Friday, October 10, 2008

TMNT Mutant Universe Sourcebook #1

Publication date: 1992

Compiled and edited by: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Penciled by: A. C. Farley
Researched by: Steve (SS) Sullivan, Stanley (SW) Wiater & Dean (DC) Clarrain
Inked by: Brian Thomas & Jon D’Agostino
Colored by: Barry Grossman
Assisted & Typeset by: Robyn Harris
Cover: A.C. Farley and Ryan Brown


This issue features profiles (physical stats, history, powers & weapons, appearance list) for the following characters (“A” through “M”, only) along with the initials of those who researched their history.

Ace Duck (SW)
Al’Falqa (SW)
April O’Neil (SW)
Armaggon (DC)
Azrael (DC)
Bebop (SW)
Bellybomb (SW)
Bloodbath (DC)
Bookwurm (SW)
Boss Salvage (SW)
Cap’n Mossback (SS)
Captain Agamatta (SS)
Charlie Llama (SS)
Cherubae (SW)
Chien Khan (SS)
Codename: Chameleon (SW)
Cryin’ Houn’ (SW)
Cudley the Cowlick (DC)
“Dimension X” (no credit)
Donatello (SS)
Dreadmon (SS)
Four Horsemen (DC)
Foot Soldiers, Foot Super Soldiers & Giant Foot Super Soldiers (SW)
Fu Sheng (SW)
Ghost of 13-Mile Island (SS)
Glublubs (SW)
Glyph (SW)
Grem (SS)
Izanagi & Izanami (DC)
Jagwar (SS)
Jang La (SS)
Juntarra (SS)
Katmandu (SS)
Kid Terra (SS)
Knucklehead (SW)
Krang (SW)
Leatherhead (SS)
Leonardo (SS)
Maligna (SS)
Mang-Thrashna (SS)
Man Ray (SS)
Merdude (DC)
Michaelangelo (SS)
Mondo Gecko (SS)
Monsterex (SW)
Mutagen (DC)

Turtle Tips:

*This issue was followed by TMNT Mutant Universe Sourcebook #2.

*Being released in late 1992, this issue featured info up through TMNT Adventures #39.


With the advent of the internet and user-maintained free online encyclopedias with cross-referencing out the wazoo, sourcebooks have pretty much become a thing of the past. Sure, they still exist and they’re still published to an extent by certain comic book companies, but they’re just so obsolete, these days. I mean, why bother buying DK’s “Transformers: the Ultimate Guide” when you can just hit up It’s user-friendly, holds volumes more of information than any single tome could hope to contain, is constantly updated with new material to keep up with the growing franchise and…dude, it’s free.

But this was 1992, and nobody who stepped out of their mom’s basement knew what an interweb was. And back in those days, these sourcebooks were fantastic reference guides. And, to be honest, I still use them when writing these reviews, since they help me track what issues characters appeared in. So yay!

The art for these books was provided by one of my favorite Mirage artists: A. C. Farley. Farley was an odd choice for this book, since he was almost exclusively a Mirage guy and never really had anything to do with the Archie series. Regardless, his art is wonderful, dynamic and evenly detailed. Farley has always had an edge of horror to his style, which is one of the reasons why I liked him so much; so it’s strange to see him drawing so many whimsical characters.

The more gruesome characters, such as the Four Horsemen and Armaggon, look appropriately frightening, while even some of the cuddly heroes have a smidgen of menace to their appearance (if it weren’t for the soulful eyes, Dreadmon might as well have stepped out of “The Howling”). Farley is one of those artists that knows how to balance style with detail; characters don’t look overly smooth and rubbery, but they aren’t filled out with needless cross-hatches and grotesquely intricate musculature. They’re “just right”.

So far as the writing goes, these are mostly capsule profiles and don’t go very in-depth on the adventures the characters have been on. You have the standard set of stats (height, weight, hair and eye color, etc), which are cool if you’re into that sort of thing, as well as a section on powers and weapons. The character history is basically a run-down of their origin and how they met the Turtles. Some have a “Currently…” paragraph at the end, while others do not, making the then-present whereabouts of certain characters a little uneven.

On the bright side, the book features a list of appearances for supporting characters and villains, which are broken down between their first appearance, their origin issue and all their other appearances. It’s a handy guide for referencing the chronology of a character and possibly the most useful aspect of the title; at least where writing this guide is concerned.

As far as the layout goes, this issue is fine. I did have problems with future issues, but I’ll remark on those when they crop up.

Grade: N/A (as in, "Never draw Cudley again, Farley. Never, ever again".)


