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TMNT Artisan Edition–Finally!

I’ve been looking forward to the TMNT Artisan Edition for a number of months now! I was looking forward to it, and thought I might’ve missed it, back in March or April, and then thought it was due out around the end of April, and it kept not being on the week’s shipping list, and on and on til now.

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I’d eventually ended up pre-ordering it via Amazon, just to make certain I wouldn’t miss out on it, and was quite surprised recently when I got a notification that my order had been "upgraded" to get the book day-of-release, August 8th. Of course, given that it seems like most of the time anymore, Amazon gets "access" to stuff a week or two AFTER comic shops, and this is from IDW, I just "assumed" then that I’d be able to get this from a shop mid-late July, but it wasn’t.

Then this week, I find out it WILL BE in shops…this week. But my copy, from Amazon, has already arrived.

This is a huge book, and quite the attractive volume! It contains original layouts and notes and such on the original first TMNT comic, as well as the finished version, and some extra art and such (a couple original ads for the first issue and sketches and such). Not a huge quantity of material, but enough to pad this out and make it highly worthwhile, at least to me.

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As said, this is a huge book…it’s even larger than the TMNT Ultimate Collection volumes IDW put out a few years ago, and this book will not fit on the shelf with these–it’s too tall! So it’ll perhaps get some special display spot, be relegated to laying on its side on top of the books on the shelf, or perhaps I’ll move all the TMNT stuff to a shelf with a bit more space when I next reconfigure my ‘library’.

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Here’s one of my favorite double-page spreads, and (to me at least) one of the most iconic images of the issue! Interesting how recognizable it is even in the sketch/layout stage…

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…and yet how much more detailed the finished version is! (pardon the compressed/curve in the photo, the pages didn’t want to stay quite as open).

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Here’s the rough layout of the origin/introduction of the turtles…

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…and the finished.

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Shredder’s introduction in rough…

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And flipped for the final version in more detail.

I still really dig that this original issue was only ever intended as a one-shot thing, and that Shredder–the real, actual, not-a-clone/etc Shredder–had his first and last appearance in present-day here.

At the same time, I have come to really dig the IDW Shredder across a 50-issue run and appreciate that sort of longevity to that version of the character. But that’s a post for another time.

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Here’s the book next to the latest issue of IDW‘s run. Fitting…a version of the original issue, with what is now the highest-numbered-ever TMNT issue. 1984 – 2017 and still going!

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Super-Blog Team Up – The ’90s Revisited: The Death of the Mighty Mutanimals

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Welcome to my first-ever post of something larger than just my own posting in a near-vacuum! I was recently added to the Super-Blog Team Up, a group of bloggers who occasionally unite to thoroughly cover a topic or theme in a way that no blogger can do alone.

This time around, the topic is one that has become all-too common and relatively meaningless in comics: death. There are a number of other blogs that are part of this, and I’d invite and encourage you to check them all out–both for their "tie-in" posts like mine is, but also for the indiviual flavor and content of the individual blogs. It’s quite a mix, and being in such great company has led me to try to really "up" my game with my own participating post below!


The earliest days of the 1990s…

After several new mutant/animal characters were introduced in the pages of the Archie-published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures title, they were eventually brought together as their own team, and spun off into their own mini-series. We went from this ad:

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…to the premiere issue of the title:

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The Mighty Mutanimals title took on a storyline that had been building in the pages of TMNT Adventures and following these other characters (and Raphael) as they fought the villainess Maligna, and ultimately stopped her invasion of Earth.

The characters decided they’d worked pretty well together, and decided to stick together as a group. Thus, we then had the ongoing series of the same name.

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Over the course of the series, we saw them following Jagwar’s mother on the Path of the Four Winds, as she’s been interrupted by an avatar of Death.

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The Mutanimals catch up to, and the story reconnects with, the ongoing TMNT Adventures title for the United We Stand three-parter. This story puts the turtles and the Mutanimals against the avatars of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Pestilence…and Death. The story sports a 3-panel image spread across the three different issues…at the end of getting the three-part story, one has the entire image and the entire story!

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From there, we’re introduced to the villainous shark Armaggon, setting the character up for The Future Shark Trilogy in TMNT Adventures.

The team then re-encounters Captain Mossback, a figure Man Ray had faced in the past with the turtles…and then Slash returns, and seems to somewhat have his story resolved.

Surprisingly (to me at the time) that Slash issue turned out to be the final issue. I didn’t much follow "solicitations" and the like, though I’d occasionally get an issue of Advance Comics to check out upcoming DC and Marvel stuff. But I found out that The Mighty Mutanimals was ending when I read the note in issue #9 stating that it was the final issue.


Solidly into the ’90s…

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Not long after that, I learned that the Mutanimals were getting a "backup series" in the main TMNT Adventures title, and looked forward to it. The backup spanned the run-up to #50, and the return of some characters from earlier in the series. I remember having no idea how long the team would run as a backup, but figured as long as they were continuing, things would be ok.

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I was NOT all that enthralled with the new villains they were facing. They were very much "typical ’90s villains" and seemed to essentially be caricatures of a sort, playing off the "grim ‘n gritty" wave of characters of the time.

