Comics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cereal: A Winning Combo, Back In The Early Nineties
During the late eighties, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the marketing gimmick no one could avoid. Super popular cartoon series, merchandise everywhere, and the hottest toys in stores, TMNT really could do no wrong in the late eighties and even somewhere into the early nineteen nineties. For Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, their independent comic book, published in 1984, had given rise to an empire they owned and controlled throughout the late eighties and the nineties and had perhaps some of the weirdest promotional materials and merchandising ever done for a "kids property," from the musical tour to the Sewer Exploration Belt to their ooze gelatin dessert, kids during this era devoured the content and wanted more. Of the weird products, though, perhaps the most well-remembered was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal.
Packaged and designed by Ralston, which was originally part of the Ralston-Purina Company formed in 1902 (and no, they were making dog food into cereal), the name of the company comes from a social movement formed in the late 19th Century called Ralstonism. At its height, the 800,000 followers of this movement believed in the motto "Regime, Activity, Light, Strength, Temperation, Oxygen and Nature," with the first letters of each forming the acronym Ralston. Weird place to get a cereal company name, but the company would go on to make cereals for Ghostbusters, Transformers, and Spider-Man (with the Spider-Man cereal being almost a carbon copy of the TMNT cereal with "webs" instead of "ninja nets").
The TMNT cereal itself described itself as "crunchy, sweetened 'ninja nets' with 'ninja turtle' marshmallows" and went through numerous promotions from its shelf life of 1989 to 1995. Promotions included pizza-shaped marshmallows, TMNT cereal bowls, trading cards, and two collectible four-part board games.
Much like General Mills, and other cereal brands, Ralston did a promotion involving comic books in the TMNT cereal. Three promotional comics were produced, with each numbered, and telling one continual story over 17 pages for each comic. However, unlike certain cereal/comic promotions, the TMNT one was much easier because you only had to buy one cereal. Once you had one comic, there was information inside telling you how to order a set so you could have all three for 50 cents and one proof of purchase.
Obscure Comics: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal #1, #2, and #3
What makes these comics truly obscure and special is the fact that all three were drawn by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, around the same time that the last TMNT arc Laird and Eastman would write and draw together, "Return to New York" was released. The two would write the bulk of the "City at War" arc later on and would only draw the first issue of the thirteen issue arc. In addition, Laird drew few TMNT comics by himself, and these comics would feature the first appearances of Wingnut and Man-Ray, who appeared here months before showing up in the Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures Series. Each issue was only the size of a trading card, though, and each "page" is just one panel, really, making the issues very quick reads.
Issue 1 begins with Baxter Stockman, at this point a mutated humanoid fly, sent by Shredder to capture Casey Jones. Playing baseball on a rooftop with the Ninja Turtles, Casey is abducted by Baxter in a net and taken away to the Shredder's hideout. Informed that Shredder plans to mutate Casey Jones using an octopus, Shredder is stopped by the arrival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Issue 2 picks up with the Turtles ready to fight to get Casey Jones back, but Shredder unleashes his new ally Wingnut on the green foursome. Attacking from the air, Wingnut has an advantage until Donatello uses his bo staff to knock Wingnut down to the ground. Baxter Stockman rescues Wingnut midair as the Turtles free Casey, and the five pursue the Shredder only to have the wall in front of them burst out, as Shredder drives a giant Mouser at them.
Issue 3 finishes the story as the Shredder pursues the Turtles in his giant mouser until the flying Man-Ray arrives, seeking the octopus Shredder stole from the sea. Using red paint thrown to him by Casey Jones, Man-Ray blinds the giant Mouser piloted by the Shredder until it plunges outside and into the water. As the giant mouser sinks, Casey Jones, Man-Ray, and green fab four decide to get some pizza.
Pricey For Just One, Full Sets Are Costly, and By Now The Cereal Would Be Stale
Despite being cheap to get back in the day, each issue of this series ranges between $15 to $40 in price on the secondary market, with issue 3 being the most expensive. However, the price jumps to $50 to $100 for full sets of all three issues, with sealed sets going for the most. Fun simple reads, with some important TMNT history, these three books are also very desirable to fans who miss and loved the TMNT cereal from back in the day.