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Super-Blog Team-Up/The ’90s Revisited: Shiny Covers

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Welcome to Wednesday…and another Super-Blog Team-Up! Where a number of comics blogs and podcasts come together at a shared time and a shared topic. We have that shared topic…but everyone picks a specific topic that fits within that group topic, and makes it their own!

I was invited into this group several years ago, and it’s been a great group to be part of–not only for the specific SBTU posts and episodes, but simply the great community the group has.

This time out, we’re looking at the topic of Chromium: The Era of Excess. That is, the gimmicks and such most seen in the ’90s and onward following the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages of comics.

My contribution is below…and at the bottom of this post (feel free to just skip to that!) is a list of the other participants and their posts this time around!


Prologue

I’d had some grand plans for this post. Even a large, detailed outline. Laying out some thoughts and my definitions of the Chromium Age, the Era of Excess; ways that Excess could be seen, and so on. A broad overview of gimmicks–from publicity/attention stunts to cover gimmicks to other stuff; as well as compare/contrasting ’90s gimmicks with modern variants. Perhaps I’ll eventually get to more of that, but it’s not happening this time.

From the moment of seeing the topic, I wanted to look at many of the comics that embodied this era of excess…namely, the shiny, flashy, attention-grabbing physical gimmicks of ’90s comics.

And of course, while I recognize much of the distaste that can be had for such things…I have–particularly over the last 10+ years–come to really enjoy these flashy, gimmicky comics of the ’90s. I relish purchasing them primarily from bargain-bins…these $3 and $4 and $5+ cover price comics that had these prices over 20 years ago–that I can get for that same price if not merely one shiny 25-cent-piece. And especially over this last decade or so, I’ve amassed quite a collection of such comics, their shiny-ness often jumping out at me from bargain bins, and especially the 25-cent bins.

This is by NO MEANS an EXHAUSTIVE list. There are many issues not even slightly touched on here: both known to me…and probably more unknown than I even show below. Particularly glaring to me as I write this is the Robin III mini-series with its polybagged lenticular covers–I have multiple copies of the issues somewhere but could not find them in a timely fashion to include in this post. Ditto the X-Men: Fatal Attractions issues–though I have an old image from scanning the covers myself and combining them with photos of the holograms such that I’m happy to use that in context here.

The following are presented in little order. While I begin with showing some tamer, more basic “enhancements” to covers, the various enhancements were developed over time and used at various times over the years by a number of different publishers. I’ve clustered them in some broader categories, though there’s surely plenty of room for argument and hair-splitting such that I only claim these as my own terms–particularly in context of this specific post–though you’ll definitely find other descriptions, definitions, and terms for certain enhancements elsewhere.

I also use a fair bit of slang that I’m sure I take for granted, but may not actually be defined or the clearest in general. If in doubt, feel free to post a question asking for clarification!

Despite the many examples I have to show–that I gathered up physically in-person to photograph–there are many, Many, MANY issues that fit in all of these categories that I simply did not collate in time for this piece, could not find in time for this piece, do not myself own, OR do not know about.

“Gatefold” covers are also not included here, though to me, the most prominent example of one of those is probably 1991’s X-Men #1, in its (in)famous “deluxe edition.”

But for now, instead of focusing on what is not or will not be covered (pun intended) here…let’s get into a brief overview of “shiny covers” as found on comics in the 1990s!


Extra Colors

Especially in the early days of comics, printing in color wasn’t an extremely advanced thing, I don’t think–not being an expert on printing presses and such, especially in terms of books/magazines/comics. There’s the notion of the “four color process” that I recall, wherein there was a limited color range made up of four basic colors.

So for comics to–even on the covers–have an extra color not usually seen in general, it would be fairly attention-grabbing.

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Pulling a simple 3-issue sample, there’s Stryfe’s Strike File, Superboy #50, and X-Men #41.

These have an “extra color” with silver or gold ink prominently in the logos, making them stand out from the “usual” issues…and this photo doesn’t really do them justice compared to seeing the effect in-person.

I see this as a sort of “basic” “low level” “gimmick” where other than the visual color, the rest of the comic is pretty much as any other issue.


Paper Overlays

Another simple gimmick/”enhancement” for comics was having this extra piece on top of the covers themselves. It wasn’t exactly the cover, but it enhances the thing overall.

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The Protectors one sets the thing apart with the brightly-colored paper to help draw attention to the issue, standing in contrast to the usual colors one would expect on a comic’s cover. The Justice League America #70 has a bright red overlay proclaiming Superman is dead. The mourning after begins here!

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It–like the Protectors issue–allows this extra information/promotion copy without taking away from the actual image of the cover itself, which is full and intact beneath and very much a standalone image!

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And the full-cover overlay on the 71st issue allows for one to NOT be “spoiled” merely by seeing the image at the shop…though one would probably be spoiled when going to read the issue itself.

But it seems a relatively simple and cheap thing to have this extra exterior “insert” (I know that’s NOT the word I’m looking for) as part of the publishing process while “enhancing” the otherwise normal/usual covers.

Batman #497–the issue where Bane breaks Batman’s back–also had one of the half-cover overlays proclaiming You thought it could never happen…the breaking of the Batman. Unfortunately, that’s another issue I couldn’t locate in my accumulation in time for this piece. Though I did do a ’90s Revisited post on the issue some time back.

Similar to this, I recall a couple of Spider-Man comics in the later-’90s that had two different covers attached–with some of the copies having one cover on “top” and the rest having the other. Essentially “variant covers” but BOTH covers came with every copy of every issue…a neat thing that I intend to cover some other time.


Polybagged Comics

There’s actually quite a bit of variety here, though I’ve got these issues grouped together. My emphasis here is the polybagging of the issues–that is, they come sealed in a  plastic bag/covering, and in order to actually access their content–reading the issue, seeing interior art, getting at any trading card, poster, or whatever other goodies are included–means you have to cut open the bag and make the comic “worthless!”

I say that last part tongue-in-cheek because I remember even as a kid feeling it was rather ridiculous. I used to joke with a friend that someone ought to just put a cover onto a bunch of blank pages, polybag it, and put it out to see if anyone would notice. Or include some coupon to get the “real” thing if you actually DID open it!

To me, the general point of polybags was that these comics came with a trading card or such, hence the bag–the bag was not the comic, it was just a way to include extras without them having to be bound into the comics themselves.

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The Mighty Magnor #1 can be opened out like one of those pop-up children’s books where moving stuff around results in a multi-level display that folds back up into the typical comic size. The bag would seem to protect it prior to one opening it up into its unique oversized glory.

The Captain Glory, Legionnaires, and X-Force issues come with a trading card. The X-Force #1 is especially egregious, even by contemporary 2020 standards: it’s the exact same comic, the exact same cover, the exact same bag…but there are 5 DIFFERENT trading cards. One would have to buy 5 copies of the issue minimum to get them all and ostensibly a sixth if they felt even slitting the bag to remove the issue to read meant they’d destroyed the issue.

Ren & Stimpy #1 is bagged both for a “scratch-and-stink” thing I believe, and you can juuuust make out under the bag that the reader will be scolded for destroying the comic now that it’s out of the bag.

And the Incredible Hulk issue is a Marvel Milestones reprint with some goodies included (and I only recently acquired it myself so have yet to open it up to get at the stuff).

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Here are some more comics with mainly trading cards included, though Hardware and Blood Syndicate  also include poster pieces that can be combined with the other two premiere Milestone #1s (Static and Icon) to form a huge 16-panel image. The Fantastic Four issue includes an animation “cel” from the animated series…a neat little promo.

If you grew up in the ’90s and think back…you may realize that NOT included here are two key Superman issues: the infamous Superman #75 black-bagged “death issue,” and Adventures of Superman #500 and its white-bagged edition. Those are topics for elsewhere and elsewhen!


Glow-in-the-Dark Covers

Glow-in-the-dark covers are relatively self-explanatory. These have an extra element bonded to the cover that–when exposed to light for a bit of time will then give off a glow when the surrounding environment goes appropriately dark. Of course, this likely means holding them up to a light, and then flipping the light switch to “off” and enjoying the effect for a few moments.

