The more I collect and read the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, the more I realize what a weird and messed-up place it is. While the Archie comics had their fair share of WTF moments, I’ve always thought that the Mirage series would be devoid of it. From the time I was very young, the Mirage series has been touted as grim, gritty, and (above all else) serious.
Apparently I’ve been mislead.
In the time between TMNT volume 1 #11 and #50, there was only one truly official, mandatory story: Return to New York, and that only lasted three issues (three amazing issues. We’ll get to those). That’s 36 issues of stories that didn’t really follow any established status quo or continuity. Sometimes a team would start a story one month, only to finish it several months later.
Peter Laird has made a list of his “official” timeline, discounting many of these stories (even some that seem to fit the continuity very well), but I’ve learned to take “continuity” with a grain of salt with regard to TMNT and just let the creators tell me a great story.
One of these stories is a three-issue tale I call “The Mark Martin Trilogy,” and it takes place over issue #s 16, 22, & 23. I’m going to try and explain what happens in it. It’s going to be interesting.
Okay… Okay. The story starts with a little girl (Dale) sitting in what I think is supposed to be her room but looks like an attic to me, maybe because it’s black and white. She says “Let me tell you a story…” (one of my favorite TMNT staples), but then remembers that she forgot to thank the Turtles for their help. She jumps back into her time machine (which is a giant white cube with TARDIS-envy) and goes back seven years. But because of a mess-up she arrives before the Turtles help her. She proceeds to thank them anyway, then leaves, only to show up immediately after that for this first time (see? Confusing.) But this time the girl is a hideous mutant thing.
We finally get some context: the little girl’s parents are name Bobby and Manda. Bobby has a dream of inventing the worlds best soda pop but this business is losing money so, with the stress of the pregnancy, takes a job with a major corporation. At said job he’s exposed to various types of radiation that passes into the unborn child, mutating it into what we now see but also making it freakishly intelligent. Despite its knowledge it’s unhappy and intents the time machine to enlist in the help of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for help. The mutant wants them to convince her father not to join the company… And they do, simply by running into him and welcoming him to the company. Freaked at the notion of working for four giant turtles, Bobby denies the position.
The mutation is undone, and our mutant friend is seen transforming into a normal little girl as we speak, then returns to her own time… When she notices the reader, and tells them she’s going to tell them a story 🙂
My favorite type of ending: close by return.
I was initially hesitant about this story, along with all the one-off stories Laird struck from continuity. But it’s good! It’s really good. So good it makes me sad some people say it doesn’t “count.”
But the next installment isn’t the best:
I have to talk about the cover for a second. It’s a painting of one of the panels from the interior, and not even one that really gives any indication of what happens within. And I must say, I like these sorts of covers. John Byrne did it sometimes on his Thing run and I loved it. But within the story it’s Raphael in the panel, and for some reason the cover lead me to think it was Donatello. I stared at it for a good 20 minutes trying to figure out what made me think that until it finally hit me: his mask is purple!!!
Why is it purple? I’d really like to know. Some non-fans often wonder how we can even read the Mirage comics. They don’t get how we can tell them apart. The truth is that after a while you just can. Your brain picks up on something you just can’t articulate in the art. To the point that I really couldn’t put my finger on the issue with the cover. I’d stopped looking to color to guide me.
I’m focusing on the cover to avoid the issue.
Where to begin? There’s been a bomb threat on April that the Turtles fail to avoid. It blows them up and destroys their bodies, so Splinter makes some robots out of some junk lying around the sewer and transplants their brains into them.
After you’ve gathered the courage to pick the book back up, we find the little girl now being approached by an alien named George. He’s a member of the Skwal race and tells her that humanity is too violent an will soon destroy themselves. Using her time machine they go back 2 million years and change the course of evolution, giving early man all the comforts he’d need to evolve into a relaxation-loving individual. But George tricked Dale. Back in the present, now that there are no weapons, George and the Skwal are free to take over the Earth!
Another nasty side affect? The Turtles and Splinter have changed back to their unmutated forms! To be continued!
… Right now.
Dale is pissed that she has doomed all humanity, but finds an unlikely aid in the one person sad that humanity is universally good:
When I said above that I had originally dreaded reading Mirage TMNT, I must make clear that this image was the reason. But strangely I actually enjoy the character. He’s a vigilante with nothing to fight, and the two use the time machine to go back in time and antagonize the first human, ensuring that humanity will end up violent again. On the way back the time machine finally breaks apart though, resulting in more timestream errors: Fannywacker (Now called GnatRat) is stuck 7 years in the past, ie: the Mirage present). So he enlists Master Splinter to help him con a Superman knock-off into hitting him so hard that he breaks the laws of time and ends up 7 years in the future, ie: his present, and all is well.
Next we find Dale in her room at home arguing with George. The alien is angry, but he leaves in his ship – and the Earth is saved from alien invasion. From downstairs, Dale’s mother yells at the girl for talking to strangers and reminds her that she has a test tomorrow.
This story is strange, but harmless. It’s a romp, and a great romp. It’s fun to read and never gets boring… But damn is it weird. Really, truly weird.
And this isn’t the weirdest story the series will produce. Oh no. Just you wait…