We’re back with some liner notes from our “Ninja Rap!” podcast episode! This was the show where we talked about the most popular mutants not led by a dude in a wheelchair, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A big shout-out and tip of the cap to the TMNT Entity blog, which is a great source for all things TMNT.
Splinter taught them…
When talking about the differences between the comics, cartoon show and the movie, one major difference has to be the origin of the rat Splinter.
In the comics, Splinter was always a rat and was simply mutated by the canister of ooze. From his cage, Splinter mimicked the movements of his owner, Hamato Yoshi, learning the secret art of ninjitsu. A pet rat learning the ways of the ninja by osmosis sounds a bit outrageous, no?
After Yoshi, his beloved Tang Shen and Splinter fleed from Japan to New York City, they were tracked down by Oroku Saki (Shredder) and his crew of ninjas, The Foot Clan. Yoshi and Shen were murdered and the rat escaped to the sewers of NYC, where the rest of the legend was born.
Now in the 80’s cartoon series, Splinter had an somewhat different origin. In this version, Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki were both still members of the Foot Clan in 1960’s Japan, only in this case the Foot were a peaceful organization. Yoshi was framed by Saki in an assassination attempt and was dishonored and excommunicated. Disgraced, Yoshi fled to New York, where he lived homeless in the sewers.
So when the canister fell into the sewers, it was Yoshi who discovered the four baby turtles crawling in the ooze. It transformed the turtles as in the comics and somehow transformed Yoshi into a man-sized rat.
Further versions such as the 1990 movie and 2003’s animated series stick to the comic book origin of Splinter, a rat who was a pet of Master Yoshi.
Not a huge nitpick, because today we live in a post-racial world that doesn’t see color, but a major difference between the original comic book and the 1980s cartoon series was the race of Baxter Stockman, the evil mad scientist who was a regular nemesis of the Turtles.
In the comics, Dr. Baxter Stockman was an African-American sociopath who had no relation nor affiliation with the Foot Clan nor Shredder. With the help of his computer programmer, April O’Neill, Baxter developed the robot Mousers who were intended to be sold as pest control devices to every household, but were really used to rob banks. This version of Baxter was maniacal and after his defeat by the Turtles turned to technology to place his brain in a robot body. Cyborg Baxter Stockman was even deadlier, but was never successful in defeating the TMNT.
Now the 1980s cartoon version of Baxter Stockman was wayyy different. He was a flunkie of the Shredder. He still had the Mousers, but April O’Neill was nowhere near him in affiliation, as she was a TV news reporter. Baxter Stockman eventually became mutated into a human fly due to some accident in season 2. He had a twin brother named Barney Stockman. Oh, and he was white…
Similar to Splinter’s origin, 2003’s 4Kids animated series reverted to the comic book version Baxter Stockman as an African-American, but also aligned him with Shredder and the Foot Clan more often. 2000’s Baxter went through his changes as well…
I first saw this samurai bunny making a guest appearance in the 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and my first thought– AWESOME!!
A creation of legendary writer & artist Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo only appeared in one episode of the show, but his impact was long-standing as fans everywhere wrote in and kept asking when we’d see the dual-bladed bunny again. Over time, I found out that Usagi had already had his own comic book, with appearances by Leonardo of the TMNT, as well as guest appearances in the TMNT comics.
Even cooler, there was a video game on the old Commodore 64 titled “Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo“. This game was great because not only could you run around laying swordplay on rogue ninjas and villains everywhere, but you had to be selective about when you drew your blades because the game had a karma system.
The leader of the Foot clan of evil ninjas, Shredder also has varied origins between the 80s cartoon and the comics.
In the cartoon, Shredder was originally Oroku Saki, a fellow member of the Foot who was jealous of the humble Hamato Yoshi, framing him for a murder attempt by planting a dagger in his robe. It was Saki’s deception that disgraced Yoshi, forcing him to flee from Japan and eventually end up being mutated into Splinter. Cartoon Shredder was the Turtles’ main nemesis in 80’s TMNT, often allying himself with the alien brain Krang and mutant flunkies Rocksteady & Bebop. He was evil, but toned down for the kids.
The original Shredder from Mirage Comics’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol. 1, #1 was simply bad-ass. A very vengeful Oroku Saki arrived in New York to murder Hamato Yoshi, who in this version had killed Saki’s older brother Oroku Nagi. After dispatching of Yoshi and his beloved wife Shen, Saki was made the head of the US branch of the Foot. Saki find himself challenged on a rooftop by four mutant turtles trained in ninjitsu by Yoshi’s pet rat, who had by then mutated into Master Splinter. A bloody rooftop battle ensued which found the turtles momentarily outmatched until they put their heads together and teamed up to bring down the Shredder. Leonardo ran through Saki with his katana blade, rendering him defeated and with no option but to perform Seppuku (ritual suicide). The horribly wounded Shredder instead opted to toss a thermite grenade at the turtles, yet Donatello batted it back at him. Saki falls off the roof with the grenade and is killed in the explosion (or so it seemed until Issue #10! A tale for another time).
Shredder in the movies started off as equally as bad-ass as in the original comics, however Saki met the same fate in the first movie, this time being tossed off the rooftop by Master Splinter and subsequently crushed by Casey Jones in the most wanton act of murder ever attempted in a kids’ movie in my opinion!
relive the ending of the 1990 TMNT movie here, with the Shredder rooftop battle starting at the 3 minute mark!
The Turtles movie sequel also had The Shredder, only this time he seemed even less effective until the end, when he was mutated by “the ooze” himself and became The Super Shredder! As we all know, Super Shredder was played in the movie by pro wrestler Kevin Nash a.k.a. “Diesel”
more liner notes to come