Friday, October 30, 2009

TMNT Adventures #31 – April 1992

Turning Japanese

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

The Turtles are still in Japan, hanging out with the characters from the previous arc. After sushi is explained to them in great detail (just as it had to be explained to Homer Simpson at around the same time), Splinter suggests the Turtles explore Japan separately. While Michelangelo and Oyuki fly Japanese kites (Oyuki is the girl Khan kidnapped a few issues ago, although I think she’s only been identified by name in one issue), Leonardo trains with Splinter, Donatello investigates the damaged nuclear power plant, and Raphael examines a Torii with Ninjara. She explains that the Torii is a structure that acts as a gateway to other dimensions. This Torii leads to Yomi, aka the underworld, aka “the land of gloom.” Raphael finds himself strangely attracted to it, and has to be pulled away by Ninjara. She reasons that Raphael’s negative emotions draw him to the Torii, which makes her more interested in him.

Elsewhere, Donatello has an encounter with a manifestation of Yin and Yang, the Tao.

It encourages him to follow it to the peak of a mountain, where we can see the image of Yin and Yang on top of the nuclear plant’s cooling tower. Donatello’s response is “too weird,” which sums this scene up perfectly. Back to Raphael and Ninjara, we have the obligatory action scene. The street gang from issue #28 is back, hiding in the bushes. Raphael and Ninjara attack and defeat the gang easily (knocking a few teeth loose along the way).

As the last gang member falls unconscious, he reveals that they actually came seeking help. The issue draws to an end with an April O’Neil/Chu Hsi makeout scene (Wasn’t Casey Jones her love interest in other forms of TMNT continuity? Did he ever even appear in this title?), Leonardo breaking his katana while sparring with Splinter, and the images of Izanagi and Izanami reappearing over the island. The next issue box promises “something normal.” I wonder if kids were complaining that the series was getting too weird.

Review in a Half-Shell: This is mostly dedicated to character scenes, which reminds me of the myriad “let’s talk” post-crossover issues in the various X-titles. The four Turtles have all been defined pretty broadly in the past, which hasn’t been a problem since so much of the series is dedicated to action scenes, humor, or just exploring crazy ideas. Clarrain/Murphy is able to define the Turtles more clearly here, and sets up scenes that emphasize the differences between the characters. It’s a nice change of pace, and I like the vague clues that set up the next storyline.

Pizza References: Raphael would rather eat pizza than sushi, and Michelangelo performs a haiku dedicated to pizza and Japan:

“Rickshaws of pizza

Yin Yang crust upon my brain

Turning Japanese”

What the Shell? : I’m sure the title of this issue is a reference to the Vapors’ song, the meaning of which, as Pop-Up Video once explained to us, may or may not be a little racy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TMNT Adventures #30 – March 1992

Midnight Sun – Part Three

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

We learn more about Chien Khan’s plan, as the demon Noi Tai Dar is summoned. Khan is offering him Hiroshima’s souls in exchange for having “the pit of nothingness” swallow mankind. As Fu Sheng explains to Oyuki, Khan’s young captive, the pit of nothingness is when a demon swallows a human’s soul and prevents him from moving to the next stage of life. There are two ways to open the doorway to the demon, and Warrior Dragon is committing one right now. After he destroys the nuclear plant’s cooling tower, Donatello inadvertently lets him know how to actually create a meltdown.

Ninjara reveals that she now has issues with Khan’s plan, because she didn't know it involved using nuclear energy.

Noi Tai Dar, ready to consume some souls, suddenly emerges from the cooling tower and blasts Warrior Dragon. The blast conveniently revives Dragon’s real personality, which enables us to see the epic battle depicted on this issue’s cover. Ninjara reveals that Khan’s portion of the spell isn’t finished yet, or else Noi Tai Dar wouldn’t still be bound to the nuclear plant. She leaves with Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello to stop Khan from sacrificing Oyuki, the “young, strong life” he needs to fully summon the demon. As Oyuki fights against Khan, she knocks off his mask, revealing his true face and stylish haircut.

Meanwhile, Splinter senses great spirits near the nuclear plant. Izanagi and Izanami, the two figures from the Japanese creation story, appear. They banish Noi Tai Dar back to the netherworld, as the Turtles rescue Oyuki from Khan. Khan manages to escape while no one’s looking (a trick he possibly learned from Shredder), but everyone still seems pleased at the end.

