Some Thoughts on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Leonardo, Rafael, Michelangelo, Donatell, Splinter, April O’Neil and the whole host of characters in the Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles’ world are a staple in the pop culture purview. And if we’re being completely honest here, they’re absolutely ridiculous. Totally, no holds barred ridiculous.
Now, don’t get us wrong: we love the heroes in a half shell as much as the next guy, but you’re not doing it right if you don’t see the whole concept of a bunch of ninja turtles taught by a sentient sewer rat fighting mutant pig men and such to just seem so jumbled and randomly pasted together. We’re not complaining, though, because it’s that exact same ridiculousness that makes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so great and endearing to fans everywhere.
When you think about it, the core concept of the turtles the way Laird and Eastman envisioned it in the beginning was to create a parody of the whole superhero genre, and an ultraviolent one at that. For those of you who don’t already know how the TMNT got their powers, their whole origin is actually (though not officially, because the world is just too fragile for this level of awesome) linked to Matt Murdock, which we all know is the Marvel superhero Daredevil. To be specific, it’s that exact same accident that blinded the young Matt and turned him into the devil of Hell’s Kitchen that transformed four New York sewer turtles into the crime-fighting quartet that they are. And no, this isn’t just some tinfoil hat theory we’re throwing at you; only Eastman and Laird have the chutzpah to create something as farfetched as that. And boy oh boy, did it work out well.
The thing is, since the whole concept of the TMNT are essentially bananas, they’re right at home with whatever story you put them in: they’re the perfect amorphous franchise and, if we may say so, the most versatile characters in all of comics. Look at it this way: if you saw Batman in one of his solo adventures going to space to fight some intergalactic squids or some other anomalous creature like that, then something would seem off. Hell, just the thought of a smiling Batman appears unimaginable. For that matter, even those weird silver age stories he appeared in just makes our point all the more apparent. The same case holds for almost all superheroes out there: if, say, you saw Wonder Woman fighting a living, breathing personification of misogyny, you’d think that that’s too ham-fisted a metaphor. With the heroes in a half shell, though, everything goes: to them, no metaphor is too ham-fisted, since their whole concept revolves – and thrives – at being not taken too seriously; nothing is unimaginable, because they’ve completely thrown that out the window by being at their core an example of unhinged imagination; and they can’t be out of place anywhere, since they’d made the whole concept of being out-of-place a whole island of their own. Simply put, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the only characters that are at home anywhere. After all, if in the first place you didn’t have a sandbox to play in, then you could play anywhere.