soon knocked from the sky by the superior Triceratons and, feeling the pressure of the events they’ve had to endure, Donatello briefly freaks out.

As the ship docks, the TMNT are left choking to death in the cargo hold…!

Luckily, some of Blanque’s soldiers fly overhead and the TMNT follow them to a massive shoot out between Blanque’s forces and the Triceratons; arming themselves with some laser pistols, the TMNT fight their way onto the Triceraton ship, gunning down anyone and anything that gets in their way. Before they can properly search the ship for Honeycutt, it takes off and leaves the atmosphere far behind. Honeycutt is taken to converse with the Triceraton commander, who attempts to woo the former scientist into developing a Transmat Device for them rather than General Blanque. However, as the Triceraton ship prepares to dock with their base (a massive, technologically-converted asteroid), the TMNT suddenly realise that they are slowly asphyxiating in the cargo hold as the oxygen levels begin to drop…

It didn’t take long for the TMNT to be battling aliens and robots on an alien world!

Man, we’ve come a long way from the first issue…it’s only issue five and we’ve already seen the TMNT fight rat-eating robots, battle aliens inside robotic bodies, teleport across the galaxy, be trapped on an alien world, and now they’re choking to death, lost in space! Suddenly, the idea of teenage mutant ninja turtles fighting a dishonourable ninja in razor-sharp armour doesn’t seem so far-fetched! It’s honestly commendable how quickly Eastman and Laird decided to just go balls-deep with their already ridiculous premise; it would have been so easy to keep the TMNT grounded in New York and on Earth, fighting ninjas or thugs or being typical superheroes but, instead, they had them going up against aliens within no time at all.

In a change of pace, Donatello freaks out following all the crazy stuff they’ve endured.

Equally impressive is that the injury “Michaelangelo” sustained to his wrist in the last issue continues to be a factor in this issue…at least, it is at the beginning of the issue. Add to that and Mikey actually shows slightly more personality this time around; he’s actually the first to leap into action against Blanque’s forces (rather than, say, Raphael) and it appears as though he’s the turtle who gets drunk in the bar (though, to be fair, it’s hard to say since all the turtles look the same). Additionally, Donatello stands out a little more in this issue, pulling faces to distract Blanque’s forces so Leonardo can impale them on daggers, piloting the flying car they use to chase after the Triceratons, and freaking out when they get knocked from the sky. The TMNT have been noticeably struggling since Splinter went missing back in issue three but the only one who has really lost his cool over their situation so far has been Raphael so it’s a nice change of pace to see one of the other turtles give in to the stress of the pitfalls they’ve had to go through in the space of a few nights.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of this issue? Do you think it was maybe to soon in the TMNT’s life to shave them thrown into space and battling dinosaur-like aliens or do you enjoy the wacky, off-the-wall nature of the TMNT comics and concept? Now that we’re a few issues in, which of the TMNT do you like the most from these original issues? Whatever your thoughts about the TMNT, drop a comment below and come back for next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday in which Mikey takes the spotlight for his own one-shot issue.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4

Week Five: Issue Four

I’ve recently been going back through the first few issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics every Tuesday, hence the term “Turtle Tuesday” for the next few weeks. Eastman and Laird’s original versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) are far darker and more serious than their later, more comedic and family-friendly interpretations; they all wear the same red bandanas, use their weapons to slice and even kill their opponents, and usually come out of most battles all bloody and cut up. After avenging the death of their master Splinter’s master in the first issue, the TMNT returned home from fighting Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers to find their lair ransacked and Splinter missing, presumed injured or dead. With nowhere else to go, the TMNT have moved in with their human ally, April O’Neil, while they regroup and try to come up with a plan of action.

The TMNT don’t hesitate to kill the Foot during their fight.

