2/5/13

Raphael Issue #1

Comic books are everywhere at the flea market. Most of them are heaped in boxes and boxes of 1990s Image titles with tits and pouches hogging the cover art, or torn and weathered 80s Archie comics that dealers think are worth a ton because 'they are old!', or sometimes...rarely, but sometimes...there's a gem or two buried deep that, if you have the patience to dig around a bit, reward your efforts and cumulative knowledge of modern comic book history.

Case in point: Raphael Volume 1 Number 1:

I found this guy hiding in with a bunch of nineties junk, sealed safely in it's plastic sleeve. Really old TMNT comics (pre 'Turtle Mania' era stuff) rarely pop up at the flea market, and even more rarely are they cheap. I knew right away that this was an oldie, and having dealt with the dealer before I knew his pricing was based on a totally arbitrary understanding of comic book value, so I bundled it up with another comic I wanted and asked 'how much?'

'Oh, that's a number 1 issue, so that one is $2.'

$2?!?! Fifty cents more than 1987 cover price? Ok, I'm not even going to open it or haggle. It's worth $2 even if it turns out to be a re-print or has a torn page or two. I'll take it!

Well, it turns out my investment was well worth it for a number of reasons. The comic is in excellent condition, and while it is a second printing, it contains two stories, one 'new' and one re-printed, involving Raphael and Casey Jones! Two of my favorites!

The re-printed material is the story of Raphael and Casey Jones' first meeting, and I was surprised to discover how closely the original TMNT movie echoed this comic book story.

I was also reminded of how good Eastman and Laird's art could be. Had they not succeeded with the Turtles, I imagine they would still have gone on to be famous in the world of comics as creators for the big two. I almost daresay it is a shame they didn't, and that we don't have some hardcover volume of a gritty Batman story written and drawn by Eastman and Laird next to our Bat-books by Frank Miller and Alan Moore. But I digress.

Finally, and maybe the most fun component of this terrifically fun comic, is the 'Turtle Tracks' note from the author(s) Eastman and/or Laird themselves - wherein we are first informed of the news that a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline and cartoon are well on their way! (Transcribed in full below the pic, because this is just too good not to share!)

"Did you ever have a secret, a really neat one, that you were just dying to tell everyone right away...but you couldn't, because if you let it out too soon it could spoil things? Well, we've been in that quandry since last year - but now we can finally let the turtle out of the bag (so to speak!).

It all started back in August of 1986 when, out of the blue, we got a call from a gent named Mark Freedman, who was calling us because he had been talking to Kevin Siembieda from the Palladium Books role-playing game company; and, as he put it, "fell off his chair laughing" when he heard the name Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...and now he wanted to be our agent for licensing! After a couple of meetings, we were sold...and signed up.

Within an amazingly short period of time, Mark had lined up a potential deal for a major toy line: action figures, vehicles, the works. So we were flown out to sunny La Mirada, California, to meetwith the fine folks at Playmates Toys. Things went well, everybody seemed to think that the TMNT's could be a really nifty toy line, and we returned home with visions of blister-packed TMNT action figures dancing in our heads.

Of course, what's a line of action figures without an animated series backing them up? After a couple of false starts, Murakami/Wolf/Swenson was chosen to be the company that would produce the animation - initially, a five-part miniseries in half-hour episodes. We went west once more to meet with these folks, and were happy to find out that not everyone in Tinseltown is a wingnut - these guys were nice and talented!

So, for the last year these things have been in progress, and if things go as planned, you should see the toys start to appear in stores in February of 1988, and the cartoon series the last week of December (we'll keep you updated as more definite dates come in). As you might well imagine, we were near bustin' at the seams with the urge to tell you all - but in deference to the wishes of our agent and the toy company, we agreed to keep it under our hats 'til now.

What's to come? - well, in the toy line there will be ten action figures to start with: all four turtles, Splinter, April, the Shredder, a Foot Ninja, and two new evil characters - Rocksteady, a mutant commando rhinoceros, and Bebop, a punk mutant wart-hog. (We had a lot of input on the design of these two characters, and they are wild!). Each figure is poseable and comes with a weapons pack. Following these figures will come a redesigned turtle van, a turtle blimp (yeah, it sounds nutty, but wait 'til you see it - it's great!), and the turtles' headquarters playset. Then there's the two-foot high stuffed turtle plush doll, with interactive voice box.

As for the animation, Murakami/Wolf/Swenson has adapted our stories from the first few issues, with some of their own ideas thrown in. You'll see Baxter Stockman and his mousers, the Shredder and the Foot, and an evil aline called Krang who bears more than a little resemblance to the TCRI aliens. The five half-hour episodes stand by themselves as stories, but all come together to make a neat five-part series. We've read all the scriptsseen all the storyboards and concept sketches, heard all the voice tracks, and seen the first two episodes...and they're great!

While all this has been happening, Mark Freedman was not twiddling his thumbs. Two more deals he's lined up are with Random House, which will publish TMNT coloring books (and puzzles and board gamesthrough their subsidiary, The Warren Company); and with Responsive Marketing, for a TMNT fan club. Also on the boards is a full-color, mewsstand distribution TMNT comic book based on the TV series; currently, it looks like Archie Comics will be publishing that, and Michael Dooney will be drawing it.

Lest it seem like we are counting our chickens before they're hatched, let us say that we have our fingers crossed, hoping that everything that is planned (and in production now) will actually happen. But it looks good, and promising, and we're dealing with good people. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if our faithful readers started going around to their local toy stores and started asking them if they're going to carry all the TMNT toys...!"

Wow, just...wow. It isn't every day you get to peek in on the very beginnings of a marketing empire!

I absolutely love that I happened onto this piece of TMNT history! What an incredible glimpse at pre-turtle-mania; the toyline and cartoon are still in the planning stages - it is even necessary to have characters like Krang, Rocksteady and Bebop explained to us because we've never seen them before! Oh, and that turtle blimp? Yeah, you're going to love it!

Even though I love Raphael and Casey Jones and the comic story and art contained in this issue, I think this 'Turtle Tracks' makes the whole issue for me and was well worth $2 alone. I'm loving TMNT toys both old and new more than ever lately, and to be able to glimpse backward in time to a moment when all of it hung in the balance is just too much fun.

9 comments:

  1. That's a nice score! I collect the old Mirage Turtle comics, and I have some of the more recent stuff as well. I would've paid $2 for it, as it's one not currently in my collection. And I agree, I would've paid the $2 just for what you transcribed above. The artwork in the early comics is easily my favorite representations of the TMNT.

    A friend and I also had quite the TMNT score at an auction this past weekend. I put up a little teaser last night.

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  2. I have this one! It's one of my favorites. Raph & Casey going out & doing their vigilante thing is one of my favorite aspects of TMNT.

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  3. It's so cool getting a glimpse into a time when Turtlemania was just getting ready to explode.

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    1. I know, what a neat moment to look back on!

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  4. Excellent find and especially at that price! Pretty great you found a guy who didn't know or much care to charge you a bunch of cash for this one.

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    1. My favorite part of the flea market is the dealers who don't know or don't care!

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  5. Now this was such a sweet find congrats on it Eric.

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