Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

HAWK TALK – Turtle Power

This would usually be a skip week, but the world is still being a jerk, so we made you a bonus, entirely unedited, and almost entirely off-topic episode. This time, we talked about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Topics, roughly:

  • Daredevil parodies
  • The nature of mutation
  • The four humors
  • Archetypes of masculinity
  • Legal status of mutant animal people
  • Questionable toys
  • Adaptations and adaptations of adaptations
  • Miles’s favorite Mirage comic story
  • The excellently weird Archie comic series
  • Girl turtles and naming conventions
  • Movies good and bad
  • Milesangelo

36 comments

    1. I suspect not, as I think the Turtles qualify as mutates (like Spider-Man, or the Hulk who have been changed by an external interaction), rather than mutants (in the sense of someone with an inborn X-gene mutant) of the sort Cerebro can detect.

  1. First of all, Happy Birthday Miles!

    Over the years I’ve never read the comics, and have observed TMNT cartoons more than been an actual fan of them, but I had enough friends who were that I picked some stuff up by a sort of osmosis, and seen the toys on the shelves over several decades.

    I remember that the Daredevil riff is so complete that the idea is that the turtles were created in the exact same accident that blinded Matt Murdock and enhanced his senses. The radioactive waste that gave him his powers is actually the same stuff that mutated the turtles (Matt just never got hit with the gunk directly, only the radiation)

    There’s a pigeon mutant, Pigeon Pete, in at the IDW comics amd CGI series who is pretty much a nightmare, though not as much as Mikey’s pet kittenn/melted ice cream hybrid. The toy of Pizza Face was memorably disgusting, and this was the same era as Toxic Avenger had a toy line, so that’s really saying something. The CGI series ended up making him an actual ambulatory pizza, with a face made of melted cheese, and somewhow even THAT wasn’t as disturbing as the 80’s series toy!

    Mention has been made that script editor and writer David Wise, who died last year, was the one who actually gave the Turtles their individuality. When he read the Eastman and Laird series (Where early titles had the four of them as pretty much the same personality wise) he told the animation studio that he could not make a engaging series out of such similar characters who would just be boring for kids, so he based each character on a word from the title. So we ended up with

    Teenage – Michelangleo (The party dude)
    Mutant – Donatello (The geek)
    Ninja – Leonardo (The dedicated student)
    Turtle – Raphael (The jock)

    (I might have got the last two switched around with Rapahel the warrior and Leonardo being the somewhat zen one who is the most comfortable in his own shell)

    For the female side of the cast, Miles got the names switched round, Mona Lisa is the female salamander and Raphael’s girlfriend and Venus de Milo was the female Turtle from the “Next Mutation” live action show, and who had been raised separately from the others. Apparently she’d been in the same bowl as them in the accident, but got separated and washed away in the sewers, ending up in Chinatown, where she was found as raised as a magic using ninja by an old friend of Splinter’s.

    Venus was a… controversial addition. Apparently, you do not EVER mention her to Peter Laird, he genuinely LOATHED the whole idea of a female turtle and called it the most creatively bankrupt thing the series had done, ensuring she does not get referenced in any series he is involved with again… make of that what you will.

    Also, the fact that her adoptive father was Chinese, her real name is Chinese (Mei Pieh Chi), she lived in Chinatown and yet was somehow trained as Japanese ninja using the Japanese term “Shinobi”, was perhaps not the most sensitive approach to differentiating between actual Asian nationalities and cultures.

    1. Not gonna lie, I liked The Next Mutation because I’m a weirdo. It was cheesy and not really memorable in any way but I was entertained by it.

      I never saw the Pizza Face figure but I always imagined Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs. I’m sure Pizza Face is worse.

    2. I would say that the moody/temperamental Raphael is the most “teenage”, science geek Donatello the most “mutant”, dedicated and disciplined Leonardo the “ninja”, and the food motivated oblivious Michelangelo is the “turtle”.

