In This Episode
On this episode of X-Ray Vision, Jason Concepcion and Rosie Knight grab a slice and hit the sewers! In Strike Watch, they discuss some of the latest in Hollywood’s ongoing summer of strikes. In the Airlock (7:40) Jason and Rosie dive deep (deeep) into TMNT: Mutant Mayhem. In a return to the Omnibus (25:29), Jason and Rosie explore TMNT’s origins and philosophical implications. Then in Nerd Out (45:05) a listener query about being a fly on the wall.
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Jason Concepcion Warning. This podcast contains spoilers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem. Turtle power. Hello, my name is Jason Concepcion.
Rosie Knight And I’m Rosie Knight.
Jason Concepcion And welcome to X-ray Vision, the Crooked Media podcast, where we dive deep into your favorite shows, movies, comics and pop culture.
Rosie Knight In this episode, starting with Strike Watch. Got to keep you updated. Some wild news dropped just before we started recording, and we’re happy to drop before so we can talk about it. In the Airlock, it’s the oozy, gooey delights of TNT Mutant Mayhem. It’s so good, but don’t get milked,.
Jason Concepcion Don’t get milked, folks.
Rosie Knight Don’t get milked guys. And in Nerd Out, a question about fly on the wall conversations.
Jason Concepcion Coming up next, Strike Watch.
Rosie Knight Strike Watch.
Jason Concepcion It was announced today, Monday, August 7th, that the workers at Marvel, the VFX workers at Marvel, about 50 on set employees have voted to unionize. Joining IATSE. The the union that covers some of the the crews that work on sets, television sets, movie sets. And the workers are asking for an election for union positions to be held as early as August 21st. So this is this is big news now. Of course, there are there are structural structural obstacles. VFX, not just by Marvel Disney, but all the other studios are usually farmed out not only to their in-house craftspeople but to studios around the globe. This, you know, as one a bid for efficiency and also two, to make it harder to unionize. So there’s a long fight that remains ahead of these workers. But this is a development that I think many can and should support.
Rosie Knight Yeah, I think it’s great news. I am really excited for them. It’s going to be hard, but as with so many fights, it starts with one thing that can spread so that I’m being represented by AI at sea and potentially having the election to see if that is possible could be a great way to start thinking about how a wider unionization or labor organization effort could happen even with these separate places, which is kind of what happened with the Video Game Workers Union. It’s something that comics is still thinking about. So I think this is great. I think that, as Chris Lee said at Vulture, on the heels of more than a year’s worth of damning disclosures around Marvel Studios, systematic, overworking and underpayment of visual effects workers, this is to be expected. And I’m very happy that Hot Labor Summer continues. This is really wild that this came out on the same day that it was announced that the L.A. city workers would go on strike next Tuesday for 24 hours, which it’s going to be like the first strike since the eighties. So the strikes keep coming and they don’t stop coming.
Jason Concepcion And to that end, we move to South Korea, where actors in Netflix originals want better pay, reports the LA Times. And the company refuses to meet their union. The believable comes on the heels, of course, of the revelation that the creator of Squid Game whose story increased the valuation of Netflix by a billion, according to some analysts, received in recompense for that No residuals, a salary, but virtually no other ability to share in the massive profits that his story generated for Netflix. And of course, you know, Netflix is often talked about as the streamer that’s best positioned for the current labor actions that are taking place. Right? They see a lot of reality TV. They have like this vast cache.
Rosie Knight International programing.
Jason Concepcion Of programing that comes from international that it’s already banked. That’s like comes from other places around the world, including a heavy reliance on the on the stories that come out of South Korea. And so this would seem to put pressure on that and a welcome development as well.
Rosie Knight Yeah, I think it’s absolutely welcome. I think this is great. It’s the the Korea Broadcasting Act does union. And I just think this is a great, terrible but very prime example of how Netflix views international programing and how they obviously thought this was a space where they could as a resource to be exploited, as a resource to be exploited. I mean, this squid game thing was so shocking because it was an original idea created by Guangdong Cook. And yet when he signed the deal to make it, Netflix took all of the IP in a move that is very similar to what we’ve seen in the comic book industry is a lot rarer in standard traditional publishing or Hollywood. But Netflix, obviously, like you so beautifully put it, Jason saw this as a resource to be exploited in mind rather than a space to support creators. And the fact that Netflix is not getting back to the National Broadcasting Act as union shows a lack of respect, in my opinion, for the work that is being done. But I would very much like to see some kind of labor organization happening in a way that could impact. The way that Netflix is using this programing not only as a way to break the strike or not be affected by it, which is what they’re doing, but also is a way to just let them know, like this content is made by people. It’s not content creators, it’s artists. It’s right as it’s actors, it’s directors, it’s storytellers, it’s production designers, it’s set dressers, it’s all these people that is always getting left behind in this era of like content and content creators. So I just think any movement like this is, is very positive. And I hope that Netflix makes the correct decision here. But let’s be real. In this summer, none of these executive making the correct decision. So I’m not feeling hopeful.