Issue four kicks off with the TMNT taking to the rooftops of New York City at night for some exercise and to clear their heads; it’s been a week since Splinter went missing and tensions are still high but no mention is made of Raphael’s solo adventures (as covered last week) or his encounter with Casey Jones. Catching a breather on a rooftop, the TMNT are randomly attacked by the venge-seeking Foot Clan; in the bloody, violent battle, Foot are thrown from the roof to their deaths and beaten (presumably to death) by the TMNT’s weapons.

Mike is injured by the Foot, driving Raphael into a rage.

Raphael takes a spill off the roof, crashing through the window of a nearby civilian apartment and once again exposing himself to a family of New Yorkers, and summarily murders one of the Foot when he injures “Michaelangelo”’s wrist. I guess the Foot are still indiscriminately worthy of capital punishment, despite Raphael’s lectures to Casey about dishing out capital punishment in Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. With the Foot defeated, the TMNT suddenly realise that they are right across the street from the T.C.R.I. building. Yeah, apparently, the TMNT never spotted this giant, glass-and-steel building with “T.C.R.I.” emblazoned upon it in giant letters. Go figure. Anyway, with the sun rising, they head back to April’s and recap her (and the reader) on the specifics of their origins to explain the significance of T.C.R.I. to them (the company name is stamped on the canister that contained the mutagenic ooze responsible for the TMNT’s existence).

Splinter is alive but held in suspended animation.

Curious about T.C.R.I. and their origins, the TMNT choose to suspend their search for Splinter and check out the T.C.R.I. building; April offers to help but, as their actions are illegal, the TMNT convince her to stay behind. With no visible entrances, the TMNT head up to a nearby rooftop and cross over to the T.C.R.I. building using a rope; Donatello then borrows the old “place a photograph in front of the camera” trick to allow them to slip past the security cameras and enter the building. Exploring their surroundings, they find the building has a strange layout (such as a reception area three floors from ground level) and pick up a mysterious security card that features some strange, alien writing on it. Eventually, after randomly trying a bunch of doors, they use the card to access a chamber and find Splinter being held in captivity. Enraged, and believing their father-figure to be dead, Raphael wants to trash the entire place but is stopped by Donatello, who reveals that Splinter is alive but held in suspended animation and that trashing the room could kill their master.

The TMNT are too emotionally unstable to see that the T.C.R.I.’s aren’t a real threat.

The TMNT are suddenly confronted by Splinter’s captors; alien, sentient brains stuck inside robotic endoskeletons. On edge and understandably upset, the TMNT don’t stop to think or listen to reason; instead, they attack full force but are forced to beat a hasty retreat due to the robots’ sheer numbers, dexterity, and sheer firepower (though they don’t seem to twig that their enemies are blasting them with stun rays). Fleeing to another room with a huge piece of machinery in it, the TMNT prepare to make their last stand, confidant that the odds are in their favour as their foes don’t want to risk damaging the “translocation device”. However, while trying to cause a distraction so his brothers can escape, Mike’s injured wrist gives out on him and causes him to destroy the machine’s control panel and, in a flash of light, the TMNT suddenly vanish from sight. This issue continues the ongoing story arc revolving around Splinter’s disappearance and the impact this has on the TMNT. We already saw how deeply it has affected Raphael (he got a whole one-shot comic to explore his rage at the loss of his master) but, here, it’s clearly affected each of the TMNT as they don’t even hesitate to fly at the cybernetic T.C.R.I.’s at full force. Clearly, seeing their father-figure held in captivity is skewing the TMNT’s usual stoic focus and, in their rage, it causes them to be caught in the translocation machine’s teleportation beam.

Mike’s injury actually factors into the plot.

