Hey all! Welcome back to more TMNT commentary! This week, I have a theme going of “1980s Cartoon Recurring Supporting Characters”, as we get the Channel 6 crew (part of April O’Neil’s coworkers), plus the uber, UBER 1980s Neutrinos.
Channel 6 is on the air – and Irma’s on the hunt for news. She may be April’s best friend, but she’s out to scoop her if she can. Nothing can stop Irma from her job, not even the fact that she’s not very smart. But this drawn up ding-a-ling does know the tools of her Toon trade, just look at these babies: One lap top computer, capable of locating the hottest news in the city. A press pass, one flash and she’s in. Two curler grenades, these are perfect for when the press pass doesn’t work. And if Irma gets too close to a story or a story gets too close to Irma she whips out her all purpose hairspray gun and lets ’em have it. All this fits into her punk-poundin’ purse, plus nine candy bars, four scoops of triple dip ice cream, three romance novels and cab fare. So beware newsmakers of the world, Irma’s on the job and on the streets!
Role: Designated Ugly Friend, Man-Hungry Loser, Exposition Repository
Played By: Jennifer Darling
-Irma is April’s man-hungry loser of a best friend in the show- intially, she’s largely used as somebody for April to talk to ABOUT the Turtles, and the only other “good guy” among the Channel 6 staff (which consists of about four people). A CLASSIC “Loser” character, she dresses sloppily and looks a bit unkempt (and more than a bit like Jeanette of The Chipettes- not really a coincidence, given the same animation studio worked on both this show and the ’80s Alvin & The Chipmunks series), and is always asking about the availability of male characters. She even has an “Unattractive Name”, a classically ancient-sounding “Irma”, along with a vaguely Jewish-sounding last name that seems like more of a collection of syllables attached to a “Stein”- you probably couldn’t get away with that today (though it turns out this was never used in any 1987 materials at all, and is either a fan invention or something they just threw in later). Nowadays, the character would almost certainly be a Sexy Nerd. Though she’s not really drawn with an ugly face or bad body in the show, there’s not a lot to really drool over.
-Irma is initially there to hang out with April, though she meets the TMNT fairly quickly, and gets along with them to an extent, though at times she’s a huge hindrance, as she’s accident-prone and pretty dumb in addition to being desperate and weird. She ones gets roped into helping Donatello attend a scientist’s convention because his invitation read “Ms. Donna Tello”, and grows to giant size in a later episode (man, they had GIANTESSES and they wasted it on IRMA?).
-The 2012 Nick Toon had a funny use for the character, maing her April’s Daria-esque snide, thick-rimmed-glasses-wearing friend… who turns out to be an android controlled by Kraang Subprime to investigate April. Several more Irma droids are seen, and another time we meet their creator, Rook, who looks like them. She was voiced by Kate “Hottest Weird-Looking Girl in the World” Micucci, around the time every voice acting director in the world decided she needed to be in their show.
When the action hits the fan and the streets are ablaze with hard-hitting news, you can always find Vernon right there – right under his desk in the Channel 6 newsroom. He’s a colorful coward who knows all fears. The only thing that gets this rascally reporter going is trying to scoop April on a news story. But even weasels are ready for trouble. And that’s why Vernon carries a pencil knife to poke and probe the foolish Foot Clan. And when a good pointy swipe isn’t enough, Vernon pulls out his video camera gun and starts mowin’ down madmen! After the streets have cleared of action, Vernon loves to direct the news crew and shoot his own story – in the foot!
Role: The Rival (to April), The Coward, The Whiner
Played By: Pat Fraley
-Vernon was one of the wimpiest, most pathetic characters in the history of television. Created to be a work-rival for April O’Neil, Vernon had a spindly body, a giant nose, and a nasal, whiny-ass voice. Basically a scheming douchebag, Vernon was also a giant coward and incompetent at his job. Generally speaking, he would try to “scoop” his co-worker, and would occasionally conspire with Burne (who didn’t like ANY of his employees) towards the same means. Even on the rare occasions when he does something semi-competent or courageous (such as filming the brawl between Leatherhead and the Rat King), his pride and stupidity become his undoing- he leaves the CAP ON. The classic “stupid cameraman” trick… though hilariously, one of my would-be photographer friends did that on a zoo trip one time. We had to backtrack all over the place!
-Vernon & Burne were actually a very big part of the cartoon- having some human cast-members was kind of a necessity for any show about superheroes or mutants or whatever, and they were pretty good foils. It was always amusing to see them humiliated. Apparently over time, he became a somewhat more friendly character, though I never saw it. Amazingly, in 1992, Vernon, Burne & Irma all received ACTION FIGURE releases! This was a pretty good sign the series was getting a bit long of tooth (five years in). The figures are hilariously-short on good equipment or any kind of sell-able features, but they’re a completist’s dream.
