On the 13th of June I turned 30, I’m not dealing with this so instead I decided to both ignore and celebrate me lasting so long by writing a whole bunch of top 30 countdown lists.
First up is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as my first obsession and the only obsession I have that I’ve never lapsed in, even during Volume 4 when the book was about as exciting as watching paint dry while being serenaded by James Blunt, it seems like the most logical choice. I first jumped on the Turtles
band wagon around 1989 via the cartoon series, which may have been the first
year it was aired here in the UK but what cemented my love for the franchise
was Playmates original action figure line.
What is this madness about kung-fu reptiles? Well firstly welcome out from under your rock, secondly I'll tell ya: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been a multimedia phenomenon since roughly 1989 but began life as a black and white mature readers’ comic book self-published by their creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird via their own comic bookcompany Mirage Studios. The book was kind of an affectionate parody of current hot comic books like The New Teen Titans, The Uncanny X-Men and especially Daredevil by Frank Miller, the first issue came out in 1984. Though the specifics change from one version of the TMNT to the other the basics are: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are four anthropomorphic turtles named after renaissance artists: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael and trained to be ninja by their sensei, an anthropomorphic rat called Splinter, and generally fight a rival ninja clan called The Foot with the assistance of their human ally April O’Neil (and often another, masked vigilante Casey Jones). The Turtles break into the mainstream came when they were licensed to Playmates toys, who in turn contacted Fred Wolf and Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, an animation studio, to develop a cartoon mini-series to accompany the toys ala He-Man & the Masters of the Universe or Transformers. Playmates, Eastman and Laird and Murakami-Wolf-Swenson redesigned the concept for kids, bringing in the likes of Bebop & Rocksteady, though not initially successful (the cartoon began airing in 1988) the franchise did become the biggest thing in the world roughly around 1990. Although the original era and the franchise’s original run of success wound down by the mid-90’s, partially thanks to a shift in children’s devotion to the Power Rangers franchise and partly because that’s just the way it goes with children’s fads, it came back in 2003 for another run of success, by this point Peter Laird had bought Kevin Eastman out and had complete control of the series, Playmates retained the toy licence but this time 4Kids Entertainment produced a new cartoon series heavily based on the Mirage comics as well as putting out a new (boring) comic. Laird was very much a ‘purist’ and very much up himself (apparently you couldn’t even mention Venus De Milo, the girl turtle), he pretty much exemplified the worst type of fan, and he was the owner and co-creator! Thankfully Viacom, via Nickelodeon, bough Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all related concepts in 2009 and although Mirage can still publish up to 18 issues of a TMNT comic a year they haven’t and the current comic is put out by IDW, while Nicktoons handles the new cartoon and Paramount the new films and once
again the series has become a children’s fad.
You can pretty much split the TMNT into the following ‘eras’ – the ‘Vintage Era’ spanning from the first issue of the Mirage comic in 1984 to the end of the original cartoon series in 1996; the ‘Image era’ including the volume of the comic book published by Image Comics (starting in 1996) and the live action TV series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation; the ‘Peter Laird’ era starting with the launch of the fourth volume of the comic book in 2001 until the Nickelodeon buyout in 2009 and encompassing the second cartoon and CGI film ‘TMNT’ and the ‘Viacom era’ we’re currently in now, and of course the Mirage era (when Eastman and/or Laird owned the property – 1984 to 2009) and the Viacom era (2009 upwards). The names are mine but the split works pretty well.
