Here we are at the indie roots of a multimedia empire that sprang up in the late 80s and dominated the 90s with comics, cartoons, toys, and films. This is the ultimate collection for the ultimate indie success story and it all started as a spoof of Daredevil. The series was merely meant to be a one shot issue, but the sales were so good that they kept printing more and more, then followed it all up with further issues.
This book collects the first seven issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles put out by Mirage Studios (so called because it was just a room in Laird’s house, so to say it was a studio was just a mirage) and the Raphael one shot comic. If you think that isn’t much, let me remind you that the early TMNT comics were all essentially double sized issues, averaging about forty pages- so the material is the equivalent of fifteen issues in this volume. Also included are comments and annotations by the authors on each issue.
As the issues are in black and white, you’ll notice that the turtles are only known by their weapons (rather than the different colored masks they wear later on), and when they are colored on the covers, they’re all colored red. The next thing you’ll notice is that the turtles are pretty violent. Not cartoon violent, when they fight, they aim to kill. Not capture, not maim, but to put their enemies in the ground. This was rather refreshing back in the day and it is further punctuated by them killing the Shredder in the first issue. From there it goes a whole lot crazier introducing April O’Neil, the Second Time Around junk shop, nutcase vigilante Casey Jones, the TCRI aliens (Utroms), the Fugitoid - little note, the actual origin issue of the Fugitoid is not in this volume. The authors felt that it wasn’t necessary as a synopsis is given in the TMNT #4.
While the material here is good, you can see that the artists are still developing their skills. The action is sharp, but there are still a few awkward angles and panels, the smoothness of later scenes and stories are not there altogether. What takes me out there the most is the mild attempt at swear words often employed by the turtles and their antagonists. Someone nearly falling off a moving truck and yelling “dung” instead of “shit” just is bizarre. If they didn’t want to use profanities they should’ve gone to the old standby of substituting “X@#%&” instead.
The key to a good spoof or parody is to make sure the story holds on its own. If you removed all of the referential material and inside jokes, is it a solid story that doesn’t require knowledge of the original to enjoy? This example is followed perfectly in the case of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their origins are obviously a spoof on that of Daredevil. The radioactive canister that blinded a young Matt Murdock bounced off of him and hit a kid holding a tank of turtles, which fell into the sewer covering the turtles and a rat in mutative goo (we later find this is from the wreckage of an alien craft). The creatures grow to avenge their Master’s late owner. The rest of the parallels are obvious. The ninja clan the Turtles fight is the Foot as opposed to Daredevil’s The Hand. The Turtles are trained by the rat Splinter who hates the Foot, while Daredevil is trained by the blind man Stick who hates the Hand. The Shredder, his armor at least, seems to be partially based on the Daredevil character of Gladiator- thought don’t quote me on that.For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.