Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Whatever Happened to "The Forever War"?



So what, exactly, was “The Forever War”? You hardcore fans probably know all about it, you old school readers of TMNT Adventures might vaguely recall advertisements for it and you newcomers to the Ninja Turtles have probably heard second-hand yammering about it by now as “the greatest thing that never happened”. Whether that last scrap of hyperbole is true or not, we may never know, as “The Forever War” has been “Forever Delayed”.

“The Forever War”, by TMNT Adventures regular writer/artist duo of Steve Murphy (under pseudonym Dean Clarrain) and Chris Allan, dates back to mid 1995. TMNT Adventures had just completed its latest story arc in “The Moon Eyes Saga” and issue #70 ended with this advertisement:



“The Forever War, part 1 of 5”. “Next issue”. “The Beginning of the End”. TMNT Adventures #71 looked to be pretty epic. So, what did we get when issue #71 finally rolled around?



“How the Turtles Got their Weapons, part 1”; a filler story arc by substitute writer Steve Sullivan and substitute inker-turned-artist Brian Thomas. TMNT Adventures #71 and #72 carried this saccharine story arc, which was actually about the length of only one full issue; it was broken in two and the remaining page space was filled with reprints of stories from TMNT Meet Archie #1. And following issue #72, TMNT Adventures was cancelled.

Archie Comics made an attempted revival of the TMNT in January of 1996 with their “Year of the Turtle” three-part miniseries. By writer Dan Slott and artist Hugh Haynes, “Year of the Turtle” acted as a functional finale to TMNT Adventures while attempting to double as a fresh start (it was advertised as “a new beginning”).

But whatever happened to Steve Murphy and Chris Allan’s intended finale, “The Forever War”?

Managerial politics, that’s what. In a series of posts on his now-defunct blog, “The 5th Turtle”, Steve Murphy discussed at length the situation he was placed in during the last few years of TMNT Adventures, caught between his own creative desire to tell more challenging stories and Archie Managing Editor Victor Gorelick’s decree that the title be lighter and more fun.

“I had just finished work on ‘The Moon Eyes Saga’ story arc (TMNTA #67-70), wherein Raphael travels to Alaska seeking the love of his life, Ninjara, only to romantically lose her to another. It was heavy stuff for a kid’s book – at least by the standards of the day – and I was once again at odds with the two bigwigs at Archie Comics: editor in chief Victor Gorelick and publisher Michael Silberkleit, both of whom thought we were ‘going too far’ in terms of adult themes. Both men, as well as their distribution guy, Fred Mauser, had been on my ass about this several times before, most heatedly when we put out the first ‘future Turtles’ story arc, wherein Chris and I developed the character of Hitler’s brain (but that’s another story).

“Victor and Michael wanted to know where the book was going with issue 71, and when I told them we would be revisiting the future (the Greenhouse Earth future, another notion which freaked them out) for a 5-issue story arc featuring the return of the Shredder – a totalitarian Shredder (not the buffoon of the cartoon) – they popped their toupees. And said they wanted me off the book.”

But the heated attitudes between Mirage and Archie extended to more than just Gorelick’s disapproval of Murphy’s storytelling. Mirage’s switch to color TMNT comics left Archie feeling threatened, as color TMNT books were previously their exclusive domain. Murphy elaborates:

“A few months earlier Mirage began the second volume of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series, deciding, in an inverted Sisyphian logic, that the greatly added expense of printing in color would boost the sagging sales and increasing losses of the first volume series. This, of course, was new ground, a territory previously ‘owned’ by the TMNT Adventures title, but more so by Archie Comics, who had the exclusive right to print in color for newsstand distribution.

“Not that Mirage was going newsstand with volume two. But it was entering the direct-sales market with a color title. The big enchiladas at Archie Comics didn’t like this, as they too had their eyes on the direct-sales market since they were going through an across the board decline in newsstand sales as the number of children reading comics plummeted with the increased competition from video games. They were secretly making plans for a more direct-sales oriented TMNTA comic. Plans that did not involve me or anybody else at Mirage.”

