|'Cosmically cool'? You be the judge|
Zen the Intergalactic Ninja. Who's that, you ask? For those unfamiliar with Zen, he was a character that had the potential to rival Captain Planet for eco-friendly merchandising in the early '90s. Sadly, our blue galaxy-hopping friend never made it quite that far. Actually, he didn't make it far at all.
Ironically, Zen's humble beginnings are very close to that of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both stem from the realm of independent comics. Originally created by Steve Stern and Dan Cote, Zen first appeared in #1 of Zen, Intergalactic Ninja in 1987, published through the very independent label of Zen Comics Publishing. By the early '90s, Archie Comics, under their Archie Adventure Series, licensed Zen for their own series. For those who don't know, Archie Comics also published a run of Ninja Turtles comics in the early '90s that toned down the violence from Eastman and Laird's original black-and-white comics, but also toned down the comedic flair of the animated series, settling on something strangely in-between the two.
In 1990 Ted Turner's creation, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, had made it to the airwaves. While many don't regard the show too fondly today, it remarkably made it through six seasons, a short-lived comic, a series of video games, a toyline, and was nearly made into a live-action movie.
|Galactic ninjas will always be cooler than some kid with the power of 'heart'|
With the success of Captain Planet and the 'save the earth' theme of the early '90s, Archie Comics directed their newly acquired license, Zen - The Intergalactic Ninja, to defending the earth from the self-styled scourge of the environment, Lord Contaminous.
|The first issue came with the Zen action figure|
|Lord Contaminous. A creature that wouldn't be too far out of place on Eternia|
|Printed on 100% recycled paper|
|Lord Contaminous figure. Pollution not included|
|The Zen toyline|
Archie Comics went on to do a second three-issue mini-series of Zen, but the Zen line of Archie Comics ends there.
Based off the comics, a Nintendo NES game and a Game Boy game were released, both roughly following the comics.
|Print ad for Konami's Zen games|
|Say 'no' to pollution, kids|
By '94 Stern and Cota had renewed the Zen comics, now published by independent label Eternity, with a makeover. Zen was now more buff and given an edgier, darker look.
|He's been hitting the gym|
|You just can't keep an alien ninja down|
With the world the way it is, maybe we need Zen now more than ever. After all, who would you rather have save the planet? Some flying guy who's summoned by a set of rings that look like they came out of a Cracker Jack box, or a badass neon blue ninja with a photon staff?