Original Release Date: April 1, 2000
So Mike and the Ninja began with this page.
First of all, if you're not aware, the original title of the comic was Chewy Ninja Monkey Bars, as illustrated here in the first panel. I like how there appears to be some confusion as to whether Chewy Ninja Monkey Bars refers to playground monkey bars, or some kind of candy bars. Or perhaps the playground monkey bars are edible? Anyway, I changed the name when I released the first book because I didn't think Chewy Ninja Monkey Bars was particularly marketable. There is still hot debate amongst longtime fans over whether or not the name should have changed.
I don't even think this page is that bad artistically, especially when you consider that I did the entire thing in 90 minutes on a piece of copy paper with one Pilot Precise V5 pen and one Sharpie. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law Jim played Ultima Online or Starcraft or something on the family computer. He suggested the name of the comic be Super Karate Monkey Deathcar, which is part of a joke from an episode of Newsradio. I didn't want to rip that name off directly, but I liked the idea, so I used some different nonsequential words, instead. The comic's original schtick was to be sloppy, with all mistakes left in, so there wasn't even a need to do any pencil art.
However, if there is a case study on how not to start a comic, this is it. I had no idea where the story was going or even what I was trying to accomplish. All I knew was that there was a guy named Mike, his mean boss named Bob, Stu the ninja, a ninja union, and a hired goon association. I had to figure out the rest as I went.
Mike and the Ninja's biggest early influences were the original The Tick comics by Ben Edlund, and a comic called Joe the Circle, which you can apparently still find online today. You'll see that the first dozen or so comics follow the Joe the Circle layout very closely.