I’m back to kick off a new week of my Indie Comics Month with a massive new guide for Pledgeonaut Patron supporters of CK. I couldn’t possibly focus on modern independent comics for an entire month without focusing on the comic that started as a humble black-and-white zine and turned into a massive licensing juggernaut whose name is known to nearly every child in America from the 1990s to the present day. Welcome to the first of my guides to those green heroes in a half-shell: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Guide to Mirage Studios Continuity!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Guide to Mirage Studios Continuity
I’ve tackled a few massive guides so far in 2023, but none of them have been a full-on research project full of careful citations like my first Turtles guide!
That is because TMNT’s pre-2010 continuity is a tricky thing. The characters spawned many, many, many comics in their first 26 years of life. However, of those many stories, there is a single spine of storytelling that was consistent throughout their entire life.
We can call that spine of stories “Mirage Studios Continuity” because it begins with Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird’s first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1984) #1 and continues through Laird’s final issues for Mirage on his TMNT: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2001) series after he sold the intellectual property rights to his creations to Viacom in 2009 (having bought out Eastman’s share of the rights over the course of the prior decade).
Laird laid out a singular view of what Turtles stories he considered to be in-continuity in his view as the Turtle’s storyteller in chief. That included his own issues of the 1984 series (as well as four solo one-shots and a “Tales” seven-issue limited series) and a brief 1993 relaunch. He later extended his definition to include a 2004 Tales of the TMNT volume filling in stories in his continuity.
(He’d retract his extension in 2014, but that was hindsight talking – the 2004 series was always meant to be fully in continuity, even if Laird decided later he didn’t like all of it.)
For their part, current license-holder IDW has stuck closely to Laird’s definition when collecting the classic material that spawned the TMNT empire. Laird-penned material from the 1984 series (and those supporting 11 issues) has been collected into a pair of deluxe reprints – one in color, the other in black and white. Non-Laird issues from the series have been less collected, in less-prestigious formats, with a handful of gaps.
The Mirage Studios Continuity includes one major wrinkle: Erik Larsen.
The creator of Savage Dragon took over publishing the Mirage Studios continuity from Eastman & Laird in 1996 with his Highbrow Entertainment imprint of Image Comics. While Larsen licensed the series, his creators Gary S. Carlson & Frank Fosco wrote 23 issues extending the original TMNT continuity in some wild ways. Donatello became a cyborg! Splinter changed species! One of the Turtles took on the title of “Shredder”!
Carlson & Fosco never write a finale to their series, which trailed off with issue #23. When Peter Laird resumed publishing TMNT in 2001 he decided he wasn’t interested in continuing the Turtles from where they left off.
As a result, Laird simple de-canonized the Image Comics run, deeming it to be a potential alternate future that never came to pass. In its place, he set the 2001 series 15 years after the conclusion of the 1993 series and jumped right in. (Those 15 years of unseen continuity were later filled in by Tales of the TMNT (2004)).
That made the Image Comics series a piece of abandoned media for over a decade, although Carlson & Fosco would later handcraft their own bootleg issues #24-25 to resolve their story. However, current licensor IDW colorized the Image run and reprinted it in full, even inviting Carlson & Fosco to finally complete their story (in a different ending than the bootleg version).
(There is also one smaller wrinkle, in that co-creator Kevin Eastman penned some critical TMNT mini-series on his own which Laird may or may note have read. I’ve included a pair focused on supporting character Casey Jones in the guide, because they fit very specifically into the Laird-approved continuity.)
Laird stopped publishing his own TMNT books after his rights sale to Viacom was complete, even though Mirage Studios retained the rights to print up to 18 issues a year. He would later return to his continuity to published two final issues to wrap up his stories in 2014 and 2015. Then, in 2021 he officially dissolved the Mirage group of companies – assuring that his time publishing Turtle stories had truly come to an end.
After Laird’s 2001 run concluded, IDW began to publish a new run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set in an all-new continuity. This widely-beloved, widely-acclaimed run is a terrific read that is still continuing today, and IDW collects it in some of the best-organized and most-beautifully-produced collected editions in all of mainstream comics.
Want instant access to this guide as you eagerly await the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem movie coming this summer?? Become a Patron of CK for $1.99 a month or $20.30 a year to gain access to every one of these 69 exclusive guides!
Exclusives for Crushing Cadets ($1/month): 39 Guides!
DC Guides (6): Batman – Index of Ongoing Titles, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Hal Jordan, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner, Omega Men
Marvel Guides (26): Adam Warlock, Alpha Flight, Angela, Beta Ray Bill, Black Cat, Blade, Captain Britain, Dazzler, Domino, Dracula, Elsa Bloodstone, Emma Frost – White Queen, Gamora, Heroes For Hire, Legion, Marvel Era: Marvel Legacy, Mister Sinister, Sabretooth, Spider-Ham, Star-Lord, Thunderstrike, Valkyrie, Vision, Weapon X, Werewolf by Night, X-Man – Nate Grey
Indie & Licensed Comics (7): Brigade, Lumberjanes, Princeless & Raven The Pirate Princess, Savage Dragon, ShadowHawk, WildCATs, WildStorm Events
Exclusives For Pledgeonauts ($1.99+/month): 69 Guides!
All of the 39 guides above, plus 30 more…
DC Guides (16): Animal Man, Aquaman, Books of Magic, Catwoman, Doctor Fate, Flash, Harley Quinn, Houses & Horrors, Infinity Inc., Justice League, Justice Society of America, Mister Miracle, Nightwing, Outsiders, Suicide Squad, Swamp Thing
Marvel Guides (13): Darkhawk, Falcon, Gwenpool, Hellcat – Patsy Walker, Kang the Conqueror, Loki, Power Pack, Red She-Hulk, Sentry, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Venom
Indie & Licensed Comics (1): Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Mirage Studios Continuity
Leave a Reply