Random Turtles Appearances

Big Bang Comics vol. 2 #10

Entertainment: 2 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 3 out of 5

I should like Big Bang Comics Golden Age tribute style (making up fake publishers to allow for pretend established histories, big heroes with big names and silly origins and costumes and big villains with the same), along with it being an anthology book, but it still carries that 90s Image feeling of being sorta trashy.  And frankly, it’s rather boring.  Apparently starting as an outlet for writer Gary Carlson – and with Savage Dragon’s first appearance in vol. 1 of Bang, is why he was allowed to be Turtles scribe for their Image years (again, apparently) – it turned into a mish mash of ongoing storylines and characters handled by a select pool of authors / artists.  Ish 10 has the Turtles mixing it up with Carlson’s mainstay, Galahad (a Robin proxy to a ‘Watchman’ Batman proxy), in a plot that was picked at for details for the fan-created issues that finished off the Image Turtles books, so I suppose that can make it worthwhile.  Still, when Galahad is recuperates from getting mixed up with the Shredder by hanging out with a young Splinter and not-yet-teenage Turtles, there’s something really underwhelming about it.  It should net 4 stars as an appearance since they have an actual role and do things fitting for their general personalities, but it comes across as shoe-horned in as it is.  Although Clarence Burk’s art is pretty cool – Golden Age for Galahad and then this really sketchy cartoonish look for the Turtles.  Elsewhere of interest, early Chris Samnee work when he was way anime.  Otherwise – a boring text piece and then a preview of what looked to be a shitty series with good art – ‘The Invincibles’.

CBS Presents: Action Zone #1

Entertainment: 1 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 4 out of 5

Reads like the commercial it is.  It seems unfair to rate the actual book on the Turtles third – which is surprisingly fun – since I don’t feel like it actually tied into the live action series at all (in fact it seems more indebted to what was going on in the Archie Comics series, and then maybe some Jim Lee influence as well… which was only a toy line, mind you).  Since was an ad to get people interested in the shows, that’s false advertising ya’ll.  So discounting the TMNT from the entertainment, what’s left:  Skeleton Warriors – surprisingly heavy art style, but man, old school cartoon plots are just too wacky to survive a three page intro.  This comes across as incredibly dumb.  WildC.A.T.S. (or however it’s abbreviated) – just dumb generic team stuff that carries over the rip-off-of-existing-teams feel of the comic series and with an art style that matches all those 90s books based on cartoon properties – very simple, very colorful.  But: The Turtles bit is a lot of fun.  You have Mirage cats working on it – Dooney plot and pencils, Lavigne colors, Berger inks – and thank god its Dooney in his tongue-in-cheek Gizmo writing style, so even though it seems like we’re headed to dumb territory with a super quick alien attack storyline, Dooney tosses in a last minute “OH WELL” that makes it all into a pretty good chuckle and recalls a classic flippant TMNT feel.  And Berger totally gives Mike’s art the consistency it needs – these are some of his best looking Turtles from his muscley era.  Maybe this lil’ blurb will be collected in some random IDW mish-mash someday.  That’d be ideal.  Otherwise – it’s the back issue bins, chitlins.

Digital Webbing Presents #24

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 3 out of 5

I guess this is / was an anthology comic tied to series featured on a website?  I’m not sure.  Well, I’m sorta’ sure – it sounds like the books were new material by creators, according to wiki, ‘culled from the Digital Webbing website community,’ which sounds like a nifty way to give new creators a shot.  Eeexcept that new creators can be a bit iffy, or course, and may DW had to toss in some stars – like the Turtles, in a short tale by regular latter-day scribe Dan Berger – to stay in the spotlight?  Or was this one of those deals where the publisher is respected by the community and thus gets handouts…?  Again, not sure.  This particular issue has three stories, all printed on high quality, thickass paper stock that really allows the book to look good and gives the colors a nice solid feel.  None of the tales are great, but they’re certainly readable, though our first story – ‘Mask of the Gargoyle,’ a Shadow variant, pushes the pulp cheese a bit too far too quick – and our last tale, ‘Fist of Justice’, has a nice twist but it’s at the expense of some sense between the panels.  Quality stuff, but showing of its independent status. And then in the middle we get a Turtles story that I swear we’ve seen a billion times – oh no I’ve got to get somewhere quickly and I’m delayed by the foot and it turns out I’m just delivering food – with Image-esque art by Andie Tong.  The colors in this story are pretty awesome.  So the story is sorta phoned in and isn’t anything you haven’t seen / read before, in other issues, but this is one of the rare ‘random’ Turtles books where the boys are actually featured and not just walk-ons, which makes this higher on the list of things to track down.