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s another all-action issue, running a full thirty pages (the only interior ads are for the ongoing Mighty Mutanimals series and “Yo Yogi Berry” Capri Sun). Since a giant demon is a much more exciting opponent than the generic thugs of the previous installments, the action really works this time. Chris Allan’s rendition of Noi Tai Dar is about as intense a demon you’re probably going to get in an Archie comic. Clarrain/Murphy is now going into different forms of mythology to create anthropomorphic characters, which is a clever direction to explore. It opens the door to a wide variety of stories, which helps to move the series beyond the predictable “human finds mutagen and becomes new action figure” formula the series could’ve easily given into. It’s hard to imagine when this series began that we would be getting stories about human sacrifice, soul-stealing demons, and the primordial couple of Japanese mythology. And since Izanagi and Izanami appear as actual characters in the story, I guess the world of TMNT has established its own true religion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TMNT Adventures #29 – February 1992

Midnight Son – Part Two

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Chris Allan (pencils), Jon D’Agostino (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Like the previous issue, the adventure opens with Splinter telling a story. He reveals that he lived outside of Hiroshima in 1945. One day, while sparring with his great-uncle and sensei, Gyogi, the Enola Gay flew overhead. While Splinter ran to warn his family, Gyogi watched the atomic bomb fall. Gyogi was blinded, but the family did manage to drive away from the radioactive fallout (the science of this is perhaps questionable). Today, Splinter has brought April and the Turtles to A-Bomb Dome, one of the few structures that withstood the blast.

Soon, the Turtles encounter Ninjara and an army of white ninjas. While Raphael finds Ninjara cute, she’s only interested in cutting out his heart. As Raphael puts it, “You may be foxy -- but you’re no lady!”

Meanwhile, Chien Khan is still holding Fu Sheng and Chu Hsi captive. Convinced that Khan is willing to kill Oyuki, the girl he kidnapped last issue, Fu Sheng agrees to help Khan summon the Warrior Dragon. When Khan adds his own ingredients to Fu Sheng’s transformative powder, Chu Hsi changes into a brainwashed Warrior Dragon. As he walks through the city, the Turtles cross his path. They climb on to Dragon’s body and ride along, as he heads for a nuclear power plant. Fu Sheng reveals to Oyuki that Khan’s plan is to destroy the power plant, so that the raw energy can open a demonic gateway.

Bonus: Ninjara's origin in just three panels.

Review in a Half-Shell: There is some nice character work with Splinter, but the majority of this issue is a fight scene. Unfortunately, Chris Allan’s action scenes aren’t particularly exciting, so it doesn’t quite work. I know that Ninjara goes on to become a major character, and her scenes here at least serve as a decent introduction.

Turtlemania: There’s an ad for the second TMNT Game Boy game, “Back from the Sewers.” I never owned a Game Boy, so I wasn’t able to experience these games (or the Game Boy Spider-Man game, which was apparently the only decent Marvel video game for years).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TMNT Adventures #28 – January 1992

Midnight Sun - Part One

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

The issue begins with the strangest abrupt opening yet.

We soon learn that Splinter is telling the Japanese creation story of Izangi and Izanami. Raphael comments that a blind god like Izanagi is the kind he can believe in, which is surely more bait for angry letters from protective parents. The Turtles, Splinter, and April are hiding in the luggage compartment of a commercial plane, on their way to Japan. April’s following the trail of Fu Shen and Chu Hsi to Hiroshima, picking up where her slightly tedious backup stories left off.

After fooling a guard at the airport (who somehow knows April O’Neil from American television), the group heads for the sewers. The plan is to stay there until it’s night, when the Turtles can move freely and search for their friends. Unfortunately, they run into a group of teenage punks who have confused them with the ninjas that are taking over the underworld. Those ninjas happen to turn up as the Turtles fight the teenage gang.

After a few pages of fighting and bad puns, the Turtles defeat their opponents and move on. One of the ninjas escapes and reports back to his master, Chien Khan. Khan has kidnapped a girl from the streets, and is threatening to kill her unless Fu Shen helps him take command of the Warrior Dragon. When Khan hears about the Turtles, he sends his minion Ninjara to deal with the problem.

