Friday, June 03, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 When: May 1984 Why: Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird How: Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird

The Story So Far...
From the shadows they strike! Four highly skilled ninja warriors fighting New York City's criminal gangs. They are mistakes of science - four turtles mutated by an unknown ooze that transformed them into walking, talking turtles!

Trained by a mutated rat called Splinter, they are four brothers bound by an ancient code of honor. A code that will bring them into conflict with a deadly enemy from Splinter's past!

The sensei's teachings come from Japan, where he was once pet rat of a legendary martial artist named Hamato Yoshi. A rival for the love of fair Tang Shen, he was forced to beat jealous Oroku Nagi to save her life. Years later, Hamato Yoshi was slain by Nagi's brother - Oroku Saki: The Shredder!

Fifteen years later, The Turtles must avenge the death of Yamato Yoshi and bring an end to The Shredder's rule over the American branch of the Foot Clan!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Shredder 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Donatello 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Shredder 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Shredder 3 (Explosives)

We've been adding some pretty big names to The Comic Book Fight Club this year, but today we add comic book royalty! For decades they set a standard as the biggest independent comics property to launch as a mainstream brand! As a consequence, they've been a pretty formidable fighting force in every medium you can think of! Today we're going back to the comic that started it all for a very special, legendary milestone fight!

The Turtles are: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael & Michaelangelo.

If you know anything about today's protagonists, it's that they're teenaged mutant ninja turtles. They were trained in the martial arts by Splinter - a mutated rat who was once a pet of Japanese ninjitsu master: Hamato Yoshi.

Yoshi was considered the greatest warrior among the mysterious Foot Clan, and by mimicking his training, Splinter excelled as a master practitioner of ninjitsu.

Displaced by his master's murder; Splinter was exposed to the same glowing ooze that accidentally met four domestic pet turtles. The five mutated into extraordinary walking, talking, humanoid beings! Taking refuge in the sewers of New York City, Splinter raised the turtles as his adopted sons, teaching them an honorable code of the ninja as they remained hidden in the shadows.

The Shredder is Oroku Saki: young member of the Foot Clan who quickly rose through the assassin ranks to be chosen leader of their expansion into the United States.

Saki led the Foot's insinuation into the New York criminal underworld, offering smuggled drugs, weapons, and assassination. His true desire: murderous revenge against Hamato Yoshi and his wife Tang Shen for their involvement in the death of his older brother - Oroku Nagi!

This tangled web of honor and revenge brings us to the fight at hand!

The Shredder uses armor and bladed guards to compliment his already deadly mastery of the assassin's fighting arts. The turtles have the natural armoring of their mutated shells, but favour speed and agility to make the most of their weapons styles!

The advent of color in TMNT comics told us The Turtles all wear red in their original comic book incarnations. This means it's their trademark weapons that really tell them apart! Leonardo wields dual katanas, Michaelangelo swings nunchaku, Donatello favors the long bo staff, and Raphael strikes with twin sai!

The Turtles clearly have a numbers advantage, but The Shredder fights dirty, and made them battle his Foot Clan ninja before reaching him. Even though The Turtles handled them with ease, they're carrying fresh wounds into the final fight! You may know Shredder as the bumbling foil of the 1987 cartoon, but make no mistake - the comics world is a dark, dangerous place where the Turtles face genuine peril!

The Math: The Turtles Ranking: Draw (Not Ranked)

What Went Down...
With his Foot minions defeated, The Shredder challenges The Turtles to face him one at a time, or all at once! Now the students will face a master!

Raphael is the first attack! He pays for his brashness, leaping into a slash of The Shredder's bladed gauntlet! Donatello is the next to feel his sting, as sharpened steel rakes through turtle flesh! The Shredder follows with a direct kick to the face. He mocks his opponent: "Hah! You left yourself wide open! You are much too slow!"

Michaelangelo attempts to get the drop on The Shredder, and successfully makes contact - but the master effortlessly tosses him away!

Shredder calls upon the only remaining turtle - the sword wielding "gaijin" Leonardo! He charges at his foe and Leonardo leaps to meet him. The pair meet in an explosion of sparks as metal grinds against metal!

Leonardo's blades find their arrogant target, giving The Shredder a taste of what its like to feel his torso sliced! The mutant turtle doesn't walk away unscathed, though. Realizing they are outmatched, the Turtles realize they must shift tactics, fighting together - and from a distance!

One turtle tosses three shuriken, another three darts! The Shredder does his best to dodge and deflect the attack with his armor. Raphael ups the stakes, hurling his sai blades like deadly missiles! Shredder is forced to leap out of the way -- making his landing on top of an unforgiving knee to the gut!

