Some people believe that the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was the origination of the heroes in a half shell. Others believe their origination came from the cartoon series that started in 1987 and lasted 10 seasons. Heck, I’m sure there are kids out there who believe the new Nickelodeon show is their first appearance. But no, none of those are correct. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was originally a comic designed by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and published by Mirage Comics. Their first comic appearance was dated May 1984. Looking back at these comics and even though they are old, they are still very interesting to read.
Re-watching the original cartoon series, the new series and the movies (excluding the 3rd), I found different versions of their origin story. Have you ever wondered what their true origin story is since it changes every time? The 1987 cartoon series has some similarities with the 2012, such as Splinter being Hamato Yoshi and transformed into a rat or Oroku Saki (Shredder) having once fought alongside Hamato Yoshi. Everyone knows that sometimes the original story must be changed in order for the viewing experience to make more sense or for the audience to have a better relationship with the characters. I’ll go over some of the characters and see how much their origin story differs from each piece of media.
Everyone loves the turtles. Each one carries their own special personality allowing everyone to relate to their own character. Myself, I like Donatello the most. Most people love Michelangelo because he is always so much fun. If everyone remembers the 1990 movie, Splinter explained to April their origin story and how they came to be. Splinter found the four turtles wandering around the ooze located in the sewers. Scooping them up in a coffee can, he brought them somewhere safe and found they were growing, talking and increasing in intelligence. He taught them Ninjitsu and how to work in the shadows. In the 1987 cartoon series, Splinter lived in the sewers before he was turned into a rat. The turtles fell into his lap from a boy who lost the turtles from up above. One day, ooze started pouring into the sewers and covered the turtles in the mess. Hamato Yoshi tried to save them, only to be turned into a rat himself, hence Splinter. The ooze in the sewers originated from the Shredder because he knew Splinter was down there and he wanted to kill him off. In the 2012 series, Hamato Yoshi just bought the turtles from a pet store and saw some of The Krang in a alleyway exchanging a canister of ooze. The Krang saw Hamato Yoshi and attacked him, but were defeated. However, the ooze shattered and covered Hamato Yoshi in the substance as well as the turtles, turning them into the mutants.
How well do these three follow the original story in the comics? Try and guess which one you think is correct before you actually read the answer.
The original story about the turtles from the comics differs somewhat from the 1990 movie. When Splinter was homeless in New York after Hamato Yoshi’s death, he witnessed an old blind man almost being hit by a large truck, but a young man saved him. A metal canister fell off the truck bouncing and knocking a bowl of turtles from a boy’s hands. The turtles fell into a manhole where Splinter followed. He found them covered in a green ooze that the metal canister held. He gathered the turtles into a coffee can and brought them somewhere safe. Eventually, they walk upright, mimicking Splinter’s movements and speaking. There are some cool similarities from the comics to the 1990 movie.
The origin of Splinter seems to differ a lot when it comes to telling the story. It kind of seems like no one wants to keep their story straight. In the 1990 movie, Splinter was the pet rat of Hamato Yoshi, and he learned Ninjitsu from watching his master. Oroku Saki murdered his master releasing him from his cage. This allowed Splinter to attack Oroku Saki scarring his face, but Saki cut off one of his ears in vengeance. Hamato Yoshi already lived in New York at that time and he went into the sewers looking for a home, but came across the turtles. In the movie, Splinter seems old and frail and not able to pull off the stunning moves the turtles are able to do. Not being as agile as he once was, The Foot was able to kidnap him. Still, he was able to take out Shredder in the end. In the 1987 cartoon series, Hamato Yoshi was framed by Oroku Saki to make it look like he was going to murder his master. This caused Hamato Yoshi to be disgraced and he fled to New York in shame. He lived in the sewers and befriended many rats. The turtles were dropped into his lap from a young boy losing them from above. After The Shredder sent the ooze down into the sewers, it touched Hamato Yoshi turning him into Splinter. It is explained that Hamato Yoshi turned into a rat because he befriended the rats in the sewers. In the cartoon, Splinter seems somewhat frail but it doesn’t show as much. He is still able to fight as he almost took out the Shredder in the beginning, but again, he is not agile as he once was. But he tends to get kidnapped a lot or be put in easily-solved predicaments. In the 2012 series, Hamato Yoshi was turned into Splinter from the ooze canister that fell after fight with The Krang. Not much more is explained about his back story as Hamato Yoshi other than he had a rivalry with Oroku Saki. This Splinter may very well be the best fighter in New York. All four turtles together cannot beat this Splinter and are barely able to lay a finger on him. Splinter even took out Leatherhead with ease. I actually like this Splinter the most because you would think he would know how to fight best because he taught the turtles.
