A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 7: 2010 – 2014

agosto 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm (Anime, Comic Books, Film, TMNT, Whitewashing) (, , , , , )

TMNT (2014) set photos of Megan Fox as April O'Neil.

The year 2009 brought about a seismic shift to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: after twenty-five years as a mom-and-pop property–albeit a ridiculously successful one–the intellectual property was sold to Viacom, and more specifically Nickelodeon, an entity that would not, and did not, waste any time capitalizing upon it.  Only an entity like Nick could have been able to take a cartoon series that lasted six years and almost a hundred and fifty episodes and make it seem like a footnote in TMNT history, but that’s precisely what happened; with the turtles once again in comic book stores, tv screens and movie theaters, the last few years have been like 1991 all over again.

However, this is not, in fact, 1991, a time when Eastman and Laird were willing, if not always happy, to let almost anyone play with their toys: Nickelodeon appears to keep the turtles on a much shorter leash.  Even when characters like Karai get radically reinvented, it feels like a boundary exists; the turtles must not pass this point.  They can’t be radical, just Radical (TM).  Therefore it is not surprising to see that April is once again and three times over, a white woman.

More interesting for the purposes of this series is the fact that IDW Publishing’s license to create and publish TMNT books gave them the ability to reprint the old Mirage and Archie material, and that the company has thus been making books that were out of print for decades available once again.  More interesting still, the reprinted Mirage material, much of it originally in black and white, is being recolored, meaning that various colorists have been tasked with looking at the various looks of April O’Neil and drawing conclusions about  just what it was the original creators intended, and deciding whether or not they’ll stick to that original intent.

So yeah, lots to cover here.  One note before we begin, though: these images are organized in more or less chronological order, and while that’s easy enough to establish with the books, I’ve had to rely on some educated guesswork when it comes to the images relating to the cartoon and film.  So there’s that.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

Part 6.

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The Strange Disappearance of April O’Neil

mayo 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm (Comic Books, TMNT) (, , , )

Despite the obscene amount of variant covers offered by IDW for their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special, there was no question which one was the coolest. Drawn by Ozzy Fernández and inked by Tony Kordos, the Heroes Haven wraparound variant cover, featuring the turtles and their allies about to do battle with the franchise’s most popular villains, was pure nostalgia porn. The Shredder, Baxter Stockman, the Technodrome, the Rat King, Casey Jones and –ing Ace Duck, all in one official image, and all in their most iconic looks? It seemed too good to be true. And it was, because lost in the shuffle was one character who most definitively should have been there : April O’Neil, the property’s most prominent female character and arguably the most iconic character in the franchise after the turtles themselves, is nowhere to be seen in the cover (*). Without her, the image felt incomplete; worse, it meant that the cover featured some twenty male characters and no women .

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special Heroes Haven Variant Cover

And so, despite being lucky enough to be present at the event where this limited-distribution cover would be first sold—Puerto Rico Comic Con—I wasn’t sure I’d get the cover. Not only was April’s absence pretty much a deal-breaker, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about having to spend twenty dollars on a book I already owned, fantastic art or not. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, as cheaper prints of the image were also available for sale—prints where April O’Neil was very much present and prominent.

Photo20145242239733 Photo20145242240492

Something was up.

I’d originally intended to ask the people there on Heroes Haven’s behalfwhich included the artists for the cover in question, there to promote their work—just why April was absent from the cover. Now aware of the print, I had an idea of what the reason was, and a quick conversation seemed to settle it: apparently Nickelodeon, who owns the turtles and has to approve every bit of licensed art, had asked that she be removed. A post located on Fernández’s Facebook page makes the same claim.

I had my awesome print, and two new questions:

1) If the claim is trueand I have no reason to doubt that it iswhy had Nickelodeon asked for April to be removed from the cover?

2) Was this the only time it had happened?

