Earlier this year Michael Bay announced to the world that the upcoming Ninja Turtles would be aliens, and the internet took a massive collective shit. “Another childhood memory ruined by Michael Bay.” “The Turtles AREN’T Aliens, they are from Earth!” And blah blah blah.
I didn’t care. I’ve become so used to these interpretations and reinventions of the shows of yesteryear that I just didn’t see what the big deal was about changing around the mythology on the Ninja Turles just a little bit. Your childhood is still alive and well in your memories and on DVD. Don’t like the idea for the new movie? Grow up, and move on. It’s just a movie.
Then movie was put on hold, the internet jumped up and down in celebration. Their childhoods were safe, for now. Once again I didn’t care. I knew they could turn the turtles into killer clowns from outer space and it would still probably be better than the time they danced with Vanilla Ice. But I digress.
This is about Michael Bay being right. Well, kinda right-ish.
When you ask the internet about the Ninja Turtles the first thing that pops into their collective pop culture mind is the animated tv show that started in the late 80s and ran well into the 90s. A close second was the first live action movie. These are the turtles that people hold near and dear to their hearts. These are the turtles that most people are referring to. These are the ones that fan boys feel the need to protect from Michael Bay.
These turtles (mostly the original cartoon) are a far cry from what they were originally based on.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the first TMNT graphic novel back in 1984 during the independent Black and White comic book rush of the 80s. These turtles weren’t the friendly saturday morning, pizza eating turtles you might be familiar with. These turtles were violent, dark, gritty assassins, who (with the occasional tongue in cheek gag here and there) usually took themselves somewhat seriously. These aren’t the turtles most people remember. These are the ORIGINAL turtles that your precious turtles are based off, and sadly these are the turtles most people don’t know.
Until recently I’ve only read some of the older issues here and there in the early 90s. Despite the Turtles huge popularity, these B&W series where somewhat hard to come across, at least in Puerto Rico. Thankfully IDW has recently released the old B&W books in collected hard bound volumes. As of now they’ve released 3 volumes covering up to issue 19, and a couple spin-off issues. This was the first time I’ve been able to properly read the pre-Saturday morning TMNT.
So other than being dark and gritty, how much more different were they? Oh let’s see.
The first few issues are somewhat standard. We got the Shredder. We got the Mousers. We get Splinter getting kidnapped. We even get an alien race of aliens who control humanoid robot bodies from the stomach (a precursor to Krang from the cartoon). But then by Issue 5 they are transported to another planet where they befriend a robot with a transferred human soul/memory/spirit, get into a alien bar brawl, escape in a spaceship, end up in a space station, fight a bunch of military T-Rex’s in a gladiatorial style arena, then get transported back to Earth, were by issue 7 they learn the truth of their origins. (Pretty wild, ay?)
Turns out the mutagen that transformed these little turtles into the ninjas they are today was actually created by these brain aliens who were hiding amongst the humans. That’s right folks, issue 7, page 21, of the ORIGINAL Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tells us that the radioactive goo belonged these aliens. And to be honest, with all that space traveling and fighting they were doing for 3 issues straight, this is probably the most normal thing I’ve read in a few issues.
So while the Turtles themselves aren’t aliens, they are alien-ish in origin. So say what you want about the cartoon series (the first movie follows the original books VERY closely, minus the whole 4 issue space bit), but Michael Bay doesn’t have to do much to ruin the image of your childhood. The cartoon series you hold near and dear to your heart is nothing more than a toned down, skewed, almost tainted version, of one of the wildest graphic novel tales ever told.