Hey kids! Can you hear that cachoponous shitstorm of internet bitchery? The inescapable, unrelating T-1000 of web-based vitriol? No? Just put your ear a little closer to your monitor. Closer… Closer… Hear it now? It’s that low, guttural rage buzzing slightly below the surface. Ah, there you are. Feel that mofo undulate.
You could be on CNN marvelling at that special kind of crazy only North Korea brings to the party, listening to Dr. Oz intone the virtues of proper eating, or hanging your head in disbelief at Reddit Gone Wild, but it doesn’t just matter what site you visit, ’cause it’s everywhere on a day like today… A background noise of hate fucking up your browsing pleasure and the geekier the site you visit the louder it gets. You know the source of it. You’ve heard it before. It’s Bay-hate, and it rises once more.
That’s right, today marks the first day of filming for the new Michael Baytastic version of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and the internet is barely holding itself together with excessive amounts of oddly sexualized pony art and Doctor Who + anything-in-pop-culture-ever mashups.
Despite my lifelong love for the Heroes in a Half-Shell (Turtle Power!) you may be surprised that I myself am pretty okay at the moment. Yes, Megan Fox has been cast April O’Neil but every live-action April has sucked thus far, so at least this one’ll look good in booty shorts. Yes, a bunch of no-names and Thad Castle have been cast as the Turtles but do we even know if these guys are providing voices or are they just mo-cap? And do we even need big names as the voices of the Turtles? As long as they announce Ken Watanabe is doing it up as Shredder or Splinter, I think I’ll be okay. AND yes, Michael Bay is a coked-up madman drunk on his own success, cutting a bloody swath through our childhood memories but… um… uh… Okay, I have nothing for that one.
As for the other stuff? Possible alien origin and all that? Well, sorry lads and ladies, but that’s already in the comics in the form of the TCRI ooze, so if you wanna blame someone you better ring up Eastman and Laird. That said, if it’s not just the mutagen that’s from outer-space, but the Turtles themselves, then I will probably have to shackle myself to a dentist chair for a few months in order to prevent the possibility of rage-murder.
In the end, if the movie does end up being terrible we can all pretend it’s like some horrific Elseworlds/Alternate Reality take on our favourite reptilian ninjutsu masters.
After all, it wouldn’t mark the first time the Fearsome Foursome have had their story remixed and completely thrown into the deep end of Weird. Hell, some such have even taken place in the much beloved original comic series, and a handful were even pretty damn cool.
Let’s take a look back at one such TMNT story now, shall we? (Whatta segue!)
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #31,35-36 (SOUL’S WINTER)
WORD & PICTURES – Michael Zulli
I’ve read a lot of Turtles stories over the years but I haven’t really had a chance to pour over every issue of the original series as much as I’d like. As such, I managed to overlook this incredible tale by Michael Zulli until a buddy of mine brought it up in conversation at a convention one day. His description of a bizarre and brutal alternate take on our familiar mutant heroes piqued my interest and with that, I was on a mission to dig up this story any way I could.
When I finally got my hands on “Soul’s Winter“, I was met with something I was completely unprepared for. Sure I’d been told to expect a radical departure from what I’ve seen of the Green Machine in the past, but what Michael Zulli put on the table was nearly unrecognizable in the best way possible.
Gone was New York and April. Gone was the sewer lair and even much of modern society. Gone was the clear line between good and evil. Gone are the individual Turtle personalities. Hell, our boys don’t even have names in this as far as I can tell.
What we know of the TMNT has been replaced with an almost fantastic realm of oppressive cold and open spaces filled with threatening figures and ambiguous motivation. The Splinter we know and love goes unnamed in this story but is still locked in eternal struggle with his nemesis, The Shredder. He wages his war with the aid of his “sons”, but these are not the pizza-loving crime fighters of our youth. Instead we’re met with four, hulking, monstrous beasts; devoid of individual desires, instead fighting for the preservation of their “father” and their lives. Are they on the side of right? We’re never really sure. We only know that The Shredder seems to be the authority in this world and Splinter stands in opposition, and that ambiguity just adds to an already intriguing re-imagining.
The writing here is bleak and complex, presenting the readers with far more questions than willingly provided answers. While these words help propel the story and add nuance to the events transpiring, it’s really Zulli’s artwork that’s the star of the show. You’ve never seen the Turtles like this.
While Zulli’s pencils and inks harken back to the earliest, most gritty issues of Eastman and Laird’s run, there’s also a level of classical artistry that was missing from that batch of comics. Zulli is working on a different level here, introducing a style and tone that would almost be more at home in a high-end Savage Sword of Conan graphic novel. The detail, the texture, and the adult nature of what’s being presented are unlike anything that’s ever been done with these characters before or since.
When all is said and done, though, SOUL’S WINTER isn’t about the story, or the characters, or giving you answers. It’s about experiencing a world you love in a completely new and unexpected, yet ultimately enjoyable way.
Pick it up, let go of your pre-conceived Turtley notions, and enjoy.
I think you’ll dig it.
Is there a lesson here? Maybe. Just maybe we shouldn’t worry about the new TMNT flick until we see it… Or maybe we should just focus on worrying about the fact that the goddamn script was written by five dudes… Yeah. Exactly. When has THAT worked out for a superhero flick? Green Lantern, I am looking directly at you. Don’t you look away from me!
…don’t you look away from me… (whimper)
A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tale with no Teenage, no Mutant, and very little Ninja that was still a kick-ass ride?
You’re so WEIRD, Multiverse!
…and that’s why I love you.
Remember, if you’re gonna GEEK OUT, GEEK HARD!
To See Kris’s comic work, visit www.bizarrecomicsonline.com
Follow Kris on Twitter @krisjjohnson