Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book squads edition

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The green crew with attitude shows up on a variety of our favorite lists. We grew up in an era where the Turtles ruled everything for a good solid three years, culminating with the second live-action film. What most of the youngins didn’t know is that the Turtles got their start in comics in black-and-white incarnations in 1984. The comics are highly sought after now because of their rarity.

The X-Men: Charles Xavier’s men have always been our favorite group of superheroes. The merry mutants have always been at the forefront of societal issues (mutantism equals racism to a degree), and the group has always been relatable. We’re excited that the comic book mainstays are coming into the MCU at some point; they deserve to be done justice.

The Avengers: Given there are numerous lineups and different locations for the Avengers, we must narrow down this pick to any squad featuring Steve Rogers’ Captain America. To us, it isn’t the Avengers proper unless Rogers is involved to lead the charge. And, yes, we’re quite fond of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the group.

Justice League: No list on squads would be complete without the current DC universe lineup. Everyone on the squad is necessary: There is no Justice League without Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman or Cyborg. Despite the most recent movie not being a cohesive flick, the squad represented there is the core experience that is the Justice League. Also, it made Aquaman cool.

The Boys: Relatively obscure until the recently fantastic Amazon Prime show, the Boys are great at one thing: stopping the diabolical supes of their universe. Billy Butcher is cool as hell, and his entire crew is messed up in some way but loyal and awesome. In the same vein, the Seven are amoral and ridiculously lead by Homelander but just as shady and more weird than the Boys.

Top 5 on the Strip: Comic book games edition

1. Marvel vs. Capcom series

If there were ever a polarizing yet fun fighting game, it’s probably Marvel vs. Capcom. The first few Versus games are fun yet broken, but you don’t know broken until you get to Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Spending 18 hours at a tournament to watch the same 10 characters fight in teams of three makes you dislike and love a game at the same time.

2. Batman Arkham series

Batman’s run of action-adventure games has quite a few standouts. Rocksteady outdid themselves in letting you become the Dark Knight and immerse yourself in the world of Gotham and the insane asylum that is Arkham. Any entries are classics that shouldn’t be missed.

3. X-Men arcade game

“Welcome to die!” is a pleasant yet infamous greeting waiting for you at the end of the X-Men quarter muncher. Gold and Blue ’90s-era X-Men join and fight in a team of four to take on the Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s a fun romp that reminds you of how powerful the original animated series was in terms of impact on gamers and comic book nerds alike.

4. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

If there is ever a game on this list that personifies GI and its life in the ’90s, it’s this sequel. Easily one of the best quarter stealers of all time, TMNT2 took everything from the comics, the original animated TV show and the movies and turned it into an ultra-fun excursion in the world of the lean mean green fighting machine.

5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance

An insanely fun brawler that’s chock full of Marvel awesomeness, the first Ultimate Alliance game is fun and full of depth. It’s also co-op and introduced you to the then-obscure Marvel characters that are now household names. I didn’t know the Winter Soldier then or Fing Fang Foom but I bet I do now. This is the Marvel encyclopedia.

Top 5 on The Strip: Animated superhero cartoons

Batman animated series

1. Batman: The Animated Series

The standard bearer for modern superhero cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series was gritty, dark and fresh off the success of Batman Returns. It’s well-drawn with a neat art deco style and the voice acting set the standard for future series. If you weren’t watching this every day after school, you missed out. Immediately go back and watch this from beginning to end.

Teen Titans

2. Teen Titans

Teen Titans took a different tack when talking about Robin’s squad of heroes. It’s a great look at the younger superheroes of the DC universe in a group that still stands today. Featuring Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy, the show focuses on the group being young superheroes while also being teenagers with typical teenager problems. The voice work is fantastic and the animation is top-notch as well.

tmnt 1987 series

3. TMNT (1987 series)

We’re well-known TMNT fans here at GI and that love stems from the old black-and-white comics as well as the original animated series. That series, with its ’80s attitude and charm, managed to get us into the Turtles to start and paved the way for the juggernaut that was and still is the Turtles franchise. Outstanding voicework — featuring the likes of Jim Cummings and the late James Avery — make it one of the best ’80s animated series and a good introduction to the TMNT universe at large.

