Welcome to the 144th installment of Adventure (s) Time, a look at the animated heroes of the past. This week, we revisit the years 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles redesign, commonly called TMNT, and its connection to the early comics of Mirage Studios. And if you have any suggestions for the future, let me hear them. Just contact me on Twitter.
Airing on April 12, 2003 and April 19, 2003, the two-part film “The Shredder Strikes” was written by Michael Ryan and directed by Chuck Patton. The story presents the first confrontation of this cannon between the Turtles and their great rival, the Shredder. TMNT has treated Shredder like a behind-the-scenes manipulator for much of the season, creating suspense for his inevitable fight with the Turtles (now in episodes 11 and 12), a clever play against audience expectations.
The story opens with the training of the Turtles, each with the weapon they have chosen is the best ninja tool. Leonardo wins the practice match, but is humbled by Master Splinter’s lesson that a weapon is only as good as the ninja wielding it. Agitated by Splinter’s words, Leonardo heads for the rooftops to calm himself down, muttering that Splinter just doesn’t understand how cool his katanas are.
From there, Leonardo is drawn into a battle with many Foot Clan soldiers. This is inspired by the years 1986 Leonardo micro-series de Mirage (reprinted a few years ago, in color, by IDW Publishing), which opened with Leo stalking the rooftops before being ambushed by Foot. The footage was then adapted for the 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature film, but with the impetuous Raphael taking the place of Leonardo.
Christmas decor, unfortunately, was not used in either of the two adaptations. The comic also features Leonardo in an all-out battle with the Foot, while the cartoon simply shows the Foot Clan facing Leo as a test to prove his mettle. It is then presented to Oroku Saki, the civilian identity of Shredder, who presents Leo with a finely crafted katana forged in the 16th century. He allows Leonardo to leave, with an invitation to join Saki in the future. Splinter learns of Leonardo’s meeting and is finally invited to reveal the secrets of his past to the Turtles.
A previous episode, “Attack of the Mice,” featured an origin for the turtles themselves (also quite true to the story told in Mirage’s first comic). This time, we learn the story behind the Splinter and Shredder rivalry. Splinter was once the domestic rat of master ninja Hamato Yoshi. He explains how Shredder and his henchman Hun tortured and killed his master after Yoshi refused to provide information about a dark force (which remained a mystery to the public). Splinter escaped through the window, after scratching Hun’s face, scars he still bears today.
Hun was the invention of the animated series, but many of these details are present in the first issue of Mirage. However, there is one element missing. In the original canon, Saki’s older brother, Nagi, was obsessed with Yoshi’s wife, Tang Shen. Yoshi killed Nagi in retaliation for his murder of Tang Shen, which led to Saki growing up hating Yoshi, and later after moving to New York City. 1 Published in 1984, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Established No. 1, Splinter trained his students to take revenge one day on Saki, now a football leader known as the Shredder.
Leo (now embarrassed to have even considered Shredder’s offer) and his brothers then return to Saki’s warehouse. The sword is returned to Saki, who orders his minions to attack. The battle is seemingly over, until Saki returns to his Shredder armor, declaring the Turtles now his enemy.
That leads to Part 2, which features a surprising amount of action for a Saturday morning cartoon. The episode opens with the Turtles facing Shredder on a rooftop … and ends with the Turtles facing Shredder on a different roof.
How are the 15 minutes in the middle filled? One way is to establish Michelangelo as injured at the start of the fight, mixed up in a subplot with Donatello, who tries to get medical attention for his brother. Splinter, meanwhile, finds out that his students have left the house without permission and heads into town to stop them from confronting Shredder. (Which reverses Splinter’s motives from Mirage’s first TMNT comic.) There’s also a lengthy piece of comedy where Splinter doesn’t seem to figure out how to use the remote control of the Turtles’ Battle Shell vehicle. It doesn’t exactly match the tone of the episode, but it seems like something that appeased a network that wanted to keep things kid-friendly.
Another moment allowed Leonardo to meet a dark ninja as he searched for his brothers. The mysterious man calls himself a Guardian, who decides that Leo is okay with him if Leo now opposes Shredder. He then disappears. It might be frustrating in the context of the episode, but it’s related to an ongoing mystery since the opening season.
The cast are reunited at the end, finding a new home to have another showdown with the evil Shredder. This is another allusion to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles # 1, which was also honored in the climax of the 1990 movie TMNT. With the help of Splinter, Shredder causes his own downfall by inadvertently causing a water tower to collapse on him. He has washed the roof, then the remains of the tower fall on him when he tries to get up.
Confident of having won, the Turtles return home with Splinter, unaware that Shredder’s hand has just emerged from the wreckage of the water tower. It brings to mind the second live-action movie, in which Shredder is dramatically raised from the rubble after his apparent defeat. The Mirage comic also knocked Shredder off the roof during the climax of the battle … but then detonated by the grenade he revealed during his fight with the turtles.
NOTES ON CONTINUITY
The long term Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series that started in 1987 created Hamato Yoshi like Splinter himself, of course (from his exposure to the mutagen and his proximity to sewer rats). It’s not true to the original canon, but because this show was the mainstream’s introduction to the characters, for many, Yoshi and Splinter will always be one and the same.
PETER LAIRD WANTED CASEY JONES & APRIL O’NEIL CAMEOS
TMNT co-creator Peter Laird has archived on his blog the notes he gave to producers when these scripts arrived. In the first part, he worried that Raphael would act out of character in a scene. In Part 2, he struggled with Splinter’s reaction when he found out the turtles were missing and offered to work on Casey Jones and April O’Neil cameos. He is also adamant about the selection of typos in scripts.
SHREDDER’S SCI-FI TWIST: “IT’S LIKE THE SHREDDINATOR OR SOMETHING! “
Some TMNT fans weren’t happy with the show’s upcoming Shredder reveal (teased in these episodes). It adds a sci-fi twist to the villain, something Eastman and Laird didn’t even consider when they made Shredder. Of course, they hadn’t planned for Shredder to appear in future comics either; Turtles weren’t even supposed to appear in a second comic! The runaway success of the self-published issue initially inspired Eastman and Laird to pursue the book. And after treating the first issue as a tribute to Frank Miller, the series must have evolved over the months.
In just a few issues, the Turtles were traveling through space, another dimension, and the distant past (along the way, meeting Fugitoid, the character Eastman and Laird were trying to launch before TMNT exploded). The grindhouse element at rue des Tortues will always be vital to the concept – but the creators established early on that Turtles are not limited to this specific setting.
The show’s idea of planting seeds early on, hinting at a larger space drama behind the scenes of all of these ninja battles, is defensible to say the least. And while you might dread the upcoming sci-fi material, it’s not a real distraction from the main story. The focus remains on the Splinter and Shredder feud, and a lot more fights than you’d expect to see on Saturday morning. As for the animated adaptations of the Splinter / Shredder origin, these are the best fans ever.
KEEP READING: How TMNT Made the Jump to Anime (Most Animated Way Imaginable)
The Gifted took place in a obliterated timeline to avoid colliding with the X-Men movies
About the Author