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Unexpected TMNT

Over the weekend, I’d stopped in at a Books A Million with a  friend. While there, I spotted a TMNT Mini Mates pack that I’ve somewhat had an eye on for probably a year or so (quite awhile, anyway). This time, though, it had a 50%-off sticker on it!

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While the full price was way more than I wanted to spend–even on something supposedly Comic Con exclusive–at half price, it’s FAR more reasonable.

Add to that the fact that I had a $10 card on me, and a BAM membership, and I walked out for 56 cents out of pocket!

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Of course, my OCD has kicked in a bit, and any savings is going to be offset by the fact that I now want to match this set with the Toys R Us exclusive TMNT Mega Bloks black-and-white figures.

I did stop in at a Toys R Us looking for those, and while I didn’t find what I was looking for, I was quite surprised to discover that there were a LOT more TMNT stuff from Mega Bloks than I’d been aware of, primarily gauging stuff by Walmart and Target (both of whom seem to be clearancing out the entire line, what little they’d actually carried!).

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While I’ve typically NOT been a huge fan of the classic cartoon version of Baxter Stockman–for a number of reasons–something to the mini figure grabbed my attention, and hit the right bit of nostalgia for me; so I went ahead and bought this; not so much for any accessories but just for the character itself.

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Apparently Mega Bloks also did the van (the "Party Wagon") as well as a $250 Technodrome; I never even realized these were out there!

Sadly, it seems like perhaps the line is dying, with "everyone" clearancing out the earlier sets from the beginning of 2016 and some of the summer Movie stuff. I don’t know if it’s to make room for more new stuff, or if Mega Bloks has "lost" the license already, or what.

My hope is that they’re just clearing way for some new, awesome stuff for 2017, though!

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Chloe the cat was not impressed with Baxter-Fly. However, when I tried to remove him from her presence, she tried to bite me. Lil’ Miss Attitude… (but I adore this kitty!)

TMNT Revisited: Mighty Mutanimals (mini-series) #3

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mightymutanimalsmini003Ride of the Ruthless!

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Inks: Mike Kazaleh, Brian Thomas
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Steve Lavigne, Ken Michroney
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: July 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

In classic comics style, we open on a full page split by the issue’s title–Ride of the Ruthless–that starts us where we left off, recapping the end of the previous issue AS we move into this one. On Earth, the Mutanimals fight the malignoids…Cudley carries them to Dimension X as they’re knocked out. On Maligna’s ship, Raph and Mondo Gecko are being drenched in honey to be eaten alive. The ship arrives in the Amazon where the Mutanimals have just defeated the batch of malignoid warriors. Scul and Bean jump into things, while a horde of malignoid ships spew forth from the mothership to terrorize the entire planet. Kid Terra rescues Raph and Mondo, while the Mutanimals defeat Scul and Bean…though they can’t do anything about the army of ships that flew right past them.

Maligna finds the escaping trio, and Kid shoots one of her antennae off, bringing her up short. Should she lose the other, the Hive-Mind will be no more, and that’s far more important to her than the Earth, so she surrenders and recalls her army and leaves Earth. While the Mutanimals, Raph, and Kid take some downtime after their ordeal, we see that Null has escaped as well and thus is still out there. And finally, everything has been broadcast by Stump, likely boosting the ratings quite a bit for this “event.”

Though this is another Mitchroney-penciled issue, we have yet another inking team, giving this issue another varied look from the previous two. It’s not horrible or anything, and Grossman‘s colors provide a bit of consistency within the framework, but it’s noticeable and I’m not entirely thrilled by it. I suspect a large part of the reason for this was to get the job done and the issues out in a timely fashion, as this was running concurrently with the ongoing TMNT Adventures title (specifically issues 20-22, I believe).

The story itself seems to come to a bit to convenient an end and I don’t recall there being any real repercussions explored in terms of this invasion having happened (or at least begun). There’s hardly any mention of being sure that Maligna’s gone for good or even any reason for her to not blast our heroes the moment she’s away from Kid’s guns…and her vow to return when least expected flies in the face of any honor-system for leaving. But that’s certainly the adult me analyzing this where stuff worked just fine as a kid reading the story. Things were epic and huge and important because the characters talk of them being so, and I wasn’t thinking about external factors or ways to apply the story to worldwide real-world sensibilities.

