Make It So: Batman ’89/TMNT ’90 by Jerry Whitworth
Announced earlier in the month, Sam Hamm and Joe Quinones will return to the world of Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman in the limited comic book series Batman ’89. Set to tackle elements that didn’t find its way into the sequel Batman Returns (1992) such as the introduction of Robin and Harvey Dent’s transition to Two-Face, time will tell if the title will prove popular enough to be picked up for more adventures. If so, one route that fans will undoubtedly clamor for would be a crossover with the 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. Featuring stunt work from Golden Harvest and the puppetry of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, the TMNT movies were the most successful independent films of its time and helped fuel the franchise’s cultural phenomenon. In recent years, the two brands have certainly been no strangers to each other.
In 2015, James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II came together to produce Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A cross-promotion between DC Comics and IDW, the miniseries followed the Turtles, their mentor Splinter, their nemesis Shredder, and members of Shredder’s Foot ninja clan transported to a parallel universe by the alien warlord Krang. Emerging in Gotham City, the Foot began to steal components to return to their native Earth that lead to Batman and the Turtles crossing paths. As the heroes aligned to take on Shredder, the villain forged an alliance with Ra’s al Ghul to threaten the multiverse. Eventually bringing more of the Turtles’ allies to Batman’s world and adding members of the Bat-family to the alliance, the patients of Arkham Asylum were mutated into various animal hybrids resulting in a massive brawl. The six issue series was one of the most commercially successful comic runs of the year and was followed with two direct sequels in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Therein, Bane came to the Turtles’ Earth in part two and Krang merged the two Earths together for part three. There was even a spin-off series in 2016 with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures which crossed over Batman: The Animated Series with the 2012 TMNT animated series. The original crossover was loosely adapted in 2019 as an animated film and the Turtles emerged as playable characters in the DC Comics fighting game Injustice 2 in 2017. With this in mind, what could a Batman ’89/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ’90 crossover entail?
What’s interesting about both the 1989 Batman film and 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is that they had dark elements yet were meant to appeal to children (at least at some level). But more than that, it’s how closely they tried to play with aspects of realism. Batman was perhaps a step above what was real, that its elements could conceivable happen but were remarkably unlikely. But with TMNT, it took the outlandish premise of turtles and a rat mutated into humanoid creatures but set them in New York City fighting teenage thieves instructed in the martial arts. Something impossible placed into a situation that’s only somewhat unlikely. Of course, the period of time in which they were produced where CGI was nothing like it is today and practical effects can only go so far, the movies were limited in what they were able to create but it worked well for both of them. So, an adaptation is likely to follow a similar line. The Batman mythos has a number of aspects that went against its basic aesthetics. In this, something like TMNT could feed into this interpretation of Batman. While the likes of Bat-Mite or the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh are unlikely to emerge, consider Clayface, Man-Bat, or Killer Croc. With Turtle characters such as Muckman, Wingnut, and Leatherhead, there is definitely cross section. From the TMNT end, Super Shredder bears some similarities to Bane as does Karai to Talia. Then there’s mad scientists like Batman’s Hugo Strange and Professor Milo to the Turtles’ Baxter Stockman. Even in supporting cast, you have crossover with reporters April O’Neil to Alexander Knox and Vicki Vale. And if Casey Jones doesn’t hit someone with a baseball bat and call himself the real bat-man, what are we even doing? Truly a wealth of possibilities.