Here’s a brief summary of what happened with Mirage after they stopped publishing TMNT comics in 1995. Kevin Eastman bought the semi-erotic science fiction comic magazine Heavy Metal and moved to Los Angeles to focus on that. He also launched a new, live-action TV show, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, in association with Fox and Saban. The new show was actually the ratings leader in its time slot but was cancelled after its lone season, 1997/1998. Playmates finally stopped producing TMNT toys in 1999. With the end of the Image Comics series in 1999, the Turtles were basically dead.
Surprisingly, even without TMNT projects to keep them together, most of the Mirage artists remained in Massachussets, working on various independent projects at the Mirage Studios facility. In 2001, Eastman sold his share of the TMNT to Peter Laird, who immediately set out to restart the entire franchise. Just like in 1984, his first step was to launch a new comic series, TMNT (just the initials, not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). In spite of the acronym, in the new series the Turtles are no longer teens but rather in their 30s.
Laird writes the series (it’s still in publication) and originally he provided inks and fucking INCREDIBLE tones. Apparently the workload was too much for him because the tones were scaled back after the first couple of issues and now it’s barely there at all, unfortunately. Unlike the classic series, there’s an ongoing narrative but it seems to have dozens of loose ends and frequently hit brick walls. The most interesting story aspect of the new series is that aliens have landed and become a fairly common site on earth, so the turtles are able to walk around in broad daylight.
The new series went on hiatus in 2006 but finally returned last month with a unique distribution plan. New issues are available to read online FOR FREE. Print versions of the new issues are limited to 1,000 copies and cost $10 each. Back before the hiatus, this series was only selling about 4,000 copies per issue. Now that issues are limited to 1,000 copies it almost seems like a vanity project (but I don’t mind).
In a way the main series has almost become a sidenote to the more popular and widespread spin-off series Tales of the TMNT. This series is published on an almost-monthly schedule and is about to reach its 50th issue. Stories published in this series can take place at basically any point in time, meaning sometimes we see little kid Ninja Turtles, sometimes old men, whatever. Indpendent or underground comic creators are given the chance to create issues and sometimes Mirage Studios members take their turn, much like the middle years of the original series.
The current publication regime is much more satisfying than the Archie, Image or Dreamwave runs but in most ways it falls short of the original Mirage run. The main TMNT series is somewhat aimless and the inks really vary in quality. Many of the indie artists hired to work on the Tales of the TMNT series are just not nearly as interesting to me as those that worked on the old series and most of them make little to no attempt to co-opt the “Mirage style”. Still, I generally like and I’m glad it’s around.
Mirage Studios 2nd Generation TMNT Publication History
TMNT #1-29 and counting (2001-present)
Tales of the TMNT #1-46 and counting (2004-present)
Leonardo: Blind Sight #1-4 (2006)
TMNT Movie Prequel #1-5 (2007)
Raphael: Bad Moon Rising #1-4 (2007)
TMNT Official Movie Adaptaton (2007)
- The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Part I: Mirage Studios (1984-1995)
- The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Part II: The Kids’ Stuff – Archie, Welsh, Creators (1988-1997)
- The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Part III: Image Comics (1996-1999)
- The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Part IV: Dreamwave Productions (2003)
- The History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Part V: Mirage Studios Returns (2001-present)