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I believe this Ghost Rider issue was one of the earliest “gimmick covers”–at the least, I have a bit of deja-vu on having read something about that. The price of the issue was relatively unaffected despite the bonus effect…though that definitely cannot be said for MOST “gimmick” or “enhanced” covers! I’ve yet to actually read this issue or the Spectre issue. Green Lantern #50 and Superman #123 show the characters’ new costumes…

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And here’s a shot of the issues taken in the dark/no flash. This copy of the Green Lantern issue is rather beat up and not my original…and is obviously a bit worse for wear.


Foil Stamped Covers

I’m considering “foil stamping” its own thing in that it’s a bit of foiling “stamped” on the cover, typically isolated to the comic’s title logo and used rather sparingly. In good light at the right angles, it gives off a nice, reflective look–as foil does–but the bulk of the cover is still “normal” colors.

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There are many MANY of these comics out there, ’90s to present. I had these four handy (and the rest of the Rogue mini but figured one issue serves the point, and an issue of Shadowhawk I’d mis-sorted and hadn’t realized til these 4 issues were re-buried as I took photos for this post). A bunch of Ultraverse #1s have such editions where the only difference between them and the regular edition is a foil stamping on the logo.


Foil Covers

These covers go beyond the limited foil “stamping” to have the foil either making up the bulk of the cover or the entire cover.

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Some of these have foil as a background “color” while others use it for good effect to accentuate stuff…while some just…are.

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Photos don’t really do these covers much justice as the effect is much more noticeable “live” in-person when you see it.


Prismatic Foil Covers

These are much like the “plain foil,” but have more of a prismatic or patterned effect to the way they reflect light back at the viewer.

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The Green Arrow #100 is technically more of a prismatic foil stamping but got sorted here, so here it is. Along with this #100 issue, similar “trade dress” with the prismatic foil “stamping” can be found on Superman #100, Flash #100, and Wonder Woman #100, also out around the same time, and not pictured here.

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Closer up of the shiny effect on the Venom issue…

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and on the Fantastic Four issue.

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These three 30th anniversary Spider-Man issues plus Venom #1 have long been a “set” to me. I got all four when they first came out, and they’ve been a set in that regard at least since then for me.

They all have the same “webbing” pattern visible in the foil.

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Here’s a closer-up on the Amazing Spider-Man issue (this copy I got signed by Mark Bagley last year!). Marvel got away with this 4-issue anniversary extravaganza as a 30th-anniversary despite the hologram series as these were the anniversary of Amazing Spider-Man #1 rather than just the first appearance of the character. Plus, they were big round numbers #375, #200, #100…and in Venom‘s case, #1.

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The main 2099 #1s are another sub-set with a particular pattern within the foiling making up probably my favorite trade-dress for a series of titles. Though Ghost Rider was somewhat spoiled by being a much shinier/reflective foil.


Embossed Covers

Embossed covers are also straight-forward. They’re typically thicker/cardstock paper with embossing. That is, there’s a bit of a raised surface or texture, whether applied to the entire cover or just a logo or such. Think those old crayon-rubbings on paper where you put a sheet of blank paper over something, rub the crayon (or pencil) or whatever and see an image come through.

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Here are several full-color embossed covers, and then two printings of a Fantastic Four single-color embossed cover. The former have the embossed logos, while the latter have the entire cover embossed. Catwoman is embossed throughout.

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The Fantastic Four covers are both the same issue and same “image”…but two different printings. Different color for different printing, allowing one to have the same embossing, same image, but see at a glance that it’s a different printing.


Foil-Embossed Covers

For these, you have the embossing, but that’s combined with foiling. The points of embossing are foil, or is within a field of foil.

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These are a mix of depth and degree of foiling/embossing and shiny-ness; from logos-only to the rest of the cover.

The Magneto #0 issue doubles as a mail-away comic if I recall correctly–another thing of the ’90s but not a focus of this post.

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Still more with foil and embossing. The Avengers title had 4 of these covers in the year they were put out, if I’m recalling correctly; basically quarterly, so you’d have an extra-expensive issue with the “bonus” of the fancy foil-embossed cover followed by 2 “regular” covers, then another foil-embossed and so on. The Action Comics issue is in today’s terms a “variant,” as there were “Collector’s Edition” and “Newsstand Edition” covers; a topic for another time.

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Here’s a closer-up of the Avengers cover.


Die-Cut Covers

Die-cut covers have very specific parts cut out–using a die–typically with another image underneath. I suppose these could be considered die-cut overlays, but in the sense of most of what I’ve seen, they tend to be more so a cover revealing a hint of something beneath, which might be more of a first page.

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In the case of these issues–Wolverine #50, Sabretooth #1, and three of the four Reign of the Supermen launch issues–the cover IS the top, and they reveal part of an image underneath.

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…such as the Man of Steel issue. It works as a cover showing off Steel’s version of the “S” shield…but when you open the cover you see a full-panel/page image of Steel…but no cover dress, as it’s not the cover itself (but works WITH the cover).

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While Sabretooth‘s cover allows a hint of something beneath, and opens on quite the beautiful image of the feral villain.

I believe this came out about the same time as the first Deadpool #1, also a villain mini-series, though that one was simply embossed, if I recall correctly. (It is not pictured in this post)


Die-Cut Foil/Die-Cut Embossed Covers

Perhaps getting more to the sense of excess, we move here into the die-cut effect used in conjunction with embossing and/or foil to make up a cover.

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The Punisher War Zone cover has embossing along with the die-cut, though one might not even know it just looking at the cover…it’s a subtle touch. The Ghost Rider and Shadowhawk covers have a foil sheet under the die-cut rather than foil stamping.

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Batman #500 is a multiple-part mashup of “enhancements.” The die-cut for the top layer of the cover, foil cover underneath with embossing for the logo…and it’s a sort of overlay that on opening “reveals” the true cover underneath. PLUS it’s an extra-sized, extra-priced anniversary issue.


Hologram Covers

Hologram covers were covers featuring a “hologram” image. These varied in quality and size, and were presented in a number of ways. Primarily, they were approximately trading-card-sized images affixed to the cover; but some were larger, some smaller, and in the case of Malibu, the entire cover for several Ultraverse #1 issues!

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Robin II featured one of the earlier egregious use of variants that I’m aware of. Not only was there a hologram on the covers, you had different cover images…but all with the same hologram per issue! However, the quantity of covers declined with each issue. #1 had 4 hologram covers, #2 had 3, #3 had 2, and #4 just had 1. (And all 4 issues also had a newsstand edition/variant with no hologram!)

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There was actually a slip-cased box set for the Robin II mini that I’d picked up that came with one of each cover in a fancy box…definitely a novelty piece in my entire collection!

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The box set also included actual trading cards of each hologram image as stand-alone things…pretty neat inclusion!

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For the 30th anniversary of Spider-Man’s first appearance, there were these larger hologram images on respective issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, and (adjectiveless) Spider-Man. These were possibly my earliest real introduction to such covers, as a friend had at least a couple of these (if not all four) prior to my even discovering other “enhanced” covers or even the black-bagged Superman #75.

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Here are 6 “silver hologram” covers of Malibu‘s Ultraverse #1 issues. I believe there were also gold hologram editions–same image and effect, but with a gold instead of silver tint (though the latter three look slightly gold-ish due to the lighting and camera angle for this photo). Unpictured is an Ultraforce #1 that is gold…and I’ve yet to acquire Prime #1 in either silver or gold (though I’d prefer gold to go with these rather than trying to hunt 7 gold to have 8 match). Mantra and Prototype are basically hologram images of the regular edition covers while the others differ from the non-hologram covers.

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Probably my favorite hologram covers were those used for the X-Men 30th-anniversary crossover event/story Fatal Attractions. Prior to these, other hologram covers seemed to be layered images with depth…while these felt like you were looking through a portal into an actual truly 3-dimensional object (namely a statue of the character).

I’ve recycled the above image from my ’90s Revisited series covering the event; I’d scanned the covers and taken photos of the holograms that I then pasted over the actual photo of the covers to show the depth of the holograms.

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Here are several varied hologram images on covers. I suppose the Resurrection Man one might be more of a lenticular thing but looked like a damaged hologram when I first grouped these.