Review in a Half-Shell: This is mostly setup for the Japan arc, and the pace is very leisurely. Once again, the Turtles face a group of opponents who aren’t that much of a threat, which is a problem the series seems to run into quite often. Chris Allan’s Turtles are also starting to look a little odd, as he seems to draw their noses in a way no one else does. I do like his human characters and his interpretation of Splinter, though.

What the Shell? : The letters page has people complaining about the Turtles engaging in the Satanic practice of “meditation” and the portrayal of a three-eyed character (Bellybomb), because that’s supposed to represent the Devil. I’m sure they’ll love the opening of this issue. There’s also a fan who opposes the “Storage Shell” TMNT action figures because they use sea life as weapons. The editorial response is “GOOD POINT” in giant print.

Monday, October 26, 2009

TMNT Adventures #27 – December 1991

In the Dark

Credits: Ryan Brown (plot), Doug Brammer (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Gary Fields (inks & letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

It’s another inventory issue, and another story about evil corporations polluting the Earth. George and Benny, stand-ins for Of Mice and Men’s George and Lennie, are two blue-collar slobs secretly working for an incinerator plant. Their boss, Mr. Rutt, is paying them to dump toxic waste in the middle of the night. Rutt, being a caricatured evil industrialist, doesn’t think twice about kicking Benny’s cat into a toxic waste vat when it accidentally trips him.

Well, that’s the last we’ll see of the cat, right? If the story were to continue its Of Mice and Men riff, the cat was screwed anyway. Meanwhile, April O’Neil’s car has broken down on her way to Boston. She ends up in Innsmouth, Massachusetts, where the locals are far from friendly. The owner of a local diner feeds April a milkshake that makes her physically ill. The mulleted daughter of the owner, Beth Ann, tries to help April out, but April brushes her aside. I’m sure she regrets that decision a few minutes later, as the rest of the townspeople rise up against her, zombie-style. April reaches a pay phone and calls Michelangelo, who quickly earns his reputation as “the dumb one.”

Thankfully, the other Turtles don’t have learning disabilities and are able to understand that April needs help.

The Turtles hop into the Turtle Van (or “Party Wagon,” depending on your preference) and head for Innsmouth. They’re greeted by Beth Ann, who leads them in April’s direction. We learn that April’s been kidnapped by three mutants, identified in the indicia as Nevermore the Scarecrow, Nocturno, and of course, Hallocat.

The Turtles defeat the mutated products of human greed and toss them out of the window. When the Turtles later notice they’re not where they landed, Leonardo comments that no one could’ve survived their fall. That’s pretty bloodthirsty for the Archie series. A week later, April’s investigation shows that the angry mutants had been poisoning the town’s food supply with toxic waste, turning them into zombies. The incinerator plant is closed down, pleasing everyone except for the people who actually needed the jobs and services provided by the plant. Finally, the twisted mutants watch from the shadows as April leaves town.

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s more filler, so see the review from the previous issue. The ending is particularly weak, since we don’t even see Mr. Rutt go to jail; the plant just shuts down. So, everyone in town is punished just because this one guy was lazy/greedy and didn’t dispose of toxic waste properly. This isn’t a strong example of Ken Mitchroney’s work, since he isn’t that great of an April artist, and April is really the star for most of the issue.

Turtlemania: The Turtle Van appears for the first time in ages. The book hasn’t showcased the various vehicles for over a year at this point, so I wonder how long this inventory story sat around before it was published.

I Love the (Early) ‘90s: April uses something called a “pay phone” to contact the Turtles.

The White Ninja

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Garrett Ho (pencils), Mike Kazaleh (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Following last issue’s cliffhanger, Splinter is attacked by a ninja clad in white. Splinter isn’t much of a match for the ninja, but April does get one sword stroke in. The ninja suddenly disintegrates, Hand-style. April asks one of the men she tracked down where Chu Hsi and Fu Sheng are, and he replies “Hiroshima.”

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s another thirty-second read, so it’s hard to have an opinion either way. I believe the April back-up story becomes the main story next issue, so that’s a relief.