-Aside from a “Vernon Prindle” in the Archie Comics continuity, Vernon appeared in no other version of TMNT continuity, despite the 2012 series being a huge homage to all the others… except he was in the 2014 Paramount movie series, played by Will Arnett! Here, he was incompetent but actually courageous.
Role: Belligerent Boss
Played By: Pat Fraley
-God as my witness, I have spent my entire life thinking this guy’s name was VERNE. I always thought it was “Vernon & Verne”, like a comedy duo with gimmick names or something! Why ELSE would their names be so similar!? Did anyone else think that, or was I just a deaf kid?
-Burne was a classic “Bad Boss”- a J. Jonah Jameson-like figure that trashed the heroes in the public, bossed around his subordinates (especially April or Vernon, who were CONSTANTLY one step away from being fired or being Fred Flintstoned), or pleading with his bimbo-ass girlfriend Tiffany (who calls him “BURNES-Y!” while filing her nails and popping gum) not to dump him. Nothing resembling an athlete, he appears to be at least somewhat-competent at his job. Hell, he runs an entire news network with only FOUR PEOPLE IN THE BUILDING. Dude must have SOME skills!
-Burne actually appears in cameos in other continuities- he’s in the Archie one, the IDW one, and is played by Whoopi Goldberg in a pair of scenes in the 2014 movie (as “Bernadette Thompson”), but all of these are minor cameos.
THE NEUTRINOS (Dask, Zak & Kala)
Role: Ultra-’80s Allies
Played By: Thom Pinto, Pat Fraley & Tress MacNeille
The Neutrinos- Helpful Space Buddies and Iconic ’80s Characters:
-The Neutrinos are futuristic-looking characters who of course ironically DATE the show more than anything else. Seriously, a bunch of trash-talkin’ teens in flying cars with crazy wild hair? This is like every 1980s stereotype of the future personified into one pair of dudes and a dudette! Though of course they use 1950s slang. The Neutrinos are a group of refugees of sorts from Dimension X, having been on the run from Krang’s forces. They fly about in a flying vehicle that looks oddly like a 1950s Earth muscle car, and oppose the idea of war. This is viewed on their homeworld as a case of “Teen Rebellion”, as war is of course the natural state of Dimension X. Tress “Babs Bunny” McNeille is instantly-recognizable as Kala, the swirly-banged, histrionic girl with the mutual crush on Michaelangelo (just listen to her bawl when she describes how Krang hunts down anyone “Just for the crime of HAVING FUN!”).
-They’re also responsible for The Grybyx, a Gremlins knock-off that features Kala’s adorable pet turning into a giant monster (it first befriends the Turtles before growing huge, and later Shredder captures it and it wrecks house after Rocksteady gives it a burger). As I’ve mentioned before, this episode used to ENRAGE me, simply because YTV seemed to constantly overplay it in repeats. Half a dozen times, I sat down to watch the show, listened to the whole credits… then saw the dreaded title card The Grybyx. SNAP! TOTALLY lose it! The Neutrinos appear in six episodes of the cartoon series, effectively becoming iconic allies (that’s more appearances than either Casey Jones or Zach). In Four Turtles and a Baby (named for then-recent megahit Three Men and a Baby), the boys have to care for Princess Tribble while her parents are at war with General Traag- unfortunately, they discover that all Neutrinos have psychokinetic powers when they’re infants, and then Burne Thompson sees her and decides to run a baby contest on Channel 6, luring in Shredder. In their final appearance, the Neutrinos are brainwashed using an “aggressor ray” by Krang, and try to fight the Turtles until the spell is broken.
-Like most Toon characters, the trio actually received toys for real after a point. It was after I’d stopped collecting the toys, so I never saw them.
Neutrinos in Other Continuities:
-The Neutrinos appear in the second and third issues of the Archie Comics, effectively putting space aliens into the greater universe immediately, but oddly are NEVER SEEN after that, the creators just zooming off into space to find OTHER aliens instead. Like, it’s kinda weird that the first friendly aliens we met are completely ignored in all the other Space Opera stuff- I can only imagine this is because the creators didn’t feel like using someone else’s stuff. Like many other former TMNT characters, they get cameos in the IDW Comics, where the main trio appears as part of a band of freedom fighters- they are far more militaristic and sport laser weapons, but are easily identifiable by their ’80s hairstyles. Zak bonds with Raphael over their mutual love of battle, Dask is the commander, and Kala is… filler. Their Princess Trib becomes the object of Michelangelo’s affections, but it’s unclear as to whether or not she reciprocates.