If you grew up reading comic books like I did in the 80’s and 90’s, you remember the big boom that happened for Indie Comic publishers after the massive success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Mirage where companies sprang up like weeds with their own dreams of creating the next fighting animal based hero team. For many, as quickly as they sprang up, they soon found themselves debunked and just a grain of sand in the comic world. And worst of all, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got their own cartoon and toy line many, companies tried to cash in that was as well, and while some found footing, many of these cash in’s also bit the dust. In fact I have covered some of these copycats here on Rotten Ink like Biker Mice From Mars, Toxic Crusaders, Stone Protectors and Old Age Green Fighting Gerbils over the years of writing this blog. And while searching the comic stores and online outlets, I discovered that one company cranked out more TMNT knock offs then any other indie company going and that was Blackthrone! So for this update, we are going to scrap once more some of the gunk off the bottom of a soggy comic box that is rotting in the basement of a long closed comic shop and cover the TMNT knock off series the Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos! So if you’re ready to dive into the world of knock offs and generic rip offs, let’s see what these slimy green skinned heroes have in store for us.
In modern time comics, I feel like no indie comic series has changed the landscape like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did back in the late 80’s as it made indie creators feel like they could bring the world the next big hit that was not made by DC or Marvel Comics that would be on readers’ pull lists and become a must own series that would spark movies, toys and cartoon. The only thing that comes to mind would be maybe Walking Dead by Image Comics as it helped usher in a rebirth of zombie Horror Comics and made Horror Comic creators feel like they could make a big scary indie comic hit series that would strike a nerve with readers. But to tell you the truth, while Walking Dead is a good series I still feel it has not reached the iconic level of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who have spanned decades of being popular and in all types of media keeping them fresh and popular. Plus I feel that Walking Dead was not a fully original idea series and took lots from zombie comics made by Arrow and Aircel without properly creating them. Keep in mind I do very much enjoy Walking Dead even though I am not a big fan of Robert Kirkman or most of his other writing in comics. So with this update while I am covering a comic series that clearly was cashing in on them, I want to say that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are clear icons of comic books and that they have to be at the top of any list when it comes to the most impactful characters to come out of the world of indie comics.
The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos were created by the team of William Clausen and Michael Kelley in 1986 as a way to parody as well as cash in on the popularity of the TMNT. They first appeared in their self-titled comic series the Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos, and it was a moderate hit for publisher Blackthorne who wanted more and more issues to ride the successes. But while the readers were around and enjoying it and the publisher was happy with the series, it had issue keeping up to release dates and delivering new issues to comic shops, and this caused pressure as well as stress on the series production. In fact, when issues fell behind Blackthorne even created a new one-shot issue series called Rivit about a humanoid frogman to fill the void for radioactive enhanced animal people…and yes, I will cover it at some point here at Rotten Ink. But while Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos was popular for a short time and lasted for five issue, it lost steam in 1987 and was canceled from Blackthorne’s releases. Now while looking up info on why it was canceled I found a number of different theories with one being the title dropped big in sales when readers got sick of the rip off TMNT titles and just stopped buying them. Another reason I heard was that the creators being behind so much and running out of ideas lead to the comic’s doom. And the last reason I found was that publisher Blackthorne was having financial issues and they were forced to cut many titles in order to save money and cut costs. No one will really know the reasons why Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos was cancelled besides those who worked for Blackthorne, but what is known is that they made a mark on indie comics and entertained readers who enjoyed the spawns of the Turtles.
I first discovered the Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos in the mid 90’s thanks to Mavericks Cards And Comics who had some issues in their back issue section for a little over cover price. I ended up getting a copy of the first issue when my parents took my brother and I to the comic shop to get a few issues to read one winter break, and while grabbing some Marvel Comics as well as Horror Comic and Rock N Roll Comics, it was in my stack and I can remember reading it and laughing it off as being very cheesy and never really tracked down the other issues until many years later. Like all kids of the time I was a massive TMNT fan and would watch the cartoon and movies, read the Archie Comic adventures and would get as many of the Playmates figures as I could grab. And while I was annoyed and made fun of all the Turtle knock-off products, I still for some reason also very much enjoyed them and Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos was one of the comic rip-offs that has always stuck out to me. So it’s been really fun to revisit and reread this comic series for this update and see how I feel about them now as an older comic reader. But really this also makes me miss Blackthorne as a comic publisher as they did all type of knock-off books as well as very cool classic reprints and adaptations and media tie ins.
