Read the first part...first!

Ah yes, Ninja Turtles Valentine's cards. Another stroke of brilliance from the Paper Magic Company, this rare instance of romance from the sewers came out in 1990 and was quickly snatched up by any boy with hearts and love on his mind.

The TMNT cards present another odd phenomenon of our earlier V-Day celebrations. When you're just starting out in school, it's acceptable (if not expected) to hand out Valentine's to the other boys. Or if you're girls, to the other girls. After all, during these years, it was more a gesture of friendship than a move for the groove. Then, suddenly, it's no longer acceptable. In fact, it eventually became so unacceptable that a same-sex Valentine's exchange usually resulted in one of both participants being pegged extra hard when it came time for dodgeball. The whole thing could've easily been circumvented if someone, anyone, told us which year was the time to cease and desist on the same-sex card swaps. How we could learn what type of wood was used to create the Santa Maria in our textbooks and not this, well, I've leave that to someone smarter.

Here's the cards. Prepare for many veiled references to pizza and tubular pizza.

The first two are arguably passable, and the third is okay if you're cool with Michaelangelo having wings, but the fourth is rather suggestive for its target audience, displaying Rocksteady and Bebop as teammates of a different sort. Jesus, I forgot how much I used to get a kick out of Bebop's turtleshell shoulderpads. Now that I think about it, that was such an obvious tip-off that he wouldn't mind bebopping Rocksteady. Kids just never get anything.

"You have a pizza my heart." I think I'm "getting" "it" "again." Also, you're mondo to the max. Paper Magic Company took a few liberties on that one. Even with all of the "cowabungas" shouted on the cartoon, I don't think it ever fell to the point where Raphael said anything like "mondo to the max." Unless that gecko dude was going to the Saved by the Bell diner to eat bugs.

Finally, Splinter sheds light on the old rumor about him and April. Yep, he loves her. Is this another sad case on unrequited love? It's tough to say, but April's bloated face and wrong-colored shirt may indicate that she's already pregnant and has more important things to worry about than figuring out a way to let a giant, ugly rat down tactfully.

"Mondo to the max" was so good, they used it twice. Meanwhile, the greeting on the first card was so offensive and inappropriate, I had to cover it up with the second card so nobody would read it and die from the shock. Total NC-17 stuff. Words like "penis-tration" prevailed. Paper Magic Company...these guys were sick cookies.

Unbelievably, the evil Leatherhead makes an appearance on the third card. He wasn't even a second tier character -- more like eighth or ninth tier. He also spoke like that strange old man who used to "guarantee" things on old potato chip commercials. And, in one of the episodes of the cartoon, he enslaved a bunch of mutated humanoid frogs and forced them to carry him around on a chaise lounge. Leatherhead was a hero to us all.

Whoa! Happy Valentine's Holy Crap It's Rat King. Rat King wasn't a very major character on the show, but he had a mystique and an elusiveness that make children love him. More honestly, he was always completely covered in live rats who obeyed his every command, and that went a Hell of a lot further in making us like him than any mystique could. I'm not quite sure I get the meaning of this card. They're sorta making it out like this was the card to give to someone you didn't really like. This upsets me, because it's the largest card in the box and fuck me if the paper isn't of a stock just a wee bit better than the rest. I would've been sending either my enemy or my greatest love mixed signals, and at that age, my only explanation for it would've been picking my nose.

More magic from Paper Magic is found in this 1989 package of "The Legend of Zelda" Valentine's cards, for "boys, girls,teacher and special friend." That's transcribed precisely from the box, including the commaspace defect. You get 36 wonderful signs of Link's softer side, plus two bonus cards that were to be cut off the back of the box if for no other reason than to give kids an excuse to break out a pair of scissors.

The cards themselves aren't too interesting and lack the variety shown in the previous boxes, but who couldn't resist Zelda? At the time, anything having to do with Zelda was a little slice of heaven, and managing to tie it in with Valentine's Day was like a slice of heaven so big it was really two still-connected slices we tried to pass off as one. You know what I'm saying.

I would like to "Link - Up" with you. Dunno exactly what it means, but that's what I'd like to do.

The perfection of Zelda-inspired Valentine's cards is illustrated on the third card, as hearts were a very important point in the game. You collected them, you gained life from them, you delighted in that little "bleep" heard whenever you made Link walk into one. The second card seemed to have nothing to do with Zelda unless you knew of the heart connection; I assume you gave this to the kids in class who came from families too poor to buy video games. Pity those souls.

In the fourth card, Link proclaims his determination in becoming your valentine. He even makes a pissy face to drive the point home.

Look, I'll level with you. I'm taking a trip tomorrow morning that I'm going to be on for the next few days, and if I started counting the number of things I need to do before leaving, I'll get into a field of numbers I've never bothered to learn the names of yet. So, I'm going to end this without commenting on the last batch of cards. I could say something about Link's three-fingered salute on the first card, or I could point out that I strike the same pose as Link performing magic whenever I look into a mirror with a silver shirt on. I could even talk endlessly about that key on the third card, and how much it'd damage the keyhole if you accidentally stuck it in backwards. But I won't. I'll just say "Happy Valentine's Day."

Why? Because I have a plan to be yours.

-- Matt (2/14/04)