We were introduced to Waster, Fist, Dead-Eye, and Lynch…who were (literally) gunning for the Mutanimals.

Over the course of the backup, the Mutanimals finally got a headquarters, aided by the future-versions of Donatello and Raphael (who’d been introduced in the Future Shark Trilogy)…and of course, faced these new villains. Though a challenge, the villains were defeated…but matters became worse with the return of old foes Scul and Bean.

Managing to defeat Scul and Bean (having learned a bit since their initial run-ins), the Mutanimals were not prepared for the ambush from the thought-defeated Gang of Four. The seven-issue backup series ended with these three pages:

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I remember thinking at the time that ok, this sucked, but we’ve got the time-traveling turtles, who seemed to have little trouble coming back in time, so surely they could fix things, despite their surprise at coming back, expecting to find the Mutanimals alive, but instead slaughtered on the beach.

Of course, it’d be hard to work their time-travel magic fixy-stuff if they didn’t survive Slash, who had made his way to the site to see what was going on, and on finding the Mutanimals dead, assumed the turtles (standing over the bodies) were the culprits.

This ending led stuff back to the main story in TMNT Adventures with the three-part Terracide story.

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Terracide dealt with the death of the Mutanimals, the turtles (future and present) finding their friends murdered, as well as the revelation and confrontation with the responsible parties! And dark as the Mutanimals’ backup series had been and wound up…it was sort of odd at the time seeing just how dark the main TMNT Adventures got with facing the heavy topic of such death and destruction…particularly of major characters!

TMNT Adventures #55 opens with a scene that begins pulling the main TMNT story to the path of the Mutanimals’ story, while Future-Raph and Future-Donnie deal with the immediate situation of the deaths of their friends.

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The turtles and Slash are interrupted by the arrival/return of Candy Fine, who witnessed the death of the Mutanimals. They get the story from her (and this basically covers the run of the backup stories).

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A bit of time passes, as the future-turtles, Slash, and Candy bury their friends’ bodies, and continue to mourn and reel from the shock of this unexpected loss!

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They leave the island, and end up meeting up with the present-day turtles, Splinter, and Ninjara. The entire group runs afoul of the Gang of Four, as well as another old foe, behind the villains and posing quite an epic threat in and of himself: Null!

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In typical form for comics in an age where collected editions were pretty rare and still a new-ish, unusual-ish format…there was plenty of exposition even within chapters of the same story, in a way that would be pretty unheard of with modern comics.

Continuing into the second chapter of Terracide in TMNT Adventures #56, we get another sort of re-telling of the Mutanimals’ backup series:

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This was the sort of thing that grabbed me, that made the story seem epic and ripe with potential. Yeah, the Mutanimals were killed…but some villain’s messing with the timeline. That means time is being messed with and as such, perhaps could be undone, and at the end of the story, after some hard-fought battle, Time itself would be restored and the Mutanimals would be alive again to carry on.

After all…they wouldn’t really be killed off completely and permanently, would they?

Later in this issue, Mondo’s girlfriend encounters a live Mondo Gecko…the villainous Null messing with her. He gives her a hellish vision, of the Mutanimals suffering and burning in hell:

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This image was a two-page spread, and quite possibly one of THE most disturbing, disquieting, uncomfortable images of the entire run of TMNT Adventures and The Mighty Mutanimals for me.

While Null escapes with Candy, the turtles and Ninjara manage to defeat the Gang of Four in a darkly permanent fashion. Despite having–to a large degree–"won" or achieved vengeance for their murdered friends…Null escaped ,and must still be dealt with.

The team splits up–which leads into the following story (this was also a time in which there were subplots and developments that would lead to larger stories, small things and large weaving in and out…but that’s a topic to get into in some other post).

In TMNT Adventures #57–Terracide part 3–we find that once more, Null was not working alone.

Once more, he has allied with Maligna!

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And thus, the entire Mutanimals saga basically comes full circle. The characters were brought together, formed a group, became the Mutanimals while stopping Maligna’s initial invasion attempt of Earth. Now the alien insect queen is back, and it is ultimately she who arranged for the Mutanimals’ deaths!

Pretty dark, a villain(ness) winning on such a grand scale.

But perhaps also effective in raising the stakes, showing just how dangerous she truly is (if not how flat-out lucky the Mutanimals were the first time dealing with her), and story-wise, allowing that much more a sense of stuff in the need to defeat her.

The turtles and their allies fight valiantly, but in the battle, Maligna’s ship is stalled, and headed right for the sun…they’re not even sure if they’ll escape.

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But Slash refuses to join them. After seeing his own world destroyed, after all he’s been through, and his rather recent "redemption" and allying with the Mutanimals only to see these new friends unceremoniously killed, he stays behind to buy the time the turtles and friends need to be capable of escape.

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Slash is killed ensuring Maligna and her allies cannot escape. Though the Mutanimals are gone…the orchestrators of their deaths are also taken off the board. Some measure of justice or revenge or what-have-you.


