Archie, Krang, Random House, VideoMedia

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: VideoMedia and Archie

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: VideoMedia (left), Random House (right).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: VideoMedia (left), Random House (right).

Back covers: VideoMedia (left), Random House (right).

Back covers: VideoMedia (left), Random House (right).

In November of 2016, a reader brought to my attention the existence of TMNT Adventures comic books that were distributed along with cassette tapes in Canada, by VideoMedia.  These are counterpart to the US version distributed by Random House.

I’ve had my eyes peeled for VideoMedia copies ever since, and I finally got my hands on a copy of issue #1 which I found on eBay. In the 18 months since I started looking for these VideoMedia editions, I’ve seen a grand total of two copies of the VideoMedia edition of TMNTA #1 appear on eBay during that time: the copy I myself purchased, and, the below pictured copy. As we can see in the screenshot below, the seller has a copy of #1 as well as #2 also available, and describes them as “ULTRA RARE”:

Current TMNTA VideoMedia Listings on eBay, issues #1 and #2.

Current TMNTA VideoMedia Listings on eBay, issues #1 and #2.

For a TMNT comic book that is this difficult to find in the wild, a google search turns up precious little information, and I could not find anybody who has done a side-by-side comparison against the Random House version of TMNTA published by Archie and distributed along with cassette tapes in the USA. So with this post, I aim to fill that void!

I’m also using this post as an opportunity to share pictures with you of an incredible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic book collection that a reader shared with me (big thanks to that reader for taking the time to scan and email their collection, including example indicia pictures!), their collection being $1.50 “Type 1A cover price variants” published by Archie Comics. Below is the definition of a Type 1A cover price variant, by Jon McClure, as published in the Overstreet Price Guide:

type-1-and-1a-variant-definitions

[By the way, researching and writing about Type 1A variants have been my primary comic book hobby focus these past two years and I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity last year to collaborate with Jon McClure along with other fantastic collaborators who collectively published an online guide to Marvel and DC Type 1A cover price variants of the 1980’s — we published it all online, here for anyone interested in checking it out!] [October 2018 Update: we have just released our 2019 edition]

The hallmark of a Type 1A cover price variant is identical indicia and interior, in other words a comic book published simultaneously in the USA by the same publisher… but then carrying a different cover price versus its counterparts, corresponding to a different market. In this case with TMNT Adventures comics, that different market in question was Canada, which is a highly interesting situation for collectors who think about relative rarity: the relative market size comparing the two countries is extreme.

There was a United States Census in 1990, which showed a population back then of just about 249 million people. Canada, meanwhile, had a population of only about 28 million people in that year. That’s ~277 million people in total, as the North American market size for these TMNTA comic books, with Canada representing a 10% fraction of that total. Whenever we can find a comic book that was restricted in its distribution to Canada alone within the North American market, then as far as relative rarity is concerned, we’re dealing with a tenth of the combined market. Putting that in “modern variant terms” we’re talking about 1:10 — and then in some cases where the market was further divided between newsstand and direct edition, the rarity can be even more extreme. This is why I find Type 1A cover price variants so incredibly appealing to collect. Are the VideoMedia TMNTA comics Type 1A variants? Let’s find out!

TMNT Adventures: VideoMedia Edition

So let’s start our side-by-side comparison by first taking a look at the more-prevalent US counterpart to the VideoMedia edition of TMNTA #1: for the US counterpart I was actually able to find an unopened package, complete with cassette tape. [I haven’t been able to find an unopened VideoMedia package, or even a picture of one, but I presume it would look fairly similar to its US counterpart (11/15/2018 update: spotted a sealed VideoMedia pack — here are pictures)]. Here are front and back pictures of the Random House pack — the US version — that I was able to find:

As you can see, the package contains the comic at the bottom, and the cassette tape above it, with everything sealed in plastic. The package is priced “$5.95 US.” No Canadian price is listed on the package. Interestingly, this Random House / US version combines issues #1, #2, and #3 of the 1988 mini-series all together into one giant book, whereas VideoMedia published three separate issues! (I only acquired VideoMedia issue #1 so that’s the one I will be showing you).

Let’s now open both books up and take a side-by-side look!

VideoMedia vs Random House, side by side

VideoMedia vs Random House, side by side

Looking at the picture above, we’ve got the VideoMedia edition at the top, versus Random House at the bottom. Beyond the difference in page count between the comics, the first difference you might spot is the VideoMedia logo on the front cover versus the Random House logo, and then at the bottom of the front cover of the VideoMedia edition it says “#1 in a series of 3.”

Looking at the inside of the front cover, we can see that the VideoMedia edition has this page in full color, versus a black and white page for Random House. Now let’s take a closer look at the indicia page for each book. Below, I’ll first picture the full indicia page for each, and then I want to zoom in and point out a few things.

