Well, in honor of Father’s Day, I (also) decided to do a little blurb about Splinter’s role as father in the various universes. Hopefully I don’t upstage Jester’s great posting… :S
Peter Griffin, Al Bundy, Ben Cartwright (for you older readers), Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson… heck, Brak’s Dad, anyone?
These are just a few of the TV Fathers that we’ve grown to love (or loathe) over the years. And today, I decided it was time to shine a light on the TMNT’s beloved furry father. There’s a number of universes to look at, so I may break this up into sections: Movies, Comics, Cartoons.
Movies: The Original movie has always been one of my favorite examples of Splinter as their ‘Dad’. Ask anyone what their favorite scene was in the first movie, and 9 times out of ten, it was the one-on-one talk that Splinter has with Raphael concerning his anger issues. I still get misty-eyed when I watch this scene…
The first movie really portrayed Splinter as an elderly, but fiercely protective father. Making sure they mind the rules about the surface, hiding them from those what would hurt them, even taking incredible amounts of abuse to disguise their location. And who can forget the amazing campfire scene? The first movie was just Full of Father/son references, whether it was Splinter and the turtles, or Mr. Pennington and Danny.
The Second and third movies had their moments, though not quite as memorable. In the second film, Splinter’s character had changed little from the first movie, still very much against the boys being out on the surface. We have some gems, however, when the boys learn from the Professor regarding the origins of the ooze. Splinter reassures his sons of their self worth: What had happened in the past was past. What mattered was what the boys had grown into from that point. It doesn’t matter what you were given in life. It was what you’ve DONE with those gifts that shows your worth. How many people these days could benefit from that kind of lesson?
And seriously… who doesn’t love the last scene of the movie when Splinter catches the boys’ front page picture on the daily newspaper?
The Third movie’s always been an abundance of corny humor, Splinter included. Splinter changed from the wise sage into the type of father that you kinda cover your eyes and groan at… Or pretend that you don’t know who the senile guy is in the middle of the supermarket. And yet, who else could pull off dancing in a lampshade with such class?
The most recent movie had an interesting mix. Splinter was a stricter, more hands-off parent in my view. The breakfast scene (and resulting lecture) made me chuckle, and the private moments with the boys were nice. Welcoming Leonardo back home was one I particularly liked, but any sort of father/son moments with the other boys is rare-to-nonexistent, a little saddening to the respective fans. But it still gives you hope for the DTV and the new movie that’s coming up in a few years.
Cartoons: Old Toon Splinter was a totally different creature from other universes. The fact that he WAS Hamato Yoshi being a major one. Another important factor being that the turtles mutated automatically into teenagers was another. He saw the boys more as Students, Friends, those green guys that live in my flat. While this version of Splinter was always my favorite as a child (Reneday did a wonderful voice), I had always wished that he’d looked at them more as his sons. Thus, I slowly found my way into the realm of Fan-Fiction…
Master Splinter of the New Toon (Pre-BttS), was a much more significant presence, and far more of a father figure to the turtles. Whether it’s teaching young tots the dangers of the surface, doing post-movie analysis over ice cream, or protecting them from The Shredder or The Ninja Tribunal – Splinter kicked butt and took names. Holy Hell, he was awesome. One nice aspect in this that we don’t see in other places is the role Hamato Yoshi had in Splinter’s life – almost a father figure himself. And then Yoshi had the Ancient one. So you actually get to see the family dynamic over generations. New Toon Splinter is by far my favorite version of Splinter. And lemme tell you, you can get some strange looks when you’re cheering at a cartoon in a dorm lounge in the early morning…
While his BttS counterpart tended to be more of a background character that loafed around watching soap operas, he did have his own moments of good fathering. Just don’t ask me for examples… :\
Archies Splinter: Originally based on the old toon, Splinter was less of a father and more of a ‘friend’. But just as the universe blossomed and developed into it’s own wonderful realm, so did the characters. While Splinter’s character was still Yoshi-turned-rat, his human experiences provided the boys more worldly knowledge, and gave Splinter so much more than his one-dimensional old-toon counterpoint.
Image Splinter was disturbing to me, especially when he turned into a rabid bat creature. My inner Splinter fan tries to think of it as nothing more than a bad dream from too much partying after the boys’ birthday in the first issue.
Mirage Splinter: While I have not read All of the Mirage issues, there have been several issues that I’ve read regarding Splinter’s character. The River, Soul’s Winter, Hall of Legends… many issues. And Splinter’s character is Widely varied. There’s the distant philosophical Splinter in City at War, The father willing to toy with higher beings to help his son in Michael Zulli’s portrayal, and even the very bizarre alternate realities of Splinter as a James Bond type or a Paddle-wielding “Fannywhacker”. The many facets of Splinter, good bad and strange, all work to create a more tangible character that you can (try to) relate to.
One of the most important pieces of this portrayal of Splinter being his Death. No other universe has done such a task, and yet it makes Splinter something more than just a character – he becomes almost real. It was a hard pill for many fans – it was like losing a family member of our own. When I asked Peter Laird if he ever regretted killing the character off, he explained, “It seemed like the right thing to do, and I’m glad I did it. I do think it helped move the Turtles into interesting directions, helping them to grow up in different ways.”
And I have to agree. That piece of mortality really evolved the universe into more than just a beat ‘um up kind of story. It’s a memoir about life. When Splinter died, there was no fanfare… no huge explosions… he passed away like a regular being. There was mourning, acceptance, and growth from the experience.
Sure, Splinter was not initially designed to be the father figure that he’s known as today. He’s not perfect, and he might shed all over the furniture. Watch too may soap operas and horde cake in the freezer. But he’s an integral part of how the turtles came to be the characters we love today. And one final piece of mush, cuz that’s just how I am. 😛
Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads!