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View Poll Results: Do you think the Mirage comics are dark?
Yes 12 20.69%
Kind of 28 48.28%
Not really 13 22.41%
No 5 8.62%
Voters: 58. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 08-07-2014, 04:25 PM   #1
neatoman
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Do you think the Mirage comics are actually "dark"?

So after years and years of hearing about how grim, gritty and dark the Mirage comics were, I finally got a good chance at reading them close to two years ago and I have been keeping up with all of IDW's reprints of them.

So what is my verdict?
Well... It's grimmer, grittier and darker than the cartoons and movies but almost anything that takes itself seriously is grimmer, grittier and darker than "Dude let's grab a pizza!". There is some blood and the turtles themselves are a bit ruthless but that's not inherently dark, that's just common in action. Most of the stories actually seem pretty upbeat or more about wackiness than hardboiled grit. Whenever the Foot are involved there is some sense of grit and harshness involved but after City at War there's actually a pretty upbeat, if a little bittersweet, ending. There's some philosophy on the nature of right and wrong and while that is a bit thought provoking, again, it's not inherently dark. The stuff that might actually be called dark is stuff like Casey's alcoholism and even then it's more depressing than dark.

There are also some attempts at darkness or grimness that just falls flat. Like the first Rat King seems like it's intended to be some kind of horror story but it's ruined by the Rat King's failure to even scare the turtles, his relatively easy defeat and the fact that he keeps narrating about how HE HIMSELF is intimidated by the turtles. Hell if anything, the 4kids version of that story works better as horror since he barely has lines and is an actual threat in that version.

Maybe it does not seem dark to me since I associate "dark" with with much harsher and twisted creations? Like Alien for example, the aliens in that series are not horrifying because they want to kill you, they're horrifying because they want to rape you. Or how about Nightmare on Elm Street, a dead serial killer goes into your dreams and brutalise you in ironic ways as revenge for being burned to death. Or how about a dark comedy? Hot Fuzz, a town commitee is murdering all sorts of people just for the petty reason of keeping the image of an ideal town while brainwashing the police so they're not to be caught. Or how about what's acceptable for children's media in my native region, Håkan Bråkan, a children's TV-show that featured all sorts of things that would never make it in to a kids show in the US.

So in short: Enjoyable, a little dark but not dark enough to really be called that. Maybe not made for children but certainly not something I would keep away from children, in fact, I would encourage children to read it.
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Old 08-07-2014, 04:28 PM   #2
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It's no more grimmer or darker then the average Spider-Man or Daredevil issue.
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Old 08-07-2014, 04:36 PM   #3
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I'd actually say no for a majority of the Mirage vol. 1/2, even 4 stuff. A few Tales of the TMNT vol. 2 issues, though, of course. A lot of things in the Gang War arc are pretty violent, the kind of things I'd expect from Marvel's MAX or DC's Vertigo. Then there are a couple with just dark themes that punch at the soul (Berger's "Cold, Cold Ice" and "Dark Shadows").

The problem with a lot of the "dark" DC/Marvel comics of today is that they feel like an artificial injection, like it's there just to "seem" dark, not because it fits the flow of the narrative. When I think of a dark issue of the other guys' comics, this is the only thing that comes to mind.
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Old 08-07-2014, 05:30 PM   #4
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No.

Outside of the first few issues (which play up the "grim 'n' gritty" aspects almost for laughs), it's more just kind of somber and weird. A la that Rat King issue. Occasionally it does delve back into "dark" kill-or-be-killed action as in "Return to New York," but even then, yeah. It's nothing worse than the average not-just-for-kids comic.

Content-wise I think the weirder or more emotional stuff it gets into later might not go over incredibly well with kids, but there's nothing offensive or too dark.
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Old 08-07-2014, 06:29 PM   #5
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Kind of. They are darker than the cartoon or Archie Adventures, but it was all out grit and darkness. A lot of the comics are just really weird. Toitle Anxiety, Time Travails and Sky highway come to mind.
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Old 08-07-2014, 06:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neatoman View Post
Well... It's grimmer, grittier and darker than the cartoons and movies but almost anything that takes itself seriously is grimmer, grittier and darker than "Dude let's grab a pizza!"
That's it exactly. Mirage TMNT is not "dark" or "gritty" (outside of a few stories)... it's just not wall to wall slapstick camp and toy-driven.
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:03 PM   #7
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It's darker than any comic book series I've ever read other than Batman or the extreme gore comics like Spawn.
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:10 PM   #8
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It's dark in comparison to other TMNT media, for sure.

But by itself? No not really. Not something I'd be handing to kids under 10, though.
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Candy Kappa View Post
It's no more grimmer or darker then the average Spider-Man or Daredevil issue.
^ Pretty much this.
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Old 08-07-2014, 10:16 PM   #10
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Kind of. They are darker than the cartoon or Archie Adventures, but it was all out grit and darkness. A lot of the comics are just really weird. Toitle Anxiety, Time Travails and Sky highway come to mind.
Yeah. I think it's more this aspect (which I love) that keeps them from being kids' fair rather than anything they actually do with violence. The Mirage series is very embracing of its underground roots.