A palm strike to his helmet's face plate staggers The Shredder backward. Leonardo comes from behind with a katana to the back! Donatello strikes from the front - swinging his staff so hard it breaks the helmet apart! He's quick to call The Shredder's defeat. He suffers for his over confidence with a devastating straight kick to the stomach! Oroku Saki surveys his enemies with contempt.

Leonardo and Shredder leap toward each one more time. This time, Leonardo's aim is true. His blade unimpeded as it skewers through Oroku Saki's body!

The Turtles loom over their defeated opponent, but ignore his demands to finish it. They are not without honor - unlike Oroku Saki! Leonard hands the defeated warrior one of his bloodied katanas and offers him the chance to redeem himself with an act of ritual seppuku. The dishonorable Shredder has other ideas...

Producing a thermite grenade, Oroku Saki plots to destroy The Turtles along with himself! Spotting the danger - Donatello hurls his staff like a javelin!

The impact of the wood's end striking Shredder's bloodied face sends him tumbling over the rooftop edge! The bomb detonates a safe distance below!

When bruised and battered Turtles make their way to the alley below, all they find is a single gauntlet. Their master's master Hamato Yoshi is avenged. Oroku Saki is dead!

The Hammer...
It's fair to say Leonardo and Donatello were the MVPs, but victory could not have been attained if not for the combined efforts of The Ninja Turtles! We welcome them into the ranks as mutual winners over The Shredder!

If you only know Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the 1987 cartoon series, or the more recent feature films and 2012 Nickelodeon series, this battle may have been a rude awakening! A callous introduction to the real Ninja Turtles!

Where acts of violence have always been a carefully negotiated minefield in the various multimedia spin-offs; The Turtles were fully unleashed in their earliest comic book adventures!

Leondaro's katana blades finally made perfect sense amidst the spray of villain's blood. Robot minions needn't apply. This was the grim and gritty mid-eighties in full force. A contrast I certainly found jarring when I first discovered the comics as a young fan of the eighties cartoon! Punchlines and pantomime had been the weapon of the color-coded cartoon turtles. In comics, they were bathed in shadow, clad in uniform red, and facing a harsh world with grit teeth.

The secret origin of the Turtles is the stuff of comic book legend. A fabled night of comic book jamming between two independent artists - Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Frumpy, heavily armed turtles gave rise to a cheese grater for an arch-villain. Equal parts parody and loving homage to the work of Frank Miller.

The ninja-laden saga of Daredevil and Elektra had already been unleashed upon the world by Marvel Comics. It was still a couple of years before The Dark Knight Returns would hit hard. TMNT was arguably the first of a generation that would spawn from grim & gritty introspection. They got in while it was still fun, filtering the mindsight through youthful enthusiasm, and maybe some of the existing Eastern influence that was already there in film and pop culture.

There's no pizza here. No gratuitous gadgets or vehicles destined for the toy store. Just a dedication to Miller and Jack Kirby from two enthusiastic fans. Raw independent comics driven by inspiration, love for the medium, and with no thought for tomorrow. That's why, as legend has it, The Shredder was never intended to survive this first issue. When he fell and exploded Oroku Saki truly died. There was no guarantee there'd be another issue!

Of course, Shredder did come back. How could he not? Cartoons and movies weren't just arbitrarily picking out the first bad guy to anchor their heroes serial adventures. Shredder is a bad ass bad guy!

As a stand-alone adventure, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 just packs so much into its forty pages! It's a joy to behold. Reinvigorating. Like being caught in a cloud of creative pollen. It's a well rounded saga in a single issue, replete with enough backstory to fuel years worth of issues! That was something the 2003 animated series made very good use of - adapting this, and other comics, into an unfolding story of many episodes. Their version of the first major Shredder confrontation - episodes seven and eight!

I can't say I have the same enthusiasm for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows -- the feature film sequel out today (June 3rd).

The newest mutation of movie Turtles has grappled with misguided direction since launching in 2014. The sequel tries to pull things back from the brink, injecting more of the eighties cartoon to pander to some version of purists I'm not sure exists.

I'm certainly not about to say I haven't greatly appreciated having a reason to plug back into my lapsed Ninja Turtles fandom. I just think there are far better ways to do it!

If you agree, then you may like to join me by going back to the earliest years of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! You don't need to spend a fortune to go back to 1984. Just use the Amazon link provided [right]! By doing so, it helps out The Comic Book Fight Club, too!

Winners: The Turtles
#169 (new) Donatello [+1 kill]
#170 (new) Leonardo [+1 kill]
#285 (new) Raphael
#286 (new) Michaelangelo
#786 (new) The Shredder

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