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SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator

sbtu_expanded_universe_aliens_and_predator_header

It’s Super-Blog Team-Up time again!

This time around, the group is tackling the notion of the "Expanded Universe"–with many different topics, as always!

Please check out the list of links at the bottom of this piece for the other entries in this team-up of blog-posts…or skip on down their now, as my piece here is rather lengthy, rambly, and not exactly what I’d had in mind when I began!

With a big thanks to Chris Bailey (@Charlton_Hero) for the graphic below:

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In recent years, the terms "Extended Universe" and "Expanded Universe" have meant a couple different things to me. They also tie in to the term "Cinematic Universe," in terms of movies. Namely, the Marvel "Cinematic Universe" and the DC "Extended Universe." (Or "Expanded," I’m rarely clear on what’s (semi-)"official" with the "MCU" and "DCEU.") I’ve never liked the "EU" in reference to the DC movies when used alongside Marvel‘s "MCU," because to me it should be "DCU" same as we have the "DCAU" (DC Animated Universe) and such.

What? I’m getting critical and negative and that’s DC and Marvel when you’re expecting Aliens and Predators?

Ok.

Outside the aforementioned DC and Marvel movies, I see the terms Expanded Universe and Extended Universe as fairly interchangeable/synonymous and I don’t expect to be 100% consistent in my use throughout this piece. (So please take them as interchangeable and synonymous within my writing here.)

DEFINING "EXPANDED UNIVERSE"

To me, an EU is a property that begins in a fairly-specifically limited (if not one-off) format. For example: you have an original movie (singular)…it universe-builds, it sets a context, it tells you a story…and that’s that. Beginning, middle, end. In and out and done. Look at The Terminator, before any sequels. Or Highlander, before any sequels. And so on.

Perhaps we don’t start with a movie…perhaps we start with a novel. Emphasis on "a." Singular. You get this self-contained story, and that’s that. The whoooooole thing is that one book. It’s a good book, an enjoyable book, a memorable book…but still AAAAAAAA book. (For example: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)

Where "EU" comes in is with that singular thing cropping up in another medium with new content sharing elements from the original…building on or (you guessed it!) expanding and extending what was found in the original. The Terminator got a movie sequel as well as comics. Then other comics, even a tv series, along with multiple sequels. Highlander had sequels, a tv series, original novels, an animated series, comics, etc. Kavalier and Clay had Escapist comics, and a comic sequel of sorts (The Escapists) where present-day creators got the rights to the old Escapist character and the story followed their journey. I’m not sure if there’s a tv show in the works, but it’d certainly be ripe for an HBO miniseries or such at the least, which would be further expanding.


In today’s case, I’d figured I’d look at Aliens. But that really necessitates bringing Predator into the conversation. Both properties started as singular films…got a sequel…were continued into comics, then video games, further sequels, novels and novelizations, more videogames, toys, and so on. Both universes expanded and intermingled, even sharing universes ahead of more famous and/or contrived attempts at cinematic shared universes that would follow.

As I’ve tried to figure out how I want to cover this, I finally decided that there are Wiki articles out there that’ll tell you plenty about the properties and the expanded stuff. (Alien, Predator, Prometheus, and so on.)

But this being a personal blog, maintained by me (just one random guy)…why not my personal journey into the franchises? After all…it’s what I know. Recounting stuff is from my own memory, my own experiences, and it’s ME. You want clinical facts about the properties? Use those Wikipedia links. If you’re willing to indulge my rambling on the topic, you’ll get my conscious experience, my conscious memories of Alien(s) and Predator that began with Alien3 and expanded to where I am today.

And if you’re still with me some 500+ words into this thing…here’s where we get more to the point.

PROLOGUE

As a kid, I loved to read, and read every chance I could, and would read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. So much so that I’d read many books within a day, and was constantly getting books from the library (and losing many, which is a topic for some other time). I especially remember stuff like The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys Casefiles (I’ve yet to read original Hardy Boys stuff…the Casefiles series had the characters a bit older and more action-oriented. Again, a topic for some other time). I’d read plenty of fiction–most I can’t even remember. I also read a fair bit of sci-fi from early-on before I truly knew what a "genre" was. I also read plenty of comic books and whatever comic-related prose I could get my hands on. I recently was fondly recalling high school and how much time I’d squeeze in for reading, especially freshman year–from reading on the bus to/from school to reading in homeroom, squeezing in a minute or two of reading between classes when able; reading at lunch, reading in study hall (preferring to read than work on homework).

