View Full Version : How IDW Changed the Dynamic of the Turtles

Mongoose Mike
06-26-2016, 05:31 PM
This is the first in a series of essays about IDW’s TMNT comic that I’m currently working on. I wanted to give it an audience and see some feedback, so I thought the Technodrome forums would be a great place to do that. Some of them will be a little heavy on lit concepts. A unifying theme will be about change: how and what IDW has done and must do to keep the turtles fresh and protect them from stagnating.

How IDW Changed the Dynamic of the Turtles

One of the greatest strengths of the IDW comic series is how so many characters have been repurposed and revised in daring and exciting ways. Rocksteady and Bebop are usually the first to come to mind; they still retain some of their humor and fun from the Fred Wolf days, but they’ve become violent, terrifying, and deceivingly competent (sometimes.) And they’re just the top of the iceberg! Slash, Hun, Baxter (finally, a Baxter good enough to not be mangled or mutated,) the freaking Neutrinos, the list of great revamps goes on and on.

Perhaps the most significant revamp of characterization, though, has been the dynamic of the turtles themselves. IDW has done what large publishers like DC and Marvel can’t do, and changed the core characters. They are still recognizable, but a shift in their personalities changes the entire way they work with one another.

To help explain these changes, I want to introduce a concept that I am sure many of you are familiar with already: The Four Temperament Ensemble. This is a grouping of four characters who are each a distinct combination of either introverted or extroverted, and people-oriented or task-oriented. In the case of the turtles, the extroverts are Michelangelo and Raphael, with Mikey being the people-oriented one and Raph the task-oriented one. Their roles have largely stayed the same in the IDW comic. However, Leonardo and Donatello have seen a significant change. They are the introverts, with Don being the people-oriented turtle while Leo is more task oriented. But in the IDW comic, Leo has become much more focused on people and Donatello on tasks.

Put more simply, Don has abandoned the sensitive nerd role and has really embraced being a results-driven scientist. Leo, on the other hand, is still a spiritual warrior-type, but the emphasis has changed from being a warrior to being a spiritualist. This shift in roles opens up a whole bevy of opportunities for characterization, because this doesn’t just affect Leo and Don; it affects how all characters interact with them, most significantly Mike and Raph.

Issue #16 provides a really sharp example of this. The turtles are in a throwdown against Slash, and it’s not going well. They don’t want to kill Slash, but Don and Raph see it as a necessity if they want to make it out the fight alive. Other versions of Don are sensitive pacifists that would have abhorred taking a life, but not IDW Don. To him, he sees a logical conclusion, a big picture, and it doesn’t end well for somebody involved, either them or Slash. Easy choice in his mind, I’m sure. This is also why Don is focused on the large scale problem of the Technodrome later in the series. It’s not because the Technodrome is a machine and Don loves machines, but rather because by all logical means Krang and the Technodrome pose a larger threat than the Foot Clan. The personal war against Shredder just doesn't mean that much to him.

Meanwhile in the fight against Slash, Leo rules out killing their foe. He refuses to take the life of another individual, which is fitting considering the added emphasis on his spirituality. This increases the dramatic effect when it seems Leo has indeed killed Slash. At the end of the issue, Splinter even summarizes the changes to Leo’s character to Don and Raph. The perceived death of Slash weighs harder on Leo and Mike because they are the more empathic, people-oriented turtles. This change continues to run throughout the story. It causes the Northampton arc to have more gravity; Leo is now such a cerebral character that he can’t help but question the betrayal in City Fall, and it weighs more heavily on him than it would Don.

These changes have certainly been noticed by readers. In his review of issue #16, Mark Pellegrini of TMNT Entity wrote his hesitation about Don’s change in characterization, and understandably so. This version of Donatello is definitely not the same as in the 1990 film, where he is laid back, funny, and extremely emotionally intelligent. This makes me sad because the Donatello of the 1990 film is one of my favorite representations of any turtle, ever. Likewise, this Leonardo may not be quite the heroic badass he is in the Mirage comics, where he duels Shredder and decapitates him because he is the only turtle that is skilled and heroic enough to do it (not that the other turtles aren’t brave, but Mirage Leo is sort of the hero of those comics. Eastman and Laird even admitted as much.)

However, I think these changes have been and will continue to be worth it. IDW’s Leo and Mike, with their people-oriented personalities, feel like they suddenly have more in common beyond the big/little brother dynamic, which was desperately needed and should be explored more. Don has taken a bite into Raph’s role as the foil to Leo’s leadership, which Raph also really needed; it has allowed Raph’s loner traits to be played up. This is certainly refreshing since he’s been shackled to the role of arguing with Leo over leadership for far, far too long.