    3. Regarding David Wise: as much as he claims to have given the Turtles their individuality, that isn’t really backed up by the Mirage Comics. The first issue didn’t do much to differentiate them, and it can be difficult at times to tell which Turtle is talking in the Mirage series, but as early as the second issue (cover-dated October 1984, which had to have predated Wise’s involvement in the franchise) the Turtles are seen doing things that reveal their personalities: Leo is reading a book and admonishing his brothers. Raph and Mikey are sparring, with the latter goading and dodging the former’s angry charges. Don solders a circuit board, and later in the issue helps April hack a computer to deactivate Mousers. Wise has actually stated that Donatello as a tech genius was his idea instead of Eastman & Laird’s, but that doesn’t make any sense given the timeline of when Playmates Toys and the animation staff became involved.

      I once attempted to point this out on Wise’s Facebook community. Sadly, that didn’t go well, to say the least.

  2. Dude, the Sons of Silence was an incredibly cool and creepy part of the Archie Comics. Not even the surrounding Turnstone stuff, which was already super cool. (That was an intergalactic war that did involve the aforementioned Cowlick the Cowhead amongst other things.) Just the bit when Donatello meets them.

    Quite a few concepts, including Future One-Eye Raphael, went on to be more of a thing in the franchise. The Archie Comics were not only very good at the time, they have held up surprisingly well. Until they got cancelled for possibly being too good.

  3. Happy Birthday Miles!
    And, this was one of my favorite Hawk Talks! Never really been a TMNT fan, but that was ok, because it was neat having Jay ask questions on a subject and Miles giving his answers through his personal experience filter.

  4. The one parody I remember were the Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters. I’m not sure if it was a comic or a cartoon, or maybe both.

  5. I am no traumatised, by the constant use of the word Ninja in this episode about the Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles. I am glad the BBC protected my delicate mind as a child using the more gentle and correct Hero Turtle name.

    1. I was once married to a woman who grew up in England. It amused me to no end to here that the word Ninja was replaced by Hero. It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. I can only imagine how awkward the theme song was over there.

      1. It’s up on youtube if you query the name “Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles”

        Since “ninja” and “hero” are both two syllable words, it scans okay.

        They had experience with redubbing “GI Joe” as “Action Force” I suppose.

        1. I had absolutely no idea when I was a child that Action Man was GI Joe rebranded for a different market.

          And it still seems weird to me from a class register point of view — “Action Man” always came off to me as a James Bond knockoff, an officer-class figure with cut-glass vowels, whereas “GI Joe” just sounds like he should be some working-class enlisted everyman who grew in a rough neighborhood in one of the more stereotypically unglamorous older American cities, like Pittsburgh.*

          *For the record, I really like the actual Pittsburgh. It’s a great place.

          1. Ah, don’t confuse “Action Man” and “Action Force”, they are not aligned quite THAT closely! 🙂 Kinda, but not quite.

            “Action Man” was a Palitoy line, a UK licensed version of Hasbro’s 12″ GI Joe figure, but after a few years of US uniformes, they quickly expanded into UK military uniforms and accessories, keeping going until 1984. (Then relaunched in 1993, using the GI Joe 12″ Hall of Fame figure, but again, it’s own accessories and villains etc)

            After Action Man started to lose sales in a post Star Wars action figure world, “Action Force” was an attempt in 1982 for Palitoy to launch a vaguely Action Man inspired 3 3/4 inch figure line with it’s own characters, the infantry of “Z-Force”, the Special Ops “SAS Force” and the sea-going “Q-Force” going up against the wonderfully named “Baron Ironblood” and the varied troops of his malevolent “Red Shadows”.

            When Palitoy was basically bought out by Hasbro in 1984, they released figures created from GI Joe moulds to expand the Action Force line, but using different names and specialities.