Impacting the ’90s…and Me

On the subject of death in comics, there’s plenty out there on a number of topics. Add to that that I wanted to pick a topic that I hadn’t really seen specifically covered anywhere, for my participating this first time in the Super Blog Team Up. I realized that offhand, I’d virtually never seen/heard reference to the Mighty Mutanimals by anyone else in general/casual comics discussion, and "the concept" of the Mutanimals has been somewhat redone in recent years.

Actually, their being redone has unfolded twice–once in the soon-to-end TMNT animated series from Nickleodeon, and the current ongoing comics from IDW. And a recent arc in the main TMNT book that involved the new iteration of the Mutanimals actually (for a moment as I read) gave me a slight "flashback" to the ’90s iterations’ deaths as I wondered if they were basically killing the group off in the current continuity. (Spoiler-ish: they didn’t, at least in that one). So with that stuff on my mind, I chose my topic, and here we are.

But what does/did it all MEAN?

Well, offhand, my initial response would be that their deaths didn’t really seem to mean much of anything, back in the ’90s…Not in the grand scheme of things, not outside of anyone reading Archie‘s TMNT Adventures, anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen reference to the Mutanimals’ deaths in any "death list" from the ’90s…I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen any mention of them in regards to the "effect of the ’90s" on comics…heck, outside of TMNT-specific sites and message forums, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them mentioned, or any of their comics covered, etc.

The death of the Mutanimals certainly never overtly–that I am aware of–particularly inspired anything or caused any great ripples or garnered any specific attention or referencing.

So now, a quarter-century later…I am doing it. I am referencing them, and this, and devoting one of (if not THE) largest blog post I’ve ever written to the topic.

I was introduced to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the fall of 1988…around the same time that I was introduced to comics (but that’s another story for another time). I resisted at first, but eventually "gave in," and then EMBRACED the concept…from the cartoon, to the toys, to books, comics, cereal, the movies, everything. I have some somewhat conflicting memories–of a lot of little elements in a relatively short time span remembered after over 25 years and 3/4 of a lifetime.

But this isn’t where I talk about my history with the turtles. This is my history with the Mutanimals.

Discovering Man Ray / Ray Fillet

afa_coversI had a birthday party at a local skating rink, and I think that might be where I was given Ray Fillet, one of the more "random" characters that I didn’t actually know anything about at the time other than what was printed on the card of the figure.

I also remember several "storybooks" of the TMNT, including one called A Fishy Adventure. This one was a story about the origin of Ray Fillet, mutated from marine biologist Jack Finney, and his first encounter with the turtles. I would later learn that it had the same story as one of the comics–an issue of TMNT Adventures. Nicely enough, said issue was the start of that series’ diverting from merely adapting episodes of the cartoon into a continuity all its own. I also got an issue of this color TMNT comic series at a flea market called The Red Barn that my aunt had worked at. I lacked plenty of context of the series–it was #17, and I don’t think I had (yet) read any other issues, except maybe #8 and possibly #11 that a friend had had. But this issue had the turtles, as well as April and a character that looked like Ray Fillet, but in the comic was called Man Ray.

Discovering Mondo Gecko

tmntadventures018I distinctly remember arguing with a friend over the pronunciation of Mondo Gecko’s name. "Mondo Geh-koh" vs. "Mondo Geek-oh." I was adamant it was "Mondo Geh-koh," largely due to one of my earliest memories in life involving toddling out to the kitchen for a drink of water and being startled by a gecko running across the front of the fridge.

I don’t know if I had the figure yet and the argument arose from the pronunciation then and there, in which case I’ve crossed memories with Ray Fillet; or from talking about the character because it appeared on the back of the card for Ray Fillet.

But I was interested in and wound up with/had Mondo Gecko. I vaguely remember the character appearing in an episode of the cartoon, but moreso I remember the issue he first appeared in in the TMNT Adventures series–#18–being one of my earliest "priced" back issues, bought for around $5 at Capp’s Comics (4+ times cover price) at a time when most new comics topped out at $1.50.

Discovering Leatherhead

tmntadventures006I’m pretty sure my earliest memory of Leatherhead is his appearance on the cartoon, bullying the "Punk Frogs," and sporting an awful cajun-ish accent that makes Gambit sound like Frank Sinatra…and a quasi-catch-phrase of "I guarantee!" I also remember the character’s figure being rather awkward and crouched over and far less "upright" the way most other characters’ figures were.

There was another "storybook," I believe TMNT: The Fight for the Turnstone, that had a completely different version of Leatherhead in it…one in which the character was an ALLY of the turtles rather than a villain, and had apparently started out as a human and was magically changed into a gator-man, rather than an alligator mutated to humanoid form.

leatherhead_wallartI also remember an image of the turtles fighting a giant alligator creature from a calendar my aunt got me (for the art, I think it was from the year before…I still have several of the pages, now framed and hanging as wall-art). I learned that this other version of the character (from the Mirage/original comics) was quite different from either version I’d encountered.

I got TMNT Adventures #6–that version of Leatherhead’s first appearance–from a bargain rack at Comics & Collectibles, another of my earliest "specific back-issue purchases/finds" in my earlier days of being "into" comics.

Discovering Wingnut and Screwloose

tmntadventures008It may well be deja vu of some sort, but I do consciously (now) know that Wingnut and Screwloose were in The Fight for the Turnstone along with Leatherhead and various other characters. Thinking back to as early as I can remember, I’m pretty sure that I first encountered these characters in TMNT Adventures #8 that a friend had, where I read their origin.