Anyway criteria for the list was pretty wide here, the Turtles had to be a major part of the story – so no cameos or quick appearances (like Shattered Image or Gen 13 13 A-B-C) but so long as they were it didn’t matter what format the story was told was in, all cross-overs outside of TMNT publications or cartoons (like say, their appearances in Flaming Carrot Comics or Usagi Yojimbo) were completely ok. So with all that crap out of the way, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:
30. Leonardo Versus Tempestra
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 4, Episode 351 (Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, 1990)
Written by Misty Taggart
Wha’appen? Leonardo becomes obsessed with beating a video game called ‘Tempestra’s Revenge’ sneaking back to play it the night after he discovers it, unfortunately this is during a storm and a lightning strike allows Tempestra to manifest as a living electrical being. With the other three Turtles trapped and Tempestra draining energy from a nearby nuclear power plant it’s up to Leonardo and April to stop her, at least until Donatello’s make-shift submarine is ready
Why? The rarest of things pre-Viacom: a Leonardo focussed story that doesn’t suck and doesn’t involve Leonardo getting some massive personality adjustment, as if he couldn’t carry the episode himself, well Tempestra’s Revenge proves that if you get a writer who understands his personality (which I’d be at a loss to describe, sorry), he really can, Leonardo is fantastic throughout. The reason it comes in so low while it’s very good there’s just a small bundle of things that top it being from being brilliant – Tempestra makes physics cry, Donatello can build an airtight submersible in an evening, Leo and April randomly fall onto a world’s largest rollercoaster (the hell)?) and worst of all – some of the jokes don’t work, only a few though (and some are very funny). Overall it’s a good solo episode with a good villain and actually makes the Fred Wolf Leonardo look like a likeable guy with an actual personality, for that alone it deserves to be on this list.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Ghostbusters issues 1-4 (IDW Comics, 2014)
Eric Burnham, Tom Waltz & Dan Schoening (with Cory Smith and Charles Paul Wilson III)
Wha’appen? The TMNT, April & Casey Jones end up in the universe of the Ghostbusters after Donatello and his friend Harold test out the duplicate of The Fugitoid’s portal they’ve made, unfortunately coming along for the ride is Chi-You – who’s from the same pantheon as TMNT villains Kitsune and The Rat King. With the help of the ‘busters they tackle the spirit, who possesses people including Casey, whom he at one point turns into a giant armoured Casey Jones.
Why? This is probably the best choice for a property for the TMNT to crossover with – even more so than the thematically similar Usagi Yojimbo and Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo-Mesa – but only if you were a kid during the TMNT’s first boom period. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really took over from Ghostbusters as THE franchise2 (Real Ghostbusters even made a terrible episode being bitter about that fact) but there was a crossover period (Ghostbusters II came out in ’89, TMNT’s first big year toy and cartoon wise) and so I reckon that this team-up was enacted a lot on the carpets of front rooms and bedrooms, the linoleum of kitchens and grass and patios of back gardens from around ’89 to ‘913 (it certainly did in my front room, kitchen and back garden) IDW just did us the favour of releasing an official version of our childhood play. The story is nothing deep or challenging (though it does help with the world building of the IDW TMNT continuity a little) but who the hell wanted it to be? All that was needed was the Ghostbusters and Turtles interacting, playing off each other and teaming-up against a suitably threatening enemy; we get that, with added Casey Jones, Kylie Griffin and the Bug-Eye Ghost thrown in for good measure. Which really makes it ideal for me as Casey Jones is one of my favourite characters, Kylie Griffin is one of my favourite characters and easily my top fictional crush of all time, and the Bug Eye Ghost is my favourite Real Ghostbusters toy (seriously).
28. Year of the Turtle
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Year of the Turtle issues 1-3 (Archie Comics, 1996)
Dan Slott, Hugh Haynes, Harvey Mereadooeasio
Wha’appen? Every Year of the Turtle a talisman called the Turquoise Turtle grants its user’s wishes. Shredder has returned with a new army of Foot Soldiers and a group of super powered underlings and attempts to find the three pieces, spread across the world, forcing the Turtles to head out and do the same, during the struggle for the pieces Splinter is returned to his human form, and Michaelangelo
Why? I’ve just had this weird fascination with the book since it came out, well since issue 3 came out (of course I bought issue 3 first), it was very odd and very intriguing and remains both of these things and I still really enjoy it for those reasons, the only thing I don’t really like being the (mercifully) short parody of the Power Rangers in issue one, but I’m actually convinced that didn't happen and Yoshi just added that in to appease his audience (the whole story is being told by Hamato Yoshi). Today what interests me about it how much it reminds me of the current scripts used for the Nicktoon (except the globe-trotting aspect), in fact when I read it now (and I do this fairly often) I hear the dialogue in those voice actor’s voices (the first Leonardo, not Oz), I wonder if I’m alone in this? Probably, I’m probably alone in putting this on my top 30 TMNT stories as well.
