I honestly can’t remember a time before I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I still remember getting my very first Turtles action figure — it was Raphael, and I got it from a place called Lloyd’s, a long-closed grocery/department store in the Hudson Valley.
I probably got into them simply because of timing — Transformers, G.I. Joe and He-Man were a little before my time, whereas the Turtles arrived on television at the very end of 1987, when I was just turning two years old. My fandom started with the original cartoon, and as I got older, I discovered the much-more-mature (in the way comic books use that term, at least) original comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. It then carried on with every new version to come about, and it continues into my adulthood, where my basement has become essentially a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles museum. I even started a TMNT podcast, not because I think the world needs another fucking podcast, but because I was simply looking for an excuse to interview the creators, artists and voice actors who have had such a big impact on me.
Now, there’s probably some deep, psychological reason that I never quite grew out of the Turtles. My dad died when I was three and I had a baby brother to look after, so I was forced to grow up in a hurry, but to be honest, I don’t love psychoanalyzing why I love the Turtles — I just want to enjoy that feeling of nostalgia and familiarity that they give me. And it’s a feeling that I need most when the world feels uncertain and I’m literally scared as hell for myself and my family.
While I can find something to love about every version of the Turtles, I’m still discerning enough to be able to tell what’s good from what’s utter dogshit. For example, anything with them singing is going to be basically nightmare fuel…
While the original 1990 movie is literally the best Ninja Turtles anything ever.
In terms of quality, right behind that original movie — which is only 90 minutes long and therefore insufficient for binging, especially considering how dire its sequels are — is IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series, which began in 2011. While the Turtles have been rebooted a million times — with mixed results — IDW’s monthly comic book series has consistently walked the ideal path for any reboot, offering enough familiar stuff to satisfy the fans, but enough new stuff to keep them guessing.
Starting with issue #73, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became the longest-running TMNT comic ever — a milestone it achieved by offering genuinely mature storylines that have dug deeper into the characters and taken them more seriously than anyone ever has before — all without losing the fun of crazy characters like Bebop and Rocksteady.
The credit goes to the addictive storytelling of guys like Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow, as well as the spectacular artwork of artists like Mateus Santolouco, Sophie Campbell, Dan Duncan and Ben Bishop, all of whom have contributed to a series which has been remarkably consistent in its quality, starting with the first issue and continuing through past issue #100, which just published late last year.
While this series is certainly good for the Turtle-obsessed dude like me, I’d argue that IDW’s take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has the right amount of complexity and nostalgia to satisfy adults who enjoyed the Ninja Turtles when they were kids, even those who feel like they outgrew the characters years ago. And, with more than 100 issues under their belt, the series has enough depth for a satisfying, escapist binge without having to delve through the decades-long history of characters like Batman or Spider-Man. Also, if nine years of the main series isn’t quite enough to satisfy, there are also 100 plus issues of side stories and mini-series in IDW’s run (which is easy enough to manage if you’ve got the proper reading order).
So, while we’re all stuck in our homes waiting out the apocalypse in this scary new normal of ours, let me invite old-school Turtle fans back for another trip to the sewers. After all, you won’t be able to leave your own claustrophobic hideout for quite some time.