Getting Hooked Part 8: Accidentally Alternative

The book: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8

Bought from: Moonshadow Comics, Portland, Maine

Way, way back in the halcyon days of 1986, I would occasionally convince my parents to let me mail order my comic books from Moonshadow Comics in Portland, which was certainly the first direct market comic book store I had ever encountered, maybe even the first one in all of Maine (the arrival of Bangor's first comic shop, Wizard of Comics, was still a few years off at this point). I eventually stopped using their service, though, when they made what I considered at the time to be an egregious error, and swapped out some crucial books for stuff I didn't order. Sure, I got my issues of Captain America, Marvel Age, and some of the other books I considered essential, but the rest were odd. I should have been reading the first issue of the Howard the Duck movie adaptation, but instead I had this dumb book a lady with clocks on her boobs, a grey, Peter Porker-looking barbarian, and four ninja turtles.

I was appalled. I had never heard of this book, it didn't have superheroes, and worst of all, it was printed in black and white! I mean, honestly. I wanted to return the books and complain, but my parents couldn't be bothered. Funny books were funny books, they said. Defeated, I thumbed through the weird, new comics, tossed them in the stack with the rest of my collection, and promptly forgot about all of them.

About a year and half later, I'm watching TV after school one day, and these guys come on the screen:

And from that first episode, I was hooked. They sure looked different than the ones in that almost-forgotten comic, though. I dug it out to be sure, and while these guys were kid-friendlier than the originals, everything matched up, so I actually read the comic this time, and though it was a very different experience than what I was seeing on TV, it was still pretty enjoyable, even without any color.

A few months after that, Wizard of Comics opened, and they had a whole table of Turtles books out which I descended upon like the cartoon versions on a pizza. Stuff like in-story references to other comics and creator credits in the anthology book Turtle Soup made me curious about other independent books, and now that we had a comic book store in town, I could actually find some of them.

So while purists may have resented the TMNT cartoon - and subsequent merchandising explosion - and thought it was a sell-out move by Eastman and Laird, it sent me off to discover both the original comic book and the world of independent comics as a whole. Come to think of it, it sent me back to those discoveries. Moonshadow Comics tried to get me started earlier, but I wasn't ready yet.

For a while, I was mad that they sent me the wrong books. But in the time since, I've been mad that I never got the chance to thank them for that.


  1. This made me think back to happening upon an issue of "Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters" at the tender age of 13...I think it was a 3D issue at that. That's the best thing about independently-produced entertainment: the way you kind of have to bumble into it via coincidence, and the singular way it insinuates its way into your consciousness. Good entry!

  2. Yeah, the most influential stuff always seems to be the things you only discover when you practically trip over them. And while I liked both the comic book and cartoon Turtles, they were individual experiences, with the former leading me down far different paths than the latter. But there it is again - the cartoon was unavoidable, the comic book the strange discovery.