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This Web of Spider-Man #125 is one of at least two of these holo-disc covers…the other being Spectacular Spider-Man #225. If you lay the book flat and shine a bright light on it, you can essentially look down into a circular well of a view and see Spidey sorta move as you turn the cover. Think the Pensieve from Harry Potter except you don’t fall into it.

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The Silver Surfer #100 isn’t a particularly impressive hologram image…but it sure is pretty and shiny!


Other Covers

These are some covers that don’t exactly have their own categories; I’ve clustered them together for being a bit outside of a singular category or being a “set” (see below).

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The Bloodstrike #1 issue “Rub the Blood” doesn’t–in the case of the physical copy I have onhand–work. A quick Googling suggests the blood should disappear when rubbed, but didn’t always work…so I don’t feel bad for not trying hard to get something to happen. I’d half thought it’d change color or brighten, but c’est la vie. The Guardians of the Galaxy issue with Galactus has a foil-like effect, perhaps a bit prismatic-ish, but something to its coloring and texture seems to be something else, hence separating it out.

The Amazing Spider-Man #388 has a textured foiling so isn’t really a straight up foil but isn’t what I tend to think of as embossed, though I suppose it might technically be embossed. The physical texture is a bit too “fine” for what I’d consider embossing.

Bloodshot #1 and Turok, Dinosaur Hunter #1 are some sort of foil/chromium thing with the fancy part affixed to the cardstock covers themselves. I recall Bloodshot being “the” buzz-issue the day my mom took a friend and me to get Superman #75 at Comics and Collectibles in November 1992. And over the years I’ve learned that Turok was apparently a bit of a bomb. But that’ another than that’s a topic for some other post in itself!

Finally, Force Works is another issue with a pop-up/pop-out cover.

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While still not really doing it justice, here’s a closer-up look at the Guardians issue…

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And the Amazing Spider-Man issue.

While looking at this title and in this “other” section…I should mention the embossed/die-cut/overlay of #400, which is another that I couldn’t find/dig out in time for this post, though I have at least one copy of it that I got at time of release. (It and #360 with the hologram apparently are much more expensive books these days than I ever realized!)


Acetate Covers

I haven’t seen many of these covers from the ’90s, though DC recently did a whole month of acetate covers. That being 2019, though, puts ’em 20 years outside the ’90s that I’m looking at!

These were covers that have a transparent/partly-transparent sheet over another cover/image where the two collectively make up the cover.

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Marvels is the series I think of for acetate covers…though obviously the Tales of the Marvels: Wonder Years used the cover format, as well as Ruins (not pictured) and several other special issues–a Tales to Astonish issue, Tales of Suspense, Inner Demons, and apparently a Tales of the Marvels: Blockbuster issue. (all not pictured, either).

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Here’s a look at Marvels #2 with the acetate opened, showing the full cover beneath (and you can see much of the cover of #1 through the acetate part!

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While the Marvels and such covers used just the clear layer to put a logo over a “virgin art” cover…these got a lot more fancy and colorful with most of the image on the surface layer, and background coloring coming through from the secondary piece under it.


Chromium Covers

And here we get to the covers that inspired the naming of the age/era. Golden Age…Silver Age…Bronze Age…and what’s another metallic name? Chromium!

These covers were typically a thinner sheet of metallic/foil-like material and raised surfaces maybe akin to embossing, and you could often see a pattern of dots from the inside of the cover. I believe with the exception of Superman #82, all the chromium covers I’m aware of were wrap-around full-chromium. The Superman issue is a sort of cardstock with a front stub that the chromium sheet is attached to. It’s also the only DC comic I’m aware of in this format. Maybe they didn’t do it right and just didn’t do it again?

I should also note that somehow I never remembered–until deep into writing up this post–Ninjak #1 which may actually (once remembered) be one of my favorite chromium covers–and so do not have it in my specific mini-collection of chromium covers and thus it is not pictured here.

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I’m pretty confident that X-O Manowar #0 was the first chromium cover I was aware of. As I’m recalling, it was actually my Dad who picked out my first copy–it caught his eye. It was followed shortly by Superman #82 collector’s edition. And then bookending the original Age of Apocalypse event/saga, X-Men: Alpha and X-Men: Omega sported these wraparound chromium covers.

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Valiant got into these in a big way with the aforementioned X-O Manowar and Ninjak; also #0 issues for Bloodshot and Shadowman; and first issues for (at least) Geomancer and Psi-Lords.

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Marvel also got into doing these covers in a big way. There were at least these 9 issues. I only recently–maybe in the last 5 weeks or so–became aware of this Sabretooth special issue (or at least this chromium cover edition if there was a non-fancy version). And it was only shortly before that I discovered the Fantastic Four 2099 #1 was a chromium cover; or that the Double Edge issue I had with the “death” of Nick Fury was a bookend issue and that the first part also had a chromium cover.

On the subject of Marvel and chromium covers…they apparently also did a series of Marvel Collector’s Edition reprint issues of various X-Men issues, and I think also Spider-Man; these being quite rare, and part of a handful of reasonable-ish “grail” issues for me (though having so many “cheap” chromium issues, it’s a double-edged sword for me. As with many other things…that’s a subject for another post!)

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Over the years I’ve also come across several other chromium issues mostly in bargain bins, but a couple not.

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And here’s a look at the Bloodshot and Shadowman #0s at more of an angle with light to show just how bright and shiny they are. Though as another refrain: they look even better in person!


The Era of Excess

I think I’ve spotlighted about 160 issues here, and mentioned still others.

Yet this doesn’t do more than put a big dent in showing off the shiny covers produced in the ’90s. While I find many of these covers “fun” now and love grabbing them outta bargain bins or on deep discounts…it was a different thing back in the ’90s. I fell victim to the mindset of “having to” get both the “collector’s edition” AND the “newsstand” edition of issues with the two. Superman #75 being the first such issue. Then others like the Adventures of Superman #500, the four launches of the titles into Reign of the Supermen.

I haven’t really looked at price in this post–that’s for some other time. As I recall, in general the “collector’s edition” covers were usually more expensive than the “newsstand” edition–sometimes twice or more so. And even with the “option” for the “cheaper” edition…with MANY of these, you had no choice. You either bought this double/triple/whatever-priced shiny/fancy thing…or you didn’t get that issue.

However…for the most part, the covers were still more or less singular. If you didn’t have a choice and had to pay more…it was still an iconic (or at least recognizable!) cover. I know Fantastic Four #375 at a glance just for the shiny sparklies. Or X-O Manowar #0. Any of the Fatal Attractions hologram covers. Or the 2099 #1s. X-Men: Alpha and Omega. Those Avengers foil-embossed covers for the 30th anniversary. Superman #75, the launches into Reign of the Supermen.  And so on and so forth etc.

Others that had “collector’s edition” and “newsstand edition” (or non-“enhanced”) covers the two were often completely different images…some more recognizable than others. Superman #75 had a slate-gray tombstone look for the black-bagged edition; but it’s the newsstand edition–with the tattered cape fluttering on the wood pole–that is the iconic image. On the flip side, it’s the glow-in-the-dark version of Superman #123 that’s had a bunch of homage covers and seems (to me) to be “the” iconic image of that entire electric-blue era/costume for the character.

And the simple fact that I was able to pull together SO VERY MANY of these covers to photograph and share for this post shows (in small part) just how plentiful these were in the ’90s. That being said…I see them all as quite different from the modern “variant” covers. PARTICULARLY in quantity.

I don’t think I have EVER–comic store, dealer at a convention, whatever–seen boxes and boxes of “collector’s shiny edition” covers for sale. Maybe there are a bunch in bargain bins, but I’ve never seen them gathered together with an exclusive category/call-out…while I HAVE numerous times seen boxes and boxes of comics labeled “variants–$X price.”

Granted, you had all those Robin II variant regular-art covers with the same hologram affixed, plus the newsstand editions with no holograms. You had X-Force #1 where you had to buy 5 copies to get all 5 cards. Or X-Men #1 where you could buy 4 different covers that made up a single image…OR the “deluxe” edition gatefold cover with all 4 “panels” combined into the single image they were meant as…5 total covers to have ’em all. Or for its ongoing series, I believe Gen13 #1 had thirteen different covers. Slingers #1 had 4 different covers…and 4 different interiors!