Jason Concepcion That’s correct. Well, you know, like I mean, this is a thing I am not going to dwell on this too long. But this is a this is a structural issue. It’s this is not this is not something that falls at the feet of any of the individual CEOs who run this country, these these companies. This is an issue about how the economics of the space work and tech, which Netflix is a tech company, essentially has long been hostile to unionization efforts. And, you know, that will that will only continue. So we watch this with interest. Up next, TNT Mutant Mayhem and. We’re stepping out of the airlock and into the beautiful, aromatic and juicy sewers of New York City for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem, which opened last weekend and is wonderful.
Rosie Knight Delightful. Ten out of ten. Lovely. Good stuff.
Jason Concepcion I got to say. Before we get into the movie.
Rosie Knight Mm hmm.
Jason Concepcion Who would have? 15 years ago, 18 years ago, whatever it is, who would have picked Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to be like the powerhouses that emerged from Freaks and Geeks?
Rosie Knight Yeah, exactly. And not just that, but also the powerhouses to emerge from Freaks and Geeks to essentially adapt on adaptable comics.
Jason Concepcion And like, multi. Like. Like all around multilayered threats. Obviously, Rogen in front of the camera, behind the camera, writing, producing, Goldberg writing, producing and etc.. But it’s the track record at this point is really, really amazing. And it continues again with the wonderful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem that has their imprint on it with with help scriptwriting help from Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit and director Jeff Rowe but just really really fantastic absolutely distills the what’s kind of like magical about the ninja turtles for a new generation and see listen the the animation style the action is. So unique. I wouldn’t even know how to describe it. How would you describe it?
Rosie Knight I think it it kind of swerves between like looking like somebody’s sketches that you would see in the classroom next to you.
Jason Concepcion Screw kind of look.
Rosie Knight Yeah. And then also a kind of stop motion vibe. I think one of the things that they did that was the coolest is obviously this is a post Spider-verse movie, as we call them, or is influenced by Spider-verse. But I will say I think this is one of the first movies to come out of this wave of post spider-verse movies that it understands where its strengths are, so it doesn’t try to ape spider-verse by doing like 20 different types of animation, which is obviously the part and parcel of what makes those movies so brilliant. Instead, they found one really unique animation style and stuck with it and it feels so enjoyable and it feels raw, but it’s entertaining. There’s this very old school comics thing to it where all of the characters, apart from April O’Neil, who I love, play by the incredible Iota Barry, who we just love so much. But like all of the characters apart from April and the titles are grotesque. The human characters are grotesque, the mutant characters are grotesque. That’s very old school. That’s very Silver Age superhero comics like, Yeah, these characters are monsters, that they’re scary, that weird. But then I love the sense that you have this kind of pure core group of the obviously the four titles. And then you have April, who is just really cool, and I wrote this in my lab box review. But one of the things that I really found quite profound about this movie is there’s a picture I have of me when I was like three years old wearing a nappy holding like a Rafael Flash. And I’ve loved the titles for that long. Same. I loved them when they were cartoons. I love them when they were Playmates, toys. I loved the black and white comics, which when you discover them, when you’re old enough, feel like a revelation compared to what the what they became on the cartoons. I followed them throughout my life. I love people. Ed and Kevin Eastman. Like those are like icons to me of comic book creation. I love the original Jim Henson suit. Movies like I’ve lived through the Michael Bay era, like I’ve seen so many stories with them. And to be here as like a 35 year old and sitting in that thing and able to enjoy the movie and watch the movie and love the movie and feel like they’re like my sweet, annoying cousins who I want to protect, that is like an incredible feeling to grow up with characters and outgrow them but still want to spend time with them. And this really does a great job of putting across the teenage aspect of the TMNT.
Jason Concepcion X-ray Vision, We’ll be back. And we’re back. Yeah. The teenage aspect of the Turtles is front and center. And, you know, Goldberg and Seth Rogen have been pretty outspoken about that being the aspect of these characters that they really want to highlight that they really wanted to drill down on. I think they did it wonderfully. You know, there’s this wonderful moment where the turtles are just coming home after kind of like lingering on the edge of like this outdoor movie showing at Brooklyn Bridge Park. And they come home and dad is kind of like castigating them for like, where have you been? And it’s this wonderful, like, so. Jackie Chan plays Splinter.
Rosie Knight Incredible casting, by the way.
Jason Concepcion Incredible casting. And it creates this layer of like. They really resonated like as the as the child of immigrants of like to have like, you know, like the immigrant parent who’s like, don’t what are you doing? Don’t go. I don’t do this. Like, you know, you’re going to be influenced in bad ways and splinters. Version of that is humans want to kill you. They want to milk you. They want to trap you in a lab somewhere and do experiments on you, all of which is absolutely fair and true.
Rosie Knight It turns out and true.
Jason Concepcion And but after that, you know, after they absorb this this speech from Splinter, they, like, go to their rooms and they’re just like scrolling their phones and like talking about different things that they see on their phones, roasting each other.
Rosie Knight And what they would do.
Jason Concepcion That they would do.
Rosie Knight If they could go out.
Jason Concepcion And it was just really, really wonderful like it. It’s same as you. I’m a long time turtle fan. I remember one of my classmates used to read like, did this happen when you were in school? Like kids would bring for absolutely no reason other than to like, flex in front of the other kids, like kids, which is like bring comics and toys to class. Yeah. When like, oh, basically, you just know that if a teacher sees that, like it’s going to take a while, why is that here? But I, I remember one of my classmates brought in the the black and white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Eastman and Laird book. And I don’t know if it was the first printing or second printing or what issued. I don’t remember what issue it was, but I remember being knocked out by him by the ah, it must have been the first issue because I remember there being I remember the panel that really got me was like, what? You couldn’t really tell them apart. It must, I think it was.
