Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 1

Alternating Currents: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ghostbusters 1, Drew and GregToday, Drew and Greg are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 1, originally released October 22nd, 2014.

Drew: I think the word “love” is overused when it comes to pop-culture. I mean, I like Star Wars as much as the next guy, but it only took a few shitty prequels to reveal just how conditional that fondness was. More importantly, when we claim to “love” every bit of pop ephemera, the word looses it’s meaning — to paraphrase Syndrome when everything is loved, nothing is. As fond as my memories of The Magic School Bus or M*A*S*H might be, I’m going to reserve “love” for the few things that have a deeper, more profound meaning to me. I say this because I want to be perfectly clear what I mean when I express that I love Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both properties played massive roles in my childhood; I saw the movies (dozens of times each), I watched the shows, I played with the action figures — heck, I even covered the theme songs for both in my band in high school. A crossover event like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters should be a match made in heaven, then, right?

Well, it turns out it may be a bit more complicated than simply smashing them together — especially if you want to do right by the characters and the universes they occupy. Fortunately, IDW has proven time and time again that they are very invested in doing their crossovers right, giving over the majority of this issue to explaining how these characters could be interacting in the first place. The only downside to all that explanation is that we don’t get much of that interaction in this issue, but that doesn’t stop writers Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz from delivering a ton of fun.

I haven’t been reading IDW’s Ghostbusters series (sacrilege, I know), but the treatment here is very much a part of the world the films and cartoon establish: the busters are basically maintenance workers in a New York City that always has a call or two coming up. The occasional Gozer or dimensional breech aside, their lives are pretty routine. So how do they come to interact with the Turtles, who clearly live in an entirely different New York (if you need any evidence of this, note that the Turtles apparently occupy the same universe as the X-Files, which couldn’t coexist with Ghostbusters‘ open acknowledgement of the supernatural for obvious reasons)? Well, it turns out the interspatial teleportation unit Donnie has been building can also transport people between dimensions. It’s a clever repurposing of some important Turtles plot-points (Donnie was building the machine in order to stop Krang from completing his Technodrome) that doesn’t strain credulity any more than the existence of an “interspatial teleportation unit” already does.

That the crossing over is the result of the Turtles action is also thematically clever, as it highlights the overlap between the two series: their supernatural elements. Mutant turtles might not make a whole lot of sense in the world of Ghostbusters, but trans-dimensional demigods certainly do. More importantly, the demigod in question here is actually Kitsune’s brother, who was imprisoned between dimensions centuries ago after discovering Kitsune’s partnership with Krang. It ties this all in rather neatly with the Turtles’ current mythology, which is a big plus for fans of that series. The Turtles’ section even borrows the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles art team: Cory Smith (whose work on issue 37 caught our eye) as well as series colorist Ronda Pattison, giving their time in their own universe a very Turtles-y feel that’s quite distinct from the rest of the issue.

Of course, this isn’t just for fans of the respective series, and while we do get plenty of exposition, the real joy of this issue is seeing the characters being the characters, something anyone familiar with either of these teams in any iteration should be able to appreciate. Venkman and Raphael are sarcastic, Egon and Donatello are nerdy, Ray is as concerned as ever about his readings and predictions, and Mikey just wants to use the teleporter to pick up some pizza. These all work whether you’ve been reading these series from issue 1, knew these characters from their cartoons, or have only seen their respective movies once. It’s an issue full of great character moments, but I think my favorite has to be this one-liner from Venkman:

Bustin' makes me feel goodCan’t you just hear it in Bill Murray’s voice?

What did you think, Greg? I know you aren’t reading either of those series currently, but what is your history with these franchises like? I know at the very least that you also covered their theme songs in high school, but are you fond enough of these characters to simply spend time with them without much in the way of plot development? Does this issue succeed as anything beyond fanservice?

