Bebop and Rocksteady. If you're a TMNT fan (let's assume you are since you're reading this), those names hit your mind with a flood of nostalgia. From their silly roles in the animated series to the collectibles to being bosses in video games, these two bring back some hopefully happy memories of your past. But let's be brutally honest here: they aren't really good characters. I know some of you probably want to flip a table or throw something at me right now, but please, hear me out! I mean, I own a couple Bebop and Rocksteady collectibles (the Funko POP! ones are directly to my left as I write this) and I also like the characters, but the original ones honestly aren't much more than memorable character designs.
How would you describe the two? Appearance is the first thing that comes to mind, of course. But what about their personalities? Both aren't exactly bright and they want to be tough but almost always mess up. But what else? Aside from their looks, what makes them noticeably different? If you read a line of dialogue that didn't have a blatantly obvious nod to warthogs or rhinos, could you tell which one said it? The two looked cool and provided fun boss fights in video games, but their personalities are totally interchangeable. Maybe I missed out on a "must read" Bebop and Rocksteady storyline in one of the comic series, but every single time I saw them, they had identical personalities.
I obviously still love 'em (how can any TMNT fan not?), but when the heroes in a half shell leave an impression because of their distinctly different personalities, it's kind of surprising these two henchmen are so similar. Thankfully, the modern versions of these classic mutants have taken some big steps to breathe new life into these two goons.
First, let's take a look at how IDW Publishing has revamped the two clowns. Yes, they're still thugs who wanted more power, became mutated (Karai hooked them up), and have interchangeable personalities, but the difference is they're now shockingly badass. I mean, they're downright frightening. Considering Bebop is still rocking the signature glasses and purple hair, him still managing to be scary is one heck of a feat. The two were created to be the Foot's muscle and now they're finally the physical force they were always meant to be. They may not be skilled and they may not be tactical, but they're powerhouses.
How excellent is that final panel? They still maintain their goofiness (they destroyed the building they were living in just for fun) and they're hilariously dated -- something which is humorously brought up at one point -- but man, they're so intimidating in this comic series. You can stab 'em, slash 'em, shoot 'em, hit 'em with explosives, and even drop a building on 'em, but they're still going to get back up and unleash all kinds of pain. Not even a swarm of Foot Ninjas were able to stand a chance against them. The duo walks away from the fight with a bunch of melee weapons stuck in them and they don't even seem fazed at all.
These two don't fully comprehend just how powerful they've become and that makes them truly terrifying. They act before they think and with their level of might, that leads to a ton of destruction and little concern for who they may hurt. These two goofballs now have a staggering amount of strength, so something as simple as a flick could seriously harm someone. In their hands, this power makes them like a tornado; they're out of control and destructive. That's exactly why Shredder and Karai don't trust them with anything too elaborate and rely on them for simple missions. You know, like attacking or defending a location and yeah, that's about it. They really can't be trusted with anything else. When they attempted to take matters into their own hands, it didn't go all that well and they humorously agreed to never tell Karai about it.
Everything you loved about the classic versions is still present in the IDW comic (e.g. much of the standout costumes remain and the foolish and violent yet still lovable personalities are intact) but now they aren't total jokes when it comes to the one thing they were created to do: fight. If you're really tempted to see these two in action, I strongly recommend picking up TMNT VILLAINS MICRO SERIES #7 and TMNT #40. They play a big role in the upcoming issue too, so you better not miss it.
While IDW embraced the classic versions and then made the mutant foes a gazillion times more formidable, the Nickelodeon animated series made some huge changes to the duo. Now, it's understandable if some of you have (or had) a negative knee-jerk reaction upon seeing the new take on the villains, but the new designs really do a great job displaying what makes the two unique. No longer are they the same character with different appearances. Now, the two have drastically different personalities and they have totally different advantages. Only one of them relies on brute force (go on, guess which one!) and they most definitely aren't dumb.
Before they became Bebop and Rocksteady, they were Anton Zeck and Ivan Steranko. Anton -- the man who becomes Bebop -- is a *ahem* smooth criminal. He's slick and utilizes technology to steal whatever he's going after. Unlike the strong and reckless Bebop you've come to know, this one is swift. He literally and figuratively dances around his opponents' attacks, can activate a cloaking device, has enhanced vision modes (thanks to his visor), and fires projectiles from his belt. And the purple mohawk? It can fire blasts which explode on impact. Yes, really.
Aside from eventually becoming a mutant warthog and having some nods to the older version, this isn't the Bebop you once knew. And you know what? That's okay. Who wants the same thing over and over? I think the show took a huge risk and it paid off big time. J.B. Smoove's ridiculously energetic voice acting is just icing on the purple cake. Seriously, I think the dude has like ten coffees before heading into the recording booth. It always sounds like he's giving it everything he's got and it definitely comes through in the episodes. Bebop's become one of the most charismatic characters in the show. Who can honestly say they expected that to happen? Oh, and best of all? He hates being called Bebop! "I am not going to be called Bebop! Got me? That is the dumbest name ever!" You can click here to see how the two mutants earned their classic names.
Bebop's quick, evasive, and relies on technology to face the Ninja Turtles, but Ivan's a mountain of muscles. Fully embracing a bunch of Russian stereotypes and sporting a thick accent (which is brought to you by Fred Tatasciore), this crime lord may not be happy with the way he looks after his mutation, but he sure is pleased with his physical upgrades. The dude's a titan now and completely obliterated Raphael and Casey Jones at the same time. Despite looking like he's just bringing sheer strength to the table, Ivan's somewhat tactical and was even able to temporarily outsmart the Ninja Turtles as they attempted to avoid him on a roller coaster. He may not be a brilliant tactician like Batman or Captain America, but he's confident, driven, and, just like Bebop, is only following Shredder because they're forced to -- it's not because they want to or that there's a sense of loyalty there.
These two have already proven they can branch off and have their own entertaining stories; they aren't two numbskulls just following orders anymore. They're significantly different from each other and that brings about a whole new dynamic. Some may not love the changes (to each their own, right?), but I think it was a creative way to give these two mutants way more depth.
The classic Bebop and Rocksteady will always hold a special place in my heart (and on my desk). They may be the same personality in two different bodies, but their attention-grabbing designs and foolish ways made so many of us fall in love with them. I don't know about you, but this TMNT fan is beyond happy that IDW Publishing and Nickelodeon have done an awesome job bringing the duo back in very different ways. In one universe, we have the two silly guys being the savage powerhouses they're meant to be. In the other universe, we have a refreshing take on them, one that's full of ginormous changes that make them even more interesting. Bebop and Rocksteady are back and luckily for us, they're awesome. TMNT fans, you have no good reason not to be following the comic and watching the show. Seriously, get on it. Now we just have to wait and see how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel handles them. At least in this case making them even bigger and stronger would be fitting, right?
Oh, and just in case you need more proof of just how brutal the mutants have become in the comic series, I'll leave you with this astonishing action scene from TMNT VILLAINS MICRO SERIES #7.
Well, what do you think about IDW Publishing and Nickelodeon's take on Bebop and Rocksteady? Don't forget there's a new episode of TMNT this Sunday and a new issue goes on sale next Wednesday!