27. City at War
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issues 50-62 (Mirage Studios 1992-1993)
Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Jim Lawson
Wha’appen? The TMNT family is shattered – April has left to live with her sister in L.A, Casey has become stuck in Goathead and fallen in love with a pregnant waitress named Gabrielle and the Turtles have returned to New York in response to a civil war between the Foot Clan but find themselves idling away the time as Raphael grows frustrated and Leo has a crisis of self. When Karai, head of the Japanese chapter of the Foot Clan arrives with a proposition – kill Shredder’s Elite and the Foot Clan will be done with them, breaking the cycle of vengeance started with Homato Yoshi and Oroku Sakai – the Turtles have to decide if they should move on with their lives, if they want to and if they can. Meanwhile Splinter has fallen and broken his leg, starving inside an old industrial complex he finds help from The Rat King, but isn’t he dead?
Why? The 4Kids version of this story feels more like a city at war but it lacks the sub-plots with Splinter, April and Casey – some might say that’s a good thing but Splinter’s ghostly goings on, April learning how shallow and awful L.A. is and Casey being forced to grow up all work for me as much as the Turtles wondering how to find their own path and then killing lots of things to achieve that, it adds an overall theme of learning something that improves your life and all four plots affect me equally…. and I like the really nice happy ending. In the end the cartoon version is probably more enjoyable and fits its title better but the comic book version is more emotional and different enough that I feel ok putting both on here, oh yeah, both are on here, you didn’t know that yet did you? Oops, sorry!
26. Bishop’s Gambit
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 3, Episode 24 (4Kids Entertainment, 2004)
Written by Greg Johnson
Wha’appen? Agent Bishop has finally lost it, he kidnaps Splinter and launches his Seekers, genetically engineered super-cyborgs designed to hunt out alien life wherever it may hide and exterminate it, aided by Leatherhead and the Fugitoid the Turtles break into Bishop’s headquarters to confront the head of Earth Protection Force.
Why? Although there was a lot of adaptations early on, the 4Kids cartoon did yield some great original characters as well – Hun, Angel, Traximus and of course (of course, duh) Agent Bishop - who I refuse to call simply ‘Bishop’ because that makes me think of the X-Man (who predates Agent Bishop by some years). I figured Agent Bishop would turn up on here somewhere and here we are: an episode with him as the sole villain, other than the slight comments on racism there isn’t really much to the episode, it’s simply a good episode with the Turtles and two of the most reoccurring characters from across the franchise working together to defeat a great villain, who himself has become a reoccurring element across the franchise.
25. Karai’s Vendetta
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 1, Episode 21 (Nickelodeon Animation Studio, 2013)
Written by Russ Carney & Ron Corcillo
Wha’appen? Shredder and Karai find out from a (thoroughly tortured) member of the Kraang that April is key to the alien’s plans, so Karai it sent out to capture her while the Turtles are busy trying to shut down an underwater Kraang facility, leaving the TMNT’s closest friend to face the daughter of the Shredder alone.
Why? I like the current Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon, in fact I prefer it to the 4Kids Entertainment version, I like the 4Kids version, it was very well written, very mature and I think it was brilliant that all of the comic stories got such great adaptations (Sons of the Silent Age aside) that were viewed by such a large audience but the Nicktoon is just so much fun, with far better voice acting (though I miss Raphael’s Brooklyn accent, regardless of how nonsensical it is that he’d have it) and unlike the 4Kids ‘toon it’s not limited to taking elements solely from the Mirage comics or using things it’s created itself (thanks to no more Peter Laird), making it far more suited to a long-time fan like me and more suitable to this time in the franchise’s history, sure I don’t like their versions of all the elements they reuse (I prefer 4Kids Baxter Stockman and IDW’s Bebop & Rockstead, for instance) but the fact that it can do this, and does it well, just makes me really appreciate it (of course it couldn’t do this without the previous incarnations to work from but then this list should show you my love of the franchise as a whole). And this is pretty much the quintessential episode for the Nicktoon TMNT: you’ve got Shredder and their unique version of Karai; you've got the Kraang; you’ve got Donatello’s crush on April; you’ve got good comedy and the good action and you’ve got all of this with my favourite version of Karai as the main villain (and the titular character) and a really inappropriate, but really funny, sex joke.