Eastman and Laird continue to keep the truth about the T.C.R.I.’s under wraps; we really don’t know anything about them except that they are aliens, scientifically curious, and have no intention on actually hurting or killing the TMNT or Splinter. It’s difficult to consolidate this in retrospect considering that these creatures served as the basis for the one of the TMNT’s most enduring villains, Krang, but, in their initial appearance, they more like scientists than anything else. I also liked that Mikey’s injury actually factored into the issue’s plot; so many times in comics, characters will be injured and get patched up and it’s either never addressed again or disappears between panels but, here, it’s directly responsible for the TMNT’s trip to parts unknown. If you missed Raphael’s one-shot, this issue also reinforces his friendship with Mike but, while Donatello’s knowledge of machines factors into the TMNT’s exploration of the T.C.R.I. building, I’m still waiting for “Michaelangelo” to actually stand out from his brothers in some way other than the unique weapon he wields.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about the T.C.R.I. aliens? Do you still find it jarring to see the TMNT getting cut and hurt or are you getting used to it now that we’re a few issues in? Do you think the TMNT were right to leave April behind or should they have brought her along, or called on Casey for help? Feel free to share your thoughts on the TMNT below and pop back for next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday in which the TMNT are left stranded on an alien spaceship!

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Week Four: Raphael One-Shot

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last few weeks of “Turtle Tuesday” it’s that, of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), it is Raphael that has stood out the most in even just the first three issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s initial run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. Sure, we’ve seen that Leonardo is the de facto leader; he’s been the voice of reason after Splinter’s disappearance and gives directions and strategy during the TMNT’s many bloody battles. Donatello has tinkered with some machines and hinted at his familiarity with computers, which was a significant aspect of issue two but has yet to be properly focused on, and “Michaelangelo” has been…there as well… But every issue has made a point to emphasise Raphael’s individuality from his brothers. Hell, the very first issue dedicated a whole side plot to Raphael that gave him his own inner monologue and he was the only one of the TMNT to fly off the handle after their lair was ransacked and Splinter went missing so is it any wonder that, of the four TMNT, it was Raphael who got his very first spin-off comic during this time?

Raphael loses it during raining and nearly kills Mikey.

Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle continues with the TMNT still hiding out at April O’Neil’s apartment after the disappearance of Splinter. Tensions are high and, as he spars with “Michaelangelo”, Raphael flies into a rage when his brother gets the better of him. Enraged, Raphael grabs a wrench and is moments away from bashing his brother’s brains in before Leonardo intervenes and admonishes him for his emotional state. Right away, this opening sequence establishes two things: one is that Raphael has one hell of a temper and has been pushed to breaking point by the disappearance of his father-figure and the second is that “Michaelangelo” is actually a competent and formidable fighter in his own right. How often do we see Michelangelo portrayed as not only a proficient and skilled fighter but also capable enough of not only holding his own with Raphael but actually besting him? Here, Mikey counters each of Raph’s moves and comments upon his brother’s technique and ability with a knowledge and wisdom far beyond his usual characterisation as a lackadaisical surfer-dude. Clearly, Raph’s anger is getting the better of him and causing him to make mistakes in this battle but Mikey’s commentary reveals that he’s no pushover when it comes to fighting and using an enemy’s skills against them; it’s not massively surprising considering all of the TMNT are far more focused and capable than their animated counterparts but it is interesting as, at this point, all we really know about Mikey is that he’s a ninja turtle with nunchaku.

Casey Jones is inspired to become a vigilante and to dish out capital punishment.

Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle also establishes that “Michaelangelo” is Raphael’s best friend; as he takes to the rooftops, desperate to clear his head and wallowing in shame and regret, Raphael laments his actions and what his rage nearly made him do to his “best pal”, emphasising that Raphael’s bloodlust in battle leads him to not only make mistakes but also drives him to a frenzy where he can’t tell friend from foe. The story then switches to my second-favourite TMNT character, Casey Jones; sat before a television in his squalid apartment, Casey is randomly inspired by what sounds like either a clichéd cop show or a clichéd cop movie to take to the streets with a hockey mask and a bag full of sports equipment to teach criminal scum the lesson he feels they sorely deserve. Within a few hours, he spots Raphael beating up a couple of street punks when they try to steal a woman’s handbag but is incensed when Raph lets the scumbags escape and drops in to finish the job.

