The Failure of Media Preservation and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT Media Preservation Featured Image

Media preservation is broken, and we need to discuss what that means.

Some of you may have heard about the recent shutdown of ROM sites LoveROM and LoveRetro—places to get “pirated” video games—but what you may not know is that these sites are often the last bastion of availability for the games they host. Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima series, has special hardware to make sure that his first game (Akalabeth) is running at all times, simply because there is no guarantee anyone would ever bother preserving it. I’m sure there are mirrors that will pop up, but the truth is I don’t know if everything was kept. I don’t know whether there’s a special significance to anything that might have been lost. None of us do, not yet. The importance of art isn’t discovered in its own time. Poring over that material with the backing of time and a broader understanding of context that we don’t have in the present is the job of researchers and historians, and they can only work with what they have. Why do you suppose archaeologists are so happy when they find a clay pot?

Star Wars is naturally the most famous example of poor preservation in pop culture. Due to aspect ratio changes, not even the original VHS copies are accurate representations of the films; the only place a print of the original film stock was preserved is in the Library of Congress. Of course, part of the problem with Star Wars preservation is that George Lucas was and is notoriously disdainful of the original version, preferring the special edition’s corrections and changes to the original releases. And no, I have no idea why Disney (and 20th Century Fox) hasn’t released the original versions of the first three films.

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Restored prints do make their way around, though.
My issue with these decisions made by corporations or individual artists isn’t specifically that they have their thoughts and opinions on their work. My issue is, quite simply, a matter of availability. I’ve already discussed how I despise the idea of a rare book, and how I feel that limited editions do nothing but punish fans who came in late to the party. And when it comes to a digital world, the excuses for these pieces of media being the property of a single library, or avid collectors, are unacceptable.

But I’m not here to talk about video games or film, they’re not my area of expertise. I’m here to talk about comics. I’m here to talk about how one of the biggest media franchises in pop culture has systematically failed to preserve its own history. I’m here to talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

No, really. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the most prolific franchises of the century, and for a long time was under the tight creative and financial control of Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who wanted to make sure they didn’t end up in a situation similar to Jack Kirby’s, where his creations and artistic contributions were not under his control, downplayed, or he was simply not given proper financial recompense. Even with their tighter authorial control, huge amounts of what they published under the Mirage Studios banner hasn’t been archived in an easy-to-find, readable way, which is horrifying. I’ll explain what I mean by showcasing the severe lack of availability of the “main” TMNT releases, whether it’s from Mirage or others.

The Myriad, Messy Ways of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collections

A note: I will be discussing things that are available both currently in print and available in other formats. It’ll become relevant later. Trust me.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 1)

TMNT Preservation Volume 1
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

There are four volumes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the first is the most famous of the lot. Issue one was published in May of 1984 and ran for 62 issues (plus four one-shots that are integral to the plot). And you can’t read most of them, even if you go back to reprints from the ’80s and ’90s. A number of the issues you can read are colorized, with no means of seeing an untouched version of the art. It’s a bit like saying I could read every issue, but only with three different Snapchat filters on.

TMNT Preservation Volume 1 Snapchat

Part of the problem is that guest writers and artists have been unable to reach licensing agreements, and the licensors, in general, have de-emphasized the importance of non-Eastman/Laird stories. This is best shown by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection series, reprinting only Eastman and Laird collaborations (and their occasional solo efforts) from that time period. Included in the Ultimate Collection‘s first five volumes are:

Issues #1-12

Raphael, Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello one-shots

#14-15

#17

#19-21

#48-62

But let’s combine that with other releases. Mirage reprinted issues #1-29, 31, 35-36, and the four one-shots in black and white, but those are also all out of print. IDW also offers a fair few of the missing issues in color, though not in order, leaving only two issues unavailable in any format, as far as I can tell. So, let’s tally that up:

Original Format, In Print: 58% (Missing #13, 16, 18, 22-47)
Original Format, Out of Print: 78% (Missing #30, 32-34, #37-47)
Colorized, In Print: 97% (Missing #30, 41)

On paper, that’s not bad. In practice, you’d need Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volumes 1-6, TMNT Collected Book 2-7, TMNT: Soul’s Winter, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volumes 4-7 to hit that 97%, and I promise you that trying to put that nonsense in order so you can just read it could involve flipping between as many as three different books at a time. And it still wouldn’t be the whole thing.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Short Stories

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Mirage’s TMNT released a number of short stories over the years, many of them by creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. The only site I found that attempted to catalog Mirage’s short stories is run by someone with ties to movements that I have no interest in getting near, but even before I knew the person who ran the site, I have no idea whether it was a complete work or not. I’d really prefer an additional secondary source that’s not run by someone the Nazis are cool with.

That said, Volume 6 of the Ultimate Collection does have a selection of short stories by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. It also excludes a few, such as “Old Times,” originally published in Plastron Cafe #1. A rare solo effort by Peter Laird (one of only two, I think, and the fact that I don’t know is exactly why I’m writing this article), its exclusion is not only baffling, it’s outright worrying. Whether it’s an oversight, a mistake, rights issues, or it simply wasn’t viewed as important enough, that’s just strange.

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Plastron Cafe #1 – “Old Times,” pages 6-8. Written and penciled by Peter Laird

But on top of that, the majority of TMNT‘s short output from other creators are not reprinted for reasons unknown. I can’t even give you the percentage on what’s available, because the short stories that have been reprinted are minimal and as I’ve said, I can’t find the exact number of short stories that were published in the first place.

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 1)

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The Collected Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Cover by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

A secondary book of seven issues, this one presents a baffling conundrum. At only seven issues, this series was given a full collection back in 1989, complete with a short story. This is the copy I own. There is another black and white reprinting in 2007, but it contains a new short story (while not including the old one) and replaced the splash pages that open each issue with new ones. The new splash pages lead to an epilogue which, to my knowledge, caps off the entirety of the TMNT timeline.

When IDW went to reprint Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they did so in color and utilizing only the original splash pages—not even relegating the 2007 splash pages and epilogue to a bonus feature.

Original Format, In Print: 0%
Original Format, Out of Print: 100%
Colorized, In Print: 100%, with the exception of the 2007 re-issue’s splash pages and epilogue.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2)

Credit where credit is due: this 13 issue series got a full reprint. It was in color, reprinted in color, and to my knowledge, there were no changes when it was reprinted. For the sake of you who might not know where it is, and God knows it’s hard to find out, it’s reprinted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volumes 8-10. While the volume numbers on the reprints don’t indicate the contents, this is honestly the best we’re going to get in this article.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2) #1-5
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2) #6-9
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2) #10-13

Original Format, In Print: 100%

Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 3)

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 3) – Urban Legends Issue #5

This series was published by Image Comics, not Mirage Studios as the preceding volumes were. It went on for 23 issues, and I know very little about it—it sold poorly and didn’t finish its story, though two fan-produced issues (with support from the original creative team, as well as Kevin Eastman) allowed an ending to the series. These issues were made available in an incredibly limited number of physical copies, but are very easy to find in PDFs. While I had originally heard it dismissed as nothing but Image’s typical schlock, the series has been given a critical re-evaluation over the years due to its harkening back to the earlier, grittier days of Mirage’s TMNT, and some of its plotlines served as intriguing stories in their own right. While that shift is new, which is very much the point of why these things should be preserved, it is currently being re-published in color as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends. It will also include three new issues by the original team to finish off the story, though I’m going to take the easy bet that the fan produced issues will not be included in any reprints of the series. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

Original Format, In Print: 0%
Colorized, In Print: Ongoing

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 4)

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 4) – #20

In 2000, Peter Laird returned to the Turtles for a continuation of the events of Volume 2, rendering Volume 3 non-canon. Over the course of 14 years, he produced 32 issues with artist Jim Lawson. It was independently published, had a varied page count, and the circulation was limited: all total, it was over 1,000 pages. It was never released in trade format of any kind, and Peter Laird has stated repeatedly that he has no idea if he will ever finish the series. He has also stated that he does not believe (and considering what little he’s done with the series since the sale of TMNT, I suspect he currently does not care enough to check) that IDW has the right to reprint the series at all, leaving the work even further out of reach.