I also remember another friend (that I’d argued with over Mondo Gecko) having the Wingnut action figure that came with a miniature Screwloose, much as Muckman had come with Joe Eyeball, or several other characters came with "sidekick" like characters…except that "Wingnut and Screwloose" were more "named" and went together in a way that a lot of others (outside of Muckman and Joe Eyeball) did not.

The comics version was not much like the action figure in appearance–they were recognizably the same, on the surface, but not having the figure myself, I saw the comic version as quite different. And much like with Leatherhead, I remember their being part of the Turnstone story in that storybook, which I later learned was based on an issue or two of the TMNT Adventures comic series.

Discovering  Jagwar and Dreadmon

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Jagwar and Dreadmon were slightly later introductions for me, I believe I "met" them in the TMNT Adventures 1991 Winter Special, which reprinted the Mighty Mutanimals mini-series in a single issue. I later learned of their "origin issues" and got those for about $5 each, much like with Mondo Gecko’s appearance, from the "priced" back issues bins.

I don’t remember their playing MUCH of a recurring role in TMNT Adventures the way Leatherhead or Man Ray did…I mostly recall them AS Mutanimals characters.

Discovering Slash

tmntadventures024Slash is one of the earliest villain characters I remember getting from the toy line, after Rocksteady, Bebop, and the turtles themselves with Shredder, Casey Jones, and April. At the same time, remembering getting into the toys right at the height of their major popularity, it’s possible that I actually had Slash BEFORE the four turtles themselves! I distinctly remember rummaging through pegs and pegs of figures with Dad at the local Toys R Us (which is still there, as of this posting) and him wondering if the character might be popular for also being a turtle.

I then recall the character in TMNT Adventures, from my first "off the spinner rack" issue of the title, #25; and sometime after "backtracking" to his encountering the turtles in #24, before eventually getting back to #23 at whatever point I got that issue.

I believe I saw the character also on the cartoon, though right now I don’t remember if that would’ve been before or after the comics. I do remember Mutanimals #9 with Slash’s return, and then the character’s involvement in Terracide, as well.

Winter Special 1991 – TMNT Present: Mighty Mutanimals – Invasion from Space

mutanimals_tmnt_winter_1991_specialSeveral months after getting TMNT Adventures #25, I found a thick TMNT comic on the spinner rack at Waldenbooks, along with what turned out to be the final chapter of a multi-issue story in TMNT Adventures #30. The Winter Special starred The Mighty Mutanimals, and was an EPIC story of Raph and Mondo Gecko stowing away in villainous aliens’ ship and facing Maligna in her hiveworld, while Man Ray, Jagwar, Dreadmon, Leatherhead, and Wingnut and Screwloose dealt with Malignoid insect creatures eating the rain forest and such.

I remember reading this thick issue and seeing pretty clearly the issue breaks, and "sensing" that these were like three issues (despite being one big issue). Of course, I later learned I was correct, when I discovered the three-issue Mighty Mutanimals mini-series.

I also got the first issue of the ongoing series when that came out–it was RELATED TO the TMNT, and was a #1, so…yeah! Unlike the monthly TMNT Adventures, the Mutanimals title was a somewhat bimonthly book, not actually having a new issue every month. It eventually had a crossover issue with two TMNT Adventures issues in the 1992 story United We Stand (mentioned earlier).

tmnta36_mutanimals04I have a memory of a family vacation to Niagra Falls, and finding TMNT Adventures #36 and Mighty Mutanimals #4, and making the conscious decision at that point that I’d have to "give up" collecting the turtle figures to keep up with the comics, and WANTING to keep up with the comics more, enjoying their stories and such.

I remember reading in the letters pages about the possibility of a Mutanimals cartoon and being excited at that prospect…and the disappointment when not only did that not come to pass, but that the Mutanimals series was ending at #9, perhaps to return if anything would ever come of a cartoon, but that was that.

I somewhat recall being disappointed when the then-new backup feature started in TMNT Adventures, at how few pages they got, and that it wasn’t even a full "short" story, but just a few pages of some longer story. I enjoyed that we had some new villain characters for them, and that the "future turtles" Don and Raph were involved, and the Mutanimals were getting an HQ…it seemed ripe for a long-lasting "backup" that could lead to a new series and all that.

I was completely shocked when the end of the latest chapter of the backup in TMNT Adventures #54 saw the characters shot and blown up–killed–in what would be the final "backup" feature (though that story was shifted to the primary for the three-issue Terracide arc). Given the presence of the time-traveling Raph and Don, though…I know I’d THOUGHT they’d pull something outta all the time-travel stuff and wind up saving the Mutanimals…but they didn’t. We learned of Null and Maligna’s return and through the time-travel turtles that the Mutanimals were "fated" to die and such, and that they couldn’t be saved.

I was horrified at these deaths. These characters that I’d come to know in a way, that I’d gotten to read their debut "new" and follow their ongoing series from #1 (back then, a new #1 was actually a special thing!) were a pretty big deal to me. Sure, they weren’t the turtles themselves…but they’d all premiered in the pages of the TMNT Adventures title, and had been spun off into their own title, and even back then I had fond memories of the characters.

