Michelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
Story and Art: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
First Printing: December, 1985
Second Printing: December, 1990
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town, Turtle Santa drove like crazy to not let the kids down. Instead of a sleigh, a truck full of toys, destined to be the presents for good girls and boys. But evil thieves wanted to steal the toys at all costs. Poor, poor Turtle Santa, all hope was lost..”
It’s Christmas time, dudes and dudettes! That means we’re gonna meet up with the Ghost of Christmas Past and travel back to December 1985. At this time, each Turtle brother was given their own single “micro series” (one full size issue). Today we’re looking at Michelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle because, you guessed it, it’s a Christmas story! Maybe not your typical Christmas tale as there’s gunfire, high speed chases, and mutant turtles…but Gremlins was already a thing so I think it counts.
Michelangelo finds himself taking in the holiday sights and sounds one New York evening when he decides his “disguise” is doing so well he might as well do some Christmas shopping for his brothers. After befriending a stray cat Mikey heads into a local toy store and discovers a toy delivery being hijacked by thieves. Being the admirable hero he is, Mikey intervenes which leads to a high speed chase through the snowy streets of New York. After defeating the crooks and taking control of the truck (now being pursued by police cars) Mikey loses the 5-0 and reaches out to his brothers and April about his day. The Turtles and April decide to dress as Santa and his merry elves as they head to the local orphanage and hand out the stolen toys to every girl and boy for a turtle-y awesome Christmas.
Of course, that is just a brief synopsis of the plot as I don’t want to take away too much. There’s something so incredibly charming about the original Eastman and Laird TMNT run that I just cherish as a fan of comics, art, and storytelling. They’re crude looking yet so earnest and entertaining. Whenever I read an early issue of TMNT I have a smile on my face from ear to ear. And this issue is no different. Michelangelo may not have his party attitude or surfer lingo just yet, but it’s Mikey nonetheless. I love the somber start of this comic, this mutant turtle taking in casual holiday festivities and daydreaming to himself. I loved the panels in the toy store seeing what influenced Eastman and Laird (I see Stormtooper helmets, Han Solo Blasters, and a Fugitoid mask!) .
This comic really nails a Christmas feeling as well as having a bit of everything as a TMNT fan. Eastman and Laird’s art style have a huge influence on this as the snowfall really cuts into their usual gritty black cross hatching and linework. For this review, I read a 2012 IDW reissue with colors by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios. It’s a great alternative look to the issue and though it gives the story a slightly different personality, I still enjoy the classic black and white look of the Mirage comic. I recommend reading both if you can and seeing what you prefer. Eastman and Laird’s writing is tight, as in most of their early comics, and is linear and focused storytelling. It may be nostalgia talking, but I can never get enough of the original TMNT comic run. So if you haven’t delved into any of it, from one fan to another, you should get on that any way you can.
The 2003 television series actually adapted this issue as a Christmas episode titled, “The Christmas Aliens” . The episode does a stellar job adapting the comic. Of course liberties are taken with the violence as it’s a kids show. And the other Turtle brothers are involved slightly more, but overall it’s charming to see this early one shot comic come to life 19 years later!
All in all, I recommend all of the TMNT Microseries issue that ran from 1986-86, but I’ve decided to touch on the Michalangelo issue because of the Christmas season. And I’m glad I did, and I think you’ll be glad you did as well. As Turtlefans, this is a great way to see the roots of where our TMNT came from. And the heart and independence of the comic may even inspire you to go and create your own in some form. Lastly, cracking open this issue in front of a toasty fire with some hot cocoa is a great way to spend the Christmas season. It maybe not be Charles Dickens, but it’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which is something I think we can all agree on being just as close to our hearts.