Monday, September 01, 2014

Review: Infinity

This is, however, a terrible cover, saying nothing about the book other than that Thanos is in it, and that he takes excellent care of his teeth for someone obsessed with death.
I really rather enjoyed Infinity, the Jonathan Hickman masterminded and written Marvel crossover/event series.

At least in the form in which I read it, the form of a gigantic, 630-page hardcover collection with the size and scope to truly deserve being called "a graphic novel." Even though it is a collection of serially-published comics: A half-dozen issues each of New Avengers and Infinity and 10 issues of Avengers.

The thing about the modern Marvel event series—DC has temporarily abandoned the field after The New 52, only offering one true big event in favor of smaller, franchise-sized crossovers and line-wide theme months—is that while the publisher does lay out a buffet of comics under the umbrella title of the event, it's up to the reader to basically curate their own experience. If you want to read it monthly, then you can choose to just read Infinity. Or just Infinity and its more important tie-ins (Here, Hickman's two Avengers books). Or everything with the word "Infinity" in the title. Or just the books featuring characters, creators or premises you like with the word "Infinity" in the title. Or some other configuration.

You could also wait for the collection, in which Marvel more-or-less pre-curates your Infinity experience for you. That's what I did with this book; I waited long enough for the dust to settle and the important parts of the story to emerge and get put together between a single set of covers (Yes, it costs a $75 fucking dollars, but that's what public libraries are for, if you feel no particular compulsion to own the book, and you probably shouldn't).

(One could also follow along by simply reading Andrew Wheeler's amusing summaries at Comics Alliance.)

I mention that merely because I suspect my experience of reading it in this particular form—one big, continuous narrative only occasionally broken up by the need to eat or sleep or go to work—made it a much more enjoyable one than it would have been were I reading it in 20-80-page installments once a week or once a month, over the course of half a year or so, likely picking up all sorts of puzzle pieces that I would only later find didn't really have anything to do with the final story (I ran across the Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in issue in the collection Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Angela, for example; that had almost nothing to do with the story of Infinity, it turns out, and was so insignificant to the story that it merits a two or three-panel dramatization within this collection).

Also, the not paying for it has got to help a lot. I know from reading Secret Invasion and Civil War how frustrating it is to pay too much money for a branded tie-in that has no real import or no real pay-off in the story itself. I suspect that if I had attempted to read Infinity the good old-fashioned, Wednesday Crowd reading way, I would have hated what little I made it through before giving up entirely.

But 600 pages of curated comics, for the free? Yeah, that's a good way to read the story.

The presentation here is pretty unique too, I think. There are two byzantine credits pages at the beginning, saying who did what in which comic book collected—Hickman wrote almost all of it, with Nick Spencer-co-writing a handful of Avengers issues; artists included Mike Deodato, Stefano Caselli, Jim Cheung, Jerome Opena, Dustin Weaver, Leinil Francis Yu and others—but unless you're very diligent, and, for some reason, decide to keep referring back to those credits pages while reading, it's difficult to tell which comic book the section you're reading originated in.

That is, there are no individual covers and story titles and credits demarcating the end of one issue and the beginning of the next. Rather, it's presented like a novel. There will be an all-white page with a chapter title on it—"Orbital," "The Last Lesson," "Plans and Intentions"—and then a few pages of comics before the next chapter. It's all rather seamless.

The artwork, if you're familiar with the names of the above artists, changes noticeably, but also changes so often that a sort of baseline aesthetic is established, and even an experienced reader will likely go a few pages before noticing a different artist is drawing, and generally only, say, when you see the way Yu draws an eyeball, or the way Deodato abuses his computer to drop blurry photos into the backgrounds in the most unnecessary of ways (For example, one panel had a photo of the moon in the back. Just draw a fucking circle! Use a compass if it's too hard! If we see a large, luminous circle in a black sky, we'll figure out it's the moon; we don't need to see all the craters).

The surprisingly seamless (or seam-lite) feel of the artwork may have something to do with the fact that the cast is largely an unfamiliar one. Well, it's large for one thing, and while most of the names are familiar, there are a lot characters in here who aren't exactly Spider-Man and Wolverine (both of whom appear briefly in the opening, and then disappear); there are a lot of Inhumans and space guys and new Hickman creations and Thanos' "The Black Order/Cull Obsidian" (almost none of whom are dark in color or where much black, oddly enough) that I didn't know if they were new or not, because the extremities of the Marvel Universe isn't my bag.

It may also have something to do with the fact that while I named some of the artists who contribute the most work, there are quite a few more, and those weren't counting the inkers and colorists. The book has the look of a studio work; not in the sort of uniform, page-to-page look that a manga studio might be able to produce, sure, but neither in the sort of "All hands on deck! Deadline's in six hours, guys!" look of some of the rougher DC Comics with more than three artists involved.

As for the story, it is appropriately big for a book called Infinity, but also, once it gets going, rather simple.

It involves a convergence of the two plot-lines in Hickman's two ongoing Avengers books, both of which I like quite a bit, from what I've read to them previous to this.

The simpler of the two would seem to be New Avengers, which should really be called The Illuminati, as it features the Brian Michael Bendis-created concept of a cabal of the smartest and most influential Marvel Universe leaders secretly meeting and pulling strings behind the scenes. The current incarnation—Doctor Strange, Namor, The Black Panther, Mister Fantastic, Black Bolt, Iron Man and the X-Men's Beast, the latter of whom is in for the temporarily dead Charles Xavier—are currently trying to secretly deal with a fantastic problem with mind-boggling moral implications.

Apparently, alternate Earths from neighboring dimensions keep appearing close to their own Earth (the one we call 616) and, with no Spectre to push the world's apart, Gardner Fox-style, they have to come up with a solution to save their world. The best they've been able to come up with is to destroy the alternate Earths, before they collide into their own Earth, destroying both.

Namor, who is, remember, a dick, and Black Panther, whose little sister now rules Wakanda as queen and is advised by a bunch of dicks, find their countries at war on account of the events of Avengers Vs. X-Men, which makes playing nicely on the same team somewhat difficult for the pair.