It always stuck with me, the Mutanimals having been suddenly and without much warning machine-gunned down, then blown away with a bazooka. No fancy last words, no long-winded death scene, no real goodbyes, no cover proclamation that In This Issue: Everybody Dies!…just suddenly the characters were actually shot ‘n killed, and that was that.

While I followed the TMNT Adventures for a few more issues…I actually missed an entire 4-issue arc, and there were only 15 issues of the title at all after Terracide, so this was sorta the "last, big event" of that title. With the Mutanimals gone, it was like the "heart" of the universe went with them.

I eventually came to learn that the Mutanimals were killed off because the creators figured they’d have more impact that way. [Though the only ‘source’ I could find was this forums.thetechnodrome.com post that suggests they were killed out of anger is the closest I’ve found to an actual source to the statement, though I’m sure I’d seen something in some comic or book somewhere else in the last couple years.]

In my searching, I did stumble across a blog from Steve Lavigne and Ryan Brown with a wealth of cool Mutanimals stuff, as well as another blog that seemed to be from Ryan Brown on the Mutanimals. And there was a great TMNT Entity post about the cartoon that almost was.

At the time, I lumped the death of the Mutanimals in with the rest of the ’90s and such, as it came about when it seemed like killing off major characters was the "in thing" TO be doing in comics.

Important as the Death of Superman and Batman: Knightfall were to me as a kid, I think the Mutanimals’ death was the most shocking. I don’t recall it being at all advertised ahead of time–it just happened. Then Terracide was another dark story, and not what I "expected" of the series.

I also have to wonder, in retrospect, at the impact on me with the TMNTA series itself…I got Terracide, and the 2-part story of them rescuing Michelangeo, and the Cyber-Samurai Mutant Ninja Turtles 5-parter. But I completely missed a 4-part story involving Ninjara, and don’t remember if it was when I got that story that I also got the final couple issues of the series, or if I had gotten the final couple issues when they first came out, just having missed/skipped the previous four issues.

But in a lotta ways, the Mutanimals were largely the "heart" of the TMNTA universe beyond the core turtles. They started out as "mutants of the month," new characters created/introduced to give some "story" to action figures concepts (or so it may have seemed at the time); but they also fleshed out and populated a wider TMNT Universe and ongoing saga that was rather definitive for me as a kid…and TMNT Adventures lasted more issues than ANY other TMNT series to date, though IDW‘s run is going to surpass it next month.  

In the last couple years, it’s been "interesting" seeing some of–or some form of–the characters brought back in IDW‘s main TMNT title.

I especially remember (a couple years ago) a scene in one issue with the new iteration of Slash with Mondo Gecko that made me smile…AND inspired me to cobble together a quick image I’d posted at the time, highlighting my "joy" at the revival of an old but familiar concept:

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It was also interesting seeing the concept incorporated into the 2012 Nickelodeon TMNT series as well.

I even just earlier this year acquired Leatherhead and Wingnut & Screwloose for the first time ever, "completing" my set of the classic action figures versions of the Mutanimals.

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But while I’m enjoying seeing the new iterations of the various characters, there’s a part of me that doesn’t exactly want to "accept" them. After all, they’re NOT "my" Mutanimals. "My" Mutanimals died in 1993, some 24 years ago.

Though I think the IDW iteration of the Mutanimals is already rivaling (if not surpassing) the longevity of the originals, it’s still a different concept to me. That said…there’s such a history to the Mutanimals as a group and individual characters that I catch myself mentally shifting some of that to the new versions of the characters.

And then over the course of the time I spent thinking about this topic, re-reading stuff, researching, and generally planning and procrastinating the actual writing of this post…two more TMNT issues came out, and each re-introduced an old, familiar character in a new way!

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The main TMNT title introduced the IDW iteration of Jagwar in #71…while TMNT Universe #11 introduced the IDW iteration of Dreadmon!

So while I have mixed feelings even there…it was a joyful evening to read those issues, and cool timing with me working on stuff for this post, and even manages to make me feel a bit "old" realizing how long it’s been and simply that I’ve been around long enough to see this come to pass.

But despite the ’90s, despite their deaths, despite it not seeming to impact much outside the TMNT sphere of direct influence…it’s apparent that the characters work, that they’re remembered, that they’re worth bringing into the contemporary TMNT universe/continuity…and that they matter.

I could keep going on and on…but I need to end this post somewhere.

I’ll certainly be revisiting much of this in the future, once I get back to my TMNT Revisited project/posts, covering the Archie TMNT Adventures issue-by-issue…including the Mighty Mutanimals issues.


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For now, please check out my fellow bloggers and their posts, participating in this latest Super-Blog Team Up! Also look for the Twitter posts, and any other social media chatter with this project or their blogs! #RIPSBTU, #SBTU, #SuperBlogTeamUp

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TO BE CONTINUED…

Thoughts on Rebirth #1, Lois and Clark #8 and Superman #52[SPOILERS]

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I’d been looking forward to these issues for awhile, with way more excitement and interest than I’ve had in most comics in ages.

