I've been thinking of ways to make the Indestructibles blog more chatty lately, and while I was in Cleveland for conference last week I got an idea: what about writing a series about one single panel from a single comic book that I found really memorable? We all have those--the panel that sticks with you forever, whether because it's iconic, or because it's funny, or tragic, or does something we've never seen before... the reasons are endless.
I also then thought: well sometimes it's not just the panel. Sometimes you need the entire page to really explain why it's stuck with you, what made it so important to your brain that it never let go.
So: one panel, one page. Or, because the internet demands it, #1panel1page. And I know exactly where to start.
It was 1988.
Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly 1988. I might've read the comic a little later. I'm not sure. But it was one of the first trade paperbacks I ever owned, picked up at a little Waldenbooks in Medford, Massachusetts. The comic? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book IV by First Publishing.
Yeah, I bought Book IV first. Apparently I wasn't as big a stickler for continuity back then as I am now.
But it was amazing. Not because it was the first time I encountered Eastman and Laird's ninja turtles in print, but because I was young enough that I only knew Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and (my future spirit animal) Raphael through the bright, cheery, pizza-loving cartoon. I had no idea how dark their original format was, how violent. I didn't know how closely the comics hewed to the classic, quietly menacing style of storytelling that it had originally been more of a parody of.
Really, I could pull any page and panel from this TPB and write about it, but here's the page that leapt instantly to mind when I was brainstorming where to start with #1panel1page:
This requires a little context: while his brothers playfully prepare for Christmas with April and Splinter, Leonardo is silently patrolling the city alone. He's set upon by the Foot Clan, which plays out as a silent, terrifying endurance test as the lone turtle is outmatched and outnumbered. His part of the story is wordless--his brothers and their banter more than making up for his lack of dialogue--with page after page of gorgeously rendered ninja fighting in a grimy, gritty portrayal of Manhattan covered in dirty gray snow.
And just when you think Leo is going to make it home in one piece... Shredder (whom the turtles had defeated in an earlier book and believed dead) appears.
Let's zoom in on the panel that makes this page unforgettable in my mind:
It's really more of a composite panel, the white sky over a gray Manhattan, Leonardo smiling both defiantly and almost sheepishly as he faces his mortal enemy. There's real brilliance in the expression portrayed on the page--Leo's inhuman face shows layers of fear and anger and even sarcasm in that last moment. And then, the panel he exists in is literally shredded, torn apart on the page, Leonardo's face becoming blurred and incomplete. The melting snow on the left of the panel is reminiscent of blood, A trick that loses a bit of its impact in the color version of the comic, but still builds a powerful, impactful, and memorable panel.
This kicks off a relentless battle sequence between the Foot and the turtles and leads to one of the more memorable smaller arcs in the early series--but all that's a post for another day.
Were you a fan of the early TMNT books? What do you think of their more current stories? Writers, do you have a #1panel1page article to suggest (or would you even want to guest-blog)? Comment below, or use the Contact button at the top of this page.
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Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.