Textual Analysis of the
Clouds flow across a moon-lit night sky, synthesized-sounding music building in the background. Look downward toward a dark manhole cover as pink light suddenly bursts forth, spewing after it four green figures. The lyrics kick in, and the viewer is introduced to the four fun-loving, pizza-craving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Or rather, one version of the TMNT. For many, it was the 1987-debuting animated television series that spawned the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) and the several-year craze (much like the more recent Pokémon). However, the TMNT had been around for several years already, lurking in the pages of an independently-published black-and-white comic written and produced by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Originally struggling to survive, literally "starving artists," the pair had created in parody what would come to be an over twenty-year phenomenon, that reached global proportions, touched many lives, and left an incredible mark on (American) popular culture.
In their 20 years of existence, the TMNT have been found in comics, cartoons, movies, and various other media. In their different media aimed at varying audiences, the TMNT have intentionally or otherwise provided a reflection of society and their place in time. Some of the reflection may have been dependent upon the intended audience, as well as perhaps being unique to the specific media. Particularly in the present "post-9/11" world of heightened security (and paranoia?), increased awareness, and new technologies, the TMNT have found a renewed relevance. Regardless of the media in which one is presented with the TMNT, it is clear that while they are "real" in the sense of being physically printed on a page or displayed/transmitted via visual technology, the TMNT are simulacra, offering a look at something that is a "copy" lacking an "original," or being lain atop the real and presented as a representation of the real, while becoming real themselves.
Additionally, the TMNT offer a post-modernist look at "the human condition" and society, as they have changed and remained the same through the years. An embodiment of this is found in the use of signification to return the Turtles to their roots, bringing them full circle. In the opening pages of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 4, # 1 the reader is given an updated duplication of the original opening from TMNT vol. 1, # 1. [See Appendix 1]
II. Various primary media (been around since 1984
To begin such a large-scale textual analysis of the TMNT in the above-described context(s), one must begin with context--specifically that due to appearing in various media, the TMNT have been subjected to several continuities. While their origin and the bare-bones premise of the story have remained the same1, there have been several distinct continuities established for the Turtles: whereas many people may be familiar with one or two, and they may yet find a third completely unfamiliar.
The TMNT first appeared in May 1984 in the independently-published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles # 1. In this issue, the reader is introduced to the four turtles, their sensei Splinter, the sinister Foot Clan ninjas, and the evil Shredder. During the issue, Splinter recounts to the Turtles (and by extension, the reader) their origin and sets before them their mission: to avenge Splinter's Master--Hamato Yoshi--by challenging the Shredder to a duel to the death. Once their mission is accomplished, the Turtles return to the sewers, where several other adventures await.
In December 1987, television viewers were presented with five episodes of an animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon--providing a much different view of the teen mutant quartet. As with the original comics, the viewer is introduced to the four turtles, Splinter, the Foot Clan, and Shredder. Whereas in the comics turtle-ally April O'Neil is a lab assistant, in the cartoon she is introduced as a television news reporter. In addition to these characters, Shredder-lackeys "Bebop" and "Rocksteady" are introduced, along with a pink "brain" named Krang. Additionally, the cartoon modified the Turtles' origin, while completely altering through condensing and omission the characters of Shredder and Splinter. Meeting with success, this cartoon series persisted for nine additional seasons, finishing with 193 episodes (Pazsaz Entertainment Network Website).
Following the success of the animated television series, Archie Comics (publisher of Archie, Betty & Veronica, Jughead, and many other titles) began publishing a color comic series based on the continuity established in the cartoon. Debuting initially with a three-issue mini-series in August 1988 and then an on-going regular series in March 1989, this "Archie Adventure Series" Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures ran until October 1995, concluding with issue # 72. Beginning with issue # 5, the creative team began to diverge from the continuity of the cartoon2 and established its own storyline, introducing many new, original characters.
In 1990, kicking off a period of mass popularity for the TMNT, a live-action motion picture was released, ensuring the TMNT's place in American Popular Culture history. Sticking to much of the tone established in the original comics but maintaining some of the humor and wackiness associated with the cartoon series, the movie introduced a new continuity based primarily on the comics but influenced by the cartoon as well. Unlike the cartoon, the movie contained many of the darker, more mature themes inherent in the original comics.
