A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 3: 1992 – 1996

abril 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm (Animation, Comic Books, Film, Hollywood's Privilege-driven -isms, Race, TMNT) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

April O'Neil #1 Cover (Jan. 1993)

The year 1992 marked the end of the Mirage TMNT‘s guest creator era: after three years of mostly non-canonical stories by a bevy of creators, Mirage staffers once again took reins of the book, with a new focus on featuring a more stable tone and in moving their characters forward.  This latest phase in the book culminated with “City at War”, a thirteen-part mega arc which featured the return of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to active creative duties and ended on the book’s last issue.  It also gave April some much-needed focus, as the writers had her decide to move to California in order to recenter herself.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this era of greater focus on April also saw the beginning of the end of depictions of her based on her issue #4 redesign, as the physical features she had sported since then–by no means limited to skin color–began disappearing.  What one may draw from this is unclear, and the fact that there’s only one artist drawing the character for the duration of the era doesn’t help.

The years from 1993 to 1996 saw waning interest in the Ninja Turtles. The third film received a tepid reception.  Mirage’s second volume of TMNT, which debuted shortly after the end of the first one,would prove short-lived,  its final issue hitting stores on October 1995. The Archie series, TMNT Adventures, ended that same year. After seven seasons of sausage-making, Fred Wolf retooled the original cartoon for its eighth season in order to deal with a shifting children’s television landscape; old characters were written out, new characters were written in, and the series’ aesthetic got a face lift, but none of these changes were enough to stop the series from ending, after ten seasons and 193 episodes, in 1996.  By January 1997, the flow new material featuring the TMNT had slowed down to a trickle, and existed mostly in the form of a comic series published by Image, continuing the adventures of the Mirage versions of the characters…but that’s something for another entry.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Note the first: While I’ve tried to be comprehensive as possible here, any help obtaining any relevant images I might have missed is much appreciated.

Note the second: Despite not having much in the way of comments, I still plan on moderating any discussion with a heavy hand, should it become necessary.

TMNT #32 Second Printing Cover (1992)  Art by Mark Bodé

TMNT (Vol.1) #32 Second Printing Cover (April, 1992) Art by Mark Bodé

 

33, Colored Reprint (1992).  Art by Mark Bodé, Colors by Bill Fitts.  While very much an outlier in it's depiction of April, this issue is the main reason why I don't understand how people who insist that April was never a woman of color.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #33, Colored Reprint (April, 1992). Art by Mark Bodé, Colors by Bill Fitts.  This issue is the main reason why I don’t understand people who insist that April was never a woman of color.  While the depiction here is very much an outlier, it did not occur in a vacuum.

 

TMNT (Vol. 1) #48 (June 1992).  Art by A.C. Farley

TMNT (Vol. 1) #48 (June 1992) Cover, as reproduced on TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4. Art by A.C. Farley.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #49 (July 1992).  Art by Jim Lawson.  This is not actually April, but Robyn, her sister, who makes her first appearance this issue.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #49 (July 1992), as Reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4. Art by Jim Lawson. This is not actually April, but Robyn, her sister, who debuts in this issue, and who ends up playing a major role in April’s part of “City at War”.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #49 (July 1992).  Art by Jim Lawson, whose ever-evolving April now has wavy rather than curly hair.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #49 (July 1992), as reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4. Art by Jim Lawson, whose ever-evolving April now has lost her trademark hair.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #50 (1992).  Art by Kevin Eastman.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #50 (1992). Art by Kevin Eastman.

TMNT #50 (August 1992).  Art by various, although April specifically is almost certainly by Michael Dooney.

TMNT #50 (August 1992). Art by various, although April specifically is almost certainly by Michael Dooney.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #52 (October 1992).  Art by Jim Lawson.  The woman here is Gabrielle, Casey's future wife.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #52 (October 1992). Art by Jim Lawson. The woman here is Gabrielle, who eventually marries Casey.  Like her daughter Shadow, she is canonically white.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #53 (November 1992).  Pencils by Jim Lawson.  This issue more than any other comic book has convinced me of just how important an inker can be.  Lawson's art for this issue, inked by Matt Banning, looks super-different from the rest of his work on the arc.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #53 (November 1992). Pencils by Jim Lawson. This issue more than any other comic book has convinced me of just how important an inker can be. Lawson’s art for this issue, inked by Matt Banning, looks super different from the rest of his work on the arc.

