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Comic Book / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage)

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The Original Turtles

The original incarnation of Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the one that, for better or worse, lit the firecracker. The first issue appeared in May, 1984.

After the unexpected success of their first issue, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird continued expanding their universe in a somewhat haphazard manner, both in the regular series and complementary books such as Tales of the TMNT and various one-shots and specials. Over time, an overall arc emerged, dealing with the turtles' enmity with the Foot, which is at the heart of the book's four major stories: the initial issue, which featured the Shredder's death; a two-parter which featured his return and the turtles' exile from New York; "Return to New York", in which the Shredder is killed off for real, and "City at War", which dealt with the aftermath. In between those stories, the book would focus on mostly stand-alone stories created either by Mirage employees themselves or guest creators. These stories would fluctuate wildly in tone and content. Several, particularly those by guest creators, now have dubious canonicity. This first series concluded with the aforementioned "City at War", which ended the Foot/Turtle conflict, introduced regular characters Karai and Shadow, and is considered by many to be the definitive TMNT story.


Soon after, a second incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was born, written and drawn by long-time Mirage employee Jim Lawson, and, unlike the first volume, in full color. This second series featured the return of Baxter Stockman and Nobody, introduced government organization D.A.R.P.A., and Mr. Braunze, the mysterious man with psychic powers living in April's apartment building. However, the series proved short-lived, folding after only 13 issues.

The book was soon revived under a third volume, published by Image Comics as the official continuation of the Mirage continuity. It is mostly remembered for mutilating three out of the four turtles: Raph lost an eye and got various facial scarring; Leo lost a hand; and Don was so badly hurt he was forced to become a cyborg. Other notable events include Splinter's transformation into a bat-like creature; the introduction of Pimiko, a female ninja who was eventually revealed to be the Shredder's daughter; and the expansion of Shredder mantle to a full-blown legacy, with both Raphael and an unknown female (Karai, according to word of god after the fact) taking on the identity. The series ended inconclusively with cancellation, and although it was subsequently removed from canon, nods to it would appear once in a while.


The year 2001 saw yet another version of the book, this time helmed by turtles co-creator Peter Laird. Fifteen years after the events of volume 2, the turtles have now returned to the sewers, Casey and April are now married, and Splinter lives in Northampton with Shadow, who is now a teenager. The Utroms have announced their existence to humanity and have opened Earth up to interstellar trade, meaning that the turtles can now live in the open. It has proven controversial, thanks in part to plots such as the death of Splinter and the revelation that April was not actually born, but rather a drawing come to life.

Midway through its run, the book was joined by a second incarnation of Tales of the TMNT, this time as an anthology book telling stories set through the turtles' lives, told by a variety of writers and artists.

In 2006, the regular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book ceased regular publication, thanks to Peter Laird's other duties, creative burn-out and the economic disincentives of publishing a money-losing book. While new issues are still being released once in a blue moon, Tales became the de facto main book until the series' cancellation and the sale of the TMNT property to Nickelodeon.

IDW Publishing (who has published other licensed Comic Books) has gained the rights for publishing Ninja Turtles comics, which include reprinting this series, though Mirage retains the rights to publish up to 18 new issues a year. This has made finding it easier than it ever was, so check them out if you're interested.

See also: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for information on the franchise in general.