Following the 1990 movie and 1991 sequel, the continued success of the cartoon, action figures, Archie Comics' color comic series, and a 1992-1993 "City at War" storyline, the original comic series saw the Turtles aged from about 15 to 18 years old, maturing noticably as the various members of the supporting cast followed suit, maturing and evolving. At the conclusion of "City at War," Mirage "rebooted3" the series with vol. 2 # 1 as an on-going color series rather than the original series' black-and-white format. While in this publication cycle, the TMNT guest-starred in Image Comics' The Savage Dragon # 2 in a cross-company cross-over storyline that concluded in Mirage's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Savage Dragon # 1 special issue. Unfortunately, TMNT vol. 2 ceased publication little over a year later with # 13, and by the late 1990s, Mirage Publishing had closed its doors.
In June 1996, Image Comics began a third volume of the comics. Though returning to the Turtles' roots with a black-and-white format, the overall storyline itself held some new twists--the Turtles and Splinter went through some major changes and evolutions, diverging greatly from the previously-established continuities. Their story was essentially continued from the Mirage series and continued under the Image logo for 23 issues, before once again being discontinued.
In September 1997, more than a year after the final episode of the animated series aired, a new TMNT television series--this one live-action--debuted its first episode. "Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation" introduced a new, fifth Turtle into the continuity--Venus DeMilo. Unlike the four classic Turtles, Venus was raised and trained in China, and as the first and only female turtle she introduced an entirely new element to the TMNT's universe4.
After the conclusion of "Next Mutation" after a mere 26 episodes in March 1998, the Image comics series was the sole presence of the TMNT for awhile. When this series, too, ceased in October 1999, the TMNT virtually disappeared for nearly two years. In December 2001, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volume 4 # 1 saw publication with a re-opened Mirage Publishing, and the TMNT now solely owned by co-creator Peter Laird.. In this new volume, Laird ignores the continuity from the Image series5 and continues where he and co-creator Kevin Eastman left off with volume 2. However, in this newest comic series, the Turtles and their supporting cast have been moved several years into the future, aged6 into their 30s and demonstrating a new maturity as well as holding to the old adage that "the more things change, the more they stay the same"--illustrated most pointedly in the Turtles' re-introduction mirroring that of their first appearance in volume 1, # 1.
Finally, in February 2003, a new animated television series debuted, introducing yet another new continuity, this one based very closely on the original Mirage vol. 1 comics--with many aspects taken directly from the comics themselves7. The Turtles are closer in appearance to the original comics, and have a darker tone to the series similar to that of the comics. With Peter Laird in direct consultation, this version of the TMNT is much more in line with the creators' original intent of the characters.
III. Varying reflections of society
Throughout the various primary media versions of the TMNT (Mirage vol. 1, 2, & 4, Image vol. 3, 1987 cartoon, Archie series, Movies, Next Mutation, and 2003 cartoon), essentially seven different (but similar) continuities were established. Each contributed its own essence to the overall "feel" and characterization of the Turtles as well as highlighting different aspects of life to differing audiences.
Mirage TMNT vol. 1
In their initial conception, the TMNT illustrate a fairly dark, "to-each-his-own" look at life, with isolation, revenge, honor, and trust as factors to this world view. Within their first issue specifically, as throughout the series, the TMNT face a harsh, dark world, in stories that one would generally not expect to expose a younger audience to. The Turtles do kill, and they are themselves injured in the process--facing both the "Purple Dragon Gang," the Foot ninjas, and finally the Shredder himself. Despite being perhaps the Turtles' most well-known nemesis, and a recurring foe in most of their incarnations, in the Mirage comics, the Shredder made his one and only appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 1, # 1.(8)
As the series progresses, the TMNT face many other challenges and adult situations, whether in learning their place in a world that would not understand them or simply in facing death many times over in their various adventures on--and off--Earth. In this original incarnation, the TMNT can be seen as very realistic--here, swords will cut opponents, sais will penetrate flesh, a staff and nunchaku will cause injury as blunt objects; all are wielded by experts. Opponents do bleed, as do those weilding the weapons. The Turtles do not lead an "easy" life or really have positive relations with surface-dwellers (exceptions including April O'Neil and Casey Jones, along with several other recurring cast-members). Perhaps due in part to the black-and-white format of the series, a grimmer, grittier tone is given to the Turtles.