Full indicia page for VideoMedia edition:

VideoMedia Full Indicia Page

VideoMedia Full Indicia Page

And now the full indicia page for the Random House counterpart:

Random House Full Indicia

Random House Full Indicia

There are many differences we can observe. Here are a few in particular. Zooming in, notice that the VideoMedia edition says “Published and printed in Canada by…” whereas its US counterpart says “Published and printed in the United States of America by…” — so these two comics were not published in the same place:

Top: VideoMedia, Bottom: Random House

Top: VideoMedia, Bottom: Random House

And now finishing the “by…” sentence which wraps to the next line, we can see that the top book was published by “VideoMedia Systems Inc., Toronto, ON” versus the bottom book which was published by Archie Comic Publications Inc., Mamaroneck, NY. So the two books were not published in the same place, nor were they published by the same publisher:

Top: VideoMedia, Bottom: Random House

Top: VideoMedia, Bottom: Random House (also notice “6th Printing” at the bottom)

The indicia also goes on to spell out that these editions were both published as part of a cassette package, distributed in one case by VideoMedia, and in the other by Random House (“This edition printed in Canada and published exclusively as part of a three-book and three-cassette package series distributed by VideoMedia Systems Inc., 366 Adelaide St. West, Suite 707, Toronto, ON” vs. “This edition printed by Archie Comic Publications Inc., and published exclusively as part of a book and cassette package distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.”):

videomedia-vs-random-house4
Top: VideoMedia, Bottom: Random House

Top: VideoMedia, Bottom: Random House

So it would certainly appear that these cassette-plus-comics products had different territory carved out: Random House distributed their version — which was published in the USA by Archie — to the United States market, while VideoMedia meanwhile published their version locally up in Canada and then distributed it to Canada.

After the indicia page, the interior comic book content is the same — in each case re-printing part 1 of the Archie 1988 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures mini-series which featured the first comic book appearances of Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady — and the content remains the same until we reach the end of issue #1:

videomedia-vs-random-house6videomedia-vs-random-house7videomedia-vs-random-house8

At this point the Random House version keeps going (because it also combines issues #2 and #3), while the VideoMedia version comes to an end. Let’s take a closer look at the inside back cover of the VideoMedia edition:

The inside back cover of the VideoMedia edition contains pictures of VideoMedia issues #2 and #3, and then also states once again at the bottom right that the comic was made in Canada, and was manufactured and distributed by VideoMedia Systems Inc., Toronto.

So comparing these VideoMedia comics against their Random House/Archie counterparts, are these VideoMedia books Type 1A Variants? No. They are not: they were published by a different publisher, at a different time, in a different place. So while they are clearly “counterpart to one another” as cassette-packaged comics and based on the restricted distribution area the VideoMedia version should carry a 1:10 market-size-based rarity compared to their Random House/Archie counterparts, the VideoMedia version does not fall under Jon McClure’s Type 1A variant definition. I would call it a “Canadian Edition” — as a foreign-published U.S. reprint that was never intended for U.S. distribution — or I would alternatively call it “the VideoMedia Edition.”

This provides for juxtaposition to the $1.50 cover price variant collection I mentioned earlier, which I will share next… because those Archie comics are Type 1A variants. [Related article: “Canadian Edition” vs. “Canadian Cover Price Variant” ]

TMNT Adventures: Archie Type 1A Cover Price Variants

In this past post I shared a picture of the indicia of a $1.25 cover price Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, from the 1988 mini-series, and the owner of the regular-series Archie collection presented below has helpfully shared with me the below pictures of the indicia page of issue #58 as an example issue from the regular series — as we can see, these variants were indeed published by Archie Comic Publications, Mamaroneck, NY and were Printed in the USA, and indeed if you held one of these side-by-side against a US-cover-priced newsstand copy you will find they are 100% identical in every way to their US counterparts, except for the cover price. The cover price being the single feature that varies, it follows that these Archie books fall under Jon McClure’s Type 1A Cover Price Variant definition.

Before I present pictures from the reader’s collection, let’s quickly touch upon which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issues published by Archie have Type 1A cover price variants. The 1988 mini-series has $1.25 cover price variant copies — where you can find both newsstand and direct edition single-price copies out there with $1.25 cover price — and then the 1989-onward regular series also starts out with $1.25 cover price Type 1A variants existing, also with both newsstand and direct edition copies carrying single prices.

Here are example pictures of issues #1-3 of the mini-series and regular-series (these particular ones pictured below happen to be direct editions — I asked the seller of these if they were the original owner and if so where they were purchased, and they indicated to me that they were the original owner and acquired them at the Silver Snail comics shop in Toronto):

tmnta-mini-series-direct-variant
tmnta-1-2-3-direct-variant

Single-price direct editions and newsstand editions continue through issue #11, but then at issue #12 we can see that direct editions begin to carry both US and CAN pricing:

tmnt-adventures-12

However, newsstand editions continue to carry a single price, so beginning at issue #12, our Type 1A cover price variants become a newsstand-exclusive phenomenon. As far as relative rarity is concerned, this is an important consideration: before, the full Canadian market was getting $1.25 cover price copies, whereas now at issue #12, only a portion of the Canadian market is getting $1.25 cover price copies (the newsstand portion), because the other portion of that market is taking home the very same direct editions sold in the USA. Here’s an example $1.25 cover price newsstand copy of issue #12:

tmnta-12-variant

At issue #19, Archie raises cover prices: the US price goes up from $1.00 to $1.25, and the CAN price goes up from $1.25 to $1.50, as we can see on the cover of direct editions which list both prices:

