Kevin Eastman oozes kindness at TMNT 2 screening in Tempe
They say fame, like mutagenic ooze, can change a man. Well, I don’t know what Kevin Eastman was like before he co-created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30 years ago, but these days he is one of the most generous comic book artists you might ever meet.
On Tuesday night, Eastman joined actor Ernie Reyes, Jr. for a commemorative screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. This guilty pleasure of a film was originally released in 1991 and featured Reyes as Kino, the Turtles’ pizza-delivering ally against the Shredder and his Foot Clan. Seeing the film again on the big screen was a thrill, especially since kids were in the audience, laughing at those goofy moments I’d almost forgotten, and gasping when they thought their half-shell heroes were finally done for. And, perhaps for the first time in several years, Vanilla Ice inspired rousing applause from an audience eager to see him.
Of course, we fans that have endured with the Turtles know that they’ll never be done for. From their humble comic book debut, to their numerous television series, to the out-of-this-world rumor mill about their latest Michael Bay-directed movie, the Turtles have quickly become staples in pop culture fandom. The grace and humility of their creators must be at least partially responsible for such success, as Eastman demonstrated after the screening with a brief Q&A at the Tempe Marketplace Harkins theater, followed by a lengthy signing session with fans at Dave & Busters.
I wasn’t sure what to bring to the meet and greet, since I have so much Turtles stuff, so I opted for a few less obvious choices: my oversized Raphael action figure, a few packs of unopened collectors’ cards, and a movie action figure card for both Eastman and Reyes to sign. After the Q&A, as we were leaving the theater, Eastman actually held the door open for my wife and me and, seemingly taken by my shell backpack, asked if he could sign it. I told him I had some stuff inside, so when we trailed his small entourage to Dave & Busters, we were first in line and shared a few moments chatting before my fellow fans began to clamor. Honestly, he was just the nicest guy. What can you say to a man responsible for giving you so many happy childhood memories? In the end, I could only say thank you.
I also chatted with some of the volunteers working the event, and they shared that the hope is to tour the screening as Bay’s Ninja Turtles gets closer to completion. While Eastman and Reyes put on an awesome show by themselves, one volunteer mentioned that Vanilla Ice was asked to join the presentation but wanted a bit too much compensation. While I would’ve loved to meet Ice, too, I’m glad the screening was spared his fanfare to keep the event that much more intimate. When my wife and I left around 11:00 p.m., the line was still a dozen or more deep, with Eastman and Reyes showing no sign of fatigue at a chance to meet their fans.
While Secret of the Ooze is very 1991, it’s interesting to compare to current superhero movies, especially in light of fan reaction to Man of Steel. While Superman and General Zod’s conflict culminated in the apparent destruction of an entire city, the Turtles’ fight with Shredder ended in the collapse of a dock — which is much less catastrophic. How far we’ve come in what we consider a satisfying, action-oriented climax! Yet, even 22 years later, I was still just as gripped by Super Shredder’s ooze-induced rage, his air-brushed abs aside, and for all that talk of mutating, the Turtles’ characters were never compromised in overcoming their enemy. In the end, they just love being turtles, and we love them for it.
It isn’t too late to see Secret of the Ooze on the big screen here in the Valley! Visit turtleevent.com for information on tonight’s showings at Gateway Pavilions.
Russ is a local comic book fan and artist, and his Amazing Arizona Comics can be found at KaraokeFanboy Press.