TMNT #54 (December 1992).  Pencils by Jim Lawson.

TMNT #54 (December 1992). Pencils by Jim Lawson.  April on the left, Robyn on the right.  April’s hair is once again curly, which raises a whole bunch of questions.

April O'Neil #1 Cover (Jan. 1993).  Art by Chris Allan

April O’Neil #1 Cover (Jan. 1993). Art by Chris Allan.  Archie April finally gets her own series, and the two issues I’ve read are rather good.

 

April O’Neil #1 (Jan. 1993). Art by Chris Allan, who by this point had solidified his take on April, which is very reminiscent of Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. That, combined with her outfit, makes me suspect that if April’s animated incarnation had also been a woman of color, we might have eventually ended up with an April that was a dead ringer for Elisa Maza.

...I mean, just look at her.

…I mean, just look at her.  (Taken from Gargoyles episode 1.13: “Reawakening”.)

TMNT III (Released on March 1993).  April portayed by Paige Turco.

TMNT III (Released on March 1993). April portrayed by Paige Turco.

April O'Neil - The May East Saga #1 (April 1993).  Pencils by Bob Fingerman.  April quickly got a second mini-series, one with little to no involvement from the Archie books' regular team.  It is apparently horrible.

April O’Neil: The May East Saga #1 (April 1993). Pencils by Bob Fingerman. Image obtained from TMNT Entity. Archie quickly released a second April mini-series, one with little to no involvement from the Archie books’ regular team. It is apparently horrible.

April O'Neil: The May East Saga #3 Cover (June 1993).  Art by Bob Fingerman.  Despite being the series' lead, only the last of the three issues actually featured April on the cover. She's the one on the right.

April O’Neil: The May East Saga #3 Cover (June 1993). Image obtained from TMNT Entity. Art by Bob Fingerman. Only the last of the three issues actually featured April on the cover, despite the fact that she was its protagonists. She’s the one on the left.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #62 (Cover (

TMNT (Vol. 1) #62 (August 1992) cover, as reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5.  Art by A.C. Farley.

TMNT #62 (August 1993).  Pencils by Jim Lawson.  The final issue of the original TMNT comic.

TMNT #62 (August 1993), as reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5. Pencils by Jim Lawson. The final issue of the original TMNT comic.  It wasn’t until I was working on this that I realized just how this page was meant to parallel the one from issue #52 seen above.

TMNT Tournament Fighter Sprite Set (Genesis / Mega Drive Version) (1993).  Although the various Konami TMNT games published in the mid-eighties and early nineties used material from a variety of sources, their depictions of April uniformly came from the first cartoon.  This is the only exception.

TMNT Tournament Fighters (Genesis / Mega Drive Version) (1993). Developed by Konami Co., Ltd.  Set ripped by Belial, and obtained from the Sprite Database. Although the various Konami TMNT games published in the mid-eighties and early nineties used material from a variety of sources, their depictions of April uniformly came from the first cartoon. This is the only exception, which takes the character and turns her into a generic female fighting game character.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #1 (October, 1993).  Pencils by Jim Lawson, colors by Mary Woodring.  Not long after Volume 1 ended, Volume 2 began, featuring a regular creative team and color. This issue features the opposite number of issue #32's  uncommonly dark-skinned April: an uncommonly light-skinned one.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #1 (October, 1993). Pencils by Jim Lawson, colors by Mary Woodring. Not long after Volume 1 ended, Volume 2 began, featuring a regular creative team and color. This issue features the opposite number of issue #32’s uncommonly dark-skinned April: a version that frankly, looks like a ghost.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #6 Cover (1994)

TMNT (Vol. 2) #6 Cover (August 1994). Art by Jim Lawson.