Rosie Knight No, no, they, you can’t tell them apart. It’s black and white. They all wear masks. You can’t really tell.
Jason Concepcion I think it was maybe Raph who said this, but like, it’s a panel they’re fighting. And one of the and and the narration panel is like and we bleed, you know, And they have these little like they have these little scratches, like all over their shells and over all over their skin as like, Holy shit, this is amazing. And I went to the comic bookstore, I couldn’t find it. And then eventually I found it. And then it was definitely weird. So like, I’m of that era where when that cartoon really started hitting, I was like, Well, this is like, so different than the then the black and white version. Um, but it’s wonderful how I think one of the great things about Mayhem is it really combines all of that stuff, like the martial arts, everything. Yeah, the cool martial arts action of like the Eastman and Laird pre colorized run and like the Cowabunga Pizza fun of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the nineties video game era and it distills all of that into something that is really like truly something of its own. I had a great time.
Rosie Knight I thought it was amazing. And I think you bring up a great point. Like I wrote a piece at IGN that was kind of explaining about like this, this will have a, this will be a spoiler. So like, don’t listen if you haven’t seen it, well, actually you can listen because it’s not actually in the movie. It’s just something I know because I’ve read the comics. But there is a the Maya Rudolph character, Cynthia Utrom. She she’s almost certainly Krang. You can do a “we were right” in two years when they announced it because the Utrom but the Utroms are an alien race that are in like the second issue of the black and white comics. Right. And then all your mirror Mayhem characters, the actual mutants, Ray Fillet, a.k.a. Man Ray, you know, gangster.
Jason Concepcion Voiced by Post Malone Yeah.
Rosie Knight Oh, my gosh. He was so good.
Jason Concepcion He was very funny. Jason Derullo. It’s all.
Rosie Knight I know.
Jason Concepcion It’s Post Malone doing a Jason Derulo.
Rosie Knight So and my, you know, introducing Paul Rudd as Mondo get, you know. Yeah. The, Mighty Mutant Animals was, that was a range of Playmates toys when they were really just selling so many. So it really does combine all of the different aspects that make the totes great. You have April O’Neil and she’s Black, which in the original black and white comics she was black. So even that.
Jason Concepcion People forget this.
Rosie Knight They forget this. And, you know, they and that goes back to the original era of the comics. I feel like they did such a brilliant job making it accessible. You know, my nephew loved it. My ten year old nephew, now he’s going back, is watching Rise of the Ninja Turtles. He’s watching the old cartoons and watching all of it. You know, I love that It basically once again created an accessible jumping off point for kids because this is one of the most consistent kids franchises.
Jason Concepcion Yes.
Rosie Knight That has kind of always perennially been there. And I think that’s why it you know, they were they were tracking it. They were like, oh, it’s going to make like 25 million or something. But it ended up being closer, I think. Let’s find the final numbers. I’m I think it was like it was like 45 or 50.
Jason Concepcion On a budget of 70 million, which is. So we’re going to get there. Like clearly this is going to be a moneymaking movie. And I think word of mouth clearly will build.
Rosie Knight Just very delightful. And I love to see it. And I’m very happy at 43 million over five days. And it’s going to have long, long legs like this is a movie that opened well and it’s going to be playing all the way into the fall. It makes me very happy. I love the idea that these kids are going to be able to, you know, find these characters that we love. And I also love. This is the first one where you actually have like, well, you know, the original Jim Henson suit nineties like live action movie. Some of the people who played them were teenagers who voiced them or were in the suits. But this is like kids. Micah Abbey plays.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Rosie Knight Donatello. He is a baby. When I see him in the interviews, I’m like, Oh, my sweet child. And, you know. Shamon Brown Jr., as Michelangelo. Amazing. Nicolas Cantu, the only Leonardo I respect. I’m a Leonardo hater. He is a snitch in this movie, but he learns his ways. And Brandy Noon as Rafael, who is my all time favorite, I’m a Rafael Stan. That’s my of the four humors of the Turtles. I am a Rafael. And like, I just I loved it so much. And you know what else that they understood I think a lot of the modern times that hasn’t understood? And this comes back to what you’re saying in the comics, you couldn’t tell them apart, right, Because they didn’t have the different colored bandanas in the original comics. And then when they did, they had all read bandanas. It was all about personality.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Rosie Knight And I think in the contemporary stuff, me and Nick talk about this a lot, like it became about how do they look different, what gadgets do they have? Like you need to know the weapons now, that’s all still true. And they actually do that in a really fun way here. But the personalities are so defined like you can watch that.
Jason Concepcion So defined.
Rosie Knight Every every kid is going to have a favorite.
Jason Concepcion Who was your you mentioned it but it but expound as to why your turtle was your turtle.
Rosie Knight Okay. So my turtle, I think is, one, when I was a kid, I definitely had that tendency of like thinking like the darker characters were like.
Jason Concepcion Cool, Yeah, I think we all did. I think that’s a very that’s a very pretty like Yeah.