Raph is determined to keep Casey from killing indiscriminately.

Alarmed that Casey is about to kill the punks, Raphael steps in and fight ensues, with Casey managing to catch Raphael off-guard by feigning defeat and then knocking him out with a golf club. After coming to, Raphael is determined to track Casey down and put a stop to his vigilante ways before he goes too far and kills someone but has no idea where the masked vigilante ran off to. New York City is rife with crime on this night, however, as Casey soon stumbles upon a couple of guys stealing a car radio and dishes out his own brand of justice by bashing them with a couple of baseball bats, even breaking one of the perpetrator’s legs. Right as Casey is about to deliver the killing blow, Raphael steps in, incensed that Casey believes that every crime is deserving of capital punishment.

Raph and Casey beat each other senseless.

Ignoring Splinter’s training and Leonardo’s words of caution, Raphael dashes across a busy street and engages in a long, bloody fight with Casey in Central Park; the two are evenly matched in their ability to both give out and take punishment and, before long, they’re both absolutely exhausted and bloodied up from their scuffle. In the end, the two reach a compromise and a degree of understanding as Casey recognises that Raphael is not above killing those when they deserve it and Raphael advises that Casey needs to keep his temper under control so that he doesn’t needlessly kill for the most minor of crimes and, begrudgingly, the two agree to race to the aid of a nearby citizen in peril.

Raphael sees a kindred sprit in Casey.

Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle more than makes up for the last issue’s lack of TMNT action; nearly every panel of this one-shot is dedicated to Raphael and some classic TMNT action. Not only that but it introduces one of the TMNT’s most enduring human allies in Casey Jones, a hockey mask and sports-gear-wielding vigilante who is more than happy to beat street punks to death. Very little is revealed about Casey’s background; we have no idea why he feels so strongly about engaging in vigilante justice and it seems he’s meant to be a commentary (or parody) of the influence violent television can have on the mentally unstable. And Casey definitely seems to be a bit off his rocker as he relishes in dishing out violent retribution for the most minor of crimes and Raphael agrees to tag along with him mainly to ensure that he does not go too far with his vigilante ways. This serves to help Raphael come to a realisation about his own violent actions and his temper; well aware that he went too far during his training with his brother, Raphael knows that his anger is an issue and that he needs to try harder to maintain his focus in battle but Casey represents what he could become if he doesn’t work to keep his temper in check. While this works as a character arc, of sorts, for Raphael, the issue ends with him only hoping to do better and it’s a little jarring seeing Raphael suddenly being so against killing as he and his brothers didn’t hesitate to kill in their debut issue.

My two favourite TMNTs characters together for the first time.

While you can make an argument that the Purple Dragons and the Foot Clan were deserving of this punishment, there was nothing in the first issue to indicate that this was the case. The Foot were considered as evil and dishonourable as their master, the Shredder, who was unequivocally stated as deserving of death for murdering Splinter’s master, but were they really? Maybe they were disillusioned youths like in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) live-action movie, or new recruits who hadn’t done anything more than the street punks Raphael is so quick to defend in this issue. It seems like Raphael only admonishes Casey for wanting to kill indiscriminately because it fits the theme and message of not only this one-shot but also Raphael’s character as depicted here. Don’t get me wrong; he’s right to say that capital punishment isn’t always necessary but, up until this point, he and the TMNT certainly seemed to think that it was so, while it works as a lesson for Raphael to learn, it does seem a little contradictory to what we’ve seen of the TMNT so far.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think about this one-shot TMNT comic? Do you think Raphael deserved to be the first of the TMNT to get his own spin-off or would you have preferred to see a different character get that honour? Do you like Casey Jones? If not, which of the TMNT’s human allies is your favourite? Whatever you think about this issue, or the TMNT in general, feel free to leave a comment below and come back next week as the TMNT continue their search for their master in the next instalment of Turtle Tuesday.

