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Back in 1983, Kevin Eastman drew something pretty ridiculous: a turtle wearing a mask and armed with a pair of nunchucks. The sketch was made just for fun and this generated a friendly competition between Eastman and Peter Laird as they tried to one up each other with the silly premise. The end result was four masked turtles, each armed with different melee weapons.
As we all know by now, the two decided to move forward with this totally absurd idea and flesh out the team's story within the pages of a comic. Eastman said he didn't expect the debut comic -- an issue which was a gritty and fun nod to several other franchises -- to sell well, but the polar opposite happened and eventually the heroes in a half shell turned into a household name. In fact, the franchise has become so popular that co-creator Kevin Eastman placed the first picture of a ninja turtle on sale for a whopping $2 million dollars. That can buy a whole lot of pizza.
The famous characters are celebrating their 30th anniversary and it really is a great year to be a TMNT fan. The animated show on Nickelodeon had some fans worried because it looked too kid friendly, but they've been killing it since the very first episode. It's a show that finds the right balance between appealing to pre-existing fans and generating new fans, too. That's more than clear with the impressive merchandise sales. Meanwhile, IDW is publishing some memorable and superb TMNT comics. It's plenty familiar and has everything we love about the iconic group, but they've also taken big steps to instill noteworthy and exciting changes.
One thing both of these projects have in common is they show a whole lot of respect for the source material as they sprinkle in just the right amount of changes to make the mythos fun and refreshing. On top of that, there's a new live-action movie coming out this Friday. We can't comment on its quality because we haven't seen it yet, but you can bet we're anxious to check it out. Yes, it seems to bring some major changes to the designs and story, but it seems like it has a proper handle of the character dynamics and that's critical.
Even though it all basically started as a joke, this franchise has been around for 30 years and it continues to prove it has what it takes to create new fans in different generations. So, how does such a silly premise stand the test of time and adapt to make sure kids -- and longtime fans -- love it? Well, we believe it's because the Ninja Turtles focus on a few key elements that can appeal to people from any generation.
On the surface, TMNT's about odd looking characters that are awesome at fighting. The designs are just different enough and, let's be honest, who doesn't love ninjas? The aesthetic basics are simple, appealing, and certainly memorable. However, Ninja Turtles isn't just about four dudes that excel at battling ninjas and mutants --- it's about the importance of family. Above all else, Ninja Turtles is all about the bond between children and the ones who raise them. These aren't four characters that are stuck on a team with one another and won't be all that concerned if one is in danger or decides to quit. These are four brothers and the bond between them is unbreakable. This is something that IDW's storyline, City Fall, focused on as Leonardo joined Shredder's forces. Even as an only child, the connection between these siblings is something anyone can appreciate and the creators always find a way to make sure this aspect is -- forgive the pun -- oozing with emotion and showcasing how important it is to be close with the ones you love. And that's not even getting into the character dynamics they share with their father, Master Splinter, and their two best friends, April O'Neil and Casey Jones. Even if you can't see eye to eye and constantly argue with the ones in your family, it's critical to find a way to move forward and, at the end of the day, realize those are the people that matter the most in your life. No matter what the incarnation may be, being close with the people you care about is a top priority and that is regularly front and center. It's a simple yet effective message that will always stand the test of time.
While the origin story produced a gritty and dark comic book series, the franchise adapted to balance a more lighthearted tone because of the fact its protagonists are teenagers. The story embraces what it's like to be young and obviously, that's something everyone can relate to. Whether you're experiencing those years as you discover the franchise or if they're in your past, we all know what it's like to goof around with the people closest to us, celebrate our favorite food (who else craves pizza after watching TMNT?), and learn from the person we respect the most in life. Even though we're talking about heroes that battle ninjas and save the world from aliens, these elements have the potential to hit close to home for all of us.
Last but most certainly not least, this franchise endures because its characters each have personalities that will always appeal to someone. Leonardo's the leader who just wants to protect his family, Raphael's passion sometimes makes him hot-headed, Michelangelo's the lovable clown, and Donatello's the intellectual one that loves technology. These common yet different qualities always find a way to establish a link to fans and we often select our favorites based on these personalities. Sure, some out there pick a favorite based solely on the mask's color or the weapon, but a majority find the personality to be the most appealing attribute and our preference is something that can change as we grow. How many of you thought Leonardo was lame when you were younger but have a newfound appreciation for the character? No matter how much society may change, these will always be personalities people can connect with.
Relatable characters and an emphasis on family and entertaining action means the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are unlikely to fade away anytime soon. No matter what age you may be when you discover the franchise, these core elements play a prominent role in the franchise's biggest incarnations and are something anyone and everyone can appreciate. Yes, the franchise may have started as a joke, but over the years, the heroes in a half shell have proven they have lasting power and will always find a way to create new fans. As said above, it's a great time to be a fan of the franchise and, considering how popular the new animated show is, it looks like the latest generation's kids will grow up with a whole lot of love for Ninja Turtles. Maybe in 30 years they'll be voicing their opinions about a new TMNT reboot.
Why do YOU think TMNT has stood the test of time and remains popular? Share your thoughts with the world in the comments below!