Friday, October 3, 2008

TMNT Adventures #25

Publication date: October, 1991

Main Story

Plotting: Ryan Brown and Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Rod Ollerenshaw
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: V. Gorelick
Cover: Ken Mitchroney and Steve Lavigne

“Raw Power”

Back-Up Story

Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Mark Pacella
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: V. Gorelick

“Dragon Rage”


Main Story

At a shopping center, Bebop and Rocksteady are finishing up their errands: punk outfits and heavy artillery. With their looted goods in hand, the pair of mutants head over to the Central Park Zoo for their next job.

Back at the rubble that was Shredder’s hideout, the Turtles are up against Krang (now in control of Shredder’s body) and Bellybomb. Leo takes on Krang while Mike and Don deal with Bellybomb. Raph has his hands full, too, as Slash erupts from the debris and heads his way. Slash gains the upper hand against Raph after a short clash, but then runs off when he realizes he still needs to find his palm tree. Meanwhile, Mike and Don are spinning their weapons furiously in the hopes of diverting Bellybomb’s mega halitosis breath. Leo, on the other hand, is being much less strategic and slashes Krang along the Shredder’s chest. Krang, despite being in control of Shredder’s body, fells no pain and continues to fight.

Back at the Zoo, Bebop and Rocksteady are waxing nostalgic about the days when they used to be normal animals, caged at that very same zoo. With those memories in mind, they walk over to a tiger cage and open fire.

Elsewhere, at a Pets ‘R’ Us shop, Slash gazes longingly at a small plastic palm tree. Smashing the window open, Slash snatches up the palm tree and at last knows sweet, sweet contentment.

And back at the fight, Raph comes to and rushes to help Leo. Leaping onto Shredder’s back, Raph points his sais into Krang and threatens to give him a lobotomy. Krang concedes and allows Raph to remove him from Shredder’s body. Meanwhile, Don and Mike succeed in fanning Bellybomb’s halitosis back at him, knocking the villain out cold.

Everything seems fine and dandy until Bebop and Rocksteady arrive with their menagerie of liberated zoo animals. With guns firmly in hand, they politely force the Turtles to disarm themselves. A soggy Shredder then hobbles to his feet, realizing that he owes his freedom to his arch foes. As he stumbles away, Leo reminds him that he’s in their debt. Quietly, Shredder acknowledges this fact.

Happy with their “victory”, Bebop and Rocksteady load all the animals onto the spaceship they came in on and prepare to return to their Eden-World. Before they go, Leo asks them to take the unconscious Krang and Bellybomb with them. Bebop and Rocksteady happily comply and fly off. With the day saved, the Turtles leave to go get some pizza, not exactly sure that they really won the fight.

Out in space, the two mutants drop Krang and Bellybomb off on Morbus and return to their Eden-World. After exiting the ship, they immediately disrobe and resume their retirement.

Back-Up Story

Now fully transformed, Warrior Dragon spots the getaway car containing Fu Sheng and attempts to nab it. Instead, he accidentally plucks up a civilian vehicle. Acknowledging his mistake, he heads after the real culprits only to be attacked by more ninja.

As Warrior Dragon swats them away, April is besieged by more from the shadows. As she fights them off, she notices they have unusual abilities, such as being able to fall ten stories and not die.

Warrior Dragon’s fight with the ninja “fleas” is going well until one hurls a handful of powder into his face. Warrior Dragon then collapses and reverts back to Chu Hsi. As April runs to his rescue, the ninja distract her with a flurry of shuriken. When she looks back, both Chu Hsi and the mysterious ninja are gone.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Adventures #24.  This issue is followed by TMNT Adventures #26.

*Bebop and Rocksteady will return in the TMNT 30th Anniversary Special story, "Paper or Plastic?"

*The Shredder will return in TMNT Adventures #35.

*Slash will return in Mighty Mutanimals #9.

*In the letter’s page of TMNT Adventures #29, Clarrain explains that Rocksteady’s red pet parrot, a crimson rosella, was once a Turnstone locating device that was turned into a bird by Cherubae. He assures us that we’ll learn more about the bird in future stories.  That never happened, unfortunately.

*This issue was published in the UK by Fleetway as TMHT Adventures #45.


Say good bye to Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang, because you won’t be seeing them again. The Slash Trilogy acted as something of a last hoorah for the villains who were featured so prominently in the Fred Wolf cartoon, as Clarrain (Murphy) makes an even more distinct effort from this point on to distinguish the Archie comic from the show. Even Shredder’s participation in the book will be heavily diminished for quite a while (you won’t see him again for ten issues!).

