For part one in this series, click HERE!
THE PLAYMATES TOY LINE:
-Well crap, you want something every kid I knew was OBSESSED with, back in the day? Look no further. These toys were AWESOME- some were incredibly-detailed, some were HUGE, and plenty of them kicked ass. My brother and I had all kinds of these things- General Tragg, Muckman, Baxter Stockman, my beloved Casey Jones, countless variations of the Turtles (Wrestler Mikey, my favourite Detective Don), Shredder, etc. Oddly, the first Shredder toy SUCKED (he was SHIRTLESS, and all hunched over like he was Lord of the Douchebags or something), but they made up for it with the “Super Shredder” toy from the second movie. These things were iconic and everywhere when I was a kid. They eventually flat-out ran out of ideas once they REALLY had to start digging for their “take an animal, give it a stupid pun-based name, and give him a ’90s-esque outfit” original figures, but there is some sweet, under-rated (few give this line the time of day compared to the G.I. Joe, TransFormers & Star Wars lines… even He-Man & it’s legion of same-bodied muscle-men gets more cred).
Naturally though, it has its collectors. And thanks to the series running for MUCH longer than you’d think (*1997*!! Seriously! I was sixteen frickin’ years old when they cancelled the line!), there is a HUGE amount of stuff from the later, unpopular years, that just didn’t get collected. And anyone familiar with Toy Collecting can tell you what THAT means: Scarcity-Induced Price-Gouging!!! And yep, you will find late-series goofs like Scratch the Cat-Burglar being charged for literally HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS, while mountains of early-release Turtles go for peanuts.
This stage was BULLSHIT and I will be angry at these designers forever.
THE VIDEO GAMES:
-Awesomeness personified, at least for the most part. The original Arcade game was a 4-player button-mashing extravaganza, letting you crush tons of Foot Soldiers and beat some famous enemies. But the ADAPTATIONS, however… the first NES game is legendary for its sheer, unmitigated sucktitude, as it was famously-difficult to the point of being annoying (a TIMED LEVEL full of electrified seaweed and underwater junk?), had enemies that you never saw in the toys or cartoons, and it had really bad graphics and gameplay (a side-scrolling Platformer instead of a Beat ‘Em Up). I mean, this thing was an atrocity- young kids desperate to play their beloved Turtles were left with this broken pile of rat-feces (no offense, Splinter) that was so unplayable that you may as well shut it off after Leo & Don died, as they were the only two with decent freaking weapons! Raph & Mikey? Their weapons didn’t extend much past their HANDS, and so they were worthless, in a game that measured nothing other than reach. Seriously, if Rob Liefeld was a video game, then this was it. Now you’ll find an apologist here and there, but they are to be mocked and beaten.
The next bunch of NES games (including arcade translations) made up for it, and nearly every one was good. Turtles In Time for the SNES was ridiculously-easy to beat, but it had great graphics, awesome bosses (Slash! Tokka! Rahzar! Android Krang! SUPER-SHREDDER!). There was that silly Tournament Fighters game that was one of those generic “Nineties Fighting Games” that were EVERYWHERE at the time (they were as ubiquitous as Side-Scrollers back then), and little else for a long time. There were a bunch more recent games, but I thought the one I played was pretty bad- Beat ‘Em Ups don’t translate well to 3-D gaming, and the voice acting was BRUTAL (“Eat feet! Eat feet!… Eat feet! Eat feet!”).
-More on this right away- they started out AWESOME but had increasingly diminished returns. In the 2010s, Paramount released a pair of movies with infamously hideous versions of the characters.
