Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kid's Stuff, Part XX Movie/TV Tie-ins Part XIII and Strange Team-Ups Part II: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet Archie (Spring)

No explanation will ever make this seem right

I had a lot of problems adding this set of toys to the list. Like the Star Wars stuff, I initially overlooked them. Which is odd because they are some of Robert’s favorite toys and TV shows. It was one of those things that are so obvious they fall under the radar. 

My main problem with adding them to Kid’s Stuff after I realized they were missing is due to the fact that TMNT were comics before they were toys or TV shows. There are a multitude of toys that are made FROM superhero comics yearly. My aim with this list was to find products that went the other way or were at least developed simultaneously. TMNT doesn’t fit either of those. I’m including it based on a technicality, however.

The technicality is this: the Turtles you see today on screen and in books bear little resemblance to the Turtles created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird way back in 1984. The Turtles of that time were grittier story-wise, more adult-oriented and drawn in a style that was challengingly artistic instead of family-friendly. 

Self-published after an evening of casual brainstorming created the foursome, the Mirage Studios comic was a single issue meant to parody four of the most popular comics out at that time: Marvel’s Daredevil and New Mutants, Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Frank Miller’s Ronin. Only after the artist duo hooked up with a licensing agent named Mark Freedman in 1986 did the Turtles become merchandising hot potatoes. Since then the Turtles have been everywhere.

 Literally everywhere!

So it is to this metamorphosis into a separate-but-like entity that I allow the Turtles to make it in under the wire. It started as a comic book the same way Superman or Spider-man did, but merchandising changed the tone, art and story of the book, creating an entity that is not quite the same as the one in Vol. 1 Issue 1. 

Don’t believe me? 

It's kind of too bad. Eastman and Laird used to have a link to those first three issues and you could read them online. Scenes like what’s shown below should convince you that the original Turtles were a much different *ahem* animal that those cute little things shown on Fox kids.

Dark, gritty, stylized with lots of blood and booze (these Turtles liked beer instead of pizza), the original would spawn a host of animated TV shows and movies, reinventing themselves yeare after year. The Turtles are the comics answer to Madonna. Who’d have thought it? Here are a few highlights of the Turtles through the years.

Ninja Rap (come on! You think I’d leave this out?)

And the follow up opening this Friday

As for the toy side of things, it’s easier to list things that have NOT been a part of their merchandising campaign (jock itch cream, auto parts and potting soil) than it is to make an all inclusive list of Turtle’s products. 

T-shirts, Halloween costumes, bed sheets, party decorations, arcade games, pinball games, video games (about 8, I think), DVDs and an ungodly amount of action figures make up a huge part of the Turtle empire. 

But by no means is that the whole list. No matter what the item is from that list, there’s a pretty good chancethat this young lady has one of them.

As for comics, EaL:TMNT was a blockbuster success for Mirage Studios. The companion book “Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was scrapped after issue seven when TMNT became a licensed property. Strong sales continued until 1993. Volume 1 of the series concluded with issue 62, the end of a 13 part story written and illustrated by the original Turtles creators. They had left the work to other writers/artists after issue 11. 

Volume 2 came out that same year with full color issues but was DOA after issue 13. Image comics stepped in around 1996 with a Volume 3 that saw drastic changes to the Turtles universe. The turtles were maimed with Leo losing a hand, Raph’s face being scarred and Donatello turned into cyborg. Raph eventually takes over for Shredder and leads the Foot at one point. The series was axed in 1999 and is no longer considered canonical. 

A fourth volume was released in 2001 and would have continued the turtle’s adventures to this date if Laird hadn’t put the book on Hiatus while he worked on the 2006 CGI movie. IDW got the license in 2011 and are carrying it for now.

As for the strange volume I hold in my hand, the Archie Comics line licensed TMNT in 1988 right before the release of the first animated series. A three issue mini series summed up the first five episodes of the animated show. After that an ongoing called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures ran kid-friendly original stories and garnered quite a fan base. It lasted 44 issues and ran for almost seven years. This crossover took place sometime in year two of that main book’s run. It is oversized at 64 pages, but unfortunately only 23 pages are dedicated to the crossover. The rest of the book is filled with backup stories whose art ranges from acceptable…

…to “so horrible I wanted to poke sharp objects into my eye sockets”…

Whoa, that’s just too bad to contemplate. I’m not sure why the artist feels the need to add googley-eyes to each of the turtles, but he really sticks it to them. Thankfully the art in the first story is pretty good -- at least up to Archie standards.