Equine the Uncivilized #3

Entertainment: 2 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 2 out of 5

A parody of Conan, Equine is pure indie B & W, the creator admitting in a little blurb at the beginning of this issue that he handed over artistic duties to match the slightly realistic flavor of the book and that his non anthropomorphs aren’t the best (but they’re getting better)…  In other words, ‘Equine’ has that eager feel to it that was common for the post-Turtles indie boom books.  ‘Equine’ – a horse, natch – is all uncivilized and muscular and has just rescued a fair princess from some kidnapping plot.  He’s celebrating in her hoidy-toidy court and showing all the well-dressed locals how to impress the dames by flexing and being reckless.  The book would seem to be mostly humor, with a lean toward consistent plotting, and its sprinkled with 4th-wall stuff (characters running into word balloons, ‘reading’ people’s thoughts – this mostly perpetrated by Equine and his partner) and visual gags of things inconsistent with the fantasy setting.  It’s lightly humorous but the beats are all off and the paneling doesn’t help to highlight the gags.  This roughness doesn’t help to smooth out the bubbling of court intrigue that are worked in, so that ends up being mostly a snooze, but it’s still a fairly unique blend of styles.  At the party, several other creators’ animal characters appear, including the Turtles.  Their appearance is really unremarkable, to be honest – no words, not greatly drawn – but I did get a chuckle out of them wearing cummerbunds, so: extra star.

Extremely Silly Comics #1

Entertainment: 2 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 1 out of 5

A black-and-white, printed on newspaper stock, humor anthology comic, and one of Antarctic Press’ first titles.  Ben Dunn is here, as ever, and it’s certainly interesting to see his work from way back when: it’s rough, but definitely has enough energy and style that you’d encourage him to keep at it, and it seems like he might’ve left some refinement to inks, as his best looking story is one where he inks himself.  Mike Cogliandro provides two shorts – one is very well framed and paced, the other less so, both going for a more detailed, shadow-heavy style than the cartoony Dunn.  Less successful on the art front is editor Herb Mallette’s written and drawn ‘Stellar Losers,’ a slog of a read – he gives himself half the damn comic for a strip with essentially one repeated gag of a space ship that has a monster problem.  Mallette’s sense of rhythm and paneling are very amateurish; it reads more like someone who really, really wanted to be in a comic book and gave it a shot before they were maybe “ready.”  The Turtles appearance maybe doesn’t count – it’s in Dunn’s last entry, and it’s just a visual parody of ninja accountants who happen to be turtles – except that the look is a dead ringer.  It’s certainly not official, and I’m sure there are plenty such comics that made lookalike swipes.  Extremely Silly Comics is… not very silly, but it’s got appreciable energy for an underground comic, and that energy has “proven” itself as Dunn and Antarctic Press are still going today.

