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When Fans Do It Better

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We are in an era of constant remakes and sequels. Everything old is new again, and aging properties, from the popular to the obscure, keep getting new life. Sometimes, this is good, such as in the case of Star Trek‘s film reboot and the revival of British TV favorite Doctor Who. But for every win, there are plenty of losers, such as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, and, perhaps most egregious, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, currently in theaters.

I grew up a TMNT fan. Not the original comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, which the purist worships, but the hokey cartoon and live-action films with guys in costumes. Perhaps these properties don’t hold up today, but they were beloved to me. As one of four brothers, at one point we boys all had pajamas in the design of each of the turtles as befitting our personalities, more or less (I was Donatello, the geeky, peace-maker, brain). We enjoyed their sarcastic humor and not-so-realistic fighting skills, playing with their action figures, and endlessly copying them for hours. And I got dragged to the 2007 animated movie, which is actually pretty cool.

TMNT 2014I understand that the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not be for me. After all, if the previous efforts, beloved by young me, aren’t any good on a re-watch from an older perspective, they could very well be in the same vein as what Nickelodeon is doing with the property today, now with Michael Bay-explosions, giant plot holes, inconsistent characters, and Megan Fox trying to act, the latter not as bad as expected, but still far from good. It’s painful to watch something from my childhood destroyed by such an awful film, which I groaned and suffered through recently. The fact that the movie is making loads of money at the box office only rubs salt in the wound.

The thing is, while I only enjoyed the for-kids version of the story, one of my oldest and best pals, podcaster and webcomic author Nick Arganbright, is and long has been pretty obsessed with the comics, so I did eventually read them. They are sharply written with a distinctive, unique style. They may not be my cup of tea, but I respect them from the quality they clearly exhibit, and it’s a shame they’ve been bastardized so badly.

Now, while Hollywood may not always be faithful to the source material, the Internet has provided a place for fans to go and remake the series in their own way, distributing it to others who share their interest. Fan-faction has been around for a very long time, but seems to be much more prevalent today, and easier to get a hold of. Some of it is great, much of it is crap, and almost none of it is blessed by the original creator, which makes the ethics of it questionable and a genre I typically stay away from it.

However, every once in awhile, some fan boy gets it right more so than the official entity in charge of the franchise. Nick, whom I mentioned above who loves TMNT, has an effort called Ultimate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it’s good! It fits the spirit and personalities of the old comics extremely well, capturing the essence that the producers in charge now get so wrong. Speaking with those who care more for the original stuff than I do, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Nick writes the script and pays artist Eryck Webb to draw the pages, and he gets to see what he dreams of for his favorite series, regardless of whether or not a studio or publisher will ever make it good again.

Ultimate Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe question is, should he be allowed to do this? And should more take up the cause for their own favorites? That’s hard to say. I have no problem with people wanting to let their imaginations run free, and even using already established characters and universes. This helps the mind develop story-telling skills, and can be a step to making up your own works as you analyze the positives and negatives, learning from what the ‘real’ version gets right and wrong.

But, in this particular case, which is a rarity, what this author is doing seems so much better and more true than other fan-fiction. Nickelodeon dropped the ball, and he picked it up and hit a grand slam with it. Obviously, he cannot profit from someone else’s ideas, and he’s not trying to, mindful of the law. But when some guy in a basement can write it better, shouldn’t he be permitted to do so?

The main problem here is not that UTMNT exists; any fan of the Teenage Mutant Turtles should be glad to find it. The problem is sorting through all the junk out there to find the gem. And the other problem is that our current system doesn’t always mean that best minds get to make the decision, which results in the obscenity that is currently in theaters. I don’t know how to solve such issues, but when there’s an example this glaring, it certainly highlights what’s broken. I guess it’s up to you to decide for yourself if Nick and others like him are a possible solution and should be promoted as such.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com