tmnta-19-direct

Here is an example $1.50 cover price variant for issue #19:
tmnta-19-variant

Issue #19 also happens to be interesting as a key, containing the first appearance of the Mighty Mutanimals as a team. Individual Mutanimals team members have first appearances in earlier issues — below is a list of issue notes courtesy of Doug Sulipa, from his Archie inventory page, for issues #1-19 (note the Mighty Mutanimal notes in green):

doug-comic-world-notes-tmnt

This cover price convention continues until we get to issue #59. At that point, Archie begins to charge $1.50 for the US and Canada:

tmnta-59-newsstand

But fast forward to issue #71 and Archie raises the cover price in Canada to $1.65. It stands to reason that issue #71 should have a $1.65 cover price variant in existence, because when we examine a direct edition we can see that both prices are listed: $1.50 US, $1.65 CAN:

tmnta-71-direct-edition

But then if we find a newsstand copy of issue #71, we see that they are single price — I was only able to find a US priced copy to picture here (below), but as you can see it carries a cover price of $1.50.

tmnta-71-us-newsstand

Since we know from the direct edition we saw before that $1.65 was the price charged in Canada for this issue, and since that price does not appear on the above pictured newsstand copy in small print, it would follow that $1.65 cover priced newsstand copies do indeed exist out there too! [5/19/2018 UPDATE: Thanks Sal for sending in pictures of the variant for TMNT #71! Here it is below!]

The $1.65 variant for issue #72 is also confirmed to exist — Paul Clairmont of PNJ Comics has had one in stock in the past, here is a picture of it courtesy of Paul:

TMNT Adventures #72, $1.65 Cover Price Variant

TMNT Adventures #72, $1.65 Cover Price Variant

And as far as relative rarity, the fact that these final TMNTA cover price variants are newsstand exclusives means they only reached a subset of the Canadian market. And making them even more difficult to find, quoting Doug Sulipa’s notes once again, you can see that by issue #51 he is dubbing print runs as “Lower Print Run & Hard to Find” … turning into “LOW Print & VERY SCARCE” for issue #71, and “LOW print & RARE” for issue #72:

doug-notes-continued-tmnta

Clearly, finding the Type 1A cover price variants for these already-harder-to-find issue numbers is incredibly challenging, and so I am very grateful to the reader who scanned and shared their collection of TMNTA Type 1A variants, which I share with you now, below! Here’s their collection!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Click any thumbnail below to enlarge:

Happy Collecting! 🙂

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Krang

1st Appearance of Krang in Comics — Part II

[Author’s note: this is Part II, to follow up on my previous post (Part I) in order to share a new development.  It is recommended you read Part I first, if you have not already done so.]

Back in July 2016, I explored the question of the 1st appearance of Krang in comics.  There has just been a new development on this front that I need to share with you!  First, a few key facts to recap:

  • The villain we know as Krang (or Kraang as it was originally spelled), is a character created not by Eastman & Laird, but rather by David Wise, specifically for the TV cartoon.

    “While the comics were dark, gritty, and bloody, that’s not the type of TV series Wise wanted to make. The 1987 cartoon was going to be a kids show, so going full steam ahead with Japanese-style fighting wasn’t an option — which is why Wise opted to create the supervillain Krang as a way to alleviate the violence.”

  • There was a “precursor” to Krang in the Eastman & Laird comics, which inspired Wise when creating Krang, who ended up looking very similar (if not near-identical) visually, to the precursor — Mirage describes the relationship between the character Krang and the “precursor” alien creatures known as “Utroms” as follows:

    “At the hi-tech facilities, Splinter discovers that the humans that work there are actually small alien creatures that utilize humanoid robotic bodies to disguise themselves. These aliens, known as the Utroms, are the precursors to what would become Krang on the television cartoon.”

  • Created by Wise for the television cartoon, and appearing for the first time on TV, the specific character we know as Krang would therefore logically first appear in comics in the comic book adaptation of the television cartoon — which happened in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (in 1988, published by Archie Comics), where we see Krang for the first time in issue #1 of that mini-series.
  • At the time of my previous post, from an examination of the CGC Key Comments notes for every early Mirage comic — including the ones where we knew Utroms to appear — we observed that a 1st appearance credit for Krang was nowhere to be found (at that time).

And now for the update: a 1st appearance of Krang credit now exists at CGC, as of this week!

I’m pleased to report that CGC has reviewed the Krang 1st appearance credits situation, to consider whether a Key Comments change was warranted, and that they decided to change their previously-blank label note for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1.  I looked it up on their census today and discovered their change has indeed been made there.  And in fact, the credit they added covers Bebop and Rocksteady as well. Here’s how the issue now looks on a census lookup (note the Key Comments field):

Key Comments:

Key Comments: “1st comic book appearance of Krang, Bebop & Rocksteady.”

And just to double-verify, here below is the output of a certification lookup of the very same example copy I had screen-captured back in my July post (recall that at that time, there was no key comments field present):

example-cgc-krang

As you can see, a Key Comments note now appears for the example copy previously examined back in July.

