Sunday, November 18, 2012

What If Todd McFarlane Had Created The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

My name is the Claymation WereWatcher .
As you may well know, we WereWatchers are ancient beings, at once  surrounded by the lives and choices of millions of souls…yet forced to be witness to the choices without ever getting involved. Except of course for the constant instances in which we do.

Throughout the ages of human history there have been several turning points. Pivotal moments that forever changed the course of human events and the direction that humanity as a whole would take. I believe that it goes without saying  that one of the most formative events in the history of your world is the formation of the greatest team of heroes mankind has ever known: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In 1987 “Totally Awesome LLC” a joint corporate venture between Dark Horse Comics and Dominoes Pizza) hired too young Artist/Activists named Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, to create a marketing campaign in the hopes of boosting their sluggish sales. While Eastman and Laird had originally designed “The Turtles” as a vehicle of protest against both the nationwide epidemic of Toxic Ooze, sewer dumping and the plague of pet abandonment, they immediately resonated with the stuff-buying public and became one of the biggest moneymaking properties in the history of martial arts-trained animal history.

We all know the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Four turtles raised in the sewer by their master, father and sensai. A creature who began life both as a human ninja master and a pet rat owned by a ninja master who, once exposed to a terrible substance called  mutagen (which had already blinded a young actor named Ben Afleck, allowing him to see people in the rain using sonar as well as given him the ability to do amazing playground equipment parkour.) The mutagen turned The rat into a man and the man into a rat and the deposed ninja master into a ninja master rat hybrid kinda….okay okay look. I am a watcher but I may not have been paying SUPER great attention and it kinda seemed like the origin stories kept changing.  But at any rate Splinter (or master Yoshi) had pet turtles while he was living in the sewer and they crawled around in the mutagen too which turned them into human turtle monsters. They go on to learn ninjitsu, stop crime, take on a huge evil ninja master and his pet brain alien, eat a ton of pizza bring back surf culture slang, meet just under 93 other mutant animal creatures and sell enough merchandise to fill Manhattan.

The public was buying everything they could. Ninja Turtle Skateboards, Ninja Turtle Sleeping Bags, Ninja Turtle TV’s, Ninja Turtle Cars…Houses! And, on top of that, the New York Sewer System became a more popular vacation destination than it had ever been before! There were movies, books board games etc. The Turtles became so popular that they eventually starred in a crossover event with one of the most critically acclaimed Comic Book properties in funny book history. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

Yes that was how it happened. But as a Werewatcher I know that “the way it happened” is really only “one of the ways it happened” You see, there are millions upon millions of universes and concerning the origin of the Ninja Turtles there is another… One where their history is quite different  and just maybe, more powerful than ever. And that my dear mortal friends, is the one I’d like to tell you about today.

What if Todd McFarlane had created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Rather than being a misguided political scheme turned  pop culture darling, McFarlane’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles never left the realm of…art. Unleashed upon an unsuspecting public in 1984 “Turtles”
Focused largely on the tragic figure of Casey Jones, a former professional athlete who in an attempt to preserve his legacy, made a bargain with an ancient evil in exchange for athletic talent. Unfortunately the deal came with a price in the form of a possession by a monstrous spirit. Tortured with constant maddening visions his career came to a horrible end when he murdered an opponent on national TV. Using his superhuman physical abilities he evaded capture by the authorities but was forced to go into hiding, concealing his once famous face behind a battered hockey mask. Living on the streets as a vagrant he began to dream of a redemption for a light to pierce the dark prison that his life had became and he decided that the only way to save his soul was to stop the evil the thrived in the city. HIS city.