24. Turtles Forever
Turtles Forever Special (4Kids Entertainment, 2009)
Written by Matthew Dredk, Roy Burdine, Lloyd Goldfine and Rob David
Wha’appen? Another set of strangely cartoony Turtles arrive New York, having accidentally teleported themselves, the Technodrome and the villains within to this universe, setting off a string of events that threatens to destroy the whole multiverse. When the other universe’s Shredder and Krang bring back Ch’rell he and Karai take over the Technodrome, augmenting it and the Foot Bots and using the mutagen to build an army of half-animal soldiers lead by a mutated Hun and sets out to destroy the source of Ninja Turtles across the multiverse – the black and white world of Turtle Prime.
Why? Because it’s a great big bundle of celebratory fun that’s why, because it offers a Mirage-era Turtle fan an animated dream-come-true by pairing up the three biggest incarnations of the characters to that point and having them all come across well, because it applies 4Kids writing to Fred Wolf concepts and that ends up equalling a giant flying monstrous Technodrome of doom. But wait, didn’t the current Nicktoon series do a version of this and don’t you prefer the Nicktoon to the 4Kids show? Why do you have this on the lists and not their crossover? Well because I actually prefer this version – the Nicktoon lacks a certain awesomeness in some of its concepts, it doesn’t really give such good parts to the Murakami-Wolf-Swenson cartoon characters and the Mirage comic book Turtles are given far less screen time and don’t actually interact with any other Turtle team. So why is this so low, and specifically why it lower than number 22 despite that being unofficial and drawn by Jim bloody Lawson? Honestly what lets down Turtles Forever for me is what it excludes, which is undoubtedly the fault of Peter Laird because he’s so up himself his breath tastes like stomach acid, hell I’m surprised he allowed the special to acknowledge the original cartoon, but to make Forever perfect it would have needed to actually have given parts (and not just cameos) to the Movie universe and the Adventures Universe at least, with references to the Image comics, original Playmates action figures and Konami video games, it would have had to have spanned all of the Turtles up to that point in other words, oh and they could have got some of the original voice actors back from the original cartoon, the Nicktoon did that right at least.
23. The Slash Trilogy
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures Volume 2 issues 23-25 (Archie Comics, 1991)
Stephen Murphy (as Dean Clarrain), Chris Allan, Garret Ho & Jim Lawson plus inkers
Wha’appen? Krang is able to escape Dimension X dumping ground Planet Morbus with the help of a psychotic palm-tree obsessed mutant turtle Slash and a convict named Bellybomb and almost accidentally ends up getting the old gang back together, stumbling upon Bebop and Rocksteady (on another Dimension X Planet) and reuniting with the Shredder. But things aren’t the same anymore, Bebop & Rocksteady are still loyal but no longer really interested in doing villainous deeds after spending time on their Eden Planet, and Krang is forced to physically take over The Shredder to use him against the Turtles.
Why? Archie Slash is probably the best incarnation of the character (though Nicktoons Slash really gives him a run for his money) and this plot pretty much amounts to Krang riding Shredder into battle flanked by a mad evil Ninja Turtle and a fat alien that spews on things – that’s already a win but there’s a real sad undercurrent to this story, a feeling of growing up, and it’s all the better for it, Shredder, Krang, Bebop & Rocksteady have moved on from one-note family friendly cartoon characters, Krang is willing to use Shredder like a flesh puppet, Shredder is more competent, intelligent and threatening and B&R are just better people thanks to character development and we effectively watch the gang break up, Shredder and Krang’s trust is broken and Bebop & Rocksteady are happily retired, it elevates the story to say the least. Plus the ending is just… Shredder doesn’t leave with a promise to get the Turtles next time and a swoosh of his cloak, he slumps off depressed, humbled, irritated but genuinely thankful to his enemies for saving him from Krang – no matter how much that disgusts him, Murphy really was a good writer when he wasn’t too preoccupied with being Captain Planet4.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Oddysey (Andrew Modeen, 2015)
Andrew Modeen, Jim Lawson, Rick Arthur, Dan Berger, Arseniy Dubakov plus a host of others
Wha’appen? Plucked just moments from his death by Renet, who’s also dying, Donatello is imbued with time travelling power and recruits his brothers, old, tired and possibly about to die from natural causes for one last fight – against the Shogun, his underlings Savante Romero and Savante Juliet and his ally Null. The Shogun is set up at the end of time using the Turnstone to destroy universes and aided by Cuddly the Cowlick, Slash and Venus De Milo the Ninja Turtles, now so very far from being teenage, will have to stop their brother, wait, their brother?
