The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Part II: The Kids’ Stuff – Archie, Welsh, Creators (1988-1997)

After the TMNT cartoon debuted in 1987 it became clear that the property would become the next toy/cartoon/media fad.  Mirage Studios worked out a deal with Archie Comics and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures was born in 1988.  There is a widespread misconception, even among TMNT comics fans, that Archie was the creative force behind this series.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  While Archie handled support functions like distribution, editing, lettering, and coloring, the writing and the art were provided by Mirage Studios.

Things were kicked off with a 3-issue mini-series to test the waters.  When this was successful, a regular series was launched.  Originally, the stories were based on episodes of the cartoon series but with issue 5 of the ongoing series, original stories were used.  Soon, the stories and the tone of the comic veered wildly away from both the cartoon and the indie Mirage Studios series.  Many, many mutants, heroes and enemies were introduced.  The story was a true serial, with most issues leading straight into the next.  There were spin-offs, particularly a new team of mutants known as the Mutanimals who had their own series.

The early days: alternating artists
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TMNT Adventures #7 art by Jim Lawson TMNT Adventures #17 art by Ken Mitchroney

The character development was surprisingly deep, although sometimes cheesy.  Raphael had a long-term relationship with a fox-lady ninja thing.  April started to train under Splinter.  Perhaps the main downfall of tis series was a very, very heavy-handed theme of ecological responsibility which often felt more like preaching than informing.  Early on, the series split art duties between Mirage Studios regulars like Jim Lawson and hand-picked indie guys like Ken Mitchrony, best known for providing the character design for Tiny Toon Adventures.  Writing was provided by Mirage regulars Dean Clarrain and Ryan Brown.  After a few years of this alternating format, Brown left the series and Chris Allan became the (almost) full-time artist on the series. 

Later years: regular creative team
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TMNT Adventures #31 and 38 art by Chris Allan

Another series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Special, was launched.  This series was released quarterly for three years and featured stories by underground artists like Stan Sakai and Don Simpson.  Characters like April O’Neil and Leatherhead received their own mini-series.  By 1995, all things TMNT were winding down and the series was quietly put to bed but not before Archie tried their hand at taking direct control of the series, with poor results.

The spin-offs
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Mighty Mutanimals #2 art by Ken Mitchroney & April O’Neil #2 art by Steve Sullivan

Related comics

In 1990, Welsh Publishing launched a quarterly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Magazine (printed in Des Moines, Iowa, I might add).  Each issue featured a short comic story produced by the Mirage guys that had a tone similar to the Archie series.  This magazine lasted for 13 issues.

Also in 1990, Creators Syndicate began syndicating a nationwide newspaper strip.  Originally, it was produced by the same pool of talent that worked on the Archie series.  The stories were rather serious and attempted to convey serious messages.  After about a year, all responsibilities on the strip were assumed by Mirage regular Dan Berger.  Under Berger the series kept its serial story element but also became gag oriented, a very difficult balance to maintain.  The newspaper strip ended in 1997 and would be the last Mirage-produced TMNT comic material for almost five years.

The newspaper strip
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 art by Dan Berger

Archie Comics TMNT Publication History

Series
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1-72 (1989-1995)
Mighty Mutanimals #1-9 (1992-1993)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Special #1-11 (1992-1994)

Mini-series
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1-3 (1988)
Might Mutanimals #1-3 (1991)
April O’Neil #1-3 (1993)
April O’Neil: The May East Saga #1-3 (1993)
Donatello & Leatherhead #1-3 (1993)
Merdude #1-3 (1993)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Year of the Turtle #1-3 (1996)

Specials
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet Archie (1990)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie II – The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet the Conservation Corps (1992)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Movie III: The Turtles Are Back . . . In Time (1993)

Welsh Publishing TMNT Publication History
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Magazine #1-13 (1990-1993)

Creators Syndicate TMNT Syndication History
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Newspaper Strip) (1990-1997)

  kicknz

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3 responses to “The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Part II: The Kids’ Stuff – Archie, Welsh, Creators (1988-1997)

  1. Do you know how many papers in which the syndicated comic ran? For some reason I remember seeing it, but can’t remember where…

  2. Pingback: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A History Lesson (Part 1) « Sometimes I Always…

  3. Pingback: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A History Lesson | Retro Pop Culture

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