Goongala! Today we extol one of the Ninja Turtles’ greatest allies, the hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones!
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This Friday the 13th I profess my love for a certain violent, socially maladjusted, hockey-mask-wearing freak from the 80s.
Arnold “Casey” Jones is an all-time great sidekick. The friend and ally of the Ninja Turtles may be simple minded, but he’s a complex character. He’s a street vigilante, yet also deeply kind-hearted. He’s awesome at getting things done, but also something of a classic screw-up, capable of greatness but no stranger to dumb mistakes.
TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman quips that although Casey came first, he came to model the character after Kurt Russell’s roguishly heroic and charming but irrepressibly dopey protagonist from Big Trouble in Little China, writing to the mantra, “ What would Jack Burton do?”.
As the Turtles have moved through decades of TV and film iterations, so too has Casey. His character has changed a bit in different variations, but always retained the core Caseyness (well… except in the 1987 cartoon which had no idea what to do with him).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Three decades (and multiple sequels and reboots) later, the Turtles’ original cinematic outing remains far and away their best movie.
It’s also peak Casey Jones, as adroitly portrayed by Elias Koteas, because he’s the Samwise Gamgee of this movie. The amphibians may be the stars, but the Casemeister is the hero. What else can you call the guy who saves the turtles, rescues Master Splinter, defeats the Shredder’s top enforcer, Tatsu, puts the coup de grâce on the Shredder himself, and gets the girl?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is available on HBO Max, along with its sequels which unwisely omitted (II) and wasted (III) the best character.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 Series)
In the early 2000s Peter Laird, who had been dissatisfied by some of the Turtles’ past portrayals and false starts, relaunched the TMNT brand under his own supervision with a new comic series, animated show, and CG animated film.
He helped guide a new animated series, more closely based on the comics, which adapted familiar storylines that fans had long desired to see play out on the screen, like Return to New York and City at War.
The series took some time to find its footing, but went to some really imaginative places after getting its groove. It also corrected one of the most important fumbles of the 1987 series: Casey Jones was back in the primary cast rather than an occasional guest spot.
The series is available streaming on Paramount+.
The Turtles made their return to big screens in the ambitious but underseen 2007 animated film which made the creative decision of rebooting the franchise in real time, rather than starting over — it’s a loosely defined sequel with direct allusions to the original movie trilogy (as well as other lore
It’s a challenging time for the no longer teenage Turtles, who — Raph and Leo in particular — finding themselves drifting apart.
For fans, it’s a chance to see an older and wiser Casey (well known to comics readers but rarely portrayed this way on screen), with future Captain America Chris Evans stepping into the role. He’s still a goofball and screwup, but genuinely trying to be a functioning adult and help April with her procurement business, not to mention dispensing sage advice to the Turtles as they find themselves at odds. And when it comes down to it, he understands his best pal Raph even better than Raph’s own brothers.
TMNT is available on HBO Max.
Casey Jones (2011 Fan Film)
There are a fair few Casey Jones fan films out there there (let’s be honest about why: he’s a lot easier to depict in live action than the Turtles). But this 35-minute film, which celebrates its 10th Anniversary this month, is worth checking out for a few reasons, most notably that Robbie Rist, who voiced Michaelangelo in the original 1990 movie, reprises his role here. Austin-based director and star Polaris Banks is still making films; his latest short Reklaw with Lance Henriksen premiered at this year’s SXSW and is currently playing at Fantasia.
The film’s officially available to watch online here.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 Series)
For their animated series, Nickelodeon aged down Casey and April to be the same age as the turtles, young teens rather than young adults. I was resistant to that idea, but the series proved me wrong, and as a whole it may be the single best version of the Turtles’ story.
A couple of key Casey episodes to check out include “The Good, The Bad, and Casey Jones”, which introduces him to the fold, and the delightfully nuts “Race with the Demon”, which loosely adapts one of the comics’ craziest stories as Casey and Donnie battle the speed demon, a mutant… hot rod? Like the comic it’s modeled after (TMNT V1 #30, Rick Veitch’s Sky Highway), it’s a mad tribute to classic hot rod culture imagery like Ed Roth’s “Rat Fink”.
The entire series can be viewed on Hulu.
— A/V Out.
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