Somewhere in the earliest days of middle school, perhaps, I’d read Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of Alien as just any other sci-fi novel and nothing about it really stuck out to me at the time. Separately, Dad had fallen asleep with the tv on and I’d wandered out–at this point I remember it as during the day, but could have been late at night; I’m not really sure. What matters is, I was curious about what was going on in whatever was on, and I wound up watching to its end, whatever it was. The horrors I saw included some monster ripping a guy in half (and he bled white instead of red!) as well as the lady fighting the monster and saving her daughter.

I wouldn’t make the connection on these–That they were Alien and Aliens–until I finally saw the films intentionally.

THE BEGINNING

alien3_bookSome time in 1993 or 1994, I ended up finding/reading the novelization of Alien3. Having read this book that was clearly based on a movie, I wanted to see said movie, and eventually convinced my parents to rent it/let me see it. Then, since that was the 3rd film, of course I "had to" see the others. I vaguely recall there being some delay to getting to see Alien and that I wound up seeing the films in reverse order, that Alien was the big finish for me.

It was in finally seeing Alien that I recognized the story–particularly the scene with Kane exploring the pit of eggs–and realized I’d read the book some time before.

I’m not sure if I have yet ever re-read that novelization; if I did, I know I haven’t in the last 20+ years! I just recently–June 2020–learned via a YouTube video purporting to reveal X # of "things you didn’t know about ALIEN" that the creature itself was apparently kept secret from all…including Foster, who wrote the novel of the film! So in possibly-faulty memory and that new "fact learned," I could see not immediately having linked that novel(ization) with the film by title and such…there probably was not a detailed enough description of the creature itself to lock in my memory initially. And, as said earlier in this piece, at the time I was a voracious reader and wouldn’t begin to be able to recall by title everything I’ve read. (It took me ages a few years ago to finally discover an old sci-fi novel I’d enjoyed as a kid, that I’d thought was called The Manhattan Project but turned out to be The Manhattan Transfer). hero_illustrated_002_predator_came_with_ashcanI have other "mini-memories" of "moments" from books I’d read that I’m certain I’d ONLY be able to positively link to their source by somehow managing to find AND re-read in near-entirety the same novel(s) again.

I very clearly remember a cover to a magazine–Hero Illustrated–that featured a Predator cover, the creature fighting a bunch of Aliens. The issue had come with an "ashcan" for a then-upcoming or recently-begun series involving both the Aliens and the Predator.

Somewhere around this time, I came across Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry. I read it, and it fascinated me. I recall–among many other things–noticing some parallels in a couple of the main characters…particularly Billie and Wilks. Their story seemed similar to that of ALIENS. This eventually wound up making perfect sense when I learned that in the original comics, these WERE Hicks and Newt!

aliens_novels_trilogy

One of the key things I took away from the movie novelizations was that sense that if even ONE Alien made it to Earth, that was it. It could not be allowed to happen, or that’d be the end. And with no Ripley, the story of Earth Hive played out where that happened–the Aliens overran Earth.

A second novel picked up from there, following Wilks and Billie to a space station where some guy thought he was training Aliens to help him take back the Earth. By the third novel, Ripley had come back into the picture and led the characters to a distant world to catch a super-queen, possibly the source of the Aliens. They ultimately got it to Earth where they left it in a valley to draw the majority of Earth’s infestation to it at which point bombs put on a months-long timer would go off and eradicate the majority of the creatures. One of the subplots of The Female War involved us coming to find out that Ripley is herself a "synthetic," though she initially did not know that (Someone not knowing they were synthetic was established as possible in the first novel of the ‘trilogy’ in Bueller). As Ripley had died in Alien3 and yet appeared here, that seemed a reasonable explanation to me. As I think about it now, that was probably one of my earliest real experiences with a "retcon" or "retroactive continuity."

aliens_on_top_of_shelves

Somewhere in that mid-’90s time, I came across some Aliens toys at a store while out with Mom; if it was not Kmart, I have no conscious idea what store it was, as I know it was not Hills, and I don’t think Target or Walmart were in this part of Ohio yet. While possibly just deja-vu, I’d also swear I’d seen at least one commercial for these toys around then. Regardless, despite finding these toys, Mom was unwilling to let me get any of them; so it’d be a good 20-some years until I’d start my foray into Aliens toys. Despite not getting any of the toys as current things, I do recall noticing later that I’d seen them, and realizing there were several toy lines for kids that were based on "kid-ified" animated things, themselves based on hard R-rated films! (Several examples offhand including the likes of Terminator, Robocop, Highlander, Toxic Avenger, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes…and I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m not thinking of!).

