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Mongoose Mike
07-10-2016, 08:49 AM
Hey folks, here's another one of my essays if anyone is curious to give it a read. This one is a bit shorter, but is pretty relevant to the recent issue, #59. Sorry I took a week off, especially between my first and second essay, but last weekend was the 4th and you know how busy that can get. I'll be back next week with "Is Leo the Boring Turtle?" In the meantime we have...

Shredder and the Epic Cycle

The Shredder has an interesting place amongst comic book villains. Across nearly every variation of the TMNT, one of his defining moments has always been his death. He may come back to life at some point, but eventually he stays dead and the story marches on. Characters, both good and evil, returning from the dead take a cue from the Epic Cycle. I would not say this is exception enough to warrant an essay in other forms of the turtle media or other comics. An X-Man drops dead like, every other freaking week, but there aren’t enough elements of the Epic Cycle within those stories to bother making a fuss about. Likewise, IDW’s TMNT has elements of the Hero’s Journey, but it’s not a significant enough relationship to bother writing 600+ words. However, as far as IDW and the Epic Cycle is concerned, there is more than a passing similarity.

The Epic Cycle gets its name from, well, the epics: The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Beowulf, and Paradise Lost. Most fantasies, such as LOTR, borrow heavily from the Epic Cycle, and certain computer games do similar work. (Myth: The Fallen Lords is a great example if you were gaming in the late 90’s. Dragon Age also counts, though I can’t recommend anything after Origins.) The two traits of an Epic Cycle that we are most concerned with in this essay are the grand span of time and the cyclical return of evil. Basically, if a story is an Epic Cycle it needs to be about many generations, and there needs to be both good phases and evil phases throughout.

IDW’s TMNT covers a grand span of time, all the way back to the prehistoric era, but this essay is going to be concerned with the Feudal Japan and present day settings. The story of the turtles really begins with Tatsuo Takeshi, who is introduced as the leader of the Feudal Foot Clan in Secret History of the Foot Clan. Conflict over control of the Foot Clan, whether they ought to be a force of good or evil, continues for generations, through Oroku Maji and Masato, to Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi, and finally arriving in the present day. So yes, like the epics mentioned above, the turtles and the fate of the Foot Clan have been at stake for many generations.

The Epic Cycle absolutely needs to also include cycling between good and evil, which IDW also does. The Foot originally start in an evil period under Tatsuo’s demonic leadership, but Oroku Maji and Masato kill Tatsuo, thus beginning a period of light and good. Unfortunately, Maji’s son, Saki, believes that he is the reincarnation of Tatsuo, and continues his legacy, seizing power in the Foot Clan, thus beginning a period of evil once again. Notably, the Hamato family is murdered during this phase. Following this, Saki commits suicide, thus restoring the world to a period of light, although Kitsune’s ooze concoction ensures Saki’s immortality and guarantees the world will once again fall under darkness. Finally, when Shredder is killed on the rooftop in #50, the world moves to a period of light once more.

Epics tend to focus on this cycle of light and darkness (Especially Beowulf and Paradise Lost.) In an epic, the forces of darkness return repeatedly, even if they are defeated. Ultimately, the cycle of good and evil must be broken through special or atypical means. Whether that means killing Grendel’s mother or throwing a ring into Mt. Doom is determined by the setting or scope of the story, but in IDW’s TMNT killing is such a common way to move between phases of good and evil that we can safely rule out Shredder’s defeat in #50 as his final end (and #59 more or less guarantees that we have not seen the last of him.) Shredder’s death has only perpetuated the cycle, not ended it.

Obviously, something is going on with Oroku Saki’s remains. This view of the comic is simply a means to explain why. It seems that the Shredder will return again at some point, and simply killing him again won’t be enough. To end the cycle, like Beowulf or Paradise Lost, his vanquishing will require something more, something special, but what that something special is will be up to IDW, and it excites the hell out of me. We are indeed reading a true Turtle Epic, in the classical sense of the word.

Speedy Cerviche
07-10-2016, 08:56 AM
Very interesting. I am also very excited to see if and when Shredder is brought back for this universe of TMNT. I love how Oroku Saki is like a Michael Myer's type in that he always comes back in pretty much every tmnt medium at least once.

