Wednesday, March 9, 2011

TMNT: Invasion of the Robobugs


You’ll have to pardon me for being easily distracted in the last few entries. I’m sure at some point I’ll rekindle my passion for leering at old toys and telling you about it.

In the meantime however, I must share with you something very special. Many of you no doubt recall the old sight ‘n’ sound books from back in the day. Were you aware, however, that a certain team of green had their own page-turning, sound makin’ frenzy of literature?

It’s true! And today (or tonight depending on your hemisphere, and how you like to spend your Saturday evenings), I’m giving you the very special treat of presenting to you the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sound Story: Invasion of the Robobugs!

I don’t know what the special occasion is to merit something so awesome, but I’ll just say it’s my belated gift to you for women’s appreciation day. I appreciate April O’Neil, and I appreciate you.

So sit down, grab your most turtley drink, and get ready to kick some shell!

That there is the inside cover. Where to start?

I guess it depends on where your own little fascinations lie. For me, I just can’t stop noticing that Leonardo’s katana blades are marvelously short. They’re more like carving knives for the women’s appreciation day roast turkey. And why are they shining? It’s not like there’s a particular light source in front of them. And don’t claim that there could be, because their shadows (represented by fantastic black holes) dictate otherwise. Ha. Thought you had me there, didn’t you?

Over on Mikey’s side, he looks a tad upset, and I would too, had my right pupil been leaping inconspicuously from my eye up to my bandana, and my teeth melded together in places to make some oversized megafangs.

Oh Steve Lavigne. You really should have tinkered a little bit more with Ryan Brown’s roughs, because you will now suffer the indignant fate of being picked on all these years later. I know he reads my blog. I just know it.

Did you realise that the term ‘Turtle-Talk’ is trademarked by Mirage Studios? I certainly didn’t. I also don’t think that the phrase is used once in this book, but let it be a warning in case you were ever considering slipping ‘Turtle-Talk’ into one of your fanfics.

And finally, a special shout out to Connie “Awesome” Kash for the long, hard nights spent formulating not only the story for this book, but its bevy of sounds, too. They’re totally tubular. And unfortunately twenty-one years later, none of them work anymore.

I could insert a new battery, but I honestly have better things to do than revive my Ninja Turtles sound book. Anyhow, let’s get a better look at those buttons, shall we?

As the second button would indicate, they are indeed awesome. But what’s with all the bugs?! Don’t worry. We’ll get to that… Also, if you can’t understand their presence in a book titled ‘Invasion of the Robobugs’, then I’m not sure how you’re able to read this blog entry to begin with. You silly fish!

On the reverse, we’re shown an example of how to use the book. You use your tiny little hand to press buttons while your mother reads to you. I like the fact that she’s engaged. Stops me from feeling like a little bastard.

Though really, my mother never read me the book while planting her hand directly upon the page. Doesn’t that make it difficult, mom? Or is she making a Vulcan sign, foregoing formal reading and instead passing on the message for us to ‘live long and prosper’?

This is one Turtle-y excellent adventure!

And so we begin with page one. And it’s oh so glorious! The rather sulky ‘shrewd’ Shredder sits at his control panel, where he observes each bug as it goes through his testing machine. The images onscreen look like they were illustrated with crayon, and I frankly don’t doubt that they were.

Shredder uses various adjectives (like ‘Perfect!’ ‘Ahh!’ and ‘Perfect!’) to describe his latest inventions, the Robobugs. Each bug has its own specific way of fucking up our day, from shorting out the lights to putting a bug in all computers. Yes, Shredder uses that dreadful pun, so I’m allowed to as well. He declares his plans to his inanimate army of Foot Soldiers, while also seeking validation for two jokes in the same page. I didn’t realise Shredder was that sad. I also didn’t realise that the Soldiers were now dubbed ‘Footbots’. Of all the copyrights this publication was unable to secure, ‘Foot Soldier’ seems a strange one.

I note with delight that the Computer Bug makes access to computers with a floppy disc. He shan’t be much worry these days.

The book observes (with some alarm, I might add) that some faulty bugs aren’t being destroyed. Which seems like a really stupid thing to happen, but there we go.

I mean, why does the Shredder have the technology to mass produce robotic bugs, but can’t create a more foolproof system than a single Footbot manning the button to the SQUASH hammer? No wonder he’s sulky.

April O’Neil creeps me out in this book. With her tiny, lifeless little eyes and her unrealistic voluptuous figure. She certainly wasn’t a role model for the little girls.

She uses entirely unprofessional and insincere subjectivity in her reporting (‘My, what a mess that’ll be!’), and there’s all sorts of opportunities for children to stab at the sound buttons as the bugs do their thing.

