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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Return of the Heroes in a Half-Shell

Leonardo. Michelangelo. Raphael. Donatello.

They may be known by the art community as four Renaissance artists who forever changed the face of the art world, but to many fans around the world, those four names are better known as the members of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though their origins have changed slightly over the various media they’ve appeared in, the gist is that four baby turtles were mutated by mysterious ooze and raised by a rat named Splinter, who was also a mutation. The four turtles were trained in the ways of the ninja, by Splinter and now they fight against the evil Foot clan and their leader, the Shredder, as well as other enemies, as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT).

The Turtles were created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, originally as a spoof of the ninja stories that were then appearing in the pages of Frank Miller’s run in Marvel Comics’ Daredevil as well as in Miller’s original graphic novel Ronin. Published by Eastman and Laird’s small press Mirage Studios, the series was one of the knockout hits of the 1980s and helped prove that independent comic books publishers could have a place amongst the “Big Two” publishers, Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

The TMNT grew to a phenomenal popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a hit cartoon series that lasted an amazing 10 seasons as well as live-action films, a popular Archie Comics series for kids, action figures, video games, and much much more. In the fall of 2012, Nickelodeon relaunched the TMNT as a new CGI-animated TV series that attracted 12 million viewers for its debut last September, and recently IDW Publishing has begun reprinting the classic TMNT tales in five hardcover collections as well as launching a new series with the assistance of TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman. For new and old fans of the TMNT, there has never been a better time to check them out.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimate Collection
Written and Illustrated by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
IDW Publishing, 2012-2013
Vol. 1. 2012. 320 pp. 978-1613770078, hardcover
Vol. 2. 2012. 272 pp. 978-1613770887, hardcover
Vol. 3. 2012. 288 pp. 978-1613771389, hardcover
Vol. 4. 2013. 248 pp. 978-1613774960, hardcover
Vol. 5. 2013. 204 pp. 978-1613775530, hardcover
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works
Vol. 1. 2013. 308 pp. 978-1613776254, hardcover
Vol. 2. 2013. 256 pp. 978-1613777633, hardcover

If you’re looking for graphic novels featuring the original TMNT, look no further than the hardcover Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection. The 5-volume set is a reprint of the original books created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that started it all. IDW Publishing is also the home of other hit 80s properties including GI Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony, so the TMNT feel right at home there. The Ultimate Collection books are all hardcovers in a 12 ½” x 8” oversize magazine formats (the size of the first few original TMNT issues) and are in black and white like the original books. They include only the issues to which the original co-creators contributed. You’ll notice, for example, that in volume 3, the issues collected are issues #12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 21. In the early days of the Turtles, Eastman and Laird did everything, including not just the writing and art but running the company, handling publicity, and more. To help break up their workload, fill-in stories were created by other creators for alternating issues. IDW Publishing is also releasing the comics written and illustrated by other creators, including Jim Lawson, Michael Dooney, and others, in a series of graphic novels called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Classics as well as Tales of the TMNT. IDW Publishing has recently reprinted the same editions in full color with the added title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics: The Works. Currently only two volumes are available but, others will be coming out over the next few months.

The Turtles’ personalities are all there right from the get-go, and they have pretty much stayed the same over the years in the various media. Leonardo is the leader of the group and uses the katana swords as his main weapon; Raphael is the tough guy of the group who prefers to work alone and uses the sais as his main weapons; Michelangelo is the fun-loving goof who wields the nunchaku; and Donatello is the inventor of the group who prefers to use the bo staff as his weapon of choice. Younger readers may be shocked when the villain known as the Shredder (Oroku Saki), the enigmatic leader of ninjas called the Foot Clan, dies in the first issue of the book! In a way, Eastman and Laird set him up as a disposable villain, but he proved to be so popular that even though he never officially came back from the dead (he did appear as a clone once), his presence was felt throughout the original series and he is still the main antagonist for the TMNT in the current comic books, animated series, and more.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles – ongoing current series
Written by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz. Illustrated by Kevin Eastman, Dan Duncan, and Ben Bates.
IDW Publishing 2012-
Vol. 1: Change is Constant. 2012. 104 pp. 9781613771396.
Vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New. 2012. 104 pp. 9781613772881
Vol. 3: Shadows of the Past. 2012. 104 pp. 9781613774052.
Vol. 4: Sins of the Father. 2013. 104 pp. 9781613775684.
Vol. 5: The Krang War. 2013. 104 pp. 978-1613776407
Micro Series Vol. 1. 2012. 104 pp. 9781613772324.
Micro Series Vol. 2. 2012. 104 pp. 9781613774151.
Secret History of the Foot Clan. 2013. 104 pp. 978-1613776094.

Though there have been various other relaunches of the TMNT, when the hit property came to IDW Publishing in 2011, it was a good time to start over. The revived series debuted in 2011 in single issues, with an initial creative team consisting of TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman, who collaborates on the plot and the page layouts; Tom Waltz, who scripts the series; and Dan Duncan, who handles finished art. The series starts back at square one with a slightly tweaked origin for the Turtles but stays true to the core idea of the TMNT from their original comic book adventures. The turtles are now sea turtles at the lab of Baxter Stockman, a successful genetics engineer. April O’Neil, a friend of the turtles, is once again a prominent part of the series and works for Baxter Stockman. In a fun twist, April is the one who names the turtles as babies, and she also names Splinter the rat. In the new series, three of the turtles are raised by Splinter. Raphael grows up alone, and there’s also a cat humanoid villain named Old Hob. The Shredder is once again a growing threat in this series but remains an elusive phantom until volume 3.

It should be noted that both of the collections are better suited for readers age 12 and up due to plenty of action, violence, and the occasional death. For younger TMNT fans, don’t worry—IDW Publishing has you covered with their reprints of the Archie Comics stories based on the original TMNT animated series called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures as well as a new ongoing comic book series based on the hit Nickelodeon animated series called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures. The first issue of that series debuted as a 2013 Free Comic Book Day giveaway and a new ongoing series was just released this week.

It’s safe to say that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are here to stay, between the IDW Publishing comic books, the hit Nickelodeon animated series, and the future film version coming out in 2014 and directed by Michael Bay!

Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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