Friday, October 23, 2009

TMNT Adventures #26 – November 1991

The Keeper

Credits: Dan Berger (plot/inks), Doug Brammer (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

This is a filler issue; the first one in the book’s run so far. The story opens with Splinter receiving a message from T’Pau, the Yeti, while meditating. T’Pau warns Splinter of an alien that’s targeting other rare creatures around the planet. T’Pau asks for the aid of the Ninja Turtles, and Splinter agrees. The Turtles are up for the task, except for Michelangelo, who wants to stay home, watch cartoons, and eat pizza.

Splinter guilts him into going along because the “code of the ninja” demands they help others. (I thought ninjas were the assassins and criminals and samurai were supposed to be the honorable warriors?) Somehow, Splinter and the Turtles suddenly disappear and rematerialize in Tibet. This is a bit of a copout, as Splinter earlier claimed that the Turtles were going to find some way to fly to Tibet. It’s soon revealed that the alien teleported them closer to his location, but I think seeing the Turtles trying to sneak their way on board a flight to Tibet would’ve been much more interesting.

Anyway, the Turtles enter T’Pau’s lair, and discover he’s the captive of the alien.

The alien blasts the Turtles with a ray and they disappear, leaving Michelangelo alone. He gives the alien a decent beating, but the alien manages to push a button on his glove that makes everyone disappear. Michelangelo wakes up in a cell with T’Pau. They fight some security guards and make their way to the alien’s command center. There, they learn that Splinter and the rest of the Turtles are fine.

The alien is named Boss Salvage, and now that his translator is working, he explains that he’s just taking rare animals, such as the Loch Ness Monster, to safety. Why? Because (oh, here it comes) our Earth is horribly polluted, we’re all fools, and the planet is doomed. T’Pau argues with Boss Salvage, saying that people are starting to pay attention and help the Earth (one of the useful activities shown to help the environment actually includes protesting a nuclear power plant). Boss Salvage realizes that we can all make a difference and sends everyone home, making this the bestest Earth Day ever.

Review in a Half-Shell: This reminds of the type of story the cartoon used to do, except for the overblown preachiness that’s tacked on to the end. It’s not a very strong story in the first place, and adding yet another heavy-handed environmental message to the end makes the creators seem monumentally self-unaware. At least Ken Mitchroney’s back, though.

Pizza References: Michelangelo is rewarded at the end, as the Turtles are returned home just as April O’Neil arrives with their pizzas.


Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Garrett Ho (pencils), Gary Fields (letters), Allison Flood (inks), Barry Grossman (colors)

April O’Neil tracks down the men who kidnapped Fu Sheng and Chu Hsi, but she can’t find her friends. Splinter appears and tries to interrogate one of the kidnappers, but he’s afraid of his ninja employers. Suddenly, Storm Shadow a ninja in a white outfit dramatically enters.

Review in a Half-Shell: This is only five pages long, and the only plot advancement is Splinter’s sudden arrival. I suspect one reason why I didn’t care for these backups as a kid is the number of months it took for the story to go anywhere.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

TMNT Adventures #25 – October 1991

Raw Power

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

We open with Bebop and Rocksteady going clothes (and gun) shopping. They’re interested in stealing some fireworks while in town, but Rocksteady isn’t sure when the 4th of July is. Bebop proves he’s the smart one by suggesting they steal a calendar (preferably a “Sports Illuminated” swimsuit one). They head to the zoo, where they complete the next phase of their devious plan.

Meanwhile, the Turtles are facing the combined might of Slash, Bellybomb, and Krang-head Shredder. Krang is now able to use Shredder’s martial art skills against the Turtles…

…while Slash continues to show off his unique command of the English language.

(In case you're not clear on the logistics, I'll explain. Shredder still has a head, Krang's just sitting on it.) Luckily for the Turtles, Slash wanders off in search of his precious palm tree (he finds it), and Bellybomb is defeated by the sheer toxicity of his own bodily emissions.

The Turtles force Krang to remove himself from Shredder’s head, as Bebop and Rocksteady return.

See, kids? They didn’t kill the pretty animals. Shredder leaves, knowing he owes the Turtles a debt of honor. Bebop and Rocksteady take Krang and Bellybomb with them on the spaceship and drop them off on Morbus. They then return to the Edenworld planet. With the violence out of their system, they’re content to live naked with the animals again.