Please be forewarned, I’m going to spoil these issues here, especially the Rebirth issue!

Superman: Lois and Clark #8

I remember highly anticipating the first issue of this series, due to the prospect of this meager “bone” tossed to me as a fan of the pre-Flashpoint Superman. It’s been a rich series, giving me so much that I’ve wanted, particularly as “my” Superman was now like I remembered the pre-CoIE Earth-2 Superman–not being the focus, not being “the” Superman, there could be hugely major shakeups in the status quo, such as Clark and Lois actually having a (biological) son. There’s the huge, overwhelming (to me) loss of the pre-Flashpoint world they knew…but with stuff in Rebirth I think there’s something to be said/suggested in this Superman sticking around but at least us as readers having “hope” that his world and past and loved ones are still “out there somewhere.”

While the above was more speculative and incomplete, I’ll be “spoiling” Superman #52 below as well as the Rebirth issue after it.

Superman #52

This issue concludes the Super-Leag…er…The Final Days of Superman story that’s crossed the various Super-books for the last few weeks/couple months. I’ve known what was coming, it was part of why I opted to follow the story. Get the story, see the events that lead to the apparent death of the New 52 Superman.

SPOILERS!

I don’t know what I expected, but this was not it. Surely there’s more DEPTH to stuff, things to be explored, subtexts one can root out…but on the surface, on initial reading, reading to get to the end…I felt like this was a letdown.

That’s it?!? That’s how he goes out?

And even with an 8-part story leading into it (remember, 1992’s Doomsday! arc (aka The Death of Superman was 6 chapters plus a Justice League tie-in) that should have made this epic, this felt padded and drawn-out, and while Superman “knew it was coming” this seemed like a weak way for him to go out, despite doing so literally in a “blaze” of glory (and that is NOT intended as a reference to the character Blaze).

Clark–the pre-Flashpoint Superman–steps in, the two DO meet (albeit briefly–and yeah, here’s the selling point that had me buying the #50s…I wanted to see them MEET), and we get an abrupt end to the New 52 Superman, which paves the way for the other Superman to ‘take over’ or ‘step back into his rightful place’ or some such.

The story ultimately doesn’t seem to have had much POINT except to “clear the board” and allow for things to keep moving FORWARD without actually backtracking or saying someone didn’t exist, etc. And that will surely also be coming into play in the next few months of stories.

Below, I SPOIL stuff in the issue, so be forewarned!

DC Universe: Rebirth #1

Now that I’m ready to actually write about this, I’m at a loss for words.

The art was an immediate attention-grabber…it just looked GOOD. And with the likes of Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and so many other “brand name creators”, how could this not? These are The Big Guns, some of THE big names whose art I’ve so enjoyed in the past (over the last 10-15 some years), so seeing their work was a huge treat, and I did not mind the bits of difference between ‘chapters’ and such…I was far, far more interested in the story itself.

And that story takes place across nearly 70 pages, with so many little moments that I really can’t even begin to properly “summarize” it, nor am I going to offer a page by page commentary on the issue.

Suffice it to say, I’m spoiling this issue.

This.

Is.

Your.

Final.

Bit of.

Spoiler.

Space.

To quote one River Song… “Spoilers, Sweetie!”

So…

Wally is BACK. My Wally. Original Wally. Wally West, Wally that was Kid Flash, in the Teen Titans, great friends with Dick Grayson, that became Flash after Barry died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally that “died” during Zero Hour, Wally that was the focus of more than 226 issues of his own ongoing series, Wally that disappeared and was seemingly–at best–“replaced” to be in line with the then-upcoming/now established tv show.

And he’s brought back in a way, it’s explained such that it does NOT invalidate the New 52 Wally West, it allows both to exist, to co-exist without my having any particular problem with it.

All the hype, and in getting to that, typing that…I’ve realized that THAT was my take-away with this issue.

Wally West is BACK!

Add to that we have some coy setup, more someone behind the scenes of the ones behind the scenes of the ones behind the scenes.

I remember the woman from Flashpoint #5, the ending, when stuff was somewhat supposedly “put right,” she had influence on what became the New 52 including the incorporation of the Wildstorm characters into the main unierse along with elements formerly/primarily Vertigo. Well, this woman–Pandora, I believe–is dealt with, and whatever power she had? She’s minor compared to this other power.

And from Wally’s narration, there’s this concept that 10 years had been “stolen,” that “love” had been stolen, “legacy” had been stolen, that it had all been stolen to make the heroes weaker, prevent them from being capable of taking something on.

Everyone being YOUNGER. A Superman in his early/mid-20s instead of mid-30s, and never married, etc. Barry, with no Legacy; no Jay to Barry to Wally to Bart. A compressed span of time in which Batman went through numerous Robins. Etc and so on and so forth.

And ultimately, to ME, to MY reading, the way I read this, the way I took it to heart…this “salvages” things. This validates the New 52 against pre-Flashpoint DCU. Essentially we have someone messing behind the scenes, manipulating vastly untold powers in ways that affect the very multiverse…and there’s still something COMING.

