by Taylor Anderson and Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Taylor: There’s something about a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters crossover that just works. There are the obvious reasons why, like both groups being made up of four dudes with similar personalities, or the fact that they both live in New York. While that explains why the crossover is convenient, it’s not why it works. No, the reason that the Turtles and ‘Busters can merge stories so well is that both groups routinely deal with strange shit. That, and that alone, might just be why there is a second crossover event for these two franchises, and if the first issue is any indication, it is also reason enough for it existing.
The Turtles are in trouble once again. Having just returned from Krang’s trial in Dimension X, the Turtles find themselves attacked by four demon spirits. It turns out that these ghouls are actually interdimesional ghosts called the Collectors who can travel between different planes of existence with ease. The reason they attacked the turtles is that Darius Dun made a deal with the Collectors to get revenge on the turtles for being killed by Splinter.
I really have to hand it to Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz for the way they have intertwined mythology from two sources to create this story. Darius Dun was executed by Splinter in the TMNT main series because he failed to acknowledge the Splinter-led Foot Clan. The Collectors are malevolent spirits who the Ghostbusters have dealt with before. The mixing of these two elements into this crossover is wonderful because it draws from the combined mythology two very weird series. While this type of thing happens all the time in big name comics, it’s more rare to find it outside of the shared universes of DC or Marvel Comics.
Of course, something like this isn’t at all a surprise to the Turtles or the Ghostbusters. Each foursome has new and weird adventures all the time so it makes sense that they would be nonplussed by these intricately woven events. Take, for example, the manner in which the Busters discuss their options after Donatello pleads for their help after the turtles were kidnapped by the Collectors.
Both Egon and Venkman describe the outlandish scenario of mutant turtles being abducted by transdimensional spirits with aplomb. The reason they can be so nonchalant about the whole thing (as Peter’s coffee sipping suggests) is that this whole thing is old hat to them by now: a) they teamed with turtles before and b) they’ve seen so much other weird stuff that this doesn’t bother them. Not only does this reflect the confidence with which Burnham and Waltz are writing with here, but it’s funny as well. There’s a certain meta-humor to be had when characters become aware of how silly and outlandish their own adventures are. The Ghostbusters’ calm, almost meditative, approach to the turtles situation is funny simply because they realize it’s just another wacky adventure for them.
Dan Schoening’s artwork is the perfect compliment to these weird happenings. Schoening’s style is a nice blend of realism and representationalism which lets him animate mutant turtles, ghosts, and humans all with consistent style. The turtles have oversized shells like real box turtles, the ghosts are appropriately ghoulish and weird, and the humans realistic in their form with the obvious exception of their facial features. Together, this style is perfect for representing a universe where any ol’ weird stuff can happen.
And yet, despite all that fantastic penciling, I think my favorite panel from the comic is this one:
Toward’s the end of the issue, Egon tells Donatello that he equipped his fellow Ghostbusters with a monitoring system so he would know how long they had before the Collectors realized that the turtles were being rescued. The system in question is hilariously 8-bit, and it’s hard not to immediately fall in love with the little, pixelated renderings of Winston, Ray, and Peter on the right hand side. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for a time gone by, but this panel is great.
Patrick, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much from this issue, but it’s actually pretty fun. Do you agree? Do you think the mythologies of the Ghostbusters and the Turtles blends well? And will there ever be a day when pixel-art fails to charm?
Patrick: Oh pixel art is timeless. I mean that almost literally: tile mosaics predate 8-bit video games, and they’re fucking awesome. There’s something about both the shape and simplicity being driven by the limitations of the medium that always just works for me. It does sorta mean that no pixel art or tile art can be totally divorced from the compromises the medium’s past put on its artists, but I’m not really sure you need to take that out of the equation. Evoking a specific time, place or culture is a totally legitimate artistic move, totally aside from from any claims of nostalgia tweeking.
But hey, this is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Ghostbusters II, I think we do need to allow for a little nostalgia-rama. Schoening, Waltz and Burnham are taking most of their 80’s fueled nostalgia cues from Waltz’ own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, which has an over 100-issue history of pulling stories, characters and concepts from every possible TMNT source. Toys, video games, comics, movies, TV show — whatever, it’s all fair game. The creative team here starts the issue by applying that some universal reverence to the Ghostbusters mega-franchise. I don’t consider myself the biggest Ghostbusters fan, but I will recognize this toy until the day I die.
This was a soft plastic Ghostbusters toy from Kenner that appeared on the market in the wake of the original movie hitting big at the box office. You can fill him with water and squirt it out his eye (err… the eye of the one-eyed part of him), so he’s got the cheeky name “H2 Ghost.” H2G is maybe too goofy to find his way into too many “real” Ghostbusters stories. I looked it up and outside of a few cameo appearances of the 80s cartoon, and one appearance in the background of a comic from five years ago, this dude is strictly a toy. So imagine my surprise when Schoening drops this bad boy (/these bad boys) right on the first page!
Before this initial encounter is over, Waltz and Burnham are going to be checking another GB hallmark: the positively charged slime from Ghostbusters II. Ray and Winston blast both H2G and this poor woman he’s terrorizing with it, and the effects are much like we saw in the 1989 flick. Within the first three pages, the creative team is stating their intention to pull from sources as canon and legit as the second film in the series, and as far afield as an action figure. It is a refreshingly honest acknowledgement of the sheer amount of stuff that inspires any modern creative endeavor with these properties.
Which actually brings me back around to 8-bit art and video games. Take another look at the second panel Taylor posted above. Anything seem out of place in there? The Ghostbusters have two arcade cabinets and a pinball machine in their firehouse. The arcade cabinets house both The Real Ghostbusters (1987) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989). (I can’t totally make out what the pinball machine is, and for all of my pinch-n-zoom / googling skills, I haven’t been able to identify it. Anyone able to make that one out?)
These cabinets don’t make an appearance until page 15, but they may be setting the tone for the rest of the mini-series just as the first three pages set the tone of this issue. I mean, I can’t come up with a more video game-y concept than forcing individual pair-ups of TMNT and GB characters visiting different worlds to have discrete, self-contained adventures. Schoening dutifully recreates that feeling of starting a new level in a game, complete with archetypical settings and obligatory glowing portals. Oh, and let’s not forget a delightfully side-scrolling perspective.
Taylor’s totally right: this issue is all about our characters nonchalantly buying into this premise. Lemme go get a stack of quarters so I can line them up on the monitor, I’m buying in too.
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