But for the most part, IF you had “variants” in the ’90s…it was very much a 2-cover thing. Regular, and “enhanced.” OR–say, with several “platinum edition” covers or the Ultraverse limited foil and the full-cover holograms, for example–these particular “variants” were almost legendary and in no way “standard.” I got into the Ultraverse stuff in June 1993 when the line launched…but I think it was at least 2010 (17 years later!) before I ever saw one of the hologram issues in-person.

For at least the last 15 years with the ever-increasing quantity of variants, it seems that nearly every single issue of nearly every single series from nearly every publisher is put out with at minimum two different covers, and often 3 or more. I think recently I counted 30 different variants listed for an issue of Vengeance of Vampirella (from Dynamite, I think!). I’m pretty sure that there were more COVERS for that ONE ISSUE than there were pages of interior art! (And it was not even a first issue or any obviously-celebratory numbered issue!)

While I’ve yet to go through and do it, I’d be interested to see a list of comics being solicited in Previews in a single month of 2019 or 2020 that are NOT being published with variants. I’ve often wondered if it’d be easily-feasible to just collect comics withOUT variant covers.

Even where there were multiple shiny covers with one single series…the majority were never sequential…it was not every single issue nor every single series at once. (Granted, in the 2010s, DC has done several “gimmick months” where for that one month only, one issue per title only, there’s been some gimmick. Yet again, though….that’s another topic for another post).

Why I have such a problem with modern variants can be summed up with the following:

Just off the top of my head, on the Superman titles…(in terms of the ongoing series, not counting a number of quarterly giant-size specials in the late-’90s) you had collector’s & newsstand editions for:

  • Superman #s 75, 78, 82, 100, 150, and 166
  • Adventures of Superman  #s 500, 501, and 505
  • Action Comics #s 695
  • Superman: The Man of Steel #s 22, 30, 50

That’s 13 issues out of…I don’t know, let’s say ~400 issues (Superman 75-175, Adventures of Superman 500-600, Action Comics 694-800, Superman: The Man of Steel 1-130-something, and Superman: The Man of Tomorrow 1-15)

Right now, 2020, just going back to mid-2016’s Rebirth renumbering for Superman…Let’s say May 2016-January 2020 (44 months) there’s been Superman #s 1-45 and 1-19 or so. Let’s call it 65 issues. But with DC doing two covers for every single issue…that’s 130 covers for 65 issues in 44 months. That’s not getting into Action Comics and the oodles of covers for #1000 on top of it’s 70ish issues. Nor taking into account adjacent titles like Supergirl, Superwoman, Super Sons, or Batman/Superman.

The ’90s get a bad rap for being an age of speculation and excess…but for me, the 2010s (2010-2019) drastically put the ’90s to shame in terms of covers.

I will absolutely grant that the ’90s very much can be considered the “Chromium Age,” though!


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Don’t forget to check out the rest of this outing’s Super-Blog Team-Up posts! Find the group on Twitter at hashtags #SuperBlogTeamUp, #SBTU, and #SBTUChromium!

Super-Hero Satellite – 70s-80s Photo Covers

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Blog) – Adventures of Superman #500

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Podcast) – Episode 33: Team Titans #1 (1992)

Source material – Spider-Man Torment

ComicsComicsComics.blog – Daredevil 319-325 Fall from Grace

The Telltale Mind – Worlds Collide – The Intercompany Crossover

Between The Pages – Guerilla Marketing

Unspoken Issues – Darkhawk #25

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog – Connected Covers gimmicks

When It Was Cool – Polybags It! The Blight of the Polybagged Comic Book

Pop Culture Retrorama – Glow in the Dark Covers

In My Not So Humble Opinion – It Came From the 1990s: Force Works #1

Black & White and Bronze Comics Blog – Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine 1968

DC In The 80s – Memorable DC “gimmicks

Comics In The Golden Age – Fawcett’s Mighty Midget comics


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Super-Blog Team Up: Immortal – TMNT & Highlander

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One of my first thoughts on the topic of "Immortal" was Highlander…owing largely to a Queen song lyric: "I am immortal!" (continuing into "I have inside me blood of kings…I have no rival! No man can be my equal! Take me to the future of you all!"

And of course, IN Highlander, you have this tale of immortal beings who have lived among the mortal population secretly for centuries, no one knowing about them (except another group called The Watchers who observe the immortals but generally don’t interfere). So…Immortal. Check.

But in my participation with the SBTU, I’ve managed to go with TMNT stuff so far:

And as it so happens, in the current ongoing TMNT comics from IDW, the turtles and Splinter are the REINCARNATED Hamato Yoshi and his four sons, who originally lived and died in feudal Japan. And if they were reincarnated together once, nothing’s been obvious to indicate they couldn’t again, and if any of them were to be actually killed off in the comics, I’d imagine someone would note in-story that hopefully they’d meet again in the next lifetime…or some such. So, maybe not the same sort of immortal, but…check.


Still…what is "immortal?"

The dictionary definition–in this case, dictionary.com for ease of referenceIMMORTAL includes: "not mortal; not liable or subject to death; undying; remembered or celebrated through all time; not liable to perish or decay; imperishable; everlasting; perpetual; lasting; constant; of or relating to immortal beings or immortality; an immortal being; a person of enduring fame."

Much of my thought–my initial thoughts–with the word gravitates to Highlander, and that franchise’s use of the term; that the Highlanders (primarily Connor and Duncan Macleod–"Same clan, different vintage") and others of the series’ focus are "immortals."

That is, left to their own devices…they will live forever. They cannot die "naturally." But what keeps them from being gods; what keeps them fairly mortal-ish and relatable is the fact that their being "immortal" is basically a perpetual resurrection. They actually can be killed–albeit for a short while–but that’s in the physical, bodily sense. They physically die, but "get better" pretty quickly.

Sort of like Magic: The Gathering‘s planeswalker "spark," an immortal in the Highlander universe is born naturally, grows and ages naturally…and it takes an inciting event to "activate" their latent status. One who would be immortal must be killed violently to "activate" their immortality; else they will live, age, and die (permanently) a mortal.

Once activated, the way such an immortal can die permanently is by separating the head from the body. Other deaths don’t "stick." If an immortal is killed–their head separated from their body–and another immortal is present (and often, it is this immortal that removed said head from its body), the felled individual’s memories and essence is transferred to that other by way of "The Quickening." In that way, an immortal who has taken the head of numerous other immortals grows in strength and ability.

One of the "taglines" is "In the end, there can be only one." The immortals all come to learn of this notion; a prophecy of sorts; that by nature they are to battle one another until only one who remains, and to that individual goes "The Prize," which comes off to me (offhand) has a bit nebulous. But essentially, "The Prize" is a sort of godhood; and ostensibly this immortal would have the power/essence/etc of every other immortal from all history.


Highlander

Given it ran six seasons, much of the "Highlander Lore" as I think of it seems to have been expanded on throughout the tv series, though the "basics" were introduced in the original 1986 film.

highlander_dvds_filmsMy personal "head canon" slightly retcons the original film to mesh it with the tv series and excludes the 2nd and 3rd films. The fourth film sort of works in context with the tv series, coming after its conclusion, albeit not a perfect fit. The fifth film doesn’t really exist. And the 1994 animated series (Quentin MacLeod) and 2007 anime (Colin MacLeod) are just sorta out there, alternate realities or such.

The tv series follows Duncan MacLeod, and basically shows us his life in "present-day" (1990s) initially trying to live outside "The Game" (what the immortals call the active participation in killing one another and whittling their population down toward that one-in-the-end). He’s quickly brought back in, and then much of the series is (especially early-on) an "immortal-of-the-week" thing. Duncan in present-day, an immortal "villain" shows up, we get flashbacks to how Duncan’s crossed paths or otherwise has a "history" with that immortal, before (often) Duncan’s forced to take their head.

What always struck me was the exploration of someone who has lived hundreds of years living in present-day society…all that they’ve seen, all that’s changed in the world around them (all that they may have been part of as well)…and the perspective their immortality would bring them. Especially in terms of life, and lives, and phases of life. That one could live multiple "lifetimes" all over the world in varying situations over time.

And the way Duncan seemed to have this "history" with SO VERY MANY people who whatever they WERE to him, were not necessarily an active, regular part of his everyday 1990s life.