Rosie Knight And, and, and Raph was like the tough guy and he was really complex and he was kind of sad and emo. But he and I will say, out of all the Turtles, I feel like his representation in this movie is, is slightly streamlined, whereas I feel like the others get a really great kind of new elements. But, you know, it’s true. He’s grown. He’s still he’s just a chunky little boy who’s angry. But, you know, I think it really was and this is so dumb, but this is like so defining in my life. I always remember, like in the I used to love all kinds of weird old movies and like, I loved like Cary Grant movies when I was a little kid. And I love pie movies. And I always remember Raphael in the movie wearing like the detective jacket and the hat. And that to me is just one of the coolest visuals. I literally have a reference to that in the new graphic novel I’m writing. Him, The Thing, RoboCop does it, when he first gets transformed. There’s something about that, and I think that for me really cemented it. But I mean, then again, I literally have that picture. I’ll try and find a link to put it in the show notes because it’s really funny. I had that picture of me when I was like a baby and I had Raph, so I don’t know, I guess it was just maybe it was because he was red, you know, when you could.
Jason Concepcion It could be that as well.
Rosie Knight But it’s always throughout my life that’s never changed. In the new movie, I would say Donny’s probably my favorite character. I loved him, but I’m still a Raph. Who’s your turtle?
Jason Concepcion Donatello is my favorite turtle for various reasons. One, you know, you were mentioning what you gravitated to at that stage of your comics reading life? I definitely went. I was like, What is the thing that is not popular? And that’s what I like. And so Donnatello, I mean, they make a joke about it in the movie. He just has a stick, you know, he’s and I was so I was like, That’s cool. That’s like, except that’s accessible. Like, I can go unscrew the head off the broom right now and have the weapon that Donatello has. Plus, he was, like.
Rosie Knight That’s a great call, actually.
Jason Concepcion Yeah. And, like, so I can just be Donatello right now if I just, like, unscrew the broom head. And then he was he was more like he was very adept at technology. He was kind of like the sneakier one and the quieter one. Also, like everybody else was much louder than him. But when he did speak, it was like it seemed to have some weight to it. And then he beat. He was the one. I forget which issue it is. I think it’s the first issue. He’s the guy who beats Shredder like he beats Shredder at the end of the fight. And so I was like, Donatello, that’s my guy I liked. I played him in the video game. He had the longer reach, like you could hit the guys from across the, you know, further across the screen because it’s a longer stick. And so. DONATELLO That’s my guy. And I thought he was wonderful in the movie.
Rosie Knight So good in this. Also, I will say I feel like that’s going to be the most fulfilling turtle to love because he definitely was like the lesser loved one before. But I feel like over the years, everyone who has created a title show or titles movie, they loved Donatello. And then you get to this point where I feel like for me, he was absolutely like the standout of the movie. That must be a fulfilling journey as the fans want to see this character you love get back. And as we learned, he, I believe, is it’s Donatello who is wearing the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure hoodie when they’re going to school. So there is like, this is a movie full of pop culture references, but I actually found it quite charming and it didn’t overwhelm me. I enjoyed I enjoyed the kind of nods and the fact that talking about end game like, sure. And in that universe.
Jason Concepcion I mean, that got huge laughs in the theater. Because that was that particular joke was one that like all the adults and all their kids could enjoy. Yeah, no, that was so funny.
Rosie Knight It’s one of those fun things, I think like the best references, right? They even make you go, Oh, that’s cool. Or they open up your mind to like as storytellers, as people who watch this stuff, as people who write theories, fans, whatever they open your mind to like. Okay, so if the Avengers exists in this universe, is that mean to the universe? Like, what does it mean? And obviously also you get the the moment with the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when they’re like watching it and all they want to do is like, go to high school so they can take over a parade. I love it when you learn something. I love the implication, essentially, that this is our world. Yeah, I think that’s really powerful and I think it’s magical for kids.
Jason Concepcion Tean. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem. In theaters now. Up next, more turtle stuff with an omnibus about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Speaker 3 <AD>
Jason Concepcion Welcome to another chapter of the omnibus. Well, we’re talking about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their origin and their deeper origin. Today, popular art, as we have talked about on this podcast, quite often is a product of a dialog between creativity and commerce. And, you know, there are numerous examples of this, but I think.
Rosie Knight Mm hmm.
