Review by Ian Keogh
Joshua Elder won a new talent competition run by Tokypop, and Mail Order Ninja was his submission. It’s a gloriously off the wall premise of Timmy McAllister, bullied schoolboy, able to solve his problems via a ninja.
It’s a great shame that even on the 2021 reissued edition the cover only sees fit to credit Elder, giving the impression he’s entirely responsible for Mail Order Ninja, which isn’t the case. He may have supplied the concept and considerable wit and innovation in writing the feature, but an equally important factor in the creative success is Erich Owen’s busy and sympathetic cartooning, rich in joyful personality. He’d go on to contribute to DC’s all ages titles.
Elder and Owen take us on a tour around a considerable cast over the first half of the story, stopping to provide little information boxes about them, and the witty asides help to cement who they are. The sample art shows the class princess, whose entourage follow her supplying a TV documentary style commentary, but others are equally efficiently categorised. Elder packs the script with neat small moments such as the class bully being an actual card carrying member of the American Bullying Association, or the class teacher’s sardonic attitude to her more tiresome charges. He also provides a funny aside showing just how and why it’s possible to order a ninja through the mail.
Some of the more sophisticated humour may fly over the heads of the younger readers at whom Mail Order Ninja is aimed, but there are more than enough other jokes to keep them occupied as Timmy parlays his new protection into class popularity. This doesn’t sit well with the class princess, who is incredibly rich, and has control of the family credit cards when her parents are away in Europe. We’ve already seen the ninja remembering a past, and in the final pages that past returns setting up Mail Order Ninja 2.