            The shift in focus meanrt that the American released “GI Joe” figures were almost exclusively of American characters (Destro remained Scottish I think, and Baroness remained vaguely Germanic), but UK released “Action Force” members came from all around the world (I’m sure that says something fairly profound about national worldviews, but that’s another conversation for another time perhaps). So GI Joe’s “Scarlett” figure, was re-coloured and released as Action Forces “Quarrel” from Switzerland.

            The cartoon was redubbed with all audio references to GI Joe being replaced with “Action Force” and their battlecry went from “Yo! Joe!” to “Full Force”. (Also, Sgt Slaughter had to be renamed Sgt Slammer presumably on the grounds of good taste?)

            Over time, they became “GI Joe, the Action Force”, just to make life easier I suppose, before dwindling away.

        2. I suppose the strangeness is brought on by being used to the word ‘Ninja’ and hearing ‘Hero’ instead. It’s not quite as jarring as hearing a softer word substituted for an expletive in movies played on television but it still feels off.

          1. Well, it’s also that it’s sort of redundant. It’s a children’s cartoon, and they’re the main characters — of course they’re the heroes. You could just leave it at Teenage Mutant Turtles. No-one ever felt the need of The Hero Scooby-Doo, The Real and Hero Ghostbusters, The Hero Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Also Heroes, or He-Man the Hero.

            Although He-Man the Hero has a decent ring to it, I suppose.

            1. He-Ro was He-Man’s ancestor… and no I’m not making that up!

              From the fandom wiki:

              “He-Ro was planned to be a new character introduction, the centerpiece of The Powers of Grayskull, a spin-off line of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe toy line in 1987. The Powers of Grayskull was to be set in Eternia’s prehistoric past, called “Preternia” to differentiate, and promised to reveal secrets about the source of He-Man’s power, through the adventures of He-Ro, a young but powerful wizard who lived in that time.

              In Mattel’s license guide it stated of Gray (the original alter ego for He-Ro) could, “by placing one hand over his heart & flexing the other into a muscle & saying, Magic & strength tempered by heart… I stand for peace!”, he would become He-Ro of Grayskull, the Most Powerful Wizard in the Universe!”

              I ADORE the idea of magical transformation by muscle flexing! 😀

    2. Ah, but the movies were still called “Ninja Turtles” in the UK.
      (I still have a “Hero Turtles” mug.)

  6. Much like Miles, I loved the TMNT movie, toys and cartoon (in that order) when I was a kid in the early ‘90s but hadn’t revisited them since. The extra free time over the past year has driven me to explore the more recent stuff.

    I was surprised at how blatant the Daredevil references were in the original run, right down to having a young boy push an old man out of the way of the truck carrying the radioactive ooze. The IDW series is definitely worth checking out, and I’m shocked at how much I as a 42 year old man enjoy the 2012 animated show. It genuinely makes me laugh at least once an episode.

    One of the more interesting things about all the iterations of TMNT is the way they each repurpose or reimagine characters to fit their universe while still maintaining common threads or plot lines. It makes it possible to enjoy all the versions without it feeling repetitive. Even their origins are slightly different each time.

    1. The 2012 series was SO GOOD! Such a brilliant mix of the humor of the 89 series and the darker sensibilities of the original comics. And I love April training to become a ninja.

  7. I always loved Raphael the most. Raphael was the first of the toys I got, before I even knew anything else about the Turtles. Just saw it on the shelf and knew I needed it.

    But almost immediately, his Sai broke. they just broke off right at the tip. I tried superglue, to fix them, but it was the wrong kind of plastic, it never held. I tried drilling a hole in them and using a sewing pin to try to help them together, but they would just fall right out. Very sad 🙁

    As for crossovers, I later got some of the toys in the Dick Tracy line, based on the Warren Beatty movie. And they were the perfect size to go along with the turtles. So the turtles had some gangsters to fight.

  8. Happy Birthday Miles!

    Long-time listener, first-time commenter.

