Friday, March 23, 2012

More musings related to "Turtles as members of an alien race"

I meant to do this as a response to the following comment...

"63d11238-744c-11e1-b864-000bcdcb471e Mar 22, 2012 11:26 AM
What a cop out. Whether or not you could legally do something to prevent such a bastardization, Peter, I expected more of you as a godfather and originator of the legacy. Your voice is an important one, and you seem to be saying to all those who've grown up with TMNT, that the Turtles origin and history shouldn't really matter."

... which was posted in the comment section of my first "Musings..." post, but the limit of comment length was bugging me, and rather than break up my comment on this comment into several smaller separate comments, I decided to turn it into a whole new blog post. So what follows is my response to "63d11238-744c-11e1-b864-000bcdcb471e"'s comment. -- PL


63d11238-744c-11e1-b864-000bcdcb471e, I fail to see where -- in anything I have written about this issue -- I have said anything close to "…the Turtles origin and history shouldn't really matter."  I think it's clear that most people -- and I count myself one of them -- don't have any idea of what the true intentions of the new TMNT film's makers are regarding the origin story of the TMNT in the film. All we have to go one, really, is an off-the-cuff comment by Michael Bay which SEEMS to be somewhat ridiculous. But as I wrote earlier, though my gut feeling is that this is NOT a good direction in which to head, it is POSSIBLE -- if not necessarily LIKELY -- that some incredibly talented creative team might take this goofy idea and turn it into something really good. I am not sanguine about that possibility... but who knows? Not me, and certainly not you.

Let me digress for a moment, 63d11238-744c-11e1-b864-000bcdcb471e. Years ago -- in 1987, I believe it was -- Kevin Eastman and I agreed to sign a contract allowing our TMNT property (at that time only represented by the original TMNT comics, a role-playing game, and a few licensed goodies like miniature metal figures) to be adapted into a Saturday morning animated cartoon series. We knew going in that there would have to be changes made to "soften" the property a bit, to make it more "kid friendly" and palatable to advertisers and parents.

The show that resulted from that process was not exactly what we would have wanted, had we been granted the kind of creative control I was able to have on the later 4Kids TMNT series. I probably shouldn't speak for Kevin, even though I think his feelings about this are similar to mine, so I will just say that I found the series to be too silly, repetitive, and lacking in much to hold my interest. In fact, I stopped watching it after the first few years. But…

… it was wildly successful. It was incredibly well-received by millions of viewers -- people who to this day remember it fondly, and many of whom who would have preferred that the live-action movies as well as the 4Kids animated series had served merely as continuations of that iteration of the TMNT. Who can say why, exactly, that the show was so successful? Was it the power of the central concept of the property? Was it the execution of the show? A combination of both? There are solid arguments to be made for each of those options.

The point I am trying to make here,  63d11238-744c-11e1-b864-000bcdcb471e, is that had I (again, speaking solely for myself and not for Kevin) been making the key creative decisions for that first animated series, it would have been VERY different. Among other things, there would likely have been no moronic henchmen like Bebop and Rocksteady. The Shredder would have been seriously malevolent. April would not have been a reporter and constantly need to be rescued by the Turtles. The Turtles would not have been so ridiculously obsessed with pizza, and the Shredder would not have had as one of his businesses a restaurant called "Ninja Pizza".  There might have been something that sort of looked like Krang, but it would have been an Utrom in a cool robotic exoskeleton. And the show would not have had a joke or gag every five seconds.

And so on.

And it might have worked. Then again…

… it's possible that it would have never reached the heights of popularity that the show as produced DID reach.

Was the show that did make it onto the airwaves back then BETTER than the one which I would have preferred to have seen? I don't know. I strongly suspect that a lot of the devoted fans of that original show would answer that hypothetical question with a resounding "YES!!!" -- something I have seen evidence of many times in such fans' responses to the 4Kids TMNT series, which is, in almost every conceivable way, the show I WANTED to see back in 1987.

I've always felt that even though I have a very solid notion of how to keep the original spirit of the comic book TMNT alive in various media -- something I tried really hard to do with the 4Kids series, especially -- I don't have, and never did have, and never claimed to have, any kind of monopoly on good ideas for what can and should be done with the Turtles. I know from past experience that there can be a wealth of really interesting, fun, creative "takes" on these characters. It's possible that there are many other very cool alternative treatments of the Turtles waiting in the wings.

Is "Turtles as members of an alien race" one such treatment? At this point, I would think not…

… but I am certainly open to being convinced otherwise.

Truth be told, though, it would take a LOT of convincing. -- PL


  1. It's interesting that this issue is continuing to be talked about. There was another update on it on SuperHeroHype today. I enjoy hearing your perspective on it, and I hope to hear more about Kevin's involvement with the movie in the coming months.

    I'm still holding out hope that the alien comment is related to the ooze rather than the Turtles themselves. Either way, could be cool!

  2. The thought of this being an actual spoken conversation and Pete having to actually say "63d11238-744c-11e1-b864-000bcdcb471e" every time is very ammusing!

