Anybody remember Zen the Intergalactic Ninja?
Yeah, neither do I.
Well okay, that’s not entirely true, I do in fact remember Zen, I wouldn’t be typing this article if I didn’t; but all of my memories of the character are foggy at best.
I was exposed to Zen via the Archie/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics of the early 90′s.
Pictured: The only Archie Comic I'd touch with a 10 foot pole.
My brother used to get Ninja Turtle comics every so often via some sort of subscription service, though he’d usually end up throwing away the Archie or Jughead comics.
To this day, I fail to see the beauty of Jughead’s soul.
Is it just me, or is Jughead the original stoner/hipster doofus?
Anyway, being as I am indeed my father’s son, and never throw away anything, even if it never even belonged to me in the first place, I still have a few of the Ninja Turtle comics somewhere, namely the one’s that introduced Wingnut and Chameleon:
Yup, got both of these... In absolutely horrid condition...
At some point during this era, presumably around ’93-94, (I remember Maximum Carnage was big news at the time, as was Superman and Batman’s unfortunate run-ins with Doomsday and Bane respectively) one of my neighborhood buddies was kind enough to share a new comic he had just bought.
It was called Zen, the Intergalactic Ninja:
AWESOME! But what's up with Oscar the Grouch over there on the right?
That comic, or rather it’s cover; pushed just about all the right buttons in my young, action figure obssessesd mind.
Yes, they are in fact action figures, not dolls.
"New Shia LaBeouf action figure! With easy access "open mouth" action for inserting of donkey balls! Donkey balls sold separately..."
Get it right power-fag, lest my kung fu grip find your larynx.
*Ahem!* I seem to remember the plot mirroring Bucky O’Hare, as well as just about every other 90′s Saturday morning cartoon; in the sense that it surrounded a strange group of colorful and easily action figure-ized characters coming to Earth and seeking the aid of a young boy to whom the audience could easily relate to.
(Insert picture of any mid-80′s to early 90′s cartoon here)
Y’know, standard genre fare.
The few elements of Zen that really stuck with me after all these years were, of course; the name of the main character, his unique and kid-friendly bo weapon, (no sharp weapons or blood-letting for the kiddies, that would be inappropriate!) and the fact that the plot was at least somewhat eco-friendly…
Make that, “eco-obsessed.”
Um, gender = What?
That last part was kind of a deal breaker for me, a robot and violence obsessed little boy.
I honestly liked Zen’s character designs, in fact I remember drawing him at school a few times on my test papers; however the whole “save the environment” thing just didn’t appeal to me all that much.
I remember they pushed it just a little bit too far with Zen, to the point in which most of, if not all of the principle hero characters represented some element of recycling.
Put it this way, I’m pretty sure I remember the yellow dude being named “Pulp.”
Hey, it's Pulp! And Compost Man! And Recycled Aluminum Man! And Plastic Bottle Man, etc...
That’s just fuckin’ sad, being named for mashed up paper byproduct.
Let it be known, saving the Earth is only cool when Captain Planet tells you to do it:
Honestly man, a catchy theme song and green giga-mullet go a long way towards capturing the hearts and minds of children.
Jumping back to my initial dealing with Zen, I honestly don’t really remember much about the comic, (which consequently would be the only Zen comic I’d ever read, let alone see) other than the fact that the art and character designs had a definite Captain Bucky O’Hare vibe to them, and the comic was packed to the brim with advertisements… For itself.
Seriously, if memory serves, there were advertisements for the Zen comic itself, the upcoming Zen NES game, and a line of Zen action figures; all in one comic!
Lord CONTAMINOUS!? "Take out the garbage!?" Good God, it really is a tree-hugger comic/game/action figure line!
That, my friends; is what I like to call “super-liminal marketing:”
Despite all the effort on the part of the publishers though, clearly it didn’t pay off; as almost none of my friends have ever heard of Zen.
Even so, I’ll always remember Zen as being a particularly inspired example of those 20,000 or so highly marketable characters that were thrown at us in the wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle phenomenon, only to slip through the cracks like so many others…
Filed under: Comics, Games, Movies, Uncategorized, 90's, Archie Comics, Bane, Batman, books, Bucky O'Hare, Captain, Captain Planet, Chameleon, Comics, DC, doofus, Doomsday, hipster, Jughead, Konami, Marvel, Maximum Carnage, NES, Nintendo, Oscar the Grouch, Punisher, Sesame Street, Shia LaBeouf, Spider-Man, super liminal, Superman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Intergalactic Ninja, The Simpsons, Transformers, videogame, Wingnut, Zen