Jason Concepcion That when you hear about the history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you’ll come to realize, as I have, that the Turtles now in their fourth decade of sustained martial arts action existence, are perhaps one of the most unique products of this dialog between commerce and creativity created in 1983 by comics fans Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The Turtles, in the best tradition of fan created art, were a barely veiled ode to some of the most popular comics tropes of their day. You’ve heard Rosie talk about this lots of times. From the X-Men came the word mutant. Mutants were big and therefore let’s do something with mutants. Eastman and Laird thought, You know what else was big? Teenagers is or big at this time. The Teen Titans solo title had launched in 1980, and The New Mutants, the offshoot of the X-Men team, that teen team of of young mutants over at Xavier’s Academy just going into the field on their own, had launched contemporaneously with Eastman and Laird, starting to create these characters. Frank Miller’s pioneering run on Daredevil was mined extensively. The Ninja villains. The hand became the Turtles antagonist, The Foot. Miller and artist Klaus Jansen’s gritty, blood drenched martial arts tone was brought over basically intact in that early black and white run. And then, you know, for the kind of highbrow stuff, they turned to the Italian Renaissance with the artists, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo gave our heroes their name in 1984, using a family loan and some cash from a tax return, Eastman and Laird printed 3000 copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Number one under their own Mirage Comics. Banner found it in their living room and with a, you know, a turtle shell and a prayer, they bought an ad in the Comics Buyer’s Guide. Then really the Bible of of how to get comics and how to see what comics were out there in the marketplace. And that’s how Eastman and Laird entered the then kind of nascent direct market of of comics publishing, by which a local comic shops would kind of like cut out the middle distributors to buy direct from the publishers, in this case Mirage and Eastman and Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, number one sold out, all 3000 issued gone a 6000 issue reprint followed it sold out as well. From this, Eastman and Laird pocketed a tidy $200 profit. Not bad for, you know, early eighties money. So realizing that their little lark of a small business project was resonating, perhaps indicating a deeper vein of interest in these characters, Eastman and Laird went back to the literal drawing board, and about a year later, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles number two went to print. Now this. By this time, the characters were a grassroots sensation. And of course, retailers seeing that thought, well, listen, you can’t just send us number two when number one is sold out, you also have to reprint number one, Right? And so they did that. And thus began a new run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And all the issues sold regularly into the five and occasionally six figures, which are just incredibly huge numbers, like huge numbers for an indie, like if you will, and 16.
Rosie Knight That happens now.
Jason Concepcion It’s a big deal. If it were absolutely a huge deal if it happened now and some of their issues. Like we’re flirting with numbers that like, you would get it the big to look at some of their medium range books like this was huge, huge stuff. And seeing this in 1986, Playmates Toys came calling a subsidiary of Hong Kong based Playmates Holdings. The company had a plan to turn the turtles into a line of merch appealing to kids. And so their plan first was to see the marketplace with an animated television show that would run in various markets, you know, kind of a limited run television show that would kind of like build up the hunger amongst their their targeted fan base for all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But of course, before they did that, you know, some of the stuff, some of the things in the black and white original run needed to change. From day one, Eastman said in an interview with the Comics Journal from 1998. The first meeting said Playmates they wanted changes. The early issues had violence, but not graphic violence, he continues. Playmates said Our specific audience is 4 to 8 year olds, so you do the math on that, right? A lot of stuff needed to change. A lot of that violence needed to be toned down. Some of the language which was never really that explicit in the original run, but like, did kind of like, I guess kind of dip a toe into like explicit language. Some of that needed to be dialed down. And of course, the Turtles had by this time already transitioned to color, as Rosie mentioned, all red bandanas. But as we start to enter the animated space, certainly things are going to need to change more significantly. And here is where the Playmates marketing team really made their imprint and really let their influence be felt. And this is where that conversation between art and commerce really becomes imagery, even even sided conversation. So the Playmates marketing team are the reason that we have differently colored masks for the turtles, for instance, to in order to tell them apart. They are the source of any number of catchphrases. Iconic catchphrases from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, including Turtle Power and, of course, the legendary Cowabunga. Now the latter Cowabunga was the focus of a $5 million lawsuit by Buffalo Bob Smith, the host of The Howdy Doody Show, which ran from 1947 to 1960. Buffalo Bob claimed that, Hey, the Turtles stole Cowabunga, which we used on the Howdy Doody program back in the forties. Sure. And how dare you, sir? Eastman and Lehrer decided that, you know what? This is not worth the trouble. And they eventually settled for $50,000 on the 5 million. Oh, also, pizza came from Playmates. Can you imagine? Like what more iconic thing. Can you still see it with the Turtles and pizza? And that was part of the contributions from the Playmates execs.
Rosie Knight Yeah. I was thinking a lot about this when I was writing my Cynthia Neutron piece at MGM, because David Wise, who has spoken a lot about how involved he was with this, he actually created Krang, who I would say is probably the most well known.
Jason Concepcion Mr. Pizza himself.
Rosie Knight Yeah. And most well-known Ninja Turtles villain probably is crying. And that didn’t come. He didn’t come from the comics. He was influenced by the youth traumas, these kind of brain looking aliens. But even that, when I was like kind of revisiting it, it is such a unique space in this. Yeah. Cultural idea of like comics. And also this is why Turtles became so popular. It was all comic shop here, this is why. But like, this is how kids found out about it. This is how it became a global phenomenon. And this is how many, many years later Plaid would sell the Ninja Turtles to Nickelodeon for millions.
Jason Concepcion We’ll get to that. Yes, We’ll get to that.
Rosie Knight I will say, for not enough money.
Jason Concepcion Not enough money.
Rosie Knight We know. And he did not get enough money.
Jason Concepcion Okay. So the overall softening of the turtle’s esthetic and various story elements was a you know, as you can see from the fact that we’re talking about the turtles in the year of our Lord 2023, extremely lucrative, resulted in numerous television programs, various spinoffs of those programs, several waves of toy crazes, multiple video games. Of course, the movies, various comics runs across three or four different comics companies. But the changes didn’t necessarily go down smoothly with the creative team. Kevin Eastman said in 1998 with the Comics Journal, quote, It probably affected Pete more than it did me. He was really upset about it. And even today, he’s very much of a purist as far as the turtles go. But it was something we both agreed to. We’d have long, long talks and ultimately say, we can live with this. You know, all this stuff was done in 1986 and the early part of 1987 while developing the toys in the cartoons. Even through that whole period, we never really believed that it was going to happen. And of course it did happen. And they became very, very rich. And and here we are. Now, Rosie mentioned it. In 2000, Eastman sold his stake in the Turtles to Laird, who, you know, in Eastman’s telling was kind of the more passionate and originalist of the.