In Hickman's Avengers book, he's introduced the biggest and most powerful Avengers line-up I've seen, in a book that is probably the closest thing to Grant Morrison's '90s run on JLA with Howard Porter, John Dell and occasional fill-in creators that I've yet found. Iron Man invents a sort of Avengers machine to recruit members, and the huge line-up has swelled to include Captain America, Captain Marvel, Thor, Hyperion, The Hulk, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Black Widow, The Falcon, Shang-Chi, Hawkeye, Wolverine, former X-Men Sunspot and Cannonball (who have taken the Wally West/Kyle Rayner comic relief/POV character role from JLA), Manifold, a new Smasher, a weird new take on Captain Universe and new characters—or new versions of old characters, in perhaps one case—Abyss, Nightmask, Ex Nihilo and Starbrand. Whew!

Those last four were later additions, and the earlier books of the series have dealt with the already pretty huge Avengers line-up dealing with them, as they showered Earth with "origin bombs" and pulled all kinds of crazy cosmic bullshit.

As for that simple plot that powers Infinity, it goes like this. An ancient race known as The Builders, whom Abyss and Ex Nihilo were kinda sorta in the employ of at one time, are destroying the galaxy, wheat thresher style, on their way to Earth, which they would also like to destroy. "The Galactic Council" (i.e. The Illuminati...but in space!) rally all kinds of Marvel alien races and band together to try to stop The Builders in Star Wars-dwarfing space battle after Star Wars dwarfing space battle, and The Avengers recruit their most powerful recent antagonists (Ex Nihilo, et al) and head into space to join the fight.

Meanwhile, learning that Earth is currently Avengers-free, Thanos decides to attack, with a somewhat ambiguous goal (looking for an Infinity Gem, and/or collecting bags of heads) masking his true goal—to find and kill his son, who is hidden on Earth among the Inhumans.

So it's a war on two fronts, with the away team pretty outmatched, despite entire space empires worth of cosmic help, and the home team dealing with Thanos' armies, lead by the five super-powerful members of the Black Order (this bit actually reminded me a bit of the also decidedly simple, and better than most stories in its class, Fear Itself, at least in the way Thanos' Obsidian generals mirrored the hammer-wielding Worthy).

The remaining Earth heroes and The Illuminati have to deal with the Thanos mess, and hope to hold him off long enough for the space war to wrap up and the other Avengers come back to help beat-up Thanos. Meanwhile, Blackbolt is up to something. And of course, an alternate Earth could materialize at any moment and obliterate the world...or compel the Illuminati to commit planetary genocide.

So lot of big ideas thrown about at machine gun pacing, with clever uses for powers and comic book science being employed as tactics in the course of the wars.

I do hate to keep bringing up Grant Morrison—or at least, Grant Morrison circa the turn of the century—as I get the feeling Hickman gets unfairly compared to him far too often already, but Hickman's take on the various super-characters reminded me quite a bit of Morrison's take on the JLA, in which the characters are very remote and, a few jokes or a single character trait apiece aside, don't have all that much in the form of personalities, but rather are interchangeable soldiers, functionaries who are so caught up in the escalating scales of the threats they face that there's no real need to concern ourselves with any personal conflicts they might be facing.

Are Captains Marvel and America confident, or do they feel out of place fighting among god-like aliens in battles in which worlds live and die? Who cares? They're kinda wrapped up in the fighting of those battles at the moment.

This isn't the case with the Thano/Illuinati side of the plot. Many of the characters have semi-silly magnetic poetry names, and speak in florid pronouncements, but there is a much (relatively) smaller scale to plots like the invasion of a single planet by a single invasion force, for example, or Thanos wanting to kill his son, or Black Bolt not wanting to let Thanos kill a bunch of his people, and so forth. The motivations and conflicts among m any of these characters are still quite grand, but things like wars between nations and geo-political rivals are at least human in scale.

For all of the talk one hears about the unlimited special effects budget of the comics page, I found the art somewhat ill-suited for depicted space battles between armadas of huge space ship. At their best, we get a sense of scale in large drawings of huge numbers of ships, but they don't move, and the artists rarely give us more than establishing shots—there are no dogfights or anything akin to that. The scale here dwarf that of your biggest Star Wars battle, but it doesn't move or sing and thus doesn't thrill like even the most dryly staged and unimaginative Star Wars battle scene.

At best, the space ship fights work in extreme long shot, as we see chunks of gray and white metal in the background, laser beams like Christmas tree lights between them.
The supehero battles are a lot more successful, of course, and Hickman and his collaborators do some weird and strange things with the space team of Avengers. They are outnumbered by their many alien allies—Gladiator, Ronan The Accuser, etc—but appear in the fray with odd bits of armor and masks, occasionally astride weird little vehicles. My favorite out-of-place character in this is probably The Falcon, who gets a big, bizarre, vaguely prehistoric bird-shaped helmet that allows him to participate in space fights.
Also note Spider-Woman on a speeder-bike thingee with Hawkweye behind her, fighting alien spaceships with a bow and arrow in space.
It will come as no surprise to learn that the good guys ultimately win, not even losing any token, temporary casualties as is so often the case in these sorts of crossovers (Well, I'm pretty sure thousands died, but no Avengers). What is surprising is all the stuff that Hickman has his good guys try in the course of winning, some things failing horribly (like a last resort to release a new "Annihilation Wave" from the Negative Zone, a threat so dire it once powered it's own galactic-spanning crossover event series) and some things succeeding remarkably well (like Thor having Mjolnir punch a hole in a seemingly unstoppable villain to inspire a planet full of guys who carry big, blunt weapons).

Again, like Morrison's JLA, the story ends with a sort of exciting, sort of depressing note—as bad as all this might have seemed for our heroes, it was nothing compared to what it could have been, and what it will be next time. The end of the world (or galaxy or universe) doesn't just appear and win or lose once, but it's something that's always coming, more persistently and more insistently each time, and requires constant fighting. Entropy is an inevitability, and superhero fights, like life itself, is basically just a stalling tactic.

A cheery thought, I know.

So let's end on a fun note. A Lockjaw note.

Lockjaw is, of course, the giant bulldog with a tuning fork on his head and a handsome mustache that serves as the Inhumans' modes of transportation, given his ability to teleport himself and others. He is awesome.

He appears throughout the book, generally in a seemingly small role, as he helps Black Bolt and Black Bolt's brother Maximus The Mad in their bizarre machinations.
Lockjaw: The only reason an Inhumans movie might be a good idea.

He also gets maybe the single most bad-ass scene in the entire series. Here is Lockjaw taking out one of Thanos' generals, Supergiant, all by his bad-ass bulldog self:

Fuck yeah, Lockjaw!