Flaming Carrot #25 – 27

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 3 out of 5

This should be a ‘classic’ arc but I guess I prefer the Mirage Flaming Carrot crossover.  The random Turtles appearances generally pull from one of three representations, depending on the publisher / era – the Mirage Turtles, the Image Turtles, or the Archie Turtles.  Burden, of course, opted for the Burden Turtles, who are just as uncorked as everyone in the Flaming Carrot world.  So Raph goes wandering at night in order to research what adulthood is all about and runs across Carrot, who, with the rest of the Mystery Men, is hanging in NY waiting to foil a bad guy scheme.  Carrot gives Raph the slip and ends up following him, when the turtle runs across some Vague Dudes (were the recurring characters?) who zap him with an amnesia ray, allowing Carrot to take him back to secret headquarters, induct him into the Mystery Men, dress him up in an old bread bag and deem him Dark Avenger.  Then everyone gets together to battle some prankster umpires.  Classically bizarre FC, which also means classically uneven Burden – some awesome figures and panels followed by ones completely lacking in background, or ones done totally in negative (figures and foreground all blacked out, white background).  And Bob’s odd pencil style, the wrinkly line thing, means the boys don’t look really muscley so much as, well, wrinkly.  The pacing moves in fits and starts, and unfortunately, I don’t know my Carrot enough to say how much of what happens were references to older issues or just somewhat randomness.  It’s amusing but not as much as it feels it could be; apparently Bob got away from pure silly as the series went on – maybe this was the tail end of that, but there’s still plenty of wacky to spread around.  The Turtles heavily figure into things, but because their appearance is so wholly separate from their identities – they could’ve been subbed out for any guest stars – it doesn’t seem right to rate it higher.

Gen13 #13b

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 3 out of 5

No idea.  It seems like this was an… interesting?… idea to split one comic into three parts, A, B and C, with the page numbering and pricing matching the split (like this starts with page 13 or whatever and is priced $1.30), but eff me if I really know anything about Gen13 or what this storyline was about.  However, as it steps into every conceivable Image world – Turtles, Bone, Spawn, and etc. – while some Gen13 dude tries to track down a wizard who can best a “Frenzy Beast” which is causing wreckage o’er the lands – I’m guessing this was some compressed crossover story.  But it’s totes poking fun at Image and Jim Lee and crossovers in general, straddling a funky 4th wall line.  It’s not quite clever or interesting enough to make me want to read parts A and C, but it was unexpected and got some good 1-panel jabs in at the muscles ‘n’ angst style that Image helped to perpetuate for a while.  The Turtles get a pretty funny appearance on the first and second page, the lead character rescuing them from being buried in a pile of Turtles merchandise, with the boys lamenting that they just want to be in a comic book again.  Womp!

Infestation 2 #1

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 1 out of 5

Lovecraftian creeps are kind of a staid concept in comics by this point, but using them as the source of the collective main baddy – brought to life by modern day culture’s collective kitschy faith in H.P.’s cosmic unknown – for IDWs yearly-ish crossover weirdnesses is inspired.  IDW has made some semi-successful and some flopped attempts at mushing their unconnected comic universes together under an Event; I think Infestation 2 qualifies as the former, and this first bookend issue does a fair enough job of running us through the concept and setting up how the threat ‘infests’ other worlds, such as that of the Transformers’, and TMNT, and etc., starting from the CVO universe of government-employed vampires.  Duane Swierczynski’s writing is to the point, not belaboring on the Lovecraft stuff as though most of us don’t know about it already, and David Messina’s art is booby, but works, albeit with a weird, dimmed, digital look that I haven’t seen in IDW books in quite some time.  If you like event books, I do think this is a more auspicious kickoff than most, though it still has that kind of disposable, all-things-will-go-back-to-normal-after-this vibe that all crossovers do.

TMNT literally are just shown – no dialogue – in two panels, so this is literally an appearance-only gig, and only a TMNT-related issue for completists.

The Last of the Viking Heroes Summer Special #2-3

Entertainment: 4 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 4 out of 5

