For more than 30 years the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been kicking ass and partying along the way. They are a triumph of comic book culture, self publishing, and reptilian awesome. They’ve also beaten back the haters for generation after generation and are once again going to reign at the box office (hopefully) with what looks like the most fun movie to come out this year.
For all these reasons and more we decided to celebrate the TMNT with the Top 10 Reasons The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Are Awesome! So sit back, grab a slice of pizza, and enjoy!
Let’s get this party started!
10. THEY ARE BASICALLY A JOKE TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY.
The story behind TMNT is an inspiring one. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were basically sitting around enjoying mainstream comics and said “Wouldn’t it be cool if we made this?”. This inevitably ended up becoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a self published comic that did what every self published author or artist dreams of: It took off like a rocket and became a cultural phenomenon. It was also a pretty damning riff at the oh-so serious comics of the time. Alan Moore’s bitting social commentary? Frank Miller’s oppressively hard-nosed style? All of the goofyness of the X-Men? Yes, it’s all in there stairing the reader in the face. The most glairing example is the Shredder himself.
Based on a “cheese grater”, his alternate names were going to be “Grate Man” or “Grater”. Thankfully the creators dodged a bullet and chose a cool name while avoiding a mistake that could’ve pushed the limits of silliness just a little bit too far.
BONUS ROUND: In the beloved cartoon from the 1980’s, The Shredder was voiced by James Avery, A.K.A “Uncle Phil” from the Will Smith, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.
9. IT’S ABOUT GROWING UP
The “Teenage” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles get’s overlooked a lot, but being a teenager is a trying time. Under the tutelage of Master Splinter the turtles are learning, growing, and trying to fit into a world that doesn’t understand them and finds them inherently different. This has been reinterpreted time and time again in their various reincarnations, but one thing remains the same: Growing up is hard to do, and the Turtles help young readers understand the importance of honor, skill, and discipline along the way.
8. MASTER SPLINTER IS AWESOME
Since his inception Master Splinter has had a place right next to Professor X, Mr. Miyagi , and Obi-Wan Kenobi as one of the great fighting gurus of pop culture. His mix of basic wisdom with a flash of comedy makes him a relatable, fun character that really helps smooth over the fact that he is a 150lbs vermin.
7. I STILL HAVE A CRUSH ON APRIL O’NEIL
And I’m pretty sure I am not alone in that. From her fearless journalist instincts to her tolerance of the turtles and their crazy adventures there was nothing Miss O’Neil was scared of.
6. THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR AN ENTIRE GENERATION’S OBSESSION WITH PIZZA
I don’t know about you, but I cannot separate TMNT from pizza. I also can’t separate pizza from TMNT. Their obsession with pizza is never explained or expounded upon. It doesn’t even make sense. Turtles don’t eat cheese in the wild. They don’t even eat hot food. But in 1980’s America it made perfect sense for the creatures to lust, no, WORSHIP pizza as their food of choice. Coincidence, or the marketing coupe of the century pulled off by BIG PIZZA? You decide.
5. THEY TEACH KIDS ABOUT ART HISTORY
Yeah, the names Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo don’t just sound really cool, they are also the names of the 4 greatest Italian Renaissance artists to ever live. Of course these artists are so well known that kids are bound to hear about them when they grow up, but I’ll bet good money that a lot of kids (myself included) first learned about the Turtles first and then heard about those real guys they were named after. This makes TMNT both entertaining AND educational. Genius!
4. IT’S GOT ALIENS FROM DIMENSION X
This is another play that is straight out of the X-MEN playbook: Make thing so ridiculous that it just works. During the Dark Phoenix Saga, in one of the more defining moments of the the original X-Men comics, a whole raft of aliens came out of the farthest reaches of space to stop the all-powerful Phoenix Force. Well, TMNT riffs on this by having a whole raft of aliens show up and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting New York. It’s a lot of fun and makes sense in a world where toxic ooze can turn normal turtles into 6ft tall mutant ninjas.
Need I say more?
2. THE FIRST MOVIE WAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST GROSSING INDEPENDENT FILMS OF ALL TIME
For reals. According to this fantastic expose from the Hollywood Reporter, the original movie from 1990 went on to gross $25 million opening weekend, $135 million in the states, and a worldwide gross pushing it’s cumulative box office to $200 million. In the early 90’s that was HUGE dollars, especially for an indie project that no one believed in. In regards to it’s success, Kevin Eastman puts it best:
“For an independent film, it was beyond our wildest hopes. We liked the final movie and we hoped people would like it, and [the fact] it did as well as it did was fantastic. Of all the versions of Turtles that have been optioned over the past 30 years now — and certainly in the entertainment arena — the first movie stands out as our hands-down favorite version.”
So the 1990 version of the TMNT was all a creator could hope for: A faithful version of the property, a good movie, and a success monetarily. It doesn’t get better than that, folks. Check out the trailer for the original movie below. (And if you haven’t seen it, try and pick up a copy. The trailer doesn’t do the movie justice. It’s truly great.)
1. IT JUST SHOULDN’T WORK. BUT IT DOES.
I mean, come on … giant talking turtles? Ninjas? Mutants? Stupid sci-fi premises and non stop pizza eating?
But it works. The dynamics of the characters, the originality of the story, and the wild rogues gallery of bad guys all make TMNT work. And it’s beautiful. I’ve been enjoying TMNT for a long time, and am glad that kids and comic book fans have been able to enjoy them since that first issue took off all the way back in 1984. It’s a wonderful, and uniquely American thing, and I for one will be sitting in theatres this weekend when the new movie hits the screen.
Thanks for reading this list, and let us know your favorite TMNT memories in the comments!