Set in New York City in the then-present (mid 1980s), the original comics with their grim and gritty mean-streets tone show a view of a violent, fearful, prejudiced society that would hate and fear anything it doesn't understand. The United States was into the final years of the Cold War, and changing societal conditions--and fears--were prevalent in the general society. With growing fears of scientific and technological progress, as well as an opening up of the shroud of the "Iron Curtain," there was much to be afraid of. With many comics looking at the positives in society, or at least the well-to-do segment, the TMNT were able to illustrate a dark side. Even with increased acknowledgment of the homeless population living on the streets, the TMNT delved further and showed a level below that. With a society caught up in greed and exploiting anything it could, discovering the TMNT would certainly lead to the Turtles' exploitation and ultimately their destruction
As the series progressed, the Turtles were taken on adventures into outer space, encountered several alien entities, traveled through time, and faced many challenges physically and spiritually, all of which reflected the changing of society as the Cold War ended, technology progressed, and various societal issues have been brought to the forefront to be dealt with, etc. Near the beginning of the series the Turtles find themselves in an alien galaxy, caught between a human ("Federat") empire and an alien ("Triceraton") empire. The continued conflict between the two reflected the struggle between the United States and the USSR, an intentional reflection as noted in the story itself (TMNT Book II).
TMNT Cartoon (1987)
When the TMNT were tapped for an animated cartoon series, many modifications and alterations were made to the story and characters, and the series was modified for a younger audience of children, rather than the older/adult audience the comics were intended for. These changes help show a more idealized version of the world for children, as well as reflecting on the lighter points of life.
Rather than grim, violent street-life with combat resulting in bloodshed and death, the Turtles face a Shredder plagued with failure due to stereotypical "crazed-madman-wants-to-rule-the-world/city" plans, providing situations for mostly single-episode adventures. The Shredder, while indicated as dangerous, rarely engages the Turtles in actual combat--though based on character dialogue and the original comics, he would have had little trouble matching--if not besting--the Turtles in combat. Additionally, Shredder is given new allies--first in the form of Krang, the "evil brain from Dimension X"9, and two bumbling fools--Bebop (a mutant warthog) and Rocksteady (a mutant rhino) who despite constant failure are again and again sent against the Turtles in a continuing dance. Reflective of late-80s fears, these henchmen are originally part of a "punk gang" portrayed through stereotypes. Through the Shredder's mutagen, they are mutated the same way the Turtles were. Finally, the feared Foot Clan ninjas--dangerous and able to give the Turtles a serious challenge in the comics--appear here as robots. They pose a threat to the Turtles in large numbers, and allow them to cut, hack, crack, and beat an enemy without actually harming any humans. This helps maintain a less-violent image of the TMNT, as well as allowing them more time to pursue interests such as surfing and the constant quest for more pizza.
The Turtles themselves are simplified primarily to a main personality trait each. Leonardo, the leader of the group, is generally responsible, serious, and ready to stick to the task at hand. This characterization would also appeal to children who were themselves becoming leaders, if only among their friends, as well as teach the idea of responsibility. Donatello is the "brains" of the group; he is constantly inventing new machines and devices and thinking problems through before acting. He is generally portrayed as a bit of an outsider, interested in his machines and inventions. Yet, he often contributes the much-needed clincher element to rescue someone from whatever danger faced that episode. This character teaches the merits of exploring different (possibly non-violent) options in seeking a solution, as well as learning how things work and encouraging intellectual pursuit of knowledge. Raphael is shown as sarcastic, crude, rude, and moody, though he is generally dependable. Offering sarcastic remarks and quips are part of his trademark, reflecting a dark-humored side, as well as the hotheaded eagerness of many children who are more likely to act on impulse than (to be able to) act with all options thought-through initially. Finally, Michaelangelo is described and presented as a "party dude," with a "cool" persona to appeal to many children. His humor and light-heartedness seem to reflect an attitude of acceptance of authority shared by many children, while seeking the next slice of pizza and fun, party-like situations.