I’m sure kids were becoming impatient by the sporadic use of these buttons on the first page, so now’s their time to shine and press buttons as frantically and frequently as they want. They’re given ten specific cues to follow, but if they were anything like me, they threw a few extra sounds in there as well, citing fervent excitement and creative storytelling as their reasons.

Have you ever wondered where all of the Turtles’ electronic items plug into? I never did until now. I have nowhere to go with that thought, but I had to get it out there.

Anyhow, like the beginning of 90% of Turtle stories, from Turtles in Time to Turtle Power, our boys are introduced as sitting around watching some April fixin’s. Do they ever watch reports by any other journalist? I’m sure Vernon Fenwick has some very emotional and driving stories to tell, too.

This whole page is basically just telling us about crazy types of pizza and letting us press the Cowabunga button with great frivolity. The second example, preceding Don’s lecture of eating a healthy pizza, makes no sense. It’s a completely inconsistent celebration and I DON’T LIKE IT. I will defiantly not press the Cowabunga button at that time.

Where did the element of unusual pizzas come from, anyway? Didn’t it used to just be a matter of anchovies or no anchovies? Why the whipped cream and peanut butter? Sounds kinky when you put it that way.

Also, I admit that I was wrong. The term ‘Turtle Talk’ is used on this page. It’s even been capitalized. They really took advantage of that hard-earned copyright.

There are so many other things to ponder over…

Why is Raphael so pissed off?

Is Leonardo touching himself?

But we haven’t enough time for all these… we must press on…

As Donatello (kinda) tells Mikey to pull his head out of his ass, water suddenly (and without warning) comes flooding into the sewer. The top picture kind of indicates that there actually was warning, judging by Splinter’s expression of bemusement in the top panel, but we won’t split hairs.

I always loved this page as a kid. Of course, when I got this book I would have been about three, so I didn’t entirely understand what was going on. Just that I enjoyed its contents.

I actually failed to realise that there’s two separate illustrations there detailing the flooding of the sewers, and I think I presumed there was an evil Splinter doppelganger causing watery mischief. I also believed that water was literally shooting out from the lower Splinter’s hand. And looking at that picture now, I still do.

Other highlights are Michaelangelo’s look of utter disappointment and Raphael reaching for his slice of pizza.

Leonardo casually instructs that somebody else grab Splinter (because he’s wet and icky!), and the Turtles flee above ground.

Yep, just like that, they’re out of the sewers. Why did Shredder really think that water would put an end to the Turtles? For fuck’s sake Oroku, they’re TURTLES.

Donatello asks April about the curious phenomenon where their television broke instead of mentioning a tidal wave that flooded their home. Raphael points a Turtle finger at one of the culprits, but of course Donatello gets the credit. He was always stealing Raph’s thunder.

If only they’d turn around (or at least look in the direction of the nearest whirr-boing), they’d see that there’s an assload of them all around them, but it’s a moot point.

Of much more importance is the fact that Raphael firmly states that everyone flushing their toilets at the same time is ‘Turtle-y impossible!’

I don’t know why he’s so resolute that simultaneous flushing is a definite impossibility, but I suppose he knows more than we do.

Also, if I’m a parent and my kid has been pressing the noise buttons at each cue at least, I’m fucking annoyed by now and will have closed the book and sent their ass to bed. This is so not worth it, imagery of Splinter drowning notwithstanding.

This was always my least favourite picture. Probably because the Turtles were absent, and it’s just filled with silly boring humans.

The news van crew flee from the scene in terror, horrified that small mechanical bugs would be messing with their equipment, and entirely disinterested with the fact that large bipedal Turtles with ninja weapons are making an appearance.

Also, despite what Shredder claimed, those electrical bugs are hardly ‘perfect’. Look at all the lights that are still on over there! What in the hell are those yellow pricks doing? There’s one towards the front in this picture, who looks like he’s slacking off and having fun.

In all the chaos, the police are left speechless. And apparently without any weaponry or self-defence knowledge whatsoever, because they have chosen to stand by silently and do nothing.

The previously Awesome Connie Kash makes a key error in the first sentence, slipping from present tense to past tense, but we’ll forgive her this mistake. Just as long as she doesn’t do it again!

There’s also more inexplicable examples of the Cowabunga button in use, in a sentence that’s supposed to be nonchalant. How do you say ‘Cowabunga!’ nonchalantly, exactly? In the same way that you’re supposed to say it when describing your distaste for road pizza, I suppose?

In any event, SLAP ME THREE and let’s bust up some bugs.

…You see, that’s where a Cowabunga would be appropriate.

At the root of everything, the point of Shredder’s wicked plan was for things to be crazy so the Footbots could loot and plunder. But I’m left asking why?

It wasn’t like Shredder was going to sell that shit on the black market, it’s too hot, it’s too plentiful, and he never takes his damned mask off so he’s not a very good businessman. Am I to assume (and let’s face it, I’ve done a shitload of assuming so far) that he just wanted lots of cool shit?