Indeed, a key comments note appears (matching what we saw on the online census lookup), where it previously was absent for this example graded copy.  So as you can see, Krang’s 1st comic book appearance (along with Bebop & Rocksteady) is now recognized by CGC.

Let’s see that Krang appearance!

Inside the pages of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (8/1988)…
Inside the TECHNODROME…
Krang: “SAKI, THIS IS KRANG — REPORT TO ME AT ONCE!”
Shredder: “WHAT NOW?”

krang-1st-appearance-1

Shredder: “WELL, WHAT IS IT?”
Krang: “SAKI, MY OLD FRIEND…”
Shredder: “I TOLD YOU TO CALL ME THE SHREDDER!”
Krang: “HA!”

krang-1st-appearance-2

Krang: “I’VE GIVEN YOU VAST TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE. YOU HAVE NOT FILLED YOUR PART OF THE BARGAIN!”
Krang: “YOU HAVE NOT PROVIDED ME WITH A BODY!”
Shredder: “NONE OF US ARE SAFE WITH THOSE TURTLES HOUNDING US!”

krang-1st-appearance-3
Krang: “THEN STOP THEM! YOU ARE THE ONE WHO TRIED TO DESTROY YOSHI WITH THAT MUTOGEN. BUT INSTEAD HE GAINED THE POWERS OF THE RATS!”
Krang: “WHAT IF HE HAD BEEN NEAR A MORE POWERFUL ANIMAL?”

krang-1st-appearance-4

Shredder: “HA! THAT’S IT–I’LL MUTATE MY OWN PEOPLE. ALL I NEED ARE KILLER ANIMALS!”
Shredder: “THAT’S QUITE A BRAIN YOU’VE GOT, KRANG!”
Krang: “OF COURSE, IT IS–IT’S ALL I’VE GOT!”

krang-1st-appearance-5

Indicia Page of $1.25 Cover Price Variant

As touched upon in my Part I post, there exists a $1.25 variant cover price out there for copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1, with likely rarity on the order of 1:10, and CGC denotes copies with this higher cover price as “Canadian Edition” on their census, because $1.25 was the price charged for the issue in Canada. In case anyone might get a false impression by this variant naming convention that the variant was published in Canada, below is a picture of the indicia page of my $1.25 variant copy, to show you that it was indeed published in the USA:

Indicia reads as follows:

Indicia reads as follows: “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ADVENTURES – by Mirage Studios. PO Box 417, Haydenville, MA 01039. Book 1 of 3 issues. August 1988. Published and printed in the United States of America by Archie Comics Publications, Inc. 325 Fayette Avenue, Mamaroneck, NY 10543. All contents copyright 1988 by Mirage Studios unless otherwise noted. Any similarities between characters, name, persons, an/or institutions in this book any any living, dead or fictional characters, names, persons, and/or institutions is not intended and if it exists, it is purely coincidental. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES including Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Splinter, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Foot Soldier, and April O’Neil are registered trademarks of Mirage Studios USA. All rights reserved. Used with Permission. Based upon characters and comic books created by Kevin B. Eastman and Peter A. Laird.

As you can see (and here’s a zoomed in look), the indicia of $1.25 copies reads “Published and printed in the United States of America by Archie Comics Publications” and in fact, beyond the cover price difference these copies are identical on the inside to the rest of the print run. In other words, you could snip out the $1.25 price from a variant and render it completely indistinguishable from a regular copy.  The US birthplace and identical interior of the variants makes them true Type 1A Price Variants under the definition put forward by Jon McClure (of 35 cent variant fame).

I find this to be an exciting (and highly collectible) situation: The now-CGC-credited first comic book appearances of Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady, with the existence of a US-published first print cover price variant, with likely rarity of 1:10 based on population disparity of the geographical area where they were sold!

Happy Collecting! 🙂

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Krang

1st Appearance of Krang in Comics

This picture is of the 2nd print variant of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7. Ask any TMNT fan which character is shown and they'll all give you the same answer: Krang.

This picture is of the 2nd print variant of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7. Ask any TMNT fan which character is shown and they’ll all give you the same answer: Krang.

This will be a long post but bear with me, I promise to try and make it interesting! 🙂

First thing’s first:  Show any TMNT fan this picture (at right) and ask them: “which character is this?”  You’ll invariably get one answer:  Krang.  (Or some fans might decide to spell it Kraang with the extra ‘a’ as it was originally spelled, but they’re referring to the same character).  The comic pictured is the second print variant of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7.  And indeed, when you see collectors talk about this comic book you’ll hear them refer to the “Krang variant” or “Krang cover,” and when you see it listed for sale on eBay you’ll find “Krang” in the listing titles — for example here below is a screenshot I just took:

krang-listings

Two current eBay listings for the Krang cover / 2nd print variant of TMNT #7.

This pictured comic is actually the second printing of TMNT #7, from January of 1989… the first print of TMNT #7 was from 1986 and has different cover artwork (as you’ll see in a moment).  For context here, Mirage had put out a later string of second print TMNT comics, with some excellent variations of original covers.  Note that there is a manufacturing-error-version of the second printing of issue #4 which famously got misprinted with the wrong cover artwork…  But the “correct” artwork for the 2nd printing of issue #4 is a nice full-color variation of the original:

Left: the original TMNT #4 (first print); Right: the second print.