Original Format, In Print: 0%
Original Format, Out of Print: 0%

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2)

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Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2) – Issue #41

Running from 2004 to 2010, this 70-issue anthology series covered any area of the Turtles’ lives that the writers wished. I can say very little about it, as I’ve had no real ability to read it. From what I understand, due to the sale of the Turtles to Viacom, the series had no proper conclusion. IDW has tried reprinting the series, with mixed success—they published 25 colorized issues over eight volumes, and never released any further volumes. Recently, they released an omnibus that includes the entirety of Volume 1 and the first eight issues of Volume 2, still all in color.

Original Format, In Print: 0%
Colorized, In Print: 35.7%. Ongoing.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Newspaper comic)

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Newspaper Strip – 01/09. Year unclear.

This series was produced for seven years, largely by Mirage Studio mainstays. It has never seen any kind of re-release that I am aware of. Any other information I could find out about the strip and its contents is contradictory and unclear.

Original Format, Out of Print: 0%

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)

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Season 1, Episode 24 – “Lone Raph and Cub”
A seven-season animated series produced by 4Kids, this series adapted a number of Mirage comics while giving its own spin to the story and a more cohesive throughline. It is very much a Peter Laird creation, as he was the most hands-on executive producer you will ever see, and in my opinion, it is his definitive version of the Turtles. There were 156 episodes, a made-for-TV movie (Turtles Forever), and a number of shorts. I don’t know what that number was, but at least more than 18. None of these are in print anymore, and the original DVD releases were missing at least 3 seasons worth of content, to begin with. These DVDs also included making-of material, which is also effectively lost.

A couple of special notes: Turtles Forever was released in the US on DVD, but it was released in 4×3 rather than its intended 16×9, and also had several minutes of footage cut. There was also a website included over 1,600 pieces of production art throughout the series, including material that never made on screen. The website is gone.

Original Format, In Print: 0%

Original Format, Out of Print: 6 seasons out of 7 (Missing movie, several shorts, a web-serial, and the entirety of Season 7)

More Turtles, More Problems

There are a number of other things—like the Japanese OAVs, Mirage staff short stories, crossovers, jam comics, and I’m quite certain more that I’m utterly unaware of—that are simply not available in any legal format, while a few (such as Kevin Eastman’s Bodycount) are being released by IDW. Going through all of them would take an amount of research an actual historian would undertake—and I am not that.

Fortunately, not all TMNT material is lost. All six theatrical movies, Volume 2, the 1987 series, its comic book tie-in, the 2012 TV series, and IDW’s trade paperbacks of their version of the Turtles (provided you get the Complete Collections, which along with their Transformers and G.I. Joe Complete Collections are the most comprehensive trade collections of any comics company I’ve ever seen) have all been released in relatively easy-to-collect formats. When you compare this to the wealth of material that has been lost, and its significance to its creators and consumers, this isn’t much of a comfort.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was sold for $60 million back in 2009, and the 2018 cartoon series is just getting started. It is a thriving property, and “cowabunga” alone is enough to bring the Turtles to mind in most Americans. But when you look at all that’s lost, even if it may exist in some form, it’s horrifying. We don’t know the artistic significance of the uncollected Volumes 3 or 4. We don’t know the artistic significance of Volumes 1 or 2. We don’t know the significance of any artist, any story, without the benefit of hindsight—hindsight that sometimes can only be created by what exists on the hard drives of avid collectors, the ones who horde media like the preppers for a nuclear war horde water.

