Bizarro Back Issues: How Michelangelo The Ninja Turtle Saved Christmas With Violence! (1985)
When you think about characters that are well-suited for saving Christmas, it's hard to come up with one more perfect for the job than Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle. Not only has he been making some pretty significant appearances under the tree for a solid thirty years, but of the four brothers who make up the team, Mikey's the one who's full of childlike wonder and the sense of fun that allow one to be swept up by Christmas magic.
That's probably why he's the character who ended up starring in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Christmas issue back in 1985, in which he befriends a kitty cat, brings joy to a bunch of orphans, and actually Saves Christmas. Which, you know, also involves hijacking a truck and crashing through at least two NYPD roadblocks. Saving Christmas can be complicated, folks.
The story was originally published as a one-issue "Micro-Series" --- maybe the most brilliant marketing term to come out of the '80s --- by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that was called, fittingly enough, Michaelangelo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. If you're looking for it today, though, it had a recent reprint in the second volume of IDW's TMNT: The Ultimate Collection, which also features page-by-page annotations from Eastman and Laird themselves. That might not mean much for the Christmas story, since it's pretty straightforward, but consider that this volume also has the one where Donatello meets Jack Kirby, and you'll probably see the appeal.
Anyway, this was back when Michelangelo still had that extra A in his name, but to be fair, it's also a comic where he refers to sledding as "sliding," so who knows.
Maybe it's a Northeastern thing.
The basic idea here is that Mikey's out enjoying the festive atmosphere of the holidays and the cold weather that gives him a nice excuse for bundling himself up to hide his turtley features. He even manages to find a new friend in the form of a kitten he names Klunk, who would stick around in the comic for a few years. Eventually, though, he decides to head to a local toy store to see if he can't find any good gifts for the rest of the Turtles.
The problem is that everyone at the toy store is trying to get their hands on Little Orphan Aliens™, the hottest new toy of 1985, which is going to end up causing Mikey no end of trouble.
Which, you know, is especially ironic considering what would happen a few years later with the Turtles' own toy line launched in 1988.
But the problem this time isn't the scarcity of the Little Orphan Aliens™ --- at least not directly. See, the store has a whole truckload of them in the back, but they're already spoken for as a donation to a local orphanage. Unfortunately, there's a gang of robbers with other plans.
I love this plot. Not only is it Christmasy in the most classically cliché sense, it's also one of the most efficient ways to introduce baddies that there is. I mean, thieves are one thing, but thieves who are that excited about literally making their money off the suffering of poor toyless orphans? Those are some bad guys you really want to see clobbered with some nunchucks.
And, after leaping onto the truck and working his way inside, that's exactly what Mikey gives us.
Ah, the sweet satisfaction of seeing an orphan-hating crook get a boot to the face. It's the reason for the season, you know.
The problem --- well, the more personal problem --- is that he leaves Klunk "safely" in the back of the truck, and when the driver tries to make a getaway, he ends up taking Mikey's new pet with him. The good news, though, is that one of the many ninja skills you learn from Master Splinter is how to cut someone off at the pass and then stomp the living hell out of them. That's the kind of thing that'll put an end to a heist toute de suite.
But here's the thing about having a fiistfight on top of a semi truck in New York City on a festive pre-Christmas evening: There are a lot of people around, and even in New York, somebody's eventually going to notice. And if you're a five-foot turtle with a truck full of stolen goods, that's probably a bad thing.
It's at this point that the story turns into Michelangelo going full-on Saints Row as he tries to shake the cops, ramming a squad car off the road and then crashing through a roadblock in what would stand for 18 years until Elf finally dethroned it as the most exciting Christmas-themed police chase in media. The difference here is that Michelangelo's sure to apologize to the cops while he's crashing into their cars and nearly running them over.
Eventually, Mikey loses the cops, stashes the truck, and rescues Klunk from the back, but he's still left with one pretty big problem: What the heck do you do with a truckload of stolen Little Orphan Aliens™?
The obvious answer is to just hand them over to the cops, but as Michelangelo realizes --- and as April O'Neil confirms when he asks her about it --- if he does that, they'll just be impounded as evidence, and the kids at the orphanage won't be any better off than they would've been if the robbers had gotten away. Sure, they'll have the moral high ground, but try explaining that to a kid who wakes up on Christmas morning to find a Little Orphan Alien™-shaped hole under the tree and let me know how that works out for you.
Obviously, there's only one thing to do, and it will require all of their cunning and ninja skill. It's time to play Santa.
Thus, Christmas is saved, and a bunch of kids get to spend the rest of their lives assuring their peers that Santa is real and that his elves are weird little green people with gigantic torsos who smell like pepperoni and sewer.
Admittedly, it might not be the most festive story, what with all the car chases and fistfights, but hey. It worked out better than when they went back in time and accidentally killed all the dinosaurs, right?