I understand why Clarrain did this, since TMNT Adventures was becoming its own unique entity with increasingly more challenging and mature stories there came a need to distance it from the goofier TV series. Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady appeared in nearly every episode of that show and, as much as I loved those guys, I did get pretty sick of them. Making Shredder take a break was a very good idea, but I wish Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady hadn’t been retired completely. Still, they got appropriate send-offs, so I can’t really complain.

While last issue featured some very uneven artwork, Chris Allan takes up full pencil duties for this story and the Slash Trilogy ends on a definite high note. While I would have liked the rumble between Raph and Slash to have lasted longer, it was still satisfying. And hey, Leo draws blood! Yikes.

The Shredder coming to the uneasy realization that he owes his freedom and perhaps his life to the Turtles makes for an interesting conclusion and provides a smidgen of depth to the villain, as despite his evil ways, he still understands the value of honor. He was taught the ways of the Foot the same as Splinter, after all, and the Foot didn’t turn to crime until after Shredder seized command.

And as for the back-up story…

We get some nice action sequences, but that’s mostly it. The problem with back-up stories as a concept is that limited page space makes for limited story progression. When read as a whole, they make a fine adventure. When read 8 pages at a time, you’re left with an empty feeling.

Still, the story progresses, we get some nice art and some good fight scenes, so really, what’s there to complain about?

Grade (main story): A (as in “And despite their blood-thirsty ‘cousin’ still on the loose in Manhattan, the Turtles decide to focus their energy on pizza”.)

Grade (back-up story): B (as in “But how come when Chu Hsi transforms into Warrior Dragon, the Dragon is suddenly clothed, but when Warrior Dragon transforms into Chu Hsi, Chu is suddenly naked? I call shenanigans!”)


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

TMNT Adventures #24

Main Story

Publication date: September, 1991

Plotting: Ryan Brown and Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Garret Ho (pages 1-10) & Jim Lawson (pages 11-20)
Inks: Brian Thomas & Rod Ollerenshaw
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Scott Fulop
Managing Edits: Victor Gorelick
Cover: Ken Mitchroney and Steve Lavigne

“Gimme Danger!”

Back-Up Story

Plotting: Ryan Brown and Dean Clarrain
Script: Dean Clarrain
Pencils: Chris Allan
Inks: Mark Pacella
Letters: Gary Fields
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Scott Fulop
Managing Edits: Victor Gorelick

“It Started in…Chinatown”


Main Story

Out in space, Krang, Slash and Bellybomb are at the mercy of their purloined ship’s autopilot, which prevents them from altering their course until it makes its delivery. The ship takes them to an Eden-World, a utopian all-natural planet (one big African Savannah) where advanced lifeforms are forbidden. After dropping off several dozen antelope, the aliens go exploring and stumble across two very unexpected allies: Bebop and Rocksteady. Bebop and Rocksteady ask if they can hitch a ride back to Earth since the Eden-World’s lack of crime has become boring. Krang lets them tag along and the baddies get back onboard their ship.

On Earth, the Shredder is pruning a bonsai tree in one of his secret lairs, reminiscing over his most recent defeat at the hands of the Turtles. Down in the sewers, the Turtles are still proactively searching for the Shredder. They find a trail of discarded mutagen drums and follow it to Shredder’s hide-out.

Back in space, Krang and friends enter the Milky Way Galaxy. Bellybomb asks if they can stop off for a bite to eat before reaching Earth, but Krang informs him that Earth is the only inhabited planet in the galaxy. He then back tracks and admits that there might possibly be life on Mars, though. Overhearing the conversation, Bebop and Rocksteady are astounded at the thought that aliens really exist. Krang, Bellybomb and Slash knit their brows in frustration.

Back in Shredder’s hideout, the artwork suddenly gets really, really bad! Oh, and the Turtles burst through the door and attack. As Shredder takes on the Turtles, Krang enters Earth’s atmosphere and looms closer to the hideout. As Shredder gains the upper hand in battle, Krang crashes the ship through the wall and interrupts the fight.

Bebop, Rocksteady and Slash immediately enter the fray. Leo, Don and Mike take on Bebop and Rocksteady, who are more concerned with finding a fresh set of clothes than fighting. Raph, then, is left to tackle Slash, who considers the Turtles to be his "cousins" but is willing to kill them anyway (swell guy). With Bebop and Rocksteady knocked out, the other Turtles come to give Raph a hand against his berserker opponent.