X-men fox animated

4. X-Men: The Animated Series

Aside from the classic theme, X-Men: The Animated Series featured a stellar voice cast and stories that mostly stayed faithful to the comics. At the time of its 1992 inception, this was unheard of in comic properties translated to TV. X-Men established several characters as favorites: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Cable, Bishop, Gambit and Jubilee. It was so great that incarnations of the characters featured in the show have been used in multiple video game properties since.

spiderman-1994

5.  Spider-Man (Fox)

Another great Fox animated series, Spider-Man was a fantastic showcase of the web-crawler’s style and storylines. It featured quite a few of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery and touched on a lot of his story arcs with accuracy and maturity not usually seen in comic book shows. As with X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man had great voice acting that carried over into video games produced thereafter, such as the Marvel Versus series.

Strip Talk #19: Sometimes it’s OK to reserve judgment

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineBefore we even get started, let’s not even question my TMNT legitimacy, OK? I am what you would call a superfan. Check my credentials: I have most of the 1987 cartoon seasons on DVD, have had the theme song of said show memorized since the beginning of 1988, had loads of merchandise and wrote a freaking play about Leonardo falling in love with April. Oh, and that 2011 GI issue devoted to TMNT? My idea. So, when I render a verdict on this new contraption that Michael Bay has dared introduce, you can best believe I do know what I am talking about. Except … that’s just it: I haven’t rendered a verdict and I’m not going to. At least, not just yet.

Yes, I’ve seen the epic original trailer (and I use that term loosely here), and no, I don’t have much to say about the overall film. The trailer is just that: a trailer. You can’t just go around supposing anything from a trailer. From what I saw, it’s supposed to be a retelling of the origin story of the four turtles and their first meeting with Ms. O’Neil. Beyond that, I’m not really expecting much other than the rumbling that I’ve heard over the hills that the Turtles are supposed to be aliens this time around. Not so fast there, Bay. That isn’t canon and that one change? Yep, you guessed it: The fanbase isn’t buying it. At all.

There comes a time, though, when everyone needs to step back and keep a clear head about things. This is one of those magical times. Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the boys in green, even agreed with that righteous statement from Bay. Keep in mind, however, that Eastman isn’t even directly involved with the rights to the Turtles anymore and has only recently gotten back into the Turtle game. So take it for what it’s worth. Meanwhile, other co-creator Peter Laird is telling anyone who’ll listen that the concept is being watered down and probably will hurt the standing of the franchise. My reaction: As if the third movie, subsequent 80 million series after the 1987 cartoon and rampant merchandising didn’t already do that? I mean, let’s not forget that at the height of the series’ popularity, you could find the Green Machine on everything from bookmarks to toilet paper practically. So, what’s another movie to potentially push the franchise again to a newer generation of kids that don’t know the black-and-white history of the Turtles?

I’m no Bay defender or apologist but all of the knee-jerk reactions to the trailer need to descend right back down to the sewers whence the third movie came from.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Comic property reviews: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies

In the first quarter 2011 of Gaming Insurrection’s The Strip, we took a look at all three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Read on to see how we feel about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

Before we start, a little bit of explaining:

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

A screenshot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles make an interesting discovery in their lair in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

TMNT movie origins great way to start franchise

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

New Line Cinema, 1990

Pulling from the comics to tell its origin story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does the franchise proud in its first stab at the movie business. With a few changes to some key elements, the movie Turtles still manage to convey the never-say-die attitude of the teen amphibians. Crucial fights and subtle humor are thrown in with great character development.