I certainly enjoyed this more as a kid, but appreciate it quite a bit now as an adult. I do look forward to getting back to the main TMNT Adventures issues, but also the return of the Mutanimals in their own book. Raphael guest-starred in this moreso than anything else, I think, to have ‘a Ninja Turtle’ involved to “tie” this to the TMNT for anyone who “had to” have and read anything TMNT-related but who otherwise wouldn’t care about the Mutanimals themselves.

While expanding on and then tying up the “loose end” of Maligna, this series also allowed a great reason for so many strange characters that were previously in drastically different places to be brought together in one place and giving them a “home” outside of individual random guest-appearances. This also allowed for more story in a short span of time, with double the number of TMNTA-continuity issues to be out without double-shipping the main title itself (twenty-some years before “double-shipping” was a “thing” and it was simply standard for a single series to have one issue per month).

All in all, the Mighty Mutanimals mini makes for a good read and I certainly have enjoyed re-visiting this story and period in TMNT history.

TMNT Revisited: Mighty Mutanimals (mini-series) #2

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mightymutanimalsmini002Under a Big Black Sun

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Clean-Ups: Marlene Becker
Inks: Art Leonardi
Letters: Mary Kelleher
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Ken Mitchroney, Steve Lavigne
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: June 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had hardly been around in publishing existence for seven years when this was published. Looking back, it’s been TWENTY-FIVE years since this story was published. Time certainly flies.

We open with an establishing shot of Maligna’s insectoid-head-looking ship, then cut to the interior where the malignoid that shot Cudley down returns and “briefs” Maligna herself…and she promptly rewards it with a “kiss”–killing it/eating it. On Earth while Man Ray, Jagwar, and Dreadmon contemplate the fallen Cudley, they’re attacked by Leatherhead, Wingnut, and Screwloose who believe they’re threatening the downed cowlick. While they fight, the alien caterpillars have moved to a cocoon state, leaving the group to ponder what’s next. On Maligna’s ship, Null gloats, and unbeknownst to him (and Scul and Bean) Kid Terra notices Mondo’s skateboard, and sneaks off to return it, allowing Mondo and Raph to remain undetected.

After Null & Co. leave to await an audience with Maligna, Raph and Mondo explore and find a chamber of empty exoskeletons of malignoids, and realize they can use them as a disguise. Back on Earth, deciding not to burn the cocoons, the group awaits whatever emerges. Jagwar details his origin around their campfire, followed by Dreadmon detailing his own. Wingnut and Screwloose return, pointing out the now-hatched malignoid warriors. On Maligna’s ship, Mondo and Raph have unknowingly backed into the queen herself, who quickly defeats the two, ordering their removal before re-setting her sights on the Earth that she believes is nearly hers.

This is an interesting middle chapter of this 3-issue mini. Unlike the original TMNT mini that crammed 5 episodes’ story into 3 issues with weird break-points, this actually IS a true 3-part story with appropriate breaks. We learn more about Maligna and her culture–through her getting info from her malignoid warrior and then killing it, as well as how the warriors come to be. We have the first meeting between some of our star characters…and the obligatory fight sequence (the ridiculousness noted by Cudley and seeming some clear commentary from Clarrain on typical superhero stuff of the time). And of course further development of Kid Terra in that we see he’s really not on-board with his employer, having come to see what Null is actually up to. And in the midst of all that, though we’d had some background info on Jagwar and Dreadmon before, we get a fuller origin treatment here. Though the title Mighty Mutanimals refers to mutant animals (and I’ve referred frequently to the “mutant of the month” of the characters’ introductions) many are not mutants in the sense that the turtles are; they were transformed by other means, and I’m not sure that “mutated” is quite the proper verb for ’em.

On the whole, the art struck me as a little odd in this issue, and I was actually surprised to see that this IS another Mitchroney issue. I suppose I should be safe to attribute that to Becker and Leonardi on clean-ups and inks…while the underlying pencils are familiar designs, having others (whose work I’m not used to) working over them, it makes sense there’d be a different finished look. Despite it being noticeable, it’s not too bad. That I notice the difference makes me realize I definitely prefer Berger’s inking to this. Despite not being entirely to my taste…this issue’s look brings back memories, of my original readings of the story, and that’s a definite positive, overriding any negative I notice now as an adult with more than a decade between present and the last time I read this.

