I remember like it was yesterday. Saturday mornings as a kid were sacred and my parents respected that and allowed me to soak it in. In December of 1987 something special happened on Saturday mornings. It was covered in ooze and it lived in the sewers. Four teenage turtles that were experts in martial arts being taught by their sensei who was a rat made their television debut…I WAS HOOKED! Up until this point I have never seen anything like this. Sure, we had He-Man, M.A.S.K., Thundercats, etcetera but this was different. What we didn’t’ know was that it would soon become a cultural phenomenon and create a rabid and loyal fandom. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have arrived.
Up until this point in my young life, I hadn’t been this consumed by a product since He-Man. As with the Masters of the Universe, I was completely engulfed in the characters, the lore, and everything in between. The turtles were different and still stand out as a juggernaut in the culture. Not many can claim the type of fame and boast the rabid fan loyalty to not only the main cast of characters but the supporting cast as well.
Hours upon hours were spent in front of the television as kids and as we move into our adult years we are still in front of the television with those same teenagers named after famous Renaissance artists but here’s a twist no one saw coming. Their leader, mentor, and father figure is a rat. Master Splinter, a character just as iconic and recognizable as Darth Vader or Batman has carved his likeness in any version of nerd Mt. Rushmore and for great reason. His constant showing of compassion and level-headed approach has always kept the turtles grounded or at least tried to. We’re looking at you Raph, but great characters just aren’t in the sewers both allies and enemies roam the surface and over the years have grown their own fan bases. The cast of supporting characters reads like none other. Shredder, Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Irma, Casey Jones, and none other than April O’Neil the turtles’ most trusted and beloved ally. The list goes on and on of characters that we just can’t get enough of and this is just another reason that we fell in love with the TMNT universe in the first place. Really cool characters that no one else was doing.
As the phenomenon kept gaining momentum, must-have merchandise came at breakneck speed and we gobbled it up with equal velocity. We had to have the toys, bedsheets, drink cups, clothing, video games (still one of the best retro games by the way) you name it we had to have it. Anything TMNT must be consumed and bragged about in circles always making it a friendly competition of outdoing one another.
One of the things that make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles great is they have their own distinct personalities and regardless of decade, version of the television show, or movie they have remained true to their roots. Nothing is more flattering than fan loyalty and in turn, the fans have shown brand loyalty. It is no wonder why TMNT has been loved for 30 plus years and is passed down from parent to child, it continues to speak to a fan base that continues yearning for more and the creators are more than happy to keep producing great content.
Now, if you find yourself yelling at me about not mentioning the original comic series from Eastman and Laird, well there’s good cause for that. That conversation will come in due time, I PROMISE. As we continue to explore all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with each installment of Under the Shell each will no doubt be a shell-tastic time.