As I sit down to write this, it is late on the eve of the debut of Nickelodeon’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which– as I see it– officially kicks off a new era for the fab four. Certainly, IDW has been doing some rather intriguing things with their comic book, things which I like a lot from what I’ve read of them (I need to begin collecting the graphic novels), and which you can read about at TMNT Entity.
Ah, but the cartoon… though the Turtles’ life began in the Mirage comics (aka “Turtle Prime” in Turtles Forever), it’s the cartoons which have really driven the franchise for better or for worse. Some even refuse to acknowledge anything which came before the Fred Wolf cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s… or after, for that matter.
And so we come to this. So far, it seems to be taking a bit of the old, a bit of new, and is more or less ignoring what IDW is doing in the comics, to boot (to my chagrin, in some cases). Can you believe it’s been nearly three years since Mirage sold the whole thing off to Nickelodeon?
After being left high and dry with some threads of the old era, I was more than willing to put the past behind me and allow Nick to do whatever they pleased (within reason– turning the TMNT into part of an alien race not being within those constraints). But after seeing how things have shaped up and how IDW has treated some of the material, I’ve thought of some things I would like to see brought back into the fold, be it in the comic or the cartoon… or even both.
I’ll get into the rest soon enough, but for now, I want to focus on one element from days of yore which was tragically underutilized…
Oroku Saki, the Shredder, was originally something of a one-note character who was offed in his first appearance. But as it turned out, he proved rather popular; an animated series featuring a casting call with Uncle Phil later, and he becomes a household name and the “Darth Vader” of the franchise, as co-creator Peter Laird once put it.
Skip ahead a few more years and a successful major motion picture later, and what do you do? “Elevate the character into something even more threatening” seemed to be the answer. While he was quite capable of holding his own against all four turtles at once in the first movie, Splinter took him out like a chump; adding insult to injury was a little “slip-up” by one Casey Jones, and… he digs himself out of recycling at the city dump six months later.
Just… just roll with it.
One failed plan of revenge (featuring a guest appearance by Vanilla Ice) later, and Michelangelo blows Shredder clear out of the night club and into the river… along with the last vial of the very same ooze which mutated the turtles into something stronger, smarter, faster, resulting in this:
Okay, so in concept, we had a winner: Enormous, frightening, threatening, overpowering. But in execution… he went out like a chump… again. Suffice to say, this final battle between the Turtles and their most longstanding, deadliest foe didn’t exactly warrant the hype.
Still, while the movie may have dropped the ball, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was still going strong, and there were bound to be plenty of opportunities to use this reinvention of the character elsewhere, right? Such as the ongoing and successful cartoon, where Shredder had become something of a whiny laughingstock locked into a weird bickering married-couple relationship with a talking brain?
…oh. Well, at least the old action figure would have something a little more threatening to replace it, right?
Huh. Well, I guess it might be an improvement, though he has a bit of a “deer caught in headlights” expression on his face if you look closely. But he wasn’t really any bigger than any of the other figures, and just lacked the overall menace his big screen portrayal evoked.
That isn’t to say that every medium dropped the ball, however. In fact, I can think of only one other that Super Shredder made any sort of appearance, and it was derived from the animated series, no less: Konami’s video game series.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project for the NES, the Turtles manage to locate the mobile Technodrome headquarters of the Shredder in the underground of Manhattan Island, which has been pulled from its Earthly roots and lifted into the sky. Wounded after his battle, Shredder makes his escape and heads for Krang’s spacecraft, the Turtles in hot pursuit.
With the rest of his army now defeated and cornered in the ship’s engine room, Shredder makes one last, desperate gambit:
The narrative was simple here, but it really did manage to work: Shredder was not only rejuvenated, but displayed a variety of new powers and abilities as well. This would continue again in the home version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, where Super Shredder was specifically included over the regular version seen in the arcade original (though he did appear in his regular form earlier in the game):
Overall, this was a very good use of the concept. Granted, I can see how this might not fit with a cartoon or comic book– the lightning, fire, and ice attacks in particular, though harnessing the very mutagen now flowing through him into some sort of chi-like attack has intriguing possibilities. Then again, depending on this Shredder’s abilities, the whole elemental thing could play very well with where they’re going.
Still, a Super Shredder has some potential. Imagine a Shredder with increased intelligence, strength, speed… maybe even rage. Just think: He could even be a very literal match for all four Turtles at once, in a Super-Skrull sort of way (it wouldn’t be the first time TMNT has borrowed from Marvel).
In addition, Shredder seems to go back and forth between the two forms here, and pulls the same deal as in Turtles in Time in The Hyperstone Heist with the glowing beam. What if Super Shredder were like a “Hulking Out” thing for him? Then you could potentially get the best of both worlds (and, in Playmates’ case, have a consistent reason to keep selling two action figures).
These are just a few ideas I’m bouncing around, since it feels like the concept was misused by everyone but Konami back in its heyday. We’re looking at new beginnings with fresh breaks and reinventions of old concepts, and this is one I’d like to see played to its best potential.
On the other hand… just look at 4Kids’ 2K3 series Shredder. He is undoubtedly the most villainous and threatening of the lot, almost frightfully so, and doesn’t even really need a “Super” form to pound the Turtles into green paste. Sure, he may have just been an Utrom in mechanical bodies, but he knew how to use those bodies and didn’t tend to mess around.
And if these new Shredders, in the comic and cartoon, can approach that level of menace? Well, then just forget I said anything.