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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of January 16 & 23, 2019

Looks like these Weekly Haul posts are becoming more of a biweekly thing than weekly, despite best of intentions otherwise. And broken record as I feel on saying that.

Here are the previous couple of weeks’ worth of new comics…with another new week now just a couple days away!


Week of January 16, 2019

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Detective Comics is really ramping up toward the 1,000th issue! I was amazed at how quickly the first two chapters of this story read, and this one itself seemed a pretty fast read. Loving the art, but the story makes it seem like it’s going to be so much better as a singular "graphic novel" in collected form.

Superman finally–about nine months in–gives us the story of the "missing" time and we now have a mid to late teens Superboy in Jon…which really is not my cup of tea. Perhaps it’ll be undone by the end of this current arc, but I doubt it…we’ll see where it goes, though!

Then we have Supergirl and the TMNT issue of IDW‘s series of 20/20 special issues celebrating the publisher’s 20th anniversary. This TMNT 20/20 jumps forward 20 years, and proved a too-quick read with too little space to really do any justice to the story…and there’s loads of potential here!

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The DC Walmart-exclusive 100-page giants seem to have thrown the 2-every-2-weeks schedule out the window, and are landing all-4-at-once again…right about the 4 week mark since the #6s! And it turns out that #7 is the final issue for both the Justice League of America and Teen Titans iterations…they’re being replaced with Wonder Woman and Titans respectively, starting with new #1s while adding Swamp Thing and Flash to the lineup (apparently Batman and Superman get to continue with their existing numbering.


Week of January 23, 2019

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The most recent week of new comics brings us a non-Black-Label issue with Batman and Constantine; I need to catch up on reading this title, and really look forward to reading this issue! I snagged the second issue of Geoff JohnsShazam! title, even though it’s several weeks late. I have yet to read the first issue, and as my usual trap seems to be…I get a subsequent issue so when/if I finally get to reading one issue, I’m not "stuck" having to "hunt down" another issue.

I lucked out and the local Target had the DC Primal Age exclusive issue. I had a rude surprise in thinking it was going to be like the Walmart issues at $5, but this one was $10! Still, that’s in line with DC‘s own non-Walmart such issues, so…c’est la vie. At least it’s DC and not Marvel

TMNT hits its 90th issue; and we get the third issue of GI Joe: A Real American Hero – Silent Option. And for the heckuvit, I opted to try the IDW 20/20 issue of Jem and the Holograms. It’s a one-shot, and given my own age, I figure it might be interesting to read about the characters 20 years older than "usual," as it puts them into my own real, current age range.

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Despite swearing off of the latest Uncanny X-Men iteration due to pricing, frequency, and event-orientation (with Age of X-Man and such) I couldn’t quite bring myself to pass up this Annual given the focus on–and return of–Cyclops. And I was firmly set on NO MORE DARK HORSE Aliens minis due to variants and the like…but when I recognized Tristan Jones‘ art on this variant…I gave in and got it, since it IS #1, so at least it’s not just another variant-on-any-old-issue-nothing-special. Maybe I’ll suck it up and buy the rest of the mini…especially or at least if he’s got variants on the whole thing.

I snagged this free Isola Prologue issue cuz hey…"free." And we have the weekly Comic Shop News, this one focusing on Age of X-Man: Alpha…something playing on nostalgia (1995’s X-Men: Alpha). If Marvel does some sort of omnibus for the event, has a single-volume of Uncanny X-Men 1-10 and such and I can get then for a decent price…I might snag ’em. Otherwise I’ll wait for conventions later in the year and see if the singles can be had for half price for standard covers…if reviews and word of mouth bear ’em out as worthwhile.

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I’m not actually sure anymore what IDW‘s schedule is for print and digital releases as it almost seems like they’re releasing stuff early digitally with print coming the following week. And I’m not sure how I feel about Spawn Kills Everyone 2 being $3.99 an issue for a 4-issue mini-series…but I threw in with Spawn several years ago, and have decided to at least "stick it out" through the 300th issue. And that includes this mini, given the original special a year or two ago, whenever it was.


All in all, not a huge haul for new comics for the couple weeks…though some other stuff I bought more than made up for the comics spending. Buuuut I’ll get into those as the week progresses!

