Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios)

title=Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

caption=Interior splash from Eastman and Laird's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #1.
publisher=Mirage Studios
creators=Kevin Eastman
Peter Laird

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is an American comic book published by Mirage Studios since May 1984 and still current in the present. Originally conceived by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as a one-off parody, the comic's popularity has gone on to inspire three television series, numerous video games, four feature films, and a wide range of toys and merchandise.

Unlike the alternate versions from Archie Comics and Dreamwave Comics, it is the actual true comic series, alongside with Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both series are in the same uinverse, time continuity, bear the writer's names within the titles, and are canon to each other.

Over the years, the Turtles have appeared in numerous cross-overs with other successful independent comics characters, including Dave Sim's "Cerebus", Erik Larsen's "Savage Dragon", Bob Burden's "Flaming Carrot", and Stan Sakai's "Usagi Yojimbo". Unfortunately there are few trade paperback collections of the series, they are difficult to find, and there do not appear to be any forthcoming collections in the future.

Origin of the concept

The concept originated from a comical drawing sketched out by Kevin Eastman during a casual evening of brainstorming with his friend Peter Laird. The drawing of a short, squat turtle wearing a mask with nunchakus strapped to its arms was incredibly funny to the young artists, as it played upon the inherent contradiction of a slow, cold-blooded reptile with the speed and agility of the Japanese martial arts. At Laird's suggestion, they created a team of four such turtles, each specializing in a different weapon. Eastman and Laird often cite the groundbreaking work of Frank Miller and Jack Kirby as their major artistic influences.

Using money from a tax refund together with a loan from Eastman's uncle, they formed Mirage Studios and self-published a single-issue comic book that would parody four popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel Comics' "The New Mutants", which featured teenage mutants, "Cerebus", "Ronin", and "Daredevil", which featured ninja clans dueling for control of the New York City underworld. [cite web|url=http://www.heavymetal.com/page.cfm?id=262|title=I Was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle|date=2007-01-26] In fact, many comics fans will recognize in the Turtles' origin several direct allusions to "Daredevil": The traffic accident, involving a blind man and a truck carrying radioactive waste, is a reference to Daredevil's own origin story. The name "Splinter" is a parody on Daredevil's mentor, a man known as "Stick." The Foot, a clan of evil ninja who became the Turtles' arch-enemies, is a parody of the Hand, who were themselves a mysterious and deadly ninja clan in the pages of "Daredevil." In addition, Raphael carries two sais, a reference to another "Daredevil" character, Elektra.

Publication history

:"See also: Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

Volume 1: 1984 - 1993

The first issue of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was advertised in issues #1 and #2 of Eastman and Laird's 1984 comic, "Gobbledygook", in addition to the Comics Buyer's Guide, issue 547. The full page advertisement in CBG helped them gain the attention of retailers and jump-started their early sales. Because of the CBG's newspaper format, many were disposed of, making it a highly sought after collectors item today. The book premiered in May 1984 at a comic book convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was printed in an oversized magazine-style format using black & white artwork on cheap newsprint and had a print run of only 3,000 copies. It was a period of intense speculation in comic book investment, with especially strong interest in black and white comics from independent companies. The first printings of the original TMNT comics had small print runs that made them instant collector items. Within months, the books were trading at prices over 50 times their cover price.

The success also led to a black & white comics boom in the mid-1980s, where other small publishers put out animal-based parody books hoping to make a quick profit. Among them, the "Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters", the "Cold-Blooded Chameleon Commandos", and the "Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos", "Karate Kreatures", and "Adult Thermonuclear Samurai Elephants" were obvious parodies of TMNT. Most of them sold to comic shops in large numbers, but failed to catch on with comics readers. This speculation led to financial problems with both comic shops and distributors, contributing to a sales collapse in 1986-7.

The "Return to New York" story arc concluded in the spring of 1989, and by this time the Ninja Turtles phenomenon was well-established in other media. Eastman and Laird now found themselves administrating an international merchandising juggernaut, overseeing a wide array of licensing deals while fending off lawsuits from greedy opportunists. This prevented the two creators from participating in the day-to-day work of writing and illustrating a monthly comic book. For this reason, many guest artists were invited to showcase their unique talents in the TMNT universe. The breadth of diversity found in the various short stories had the adverse effect of disrupting some continuity and gave the series a disjointed, anthology-like feel. Some of these artists, including Michael Dooney, Eric Talbot, A.C. Farley, Ryan Brown, Steve Lavigne, Steve Murphy, and Jim Lawson, continued to work with Mirage Studios for years to come.

