Thursday, August 2, 2012

Things to Check Out:Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Ultimate Collection

Yesterday I got a package in the mail.  This is a relatively normal thing to happen to me, but I was anticipating this package quite a bit.  For a little over a year now I have been on the fence about picking up the hardcover "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection" by IDW.  I wasn't sure the price was something I was willing to shell out for.  the reviews was good and I know the content is more than quality, but I was unsure.  With he turtles getting a new life once again I decided to take the plunge and get into the roots a little further than I ever had. I have read quite a bit of the Turtles story, and have read bits and pieces of these early issues hear and there as I would come across some of the older collections.  I have to say I am exceedingly glad that I did.  I sat down and read through the entire things.

The book is so much more than a comic.  It is a history lesson.  A history of how independent comics became successful.  Each issue (TMNT 1-7 and Raphael micro series) ends with some commentary from Eastman and Laird and then a breakdown of commentary on most of the pages in that issue.  It is interesting to see kind of the soap opera that was unfolding behind the scenes as they worked on the first issue as little more than a joke, and then the demand forced them to continue.  Selling out of multiple printings of those early issues.  It was a true success story that was unfolding.

The book is also a love letter to the TMNT.  Both from it's creators as well as those who put the book together.  The book is very well produced with great images and it has a great layout in a slightly over-sized format (about the size that the first 4 issues were originally printed.)

Of course the issues themselves are presented here in their original black and white format which in my opinion adds to the ambiance of these stories.  The gray and gritty environments really tell a story in and of themselves.  the turtles live a dirty world filled with criminals and they are trying to do something about it!  I'm not sure this kind of ambiance has ever been obtained by any other comic in quite the same way.  The art is complex yet simple, there is a lot of blank space that is made use for text.  It is easy to read and for the most part doesn't get too wordy.  The art, while I could see why some people may not likes it really pushes the envelope!
From TMNT the Ultimate Collection 

In addition to the ambiance you have an evolving story, that even though it was not planned out from day one, feels like it was!  The 8 issues presented in this book give the reader a pretty clear picture of the Turtles origin story.  While the first issue is self contained and focuses on Splinter and Shreder's fight for honor, elements of something more sinister are brought up as the issues continue on.  The second issue is fairly stand alone although it leads into events that really pick up in issue 3.  The story takes a turn fairly drastically from a typical "heroes fighting dangers in New York."  It does start off that way but then we are lead on a cosmic adventure with rooms full of aliens and dinosaurs and robots.  This part of the story turns into a love letter to Star Wars which works very well! It is interesting seeing the Turtles taken out of their element so quickly and making short work of every thing that threatens them.  I love this about the series.

from TMNT the Ultimate Collection

The interesting thing is that these issues did not come out month after month.  It was three years from the release of the first issue to the release of the seventh issue!  some of these books ended on cliffhangers and it had to have been hard to wait for those first few issues. I think this is one of the coolest parts about the history of this franchise.  That and the fact that each of the creators worked on EVERY page together.  some of it was even done through the mail.  But they felt that strongly about it.

It is such a contrast from the way comics are done today, as with video and photography anyone can create a comic and have people see it.  It is one of blessings and curses of the internet and computers.  This book shows us how the paradigm hasn't actually changed that much, it has just become faster.  the drive of creators have always been there and I think Eastman and Laird really are exemplars of the craft.  While they were not the fist and were inspired by creators such as Dave Sim to work independently they were certainly innovative and important to the craft.

For those of you who may be fans of the Turtles because you grew up with the cartoon or other media, you should check out this book.  It is an important piece of comic book history and the road map to see how the Turtles became what they are today.  Elements of these 8 issues are thrown in throughout all of the other versions of the Turtles we have gotten.

This book is also for comic book fans.  It is a history lesson.  These 8 issues helped change the face of the independent comic book scene by breaking the mold.  For the first time independent creators were really getting the attention of other media.  Soon after these issues Eastman and Laird were being contacted by companies wanting to do things with their characters.  They really had stumbled onto something.

and finally This book is for the independent comic producer.  Once again a history lesson but also a way of showing you what two young creators did in a pre-internet era to create some of the most important content ever.  It is a testament to their will to produce good quality content that THEY liked.  It is an inspiration!

If you have any thoughts to check it out, please do it will be well worth your time, and with the impending new cartoon series it is a great time to jump back into the roots of such an important franchise.


  1. I'm reading this right now!

    I grew up on the original show and had previously only read like the first issue, but I'm enjoying them. I can't wait to check out the other volumes.

    1. Tommy, It trully is a fantastic read! I can't wait for the other volumes either!

  2. I picked these up this past summer. It was a great introduction for someone like me who had never seen anything Turtles related before. I burned through both volumes in less than a week and was mad as a hornet that there wasn't a third book!