Back Issues [Turtle Tuesday]: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3

Week Three: Issue Three

Tuesday’s are “Turtle Tuesday” for the next few weeks as I use this time to look back on the first few issues of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which painted a far darker and serious picture of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) than their later animated interpretations. After avenging the death of their master Splinter’s master in the first issue, the TMNT made a new friend in issue two when they saved April O’Neil from Baxter Stockman’s robotic Mousers. Not only did issue two start to distinguish the TMNT by more than just their weapons, it also began a storyline that would continue not just in this next issue but over the next few issues as well, showing that Eastman and Laird were fully capable of plotting out ongoing story arcs even this early into their fledgling publication.

Raphael is inconsolable and determined to find Splinter right away.

Issue three begins with the TMNT and April finally escaping from Stockman’s laboratory; indebted to the TMNT for their help, April leaves them her number as they head back to their sewer hideout…only for them to discover that their beloved master and father-figure, Splinter, is missing. Not only that, their lair has been ransacked and there are smashed up Mousers and blood all over the place. Enraged and fearful for his master’s safety, Raphael is inconsolable; despite Leonardo’s efforts to calm him and assign him a task to help compartmentalise the problem, Raphael flees into the night, determined to find Splinter sooner rather than later. While we saw a glimpse of his headstrong Raphael was in issue one, this is the first real indication that he is, by far, the more hot-headed and emotional of the TMNT; interestingly, Raphael and Leonardo don’t come to blows over the issue, which is a nice change of pace. Instead, Raphael simply allows his emotions to get the better of him and to ignore Leonardo’s more measured approach to the situation and, even more surprisingly, when Raphael returns to the group, he even admits that he was wrong to rush off alone and apologises for his actions. Reunited, but still unsure of how to proceed, the TMNT call April and she immediately comes over to pick them up in her van.

The chase causes chaos in Central Park.

Unfortunately, as April drives the TMNT back to her place, they attract the attention of the police, who mistakenly believe the van to be the same one involved in a robbery, unaware of this, and desperate to not be caught or discovered, a high-speed pursuit ensues that takes the TMNT, April, and the cops through Central Park and causes a great deal of damage and disruption. Thankfully (luckily), no one seems to be seriously hurt from the pursuit and, quite coincidentally, the TMNT catch a break when they just happen to pass the real perpetrators of the crime and finally lose the police pursuit (resulting in an amusing full-page spread of New York’s finest spouting every cop cliché line in the book while holding the thieves at gun point). Arriving back at April’s place, the TMNT have a brief moment where they bond with her before falling asleep from the stress and exhaustion of the last few days. For anyone familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) live-action movie, a lot of this issue will ring a bell as the TMNT also returned to their lair to find Splinter missing and took shelter at April’s apartment; April even lives alone above a junk shop, just like in the movie, showing just how faithful that initial film was to Eastman and Laird’s original vision of the TMNT.

Splinter’s rescuers are hiding a strange secret…

Compared to the last two issues, though, issue three is far less action-packed; the chase sequence amounts to the entirety of the issue’s action and, instead, we see a different side to the usually stoic and action-orientated TMNT. Confronted with a situation where their ninja skills and weapons cannot help them, the TMNT are somewhat clueless as to how to proceed, turning to April as they have nowhere else to go. As with the other issues, though, it is mainly Leonardo and Raphael who have the strongest, most distinct reactions to Splinter’s disappearance, with Raphael reacting in angered haste and Leonardo not only trying to hold his brothers together but remaining steadfast that they will recover their master and father-figure. The issue ends with an extended epilogue that reveals to the read the specifics of what happened to Splinter; caught off-guard by a sudden Mouser attack, Splinter is wounded and barely manages to escape with his life. Discovered by a couple of mysterious, strange-sounding men, Splinter is taken to the T.C.R.I. building for medical care but, when he awakens, Splinter discovers that his rescuers are actually sentient brains inside robotic shells, ending the issue on another cliffhanger that will be continued in next week’s instalment of Turtle Tuesday!

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good