Why? While as near to official as dammit is to swearing Odyssey isn’t an official TMNT project, it’s a fan work written, produced by and published by fan Andre Modeen5 but working with Mirage Comics and TMNT penciller mainstay Jim Lawson, as well as others associated with TMNT officially (like Sophie Campbell) and Modeen having gotten the ‘rub’ from Kevin Eastman on his earlier TMNT projects (Eastmen did inks) makes it unofficially official enough for me to feel fine about putting it on this list. Designed as an end to the Mirage-era of the Turtles and not just the Mirage comics (though that too) but everything from the time Mirage owned the franchise - the first two cartoons, the first four films, TMNT Adventures, Next Mutation, the Palladium role playing books, everything – Odyssey set itself a helluva a task and some bloody high expectations to meet and as far as I’m concerned it met them, and in fact actually kind of exceeded them by not only acting as an end to the Mirage era but as a bridge to the Viacom era. Even though I would have preferred a little more from the Konami Video Games, the 4Kids cartoon and the original Playmates action figures (though perhaps in the case of the 4Kids show Modeen just didn’t seem much of a point as most of it variations on the main Mirage continuity) the story plays fair, giving them all respect – even the generally loathed Next Mutation and Venus De Milo (who I’ve never disliked, no, really, I like Next Mutation fine), it does seem like they’re going for a character derailment early on but happily swerves away at the last moment, given Venus an important role as effectively a legacy character to Lord Simultaneous and Renet – characters the fanbase (generally) likes. These’re major reasons but honestly the main reason it’s here is that it’s a damn good story, it feels like an epic and it feels extremely satisfying too with roles and moments given to those they should have been, well to please fans, iconography and me anyway: Michaelangelo isn’t defeated by anyone, he’s defeated by Raphael; Null isn’t simply defeated, Venus brings back the souls of the Mutanimals to avenge their murder at his hands; Venus and Slash are removed from the story so that the final confrontation can be just between the four brothers – and so on. That’s kind of a good point you know, whatever else I write in these ‘Why?’ sections, the main reason will always be ‘because they’re great stories’ but this one is the last story, the last story for the era of TMNT I grew up with, ‘my’ era of TMNT, so it’s just that little it extra special; the only reason it’s not higher is the art’s by fucking Jim Lawson and he’s as horrendous as he has been since about two minutes after his finished drawing TMNT Volume 2, of course there was no one who could have been a better fit for the project, Lawson has stayed with TMNT longer than just about anyone other than Peter Laird and drawn more Mirage comics than anyone (and apparently Mordeen’s a bit of a Mirage purist, which makes the respect afforded to the rest of the franchise that much cooler I guess), but that doesn’t change the fact that his art is just ugly and he seems to think proportion is optional, foreshortening is passable, all humans are made from bootleg Lego and can't lay out a dramatic panel to save his life, if the art had gone to less deserving but far more talented artists like Ryan Brown or Mike Dooney this would be a lot higher.
21. Sons of the Silent Age
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issue 28 (Mirage Studios, 1990)
Stephen Murphy & Jim Lawson (with Kevin Eastman and Rick Veitch)
Wha’appen? Following their return to New York and encounter with the Bloodsucker6 the Turtles have become aimless and distant living at the old farmhouse, so on Splinter’s suggestion they raft down a local river, there they find a dead merwoman, and the last four mermen of her species, as April fails to revive the female she makes an upsetting comparison between these mermen and four mutant friends.