"Sky Highway" doesn't have anything objectionable in the way of content on face value, but it's so out there it's clear it's not for really young readers. Ditto on the fact that a lot of the Mirage series is just kind of a(n intentional) bummer. It's adult in a subtle way rather than an in-your-face violence/darkness way.
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Old 08-07-2014, 10:28 PM   #11
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Mirage is sort of a downer a lot of the time, in a good way. If that makes it dark, then I guess? It's main themes are the adoptive family, "life is at best bittersweet", and to a somewhat lesser extent how cycles of revenge are destructive. It's a comic about life and how life and the people closest to you just absolutely suck sometimes. It's "adult" in a very real sense, in that it deals with heavy themes that resonate more with adults, not that it's full of blood and titties or whatever.
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Old 08-07-2014, 10:50 PM   #12
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Mirage is sort of a downer a lot of the time, in a good way. If that makes it dark, then I guess? It's main themes are the adoptive family, "life is at best bittersweet", and to a somewhat lesser extent how cycles of revenge are destructive. It's a comic about life and how life and the people closest to you just absolutely suck sometimes. It's "adult" in a very real sense, in that it deals with heavy themes that resonate more with adults, not that it's full of blood and titties or whatever.
This. It's dark in a mature way and not in an edgy guts 'n gore way.
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:42 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Cryomancer View Post
Mirage is sort of a downer a lot of the time, in a good way. If that makes it dark, then I guess? It's main themes are the adoptive family, "life is at best bittersweet", and to a somewhat lesser extent how cycles of revenge are destructive. It's a comic about life and how life and the people closest to you just absolutely suck sometimes. It's "adult" in a very real sense, in that it deals with heavy themes that resonate more with adults, not that it's full of blood and titties or whatever.
This is a really great description of the Mirage series.
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Old 08-08-2014, 01:01 PM   #14
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I think the older comics were being called "gritty" as a synonym for Laird/Eastman/Lawson's very underground comic artstyle, and people at some point assumed that it meant the content and ran with it. Now it's being parroted by people who never did their research.
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Old 08-10-2014, 03:39 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by neatoman View Post
So after years and years of hearing about how grim, gritty and dark the Mirage comics were, I finally got a good chance at reading them close to two years ago and I have been keeping up with all of IDW's reprints of them.

So what is my verdict?
Well... It's grimmer, grittier and darker than the cartoons and movies but almost anything that takes itself seriously is grimmer, grittier and darker than "Dude let's grab a pizza!". There is some blood and the turtles themselves are a bit ruthless but that's not inherently dark, that's just common in action. Most of the stories actually seem pretty upbeat or more about wackiness than hardboiled grit. Whenever the Foot are involved there is some sense of grit and harshness involved but after City at War there's actually a pretty upbeat, if a little bittersweet, ending. There's some philosophy on the nature of right and wrong and while that is a bit thought provoking, again, it's not inherently dark. The stuff that might actually be called dark is stuff like Casey's alcoholism and even then it's more depressing than dark.

There are also some attempts at darkness or grimness that just falls flat. Like the first Rat King seems like it's intended to be some kind of horror story but it's ruined by the Rat King's failure to even scare the turtles, his relatively easy defeat and the fact that he keeps narrating about how HE HIMSELF is intimidated by the turtles. Hell if anything, the 4kids version of that story works better as horror since he barely has lines and is an actual threat in that version.

Maybe it does not seem dark to me since I associate "dark" with with much harsher and twisted creations? Like Alien for example, the aliens in that series are not horrifying because they want to kill you, they're horrifying because they want to rape you. Or how about Nightmare on Elm Street, a dead serial killer goes into your dreams and brutalise you in ironic ways as revenge for being burned to death. Or how about a dark comedy? Hot Fuzz, a town commitee is murdering all sorts of people just for the petty reason of keeping the image of an ideal town while brainwashing the police so they're not to be caught. Or how about what's acceptable for children's media in my native region, Håkan Bråkan, a children's TV-show that featured all sorts of things that would never make it in to a kids show in the US.

So in short: Enjoyable, a little dark but not dark enough to really be called that. Maybe not made for children but certainly not something I would keep away from children, in fact, I would encourage children to read it.

Thank you! I've been saying this for ages. People always uses the Mirage comics as proof that the Turtles were this dark, brooding grim tale in the beginning to rag on the lighter takes. While it is more violent, I wouldn't call it dark in the traditional sense. It's more subversive and tongue-in-cheek than straight up dark. The Image books were dark. Too dark. So dark it didn't really feel like the Turtles to me.