And as usual…here’s to hoping the new week of new comics is small-ish…

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Super-Blog Teamup – Redemption: The Shredder

                         redemption_shredder_logo


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).

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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.

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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.

shredder_death01shredder_death02

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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TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #25

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tmntadventures025Raw Power

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Rod Ollerenshaw
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: October 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

This is another very special issue in my personal history with the turtles: this was THE first issue I ever got of TMNT Adventures at Waldenbooks as a then-new issue “off the rack,” still some months before I ever discovered such a thing as a comic shop. Along with that, the way I’ve mentally divided the series into “seasons” over the course of this re-reading project, I do see this as a “second season” finale.

The issue starts with a shot of the outside of a couple stores, as we’re left to imagine the naked Bebop and Rocksteady doing their shopping for clothes and guns. As they gather supplies, we return to the main thrust of the action–the TMNT vs. Slash, Bellybomb, and Krang as Shredder’s head. The bulk of the story is the details of the fights–Krang/Shredder vs. Leonardo, Donatello and Mikey vs. Bellybomb, and Raph vs. Slash. While they all fight, we find Bebop and Rocksteady freeing zoo animals, while bantering and generally enjoying themselves. Slash gets distracted remembering that he’s looking for his palm tree and leaves the fight; Bellybomb is knocked out by his own “mega-halitosis” and Raph gets Krang of Shredder, leaving the villain in the turtles’ debt. When Bebop and Rocksteady show up leading an army of dangerous animals, the turtles are out-gunned and out-numbered and consider cashing in that debt…but turns out the mutant duo is quite satisfied simply with the turtles admitting defeat. They just want to go home, and agree to take Bellybomb and Krang with them.

So the “season” ends with Shredder leaving to ponder the turtles’ having saved his life and “owing” them; Krang and Bellybomb are left back on Morbus (but not on a sinking barrel this time). Slash finds his palm tree and seems happy. The turtles return home…and Bebop/Rocksteady, too, return home. We have to continue on to the backup for April’s whereabouts, but that ends on a bit of a cliffhanger such that I could live with it within the “season” analogy.

Dragon Rage

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Mark Pacella
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Victor Gorelick

Chu Hsi has brought forth the Warrior Dragon, and attempts to rescue Fu Sheng from the ninjas that’ve kidnapped him. Though the Dragon has little physical trouble with the ninjas, one of them throws a strange powder in his face…causing him to revert back to human form, and the naked fireman is dragged off with April unable to do anything but watch.

When I first read this issue more than two decades ago I had no idea who Bellybomb or Chu Hsi were, where they’d come from, etc. They were just simply “there.” I’d recognized Slash from the action figure; the turtles and Shredder/Krang as well as Bebop and Rocksteady were givens, of course. However, the Shredder/Krang relationship obviously was not what it was in the cartoon, and Bebop and Rocksteady are portrayed quite differently here than in the cartoon but everyone was still obvious as to who they were and all that, otherwise.

This time through I obviously have the “full” context of the series to date so (among other things) actually know that Krang attached himself to Shredders head and it only just happened at the end of the previous issue, as opposed to a multi-issue development or some such. Bellybomb’s not some long-time foe in this series any more than he is any other TMNT book; Slash is the generic mean/evil-turtle longing for his palm tree, and the story just “is.”

From the dialogue between them, we get a lot of exposition on Rocksteady and Bebop as well as the clarification that they actually DID start out human, but have the MEMORIES and such of the animals they were mutated from (apparently a slightly different mutagen than what transformed the turtles and Splinter). I’m not entirely sure if I’m disappointed at that or not, having come to kinda like the notion of them being mutated animals rather than mutated humans.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the two leaving the turtles…on one hand it’s a letdown and inconsistent with their brash talk in other issues of dealing with them. Yet, given their time on the Eden planet and such, I can accept it. All the more as I believe this is the last we see of them until the TMNT 30th Anniversary Special from IDW last year.

The backup story is another short snippet that goes by rather quickly and simply. I appreciate its placement as a separate thing from the main story as that allows it to breathe while not being shoehorned into the main story. Knowing what it leads to certainly colors my perspective and lends “meaning” to it, as the story otherwise seems rather generic, getting such a little piece of it here.