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New Old Books: Kingdom Come and Hellblazer

Considering I just placed the order on Friday, receiving books on Tuesday is excellent service from InStockTrades! I’ve been keeping up with the new Hellblazer editions–here we have vol. 13–which catches the series up to about where I first came into the series back in 2001 with Azarello‘s run…and off the top of my head, I believe this now gives me a complete run of the entire 300-issue Hellblazer series in paperback volumes! (From here, it’s just a matter of swapping out the old editions for the new on a rolling basis, I think!)

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While I don’t like the cover nearly as much as I liked the image on the original paperback, that had much more of the “feel” of the story…this seems to be what DC is sticking with for now, taking the cover they’ve used for roughly 8 years over the one they used for about a decade or so…or over one of the original covers or even a celebratory new cover image.

That said, I quite like the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Kingdom Come, and for a very rare thing, part of that is the extras the book contains.

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I don’t care much for sketch material or pencils-only stuff–I’m just not a “primarily-for-the-art” kinda guy when it comes to comics. And I prefer to write about, talk about comics more than any true interest in actually writing comics, so even seeing script pages doesn’t tend to do much for me (though I tend to prefer those more). But there’s plenty of text with the sketches and whatnot, and lots of images reproduced in full color, some even full-page, and this is a volume, a story, a creative team, a singular truly special isolated thing that (to me) actually deserves “extras” and such be thrown in.

But the quality of the extras, their relevance and insight, the smile I found myself with, grinning as I flipped through them–some of the pages bringing back memories, others a bit of wonder, some just pleasant, collected excitement seeing stuff I haven’t seen in years or am simply curious about and look forward to reading in-depth. And this is without even getting to the core of the book, the story itself, to get to re-read in this format.

I have the original single issues; the original paperback collection, the 2008 paperback with this new green cover, as well as the hardback original edition of the novelization (bought from a local comic shop at initial release), and even bought the mass-market paperback edition of that for a friend shortly into college. I do not have the Absolute Edition and don’t truly expect I ever will unless it’s reprinted and the timing and finances are just right. But for this not being the Absolute Edition, I really dig this one.

Thanks to the online order, but including shipping, I think I functionally paid about $22 for this, which at the price of a mere 5 single Marvel comics and some shipping, I find to be an extremely reasonable price and very much worthwhile for this.

I also find myself feeling a bit old, that I now own a 20th-Anniversary edition of something I remember buying the original first issue of, new, when it first came out. Time flies…

New Death of Superman Editions

death_of_superman_new_editions_03Back in late 1992, possibly early 1993–VERY shortly after Superman #75 was published–a collected volume was rushed out, collecting the six Superman issues and the Justice League issue that made up the Doomsday! (now simply The Death of Superman) arc.

I have always considered it something that was rushed because on the back where they gave a cover gallery, several of the issues were obviously-marked (Roman Numerals) later printings…whoever had been tasked with designing the back cover did not even themselves have access (or care) to all first-print editions (and I say this assuming there were no digital images floating around back then to simply access and use).

And over 1993 we then got the Funeral for a Friend story collected as World Without a Superman, and then eventually a massive (even by contemporary standards!) The Return of Superman (my copy, bought at the time, was a whopping $14.95 or so..!).

Over the years, those volumes have remained in-print…with the only major difference that I have noticed being that the Death of Superman volume eventually was switched to the iconic Superman #75 cover image of the tattered cape amidst the wreckage of Doomsday’s rampage.

The volumes originated in a time where any such collected volume was a real rarity/novelty, and it was only the particularly “special” or truly “sold-out” major storylines that would get collected into a single-volume edition…and each was largely its own thing, existing as an isolated item. “Simple” as the spines were back then, my original editions, at least, look ok together, but do not match many “surrounding” volumes on the bookshelves…and other than “knowing” the three volumes belong together, there’s no real indicator of them, nor the order to read them in. I take such knowledge totally for granted, but especially in this day and age of constant deaths and resurrections and timey-wimey stuff and multiverses and pre-Flashpoints and New 52s…’nuff said.

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We now get five volumes–each more manageable than the Death and Return of Superman Omnibus, and admittedly higher prices…but also more content in the volumes–for example, the Death of Superman volume now contains the Newstime magazine that was published during all this; the Funeral for a Friend volume has the Legacy of Superman and the Supergirl/Team Luthor special; while what was formerly the single-volume The Return of Superman has been split in two–with the addition of the four ongoing titles’ Bloodlines annuals (each issue starring one of the Four Supermen) as well as the entirety of issues that had only had several pages reprinted.

And while it does not fit the “set” or “series” quite the same way, we have the inclusion of the Doomsday volume, giving us the Doomsday: Year One annual as well as the complete Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey along with Superman: The Doomsday Wars.

I believe podcaster and fellow blogger Michael Bailey said it on Facebook (and I wholeheartedly agree!) that probably a better fit for this volume would have been the early-2000s mini-series Superman: Day of Doom in place of The Doomsday Wars.

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Still, all in all, I love the new trade dress–the black bar with red logo/title text contrasts nicely with the images, and really make them look like part of the same series of books.