Issue #45 kicked off a major turning point, as Mirage made a concerted effort to return the series to continuity. A 13-part story arc entitled "City at War" began with issue #50, which was the first issue to be completely written and illustrated by both Eastman and Laird since issue #11. "City at War," and Volume 1 itself, concluded with the publication of issue #62 in August, 1993.

Volume 2: 1993 - 1995

Mirage Studios launched Volume 2 with much fanfare in October 1993, as a full-color series that maintained the continuity of the first volume. Written and illustrated by Jim Lawson, the series lasted only thirteen issues before ceasing publication in October 1995. The cancellation was due, in part, to declining popularity and lagging sales.

Volume 3: 1996 - 1999

Erik Larsen came to the rescue in June 1996, with the publication of a third volume under the Image Comics banner. The 23 monthly issues were written by Gary Carlson and pencilled by Frank Fosco, and marked a return to black and white artwork. This volume is notable for having a faster pace and more intense action while inflicting major physical changes on the Turtles themselves; Leonardo losing a hand, Raphael's face being scarred, Splinter becoming a bat, and Donatello becoming a cyborg. In a startling plot twist, Raphael even took on the identity of Shredder and assumed leadership of the Foot. With Volume 3, the Turtles were incorporated into the Image universe, which provided opportunities for a few crossovers and guest appearances by characters from "The Savage Dragon" series. The series ceased publication in 1999, and it is no longer considered part of the "official" TMNT canon. Raph's depiction as the Shredder however, is referenced in an episode of the third season of the 2003 animated series "The Darkness Within", where Raph is exposed to his fear of giving into anger and becoming the very thing he hates.

Volume 4: 2001 - present

Peter Laird and Jim Lawson brought the Turtles back to their roots with the simply-titled "TMNT" in December 2001. Published bi-monthly, the series is known for its lengthy, carefully-woven plot threads interspersed with social commentary. The authors also took the opportunity to correct a persistent error: Since the first issue of Volume 1, Michelangelo's name had been misspelled as "Michaelangelo." It is now spelled correctly, consistent with his Renaissance namesake.

Picking up fifteen years after the conclusion of Volume 2 (and omitting the events of Volume 3), the Turtles, now in their thirties, are living together in their sewer lair beneath New York City. April and Casey have been married for some time and remain in contact with the Turtles from their nearby apartment. Splinter continues to live at the Northampton farmhouse, where he has become a "grandfather" of sorts to Casey's teenage daughter, Shadow. The Utroms return to Earth in a very public arrival, subsequently establishing a peaceful base in Upper New York Bay. Since the arrival, aliens—and other bizarre life-forms, like the Turtles—have become more universally accepted. No longer forced to live in hiding, the Turtles now roam freely among the world of humans, albeit under the guise of aliens.

Plot summaries

Volume 1


The first issue introduces readers to the Turtles as they are about to embark on their first mission. As the origin story goes, four pet turtles are exposed to a liquid mutagen during a traffic accident at which their young owner is a bystander. The mutagen causes animals to become more human-like in intelligence and dexterity. Also exposed to the mutagen is Splinter, a rat once owned by a ninjutsu expert named Hamato Yoshi. As a fantastically talented pet, Splinter taught himself the art of ninjutsu by mimicking Yoshi during his practice sessions. Yoshi emigrated from Japan to the United States in an effort to escape a bitter love triangle that resulted in the death of Oroku Nagi, a fellow member of his ninja clan. However, Yoshi was pursued and murdered by Nagi's younger brother, Oroku Saki, who grew to lead the American branch of the Foot Clan as the villainous Shredder. Yoshi's death leaves Splinter homeless, wandering the streets and sewers of New York City alone.

Splinter happens upon the Turtles, still fresh from their accident and wallowing in mutagen, and adopts them. Within days Splinter and the Turtles grow to humanoid size and develop the power of speech. It is then that Splinter decides to train the young Turtles in ninjutsu, so they can grow strong enough to exact revenge on the Shredder for the murder of Splinter's beloved Master Yoshi. Splinter chooses names for the Turtles from the pages of an old discarded book on Renaissance art: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. The Turtles challenge and defeat the Shredder and his Foot clan in a rooftop duel, as Shredder is knocked off the building and plunges to a fiery death in the blast of his own bomb.