Declaring war on the murderers, rapists and gangs that lived like a plague on the streets of New York. Living in the sewer and attacking under the cover of night. McFarlane tapped into the darkest recesses of his blackened soul to create a twisted, cold and violent world but the adventures of an insane and hyper-violent vigilante would not, alone be enough to satisfy his artistic expression The Ninja Turtles themselves added a darkly paranormal facet to the series and soon became an underground favorite among the die-hard fans. Grotesque and savage, the turtles were discovered by Casey in the depths of the sewers and soon they were fighting by his side. Even less reserved than himself the turtles seemed to physically reflect the monstrous forces that raged within him. Visually the turtles were quite disturbing, mottled skin a mouth full of rows of long jagged teeth and headbands that flowed in the wind seemingly of their own power. Led by a frothing rabid mutant rat the turtles were trained killers but it was never revealed to readers or to Casey Jones himself whether the turtles truly existed or were yet another vision of his endlessly haunted reality. The only force that kept Casey Jones even remotely grounded in reality was a young and beautiful paranormal investigator named April O’Neil. Driven into the sewer system in search of an avenging spirit she found one in the form of Casey Jones but rather than turning him in to the world she soon joined his cause and the two shared the most twisted romance since Donkey Kong and Princess Toadstool.

The series carried on throughout the 80’s developing a huge cult following and taking the black and white indie comic book world by storm. As the 90’s approached however, the world of comic fandom began to demand more. They wanted color in their comics! They wanted glowing eyes! Glossier pages and much much longer headbands! Todd McFarlane was ready to answer that call and though the turtles had been exclusively his domain, he knew he would need help to turn his creation into something the modern nerd could love. Todd contacted two of the greatest people he knew. Friends he had not seen since childhood when they went on an adventure to unearth a hidden pirate treasure and save their small town from a ruthless land developer.
Their names were Mr Rob Liefeld

And Mr Jim Balent.

Liefeld was the yin to McFarlane’s Yang, taking the dark foundation Todd had created and cranking the amplifier up to eleven. He added nearly everything that the comic was missing he added 150-200 lbs of muscle to all the charaters, he added dynamic posses and an updated look with squitier eyes, more colorful costumes and oh the weapons! Rob Liefeld convinced McFarlane that what the ninja turtles truly needed was to get rid of all that ninja crap and to get some real firepower and soon the turtles and Casey Jones were sporting guns as big as their enormous arms! Todd found himself creating bigger and badder enemies to warrant the upgraded arsenal. A hideous living brain within a mechanically infused, reanimated body, giant mutant animal creatures and even a huge main villain named the Super Shredder and deformed Japanese man with a huge drill for a left arm and a machine laser gun for his right. The pages soon became so full of explosions, gunfire and blood that it was sometimes impossible to tell what was going on in the story and the comic reading public LOVED IT.

Other than some assistance with what was left of the dialogue Jim Balent found himself overshadowed by his two partners. He soon found his niche however in the character of April O’Neil and he spearheaded her makeover into a Balent style character decided that from now on she would be wiccan! He also added a couple other new features that fans seemed to really enjoy! As he would later state in an interview “Hahahaha boobies!! Ooooh yeah!!”

The Turtles continued to evolve and soon Casey Jones was written out of the story all together and soon the books were just an excuse for The Ninja Turtles to kill everyone and everything in their path with huge cartoonish guns and for April O’Neil to purse her lips and bend over things. The popularity soon eclipsed anything the comic world had ever seen. Books like Superman and Spiderman were pulled from the shelves as their were taking up too much non-Turtle space. Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and Jim Balent became rich beyond their wildest dreams and soon Ninja Turtle Sewer Theme Parks were popping up all over America. The critically acclaimed film adaptations by Michael Bay only cemented the Turtles place as the most honored intellectual property in the history of man.

And so my friends, as you can see. While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have been popular in your world it could have been so much more. I can only hope that you as a society have appreciated the works of Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and Jim Balent. Recognizing their contributions to the world of Comic Books and the works of genius they truly are. Though you may never be able to hold in your hands the force of nature created by their collaboration you can know that somewhere, somewhen there are those who do.

As I take my leave of you I would like to say, in the time honored traditions of WereWatchers everywhere.

Cowabunga Dudes.