IDW’s New Ninja Turtles!

Well, I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks attending NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. But thanks to some technology issues, I’m stuck with nothing to do until tomorrow morning when I’ll be running around trying to get my part of the project close to final.

In the meantime I have a chance to do a short update, so I thought I’d talk about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from IDW!

One of the covers of the first issue featuring Donatello, my favorite! Image taken from Owned by IDW and Nickelodeon.

First of all, IDW managed to get Kevin Eastman, one of the Turtles’ original creators, onto the project. He hadn’t been involved with anything Turtles related for some time, so this is like a dream come true for TMNT fans having him as part of the creative process. The new series is not as dark or grim as the Eastman and Laird originals. This may be a result of the fact the new series is in color while the Eastman and Laird series was all black and white. But it is still plenty dark. I would place it as close to, yet somewhat darker in tone than the 2003 animated series before the “Fast Forward” season. The art is superb, and almost seems intentionally blemished to give it more character and a bit of grittiness that it wouldn’t have otherwise. The writing is also top notch conveying each of the Turtles’ personalities well, and giving emotional depth to all of the characters. A special surprise has been the characterization of Casey Jones who is more complex here than in any other iteration.

But the coolest thing about the new series is that it takes ideas, characters, and other aspects of the various different Turtles series (including the cartoons and films) and adapts it for the new series. For example, Krang from the 1987 toon is back! And he isn’t just a blundering brain anymore, but is quite sinister.

Krang from the 2011 TMNT comics series from IDW. Image borrowed from Owned by IDW and Nickelodeon.

Other characters from the different series have undergone similar makeovers in their depictions. Perhaps unfortunately, the Turtles themselves have had some personality adjustments. They still follow the lines from the first TMNT cartoon’s classic song: “Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but rude, Michelangelo is a party dude.” But they have been tweaked a bit. I haven’t noticed much of a difference in Mikey, Raph is perhaps a bit more sullen and even more terse than usual, Leo is kind of more hardcore and no-nonsense, and Don is, well, kind of a jerk. It is taking me some time adjusting to Don’s new personality quirks, and I’m unsure that I’ll ever get the hang of him constantly undercutting Leo and overall just being an arrogant snot.

They’ve also changed the Turtles’ origins somewhat. Unlike the upcoming Michael Bay Turtles film, they’re still mutants, but it’s been revealed they, along with Splinter, are actually reincarnations of a Japanese family murdered by the Foot Clan centuries ago. (As a sidenote, apparently just a few hours ago the Michael Bay film was actually pushed back until May 2014 because of some script problems, so maybe they won’t be Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles after all.) It’s a different approach to the Hamato Yoshi story than any other series. I guess it is kind of hokey, but this is a series about mutant turtles trained as ninjas, so whatever.

The Shredder just made his debut in the May issue, and I have to admit I geeked out even more hardcore than usual when I had the issue in hand. Don’t know what is going to happen with his character, but I’m excited to find out!

Despite the new quirks, I’m really enjoying the series. Unlike older TMNT series that were a pain to find anywhere, IDW is able to make the series much more readily available. The first four issues are available in a trade paperback collection with other collections featuring more recent issues on the way. Also, IDW recently added all of the issues to Comixology’s digital comics service (so awesome!). IDW is also reissuing the original Eastman and Laird series in gorgeous hardcover collections. If that isn’t enough, they’re also releasing the original series in color as a monthly comic. Some may not like the color because it does take away part of the grim atmosphere, but IDW has done a good job keeping them true to the original black and white in the coloring process.

To sum it all up, the new Turtles series is great, even if it is a tad different than older fans may expect.  And with IDW publishing the original comics series in new formats even disgruntled old fans have plenty to be happy about.

Turtle power!

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