Hey, is it weird that in a hand-to-hand fight against one of Thanos' generals, the orange guy in gray armor called Blackdwarf, that Black Widow's costume gets torn up a lot more than Shang Chi's?

Ha ha ha ha! No, of course not! He wears spandex and she wears crepe paper. It's a simple matter of the materials they make their costumes out of, and has nothing to do with artists preferring to draw women with their clothes torn off then men with their clothes torn off. Obviously.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Challenges

This is a Mirage-era Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles original graphic novel that I didn’t even know existed until this summer. I blame, in part, the cover, a fairly generic black-and-white image of a Turtle—which could be any of the four, really—in extreme, context-free close-up. That and the fairly generic title; when I first ran across an image of that cover online, I just assumed it was a collection of Michael Dooney’s TMNT comics.

It’s not.

Rather, it’s a digest-sized, 1991 gr—well, graphic novel probably isn’t as accurate a terms as “graphic short story collection,” consisting as it does of six short stories featuring the core, original cast of the comic book series. All of these stories are written and drawn by Dooney, a fairly prolific Turtles comics-maker, and lettered by Mary Kelleher.

When it was originally published, the 93-page trade paperback cost only $6.95, and, at the time, would have therefore been a nice, cheap introduction to the Mirage version of the characters, who would have been approaching peak pop culture saturation (that would be the year the second live-action feature film was released). It will be a bit pricier now, and a lot harder to track down, if you can find it at all; if it was created today, I suppose it would be priced something closer to $16.95, at the rate comics prices have skyrocketed (and current Turtles comics license-holders IDW produce more expensive comics than some of their publishing peers, so their prices have skyrocketed higher).

The first chapter is a 15-page origin story, set on the Massachusetts farm house where the Turtles retreated to with Splinter, April and Casey after the Foot attack on April's apartment building. Exploring a nearby storm drain, Leonardo suddenly finds himself recalling their time in New York, and their lives in general up until this point, leading to a brief recounting of their origin: Splinter learning ninjitsu by studying the movements of his owner*, his owner’s move to America, The Shredder’s killing of his owner and orphaning of Splinter, the canister of radioactive chemicals that smashed into the Turtles’ fishbowl, their lives in the sewers and, briefly, their adventures through the first 12 issues or so.

These are explained almost in passing, with Leonardo saying, “After that we had many strange adventures, saw many wonderful places and even found a new home above the streets, but that, too, was taken from us.” Those lines are spread over four panels, the accompanying images showing the Turtles and Fugitoid teleporting, the Turtles with Renet in a fur bikini during the time of the dinosaurs, a New York City skyline, and the Turtles battling the Foot in a burning Second Time Around shop while The Shredder looks on from the doorway.

The pages—here and throughout the book, actually—are often full-page splashes, with no more than three or four panels ever filling a page, a restriction placed on Dooney by the book’s small size, perhaps. It does compel some nice image-making, however, like the four splash pages devoted to introducing the four Turtles by name, and saying something about each character with only a single image.

After that, each gets their own solo story, starting, unusually enough, with Splinter.

In his 13-page strip, the Turtles’ sensei attempts to meditate while the four of them train together…until Raphael decides he’s had enough of that crap, and quits for the day. Splinter tries to scold him, leading to a fight between the two, ending when a little twist to the clash that is only unveiled in the last few panels.

In Raphael’s story, the ninja turtle is battling the Foot Clan on a New York rooftop and, when seeking temporary refuge, he finds himself in the apartment of a little old lady who serves him tea. Luckily for Raph—or perhaps for both of them—she’s blind.

In Michaelangelo’s, our hero is out enjoying the outdoors of a Massachusetts state park when he finds a couple of hunters intent on poaching, thinking if they use bows instead of noisy rifles they can get away with it. They might have, if Mikey didn't decide to play ninja vigilante park ranger.

In Leonardo’s story, Dooney has our protagonist narrate as he trains hard, and we get a look inside his head while watching him do katas and suchlike in the barn, until we get another late twist reveal, highlighting a little-seen aspect of the character’s personality (pretty much across media).

Finally, Donatello’s story is yet another with a sort of twist ending, and it is perhaps the most obvious and least imaginative. We follow the character through some 12-pages of a crazy sci-fi adventure, in which he doges missiles and fights robots, until he’s called away to dinner, and realize that was all just a video game he was designing.

I'm sorry I missed the book the first time around—and continue to not read it for the next 23 years—but I'm glad I found out about it and found a copy eventually.

*When I saw Dooney's panel of an upright, not-yet-mutated Splinter performing some martial art movement in his cage, for the first time in my life I wondered why it was that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird decided to make Splinter a rat instead of a monkey or primate of some kind, as a monkey learning kung fu by mimicking the movements of a human master seems a lot more plausible to me.

I have no idea why this occurred to me all of a sudden, as I never thought to question it before. I wonder if that's whey the current IDW series and the latest live-action movie did away with that aspect of the origin, the former explaining Splinter's kung fu skills via reincarnation and the latter via book learning that occurred
after he was mutated into a half-human form.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Comic shop comics: August 27

Adventures of Superman #16 (DC Comics) This is actually just the penultimate issue of the digital-first Superman anthology series, but, based on its contents, it wouldn't be a bad story to go out on. "Strange Visitor" is an issue-length, 30-page story illustrated by a battalion of different artists and featuring an out-of-continuity, high-concept premise that boils the character down to some core aspects and presents a unique and imaginative story taking into account various iterations of Superman (it is not however, the one reflected on that dynamite Jon Bogdanove cover, in which the Supermen of different eras by different artists seem to team-up).

Writer Joe Keatinge gets his Morrison on (right down to the Superman-as-basically-God metaphor) in a story that imagines Superman debuting in 1939 (teaming-up with First Appearance Batman and Dracula to fight "Frankenstein's Forbidden Army") and then aging—or, rather, not aging—in real-time from there until the end of the universe. Or so.

A framing device has old man Kamandi telling the story of Superman to an animal prince, just as Earth is ending and Earthlings are looking for a new home in the stars, and that story involving Superman's failure to save a rocket and its crew in 1939, and never, ever, ever giving up on trying to do so, even if it takes him the rest of his immortal life.

Pencil artists include Ming Doyle (on the framing sequences), Brent Schooner (who drew the 1939 pages, maybe the best-looking over all), David Williams, Tula Lotay and Jason Shawn Alexander.

It's issues like this that remind me exactly why I'm going to miss this series when its gone. Hopefully Sensation Comics will quickly become a suitable replacement, even if it's not there yet.