Rosie Knight The purist.
Jason Concepcion Yes. Now, Laird then turned around and sold the rights to Viacom. And, of course, you know, you can follow the kind of corporate restructuring and machinations that follow here. But through Viacom, the the property eventually landed at Nickelodeon, which is how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem comes to us today.
Rosie Knight Yeah, and PLN sold it in 2009 for $60 million. Now, I understand that to a normal person.
Jason Concepcion Not enough. Yeah. Not enough.
Rosie Knight To a normal person, that is a lot of money. That’s a life changing amount of money. But I am saying I’m talking if if you’re selling Star Wars or Marvel for like 4 billion.
Jason Concepcion Right, now it’s not that level.
Rosie Knight It’s not that level. But I’m talking I’m saying 500 mil. I’m saying half a bil minimum. The amount of money that Nickelodeon has made off these of the live action movies that they’ve done since then of this movie, like it was not enough. I love I love that I did it in a pure way. And now, you know, Kevin is doing the Last Ronin. Yeah. Which was a huge success. W And that was based on an idea him and Pete had. There was a great documentary made about the Ninja Turtles, I believe it is called Turtle Power The Definitive History of the Teenage Managed House. It’s now on Paramount Plus.
Jason Concepcion Turtles on a half shell.
Rosie Knight Turtle Power. And that has a really great arc about that journey as friends as collaborate as the way they broke people off at Mirage Comics in the eighties and nineties are the creators like Stan Sakai. They would bring the characters that they created like Saga Yojimbo and they would put them into toy production so that friends could make money. And there’s a really great arc about Peter and Kevin, and they even have a kind of reunion between the two of them that kind of led on to where we are now. So yeah. Also, Jason, I want to hear about that, the reasons that you think. They resonated because you have some great thoughts here about like anthem or kind of storytelling through the ages.
Jason Concepcion Well that’s the question, isn’t it? Right. Like, why? Why was it why the turtles? What what, what happened? And I’ll get to that. But I think one of the things that’s interesting to me about the Turtles on an intellectual level is how they are part of this kind of fundamental human. By human I mean like Homo sapiens, like us as a species, storytelling, a kind of storytelling adaptation that we have and. How they are part of this tradition of anthropomorphism in human creativity. Anthropomorphism, which is the technique of kind of combining animals or objects with human characteristics, is of course a staple of popular culture. You know, like to pointed any Disney movie. Right. And in particular, this is a feature of content that is aimed at kids throughout history, like literally going back into the far reaches of pre-history. Even the low end Mensch figurine, the so-called Lion Men of Holstein shtetl, is an ivory sculpture of a person with a lion’s head. And it’s the earliest example of anthropomorphism, and it’s dated anywhere from 35000 to 41000 years old. And when you really think about like what? What an incredible example of like cognitive flexibility this is we see an animal, we imagine ourselves as that animal in order to understand what it’s doing. This is really something that is unique to people. Archeologist Stephen Mithen, in a really wonderfully catty response to critics in a December 1996 issue of the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute noted that, quote, Anthropomorphic thinking does appear to be an effective means for predicting animal behavior. In other words, his idea was that, you know, Stone Age hunters, in order to figure out the migrations of, say, herds of IBEX or something like that, would wonder if I was an IBEX, what would I do? What would I do? Where would I go? Where would I sleep? And through this process, eventually found success in hunting IBEX in that same journal. Mison theorized the reason for. A children’s interest in anthropomorphism throughout history is perhaps because quote from Berthier, surrounded by material artifacts that are intentionally designed to cause cognitive fluidity. We don’t. We kind of like overlook this about the way we were raised as kids and the way we interact with kids. About how confusing when you really think about it, you know, you give a kid a doll that is a tiger, right? That is the picture of a tiger. The picture of a teenage ninja turtle. Right. And it’s not a turtle, but you expect them to understand that. It is not what it is, but it’s something. Yes. Right. This is like we are intentionally confusing kids so that their minds become more fluid. And I think what this what this all brings me to is I think for me, the reason that the that the turtles resonate and what I think was so wonderful for me about this movie was the way that turtles kind of activate empathy, particularly for kids, right? Like, you’re a kid, you’re concerned. You know, it’s hard now as an adult to kind of like reach back and and get into contact with like what a day to day like wilderness going to school was as a kid. And it’s like everything feels like life or death. And it’s like, do people like me? And if they don’t like me or make fun of me, everything’s going to fall apart. And like, you’re living minute to minute and day to day. And one of the cool things about the Turtles is, it it empowers kids empathy, Right. You see yourself as these special martial arts turtles who are also outcasts. And what do they want? They just want to be like every other kid, every other normal kid. But of course, they can’t be because they’re turtles, but because they are anthropomorphic turtles. It allows kids to interact with their empathy in a way that protects them from kind of like the more occasionally troubling aspects of empathy, which is the questions that arise from, you know, your own relationship with. That’s with your other classmates. Or, let’s say, you know, bullying. Where does one stand in a power dynamic between a bully and in the end, the target of the bully? How or how am I being a bully to someone else? All of these kind of questions, how do how does how does empathy work? If someone looks different than me or believes something different than me? Right. All of these questions are really complex and can get really knotty and make you question a lot of things about the way you are brought up and your experiences. But when you have anthropomorphic turtles, all of a sudden all of that stuff becomes much easier to play with and much more relatable and much easier to grab hold of, right? The outsider ness, the the need to belong, the desire to be special, but also to be like everybody else. All of that the turtles give to us by the fact that they are turtles with the personalities of people.