Mongoose Mike
07-10-2016, 10:38 AM
Very interesting. I am also very excited to see if and when Shredder is brought back for this universe of TMNT. I love how Oroku Saki is like a Michael Myer's type in that he always comes back in pretty much every tmnt medium at least once.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure he dies in every medium except Archie and Fred Wolf. He was supposed to stay dead in Mirage after issue #1, but according to the artobiography, Laird saw a late night documentary about worms taking on the traits of the things they had eaten. He thought the idea so wild that he and Eastman used it for a Return of the Shredder plot line. This was really significant, because it broke their "death is permanent" rule. The rule and the "Shredder One-Time Exemption" are part of what makes the turtles great.

Raptor86
07-11-2016, 08:53 AM
My question goes beyond the scope of the essay, but:

How can a Ninja Clan be "good"?

ProphetofGanja
07-11-2016, 09:46 AM
[QUOTE=Mongoose Mike;1599898]Unfortunately, Maji’s son, Saki, believes that he is the reincarnation of Tatsuo, and continues his legacy, seizing power in the Foot Clan, thus beginning a period of evil once again.

I find the way you phrased that interesting. Do you not think he is the reincarnation of Tatsuo? Kitsune definitely seems to think so, unless of course she's just manipulating mortals for her own ends... But it would seem that she actually has feelings for Shredder/Tatsuo, based on her reaction to comments Splinter made to her in one of the most recent issues

Panda_Kahn_fan
07-11-2016, 10:36 AM
My question goes beyond the scope of the essay, but:

How can a Ninja Clan be "good"?

Because the idea of Ninja being gritty assassins is a western idea created by Frank Miller, with no bearing on actual shinobi, or ninja from Japanese folklore.


Ninjas (Shinobi) are not assassins, they are commandos, saboteurs, and spies for hire, who occasionally performed assassinations. To the undertrod hemin peasant who was enslaved by an evil Daiymio that the ninja spied on and helped take down, they are indeed heroes. Also, Japanese folklore abounds with ninja that are heroes, like Ishakawa Goemon. Modern japanese pop culture has the Kakurangers (MMPR Season 3 ) Hurricangers (Ninjas Storm), and niningers (Ninja steel)- ninjas HEROES with no trace of assasination or evil in them, guardians and protectors.

Panda_Kahn_fan
07-11-2016, 11:17 AM
very nice essay, I like your points and comparisons to the other great cycles of western literature, like beowulf. And like those cycles, TMNT is a cycle that has been told many times, a different way each time.

Mongoose Mike
07-11-2016, 10:17 PM
I find the way you phrased that interesting. Do you not think he is the reincarnation of Tatsuo? Kitsune definitely seems to think so, unless of course she's just manipulating mortals for her own ends... But it would seem that she actually has feelings for Shredder/Tatsuo, based on her reaction to comments Splinter made to her in one of the most recent issues

I'll be honest, I have only read Mark's reviews of the last few issues over at tmnt entity. I need to get a subscription, even if I prefer reading in trades.

Also, I'm glad you caught that. I could really see it going either way. It would make sense that Saki is Tatsuo, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if Shredder has had some bizarre illusions of grandeur. The more I think about it the less I like it, though.

Raptor86
07-12-2016, 02:11 AM
Ninjas (Shinobi) are not assassins, they are commandos, saboteurs, and spies for hire, who occasionally performed assassinations.

But for what I read the actual Ninja clans like Iga and Koga ones, were like mercenaries hired by warlords to do special operations. So, they were like...neutral. I mean "good" or "evil" could be attached to the tasks the clients wanted them to do.
Of course they could refuse to do "bad" actions, like killing unarmed peasant...

But this makes me wonder on how ithe foot clan is managed under Hamato Yoshi at the moment...are they still relying on the affairs Shredder and Karai did? Are they offering protection for money? How can they sustain such a vast organization without external jobs?

Panda_Kahn_fan
07-12-2016, 01:54 PM
True, neutral is the best way you could use to describe them. But I hate people comparing them to assassins all the time- mercenary commandos is a better comparison.