In 1990 and 1991, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, much of the darker, realistic element from the Mirage comics is blended with the lighter, aimed-at-children humor elements for a new continuity with a definite serious tone while keeping much of the personality of the Turtles. Comparing these two films, the first holds more of the comics' tone, while the second takes on more of the cartoon's humorous tone. While both work well, reflecting the two different aspects of society, there's been some discussion over the merits of the changes in tone between the two movies. (Laird interview, http://ugo.com/channels/filmTv/features/tmnt/default.asp) Primarily, one can see that with the passing of the 80s and the Cold War, there is more room for humor and light-heartedness in entertainment. Themes of exclusion and identity are also explored. In the second movie, legacies and personal histories are emphasized as a search for identity--even as the United States sought a new identity and place in the world in the wake of the Cold War's passing.
Archie Comics' TMNT Adventures
As the Archie series diverged from cartoon continuity, many new characters were introduced, and rather than remain in New York, the Turtles were sent on a "world tour" and the series explored many real-world issues, presented in a format accessible to the younger audience. In several issues, the Turtles travel throughout South America (TMNTA # 13-17) before a brief return to New York. Following several NY-based adventures, the Turtles travel throughout the Middle-East and learn about several different cultures and religions (TMNTA 32-36), look back to the discovery of North America (TMNTA # 40), and then a look into the future and the effects on the environment of present-day conditions (TMNTA # 42-44). Throughout these adventures, an open look is taken at other cultures, ways of life, and general conditions around the world. Rather than simply facing issues in New York or even just in the United States, the series highlights important environmental issues and the renewed emphasis on tackling these issues along with a cultural shift to seek to understand other cultures as tolerance and diversity take center stage. Many characters are introduced throughout this series, often embodying a certain issue, stereotype, or culture. They serve as a symbol and providing a look into non-American ways of life and beliefs10.
TMNT as Live-action heroes
Having fallen away from the TMNT by the late 90s when Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation debuted, I am familiar only with hearsay and light references to the series. As the episodes are no longer broadcast, and no recordings are available, I am forced to omit this incarnation of the Turtles from detailed individual analysis.
Image, and the violence of late-90s television
In the latter part of the 1990s, violence in many forms seemed to be a lot more acceptable in American (primarily) society. This was particularly noticeable in video games, television, and even in what would be shown and discussed on general news broadcasts. Within the Image comic series, the Turtles evolved, became more distinct, and faced essentially real-world problems and solutions.
Donatello is horribly injured early in the series and is forced to rely on machinery to survive (as a cyborg), reflecting the increased importance of technology on society as well as potential uses and merging of technology with biology. Raphael loses an eye and is scarred in battle.. Partly due to his injuries as well as a sharper attitude, Raphael becomes a new Shredder, taking over the Foot Clan, demonstrating an extremely pro-active approach to a problem the Turtles had long been shown to be purely reactive to. Leonardo loses a and faces the challenges inherent therein. Managing to avoid horrible injury and disfigurement, Michaelangelo takes up teaching.
Through these life-altering, character-altering changes, the changes in culture are reflected and show a realistic aspect of such a dangerous lifestyle--one is bound to be badly injured even if expertly trained with dangerous objects. Additionally, perseverence and personal grown remain integral to finding one's own identity.
Mirage volume 4
The current series featuring the TMNT debuted about three months after the attacks on the U.S. Pentagon and World Trade Center towers, and whether or not it was influenced by the event, it offers a relevant look at society in its wake. The Turtles and their supporting cast are older, aged at least ten years and found to be much more experienced and mature. They have a sleeker, more wizened feel. An on-going story within this series has been the arrival of an alien race, the Ultroms, on earth and the way the world is changed by the arrival and very existence of these aliens. In tackling such ideas, the series provides an excellent reflection of real-world events as Americans seem to become suddenly aware of the wider world-presence of others and the need to learn about other cultures before jumping to conclusions and resorting to violence. Tolerance, diversity, and segregation are other topics presented as the issues have remained somewhat in public and academic eyes into the opening years of the 21st century.