The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos might be a very cheesy fighting animal cash in comic series that never hit the success of the Teenage Turtles, but it did deliver its own tiny legacy to those who bought the issues and enjoyed reading the knock off comics. While writing this I must say I do miss Blackthorne Publishing and wish they would have lasted longer than 1990 as who knows what cool comic one shots and series could have landed in our hands. For this update I want to thank Bell Book And Comic and Lone Star Comics for having all the issues in stock. I want to remind all you readers like a broken record that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you are ready, let’s see what these Chameleon Commandos have to offer when it comes to kicking bad guy butt!
Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos # 1 **1/2
Released in 1986 Cover Price $1.75 Blackthorne # 1 of 5
The US Government has hired scientist Doctor Poindexter to work on a serum that will turn regular lizards into walking, talking, fighting machines and pay him lots of money to do so! His experiments work great, and so the team of the Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos is born with members like Sarge, Rivit, Radion and Nerves all who have their own strengths and abilities. Poindexter ends up looking at these human sized fighting lizards as his own children and they look at him as their father, but one day a group of masked terrorist fighters from the Night Brigade enter the lab and kidnap him and leave our heroes ready to get him back! The Commandos also get a new Doctor to watch after them and help them on their mission to get Poindexter back by the name of Wurmhauser who gets them on a plan and to the location of the Night Brigade. Once at the terrorist base, the Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos face all types of baddies and attempt to save a pair of Ambassadors that have been taken hostage. In the end the Commandos find out that Poindexter is not there, and they must go on another mission to save him as the Night Brigade prepare for war.
I hate to say this, but I found Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos to be a fun and solid TMNT knock off comic that had likable characters and a goof yet classic cheesy storyline. The plot for the first issue has a batch of lizards being injected with an experimental serum that turns them into human sized soldiers who are forced into battle in order to save the Doctor who created them when he is taken by terrorist. Once at the battle zone, they soon find that they are not the only super powered animals in the world as the terrorist group have their own army of them. The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos are a group of three mutated lizards that are skilled fighters and can not only use weapons but can also use their animal abilities. Thus far I think my favorite of the Commandos is Rivit who is a frog and seems like the badass of the group and who can use his tongue and mighty legs in battle. Doctor Poindexter is a skilled scientist who looks at his creations as his own kids, but I for one also get the vibe he is not the super nice caring man they think he is and if I had to guess I would almost be so bold to say that he is working with the terrorist and have created all their animal humanoid fighters. As for Doctor Wurmhauser I am not so sure what his deal is as he is the one feeding the Commando’s plans but also is the one who speed up their serum treatments, makes me wonder if he is as well not what he seems and has dark motives. But the answers to those questions about those doctors I hope will be answered later on in the series. The Night Brigade are a group of terrorist who are very feared, yet I am not 100% sure on what they do to strike terror in the hearts of the world as the only major act of terror they do is beat up and kidnap a doctor and I guess make mutated animal people to be their warriors for terror. The issue moves along at a great pace and delivers some great indie tongue in cheek action and proves that some TMNT Knock Offs can and are entertaining! The cover is eye catching and has that Blackthorne look, and interior art is done by Michael Kelley is well done. So let’s see what issue two has in store for us!
Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos # 2 **
Released in 1986 Cover Price $1.75 Blackthorne # 2 of 5
The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos are now heroes and the world loves them, as they are now somewhat celebrities! They are being watched by the evil crime boss Overlord who wants them destroyed, and they also get a singing telegram from Doctor Poindexter to meet him in California and get a microchip and our heroes gear up and head out. While in California they are in disguise and run into a street gang who tries to rob them, but the gang soon ends up being slaughtered and left dead in the streets. The Overlord sends a group of Moles to follow The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos to Doctor Poindexter and to bring him the chip. When our heroes find the good old crazy Doctor, he is attacked and killed by the moles as Chameleon Commandos fight the moles and slaughter them all for killing their dear friend. In the end a Government agent shows up and takes the microchip to the President as the Chameleon Commandos find out that the Doctor Poindexter that was killed was an imposter and a man in a rubber mask, and now they want answers.