    Any time Ninja Turtles’ personality/Four Humors get brought up I have to go back to the Cracked After Hours well. About a decade ago, before the Cracked buyout which led to the laying off of all their writers, they had a show called After Hours where four writers would have a (pre-scripted) conversation about various popculter-ings. One was on this very subject.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtsmluPK7Ug

    It’s great and I recommend it, as well as all the other After Hours videos), and it’s fun to see how it applies to other pop culture groups.

  9. I really feel those “phases” Miles mentions. I went ThunderCats, Turtles, Transformers, before hitting X-Men comics and that becoming THE THING until that teenage phase were we almost all drop out. Being in Australia made it hard to even find em so that helped.

    The Archie comics were “MY” turtles, all the way down (heh) to one eyed future Raph telling our younger Raph to chill out or he’d lose the things he actually cared about being a defining moment of my life. In a three part story where they travel through time to fight a mutant shark in a mech co-starring Hitler’s Brain, the emotional epilogue was this tiny touching conversation that just stuck with me.

    Loved the Turtles focus guys. “Jay let’s Miles Wax Nostalgic About Kids Media From The 80’s and 90’s” could be a great alternative podcast if this whole “X-Men” thing doesn’t work out. XD

  10. Since I’m a bit older my phases were Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe and then TMNT and Real Ghostbusters. I was phasing out of toys and into comics thanks to the Batman movie so I didn’t get many of those toys. Still, the few I did get made me happy. Raphael was my favorite and the first figure I got.

    The movie confused me when it first came out because I couldn’t understand why they had changed Splinter’s origin. I was familiar with the cartoon series but not the original comic books as i hadn’t yet discovered comic book shops. The first Mirage comic I bought was TMNT #33 by Richard Corben and I couldn’t believe how different it was from what I had seen. Basically, the turtles travel through time and kill everybody they come across.

    Lastly, it’s an amusing tidbit that Chuck Lorre, who produced Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, cowrote the Ninja Turtles theme song. He also got hired by Stan Lee to work for Marvel Animation, just to tie all this in to the X-Men in a roundabout way.

  11. Happy birthday Miles!

    If you have the chance, I recommend watching the 2012 cgi series from Nickelodeon. I was always impressed by how well they merged the Mirage comics and the 89 series. Fun and funny characters in dark, sometimes genuinely horrific circumstances.

    Regarding the Bay movies: don’t. Just no. I saw the first one because my cousins wanted to take me, and it was bad. All the gross, misogynistic tropes you expect from a Michael Bay vehicle, plus bad writing, a bad plot, and even worse character design.

  12. The aside about Mr. Potato reminded me of the Babylon 5 episode where someone had come up with the bright idea of opening a souvenir shop on the station, and Londo complained that his figure didn’t have any genitalia, so he felt he was being symbolically cast… in a bad light.

  13. The TMNT talk reminded me of one of my favorite pastiches. Much like how the Squadron Supreme is a pastiche of the Justice League, and the Hybrid (from New Teen Titans) is a pastiche of the X-Men, TMNT’s best pastiche (rather than, say, complete rip off) is the Mutant Squirrel Super Spies.

    The Mutant Squirrel Super-spies are a band of mutant squirrels who were raised and trained by an ex-Mossad agent. So they learned how to use guns, mele weapons and Krav Magra. Their mentor was a connoisseur of classical music, and thus named them all after composers:

    Antonio: Antonio is a member of the Mutant Squirrel Super-spies wields a short sword.

    Ludwig: Ludwig is a member of the Mutant Squirrel Super-spies and one of two who wields a short sword, along with Antonio.

    Johann: Johann is a member of the Mutant Squirrel Super-spies and is the one who wields Nunchaku.

    Wolfgang: Wolfgang is a member of the Mutant Squirrel Super-spies. His melee weapon of choice is a spear.

    They all have infrared goggles and uzis. Antonio and Ludwig have a rivalry (presumably because Antonio is jealous of Ludwig’s talent). The MSSS fought the TMNT only once in a children’s book called Buried Treasure, but I always thought of Mutant Mossad Agents being awesome characters to play around with in the TMNT world.