Review in a Half-Shell: Do I have to reiterate that this stuff is deliriously entertaining? This entire arc has actually been an “illusion of change” affair, but it’s executed so well it’s hard to complain.

Dragon Rage

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

Warrior Dragon stands above Chinatown, ready to stop Fu Sheng’s kidnappers. Unfortunately, not only people but cars all look the same to him, so he grabs the wrong one. He’s soon attacked by more ninjas, who April suspects have superhuman abilities. One of them unleashes a powder that transforms Warrior Dragon back into Chu Hsi. The ninjas disappear with Chu Hsi, leaving April alone to stop them.

Review in a Half-Shell: There’s a lot of action, and it’s staged in such a way that the ninjas don’t seem like a feeble threat to Warrior Dragon. Leaving April alone is a decent enough cliffhanger, but the effort to sell her as a solo star still seems strange to me.

Meanwhile in Riverdale… : Are you ready for the Koosh Kins? Apparently, the fourth issue of the mini never shipped.

Monday, October 19, 2009

TMNT Adventures #24 – September 1991

Gimme Danger!

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Garret Ho & Jim Lawson (pencils), Brian Thomas & Rod Ollerenshaw (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Before Krang and the others can return to Earth, their spaceship completes its auto-pilot course and lands on an “Edenworld” planet. After the ship drops off its delivery of deer, Krang is shocked to discover that this planet is the one Bebop and Rocksteady were exiled to months earlier. The very naked Bebop and Rocksteady are bored with paradise and want to commit crimes again. They leave the planet, as the Turtles continue their search for Shredder in the New York sewers. They discover one of his hidden bases, just as Jim Lawson shows up to finish the issue.

Their fight is interrupted when Krang’s ship crashes in. The Turtles now face Slash, Bebop, and Rocksteady.

Once it’s pointed out to Bebop and Rocksteady that they’re only wearing fig leaves, they suddenly develop shame and leave. Krang and Bellybomb join Shredder for a conference while the Turtles are busy fighting Slash. Krang suggests they reunite in the spirit of “togetherness,” which leads to this shocking ending…

Review in a Half-Shell: This is a nice example of what I always liked about this title - crazy characters, action, humor, slow-burning storylines, and ridiculous cliffhangers. It’s too bad that Garret Ho’s very fluid cartooning is suddenly replaced by an awkward Jim Lawson job, though.

It Started in…Chinatown

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

In this April O’Neil backup story, April runs into Chu Hsi and Fu Sheng (the owner of the curio shop from #20) in Chinatown. When Fu Sheng is suddenly kidnapped by a group of ninjas, Chu Hsi transforms into the Warrior Dragon.

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s only a six-page story, so there’s not a lot to say. I seem to recall finding the April backup stories pretty dull as a kid, so I’m not sure where this is heading.

What the Shell? : There are three pages of letters in this issue, and most of them are gems. We’re in the middle of a “boys vs. girls” fight in the letters page (one writer brags about her friend named “CLAWS” who once “slashed one boy’s neck open with his fingernails when he wouldn’t leave her alone”), which started when a fan opined that a female Turtle would more interested in checking her mascara than fighting. There are also some letters personally addressed to the Turtles, one addressed to Shredder that asks him to stop being so mean, and an editorial response that confirms that the Turtles are fans of Public Enemy and the Jungle Brothers.

LINK: With this issue, Mike Sterling learns that this series can be a little odd.

Friday, October 16, 2009

TMNT Adventures #23 – August 1991

Search and Destroy

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

The issue opens with the Turtles relaxing in their new hot tub. They invite April O’Neil to join them, but she wants nothing to do with heated sewer water. (I don’t want to think about the slash fiction this scene probably inspired). While April continues training with Splinter, the Turtles are sent to search for Shredder. They run across a group of thugs who are planning to blow up a section of the sewers and rob the armored car parked above. As the Turtles fight the crooks, the scene shifts to Morbus, the toxic waste dump planet where Krang was exiled months earlier. Krang’s shocked to discover someone else on the planet…

…Slash. Krang offers to take him to a world full of palm trees if he helps him out. They soon discover another alien sent to the prison planet, Bellybomb.