So the letter cols in these books suggest that people were a bit crazy about The Last of the Viking Heroes, and they were entertaining for sure, but by the same token I think people are just getting distracted by the Kirby association of creator Michael Thibodeaux, who apparently worked with The King back in the day, and thus was able to tempt the man (and a few other notables) to contribute a cover.  I mean, without knowing that history, I was surprised at the quality – Thibs is quite a draftsman, even though the book still has that decidedly indie feel to its look and figures, and the coloring is pretty stellar (which readers note also), this being before we went glossy but after the Eclipse color expansion, when the palettes were just so rich and bright without the slight remove that glossy pages provide.  I dunno how issue to issue went, since all I’ve read is these specials, but I imagine the ‘cheeky’ feel of the whole thing carries over, which is what makes it a lot of fun.  The stories are split into parts, with narration at the start setting the scene, and if these two issues are any indication, there’s no precedent for the stories, rather the narrator will just drop you into the mix as though you already know what’s what.  It’s partially silly, and also a good way to just jokingly zoom past exposition to get to an actual story with action and sword-swingin’ and wizard-killin’.  The two specials are not connected, and really only the second one (issue 3) has the actual Turtles, but the way they’re brought in to issue 2 makes for a pretty funny gag.  Which is what is nice about the writing – Equine also tried to pull off the half-parody sword and sorcery thing, but Thibodeaux keeps the humor and action consistently blended so it never feels out of place.  I also find weird but like that he draws his Turts in a particular style, with these sometimes-there jowls I can’t really understand.  Anyhoo, these are good finds.  Issue 3 is definitely more entwined with the boys, but I find issue 2’s use of the property is more unique and satisfying.

Mars Attacks Image #1

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 1 out of 5

I’m sure this comic is trash, but I actually enjoyed it.  I suspect there was a 20-issue tie-in prior to this mini series where we see the Martians appearing in the last panel of every Image book or something, as there’s not much of a lead-in to the aliens’ attacking of Earth.  What is nice about Giffen’s script is that it actually flip-flops to the Martians point of view for the attack, giving us blurbs of conversation between some higher-ups in their group, discussing acceptable losses and the inevitable delay of the facing the planet’s super-heroes.  It’s a good switch vs. the usual mindless alien we get in this pitch, even if the general overview captions are out of place in comparison and Keith takes the lazy method of trying to move things along by introducing characters (with names) whose only function is to watch a news story and comment on it.  The art’s also funky nice, with Bill Sienkiewicz somehow involved, his scratchy pen (did he ink it…?) really breathing life into the Erik Larsen-influenced typical Image style of the 90s.  The book is just silly and serious enough to make me curious about the rest of the mini, but I’m sure it’s more of the same – one or two panels dedicated to a single Image character fighting an alien, then move on.  Our Turtles appearance is as such – but it’s so minimal that I had to flip through the book 3 or 4 times and even refer to a web site – tmntentity – to figure out where Raphael actually appears.  ‘Cause it’s in one panel, in the background, no words mentioning him or the group, just a perfunctory appearance.  Womp womp.

Miami Mice #4

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 5 out of 5

Mark Bode did some Turtles work, which – besides having the shadow of daddy Vaughan probably making people want to shake his hand – helped give this issue its awesome guest stars, both the boys and Cerebus, drawn by their respective creators!  The book itself, though, follows in the funny animal lineage, trying to be a – duh – Miami Vice parody with stupidly named proxies and dashes of ultra violence as our two lead Mice recover from some crash or something and escape some people in a jungle or something something.  Plot: not so much.  Bode’s style is a bit too balloony to figure out what’s going on without color, unfortunately, making those violent moments just more lines on the page.  And yet, there is merit here, enough that I feel like reading the whole series probably syncs you with the style and makes it enjoyable.  Despite not really finding the parody amusing in and of itself, flipping through the pages is a breeze and Bode’s lettering style makes the dialogue pretty fun to read.  At some point our characters stumble across the Turtles and a rumble ensues, and then it’s off to a bar to celebrate, wherein Cerebus is chillin’.  Having the guys drawn by Eastman, Laird, and Sim – and their dialogue by them as well, I believe – totally sells it and makes it a must.  The whole last few pages where these guys show up is a kick.

