After writing about the truly outrageous Jem and the holograms last time, I’ve decided to keep on going down memory lane.
This time, I thought I would go over another one of my all-time favorites. There’s four of them, they’re green and they’re very talented ninjas! Oh, …… and their turtles too!
This is the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The story all begins when one night back in November in 1983, two artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were brainstorming ideas for a new comic. Eastman for a joke sketched out a drawing of a turtle that was standing up on its hind legs. It was also wearing a mask and had nunchucks strapped to its arms. He then wrote “Ninja Turtle” above it, showed it to Peter, and together the two had a good laugh.
Peter then drew a more refined version, so as Kevin puts it:
“Pete drew a cooler one. Then, of course I had to top his sketch, so I drew four of them standing in a dramatic pose. That was in pencil, but Pete inked it and added ‘teenage mutant’ to the ‘ninja turtle’ part. We were just pissing our pants that night, to be honest. ‘This is the dumbest thing ever'”
So after the new sketch and from the two playing around with it some more and they began to see that maybe it wasn’t that bad of an idea. The turtles became called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or TMNT for short. From there they developed a storyline and gave the turtles individual names. They tried giving them Japanese names first but nothing seemed to fit, so they instead went with their favorite Renaissance artists. The four turtles became Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo. Besides the turtles, they added other character’s such as Splinter, April O’Neil, Casey Jones and The Shredder. Other smaller characters were added as well but these four were the ones the turtles lives interacted with the most.
It was also around that time, in March of 1984, that Kevin and Peter started their own company called Mirage Studios. Kevin used his $500 tax return, Peter emptied out his bank account of $200 and Kevin borrowed $1300 from his uncle in order to do so. They also used the money to print out 3000 copies of their first comic named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This left them just enough money to run an ad in Comic Buyer’s Guide magazine. It was a good thing that they did because from that one ad they had comic distributions across the country calling. They sold out all 3,000 copies within a few weeks. From there they were able to distribute copies of the comic all over the world.
In 1986, the up and coming toy company named Playmate Toys was approached about producing a TMNT action figure. The company was concerned with the risk, so they requested that there be a television deal acquired first.
On December 28th, 1987, the first TMNT cartoon series began. The series had to be aired three times before it finally found an audience. The show would go on to air from ’88 to ’96 and have 188 episodes in the regular series.
It was actually the animated series that introduced us to the turtles that we know today. Before the series and in the comics the turtles were much different. The comic turtles were known to say a few swear words here and there and the violence used was a lot more extreme. Also, every turtle wore a red mask and the only way to tell them apart was by their weapons. However, due to the much younger audience that the toys and show would bring, Eastman and Laird were told that there would have to be a few changes to the turtles. There was also some new characters introduced such as Be-Bop and Rock Steady. After the changes, the turtles became wise-cracking jokers with a thing for pizza. The red masks were gone and now each turtle had its own individual colored mask. They also used a more catchphrase kind of language.
It wasn’t much longer after the release of the toys and animated series that Turtlemania started! Turtle action figures, movies, Nintendo games or anything TMNT related was flying off the shelves. Movies were made, books were written, new series debuted, deals with Pizza Hut were made, the turtles were taking over. With over 1.1 Billion toys sold, there was a time when the Turtle action figures became the #3 top-selling toy figure of all time!
So, now you know how the turtles came to be, now it’s time to get to know them:
Leonardo sports a blue bandana. His signature weapons are two katanas. Leonardo is the eldest brother, often the silent one of the group and by far the most serious. He is the most spiritual turtle and also the most disciplined one. He understands Splinter’s teachings and thoughts best of the four and is the leader of the Turtles. Like all of the brothers, he is named after a Renaissance artist and he is named after Leonardo Divinci.
Donatello wears a purple bandana. His primary weapon is his bō staff. In all media, he is portrayed as the smartest and second-in-command of the four turtles. He is the third eldest of the turtles and often speaks in “technobabble” due to his a love for science and technology. Following in suit of being named after a Renaissance artist, he is named after Italian sculptor Donatello.
Raphael wears a red bandana over his eyes. He uses twin sai as his primary weapon. He is known to experience extreme fits of rage and is usually depicted as being aggressive, sullen, and rebellious. He gets along best with Michelangelo and seems to be most at ease when around him. Raphael is the second eldest of the four which causes him and Leonardo to butt heads often. Raphael is named after the Renaissance artist Raphael.
Michelangelo is known as the fun-loving little brother of the group. His brothers often refer to him as “Mikie” and they are always a little more protective of him since he is the youngest. He wears an orange bandana and his weapon of choice are the nunchucks. He is often found saying one of their many catchphrases, such as “Cowabunga or “Radical”. Like all of the brothers, he is named after renaissance artist and in this case, he is named after Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Cool facts about the turtles:
- In the first issue, Splinter names the turtles but since master Splinter was not the best speller, he spelled Michelangelo wrong. He spelled it Michaelangelo, the misspelling stuck with the character for years to come.
- Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were sued for $5 million by Buffalo Bob Smith. Buffalo Bob Smith was the host of the Howdy Doody show. He claimed they stole “Cowabunga” from his show. The word was used by the Native American character named Chief Thunderbird as his catchphrase greeting. However, after a few months, Smith settled for $50,000.
- A fifth turtle concept came up to be used in the never produced fourth film. His name was Kirby, he had striped skin and four fingers instead of three.
- When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first hit the U.K and Ireland, their name had to be changed to Teenage Mutant HERO turtles. Local censorship policies said the word Ninja had excessively violent connotations for a children’s program. Everything related to the turtles such as comics, toys, and video games had to be renamed before being released.
- The idea for Shredder’s armor came from when one night Kevin Eastman was doing the dishes. He had accidentally put his hand through a rectangular cheese grater and it gave him the idea.
Thanks for reading and hope you had a radical time. Please leave any questions or comments below and don’t forget to check out all the other great articles on The Game of Nerds.