TMNT 2k3 (Cartoon)
Particularly in light of the post-9/11 society, awareness of the terrible evils that exist in the world, and the general loss of "innocence" in the world, the new cartoon seems to be able to "get away with" more than the original series. Firstly, it carries a darker, more serious tone, closely following the original Mirage comics. Secondly, it re-characterizes the Shredder and the Foot Clan as the dangers they were in the comics, rather than the bumbling fools/robots they were in the original cartoon. As even the children have become more accustomed to violence and seriousness, they are able to be presented in the cartoon. Finally, this animated series is aware of previous incarnations of the TMNT, particularly the original cartoon. With the renewed seriousness, gone are the constant pizza references, partying jokes, and corny catch-phrases.
In addition to providing a reflection of society and its values in the various media, the TMNT have also served as simulacra, as characters and in the media in which they've been presented. Jean Baudrillard suggests simulacra as essentially copies without originals. The TMNT fulfill this both literally as comic books as well as aspects of their characters, particularly their origin. As characters, the Turtles have been imbued with various personality traits, occasionally played-up more than they'd be found in a regular person, whether for a story nuance or to make a point. In this sense, they copy traits from other humans, but there is no concrete "original" to point to as the source. Rather than one specific person, they represent anyone similar. In the literal realm as comic books, the reader is presented a view of reality through the pages of the TMNT comics that is based on what is likely to them an abstract. If one has never been to New York or North Hampton, there is no "original" in their mind for comparison, though the reader will see that obviously the images drawn on a comic page are a "copy" of what may or may not really be at specific geographic locations.
The TMNT were created originally in parody, as a play off the general super-hero comic. One way in which this is done is through the Turtles' origin itself. Most people know the basic part of the Turtles' origin is that as a truck speeds out of control, a boy jumps out to push a blind man out of the way of the oncoming vehicle. As the truck swerves, a canister falls from the back and strikes the boy's head, then continues on, shattering a jar holding the turtles as infants, and the turtles and canister fall into the sewer. What may not be generally recognized is that this plays off the origin of Marvel's Daredevil--that one can see the boy as young Matt Murdock, accounting for his powers through the same mutagenic material that mutates the Turtles.
In conclusion, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have survived in various media for nearly twenty years, offering a continuous reflection of society. Their reflection of society and existence within society have allowed them to remain viable in the present. Additionally, they share many characteristics with other long-term characters, including Superman. Like well-known, long-lasting characters Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four, the TMNT have an origin that contains certain key points that define them.
There is much that can still be done regarding research of the TMNT. A more detailed issue-by-issue analysis can be done, as well as year-by-year look at the comics and the context surrounding the creation of each individual issue. While the popularity of the Turtles peaked in the early 1990s, with countless licensed and unlicensed products and books, there has been nothing written on them in the later 1990s or start of the 21st century. This overview-analysis can bridge that, and as the current comic series expands to include a second series in later 2003, as well as Dreamwave's comic due to debut in June (based on the current cartoon, much as the Archie Comics series was based on the original cartoon). The cartoon itself can be included, with a look at the varying images of the Shredder, as well as many other characters/aspects.