What We Have to Lose (and What’s Already Gone)

This isn’t okay. Again, art is not discovered in its time. Partly because it takes time for things to be sifted, partly because we don’t know how it influences people, partly because we don’t know how it influences culture. Carl Barks wasn’t known for decades, so his work went relatively unexamined, just enjoyed. When fans tracked him down and the breadth of his work became public knowledge, we could not only track how he inspired people, we could track who inspired him, and have a better understanding of the history of the medium. And our ability to track recent art isn’t limited to comics and television: we don’t even know the date that Super Mario Brothers was released for the NES here in the States.

While I’ve discussed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in depth, it’s hardly the only work in popular consciousness or from distinguished creators that is currently lost. Let me show you some material that is unavailable to the public, whether it was destroyed, locked in a creator’s vault, or lost for legal reasons.

  • Will Eisner’s Hawk of the Seas
  • The Batman – The fullscreen version is available, but it was originally produced in 16:9. I have seen it streaming on Netflix, but never available in any other format.
  • Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog (500+ issues) – Even when they were publishing it, the series was poorly collected. Now, it is likely lost to legal limbo.
  • A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001) – There were several cutscenes in the North American release, and it was not aired or put on DVD in widescreen.
  • Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s romance comics
  • Mickey Mouseworks – While all but two shorts were repackaged to be shown as part of Disney’s House of Mouse, that series is also lost.
  • DuckTales (1987) – While available on iTunes, some scenes are edited.
  • Disney’s The Little Mermaid TV series
  • Doctor Who – The BBC burned years of footage because they had no dedicated archival department. Some episodes were recovered. Many were not.
  • Dexter’s Laboratory – “Dial M for Monkey – Barbequor,” due to complaints about The Silver Spooner. “Dexter’s Rude Removal” – An unaired short that was released on YouTube but never aired on television. The short is now gone from YouTube completely. Also missing is Ego Trip, the finale movie to the series and long-form directorial debut of Genndy Tartakovsky.
  • Mickey Mouse ’90s strips – Written and drawn by numerous Disney veterans, including Floyd Norman. I was only able to find one library in the country that even had the newspapers it was printed in.
  • Love’s Labours Won – It even happened to Shakespeare. We don’t know if the play is real. We don’t know what happened to it. Take a moment and reflect on that, please.
  • Watchmen RPG – Written with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, giving context and additional bits of information to the story. Currently out of print.
  • The source code for almost every NES, Sega Genesis, and SNES game, many of which were stored on paper. And at least one studio’s archives, unsurprisingly, caught fire.

I know there’s more. Things that I didn’t include that I know about. The list would go on too long if I did. But even if I didn’t care about the length, I can’t list the entirety of what I’m familiar with for exactly the same reason I wrote this article: they’re lost. For all the things that I know are gone or are in danger of being lost, it’s nothing compared to what’s already gone.

I wonder what else just had its last copy thrown away or deleted while you were reading this article.


If you want to read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, here’s my best suggestions for how to do that without breaking the bank—that means the stuff that’s in print, even if it’s not necessarily in its original format. Maybe they’ll see that the interest for the originals is there. (The links are affiliate links.)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 1)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection Volume 1
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection Volume 2
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection Volume 3
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection Volume 4
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection Volume 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 2
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 3
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 4
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 6
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 7
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Legends: Soul’s Winter by Michael Zulli

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Short Stories

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Ultimate Collection Volume 6

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 1)

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Omnibus Volume 1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 8
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 9
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 3)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Urban Legends Volume 1

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Volume 2)

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Omnibus Volume 1
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 3
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 4
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 5
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 6
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 7
Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 8

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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Year One – About Exclusive Stories

I really didn’t think I’d ever have to type an article that said “Stop punishing new fans.” Again. Yet here I stand with a copy of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Year One and a brand new problem: a story only included in this deluxe, out of print, hardcover edition.

