Monday, February 6, 2012

Louie's Pasture, Part 1



Originally published in: TMNT Adventures Special #4
Publication date: Spring, 1993

Plot/art: Milton Knight
Idea/script: Robert Loren Fleming
Letters: Mary Kelleher
Colors: Barry Grossman
Edits: Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy)
Managing edits: Victor Gorelick

“Louie’s Pasture, Part 1”

Summary:

When Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World, he brought along his older brother, Louie. However, Louie didn’t feel up to the return trip and opted to stay behind in what-would-become-Manhattan. There, he began a farm that at some point got shifted to an alternate dimension (How? I guess that’s not important). Louie didn’t care, though, because keeping the farm sparkling clean kept him occupied; constantly brushing and moping and hosing down his livestock (much to their irritation). In fact, Louie was so busy with cleaning that he never noticed that every hundred years, his farm would return to Earth for exactly 24 hours in the exact place where it was built… what is now Times Square.



And that brings us to today. Louie’s pasture shifts back to Times Square and all the noise and commotion drives his animals crazy. As his cows give rides to prostitutes, his sheep check out “Silence of the Lambs” at the local cinema and his chickens buy bags of coke (you think I’m joking, but I’m not), Louie panics to collect them all. In his rush, he runs out into the middle of traffic, where he gets hit by a car and knocked down a manhole (landing right on the TMNT’s doorstep).

Meanwhile, Oxy (a muscle-bound, brain-dead oxen) and Kid (an egotistical, hyper-intelligent goat) decide they’ve had enough of Louie’s constant cleaning and want to live in filth. So they sneak out of the pasture and down into the subway tunnels. Unfortunately, the police don’t cotton to farm animals on the trains and the fuzz chases them into the sewers. Losing the cops but exhausted, Oxy and Kid stop for a drink of sewer water. As it happens, the water is laced with mutagen and Oxy becomes an even stronger, invulnerable anthropomorph named Oxymoron, while Kid becomes a genius-level telekinetic named Kid Cortex. The two animals then invade Central Park, intent on transforming it into a farm all their own, where all the animals are free to be as dirty as they want.



Back at the pasture, Louie explains the story to the Turtles. His 24 hours are almost up and he’s still missing two of his most beloved animals. The Turtles vow to help him locate his livestock, at least until they see a fleet of police cars racing to an emergency. Deciding that looks more exciting, they follow the cop cars to Central Park where Kid Cortex and Oxymoron are tearing up the place. The Turtles take the mutants on and the fight eventually leads to Central Park Zoo. Oxy frees the most vicious animals from their cages and Kid uses his telepathy to make them attack the Turtles. Battered, the Turtles retreat.



Returning to the pasture, they collect Louie to see if he can talk some sense into his wayward flock. However, Louie doesn’t want to leave his pasture unguarded, so a disgruntled Donatello remains behind to mind the farm. At Central Park, Louie begs Oxy and Kid to come home, reminding them of how he raised them from little babies. Moved to tears, Kid and Oxy agree to return to the pasture.

They’re too late, though, as the 24 hours expire and the pasture returns to another dimension for a hundred years; with Donatello along for the ride!


Turtle Tips:

*This story concludes in “Pig Heaven, Part 2”.

*Chronologically, I would place these stories between TMNT Adventures #22 and TMNT Adventures #23.

*The Turtles will travel back in time and meet Louie’s brother, Christopher, in TMNT Adventures #40.

*Due to the presence of Cudley the Cowlick in the follow-up story, "Louie's Pasture" cannot take place between TMNT Adventures #38 and TMNT Adventures #48 and must take place beforehand. Considering the TMNT are chilling in their sewer lair, that forces it to take place before the "world tour" arc that began in TMNT Adventures #28, too. But it has to take place after Mighty Mutanimals (miniseries) #3, again, due to the presence of Cudley the Cowlick. Complicated, I know.


Review:

I know this is going to sound strange coming from a guy who loathes the TMNT stories by the likes of Mark Martin and Hedden and McWeeney, but I really like Milton Knight’s stuff.

Normally, I don’t care for the zany, surreal, overly exaggerated TMNT stories that don’t feel like they could fit in any universe (Martin, Hedden and McWeeney produced my most despised issues of Mirage’s TMNT Vol. 1), but I think Milton Knight’s stuff fits in just fine with the universe of TMNT Adventures. While his visual style is pretty out there and exotic, the stories themselves are no more ridiculous than a lot of the earliest installments in the series, when the book still held a tone closer to the kooky stylings of the Fred Wolf cartoon.