Again, take the time to think about which one you think is correct.
If I had to choose one, I would say the 1990 movie. The 1987 cartoon series is closer to the comics when it comes to Hamato Yoshi, but I’ll explain that later. The fact is, Splinter was Hamato Yoshi’s pet rat and he did live in a cage. He was never Hamato Yoshi himself. Splinter never scratched Oroku Saki’s face turning him into The Shredder and Splinter kept his ear. This Splinter is old and wise as well, so he is not like the 2012 Splinter. I already explained how Splinter came to find the ooze above, so I won’t repeat myself.
If you didn’t already know, Oroku Saki is The Shredder. The story of The Shredder can be very complex in the comics as his motivations were more clear than a simple rivalry portrayed in other media. In the 1990 movie, Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki had a rivalry. Yoshi’s wife is mentioned, so maybe that is why they had a rivalry. It wasn’t very clear. However, Hamato Yoshi and his wife moved to New York, but Oroku Saki tracked them down and murdered both of them. His face is scarred by a vengeance seeking rat, forcing him to wear his mask. He is very serious in the movie and has a sick sense of humor. In the 1987 cartoon series, there is a rivalry again and it isn’t explained in great detail. Hamato Yoshi led The Foot in Japan and this cause Oroku Saki to become jealous. So, he framed Yoshi by making his master think he was going to assassinate the head master. Exiled by his clan, Hamato Yoshi moved to New York. Oroku Saki still felt the rivalry and hatred for Yoshi, so he poured the canister of ooze down into the sewers, transforming him into Splinter. The Shredder does not have a scarred face and takes his mask off often. He is a little silly in the series, saying stuff like “It’s so good to be bad!” or “IT’S ALIVE!! IT’S ALIVE!!”. In the 2012 series, not much is explained as the show is still young. The only thing we know about him is that he had some kind of rivalry with Hamato Yoshi, he leads The Foot, he knows nothing about The Krang, and that he has a daughter. But, I have a feeling they’re going to give us some good back story in the future.
You know the drill…
Well, sad to say none of these come close to the comics. They may have the idea, but they never reveal Oroku Saki’s motive for his hatred of Hamato Yoshi. The 1990 movie is close enough to the story though. Back when Hamato Yoshi was apart of The Foot Clan in Japan, his real rival was Oroku Nagi, the older brother of Oroku Saki. Yoshi and Nagi were nemeses because of their love for Tang Shen. Both of them tried to win her heart, but she only loved Hamato Yoshi. Oroku Nagi was angered by this and grew extremely jealous. In a fit of rage, Nagi attacked Shen when Yoshi was not around. Yoshi came home and saw Nagi beating his wife, and in his anger, he killed Nagi. The killing of Oroku Nagi dishonored Hamato Yoshi forcing Shen and him to flee to America.
A seven-year-old Saki vowed vengeance on Hamato Yoshi and trained himself to kill his brother’s killer. At the age of nineteen, Oroku Saki moved to America and built The Foot Clan transforming himself into The Shredder. With the ability to do so, Oroku Saki killed Tang Shen and allowed Hamato Yoshi to see her body. Then, Saki killed Yoshi. Splinter’s cage was broken open and he was forced onto the streets of New York. Deep, huh?
Well, I hope you enjoyed these comparisons. I am a big fan of the turtles and can’t wait for the 2012 show to progress. It may not be perfect, but it gives me the sense of fulfillment I have been waiting for all of these years. We can all be thankful that the Michael Bay Project is no longer in the works. COWABUNGA DUDES!!
I did fail to mention the 2003 series that follows more closely to the comics than any other media. Unfortunetly, I have never seen the 2003 series, so I can’t really say much about it, other than it follows the comics closely. I didn’t want to claim to know anything without seeing the series for myself.