Wednesday, September 3, 2014

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA LOOKALIKES


Charming.
One of the phenomena that ended up being so fascinating in the wake of the success of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was its volume of obvious imitators. While the Turtles themselves had been a satirical amalgamation of what creators Eastman and Laird had noted as trends in modern comics, their own product itself became a trend with a host of imitators using not only the same formula of martial arts-empowered super-animals but even the naming convention.

It’s tempting to drop the responsibility for every anthropomorphic and funny animal comic in its wake on the Turtles’ doorstep, but a significant group at the very least can be directly traced to their influence or inspiration. What follows is a few examples and very shy of a complete list:

Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters: Easily the best known of the post-TMNT parodies and knowing ripoffs, ARBBH also managed to outlast pretty much everyone else – which is less of an accomplishment when you recall that almost every other TMNT parody disintegrated after a single issue. Replacing the Renaissance artists with action heroes, the Hamsters in question were a quartet of anthropomorphic hamsters named after action heroes (Clint, Chuck, Jackie and Bruce). Following a catastrophic expedition into the atmosphere aboard a NASA space vessel, the mutated hamsters return to Earth by way of a Tibetan lamasery, wherein they learn their martial skills. They also managed to run into The Heap, the Eclipse Comics-retrieved public domain monster character which preceded a couple later lookalikes of its own.

Credit where credit is due, ARBBH (also the name of Arby’s after the apocalypse leaves only beast-men roaming the Earth) managed to maintain its focus on broad parody rather than clearly trying to tap the popularity vein of the Turtles, which is more than you can say for basically all of children’s cartoon programming throughout the 90s.

Geriatric Gangrene Jiujitsu Gerbils: The creation of Tony Basilicato starts off with protesting too much, although that’s always entertaining. Keenly aware of the possible accusation that he was merely ripping off the successful TMNT franchise along with everyone else, he pens a foreword to the first issue insisting that it is very much not the case, assuming your definition of “ripoff” isn’t the one commonly found in English. “I’m setting it straight right now,” he insists in the interior cover, “I ripped off NO-ONE! I ASKED permission!” Now, merely having received the blessing of Eastman and Laird (“They said ‘Go for it!’”) doesn’t mean it’s not a rip-off, you know. “Not getting sued” shouldn’t be the standard to which we aspire as creators.

The Geriatric Gerbils are Codger, Duffer and Zeke, retired crimefighters returning after three decades to protect a beleaguered city. As for the further success of the GGJG, there wasn’t any, which is apparently fine by Basilicato: “Why don’t we all just give it a break” he says of the constant reiterations of the TMNT theme, “I have a feeling, if we don’t stop, we will become the authors of the world’s first cosmically contrived, incredibly atomic, radioactive, mutated, kamikaze toilet paper!” Um, stirring words for an author’s introduction to his own work. Way to set the bar.

Pre-Teen Dirty Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos: This affectionate take on the premise by underground cartoonist Lee Marrs also bears the stamp of approval from Peter Laird, up to and including a cameo appearance of Donatello apparently provided by the fella. Marrs’ wider satire is aimed at the Eighties in general – her pre-teen kangaroo protagonists (Meep, Kayo, Matsu Mike, Mr.K and Snurfette) manage to cram in references to every present 80s phenomenon from Dove Bars and the eco movement to Cabbage Patch Kids and New Wave. A thinly disguised Reuben Flagg (of Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg) shows up as the Kangaroos’ mentor, although Chaykin didn’t get to draw that guy. What a scene.

While the PTDGKFKs are an affectionate take on the TMNT model, it’s worth mentioning that publisher Blackthorne released an issue of its series Laffin’ Gas with more of a mix, including the Pre-Teen Dirty Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, as well as the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters and newcomers the Colossul (sic) Nuclear Bambino Samurai Snails, the Adolescent (whoops, two point demerit for a repeat!) Maniacal Samurai Hares and the Radioactive Wrestling Rodents, the last of which apparently accepts comers of all ages.

Additionally not covered in this article were the Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung-Fu Gophers, the Cold-Blooded Chameleon Commandos, and the Na├»ve Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas,  not to mention near-misses like The Power Pachyderms, Karate Kreatures, Guerilla Groundhog, Cyborg Gerbils, and the Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes which I’m sure you know weren’t actual foxes and also was an abomination.

1 comment:

Clint the Cool Guy said...

Gone but not forgotten! I've just started an Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt hamster fan site where I hope to eventually review every issue! (hohamsters.blogspot.com)

Nice article. I have (and have enjoyed) most of these comics. I think ARBBH is the best of the lot, by far!

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