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And my thoughts would condense this down to what I could personally relate to, not actually being immortal…and all the more as I get older. So right now, 2019, that goes to the way I had friends and people I regularly interacted with in middle school, in high school, in college, in grad school, at a particular job.

Many–most–of these people may not be a regular part of my everyday life. But when our paths re-cross, it can be pleasant, or negative. Nostalgic or bittersweet. Even if I’ve not seen or talked to someone in 20 years, we had a time of life that we were a regular part of one another’s lives–say, in high school–so seeing them again would bring back memories, and though I may have never said one word about them to someone "newer" in my life now, it doesn’t change the importance of both people to my life.


TMNT 

I was introduced to the TMNT property in 1988 or 1989…it was after the cartoon had premiered, but ahead of the 1990 movie; and I recall that period where so many of the action figures were available (such as at Toys R Us) but the turtles themselves were nigh impossible to find. My own very first figure was a Rocksteady, as a result; and I recall "discovering" the villanous Slash because Dad spotted that one and it WAS a turtle…but not one of the main turtles. (And while I don’t recall if he bought it for me then and there or if I got the figure after, Slash is one of the original vintage TMNT figures I still own FROM when I was a kid. He is, however, re-outfitted with a 2017-acquired replacement belt).

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I quickly got into the TMNT–tv, comics, books, movies, the figures…big-time. This lasted til 1993/1994 or so, fading from all, down to the latter issues of the Archie TMNT series. While in that series’ run I had also found and gotten a few of the Mirage issues (including #50 and 51–the start of the original City At War story) I missed most of that, and then got the first issue of the "volume 2" series, but missed the rest of that run as well, and entirely missed the Image "volume 3" series until 2000/2001.

After several years "away," I got back into the TMNT with Peter Laird‘s second issue of "volume 4" showed up–I lucked across that, and happily enough, the comic shop (JC‘s in Toledo, OH) had a copy of #1 still available as well. I followed vol. 4 into the 2003 animated series, into the second volume of Tales of the TMNT, and while vol. 4 eventually lapsed, Tales continued. We also had the 2007 film. But then at the 25th anniversary year, Laird sold the property to Viacom, and for over a year (as I recall) there just simply was no TMNT. No cartoon, no comics.

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Though somewhere in there was TMNT Forever which brought the 2003 TMNT universe into contact with the 1980s’ TMNT universe, as well as touching on the various comics (primarily the original Mirage series). In its way, it was a sort of capstone to the first 25 years of the TMNT brand.

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Then in 2011, IDW launched their ongoing TMNT book (which is still going to this day–I believe #97 is out this week!) followed by Nickelodeon launching a new animated series in 2012, supported as "always" by a toyline from Playmates. That series ran til 2017 before (apparently, it seems to ME) being shelved in favor of a shift toward yet another new series, trying to reach a much younger audience with a Teen Titans Go style of animation in Rise of the TMNT.

tmnt_books

I’ve followed the IDW series for 96 issues so far–I’ve bought every issue of the series as a "new issue" since 2011’s #1, as well as all of the various one-shots, specials, annuals, and mini-series in that time. I’ve done that with no other comics series ever.

So the TMNT have been through a number of major iterations:

  • Mirage Comics (vols. 1, 2, & 4)
  • 1980s cartoon
  • Archie comics
  • 1990s films (loosely includes 2007 film)
  • Next Mutation live-action tv series
  • Image comics
  • 2003 cartoon
  • IDW comics
  • 2012 cartoon
  • 2014/2016 films
  • 2018 cartoon

That said, these don’t all line up exactly with one another; they’re not all strung one after another; there’s quite a bit of coexistence between versions. But I would say that to a certain degree, one could see them at their most "mainstream" by looking at their presence in the mass market toy aisles, which puts us (as of this typing) into the 4th (re?)incarnation (1980s/2003/2012/2018-present).

They’ve come through in different forms, making their own splash, and lasting. While none of the iterations have–in the mainstream–necessarily remained in a continuous "immortal" state, the rise/boom/fade cycle has enabled the general notion of the TMNT to survive, albeit living different lives down through time.


Highlander Memories

highlander_tpbsAs I’ve generally recalled it, I was introduced to Highlander in the summer of 1996–the summer after my freshman year of high school, ahead of sophomore year. I believe a friend had introduced me to the animated series, and talked about a live action series, that I then found in syndication on the USA network, I believe. When I found out new episodes were also airing–albeit around 11 at night on Saturdays–it wound up being something I got to share with my Dad, and became a regular thing for us for awhile: we’d watch Highlander, and sometimes whatever the show was that aired after it. And I’m sure that shared experience was one of the things that made it stick so much with me, and hold it as I do to this day.

Another important memory I have associated with the tv series is watching a couple episodes with friends back in 2005 or so after a Gen Con visit, as we assembled new miniatures we’d bought, an activity that lasted us a number of hours and episodes and movies but remains one of my favorite memories together.

Unlike TMNT, though, there’s not been much in the way of merchandise for Highlander…at least not affordably (for me). So it’s been more of a cerebral thing for me, and experiential thing…something that has mattered a great deal to me over the years, without having much to "show" for it.

highlander_novelsThere have been a couple of comics series over the years. Dynamite had the license for a short time, and I believe produced 12 issues and a mini-series, amounting to 4 TPB collections.

More recently, IDW published a 5-issue mini-series but I’m not aware of any further forthcoming Highlander comics (though I’d certainly be interested in more!)

I’m also aware of the property in games–there was a collectible card game at one point, and more recently some miniatures produced with at least two different games, though I’m not overly familiar with those.

And it seems like quite a few years now that there’s been a rumor of a reboot of the property…something I’m curious about and potentially interested in, for SOMEthing, though it’s seemed to me that the BEST of Highlander has been the tv series.


TMNT Memories

I have far more general memories with TMNT over the years; more than I can reasonably try to share in one blog post.

Whatever other toys and such I was into as a kid…it was TMNT that ruled them all. It was TMNT toys like Rocksteady that I even took to school to show off. It was the toy line I actually wanted the vehicles for–having at least the "Party Wagon" (van), the Blimp, and a "Pizza Thrower" that shot projectile pizza discs.

I remember "playing turtles" with my friend Zack for hours at a time as kids; between the two of us, having most of the figures available at the time (with plenty of overlap as well). And he had a Nintendo, and we often played the various TMNT games, particularly TMNT II: The Arcade Game when that came out. We’d even built our own playsets, and "customized" several of the figures. I especially recall our creating some sort of shirt for the barechested Shredder.

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I had the toys, storybooks, junior novels, the cereal, bedding, plush toys, the Burger King BK Kids Club edition of several of the VHS tapes, and so on.

And even as others drifted away from the property, parts stuck with me in such a way that I was easily "brought back" even as a college student and beyond.


Abrupt Concluding Thoughts

This feels like one of my least-organized blog posts. Perhaps I could have gone in-depth on the modern IDW TMNT series and details on the turtles and splinter as reincarnated entities. Perhaps some detailed synopsis of favorite Highlander episodes or specific memories of episodes of the series (Comes a Horseman particularly).

But I decided–and then backed myself into a corner time-wise–to be a bit more informal than I might otherwise have preferred. And though the comics are certainly parts of things, this is more of a general brain-dump with quasi-stream-of-conscious rambling, taking the topic "Immortal" and running with it.

If you’re reading this on my blog itself, you can type "Highlander" or "TMNT" into the search box up top and find the various posts I’ve written over the last 11-ish years and tagged with either term. Far more TMNT than Highlander, though…but you’ll find at least a review of Dynamite‘s Highlander #0 that I believe was originally published at cxPulp/Comixtreme back in the day.

Though my earliest TMNT toy pre-dates the 1990s…I’m still getting new ones! Below are my latest…TMNT Shadow Ninjas.

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(They’re intermixed with some other recent-ish toys and such!)


Super Blog Team-Up

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It’s been my privilege the last couple years to be part of the Super Blog Team-Up. As much as this is a blog "event" or "crossover" every now and then, the group has been a great community, with year-round nearly-daily discussion on topics related to comics and just about anything else as well as real-life topics.