Having Allan back on pencils for the entirety of the issue is a welcome thing, main story as well as backup. Liking his work, I don’t have much to say on it except it’s good and this being roughly where I joined the series it makes sense that he was a definitive artist on the characters for me.

If this were a tv show, I suppose the backup stuff would have been worked into the main body of the “episodes,” leaving us on Chu Hsi’s capture as the cliffhanger to keep us hooked for the next season.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #22

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tmntadventures022Rat Trap

Script: Dean Clarrain
Art: Gene Colan
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Cover: Gene Colan, Steve Lavigne
Edits: Scott Fulop, Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: July 1991
Cover Price: $1.25

I imagine it’s just a typo and a missed error, taking stuff for granted…but reading through this issue I was really taken aback by a panel with Shredder addressing Splinter as Hamata Yoshi…rather than the long-established Hamato Yoshi. Were the letters upper/lowercase I’d wonder if it was a case of faded or blurred ink or such, an ‘o’ coming to look like an ‘a’, but the all-caps nature makes the ‘A’ pretty darned distinct from an ‘O’. And I suppose if one’s working with the material all the time, stuff will come to be taken for granted, though I’m not sure if the blame here lies entirely with the writer or letterer, though I’d share blame across both and the editing team for missing the spelling of a primary character’s name.

That all said, this isn’t a bad issue on the whole, though it feels–again–rather generic in the larger scope of things.

We open with a recap of the last few issues, bringing us to Leo, Mikey, April, and Splinter barging into a trap laid by the Shredder, though it’s essentially “we know it’s a trap” and “he knows we know it’s a trap” and “we’re going in anyway because we have to” and “he knew we’d have to and would” and…yeah. So ultimately we wind up with a Shredder/Splinter battle, and just when it seems Shredder’s about to win, a new figure bursts onto the scene and pretty much defeats Shredder…though the figure is revealed to be Raphael, back (without Mondo Gecko) from stopping the alien invasion. The group’s joyful reunion is short lived as they soon notice that Shredder has escaped. But hey, at least the group is back together.

Despite–or perhaps because of–the Shredder’s presence and involvement, this feels like a weaker, generic story to me. I don’t care for the character, and at least for my contemporary 2016 sensibilities being applied to 25-year-old writing geared toward a different age range, I don’t like the lack of explanation of Shredder’s escape, nor having had any foreshadowing whatsoever to his return. This is probably all the more frustrating to me as a reader now because of my high regard and rose-tinted lenses “memory” of all the numerous subplots I tend to think comics used to carry that would weave in and out of “major plot point” status.

Simply AS a TMNT story, in the established continuity, this works, especially with Splinter’s continued active involvement over sitting at home waiting all the time. I know what comes later in the series, so like with the lead-up to the Mutanimals stuff, I’m eager to get to the next several issues for personal reasons, so forcing myself to slow down for an issue like this holds added disappointment.

We again have a different artist on the book…Gene Colan. Unlike some of the other “fill-in artists,” this is a name I recognize (and having paused for a few moments to look up and confirm where I know the name from, I’m even more impressed, as Colan was involved in a lot of early Marvel work). The visual style is similar to earlier presentations of these characters, but different enough to notice that there’s a difference. I appreciate Colan‘s Shredder more than the other characters, and once again also appreciate the coloring, which maintains that much more consistency despite different artists, in a way that I’m sure would be a far more jarring shift issue to issue otherwise.

While I don’t remember for certain on #21 (last issue), I’m pretty sure I remember finding this issue at the same flea market I found #17. Whether this was before or after I’d gotten #25 I’m not 100% but this cover stirs some bit of abstract memory in that regard, to my 10-year-old self starting to figure out comics and the first bits of specifically looking for what I now know as “back issues.”

