There have never been more comic book movies and television shows out there, with even more coming soon. While the majority of comic book movies hail from either DC or Marvel, there are notable outliers out there. Some have been successful like The Boys, but there have also been some that have struggled like David Harbour’s Hellboy and most recently, Bloodshot. However, there is another outlier with a reboot in development. That comic book IP is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the upcoming reboot needs to be heavily inspired by IDW’s definitive take on the heroes in a half shell.
An argument can be made that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the most successful comic book franchise not made by DC or Marvel. The turtles skyrocketed in popularity thanks to the colorful 1987 animated series and the 1990 live-action film. There have since been numerous movies and television shows that have followed, but the ’90s still remain peak-turtles.
In 2013, the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were sold to Viacom. Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes produced a reboot of the series a year later. Early on, there were some concerns with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot after Michael Bay revealed that these turtles would actually be aliens instead of mutants. This was ultimately changed, but the two films failed at giving us a great live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles project. However, the one positive note from the two films is that the turtles were a highlight, which is the most you can ask for, but to me, it felt like a lot of wasted potential with the material.
After the success of Batman Begins, many studios followed with a “dark and gritty” take on their own franchises. This fad would eventually fade out with studios moving onto the cinematic universe trope brought back into prominence by Marvel Studios. At that time in 2005, many people wanted to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles take the Batman Begins route in large part due to the original comic book series from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Not only would it be refreshing for the franchise, but it would also in line with the original black and white series.
While I do think a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot should explore darker elements, there still needs to be the levity that made the characters so popular, and that came from the animated series. Due to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows‘ underperformance at the box office, Paramount is now developing another reboot of the series, this time with Andrew Dodge penning the script and Platinum Dunes producing.
It’s currently unclear which direction Paramount will take the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie franchise in, but it’s my belief that it should follow the IDW comic book series. We have seen recent comic book movies take a page out of what is happening in the comics. For example, both Aquaman and Shazam! are heavily inspired by the DC Comics’ New 52 run. Marvel Studios hasn’t been shy at taking elements from recent comic book runs either. It would be great if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series took a page from other successful comic book movie franchises, but in a good way, by digging into the recently-published source material.
Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run from IDW Publishing started back in 2011 and recently reached 100 issues. IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the longest-running comic book series for the heroes in a half shell and to me, it’s also the best one.
One of the things I loved about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series from 2003 is that it borrowed the best of both worlds: the serious tone of the original comics and the turtles’ colorful, pizza-loving personalities. IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also balances the tone very well, but manages to tell a compelling story that could play out very well in live-action.
There are some changes to the well-known origin story, but the IDW run delves deeper. The IDW turtles are not just mutated by ooze. Additionally, they are the reincarnated sons of Hamato Yoshi, who is also reborn as Splinter. In the series, we also see flashbacks of their previous lives, where Yoshi sees the death of his sons at the hands of Shredder in feudal Japan. That minor change is ripe with exciting potential and can give audiences something new instead of rehashing what we’ve seen from the ’90s animated series.
When the series jumps to modern day, we see the turtles as we know and love them in their battles with the Foot Clan. The IDW series also gives us modern versions of April O’Neal and Casey Jones. Instead of being a journalist, April is a StockGen intern who encounters the turtles in a lab. Casey is still the hockey mask-wearing vigilante, but deals with an abusive father at home. Waltz and Eastman’s run also manages to create some awesome new characters like Old Hob and a recently introduced female turtle named Jennika, all of which are great additions to the TMNT universe with some spin-off potential.
Out of the Shadows was the first turtles film to feature a live-action appearance from Krang. Like that film and its predecessors, it’s heavily influenced by the original animated series. In the IDW comics, Krang is terrifying and opens up the conflict in a massive way. A reboot could lead to an Avengers: Endgame-level storyline with Krang as this universe’s Thanos.
I could continue to rave about IDW’s take on the turtles, but if you are a fan, I can’t recommend it enough. I also hope that the next reboot follows the IDW run closely because it strikes a wonderful balance that is in line with James Gunn’s incredibly successful Guardians of the Galaxy films — full of heart with plenty of humor that make for an incredibly enjoyable movie-going experience. By following the recent IDW series, the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot can give the general public a definitive version of the characters that can not only make the franchise prominent once again in today’s crowed pop-culture landscape, but on par with what Marvel Studios and DC Films have been doing.