It’s been a great group, brought together by shared interests, but everyone maintains their own views, topics, and so on.

For this outing, please check out these other fine blogs and podcasts as they cover their own topics from the "Immortal" heading!

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Super-Blog Teamup – Redemption: The Shredder

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Welcome to my first Super-Blog Team Up of 2019! The SBTU is a group of content creators (bloggers/podcasters) who periodically come together to–as a whole–touch on a certain shared topic or theme…teaming up to look at a number of different ways that the topic or theme has been done in comics and such…as we all have our own blogs and angles at covering comics and pop culture.

For this outing, the theme is Redemption, or Coming Home.

As with my last entry in the SBTU, I’ve elected to go back to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Previously, I took an in-depth look at the Mighty Mutanimals…specifically, the Death of the Mighty Mutanimals in the pages of the then-Archie-published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (TMNTA) title in the early/mid 1990s.

This time out, I’m looking at probably the best-known TMNT villain–The Shredder.

shredder_vintage_toys

To start out and focus a bit, let’s look at a couple of quick definitions as found online.

Redemption: the act, process, or an instance of redeeming.

Since that’s somewhat defining something using itself, let’s go a little bit deeper…

Redeeming: serving to offset or compensate for a defect.

There we go–that’s more along the lines of my thought with the word, if I had to put it out there concretely. Redemption is taking something not-so-good, and making it better. Whether taking something I didn’t like and making it something I liked; taking some unlikeable character and making them likeable; turning a disinterest into an interest…there are a number of ways to take it.

In terms of the Shredder, my memory proved a bit faulty as I set out expecting to look at the Shredder going from an out and out villain to being–if not exactly an anti-hero, then at least more like a Magneto circa the original Age of Apocalypse. In this re-examination, though, I’ve realized that the Shredder still more than fits this idea of redemption…as the character started out JUST as "some villain" to me, grew to be an element I disliked (as the character felt over-used and over-exposed for being essentially a one-off or two-off villain in the original Mirage comics), and ultimately has become a character I’m interested in and find to be more complex and deep than just "Ha-ha-ha-ha! Tonight I dine on turtle soup!"

I’m not just observing the "fact of" there being different versions of the Shredder. The different versions have informed my interpretation of the character, the way I’ve seen or appreciated the character…and I’ve "been there for" many of their introductions and development across the years.

INTRODUCTIONS

1980s Cartoon Shredder

shredder_1987My first introduction to Shredder was via the 1980s TMNT cartoon series. You had "the turtles" and you had "Shredder." Shredder was behind the very origin of the turtles–he’d framed Hamato Yoshi as a would-be assassin, usurped the Foot Clan, was why Hamato Yoshi left Japan and wound up in New York, and so on. His machinations were what led to the turtles meeting April O’Neil, and everything that came out of that. For most of its run–and I’d say, for the part that most people know and remember, at the height of the series’ popularity–Shredder was THE villain. Where there were other antagonists, typically they were the result of something Shredder actively planned or accidentally unleashed and subsequently took advantage of. I recall numerous "plan of the episode" plots by Shredder, seeking to "destroy" the turtles, or "take over" New York, or gain "revenge" on Splinter. The series itself was largely composed of done-in-one episodes or short, contained stories. There was a little bit of "build" and some instances of "continuity" or "recurring" characters. Shredder gets a magic sword. Shredder unleashes pizza-monsters. Shredder gets knocked on the head and thinks he’s Michelangelo. Shredder gets a gravity device. Shredder this, Shredder that…

I recall not thinking much of this "as a kid." At the time, it just WAS. That was what the show was. Shredder’s the bad guy, and the turtles stop him. Sometimes he works with Krang, sometimes he and Krang are at odds, often their being at odds affords the turtles their means of victory. Especially in retrospect, it seemed overly simple, and fairly off-putting that across however many seasons, Shredder just went from plan to plan to plan and was defeated each and every time by the turtles, but always got away. He’s incapable of defeating the turtles and virtually defines insanity with trying variations of stuff again and again and again. While there were occasional "moments"–and I think specifically of "Shredder’s Mother" from an episode or two, or Shredder "creating" the "Punk Frogs" in an attempt to duplicate what he saw Splinter having with the Turtles–that allowed a glimpse of the potential for something deeper, more in-depth to explore with characterization…it just didn’t happen in this series. That alone could be a topic for a huge post or series of posts, and I’ll leave off at that.


1990 Film Shredder

shredder_1990I was already familiar with Shredder–obviously–from the cartoon series. So it just made perfect sense that he would be the villain of the movie. The film was live-action, with costumes for the turtles and various animatronic/effects to bring them to life. The film was a lot darker and seemingly more violent than the cartoon…if only for the fact of seeing "live" turtles interacting with actual humans, the violence being "actual" violence rather than just animated "cartoon violence" and all that. This Shredder, like the cartoon version, was basically a villain for the sake of being a villain. He had a history in the sense of having a past with Hamato Yoshi. But other than "just" being some jealous guy who couldn’t get the girl and so killed her and the guy she chose…he was just some figure to blindly seek the destruction of the turtles. There wasn’t much depth explored in his running the Foot and masterminding their New York crime spree. There was plenty of depth SUGGESTED, but for a relatively short "kids’ film," it wasn’t explored in any great degree in terms of him as an individual…nor was there room for such exploration in the time allotted.

When the character "returned" for the second film in 1991, it was with even less depth…no longer was he interested in this Foot Clan…he just wanted the turtles destroyed. We got Tokka and Rahzar out of this (presumably due to issues with bringing Bebop and Rocksteady to live action) with Shredder determining that he needed his own mutants to take on the turtles. Many people probably remember the "Super Shredder" from the end of the film (and this was brought back conceptually late in the 2012 series with its Tales of the TMNT season). While cool in concept, a mutagen-enhanced Super Shredder could have posed a huge threat, but wound up not even fighting the turtles–it just blindly destroyed support beams and brought a dock down on itself. I imagine this was partly a matter of budget and the extent of effects as well as time–who’d want a 2 1/2 hour film aimed at kids, after all? (ha, ha).

Again…as a kid, I didn’t think much of this, and it is much more in thinking back to it that I’ve noted various deficiencies to the character, how he was presented, and all that. I still to this day in 2019 consider TMNT (1990) one of my favorite films and will watch it time and again, year after year, sometimes more than once in any given year. But that doesn’t change just how shallow Shredder feels (to me) as depicted in this live action film universe.


Mirage Comics Shredder

shredder_mirageSomewhere around this time–1989-1991–I got ahold of several graphic novels from "the library" (utilizing the local library, but I believe via their inter-library loan system). These were colorized versions of the original TMNT comics published by First. Initially I only knew that these were a version of the turtles; but quickly realized these were essentially the actual, original comics–just colored–that introduced the characters I’d come to know from the cartoon series. They were a lot more violent–and the turtles in particular actually killed. The Foot (like in the movie, though it was the movie that was based on these comics) were human and thus could be killed (they were not the generic "robots" that the cartoon had). In looking back, I believe the first of these I read was actually the fourth, where Leonardo was first badly beaten by the Foot and then the rest of the turtles and April dealt with the Shredder being "back." This definitely stood out as the story was where large parts of the film got their inspiration…though in the film it was Raphael that was badly beaten by the Foot rather than Leonardo.