This second issue is a little sloppy and the plot is paper-thin showing that I think the creators truly did have no major plans for the characters and it really was just a quick cash in to get readers money who enjoyed the TMNT. The issue’s plot has Doctor Poindexter holding a microchip that is needed and the Chameleon Commandos come to get it only for them all be attacked by moles and more mysteries and questions come up! In this issue the Chameleon Commandos are filled with egos as they are being loved by the people of America and think they are the next Superman or Spider-Man, but they also still maintain their killer instinct as they do not show any hesitation when it comes to killing scum that gets in their way. Not sure why but Rivit comes off as the most ego driven Commando in this issue, and it’s a shame cause it plays down his character and makes him feel generic. The Overlord seems to be a man who wants powers and does not want any do-gooders to get in his way! One of the issues mysteries that I cannot wait to see how it plays out is who is the fake Doctor Poindexter and why did the good Doctor send a fake to deliver the microchip? The cover for this issue is good and eye catching, the interior art is done by Michael Kelley, and I must say in many spots comes off very rushed and lacks the charm of the first issue. Over all this is just a so-so issue with no real heart behind it I still cannot wait to read issue three!
Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos # 3 *1/2
Released in 1986 Cover Price $1.75 Blackthorne # 3 of 5
The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos are upset and want to know what has happened to their dear friend Doctor Poindexter who is like a father to them and they get even more worried when they find that the mask the imposter was wearing was made of human flesh! Chameleon Commandos decide that they think the government and the workers at the lab might be in on this and hack a computer and find the locations of two secret labs and head to the first to see if they can track down Poindexter who they truly think is in danger. Once inside the lab they take out guards and find the prisoners who they set free to help bring down the remaining guards. Once the Chameleon Commandos find Doctor Poindexter in a prison cell they find he has been mutilated and his tormentor has been waiting for him!
This issue feels like a full fledge filler issue that is filled with massive panels and splash pages and it’s clear this comic series was being made part for artistic love and part cause they wanted to make that quick TMNT cash! The plot has the Chameleon Commandos breaking into a lab to save their creator Doctor Poindexter who is being tormented by a bigheaded worker for our very own Government. And that’s pretty much it most of the issue just has the Chameleon Commandos running around and beating up guards while also slightly infighting among themselves as who should be the leader of the group. None of the Chameleon Commandos stand out in this issue and all come off just as generic gun shooting late 80s knock off characters. And it’s a shame as the first issue had so much potential to be a stand out from the pack of other clones, but by this third issue it’s clear they steam ran out after issue 1. The Bigheaded Doctor who is the film’s villain does come off as a true evil madman as he seems to get massive joy in the torture and disfiguring of his prisoners. The action in this issue is one part slapstick and one part brutal as the two different artist bring their own flavor to the rescue fight. The cover is misleading as the Snake Monster on the front is not in the issue, and the interior art is done by both Michael Kelley and William Clausen which also goes for the past issue with one being good and one being not my cup of tea. Over all this is a pretty lack luster issue and there is not much to talk about with it, so let’s move onto issue four.
Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos # 4 *1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.75 Blackthorne # 4 of 5
The evil Wurmhauser captures most of the Chameleon Commandos and forces them along with Doctor Poindexter to watch a movie he made that is about taking all of them and mixing their body parts to make an ultimate solider! Meanwhile Nerves is the only member to have escaped the trap and finds himself being held at gun point by an insect that has questions. But the unlikely pair join forces and rush into the lab of Wurmhauser who kills the insect man and uses a chainsaw to remove the arm of nerves! As Nerves lies bleeding on the floor, Wurmhauser moves in for the kill!