Batman '66 #14 (DC) Like the lovely Mike Allred cover teases—man, I love how cocky Batman and Robin look about their giant robot!—this one is about a robot Batman. The Robot Batman on the interior of the book isn't quite so big; he's maybe 10-fee-tall at most, but yeah, what if Batman '66 had a Robot Batman '66, which fought crime in Gotham City, circa 1966? That's the premise of this Jeff Parker-written issue.

The Bat-bot does a pretty bang-up job of crime-fighting, taking on and taking down the Clock King and Louie The Lilac and doing such a swell job in general that Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara find themselves forced to go fishing to pass the time.

As well-programmed as the robot is, however, it's not quite ready for a team-up of The Joker and The Riddler, so the flesh and blood Batman returns to prove his worth.

This one's pretty fun, in large part because of how far it drifts from the TV show inspiration in terms of plotting—my childhood memories of the show aren't that great, but it's hard to imagine them pulling off the robot action in this issue—while maintaining the tone and characterizations.

The art is, unfortunately, split between Paul Rivoche and Craig Rousseau (the latter of whom is colored by Tony Avina; Rivoche colored his own work). Both are fine artists, of course (although Rivoche's style is probably better-suited to this particular book, where the more realistic the art is, the stronger the tension that creates the peculiar humor of this version of Batman is), but their styles are so different as to clash, making for a rough transition. And Rivoche gives Gordon gray/white hair, while Avina gives him brown hair).

Batman Eternal #21 (DC) Bad-ass Alfred alert! As tough as Alf may look on that cover, and as good a game as he may talk when an intruder busts into Wayne Manor, he doesn't come out on top of this particular encounter (Bright side? His daughter will learn why exactly he's "just" a butler, and he doesn't really have to betray Batman to do it). This issue, once again drawn by Jason Fabok, introduces several new villains into the narrative. At least one of them is a character that's been hanging around a lot over the last 21 issues without seeming like a villain, so I imagine that will come as a surprise; another is a Snyder/Tynion IV creation reappearing for the first time, and the other is a major-ish Batman villain who I think is making his New 52 debut and, given the nature of the character in the past, I wonder if his identity is different than it was before the reboot.

What's interesting about this is that for all the new villains appearing in this issue, there's talk of other villains behind them. Falcone reveals he was playing a temporary role in the events going on in Gotham, at the behest of a mysterious string-puller, another villain talks to his unidentified boss on the phone. Maybe it's that major-ish Batman villain (which would square with one aspect of the very first page of the series), or, more likely still, there's someone behind that villain as well.

I don't know. Some of this seems like clever, long-term planning, and some of it just seems rather random, with new characters being tossed in willy-nilly, the pacing and focus of the book not giving any of them any more weight or import than any other. I guess we'll see how it all shakes out; I just got much more interested in what's going on with the Batman plot-line, even as it seems like we've spent too long away from the Red Robin/Harper and Arkham plotlines.

Oh, and this issue is scripted by Tynion, whose wrist I would (gently) slap, were it in the room with me for panel three of page seven, in which Harvey Bullock tells Jason Bard, "It's good to see someone I can trust behind that chair again."

Shouldn't he say "behind that desk" or "in that chair"...? When someone is sitting in a chair, we don't say they are behind it.

New 52: Futures End #17 (DC) Hey, I correctly guessed the identity of the masked Superman of five years from now! Hooray! Not that it was much of an accomplishment, as the cover for October's issue #22 so thoroughly telegraphed the identity.

Now that it has been revealed though, the costume doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense, as there's really no reason for that particular character to completely cover his skin (it's not like he's green, or an energy being, or a black man, or covered with fur or scales, or whatever). In fact, the character under the mirrored face mask looks so much like Superman he probably could have gotten away with a domino mask or pair of Eradicator-style shades; maybe an ear-less Batman cowl. (Also, I'm not sure why he doesn't have a cape; that guy and Superman both love capes!).

It seems like a matter of DC trying to make a mystery for the readers, more than a matter of the character trying to conceal the fact that he's not the same Superman that used to dress differently; unless he's also trying to conceal that fact from, like, the rest of the Justice League and those that new Superman best...?

I don't know.

I really like the cover on this issue, though; at least the way it features Superman "standing" next to Lois in mid-air like that. It's subtle, so subtle I didn't even notice it for a while.

This is the last issue before DC's entire New 52 line spends the month of September tying in to the events of this series (despite the fact that a few books that will be tying in to it outsell it by a healthy margin), so I suppose the events of this issue were appropriately big, at least compared to what's come before: Superman 2019's real identity is revealed, the original Superman makes an appearance, and someone or something—Brainiac/Brother Eye, I assume—takes control of the Earth 2 captives and has them break out of their cells on Cadmus Island.

Patrick Zircher draws this issue, and does a pretty good job of it. The opening scene choreography took a few readings to sink in, but I liked the last panel of the book a whole lot.

Saga #22 (Image Comics) Bra-vo on the introduction of King Robot, guys. I actually laughed aloud at his first on-page appearance, and that, that is a great example of how to use a two-page spread. I hope every "mainstream" (i.e. Marvel and DC) comic book artist is reading Saga, and at least 50% of them are feeling bad about themselves while doing so.

Also: Holy shit, pages 15-18! I know that this particular issue doesn't feature the most dire straits our lead characters have been in since the start of the book—there are fewer guns and bounty-hunters about, for example—but that scene really felt like the greatest, most insurmountable challenge they've been faced with.

This issue was so good that I didn't even miss Lying Cat. Until I typed that last sentence, and reminded myself of Lying Cat. I miss you, Lying Cat! I miss you so much!

Best part of that cover? Quick Kick facing Devastator with nunchucks.
Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe #2 (IDW) There are a few ways to convince me to buy a $3.99 comic that's less than 30 pages in length. One is to publish a comic so dense that it reads longer than its 20-22 pages (Superior Foes of Spider-Man, for example). Another is to publish a comic book so awesome that I just can't resist it, the extra dollar be damned (the recent Turtles In Time book featuring EDILW favorite Ross Campbell drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting dinosaurs, for example).

IDW's Tom Scioli and John Barber's Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe comic actually does both. It's only 20 pages in long, but reads like more, and features three pages of annotations by the creators, in which they basically interview each other about the process of making the comic, page by page. And as for awesomeness, well,this issue includes a scene in which Scarlet bails out of a crashing space shuttle on a motorcycle, lands on the barrel of behemoth Transformer Devastator's gun, does a daredevil jump off the natural ramp formed by a projection from his shoulder, lands inside a waiting Tomahawk helicopter, spinning on a dime in time to fire her motorcycle-mounted guns at Devastator.

