Friday, August 31, 2018

Proof of Youth: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Lately I have felt very uninspired. I have had a creative block and I haven't been able to come up with anything to write about at all. At the same time, lately I have been extremely nostalgic and I've been trying to relive and re-experience things from my youth, so maybe there's the answer to what I should write about.

This is Proof of Youth. A new tag I can use when I'm talking about something from my childhood. Granted, almost everything I talk about here stems in one way or another from my childhood, but these will be about specific topics. Today, in the first entry of this new series, I'll be talking about growing up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Earliest Memories

I don't recall when I first became aware of the Ninja Turtles. Considering the animated series came out at the end of 1987 in December, I might be able to assume I saw an episode here or there in 1988. In any case, having previous knowledge of them or not, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure I ever got was Leonardo. I wanted him specifically because he came with swords.

Since I was little, I have been interested in swords. I'm sure this love comes from being a fan of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe where swords play a big part of the mythos. Back in the day, I was always playing with toy plastic swords I either got from the store or handmade wooden swords my neighbor made for me. It was natural that the turtle that came with two katanas would be the one I would gravitate towards.

Getting this figure happened very early in their life, as the Leo I originally got had a squishy head. This was the norm for the original 1988 assortment, and then later on they would replace their heads with the more common hard plastic versions.

Now, I'm not saying I got this toy in 1988. In fact, I'm pretty sure I got into Ninja Turtles at some point a year later in 1989, because here to the left is a picture of me opening up some of the figures from the first two waves on Christmas morning in 1989. I can clearly see Splinter, Shredder, and Ace Duck in the photograph as well as a Mega Force toy underneath them which came out in, you guessed it, 1989.

Anyway, the only memory I have of this original Leonardo is sitting on the floor of a clothing store in the mall after getting it from K*B Toys and playing with it. Ultimately, I ended up losing that Leonardo at some point between then and when I actually got into the turtles and had to get another one. The current one I own has the hard plastic head.

The Toys

I was big into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys. I had pretty much every action figure made up to a point, barring some of the more obscure "wacky action" figures, which I was never into.

Here are some pictures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures I own. I'm pretty sure I still own every figure I owned as a kid, but I am clearly missing a lot of accessories. I didn't include any of the turtle variants like samurai Leonardo or space Raphael because those kinds of figures aren't as interesting to me.

I played with these toys so much. Some of my favorites are the rabbit Usagi Yojimbo, the rocky General Traag, the transparent Mutagen Man (always a fan of clear action figures), and the evil turtle Slash.

I got out of them in 1991, possibly early 1992. The last figure I remember getting was Space Usagi. I got him on my first trip to a new Wal-Mart they opened up in a neighboring town. I have other figures from the 1991 line, but Space Usagi was definitely the last.

Other Media

The Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic books were super exciting to me. I would stay up all night in the summer watching tv and playing video games, and I recall several nights laying in bed reading these comic books. Even later on when I really got into comic books, these were comics that I would actually actively read. I honestly typically don't read the comics I buy. I'll flip through them, but unless it's something I really want to read, I usually just collect them. With these Archie books, that was definitely not the case.

I first found them at K*B Toys, which was the only toy store around me since my local Toys "R" Us had not been built yet. None of the copies I have are first prints, and I think one of them even has a price tag stuck directly to the cover.

I also had trading cards from the first movie and from the cartoon, but I no longer have them. I could probably buy the whole sets online for relatively cheap and reclaim that memory. I used to have a bunch of posters from that time period, too. Posters of every turtle from the first movie and even some from the original Mirage Studios books. Those wouldn't be cheap in mint condition, I'll bet.

I saw the first two movies in the theater, but still to this day I have never seen the third one even though I have owned it on both DVD and Blu-ray. From what I hear, I'm not missing much.

Much like, well... every cartoon from my youth, the cartoon doesn't hold up well. I own the entire series on DVD, but I have never been able to watch very much of it. I definitely have fond memories of watching it before getting ready for school, but I just don't seem to have the patience for it anymore. It's just not very good.

I think revisiting shows from your childhood, at least in my experience, isn't a wise practice for 80s kids because the quality just isn't there. It might be different for 90s kids, but 80s kids should be wary of reliving their youth through the cartoons they grew up with. Because for me, I've tried Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Masters of the Universe, and ThunderCats, and they are borderline unwatchable. That Ninja Turtles intro and theme song, though, are still incredible.


Today, still, any time the turtles make a resurgence I take notice. Any time they revamp the characters or put out a new show, I always look at the toys to see what they're up to. Usually I buy a Donatello from the line, too. I'm not one of those people who hate on the new stuff because it's radically different. While I don't think the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show looks particularly good, that's fine. It's not for me. It's for a new audience of kids who can fall in love with it just like I did with mine back in 1989. There are going to be kids growing up with it who in 30 years are going to be writing about this new 2018 show just like I'm doing now with the one I grew up with. And I think that's pretty cool.

And that's all I have for today! I hope you enjoyed reading about me growing up with the Ninja Turtles. Like I said, this is a new thing I'm trying out, so hopefully I can continue being nostalgic and talking about toys and things from my childhood. Who was your favorite turtle growing up? What incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the one you grew up with? Someone let me know in the comments!

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