1. Much like Superman, origin/premise can be broken down to just a few words, bare essentials, that no matter the incarnation have been integral to the character. With Superman, one can break down the bare basics that are the character. In a brief section of introductory text presented at the beginning of each issue of Action Comics (specific example from # 799, March 2003) the reader is introduced to the basic concept. "Doomed Planet Krypton. The rocket. A child. Journey across cold space. Earth. Smallville. Crash landing. The Kents. Learning TRUTH, JUSTICE and THE AMERICAN WAY. Faster than a Speeding Bullet. Stronger than a Locomotive. A Man can fly. Believe." [Return to Text]
2. The 3-issue mini-series adapted the first 3 episodes of the cartoon into comic book format. Issues 1-4 of the on-going series adapted the first 4 episodes of the second season to comic book format. Issue # 5, introducing the character "Man Ray" began the series' divergence from the cartoon continuity. Events from these earliest issues would be revisited in issues 47-50, when the "Eye of Sarnath" is expanded on as Sarnath itself is introduced (See TMNT Adventures # 47-50). [Return to Text]
3. "Reboot" / "Rebooted" -- an on-going successful comic series being discontinued, and published as a new series, beginning its numbering anew from # 1. Generally, this is seen in a month-to-month basis, such as Marvel's re-boot of Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel volume 3 # 35 published August 2002, and volume 4 # 1 published September 2002. Alternatively, a series or character may be "rebooted" in the publication of a new series, after a hiatus of not being published, such as Marvel's Black Panther being discontinued before the 1990s, and a new on-going Black Panther series debuting in September, 1998. [Return to Text]
4. A subject rarely touched-on was the fact that as four males, the only of their kind, there would be no descendants for the Turtles-once they died, that would be it. The introduction of a female turtle would drastically alter that dynamic. [Return to Text]
5. In "Turtle Tracks" (letters column) of TMNT vol. 4 # 8, Laird explains in response to one letter "[ ] for this new series, I am ignoring what happened in those Image TMNT books, so for this continuing story it's really like it never happened." [Return to Text]
6. In "Turtle Tracks" (letters column) of TMNT vol. 4 # 3, Laird explains the Turtles' age: "The Turtles are not teenagers any more. They are in their thirties. That being said, the book will not be called MIDDLE-AGED MUTANT NINJA TURTLES or any other equally lame thing, because I like the name TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, and that's the name I think of when I think of these characters." [Return to Text]
7. In the interview on Underground Online (ugo.com), regarding original TMNT comics being adapted for the new cartoon, Laird comments about a Donatello one-shot: "That whole issue is going to be adapted into an episode. Another one is the Raphael story where he first meets Casey Jones. Some of it is changed a little bit and shuffled around, but I'm very excited." [Return to Text]
8. In "Turtle Tracks" (letters column) of TMNT vol. 4 # 9, Laird comments on the Shredder: "[...] except for any flashbacks to the time period BEFORE the events of the original TMNT #1 [and I'm not really sure we've ever done any flashbacks like that], the REAL Shredder only appeared in that one issue. Thinking back, that was actually a very deliberate move on our part, and Kevin and I wrestled a great deal with the concept of bringing the Shredder back in issue #10, and didn't want to do it unless we could think up a way which was satisfyingly weird and non-cliched." [Return to Text]
9. "Dimension X" became a recurring theme throughout the series, as both a threat of banishment for the Turtles, and a haven of retreat for Shredder, Krang, etc. Krang himself is based on an alien race called the "Ultroms," who in the Mirage comic had actually created the substance that mutated the Turtles. In the present (vol. 4) comics, they seem if not benevolent, at least neutral, while Krang was pure evil, intent on destroying and/or taking over Earth for his own use. [Return to Text]
[The Origin of the TMNT from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 1 # 1]
"My tale begins some twenty years ago. I was a young rat, a pet bought and cared for by my beloved master, Hamato Yoshi. My cage was kept in his dojo, and I watched his daily practice. It amused him to see me mimic his movements...but it was more than mere mimicry. Slowly I learned his art, the Mysterious Martial Art of Ninjitsu. I could not have had a better teacher, for it was said that Hamato Yoshi was the greatest shadow warrior of his clan. He was one of the famous "Foot" clan, the most feared warriors and assassins in all Japan. Another member of the "Foot" clan was Oroku Nagi. He and my master Yoshi competed fiercely in all things, especially for the love of a young woman, Tang Shen. Both tried to win her, but from the start she loved only one: my master, Yoshi. Nagi was insanely jealous One fateful night, he went to Tang Shen's home and demanded that she love him. Shen refused, saying that she wanted only Yoshi. In a jealous rage, Nagi began to beat her. At that moment Yoshi, coming to visit his lover, entered the room and saw Nagi poised to strike!!! [...] Yoshi's world vanished in a red haze...and when it cleared, Nagi was no more. Yoshi's shame was great. By killing another member of his clan, he had dishonored himself. His choices were simple, but not easy: to take his own life and hope for honor in the next life; or flee with Shen to another country and try to start life again. He chose the latter, taking with him a few belongings, including me, and came with Shen to New York. Here my master formed a small Martial Arts school. Meanwhile, in Japan...Nagi's family, especially his younger brother Saki, were mourning his death. The seven year old Saki vowed