Left: the original TMNT #4 (first print); Right: the second print (a take on the original).

Left: first print of TMNT #6; Right: second print.

Left: first print of TMNT #6; Right: the second print (a take on the original).

Much like the “correct” artwork for the second printing of TMNT #4 was a “new take” on the original, the second printing of #6 is a variation of the original Triceraton cover. You might see where I’m going with this — if these second printings are featuring takes on original covers, and if the 2nd printing of issue #7 features a cover any TMNT fan would identify as “Krang” then what did the first printing of #7 look like?  Take a look:

 

Who is that there that I've circled?

The first printing of TMNT #7, from 1986.  Who is that there that I’ve circled?

I think any observer would look at this situation and draw the logical conclusion that the character circled above is the basis for the second printing’s “take” on the original cover… i.e. zeroing in on one particular part of that original cover and making it much more detailed and interesting for the second printing variant version:

krang-in-tmnt7-1st-and-2nd

The 2nd print variation of TMNT #7 is a more interesting and detailed take on an important component of the original cover…

With this background having been laid down, let’s proceed:

Exploring The Question: 1st Appearance of Krang in Comics

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 (Mini-Series, Archie Comics, 1988) is the comic credited by the following sources as containing the first appearance of Krang. [Sharp eyed readers may notice that the cover price on this copy is $1.25 instead of the expected $1.00... I will get to that later in the post]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 (Mini-Series, Archie Comics, 1988) is widely credited with the first appearance of Krang. [Sharp eyed readers may notice that the cover price on this pictured copy is $1.25 instead of the expected $1.00… more later…]

So now, having made this “lead-in” to the post, I can start to tackle the original topic this post is meant to answer:  Krang’s first appearance in comics.  Because if any TMNT fan will look at the 2nd print variant of TMNT #7 and confidently say: “that’s Krang” and if the 2nd print is a variation on the 1st print… and if the first print is from 1986…  Then why, when you search for information on Krang’s first appearance in comics, does everybody seem to point to a comic published two years later in 1988?  What’s going on here?!  And that’s the subject of this post! 🙂

The 1988 comic that the Internet credits with Krang’s first appearance — despite being published two years after the artwork you just saw — is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 (mini-series) published by Archie Comics, pictured at right.  Here’s a few sources that make this first appearance credit (and note that these sources are all the first ones to come up if you were to search Google for “1st appearance of Krang in comics” so anybody looking for information about the true first appearance of Krang is going to see these as their primary source of information):

(1) Turtlepedia:

“Krang is a character debuting in the 1987 animated series as the disembodied brain of an evil alien warlord from another dimension and an antagonist of the Ninja Turtles. He retains this backstory for most early incarnations, although in later incarnations he is presented as an Utrom. Krang is a supervillain appearing in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV shows and most frequently in the 1987 cartoon and its associated media, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic book and most of the classic TMNT video games. Krang’s first comics appearance was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures vol. 1, #1, published by Archie Comics in August 1988.”

(Note the part about Krang being presented as an Utrom — this is important as we’ll get to in a bit).

(2) Wikipedia:

“Krang (also spelled Kraang) is a supervillain appearing in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV shows and most frequently in the 1987 cartoon and its associated media, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic book and most of the classic TMNT video games. Krang’s first comics appearance was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures vol. 1, #1, published by Archie Comics in August 1988.

(3) Comicvine:

“Krang was originally created for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated television series, first broadcast in 1987. He was created by David Wise and Patti Howeth. He made his first appearance in comics in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1, written and illustrated by Michael Dooney.”

So all three of the sources above credit the 1988 Archie publication, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1, with the 1st appearance of Krang.  Yet, some of our go-to sources for comic book information do not seem to share the same view  (or at least not at this time)…  For example, here’s the ComicsPriceGuide.com entry for this issue.  In the key comments field we might expect to see “first appearance of Krang” listed but instead we just see “Adapts TV cartoon / Not by Eastman-Laird“:

ComicsPriceGuide.com makes no mention of this issue containing Krang's first appearance, and values the comic at just four dollars.

ComicsPriceGuide.com makes no mention of this issue containing Krang’s first appearance, and values the comic at just four dollars.

Similarly, on Atomic Avenue (which taps into the Comic Base system) the key notes field just says “PSA Message From Archie comics on Heath Education” (and nothing about Krang):

atomic-avenue-krang-note

Similarly, Comic Base via Atomic Avenue shows no note about Krang.

Finally, how about CGC?  Here’s a recently graded CGC copy (you can tell it is recent because of the new label design).  The key comments section says… nothing.

turtles-adventures-1-cgc-kr

Recently graded CGC copy has an empty key comments field… nothing about the first appearance of Krang mentioned.

And just to double-verify, let’s use the CGC verification tool to look up this very copy above and see if anything about Krang’s first appearance shows up online:

nothing-about-krang-1st-app

Nope: Nothing about Krang’s 1st appearance here either. Any 1st app. would be mentioned by CGC (but that’s not to say they can’t change their mind about 1st appearance credits at a future date).

Nope!  Nothing about Krang!

