Wednesday, January 7, 2015

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: The Comic Strip - March 14, 1991 to May 22, 1991

Credits: Dean Clarrain (writer), Jim Lawson & Dan Berger (art), Mary Kelleher (letters)

Summary:  The Turtles discover that the glowing tree Gaea is Tresmundo’s last remaining tree, and the Qats and Grrrufs both claim ownership.  The Turtles befriend a Qat named Pumarro and protect him from the Grrrufs, who have devastated the forest and now demand the remaining tree.  The light inside the glowing tree suddenly gives out, angering the Grrrufs.  Qat is kidnapped, along with Splinter and the Turtles, by the Grrrufs’ reinforcements.  King Gorrrge of the Grrrufs declares that the six of them must pay for extinguishing the tree by becoming fuel.  They’re tied to stakes and surrounded by fire.

Continuity Notes:  The location of this story is revealed as the land of Tresmundo   Not surprisingly, the Qats are anthropomorphic cat-people and the Grrrufs are anthropomorphic dog-people.  It seems that the newspaper strip is their only appearance.  What a shame that the children of the world never had an opportunity to bug their parents for Pumarro and King Gorrrge action figures for Christmas.  

I Love the '90s:  King Gorrrge says that without the light from the tree, there is only “now a thousand points of blight.”  This is a reference to a phrase used in more than one speech by President George H. W. Bush.  

Review in a Half-Shell:  A pretty weak batch of strips, to be honest.  Clarrain/Murphy is doing his predictable spiel about disrespecting our precious mother Gaea, and the evil Grrrufs have no motivation outside of pure greed.  Even if you’re not exhausted with the writer’s pet themes, it’s hard not to notice that the daily continuity becomes extremely awkward during these weeks.  The sequence that has Pumarro approaching the tree seems to drag on forever, with the Turtles repeating the same dialogue day after day as Pumarro moves like a snail towards this stupid glowing tree.  The fight scene with the Grrrufs is also remarkably tepid, even by the standards of a daily “action” strip.  Jim Lawson’s still around for this entire run, which means that the Qat and Grrruf designs look like something out of an early ‘80s B&W indie, but by no means resemble the cartooning I associate with the mass-merchandised TMNT franchise.  If Ken Mitchroney could’ve drawn any of these strips, it should’ve been this run.  I will say that Lawson occasionally seems to be enjoying himself.  I like the way he plays around with the standard three-panel newspaper format, incorporating the panel designs into the lettering during the Grrruf’s debut, and transforming the panel borders into prison bars when the heroes are incarcerated.  Any break from this tedium is appreciated.


Mela said...

I was waiting for Murphy's makes-Captain-Planet-look-subtle-and-nuanced green aesops to show up, and hey, here they are. You're a stronger man than me for tolerating it.

Matt said...

Between this and TMNT ADVENTURES, I notice that Murphy has a strong aversion to writing the Turtles in New York. He'll throw in a token story there now and then, but the vast majority of his Turtle stories are world tours and even dimension spanning epics. I wonder what his objection was to the Turtles simply living in the sewers and fighting crime in an urban environment? To me, that's kind of what they're all about.

I will say that I loved TMNT ADVENTURES as a kid, but I distinctly remember the ongoing cycle of waiting for the Turtles to get home, being happy when they did, then being frustrated when they would immediately up and leave for another extended journey one or two issues later. I really enjoyed their first world tour and their trip to Japan, but besides those I wished they had spent more time in New York and less "on the road". This strip, so far, seems like more of the same. It's downright bizarre that you're five months into it and April hasn't even appeared yet. Not to mention Shredder; I get that he wasn't the primary antagonist in the original continuity, but at this time, he was the Turtles' Number One villain in all licensed material. It's weird that he wouldn't show up in a newspaper strip, arguably the next biggest platform for public consumption after the cartoon series and movies.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Archie series as a kid and even then I found it annoying that a lot of characters said "ut-oh" instead of "uh oh". It was a weird tick that I see is in this strip as well.

As for New York, that's a good point. I wonder how it related to Murphy's life experience? Was he a New Yorker? Had he traveled to any of the countries he sent the turtles to? Was he just a tree hugger who watched National Geographic a lot? Would be interesting to find out.

G. Kendall said...

I can't find it online anymore, but I seem to remember Murphy did say in an interview a few years ago that he didn't have a real interest in TMNT, but used the series as a vehicle for ideas he wanted to explore. That would explain why only the earliest ADVENTURES issues fit into the traditional TMNT mold.

Matt said...

It could also explain why all his Turtles work was written under a pseudonym. Weird, though, that he was so involved with the Turtles if he wasn't actually interested in them. I wonder how he got started at Mirage in the first place?

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