  14. Fun Fact: regarding Hawk Talk and TMNT.
    The ninja turtles are DLC playable characters in the video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.
    Thus far, to my knowledge, Tony Hawk himself has not been exposed to mutagen causing a Worthingtonian transfiguration, but what if we could.

    In other news: compare and contrast the turtles theme song with character epithets to …
    Richards is Fantastic,
    Sue can fade from sight,
    Johnny is the Human Torch,
    And the Thing just loves to fight.

    1. I loved that FF show (and the Iron Man one at the same time) as a kid but they have aged TERRIBLY. Suddenly having access to tonnes of my childhood cartoons on Disney+ has not been kind to them.

      1. As a kid I grew up loving the heck out of the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons of the mid 90s and largely ignoring the Iron Man and Fantastic Four cartoons.
        To the point where I’ve been a lifelong X-men and Spider-Man fan and thinking the FF were “just okay” and Iron Man was really bad and hokey. Across pretty much all mediums.
        I do feel justified as an adult with Disney+ who rewatched X-Men and Spider-Man and found they both hold up super super well, then moved on to watch that Fantastic Four run which (aside from the banger theme song) is pretty Okay if a little too campy, and am now watching that Iron Man series that is just awful.
        I guess my critical eye was already in a solid spot when I was in my larval instar!

        1. Yup, good eye! I very much gave bonus points just for having War Machine and Spider-Girl, and the banger opening songs. Alas, as a child I was far too easily pleased.

  15. So you guys do an episode on TMNT, and almost immediately a new sequel to the arcade beat-em-up series appears. Coincidence….or CONSPIRACY??

  16. Thank you for the entertaining show, and Happy Birthday, Miles!

    An amusing observation I have made about TMNT that, to my knowledge, no one else has expressed is how diametrically opposed each turtle’s personality is to his respective weapon:

    Raphael, the most aggressive turtle, weilds a weapon used primarily for blocking and defense.

    Leonardo, the most disciplined and tempered of the four, has the most aggressively destructive weapon.

    Donatello, the smartest brother, is given the simplest weapon.

    Michaelangelo, the slacker, has the most complicated weapon to use effectively.

    Such is the wisdom of Master Splinter, that his weapon distribution to his students can challenge them to stretch their parameters!

  17. I was listening to the podcast while doing some vacuuming, and our hosts were discussing the question of turtles* in New York City. It all reminded me of a conversation with my father in which he questioned their existence where I live, in the upper Midwest.

    Here’s some information on the turtles that are found to New York State, with distributions (some of which include NYC). There’s a very nice little PDF brochure with pictures if one should decide to go turtle-watching.

    https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7479.html

    Sadly, the local New York turtles are threatened by an invasive species, which is indeed a released pet.:

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/red-eared-sliders-new-york-invasive

    So if the TNMC are former pets, then celebrating them is very questionable from an environmental perspective and I am very cross with Eastman and Laird. 🙂

    *Incidentally, thinking about the whole Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles thing, shouldn’t the BBC have called them Teenage Mutant Hero Tortoises?

    1. “thinking about the whole Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles thing, shouldn’t the BBC have called them Teenage Mutant Hero Tortoises?”

      Why? What we call them isn’t a national/regional difference.

      Tortoises are particular type of land-based turtle, but not all turtles are tortoises, and none of the brothers are tortoises.

      The most recent TMNT cartoon “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” had all the brothers being different types of turtles: Raphael is a snapping turtle, Leonardo is a red-eared slider (Which is apparently what all the brothers were based on originally), Michelangelo is an ornate box-turtle, and Donatello is a spiny soft-shelled turtle (Who developed a range of weaponised battle-shells to compensate)

  18. The books the “Remo Williams” movie was based on, which are highly satirical, had a reference in one to “Teenage Transformed TaiKwonDo Terrapins.” There is also a Twitter account that scans Wikipedia for article titles that scan the same as the theme song

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