Tag Archives: TMNT

I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Gamer & Other Strangeness

Recently while organizing one of my bookshelves I found myself reminiscing over a stack of my old RPG game books.  I haven’t gamed in well over a decade and a half, but I’ve clung to the various modules, rulebooks and expansions because I spent so much time pouring over them I can’t imagine not having them around.  I first discovered table-top gaming as a dorky teen.  My father had just recently moved our family across country twice within a year and I felt disconnected from everything save what was going on in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine.  It was the end of 1990, and having just turned thirteen I was also caught up in the whirlwind hype of another group of “teens”, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, thanks to becoming slightly obsessed with the first live action film that was released in theaters earlier that year.  I was basically living exclusively through and for the fantasy worlds of cartoons, movies and comics having had to leave my friends and sister in Florida, and then not even getting a chance to connect with any other kids while I was up north for 9 months.  Our family ended up putting down roots just outside of Atlanta and after scouting out a local comic store where I could get my monthly sequential art fix I began to feel at home.  At the time comics were my lifeline for sure…

AmazingSpider-Man328It wasn’t long after that I was enrolled in the local middle school, finally starting my eighth grade year of school about three weeks late.  I spent my bonus summer vacation time in an extended-stay suite while our family was waiting for our new house to be finished being built, and I was suffering from terrible case of cabin fever and feeling utterly disconnected from other kids.  Though normally an extreme introvert, when I first started riding the bus to my new school I was kind of dying to break out of my shell and meet some new kids.  One afternoon I was sitting alone behind two guys that were having an animated conversation about comics.  I wish I could remember exactly what they were talking about (if I had to guess it was probably McFarlane’s art on issue 328 of the Amazing Spider-Man featuring the “Mr. Fixit” grey Hulk), but whatever it was I was so happy to have found some other comic readers that I did something I had never done before.  I butted myself into the conversation telling them all about my comic collection and how one of my favorite comics was issue 8 of Wolverine that also featured a guest appearance by Mr. Fixit.

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I offered to bring in doubles I had for that issue for both of them the next day, and thus started a friendship with a group of local misfits that lasted all through high school and college.  It wasn’t long after this that they introduced me to another friend of theirs and before I knew it we’d sort of formed a tight nit group of four, like the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan, or more appropriately, the TMNT.  We all watched the Fred Wolf cartoon and had a smattering of action figures, but after a chance encounter with another local teen on the bus that winter we were introduced to the glue that would keep our little cadre together for years to come, the core rulebook for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness…

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There was a couple of older kids that were a grade ahead of us (in high school!) that we kind of knew and traded comics with occasionally and one day they brought the above book on the bus and it kind of blew our 8th grade minds.  I think we’d all heard of Dungeons & Dragons, but none of us was really all that into high fantasy and never contemplated that there might be role playing games that were outside of that genre, let alone based on a comic/cartoon series that we all liked.  Within the week all four of us had manged to secure copies of the main book and we were all on the lookout for sets of non-standard dice so we could start creating characters and figure out how to play this game.  I remember bugging my parents relentlessly to find a place where I could get some role playing dice, and after consulting the phone book I found a store in a ritzy mall 30 miles away called the Sword of the Phoenix that specialized in stocking all sorts of dice and game books.  That weekend we made the trek out and I bought my first two sets of clear gem dice (one purple and one blue.)  I only have a couple of these left in my collection (two four-sided) that you can see below…

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Looking back this entirety of the experience is kind of a blur, but for about three or four years we had a standing Saturday gaming session that rotated between a handful of our houses.  Typically these involved a metric ton of Cheetos, Cool Ranch Doritos, white cheddar Smartfood popcorn, yellow vanilla Zingers, and gallons upon gallons of store-brand soda.  At the time these weekend meetups seemed so epic in scale.  We’d all take turns acting as the gamemaster, writing what we thought were magnum opus stories to test the intelligence and mettle if our group, though in reality only a couple of us were semi-decent at running the campaigns (certainly not me) and the rest of us were more concerned with equipping our characters with stuff and jukeing up their abilities.

The basic concept of TMNT & Other Strangeness is creating mutant animal characters that exist in same world of Eastman & Laird’s creations.  It’s sort of like combining the A-Team and the Turtles, where the game master creates environments for a group of characters to have an adventure in.  I say the A-Team because the game is sort of geared towards creating mercenary-like characters in battle-torn militant environments.  It didn’t help that we all read comics like the X-Men and were well versed in the Star Wars universe, so when we wrote stories they tended up feature a tyrannical villain with hordes of nameless soldiers put in the story specifically for our characters to annihilate.

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It’s actually funny that we ended up playing as long as we did as we all kind of sucked at the core concepts of role playing.  We all tended to try and shoehorn the play into a more hack and slash video game experience, and we very rarely worked together as a team no matter how hard we tried.  When it was all said and done, each of us was way more interested in creating a whole bunch of characters, outfitting them, and doodling pictures of them, rather than actually playing them in a game.  It wouldn’t be until a few years later when we all made the switch from the Palladium gaming system (the publisher of TMNT and other games like Robotech and After the Bomb) to the more story-oriented system published by White Wolf (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, etc.) that we’d evolve a bit.

