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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Key Comics

Okay, this was requested in a comment, and I thought it would be pretty straight forward as in just go down the line with issue #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. However, I got curious and after digging around, it seems these Teenage Mutant Ninja key issues are not as straight forward as I thought. At least, at first they're not.

So, my bad, and I apologize for that.

There are some twists and turns, but for the most part, it's not too hairy after the first few couple of appearances. So this is my attempt at some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles key comics list. Don't know much about this comic or their related comics, so it may take some time.

This will not be in-depth at all, just mainly the first appearances of major characters or villains. Maybe a few semi-important characters will weasel their way into this key issues list, but not many. If you're curious or a fan or whatever, this might be interesting to you. If not, then you can come back after I'm finished, which may take a while.

1st appearance of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1st appearance of Splinter & Origin
1st appearance of Shredder & Foot Clan
Origin of TMNT

Okay, first off, I'm not going to put Gobbledygook #1 nor #2 on here. Those comics are rare, yes, with about 50 in existence for both, but all they have is an ad for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 in them, and I don't consider that a key in terms of TMNT. If you do, then be prepared to slap down some series money for them.

Despite the fact that some sellers out there tried to pimp Gobbledygook #1 as the 1st appearance of TMNT for a while, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 still stands in the market as the first appearance of Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. This comics also tells the first origin of the characters including Splinter and Shredder, both who also make their first appearance in the comic.

Much like the Walking Dead #1 is the bad boy of Modern Age of comics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 is the bad boy of the Copper Age. The turtles became immensely popular during the 90s.

I have no idea why this comic took off or why these characters became so popular, but it did come out the same year as Van Halen's album 1984 and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Must say that was a good year.

Quite a few grew up on the animated series as well. I admit, I did like the first TMNT movie back in the day and read a few of the comics but never got into them as a hardcore fan.

Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, this indie comic published by Mirage Studios started off with 3,000 copies for its initial first print run, so high grade copies are pretty rare out there. 

There are 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th prints for issue #1 as well, and some of the reprints are no slouches in terms of value either.

1st print inside cover and inside back cover ad
So how do you tell these puppies apart since the first, second and third prints have the same cover. Well, let's dig into that since we're on the subject. This should be good.

Okay inside the first print cover (on the back of it) there is no printing info at the top left hand corner.

1st printing does not have that. It just has:

"Art and story by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Special Thanks to Quentin Eastman".

2nd & 3rd prints inside covers for TMNT #1
The 2nd printing is slightly different for the inside cover. It's not hard at all to figure out. The 2nd printing actually states that it is a 2nd printing along with the date of June, 1984 at the top left corner.  

The third printing inside cover does the same thing. It marks that it is a 3rd print at the upper left corner but has the date of February, 1985 just below it. So pretty easy.

Also, the inside back cover has two different advertisements for the 1st and 2nd printings. The 1st printing has an ad for Gobbledygook #1 and #2. The 2nd and 3rd printing both have an ad for t-shirt iron-ons. Yes, t-shirt iron-ons of the TMNT characters.

Look at the pics to see what I'm talking about. You can click on them to see the enlarged versions. So pretty simple to find out which print you're getting.

4th print and 5th print covers for TMNT #1
When it comes to the 4th and 5th printing of the first issue to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, they both have different covers than the 1st, 2nd and 3rd printing. The 4th printing and 5th printing have different covers from each other as well as you can see from the pics. Even more simple when it comes to figuring out the 4th and 5th printings.

Easy peasy. So, here's the break down of the different print runs for issue #1:

1st print: 3,000 | 2nd print: 15,000 | 3rd print: 36,000 | 4th print: 50,000 | 5th print: Not sure.

So, first appearance of Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo, first appearance of Splinter and the turtles main or most popular villain Shredder, origin of turtles, and really low print run. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (1st print) was published May, 1984.

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1st appearance of April O'Neil
1st appearance of Baxter Stockman
2nd appearance of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
2nd appearance of Splinter

The very important supporting character of April O' Neil makes her first appearance in issue #2 of the Mirage Studios' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic series. In the original series, April was a computer programmer not a  Lois Lane reporter rip-off.

April worked for Baxter Stockman and helped to create the Mousers. Of course, Baxter was using the Mousers, machines or robots, to do evil acts with.

April caught on to this and put herself in danger with Baxter. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would come to save April and meet for the first time in this issue. Baxter Stockman is a very early villain for the turtles and has appeared quite often in various different media versions of the TMNT.

This issue has a print run of 15,000 for 1s prints. The 2nd print has a print run of  30,000 and it says 2nd Print on the inside cover or should say it. October, 1984 is the publishing date for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2.

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1st appearance of Utroms
2nd appearance of April O'Neil
3rd TMNT & Splinter

The Utroms are the aliens that created the mutagen formula that mutated Splinter and the turtles. The alien race of the Krang from the 1987 cartoon series is based off the Utroms. This issue holds their first appearance and they would be recurring villains for the turtles.