Rosie Knight Yeah.
Jason Concepcion What do you think? Why do you think that turtles resonate?
Rosie Knight I love that so much. I mean, it’s hard to talk, but I would just say I think you’re absolutely right. I also think they’re essentially like a gateway to other analogous storytelling. So, like, when you’re a kid, the turtle aspect of it all makes it less terrifying to consider these ideas of empathy. They make it less obviously analogous, less obviously about you and your experiences, and they also give you a a hero wish fulfillment. Yeah, I might be an outcast, but I can do something good. And what I love is then, you know, you go from reading the Turtles or watching the titles on TV and then you see the X-Men, and that becomes more obviously about the human struggle. But you still have that same analogous storytelling that comes from science fiction traditions, that comes from the idea of using stories for the power that they can impart. So, I mean, I cannot top what you said because I absolutely love that theory, and I think you’re so right. But I think one of the coolest things and the reason that they’ve resonated for so long is these are almost a star, a set of characters and a start, a set of tropes. And I start a set of stories that will inevitably lead to other art forms and other comic book storytelling. And I think that’s really cool. And I think the fact that both of us watched it when we were kids and a hand now talking about this stuff every week is great proof of that. Like two people from two different sides of the world and The Turtles was still one of those first things that got us into this space where. We found these stories about characters that we wanted to know more about, that we wanted to care about. And that taught us lessons as we went into our life I think is lovely.
Jason Concepcion Turtle power. Up next, Nerd Out.
Rosie Knight In today’s Nerd Out, where you tell us what you love and why, or a theory you’re excited to share, or a quick question we can answer, Chris asks a fly on the wall query. Now, Chris, I love this because you are big thinking here. This is almost existential and I adore this. Hi, Rosie and Jason. I love the podcast, even though I know little about the many deep dives that you two take. But that’s precisely why I love listening. I’ve always found so much enjoyment being a fly on the wall, listening to two experts discuss something. The more specific, the better. Like I have two friends who build elevators for a living, even though the nuances of their discussions are well over my head. I find it fascinating. That’s how I often feel when listening to certain parts of X-ray Vision. So my question for the two of you. What specific topic would you enjoy just silently listening to as a fly on the wall? This is such an epic question.
Jason Concepcion I you know, you go first because I have. I’ll just go through my YouTube history and all the like, which is basically what I use it for. But what’s what would the topic be for you?
Rosie Knight For me, as a fly on the wall, it’s very hard to imagine it being something outside of the sphere of what I love. So, for example, things that I listen to and love to watch that are not in my spirit of knowledge. I watch a lot of NHK, which is like the National Japanese broadcast channel, and they have incredible episodes of a show called Trails to Oishi, where it’s basically just like, How do you pickle a radish? Like, I love stuff like that. Like, I want to know the exact way to ferment the perfect piece of soybean. Like, I do love that kind of stuff. But if I was to be a fly on the wall, I would be like flying back into comics history. I just want to be a fly on the wall, like listening to Jack Kirby coming into the Marvel office when he finds, like Stan Lee crying because they’re going to shut down the office and he’s like, Don’t worry, kid. I got there. So like, I want to be in the room where like Todd and Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and all the crew are like talking about founding image. Like, I think for me it would be getting to hear an experience like these unbelievable historical moments that you sort of can’t really even conceive because in the moment nobody knew they would be important. That to me would. If I was truly a fly on the wall, those would be the things I’d want to revisit Some of those incredible conversations and historical moments that no one kind of knew would become that at the time.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, for me, it’s always. People in some sort of creative sphere talking about how the nuts and bolts of how they do the stuff that they do. For instance, now I’m going through my YouTube history. I recently went through a a late night. I read I do a lot of writing at night, a late night like ABBA phase.
Rosie Knight Yeah, baby,\. That’s the good stuff.
Jason Concepcion I love fucking ABBA. I think they’re.
Rosie Knight They’re fucking amazing.
Jason Concepcion That they are genius. The clearly the greatest music group to come out of Eurovision. And so like I’ve, I, I just threw on the 2022 ABA documentary and just like had that going in the background. It’s like very interesting to me to listen to these creative people. Two couples, you know, two married couples who got into music because they were just they would just like hang out and sing together, talk about how they created really some of the most like perfect earworm pop song. And it’s so weird they call on like when, when. When I hear the term like white culture, I think ABBA in the best way, like it’s pop music.
