And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
The Donatello
Christmas Tradition
by: Wes

Kid Wes, 1988Ah, the holidays. This time of year hardly holds as much wonder for me as it did when I was a boy, and I'm hardly the happy and carefree little feller that I once was (okay, I was never terribly happy or carefree, and my closest friends were and remain to this day the action figures that appear en masse on this very site, but CHRISTMAS CHEER LET'S PRETEND WELCOME TO THE LAND OF MAKE-BELIEVE AND GUMDROPS ALRIGHTY THEN), but it's hard not to look at the falling snow and the skinny, sullen Salvation Army Santas angrily ringing their bells as people walk past and toss loose change and pocket lint into their cauldrons and feel the most minute twinge of Christmas joy in one's heart.

The other day I went to the dollar store and witnessed children possessed of the spirit of Christmas, screaming as they placed the scratchy Santa caps onto their filthy, unwashed heads and ran about the toy aisles pointing and shrieking that they wanted to find THAT under their tree on the morning of December 25th. And you've gotta admire their simplicity, because in this day and age a kid who's willing to settle for cheap dollar store toys is truly special. I mean, dollar store gifts are fine for stocking stuffers, and little kids are free to give them to each other as presents, and back when I was in school, I used to give dollar store chocolates to girls I liked around this time of year (which probably explains why they never, ever liked me back, but hey, at least I only spent a dollar on those bitches), but as primary presents from one's parents? That's the kind of shit that would make a moral philosopher out of a normal seven-year-old, because the kid would start analyzing all of his/her past behavior that year to find out which action was bad enough to warrant this holiday punishment. Sadly, some kids' parents can't afford more expensive toys -- and looking into the Toys for Tots donation box at the dollar store and seeing the crappy offerings within, I was saddened to think that somewhere, this Christmas, a lonely orphan is going to tear open that sole package with her name on it to find a Best Friend Colton doll.

The Donatello Christmas Tradition!

Not on my watch, damnit! At least not for three lucky kids, anyway. See, around here, we've got a holiday tradition known as The Donatello Christmas Tradition. And here's how it works. Every Christmas, I go out and buy Donatello action figures to donate to the disadvantaged children -- one more for each year that the tradition runs. As you can see above, three Donatellos indicates that this is the third year. Next year, assuming the Turtles' millennial revival is still going strong, there will be four Donatellos. Last year, there were two. And when I began the tradition in December 2003, there was only one.

How'd it get started, you ask? Well, in December 2003, I was pretty down on my luck. I was a recent grad, jobless, and spent the majority of my time reading, writing, watching movies, and wishing I were dead. Which is really not very different from my current situation, but whatever. But I could also remember a time when things were simpler. Happier. When plunking down my life's savings of four dollars and change for a TMNT action figure could transform the most miserable of days into a joyous occasion for celebration and cake. You know how people weep during their religious commitment ceremonies? That's how I felt when I found MetalHead on the peg at Toys 'R' Us. I slept with rows and columns of action figures lining the left side of my bed, and I played with talking versions of them in my dreams. At least I think they were dreams. But the point is that action figures were a tremendous source of happiness to me -- especially TMNT action figures -- and, recalling the especial delight that attended the arrival of new friends under the Christmas tree, in my wretched state I felt like giving some poor kid a taste of that new Turtle toy joy I'd once known. Besides, 'twas the season.

''I'm O.T., bitch!''''This is fucking PAINFUL.''

So why Donatello? Well, Donnie was the first Turtle I ever owned. Nor was he a Christmas gift -- if I remember correctly, I got him in August of 1988. We'd just moved back to the United States from Germany and were acquainting ourselves with the area, and walking through the local mall I spied the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures on a display outside of KB Toys. Now, I'd never heard of the Turtles. I'd never read the comics, never played the game, never seen the show. But I saw these little mutant creatures, read the story on the back of the box, and fell in love. Shredder looked kinda lame with the blue and purple color scheme, April was for girls, Splinter was a giant rat with black eyeliner and a tattered maroon dress. But oh, oh, the TURTLES. Unusual, kinda cute, way more durable looking than the He-Man figures -- and only four bucks, which was pretty impressive given that Madballs had been like eight-plus U.S. dollars in good ol' Landstuhl. And while they all looked more or less cool, somehow Donatello struck me as being the coolest of them all.

I don't know why I chose Donnie. Purple's probably the least most menacing of the Turtles' four trademark colors, and despite consistently having the most effective weapon in the video games, Don still basically wields a giant stick. Maybe, given that the weapons weren't painted back in those days, I thought Donatello's accessories seemed the most authentic. Giant wooden sticks are brown; metal katana blades are not. Maybe it was the shoulder straps on his belt that put him over Mike and Raph. But I'm thinking it probably had to do with his expression. Leo looked kinda frightened; Raph looked like he was trying way too hard; Mike looked like he was doing his best impression of Aargh. Don, on the other hand, was fucking hardcore, being the only one of the original four who managed to bare his teeth on both sides while still touching his lips together in the center -- and don't go telling me that the Turtles don't have lips, because they totally do. They enunciate quite clearly, and enunciation requires lips. Try saying "Michaelangelo" without lips. Can't be done. Unfortunately, my original Don got a second set of lips in the center of his face when my sister bit a hole in it. I still loved him, though.

''I mean, really, 'anything that you plug in'?!''

More Turtles followed. Wacky Action Mike came next, if I remember correctly, and then many, many others -- but Donatello was the first Turtle I ever really loved. He ushered me into a world of awesome toys and taught me that one could be intelligent and still kick ass. He gave me a reason to stand up and cheer, because he was the one who developed a plan so that the Turtles could make music for all their fans. Yes, look to Don for the whistles and bells -- helping each of us to come out of our shells.

And so, 15 years later, I once again lifted Donatello from a store peg -- this time from Wal-Mart; KB Toys had become way too fucking expensive since my childhood days -- and entrusted him to a large cardboard box outside Best Buy in the hopes that some child would derive the same joy from the company of this miniature plastic likeness of the brilliant reptillian warrior, musician, and inventor. Little did I know then that it would become a tradition, and that each successive year I would be compelled to add another Donatello to the lot. Actually, I could add more, and I've thought of doing so, but that would break the tradition, and with me never knowing what my job sitch is going to be like it could get a little crazy if I start fucking around with exponential increases and the Turtles' second run of the shelves lasts as long as their first one did. But mostly because it would break tradition. The Donatello Christmas Tradition. It is a good tradition. Long may it live.

''You've ALWAYS been ugly.''

Happy Holidays!

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