 

TMNT (Vol. 2) #6 (August 1994).  Art by Jim Lawson.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #6 (August 1994). Pencils by Jim Lawson.  Colors by Eric Vincent.

TMNT (1987) Intro (Seasons 8 - 10).  Among the various aesthetic changes the cartoon made for its "red sky" seasons was giving April a new look.

TMNT (1987) Intro (Seasons 8 – 10). Among the various aesthetic changes the cartoon made for its “red sky” seasons was giving April a new look.

TMNT (1987) 8.01 - Get Shredder (Sept. 17, 1994).  April's new outfit.

TMNT (1987) 8.01 – Get Shredder (Sept. 17, 1994). …and here it is, in all its generic glory.

TMNT Adventures #61 (October 1994).  Pencils by Jim Lawson; colors by Barry Grossman.  ...and there it is.  The difference between Mirage April and Archie April in two pictures.  This divergence won't last.

TMNT Adventures #61 (October 1994). Pencils by Jim Lawson; colors by Barry Grossman. Lawson was a regular fill-in artist for the Archie series, which this month meant seeing his art on both books.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #7 (October 1994).  Pencils by Jim Lawson; colors by Eric Vincent.  Not the date, as it will be important in a minute.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #7 (October 1994). Pencils by Jim Lawson; colors by Eric Vincent. One important thing to note about this version of April compared to the previous pic’s: once we set aside the coloring–and it’s worth noting that April’s darker skin here is shared by all the characters in the scene–there is no real aesthetic difference between the two versions of April.  This was not the case two years ago.

TMNT Adventures #66 (March 1995).  Art by Gray Morrow.  I've always loved this page, where April decides to greet the year 2000, alone, over a drink.

TMNT Adventures #66 (March 1995). Art by Gray Morrow. I’ve always loved this last panel, where April decides to greet the year 2000, alone, over a drink.  Note: The “roomie” in the note above is Oyuki Mashimi, who first moved in with April in April O’Neil #1, as seen above.  Secret lesbians?  You decide!

TMNT Adventures: Year of the Turtle #3 (March 1996).  Pencils by Hugh Haynes.  After TMNT Adventures was cancelled due to flagging sales and dissatisfaction about the content, Archie released this miniseries, as a sort of trial run for a retooled series.  Given how stable the character of April had become, this version looks quite odd, to say the least.

TMNT Adventures: Year of the Turtle #3 (March 1996). Pencils by Hugh Haynes. Image obtained from TMNT Entity.  After TMNT Adventures was cancelled due to flagging sales and dissatisfaction about the content–this is the series where the turtles caused Hitler to commit suicide, after all–Archie released this miniseries, as a trial run for a retooled series that never came to pass. Given how stable the depictions of April had become, this version looks quite odd, to say the least.

 

 

8 comentarios

  1. Isaac said,

    The more I think about, the more it occurs to me that, as far as the original Mirage comics are concerned, nobody had the faintest idea what April looked like…ever. And I don’t just mean skin color. As I recall from reading the comics (which I borrowed from a friend about a year ago), the only distinguishing factor that April had was that she was the woman who spent a lot of time with the turtles. Everything else changed from issue to issue (to be fair, so did the art style from time to time).

    Part of this was probably the ’87 series, which came in early on in the Mirage run and had an April that looked nothing like any of the April character designs Mirage had done thus far.

    Other thoughts on this post:

    TMNT #33: That’s about as “of color” (is she black? latina? south east asian? she’s just sort of generically dark skinned) I think April ever gets, though this being a color print certainly helps.

    TMNT vol 2, #6 (both images): She might be dark-skinned in these, or she might have a really good tan, OR it might just be the way the light is hitting her. It’s kind of hard to.

    TMNT vol 2, #7: This is racial ambiguity at its finest folks! If you can tell what race Casey or April are, especially if you don’t know who these characters are in advance, then you have a better eye for such things than I do. You could convince me that April is Chinese based off of that image. As for Casey…I’m not even convinced that he’s got one skin tone. Yes I know it’s supposed to be shading, but you coulda fooled me.