I hold that this is another issue that could easily be skipped…really, though I’m glad the Mutanimals got their own spin-off stuff, the Mighty Mutanimals mini-series would have worked just fine for me within the TMNT Adventures series even if it meant three months of no Splinter, April, or Leo/Donnie/Mikey.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #5

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tmntadventures005Something Fishy Goes Down

Plot by: Dean Clarrain & Ryan Brown
Written by: Dean Clarrain
Penciled by: Ken Mitchroney
Inked by: Dave Garcia
Lettered by: Gary Fields
Colored by: Barry Grossman
Edited by: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics
Cover Date: October 1989
Cover Price: $1.00

Finally…while covering the original TMNT Adventures mini-series and the first few issues of this ongoing series, I’ve been eager to get to this issue–and beyond. This is where things truly start, in my mind, as this series diverges into its own continuity, away from the cartoon and Mirage comics and truly becomes its own thing.

We begin with the turtles at an aquarium, where they meet a worker who talks to them about the difference in rays and fish, before sending them out as the place is closing. Meanwhile we learn that Bebop and Rocksteady have lost a container of mutagen in the sewer. As Krang gives Shredder a dressing-down we shift scenes to find that the aquarium worker is doing some investigating on the side–disliking pollution and companies doing the polluting. He’s washed in a surge of mutagen-tainted water and disappears. The turtles decided to walk home along the shore and become targets for a torpedo from Shredder’s sub. However, they’re saved when something turns the torpedo around. The turtles find Shredder’s sub–parked for damages–end end up screwing up a mysterious figure’s plans to blow it up, as the figure doesn’t want to harm the turtles–only Shredder. While the turtles fight Bebop and Rocksteady and accidentally flood the sub, the creature–a large mutant ray calling himself Man Ray–confronts Shredder. Declining to kill the villain, Shredder gets away, and the wearied mutant returns to the water, wished well by the turtles. The day saved, the citizens of New York get their fireworks display unaware of Shredder’s plan to have destroyed the Statue of Liberty.

Man Ray (or “Ray Fillet” as the action figure was named) is probably my favorite Mutanimal character (oops, we don’t get that term for quite awhile yet)…certainly my favorite of the “new mutants” introduced in this series; if only because he was the first, and was part of the story in one of the earliest issues I’d read.

The story is solid enough if a bit “convenient” at points…but I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the adaptations of cartoon episodes. I’d totally forgotten about Man Ray having a brief appearance as a human, and would not picture the character like that otherwise. 

The art was a bit of a surprise to pay attention to–I was expecting a bigger change, but the art team’s mostly the same, which leads me to reconsider certain memories OF the art on this series, for better or worse (I think better).

The tone is “fun” yet a bit more heavy and serious than the cartoon and earlier issues…yet still far from the dark, gritty violence that could be found in the original Mirage comics.

As I recall, the next several issues also introduce new characters, as this creative team gets into some serious, fun world-building and differentiates this series from Mirage and the cartoon.

So long as one knows the “basics” of TMNT in general, this issue serves as a great #1 in my mind, and would recommend anyone interested in TMNT Adventures as a series start here rather than with anything earlier.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #2

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tmntadventures002Return of the Shredder (part 2 of 2)

Written, Drawn, and Lettered by: Dave Garcia
Adapted from Scripts by: Christy Marx and David Weiss
Colored by: Barry Grossman
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Cover by: Eastman, Laird, Lavigne
Published by: Archie/Mirage
Cover Price: $1.00
Cover Date: May 1989

This issue gives us the second part of the adaptation of Return of the Shredder. There’s a lot going on in the issue as it zips through the second half of the episode. Shredder breaks Baxter Stockman out of the asylum he’s being held in and recruits him to build the greatest rat-catcher ever–which he does, capturing Splinter while the turtles are out. The turtles, meanwhile, find and take down the fake turtles gang and discover a message from Shredder. This leads them to a confrontation with the villain as he stands by with Splinter ctied to a wall and a huge battering ram situated to swing down once its rope is cut. Baxter bursts in with his modified forklift/rat-trap and provides the distraction the turtles need to rescue their master. Shredder escapes, taking Baxter with him, and tries to explain the failure to Krang. Back at April’s office, we see her boss’s fling end, and the turtles have a meta-moment in the lair watching her news report on the capture of the Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang.

Story-wise, I’m still not impressed with this. I hold that for me, at least, looking back across 20+ years–there’s little characterization here and most of what I “know” is experiential rather than learned from the issue. There are plot-holes a truck (or giant rat-catcher) could be driven through, and things seem overly simplified in their way. I also continue to lay the bulk of the blame for that on this being an adaptation, and the material it had to work from (to say nothing of the fact that this is aimed more at the audience of the ’80s cartoon series, and my present-day self is certainly far from being the target audience). That said, the adaptation is pretty faithful to the cartoon, enough so that I can “hear” the characters’ voices as I read.