The casting is superb mostly. Judith Hoag was excellent as the plucky April O’Neil, and her pairing with Elias Koteas’ Casey Jones was enjoyable and believable. Shredder was menacing and imposing as well as his bodyguard, Tatsu (a movie only addition). The costuming looked great and so did the Turtles. Jim Henson’s Creature Factory pulled out the stops to make the suits for the Turtles, and it shows. Our only quibble with the characterization was the inclusion and creation of April’s boss and his son. They weren’t wholly necessary to the story, and while they set up interesting subplots for the core group, they didn’t really add to the movie. In fact, it seems they dragged it down in parts.

We particularly enjoyed the fact that by the time the first movie was released, the cartoon was in full swing, thus making the movie possible. While the movie works to distance itself from the cartoon quite a bit, it still retains elements from it to draw in the younger crowd. Subtle nods to the franchise’s two origins (comics and cartoon) are featured throughout, helping the movie firmly ground itself as a sci-fi kung-fu flick. This is a must-own for the children of the ’80s crowd who remembers the days when Turtles fought with honor.

Like the comics: 7/10

Casting: 9.5/10

Plot: 9/10

Overall rating: 8.5

New character Keno joins the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their quest to take on Shredder again in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

One liners’ add hilarity to Turtles’ movie sequel

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze”

New Line Cinema, 1991

What’s not to like about the sequel to one of the most successful independent movies of all time? Not much. Everything that made the first film a year earlier successful is back, though with a few changes. First, there’s no Casey Jones. And the actress playing April was changed. And there’s the addition of Ernie Reyes Jr. as the Turtles’ friend Keno and villains Tokka and Razhar. But other than that, the Turtles are still the Turtles.

There’s more action and more one-liners. And the return of Shredder makes it a little bit more believable that he’s a major villain for the Turtles than the comics would have you believe. It’s not very plausible that Shredder would be a one-note villain who only appears in a movie to try to kill the heroes, so it’s obvious that his role was increased here, tying in the various games AND cartoon.

Character development was handled in the first movie and not too much is dwelled on here. We wish more was written about Keno and why he was so proficient in martial arts and insistent upon helping the Turtles. His lack of explanation sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise excellent tale for the Turtles. Also, is it too much to ask that Vanilla Ice should have been toned down? True, he doesn’t show up until the end, but really, Ninja Rap? It was odd and disconcerting as a child seeing him and that hasn’t changed in the 20 years since movie’s release. He does absolutely nothing for the film, and his cameo is beyond stupid. But, at least the Turtles got to dance.

Overall, watch the sequel if not for a laugh at the now-ancient fashions of the day, but for the ramped up humor that comes from creating a sequel for a TMNT movie.

Like the comics?: 5/10

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 7/10

Overall rating: 6.5

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles try to return home to their time in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

Boldly go where no Turtle should really ever go

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III”

New Line Cinema, 1992

A hackneyed plot and poor special effects make the third TMNT film the worst in the bunch. There isn’t much that could save the franchise from going downhill with the third movie. The plot of the Turtles time traveling literally doesn’t make much sense, and the first time that Lyndsey saw it in the theaters, she claims to have spent 20 minutes trying to make sure she was in the right movie.

The acting is garbage, the story is utter nonsense and has nothing to do with the TMNT universe, and there’s no mention of previous villains or characters that made an impact on the Turtles’ adventures. The bright spot in it all is the casting and return of Elias Koteas as Casey Jones. He, despite some ham-fisted acting, is a beacon of hope in a movie that is far from shimmering.

There is nothing here that really resembles the TMNT universe save the abandoned train system home that the Turtles found in Secret of the Ooze and Jones. We had trouble understanding the point of adding the scepter and why even some of the strange plots from the cartoon universe weren’t expanded on, such as the Utroms or Rocksteady and Bebop. If the movie can introduce samurai that we’ve never heard of, the least the writers could do is include mutants that we have heard of. This is one sewer tale that should have stayed underground.

Like the comics?: 0/10

Casting: 2/10

Plot: 2/10

Overall rating: 1.5

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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