Published in 1987 by Mirage Comics, GRUNTS is a collection of stories that tell harrowing, humorous, and horrifying tales of war. Most of the stories feature anthropomorphic animals, which is nothing shocking from the comic company that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles built.
That was the reason I picked up the book 29 years ago (oh my god), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was a huge Turtles mark in 1987 and I would buy anything with the Mirage Comics logo. The only real connection GRUNTS has to the Turtles Universe is a short story featuring the Triceratons titled The Lesson.
In The Lesson is a great story about a one horned Triceraton Sergeant schooling his platoon of newbies about respecting their enemy, the mammals. The Sergeant recounts a time when he was locked in hand-to-hand combat with a Ursid, an anthropomorphic bear race. After being injured and dead to rights, the Sergeant simply lowers his head to take on his charging opponent. The Ursid slams in to the Triceraton, impaling himself on his horn and snapping it off. The Sergeant survives only to find the rest of his platoon and the Ursid’s both dead, locked in combat. As a sign of respect and a reminder to never underestimate the enemy, the Sergeant never got his horn repaired and now uses it as a handle to his knife.
Another story that has ties to the Mirage universe is Monuments which stars Fluffy Brockleton from the comic series Gizmo. In this silent tale, Fluffy is visiting a war memorial that is reminecent of the Wall in Washington D.C.. As he leans on the wall and looks back at his own reflection he remembers his time in a war that mirrors Viet Nam, albeit with anthropomorphic animals. See, Fluffy Brockleton is a large, white fluffy dog. In quick shots we see Fluffy with a ferret character that is his friend. We see them fighting the enemy, having fun when they can, and sadly ending with the ferret falling in battle. While he envisions himself crying over the body of his friend, Fluffy snaps back into the present time with tears in his eyes. A little girl who is playing the distance accidently hits him with a ball, drawing his attention away from the wall as he tearfully hands the ball back. The last panel is of Fluffy sitting alone while families picnic around him, showing how alone he feels with his feelings.
The stories also told tale of real battles as well. In the illustrated poem The Last Time I Saw Tommy, we follow anthropomorphic dogs as they run through the trenches of World War I. The poem is verses that end with the demise of “Tommy” in all the grisly ways a solider could die on the front lines of Europe. Bombs, shot through the throat, hung up on barbwire, and mustard gas. The last verse, “The last time I saw Tommy, he were decked out in his best. The flowers was a bloomin’ as we laid him to his rest” leaves the reader looking out over a endless graveyard of gravestones that all read Tommy.
GRUNTS is a powerful comic book that effected me deeply when I was 11, hell it still effects me day as I read it. Hidden behind its use of animals, and at times humorous art styles, GRUNTS told powerful tales of the wars at home and the ones light years away. Most of the stories resembled a time when soldiers in America were in Viet Nam, which was still fresh on the minds of people in 1987.
The brutal deaths and sometimes even more brutal tales of survival are haunting even today, 29 years later. Its a sober reminder that wars never change but the damage they cause change everything.
The ads in the back of GRUNTS are true gold to any TMNT fan…
An ad near and dear to my heart…