*The story concludes in Casey Jones #2.
*As the Turtles are shown living in the sewer lair, the chronology of this story is a little tricky. I would place it after TMNT (Vol. 1) #1, when the Turtles returned to their sewer lair in New York, but before Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 1) #6, when they give their lair away to Leatherhead. The fact that Donatello is shown monitoring the activity of the Foot Clan would seem to confirm this placement.
*Pages 1-7 of this issue were originally published in black and white in Plastron Café #1. Pages 8-15 were originally published in Plastron Café #2. Pages 16-23 were originally published in Plastron Café #3. Page 24 was originally published in Plastron Café #4.
*The 2-issue Casey Jones miniseries collects the 6-part “North by Downeast” story originally serialized in the anthology title Plastron Café. Mirage cancelled Plastron Café after only 4 issues, leaving this storyline unfinished until it was collected in this miniseries.
Rick Veitch was one of the great guest contributors to the Mirage TMNT series, right up there with Michael Zulli, Rick McCollum and Bill Anderson. It’s a shame he ended up having a falling out with Mirage after the fiasco involving the “mandatory retroactive work-for-hire agreements”, as it’s made his contributions harder to come by (none of his stories have been reprinted since 1991). While his best known TMNT work is “The River” trilogy, one of my favorite Veitch-crafted Turtle stories is “North by Downeast”, which is really a Casey Jones joint.
Veitch scripted and penciled all his work for TMNT and he has this wonderfully dirty, murky style that I first fell in love with while reading his run on Swamp Thing (and his turn at author is extremely underrated and terminally overshadowed by the preceding Alan Moore run, in my opinion). Eastman’s inks compliment Veitch’s style superbly, as do Lavigne’s colors, and I actually think his pencils wind up looking better in these stories than they did on Swamp Thing (where the inks never seemed heavy enough).
His layouts are some of my favorites, particularly the decompressed opening, as we track all the filthy rainwater on its path from the sky to the sewers before Casey makes his moody entrance. It’s a great set-up and befitting of this horror-themed storyline. What I appreciate is that Veitch doesn’t overdo the decompression, merely drawing it out for the intro to get the audience hooked; the remainder of the story is very compact and fast-paced (Jim Lawson probably should have been taking notes from this story before he wrote “The Brain Thief”).
Veitch’s Ninja Turtle stories always struck a chord with me, I think, because we both seem to share the same tastes. Not just in terms of horror-themed storytelling, but an overall preference for Casey Jones. Veitch loved writing the guy and was one of the best authors to handle the character (often even outdoing Eastman and Laird, who could never seem to agree if Casey was an imbecile or a douchebag). Veitch’s Casey is the perfect balance of “streetwise” and “foolish”, proving himself a competent fighter but still succumbing to the shortcomings of his meager attention span. His quest to find a single television set showing his program was pure Casey and his inner monologue was amusing the whole while.
One of the more striking things about “North by Downeast” is how bizarrely it transitions from “gritty street-level brawling” to “lobster men from Neptune”. While the “big fish story” Veitch was going for becomes a little too on the nose once the actual big fish (or lobsters, I guess) are introduced, it certainly makes this tale pretty unpredictable. Casey’s propensity for exaggeration would later crop up in Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 2) #37, but I think this story did the idea more justice.
When it comes down to a competition between the original black and white version of this story published in Plastron Café and the colorized version published in the Casey Jones miniseries, I’d go with the colorized version all the way. Ignoring the fact that the colorized version is the only way to read the whole adventure, Lavigne’s colors really enhance the overall mood of the story, particularly in regards to the little touches, like the glow of Don’s computer monitor or the flickering light of Casey’s matches or the grey sky above the angry, green sea. Going back and reading the story in black and white after experiencing the color version, it just feels like something is missing.
Hopefully IDW will be able to come to an agreement with Veitch where Mirage failed and this story will get its just reprint. But even if it doesn’t, I don’t think the issues are too difficult or expensive to find. Mirage was printing in pretty high quantities during the early 90s.
Grade: A (as in, “And I love it when writers add some variety to Casey’s arsenal, like the ski pole or the fishing rod in this issue”.)