Strip Talk #05: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were animated heroes, advertising juggernaut all rolled into one

Lyndsey Mosley, editor-in-chief

The Teenage Mutant Turtles have dual personalities, quite frankly. They are among the few, if not the only, animated characters to have multiple versions within the consumer’s grasp that make them seem like the same old Turtles dressed up in the same old stories with different looks to them.

No one can dispute the juggernaut that was and still is the TMNT. Sure, they’re nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. Nowadays, you can’t walk down the street screaming “Cowabunga, dude!” without getting laughed at or possibly being evaluated for Bull Street or Patrick B. Harris. No, you can’t say you love being a turtle anymore without accusations of being stuck in a 1980s timewarp. But there was a time in America where it was hip to be a lean, green, turtle-loving pizza-eating machine. Those were the days when TMNT was king.

The franchise seemingly came out of nowhere with the comics book in 1984. It was as if there was nothing and then there were the Turtles. They were serious, starkly drawn characters who would fight and kill just as soon as they would be teens on the streets of New York looking for a little action. These are the classic times of the TMNT, where you could get a little blood mixed in with the culture of a gritty 1980s New York City scene rife with crime. And then it all exploded.

Cheesy on the one hand, wildly popular and inappropriate on the other, the 1987 animated show hit the scene and made mincemeat out of nearly every other franchise. The Turtles gained individual characteristics and with them came an increase in popularity that hadn’t been anticipated. The show took off with witty writing, superb voice acting and plots that made a lot of sense. The show worked hard to establish a base with children, though the seemingly innocuous writing is even risque for cartoons these days. Where else can a villain call a heroine of the show a bimbo?

Both pieces of the TMNT tale left a lasting impact. There’s a generation of grown folks that sang along with the opening theme of the ’87 show. Millions of “children of the ’80s” sink back into a coma of nostalgia now and then as they remember getting home from school, throwing off an acid-wash denim jacket, fixing a snack and plopping down in front of a TV to watch the four green dudes from Brooklyn take on a ninja master who “never has to look for a can opener” before tackling multiplication and long-division problems.

I am a child of the ’80s and I was once upon a time a pre-teenage mutant ninja turtle.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor of Gaming Insurrection and one of the biggest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans on the planet. She can be reached by e-mail at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com.

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