Also, issue #3 holds the 3rd appearance of Master Splinter and the turtles. April O' Neil, who is a major supporting character for TMNT universe, makes her 2nd appearance in this issue.

This regular edition for issue #3 has a 50,000 print run, and there is a comic convention edition of issue #3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 was published March, 1985.

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White Laird's photo variant

I did a High Grade Alert for this one previously, and this should actually be ahead of the regular 3rd issue standard printing. After all, it was printed before the initial regular copies.

So before the main print run of issue #3, Laird and Eastman requested 500 copies be printed up specifically for the New York Comic Con to be sold there. The first 500 copies printed were slightly different, and I mean anally slightly different.

These copies had a whiter "Laird's Photo" sign and the main print run had more of the blue shade on the cover. You can also tell by the darker "Drugs" sign as well.

Hey, if you're into that kinda stuff, you know what to look for if you come across this comic as opposed to the main print run. The "White Laird's Photo Sign NYCC Variant" for issues #3 came out in 1985.

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1st appearance of Casey Jones
4th appearance of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

I recently discovered this comic while researching a bit about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles key comics. So this one-shot spin-off comic has the first appearance of Casey Jones, the hockey masked vigilante who puts the smack down on criminals with baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs and other sport's related weapons.

The character will be introduced in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel, and when I first featured this comic it wasn't that well-known. I have no idea if it's heated up in a big bad way since then.

This comic may be considered the 4th appearance of the turtles since it has a cover date that precedes issue #4. However, I am not sure how many of the other turtles appear in this comic since it mostly focuses on Raphael.

This is surely the 4th appearance of Raphael though and the first appearance of Casey Jones, who is also a major supporting character for the TMNT universe. This comic is not a low print run comic and had about 60,000 printed up. Cover date of April, 1985 for Raphael #1.

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5th appearance of TMNT
3rd appearance of April O'Neil
2nd appearance of Foot Clan?

Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael encounter the Foot Clan again in issue #4. The Foot Clan first appeared in issue #1.

However, the main villains in this issue are the Utroms, the brain-like aliens that created the mutagen ooze. Speaking of the mutagen ooze, this issues sees the turtles discover a building with the T.C.R.I. logo.

The turtles remember that it's the same logo that the canister of ooze had on it that mutated them, so they break in to investigate. Eventually, they find Splinter at the whim of the Utroms.

This comic had a print run of 60,000 copies. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #4 was reprinted 2 years later, but the 1st print has the publishing date of June, 1985.

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In my opinion, the only keys one needs to get from the TMNT comic series are the first appearances of the turtles, Shredder, April O'Neil, Casey Jones, and maybe one more that will be featured in an upcoming part. They are basically the main supporting characters throughout this series and any other series for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Shredder, by all accounts, is widely known as the main nemesis for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That's a no-brainer there.

However, there are more keys and first appearances of other characters within the mythos who were introduced in the animated cartoon series, so we'll press on a bit further with this TMNT key comics series. There are also error and variant issues that I'll talk about a bit in the upcoming parts.

So more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles key comics are ready in Part 2. Just click the link below to continue.


  1. Really enjoyed the colossus column n thank u so much for doing the tmnt key issues love this page great read n lots of knowledge

    1. Heya Dave, no worries an sorry it took me so long to get to the TMNT key issues, but I seriously had to do some digging around. Hopefully it helps ya.

  2. Hey TCM,

    of course one can make fun of the turtles. But I think the first series by Eastman and Laird is a classic which deserves some respect. Plus it shows were a comic franchise can go. Just imagine what money was made in the 90s with these guys! I can still see the toystores filled with green walls :-). A few years ago I got a Goobledy Gook 1 from 1986 with some art by Corben. Could you shed some light on this one? The original is from 1984, so is this like G.G. 2?

    Max Rebo

    1. Heya Mr. worries. I put it in as a bonus in the last part of the series. I don't know if the turtles are funny or whatnot. I've never heard anyone really make fun of them. Lots of people grew up on the TMNT for sure. I thought the keys were straight forward, but it doesn't appear that way.

  3. Just Purchased a TMNT 1 9.8!!
    To me, the first print of TMNT is a very unique comic for Investors/fans like me who grew up in the 80s/90s. See, I grew up a huge fan of the X men and Wolverine. As far as marvel goes, wolverine is my favorite character. I always wanted a hulk 181 9.8 (and I will end up getting one eventually) and Giant X-men 1 9.8 (I actually own 1 now). The "fan" part of me always desire wolverine and other bronze key issues. However the "investor" side of me usually convinces me to purchase mid grade silver age key issues; because I believe the potential of growth is greater. I always have that dilemma. But, with TMNT (which I am a huge fan of), We have characters from my era whose first appearance is very scarce/rare. There are less CGC copies than any copper keys, bronze keys, and major silver keys; less than AF15, even less than hulk 1. So this is a book that satisfies both the fan and investor side of me :)

    Thanks for putting this together btw, I've always been a big fan of your stuff

    1. Congrats on this snag, James! Definitely a nice comic investment to have for sure!