There’s reason to believe that this wasn’t a one-time deal.  A few weeks back, IDW released the cover image for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures Volume 8, the latest in their trade paperback collection of the comic book series originally published by Archie during the early nineties. Again, April was nowhere to be seen, despite the fact that the stories collected in the book all prominently featured her. The absence was glaring enough that it made me think back to previous covers, only to remember, rather effortlessly, that she had, in fact, been absent from all of them (**). One of the most well-known characters in the franchise, and one who was more prominent in the collected stories than many of the (male) characters who did show up in the covers, and she appeared to have been neglected multiple times by multiple artists. And while the reason for April’s absence is self-evident in some caseseither she wasn’t  prominent in the stories collected in the book, such as with Volumes 2 and 3, or the scene depicted in the cover didn’t include April in the original story, such as with Volumes 1 and 7no single explanation that I could see existed to explain all the absences.   The cover for Volume 5, for example, depicts a scene from the book which originally featured April along with the turtles; why, then, isn’t she there in the reproduction?

Before Puerto Rico Comic Con, it was impossible to say why this was the case: there were too many potential whats, whos and whys, and too little available information. Is April’s continued absence the result of a mandate, or had different artists with different biases all independently realized that they didn’t care to feature her in their covers?  Had April just been unlucky enough to fall victim to a series of what are essentially coincidences?  Now, at least, some light has been shed on the situationenough to make it clear that we need more.

(*) It’s also worth noting that April is not just absent from the Special’s covers; she is absent from the covers, absent from the stories, and absent from the pin-ups. If the book were a person’s first taste of the TMNT, that person would have no idea that a character called April O’Neil ever existed, or that she is nearly as old as the turtles, being introduced in the very second issue of the original comic book.

(**) She’s not the only one, as so far only one of the series’ handful of prominent female characters has ever appeared in a collection cover.  See if you can spot her.

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A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 5: 2003 – 2010

mayo 12, 2014 at 11:34 am (Animation, Comic Books, Film, TMNT, Videogames & Vidcons) (, , , , , , , , )

Cute!

The stars aligned in 2002, and production began on a second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series.  Two things stood about about this effort at the time: 1) it would actually come to fruition,  and 2) unlike the first cartoon, it planned to take many of its characters and storytelling beats directly from the Mirage comic books.

If there ever was an opportunity for April to appear with something resembling the look she sported through most of Mirage Volume 1–or as a Woman of Color, period–this was it.  While the producers seemed to  feel no particular need to adhere to characters’ comic book looks–as best seen in the Shredder, who now sports a full suit of armor–they also seemed to feel a certain commitment to racial diversity in the show, if the reversal of Baxter Stockman’s whitewashing and the various original characters of color introduced in that first season are any indication.  If, like other people in the past, the showrunners saw Mirage April as a woman of color,  it seems it seems reasonable to surmise that they would have at  least been amenable to at least discussing the idea of depicting their version of our favorite gal-pal in a similar manner.  The fact that the primary audience for this show would likely not be familiar with April from the original cartoon meant they could have done so with a minimum of  uproar.

And yet, this didn’t happen, and there are several possible reasons why.   It may be that, like many people, the producers at 4Kids never interpreted April as being anything other than a white woman.  It might be that Peter Laird, who definitively sees April as a white woman, and who had something akin to a veto power when it came to the show, stepped in and insisted that the TV version follow suit–which frankly, I’m kind of  okay with, being as he helped create her and all.  It might be that the decision was made by people outside the creative circle.  Or, in what seems to me the most unlikely possibility, given the show’s output, they might have interpreted Mirage April as a woman of color and consciously decided to whitewash her without requiring any additional input.  I’ve asked Laird for context, but, unfortunately, he turned out to be less than forthcoming.  Still, no matter the details, in the end, another generation grew up knowing that April O’Neil is white, making future interpretations where she isn’t even less likely.

Buoyed by the new interest in the turtles brought about by the cartoon and its merchandising tie-ins, Mirage decided to publish a second iteration of Tales of the TMNT as a companion to the Laird / Lawson TMNT Vol. 4.  The second book, an anthology title featuring the work of several creators, hearkened back to the guest creator era, as various people put their stamp on the turtles, including some new faces like Tristan Huw Jones, who attempted to weave together several disparate plot strands into his own mini-universe within the universe.  It was also the first time since 1992 that we’d see how Mirage April looked under different artists.

Hollywood loves a remake, and eventually a fourth TMNT film, titled simply TMNT and serving as a pseudo-sequel to the first three, was produced and released.  Done entirely in CGI, it featured an April that was less Lois Lane and more Lara Croft, and was voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar.  While a success in some respects, it was not successful enough to merit follow-ups.  It did, however, influence the larger turtles-verse, as various other incarnations would begin to draw from its visuals.