Meanwhile, Shredder sneaks onto Krang’s ship, hoping to find some high-tech alien weaponry. Instead, he finds Krang and Bellybomb. As Krang distracts his former partner, Bellybomb uses his bad breath to knock Shredder out cold. They then set Shredder down on a surgical table where Krang begins “adjusting” himself over Shredder’s noggin. Eventually, he seizes full control over Shredder’s motor functions, turning him into his new body.

Back-Up Story

On the streets of Chinatown, April bumps into Chu Hsi and Fu Sheng. They shoot the breeze for a while, with April eventually asking Chu if he’d like to get some lunch. Fu takes that as his cue to exit and leaves to go meet with his fire insurance agent (his curio shop having recently burned to the ground).

As Fu walks away, a pair of spooks dressed in black suits leap out of a car and try to abduct him. Fu attempts to fend them off but gets pistol-whipped from behind. Unsheathing her katana, April leaps into action with Chu not far behind. They rescue Fu, only to be overwhelmed by a horde of ninja.

April tells Chu there’s no other choice: he must transform into the Warrior Dragon. Chu acknowledges her and morphs into the towering yellow behemoth…

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT Adventures #23.  This story is continued in TMNT Adventures #25.

*Bebop and Rocksteady were last seen in TMNT Adventures #13.

*Warrior Dragon fought the giant Foot Super Soldier in TMNT Adventures #20.

*Shredder kidnapped Donatello in TMNT Adventures #21 and was defeated by Raph in TMNT Adventures #22.

*This issue was published in the UK by Fleetway in TMHT Adventures #43.


The Slash Trilogy is one of my favorite TMNT Adventures arcs from a story-telling stand-point, but unfortunately, not from an artistic one. The violent shift in art quality between (and within!) issues is very annoying, with this issue being the weakest link.

The first ten pages are done by Garret Ho, an artist with a whimsical style similar to Ken Mitchroney’s. He took some getting used to, but I’ve come to like his work. It’s very expressive and fun, particularly in regards to the more dimwitted characters like Bebop and Rocksteady. That last panel on page 10, featuring Krang’s, Slash’s and Bellybomb’s reactions to Bebop and Rocksteady’s idiocy: absolutely priceless. And even Slash, a single-minded palm tree enthusiast, looks like he’s thinking “How stupid ARE these guys?” Some fine work on Ho’s part.

Unfortunately, the visuals completely self-destruct by page 11, when Jim Lawson takes the wheel. His ten pages in this issue are, without any doubt in my mind, the worst artistic output of his entire career. I have a love-hate relationship with the man’s style, to be sure, but it honestly looks like he drew these pages on his lunch break. While his skill at posture and motion remain intact (these are his strongest points, in my opinion), the character designs are less detailed than ever, with the Turtles’ eyes and mouths looking especially awful. And his Krang…good Lord. It’s the most pathetic sight I’ve ever seen.

I could go into further detail why his art in this issue is so terrible, but I think I’ll just show you instead:

THAT speaks for itself.

Now, so far as the story is concerned, Dean Clarrain is in peak form. Or should I say Steve Murphy is? In case you’ve been out of the loop, Steve Murphy recently revealed that “Dean Clarrain” was actually a pseudonym of his, meaning he’s the man who wrote all these stories. Despite that, I’m still going to refer to him as “Clarrain” in my reviews to prevent confusion.

Anyhow, where were we? Oh yeah, the story.

Clarrain is in top form, with a witty script that features lots of punchy dialogue and gags. He seems to have gotten most of his eco-preaching out of his system, too. Despite the presence of a utopian Eden-World, Clarrain forgoes any terribly blunt dialogue about the environment. Good show! The script is very tight and offers some great moments, it’s just a shame Lawson dropped the ball with the art. Then shot it. Then set it on fire. Then stomped on its ashes.

Now for the back-up story!

Chris Allan takes a break from the main story to do an April O’Neil adventure. He draws great-looking people as well as mutants, which is one of the things that made him such a welcomed sight on this book, as many artists were only capable of drawing one or the other.

Chu Hsi/Warrior Dragon has a lot of story potential and it’s great to see Clarrain taking advantage of it. April’s back-up stories for the next few issues will eventually lead into her own self-titled miniseries.

At only six pages there isn’t a whole lot to say about this back-up, just that it’s some nicely drawn and nicely written set-up.

Grade (main story): C+ (as in “Cripes, I thought that halfway through reading the book one of my eyeballs fell out. Jeez…”)

Grade (back-up story): B+ (as in “By the way, ‘Curio Shop Owner’ is finally gifted with a real name in this issue”.)