The Mirage comic books series provides examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: Tales of the TMNT Vol. 2 skips all around the timeline of the comics universe, with the primary intent of filling in the fifteen-year gap between TMNT Volumes 2 and 4, but also including stories set in the future or in the time frame of older stories.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Both the Michaelangelo and Leonardo micro-series see the Turtles having adventures during their Christmas festivities. The "Return to New York" three-part storyline is also set on Christmas, but this is only indicated by an easily-missed date on a newspaper.
  • Animal Nemesis: The feud between Oroku Nagi and Hamato Yoshi is taken up by Nagi's brother and Yoshi's pet rat, respectively. The Turtles themselves also become part of this, of course.
  • Antihero: Type III
  • Area 51: Site of a D.A.R.P.A. base.
  • Arms Dealer: Ruffington.
  • Art Initiates Life: Kirby's crystal. April O'Neil is the result of this.
  • Art Shift: Issue #8 of Volume 1, the crossover with Cerebus the Aardvark, is primarily drawn by Eastman and Laird as usual, but once the Turtles arrive in Cerebus' time, the background's are now drawn by Cerebus' background artist, Gerhard, and Cerebus himself is drawn by creator Dave Sim. Sim uses a distinctly different inking style that makes the aardvark stand out a bit from the rest of the artwork.
  • Artifact Title: As of vol. 4, the mutant ninja turtles are no longer teenagers.
  • Author Appeal: April was re-designed between her first and second appearance to resemble Kevin Eastman's real-life girlfriend.
  • Avenging the Villain: The reason behind the Foot's vendetta against the turtles.
  • Back from the Dead: The Shredder; Sloane, a werewolf friend of Shadow's.
  • Bad Future: The future of the TMNT universe, glimpsed in occasional Time Travel and Flash Forward stories, is a depressing place. The world has been destroyed by climate change, society has collapsed, strange radioactive monsters now litter the earth, and the Turtles have become estranged from each other for unclear reasons, with the implication that they will never see each other again.
  • Beneath the Earth
  • Berserk Button: Steal or damage Casey's car in any way and he'll go nuts.
  • Black Sheep: Sid, Casey's cousin.
  • Blind and the Beast: Occurs with Raphael and an old woman in a one-shot special.
  • Brain in a Jar: Baxter Stockman, eventually.
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • Volume 3.
    • Issues 22-26 and 29-44 of Volume 1.
  • Canon Immigrant: Hun, the Battle Nexus, Bishop via Word of God cameo (4Kids Cartoon); Cudley the Cowlick (Archie comics) and Charles Pennington (first movie) make up the short list.
  • Captain Ersatz: "Mr. Weasel" appears in the first Image story arc and is swiftly beheaded by Pimiko.
  • Child Soldier:
    • Oroku Saki began his training to avenge his brother's death at the age of seven. He took the identity of The Shredder, founded the New York branch of the Foot Clan and killed Hamato Yoshi at the age of twelve.
    • The TMNT are only teenagers and have been training for years.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • When sent across the galaxy during the TCRI storyline, our heroes have absolutely no problem grabbing rayguns and opening fire on both human troops and aliens.
    • To return the favor, one of the Triceraton's read guard (with jetpacks, positioned to ambush pursuers), who is chasing the Turtles in an aircar, gets his comrade to distract them while he flies under the car and rips the guts out by hand. It's not exactly pragmatic, since he says he's doing it for style.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Lt. Gordon Miller, in late issues of Tales.
  • Convection Schmonvection: In the first issue, the thermite grenade that Shredder used in a failed suicide attack on the Turtles burned hot enough to vaporize his body apart from a few pieces of his armor, but nothing else in the alley where it went off showed any signs of fire damage. Donatello's bo fell into the alley with Shredder when the grenade went off, and wasn't even scorched (much less completely reduced to ash like it should have been) when Donatello collected it later.
  • Crossover:
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Baxter Stockman stood to make an entirely legal fortune from using his Mousers for their original purpose - killing mice and rats - and knew it. He then decided to task them for committing robberies and setting things up so he could blackmail the city For the Evulz.
  • Cycle of Revenge: And how.
  • Da Editor: Charles Pennington.
  • Death by Childbirth: Occurred to Casey's first wife, Gabrielle.
  • Deus ex Machina: Employed surprisingly often.
  • Discontinuity Nod: The appearance of an Utrom called "Dr. X" in issues of Tales; the name had been used by an Utrom in the discarded volume 3.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: The turtles themselves.
  • Dumb Blonde: Renet.
  • Dying Alone: In Volume 4 Issue 10, Splinter dies of old age (presumably of heart failure, as he clutches his chest) while preparing a drink for himself. He is later found by Leonardo.
  • Early Installment Character Design Difference:
    • The turtles usually all scowled and all had the same colour headbands.
    • April was originally a brunette, not a redhead like she usually is. She was also vaguely raced until she was later made un-ambiguously white.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The overwrought narration from the first issue is gone by the second one, and never really appears again. Also, many characteristics of the TMNT universe known to casual fans (Such as April's job as a reporter and the Turtle's pizza obsession) originated in the cartoons and the comic adaptation of the cartoons and do not exist in this universe.