That's just a throwaway four-panel sequence in this comic, in which the G.I. Joe team invades Cybertron (in retaliation for the Decepticons' invasion of Earth in the previous issue), without really having any idea who's who and what's what on Cybertron.

As with the previous issues, Scioli and Barber plunge deep into the mythologies of these merchandising franchises, coming up with characters I was completely unfamiliar with, despite growing up with these cartoons and toys.

For example, Trypticon (not one of the better names, really), a Decepticon city that can transform into a Godzilla-sized (or bigger?) theropod dinosaur monster. Apparently, he's a G1 Transformer, which is the only, um, "G" I have any familiarity with, really, but I don't ever remember hearing of this guy. He is usually black in color, but Scioli makes him gray in the comic, so, upon initial flip-through, I imagined he was just a bigger-than-usual Grimlock.

Also as with previous issues, this one's pleasures include high concepts (a reversal of the traditional Transformers storyline of the robots coming to our world) and awesome page construction and design (page five is simply amazing, and I can't stop reading those pages over and over again).

I am kind of shocked that Scioli and Barber had Megatron speak of "looking for green men—little invaders from a doomed and desperate world," rather than referring to them as "little green men," though, given the obvious parallels.

Flipping through the book one last time, I see that it contains two Transformers I owned as a child (Bombshell and Perceptor), three Joes I owned (Jinx, Roadblock and Sci-Fi) and two Joe vehicles (The Snowcat and The Battleforce 2000 Vector).

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Hey kids! Comics!
Last week was the debut of the print version of DC's new Sensation Comics, their digital-first Wonder Woman book, in the style of Adventures of Superman. If you were at all worried that it might make a genuine effort of courting new readers from beyond DC's existing fanbase, worry not; the first two-thirds of the issue are written by Gail Simone, drawn by Ethan Van Sciver and deals with Wonder Woman fighting Batman's villains. Also, there's little chance of it filling the void of Wonder Woman comics appropriate for children, as it does include the above page.

But she doesn't really kill all of Batman's enemies! She's just imagining doing so. That was maybe the second-weirdest part of the Simone-written story, which I reviewed at some length for Robot 6 today. The weirdest part is page 18, drawn by someone else entirely. Given what came immediately before and immediately after, I wonder if page 18 reflected a last-minute editorial change to the story, that Van Sciver either didn't want to draw or didn't have time to draw.

On page 16, Wonder Woman's Amazon reinforcements show up. On page 17, we see Poison Ivy's vines take some of them out, and the Penguin pushing a button, triggering an explosion. And then, on page 18, we see Wonder Woman telling her Amazon army that it is now a rescue mission, and shows them saving civilians from a burning building. I suspect in the original version, the bomb was meant to kill the Amazons, and someone said it was either too extreme, or that the Amazons are pretty much constantly being killed in every story they appear in, and they decided to change that.

Or I don't know, maybe EVS drew the book out of order, and ran out of time before drawing 18. Anyway, weird book. I've added it to my pull-list though; this first issue isn't very good, but I'm looking forward to those to come based on the announced creative teams.

Wait, maybe that's the third weirdest part. Her "Wondarangs" were pretty damn weird, too.
It's not like part of her costume is also a razor-sharp projectile that returns to her hand when thrown.
Also! I wrote about Fantagraphics' latest Peanuts gift book, Waiting For The Great Pumpkin, for Good Comics For Kids. It's Charles Schulz's Peanuts, so obviously it's good. What I found particularly interesting about it though was that it featured the strips in which Schulz introduced the Great Pumpkin concept; most of those strips are new to me, despite being so familiar with the concept from that Halloween animated special I used to watch annually as a child.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Casey Jones: North By Downeast

Introduced by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1985's Raphael one-shot (which you can read in its entirety here, Casey Jones would become one of the central characters in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, joining the core cast of the title characters, Splinter and April on a more-or-less permanent basis from 1986's TMNT #10 on, as well as appearing in all of the cartoons (albeit just briefly in the first and most influential series), and as many of the feature films as The Shredder did (each were in three of the five films). Despite Casey's role as a sort of unofficial, human fifth Turtle, he didn't earn a comic book with his name in the title until 1994's two-part miniseries Casey Jones: North By Downeast (That same year he'd also share a title with his best friend among the Turtles in Casey Jones and Raphael, an ill-starred miniseries that Mirage only published a single issue of).

The story that fills the pages of Casey Jones actually wasn't originally intended for a miniseries. Rather, the "North By Downeast" story started out being serialized short chapter by chapter in the short-lived Mirage Studios anthology Plastron Cafe. Never finished there, Casey Jones reprinted those chapters and finished off the storyline in a set of two comics, produced in full color (the shorts in Plastron were, of course, in black-and-white, color still being fairly new to the world of the Turtles, even at that late date in the publisher's history).

Read today, Casey Jones is probably more noteworthy for who made it, rather than whose name is in the title: Character co-creator Kevin Eastman provided the story and inks, but Rick Veitch scripted, penciled and even lettered the story (Usual TMNT letterer Steve Lavigne provided the colors, and John Totleben the covers). Veitch, probably still best-known for his BratPack and Swamp Thing, despite some compelling and under-appreciated work since (including Cant' Get No and Army @ Love for Vertigo), was here making a return trip to the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, having previously produced the three-part storyline "The River" (TMNT #24-#26) and the weird-ass one-off TMNT #30.

If any publisher ever decides to collect TMNT comics by creator, Veitch has certainly produced enough of it to fill a good-sized trade paperback and, significantly, most of it is very good; "The River" being one of the better non-Eastman and Laird stories that wasn't a wild departure.

The pacing in "North By Downeast," as well as its set-up, betrays its origins as short strips spread across issues of an anthology. It opens cinematically, on a dark and stormy night, the first few pages of panels taking us from an establishing shot of the New York City, following the rain into a gutter, down a drainpipe, into an open manhole, and into the sewer. Casey is sneaking into the Turtles' den, and letting in enough water to short out their electricity.

He strikes a match, and begins to tell the Turtles a of a solo adventure of his as random and wild as any of the Turtles' more outlandish adventures.

