As you can see I went a little more on the serious side for this one. This was actually a two-day warm up, I did some quick line art yesterday and finished up the blacks and grays today. I was going to do color but ... anyone who really knows the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn't need colors to tell who Raphael is. He was always the most real, and most tragic turtle, if that's possible... he was also the most human.
My man (turtle) desperately wanted to be part of human society, in fact he wanted nothing more in life than to just fit in, and disappear into a crowd. But he never could. His underlying story arch (in my mind at least) always centered around this... he was the ultimate outcast- much more so than other super heroes who could simply take off their disguise, or suppress their powers. He spend his entire life fighting to protect humanity, with the simple hope that they, in return, would not attack and dissect him on sight.
The first time I read Sin City I was actually reminded of the feeling I got from TMNT comics early on. Heavy, heavy blacks, dark plot lines, defending a city that might not be worth defending, quite literally living in the gutter. It's not easy being a Turtle.
TMNT holds a very close, very special place in my heart- tucked up in the left atrium somewhere, I believe. I had a very tender relationship with those four turtles, that rat, and that red haired lady for all of my young life. Through a lucky quirk of fate and relations, I met and was in the company of Peter Laird a few times when I was a budding young doodler, at my extended family's home, in western MA.
At that age however (I was seven or eight I think), I was far too bashful to speak to such a god-like figure, so I kept a deliberate distance from him. He was friends with a family member of mine through one of his friends or relations, you know how these things end up... so after a slack-jawed introduction on my part, I simply observed him from a petrified distance.
Still, at 7 or 8 even "knowing" someone from a shy several yards away was like standing next to some kind of unbelievable, forbidden magic. This was the creator of the TURTLES- the thing behind the toys I played with every day, the cartoons I watched every Saturday (and taped religiously on VHS), the comics I secretly hid under my bed- this was THAT GUY. To my child-brain, the fact that I (by proxy and proximity) KNEW this man, made everything Ninja Turtles specifically MY THING.
I made it a point of pride to know everything a young child, and TMNT enthusiast COULD know about the Turtles, at that point in time. We're talking right around 1990-1993, just when the Turtle craze was at it's height - just PRE- Secret of the Ooze, or possibly just after the second feature film was released. Meeting this Creator Man had already blown my young mind, so now the void left in that wake needed to be filled with knowledge about the Turtles, their world, and their history. In turn, this became a big part of who I was, and who I hoped to be.
Pre-internet remember, at least for me. I never even heard of an internet until I was at least in double digits, so this was info you had to hunt down in the source material.
Of course the Turtles changed a lot, quickly, in the years to come. Now there is almost no trace left of the original, black and white comics, full of violence, dark humor and suggested cross-species attractions. I'm not sure what the TMNT are now, I can only judge them and draw them by what I remember know in my little kid heart.
Raphael is the best, no question. All snark and sarcasm to cover up the giant hole inside himself - all the while jump kicking things in the face and wrecking house with two pointy metal sticks. Leo may have been leader in name, but Raph was the leader in attitude. Cowabunga Dudes! Turtle Power!