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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuted in the world of comics, published by independent publisher Mirage. The comic focused around the four anthropomorphic turtles, who as one would infer from the name, are also teenagers, mutants and ninjas.

The concept was apparently borne from a comical drawing that played upon the inherent contradiction of a slow, cold blooded reptile and the speed and agility of the japanese martial art.

Disposed of in a sewer, the four turtles were accidentally exposed to a liquid mutagen that caused them to "evolve". Also exposed to the mutagen was a rat, former pet of ninjitsu expert Yoshi Hamato. Hamato emigrated to America and was dispatched by rival Saki Oroku (later to become Shredder), leaving the rat homeless. The turtles and rat became sapient and rather humanlike through their collective mutation.


The four turtles were named after famed master Renaissance artists whose work their master admired.

The comic book was successful enough to inspire a spinoff saturday morning cartoon, which catapulted the characters into a national craze. The cartoon, while obviously inspired by the comic book, diverged in almost every way. While the comic was meant for an older audience, the cartoon focused on more standard children's fare and typically avoided overt human violence and any semblance of real conflict. Popularity exploded with the release of a live-action movie (which more closely followed the comic), and eventually spawned two sequels. There was also a long-running spinoff comic published by Archie Comics that started out following the cartoon, but as time progressed, diverged into rather overtly propagandistic environmentalist and animal-rights themes.

Other information

  • Their love of unusual pizza, overt marketing catch-phrases and distinctly colored masks were unique to the cartoon and cartoon-spinoffs like the Archie comic and almost all merchandising.
  • Movie 3: Turtles in Time(?) was based on a substory in the Mirage comic
  • In the comic and movie, the "mutagen" acted more like a growth formula, while in the cartoon it worked as a "crossbreeding" tool, used to mix animal characteristics with people and vice-versa.
  • Baxter Stockman was African-American in the comic.(Stockman is a mutant fly/ human that originated in a laboratory mixup between Baxter Stockman - a human, possibly originally working for Shredder - and a common house fly. Stockman was already an enemy of the Turtles, and he became an enemy of Shredder, too, because Stockman blamed Shredder for the mutation.)

The information below conforms primarily to the cartoon version

In animation, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are four wise-cracking, teenaged, pizza-scarfing cartoon turtles who fought the forces of evil from their neighborhood hangout. Each wore a mask over his eyes having a distinctive color, carried and used a distinctive weapon, and had a favorite flavor of pizza.

Character summary:

  • Leonardo: Turtle with blue mask who wields katana
  • Donatello: Turtle with purple mask who wields bo stick
  • Raphael: Turtle with red mask who wields sai
  • Michaelangelo: Turtle with orange mask who wields nunchaku
  • Splinter: rat-man who taught the Turtles
  • April O'Neil: TV reporter who discovers their home in the sewers
  • Shredder: the arch-villain
  • Krang: An alien brain within the Technodome, which was Shredder and Krang's giant mobile fortress that could go anywhere.
  • Neutrinos: 1950s-college-kid types of people in flying cars (with tailfins) from another dimension. Friendly to the Turtles.
  • Foot Clan: The ninja gang that Shredder leads.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have also appeared as guest stars in Usagi Yojimbo (book 3), summoned to the Edo period Japan by magic.

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