Getting this was a journey, let me tell you…

Continue reading “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Year One – About Exclusive Stories”

Showing off the Shelves 900 – I’m Going to Die Buried in Books

900 trade paperbacks. Inventorying them has been a slow nightmare – if you like, you can take a look at the document. Just know that I’ve only just started on the Ms. But 900 is an interesting milestone for me. I’m proud of it, but it feels like a stepping stone towards 1,000. A lot of my life has felt like that recently – the beginning of the right direction.

 

 

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Marvel’s A-section is intense.
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I notice my Batman collection is looking a little weak… I think I’ll see what I can do about the Knightfall saga. That mostly came out in trade recently.
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Jerry Ordway does one hell of a Perez impression if you give him a chance. Check out that Brave and the Bold arc, it’s fantastic.
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The Absolute Edition of The Dark Knight Returns means I own The Dark Knight Strikes Again, but don’t hold that against me.
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On top of Dick Tracy is quite literally the only comic I get in single issues anymore.
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From the time the final Don Rosa box set shipped to the time it arrived at my house, I was so anxious with anticipation that people thought something was wrong.
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I’ll be talking about Garfield in another article. It’s worth the read.
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Marvel has not released one of the volumes from the Dennis O’Neil runs of Iron Man, and has not released one of the volumes from the second Michelinie/Layton run. I needed people other than me to know that.
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JSA’s third omnibus will be met by the rest of its triplets soon enough. I just hope the shelf doesn’t give out.
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The difference in Zelda adaptations is really quite stunning. Both are remarkable, but it’s night and day.
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Mary Perkins is spectacular. I can’t wait to read the rest.
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The Order of the Stick is the most bafflingly ordered thing I’ve seen in quite some time. 0, 1, 2, -1, 3, 4, D, 5, 1/2. Swear to God.
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Gifts from loved ones, and Pokemon manga.
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Of course the morpher is by the Power Rangers section.
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Two Absolute Editions right next to each other, even if one of them is an Absolute Edition by another company, makes me quite happy.
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I pre-ordered Spider-Girl before it had even been announced. I really want the rest of this series to be published. Maybe I should write about that soon.
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Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson worked brilliantly together.
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Suicide Squad, Golden Age Superman, and Superman Exile are the omnibuses on their sides. But amongst the rarities, it’s Super Mario Adventures that I treasure most on that whole shelf.
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Ninja Turtles books – oversized and on their sides by necessity, but remarkable nonetheless.
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I’m one of about… one people, I think, who likes George Wunder’s art more than Milton Caniff’s. Which is comparing cuts of diamond, really.
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I already wrote the Ultimate Spider-Man article, but getting the correct formatted ones will take time.
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This shelf has a lot of work that I consider to be beautiful. Full of hope and optimism and light. And I include Watchmen specifically in that.
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I remember every story for how I got every book on this shelf. I remember it for every shelf. I’m proud of that.
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That gap of unused space will fade away so very quickly. Maybe even in the next few days. … that just means there’s more space to grow in to, isn’t there?

I’ve recently gotten jobs writing fiction, something I arguably should be doing instead of writing this. I will be doing it after I finish this draft. But my dad said that if he didn’t budget himself the pleasure of a game of golf (at a local $30 per 18 hole place, mind you, this wasn’t a country club kind of deal), there was no point in getting through the week. The same, I think, is true of time. Working on things that I don’t get paid for but satisfy me creatively is what allows me to be a complete person, even if I’m still growing.

The jobs are ghostwritten, but honestly, it’s better for a starting writer than desperately begging a publisher to read my work. It does mean I have until the end of the year to write more words than Return of the King, but hey – at least I don’t have to edit them. … I wonder if they’d give me that job. I think I’ll ask once I’ve gotten through with the rest. The next deadline for 20,000 words is Monday at 12:00PM… and I suspect I’ll be turning it in like every college paper I ever wrote, at 11:59. But I’ll get better. I wrote my first completed piece of fiction in my adult life, didn’t get stiffed on the payment, and I’ve got so much farther to go and paths already laid out for me.