Veitch takes Eastman and Laird's original conception of Casey as a street vigilante who fights crime with baseball bats, hockey sticks and other blunt sporting equipment he keeps in the beat-up golf-bag slung over his shoulder to the extreme, even if it's a logical, even more realistic extreme. His Casey wears not only a hocky mask, but also hockey gloves, knee and shin pads, a cup and what appears to be either hockey or football pads (I'm no sports fan) as body armor. His bag is stuffed full of the usual sporting equipment, as well as a ski pole (for stabbing), a crowbar a saw and other useful items.
The first issue is mostly set-up, as our hero prowls the rooftops, looking for crimes to fight while occasionally watching strangers' television sets by peering in their windows, when he discovers a particularly weird crime: Crackheads stealing a tank of lobsters.

He intervenes, and soon finds himself fighting something...wrong, people that aren't quite people. He catches a cinderblock to the head, and finds himself stripped of his sporting equipment and ejected from a huge, nautilus-shaped ship of some kind.

He's rescued by a sexy fisherwoman, wearing a bikini under a slicker and hat and chomping on a corncob pipe, Popeye-style, who tells him a weird tale of lobster men from Venus, a lobster God king, a special lobster—The Royal Roe—which will allow the lobster men to regain their original form if they present it to their monstrous emperor.
In the second issue, all of the ish he learns about hits the fan, as he fashions himself a new mask and armor out of the discarded shells of some of the giant lobster men and, arming himself with an axe and a...boat thing...
...he wades into the alien lobster guys' ritual to raise an Ebirah-sized lobster. The crazy plot, which reads like a modern take on something Robert E. Howard might have pounded out over the course of a weekend, is met with crazy imagery by Veitch, as Casey's opponents shift forms mid-fight, and in an effort to reclaim his hockey mask (and save the world), he faces a lobster wearing it over his lobster face.
Eastman and Veitch give their story an old-school pulp twist ending (or, an old-school pulp-inspired old-school horror comic twist ending), with Casey leaving the Turtles as abruptly as he joined them, and leaving the story's ending—and veracity—somewhat ambiguous. Save for some evidence he leaves behind.

It's a pretty ludicrous story, start to finish, but Veitch and Eastman sure do work well together, and, visually, this is probably the best Casey Jones has ever looked, or ever would look again.

Monday, August 25, 2014

On Mirage and IDW's collections of the first volume of Tales of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

When initially perusing the Mirage site in order to avail myself of what stock of old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics they have left, now that Nickelodeon owns the characters and IDW Publishing holds the license for producing comics starring the characters, I initially balked at the price of The Collected Tales of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mirage's original 1989 trade paperback collection of the seven-issue series that launched in 1987.

The price was $40, which translates into about $5.71 per issue, according to my calculator, and considering that I already owned Tales of... #6 and #7, $40 seemed like a particularly steep price just to get the first five issues in a reader and collector-friendly trade format.

But then I saw how IDW was collecting and selling the same material. They split the seven issue series into two volumes, both of which cost $19.99 (IDW's first collection contains four issues, their second only three, so they were re-selling each issue at $4.99 or $6.66). In other words, getting trade collections of the material would cost the same either way, and the main choice was between the original black and white version (which included a 10-issue bonus story and a four-and-a-half-page introduction by Stephen R. Bissette, who contributed a tiny bit to the final issue) or the badly-colorized IDW trades (which lacked the bonus story and the Bissette piece, but did have a one-page intro by Kevin Eastman in the first trade, and two new covers by Jim Lawson).

So I went with the Mirage version for my bookshelf, but I also ordered the IDW volumes from a library, so I could see how they stacked up.

The cover for the original collection is penciled by Lawson, inked by Peter Laird and colored by Steve Lavigne, and features a rooftop scene of the title characters and the many enemies (The Monster/Rat King, Complete Carnage, a living idol, Savanti Romero riding a pterosaur) and allies (Superheroes Radical and Nobody, fellow mutant Leatherhead, returning character Renet) they encounter in the stories in one big, wrap-around scene.

Lawson's career as a cartoonist has been fascinating to follow, and he's one of the few artists whom I've read just about everything he's produced, at least from these 1987-produced images to his 2013 Kickstart-ed original graphic novel Dragonfly (which I plan on reviewing here in the near-ish future). Many of the characters on the cover look incredibly rough, and the title characters themselves vary greatly from the more standardized versions of Lawson's Turtles that would eventually emerge.

You can see bits of Lawson's later versions of them here, in Leonardo and Raphael's faces, for example, but it's somewhat difficult to believe the artist who drew this cover is the same one who drew the stories inside, and would go on to draw the 13-part "City at War" storyline, or Paleo and Dragonfly, or even those covers on the IDW collections (which you can see below).

Not only was Lawson's artwork growing and changing, becoming more refined as he found his own style over the years and decades, but the Mirage art of this period was really a studio effort, with Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Jim Lawson and Eric Talbot, for example, changing duties in terms of lay-outs, pencils, inks and black-and-white tones, sometimes in what seemed like a story-by-story basis. Some of my favorite art of the original volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came during the "Return to New York Storyline" (in TMNT #19-21 or The Collected Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book 4), where those four artists seemed to be working in some sort of jam style that looks a bit like the work of each of them, but not entirely the work of any one of them.

This collection begins with the first page of Bissette's intro, which jumps to conclude at the end of the book. Each issue issue begins with a small, black and white reproduction of the issue's wrap-around cover on a page consisting of mostly white space (Here is one place the IDW collections beat the Mirage collection; they include the wraparound covers at full-size, and with Lavigne's original coloring. The other area in which they one-up the Mirage collection is that they include the post-story pin-ups from each issue; these aren't generally all that great, but there are some fairly nice ones, including a Laird drawing of a turtle carving a jack o'lantern with a katana and a still black-and-white "Leatherhead Portfolio" featuring images of the character by Steve Lavigne, Eastman, Laird, Bissette and Michael Gaydos).

From there, each issue opens with a pin-up splash page of a ninja turtle, usually in some form of thematic costume or setting, offering a brief introduction that always ends with "Let me tell 'ya a story..." and then the issue itself launches.

Let's briefly take 'em one by one.

