Hey ComicAttackers! You can go around and find plenty of lists that talk about the greatest Batman or the greatest X-Men tales ever told, but what about another group that has changed the history of modern comics, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? With the new comic coming out this week from IDW, we wanted to stop and take a moment to quickly reflect on some of our personal favorites here from the staff!
One of the reasons why the TMNT works so well is that like Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, they have a great origin story. More impressive, they are probably the only team of superheroes that have an amazing collective origin as well (most the other teams you can think of have their origins separately, or origin stories that really are not memorable). No matter if we look at Eastman and Laird’s original, the Archie version, the animated show, the live-action film, all variations of their origin are strong and create this world of the TMNT we just want to go along with on a ride. Sometimes the Shredder dies, sometimes shouting “Cowabunga” endlessly becomes involved, but in every incarnation the plot of four turtles who mutate into super beings and are raised as brothers by a rat in the art of ninjitsu, has captured our imaginations for well over 25 years now, and the fact that it is still going today gives it a milestone in the history of comics.
With all due respect to the original Eastman and Laird TMNT series, my all-time favorite Turtles comic run has to be Archie’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, published from 1989-1995 for 72 issues. Yes, it was kid oriented, having the look of the cartoon show, with frequent references to keeping the environment clean, but it was a fantastic series, and without it, I’m not sure I would be into comics today. My mom would take me to the local comic shop every month to get the new issue (she would even buy a copy herself to keep mint!), and eventually I started to pick up X-Men Adventures and Batman Adventures, too. The rest is history. TMNT Adventures told a fluid, ongoing story throughout all its issues, complete with many new characters (like Cudley the Cowlick, a spacefaring cow head, and Ninjara, Raphael’s foxy ninja love interest), and bizarre locations (like an intergalactic wrestling league). It saw badass versions of the Turtles from the future, and even a team of mutant allies who called themselves the Mighty Mutanimals. Their roster consisted of familiar characters like Mondo Gecko and Wingnut and Screwloose, plus some new faces like Jagwar (an environmentally conscious wild Jaguar) and Ray Fillet (a seafaring manta ray). Although one of my favorite elements of this series was the character development that went into April O’Neil. She trained under Splinter and some of his old acquaintances from Japan (one of them becoming a love interest who could turn into a giant dragon), and eventually became quite the deadly katana wielder herself. There were specials and one-shots galore throughout the six year run, and even some Archie crossover action. The first few issues were direct interpretations of cartoon episodes, but after that, it was all original material. TMNT Adventures issues are tough to find today, especially for a complete run, but hopefully with IDW Publishing acquiring the rights to all things TMNT comic book related, we’ll be seeing some collected editions within the next few years. If that happens, give them a chance, Turtle faithful. There’s lots to be enjoyed!
There’s way too many cool, fun, and just totally original stories that take place in the TMNT mythos. There’s also quite a few that pop up in my mind when asked which ones are the best, and one of them is the story that takes place in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol 1 #8, which featured a guest appearance by Cerebus. Everything that happens is totally unexpected and just fun, as Renet steals a scepter that allows her to travel in time and ends up meeting with the Turtles. Pretty soon her master shows up, scares the crap out of her, and she shouts out some random phrase to be taken to a time before history was recorded. Her and the Turtles end up in the past and don’t make a great first impression on Cerebus. The next thing you know, there’s fighting, the undead, a castle gets raided, some lies, all with that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand of humor Eastman & Laird were known for back in the eighties. This issue goes down as one of the best crossovers that I’ve ever read, and whoever had the idea for Cerebus to meet up with the Turtles gets serious props!
As the Turtles began transcending comic books in the late 80s and early 90s, so did their biggest adventures. One of the team’s most exciting tales did not originally take place on paper, but on the Super Nintendo with TMNT IV: Turtles in Time. Even non Turtles fans have likely heard of or enjoyed Konami’s classic from 1992. All the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stories take place within the weird and unusual, and Turtles in Time is no different, sending the Turtles on a trip all across history and the future to take on the top names in their rogues gallery. Turtles in Time is more than just one of the greatest TMNT stories ever, it’s one of the greatest TMNT experiences ever, and the ideal Turtles tale for any TMNT fan.
As Andy Liegl mentioned above, the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures series is great, however, over the years one specific story arc from that series has stuck out in my mind as one the best comic tales and my favorite TMNT tale of all time, and that is the three-issue Terracide arc, which ran in issues 55-57. In this tale the Mighty Mutanimals were murdered by a group of assassins employed by villain Krull. In basically a plot to get revenge for their deaths, future versions of Don and Ralph team up with Slash, Ralph, Ninjara, and Splinter to go after the villains (Leo and Don are busy trying to rescue Mike in a separate story), which takes them all the way to the Hive World of Maligna. In an epic battle during which lots of blood is shed, unusual for a kids’ comic at the time, the Mutanimals are avenged as the Hive World is set off balance and plunges into the Sun, as Slash sacrifices his life as well to hold back any remaining baddies so the rest of our heroes can escape. All of this is unusual for the time, including the fact that the Mighty Mutanimals, Slash and their villains are all killed in battle and none come back to life! Certainly the most heavy arc of the TMNT Adventures as it developed to keep in touch with a much aging readership. It’s also one of the few stories where we get to see the characters of this universe basically saying that it’s time to get revenge. An amazing three issue arc until this day.
That’s some of our top picks for Turtle stories, but there are dozens and dozens out there to enjoy created over the past years. Do you have a favorite from the comics, TV, movies, or games? Let us know below!