… weirdly, it feels good to write that. I think. That’s been a lot of how I’ve been feeling. Like I’m making progress, and I should be proud of that progress. That’s not how my head worked for a long time.

I built my own computer, something I’ve never done before. A Raspberry Pi, no less, because when you think “Build your first computer” your brain will obviously go straight to trying to get multiple OSes running on a Linux box. I’m still part way through that, in part because I’m navigating an undocumented LAN because why, I think my dad figured, would he have to document something when he knew it all in his head?

Damnit, dad.

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Behold the Viewing Globe.

The Pi, which I have named The Viewing Globe, will serve as a Netflix box on the first widescreen TV I’ve ever owned for myself, as well as an emulation machine. Add that to the Switch and I’ll have most every game I could ever ask for… except for Kingdom Hearts 3. For that, I will be bogarting my brother’s PS4. And that’s got to be easier than trying to run the Command Prompt using Linux tutorials. I’m seriously going to print out cheat sheets once I get the thing completely finished.

Anyway. My dad had always built computers for me, either from scratch or by helping to make sure that my rig was properly set up software-wise. This is a new and pretty painful experience, not just because I’ve used the Command Prompt more than I have since I was three years old and waking my parents up at 4AM because I forgot how to get to Reader Rabbit Teaches Typing. I’m second-guessing myself every step of the way.

I’ve said throughout this experience, to myself and others, that I don’t know what I’m doing. But that’s not true. I do know what I’m doing. I’m just not as good as he was, mostly because he was working with computers for about 15 years longer than I have been alive. That wasn’t the path I chose. I can listen to someone talk about DBA work and keep up with a funny story about IT, the kind where you need some knowledge of SQL and networking to get the joke, but I’m not fluent in speaking the language. My dad told stories all the time, and I asked to hear them as often as possible, hoping I could understand them well enough to repeat them with all the technical terms. For the most part, I can’t. He was the one who could really tell the story, and my efforts are pale imitations. Earnest, but pale nonetheless.

That’s what’s going through my head as I try to get three operating systems working on one machine to handle regular desktop Linux work, video, and emulation. Turn by turn of the ridiculously tiny screw with my thumb, because I couldn’t find my dad’s old screwdriver set, I hear fragments of what he used to say and hurt because I can’t remember more.

Damnit, dad.

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I found it too late.

I used stickers I never thought I’d end up using, because I’m the horrible kind of person who saves his Elixirs in Final Fantasy until the end of the game because what if I need them?

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These stickers are six years old. I can’t hide behind saying I was waiting for the right time to use them. I just finally felt comfortable doing it.

I’m traveling more. More does mean once every few months, but it is more. The world feels more open now. Less like something meant to suffocate me. Anxiety’s a bitch like that, bearing down on me for so long. But it means new places, new opportunities. New experiences that help me see what kind of person I really am, and that I don’t hate it as much as I thought.

Each of these things represents a step forward towards the life I want, where the craft that I’ve said so often is the only thing I’m good at (and yes, friends of mine reading this article will disagree, but I promise you I’m not joking) is the thing I do most with my life. Writing is what I love. Writing is all I’ve got.

Those 900 trade paperbacks represent a step towards the kind of place, the kind of life, that I want to live. Because one day, if things go as they are, I’ll have twice as many, and it won’t be tucked so tight as they are right now. They’ll have as much room to breathe as I will.