Sad to say this is clearly another filler issue as not much goes on and its over packed with the massive panels to use up the page count. The plots is the Chameleon Commandos being captured by Wurmhauser who wants to experiment and create a Frankenstein Monster soldier from their body parts. The groups only hope is a wheelchair bound fly and team member Nerves. I must say that Wurmhauser is truly an evil man and again will do whatever he wants to his captives. The Chameleon Commandos are the same as always with Nerves being the standout as he shows he will do whatever he can to save his brothers in arms. But like before the plot is so paper thing and nothing really at all stands out as its clear that they had a nugget of an idea here that they smashed out to make bigger and longer than what is really presented. The cover is fun and eye catching and the interior art is the same as the last two issues and is a mix of good and so-so. So not much to say about this issue besides the wheelchair fly man is murdered and our heroes are captured and Nerves is very much injured. Let’s see what the final issue has in store for us and if it will wrap up or leave us on a cliffhanger that more than likely will never be resolved.
Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos # 5 ***
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.75 Blackthorne # 5 of 5
The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos land in the Swamp Of The Dead and have lost all their weapons in the bad landing and soon find themselves surrounded by zombies who want our heroes dead! As they fight off the dead they are joined by Beastie Fly a voodoo master who uses his powers to blow up the zombies and save the hides of the Chameleon Commandos. They follow him back to his cabin in the swamp and eat a good meal and during the battle they all discover a little about themselves and the fact they also have special powers that can help them in battle. The Overlord however is not happy as he is watching this take place via his monitors and he has set up the wreck and lack of weapons and now he has a plan to bring them down once and for all. While in the swamp our heroes are visited by Hazel The Swamp Witch who is very angry and starts to attack when a ship from the sky falls on her and Dorothy and the Tin Man appear! After the visitors from Oz leave the ship opens and a killer robot comes out sent by The Overlord to kill them! The Chameleon Commandos work together and bring the machine down and turn its body into a ship and fly themselves to a pool to have a relaxing and good time!
Ok this is crazy as this fifth and final issue is the best in the series and while I like it, I also am confused as to why they did a hard reboot to the series and never talk about how they got away from Wurmhauser and how Nerves still has his arm and is alive…I mean I get his arm probably grew back but still a very cheesy way to just start the series over. The plot has the Chameleon Commandos having and accident set up by The Overlord that leaves them in a swamp that has them facing the likes of zombies, a swamp witch and a giant robot in order to survive. This time around the Chameleon Commandos have personalities and each are unique and interesting Nerves while always scared finds his inner strength when he learns he can shoot fire and characters like Rivit is the muscle who has a hothead and is always looking for a fight. What’s odd though is this issue makes zero reference to the events from issue four nor do they even mention Wurmhauser or Doctor Poindexter showing that they really did wipe the series after issue one. Our new hero Beastie Fly is a little cheesy and all we really know about him is that he lives in a cabin in a swamp in Haiti, and to be honest he adds nothing to the story and was just a so-so character…in other words could have done without him. The Overlord is a man who hates the Chameleon Commandos and will do whatever it takes to bring them down and does so while wearing his mouse mask. The issue does a great job of blending both humor and action with a dash of cheese and it works very well! It’s a shame that the series did not find the right formula until this last issue and its also a shame that the series just ended….but at least it ended with a none cliffhanger ending. The cover for this issue is terrible and just showcases the lame Beastie Fly in all his lame glory, the interior art is great and done by Michael Kelley who in my opinion was the best artist on this book. Over all this series was filled with a good first issue a run of three issues that were bad and a final issue that was the best in the series showing why the TMNT Knock Off comics get a very bad name! Check out the artwork of Kelley’s below to see his style in this series and check out The Chameleon Commandos if you love cheesy rip off comics like I do.
So as you can see, The Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos is a comic series that has built a cult following on the facts it has a silly title and cheesy stories and while I am not a super fan of it, I still enjoy it even if many of the issues were below par and had no thought into them. But let’s leave the knock off world behind and lets take a look at one of my favorite comic heroes The Incredible Hulk! But we will not be taking a look at him in comic books, nor the movie and TV version…but we will be looking at him in the world of coloring books! Yeah you heard that right coloring books as Marvel back in the day teamed with companies and made comic like adventures with many of their heroes and I think its time we take a look at them. So until next time read a comic or three, watch a movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next time for a Hulk Smash colorful good time!