Greg: You need to believe me, Drew, when I say I love our experience playing in our high school band together (Drew can play coy, but I’m gonna be blunt). Specifically, I love a show we did where we played some high school’s prom that went HORRIBLY, with the exception of a few people in the front who enjoyed us. One person in particular complimented my drums, and you turned to me and said, “Wait until he hears us do Ghostbusters. Your fills on that are like Keith Moon.” Needless to say, I was beaming for about a month straight after that.

Sadly, the fun I had playing this music with you, beefed up by the base-level fun I had knowing and enjoying these characters and universes, was largely absent in the reading of the thing itself. I must say, I’m genuinely surprised that you enjoyed that the comic went out of its way to explain how these two New Yorks can coexist, as I was nothing but bored and uncaring. Maybe I’m in the minority when it comes to enjoying comic books and “geek culture” stuff, but you didn’t need to tell me anything more than “Ghostbusters meets TMNT” for me to be onboard. You speak of a worry of “straining credulity”; I’d argue that the premise of both of these series is so credulity-straining as it is, that we should just accept it at face value and move on! I don’t need to read page after page of scientific mumbo-jumbo explaining in jargon-laden detail how this teleportation device works. I don’t need this big bad villain info-dump at the beginning. What I need, particularly from my previous knowledge of these properties, is fun storytelling, a sense of comedy, and most importantly, a sense of confidence that smashing these two together results in something worthwhile. Like you say, we only get a bit of interaction at the very end; maybe I’m impatient, but I would’ve much preferred we get right into action and see how these characters bounce off each other. Heck, Drew, your synopsis of each universe’s character types with their corresponding foil reveals more information on how these titles might play together than the comic itself!

Leigh Whannell is a horror screenwriter and actor, known for his work on Saw and The Conjuring. He made a not-so-great movie called Dead Silence, and in the aftermath, wrote a fascinating blog entry I highly recommend everyone read. One thing I’d like to highlight is his hatred of the idea of needing “rules”:

In Japan, if a horror film was made that featured a demonic cat that took its head off and started vomiting acid rain through the hole in its neck, all the while tap-dancing to the tune of ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley, no one would question it. “How creepy is that fucking cat?”, they might ask — but nobody would ever dream of asking WHY the cat does this, and if they did, the answer would be pretty simple: because it’s a demonic cat you fucking moron, and demonic cats do weird shit. Now, if that same Japanese demonic cat movie made a few dollars and was then remade in Hollywood because they had no fucking ideas of their own, the first thing Chad and Debbie would ask is “Why does the cat take it’s head off and tap-dance to Rick Astley? What’s the mythology behind it? What are the rules?

This, to me, is my central flaw with this issue. I don’t need rules. I don’t need to know “why” the Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles are together. I just need to see them do it!

To end on a happy note, Drew, any other theme songs you’d like to collaborate on in the future?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

7 comments on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 1

  1. Oh! I love taking both sides regarding the continuity question! Would this have been better as an unexplained one-off, or are there more emotional stakes knowing that this story is part of the ongoing continuity? I suspect our opinions on this will correlate to our investment in those ongoing series, but I can totally see why a one-off non-continuity story would be more approachable (and more fun). I actually don’t know what would be better, but I suppose it depends on who IDW intended as their audience. I probably would have liked either approach, but they may have left more casual fans of both franchises (who might have loved a crossover) a little cold.

  2. For the record, it wasn’t their prom, though it did go really terribly. I do fucking love those fills in Ghostbusters, though.

    If we were going to form an all-theme-song cover band, I think Perfect Strangers would be pretty high on my list.

  3. Greg, there was a TMNT event recently where the Turtles were sent on a time-travel adventure (appropriately title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Time). Each issue has them stumbling blindly into a new time period, and the mechanic for how that’s all happening appears in the TMNT Annual, drawn by TMNT creator Kevin Eastman. Eastman’s been pretty bad about blowing deadlines, so we ended up not getting the ‘how’ on that event until it was already half over, and that mini-series was SO MUCH BETTER for it. In fact, I end up really disliking the Annual, but loving Turtles in Time. Like: duh, of course, the first thing I want to see are Mutant Turtles fighting dinosaurs – why bother with anything else?

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