As a single chapter, this works well for me, bridging the introductory stuff of the first issue and the story’s end next issue; as well as filling out the origin for the characters who had not yet had that treatment. I have fond memories of this incarnation of the Mutanimals, and beginning with this story and its close tie to the main TMNT Adventures title as well as the characters all having been introduced in that title, I find this story and the characters themselves an integral part of TMNT history, as they through this are an integral part of my own memories and understanding of the TMNT mythology.

TMNT Revisited: Mighty Mutanimals (mini-series) #1

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mightymutanimalsmini001The Wild Angels

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney and Garrett Ho
Inks: Ryan Brown and Gary Fields
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Steve Lavigne
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: May 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

While this continues directly from TMNT Adventures #19, it is its own mini-series, and includes several pages of recap to catch new readers up on the context for this series or to remind longer-time readers of relevant details germane to this story.

We pick up on Jagwar, Dreadmon, and Man Ray facing the meteorite that landed Man Ray on this shore as it cracks open, spilling out a bunch of caterpillar-like creatures. Meanwhile, Maligna’s (off-panel) captured Stump and Sling for interfering with her easy access to Earth (see The Final Conflict) but they’re rescued by Leatherhead, Wingnut, Screwloose, and Cudley the Cowlick. Also meanwhile, Null has the TMNT captive and gloats over the easy defeat, while continuing his “plans” of selling the Earth (as if anyone owns the Earth…but he’s selling it to aliens, so what do THEY know?). Splinter devises an escape plan, while on Stump Asteroid, Leatherhead, Wingnut, and Screwloose decide they have to go to Earth to try to stop Maligna’s invasion.

Cudley volunteers to transport them against Stump’s protests, and back on Earth the alien caterpillars begin eating the rainforest. When Jagwar protests, they turn on the mutant animals. Splinter’s psychically summoned a bunch of rats who free the turtles & co., and they’re able to fight Scul and Bean. With the tide of battle turning, they “drop a bomb” again and escape…not realizing Raph and Mondo Gecko have stolen aboard. Retreating from the alien caterpillars, Man Ray & co. come across an injured/crashed Cudley, surrounded by terran cows.

I missed this mini-series when it was originally published–this is between my first issue of TMNT Adventures (#17) and my next exposure (#25). I actually originally read this entire mini as a single issue–it’s reprinted as the Winter 1991 TMNT Special. I only later realized this even was originally published in single-issue format.

These characters were already established by the time I learned of any of them–Man Ray, Dreadmon, Jagwar, Leatherhead, Wingnut & Screwloose, and Mondo Gecko. So reading back through TMNT Adventures, I already knew these characters as a group, as these Mighty Mutanimals, and I’ve been anxious to get to this story, the payoff of all these “mutant of the month” issues. Admittedly, these’ve become more “recurring roles” than one-offs…but this story sets the stage for the characters as a more established group/team moving forward.

But that’s a lot of general thinking. The issue at hand is good. We have Mitchroney and Ho, providing some consistency (Ho having penciled TMNT Adventures #19 and Mitchroney plenty of issues prior).  No complaints from me on the art…everyone looks familiar and as expected. Some minor coloring mishaps, but that could be as much my copy and the age of the issue as anything else, and since it happened even in the cartoon, I can accept it in the comics since I’m reading for simple enjoyment.

The story is very good, and other than the cover stating otherwise, this could just as easily be the next issue of TMNT Adventures. Which is really a good thing for a spinoff. We have consistent characterization, and mostly plausible situations. The most important thing is that I enjoyed reading this, and nothing struck me as “off” enough to truly distract from the reading.

Thanks to the recap pages–and experience–I can say that this is a good jumping-on point, and able to be enjoyed as its own thing even without context of prior issues.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #19

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tmntadventures019The Man Who Sold the World

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Garrett Ho
Inks: Dan Berger
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Ryan Brown, Dan Berger
Editors: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: April 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

The turtles and Mondo hang out on a rooftop, contemplating recent events. They’re soon joined by Splinter and April, who tells them Splinter’s begun training her in use of a katana. They’ve also been researching the logo on the building that caught their attention and found it’s owned by a man named Null. We then cut to Null, who has agreed to assist Maligna’s agents however he can, in exchange for taking his businesses off-world in perpetuity. Meanwhile, Man Ray has found the meteorites and while he considers their almost deliberate placement, one lifts off and hits him, carrying him to the beach Jagwar and Dreadmon have called home for some time…while the three get acquainted, Dreadmon notices the flying rock has begun to crack open.