The Fugitoid

The Turtles go on to explore the deeper roots of their origin, discovering that the mutagen that transformed them is a by-product of scientific research conducted by a peaceful race of aliens called Utroms. During the adventure, the Turtles are accidentally teleported across the galaxy where they encounter Professor Honeycutt, a brilliant scientist whose mind is trapped in the body of a robot. The Turtles must aid their new friend from being captured by a warlike alien species called the Triceratons, who covet the professor's own designs for a transmat device to further their militaristic ambitions.

ilent Partner

Shredder returns from the dead to seek his revenge on the Turtles. In a breathtaking Christmas Eve ambush, Shredder and his Foot ninja bring Leonardo within an inch of his life, driving the Turtles, Splinter, and their human friends April O'Neil and Casey Jones to retreat to Casey's grandmother's farmhouse in rural Northampton, Massachusetts.

Return to New York

A year later, the Turtles return to New York to defeat Oroku Saki--the Shredder--once and for all. In a dramatic conflict with Leonardo, Shredder reveals the manner in which he was brought back to life. After their first battle with the Turtles, the Foot were able to recover Shredder's remains and, using a combination of modern science and ancient mysticism, reanimate his body in the form of a colony of worms. Shredder is finally vanquished in the duel, as Leonardo decapitates him in a spectacular swordfight. Later, the Turtles cast Shredder's body into Upper New York Bay, setting it ablaze in a funeral pyre. Saki was never to return.

City at War

New York City is embroiled in a massive gang war, as rival factions of the leaderless Foot Clan battle each other for dominance. In response to the chaos, the Japanese branch of the Foot Clan sends its leader, Karai, to re-establish order among the New York Foot. Karai enlists the help of the Turtles to accomplish her goals, forming an uneasy alliance with them in exchange for amnesty and a permanent truce with the Foot. Three distinct subplots emerge in "City at War," as Splinter duels with the Rat King, April reconnects with her sister Robyn, and Casey falls in love with a young pregnant woman named Gabrielle, who dies during childbirth. Casey Jones names Gabrielle's daughter Shadow and returns to New York with her, where he repairs his fractured relationship with April O'Neill. They both raise Shadow as their own child.

Volume 2

The Turtles choose to go their separate ways, struggling to find purpose in a world without the threat of their longtime enemy, the Foot. Meanwhile, Baxter Stockman constructs a robotic body while imprisoned at DARPA--a government defense facility. He surgically transplants his brain into it, becoming an unstoppable killing machine, and embarks on a singular mission of revenge against April O'Neil. During the course of his search, Stockman comes into conflict with Raphael, who is thrown from a rooftop during the battle. Raphael is subsequently recovered by government agents and detained for scientific study in the DARPA facility.

The other three Turtles reunite, defeat Stockman, and turn their attention to finding their lost brother. Together with Casey Jones and Nobody, they infiltrate DARPA to find that several other alien species, including a Triceraton, are also being subjected to scientific experiments. A fierce battle soon erupts between the Turtles and DARPA's military defense force. Now freed, the Triceraton threatens a planetary invasion from his colony. In the ensuing chaos, the Turtles escape with the help of another former test subject.

Volume 3

The Turtles' birthday party is interrupted by cyborg assassins and Pimiko and her 'ninja babes', Donatello and Raphael are badly injured during the fight with Raphael's face being badly burned and Piminko kidnapping Donatello and Splinter. While the remaining three Turtles relocate to a graveyard, Donatello and Master Splinter are taken by helicopter to Upstate New York. Donatello wakes en-route and a fight ensues, leading to Donatello and one of the cyborg assassins plummeting from the helicopter, still fighting. Donatello gets the upper hand and manages to kill the cyborg with its own gun but breaks his shell on impact with the city street and is left paralyzed. He is able to contact Leonardo during an out-of-body experience before the dead cyborg's armor bonds with him turning him into a cyborg and fully healing him as well as giving him various other powers, including an arm that can change into various weapons (often a large gun), but when the now healed Donatello walks off, he leaves his shell behind.

Raphael and Michelangelo are ambushed by Pimiko's 'ninja babes' at their graveyard while Leonardo is still in a trance. They fend them off and trace their employer, Lord Komodo. Meanwhile Splinter wakes to find himself a captive of the Komodo and interacts with Mako, a villain from The Savage Dragon series, after breaking free in a laboratory Splinter is taken in by Komodo who treats him with warmth and hospitality, Splinter even saving him from Mako. Now using a Hovercar once owned by an alien friend, the three turtles track down Donatello's point of impact and only his shell believing their brother dead they embark on a combined rescue/revenge mission after Donatello's shell. The Turtles accidentally fight Mako (who is still escaping), find Donatello is alive and now a cyborg and then penetrate the home of Komodo, only for Komodo to mutate into a giant Komodo Dragon and Splinter into a giant bat and Pimiko to escape, the turtles vow to track Master Splinter (though his re-appearances were few and some of the longer plot-points of the series were never truly resolved). Back in New York Casey Jones attacks Donatello during a training mission over a case of mistaken identity. This story was collected in the series' only trade paperback.


