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Reviews » Miscellaneous Reviews » Raise Some Shell.: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Raise Some Shell.: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Other // Unrated // April 15, 2014 // Region 0
List Price: $12.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted June 24, 2015 | E-mail the Author
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
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In 10 Words or Less
Go deep into the sewers

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (when I was a kid)
Likes: "City at War", critical analysis of pop culture
Dislikes: Bad remakes/reboots/whatever
Hates: Not knowing where my TMNT toys are now

The Details
Raise Some Shell. is a paperback book (4.75 x 7 in) checking in at 133 pages, with a turtle-green, minimalist cover featuring a soft-touch matte finish and spot UV coating.

The Book
Oddly, my introduction to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn't via the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At a weird warehouse estate sale when I was a kid, I found a pile of comic books and bought them (or rather requested they be purchased for me) and in the pile was a copy of Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, about a group of chemically-altered pets who fight crime (poorly if I remember correctly.) Not too long after that, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon hit the airwaves, and I eventually discovered that my first kung-fu creatures were a parody of these guys (and not the other way around.)

My life as a TMNT fan, built around the cartoons and toys (and later a movie), was not unusual, based on Richard Rosenbaum's entry into ECW Press' Pop Classics line, Raise Some Shell.: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Fiction editor at Canadian underground media outlet Broken Pencil, Rosenbaum explores all incarnations of the Turtles, a quartet of crime-fighting anthropomorphic turtles named for Renaissance artists, from their origins in Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's small-run indie comics to their pinnacle as dominant cultural icons to their more recent animated re-births. Rosenbaum uses their multimedia popularity as a through-line to figure out why they have the staying power they have (aside from the greatness of the character of Donatello, which Rosenbaum never lets us forget.)

Along the way, the book looks at a number of ideas that make up the Turtle empire, like the concepts of homage, parody, pastiche and postmodernism, explaining and exploring them in a way that's easily understandable for newcomers, yet not insulting to those knowledgable. Rosenbaum also situates the Turtles into the greater world around the audience, looking at how the characters and their world reflected issues of the time (as well as issues important to the audience, whether they knew it or not.) One of the more interesting avenues explored is the world of adaptation, as Rosenbaum breaks down the elements that were carried through the various versions of the property, and how they affected how those visions succeeded or failed (including offering something of a defense for the presence of Vanilla Ice and his "Ninja Rap" in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.)

Though Rosenbaum brings an obviously extensive amount of personal knowledge and research to the table, Raise Some Shell. doesn't read like a dusty slice of academia, nor does it read like the rants of an obsessive fan (with the exception of the Donatello promotion) as the author injects a sense of humor into his thesis, particularly in his use of footnotes. Traditionally the realm of citation, the footnotes in this book are an opportunity for the author to expand upon or comment on something without affecting the narrative. Some of the notes are hysterical, like his highly economical comment on Vanilla Ice's place in recording history, and all uniformly add to the book (though one late in the book, which takes up over half the page, might be considered self-indulgent.) Even if you're not a fan (or have never been a fan) of the TMNT, the writing is engaging enough and topics universal enough to make it worth your while.

The Bottom Line
Casual TMNT fans and die-hards alike will find something to like in Rosenbaum's book, as will anyone interested in the world of animation and licensed properties, as the author looks at the Turtles phenomenon from all angles, using various parts of the franchise as opportunities to explore more academic, yet still interesting tangents. That Rosenbaum gets all of this across cleanly and with a sense of humor (exemplified by his great use of footnotes) makes it all the easier to recommend Raise Some Shell. ECW is two for two with these Pop Classic titles.


Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Follow him on Twitter


*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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