Red Alert: Christmas is coming, either you or someone you know is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, and you need to find them a gift. NOW. Money is no object; all that matters is that they open a box this December that contains something green and clad in a “bandana” that looks more like a rainbow-colored robber mask.
Well, I’m here for you! I’ve put together a shopping guide for the holidays that contains a little something for every type of Turtle fan. Let’s get to it!
For the TMNT fan who wants something new
The IDW TMNT Collection hardcover collections
IDW’s relaunch of the Ninja Turtles comic book series has been, to put it mildly, a fantastic endeavor. Writers Tom Waltz, Erik Burnham, Paul Allor and others (including Kevin Eastman!) have crafted a complex and fascinating universe of stories that extend well beyond the exploits of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. The ongoing series and its many miniseries tie-ins have been consistently good since it all began, BUT WAIT, there’s one drawback.
The individual trade paperback collections segregate everything by ongoing, miniseries, specials, and so-on. If you want to read the storyline coherently, you’ve got to look up a reading order, like the one put together by THIS jackass, and then obnoxiously skip back and forth between separate volumes to read everything in sequence.
But that’s where the IDW Collection hardcovers come in! All the issues are reprinted in a chronological reading order from start to finish. You never have to question “What do I read next?” or “Wait, they’re referencing something I missed; what are they talking about?” It’s intuitively assembled and a great value per volume, considering you get around 17 issues collected in each installment.
For the TMNT fan who liked the Ninja Turtles before they were cool
The Eastman and Laird Ultimate Collection hardcovers and Tales of the TMNT trades
So maybe you’re an old fogey who liked the TMNT when they were still just an indie comic for New Englanders, not an international merchandising sensation. Well you can relive those obscure years with the Eastman and Laird TMNT Ultimate Collection hardcovers and the first two Tales of the TMNT trade paperbacks.
Collectively, they contain all the issues of the Mirage TMNT Volume 1 story arc chronicled in TMNT Vol. 1, the TMNT micro-series and Tales of the TMNT Vol. 1. For the uninitiated, the original Mirage TMNT comic had a lot of “fat” in it; many, MANY guest stories that were not canon to the ongoing narrative and, despite their individual quality, only served to distract from the storyline everyone WANTED to follow.
The Ultimate Collections trim it down to just the issues by Eastman and Laird that follow the storyline, while the Tales volumes act as a necessary supplement introducing important characters like Leatherhead and the Rat King. While there are cheaper trade paperback collections available, such as The Works collections, they unfortunately colorize the issues (and poorly, at that) which were meant to be seen in black and white. (Sadly, the Tales trades are only available in color, but whaddaya gonna do?)
The Ultimate Collections also feature issue-by-issue notes from both Eastman and Laird and are a great behind-the-scenes resource.
For the TMNT fan that won’t let go of the 1987 cartoon
We all know that one fan who loves the 1987 TMNT animated series produced by Fred Wolf and won’t accept any other incarnation of the characters as valid. Well, you can make their day with the complete DVD series set, the one in the replica Party Wagon packaging, which has just recently been reissued for the holidays. Better yet, you get all 193 episodes for $50. Maybe buy one for yourself.
And at a comparably cheap price, you can get the Turtles Forever movie on DVD. It also stars the ’87 Turtles (albeit without their proper voice actors) as well as the 2003 4Kids Turtles and the 1984 Mirage Turtles. That way, you can ease your obstinate friend into looking into other versions of the characters. They probably won’t bite, but at least you can say you tried.
For the fan who thinks they’ve seen everything
Shout! Factory is still trying to get rid of those Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation DVD sets that have been available for 4 years, now. I wonder why nobody wants them?
If you have a friend who claims to have seen everything TMNT has to offer, there’s a good chance they haven’t bothered with Next Mutation because its reputation is so bad. Well, now you can force it upon them. The show is certainly CRAP, but it’s an entertaining sort of crap that grows on you. The DVDs are reasonably priced and Vol. 2 even includes both episodes of the Power Rangers in Space crossover, just to make things extra complete.
For the snobby TMNT historian
So you’ve got a friend who thinks they’re a real bigshot that knows everything about the TMNT, inside and out. Well, they might find one of these three historical accounts of the creation of the Ninja Turtles enlightening.
The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago is an authorized account of the history of the brand, covering every aspect of it from comics to movies to toys to cartoons. While it covers so much ground it has to be brisk in places, it is also packed with interviews with many oddballs related to the franchise you don’t normally see (like Fred Wolf!).
The Artobiography is Kevin Eastman’s firsthand account of the creation of the TMNT comics before he parted ways with the brand in the late ‘90s. It’s brimming over with art and, while the text is mostly captions, remains very informative considering how much it has to cover. Mirage comics fans will want this for sure.
And lastly, for people who hate to read, you’ve got the Turtle Power documentary. It’s a love song to the franchise, perhaps vacuously so at times, but it also features video interviews from Eastman and Laird… TOGETHER! The sight of those two estranged buddies breathing the same oxygen is cause enough to buy the thing, but the production quality of it is notable, too. It started out as a fan project, but Viacom was so impressed with it that they gave it the corporate seal of approval!
For the toy collector with deep pockets
NECA’s Mirage-themed TMNT toys from some years back remain some of the best Ninja Turtles action figures we ever received, but due to interference from Playmates, the planned Series 2 featuring Shredder and the Foot Clan was cancelled. That is, until NOW.
These were available only at the New York Comic Con this year in a special box set. Leftovers are lingering on the internet, but the prices are steep and quantity is limited. That said, if you don’t get them NOW, you’ll NEVER be able to afford them in the future.
For the gamer of both video and tabletop
Yeah, I know, Platinum Games’ Mutants in Manhattan got some pretty “average” reviews, to be as generous as possible. But as repetitive as the hack/slash gameplay was, it REALLY shined in multiplayer. In that regard, it felt like a spiritual successor to the Konami arcade beat-em-ups, which were repetitive in 1-player, but a party when you had your friends over.
The Shadows of the Past RPG board game from IDW is a bit of a mystery for me, and it won’t be available until after Christmas (but you can preorder now). That said, IDW’s other board games have gotten great reviews (particularly their Ghostbusters game), so if you’re into RPGs you may want to give it a shot. It’s got, like, miniatures and stuff.
For weeaboos who only import the highest quality Japanese collectibles
If you’re like me, you probably remember your old Playmates TMNT action figures looking way more show-accurate than they actually were. Imaginations filled in a LOT of blanks when we were 6.
Well, Bandai’s S.H. Figuarts series of show-accurate, insanely poseable action figures succeed where nostalgia fails, perfectly capturing every detail of the ’87 cartoon TMNT with obscene levels of articulation added in. And so far as imports are concerned, the prices aren’t as steep as they could be. Your otaku friend who only buys toys from “Glorious Nippon” should consider them a bargain.
For the Batman fan
Everybody loves Batman, but maybe you want something else to talk about with your friends. The Batman/TMNT miniseries is the perfect gateway.
Featuring versions of the characters inspired by (but not actually in continuity with) the New 52 Batman and IDW TMNT, the miniseries is a hell of a lot of fun. There’s a great story by James Tynion that gives us everything we’d want from a crossover, and stunning art from Freddie Williams that’s approximately 250-times better than it ever needed to be.
For the Ghostbusters fans
If you liked the TMNT cartoon in the ‘80s then there’s a good chance you also liked the Ghostbusters. And this crossover miniseries from Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening is a hell of a lot of fun.
Canon to both their respective series from IDW, the storyline is nevertheless intuitive and can be read without too much baggage from either title. Burnham has a blast finding parallels between both franchises, Schoening fits plenty of Easter eggs into his art that’ll keep you searching for hours, and colorist Luis Antonio Delgado tops it all off with colors that practically glow.
For the Usagi Yojimbo fan
If you’re familiar with the Ninja Turtles then regardless of generation you’re most likely familiar with Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. The ronin rabbit character Miyamoto Usagi has appeared in the Mirage comics, the ’87 cartoon, the Playmates toyline, the 2003 cartoon and will soon be appearing in the 2012-era cartoon from Nickelodeon. Face it: The Turtles and Usagi are joined at the hip.
Well, these two collections, the first from Fantagraphics and the second from Dark Horse, collect the earliest adventures of Usagi in chronological order. And within these two volumes are his very first encounters with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Special Edition, which contains the complete Fantagraphics run that started the series, boasts two short strips by Sakai in which Usagi teams up with Leonardo (alas, the Peter Laird-drawn short, “The Crossing”, is absent). It’s TMNT/Usagi history!
Saga Vol. 1, which contains the complete Mirage run as well as the earliest issues of the Dark Horse run, features the complete three-part “Shades of Green” storyline in which all four TMNT join Usagi and Gen in their lengthiest comic book crossover.
And in addition to the TMNT content, Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo series is just really. Damn. GOOD. After reading Special Edition and Saga Vol. 1, you’ll be quick to pick up the rest of the Saga volumes, I guarantee it.
For actual children, who are the TMNT’s target demographic
Oh god, I forgot that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is aimed at kids. Oh man, what do kids even LIKE? Uh… Um…
So that’s almost as pricey as the NECA Foot Clan set, but that’s LEGO for ya. Doesn’t change the fact that the set looks like a lot of fun to build, destroy and build again. It even comes with a surplus of Turtle and Foot mini-figures to populate the sewer lair. No Shredder, but the training dummy comes with a Shredder helmet. If you wanna be sneaky, just pop that bad boy off, snap it on one of the Foot Ninja and he’s as good as Shredder. Tell your kids I said “You’re welcome.”
I wouldn’t hold my breath for any Blu-rays if I were you, even if this show WAS made in HD. But I don’t think kids care too much about picture quality, right? Anyway, you get 52 episodes, the first 2 seasons of the recent TMNT cartoon, for a damn good price (like, 50 cents per episode). Can’t beat that.
And lastly, these two Omnibus trade paperbacks collect the complete run of IDW’s TMNT New Animated Adventures comic series. It was a pretty good kids book based on the Nick cartoon (are you sensing a theme here?) featuring some excellent art from Chad Thomas and Dario Brizuela.
For literal babies
A random inclusion, but it’ll keep your baby warm and cozy. Or you. Blankets are for everybody and at 50 in. x 60 in., it should fit you at whatever size.
I can attest to the comfiness of this blanket, too! Back when I did some TMNT merchandising work for We Love Fine, they sent me one of these blankets as a gift (albeit mine has a slightly different pattern, but the material is the same). But don’t take MY word for it. Here’s my cat, Goblin, putting it to the test:
Yeah, that’s right. This entire article was nothing more than a feint so I could show you a photo of my cat. Merry Christmas, suckers!