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I was vaguely aware that there were comic books with the Aliens as well as another creature–the Predator. There was that August-1993-cover-dated Hero Illustrated #2 (see earlier image) featuring a Predator on the cover and the issue having come bagged with a mini-comic featuring Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species–a then-new series beginning soon.

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Flipping through that issue and not finding any prominent article on either property–but a bit of info about the comics and an ad for the home version of an Aliens vs. Predator videogame–I suspect it was just a "given" to me that Aliens went with Predator. Add to that an arcade machine at the local skating rink and I just don’t think I really ever took the properties as being completely separate things. (Much likeStar Trek: Generations was my main intro into Star Trek and to me there’s never been an either/or on TOS vs. TNG–they’ve "always" been a single continuity).

I’m pretty sure my first experience with Aliens in comics was the Superman vs. Aliens prestige-format mini-series. I was already deeply into the Superman comics at the time, and loved that even as a random inter-company crossover, the miniseries seemed to have consequences on the Superman side at least, including giving us an in-continuity Argo City or such and a "Kara."

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Despite always simply accepting Predator and Alien(s) as existing in the same universe, I was never all that into the Predator side in and of itself. I have some memory of a friend describing a scene from Predator in which the titular character had skinned someone (and that you saw the skinned body on screen) from awhile before seeing the film myself. I’m pretty sure I saw the films–Predator and Predator 2–prior to college, but I’m not absolutely sure. They never stuck with me quite the same way (especially Predator 2 that I hardly remember except knowing that I saw it at least once). Predator came back a bit to me during grad school and has stuck with me since for some of the cheesey "Arnold stuff" (particularly the "Get to the CHOPPAH!" line).

By the time I saw the films, I’d read at least two Aliens vs. Predator novels. I was most interested in them for being Aliens stories; that they were Aliens vs. Predator/included Predators was incidental to me at the time.

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As pertains to our topic at hand…they continued to EXPAND the universe, to me.

SETTLING IN AND MOVING FORWARD

By the time Alien Resurrection came out in late 1997, I was pretty well steeped in stuff. I was very disappointed in the film, though, for jumping some 200(?) years into the future after Alien3 rather than using the Ripley-as-Synthetic plot point from the books. While I still didn’t take it as such at the time, I now (in 2020) realize that was my first real experience with the difference between "the films" and an "Expanded Universe." Great stories from the books that had expanded my knowledge and understanding and the appeal of the property to me…but they weren’t even acknowledged by the movies!

During college, much of my "main" reading of a "universe" had gone to Magic: The Gathering, as well as continuing with Dragonlance from the mid-’90s and Aliens had kind of fallen off for me.

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alien_novelizations_oldBut then in 2004 while I was working the overnight stocking shift at Meijer (think a Walmart/Target hybrid) when I was browsing the books section, I came across a novelization of AVP…there was a new movie, this time featuring the Aliens AND Predator(s) in one film! I bought the book immediately…though to this day, I don’t actually recall if I ever got around to reading it. Those few months working overnights were part of an interesting period of my life as I struggled to make sense of being out of college and yet still being absolutely clueless about what life was supposed to be. As with many things…a topic for some other time.

I remember the makers of Heroclix giving us a new game–Horrorclix–and the line included several things with Aliens and Predators with the AVP branding. Though interested–in particular to have Aliens in scale with Superman–I never got any (and a June 2020 internet search shows them as being well outside any reasonable price range for me now!)

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In 2005 or so, DH Press (DH for Dark Horse as in the comics publisher) began publishing new Aliens and Predator novels. I was thrilled to get new Aliens novels (though sadly, I passed on the Predator ones at the time, and those are absolutely stupid-ridiculous prices online now in 2020, which is highly frustrating). I suspect this was probably around the time that I finally made the connection or otherwise learned that Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum, The Female War, Genocide, and so on–those novels I loved as a "kid" that really got me into the property(ies)–were novelIZATIONS. Of Dark Horse comics.

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In 2007 I learned that Dark Horse Comics would be publishing a collection of some of those original comics. A friend actually gifted that volume to me; and thus, I got to read the comics version of the stories I remembered reading as novels. That year also brought the second AVP film, Requiem.

2009 or so brought some new Aliens and Predator comics, led off by a shared Free Comic Book Day issue.

2010 brought AVP: Three World War which once again had the creatures in one series. That year also brought us a new Predator film that took a cue from Aliens and simply added the "s" to pluralize the title: Predators.