Back in New York, our heroes wrestle with whether or not to break into Null’s building, breaking the law for a greater good. Kid Terra ambushes and tries to warn them, but Raph arrives (back in his usual getup) and knocks Kid out before he can tell them whatever he has to say. The group is then further ambushed by Scul and Bean. One of them “drops a bomb”–some sort of explosive, gaseous goo that knocks everyone else out. They’re then thanked by Mr. Null himself, finally revealed: Lex Luthor with small devil-horns.

I’m not really sure what this issue’s cover has to do with things…it puts me soundly in mind of Cherubae checking in on the turtles and Dreadmon via the Turnstone…which isn’t really possible given how that story ended. It’s not a bad piece, and looks kinda cool…it’s just fairly generic, moreso than I’ve noticed in quite awhile.

We have a new penciler on this issue–Garrett Ho. I don’t consciously recognize the name, and this stands out more because I’ve gotten used to Mitchroney and Lawson‘s alternating work. The art’s not bad at all…a bit different of course, but everything works, and I can’t really complain.

The story itself is solid, and things are finally coming together as we get involvement from (if not everyone interacting with everyone) Man Ray, Jagwar, Dreadmon, Mondo Gecko, the turtles, April, Splinter, as well as Scul, Bean, and Kid Terra. There’s a lot going on, but it does feel like everything’s touched on just enough to keep stuff moving forward.

I believe this is the first issue to end on an actual “To Be Continued” note since #12 heading into The Final Conflict. This time, however, the issue is continued into a spin-off mini: Mighty Mutanimals…which stars a number of our “mutants of the month,” providing some solid payoff to the scattered introductions and limited appearances so far.

I’ve been really looking forward to getting to this point, to the Mutanimals, due to where I firmly got “into” this series for the long haul originally.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #18

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tmntadventures018Mondo Metal

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney, Marlene Becker
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Gary Fields
Music by: Merciless Slaughter
Transcribed by: Dan Edwards
Cover: Ken Mitchroney, Steve Lavigne
Editors: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: March 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

The turtles part ways with Man Ray in New Orleans–he heads off to investigate glowing meteors in the sea, the turtles and April head for New York. Upon returning, the turtles hear music and follow the sound to Shredder’s old lair where they find a band of kids. When the lead kid blows out the power, the place is plunged into darkness…but when the lights come back on, they’re surrounded by Footbots. The turtles leap into the fray, scattering the kids and taking down the ‘bots. A couple of the kids–Mondo and his girlfriend–get trapped in a room with one of the bots, which grabs Candy and knocks Mondo into a stack of mutagen barrels. While the Footbot takes off with the girl, Mondo mutates into a giant gecko (having most recently been in contact with his pet gecko during practice). He and Mikey take off on skateboards to rescue Candy. Though rescued, she can’t handle Mondo’s transformation, and the two part ways. Donnie notices some meteors behaving very un-meteorlike…but the group resolves to investigate later. Finally, the turtles make it home to Splinter (Mondo in tow).

I definitely remember getting this issue out of a back-issue bin at my then-local comic shop. The issue was a whopping $5…5x cover price, but it was bag/boarded in good condition, and at the time very definitely a BACK issue (I believe the series was at LEAST 20 issues further on if not more at the time I acquired this one). I bought this over several others because of Mondo Gecko (whose action figure I’d had awhile and had seen in the cartoon) being on the cover. I may have known this was his first appearance by then, but I’m not certain.

While the credits indicate Mitchroney was not alone in art chores, I’d have to go back and look for where his work left off and Becker‘s began. There are a couple awkward panels of Mondo, but by and large I simply enjoyed the art on this issue and didn’t give much heed to variances or such. The events are easily followed, so no problem from me.

As the turtles followed the sound of the band to Shredder’s old place, we get music/lyrics in the gutters of the page…I believe Mondo’s band is Merciless Slaughter, and I’m not sure if Dan Edwards is his real name (if Mondo is a nickname/stage name) or another character…or simply someone Clarrain & Co. had write some music/lyrics for the authenticity. I don’t really care either way…I’d have to spend more time looking closely and/or researching…though it might be a question worth posing to one of the creators if I ever have the chance.