As I was editing this article, I was struck with a moment of urgency that I still don’t quite understand. I took the majority of the trade paperbacks I own that aren’t going to be fully collected (the sole volume of Superboy, for example) and boxed them up, to be sold at a later date. At the time, I’d raised my number to 904. Now, it’s 832: 83 have been boxed up (and I’ve gotten more since I finished that project), and it was painful. Given the opportunity, I would buy completed versions of these series, and if they ever start re-releasing them I will. I really don’t know why I was struck by the need to do it. Maybe I’m finding a clarity and focus I didn’t have before. Maybe the space issue was bothering me. I honestly don’t know. But the sweat and tightness in my stomach, the anxiety that comes from getting rid of anything, will eventually subside. I’ll start to breathe again, and I’ll keep building.

I’ve talked about the steps I’ve made moving forward, but in doing so I inadvertently remembered a place that I started from. I recently found some cheap copies of the JSA omnibuses – turns out the paperback versions don’t have everything, which is ten kinds of frustrating – and I realized that it was The Lightning Saga, a crossover between Justice Society of America (2007) and Justice League of America (2006) that caused me to start focusing on trades to begin with. My dad and I had just gotten back into comics when it was published, and a story that required us to switch between two titles each month in order to read it was new and irritating. It was the last push I needed to focus on trades. Seeing my dad’s collection of single issues that he couldn’t read due to their value and the difficulty of inventorying them had started it, but this sealed it. I kept buying single issues along with my trades, because conversations with my dad were worth checking wikipedia for whatever obscure reference the story was hinged on. I only stopped when I had no one to talk to about them anymore.

… thanks, dad.

900 is a stepping stone. But I can see where I started from, and I know where I’m going. Maybe for the first time in my life. So from now until a thousand, and long past that, I’ve got work to do. Watch this space, because I’m nowhere near done yet.

Co-Writing a comic with Don Rosa, and acting natural with Summer Glau

Me and Don Rosa at Minnesota Fan Fusion 2018.
Me and Don Rosa at Minnesota Fan Fusion 2018. And yes, the title is real.

Conventions are stressful affairs, fraught with peril and, usually, good things. It’s getting there that’s the trick. I typically attend my local comic conventions, SpringCon and FallCon, which are very specifically comics-oriented. There’s a cosplay section and artist’s alley for people who don’t do sequential art, but it’s almost entirely comics. Bliss, for someone with my particular interests.

Naturally, my favorite writer and artist in the entire world, Don Rosa, wasn’t going to either of those: he was going to Minnesota Fan Fusion – a convention with comics, people who recreate cars and props from TV shows, panels about Szechuan Sauce, and meeting people you pay ten dollars plus the cost of popcorn to see play pretend on a big screen, all of whom should really be a lot taller than they are.

Obviously, I was going. I got my career as a writer started with an interview with him, which was published in the English reprint of The Pertwillaby Papers and later used as the basis of the Greek edition of the book’s special features. The Coin is one of the best comic book stories I’ve ever read. I bought an Artist’s Edition of his work, despite the cost, just to read and admire the linework of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck – knowing it would take two more volumes to complete the saga.

The plan was simple. I would look at the guest list, look at my trade paperback collection, find the stuff they’d done, and ask for a signature (and head sketch from artists, but we’ll get to that later). I’d leave the boxes over at my cousin’s booth, easy as pie. Christopher Priest’s run on Deadpool, even at ten issues, is superlative – the Tom Cruise storyline alone is worth the price of the omnibus. Peter David writes so much I’m not sure the man sleeps. And Don Rosa, well, I have every published piece of his work available in English at this time.

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An Interview with Jeremy Whitley – The Return of Unstoppable Wasp

Co-written with K. Tilden Frost

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Unstoppable Wasp Volume 2 Issue #1 Cover – Art by Gurihiru

The first time Kay and I bumped into the work of Jeremy Whitley was when GeekMom’s Karen Walsh sent Kay’s now-10 year old an autographed copy of the first Princeless trade. She absolutely loved the adventures of Adrienne, and was absolutely speechless when we got to meet Whitley at AwesomeCon. By then, we’d become familiar with Whitley’s work through the Unstoppable Wasp series. There was so much to about Nadia Van Dyne, from her determined, optimistic outlook on life outside the Red Room to her passionate engagement in the sciences. It was heartbreaking when Wasp was canceled; there are so few mainstream comics to share with middle grade kids, especially girls.