vengeance on Yoshi. The Foot took hold of Saki's anger and used it to bend him to their own purposes. Saki began intensive training in the Ninja's Art, and soon surpassed his teachers. As he grew older his hatred of Yoshi grew deep and bitter. [...] Under Saki's leadership, the Foot was soon invovled in many criminal activities: drug smuggling, arms running...and their specialty, assassination. Saki, now called "The Shredder," was successful, but not satisfied. In his heart burned hatred for Hamato YOshi and his wife, Tang Shen. On a night nearly fifteen years ago, Saki finally made his move. My master Yoshi came home that evening, never expecting that his most dangerous enemy was lying in wait! Entering the apartment his gaze fell on the still, silent form of his beloved Shen. Then he saw her killer. In the struggle my cage was smashed. I was free...but my master was dead. In my grief, I wandered the streets, living off scraps of garbage. Then one day while I was searching a trash can for my next meal, I witnessed an accident. An old blind man crossing the street was almost run down by a large truck. At the last moment a young man leaped at the blind man and knocked him out of the 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. Unnoticed by the crowd, the strange canister bounced several more times, striking and smashing a glass jar which held four small turtles...you four, as infants!! You fell into the manhole, followed by the canister. Fortunately a pile of dead leaves and papers broke your fall. But the canister smashed open, releasign a glowing ooze which covered your bodies as you crawled around in it. I followed you down into the storm drain, and not knowing exactly why, gathered you up in a coffee can. I took you to my burrow and washed off as much of the goo as I could. The next morning I awoke to find the can tipped over, and the four of you doubled in size!! Somehow, that strange ooze had affected your growth. As I learned later it had changed me also...making me more intelligent, and larger. But I didn't grow as fast as you did. Within a year, you had reached your current size. You followed me everywhere I went, except above ground. I could not risk your being discovered. I was amazed at how intelligent you seemed, but even so I was not ready for what happened one day...one of you actually said a word...My Name!!! More words followed, and soon you all were speaking. Around this time, you started to stand upright, and copy my movements. I began training you then, teaching you all that I had learned from watching Master Yoshi. I taught you the use of weapons, the art of stealth, and all that I knew of this world. In time you surpassed my lessons, and became true ninja. Using a battered copy of a book on Rennaissance art that I had fished out of the storm drain, I chose names for each of you: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael."
[The Origin of the TMNT from the pilot episode of the original cartoon]
"The story of my young friends and I is really the story of a man named Hamato Yoshi. In Japan there is a ninja clan known as the Foot. Hamato Yoshi was their Shidoshi--teacher of the warrior ways of enlightenment. Yoshi was a quiet man, who loved art. But one student sought to usurp his leadership of the Foot Clan--Oroku Saki. Then, one day a master Sensei--a teacher--visited the Foot school, and Oroku Saki made his move [Saki pins Yoshi's Kimono to the wall, preventing Yoshi from bowing before the sensei. When he removes the dagger, he is accused of plotting to kill the sensei, and is banished from the Foot Clan.] Disgraced, Yoshi fled to America. Penniless, he was forced to live in the sewers, in these underground tunnels. His only friends were the rats. Until one day, some new friends came down the drain. Back in Japan, under Oroku Saki's evil leadership, the Foot Clan turned into an army of crime. Back in New York, Yoshi lived happily with his turtles and rats. But then, one day [Yoshi returns home to find the turtles crawling in a pink, glowing ooze.] It was a powerful Mutagen. It caused whoever touched it to take on the form of whatever animal they had most recently been in contact with. The turtles started becoming human, having most recently been with Yoshi. But Yoshi had most recently been with the rats. [The turtles take on their present size and shape, Yoshi becomes a rat, and is shown shattering wooden boards during a training session.] My four young wards nicknamed me Splinter for obvious reasons. I in turn named them after my favorite Renaissance painters. I knew the outside world would consider them freaks, so I trained them in the art of Ninjitsu. Donatello--whose simple wooden bo can disarm any adversary. Raphael--no sword on earth can withstand his sai. Leonardo--his swordsmanship is unmatched. Michaelangelo--master of the whirling nunchakus. [...] And that his how they became the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
[The Origin of the TMNT from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (as told to April O'Neil)]
For fifteen years now, we have lived here. Before that time, I was a pet of my Master Yoshi. Mimicking his movements from my cage, and learning the secret art of ninja. When we were forced to come to New York, I found myself for the first time without a home, wandering the sewers, scavenging for whatever I coudl find. And then one day, I came upon a shattered glass jar, and four baby turtles. The little ones were crawling into a strange glowing ooze from a broken canister nearby. I gathered them up in an old coffee can, and when I awoke the next morning, I received a shock, for they had doubled in size! I, too, was growing, particularly in intellect. And I was amazed at how intelligent they seemed. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. One of them spoke. More words followed, and I began their training, teaching them all that I had learned from my Master. And soon I gave them all names. Leonardo. Michaelangelo. Donatello. And Raphael.