In 2009, Peter Laird, by then sole owner of the franchise, decided to sell the turtles to Viacom, and specifically, Nickelodeon.  A new era was set to begin.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

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A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 4: 1997 – 2002

abril 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm (Animation, Comic Books, Television, TMNT) (, , , , , , , , )

Kids WB April, 1st Rough (2001)

As the TMNT franchise approached its fifteenth year, it seemed as if there wasn’t all that much to celebrate.  The first cartoon was over.  Attempts at a fourth film had long since been abandoned.  Mirage wasn’t producing any new material, and Image series, lasted only twenty-three issues.  The turtles had returned to television in 1997, in the live-action Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation,  but that only lasted one season and appears to have little to recommend it.  It also didn’t feature April, which is why it doesn’t factor here.

If this fall into semi-obscurity had one benefit, is that it allowed Peter Laird, now older, more media-savvy, and completely in charge of the turtles, to have a greater say in what his characters should look and act like.  In 2001, the turtles returned in a very low-profile way, as Mirage Studios released the first issue of  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ fourth volume, with Laird as writer and Jim Lawson as artist.   Ignoring the stories told in the Image run, he moved the action forward more than a decade, showing the turtles as adults.  It would be the only regular turtles fans would get until 2002, when a company called 4Kids entered the scene.

Note: If you can help fill in the gaps in the data–the artist for the Palladium April image (which I think may have been by the Paulo Parentes Studio) and the year for the CGI pilot, for example–it’d be much appreciated.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

 

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A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 3: 1992 – 1996

abril 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm (Animation, Comic Books, Film, Hollywood's Privilege-driven -isms, Race, TMNT) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

April O'Neil #1 Cover (Jan. 1993)

The year 1992 marked the end of the Mirage TMNT‘s guest creator era: after three years of mostly non-canonical stories by a bevy of creators, Mirage staffers once again took reins of the book, with a new focus on featuring a more stable tone and in moving their characters forward.  This latest phase in the book culminated with “City at War”, a thirteen-part mega arc which featured the return of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to active creative duties and ended on the book’s last issue.  It also gave April some much-needed focus, as the writers had her decide to move to California in order to recenter herself.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this era of greater focus on April also saw the beginning of the end of depictions of her based on her issue #4 redesign, as the physical features she had sported since then–by no means limited to skin color–began disappearing.  What one may draw from this is unclear, and the fact that there’s only one artist drawing the character for the duration of the era doesn’t help.

The years from 1993 to 1996 saw waning interest in the Ninja Turtles. The third film received a tepid reception.  Mirage’s second volume of TMNT, which debuted shortly after the end of the first one,would prove short-lived,  its final issue hitting stores on October 1995. The Archie series, TMNT Adventures, ended that same year. After seven seasons of sausage-making, Fred Wolf retooled the original cartoon for its eighth season in order to deal with a shifting children’s television landscape; old characters were written out, new characters were written in, and the series’ aesthetic got a face lift, but none of these changes were enough to stop the series from ending, after ten seasons and 193 episodes, in 1996.  By January 1997, the flow new material featuring the TMNT had slowed down to a trickle, and existed mostly in the form of a comic series published by Image, continuing the adventures of the Mirage versions of the characters…but that’s something for another entry.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Note the first: While I’ve tried to be comprehensive as possible here, any help obtaining any relevant images I might have missed is much appreciated.

Note the second: Despite not having much in the way of comments, I still plan on moderating any discussion with a heavy hand, should it become necessary.

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A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 2: 1988 – 1991

abril 15, 2014 at 2:07 am (Animation, Comic Books, Film, Hollywood's Privilege-driven -isms, Race, Racism, TMNT) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The year 1987 brought us our second ever incarnation of April, one that, while visually faithful to the character as originally depicted, was at odds with what had become the norm.  As the new franchise’s popularity continued to expand, two more new incarnations were introduced: April as seen in the films, who like most things in the movie was conceived as an amalgam of her comic book and cartoon incarnations; and April as seen in the Archie comic books, who was ostensibly the cartoon version, but like most things in the book quickly became her own distinct character.  While the people over at Mirage were still depicting their version of the character as a Woman of Color, by 1990, it was White April who had become the norm.

Part 1.