The combination of Archie’s aggressive disapproval of Murphy’s storytelling and what Murphy perceived as total indifference to his circumstances from Mirage-founder Peter Laird eventually led Murphy to quit the title and pursue other projects away from both companies for the next five years (not returning to Mirage until 2001). Archie would get its creative control over TMNT Adventures, but only for a total of five issues (TMNTA #71-72, Year of the Turtles #1-3) before calling it quits on the whole thing.

Murphy’s and Allan’s only “return” to that universe of characters would occur in November of 1996, with a three-issue arc in the furry-marketed magazine “Furrlough” featuring their joint-owned character Ninjara. The story took place in the future of TMNT Adventures, though outside of an advertisement of Ninjara declaring “I’m not hanging with teenagers anymore!” no references to the Turtles were ever made for obvious legal reasons. The story arc ended on a cliffhanger and was never completed due to lack of interest from both writer and artist.



But what was “The Forever War”? In a June 9th, 2008 interview with Newsarama’s Benjamin Ong Pang Kean, Murphy described it cryptically as both “just the next story arc in the TMNT Adventures title,” and “Another ‘Future Turtles hook up with today's Turtles’ story arc, one that features the final battle with the Shredder.” Aside from that, we don’t really know much else about the actual contents of the story arc, save what we could glean on our own from the five penciled and inked covers released by artist Chris Allan:







As you can see, the arc would have boasted a pretty wide selection of enemies and allies from the length of TMNT Adventures. It was later revealed that the script, pencils and rough lettering for TMNT Adventures #71 (“The Forever War, part 1”) had been completed, while rough scripting and pencils had been completed for TMNT Adventures #72 (“The Forever War, part 2”) before Victor Gorelick terminated the storyline and Murphy’s and Allan’s employment. To date, only the first six penciled and rough-lettered pages of TMNT Adventures #71 have been released to the public:








By the turn of the century, the future of “The Forever War” would proceed to go on something of a rollercoaster ride in regards to Mirage’s intent to see it completed and published, with more promises made and broken than any fan cares to keep track of.

In the letters page of Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #7 (published January, 2005), Steve Murphy suggested that fans get ready, because "The Forever War" would be out by the end of the year.  2005 became 2006 and still no "Forever War".

Then, in the letters page of Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #16 (October, 2005), Murphy changed the projected date to "sometime in 2007".  2007 rolled around and still no "Forever War".

But the fans’ patience were eventually rewarded in 2009, when Mirage officially announced that Murphy and Allan had been signed to complete “The Forever War” in a five-issue miniseries as part of the “25th Anniversary Shell-ibration”.

An advertisement for the miniseries appeared in Tales of the TMNT #58:



And a trade paperback collection of relevant TMNT Adventures issues titled “TMNT: Future Tense” was published in July, 2009 as a primer for the miniseries (solicits claimed, “All issues feature the ‘future-Turtles’ and act as a lead-in to the upcoming all-new Forever War miniseries!”):



A hefty section of the aforementioned Newsarama interview focused on Murphy’s plans for “The Forever War” and what changes would be made from the original scripts and plot conceptions. “The current plan is to release it as a monthly black and white story arc under the original Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures title. The first issue would come out in May 2009… it will have many elements of the original storyline, while at the same time cutting the cast down a bit… the scenes depicted on the five covers will not necessarily be occurring in the revamped story line.”

While this was going on, Chris Allan was hard at work preparing for the miniseries. In addition to the promotional art and “Future Tense” cover already shown, Allan also drew preliminary thumbnails for five new interlocking covers:



When May of 2009 rolled around, the book was still not on the shelves.  Solicitations from Dan Berger published in the letters page of TMNT (Vol. 4) #30 (May, 2009) advertised the Future Tense trade, but contained this disappointing nugget: "This book introduces the 'Forever War' 3-issue miniseries and will be released in July."  Yes, "3-issues".  So evidently, in addition to all the delays, the miniseries was scaled back from five issues to three.