The Puma Blues #20

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 3 out of 5

It’s Puma Blues.  If you know anyhting about the series, that should sort of give you enough to go on.  BUT… if’n you don’t: Back in the indie B&W hay-day,back when Mirage was still bustling about Turtles comics, there existed Stephen Murphy and Mike Zulli.  (These gentlemen still exist.)  Stephen Murphy would become very well known to Turtles fans later, when he would end up steering the Archie Turtles comic into heaven via his pen-name Dean Clarrain.  Mike Zulli made tongues waggle with his run on Turtles as the writer / artist for the Soul’s Winter arc, and had his own following thanks to some Sandman business as well as other stuff.  But focusing on Murphy, environmentalism was always on his agenda, the topic constantly poking its head up through the foliage of his Turtles work.  And even when I was a kid, it was a little obnoxious because of how obvious and “save the whales” and other platitudes it was.  Y’know, watching the recent Odyssey mini-series and recent BBC docs, environmental concerns hit home when they’re scienced out, but when its whittled down to people shaming us for not recycling for Newsweek-quoted stats, it just feels like stinky hippie babble.  Not doubt Murphy’s passion or research, but his writing never quite elevated those concerns above that level.  Such was Puma Blues, which was this concept with a militant focus, then filtered through a weird-ass future sci-fi world with flying mantas and loose pumas and a publishing history marred with dumb dumb comic controversy over publishing disputes.  The series, in general, dribbles a lot of interested concepts on top of its agenda, with that creepy awesome art by Zulli, and then over the course of its first few issues talks you the fuck to death and never actually advances its plot.  You know what it’s about but have no idea what it’s talking about.  (This might just be me.)

Anyhow.  A result of them publishin’ disputes led to issue 20, which sidestepped the book’s storyline to become a manifesto for creators on creative control and self-publishing.  A ton of cool people contributed shorts or pin-ups, and there are articles or short stories on the environment.  It’s interesting more as an historical foot-note than as a comic, as it’s still riddled with that “love planet earth” genericism filtered through weird ideas without much focus but produced out of a totally batshit scenario that – while important then, and conceptually still relevant now – will probably seem really odd to today’s readers.  Mostly, despite being a one-off book, it’s like the series: looks good, seems like it should be interesting, but is mostly boring.  So I rate it like I’d rate the series overall, which is something fueled by the belief of its creators and worth flipping through but not really great reading material.

Laird and Eastman contribute a couple pages of incredibly surreal Turtles work which is notable, I believe, for being the only old-school Mirage appearance of a “future” Turtle, wearing an eyepatch, which we normally associate with future Raph, although in the Puma pages I don’t think we can tell which Turtle it actually is.  The pages are pretty out there but look fantastic, so… yeah.  Not much meat off of which to rate the story, thus rated more as a point of interest.

The Savage Dragon #41

Entertainment: 3 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 1 out of 5

The wedding issue!  For characters you probably don’t care about!  But by this point in SD, Larsen had proven that he’d be around for longer than we thought, had created a sleeeewww of big muscle dudes and busty chicks who are born with superhero names, and created this oddly wordy / cheeky writing style to match his energetic pencils.  This issue follows his usual jerky plotting, but he got permission to use almost every character he’s worked on as attendees to the wedding of two Dragon characters who I’m sure are important in that world… and it’s pretty fun, even though I don’t know who half these cats are.  And I’m still trying to find Ted the Bug.  The wedding gets attacked, allowing for more cameos.  The Turtles are in the background, so.  That’s that.

Savage Dragon / Destroyer Duck #1

Entertainment: 4 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 4 out of 5

