It was a joke and it stayed: the history of the Ninja Turtles | TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection compiles the first files and video games of the franchise

If video games didn’t exist, they would have to be invented. If pizza didn’t exist, same thing. And if the Ninja Turtles they did not exist, well. Because somehow something strange, that drawing made half in fun, half seriously, by two classmates to parody Daredevilbecame a cultural icon. And to those four TMNTs that revitalized the names of the great Renaissance artists (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo) were added mentors and allies (Splinter and journalist April O’Neill), and some villains between terrifying and bizarre (how can we forget Bebop and Rocksteady, or the ineffable alien Krang in his button-peeling exosuit?).

Now what Konami released the video game compilation TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection the perfect excuse is given to revisit these characters, their history and see why they continue to be so, so hooking for different generations. The file bundle gathers arcade classics that paraded through Family Game, Super Nintendo, Sega and GameBoythey are all in one way or another “fighting” and very intense, and surely they left calluses on the children’s fingers of more than one who today is around 35.

The Cowabunga Collectionwhich is achieved for PS4 and 5, Nintendo Switch and X Box Series X/S and XBox One was produced by Konami and has some endearing classics from both the arcade (which at the time allowed you to play with all four characters at the same time and was one of the few where you could) like from 8 and 16 bit home consoles, although adapted to this era with the simple device of allowing games to be saved. Some, like the TMNT Tournament Fighters (from when the turtles got on the boom of the Street Fighter II and the Mortal Kombat) even have functionality to play online.

In addition, the package includes a kind of virtual museum (“Discover the Turtle’s Lair”) where retro music from the games is heard and it is suggested to “get carried away with nostalgia”. For those who have only recently known the Turtles, more than nostalgia it is a fascinating journey to the creative universe that gave them life. And for pizza veterans with everything except anchovies, there is even the possibility of accessing the original manuals (very elusive, at the time). It is that, in addition, the tortoises have quite a rich and unsuspected story for many.

► Turtles… Teenagers? Mutants? Ninjas!?

Its origin dates back to 1984, when peter laird invited a young man Kevin Eastman to share a studio and, as a joke, they drew a turtle, put a mask on it and began to fool around about an idea, as a parody of Daredevil. Thus, instead of fighting against the ninjas of The Hand, the turtles fought against the henchmen of the Clan del Pie (Foot Clan); and, like the “man without fear”, the turtles obtained their powers from a radioactive spill.

The thing is that, as the phrase warns, it was a joke and it stayed. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were growing on the heads of Eastman and Laird and they ended up founding a label, putting twine in advertising in the comic guide magazines of the time and sold out the first print runwhich was not great even by today’s standards (3,250 copies) but offered something so pregnant in its design that far from going down, as usually happens, in the following issues it was selling more and more.

Less than five years later they had cartoons and the third best-selling toy line in the United States.just behind those of G.I. Joe Y starwars. And his first video game, too. Moreover, his first film with actors was the highest grossing for North American independent cinema in the year of its release, 1990. sailed is little.

Why did they work so well? With Monday’s newspaper it is easy to hypothesize: they became cool and mega powerful bugs to little animals that are otherwise often described as slow and not very sharp. they are ninjas (that’s always cool) and mutants (which were fashionable 40 years ago and serve to continue explaining what is today as well), have awesome supporting characters (the villainous Shredder’s mutant minions are beautiful) and, as with many other successful characters who become icons, a almost unlimited potential to switch from one graphic style to another.

But there is something else there. In the background, the four turtles are a group of friends who get together to eat pizza, drink beer and, from time to time, do the great Cantoná and go out to kick the fascists in the face. Two things that many young people do; and one thing that many would like to do. That is the germinal idea that intersects with that unlimited graphic potential.

► Eastman and Laird: turtle dads

The original comic was as punk as it could get.. In his graphic style -black and white, very raw-, in his concept. But, in the process of going mainstream, the Teenage Ninja Turtles… mutated.. Even sometimes more than its creators would have liked, as they admitted. And that mutation remains in tension in any of its iterations. Because even the most infantilized version of the characters retains a brilliant sparkle in the brilliance of Raphael’s sais; and not even the wildest version can get rid of the caricature that Bebop and Rocksteady represent.

Eastman was able to recognize that they allowed the craziest sides of the adaptations to be made and that they even enjoyed them, but because they kept the originals as their own. This should be qualified, because the pair was the fixed credits of the comic in the first 23 issues, less than two years. Since then and for the next three or four years, the (ir)regular series was sustained thanks to guest cartoonists and writers. It is that the torment had grown so much that, at one point, its creators were more franchise managers than artists.

“There are things we wish we had said no to”Eastman admitted at one point. And his partner even put in writing that he regretted the softer tone of the animated series. Turns that life takes, Eastman was the first to walk away. He sold the part of the New York plumbing to Laird, and with his estrangement, he gained some air and perspective. When the comic finally landed at IDW Publishing a few years ago, he did it under his signature.

Laird, meanwhile, had continued to grow the business until he lost his love for pencils.. There she was rescued and sold everything. “I don’t know when was the last time I went out with a note taker to draw for fun,” she declared. He was burned.

Almost 40 years after their invention, tortoises remain charming eternal adolescents and remind us that, if you paint, we can put anything we can think of on the pizza. Fewer anchovies, which they don’t like.

It was a joke and it stayed: the history of the Ninja Turtles | TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection compiles the first files and video games of the franchise