I Love Malls
by Liam O’Brien
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
At the mall, everything is clean. At the mall, there is always nice music playing. At the mall, the air is fresh and comfortable. I love to walk around the mall and look at all the happy people with bags in tow. Good American consumers. You don’t have to worry about much when you’re in such a nice environment.
I didn’t really have a purpose for today’s excursion. I didn’t come to the mall to work, and I didn’t come to the mall to purchase anything…I just came to the mall to take up space. Just to be. A product of our American culture. I’m a real mall rat. I walk in and out of stores aimlessly. Looking for absolutely nothing in particular. Just browsing. I stand around and read the magazines with my favorite movie star on the cover, I play video games, and I sit on the mall benches.
Time has no meaning for me here.
One store that I always seem to gravitate towards is the toy store. It has this aura that I find irresistible. It lures me right in with its bright flashing lights and various sounds.
I hate to admit it but I’m “one of those guys,” who goes into the toy store every once in awhile just to look at the new Mcfarlane figures, and then leave.
This particular trip to the toy store was different though.
I walk down aisle #1…
I walk up aisle #2…
As I start traveling down aisle #3, I notice a familiar object out of the corner of my eye. Wow, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back. But now they have a sleek new look and box design. Repackage the old and sell it as new. Boy, these figures sure do bring back a lot of
I think I first came across the Ninja Turtles when I was in seventh grade. The only comic store that was in the area at the time was Coliseum of Comics, which was located on north Orange Blossom Trail. I know mom probably hated driving me up there every month, but I was persistent with my nagging.
Issue #10 grabbed my attention immediately. Fighting mutant animals, ninjas, gore, humor, and plus it was in black and white. It was so new, so different. I was an immediate fan. After reading through issue #10 for the umpteenth time, it was my goal to collect all Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles related merchandise. But first, I would start with the back issues.
This was going to be a long and laborious process.
Ninja Turtle comics were pretty underground at the time and finding genuine back issues was difficult, and expensive. I had to settle for a lot of reprints because my finances were very limited. Mom would pay me $20 or so every couple of weeks as an allowance. It took me quite awhile before I was able to get a 3rd reprint of issue number one. The golden scepter of my measly comic collection.
Once I had purchased a few issues, it was important to bring them to school and show them off to my friends. Bragging rights. Some people showed moderate interest, but the majority didn’t seem to care.
“BAH… What do they know,” I thought. I was sitting on something special. These comics were a potential gold mine.
Slowly my collection grew… The Ninja Turtles fighting guide, the Ninja Turtles solo issues, the Ninja Turtles role-playing game, the Ninja Turtles spin offs. It was amazing, and they were all mine…
Now when I went to the comic store I would notice a whole slew of kung fu fighting, animal-themed comics on the shelves. Maybe they were there the whole time, but because Ninja Turtles were on my mind ever so constantly, they seemed to be blaringly apparent.
Occasionally I would pick up one of these evil hybrids, if the artwork was any good. They were interesting, but they couldn’t touch the real thing. The stories were lacking creativity…energy…quality. They just weren’t Ninja Turtles. Cheap, cheap, cheap… and the fact that these evil replicas were around seemed to be an indication as to what was to come. Just like any great fad, when the cheap imposters start showing up, then you know the whole thing is starting to go downhill. The bubble’s going to burst.
If I remember correctly, it was around issue #13 or 14 that I noticed that something was amiss with the Ninja Turtles comic. In the back of one of these issues they had a sign up sheet that you could mail away in order to be a part of the Ninja Turtles fan club. It sounded cool to me at the time. If you signed up you would receive a free membership card, a bandana, a free comic, a sticker, and a monthly newsletter. I only received one monthly newsletter, but in it it had pictures of the soon to be released live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Wow… I was genuinely interested. What a great idea. If the movie was dark and violent like the comic, then I thought they had a potential film classic. The film was slated to be released at the end of the year.
Then things started to get dark…
One morning a friend of mine from school told me that there was an actual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. It was on Sunday at 5 a.m. That seemed kind of odd to me. A cartoon? And why was it playing at such a weird hour? My only reasoning was that the creators were trying to slowly ease the idea of violent kung fu mutant animals onto the American public. I had to check it out. So the following Sunday morning I woke up bright and early… to eyewitness one of the most god-awful things that I had ever seen. What is this shit… the singing, the music, and these cute cuddly turtle things? What the fuck was going on? This was all wrong. ALL WRONG… I remember sitting in front of the television with my mouth open the whole time. They sold out… I couldn’t believe it.
As the franchise slowly got bigger, my interest got smaller and smaller. The comic book was starting to lose its edge. The quality in general was slipping. Even the original artists, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, stopped doing the artwork. I guess they were too busy overseeing their million-dollar empire. They now had managerial responsibilities.
I admit that I bought the original set of figures, and I did go see the live action film on opening day. But I didn’t brag about it, it wasn’t very cool now amongst my friends. It was sort of embarrassing to talk about. I kept my collection very low key and hidden away in the back of my closet. One day I’ll bring it out, but I guess I’m still waiting for the tide to come in…
All these thoughts just from a silly action figure that I saw at the toy store the other day. I gave all my original Ninja Turtle figures away to some Mexican children when I lived in Arizona. I thought that they would get more use out of them then I. The figures just sat in a box in my closet taking up space. Sometimes I think that giving them away was an un-wise decision. But I seem to do irrational things sometimes.
(photos courtesy of Playmates Toys)