When I think "dark" in comics I think Spawn or Bendis Daredevil or Punisher Max. Mirage TMNT has this sense of play about it that keeps if from being "dark".
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Old 08-10-2014, 06:39 PM   #16
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I voted for "Not Really". It only seems that way because the first cartoon show had so much slapstick and cartoon silliness. The first issue is kind of grim, and Return to New York and City at War are too, but the rest of volume 1 was a lot of over the top sci-fi fun.
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Old 08-10-2014, 07:21 PM   #17
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It's depressing, morbid, sometimes violent, & full of occult stuff. That makes it dark by my definition.
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Old 08-11-2014, 11:23 PM   #18
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It's no more grimmer or darker then the average Spider-Man or Daredevil issue.
Not by today's standards, but put it in perspective of its time. Marvel and DC were pretty darn tame in the 70s and 80s because they were still trying to be sure they kept this on the cover:



Hell, Marvel got their wrist slapped for showing the negative effects of drug use in an anti-drug story, but chose to publish without the stamp on the cover.

Hence at the time, TMNT was considered a darker, gritty comic. By today's standards, it's fairly average stuff.
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Old 08-21-2014, 04:02 PM   #19
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Not by today's standards, but put it in perspective of its time.

Hence at the time, TMNT was considered a darker, gritty comic. By today's standards, it's fairly average stuff.
Very good point. You have to look at it through a mid-80s lens. When I was a teen, I definitely found the Mirage series to be one of the darker, grittier comics. The 90s comic scene was heavy into the bad ass anti-hero, which upped the ante and made it's predecessors look tame in comparison. As a culture we've become desensitized and everything has to be over-the-top to get noticed. I voted yes, as that was my perspective at the time and the initial appeal for me.
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Old 08-21-2014, 06:08 PM   #20
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When people say they are 'dark and gritty' they generally mean in contrast to the direction the original show took. The other things you refer to are horror franchises/films - something can be darker without being horror.

It's more the world that is presented in Mirage - the stories which keep the turtles in New York tend to be quite depressing and hopeless from the characters' standpoint. For example, the fact that the turtles generally have to remain in the shadows or evade capture in the earlier comics is written as something which most of the guys are frustrated about. In that sense it's pretty grim. There are other examples too.

I always took the 'dark' aspect of the comic to relate to different things. The first aspect is the solitude and lack of freedom/autonomy which the turtles face. That's a pretty dark way of life. Then there's the fact that they're fighting a clandestine group of criminal ninjas. Again, quite a depressing thing for both the turtles and - by extension - the city's human civilians. Then there is some of the action which goes on - Leonardo decapitating Shredder is pretty dark, let's be honest. Decapitations are a pretty gory way to die and I'd guess that most people would be terrified of dying in that manner. Then there's all the other weird stuff that goes on in the street level stories such as the turtles and Splinter almost meeting their doom numerous times or the boys' and April's struggles with themselves after they flee New York for Northampton.

A further aspect which may be being overlooked is that 'dark and gritty' isn't necessarily simply about the storytelling, but also about the art style - the way the comics were drawn and the fact that they were in black and white leads to a sort of unnerving feeing - I know that when I first looked at them I felt a sense of impending doom. I can't really explain what I mean here sufficiently - it's quite an abstract argument but it's just a sense or feeling.

So are the comics evil, terrifying, horrific? Not really, no. But what they do magnificently is present a world where everything feels quite bleak and depressing, and where the titular characters often live frustrating lives. One could be a celebrated intellect if it wasn't for the fact that society would consider his appearance freaky. Another can't seem to keep his temper under control. The leader has to be incredibly disciplined because he knows one wrong move could see him responsible for the death of his siblings. And then there's the origin story itself - a young boy driven by revenge due to the murder of his older brother, and that vengeance coming full circle as Splinter trains four infants in what is essentially an assassination mission on the now grown young boy. It's an incredibly bleak and depressing sequence of events, and the art depicts that very well.

Overall, I'd say the alleged 'darkness' of the comics is more cerebral. It's not constantly in your face, but some of the action does feel quite grim. But the main thing which sums up the bleak grittiness is the depressing circle of events which the characters find themselves trapped in. A sequence which (in terms of volume 1) leads all the way to "City at War". The first volume teaches us that life has consequences, and no matter how hard you try, it can be impossible to break the circle and escape the domino effect of the past. Eventually Karai offers the turtles a reprieve in "City at War" but the overall lesson is that these characters are trapped in an ongoing cycle of violence - as if being mutated humanoid animals who are forced to hide away in the sewers wasn't enough to cope with. And I think the fact that the turtles' personalities are relatable affects us on a subconscious level - we might not be mutants, but human beings know what it's like to be ostracised for our appearances, or our tempers, or our intellects. Perhaps in that sense there's a darkness within us at the subconscious level - maybe, just maybe, we may end up being as alone as the turtles we are in love with.

Last edited by Davetello; 08-21-2014 at 06:33 PM.
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