  2. Ian said,

    The more I think about, the more it occurs to me that, as far as the original Mirage comics are concerned, nobody had the faintest idea what April looked like…ever. And I don’t just mean skin color. As I recall from reading the comics (which I borrowed from a friend about a year ago), the only distinguishing factor that April had was that she was the woman who spent a lot of time with the turtles. Everything else changed from issue to issue (to be fair, so did the art style from time to time).

    As you probably know, this is actually par for the course in comic books, where like height, body shape–and yes, skin color, particularly in biracial people—are often considered to be mere to be mere suggestions. Heck, given the shenanigans that sometimes take place, I’d say that April is actually remarkably consistent throughout the original Mirage run, given that she has three distinct designs.

    Part of this was probably the ’87 series, which came in early on in the Mirage run and had an April that looked nothing like any of the April character designs Mirage had done thus far.

    I don’t agree. She’s prettied up to a fair degree, but I don’t see how one can’t draw a straight line from her cartoon look to the look she sported in her original issue #2 appearance.

    TMNT #33: That’s about as “of color” (is she black? latina? south east asian? she’s just sort of generically dark skinned) I think April ever gets, though this being a color print certainly helps.

    I disagree: there’s a more-or-less established look for “generically dark-skinned” characters, and it often involves giving a character with otherwise-European/generic-looking features dark skin. Things they don’t tend to include are kinky hair or full lips, because those have centuries-long associations with people from African descent, and can sometimes even be considered more important identifiers than actual skin color, particularly for light-skinned Black people.

    ETA: What’s more, even if she were “generically dark-skinned”, I don’t see how that changes anything. If she’s not white (and I believe she wasn’t, from 1985 to 1992), then the fact that all adaptations inevitably make her white is whitewashing.

    TMNT vol 2, #7: This is racial ambiguity at its finest folks! If you can tell what race Casey or April are, especially if you don’t know who these characters are in advance, then you have a better eye for such things than I do. You could convince me that April is Chinese based off of that image. As for Casey…I’m not even convinced that he’s got one skin tone. Yes I know it’s supposed to be shading, but you coulda fooled me.

    Could you elaborate? Because this feels like oblique criticism against an argument I haven’t made, and frankly, it makes me uncomfortable.

  3. Isaac said,

    I think my snark has failed to get through. Starting with the last one, there’s no criticism here, just the comment that if you take that image out of any context the characters could have been of any race.

    From the others, I guess the reason that the one from #33 bugs me is that she looks a lot like somebody I know who is South East Asian (Indonesian to be precise), especially if you ignore the hair. The “full lips” don’t really make that much of an impact on me so much as the general shape of the head.

    Ending with my final point, its not that one can’t draw a straight line between her appearances in the comics, it’s more that the ’87 series created an image of April in people’s minds that eventually changed the way artists saw her, and I think that’s what you’ve documented on this (and part #2 of this series) page. Does this still count as whitewashing? Yes, and I’m not denying that. I just think the process for which that happened in the comics is a little more complex.

    Like I said in your original post. In between issues #2 (April’s first appearance) and issue #11, April goes from looking white (to my eyes at least) to looking clearly black (once again, in my eyes). Maybe saying that “nobody knew what April looked like” was a little bit of an exaggeration, which is another tendency of mind that without my tone of voice, failed miserably to get through.

    I’m sorry if my snark has caused this to become more heated that it had to be. I’ve enjoyed this series and appreciate your taking on this kind of difficult project.

    • Isaac said,

      One correction (I have to start reading before I click the “Publicar comentario” button). In my initial point I didn’t mean “any” race literally. I meant several different ones.

  4. A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 4: 1997 – 2002 | Chasing Sheep said,

    […] Part 3. […]

  5. A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 5 (2003 – 2010) | Chasing Sheep said,

    […] Part 3. […]

  6. A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 6: Miscellanea | Chasing Sheep said,

    […] Part 3. […]

  7. A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 7: 2010 – 2014 | Chasing Sheep said,

    […] Part 3. […]

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