The story itself is another “mutant of the month” (as I keep noting…) but we’re on the cusp of one of the largest “events” of the series (at least, I consider it so–due to the timing of when I got “into” TMNT Adventures beyond simply acquiring a couple random issues several months apart). Though I know that, the issue still feels rather full given everything that happens in it. I’ll take that gladly over it feeling decompressed, and certainly appreciate that it works in such a way as to provide quite a lot of stuff for the younger reader (my ~12-year-old self) to follow, while allowing an adult reader (my mid-thirties self) to “get” other stuff on a deeper level with more analytical thought.

Returning to my “season” analogy of this series, we’d be just about to the (in contemporary 2015 terms) “mid-season finale” with the “back half” of the season leading to the events of #25.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #17

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tmntadventures017Fight the Power

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Clean-Ups: Buz McKim
Inks: Dan Berger
Colors: Barry Grossman
Letters: Gary Fields
Cover: Ryan Brown, Ken Mitchroney, Steve Lavigne
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: February 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

Though we left off in the previous issue with the turtles on a beach and Mikey noticing a shooting star, we pick up a bit later here. Of course, that wasn’t so much a cliffhanger last issue as it was simply “where the issue ended,” with Bubbla’s burial. A meteor heads toward Earth, carrying Scul and Bean–agents of Maligna, the insectoid queen we were introduced to back just before The Final Conflict in TMNT Adventures #12. Though Krang was defeated and never followed through on his bargain with her, Maligna’s set her sights on Earth. Back to the turtles and April–Man Ray has them riding humpback whales for the final leg of their journey back to the US.

The group stops one last time at a derelict ship sitting out in the open, where Man Ray discovers some shrimp-trawlers are not using Turtle Extruder Devices, and ambushes the ship. He’s captured by the pirate captain of the ship, prompting the turtles to mount a rescue and put an end to the use of illegal trawling nets and subsequent killing of turtles and other sea life. Then as the issue ends, we learn that the mysterious Mr. Null has allied with Scul and Bean.

In a lotta ways, this is a fairly generic issue on the whole. We have the bookending of Scul and Bean’s arrival and revelation of alliance with Null; between we have a generic-ish one-shot of the turtles and a random “threat of the month” in the pirates’ illegal trawling. While we’d seen Scul or Bean before, I don’t recall either of them being named, so their appearance and naming in this issue qualify them for the “mutant of the month.” They’re also the main forward-movement of this issue’s story for the overall plot of the series.

Despite that, we DO get the turtles’ arrival back in the US after several issues away, and a lesson in nets used for shrimping and such, that devices exist to preserve sea life while allowing shrimp to be caught, and the threat posed to sea life when these devices are not utilized. And somehow I found this issue, this instance of such lesson-teaching far less preachy and a lot more “personal” than prior such cases. Perhaps that we see a dead turtle and our heroes are mutated turtles; perhaps it’s that this is shown as something much closer to home rather than on another continent, I don’t know.

This is another Mitchroney-drawn issue, maintaining a consistency for several issues now, that I’m definitely enjoying. No real complaints or problems with the art. The writing itself keeps things moving forward even though the “core” story is generic with a one-off villain/threat in the pirates.

Probably most significant for me is that this issue was the first single-issue of TMNT Adventures that I recall owning, bought at a flea market The Red Barn in Columbus (Ohio). I’m not sure if the edition I have here on-hand is the original copy I’d bought or a newer copy (without a barcode, perhaps) I picked up sometime since then. I went from this issue to my next being #25 some time after…whether this was new at the time or a “back issue” I’m not certain.

And probably FOR being my earliest issue, the cover stands out to me and is probably one of my favorites. There’s an ad in this issue for a poster one can get of the cover by joining a conservation group…I might have to see if I can track a copy down.

All in all, a good issue, the reading of which brought back some good memories, and certainly remind me that even as a 10-year-old I had no problem with the turtles looking a bit different than the cartoon; April not being dressed in yellow; this Man Ray character that I recall wondering at the name (I knew him as “Ray Fillet” thanks to the action figure), and had no idea about Scul, Bean, Kid Terra, Null, or why the turtles were “returning” to the U.S., etc. Yet I don’t recall any problem with it or not “accepting” it…everything just “was,” and didn’t discourage me from getting later issues once I figured out the series was ongoing.

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