After Slash…slashes the guards who recently dropped Bellybomb off, Krang takes control of their spaceship. He leaves with Slash and Bellybomb and heads for a world of palm trees…

Review in a Half-Shell: It’s the first appearance of Slash, the evil ninja turtle with a palm tree fixation who talks like a beat poet. We’re also introduced to Bellybomb (credited to Stephen Murphy and Stephen Bissette in the indicia). They don’t do an awful lot in this issue, but they’re clearly works of inspired genius. The two stories in this issue transition between one another in a Watchmen-style, which also adds to surrealism. Chris Allan debuts as penciler, and while I find his Ninja Turtles a little too cute, he does a great job on the scenes set on Morbus.

Pizza References: An empty pizza box sits next to the hot tub on the first page, Michelangelo suggests taking a pizza break from searching for Shredder, and Leonardo recommends stopping for pizza after the Turtles defeat their opponents in the sewers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Kid.

This ad ran in late 1992/early 1993, when the Turtles' massive popularity was starting to wane. Nothing like kicking a gigantic merchandising phenomenon when it's down.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TMNT Adventures #22 – July 1991

Rat Trap

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Gene Colan (art), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

The two remaining Turtles, along with Splinter and April O’Neil, are on the hunt for Shredder. They investigate the building that housed his monster-sized Foot Soldier and discover a clue – a matchbook from the Acme Traps company. Knowing full well that it is a trap, the group still heads there to find Donatello. Inside Acme Traps, Shredder loads the giant floppy disc that contains Vid Vicious and Donatello. Vicious quickly flies away, thankfully sparing everyone a speech about the horrible state of the world, while Donatello tries to fight against Shredder. It doesn’t work out so well.

Soon, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Splinter arrive with April. (April has been training with Splinter in recent weeks and feels confident enough to join the Turtles. She isn't wearing her one-piece ninja warrior/early '80s aerobic outfit, though.) Splinter stays behind as the others enter a maze through three separate doors. Looking for a fourth path, Splinter explores the upper levels of the building. He’s attacked by Shredder, who manages to attach him to the novelty-sized rat trap on the building’s sign.

A mystery man in a red cloak suddenly appears and quickly defeats Shredder. The Turtles reach the roof with the rescued Donatello, and the mystery man reveals himself as Raphael. Aside from the fact that Shredder escapes while the Turtles are congratulating themselves, it’s a happy ending. Next issue: Toxic Zombie Monkey Party!

Review in a Half-Shell: Gene Colan drew the Turtles? I totally forgot this (although it’s not as if I knew who he was when I bought this issue in 1991). While some of his patented anatomy quirks are evident, the majority of the issue looks great. The moody shadows, animated facial expressions, and energetic action scenes suit the title perfectly. Given his past drawing Howard the Duck and countless superhero titles, it’s hard to imagine someone better suited for this book. I like Shredder’s use of the giant prop against Splinter, too. It gives the issue a ‘60s Batman feel. If I have anything to complain about, it’s that Donatello is easily KO’ed by Shredder in one page, while Raphael is able to smack Shredder around without getting hit even once. It seems like the Turtles should be more evenly skilled than this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Note – a review copy was provided by the studio.

Anyone with an interest in comics and animation needs to see Snow White at least once. Released in 1937, Snow White was the first full-length animated movie ever produced. The field of animation was still new, and still dominated by funny animal shorts at the time. Releasing a full-length animated movie was outrageous enough, but having it star a realistic human character, a subject the artists had absolutely no experience animating, was simply unthinkable. Animating the movie took around four years, and the budget went well over three times the amount Walt Disney predicted. If the movie had failed, it’s hard to imagine what exactly would’ve happened to the fledgling animation industry. Luckily, it went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Aside from being the first animated movie, Snow White was also the first film to have its soundtrack released as an album, the first movie to be rereleased on a regular schedule (a practice Disney started a few years later when WWII severely cut into the company's cashflow), and the first film to be scanned digitally and returned to film in the early ‘90s. The success of the movie also gave MGM the confidence to produce the Wizard of Oz, and the innovative cinematography directly influenced Citizen Kane a few years later.