  • Elseworld: The Michael Zulli three-parter in the first series.
  • Enemy Civil War: The "war" in "City at War", with different factions of the Foot fighting each other.
  • Enemy Without/Grand Theft Me: Casey's darker self, which takes over a shapeshifting alien in an issue of Tales.
  • Enigmatic Minion: Lin, a member of the Foot Clan who has been seen helping out other parties for unknown reasons in later issues of Tales.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Oroku Saki became bitter and resentful after his older brother, Oroku Nagi, died at Yoshi's hand. He grew up to become the feared Shredder and killed Yoshi to avenge his brother. After Shredder is killed, his adoptive daughter Karai comes to New York.
  • Evil Overlord: Savanti Romero.
  • Fantastic Racism: A prominent theme in the series after aliens arrived on Earth.
  • Fantastic Voyage: In volume 4, thanks to Ultrom technology.
  • First Law of Resurrection: Eastman and Laird, not figuring that their comic would last past the first issue, killed off the Shredder by having his own grenade explode on him. Once they realized that they wanted him back, they had to resort to worm-based cloning to do so.
  • Fish People: Several.
  • Flying Brick: Nobody/The Herald.
  • For the Evulz: This is the reason why Baxter Stockman decided to use his Mousers for crime when he'd already made a legal fortune with them. Intersects with It Amused Me. He says he used them for crime "because it was fun!".
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Complete Carnage.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Committee to Restore American Patriotism, a.k.a., "C.R.A.P.".
  • The Future: Has played a part in several stories.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Reporter Lauren Stanton, in the issue "Expose".
  • Golem: Featured in the Tales issue titled "Kaddish", with nods to the original Jewish legend.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: D.A.R.P.A., which is a M.I.B-style organization instead of what it actually is in real life.
  • Grand Finale: The "City at War" storyline was the epic conclusion to Volume 1, running for an entire year and thirteen whole issues, and depicting the final conflicting between the Turtles and the Foot Clan. It was also the final Turtles story which both Eastman and Laird worked on together, making it a fitting end to the "Eastman and Laird's..." era.
  • Happily Adopted: Shadow, technically, since neither Casey nor April are her biological parents.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The covers of every issue until #50 were keen to remind you that it's Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, thank you very much.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Donatello's current status in the books.
  • Interspecies Romance: Michelangelo/Serilicus (Mutant Turtle/Styracodon); Leonardo/Radical (Mutant Turtle/Human)
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lauren Stanton in later issues of Tales.
  • Killed Off for Real: Splinter, Oroku Saki, Rat King, Baxter Stockman.
  • King of the Homeless
  • Knight Templars: A group of rogue Utroms called "The Illuminated", whose purpose is to eliminate all violent races from the universe.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Mr. Braunze does this to the turtles at the tail end of volume 2.
  • Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb: The turtles themselves, who were trained by Splinter to eventually kill the Shredder.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Turtles' origin as shown in the very first issue of the comic has the canister of mutagen that mutated the Turtles hitting a young boy in the face before being exposed to the turtles. The boy is all but explicitly stated to be Matt Murdock at the time where he got blinded and started developing super senses.
  • Long-Lived: Stories that are set in the distant future show that all of the turtles live to be over a hundred years old. Since this is true of real turtles, it's something that the mutagen apparently didn't take away.
  • Love Triangle: Oroku Nagi, Hamato Yoshi and Tang Shen.
  • Martial Arts for Mundane Purposes: Raphael using Chinese butterfly knives to trim a Christmas tree. This scene made it into the 2000s TMNT cartoon.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Splinter receives one after his death.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: After the Utrom arrival on Earth.
  • Mood Whiplash: A common occurrence in the long "guest artist" run of Vol. 1, and in Tales of the TMNT Vol 2, thanks to wildly different writers, artists, and stories.
  • The Mole: Lin, who was a Foot ninja under orders to infiltrate the NYPD as a detective.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Dome.
  • The Multiverse
  • Mythology Gag: Glimpses of the Turtles' futures in Volume 4 reveal that Raphael will one day lose his left eye. In the non-canon Volume 3, he already did.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: The first issue of "City at War".
  • OOC Is Serious Business: After the Turtles are defeated by the Foot Clan and forced to leave New York, April notes in her diary that Michelangelo doesn't tell jokes or hang out with his brothers any more, instead staying in a barn by himself and working out obsessively.
  • Opening Monologue: Every issue of Tales begins with one, ending with the line "Let me tell you a story..."