While I kinda question the wisdom of numbering the volumes (wondering if a 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 on the spine would put someone off from buying an isolated volume), I absolutely love that with the full set, part of the spines makes up a black box with the iconic (extremely so to me!) “bleeding S” that denotes the death of the Man of Steel.

This set gives me at least my 5th edition of the Death of Superman volume, and I have many of the issues in this set multiple times over. Yet, given what the saga means to me, on learning of these new editions’ existence and the inclusion of the specials and particularly the annuals…I was immediately interested. That the spines do what they do put me over the fence.

However, I did wait until these were available from InStockTrades, as I certainly was not going to buy all 5 at once at anything remotely approaching cover price, and even this was a hefty one-time amount to lay out. For saving 45%, though, I’m extremely pleased with the purchase, and having these volumes!

Superman Unchained

superman_unchained_02In early 2013 or so, I recall a bit of personal excitement that had me ready to jump back into the Superman books…the prospect of a quasi “return” to there being several familiar titles each month. Superman and Action Comics were (and are, and remain) two “staples” of the New 52, and aren’t likely to disappear regardless of creative team turnover. There was the digital-first Adventures of Superman, and the pending Scott Snyder-takes-on-Superman fourth title, rumored at the time to be “Man of Steel” or such with the new movie on the immediate horizon.

The Snyder book wound up being Superman Unchained, and quickly soured me. I remember a fair bit of hubbub over the price point on the title–the first issue was $4.99, apparently super-priced due to the inclusion of a pull-out “poster” that would actually tie to the story. I got the issue, and was VERY disappointed with the so-called poster, as it was just some stupid, giant-sized “panel” of Superman crashing through a satellite. Nothing that couldn’t have simply been done as a “regular” double-page spread or such. It by no means needed a poster or pull-out or whatever, and was nothing “worth” putting on a wall or framing for the wall.

That the title was a $3.99 book–to my knowledge–combined with the frustration over the vastly over-hyped pull-out soured me. Add to it the slew of expensive variant covers and I didn’t even bother to pick up #2, accepting my loss on the first issue and moving on.

Flash ahead to present, and this “new series” had turned into a “limited series,” ran late, lost steam, etc. and generally fell off my radar.

But there’s a collected volume, a deluxe oversized hardcover…collecting the ENTIRE SERIES, the entire story into a single, nice-looking volume.

superman_unchained_01And while this would EASILY be a $50-$60 book (if not $75 just for the sheer heckuvit) from Marvel…from DC, Superman Unchained is a WHOPPING $29.99 cover price as an oversized hardcover. 9 issues, content from a Director’s Cut of #1, PLUS a cover gallery of all those too-many-to-count variants of the first six or so issues (presumably before the title ran late and lost steam and all that). 9 issues at $3.99 apiece would be $36ish. $37 for that first issue being an extra $1. Add another $4 for the Director’s Cut (I think it was actually $4.99 if not MORE, though) and we certainly hit the $40 mark. Heck, even at a mere $2.99/issue…9 issues and the director’s cut puts us squarely at $30 MINIMUM.

This book–oversized, hardcover, no ads, no wait between issues, no screwy over-hyped poster gimmick, everything in one volume–is $30.

I have yet to read the story itself…but it’s Snyder. It’s SUPERMAN. It’s A STORY, it’s significantly longer than the Earth One OGNs that I’m willing to buy despite the $20+ cover price. So it’s safe to say that yes…I’m happy with my purchase. The volume is seems a good value. I can’t imagine I’ll dislike the story enough to “ruin” having bought the book. Having followed Doomed earlier this year, I didn’t notice anything in that that was truly impacted by this story; nor have I seen anything else I’m consciously aware of that ties back to this.

So I get an epic-length self-contained Superman story and even if it sucks, it’s done in one at this point and I’m not going to be led into buying other titles or having to track anything down. Money well spent, and an impressive volume for the shelf. 

That I enjoyed paging through the cover gallery as much as I did almost warrants the purchase by itself.

This is truly an example of why I–by FAR–prefer the collected edition format to the single issues.

I don’t have to track down all the variants to get to ENJOY them, their very existence, seeing them with the logo/trade dress. Below, see (on the right-hand side) the “Superman Reborn” series of variants, reuniting classic ’90s Superman creators with the post-Death of Superman-era characters.

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Above: Covers from Superman Unchained #1…

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Above: Covers from Superman Unchained #2…

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Above: Covers from Superman Unchained #3…

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Above: Covers from Superman Unchained #4…

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Above: Covers from Superman Unchained #5…

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Above: Covers from Superman Unchained #6.

The October Loot Crate…stuff

After getting sucked in for last month’s “Galactic” crate, I stuck around for October’s…and it’s arrived, albeit a bit later than I’d expected.

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I can’t say I’m really all that impressed with this month’s box. In and of itself, it’s definitely not worth it just for the Sharknado survival guide–which to me is the best thing in the whole mess. Not really a t-shirt guy, don’t care for the print, or the “tattoos” or the mini weapon or such.

And even the Walking Dead issue doesn’t do anything for me–I left off (in print) with #102 or so, this puts me with a 30-issue gap.

Can’t think of what November’s might be, but it’s a good thing I started with the Galactic one, cuz this one by itself would’ve left me soured on the whole concept.

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