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

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

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


The earliest days of the 1990s…

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

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…to the premiere issue of the title:

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

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

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

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

mutanimals07_future_shark_trilogy

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

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

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


Solidly into the ’90s…

mutanimals_backups_tmnta

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

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

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

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

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

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tmnta_054_mutanimals_07

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

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

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

terracide

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

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

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

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

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

tmnta_055_page_028

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

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

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tmnta_056_page_010

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

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

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

tmnta_056_mutanimals_in_hell

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

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

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

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

Once more, he has allied with Maligna!

tmnta_057_page_007

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

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

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

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

tmnta_057_page_027

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

tmnta_057_page_028

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


Impacting the ’90s…and Me

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

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

But what does/did it all MEAN?

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Man Ray / Ray Fillet

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

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

Discovering Mondo Gecko

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

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

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

Discovering Leatherhead

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

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

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

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

Discovering Wingnut and Screwloose

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

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

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

Discovering  Jagwar and Dreadmon

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

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

Discovering Slash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vintage_tmnt_mighty_mutanimals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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TO BE CONTINUED…

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More New (to me) Classic TMNT Toys

I received some more of the vintage TMNT figures I’d ordered last week, which was quite cool. I’ve also realized that Wingnut must have been THE figure I was most missing having, of the earlier figures…it’s just so cool actually having Wingnut & Screwloose after all these years!

fall_of_the_mighty_mutanimals_200x306With the newer vintage figures, I believe I now have what Mutanimals characters there were: Man Ray (Ray Fillet), Mondo Gecko, Leatherhead, and Wingnut & Screwloose. To my knowledge, they never did figures for Jagwar or Dreadmon.

Though Slash kinda got tied into them toward the end of the Archie run of TMNT Adventures, and the current versions of Slash (IDW series and the 2012 animated series) are both Mutanimals, I don’t quite see him as a "classic" Mutanimal.

While I was taking photos for this blog, both cats interrupted me, with Chloe being particularly disruptive. I wound up taking the opportunity to get a photo to do a mockup of a comic book style cover, hence the image to the left of her with the figures she knocked over.

On to the recent figures!

rocksteady_ratking_usagi_april

This order included a "replacement" Rocksteady. Of a number of figures, this one’s one of the more disappointing ones for me to have had to replace: the character was THE first TMNT figure I ever got, back in the heyday when stores were inundated with figures but NO ONE had the turtles themselves!

Rat King and Usagi Yojimbo are figures I’d never owned, and thus totally new to me. I’d seen images of this "newer" version of April, and really dug it…the face is slightly off, but I like the hair, and the extra coloring…makes the figure look far, far less bland than the original iteration.

wyrm_and_leatherhead

The other order I’d had was Wyrm and Leatherhead. I’ve never cared for this version of Leatherhead–the character as depicted on the original animated series–but I came to like the Archie comics version, and wanted the figure solely for having been one of the Mighty Mutanimals. The figure is actually probably one of my least-favorite sculpt-wise, and just looks awkward and tiny as heck compared to his 2003 and 2012 series’ incarnations, or even the original Mirage comics.

Wyrm is far more colorful than I’d prefer, particularly compared to the TMNT Adventures version, but I’m still definitely glad to finally have the character in my collection!

Updating my "list" of figures I’m wanting:

Replacements

  • Ace Duck
  • Baxter Stockman
  • Fugitoid
  • Rocksteady
  • Splinter
  • Party Wagon (vehicle)

New (to me)

  • General Traag
  • Rat King
  • Leatherhead
  • Usagi Yojimbo
  • Dirtbag
  • Tattoo
  • Wyrm
  • April II
  • Merdude
  • Hothead
  • Krang’s Android Body (regular figure size)
  • Robotic Foot Soldier(s)
  • Toon Shreder
  • Dask (Neutrino)
  • Kala (Neutrino)
  • Zak (Neutrino)
  • Movie Star Leo
  • Movie Star Mike
  • Movie Star Raph
  • Foot Cruiser (vehicle)

movie_star_donnie_before_after

Along with the figures, I also ordered several accessories! The main one was Donatello’s belt. I had the original figure, still…but was missing the belt. It’s amazing how different and how "complete" the character looks WITH the belt, such a simple accessory!

tricraton_now_whole

And my $2 incomplete Triceraton received a $1.50 tail, making for a $3.50 replacement figure overall–cheaper than a Marvel comic!

The Rocksteady and Rat King figures pictured above were technically bought withOUT their belts…but it was actually CHEAPER to buy the figures and the belts individually than to buy the characters with their belts and some other accessory(ies) each, that I didn’t particularly care for!

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Here’s the "new" April side-by-side with the original April, for comparison…

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Usagi Yojimbo (classic) next to his 2003 counterpart, with an appropriate background! Usagi Yojimbo is actually the title of the comic series, though in those comics, not actually the CHARACTER’s name. (Oops, original animated series…) For sake of simplicity, in terms of the figures, I go with that, despite knowing better. ‘Nuff said.

vintage_tmnt_mighty_mutanimals_blogtrailer

And finally, my Mighty Mutanimals, at long last, assembled!

25+ Years Later: Wingnut!

I’ve been at least aware of the character for over 25 years now, and know at least one friend had the figure “back in the day,” but until this week, I’d never owned the figure myself.

wingnut_and_screwloose

Now, finally, I do…which puts me one step closer to the “classic” Mutanimals. Sadly, they never did do figures for Jaguar or Dreadmon…but they did for Wingnut & Screwloose, Man Ray (Ray Fillet), Mondo Gecko, and the outright villainous version of Leatherhead.

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Along with finally acquiring Wingnut & Screwloose…I was able to get a replacement belt for Slash, so he doesn’t look “naked” anymore.

