The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for a long time. They have been in nearly every media such as comic books, trade paperbacks, special collector’s editions, toys, cartoons, movies, etc. With their longevity there have been a lot of characters introduced in the main comic book and through cross-over story-lines from other comic book titles. Jack and I compile our Top 5 list of favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle characters, excluding Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were first published in 1984 by Mirage Studios. The Turtles started from a humorous drawing sketched out by Kevin Eastman. Eastman and his friend, Peter Laird, went back and forth trying to outdo each other on the concept of Ninja Turtles. They decided to make a comic book based on the characters they developed. They used money from a tax refund along with a loan from Eastman’s uncle. They self-published a single-issue comic intended to parody four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Daredevil , New Mutants, Cerebus, and Ronin.
The Turtles big break into the mainstream market happened when they met licensing agent, Mark Freedman. Freedman introduced them to wider merchandising opportunities. Their biggest deals were for a line of action figures from Playmates Toys and a cartoon series. While the animated TV series (10 seasons) was more light-hearted, the comic-book series continued in a much darker and grittier tone.
The original movie featured the Ninja Turtles and Splinter being portrayed by actors in partially animatronic suits created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The film became one of the most successful independent films. That movie spawned two sequels as well as inspiring a three-dimensional animated film set in the same continuity. After the end of the cartoon series a live-action series in the vein of the films was created in 1997. The series was called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and introduced a fifth female turtle called Venus de Milo. The series was largely unsuccessful and was canceled after one season.
The property lay dormant until 2003, when a new animated TV series also entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began to air on Fox Box. The series storyline stuck much closer to the original Mirage comic book series but was still less violent. It lasted for seven seasons and 156 episodes, ending in February 2009.
On October 21, 2009, it was announced that cable channel Nickelodeon had purchased all of Mirage’s rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Mirage retains the rights to publish 18 issues a year. The Ninja Turtles were brought back to the movie screen with a modernized/revamped look. The newer movies are hit or miss with the older crowd that remembers the original Turtles. The younger crowd that has no memory of the prior Ninja Turtles, overwhelmingly like the new movies.