After all, Wasp is a gorgeous comic that embraces a diverse cast of girls in STEM, bringing in girls who are Black, Indian, queer, disabled, and sometimes more than one at once. At the same time, the book holds an intense discussion of trauma and its after effects, what it feels like to lose a parent you never knew, and how to create your own life after being controlled by an external force without ever for a second feeling like a morality tale.

These are the kinds of comics I’ve been clamoring for – not just for me, but for kids like Kay’s girls. After hearing about the conversation he and Kay had at the convention, I wanted to have a longer conversation with Whitley about the topics they’d touched on only briefly in Artist’s Alley – middle grade comics, Princeless, Raven, and what he hoped to see in comics going forward. When we heard that Unstoppable Wasp was getting a second volume, it seemed like the perfect time to have a conversation about the comic, and that last piece in particular.

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Showing Off The Shelves – February was WEIRD

Last month was weird. Since my last Showing Off The Shelves, things avalanched. I mean, they avalanched personally, but so did my collection. Three different jobs landed in my lap, all of which can lead to a lot more. My initial acceptance letter to one of them, (before I re-drafted it) was “Wow, I’m happy to do that, but how the fuck did I trick you into saying yes?”

I’m going to start this post off by giving a special thanks to The Nostalgia Zone, the comic book store I frequent most (this is not the mob store I have mentioned in other posts, if you go in there to ask a question the owner won’t say “Who’s asking?”). Thanks to them, I was able to find some remarkable deals. Some of them were things I’d been looking for already, some of them on the edge of my radar, and one big ticket item that I never thought I’d get my hands on.

As it happens, they were having a sale on Groundhog Day. I know I said Don Rosa in Review was in hibernation, but while I won’t be digging into the story in that article, I will discuss what I found: The Don Rosa Artist’s Edition.

20180228_003643 (1536 x 865)

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How To Collect JLA (It’s complicated)

Justice League, historically, has had problems with its collections. The new Justice League International Omnibus printed some pages in the wrong order, for example, and outright omitted some dialogue. This was corrected in the second printing, but I’m glad I cancelled my pre-order anyway. Justice League America (yes, that’s really what the title is, distinct from Justice League of America) is collected in a way that is so convoluted it would require a separate article to explain. Fortunately, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about collecting what many, myself included, believe to be the best version of the Justice League: JLA.

JLA #1

JLA, which is not the same comic as Justice League of America, is the 1997 incarnation of Justice League. The book ran for 125 issues with numerous writers and artists, but Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s run in particular is legendary. Epic in scope and scale, it used iconography to inform their characterization and keep the characters relatable in a way that is similar to the DC Animated Universe. It’s elegant and streamlined, never truly requiring the insistent continuity that can make team books a more difficult read. If something does change within a character’s solo title, you see it, but it isn’t a plot point. Superman is still Superman, even when he’s Superman Blue, and that’s all that matters.

In Morrison and Porter’s run, the art is gorgeous, highly stylized, and a treat for the eyes. But I don’t want to make JLA sound like it’s entirely their effort, because JLA includes iconic stories like Tower of Babel, later (loosely) adapted as the animated movie Justice League: Doom, the Dream Team arc, beautiful pencils from Bryan Hitch and Mike S. Miller, even the reunion of Chris Claremont and John Byrne – a feat that I can only assume required a contractual guarantee that they would never have to be in the same room.

The JLA collections doesn’t have the same problems that other Justice League titles do, but understanding why there are different editions of the same comic and what those differences are took me at least a week. But I eventually figured it out, and I want to share the fruits of my labor so that no one ever has to deal with this nonsense again.

Continue reading “How To Collect JLA (It’s complicated)”