Utroms and Krang: The Connection

And now it is time to circle back to that Turtlepedia remark about Krang being presented as an Utrom in later incarnations, because that Utrom connection is the crux of what’s going on here.   The Mirage page about TMNT #3 says the following:

“At the hi-tech facilities, Splinter discovers that the humans that work there are actually small alien creatures that utilize humanoid robotic bodies to disguise themselves. These aliens, known as the Utroms, are the precursors to what would become Krang on the television cartoon.”

And there you have it: the Utroms from the Mirage comic books were the basis for Krang — Krang was derived from these little aliens with their humanoid robotic bodies.  This panel below from TMNT #3 is presented by Mirage on their web page with the caption “Meet The Utroms” (they are not wearing name tags but if you had to peg one of them as the most likely Krang precursor I’d suggest that one in the front):

tmnt-3-ultroms-first-appear

Meet The Utroms! Described by Mirage as the “precursors to what would become Krang on the television cartoon”, none of these pictured is wearing a name tag but the resemblance to Krang is obvious… complete with the humanoid robotic body.

Is there meant to be a “stand-out” individual among these aliens?  Let’s fast-forward to issue #7, the one we saw earlier with the “Krang cover” artwork.  Quoting Mirage again (my emphasis in bold on the “lone Utrom”):

“As Leo questions the aliens’ motives, a lone Utrom walks in and explains how they came to Earth. Twenty years ago their ship had crash landed and killed one third of their crew. The survivors managed to integrate themselves into American society thanks to their high tech android disguises. The crew took jobs and quickly amassed enough wealth to buy the building that would become their headquarters. The Utroms salvaged what material they could in effort to build their Translocation Device – the Transmat. Unfortunately while working on their machine, the visitors had an accident 15 1/2 years earlier. The Utroms were bringing the last load of supplies from their crashed ship to their abode when a blind man walked in front of their truck, causing them to swerve out of the way. This violent action dislodged a canister filled with alien ooze and it flew into the street, striking a young man in the head. The container continued to bounce down the street until it hit an aquarium full of turtles that a boy was holding, shattering it. The turtles and the canister fell into the sewers, where the reptiles were bathed in the strange glowing ooze. It was then that Splinter found them… and the rest is history.”

It is only natural for collectors to desire a specific Utrom to point to and say “that one — that’s the precursor to Krang”… and this “lone Utrom” telling the story of the aquarium of turtles and the glowing ooze makes for as good a candidate as any, wouldn’t you say?  Might this “lone Utrom” be the very one featured/pictured in the cover artwork?

Maybe, maybe not.  Clearly this is a first appearance that falls under the category of “it’s complicated.” I’m reminded very much of the character Savage Dragon, who first appeared in Savage Dragon Limited Series #1 (note the existence of a 1-in-100-rarity newsstand edition)… But there was an earlier incarnation as “The Dragon” in the Megaton series years earlier, which for decades the industry had given the key first appearance credit — until one day someone realized that “The Dragon” had actually appeared before that, in yet another earlier incarnation, in issue #1 of the Graphic Fantasy Fanzines (Ajax Comics).

Krang the TV cartoon character.

Krang the TV cartoon character, complete with humanoid robotic body.

Krang seems like a similar “it’s complicated” situation…  because the version of this alien we saw in the cartoon TV series was not the original incarnation, but rather was “adapted” from what we see in the earlier comic books.  And then the Archie comic book series simply adapted the cartoon back over to comics — so quite arguably the cartoon character named “Krang”/”Kraang” did first appear “as Krang” (i.e. as that specific named character) in the 1988 Archie comic for the first time.

A good explanation for why the character Krang was adapted from the Utroms appears in this article with the heading “Reason For Creation” and quoted below:

“While the comics were dark, gritty, and bloody, that’s not the type of TV series Wise wanted to make. The 1987 cartoon was going to be a kids show, so going full steam ahead with Japanese-style fighting wasn’t an option — which is why Wise opted to create the supervillain Krang as a way to alleviate the violence.”

That same article also points to the 1988 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic as the first appearance of the Krang character in comic book format:

“The Mirage-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics was in its third year when David Wise adapted the series for the small screen. The cult-favorite Ninja Turtles were a foreign concept to television audiences, so when Wise’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon debuted in December 1987, he wanted to create something that would appeal to both fans of the comics as well as new viewers. That is why he borrowed one supervillain from the comics — the Shredder — while also creating one of his own — Krang. Since Krang was Wise’s creation, the alien warlord first appeared in the second episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, “Enter the Shredder,” which led to him becoming one of the most iconic and recognizable Ninja Turtles villains. After a massive popularity boom, Krang made the jump from the small screen to the comic page in the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, though, along with Bebop and Rocksteady, he was phased out early on and only reappeared during stories involving alien threats.”

So the situation here seems to be: Eastman and Laird created Utroms which we meet for the first time in that TMNT #3 panel, then in TMNT #7 (1986) a “lone Utrom” — clearly important although not wearing a Krang name tag — is singled out not only to appear on the cover of that issue, but to be individually featured in the story as the one telling the tale of the canister of ooze.  Then in 1987, Eastman & Laird’s alien-brain-creation (complete with robotic humanoid) is the basis for the villain by the name of Krang in the cartoon. The cartoon was adapted from the Mirage comics but then that cartoon gets adapted back to comics in the 1988 Archie mini-series… where the character that TV viewers have come to know as “Krang” appears for the first time as Krang.

