The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show has aired on Nick and we are now three episodes in. After the airing of the first two Nick said that they will be making at least two seasons of 26 episodes, so 52 episodes are somewhat guarantied. Yet even though only three have aired and there is an order for two complete seasons some are already acting as this is the second coming of the Turtles. Now while this may in fact usher in another golden age of TMNT, I do not think that means it needs to emulate the first completely.
It can be argued that what made the Turtles popular was the 80s cartoon, and in many respects I would tend to agree. However it does need to be remembered that the Mirage comic and Palladium RPG books were out at the time before and during also, that there were more assets out there then just toon based. I think this often gets over looked and instead the Fred Wolf cartoon is often held up as the “Original Turtles”. Not that there is anything wrong with the old show, rather it is only a part of the Turtles history not the whole thing.
The original run on the Mirage comic series lasted 62 regular issues. Now not all of them were written by Eastman and Laird, and some of them are just plain goofy, but overall there was a tone of more adult themed stories told. This was at the same time the original show was going on. The Turtles killed, drank beer, and matured over the course of the series. This is where they started and came from. A self-published independent book that tried very hard to be original.
That series lasted tell 1993 then spawned another series of comics that picked up where those had left off. That second series of comics lasted tell 1995. So while the cartoon lasted tell 1996, Mirage was pumping out Turtle related comics. IT got to a point in 1996 that Mirage leased the license to Image that had a comic from 1996 – 1999. For the majority the TMNT comics were aimed at a different crowd then the show had been. Bring a much different tone.
Now during that same time we got the movie series of three live action films. Having a diverse background of material and different audiences that liked TMNT the films had to find a way to balance. Thus they formed their own take on TMNT lore borrowing from everything but making it its own. It is true that there was some pressure from the studio for the second and third to be more kid friendly and it shows. However instead of copying the cartoon they continued to do their own take. It would have been very easy to copy, but instead they wanted to give something different.
Even when Mirage started publishing comics again in 2001 and then a new show started in 2003. The two weren’t the same thing. Now granted the 2003 4kids show was more based off of the Mirage comics it took the basics and then changed them to fit what it wanted to do. It wasn’t a direct issue for issue copy though is the point.
Mirage was publishing a new comic that was a continuation of the comics it had published years before. Laird was writing them and doing what he wanted. Sure he had input on the new show but his comics and the show were separate.
Then we had the 2007 CGI movie. Again it drew from the vast library of TMNT lore but made it its own.
That now brings us to what is currently going on. We have an ongoing monthly series of comics from IDW right now that is fantastic. Yes there are some issues with pacing but overall the book is great. It could have easily tried to copy and just be the same thing as before but it isn’t. Yes they are leaning heavily on some aspects of the past, yet at the same time they have made them their own. What they use isn’t because it’s cool to use them. Rather they use things from different universes because they have found a way to make them fit and work to further the story.
Nick has launched its new show and it looks to be very promising. I personally am hoping for great success. Right now it looks to be doing what IDW is doing and borrowing things from different universes yet trying to be its own. I applaud them for that. There are familiar aspects in the show that is true, but being presented very differently.
Now the point I want to make is that things don’t need to be carbon copies of what has come before. Each version of the Turtles has been successful to various degrees, and kept the brand alive for over 25 years. That is no small feat. Yet each version has been a breath of fresh air. I like all the different versions for different reasons, and the characters that went with them worked great where they were. But because they worked in one doesn’t mean they will work in another or should be in another.
I’m not saying the can’t be. That isn’t it at all. What I’m saying is there needs to be a reason in the story past just because they worked before. I say let each universe be its own. If a new character can be made that works just as well as an old one go for it. If an older character works with in the confines of the new medium but isn’t just a carbon copy for the sake of being there go for it. Make the reason a character is used important, not just fan service. There needs to be something added by having the character there.
The beautiful thing about there being so many different Turtle universes is that whatever someone likes it’s still there. If the OT is your thing it’s on DVD, Mirage is being reprinted, 4kids is on DVD, the movies on DVD, exe… The point is that people can go back if there are things they like better, characters they want to see. To force things to be the same is boring and repetitive. Bring something new and exciting or go home.