    But anyway, the actual director has chimed in finally and basically said that there is a connection to the "come from an alien race" comment and the origins of the TCRI canister, so that should calm some people down a little.


    1. Hmmm... maybe a little. I read the director's comments and found them to be vague and open to different interpretations... one of the most obvious of which is, sadly, that the Turtles are from an alien race.

      Which is exactly what Michael Bay said.

      I guess we'll have to wait and see. -- PL

  3. I really don't get why some people can't understand that you sold the property and have no creative control over it.

    I imagine these people are either out of the loop or don't understand how business works.

    We have 3 new TMNT continutities starting:

    IDW TMNT comics
    Nick cartoon

    It's time people accept the fact that the old stuff will always be there but new series are starting.

  4. Well from what the director said it seems like Bay may have misworded what he said(most likely purposly to start a rise in the fans and get this movie to be talked about like it is) because from what the director said it looks like the whole Alien Origin is reffering to the Ooze being created by the alien race just like in your original seres...which in my opinion, if True ,pretty awesome and keeps to your source material as far as their Origins goes

  5. Peter, thank you for your wonderfull comment. I think it's great that you're willing to be open minded about the film. No matter what, no amount of crappy treatment will change how I feel about the boys and their friends. Even the goofy stuff. Peter...I know it wasn't always what you wanted it to be, but I appreciated all of it. I'm thankful that you've kept sharing so much of their history with us and given us so much insight. I've come to appreciate the many different facets of their history and it's helped shape them in my memory into being characters I think you'd be proud of, if you got to know them.

    I know i've said it before, thank you for your wonderful creations...and thank you for being a decent guy.

  6. I think what worked for in the Fred Wolf series for me (as a kid and now rewatching it on DVD as an adult) is the fact that they knew the concept was wacky, and ran with it. Hard. One of the best bits of Turtles Forever (and the most accurate to the FW series) was the 4th wall breaking humor. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the delivery by the cast, I don't know. What I do know is I love it. I love the 4Kids series to, for different reasons. It's just different Turtles for different moods. If I want "fun" Turtles that I can watch with my brains shut off, it's gotta be FW. If I want a more serious, action oriented, story driven TMNT series, give me 4Kids. But then again, I'm easy to please. :D
    -Kevin McGill Jr.

  7. I have to say, I applaud how objectively you look at this. That you are able to separate your own interests from that of the masses and understand that different things can/will appeal to different people and work successfully.

    Personally, yes, I admit, I am from the Saturday morning cartoon crowd. So much so, that my first word as a child was literally "Cowabunga"(should I be impressed that I learned a four syllable word, or be depressed that I was raised by the screen?) As I grew and found the original comics, my reaction to your creation was probably a similar amount of disgust that you felt when a company infused it with a 60s-Batman vibe. ...That is to say, until I gave it a shot and fell in love with it for entirely different reasons than I love the cartoon.

    Over the years I was exposed to more and more of the Turtles. Serious Turtles, silly Turtles, and a mix. And somehow, someway a lot of those various interpretations worked for me. (...Next Mutation did not.)

    Despite being in the camp that initially freaked out at Platinum Dunes decision, I'm going to take a step back. I'll let them do what they want to do, this has been a very versatile and malleable franchise. Heck, I just look forward to seeing them back on the big screen. In the end, I think I'll be fine with the "alien" decision as long as it's not played out too much. As in, I don't want to see them flying around in space pods shooting green lasers at the bad guys who fire back red lasers; ditto for a Turtle-saber.

  8. Now it's really getting laughable..... who cares what he thinks? :)

  9. Hey Peter I'm with and would love to interview you. Please contact me at if you have any interest.

  10. Honestly, I think it's a little unfair.

    Adapting a property from one medium to another is cool; it helps to make more money for the franchise. But now, they say they're starting old franchises back up, like there's no fans to begin with anymore. I think at a certain point, when a franchise reaches a certain age (and fan level), regardless of what the United States Patent and Trademark Office says, the property creatively reverts back to both the fans and the original creator(s).

    I say this because every time they come out with a new movie/short/video game/whatever that tries to pretty much rewrite the storyline, they market it as the definitive version; the one that supposedly really shows “what (property) is all about!”, while virtually changing everything (or key important aspects). The statement is empty, as are the statements about this new medium that keep coming out. And it usually does nothing but damage to the legitimacy of the franchise. But it doesn't matter, because it's a property of that company; so legally, their side is the only one that matters.

    I think a mix of the original creators and the fans should be the ones to decide if it's worthy enough to legitimately call itself the “definitive” version. And if they don't believe it is, if either the creators or a group of fans (or both) were so inclined, they should be able to make a modern version that they believe conveys the story best today (most feasibly, probably in the form of a short film). That way, people could see both, and if the theatrical version was bad, they could look at the creator's short and probably be like, “Damn, I would have rather seen more of that at the theater!” Yeah, it wouldn't make any money, but it could be used on the resumes for whoever was involved.