Disney, for obvious reasons, wants you to know that this movie is historic, which is why the new “Diamond Edition” DVD/Blu-ray is filled with documentaries and featurettes on the production. The audio commentary comes from the 2001 DVD release, which features annotations from animation historian John Canemaker, and clips from various Walt Disney interviews conducted over the course of thirty years. Disney’s comments are surprisingly candid, even though he maintains a cheerful demeanor regardless of the subject (he blithely claims that he only has $3,000 in his bank account during one recording, because he’s put so much of his money into the Disney empire). Aside from revealing little tidbits, such as the fact that Snow White’s makeup is real rouge that was actually painted on to the cells, Disney divulges that he grew to hate (and he uses that word more than once) Snow White, because critics set it up as an impossible standard for his other films to meet.

Watching the movie, it’s hard to believe that something made during the Great Depression could look so vivid and spotless. The restored colors are fairly bright, which is ironic considering that Disney wanted the movie to have a muted color palate because he didn’t know if the audience would accept over an hour of bright colors. The story moves along extremely fast, and rarely tries to oversell a joke or visual gimmick. The character of the Prince is barely even in the film, because Disney and the animators realized early on the guy was basically deadweight. You might not find the story of an exiled princess befriending seven wacky dwarfs particularly inspired, but the striking visuals and overall sincerity of the production are engaging. Aside from its historic significance, the movie’s strong enough to compare to any modern animation project, which is remarkable. One hundred years after its release, people will still be watching this movie.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Ride of the Ruthless

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Mike Kazaleh & Brian Thomas (inks), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Finally, in the conclusion of Mighty Mutanimals, Maligna is dipping Raphael and Mondo Gecko in honey for the upcoming feast, while the mutants on Earth are fighting the Malignoids. Screwloose reveals to Man Ray that Maligna’s plan is to destroy all life on Earth, and it just so happens her method doubles as an environmental statement. I was shocked, too.

United, the Mutanimals (they’re never actually called that in the comic, by the way) are able to defeat the Malignoids, but it’s only a matter of time before Maligna arrives on Earth. Upset that her children have failed her, she sends ships across the planet to attack, while Scul and Bean target the Mutanimals. Wingnut and Screwloose do manage to deal with Bean’s “stink bombs” effectively…

…but Maligna’s ships are causing havoc across the globe. Meanwhile, inside her ship, The Kid frees Raphael and Mondo from their captors, revealing that he opposes the invasion. He shoots off one of Maligna’s antennae, which partially severs her connection to her children. Raphael threatens more bullet wounds if she doesn’t call off the invasion, which does the job. Maligna’s army retreats and flies into space. The Kid apologizes to Man Ray for killing Bubbla earlier, while Null sneaks off into the Amazon night. The Mutanimals enjoy a campfire, as we learn that the entire event has been broadcasted on Stump TV to great ratings. A happy ending for all.

Review in a Half-Shell: It works pretty well as an action–heavy climax, although it’s a little odd that none of the mutants actually save the day. In fact, given the anti-gun messages I recall the book regularly promoting, it’s amusing that the Earth is saved by a gun-wielding reformed villain. In retrospect, Null doesn't contribute much to the story, and how exactly he "sold" the Earth isn't exactly clear (unless the idea was that he was always scamming Maligna).

Absolutely Approved By The Comics Code Authority: None of the Malignoids are killed during the battle. Cudley takes the unconscious Malignoids off to “ a safe spot in Dimension X.”

Meanwhile in Riverdale… : I wish I had the spare $8.95 to order this as a kid…

Friday, October 9, 2009

TMNT Adventures #21 – June 1991

Space Junk Face Funk Cyber Punk Thief

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Byron Vaughns (art), Gary Fields (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Our adventure begins as a broken USSR satellite falls from orbit, latches on to a radioactive canister (from “the world’s sole nuclear waste space dump”), and heads for Earth. Meanwhile, a nameless man is so angry about the growing hole in the ozone layer, he’s decided to throw his television away.

(By the way, that hole’s gotten smaller in recent years.) Suddenly, he’s struck by the radioactive satellite. He transforms into the rejected ‘70s Captain America villain, Vid Vicious.