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2012 brought the film Prometheus. I recall seeing a movie poster for it, at the theater I frequented in Kent; as well as a couple different trailers for the film. Rumor had it that the film would somehow tie in with Alien or be a "prequel" or some such. It was also when I think I consciously began to recognize Ridley Scott as a specific name, as well. That said, once I saw the film myself, I was NOT particularly impressed by it the first time through…but it’s grown on me on repeat viewings.

In 2014, Dark Horse gave us a huge "event" of sorts…a massive-seeming story involving four different 4-issue mini-series that linked into an overall story: Fire and Stone. This encompassed a Prometheus series, a Predator series, an AVP series, and an Aliens series. Each 4-issue mini-series was technically its own thing, but with a larger story to be gleaned by reading all the minis and a one-shot that followed.

There were also new novels from Titan; though they were branded on the Alien (singular) name rather than Aliens plural…which has always felt a bit "odd" to me, though admittedly distinctive, if only to be separate from the plural branding of the Dark Horse stuff. Alien: Out of the Shadows, Alien: Sea of Sorrows, and Alien: River of Pain kicked things off.

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2015 brought us Aliens/Vampirella which marked the first time I’d ever bought anything Vampirella.

2016 brought a lot of new material. Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens; another 4-series event in Life and Death (Prometheus/Predator/Aliens/AVP); The Rage War (new novels, each branded under Predator, Alien, and Alien vs. Predator, respectively, from Titan). Along with the multi-series Life and Death event, we also got the start of one of the largest series for the Aliens comics in Defiance; matched in length (I believe) only by the 13-issue Colonial Marines story in the ’90s and the 12-issue Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species by Christopher Claremont in 1993-1995).

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2017 gave us the first new "solo" Alien film in 20 years with Alien: Covenant as a follow-up to Prometheus and again by Ridley Scott

2018 gave us a new Predator film with The Predator.

There were also a couple of anthologies of short stories published–Bug Hunt for the Alien franchise, If It Bleeds for the Predator franchise.

There have also been several more comics mini-series for both franchises over the last couple years.

IN THE END

What started out as just another sci-fi/random book for me in the early 1990s "expanded" as I discovered the expandING universe of Aliens/Predator. One novelization…(actually three novelizations in the end). Multiple original novels. More movies. Comics. Toys. Videogames. Audiobooks.

Alien and Predator seem to be things that originally "ought" to have begun and ended with their original singular-titled films. But they expanded into larger universes with books, toys, videogames expanding stuff. They blended, further expanding both franchises’ scope.

Both of the "shared universe" films AVP and AVP: Requiem were out before Iron Man–the first film of Marvel’s "Cinematic Universe"–saw release.

Even though this post took on a different shape than what I think I must’ve thought or planned it to…my own personal collection has expanded quite a bit in the last few weeks as I’ve made a point of tracking down other collected volumes I didn’t have, and a definite focus on single issues.

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I’m learning of comics I didn’t even know existed for either property, both singularly and as crossovers.

I look forward to some imminent expanding of my firsthand knowledge of Predator comics in reading single issues as well as a couple of collected volumes of recent minis. I plan to finally read the original Aliens vs. Predator mini-series…and several weeks ago spent a lot of time finally reading Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species. I’d known THAT was a 12-issue series begun in 1993. Though I did not realize it took two years to get all 12 issues out and that it wrapped in 1995. I remember the initial marketing for the first issue in 1993, but not much beyond that.

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I also neglected to get into much about the toys other than their existence in the ’90s. THOSE were the Kenner toys and included a bunch of different types of aliens, based on various hosts. A gorilla alien, a rhino alien, a snake alien, a scorpion alien, etc. In recent years, NECA has been producing a bunch of high-quality "adult collectible" figures based on the Aliens stuff–movies, comics, etc–and same for Predator.

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Lanard has even gotten in on the toys with some basic figures for kids. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover these back at the beginning of 2020!

My personal Aliens library is one of the more significant subcollections of my overall collection, particularly as toys, graphic novels, and novels.

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As it stands now, the Aliens and Predator comics have become a key "focus" for me, boosting my collection and pulling various comics together from the scattered abyss that is the bulk of my comics collection at present. With this eventual post in mind, and amidst boosting the collection, I acquired and read Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species as well as re-reading the original trilogy of Aliens mini-series; I have a collected volume of the original mini, and single issues for the 2nd and third. I also decided somewhere amidst it all that I’m interested in the various books, even in multiple editions…where I’d once thought to merely "upgrade" or keep to a single edition.

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I also have several volumes set to come eventually but they haven’t been shipped…apparently being held up (as of this writing) by Archie vs. Predator and Archie vs. Predator II.