Man, I bought this ’cause of Gerber, not realizing that the Turtles were in it.  Pretty cool stuff.  So part of the ‘entertainment’ value here is in the backstory, which we get from a nifty 3 page editorial from Gerber in the back pages.  It’s a footnote in the career of Howard, and Marvel’s re-use of the character with and without Steve’s input, and the highs and lows he unavoidably goes through as his expectations of working with a major publisher are again run through the wringer… and then Erik Larsen, who had already arranged a Dragon / Duck book with Steve, suggested a backhanded slap to Marvel by doing an ‘unofficial’ crossover with their universe in the Dragon book.  The slap doesn’t really amount to much on the printed page (these background debates never do), but there’s a fun insanity to that part of the book that would’ve been distracting without the tale to explain it.  However, that’s moreso where the book’s narrative goes wayward – the parts leading up to it, Destroyer Duck teaming up with Dragon to take revenge on a Doctor who’s creating a cult of ‘Anomalies’ – rings true of classic Gerber stuff, the B.O.Z.O. arc from Defenders (whose elf makes an awesome satisfying appearance here), the random bits from Howard – so the combination of freedom working with Image and Larsen’s Howard ideas really seemed to give Steve the zip he needed to write sharp, not bitter like his later MAX Howard stuff.  The Turtles are big and dumb, like their Image counterparts, but it’s a well drawn fun fight scene – they get adequate page time considering it’s not their book – and it’s just sort of a joy to see them cross over into Steve’s world.

Shattered Image #2

Entertainment: 1 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 2 out of 5

Ah, here’s the 90s Image we know and love.  Really stupid, choppy writing that doesn’t matter to anyone except for the artist as guidelines for where to draw the big beefy dudes and the skinny chicks.  I guess Shattered Image was a pre-52 post-Crisis Image attempt at resolving some multi-universe thing (or, knowing Image at the time, was an attempt to add universes so they could have 18 ‘universe’ covers of each book), and issue 2 finds one of the non-fighty Image chicks (I think) trying to get people from each universe together for a research group to understand why the universes are splitting or merging or something or other.  And then there’s someone who seems like totes a rip of the Nowhere Man from Pete Milligan’s Animal Man run.  But who cares?  Sorry, Barbara Kesel, but I did not.  The Turtles only show up for one panel again, but I’m giving it a two because they have a speaking role..?  So that’s a bigger deal?  And though Michael Ryan’s pencils are in the tried and true Image method of the time, I sorta like his rendition of the boys.  Yayy many words about the second issue of a mini series that i only bought because of one panel that has nothing really to do with the book

The X-Files Conspiracy #1

Entertainment: 1 out of 5 / Turtles Appearance: 1 out of 5

The IDW crossovers fall into the category of the oddball crossovers, where non-shared universes suddenly must become shared universes.  Last year’s (2012/2013) ‘Infestation’ didn’t make me want to read parts A-Z, but I at least bought into the setup to the extent that I understood that if I was a crossover guy, it would’ve rated alright.  But this X-Files jam seems to have been rather widely considered a failure, and the opening issue definitely matches that.  Written by Paul Crilley, by the third panel I’m already on guard – we start with the Hadron Collider, the partial goal of which is explained perfectly clearly in 2.5 panels.  Then Crilley finds the need to “Think of it this way…” and inserts a Star Wars reference.  Sigh.  Fine, we’re dorks, I guess we’re supposed to love that, but it just felt like you assumed we were too dumb to get your first explanation.  Extrapolate this throughout.  The gist is that the Lone Gunmen get e-mails “from the future” warning them of a killer virus set to decimate the population.  In order to stop the virus, blood samples from the original strains of DNA used to create the virus are needed, and thus our crossovers.  I guess Transformers have blood, I dunno.  It’s not a bad pitch, it’s just a passive one.  The other characters don’t really have to be involved to make this work, and there’s something hinky to the e-mail angle… that there are millions of files to decrypt, apparently, but we’ve got the puzzle solved via the four or five that already decrypted.  Go figure.  The end result, script-wise, is an unfunny issue with no sense of consequence or build-up (some ‘Skynet’ agents drop out of nowhere and next panel is a car chase that hasn’t bothered to set up who’s in which vehicle) or any established motivation to read on.  On art, John Stanisci has a loose, sketchy style like Ian Gibson that works okay, but his consistency with figures is atrocious.  This could be because he’s trying to draw off of real people, but the look of Mulder in anything but straight-on is like looking at forty different characters.  Bland coloring by Steven Downer (all dull blues and browns) matches the bland script.  Turtles: 1 panel, in shadow – a newspaper photo.  Meep.

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