The first issue features an Eastman intro splash (that's it at the top of the post), and Eastman and Laird are credited with the writing, Lawson with the lay-outs and pencils and Ryan Brown with the inks (Tales was mostly Lawson and Brown's book). Set during TMNT #11, according to an asterisk, the issue involves Casey, April and the Turtles settling in at the farmhouse they fled to after The Foot Clan kicked Leonardo's ass and destroyed April's building in New York City. Casey's cousin and some of his friends pay an unwelcome visit, threatening April and Casey with a gun, hoping that Casey will confess where their grandfather, a crook who hid a quarter million dollar score somewhere, hid his loot. It's up to the Turtles to take them all out without being seen, and there's a nice twist ending that resolves the Casey's-cousin-as-antagonist plot from ever boiling up again.

Tales of... #2 introduces Nobody, one of the first superheroes in the TMNT milieu, a cop-by-day, masked crimefighter (with ridiculously large cape)-by-night in Springfield, Massachusetts (which the art team of Lawson and Brown make look fairly identical to the brick building-filled New York City of the earlier issues of TMNT, complete with chimneys, stairway doors and water-towers everywhere). Eastman and Laird are again credited with writing this story. (The opening splash is again drawn by Eastman, but his work is fairly transformed by Brown into something much smoother and brighter).

The Turtles visit the city, and soon become embroiled in Nobody's case, which involves gun-dealers moving heavy armaments illegally. It's Leondardo who gives the vigilante his codename, since he never identifies himself. It's not a bad one, and compared to those of the other superheroes in the TMNT-iverse, it's probably the best (The competition consisting of the likes of Radical, Metalhead, "Stainless" Steel Steve and so on).

The third issue opens with a Turtle in a graveyard, a hand rising from a grave marked Edgar Allen Poe, pencilled by Lawson and appropriately heavily inked by Talbot. This story, entitled "All Hallow's Thieves," doesn't have any writing credits, but the art team is the same as the previous issues. Perhaps Lawson and Brown also wrote it...? Set during the Turtles' time in New York City, it features an occultist who wishes to become the magical king of thieves. To do so, he must steal an idol from April's Second Time Around Shop (which naturally involves the Turtles). He then summons a horde of looting little gremlins, and turning the six-armed idol into a nigh-unbeatable foe for the Turtles to work out how to beat.

The next issue opens with Brown and Eastman drawing a Turtle working over a monster in the style of Jack Kirby (the credits read "Thanx Jack") and contemplating the nature of monsters.

In this story, which Lawson receives both story and pencil credits for (with Brown still inking), we meet a clearly deranged man who has covered himself like a hobo mummy in swathes of rags, and believes himself to be some kind of monster. Those who only know the Turtles from the original cartoon series will recognize him immediately as The Rat King, a name he doesn't actually give himself until the very end of the story. He haunts and abandoned factory complex, and apparently goes through phases where he pretends to be various types of monsters (On the first page, he's "a shambling moss-encrusted mockery of a man," and, later, when Michaelangelo muses aloud that he almost wishes ghosts were real, the proto-Rat King thinks to himself, "That was last year.")

"The Monster" menaces the exploring Casey and the Turltes for a while, ultimately trapping them in a room which fills up with ravenous rats. Our heroes fight the swarm of rodents in a pretty amusing fight scene. My favorite image of this battle is probably Casey going to the trouble of picking up two rats just to "BONK" their heads together.
I'm hardly an expert when it comes to life-and-death, hand-to-hand combat against hordes of rats, but I don't think that's the most efficient method of rat-killing.

Nor is breaking their spines one-by-one with a well-placed karate chop:
Oddly, none of the five characters, four of whom have spent their entire lives being raised and trained by a giant anthropomorphic rat, say anything at all about Splinter throughout this whole issue.

The story ends with Leonardo thinking he's killed the wannabe monster, throwing a shuriken into his chest and knocking him from a great height, after they've safely escaped the bad guy's clutches. But the monster, who renames himself The Rat King upon realizing the rats aren't trying to eat him, survives the wound and fall. Or does he...? Read "City At War" to find out!

Tales... #5 is the Radical/Complete Carnage issue. Eastman and Laird's sole credits here are in "Eastman and Laird present: A Lawson/Brown/Lavigne Prod," and it's Lawson who draws the opening splash, of a "Super Turtle."

Again set during their earlier NYC days, the story consists of the Turtles riding around with April in her Volkswagen van (Vanity license plate? "TMNT"). They almost run over a daring young bike messenger who is promptly attacked by a hand reaching out of the road to grab her bike tire. The messenger is secretly Radical, NYC's resident superhero, who can fly and shoot energy blasts and other cool stuff, but has a pretty lame-ass superhero costume. The hand belongs to her archenemy, Complete Carnage, who looks like a gargoyle in a cape and speedo, and who has the power to move through and absorb any man-made material.

The penultimate issue of Tales... opens with a moody Brown/Talbot image of a Turtle fishing off the side of a boat "here on the bayou," while alligators break the black surface of the water, a snake coils in his direction, and a long-legged, crane-like bird takes flight in the background. This is the Leatherhead issue, in which an amoral hunter of endangered species ("You did it, Mr. Marlin! You shot the last Madagascan Blue Elephant!" an assistant shouts congratulations to him) hunts the mutant alligator. This one too has no writing credits, just art credits.

The poacher Marlin decides to hunt an urban myth, a large alligator sighted in the sewers of New York, and while down there he runs into the Ninja Turtles, who were between skirmishes in a running battle with the Foot Clan. Two more players enter the fray, including Leatherhead (a sewer-dwelling alligator mutated by the Utrom/TCRI Aliens' mutagen that gave birth to Splinter and the Turtles, and is thus much smarter and more bipedal then the gator Marlin was looking for), and an unnamed man who hunts Marlin, ultimately severing the tendon that controls his trigger finger with a throwing knife.

It's strange how different the character of Leatherhead and his relationship with the Turtles is here—in the original cartoon and toy line, he was a villain—just as it's strange he didn't ever play a larger role in the first volume of the comics, not returning in any sizable capacity until TMNT #45.

The final issue of the series sees Peter Laird returning, getting credit for story and layouts, while Lawson pencils, Brown inks and Bissette and Talbot both get thanks for "toning assistance" (In addition, Bissette drew the opening splash, of a turtle atop a grazing triceratops, while pterosaurs fly in the background).

While April—whose skin is more darkly toned than that of the Turtles, and here appears like she might actually be a black woman—and the disguised Turtles are in a museum, a fossil rearranges itself into the gloating head of Savanti Romero, the sorcerer villain from TMNT #8 (the Cerebus team-up issue).
Romero challenges the turtles to face him in the Cretaceous period, where he was exiled, and just as they're pondering how they're supposed to do that, apprentice Time Lord Renet arrives, now outfitted with a digital version of the Sands of Time scepter (and he clocks that once dangled all over her costume and helmet have now been replaced by little digital time pieces).