Why? “Murphy really was a good writer when he wasn’t too preoccupied with being Captain Planet” and Jim Lawson really was a good artist until he somehow evolved into a horrible one, reading this after looking at his ugly-ass work on Odyssey is like comparing the works of two different people, from different time periods, only one of which draws with his hands and not by sticking a pen in his ear. Of course there’s still a little bit of environmentalism and Lawson still has some issues with human faces but this really is fantastic work from the pair – masterfully paced and devastatingly effective and that’s actually why it’s not in the top 20, it’s a beautiful story but I really don’t want to contemplate the lonely sexless existence of the Ninja Turtles and their inevitable fate to die alone in such a heart wrenching way too often, also the story was slightly ruined by revealing that there were more Merpeople alive and well in the sewers of Manhattan in TMNT Volume 2.
20. The Return of Dregg Arc
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 10, Episodes 1-8 (Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, 1996)
Written by Jeffery Scott
Wha’appen? Lord Dregg has returned from Dimension X, now assisted by Mung after the alien built a swarm of ant-sized builder robots for him to use. His first set of schemes involve making use of the Turtles’ unstable mutations, which they and Carter are busy working to cure, after failing to turn Leonardo into an atom bomb he then tries to mutate himself using the Turtles and Shredder and Krang’s life energy, a plan that only gets solved by time travel, and who could plan for that? After sending a Dimension X crime boss the Globfather to bother the Turtles while he composes himself for his last great scheme – if he can’t win an away game, he’ll force the Turtles to play on his home turf, by teleporting the Earth to one of his territories… in Dimension X, then he just decides to imbue himself with incredible power, leaving the only thing that the Turtles can think of to stop him being Krang’s old android body, pity they have to find it first.
Why? Is putting a whole season of a show on this list cheating? Fuck it, after 22 everything’s fair game if you ask me and anyway it’s all one long story-arc by the same writer so it’s technically all one story and technically completely fine, technically. Season 10 is the original Turtles cartoon at its most competent and by that I mean everything is at its most competent – the characters are at their most competent, the animation is at its most competent, the plots are at their most competent (proper plot twists and everything), the dialogue is at its most competent, after the occasional flash of excellence in a sea of tripe that was the first nine seasons it’s fantastic to have a whole season that can be classed as ‘good’ leading up a finale that can be classed as ‘awesome’. Dregg has evolved into a fantastic villain; planning ahead, double checking, developing contingency plans and changing up his schemes on the fly to snatch a little victory from defeat, effectively turning himself into an alien equivalent of Xanatos (though he never quite reaches that level of magnificent bastardry) all the while voiced by Tony Jay - but it’s not all new villain, we get Shredder & Krang as well (sadly without Bebop and Rocksteady) and they come across just as well as everyone else. The only downsides are Carter taking roles that April really should be fulfilling (though she is also on the top of her competency, rescuing the Turtles one time) and Jeffery Scott’s insistence on having Splinter talk in platitudes 70% of the time, regardless of how helpful that may be or how pushed for time the other characters are.
19. City at War
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season, 2 Episodes 14-16 (4Kids Entertainment, 2004)
Written by Eric Luke, Marty Isenberg & Chuck Patton
Wha’appen? After the apparent death of The Shredder the city’s criminals have gone to war – the Mob, The Foot Clan (under the leadership of Shredder’s Elite Guard) and the Purple Dragons are engaged in open warfare. Leonardo, feeling responsible, wants to get involved but his brothers and his sensei don’t agree with him, so he ignores them, leading all four Turtles to get involved in a fight at Foot HQ – the night the Mob hit them with a giant robots built by Baxter Stockman, a huge conflict that brings Casey Jones into the mix as well. Meanwhile Hun has retaken control of the Purple Dragons and Karai, the Shredder’s adopted daughter and leader of the Japanese chapter of The Foot, has come to New York with a proposal – be her contingency plan and The Foot will not exact revenge for the death of The Shredder.
