Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Character Ever 17: Raphael

Mouse Guard's David Petersen did this amazing cover for the
IDW Raphael one-shot.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hold a special place in my reading history. The toyline debuted right around my ninth birthday, but it was another year before I moved past the triumvirate of G.I. Joe, Transformers and M.A.S.K. to embrace the Turtles. But once I did, I was hooked. Over the next five years, TMNT rose to become the biggest toy line in the world, but I was busy digging deep into its history and in doing so fell in love with Raphael.

Nick's version of the character is a bit more visually
complicated than the previous cartoons.
While most everyone else my age just watched the TV show and bought a few toys, I was already a ravenous comic reader. So when I found out that the TMNT came from one of those weird black and white comics I would sometimes see, my search began. And my local small town bookstore was able to help out. They carried the colored First Comics collections of the first dozen TMNT books.

The first thing that became clear to young me was how cool Raphael was. He was the one that didn’t quite get along with the rest of his brothers. He had his own way of thinking about life and the world around him. While it was initially inspired by Wolverine (check out his monologue in the very first TMNT comic), he quickly developed into an independent thinker thanks to the Raphael micro-series. He also met another fellow that will be the star of a future Best Character Ever.

Sophie Campbell's art for the IDW series was a
true highlight for the characters.
The creators of the live action film clearly caught on to the strength of Raphael as a character. When the Ninja Turtles film hit the market, I was overjoyed to see Raphael take the major starring role, even taking over Leonardo’s role as the guy that took on the Foot Clan single handed. While the movie had some flaws, the story proved to cement Raphael as the best of a line I already loved.

Over the years, I’ve remained a TMNT fan. I bought through the Archie book, the color Mirage series, the black & white Mirage return title, the revived Tales of the TMNT and the 2000-era cartoon, all into Nickelodeon’s purchase of the characters. And throughout all of them, Raphael always remained the strongest character on the team. I continue to enjoy his adventures in the new CGI-animated series and the IDW series where Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman continue to craft the most compelling Ninja Turtles ever. Meanwhile, they have become box office stars once more with a second theatrical release due to drop this summer.

It’s never too late to fall in love with the TMNT. Go check out the IDW series in trade or digital. You will not be disappointed.

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