Rosie Knight Thinking of Waterloo.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, it’s pop music. Waterloo is a great example. It calls on like this, like deep, the European musical tradition with the big like a classical almost Shostakovich sounding like piano chords and this like wonderful like almost folky melodies. Like it’s great stuff. I love doing that. Or like another thing that I had here is just a conversation with David Milch, the TV writer who created Deadwood and wrote for Hill Street Blues and created NYPD Blue, just him talking about, you know, his creative process, anybody talking about like Nero, their creative process. Yeah. With another person who is, like, steeped in a particular history of whatever space that that creative person plies their trade in is. I’ll listen to that. I’ll listen to that conversation ten times out of ten. It doesn’t even have to be anything that I particularly know how to do. It could be like woodworking or something, and I just find that really enjoyable
Rosie Knight Yeah. Like slow, like Woodworking Trains. I listen to a lot of stuff like that, but, you know, I have to shout. Okay, So I think you’re right. I think that is the the key. And I was lucky enough many years ago now, one of the set visits that I did when I when that was still a thing pre-COVID, I visited the set of the first series of what we do in the shadows, and it was in Toronto and it was freezing cold. And we got to go to the mansion where they were filming a big thing. But that was one of the most mind blowing like fly on the wall experiences because you’re there is press. And that was a very black set. So yeah, I just got to spend I have so many unbelievable memories of just like a guy who was creating like a nontoxic gel for setting himself on fire. And he just talked about it for like 5 minutes and kept just setting himself on fire. And he was like a Viking. And it was also 12 women on the set visit, which you never get, which was incredible. The guy who was doing all the wire work stunts, he just came on to the coach where we were chilling outside and gave like a whole speech on all these different ways that they were using fireworks. We had the guy who was making the fake vomit. It was one of the set visits that I’ve been on that had the most amount of specific knowledge based, the set dress of the person whose job it was to go to like the charity shops and buy old vintage stuff that would look like it fit into a vampire’s house in New Jersey. That was a really mind blowing time because it was like getting to be a fly on the wall and hear the ins and outs of how things got made. And it also this was probably six years ago now or something, but it kind of blew my mind and opened my mind to just how many different jobs there are in filmmaking and how much I wished as a kid I’d have known that your job could be like. Dressing the sack or your job could be like somebody, you know. You’re just some cool guy in overalls and you’re, like, hammering together like a shelf that goes on the set. Like, that’s like a dream. You don’t. And that was very profound to me. And that was definitely the time that I felt most like I know that that guy’s just going around, set himself on fire, talking about that gel to anyone who’s on the set because he’s a genius. And like, so that was definitely the most fly on the wall experience. And honestly, it was amazing. I think about that all the time. So I think I would like to be a fly on the wall more, actually. Chris That was such a good question.
Jason Concepcion Wonderful question.
Rosie Knight I love that. If you have theories, passions, or quick questions you want to share, hit us up at Xray@crooked.com.instructions are in the show notes.
Jason Concepcion That’s it for us, Rosie. Any plugs? Plug, plug, plug, plug.
Rosie Knight I am going to plug a piece of mine that went up at IGN. My head piece, though. That’s great. I wrote a piece. I will say it this way. I have been working on a piece at IGN for four years about the boom and bust of the comic book industry. And I was delightfully surprised this weekend when my brilliant Ed Scott reached out and was like, Hey, I think it’s time. Like, let’s run it, you know? I’m really happy it went up. It’s 6000 words. It has interviews with Todd McFarlane, Louis Simons and Jim Lee on the record talking about image. Bob Layton who really was an unbelievable source and gave some unbelievable numbers about Valiant is probably the piece I’m proudest of. I want to tie it into a book or a TV show or something because that’s just such a great story to be told there. But for now you can read it on IGN and I’m super proud of it. Kevin Van Hooke from Valiant also giving some great insight. And because it’s ended up coming out this year, there’s also a great little chat with Ryan Skinner from Pulp Fiction, which is my local comic shop in Long Beach about how that was actually like a mini boom and bust during COVID, which we knew, you know, as as collective just kind of there was a speculation boom, but it hasn’t quite turned into a bust, but it’s deflating. So just if you like the ins and outs, if you like business, if you like numbers, if you like Louie Simonsson saying that they the only reason they did that they’re super man was because they were pissed off at DC and they just decided to kill him. You’re going to love it because that’s exactly what happened.
Jason Concepcion Catch the next episode Friday, August 11th, for an All Superman Lois Lane themed episode.
Rosie Knight Ooh, perfect timing. And you can watch full episodes of the podcast on YouTube. Also, check out our Twitter @XRVPod and our Discord to hang out with a ton of cool fans.
Jason Concepcion Five star ratings. Five star reviews. We need them. We’ve got to have them. You got to give them to us. Here’s one from JLove92: Open Apple for the first time for this review. This podcast is like going back in time to watch anime and play video games with friends after school. Perfect. That’s it. That’s all we’re going for.
Rosie Knight We’ve peaked. We’ve literally peaked.
Jason Concepcion That’s all we’re going for. Thank you, JLove92. X-ray Vision is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Chris Lord and Saul Rubin and executive produced by me, Jason Concepcion. Editing and sound design is by Vasilis Fotopoulos. Video production by Delon Villanueva and Rachel Gaewski. Social Media by Ewa Okulate and Caroline Dunphy. Thank you to Brian Vasquez for our theme music. See you next time.