(Note: I wrote another really long answer to the following comment/question, much longer than the HTML rules allow in one comment space, so I'm going to turn it into a separate post. -- PL)
"An American Mar 25, 2012 03:40 PM
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?"
That's a tall order, but I'll see what I can do. I predict, though, that my answer won't be satisfactory, as this whole issue is extremely subjective.
Before I get into it, I have to say that in my opinion, the bit in your question re: the X-Men betrays some fairly specious reasoning. You could make all of the X-Men aliens and you'd have essentially the same set of conflicts, only instead of people hating and fearing them because they're mutants, people would hate and fear them because they're aliens. Bigotry of that nature is very adaptable.
And I have to say that -- at least as I see it -- the Turtles being mutants, and ninjas, and turtles is inextricably woven into the nature of who they are and what their lives are like. (Truth be told, I never really thought the "teenage" part was all that important... thought it helped to make a cool name for the property.) And to claim that the Turtles' backstory is "meaningless" and has been "almost never brought up in the series" is really pretty preposterous.
Okay, now to try to answer your question…
There is the fact that the origin of the Turtles as set forth in the first issue of the TMNT comic book is the same basic origin story (with a few details changed) which has been used in the comics, both animated series, as the basis of all four movies, and all the toys and merchandising, for close to twenty-eight years. Obviously, this origin story has worked pretty well… so why change it? To use the old saying, "Why fix what ain't broke?"
When Kevin Eastman and I decided to do that first TMNT comic book back in 1983, we knew we had to figure out a way to explain why the characters were teenagers, mutants, ninjas, and turtles. It seemed like a preposterous combination of elements, but we bent our minds to the task and quickly came up with what was, to us, a satisfactory solution. It was quirky and weird and required a healthy measure of suspension of disbelief… but it WORKED. And it worked WELL.
And there was something about it which is not easy to define, something nutty and joyful and funny and possessed of a strange but compelling creative energy. That energy has sustained the idea through its much-longer-than-expected life.
(I also think that a big part of the Turtles' appeal is something that is an understated but key part of their backstory -- much like Spider-Man, for example, they are "accidental heroes". Random elements of fate played a huge part in how they came to be what they are… and there is something about that which is very attractive. I am not sure why.)
It's true that the new owners of the TMNT property can do pretty much whatever they want with it, including mess around with the origin story. They can decree that the TMNT aren't mutants, but aliens -- no, wait, they're robots or androids -- no, they're humans with psychic powers who can project the image of anthropomorphic turtles -- no, they're new creatures created by bioengineering -- no, they're cartoon drawings brought to life by a magic crystal -- no, they're ancient super-evolved prehistoric turtles from Earth's past who have been hiding from humanity in a pocket of fifth-dimensional spacetime -- and so on, and so on…
It may be that changing the origin story -- however that is done, and IF it is done -- might be a good thing for the future of the property. I assume the new owners want to keep and use the name "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" -- it only seems logical -- so if they can come up with a new story which doesn't hew to the way WE did it way back in 1983, but still retains enough of those key elements (ninja, teenage, mutant, etc.) to have the name of the property continue to make sense, and if that new origin story is something that the public responds to more positively that they did to the original, then more power to them.
As I think I have stated elsewhere, I have never said our ideas for the origin story were necessarily the best. They worked really well, though, and served as the basis for an INCREDIBLY successful property for the better part of three decades as of this writing, but maybe there's something better. Who knows? I guess if we wait, we will see. -- PL