It’s 1996. The Ninja Turtles toyline has hit hard times. The animated series is cancelled. The second volume of the original Mirage comic has ended. The Archie all-ages title is gone. Who will carry on the tradition of pubescent reptile martial arts action?
Image Comics will. And since the target audience of the original TMNT marketing blitz has now reached its teen years, they want you to know that this incarnation of the Turtles isn’t for little kids. The third volume of TMNT is overseen by Erik Larsen, and within a few pages it’s obvious that the book follows the early Savage Dragon style of hyper-violence and relentless action. A black and white TMNT series aimed at older readers sounds like something the hardcore Turtles fanbase would eagerly devour, but some loyal TMNT fans reject the book initially. Over the years opinions seemed to have mellowed (the back issue prices on this run are outrageous), and many fans just accept the Image TMNT book as an extended What If…? that can be enjoyed on its own merits. One could argue that the Turtles paved the way for Image Comics as one of the very first successful creator-owned titles (and creators Gary Carlson, Frank Fosco, and Erik Larsen all participated in the early ‘80s B&W comics boom), so the concept of the Turtles arriving at Image isn’t too outrageous if you think about it.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect from these issues. Violence, yes. Sophomoric attempts at “mature” material, perhaps. But hopefully it’s an entertaining series, and a fun contrast to the quirky Archie series of my youth. The two extremes of the most unlikely comics franchise in history…at the very least, I doubt I’ll be bored.