There was also a solicitation for the "Forever War" miniseries: "'Forever War' mini-series, featuring all-new material by Clarrain and Allan, will begin shipping in October with issue #1.  #2 ships in November and #3 in December."

However, the book did not materialize on any of its updated release dates.  By 2009’s end, the much-promised and much-hyped “Forever War” never happened at all.

In the end, the culprit responsible for the second demise of “The Forever War” was Peter Laird-himself. His sale of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise to the Viacom Corporation in December of 2009 pulled the rug out from under “The Forever War” project, as the deal did not grant Mirage license to publish any stories not taking place within the Mirage universe (though Laird retained the right to publish up to 18 Mirage TMNT stories a year). In addition to “The Forever War”, other projects such as “The Mirage Universe Sourcebook” were unceremoniously cancelled after solicitations had been made and much of the work had been completed.

And that brings us to today. What has become of “The Forever War”? Well, Viacom has licensed the TMNT catalog to comics publisher IDW for reprint purposes as well as a license to produce all-new material. Their first new title is due out at the end of the Summer and their first reprint collection (of Mirage’s TMNT Vol. 1 material) is due in early Fall. Through their message boards, IDW editors and creators have shown in open interest in dialogues with fans, particularly in what they’d like to see in their TMNT comics. Naturally, discussion about “The Forever War” has cropped up, though IDW has no plans at the time of this writing to pursue any Archie material.

But consider that IDW resurrected Marvel’s original "G.I. Joe" title last year, with the original numbering continued and tapping the original author of the series. Also consider that next year, IDW will be resurrecting Marvel’s original "Transformers" title, with the original numbering continued and tapping the original author and artist of the series.

If anyone is willing to listen to fan demand and resurrect an old series from the 90s, it’s IDW.

So if you’d like to see “The Forever War”, make your voice heard in either this thread on their official message board or by contacting them directly at: letters@idwpublishing.com


Special Thanks:

Special Thanks to TMNT fan Tokka for saving so much of Murphy’s defunct "5th Turtle" blog in his Flickr photo-stream; the images AND the blog posts! It’s a relief to know that so much of that excellent behind-the-scenes information has been preserved somewhere!


22 comments:

Adam Winters said...

I can still remember the disappointment I felt back in 1995 when I finally spotted TMNTA#71 at Wal-Mart (yeah, those were the days, weren't they?), and was wondering why they changed the cover from the preview. And then I was confused by "The Early Years Part 1" subtitle as opposed to "Forever War 1 of 5." And then I noticed this wasn't quite the issue I was expecting. I liked the "how the TMNT got their weapons" stories as filler, but I've never quite gotten over my disappointment that Forever War never came to be. Oh well... the hoping continues.

rossmay said...

Awesome write-up.

Miles said...

Oh man. Thank you sir.

I knew most of this information already. But I did not know about the thread. Thank you thank you thank you!

I am absolutely going to write to them.

Long time lurker, now a commenter...just wanted to say I love your blog. Although I wish you rated the Archie books higher, I do respect and enjoy your opinions.

Keep writing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this!!

Alex Deligiannis said...

Great write-up, thanks!

M'ke Helbing said...

I too was disappointed at the time. I was fifteen when the Forever War was scheduled to come out. It was cool because I was growing up as the storyline was. The stories matured with their audience. Archie Comics Co were foolish to let Murphy and Allen go with such a good thing going.
I'd like to see it "finished" if that's the case, at least for closure.

M'ke Helbing said...

I recall how disappointed I was when the story arc ended. I was fifteen at the time, and I was growing up sort of with the characters. The stories were getting more mature with their audience. It was foolish on the Archie Co part to let Murphy and Allen go. I would like to see the story line completed....tie up the loose ends in whatever time or however many issues it takes, and give us closure if nothing else, but I would expect it to be pretty great.

Carl Walker said...

