Friday, April 1, 2011

IDW Publishing has the TMNT license! My gut response

As announced at Wondercon today (and via IDW Publishing’s website), Viacom has finally confirmed their intention to continue the publication of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic books by licensing the brand out to IDW Publishing. Of course, when the news broke today, the first thing on everyone’s mind was: “But what does Mark Pellegrini think!?”


Yeah right.

Well, I’m gonna tell you what I think ANYWAY.

I haven’t always had the highest opinion of IDW Publishing. As a Transformers fan, I was very critical of their product and rightfully so, as much of it was mediocre and haphazard. They had a habit of treating single monthly issues (“floppies”) as something akin to a “beta test”, or “not the final product” and they’d hit the shelves riddled with errors ranging from coloring, to spelling to cropping to speech bubble placement, always “to be fixed for the trade”. Kind of hard to be enthusiastic about following a title monthly when you know you were paying $4 bucks for an incomplete product. Their editing was never particularly professional, culminating in the infamously disastrous “Beast Wars Sourcebook”, which you can read more about here.

Their “Transformers Classics” line of reprints of the original Marvel comic book series was a disgrace, as they proved too cheap to pay licensing fees to reprint issues featuring Marvel-owned characters such as Spider-Man, Circuit Breaker of Death’s Head. Editing-wise, they even neglected to place miniseries like “The Headmasters” where they belong chronologically, shuffling them all off to a final volume, making reading the trades sequentially entirely incoherent. Even worse, in regards to their current Transformers ongoing chronology, they wouldn’t pay the license to reprint the Transformers/Avengers miniseries, which is a title they co-published!

After investing what had to have been hundreds of dollars in their product, I eventually dropped all my IDW Transformers subs halfway through the debacle known as “All Hail Megatron”, but the less said about that the better.

And yet, the IDW of two or three years ago is not the IDW I see on the shelves at my local comic shop today.

While they continue to produce their fair share of stinkers (Jurassic Park and more recently Godzilla), IDW has learned from their past errors and have been investing a greater amount of care and effort into producing a more professional, quality product. They’ve begun reissuing their contemporary Transformers comics in chronological hardback collections, properly edited to pay careful attention to continuity and timelines and even including stories they previously refused to pay licenses for (Transformers/Avengers). Additionally, they’re going to rerelease the Transformers Classics collections with all the material they originally skipped when they were too miserly to pay the licensing fees (and hopefully with the minis properly slotted in place).

In regards to storytelling quality, their Ghostbusters titles (which were easily some of the worst Ghostbusters fiction ever written) have skyrocketed over the course of the past year or so in the enjoyment factor, with their series of holiday-themed one-shots being nothing short of superb (if you’re a Ghostbusters fan, make it a priority to pick up the trade “Haunted Holidays”). They’ve doing some very nifty things with G.I. Joe, too, crafting their own unique chronology while giving Larry Hama license to continue the original Marvel continuity, even going so far as to maintain the original numbering!

Yessir, the IDW of the past six months to a year is nothing like the IDW I remember, which is a good thing, as this is the IDW that currently owns the license to publish and reprint TMNT comics!

When it comes to an original series, no creative team has been announced so far, but we can likely expect something based on the upcoming NickToons animated series and perhaps a series either continuing the continuity of the Mirage universe or keeping the atmosphere and sensibilities of that series alive. Reprints of classic Mirage material have been assured, which is what I’m more excited about than anything else.

Mirage was a small press company and only dealt with the direct market when releasing trade paperback collections of their TMNT titles. So you couldn’t find their TMNT books in mainstream book stores like Barnes & Nobel and only on particular online shops. And amidst all that, they were produced in extremely small quantities, making them almost instantaneous collector’s items. To this day, many fans and potential fans have yet to read the original adventures of the Ninja Turtles because they just can’t get their damn hands on reprinted collections!

Well, IDW won’t have that problem. So expect to see the original TMNT comics in collected volumes and on shelves at book stores as well as widely available through major online retailers; something that could do absolute wonders for the TMNT; introducing the original series to an audience previously unable or unaware of them.

If perhaps two years ago you’d have told me IDW was going to be publishing TMNT comics, I might have thrown up in my mouth a little. But the IDW of two years ago is dead and the IDW we have today is like it’s far more clean-cut and organized pod person doppelganger. And you know? I trust them to produce a quality product.

Don’t let me down, guys!