Visually, the issue is in a middle ground somewhere. The art is solid, good, but not exactly a favorite. All the characters are recognizable except April’s coworker Irma, who just looks significantly “off” from her appearance in the cartoon. Beyond that my main issue with the art is primarily that it doesn’t match the cartoon exactly, and the differences are very noticeable.

Overall, the issue simply “is what it is,” the second of a two-part adaptation of a single episode. Which is far preferable to the “ultra-compressed” nature of the mini-series. While this is still compressed by contemporary standards, it fits well enough into its place in history.

My copy of this issue is in fairly rough shape–a bit yelled, rough edges, the cover doesn’t quite line up with the pages. The cover image works well, though, and is far superior to any of the interior panels of the turtles facing Baxter.

I’m looking forward to the next issue, as it’s a story I haven’t read or particularly thought about in quite awhile…plus, I’m looking forward to getting into the “new stories” that made me love this series, beginning with #5.

TMNT Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1

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tmntadventures001Return of the Shredder (part 1 of 2)

Art and letters by: Dave Garcia
Adapted from Scripts by: Christy Marx and David Wise
Color by: Barry Grossman
Editor: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Eastman, Laird, Lavigne
Published by: Mirage/Archie
Cover Price: $1.00
Cover Date: March 1989

We begin the issue with Mikey and Leo in a supermarket, doing some casual shopping. A couple of would-be thieves try to hold up the place, but the turtles stop them without any trouble at all. Back home, they wax nostalgic of the workout Shredder’s foot-bots gave them. Meanwhile in Dimension X, Shredder laments his recent defeat and begs Krang to send him back to earth. Tiring of the whining, Krang does so…but sends him alone. To Shredder’s surprise, he’s been left without any of his previous resources, and must make do with himself and anything new he can do.

Still meanwhile, at Channel 6, April’s boss has a new girlfriend who hates turtles, and thus he tries to impress her by pushing an anti-turtle agenda that April (of course) rebels against. Shredder recruits some thugs at a dojo and has them dress in turtle costumes…on the idea that if he turns the citizenry against the turtles, they’ll be forced to come out to defend themselves. Krang disagrees, and maintains his strict notion: Shredder’s on his own until he produces results. We leave off on Shredder musing that he’s left with just one place to turn…

While still rather corny and hokey (and I mostly blame the plot the comic’s creative team had to work with), this is a huge step up from the initial mini-series. While that was cramming nearly an episode and a half into each issue, this series gives the adaptation room to breathe. This entire issue comprises a mere HALF of one single episode.

The story feels a lot more open and a bit more complex as a result of the extra space for pacing. However, the characters all still seem rather surfacey and underdeveloped. If I didn’t already know plenty about them, I’d hardly know one from another. Additionally, April’s coworkers are little more than plot-point gags.

The art has a much different feel to it while maintaining a certain familiarity. The creative team is different from the mini-series, and other than the cover doesn’t seem to be utilizing any names I recognize as being from Mirage. The art isn’t bad, but it’s not wonderful…though I do definitely appreciate the layouts and that we aren’t given a bunch of huge splash panels or full or double-page splashes. This sticks very much to a “typical” comics feel and appearance, just differentiated by the turtles.

All in all, nothing terribly special about the issue–though I definitely like the cover. It’s one of the most “iconic” to me, and to this day it would hold up well as a poster or some oversized print, I think.

This was one of my earliest #1 issues of anything…back when #1s were actually a ‘special’ and significant thing, not something that came around every year or two for the same series again and again. Though I remember this as one of my earliest, I can’t honestly remember where I got this issue–whether it was a $5 issue at Capp’s Comics, or something I found at Comics & Collectibles. And I’m pretty sure I did not get it through American Entertainment–I remember a couple other issues from the mail-order route.

While I’ll get to it when I cover it, I’m actually more inclined to count these earliest issues as a longer mini-series, and see #5 of TMNT Adventures as being the true first issue of the run.

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