Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I’m expecting that TMNT might be on its way back into the hearts and minds of many adolescent movie goers and toy collectors.

It’s so funny to me that this excellent comic and series has fallen a bit to the wayside over the last few years. I mean, everyone still LOVES the Turtles and they’ve had some pretty solid forays into the realm of animation lately. But at one point, TMNT was really kind of ‘on the pulse’ of what was cool in comic books and pop culture.

What I suppose a lot of people never realized about the original Turtles' comic was that it was, in fact, a bit GRITTY. I mean sure, it was funny because the idea of four gigantic, anthropomorphic ninja turtles named after famous artists is too whacked out to not be funny.

But the original TMNT was sort of unapologetically hardcore. I’ve alluded to the fact that it was a landmark title in that it sort of ushered in a new age of self-referential humor. But the truth is, it probably ushered in a new age of action-focused comics as well.

I think a lot of us love comics because we love to sort of relate to the heroes and characters in the spotlight of our favorite book. Part of what made the original TMNT comic so memorable was the sort of titanic, inhuman feats that the characters were capable of. It was overwhelming, when you thought about it: gigantic ninja turtles fighting a hidden ninja clan or robots or whatever came along.

The comic was ALL ACTION for ACTION’S SAKE. Not that the characters didn’t develop or change over time, but it was sort of like you watched the action and you didn’t feel part of the action. The Turtles were sort of the epitome of badass in the original comics. Raphael embodied that sort of rough, Wolverine-type anti-hero that got big in the 90’s. Michelangelo had a bit more of a ‘drunken master’ feel to him than his cartoon counterpart, who quipped surfer-talk all day.

The nemesis Shredder was no slouch either. He’s sort of remembered as this cheesy cartoon villain but back in the day, you got the sense that Oroku Saki was sort of untouchable. That no matter how incredible the Turtles were that this guy was going to trounce them.

I remember thinking that the original NES game was sort of appropriately difficult given the comic’s context. It was damn near impossible to fight your way through the ludicrous hordes of ninjas, robots and mutants crowding the city, let alone even get CLOSE to the big-bad behind the show. Even when you did, he made mince meat out of the Turtles right quick because that’s just how bad Shredder was.

The companions were no exception. While Casey Jones has sort of fallen into the role of being April’s romantic interest and part of the extended family, it’s no mistake that he sort of resembles Jason Vorhees. The original concept of Casey was that he was a Punisher-style urban vigilante who was obsessed with perpetrating violence against criminals. The hockey mask gives him that ‘I’m going to keep coming for you until I finally get you’ look. He was an ally but he was also a loose cannon; no surprise that he and Raph have a, well, ‘understanding’ might be a better word than ‘friendship’.

Actually, the original cartoon series' portrayal of Casey was sort of more on par with the comic than his appearances in subsequent films. I’ll say this though: the original movie’s introduction of Casey drew heavily from the comic. He and Raph really do just sort of accidentally meet up, the Turtles really do retreat to an old farmhouse on the outskirts of town that Casey owns when the Foot take over and, ultimately, Casey ends up with April.

TMNT got a bit messy by the end of it’s first volume partly because Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were suddenly helming a big business instead of a single comic book. Interestingly enough in one arc, Casey actually ends up falling in love with a pregnant woman. After she passes away, Casey adopts her newborn daughter. The kid grows up to be named Shadow and the Turtles and April actually help raise her. Interesting, right?

I’ll be interested to see if Casey makes an appearance in any shape or form in Michael Bay’s upcoming feature. For that matter, a good question probably on everyone’s mind is what form are the Turtles going to take in that movie? I don’t just mean their origin, which I know everyone is freaking out about. I mean the proportion of action to funny in the film. What PART of the turtles legacy is the film going to highlight? The gritty comic? Or will it be the more memorable but cheesy Saturday morning counterpart? Both?