Note the first: While I’ve tried to be comprehensive as possible here, I have not been able to obtain several relevant images, most notably, images of film adaptations after the first one, and of the colored reprints of the Mirage books released during this time period.  Any assistance in obtaining them is appreciated.

Note the second: Unlike the first time around, I will be allowing comments here.  That said, as always, please keep common courtesy in mind, and note that I will moderate with a heavy hand, should it become necessary.

ETA: I*just* realized that I hadn’t actually enabled comments.  Fixed.

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Two Recent Instances of Ableism In TMNT Worth Discussing

abril 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm (Ableism, Animation, Comic Books, Tropes that annoy) (, , , , , , )

[Content Note: Ableism, ableist slurs, hostility to consent]

April Clone

With Nick’s TMNT long since having crossed the line from being “occasionally problematic” to “actively immoral and loving it”, I haven’t felt the need to try and dissect the series in any great detail recently.  The problems are the same as they’ve ever been, they’ve been discussed, and there’s really nothing new to say about them.

And then came the April Clone.

In the episode “The Kraang Conspiracy”, the turtles and April discover that series baddie The Kraang, who need April (or more specifically, her genes–because why else would a girl be valuable?) in order to further their plans, have attempted to clone her many times over.  While incapable of furthering their plans, these clones are, with one exception, still perfect reproductions of April…all except for one.  That single clone, which the episode and Michelangelo eventually end up calling April Derp after the most frequent word in her vocabulary,  is set against the turtles, whom she keeps on the ropes until she is eventually, and accidentally, killed by April, whose powers are unleashed by the stress of the situation.

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Six Months Later: Musings on the New Archie Sonic Universe

febrero 18, 2014 at 12:30 am (Comic Books, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Fade to White

(Note: This post contains spoilers for the last six months worth of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Universe issues.)

I’m exhausted.

It’s been more than a year since the effects of lawsuit by former Sonic the Hedgehog writer Ken Penders first made their presence felt upon the Archie book, and just as much time since I’ve been able to unreservedly enjoy the book. After current scribe Ian Flynn was forced to jettison all his predecessor’s characters (*1) it seemed that the book could only move forward by either ignoring huge swaths of its universe and continuity, or by hitting the cosmic reset button in order to create a universe where those characters didn’t exist. Either way, the story I’ve enjoyed in one way or another for more than a decade would end.

We have crossed that bridge, and then another. Archie chose alternative number two, and for the last six months, we’ve been dealing a brand-new Archie!Sonic-verse, one considerably more influenced by the videogames than the one seen in the previous three hundred issues. We also have our first two complete arcs, designed to serve as an introduction to our new setting, a reintroduction to our core cast of characters, and as an implicit argument for the idea that what has been gained is of equal or greater value to what has been lost.

Mission not accomplished, so far.

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A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 1: 1984 – 1987

noviembre 25, 2013 at 6:38 pm (Animation, Comic Books, Film, Television) (, , , , , , )

TMNT # 11 (1987)

Determining when a character has been whitewashed is, in theory, a rather simple task.  Specifically, its a matter of asking oneself:

  1. Was Character X established as a Person of Color in the original work?
  2. Has an adaptation of that work changed Character X so that they are now White instead?

If the answer to both is “yes”, then whitewashing has occurred.

Of course, reality has ways of taking the simplest of tests and adding a whole bunch of complications along the way.  For example, what if the answer to sub-question one is “yes and no”?  This is the case with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ April O’Neil, a character who had no established heritage aside from her last name of Irish origin, and whose looks could change rather drastically between appearances, because apparently, her creators–Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird–had different ideas, and never  definitively settled the question while they were working together.

Because people are complicated, there are a lot of differing opinions about this matter, most with at least some evidence backing them up.  Hence, this series, chronicling the many looks she’s had, beginning with the moment of her creation and taking us all the way to 2014, where she is set to appear on the big screen once again, this time played by Megan Fox.  The idea is not to argue for any particular conclusions–although I do have my own opinions on the matter–but simply to allow people to come to their own.  Plus, I like timelines, I really like seeing the visual evolution of a concept, and I think that April’s is, in particular, really interesting.

We begin this first section in 1984, the year when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird for the second issue of their surprisingly successful comic book, and go all the way to 1987 when she was set to make her debut in the cartoon that changed the franchise forever.

