Michael Zulli’s Ninja Turtles!

Michael Zulli produced three frankly disturbing issues of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, right about the same time a Turtle craze swept the nation.

While soccer moms drove minivans full of seven-year-olds to movie theaters to enjoy Secret of The Ooze, artists like Rick Veitch, Michael Zulli, and Jim Lawson subversively created dark and violent stories in the comic book. Originally created by Eastman & Laird to parody Frank Miller and “grim and gritty” comics in general, Ninja Turtles became a showcase for indie comics talents to tell tales they could tell nowhere else.

In the gallery below, you’ll find most of the splash and double-splash pages from Zulli’s Ninja Turtles story. Zulli also co-produced The Puma Blues at nearly the same time. We really love the wildlife artwork in Puma Blues. Problem is, we have no clue what’s going on – even with 2/3 the complete series at hand! The mystical elements of Soul’s Winter similarly require some effort to grasp, but the darkly totemic artwork speaks for itself.

Collector’s Guide:
Zulli’s tale appears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #31, #35, and #36. These three issues plus some additional Ninja Turtles work by Michael Zulli are collected in Soul’s Winter: The Collected TMNT Work of Michael Zulli.

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11 responses to “Michael Zulli’s Ninja Turtles!

  • Wish I Had My Swords With Me! « Mars Will Send No More

    [...] you dig that, check out the far more dark and serious take on the Ninja Turtles by Michael Zulli. Advertisement LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "0"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

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  • ashbet

    Thank you for sharing these images — I have 2 out of the 3 comics (cherished from my teens), and this reminded me that I’d always intended to track down the 3rd . . . and now I’ve discovered it’s been released as a trade, which delights me. I have always found these issues to be riveting and thought-provoking and beautiful, and I’m delighted to finally complete my collection and the arc :)

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    • Mars Will Send No More

      Thank you for the tip, Ashbet! We didn’t realize the collected trade existed until you mentioned it. We updated our post so other collectors will know. “Riveting, thought-provoking, and beautiful” makes a great description of this TMNT story!

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      • ashbet

        Glad to help — and thanks for the inspiration to go looking! :)

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        • Mogo

          Good luck finding an affordable copy of this trade – I looked recently and a used copy hovers over $40 on Amazon and there wasn’t a single copy on Ebay. I was able to track down the original issues on Ebay for much cheaper than any copy I could find of the trade. You can get your missing issue there for around 3 to 4 dollars and shipping. I’m not sure what the additional material from the trade is, though, as that may sweeten the pot

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          • Mars Will Send No More

            You are correct! The trade is quite pricey. What extra goodies lurk in its pages we may never know. We have all the original issues, finding them inexpensively at MyComicShop. We see them go out of stock from time to time. But, it’s easy enough to put them on a Want List there and get notified when they come in.

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  • kandouerik

    Incredible scans! You should do more Ninja Turtle posts. I’ve been going over the series these past few weeks since they released the new TMNT action figures. (Even if the show isn’t good, the figures are really great)

    I feel lucky to have a decent TMNT collection. Original volume, #5, 8 – the Donetello and Leonardo minis. And Peter Laird’s unfinished Volume 4 of the series was incredible. The indy-feel of the Turtle comics never changed, verging on near-sophistication. (And to think it all started as a parody.)

    Right now I’m eyeing a Usagi Yojimbo TPB, Vol 8 Shades of Death, which has the cross-over with the TMNT! I actually even ended up with one of Leonardo’s encounters with Usagi.

    Turtle comics were a bit cheaper a few years ago, when looking through old issues, so I was able to get a surprisingly amount! Unmentionables, the Justice Force issue — and I was recently able to get a very good deal on some TMNT comics, including issue #10 and #11. (The Return of the Shredder!)

    Sorry – I’ve been focusing a lot, revisiting the issues I have, as I recently jumped onboard the new IDW series. TMNT is one of those series that, to my surpise as an adult, I found the Ninja Turtles seemingly grew up with me, finding more mature stories. (I only got into the real comics sometime after the 2000 Fox Animated series, which did the franchise justice on so many levels. So from my perspective I was now discovering how deep the original TMNT comics where.)

    As for this story – I actually have the TPB. (I had asked my comic store to get TPB of any early TMNT issues. I was thinking of issues 1 – 20, or so — Winter Souls was not what I was expecting, or asked for; but I ended up buying it – and it is quite beautiful.

    Basic story: It just re-imagines Splinter and the Turtles, uniquely reducing the 4 brothers to a similar status as foot-ninja; but this allowed for a more rival ninja-clan concept. Then throw in a bunch of weird stuff; having all the issues doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll understand it. Zulli is awesome – but very esoteric in his writing.

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    • Mars Will Send No More

      Erik, we’d love to do more Turtles posts, but most of our collection is in paperback form. First the color reprints they did and then the smaller black-and-white collections, plus the first volume of Tales of the TMNT by Lawson. We will eventually spotlight the individual issues we do have that will fit on the scanner.

      #10 Return of the Shredder is a favorite here: that wraparound cover, the huge splash fold-out scene in the shop, Casey Jones kicking ass… Another cool story from around the Winter Souls era: The River by Rick Veitch.

      IDW’s new series lost us from the start. We didn’t see the point of revising the origin and starting all over. Reboot madness seems to have infected everything as the method of bringing on new readers. But, it seems to be working – we’ve heard nothing but positive reviews from the fanbase. Plus, they reprinted the original 11 issues and one-shots from the 1980s. Nice touch.

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  • TMNT Classics Vol 1 « issuesmcr

    [...] (Find out more about Zulli’s interpretation of the Turtles here.) [...]

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  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #10 | Mars Will Send No More

    […] blend they would maintain through the Return to New York storyline. Soon, Jim Lawson, Rick Veitch, Michael Zulli, Steve Bissette, and many more independent artists would all do incredible things with these […]

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  • Puma Blues: Wildlife Art by Michael Zulli! | Mars Will Send No More

    […] the artwork of Michael Zulli. Zulli drew some of our favorite Ninja Turtles pages in the story Soul’s Winter, taking those silly cartoon characters and imbuing them with a totally different, darker spirit. […]

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