  • Out of Focus: The Turtles themselves, especially in Volume 1, often take a back seat to their various guest characters.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Raphael does this a few times in the story arc "Body Count".
  • Posthumous Characters: The Hamato Yoshi/Tang Shen/Oroku Nagi trio. Professor Obligado.
  • The Professor: Professor Honeycutt, the Utrom Glurin.
  • Race Lift: Although April O'Neil's race was never established during the original comics, or even agreed upon by the creators, her issue #4 redesign gave her several features which coded her as a Woman of Color, which gradually went away.
  • Ret-Canon: A notable aversion. Despite the huge popularity of the '80s cartoon, the Mirage comics never adapted their own continuity to match it. Not until the 2000s did they bring in a handful of outside elements, and then only from the second cartoon — which was heavily based on the Mirage comic anyway.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: The first issue is very dark and violent, featuring an origin story filled with murder, lust and revenge, and four identical turtles who scowl constantly, brutally cut down a gang of street thugs, and tell the Shredder to commit seppuku. Things get a lot less gritty from the second issue onwards, as the turtles gained more distinct personalities, a good amount of humor was introduced, and the antagonists moved away from street-level humans to sillier stuff like mad scientists and aliens, although things did tend to get darker and more violent again whenever the Foot clan returned. One of the funnier issues, #8, ironically co-starred the actual Cerebus.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The antagonists from the volume 1 story "Survivalists".
  • Scars Are Forever: The turtles' mutilations in volume 3. Foot Ninja Cha Ocho sports a scar left by Leonardo.
  • Second Love: April, to Casey.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Played up to a ridiculous degree with April in issue #14 of Vol. 1. The villain of the issue grabs her by the upper arm, and this makes her so helpless that she doesn't even try to struggle or escape when she's gagged (not bound, just gagged) and then taken away.
  • Story Arc
  • Sdrawkcab Name: When Baxter Stockman uses his Mousers to hold the city at ransom, the genius chooses the Retxab building as his first victim. Presumably also a Shout-Out to the Fantastic Four's headquarters.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Michaelangelo. Spelled that way because Eastman and Laird didn't look up how to spell "Michelangelo."
  • Temporary Blindness: Subverted in the "Blind Sight" arc.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: During the assault on the Foot compound in "Return to New York," Raph has gone off the deep end and is out for the Shredder's blood, separating from the rest of his brothers intending to take him down himself. However part way through he's ambushed by Saki's elite guards and it's only Leo's intervention that saves his life. Raph acknowledges that Leo — whom Shredder nearly killed in Leonardo #1, and after Raph called him a coward in part 1 — falls back to help Mike and Don, allowing Leo to face Saki himself.
  • Time Skip:
    • Volume 4 takes place roughly fifteen years after the previous canonical volume.
    • Several issues in, the series jumps another six months ahead to show how things have changed since the Utroms unveiled themselves to humanity.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball
  • Tsundere: Princess Serilicus.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: Volume 1 issue 11, released in June of 1987, begins in January of that year, before working its way through the following months to the then-present.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The basic structure of "City at War", with separate storylines for the Turtles, April, Casey and Splinter.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Between Battling Bernice and her daughter Ananda.
  • Underground Comics: Ironically, this series started off as a self-published independent comic that was gritty and violent...before it became what it is now.
  • The Unmasqued World: After the Utroms open up Earth to alien commerce.
  • Tulpa: April O'Neil, surprisingly.
  • Vague Age: Karai, who was old enough to have a teenaged daughter when introduced, and yet looks no older than 45 after the fifteen-year Time Skip.
  • Volleying Insults: Casey and Raph do this in issue #11 of the original book, in a scene that was later adapted to the movie.
  • Weirdness Magnet: This is true of every version of the TMNT, but—especially taking all the random back-up stories into account—the Mirage Turtles really cannot go five minutes without being attacked by aliens or sent to another dimension.
  • Western Terrorists: The Committee to Rebuild American Patriotism, the antagonist group in Volume 1 #12.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Raphael almost kills Mikey in an early issue.
  • William Telling: The turtles do this as a form of training... and to make fruit salads for their picnics.
  • Winged Humanoid: Raptarr.
  • Wounded Hero, Weaker Helper: Issue #10 sees Leonardo having been severely wounded by the Foot in the previous issue, and with the other Turtles busy fending them off, Splinter and April are left to drag him to safety on their own.
  • Write What You Know: After being driven out of New York by the Foot Clan in issue 10, the Turtles, Casey, and April escape to Northampton, Massachusetts- where Mirage Studios was located at the time.

Alternative Title(s): Mirage Studios


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