The man has a point to make, so soon he’s kidnapped April O’Neil to deliver his message. He’s upset over the state of the world, so he’s going to interrupt all of Earth’s broadcast waves and have April report on all of the causes he’s probably been annoying his relatives with for years. Donatello manages to track him to the Empire State Building, where he mounts a rescue mission with Splinter and the rest of the Turtles (Raphael is still in space). Vid Vicious doesn’t live up to his name, and is quickly forced to retreat. He leaps into a computer monitor (one of the few powers the satellite seems to have given him), where he’s chased by Donatello.

While inside the strange world of a pre-internet PC, Vid Vicious throws in a reference to Dan Rather’s most interesting party story (years before REM honored the event).

Meanwhile, Shredder enters unexpectedly with an army of Foot Supersoldiers. He copies the data inside the computer to disc, gives the computer a firm kicking, and then escapes out of the window. To be continued…

Review in a Half-Shell: Yay, more preachy comics. Vid Vicious is such a ridiculous character and design, he almost works, but using him as a mouthpiece for issues of the day is just annoying. The plotting of the issue is also a little strange, as Shredder pops up literally out of nowhere and leads into a gratuitous cliffhanger. Usually, Clarrain/Murphy paces his stories much more carefully than this. Byron Vaughns’ art has its moments, but often it looks a little too simplified and kid-friendly.

I Was Not Aware of That: Jack d’Antignac of the Georgia Fisherman’s Association writes in to defend fishermen after the events depicted in issue #17. He says that fishermen have spent a lot of time and money developing TEDs to help the sea turtles, and the editorial response is essentially, “Yeah, but you didn’t do it until the environmentalists forced the government to force you to.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Under a Big Black Sun

Credits: Dean Clarrain (script), Ken Mitchroney (pencils), Marlene Becker (clean-ups), Art Leonardi (inks), Mary Kelleher (letters), Barry Grossman (colors)

Following the previous issue, Cudley has crash-landed in the Amazon. His wounds are tended to by local cows, who apparently worship him as a god (If Superman can be a Christ figure, why can’t Cudley be a deity?).

Unfortunately, before Cudley can explain why he’s come to Earth, Leatherhead, Wingnut, and Screwloose get into a patented “misunderstanding fight” with Man Ray, Jagwar, and Dreadmon. Eventually, Cudley gains enough strength to stop the fight and tell everyone that they’re on the same side. They soon notice the Malignoid cocoons suspended from the remains of the rainforest. Wingnut and Screwloose make a case for just burning the cocoons, but Leatherhead thinks it’s dishonorable. After engaging in the first “honor vs. survival” argument that’s probably ever appeared in an Archie comic, Wingnut and Screwloose fly away in a huff. The other mutants are even bigger pansies than Leatherhead, so of course they do nothing about the cocoons.

Soon, everyone is gathered around the fire, trading origin stories. Jagwar reveals that he’s the offspring of a big-haired Jungle Babe and an Amazonian jaguar-spirit.

Dreadmon explains that he was born in South Africa, but was sent to Jamaica by his father to escape Apartheid. In Jamaica, he stole a Tasmanian wolf totem from a tourist and gained super-speed. When he reached puberty, he transformed into a human wolf. The locals turned on Dreadmon after he began eating their chickens, even using “bad voodoo” against him. He escaped to the Amazon, where he lives today.

After everyone’s caught up with the backs of each other's trading cards, Wingnut and Screwloose return, just in time to see the Malignoids hatch. Meanwhile, Raphael and Mondo Gecko have invaded Maligna’s hive. They discover the discarded skins of the children Maligna’s eaten, which they use as disguises (preemptive killing, cannibalism, infanticide, Apartheid, spirit sex…and to think, you can’t even show handguns in today’s kid’s entertainment). They soon discover Maligna, who easily defeats the duo. Maligna orders Mondo and Raphael fattened up for the feast, as her spacecraft approaches Earth.

Review in a Half-Shell: You certainly got your $1.25’s worth back in the day. There’s a lot of action, some origin sequences, and a bit of character development, all in the course of twenty-nine pages (I wonder why Archie wasn’t nearly as reliant on outside ads as Marvel and DC were). Ken Mitchroney’s working with a finisher and a new inker this issue, so the lines do look rougher than they have in previous issues, but his exaggerated facial expressions are still very evident. The interior of Maligna’s hive/spacecraft looks great.

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