In these graphic novels, we had a Shredder who was definitely human, and in some images rather scrawny; hardly the well-muscled buffoon of the cartoon or the fancily-garbed film character. He was dangerous, meant to kill Splinter and the turtles, had killed Yoshi and Tang Shen, had Leo badly beaten, destroyed April’s home, and drove the turtles from New York. (It was some time later that I eventually learned of and got to read the Return to New York story where we found out exactly HOW Shredder had returned, and was finally finished off for good by Leonardo).

leo_defeats_shredder

One of the most memorable parts of that graphic novel was a multi-page foldout showing Shredder and a bunch of Foot waiting in ambush! And this comics version of Shredder–while not overly-well-developed–was definitely quite dangerous, perhaps moreso for not being in every single issue/chapter.

shredder_foldout


Archie Comics Shredder

tmnta01_cover_shredder_vs_turtlesMeanwhile, there was the Archie-published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comics. The first few issues–a 3-issue mini-series and the first 4 issues of the ongoing–directly adapted the first season and the first couple or so episodes of the second season of the cartoon. As the comic series diverged greatly from the cartoon into its own continuity, we saw a shift away from Shredder as the core/primary antagonist. He was still a major antagonist but not the primary/sole antagonist. After being defeated and jailed in TMNTA #13 he was out of the picture until TMNTA #21 and then hung around for a few issues’ stories before being "saved" by the Turtles in TMNTA #25. That story had seen Shredder violated by Krang–who had himself attached to Shredder to control his body; and certainly destroyed any likelihood of the pair "working together" again (to say nothing of Krang being left–"re-banished"–to a toxic waste dump-world basically being the last I recall offhand of Krang in that series, period). Having been saved by the turtles, Shredder was now in their debt–he owed them.

shredder_tmnta36The next time Shredder appeared was almost a year later in TMNTA #36 working with a new villain–Verminator-X. Here he and the new villain captured Splinter and were about to make off through a time-portal when Leonardo reminded Shredder that they’d saved his life and he owed them. Honoring this debt, he released Splinter back to them, declaring the score even and that the next time they crossed paths there’d be "no compromise." I don’t recall offhand if or where we ever saw this Shredder again after that, as the series had more than moved past his being a required antagonist. Perhaps that is why I’d thought I remembered a more proactive "honor" to Shredder’s behavior prior to rereading TMNTA #36.

From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #25:

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And from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #36:shredder_owes_turtles_03

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Mid-Late ’90s Shredder

shredder_imageWhen the original Mirage TMNT series "finally" made it to 50 issues–some 8 years after #1–original creators Eastman and Laird launched their largest singular story arc in City at War, running from that 50th issue to #62. Among other things, this story introduced us to Karai, a new element in the legacy of Shredder and the Foot. In that story she at one point disguises herself as the Shredder, and eventually more or less declares the Foot to be at peace with the turtles–each group will leave one another alone. That Shredder’s influence was still felt and had Foot acting based on what he’d set in motion showed how deeply Shredder was a part of them…and how significant it’d then be for the Foot to not be seeking the turtles’ destruction.

I believe Shredder may also have been slightly used in the live-action Next Mutation series…but that continues to remain a near-complete blind spot for me in TMNT history.


2003 Cartoon Shredder

shredder_2003With a new animated series that premiered in early 2003, the TMNT were back–though this series was much more a serialized story than the one-off episodic nature of the original. This allowed it to follow comics elements a bit more, as well as to have deeper, ongoing development of characters. I recall it beings several episodes in before we met the Shredder at all, and still a few more before the turtles realized he was a threat, and several more until he really became a definitive villain figure for the series.

After a lot of development, much of which was tied to the original comics…it was eventually revealed that this Shredder wasn’t even human at all! He was actually an Utrom, one of the aliens introduced over the course of the series.

shredder_chrellTo me at the time, this was an excellent twist! Krang had been based on the Utroms, and in the ’80s cartoon was closely tied to Shredder. And in the Archie comics, Krang had once attached himself to Shredder, AS Shredder. And so here, we had an Utrom who actually was the Shredder. It also allowed for a longevity across time that would not have made sense for a single human, but played well into stuff set up throughout the 2003 series.

Ch’rell as Shredder was also involved in the 2009 animated film TMNT Forever and proved to be the most dangerous of the various Shredders to that point. This animated film essentially capped off the entirety of the TMNT to its point, ending 25 years’ development.


With the TMNT property sold to Viacom/Nickelodeon, it had a fresh start after 2009. Firstly in the 2011 debut of a new ongoing comics series from IDW, secondly in a new animated series that premiered in 2012, and then in a new iteration of live-action films in 2014 and 2016.


2012 Cartoon Shredder

shredder_2012With the 2012 TMNT animated series we had yet another Shredder. This one seemed relatively similar to previous versions, with elements of the backstory much the same–animosity with Hamato Yoshi, involvement in the turtles coming to be, and so on. But there was something deeper here, as this Shredder not only caused the death of Hamato Yoshi’s wife, but also apparently that of their daughter! However, it was then revealed that he had a daughter of his own–Karai. Yet this turned out to be only part of the story…as Karai was revealed to actually be Yoshi’s daughter–she had not been killed, but was kidnapped by Shredder and raised AS his own daughter.

While in some ways rather cliche and such, it certainly gives a bit more depth and potential to be explored–having "Shredder’s daughter" actually be the daughter of Splinter, and being thus torn between the two; deeply influenced by both.

I still have a number of blind spots even to this animated series, but recall Shredder’s absolute hatred of Yoshi–Splinter–driving him to attack and kill Splinter, even at the cost of the very Earth itself when the alien Triceratons invaded and everyone had to work together to save the Earth. I believe time travel undid that, but that he then still wound up killing Splinter later after being mutated into a Super Shredder (with a look and name based on the 1991 film version of the character).

While there’s some development and difference from previous versions–which is good–there’s something to this version of Shredder that just seems a bit uninteresting to me, being so driven by his hatred of Splinter and the turtles, as well as the 2012 series’ overt (and to me, over-) reverence of the 1980s cartoon while seemingly ignoring the 2003 series.


2014 Films Shredder

shredder_2014The newer film Shredder from the 2014 and 2016 films seems extremely flat and uninteresting to me. The only details that really stood out and that I remember are the way the armor was so over the top and ridiculous, and came off a lot like the "Silver Samurai" character from 2013’s The Wolverine film.

I vaguely recall the character essentially only having a cameo in the 2016 film. That I really don’t recall more detail about the character from either film–despite their recency, that I actually saw them, and being the TMNT fan that I am–feels rather telling about the sheer shallowness of that incarnation of the character.


IDW Comics Shredder

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Where it feels like Shredder has really been done the best is the IDW comics…the current ongoing continuity of the TMNT. And really, in many characters’ cases, I feel like the IDW "version" has become THE definitive version. Both for being the "current" or "live" version at present as of this writing…but also because of incorporating different elements to make an amalgamized version that takes good ideas and brings them together into a single version. Typically my favorite example is Bebop and Rocksteady, who I had thoroughly disliked from the late 1990s until their introduction in the IDW TMNT series. They’re still the big, dumb buffoons…but they’re genuinely dangerous, and we’ve seen them cause true destruction…as well as nearly kill Donatello.

Over-simplifying, perhaps, but to quickly sum up the IDW series: Splinter and the turtles are mutated animals, but they’re also the reincarnated spirits of Hamato Yoshi and his four sons who lived several hundred years ago in Japan. Shredder is the same Oroku Saki that lived then as well, resurrected via mystical means involving a member of a group of god-like entities known as The Pantheon. So there’s this multi-lifetime/multiple worlds sorta struggle going on, where an animosity from hundreds of years ago is replayed in the present.

Shredder was not introduced immediately in this series, and his introduction involved some buildup, as well as skepticism from some of the characters. He and Splinter recognized each other pretty quickly as both realized how deep their ties went–Shredder and Splinter, Oroku Saki and Hamto Yoshi. Over the course of 40 additional issues, we learned a lot more about Shredder and the Foot Clan, and there was more involving reincarnation and the interference of the Pantheon member Kitsune.

This Shredder was dangerous and deadly, tried to corrupt and kill the Hamato family (as he had done in the past), was working with alien warlord Krang for a time, and generally was a major villain that made sense, had depth and mystery and development with room for a lot more development over time.

And then 40 issues ago (#90 is a January 2019 issue), in TMNT #50, things came to a head as he and Splinter fought…and ultimately he was defeated. Not just defeated, but killed–committing seppuku. We’d learned over the series that he and Splinter–Hamato Yoshi–had been clan brothers, and raised from childhood together. Essentially actual brothers as well as sharing a clan. This alone added so much depth…especially to me, being familiar with and able to draw extra context/"feeling" from the likes of Magic the Gathering: The Brothers’ War, about a different pair of brothers and how their rivalry wrecked a world.

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Now, just this month (again, January 2019) we have the beginning of a new "tie-in mini-series" TMNT: Shredder in Hell, that picks up with Shredder dealing with the spirit of the founder of the Foot and his own ties to said spirit; that everything he has done and been has been influenced; and even now, dead, he has a further journey to discover who he truly is.


