Michelangelo: “God, I love being a turtle!” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
They were 1980’s smash hits. A quartet of stealthy warriors named after three famous artists from the Renaissance era and Donatello. They are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Chances are you’ve seen their TV shows and movies, but much about the Turtles remains hidden in the shadows.
So what skeletons are in the Ninja Turtle’s closet? Grab a slice of pizza and let’s find out.
#5 The Missing Daredevil Link
Master Splinter: [recounting the Turtle’s origin] “At the last moment, a young man leaped at the blind man and knocked him out of truck’s way. As the truck screeched to a jarring stop, a metal canister bounced out of the back of the truck and struck the young man near his eyes.” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the Turtles in 1984. The pair had decided to create a comic parodying the Dark Age of Comics, especially Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil.
Master Splinter tells the Turtles their origin story in the first issue. Part of the story involves a cameo by Matt Murdock, who is blinded by a radioactive ooze as he saves a blind man from being hit by a truck. The story then diverges, with the ooze smashing into a glass bowl containing regular ole’ turtle babies.
Eastman and Laird borrowed other elements from Daredevil. Master Splinter was based on DD’s mentor, Stick. Marvel’s ninja assassins, The Hand, were replaced by The Foot Clan. An argument could be made for Raphael’s red bandanna and sai being a shout out to Elektra, but that is a stretch.
Despite all the similarities, there has never been an official crossover between Daredevil and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That needs to be rectified at some point.
#4 The Unknown 5th Turtles
Venus: “Chung I thought I represented good luck and took me back to China with him. I was trained in the internal arts and raised to replace him as a master shaman someday.”
Raphael: “So you ain’t a ninja?”
Venus: “No. I am shinobi.” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, “East Meets West” (Season 1, Episode 2)
The Ninja Turtles may be a fab foursome, but that hasn’t stopped writers from trying add a fifth member to their iconic team.
Slash, a snapping turtle that was mutated by a villain to kill the Turtles, was the first attempted addition. Michelangelo realized after a fight that Slash didn’t understand what was going on and offered a hand in friendship. Slash accepted and became an honorary member of the family. Sadly, he sacrificed his life to stop a nuclear bomb from exploding in New York City.
The second attempt was Mei Pieh Chi, or Venus de Milo as the Turtles renamed her. She was introduced in the largely forgotten show, TMNT: The Next Mutation as a long lost sister… and potential love interest. Gross. Venus had various magical abilities after training as a shaman and a shinobi. Strangely, the show throws around the word “shinobi” as if it was a different kind of training, despite shinobi being a Japanese word for ninja. Whoops.
Eastman thought Venus was an interesting addition to the team, but Laird hated her. Laird included directions for the 2003 cartoon TMNT that Venus could not be mentioned, even as a joke.
#3 Multiversal Mishaps
2003 Leonardo: [talking to the 80’s Turtles] “You don’t understand, the Utrom-Shredder isn’t like your Shredder. He’s vicious.”
2003 Donatello: “Lethal.”
2003 Michelangelo: “Competent!” – Turtles Forever
Every superhero universe eventually becomes a multiverse. In the movie Turtles Forever, the 80’s Ninja Turtles are transported to the 2003 cartoon. Their zany, idealistic mannerisms contrast with the darker, more serious 2003 Turtles, who were confused as all hell about their doppelgangers.
The Shredders of both universes formed an alliance, only for the 2003 Shredder to steal the Technodrome. He then learned a terrible truth, that even if he killed his Ninja Turtles, there are infinite replacements in the multiverse.
2003 Shredder tries to destroy the multiverse by travelling to the original universe and killing the Turtles before the other universes could branch off. Thus the 1987 Turtles, the 2003 Turtles, all their allies and enemies, and even the original Mirage Comics Ninja Turtles are forced to work together and stop the 2003 Shredder before he destroys everything.
#2 Cycle of Revenge
Master Splinter: “I am old, and there is a task I would have you perform before I leave this life. Now I must ask you to do that which no being should ask of another. I ask you to avenge the cruel death of my master, Hamato Yoshi, and his wife, Teng Shen. I ask you to challenge and kill the murderer Oroku Saki… The Shredder!” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
Rival ninjas Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Nagi once fell in love with the same woman, Teng Shen. Nagi tried to force Shen to love him and beat her when she refused. An enraged Yoshi murdered Nagi and fled with Shen to America hoping to escape the vengeance of Nagi’s clan.
They didn’t. Nagi’s younger brother Saki murdered them and inadvertently released Yoshi’s pet rat, Splinter. After he was mutated, Splinter raised the Ninja Turtles with one goal: kill Oroku Saki now known as The Shredder.
The quartet slaughtered their way through an army of Foot ninjas to challenge The Shredder. A grueling battle ended when Leonardo impaled The Shredder with his katana. The Turtles then offered a choice: They would kill him, or Shredder could commit seppuku to regain his honor. Instead, he tried killing them with a grenade, but Donatello knocked him and the grenade safely away from the Turtles. Their mission was complete.
Unknown to The Turtles, The Shredder had a daughter named Oroku Karai. Her father is dead and she knows who killed him. And so the cycle of revenge began once more.
#1 Crossovers Galore
Batman: “I’d guess genetic mutation. Ninjutsu training. Possibly hostile. [blocks a thrown sai] Okay, definitely hostile. Especially the little one.” – Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #2
Turtles Forever wasn’t the first crossover and definitely won’t be the last. The comic Turtles have worked alongside the samurai rabbit Usagi Yojimbo, the trippy Cerberus the Aardvark, The C.O.W.-boys of Moo Mesa, and even Archie and friends. Strangest of all, The Ninja Turtles once teamed up with The Lone Gunmen from X-Files to fight vampires.
Even the TV Turtles got into some odd crossovers. Michelangelo was the Turtle’s representative in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, an anti-drug PSA cartoon. This had Mikey working with the likes of Bugs Bunny, Garfield, Alf, The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and others to educate kids about drugs. TMNT: The Next Mutation also canonically crossed over with Power Rangers in Space for a two-parter.
The Ninja Turtles have crossed the Caped Crusader’s path more than a few times. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Batman was released in 2015 to rave reviews. It was popular enough to get two sequels and a spinoff pairing up the Turtles from the 2011 cartoon with Batman: The Animated Series. Then the Turtles became guest fighters in Injustice 2, a DC video game
The Bat-Train keeps a-rolling with 2019’s Batman vs The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That’s right, Warner Brothers Animation is releasing a full blown crossover movie between Batman and the TMNT! Who knows, if the film does well, there might be more crossovers on the way.
Didya get all that?
There’s more to these overgrown reptiles than meets the eye.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.