TURTELS1Turtle Soup #1 is a one shot published by Mirage Studios back in 1987. It’s common knowledge that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984, serving as both writers and artists on the initial run of the book. However, when Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was published in 1987, the duo handed over the artistic duties to Jim Lawson and Ryan Browne in order to write full time. What probably isn’t common knowledge is that Turtle Soup #1 is the first TMNT installment not written by Eastman and Laird:

“The book that you now hold in your hands represents an idea which I hope someday becomes commonplace in the comics industry- the concept of having persons other than the creator(s) of a character do stories about that character,” says Peter Laird in the forward on the inside cover. Well, I think Petey is one happy banana because not only is he a wealthy man due to his turtles’ success, but it has become commonplace for writers to tackle characters that they didn’t create themselves.

Turtle Soup #1 is so old school that it’s printed in black and white with ink that was coming off on my fingers as I read the comic, transferring to the virgin keys of my white Macbook while jotting down notes. It was a beautiful fusion of past and present.

A collection of 8 different self contained stories by Steve Bissette, Frank Bella, Stan Sakai, Craig Stormon, Francis Mao, Bernie Shuman, and John Dowling whom write and illustrate their work, Soup isn’t what TMNT fans today would expect from the happy pizza loving foursome. There’s blood, brutality, horny ambitions, and even declarations for people to “die”. I know what you’re thinking; Kick. Ass.

I’d have to agree with you.

The first story entitled Turtle Dreams is presented in the style of the first Turtles movie. Featuring Splinter, Dreams pits the sagacious rat against the essence of night in an all out mental battle a la Professor Xavier on the Astral Plane. Michelangelo has been seriously injured by the evil essence, and if Splinter fails in this battle, Mikey won’t survive.

Pesticide is a short two page story where the turtles take on some roaches, and Rabbit Stewfeatures Leonardo and fan favorite Usagi Yojimbo. In Stew, Leo is somehow transported to Japan and gets jumped by a group of feline samurai. Enter Usagi who is also attacked by a group of pussies. After some cat kicking action, the two warriors end up back to back, thinking each other to be their final enemy. A fight ensues, but I won’t reveal who wins here!

Raph fans will dig The Howl, a four page story where the sai wielding ninja takes on a giant werewolf. In The Showdown Leo displays his hard ass side as he and the turtles literally run into Lucky the Rabbit and his animal pals. The story gets kind of weird as instead of brawling, Leo and Lucky decide on 3 ‘person’ relay race on top of a roof. You know, a tortoise vs. the hare kind of thing? Yeah, it’s weird.

The sixth story, Apparition, is about Donatello bringing his brothers to meet this guy named Sal. Their mission is to take out the local gang who call themselves the Daggerlords. As Don and the crew wait in a dark alley for Sal to join them, a woman’s scream pierces the night’s silence and the turtles’ night goes from odd to freaky.

You’re in the Army Now is a silly story about Leo and Don inadvertently joining the United States Army. The two accidentally get on a bus to Fort Dix in New Jersey which turns out to be an Army training center! The two brothers are put through Basic Training, and while they enjoy the free food, other elements of BT prove to be challenging to the mutants. Yet, when the Army gets word of a potential terrorist raid on an ammo dump, Privates Atello and Nardo are assigned guard duty for the night…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Tortles is the final installment of Turtle Soup, and ‘stars’ Raphael. To begin, the turtles have painted a large canvas portrait of themselves which Raph decides to jump through, destroying the painting. Not surprisingly the other three turtles get pissed at him, and also not surprisingly, Raph gets pissed at them in return, grumbling on his way out, “It’s time I said goodbye to this hole… and hello Hollywood!” That just about sums up the rest of the plot right there. Raph jumps on the wheels of a plane bound for L.A.X., and when he arrives, he enjoys the West Coast sun and signs with Colby Pictures in Hollywood. Now the star of the company, Raph tells the producers and two bodacious babes that he’s an alien from outer space, here to kick back and enjoy Earth. To Raph’s surprise, the ladies turn into alien chameleons and crash his party. Then the Testudons arrive (an alien race of mutant turtles) and combat the chameleon ladies, throwing a wrench in Raph’s movie plans!

Turtle Soup #1 is also packed with pinups throughout the comic (my favorite of which is of one of the turtles completely decked out in warlord gear), and has some quotes worth repeating:

“It’s not the steak, it’s the sizzle!” – Raphael

“Whoever heard of animal samurai?! It’s ridiculous!” – Leonardo

“What the *#@*!!!!! is going on around here!?!” – Donatello

This issue is a must have for any TMNT fan prior to 1990! I have to give a shout out to my good buddy (and fellow Iceman fan) Dan Royer for sending this comic my way. You can check out his kick ass graphic design work over at http://www.myspace.com/danroyerdesign.