:"Listed chronologically"
*Peter Laird - Vol. 1 #1-12, 15, 19-21, 48-62; Vol. 4 #1-current
*Kevin Eastman - Vol. 1 #1-11, 14, 17-21, 32, 48-62; "Bodycount" #1-4
*Dave Sim - Vol. 1 #8
*Michael Dooney - Vol. 1 #9, 13, 27, 46-47
*Ryan Brown - Vol. 1 #9; "Leonardo" #1
*Jim Lawson - Vol. 1 #9, 15, 19-21, 28, 48-49, 51-62; Vol. 2 #1-13; Vol. 4 #1-current
*Steve Bissette - "Leonardo" #1
*Eric Talbot - Vol. 1 #14, 17, 20, 32; Vol. 2 #4-11; Vol. 4 #5-current
*Mark Martin - Vol. 1 #16, 22-23
*Mark Bode - Vol. 1 #18, 32
*Rick Veitch - Vol. 1 #24-26, 30
*Stephen Murphy - Vol. 1 #28
*A.C. Farley - Vol. 1 #29, 43
*Michael Zulli - Vol. 1 #31, 35-36
*Jan Strnad - Vol. 1 #33
*Richard Corben - Vol. 1 #33
*Rich Hedden - Vol. 1 #34, 38-40
*Tom McWeeney - Vol. 1 #34, 38-40
*Rick McCollum - Vol. 1 #37, 42
*Bill Anderson - Vol. 1 #37, 42
*Matt Howarth - Vol. 1 #41
*Paul Jenkins - Vol. 1 #43
*Rick Arthur - Vol. 1 #44
*Dan Berger - Vol. 1 #45
*Keith Aiken - Vol. 1 #46-49, 51-52, 54-57, 59-60, 62
*Matt Banning - Vol. 1 #53
*Jason Minor - Vol. 1 #58, 61; Vol. 2 #1-3
*Gary Carlson - Vol. 3 #1-23
*Frank Fosco - Vol. 3 #1-23
*Simon Bisley - "Bodycount" #1-4

Collected books

Mirage Publishing

*TMNT Collected Book Volume One, collecting Vol. 1 #1-11, plus "Raphael" #1, "Michelangelo" #1, "Donatello" #1, and "Leonardo" #1
*TMNT Collected Book Volume Two, collecting Vol. 1 #12-14
*TMNT Collected Book Volume Three, collecting Vol. 1 #15, 17-18
*TMNT Collected Book Volume Four, collecting Vol. 1 #19-21
*TMNT Collected Book Volume Five, collecting Vol. 1 #16, 22-23
*TMNT Collected Book Volume Six, collecting Vol. 1 #24-26
*TMNT Collected Book Volume Seven, collecting Vol. 1 #27-29
*TMNT: "Soul's Winter", collecting Vol. 1 #31, 35-36
*"Shell Shock", collecting short stories by various authors and artists
*"Challenges", by Michael Dooney

First Publishing

*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book I (ISBN 0-915419-09-2) collecting Vol. 1 #1-3
*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book II (ISBN 0-915419-22-X) collecting Vol. 1 #4-6
*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book III (ISBN 0-915419-28-9) collecting Vol. 1 #7-9
*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book IV (ISBN 0-915419-43-2) collecting "Leonardo" #1 & Vol. 1#10-11

Cultural impact

The comic's popularity has gone on to inspire three television series, numerous video games, four feature films, and a wide range of toys and merchandise.


*Eastman, Kevin (2002). "Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Artobiography". Los Angeles: Heavy Metal. ISBN 1-882931-85-8.
*Wiater, Stanley (1991). "The Official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Treasury". New York: Villard. ISBN 0-679-73484-8.

External links

* [http://www.ninjaturtles.com/html/comic.htm Official site]
* [http://www.mikeystmnt.com/comics/comics.php Comic series overview]
* [http://www.thetechnodrome.com/comics/ Comic cover archive]
* [http://www.actiontattoos.com/tmnt/index.html The TMNT Empire]

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