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And for Muckman, I got a replacement trashcan/backpack accessory, so he can once again carry around his little buddy Joe Eyeball.

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And with the addition of a replacement Raphael, I now once again have all four classic “Storage Shell” TMNT.


I have a small list (comparatively) of figures I still need to “replace” to restore my “classic” collection from when I was a kid, as well as specific characters I particularly want to add to “complete” (-ish) my collection.

I hold no illusions of ever having ALL of the classic/vintage figures, particularly with all the variants that were made of the various characters. There are several “sets” of “variants” that I’m interested in, but my primary interest is in representation of CHARACTERS, period…and at that, ones that were “live” when I was originally collecting these on a regular basis, up to 1992/1993 or so.

I also find myself frustrated at how Target and Walmart along with Toys R Us have had barely ANY of the “current” figures lately, primarily having only the same several “Mutations” or “Mix ‘n Match” editions of characters.

I solidly regret NOT purchasing the “Super Shredder” figure the several times I came across it back in January, as it’s now become impossible-ish to find, and is the one figure from that sub-set that I want, given the enormity of that version of the character in the actual animated series in a way that I’d had no idea of when I actually could have bought the figure.

I may “spotlight” some of my “classic” figures collection in coming posts…at the least, likely new acquisitions as I add them to the collection.

Most imminently, I want to replace Splinter, Rocksteady, and Triceraton, and perhaps add Rat King, Leatherhead, and General Traag…as well as Wyrm and Merdude. Time shall tell!

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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 #13

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tmntadventures013The Final Conflict

Plot: Dean Clarrain & Ryan Brown
Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Ken Mitchroney
Clean-Ups: Buz McKim
Inks: Dan Berger
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Steve Lavigne, Ken Mitchroney
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: August 1990
Cover Price: $1.00

Anymore, a thirteenth issue would seem a bit more special than it was even made out to be in the ’90s. Twelve issues is typically a single year, and a fairly standard-ish length for a “maxi-series” or such. Thirteen begins the second year of publishing, meaning a book has lasted past that first year. Of course, the TMNT Adventures book started out roughly bimonthly before eventually moving to a monthly schedule, so 13 isn’t all that significant…except that (sure, it’s a “stretch”) a lot of non-basic-network tv shows seem to be 13 episodes to a season/series, and I really like the analogy and have come to stick with the notion of looking at this comic series as a progression of “seasons.”

This is a “fun” issue…and certainly not the most standard of things the way it opens. Despite the cliffhanger of the previous issue–the turtles and their allies surrounded by Maligna’s insectoids–we spend the first several pages of this issue with Stump and Sling (the Intergalactic Wrestling promotors/hosts) going live with a broadcast, filling their viewers in on recent events (basically, TMNT Adventures #12), clarifying who the “players” are, and then throwing us (the reader/viewers) into the action.

While fighting the warrior children of Maligna, the turtles and allies realize that they’re being filmed…they’d agreed to another wrestling match for Stump, but rather than a repeat of the previous time it seems they’ve actually agreed to be filmed fighting for the Turnstone. Wingnut and Screwloose take off, though they wind up getting to make trouble for Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Leonardo and Trap find they have different notions of what works in battle, and Leatherhead finds himself hurled out of the arena in what turns out to be a fortuitous–if not predestined–turn of events. Maligna’s warriors are defeated, though Krang blasts the arena, scattering the victors before taking off. Meanwhile, Leatherhead finds the Turnstone, and manages to summon Cherubae. Seeking answers, he asks her WHY she transformed him, and she suggests that it was to ensure he’d be here, to be in the right place at the right time to get the Turnstone before Krang.

Leatherhead hands the Turnstone off to her, and she brings the conflict to an immediate end, banishing the villains and arranging for everyone to return to where they’re going…as well as ensuring the Turnstone will cause no further problems.

This is another Mitchroney-art issue, which I have no problem with. I definitely appreciate his designs for the characters, and I like the look. This also adds a consistency carrying over from the previous issue, giving a little bit more of a unified whole to the story than “just” a couple of single issues that happen to carry a continuation of story.

The story itself–the writing–for me is probably at its best so far, as we’ve gone from “mutant of the month” to a more unified continuity involving characters beyond just the four turtles. We wouldn’t have the characters we do here if there hadn’t been some of those “mutant of the month” issues and foundations put down, though. The previous issue suggested a difference in Bebop and Rocksteady from their cartoon counterparts (and even from the earlier issues of this series that adapted episodes from the cartoon). This issue does what it seemed the cartoon would never do (I know it sort of did eventually): resolve Krang, Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady’s story, taking them off the board.

Bebop and Rockstead are sent to a world of animals where they can “run free” amongst ’em…and their reaction seems to confirm that in this continuity, they ARE mutated animals rather than mutated humans. Shredder is sent to prison–presumably the Turnstone’s nudged reality to account for the logical process of having Oroku Saki behind bars and not cut loose the moment someone realizes there’s a random extra person amidst their prison population. And Krang is banished to a toxic waste dump world. Thus, without KILLING any of them, these primary antagonists known from the cartoon are effectively removed from their place of threat, leaving the board clear for the turtles to move on without constantly facing these four.

And that’s certainly another thing I enjoyed here–getting to see a resolution, much as a season finale, combined with the fact that I do know what’s to come, and that the turtles get plenty of adventures NOT involving Shredder being a problem.

This certainly could have served as a series finale, but thankfully the book continues, as we really get to see more development of these characters’ world while learning of the real world at the same time. Though this series is collected in primarily 4-issue chunks at present (and in the ’90s 3-issue chunks), it’d be great to see a larger collected volume with the 9 post-cartoon-adaptation issues thus far as a single piece.

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