[The Origin of the TMNT from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (as told to a young boy in the Foot)]
Many years ago, I lived in Japan, a pet of my master Yoshi. Mimicking his movements from my cage, and learning the mysterious art of ninjitsu, for Yoshi was one of Japan's finest shadow warriors. His only rival was a man named Oroku Saki, and they competed in all things, but none more fiercely than for the love of a woman--Tang Shen. Shen's love was only for my master, and rather than see him fight Saki for her hand, she persuaded Yoshi to flee with me to America. But Saki vowed vengeance. I remember it well. As my master returned home to find his beloved Shen lying on the floor. And then, he saw her killer. Saki wasted no words, and during the struggle, my cage was broken. I leapt to Saki's face, biting and clawing, but he threw me to the floor, and took one swipe with his katana, slicing my ear. Then he was gone, and I was alone.
[The Origin of the TMNT from the present cartoon (as told to April O'Neil)]
"I have memories...memories of when I used to be what you might call 'normal.' I remember a day that started like any other, but ended changing the course of many lives. I witnessed an accident. A young boy carried a glass jar with four pet infant turtles. An old blind man was crossing the street...when he was almost run down by a large truck. [...] As the truck swerved, a metal cannister bounced out of the back. It smashed open releaseing a glowing ooze which covered their bodies. I took pity, gathering them up in a coffee can. I took them to my burrow. The next morning...I awoke to find the four had doubled in size. The ooze had affected their growth. It changed me also, making me larger and more intelligent. They followed me everywhere, except above ground. I knew the people of the surface would not understand. We are so...different. I was amazed by their dexterity. Even so, I was not prepared for what happened one day. They actually spoke my name. Soon, they all were speaking. [...] Intelligence followed soon after. Realizing that the world above is sometimes a dangerous place, I began teaching them ninjitsu, the secret arts of stealth and power, and all that I knew of this world. From a battered book on Renaissance art that I fished out of the storm drain, I chose names for each of them. Leonardo...Donatello...Raphael...Michelangelo. Together, they are..." ["Turtles Forever!" --Michelangelo] [...] So, we have remained in secret, and that is our story."
[The Origin of the TMNT from the present cartoon (as told to the Turtles)]
"As you already know, my master was a ninja of great power. One of the greatest practitioners of ninjitsu in many centuries. I was his pet rat. And I learned ninjitsu by mimicking his movies. For many years, I was happy. We were a family. But that life ended when the Shredder sent his foot ninja to attack my master. My master battled honorably. But through their dishonorable ways...the foot ninja overpowered him. Then the Shredder entered. They accused my master of working for their enemies. They wanted information. And they were relentless. But my master only said one thing. 'He who lives without honor will end without honor.' [...] I tried to save my master. My efforts were in vain, though I did leave my mark. The Shredder had taken my Master Yoshi from me. From the world. Not long after that, I found you, my sons, and and you all know the rest."