There has been a mild splash in comics news recently as IDW’s current publication of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has announced a spin-off title featuring Jennika the new female member of the former males-only quartet.
You might be forgiven for not thinking this is “news”, per se, on multiple levels: new solo titles in a comic book series are hardly unusual, TMNT has been rebooted and reimagined more times than Spider-Man or Batman movies, and this isn’t even the first female Ninja Turtle. In addition to a plot point where April O’Neil was turned briefly into a turtle, on the Fox Kids live-action show Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation, a character called Venus de Milo was introduced. Her character’s nom de guerre, despite not quite syncing up with those of the Renaissance painter nicknames of the other turtles, is also amusing for that of a certain kind of martial artist, as the statue that shares the turtle’s name has no arms. Maybe the show had her specialize in capoeira? I don’t know, I’ve never seen it.
We call the statue of Aphrodite discovered on the former island of Melos the “Vénus de Milo”, but she is far from the only depiction of Venus in art and antiquity. As famous, if not more so, is Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” also known as “Venus in the Half-Shell” and known the primary occupant of that particular structure long before Eastman and Laird had their ninja “Heroes in a Half-Shell” stake a claim for turtle power.
Why do I bring up this collection of intertwining Ninja Turtle and Venus references? Is it simply because of director Terry Gilliam’s recreation of Botticelli’s scene with Uma Thurman in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen? No, it’s because when we talk about Gilliam’s Venus animation in the recap of episode eight, “Full Frontal Nudity”, we mistakenly refer to the painting as the statue. Apparently, we will do this again in episode ten, while discussing the place of the nude in my bed—in art! In the history of tart, um, call-girl, um, sorry. I’ll start again. And this time I’ll leave out the whole Ninja Turtles thing.