10 things you didn’t know about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Who doesn’t love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? 

Generations of us geeks-in-half-shells used have either read the comics or crawled out of their beds every Saturday morning to watch the pizza-scoffing heroes and their rodent sensei save the streets of New York again and again. 

But, how much of a Turtles geek are you?  They have existed on the fringe of pop-culture for decades, even earning themselves a Brooklyn 99 reference.  But, do you know all there is to know about these reptilian renegades?

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

#1 April was originally a black woman

For those who were cotched in front of the television munching on their Coco Pops or Lucky Charms as a kid, you will remember April O’Neill.  We all remember her iconic style, looking somewhat like a school pencil with her all-yellow overalls and red hair.  But that is not how she was originally created.

When April first appeared in 1984 (vol.1) she was depicted as a “light-skinned” woman of colour.  Moreover, originally she wasn’t the sharp-tongued reporter that we remember, but was a lab assistant to evil scientist Baxter Stockman.

#2 TMNT were originally a parody of Marvel’s Daredevil

Whilst Daredevil was blindly swinging around Hell’s Kitchen fighting The Hand, The Turtles were crawling around the New York underbelly fighting The Foot.  And Daredevil learned his kickassery from an older gentleman known as the stick, The Turtles were learning to pound in a few heads from their sensei Master Splinter.

Do you see the connection?

In the very first issue, the writers paid homage to Daredevil by theorising that as “Matt Murdock is blinded by a radioactive isotope while pushing an old blind man from the path of an truck” the  canister containing that isotope hit a young bystander carrying a fishbowl containing his four baby turtles. 

#3 Donatello was almost named Bernini

Did you know they were named after renaissance painters?  Of course you did, don’t worry that isn’t one of the things you weren’t supposed to know.  However, originally Donatello was to be named after the renaissance sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

It was decided in the end that a name ending in “o” would have sounded better with the group to match the others.

#4 And they spelt Michelangelo’s name wrong for 20 years

Originally the creators of those intrepid turtles made a bit of a booboo in issue one by misspelling Michelangelo.  The problem was, changing the spelling caused some copyright issues.  So, until 2003 the TMNT had a grammatically incorrect Ninja Turtle beating down Shredder and his foot soldiers.

#5 The Turtles got beaten up by Batman

Yes, it is true.  In a weird crossover, Batman, Robin, and The Turtles had to team up to defeat Ra’s Al Ghul and Shredder from tearing up the streets of Gotham.  Of course, this 2019 film wasn’t the only time they got together.

In 2015, The Turtles, Krang, and Shredder were transported into an alternate universe where once again they met Batman and many of his “rogues gallery”.

Of course, both times, Batman mopped the floor with them in the initial fight.

#6 Robin Williams was a massive fan of TMNT

The late and great Robin Williams was indeed a fan.  So much that when the films were initially being made, he coached Judith Hoag (who played April O’Neill) on her character.  They were working together on Cadillac Man when she won the role.

Robin Williams brought in a vast collection of the comics and helped her work on assuming the iconic character’s mantle.

#7 The original Shredder was voiced by James Avery (Uncle Phil from Prince of Bel Air)

I don’t know about you, but when I had sopped watching the turtles as a pre-teen, I started watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  It wasn’t long before I could recite the rap on cue.

But I was in my thirties when I realised that I had heard Uncle Phil’s voice before.

That’s right.  The grumpy wealthy lawyer that took a fresh-faced Will Smith under his wing was once the ultimate cheese-grater wearing bad guy.

#8 They once went on tour

It’s not a joke.  As well as a series, a cereal, a set of films, some t-shirts, probably a mug or two, they were also a band.  Michelangelo played a mean guitar, and Leonardo was on bass.

And they toured, with well-known chart smashers such as Pizza Power and Cowabunga.

We can only imagine how amazing that show was.

#9 The Europeans did not like ninjas

There has always been a discourse about whether The Turtles were too violent.  Judith Hoag wasn’t invited back to reprised her role because of her constant complaining about the amount of battery that was going on in the films.

However, she wasn’t alone.

Many countries in Europe changed the name of the cartoon to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles because they worried about the word ninja being too violent for the kids.

#10 There was nearly a fifth turtle

To memorialise the Marvel artist Jack Kirby, the creators of TMNT had planned a fifth turtle named Kirby.  He double wielded two short swords and had a pink bandana.  Although there were mock-ups made of the fifth turtle he never joined the awesome foursome.

There was a female Turtle created named Venus (named after Venus De Milo) however, although she never became a staple amongst the canonical quartet.

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