…Yes. Yes I am.

Apparently Connie Kash now realised that she had three completely unused buttons, and frantically searched for a way to work them into her intricate story. Perhaps three instances of the bashing sound and an unheralded eleven clings would suffice.

The Turtles go in with flying hands and feet, flailing nunchaku, swift bo, flashing sai and katanas without an adjective. They make short work of the bugs, while the Footbots are just left to groan about how they should have seen this coming and wish that instead of a toilet bug, Shredder had made up some dynamite beetles to really mess the Turtles up. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all.

Donatello makes one declaration after another, proving his schizophrenia as he appears to have a conversation with himself about the electronic bugs and the godawful mess they’ve made. By stating that this is in fact okay, Donny no doubt opened the flood gate for kids at home to start smashing all their stuff, and deflect all responsibility by glaring into their parents’ eyes and sneering that ‘teenagers like messes’.

Meanwhile, the Footbots have responded by grabbing their lasers and opening fire. Why is April standing so close? It seems like a risky decision, but evidently she’s no worse at dodging lasers than Splinter and the Turtles.

From the Footbots’ encroachment, the Turtles are able to come to the bold conclusion that Shredder was the culprit behind all of the electronic bugs.

Me personally, I think I would have figured that out from the get-go. Not that I’m bragging, or anything.


This certainly is an exciting little story, isn’t it? My favourite part of this illustration is that Raphael is countering a Footbot pointing a gun towards his face by yelling at it. Such tactics we haven’t seen since Donald Duck took to the hockey rink. Oh, what glorious memories!

You’d think that with the Footbots ‘swarming’ and ‘firing their lasers as rapidly as machine guns’ as they are, surely one of them would land the fatal blow that would down at least one of the Turtles, but it doesn’t appear to be so. I questioned their accuracy at first, but now I’m pointing the finger at a lack of motivation.

I also question the merits of a few Footbots escaping and running away. Their primary function is to eliminate the Turtles, so I fail to see how any form of self-preservation would be logical. Again, they’re clearly unmotivated.

They’re certainly busy. Not a moment’s rest from page to page, and now the Turtles take chase of the fleeing Footbots.

I’m sure that this will be the last time I make mention of unnecessary Cowabungas, but Leonardo’s dismissive statement of “Yah, Cowabunga, but hold the phone, guys” is simply appalling. This book has taken everything I believed Cowabunga to be and turned it into a generalized phrase. It’s like the word ‘Smurf’; it can be used anywhere now.

Splinter declares that he will… clean up the mess with April, and the Turtles follow the Footbots towards the Technodrome, which is just sitting around the streets of New York without much notice. Although the illustration would suggest that the Turtles are actually running away from the Technodrome, it’s no more of an oversight than calling Raphael Donatello. I mean really, that’s inexcusable.

I don’t know if he was just feeling lazy, or if Steve Lavigne had given up on this book by now. This illustration is terrible. Leonardo’s swollen left eye, Splinter’s missing legs, and the unnecessary adding of April to the scene (WHY IS SHE THERE SHE CAN’T DO ANYTHING). And yes, today I noticed for the first time that up top, the drawing simply stops, and the world disappears into a pool of grey. Even Mikey sees it.

So bugs are crawling all over the BUG TESTING MACHINE as Shredder tries to make sense of this mess at his MASTER BUG CONTROLLER. These things are capitalized because they are very important.

Because of one lazy Footbot shirking his responsibility at the SQUASH hammer, Shredder’s plan has been foiled. Well, I guess. Because in reality, there’s still shitloads of bugs, faulty bugs at that, everywhere. If they don’t remain centralized around the Technodrome, shit gets real.

Me, I don’t know if I feel comfortable about this solution. But I guess you do. DON’T YOU, TURTLE FANS!

This page was the most frustrating of all. The text could have just been crammed onto the last page, but look at that picture. Is Shredder hulking up? Are the Turtles preparing for combat? Looking at Leo, Mike and Don, you could be mistaken for thinking that they’re celebrating, but look at Raph and Splinter. Holy shit, they’re alarmed, he’s going SUPER SHREDDER!!!

The reason that this page is so frustrating is because I’m left with such uncertainty here. If there is indeed a mega fight about to occur, then where is it? The next page isn’t even a page at all, just instructions about how to replace your batteries.

What a cliffhanger. They should have just had a picture of the Turtles happily eating pizza or something. I was promised 24 Fun-Filled Pages, and I don’t feel as though I got that. The first page was actually the inside title page, which wasn’t fun at all. Lies!!

That’s how it should have ended right there. In fact, I think that’s an official lost illustration by Steve Lavigne. Everyone having a Turtle-y good time with pizza. Splinter has a piece of cheese. April has a microphone as she catches the latest scoop.

And everyone’s happy.

That picture took an hour.

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