Lately I’ve been reading the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (TMNT) Adventures comic books. These comics were published in the late ’80’s and early 90’s by Archie Comics and are loosely based on the original TMNT cartoon show. A new line of trade paperbacks has been released which collects and reprints the whole series in books that contain four issues each. I’ve been working through my local library’s collection.
The ninja turtles are some of the first characters I remember caring about. I can remember watching the cartoon show (and the subsequent live action films) as far back as first and second grade. Back then I played with the toys, wore the t-shirts, and ran around the playground at school pretending I was a ninja turtle. I have vivid memories of all of it.
I didn’t read the comic books back then, however. So reading them today is “new” in that sense.
I’m three trade paperbacks – or twelve comic books – into the series so far and I have two takeaway thoughts:
(1) Compared to my 3-year-old son’s favorite cartoon shows (Curious George, Super Why, Thomas & Friends) the plots and settings to the TMNT comics are routinely ridiculous and seemingly random. This is not necessarily a criticism. I just think it’s interesting that his shows (at least at this age) all teach him lessons and provide semi-plausible story lines (once you get past the talking monkey and talking train cars). The ninja turtles, however: fight an inter-dimensional warlord who is nothing more than a talking brain; square off with an assembly line of disgruntled humans who accidentally get turned into mutant animals (a stingray, a salamander, an alligator); meet a witch doctor from deep in the bayou who later turns out to be another inter-dimensional warlord; get entangled with evil robot ninjas called “the Foot Clan”; and are friends with a giant disembodied cow head named “Cudley Cowlick” who also serves as a portal to other times and spaces through his giant mouth.
I can’t make this stuff up.
(2) My second takeaway thought is this: the TMNT characters and “world” are still resonating with me, even now as a 30-year-old. Will I be able to create a world with as a much resonance for someone else through my writing? I hope so. I imagine this is a question that all fiction writers will ask themselves at one time or another. I’m sure we’d all like to have an answer. But how can we, except to continue writing?
It doesn’t matter how random and ridiculous the turtles get, I’ll always care about their story on some level. They were the superheroes that kick started my longtime love of comic books and hero stories. They’re a part of me.
I drafted a novel in 2011 about a young goblin who frees his people from the clutches of an evil magician and have been working on it since. I can only hope that this story will become a part of someone else. Maybe it will even kick start a love of fiction inside of them.
What were the first cartoons and stories that you fell in love with as a kid? Have you gone back to re-read or re-watch them lately?