Friday, 25 April 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (#8 ) Guest Starring Cerebus The Aardvark.

Ah this brings back memories.  This, my friends is how I first came to be interested in Cerebus's adventures.  When the Turtles broke big in the UK (and believe it or not, in the UK, the Turtle's cartoon was censored - the nunchuks edited to look like sticks and the word "Hero" substituted for "Ninja"), a four volume set of the first twelve adventures were released in full colour. This was in 1990 and my sixteen year old self just had to have them as back issue's at my nearest comicbook shop were impossible to get hold of.   The original's were of course in black and white as befitted the Turtles indie comics status, and normally I don't like colour being added to black and white art.  But I have to admit, it's a nicely done job and obviously made the comics more marketable to the wider audience the Turtles were reaching by then.  Although this comic was originally released in 1986, when the Cerebus storyline had left it's fantasy roots far behind, I'm reviewing it now because it obviously fits in during Cerebus's time as a wandering soldier of fortune (The key being the fact he still has his horned helmet at this point).  I think it might be safe to say that if Dave Sim hadn't paved the way (alongside Elfquest another indie comic that started in the late 70's) with a self published  black and white comic, Eastman and Laird might never have made a success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And a world without the Turtles hardly bears thinking about!  So an appearance of our favourite dickish aardvark in issue #8 feels like a tribute to an inspirational work.

It's a somewhat daft and slight little story.  A time travelling bimbo magically transports herself to New York where she meets the Turtles. Then takes herself and the Turtles back in time where they bump into Cerebus, who appears to be under a wizards curse and has to get some magical scrolls from a nearby castle.  That's OK though as the bimbo manages to lose the time travel maguffin to the monster inside the castle, so she, the Turtles and Cerebus team-up to defeat him.  Unfortunately the maguffin gives the baddie the power to disable each one of them, but before he can kill them, the big giant head of the owner of the maguffin arrives like a deus ex machina and sorts everything out by zapping the monster further back in time, giving Cerebus the scrolls he needs, returning the Turtles to 80's New York and taking the bimbo (who is actually his student) back with him to his own time period.  Like the first Cerebus book, it's got it's tongue rammed firmly in it's cheek when it comes to playing with the tropes of  the Conan style fantasy genre and while Cerebus remains his usual, humourless self, the Turtles get to crack wise and kick arse in a thoroughly entertaining manner.

Cerebus actually fits in pretty well with the Turtles artistically, with them all being anthropomorphised, weapon wielding creatures. The same can't be said of the later appearence Cerebus makes in the baffling, Dave Sim penned Spawn comic (which I'll be covering later on).  But on the other hand Cerebus is also something of an odd choice for a starring role in a Turtles comic.  The reason being is that right from the start the Turtles were obviously being aimed at a fairly wide audience of kids and younger teens and as such don't have a lot of depth or subtext at work in their stories.  And by the time this crossover was published, Cerebus was well into the huge Church and State arc, which is a complex satire of the relationship between religion and politics. And very much aimed at older teens and adults.  For every reader like myself who delved into Cerebus and got hooked thanks to his co-starring role here, there must have been many more left totally bewildered by their further investigation into the aardvark's adventures.  I imagine though, the success of the Turtles took Dave Sim by surprise as much as it did their creators and he'd probably never imagined Cerebus being exposed to such a huge potential audience.  Despite their similarities as self published, black and white, indie comics, Cerebus was never, ever going to be a pop cultural icon like the Turtles became.  But thanks at least to this fun little co-adventure I became a much bigger fan of the furry, grey, git than I did the Turtles (and I am still pretty fond of those early Turtles adventures, for the art more than the scripts though) and ended up following him to the (very) bitter end rather than those heroes in a half shell.


  1. Anthropomorphised aardvarks and teenage mutant ninja turtles... the world of comics is a strange, strange place.

  2. Yes, but a fun place as well. It seemed to be a thing in the 80's for anthropomorphic animals in all sorts of comics, don't forget the Jewish mice and nazi cats in Maus. And the Turtles were srot of a spoof, which then got spoofed.. I own an issue of (wait for it) "The Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters", and on TV you got the "Samuari Pizza Cats". Spoofs of spoofs of spoofs, spoofception!