But if CGC doesn’t credit the Archie book with Krang’s first appearance, which book carries that credit?  I can’t find one!  I don’t even see a label note where Utroms are mentioned!  The current CGC key comments notes for each early Mirage TMNT issue are as follows:

  1. “Origin & 1st app. of the Teenage Mutant Ninja, Turtles, Splinter & Shredder.”
  2. “First appearance of April O’Neil & the Mousers.”
  3. “Pin-up by Matt Howarth.  Wraparound cover.”
  4. “Pin-up by Jason Sklaver. Wraparound cover.”
  5. “Wraparound cover.”
  6. “Wraparound cover.”
  7. “1st color Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in 4 page story by Kevin Eastman and, Richard Corben.”

Also: Raphael from 1985 gets the label note: “1st Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spin-off.  1st appearance of Casey Jones.”  Fugitoid gets the label note: “Story continued in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5, Wraparound cover. Pin-up by Peter Laird.”  Michaelangelo gets the note “Wraparound cover,” and Donatello gets the label note “Pin-up by Stan Sakai, Wraparound cover” and that covers all the early TMNT Mirage issues!

So as you can see, nothing about Utroms or Krang, even in the issues where we know those aliens appear.  Also note that for issue #7 the 2nd printing (featuring that awesome “Krang cover” that I pictured at the very beginning), the CGC key comment section mentions only “Wraparound cover” but it is worth noting (and CGC may want to consider adding to that key comments note area) that second print copies of issue #7 are black & white inside (which is important because the 1st printing has that “1st color TMNT” credit).

The “True” First Krang Appearance?

So, what’s the “true” first “Krang” appearance here, the earliest incarnation of the character?  Every collector is going to have to make their own call, but I don’t think there’s any reason to pick just one important Krang comic to collect when we can pick several of them. I haven’t met the collector yet who owns just one comic book, after all! 🙂 So why limit ourselves?  Think of all the other situations similar to this one:  With the first appearance of Savage Dragon we want to collect not just the Limited Series #1 but the earlier Dragon incarnations too; with Spawn, we want to collect not just Spawn #1 (preferably the newsstand edition), but we also want to own Rust #1 too (preferably the special limited edition) with the black & white McFarlane pin-up containing the earlier prototype version of the Spawn logo.

And so with Krang I’d say let’s collect them all! TMNT #3 where we “meet the Utroms” (and where the NYCC variant is the most rare version to collect), TMNT #7 where an Utrom is “singled out” to be featured on the cover and also as a “lone Utrom” in the story (and there, the 2nd printing looks to be the more desirable version of TMNT #7 to collect as I’ll go into in a moment), and then let’s also go after issue #1 of the 1988 Archie Mini-Series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (where there’s a more rare cover price variant we want as our preference, which I’ll get to in a bit).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #7 — Collect The First or Second Print (Which is More Rare)?

One of the two eBay listings I pictured earlier for the 2nd printing of TMNT #7 had “Super Rare” in the title — that should catch our attention and cause us to want to investigate further.  I clicked through and here’s what the listing description itself says (not really any further information, unfortunately, just repeating again that it is “super hard to find”):

TMNT #7 eBay listing description.

TMNT #7 eBay listing description.

My eyebrow always goes up skeptically when I see the phrase “super rare” applied to a comic when I find it listed among several other copies that my search turned up (because if it is so super rare, why am I able to find a whole bunch of available copies to choose from?).  But take out the word “super” from that phrase and then I’d have to say I agree — because from my own experience, it turns out that at least on a relative basis to the first printing, copies of the 2nd printing of TMNT #7 are markedly more difficult to find out there, especially in the highest grades.   For example, the first thing I did in looking for one was to search eBay for CGC graded copies of TMNT #7.  Out of 14 results, 3 were irrelevant (i.e. not the issue in question), 10 were the 1st printing of TMNT #7, and just 1 was the 2nd printing.  [Pictured below is a screen-capture of my search result for posterity].  One out of 11 listings for TMNT #7, as a reference point, is 9% observed rarity for the second print…

Out of 14 listings, just one 2nd print copy with the detailed Krang cover.

Out of 14 results, there was just one CGC graded 2nd print copy with the Krang cover.

I then searched for raw/ungraded 2nd print copies.  I found only these four listings:

I found just these four listings for ungraded second print copies of TMNT #7.

I found just these four listings for ungraded second print copies of TMNT #7.

Meanwhile, I found that eBay was flooded with first print copies to choose from, with over 80 results (I’ll just picture the first few otherwise this post would scroll down forever):

tmnt-7-ungraded-1st-prints

Meanwhile, I found that 1st print copies were abundant, with over 80 listings, including ones with multiple copies available.

So once again, looking at the observed relative rarity from actual available raw/ungraded copies for sale, we observe that a single digit percentage of the total TMNT #7 copies found out there on eBay are the 2nd printing.

