This month marks the 25th anniversary of the first issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But it doesn’t feel like it could have been that long ago, because for me, it wasn’t. While the first issue of the original comic came out in May 1984 (a few months before I turned two years old!) I wasn’t exposed to the Turtles until their cartoon show in 1987 (at the ancient age of five). But once I saw that, I was hooked.
I had the toys, played the video games, ate the cereal, watched the movies, read the guidebooks and eventually discovered the comics. In fact it was one of the first comics I read and started me down the path that led us here. But the comic I was reading wasn’t the original series. I was reading what the spinner racks in town carried, Archie’s TMNT Adventures.
The first few issues of this comic was a reproduction of the cartoon, but by the time I started following it (#12) it was telling new stories with new characters in a new focus. While it resembled the cartoon series I could tell right away that it had a greater depth and more danger similar to what I saw in the movie.
This is where I learned about continuity for the first time, though I wouldn’t learn that term for a long while, and accepted it and moved on. I loved the Turtles and it really didn’t matter how I followed their adventures (reading, watching, or creating my own epics with my toys) I knew what to expect. These were clearly defined characters with distinct personalities who had a good time despite their dangerous adventures. That translated across the mediums and continuity. That’s what mattered.
It wasn’t important to me whether Splinter used to be a regular rat (original comics & movie) or used to be a man (original cartoon & Adventures comic). He was Splinter now and I needed him to help rescue April O’Neil from Baxter Stockman’s base under the table since the Turtles were busy fighting Rat King and Leatherhead on the couch!
It was fun then and they’re fun now. The Turtles still have a special place in my heart though we aren’t as close as we used to be. I still like to check in on them and see what they are up to. I am thrilled to see the original movies on basic cable on the rare re-airings, and I will always consult the tv schedule if I’m puttering around the house on Saturday mornings. In a toy store I’ll cruise by and examine the action figures on the shelves. And if I see a comic on the stands I’ll flip through it. And it doesn’t matter what is going on if they’re in space or travelling through time or fighting an ancient spirit, I know the characters and can easily dive right in. I’ve done it several times over the last 22 years I’ve been lucky enough to follow along!