THE REDEMPTION OF SHREDDER / COMING HOME

I’ve not been the biggest fan of the TMNT series since #50. Much as I’ll rail against Shredder being the end-all/be-all of TMNT villains, the way he was worked into the fabric of the IDW TMNT series, his death felt like this huge breaking point or split. Like #51 was a whole new #1 of a whole new Shredder-less series (and it absolutely WOULD have been a new #1 if TMNT was a Marvel property!). Though with Shredder’s death, Splinter wound up being leader of the Foot–a point that has forced further development of the turtles themselves as well as the relationship between them and their father…and that’s been interesting in itself, and helped to make Splinter more interesting, as more than just some wise old rat or father-figure who is always "right" and just kinda "there" for the turtles.

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We had a long introduction and building-up of IDW‘s Shredder across 50 issues. While not the SOLE antagonist, he was a major, ongoing antagonist with stuff going on in the background even if not serving as a focal point of a given story. In another life, he killed Hamato Yoshi’s sons in front of him, before killing Yoshi himself. In this life, he had a drastic effect on Leonardo, temporarily corrupting him and showing the turtle a whole different perspective on things, giving us a "dark" Leonardo…a chapter of life that has affected the turtle and still holds relevance (the City Fall story arc).

I’ve felt the absence of Shredder in the title and wondered where all it can and will go without the character…as well as where Splinter will be taken, story-wise, with the Foot; as we have never before had a TMNT series last this long with so much development in quite this way.

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Yet now with Shredder in Hell, we’re getting a new story of Oroku Saki, following events already built up, as they’re expanded a bit. And I have no idea where it’s going, but as we already have reincarnation and resurrection, it would be quite believable to see Shredder resurrected–albeit temporarily–despite seppuku. And as a 5-issue/5-month series, this will end about the time of TMNT #94…a mere 6 issues until the big 100th issue and whatever that holds.

I’m interested in this Shredder. I’m curious about where things go. I find the character engaging, and look forward to what’s going to happen. It seems plausible that even if he doesn’t physical return, there’s more yet to be "revealed" about the character that will impact the TMNT, and I believe this is the first time in nearly 35 years that there’s actually been a Shredder-focused series such as this, and I’m wishing it was weekly.

For what started out as a rather generic villain with little real development to a complex, deep character with much potential yet unexplored…IDW has certainly redeemed the character for me. Having followed the entirety of the IDW TMNT continuity since August 2011 when it started, having missed Shredder’s machinations and involvement, getting this new story with a lot of potential and all that…it is in its own way like "coming home." After a lot of time showing that there’s more than just Shredder to serve as antagonist, we’re back to Shredder having SOMETHING going on, and I’m enjoying that it’s not just some one-off thing or quickly-resolved "moment" but seems poised to be more significant.

Even if he doesn’t directly interact with the actual turtles in continuity, just the fact of getting a new story about him, now, and it having any tie at all to current continuity is a good thing, and has me all the more excited about the coming year of TMNT. This also has room to give Shredder a very solid, valid grounding as a favorite villain for me–as opposed to merely "sentimental value" or bias just for being one of the first villains I ever "met" as a kid first discovering fictional worlds and all that.


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Much as with my last SBTU post, this is easily one of my longest, wordiest posts…significantly beyond what I usually write. But it’s not every day that I get to participate in something like this…and with all the great work of fellow SBTU folks, I’m given the incentive to push myself to go beyond the casual usual.

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! #SBTU #SuperBlogTeamUp


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Reign of the Super-Blogs! #SBTU

Once upon a time, a group of blogs came together, forming the Super-Blog Team Up! After a number of adventures together, an unfortunate event came to pass: the Death of the Super-Blog Team Up!

But death ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

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Before long, something new began to stir in the world of the Super-Blogs. A return was afoot…but not like before.

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A sense of awe descended, as, bursting forth from the void left by the original…a new reign is upon us!


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One of the blogs on the scene is a return itself, having disappeared. With the death of #SBTU, the path was clear…perhaps what the future needs is a bit of the past!

Bronze Age Babies – Super Blog Team-Up: Time, Clock of the Heart


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Another return swinging back into action, for the void left by the #SBTU must be filled!

Chasing Amazing – Remembrance of Comics Past (Super Blog Team-Up Edition): Amazing Spider-Man #393


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Surely death can change a blog group, and an attitude may be more direct! Taking over the matter, we have another stepping forth to take things on!

ITG – Super Blog Team-Up Takeover! Bring on the Bad Guys: Meet The Extremists!


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And with the fall of the #SBTU, a fourth comes forth, bucking obscurity and standing tall, rounding out the formidable group that’s arisen!

Back in the Bronze Age – Super Blog Team-Up: Obscure Replacements, Substitutes and Resurrections in the Marvel Universe!


As the new group strides forth to fill the void, providing content in place of the original #SBTU, some with close ties, others not quite so familiar…there is a Super-Blog Team Up once more!

But even as it can be wondered if any or all are somehow the "real" deal…their presence cannot be ignored, should not be ignored!

For whatever they bring forth to the world, will any be prepared for what may yet come?

Can any blog escape a death? Will death be thrown aside at a single word?

To all things there is a time. All things begin with but a single word.

And as the Super-Blogs reign…there is a word heard by all.

It is there.

Time will tell…

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"Rise."

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#DIYJusticeLeague

This week, several blogs teamed up to show different interpretations of potential Justice Leagues–that is, personal dream-teams and groupings of various characters, regardless of company, time, etc!

Here’s a quick list of those of us that participated, and I really hope I haven’t missed anyone! (Give me a holler if I have!)

Please check out everyone’s posts, and even dig back through older posts. Everyone’s got great stuff–on this DIY Justice League theme, as well as their individual "blog missions", and loads of great content!


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The Death of the Super-Blog Team Up Aftermath II: A Mighty Sendoff!

All the work I put into my Super-Blog Team Up post (The Death of the Mighty Mutanimals) and I completely forgot to include an image I’d stumbled across in a comic I stumbled across that touched on stuff.

This "pin up page" was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #61.

I miss this sort of thing…in addition to the full-length issue’s contents, there were also a couple of "pin up pages," showing off art that wasn’t part of the actual story. And it was original–none of this "sketch" or "process" or "dvd-style ‘extras’" stuff that gets jammed into comics nowadays to try to "justify" $3.99 or $5.99 or such.

They were also largely the equivalent of what are nowadays done as variant covers.

But that’s another topic for another time!

Here’s the "forgotten" image:

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And of course, if you missed it the other day or you’re reading this post out of context…check out the links below to my fellow bloggers, who were kind enough to include me in the (final?) Super-Blog Team Up!

All are excellent reads, and well worth checking out!

 

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#RIPSBTU, #SBTU, #SuperBlogTeamUp

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The Death of the Super-Blog Team Up Aftermath (and Usagi Yojimbo)

Yesterday was my first foray into the Super-Blog Team Up, invited in by fellow blogger Chris Sheehan (of Chris is on Infinite Earths).

I had a blast working on my contribution, looking at The Death of the Mighty Mutanimals, and sharing my history with the Mutanimals, and how that all came together.

It was also probably the most prep-work I’ve done for any single writing project since my grad school days.

And while right now it’s two posts, two days in a row…I wanted to post again with links to the rest of the Super-Blog Team-Up from this outing.

 

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#RIPSBTU, #SBTU, #SuperBlogTeamUp


I also recently (finally!!) managed to find the newest Usagi Yojimbo action figure, part of the Tales of the TMNT re-branding of Nickelodeon‘s series that’s been running since 2012!

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Above–"classic" Usagi from the ’80s line; Usagi from the 2003 line; and "current" or "modern" Usagi fresh off a peg.

It’s a sort of relief to finally have found the figure, after weeks of too-frequent stops in Targets and Walmarts and venturing to further-away locations, and same for Toys R Us and such, hoping to find the figure.

Now I can sit back and not "worry" about finding it or "missing out" if the figures suddenly disappear from stores with the animated series ending.

Posing the figures for the photo with a fairly intentional background also reminds me that there are three more volumes of The Usagi Yojimbo Saga I want; though I’ve yet to make the time to actually sit down and read any of them yet.

Perhaps I’ll get into more on stuff later.

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