Why? The comic book City at War isn’t really about a City at War, in fact the city really isn’t at war, the Foot Clan is and the story’s is more focused on the emotional journeys of the book’s main characters as they move on to the next part of their lives (and struggle with that), the 4Kids version keeps the basics of the Turtles’ plot from the comic – their conflict over how much to get involved and confusion as to how, whether to take Karai’s offer and move on even if it means working with the Foot, Leonardo having an internal conflict, and even the story’s big set pieces – the battle with the huge robot and the fight with the Shredder Elite alongside Karai!Shredder in an abandoned building - but wraps it in a story that feels like they’re in a huge conflict that better suits the title and concept. Does it say a lot about me that I put the shallower version of the story higher up? Maybe but the cartoon version is also better paced, the Turtles come off better (even though Raph is a massive dick throughout), Karai actually looks like the Shredder and not a woman cosplaying as The Shredder making the Elite falling for her ruse far more believable, Karai is more fleshed out and easier to grow attached too (and there’s no random dead daughter), the climax also feels bigger and more, well, climactic - so yeah it is shallower but it’s also a bit better.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Challenges (Mirage Studios, 1991)
Wha’appen? Leonardo finds a sewer and remembers the TMNT’s history. The Turtles play a trick on Splinter to see if he’s still got it when it comes to fighting. Raphael ends up helping an old lady. Michaelangelo messes with some unlicensed hunters. Leonardo trains while someone has been signed up to the Barry Manilow Fan Club. Donatello plays a video game.
Why? That doesn’t make it sound very great does it? Challenges is little character pieces (and an origin retelling) and it’s just really nice, you get to spend time with each of the Turtles on their own, just being themselves, it’s almost like hanging out with them and each gives us a good look at their personalities, including the sides we don’t normally see, mostly because it doesn’t help further a plot, but we have no plot to further here, we’re just hanging out with them so Raph can show his softer side, Leo can be playful, Donatello can just relax, perhaps best of all we get to see that while Mikey is a still a goofball he is a skilled ninja and the book also never forgets that these are teenagers – one of the many things that Viacom does well (that Mirage often failed at) is remembering that they’re writing four teens, and Challenges has the same thing going for it (hell that’s the whole point of Leo’s chapter). Splinter’s story is a little different, more about his relationship with his sons, but that’s ok, because that’s also a nice little moment you get to share with characters you love. Sometimes being nice is just as good as being epic or awesome or edgy or anything else, sometimes nice is enough, it is here.
17. Case of the Killer Pizzas
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 2, Episode 6 (Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, 1988)
Written by Douglas Booth
Wha’appen? Krang sends Shredder some eggs from Dimension X, to make sure they get to the Turtles Shredder and Baxter co-opt a big Pizza giveaway, putting the meatball-like eggs on some of the prize pizzas. Things don’t go to plan when a rush delivery job takes two of the Pizzas across town and Shredder is spotted by the Turtles (who are of course entering the competition after Shredder made sure a swathe of leaflets flooded into their sewers). Baxter is completely unaware of all this and goes ahead with rigging the contest so the TMNT win, except they give the only remaining rigged Pizza to April as a thank you for entering their names, meaning the three ‘killer pizza’ monsters come to life all across New York. The Turtles, April & Vernon, The Shredder & Baxter and Irma all independently follow the monsters into the sewers – a bit of a problem, as the aliens grow to full size in water, with mistakes, events and fainting forcing The Turtles to work with Shredder.
Why? Because it was my favourite episode as a kid *hangs head in shame* but to my delight (and surprise, the Fred Wolf show has not held up well, mostly because it was usually shit at the time too) the episode holds up really nicely, there is a slight issue with the delivery boy taking what I estimate to be about two hours to deliver the rush-job pizzas but other than that everything’s pretty damn good, sure it’s only this high because this is my list and nostalgia was always going to end up affecting it but the dialogue is great, all the jokes are funny and there’s no jokes when unnecessary, the threat feels very real, the Turtles make mistakes and have to fix them, the resolution isn’t easy (though it is ‘foreshadowed’ in the same way straight-up telling you something is foreshadowing, but at least it’s brought up beforehand) and we get a nice (but too brief) team up between Shredder and the Turtles. My only complaint isn’t really this episode’s fault – I just hate white mad scientist Baxter Stockman, I like him fine once he becomes a fly but before then he just pisses me off, but even he’s bearable in this episode and actually has a funny moment as he and Shredder escape.