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In fact, it got so bad in our group that we all became game-lawyers, spending hours debating and arguing over rule and character creation minutia.  All of our copies of the core rule book were heavily underlined, with highlighted passages and notes in the margins.  We probably spent more time arguing than we did gaming, yet it still kept us regularly meeting up and “playing” for years.  Over time we also drafted other friends into playing with us, and at one point there was about 10 of us rotating in and out of the group.  The fighting between the group became so fever pitched that it eventually came to a head and it formed a schism between the founding four members and we split the group in two to play separately, complete with spying between the two factions and a whole bucket-load of hurt feelings.

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I hate to admit it but at the end of the day we all sucked at role playing.  Even so, I wouldn’t have changed a single second of the experiences I had being a part of that group of friends.  When I look aback at these books now I get a visceral sense of what I felt like at the time, a mix of heady nostalgia and fear that I’ll have to try and create a campaign all on my own again!  I also fondly remember what it was like finding a group of friends and what it felt like to be included.  To have our own little clique where it was us against everyone else.  Back when we first started hanging out we all chose one of the Turtles as our mascot.  Over the years my recollection of who picked who was kind of hazy, and I would have sworn that I picked Donatello since he’s my favorite character.  But while flipping through my copy of the book last night I was greeted by some very awesome notes that were scribbled in the book that reminded me that I was totally a Raphael guy…

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Just four geeky teens against the world.

 

Thrashor is the Master of the Radical Universe

So this summer has probably been the most insane I’ve dealt with in a very long time, mostly of my own doing. Not bad stuff per-se, just crazy happenings going on behind the scenes that have me scrambling and changing things up all over the place. That being said, I feel like I’m finally getting back to being on an even keel and will hopefully be back to being a more productive website writer/maintenance/person guy. Or whatever.

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So, first things first, I wanted to write a bit about some of the super rad stuff I’ve picked up over the last few months. In particular I’ve been meaning to write about 8 Bit Zombie’s last merchandise drop, the one I mentioned a few posts down. I was really excited to see the new crop of T-Shirts, Hats, and swag, but in particular there were a couple items that really knocked me for a loop. Spinning off the popularity of the themed Power Packs (that I raved about awhile back), 8BZ head honcho Ross and his talented artists put together a really cool Garbage Pail Kid inspired pack Garbage Bag!

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Featuring four die-cut stickers GPK style stickers, a random giant print, a large scale “create your own” sticker set, and a collector pin, this $15 package is a love letter to pop culture and Garbage Pail Kids nostalgia. For folks like me who have a mostly complete vintage GPK run, these rad homages are the perfect way to both celebrate and add the collection. In fact, I could easily see myself buying a whole 40-card set of these inspired sticker cards.

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The coup de grace from this past drop though, is 8 Bit Zombie’s first toy, Thrashor, an amazing collaboration between owner Ross, artist Matthew Skiff, Shinbone Creative and True Cast Studio. Thrashor is totally the master of the radical universe made from solid slime-green resin. Based on last year’s Masters of the Universe inspired T-Shirt design, the figure features zero points of articulation, and yet he still manages to be a way better skater than I ever was.

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Not only is this a rad MOTU-inspired inaction figure, but there are a lot of fun little details that I really love including his Power Glove gauntlet and his super cool 8-bit Skeletor skateboard.

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Though the figure sold out of its first production run super quick, fret not as he’ll be back in a new edition soon.

I am a pretty huge fan of what Ross and artists like Matthew Skiff are creating over at 8BZ, pulling the nostalgia heart strings while providing all sorts of cool clothing, gear, swag, and now toys. I’m pretty sure the next step is world domination.

TMNT memories, or tapping into my absurd inner Michelangelo…

Digging through a box of keepsakes this morning I stumbled upon a couple fun Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles items.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that cartoon and comic recently what with the new Nickelodeon series, Playmates toy line, and my near obsession with locating and snapping pictures of all the new Turtles merchandise in stores.  It certainly is a great time to love being a Turtle again.  Below is one of my favorite drawings as it was one of the first times I actually sat down and tried my damnedest to draw something that was truly fridge-worthy as a kid.  This is from 1988.  I was laying in bed sick and I had a stack of comic books and the first VHS release of the TMNT cartoon to keep me company.  I’m 99.9% sure I copied this Michelangelo drawing from the cover art on the VHS tape…

I was so happy with the outcome that I seriously considered sending it in to the local news station who would post art on the 5:30 news from local kids.  In the end I greedily hung onto it fearing that it wouldn’t be accepted and I wouldn’t have the magnificence of the drawing to bask in.  I was so proud of drawing all the links in the chain on his nunchucks.  Note, because the cover artwork from the VHS didn’t have the full body of the Turtles on it, I had to improvise and I totally put Mikey in the swamp.  Also, quarter sun in the top corner for the childhood drawing win!

The other treasure I uncovered was this home-made button I constructed out of a bored French Class doodle from 1993.  Our language teacher was a huge fan of drawings and art and would give tons of extra credit points for doing little art projects like making button and junk.  A friend and I managed to get a pretty decent grade in the first semester by wallpapering the room with out goofy drawings featuring our inane French witticisms.  This button roughly translates to “The Eggs are helping.”  How absurdly funny I thought I was being at the time…

Also, as a postscript to this, you know the new cartoon is a hit when you start seeing displays like this one popping up in stores…

Just playing with some toys…

Been rearranging the toys on my bookshelves in Branded HQ.  Though I don’t have a ton of vintage 80s stuff, there is a little bit peppered in with the more or less retro themed toys…

Some of my favorites are the Transformers Classics Jetfire (just a great toy all around), the new Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my Weaponeers of Monkaa Crystar custom build, and my ginormous Mumm-Ra who is currently the king of my collection…

What are some of your favorite toys?