THE 2000s ANIMATED SERIES:
-This series was very popular with nerds and kids, but didn’t make remotely as big a splash as the original (but really, what could?). I… didn’t HATE it, but I never felt nearly the amount of love for it that others did. I read countless reports by people going all “Wooaaaaaah man this is what the Turtles are SUPPOSED to be!” and going all crazy with praise for it, but I just thought it was a standard mediocre crimefighting show. I was probably the wrong age group for it- it wasn’t enough like the Animated Series I remembered as a kid, and it wasn’t as adult as cooler dark stuff like Gargoyles or Batman: The Animated Series, so it was just another kids’ action show to me. It didn’t help that I started watching it on weekends during a HORRIBLE “let’s go fly around in space and deal with Triceratons” arc that just… kept… on… GOING. Seriously, them, Fugitoid, some triceratops aliens and stuff all running around, and it took so long to get resolved that I washed my hands of the whole series. Every goddamn time I turned on the TV to watch the show, THAT ARC WAS STILL GOING ON. Seriously, has any good ever come of the Turtles going on a long-running journey through space? Ever? They shoulda just called it frickin’ Namek and been done with it. To this day “The Turtles go into space” is the canary in the coal mine for me- it’s my clue to quit watching and find some other show to see- it means the writers have run out of ideas on Earth… an ENTIRE PLANET for a setting and they’ve got nothing left in the tank.
The show actually lasted a REALLY long time, was pretty-well animated, and isn’t a BAD show, but it just wasn’t for me. It did have two notable aspects- Casey Jones was finally a major fixture after being a mainly non-entity type on the original ‘toon, and the characters were FINALLY coloured the way they were in the toys, so that Donnie was that poop brown colour, Mikey was that intense green, etc. It always bugged me that the cartoons didn’t look much like the toys.
Turtles Forever, the show’s finale, was absolutely amazing, however. The 2000s Turtles teaming up with the 1980s ones? Awesome stuff- especially with all the in-universe gags, the more “mature” Turtles being aghast at the weirdness of the ’80s toon’s universe (with random monsters, April being kidnapped constantly, and characters talking to the camera). Them going into the “Original Turtles Universe” was just icing on the cake, as the “extreme” Mirage Turtles gave a bunch of dramatic speeches, and considered the *2000s* ones as silly as they did the ’80s ones!
THE 2010s ANIMATED SERIES:
-This one is a much more recent show, and revels much more in nostalgia than the more-serious 2000s one did. It’s entirely CGI, using some pretty goofy character designs (Casey Jonse is a scrawny punker teen; the Turtles are thin and have giant heads & eyes), but the “Universe” gags abound to the point where it was honestly pretty fun. Their Turtle-Comms use the ’80s Theme Song in MIDI form, various ’80s characters pop up as one-offs (the Mutagen Man, Muckman, Mondo Gecko, The Punk Frogs, etc.), and the villains get some serious play at first. The characters were reimagined in some pretty fun ways that just WORKED (even Casey, or Donatello as the Nerdy Crush-Having Goof). However… things kinda went off the rails. A little too much Karai (WHY IS EVERYONE SO GODDAMN OBSESSED WITH KARAI I DON’T GET IT), too many meandering arcs, and then of course… THEY WENT INTO F*CKING SPACE WITH FUGITOID AND THE TRICERATONS!!!! WHY!!?!?! WHY MUST THIS HAPPEN!?!?!
Seriously, no good has ever come of the Turtles going into space. The arc was HORRIBLE, and I finally exiled it from my PVR. Too many M*A*S*H repeats to watch. Suck it, Triceraton Arc.
RISE OF THE TMNT:
-The newest Nick Toon has surprisingly switched back to 2D animation, and has taken a whole different tactic- a “prequel” of the early days, but with weird and wild character designs, altering many aspects of the boys, and more. It’s currently on a hiatus, and the show overall has been pretty controversial for said changes (nerds are, as always, infamously resistant to changes to beloved franchises).
THE TURTLES & PIZZA:
-The Turtles also had a “Trademark Favorite Food” in their beloved pizza. And as one of like five people on the entire planet who didn’t like cheese (especially the kind used on pizza), this drove me NUTS, because absolutely every kid I knew was obsessed with the stuff, and so every birthday party or family restaurant dinner I had involved PIZZA somehow, and so I was always that pain in the ass kid who wanted something different made.