16. Mikey vs The Mob
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 3 issues 6-8 (Image Comics, 1997)
Gary Carlson, Frank Fosco & Andrew Pepoy7
Wha’appen? After testing out Donatello’s skills now he’s a cyborg Michelangelo spectacularly fails at babysitting Casey Jones daughter Shadow8 and she’s taken from Casey and April’s flat. The TMNT find a local homeless man killed by a sai, as it wasn’t Raphael (he liked Charlie) they suspect the Foot, desperate to prove his sparring partners innocent Raphael goes to the ninja clan – only to find they’re totally guilty, though they didn’t know Shadow was connected to the Turtles. In exchange for them giving the rugrat back Raph must kill New York mob kingpin Antoine Puzorelli, he can’t go through with it but as luck would have it Puzorelli was the one who had Shadow snatched, turns out she’s his granddaughter. Barely surviving the disappointed Foot Clan dropping him off the condo the mobster was staying in (via window) Raphael gets the word to his guilt-ridden brother (Casey is out getting drunk) and Michaelangelo sets off to rescue Shadow, from her own christening, which is full of mobsters.
Why? I am quite alone in my love of TMNT Volume 3, I respect this, but I love that volume warts, long Deathwatch arc ‘n all and this is the best of it, which might not be much of an accolade to some fans but hopefully even if you don’t like the series as a whole you should find things to like in this; Casey Jones is back in the mask twice and one time fighting a big metal turtle, the Foot are a major part and the main villains aren’t cyborgs or the rest of the sort of 90’s extremities associated with Image but mobsters - and it’s tied to an old Mirage story. Other than Donatello as a cyborg and Raph’s face, oh and the odd bit of questionable anatomy on April, this could be from any time in the franchise, and would still be a good Turtles story. The downsides? They get Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees mixed up, I dunno if that’s intentional to show the mobster goons just don’t know their horror icons but it bugs me dammit!
1 due to Season 4 being split between episodes that aired in Syndication, episodes that were only shown in Europe and Japan (before being re-run years later on the USA Network) and episodes produced for CBS this episode number is debatable, I took it from Wikipedia which orders them thus: Syndication episodes (episodes 1-13) then the CBS episodes (episodes 14-39) and numbers the Europe/Japan episodes (The ‘European Tour’ episodes) as part of season 7 (which is roughly when it aired in the US) which to my knowledge is the official ordering according to whoever officiates such a thing – Mirage, Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, Viacom, the DVD company, whoever it is.
2 For the picky, yes, the huge success of Batman (the first movie) happened around the same time but that was only for a very short period – around six months or so – and never sustained the level of success I feel necessary to make it comparable to RGB and TMNT despite its incredible sales that Christmas, and y’know, being great.
3 in case you somehow care, my vote for ‘line most played with the Turtles figures’ is Toxic Crusaders, half the kids I knew didn’t even know they WEREN’T TMNT figures.
4 we do get a little Captain Planeting with Rocksteady & Bebop breaking some animals out of Central Park Zoo, but this is actually in-character for them at this point – having been living on an Eden World living wild and embracing the animal side of themselves.
5 and this isn’t the first time he’s done this either, Modeen put together two issues of TMNT Volume 3 to wrap up that story and for this I am eternally in his debt
6 fun fact, before the Viacom buyout this issue was considered cannon but the story it was sequelling – The River – wasn’t, why? Because Rich Veitch didn’t sign the ‘retroactive work for hire’ contracts all the contributors to the ‘Guest’ era of the comic were 'asked' to sign so Mirage would own their work.
7 and Josh Eichorn of course
8 Shadow Jones is the daughter of Gabrielle and a man she met before she met Casey but was born after Gabrielle and Casey Jones married so she is his legal daughter but not his biological daughter, as April and Casey Jones are not married she is not legally anything to April but April has raised her since a few months after she was born so they have a mother/daughter relationship. Image Comics’ third volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was struck from cannon
because it didn’t fit with Peter Laird’s
vision despite him doing very similar things in his volume Peter Laird didn’t have a say in any of it
Peter Laird is a bit of a twat so Shadow’s father has never been revealed in
Mirage cannon officially, Image said her father was Albert Puzorelli, son of
the villain of this story, Antoine Puzorelli.