Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics #1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics #1
Story and Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
Colors by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios
IDW Publishing
Release Date: May 09, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99

All of my 80’s childhood cartoon loyalties revolved around Jem and Rainbow Brite who respectively saved the day with holographic earrings and a fancy Color Belt. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were dudes who hung out in sewers and fought gun-toting gang members with weapons like katanas. Thus, they were off my radar until my TMNT fanboy roommate tried to get me to watch the old cartoons with him. To perhaps stall the inevitable, I agreed to review this comic. Rarely do I say this, but “he was right.” Anthropomorphized and highly motivated turtles are pretty cool, and this issue is a great place to check out where the phenomenon began. A nostalgic gem, it certainly could not have been released at a better time. Fans are currently up in arms or at least reasonably concerned about Michael Bay’s upcoming film version, which promises to turn the classic characters into Adult Alien UnMutant Turtles.

Last month, IDW released a full-color reprint of the first issue by Mirage Studios, which was founded by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird who collaborated on the both the original art and story. When they printed less than 3,000 copies at home, it is doubtful they could have realized their creation would become the most successful independent comic series of all time. Multimedia and merchandising empire aside, this also happens to be the third reprinting of this issue in full color, 27 years after its first incarnation.

Even without any special bonus material included, I still believe it is well worth the $3.99 for the excellent job coloring Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios did on the coloring alone. The painterly unnatural look of all the smeared outlines and acidic hues make the characters really pop. For me, it added to the odd cuteness of the unlikely band of heroes; even pitted against such a gritty urban backdrop and stylized violence. Well, perhaps they are just as cute as a band of assassins trained by a rat could be? Creeptastic origin stories are seemingly a rite of passage for 1980’s cartoons/comics and what else about that decade makes rational sense? Myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way and likely a PG-13 amount of nudity and gore will seem almost wholesome to kids who likely see worse on the internet every day. While it also appeals to an adult demographic who understands all the inside jokes and cultural references, how many children would object to rebellious Turtles who enjoy pizza?

For newbies like me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics #1 is a great introduction to a story that has endured almost three decades without losing its edge or popularity. Seasoned fans can enjoy it as a collector’s item and while the recently released hardcover Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimate Collection collects issues #1-7 and is chock full of unreleased extras and therefore also a good choice, it packs a much heftier price tag. Wait, I am just being told by my roommate that I left out the most important part. All of the Turtles’ bandannas are red instead of multicolored, which is apparently a very big deal. It’s OK, I get it, if they changed Jem’s earrings from stars to lightning bolts I would be mad too.

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