A lot of what I’ve written should be taken with a grain of salt. I don’t mean to imply that Raph and Don don’t care about people; Raph cared a lot in City Fall when Casey was impaled, and Don has developed a strong personal connection with the Fugitoid and Harold Lilja. Also, Leo and Mike can sometimes see the big picture, too; Leo essentially admitted Don is right about the greater threat of the Technodrome off-page during New Mutant Order, and Mike is the one to tell Raph to think about the big picture, about how they saved the world from the Technodrome, when it seems that Don is dead. The characters can push against the boundaries of their roles, but generally speaking, they fit in along the lines discussed earlier.

IDW has to constantly seek out new ways to tell the TMNT story. The potential with the IDW dynamic amongst the turtles is through the roof. I am absolutely salivating for “team-up” issues or even arcs that focus on just two of the turtles together to show off their dynamics with one another. Mike and Leo are focused on a plot about loyalty to Splinter’s Foot Clan while Raph and Don accidently get teleported by the Fugitoid to a Triceraton prison world or something, I dunno. Unfortunately, the book has become a little too crowded and the turtles have suffered because of it, but hopefully the new Universe ongoing allows more page time for the turtles so we can keep learning about them and their exciting shift in personalities.


Thanks for taking the time to read. I’d love to hear thoughts and comments. I’ll be back next week with the second essay, “Shredder and the Epic Cycle”!

06-26-2016, 05:56 PM
Dude! this is great! Although my one problem is that the paragraphs are a bit too short, I suggest you put some together for a not so split type of essay. Great job dude!

06-26-2016, 06:48 PM
This is pretty great. I'm definitely looking forward to more. I myself have been wanting to construct my own essays, namely on how the "family" motif works here. Namely, in the loss/fallout of family in most of the characters, and how they're reestablished later. Or never get a chance for reestablishment, in Krang's case. Love and loss is another...again, in the family department.

I love how Don is a "big picture" thinking, as you've pointed out, and this comes into play again when he's frustrated that no one sees the threat the Technodrome poses like he does.

***First of Two Latin Kings***
06-27-2016, 10:46 AM
I wrote at least one draft of an essay about the CGI 2007 Movie turtles (now somewhat obsolete) and anytime I've ever focused on writing critically about the TMNT, I've focused on archetypes more so than anything else. The interesting thing about the TMNT is that they are all capable of a ting like one another across the board; in the Palladium story Road Hogs, where Raphael is the clan leader for a group of mutant turtles, he is more like Leo; in TMNT III, Raphael's interactions with Yoshi make him resemble Mike (he has much more trouble warming up to Keno in TMNT II or any of the kids in the 4Kids show).

To be more existential for lack of a better word, all universes are derived from Turtle Prime, the Mirage universe, but the turtles don't come straight out of their counterparts always, sometimes they are amalgams of multiple black and white brothers.

07-11-2016, 08:51 AM
What a nice read! I like it!

Mongoose Mike
07-11-2016, 10:22 PM
What a nice read! I like it!

Thank you kindly!

07-11-2016, 10:45 PM
Haha it's funny Raph and Don are on the same page in this universe when it's certainly not the case in Mirage.

Mongoose Mike
07-12-2016, 08:35 AM
Haha it's funny Raph and Don are on the same page in this universe when it's certainly not the case in Mirage.

Agreed. It takes me back to being a kid, when Archie had Future Raphael and Future Donatello together, and my older brother and I always played as Raphael and Donatello in TMNT 3 on the nes.

07-17-2016, 09:28 AM
Haha it's funny Raph and Don are on the same page in this universe when it's certainly not the case in Mirage.

I've always loved the Don/Raph dynamic, especially in Archie with the future arc as was brought up above.

You are a good writer and bring up sound observations. You also make me realize why I prefer Michelangelo in this series. 1990 Donatello is also my absolute favorite representation of him, or any Turtle for that matter. But IDW Don has never quite been my cup of tea. I like the more sensitive, less in your face scientist type. IDW Don deviates *too much* from the other sources, while Michelangelo, on the other hand, strikes me as a perfect amalgam of all other versions of Michelangelo (and then some).

Looking forward to reading more in the future.

07-22-2016, 11:17 PM
very fun and entertaining read. :)

and i completely agree that the IDW Tmnt series was getting a bit overcrowded.
the Turtles were starting to feel like guest stars of their OWN series!!!
Tmnt Universe just can't come soon enough.

Zak The Neutrino
07-24-2016, 10:57 PM
Very nice write up. You bring up a couple things I never really thought about but completely agree with you on.

I really love the IDW series. One of my favorite TMNT media of all of them!