Monday, November 16, 2009

TMNT Adventures #40 – January 1993


Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Chris Allan (pencils), Brian Thomas (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

This was published during the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' journey to America. Given the philosophical bent of the previous issues, it’s not a shock that Columbus is given the “evil white guy” treatment here (which, in fairness, he apparently was). The story begins with the Turtles sailing out of the rainforest on a homemade boat. On their way to the Caribbean, they’re hit by a heavy storm and washed ashore. When they awake, they’re greeted by Arawak natives, which makes Splinter question if they’ve traveled through time. His suspicions are confirmed when the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria arrive. Columbus’ men disarm the natives and the Turtles before Columbus walks ashore.

Columbus examines the Turtles’ Japanese weapons and decides that he’s mapped a new route to Asia. (Neither Columbus or the Arawak are bothered by the existence of mutants, which is brought up in the dialogue but never actually explained in the story.) Columbus decides that he wants one of the Turtles to accompany him and selects Donatello. The Turtles are wary, but Splinter feels like “there is more than meets the eye” and that Donatello must go. Inside Columbus’ ship, Columbus delivers a two-page monologue about his love of gold, even though Donatello can’t speak Italian and has no idea what he’s saying.

Meanwhile, on the beach, Columbus’ men are giving in to their evil European urges and harassing the local females. The Turtles team up with the natives to stop the explorers, which leads Splinter to decide it’s time to rescue Donatello. Simultaneously, Donatello is greeted by an “earth-spirit” who calls himself/itself “the Other.”

The Other explains to Donatello that the Turtles are on one of the planet’s “power spots,” and are sharing the same moment in time with Columbus because they landed exactly five hundred years apart on the same spot. The Other then goes on to explain the repercussions of Columbus’ journey, including the diseases spread to the natives and the use of his sailing route in the future slave trade. After the Other thoroughly depresses Donatello, he disappears into the darkness. The Turtles arrive to rescue him, get caught up in another storm, and wash up on the same beach the next morning. However, they’re now in 1992. The team sneaks onboard a cruise ship and sails to America.

Review in a Half-Shell: I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this story was written as a preemptive strike against any positive portrayals of Christopher Columbus during the 500th anniversary hoopla. I know that there were two movies about Columbus during 1992 (and I think both of them bombed), but it seems like the mainstream media was cynical enough at this point to present a more skeptical look at Columbus’ legacy. I was in 7th grade at the time and don’t recall ever being taught that Columbus was particularly admirable, just that he did something historically significant. If your teacher did say something nice about Christopher Columbus, though, I’m sure quoting the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures issue would’ve set her straight. Judged as a story and not a statement, I’ll give it credit for coming up with a creative hook to examine the idea, and the harsh history lesson adds some depth to the issue. Of course, if you want to do a story that emphasizes the negative results of Columbus’ exploration, that means you’re also going to get some pretty one-dimensional characterizations for the opponents. Plus, it’s another issue where the villains are absolutely no threat to the Turtles at all.

Pizza References: Raphael remarks that “there isn’t a pizzeria within five hundred years of this place.”

Turtlemania: There’s a two-page ad for the TMNT III – Manhattan Project video game. I’m pretty sure this was the last TMNT game released exclusively on the original Nintendo.


Erik said...

The Other looks really creepy.

Matt said...

Somehow I never got this issue. It was the only issue of this series I didn't own, until the very end, when my local shop apparently stopped carrying it shortly before it was cancelled.

I'm kind of glad I don't own it. I know Columbus wasn't a great guy, but it seems kind of, I dunno... douchey, I guess, to mark the 500th anniversary of his discovery of the New World with a smear campaign. He acted in a manner that was common, and expected, in his time.

Joe D. said...

No comments on the cover? Is this supposed to be a Hulk tribute? It sure seems like one.

G. Kendall said...

Yes, Peter Laird talks about it here:

The idea that Donatello feels the "weight" of 1492 is also a little silly, by the way.

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