ETA:

Note: While comments for this series are closed–I do not feel that I am capable of moderating the particular discussions on race that this has the potential to lead into–feedback, either in the form of factual corrections or whatever thoughts you’d like to share, can be sent via the Contact Form at the bottom of the post.

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My thoughts on “The Man of Steel”

junio 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm (Comic Books, Film) (, , , )

Lately, it’s been hard not to feel ambivalent about Superman. I love the guy and what he stands for, but given how it at times feels like my ideas of what makes the character work are the complete opposite of DC’s, I haven’t been happy with the character for a while. And yet, I don’t feel sadness or even disappointment, because the Superman-sized void in my feels has been more than capably filled by other fiction. If I’m in the mood for larger than life, physics-bending superheroics, Gurren Laggan and its galaxy-sized robots has me covered. If I want stories about an alien whose the last of his kind, adopts Earth, and inspires regular people to themselves become heroes, I’ve got Russell T. Davies’ Doctor Who to keep me satisfied.  Superman, in comparison, often brings thoughts of “good idea, but…”

So in the end, I wasn’t all that excited during the run-up to Superman: The Man of Steel. If it worked, great. If it’s didn’t, eh. I’d been mostly unspoiled, so I’m not sure what to expect, except that it seemed very heavy on the Krypton—rarely a good sign, when I’m concerned, since I tend to feel that where he was born says very little about who he is, and therefore focusing on it is a good way to start off on the wrong foot.

In any case, let’s start with the good. Lois Lane is great, and Amy Adams is fantastic in the role (I’m so happy she got it). The character’s a bit drier than she tends to be portrayed as on the screen, but she works supremely well, particularly given the one big change in the film. And all the characters are well cast and give good performances, elevating the material. General Zod, is, I feel, as good a portrayal as the character is going to get on the screen.

As for the rest? Honestly, it was all a bit boring. The first few minutes are spent establishing Krypton’s backstory, and through it all I was “get ON with it”. It’s kinda necessary for the plot, but then, I don’t care for the film’s plot, which is all about how Clark became Superman–or rather, it would be if there were a difference between the two sides of the character.

One of the things the film does differently from past versions of the story is to essentially do away with Clark’s double life. Arguably, it also does away with Superman as we know it, leaving us with the story of Kal-El, who wears a costume and has Diane Lane as an adoptive mother, and is still unsure about what he wants to do. With the Daily Planet‘s staff serving as satellite characters to Lois (which isn’t at all a bad thing, except insofar as they were shunted aside for most of the movie), the film is centered in Kansas in a way that feels weird.

Like I said, I have Ideas about Superman, and in the end, what I got from the film is that their take on Clark wouldn’t have become Superman if he hadn’t found about his heritage, which feels wrong. I’ve always been partial to versions of the story where Clark becomes Superman before finding out about Krypton, because it makes clear that there’s no correlation between the two things. Clark being Kryptonian has no bearing on who he is, and if he had no super-powers, he’d be Lois Lane, except less impressive because of male privilege. Here, however, the heritage and the heroism are connected to an uncomfortable degree. Yes, he’s seen helping people as Clark, but throughout those scenes, it doesn’t convince me that he gets any emotional satisfaction from it, which I feel Superman should always feel. It doesn’t help that this version of Jonathan Kent—one half of the couple that made him what he is–is far too willing to make Clark feel guilty about helping people. The film seems to agree with him, which again, makes this feel like the story of someone who is not Superman. Yes, people shouldn’t be expected to harm themselves for the sake of others, but part of what makes Superman Superman is the fact that a) he totally would, without hesitation, and b) he’s clever enough not to need to, most of the time.

As for the action…meh. While there are a few nice bits—I like that his initial fight with the Kryptonians is mixed with the rescue of the soldiers also with him—it’s all very generic-looking. This has been done before, and frankly, I’m tired of it. Again, Lois comes off better, with the scene where she—helped by Jor-El’s post-mortem A.I.–escapes Zod’s ship being a highlight.

In the end, I don’t feel this was the Superman film to sell people on the character—at least, if I didn’t also think that what I like about Superman isn’t what other people like about him. In any case, if nothing else, I feel it placed the characters in a very good position for an excellent sequel, so here’s hoping.  But until then, there’s always Doctor Who.

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