Thank you for summing this all up again, and also for the ray of hope (I am emailing IDW right now!). I was entirely planning to get that darn reprint TPB, despite having those issues in decent condition (like Mike here, I was growing up with the stories, which also meant that I didn't trash those later issues like I did the first half of the series) until Mirage came out and admitted there was a whole page missing, and offered to make it right by... letting you download the missing page as a PDF. I guess I shoulda known things weren't gonna go right from there.

LBD "Nytetrayn" said...

Great post; pity I missed it when it originally went up. I too felt sorrow upon learning that TMNT Adventures ended in such a way.

As soon as I read the end of this article, I wasted no time in sending a letter to IDW. Fingers are crossed!

xaqBazit said...

Thanks so much for explaining. the article had me reaching for my wallet and disapointedly putting back down multiple times. it looked so good, don't tmnt do elseworlds or oneshots anymore?

Brandon said...

I actually sent a card/letter to Dean Clarrain (Scott Murphy) I want to say at least 13-15 years ago, asking what happened and why, and he not only replied, he sent me a folder with a photocopy of the ENTIRE first issue of The Forever War (not just the first few pages, the whole thing) and all the covers. I also asked him about Null, what he really was, and what he planned to do with that character, alas he did not reference that in his reply...

But yes anyway, some of these posts are old, has there been any movement on this? Is there some sort of petition or something? How about a Kickstarter campaign or something?? I'd gladly give at least $1000 to get The Forever War published, not even kidding!

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Brandon,

Wow, the whole first issue? You lucky dog.

Sadly, there's been no progress, at least not openly from either IDW or Murphy.

In fact, Andrew Modeen (author of TMNT Vol. 3 #24-25) recently contacted Murphy about the Forever War and Murphy's response was... discouraging. He says that he doesn't know what he's done with either his original scripts from the 90s or his re-scripted version from the 2000s and isn't even sure if he has them anymore. Murphy even said he doesn't remember the whole plot in his head, either.

Not a good sign, but I'm sure if IDW ever asked him to do the story, he'd figure it out in a heartbeat.

Really, though, there's just been no news to report. IDW's TMNT Adventures trades are only up through issue #20, I think, and at 4 issues per volume, we may never get to the end. So there's really no knowing for sure. Maybe when the new film comes out, IDW might try to increase the amount of TMNT books on the racks (like they do with Transformers whenever a new Michael Bay film is released) and get Forever War done in a miniseries?

There's just no telling.

Brandon said...

Oops I just realize I said 'Scott' above, I meant Steve Murphy...

Anyway, thanks for the info Mark. And great blog by the way. It's pretty shocking to even see all these reviews of a book series that ended almost 20 years ago. It's a shame the internet hadn't yet become a normal household thing yet back in 1995, or all us fans who got the shaft could have properly protested the premature ending of the series and given those idiots at Archie a piece of our mind. The fact they even considered finally doing The Forever War a couple years back just goes to show how passionate us fans are, and how much we want to read the damn story. It's a real shame all parties involved couldn't just figure out a way to put out 5 little issues and leave us all satisfied...Although, really, The Forever War didn't sound like it was meant to be the be all end all of the whole series, especially with Null still alive out there somewhere... But still, if this was at least the "final battle" with Shredder, that would have at least been some closure.

I wish there was some sort of major online fan community to really bombard, I guess IDW now(?), with requests to get this out there, whatever it takes. Hell, ask for fan donations, like I said I'd gladly donate. If it worked for Veronica Mars with all the major things it takes to make a movie, why not a little comic book?

Oh and are you sure the whole first issue of The Forever War isn't posted somewhere online...? I feel like I saw it somewhere... Maybe they didn't want to show past page 6, since it depicts Shredder following thru on the promise of the cover and actually killing future Don. After that the turtles and Splinter get back to the "present" but it's an alternate present after Shredder had time traveled to help Hitler win World War 2. The issue ends with an alt-Ninjara (one that never knew Raph), alt-Golani and 2 humans (part of some resistance group) spotting the turtles and wondering who they are. If I can get to a scanner, I'd be happy to upload it.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Brandon

Thanks for the good word! I'm glad you've been enjoying my site.