Storywise, things move at a mile a minute and you’ll be done with this first half of the Special before you know it. Knight’s style is all about being fast and furious with the characters in a constant state of motion; no one can sit still for a moment. Knight brings a look that’s like a Fleischer Bros cartoon on crack, and while the manic squash-and-stretch visuals may nauseate some, I found them palatable because of the sense of humor he brings to each panel. Where Martin, Hedden and McWeeney’s similar take on cartooning irritates me, Knight’s execution makes me laugh. Go figure.

Knight works in some very… risqué gags that I cannot believe made it past Victor Gorelick and the other content guardians at Archie. There are erotic girly shows advertised all over Times Square (with names like “Secretions”), what are clearly streetwalkers riding the cattle like mechanical bulls and the aforementioned scene where a bunch of farm animals buy coke from a dude with a huge nose (very subtle). The jokes are easy enough for kids to miss, but as an adult, it makes you go “wow”. Reminds me a bit of Rocko’s Modern Life, in that regard.

Knight also nails the Italian accent on Louie and his dialogue is just a whole lot of fun to read. The Turtles all act identically and they aren’t really the focus of the story, which might put you off (then again, this is only the first half of a full story). Still, I think what makes this TMNT Adventures Special so enjoyable is that it comes on the heels of the previous three, which were all about hammering home environmental or social lessons to the audience. TMNT Adventures Special #4 has no ulterior motives or educational agendas; it just wants to entertain. And after three issues of public service announcements, I think we all needed that.

Grade: B (as in, “But it only gets weirder in the next chapter, where the giant disembodied cows head shows up”.)

4 comments:

T4_was_here said...

WOW! No wonder this story did not make it to Europa. That had a problem with the word "ninja".

Anonymous said...

Milton Knight's internet friends appreciate your enthusiasm and attention, it's clear you enjoy the thought, detail and flair. So, forgive me for harping on one line but it irked me, since he is the one credited with "Plot/Art". You typed,
"Knight brings a look that’s like a Fleischer Bros cartoon on crack, and while the manic squash-and-stretch visuals may nauseate some, I found them palatable because of the sense of humor he brings to each panel." Yes and no, for me. I've seen some dark TMNT stuff that warranted another style, but
I'll inch out on my belly, far enough onto the speculative limb. Perhaps, just perhaps, the TMNT (and whoever hired Milt) intend these for a younger audience, and suspect kids reading Archie/TMNT are less apt to be nauseated by a cartoony squash and stretch, or need crack to get the vibe. Someone who hired MK seeks this style, perhaps to lighten the PSA run you mentioned. He's a damn fine contemporary, but old school inspired animator, who makes every panel count. Line drawing characters (and often an object) appear alive, emoting and in motion, not simply frozen or interchangeable personalities and expressions. Deceptively simple moments reward repeated inspection. There are layers of detail, and flavor. See also his Mighty Mouse for Marvel, his website or paintings. "Louie's Pasture" ?

P.S. Also worth noting is the late lamented Museum of Fine Sequential Art (Comic strip, comic book mostly) that Eastman created with the zillions TMNT
Peace.
All success,
-ATTS

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Anonymous

Well, I made most of the same positive observations that you did (particularly regarding the sense of motion Knight excells at), just worded differently, so we really seem to be seeing eye to eye more than you're making it sound.

Please, don't let it get away from you that this was a very positive review. I know that as a fan of Knight's, you might feel the need to defend him from all criticism, but there's no need to latch onto an isolated sentence of mine and misconstrue it as some attack on his work.

Truthfully, I don't think I could *be* more gushing in my feedback for this story; my review was overwhelmingly positive.

And I hope you didn't take the "on crack" comment I made as a serious suggestion, as the way you parsed it as a counterpoint in your rebuttle seemed to indicate.

Likewise, pointing out that some individuals may not be attracted to his unique style isn't an attack on Knight's talent, but a very fair assertion; be those detractors adults or, yes, children. I've met some of both demographics who did and did not care for such styles and that is to be expected in any artistic medium.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my review of Milton Knight's story and I can see that you are very passionate about the man's work. However, please, there's no need to take a single, lightly critical sentence out of my positive review and find it irksome or unfair. Without such polite criticism this review would otherwise be nothing but dull praise, and I imagine a professional like Knight would prefer honest feedback over that.

Chet said...

However positive or passionate one might be over Milton Knight's work, I don't think it fits a TMNT story particularly well. Yes, it is funny and very well executed for that matter, but considering the direction this book was taking at the time, this installment is right off the charts. Not even the Fred Wolf adaptations or the goofier stories early on are this... MAD.

This might've worked for titles such as Ren & Stimpy, Cow & Chicken or the more recent Spongebob Squarepants, but I'm finding it really hard to see this as being 'in canon' due to the overtly silly nature of the story.

On the other hand, the moping Donatello (being ridiculed by a duck) is absolutely ace!