    Transformers was an easy slam, because the line was originally made to sell multiple mecha toy lines in Japan under one label. So, the "who really started this creatively?" is not easily answered. And unless you're really adept in 3D animation, making a Transformers short is virtually impossible. So any backlash was looked at as fanboy bullshit that should just be ignored. Thankfully, this situation doesn't have a bunch of negative variables like that.

    Now, after all of that, I must ask you this: if a group wanted to create a CG adaptation of the first issue of the first Ninja Turtle comic book, looking to adapt from the comic book directly, taking almost no cues for the past turtles on film and with a result that warranted that no child should ever watch it until they're at least 27; would you be supportive of it or against it?

    Thanks for reading this huge thing; I'm a big fan. :-D

    1. "Now, after all of that, I must ask you this: if a group wanted to create a CG adaptation of the first issue of the first Ninja Turtle comic book, looking to adapt from the comic book directly, taking almost no cues for the past turtles on film and with a result that warranted that no child should ever watch it until they're at least 27; would you be supportive of it or against it?"

      Well, to begin, one of your parameters strikes me as a bit odd. Why would someone have to be 27 to be able to see this thing? Perhaps you meant 21.

      And when you say "a group", should I assume you mean a licensee of Viacom doing an official licensed product, or a group of fans who want to do some kind of "Fanga™" project without a license?

      I would offer qualified support upfront if the project was one which did not involve too much gratuitous gore, violence, and/or profanity, and stayed close to the aesthetic established in the first comic. -- PL

    2. I didn't mean gratuitous, over-the top violence and gore; "27 or older" was a humorous overstatement. However, I do mean something not meant for children to see; images like a neck getting snapped quickly, or the final fight before the Shredder face-off, which could probably get a little crazy (not to mention the actual look texture of the turtles, who would probably have the "mutant" aspect turned up a little in regards to skin texture). Required age, 18; recommended age, 21.

      I also meant a group of fans working without a license. I doubt Viacom would make any medium outside of comic books that involved TMNT and was not made for kids. :-P

  11. Peter, I'm so glad you commented on this. Could you go into detail specifically what it is about making them aliens instead of mutants that matters?

    It seems people are having trouble pinning down exactly what it is about it that changes the essence of who the turtles are, while those in support of it are stating that it doesn't change anything other than possibly the name. (They state that only a couple of the storylines had anything to do with them being mutants, and unlike X-MEN it doesn't play into who they are or the conflicts of the characters.)

    Can you express in words what many of us are having trouble doing, why it's more than just a meaningless backstory that's almost never brought up in the series?

    1. Please see my reply here:

      -- PL

  12. I believe when the curtain comes up on enough of this stuff, soon enough people are going to really appreciate the kind of quality control you brought to the table during your tenure. Tenfold.

  13. I too liked the 4Kids cartoon better than the 1987 one, which I grew up with, largely because I knew the comics by the time it came out. I would have liked to see the new movie be more like that and/or the original comics. Aliens are involved, the Utroms, maybe Fugitoid and Triceratons in a sequel, but NOT making the turtles aliens. The turtles being mutants contributes to them feeling like outcasts, making for some touching moments with adopted father figure Master Splinter. One of my fav scenes from the first TMNT movie is when Splinter tries to comfort Raphael because of his anger issues and he starts crying. The producers of the new movie haven't even mentioned Splinter, who in the REAL story is their connection to being NINJAS, ninja being something that comes from EARTH! Splinter represents my biggest worry about this film. Are they going to remove him? Is he from a rat planet? How did he learn ninjitsu? That's what the fans are upset about, taking the mutants out of TMNT unravels what they are. They might as well make it something else. Battletoads, anyone?

  14. I, like most of us watched the 80s show as a kid because my little brother liked it. I watched it again as an adult and it was a painful experience. It was, like many things from my childhood, much dopier then I remembered it.

    After reading all the comics (and I even enjoyed the Archie ones, especially once they left the cartoon behind) and when I found the 4Kids show I was amazed at how much better it was. THAT was the turtles show I always wanted and it holds up even after multiple viewings. I don't really understand how you can be a turtles fan, especially if you've read the comics, and not love the 4 Kids show.

    I'm not saying there aren't people out there who genuinely didn't enjoy the 4Kids show but, I know amongst my friends, they "prefer" the 80s show because they are going off of fond memories of it they had as children and haven't watched it again as an adult and are dismissing the 4Kids show without ever having seen it. My own brother does this and it drives me batty.

    What I keep mentally coming back to is that my favorite turtles thing ever, the 4 Kids show, was created under the time when Peter had the most control and the silly 80s show was representative of when he had no control. Now that he's sold the franchise, I'm concerned for what the future will be like. I was enjoying the reign of Peter!

    But, like he said, there are a lot of people who liked the Cowabunga turtles and would welcome a return to that. I'm just not one of them.

  15. I really wonder what Peter thinks of the Red Sky seasons of the original cartoon, 'cause those were darker than seasons 1 to 7 of the cartoon. I really enjoy TMNT, my favorite incarnations being the Red Sky seasons and the 90's live-action flicks.