She takes the Turtles back in time with her, and there we get ninja turtle vs. dinosaur action! Michaelangelo and Donatello take on a couple of deinonychus, while Raphael and Leonardo face off against a Tyrannosaur, atop of which sits Romero. Leo mounts a triceratops, the official dinosaur of Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and goads it into helping them dispatch the T-Rex.

This was and may actually remain one of my favorite Turtles comics, in large part because of the way it suggests so many other adventures that there just aren't room to squeeze into a single issue. When Romero is seemingly killed and the scepter lost, Renet and the turtles spend three months in dinosaur times which, honestly, sounds about as interesting as any other Turtles premise I've encountered in any medium.

Just one thing, though. This is the Cretaceous period, right?
So where the hell did they get all of those mammal skins to make their caveman outfits from?

I suppose Renet and some of the guys' fur coverings (wait, why are the turtles wearing clothes at all? They usually just wear masks and wristbands and kneepads, but are otherwise nude) could have been made from killing, skinning and sewing together the pelts of dozens of tiny little mammals, but one of them is clearly wearing some sort of leopard skin.

Anyway, let's move on.

The 10-page bonus story is another Nobodoy story with a rather sharp, if perhaps open to interpretation, political statement at the end (although I'm thinking it's a lot more anti-gun then pro-gun, given the other parts of the the book, and the TMNT comics in general). Nobody looks much better here, his black costume a much more solid black. Also, this story involves one of the turtles in a wig, glasses and dress, pretending to be an old lady and then kicking a dude's ass. Oddly enough, that's the second time that's happened in a short story in the characters' first half-decade of existence.

Here are the covers for the IDW collections.

As you can see, they are also by Lawson and have the same basic idea—put most of the characters from the stories on the covers with the Turtles in one big scene—but, the stories having been divided into two collections, there are fewer characters per cover (That's Casey's cousin clutching what he hopes is a treasure box on the cover of the first issue, if you're wondering).

The IDW collections are much clearer in terms of who wrote what. The first three issues were by Eastman and Laird, the fourth by Lawson, the fifth by Lawson and Brown, the sixth by Brown and the seventh by Laird. No one is credited for the coloring of these issues, not even "Digikore," the company that's colorized the other TMNT collections from IDW I've seen.

Among the dubious coloring choices are the decision to render these 3-D glasses one of the guys wears in #2 and #3 as red and pale, almost-white blue, and then just making them into regular, albeit opaque glasses, in the next issue. Then there's April's constant wearing of ugly pink sweaters (and, on one instance, an ugly turquoise sweater), giving Leonardo a golden rather than silver colored shurkien, the use of that brown-ish red or red-sh brown that Gnatrat and his "The Fannywhacker" identity were both given in TMNT Classics Vol. 2 to the "Super Turtle" pin-up...
...and I'm not sure how I feel about this red and gray look for the Foot Clan:
While The Shredder did originally apparently wear red, and the Foot have often been depicted in Hand-like red early on, more often than not they were depicted in blue or black.

For example, here are the earliest Foot Clan color appearances from the Mirage comic book era I can find, ranging from a reprint of 1984's TMNT #1 to 1992's TMNT #52. (The image with no text on it is the back cover of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness role-playing game source book, published in 1985).

It looks like IDW's mysterious colorist, whoever that is (Nobody, now retired from the force and making ends meet by coloring, perhaps?) went with the First Comics color-scheme for the Foot uniforms, at least as is evident from that First cover (I've never read those collections, so I'm not sure what The Foot wore on the interiors).

I see no reason to give The Foot glowing eyes though.

Oh, and the heavily-toned panels of April from Tales... #7, a few of which I included above, look pretty terrible in the IDW collection, as the tones weren't removed, a light, Crayola peach crayon color was just added atop them, so April's got black lines all over her face for some reason in the final product.

Finally, regarding the IDW collections, I was somewhat intrigued by the little starbursts on the cover reading "Ages 13 and Up Recommended," and a disclaimer on the title pages:
These reprints of 1980s-era comics were inteded for mature audiences, and do not reflect today's values or those of Nickelodeon or IDW Publishing. Except for the addition of color, the comics are presented here as originally published.
I can understand the caution, given that Nickelodeon does have a children's cartoon currently airing, and IDW is printing and/or reprinting two Turtles-for-kids books (I think? I can't keep up), and the general confusion of the audience for Ninja Turtles (a confusion quite evident in the latest film).

I was a little surprised by the "today's values" bit though, as that seems like the sort of disclaimer one might find before, say, a Will Eisner Spirit collection or a Osamu Tezuka book with their offensive stereotypes of black folks or Native Americans, maybe a reprint of classic Disney material, which can read pretty racist.

But I'm not sure what it might refer to here. There are no people of color in the books. The one man from the original stories who seems to be black, the man hunting Marlin, seems to have been re-colored into yet another white guy.

I don't recall any uses of derivations of the words "retard" or "gay" or "fag," words used much, much more often in the 1980s then now (if my experiences in grade school were representative); now they are used probably far less than even "the N-word," which at least some people have sought to retake and make their own.

I thought the word "bimbo" might have been employed to refer to April or Renet at some point, as it cropped up an awful lot to basically mean a not very smart woman in the page of a slightly later vintage of Mirage comic I also read this week, but I couldn't find any instance of that either.

So perhaps they were simply referring to the fact that it was more acceptable to kill rats, dinosaurs and crazy hobo mummies in 1980s narratives then it is today...? Or perhaps that's just a legal, blanket disclaimer appearing in all of IDW's TMNT reprints after a certain point (It wasn't in the only IDW reprint book I've bought so far, Classics Vol.1).

Sunday, August 24, 2014


The top image is a section of a panel from Mark Martin's 1990 Green-Grey Sponge-Suit Sushi Turtles, a Mirage-published, Mad magazine-style parody of that year's live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, a comic book published by Mirage Studios. The character is Toyoduh, the Donatello character who Martin has wearing glasses over his purple mask, making fun of Hollywood's lazy short-hand of designated smart or nerdy characters by just giving them glasses.

The bottom image is a section of a frame from 2014's live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, in which the filmmakers decided to depict Donatello wearing glasses over his purple mask, designating him as the smart and nerdy character.