We begin the book with Archie and Betty at Riverdale’s version of make-out point. Now I don’t remember too much about the Archie books from when I was a kid. I seem to recall that a majority of the plots were about Betty and Veronica trying to get with Archie, Jughead trying to get with the nearest piece of food, Reggie trying to get with anything that moved and Moose having to do “favors” for Miss Grundy so he doesn’t fail English and get kicked off the football team. One of those may be incorrect.

I’m really not to sure how the writer can integrate the Turtle’s more action-packed, sci-fi heroics storylines in with these day-to-day slice of life's we get from Archie. Combining two such disparitive themes into one tale will be some feat. I’m sure that the first step will be creating a logical explanation for the Turtles and Archies to exist within the same universe. Something so logical that it won’t make a dent in our suspension of disbelief when we have the characters interact. I’m sure that’s first on the writer’s agenda.

...Or maybe not?

So a giant floating cow’s head spits the Turtles out in Riverdale. I believe the writer is on a different tack now. Now I’m thinking he’s going to make the reason that they are in the same universe as each other so freaking incredibly insane a concept, that you will spend the rest of the book going “At least this is better than figuring out what that cow head thing was all about.” Sheer brilliance, that’s what this guy has. Sheer brilliance.

Archie and Betty have a stereotypical reaction to the Turtles and their mode of transportation.

While they streak back to town, the Turtles have a little chat with the bodiless bovine. Seems they are in another dimension than the one they are used to. Unlike their travels to Dimension X this one is…Oh heck, I’ll let the cow head tell you.

No, it makes no sense to me either. Donatello seems to get it, but the rest of the Turtles are as clueless as the rest of us. Maybe they should call the writer? Instead they ask “Cudley” the cow skull to pick them back up in twelve hours, giving them time to look around.

Meanwhile Archie and Betty have made it back to Pop’s Malt Shop where everyone is hanging out. They shout out that aliens have landed and proceed to explain exactly what they saw. They tell of four green lumpy humanoids that were spit out of a flying cow’s head. This, of course, garners the reaction you’d expect.

Lucky for them the token black guy in Riverdale breaks in to say his only line.

Everyone rushes out except our pair and Pops. Which leads to this really leaden joke.

Ugh! Now I remember why I don’t read Archie comics anymore. 

Meanwhile, the Turtles have made it into town after procuring some clothes from a clothesline. As they pass Jughead’s dog, they remark how the disguises will help them blend. The dog thinks to himself that they’ll blend as long as the town is populated by walking brussel sprouts. It’s almost as lame as the joke above.

Betty and Archie have made it to Josie’s concert and are still worried about what they witnessed. Veronica lays into them about being so morose and Reggie insults them. Which brings out the He-Man in Archie. Watch as he puts Reggie in his place.

Uh Oh! Reggie just got served. All this testosterone is too much for Veronica. She leaves to power her nose, which is odd because I didn’t think they had drugs in Archie comics. 

She brushes past the Turtles without even noticing them and the gets kidnapped by two thugs. Note the thugs just grab her and neither has a weapon. They hustle her to a car and only the Turtles see them leave. Archie and the gang happen upon the scene at this point. The Turtles play themselves off as IRS agents. I’m not kidding either.

The other Turtles cut Donny off and they team up with Archie to find the suits that snatched their friend. Here they are making plans.

In short order, they locate the motel room where the two thugs are holding Veronica. Inside she’s being made to phone her old man for a ransom. Since he is an Uncle Scrooge/Richie Rich type rich, I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to let him pay it. Instead the teens and turtles hatch a plan. First they send Jughead up to the door with a pizza delivery. How did I know that a Turtle’s plan would somehow involve pizza?

While Jugs has them distracted the Turtles bust in and make short work of them. Nice busting in panel, by the way. 

In literally two panels they have the guys knocked out. How very anti-climatic. Why couldn’t Jughead have gotten shot or something?

Next Daddy Warbucks arrives with a suitcase full of money, finds out his daughter has already been rescued and proceeds to invite everyone to Pop’s for pizza and beer. (Root beer that is.) Our fade out is everyone pigging out and Raph looking to get some action off Veronica.

The whole issue is much too bizarre to exist. Sort of like the Turtles popularity is so bizarre to describe. They fill that number 2 spot so well on the list of top five toy-comic crossovers, even if they are there on a technicality. And with the success of the 2016 movie, there’s bound to be plenty more action that they can shell out in the future.


  1. Very good and informative post. I hate to nitpick, but TMNTA actually ran for 72 issues, not 44. Although, you did point out it ran for almost 7 years, so I'm assuming a typo happened.

    1. Highly probable. I wrote this three years ago and with a history running through so many different publishing houses, it is highly likely I mistook one ending run number for another. I'm blaming those googley-eyed turtles in the back up feature. I really should post more photos of it. I'm sure it gave plenty of kids nightmares.


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