Though I’d already long realized this stuff was important to me, it’s been interesting recalling just how much so that is, as well as how much more I’ve yet to track down and actually read!

THE END (FOR NOW)

I’m never good at ending these huge, lengthy posts. And even in this final typing, I keep thinking of stuff to add or that I forgot to get into/go over…and eventually a writing project like this just has to be put to bed.

I welcome any comments, thoughts, shared stories, etc. relating to what I’ve shared above. It’s possible that I’ll do some posts in the future covering individual issues or minis as I get to reading them…but I’ve got some other projects that’ve been on the back burner for awhile that are ahead in the queue, so who knows.

If you’ve made it this far, I do thank you for your patience and indulgence.

And I encourage you to check out the rest of the Super-Blog Team-Up by considering any of the links below!


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Super-Blog Team-Up: Expanded Universe

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters
Comics Comics Comics – The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones
Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator
Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation
The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar
Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe
The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters
Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog (Marvel Comics, 1992)
Bronze Age Babies: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We’re Afflicted!
Echoes from the Satellite – Tales from the Forbidden Zone – The Pacing Place
Black & White and Bronze Comics – Beast on the Planet of the Apes Review
The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors
Lost N Comics Youtube – Expanding the Medium: Motion/Audio Comics
Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe
Cavalcade of Awesome – Jumper Universe
MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe
DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe

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

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

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

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

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


Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Extra Colors

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

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

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

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

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


Paper Overlays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Polybagged Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Glow-in-the-Dark Covers

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

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

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


Foil Stamped Covers

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

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


Foil Covers

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

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

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


Prismatic Foil Covers

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

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

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Closer up of the shiny effect on the Venom issue…

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and on the Fantastic Four issue.

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

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

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

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


Embossed Covers

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

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

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


Foil-Embossed Covers

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

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

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

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

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


Die-Cut Covers

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

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

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

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

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


Die-Cut Foil/Die-Cut Embossed Covers

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

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

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


Hologram Covers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Other Covers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And the Amazing Spider-Man issue.

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


Acetate Covers

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

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

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

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

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


Chromium Covers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Era of Excess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Source material – Spider-Man Torment

ComicsComicsComics.blog – Daredevil 319-325 Fall from Grace

The Telltale Mind – Worlds Collide – The Intercompany Crossover

Between The Pages – Guerilla Marketing

Unspoken Issues – Darkhawk #25

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog – Connected Covers gimmicks

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

Pop Culture Retrorama – Glow in the Dark Covers

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

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

DC In The 80s – Memorable DC “gimmicks

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


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Super-Blog Teamup – Redemption: The Shredder

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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#DIYJusticeLeague

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

But that’s another topic for another time!

Here’s the "forgotten" image:

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

All are excellent reads, and well worth checking out!

 

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#RIPSBTU, #SBTU, #SuperBlogTeamUp

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

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

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

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

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

 

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#RIPSBTU, #SBTU, #SuperBlogTeamUp


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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps I’ll get into more on stuff later.

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

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

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


The earliest days of the 1990s…

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

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…to the premiere issue of the title:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Solidly into the ’90s…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once more, he has allied with Maligna!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Impacting the ’90s…and Me

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

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

But what does/did it all MEAN?

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Man Ray / Ray Fillet

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

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

Discovering Mondo Gecko

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

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

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

Discovering Leatherhead

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

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

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

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

Discovering Wingnut and Screwloose

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

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

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

Discovering  Jagwar and Dreadmon

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

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

Discovering Slash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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TO BE CONTINUED…

Patience Paid Off: Casey Jones Pop Vinyl

I’d seen the Pop vinyl figure of Casey Jones, based on the classic animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character back in January…but didn’t think much of it at the time. Or moreso, I had other stuff I was buying and didn’t justify the cost…plus, I’d decided I was not keeping up with the figures, so while sorta cool, I wasn’t that interested in the figure.

I regretted that decision pretty shortly after…but never enough to chance "online pricing" and such.

So over the weekend, while visiting a friend out of state, I decided that if we went to the store where they’d had the figure, and any were still in stock…this time I would buy it!

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Needless to say given the photo above…the figure was indeed in stock, and I did buy it.

And cool as this one is…I’m now pretty eager to track down the rest of the TMNT Pop figures, though I do not care for the likelihood of high and/or secondary pricing on them.

That said…I’m not even going to try hunting any down for at least a couple weeks, because I have recently blown way, way outta my "budget" and need to stick much more to real-life "essentials."

I’ll probably show off more of the budget-busters later this week, as well as my joining the Super-Blog Team-Up for the first time!


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