Fans have been contacting IDW to express interest in the Forever War, but I've no clue if they've received enough e-mails to determine it's a worthwhile investment. I've no clue what it took to get them to revive the Marvel GI Joe and Transformers books with the original creators. Really, though, all that can be done is to pass the IDW e-mail address around toe encourage folks to send them letters. Eventually if they hear it enough, they'll have to accept that there's demand for the thing.

And so far as I know (and I've asked around) nothing past page six has ever been publicly released. Those 6 pages I included in this article were what Murphy posted on his discontinued 5th Turtle blog; he never posted anything more.

If you have the time, I can guarantee you that the TMNT fandom would be very delighted and very grateful to see any material you can share with us.

Chad said...

This comic, despite rough spots and certain idiyosyncricies, remains my favorite TMNT continuity. The new cartoon has potential to surpass this strip, But while the Mirage comics may have been darker right from the gate, it was obvious the writers reached at times when what was supposed to be a standalone tale was so well recieved it sparked a viable franchise.


This series though, as someone who grew from preschool to teen years during its span, it felt like it grew along with me. The midnight sun arc always felt to me to be where the books proverbial balls dropped. Instead of pizza and hijinks, we now had entire hidden civilizations, gods, supernatural forces, Demons, and other religions to ponder.

The forever war, man that thing has potential. I wonder that if rumors are true and that shredder does go back to WWII to help the axis win the war, has anything to do with cultural heritage? If so, then that just adds another layer to Shredders final fight with splinter and possible personal conflicts for the ninja master.

I hope someday this is published. I know IDW listens to the fans, but do enough people still reading comics these days care enough about this continuity? Series like Gargoyles and Exosquad, Reboot, and others from the same era all deserved more conclusive finales, but never got them and never will. I personally would love to see Forever War finally written and shown to be the final story for our heroes in this continuity. It had the nerve to reach so far and attempt to do so much, Id like to see those ideas finally realized.

Ioannes Paulus said...

@Brandon

Have you managed to scan your copy? No hurry of course, but I'm aching to see this. Pleasepleaseplease! :)

snowkatt said...

furman is allowed to finish marvel G1 ( albeit in annoying 5 issue arcs )

larry hama is picking up the thread from gijoe rah

marvel has bought miracleman lock stock and barrel and will not only finally mass reprint the orginal alan moore penned comics but also the neil gaiman ones

and whats more they are contracting agaiman and buckingham to finally finish a story they started more then 25 years ago

what has all this got to do with the forever war ?

id all that is possible if miracleman can be dragged out of the quagmire of tangeld rights and reprints then there is a chanche no matter how slim that the forever war migth become a reality too

we just need to make a big enough ruckus with idw to make it happen

after all regeneration one and rah are published by idw

J Walsh said...

Like many fans, I've been waiting for this since 1995. Seeing the generic looking 2009 cover sketches and reading that the cast of characters in the 2009 attempt would be trimmed down kind of makes me happy it didn't happen at that point. One of the reasons The Forever War has excited me as a kid and in all these years that followed is because it brought back so many Archie favourites, like Golani, Al Falqa, Wyrm, Scumbug etc. I hope that if IDW resurrects this idea one day, that they will use some of the initially intended plans and finish up the original covers. I fully trust that IDW would do The Forever War justice.

Chris Arndt said...

Is it sick that I want a crossover between the two universes?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunate that this never happened. As time goes by, I've kept up with the possibilty of this story seeing the light of day, and as it stands, we're probably not going to get it in it's original intended form. Murphy's lost the script, and Allan is somewhat jaded with the comics business altogether. I'd hoped IDW would be able to convince them to come back for a last hurrah, but it seems that's not going to happen.

Beau Weyers said...

Emailing, hoping... sad this potential story may never be told. I loved the original Future Tense series.

Guillaume Dubreuil said...

I am currently finishing TMNT Adventures which I am reading for the first time.
I wish I could extend the experience with the Forever War!

Thanks for this nice article Mark.