And then there’s the CGC census data.  I looked up issue #7 and found that CGC has graded 231 first print copies, but just 24 second print copies.  That adds up to 255 total copies — 24 out of 255 = about 9%.  So in my experience, as documented here, the “observed rarity” out there for TMNT #7 in the marketplace argues that second print copies — with the “Krang Cover” — are markedly more difficult to find relative to the first print copies, by an order of magnitude.  Here’s the CGC census data as of this writing for these two printings starting with the first:

1st-print-census

Screen-shot of the current CGC census data for 1st print copies of TMNT #7.

That’s the 1st print CGC census data.  And below is the data for the 2nd print, where amazingly, there are only four copies in 9.8 on census as of today of the 2nd print, versus 89 in 9.8 of the first print.  That adds up to 93 copies in 9.8 for TMNT #7 across both printings — and 4 out of 93 = about 4.3% census rarity in 9.8 for 2nd print copies.

2nd-print-census

Screen-shot of the current CGC census result for 2nd print copies of TMNT #7.

So between the observed relative rarity in the marketplace, and the relative rarity of CGC graded copies we see on the online census, I’d have to agree with that eBay seller that the 2nd printing of TMNT #7 is, at least, relatively quite rare compared to the 1st printing.  I still don’t know if I’d go as far as to say “super” rare but I’m open to being convinced if anyone has print run or other rarity data that you’d like to leave as a comment at the bottom of this post! 🙂  But clearly, between the two printings for issue #7, the 2nd printing seems much more desirable to me.  The 2nd printing of this issue reminds me in a way of Spawn #1 Black & White Edition, because A) it was printed later in time chronologically, B) it is black and white inside instead of full color, and C) it is harder to find out there than the original.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (Archie, 8/1988) — Rare Cover Price Variant

At issue #3 there was just one price of $1.50 on the cover, but at issue #4 they began to include a higher Canadian dollar price in smaller type underneath. That practice continued and #7 is the same way.

At issue #3 there was just one price of $1.50 on the cover, but at issue #4 they began to include a higher Canadian dollar price in smaller type underneath. That practice continued and as you can see issue #7 is the same way.

With Mirage Comics, collectors may or may not have noticed that by issue #4 they were selling to Canada and including an alternate price for buyers paying in Canadian dollars (in the 1980’s the currency exchange rate took a real jump and publishers started demanding that Canadians pay a higher price when paying in Canadian currency, so that they could still make a profit when that currency was exchanged back into US dollars). By including a separate Canadian price in small type at the bottom, Mirage was able to print one batch of copies to cover all of North America.

Why am I telling you this? Because in this section of the post I’m covering Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 which was published by Archie. And instead of including both prices on all copies like Mirage did, check out what Archie did instead:

tmnt-cover-price-variant

That’s right folks, we have a TMNT cover price variant here, at $1.25 (at left).

Collectors familiar with 75 cent variants at Marvel (and D.C.) will already understand why this $1.25 version is very interesting as far as rarity… but not many collectors actually know about that “class” of cover price variants so, readers, how about 35 cent variants — anyone heard of those?  Of course you have:  Iron Fist #14… Star Wars #1… the 35 cent cover price variant copies of those issues are worth a fortune compared to their regularly priced counter-parts, on account of the fact that the higher cover price copies are much more rare.

And as you may have guessed:  The $1.25 copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 are much more rare too.  Here’s why:  Remember, this was a currency exchange rate phenomenon, i.e. the higher priced copies were printed out for the Canadian market.  And the Canadian market was actually a pretty tiny fraction of the total North American market… with a smaller population than California for some contrast, at 26.9 million people.

canada-population-1988

Canada’s population in 1988 was smaller than California.

Meanwhile, the population of the United States in 1988 by contrast was 244.5 million people.  That adds up to a combined North American market for comic books of 271.4 million people.  But Archie was selling $1.25 cover price copies only to the Canadian portion of that market, working out to 9.9% of the market size by population (26.9 / 271.4 = 9.9%).  Therefore logic would dictate that only about 9.9% of the total copies produced were those $1.25 cover price copies.  So that effectively makes $1.25 cover price variant copies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 “one-in-ten” variants.  That’s clearly the more rare and therefore preferable version for collectors to go after when seeking this issue, and all you have to look for to spot them is the higher cover price at $1.25.

And then two other side notes here about this: (1) Both “direct edition” and “newsstand” copies exist for each cover price (so collectors may decide they prefer copies out of one distribution channel over the other), and (2)  The TMNT “regular series” at Archie (which came after the mini-series and started 3/1989) also has these cover price variants, for example here is issue #1:

march-1989-archie-series

A $1.25 cover price copy of issue #1 of the 1989 TMNT series published by Archie.

So There You Have It!

And that concludes my foray into the 1st appearance of Krang in comics!   If you’ve read this far then hopefully you found this post interesting and helpful, and you got some comic collecting ideas out of reading it. Check out my Rare Comics blog for posts on rare comics to look for beyond the topic of the TMNT, especially if you found yourself intrigued about cover price variants (which I talk about quite a bit)! 🙂

Happy Collecting! 🙂

[4/5/2017 UPDATE: there has been a new development!
Read about it here in “Part II”]

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