A forever in-work compendium of Marvel and DC canon immigrants. What's a canon immigrant? Go here to find out!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Thirty Days of Turtles: Colors

Recently I decided that if I want to keep having new content on this blog, I'm going to have to branch out beyond Marvel and DC. They'll always bring in new content, and I'm sure I'll continue to find old ones I've missed, but it's time to move toward more unfamiliar territory. With that in mind, and because they have a new movie out, I thought I'd kick this new era off with Thirty Days of Turtles!

That's right: From June 3 to July 2, there'll be a post each day highlighting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles canon immigrants. Now, because TMNT canon is a little confusing, it can be hard to tell what counts as a canon immigrant and what doesn't. So for the purposes of this blog, a TMNT canon immigrant is anything (a) from the movies, cartoons, video games, toy lines, or tie-in comic series that later appeared in (b) TMNT volumes 1, 2, or 4 [because they're by the original creators] or TMNT volume 5 [because the original creators are involved, it's the new official continuity, and its goal is to use as much of the diverse TMNT lore as possible].

With that in mind, let's look at today's entry: The Turtles' Colors!

When the Turtles first debuted in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (May 1984), their masks didn't have any color at all, as it was a black-and-white comic. The only real way to tell the characters apart was by their weapons of choice.

The series seemed to moved to colored covers - the insides were still black-and-white - beginning with issue 5 (September 1984), but the Turtles all had the same color masks: red. By this point, you could begin to tell them apart by their personalities, but the main way was still by their weapons.

Things changed, however, in December 1987 with the premiere of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. Whether it was to make the characters more marketable or simply to make it easier for children to tell them apart, each Turtle now had a unique color: Raphael stayed red, while Leonardo became blue, Michelangelo orange, and Donatello purple. They also had their initials on their belts for good measure. These changes would transfer to the toy line, which were otherwise - at least at first - based primarily on the comics.

The first non-red color to appear in comics showed up sooner than a lot of people think: issue #22 (May 1989) features a PURPLE mask. As this was a guest issue, it was probably an error made by someone influenced by the show. The masks remained all-red in every issue after that.

That remained the case all the way up to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (vol. 5) #5 (December 2011). One of the goals of this volume is to bring together as much of the various TMNT lore into one coherent story. As such, the series begins with the Turtles in their red masks, but in issue 5, we learn that it was in "mourning" of sorts for Raphael, who had left the team. When he returns, Splinter gives the team individually colored masks, which match the gi colors of the Turtles' previous incarnations. (In this continuity, the Turtles were originally human ninjas in ancient Japan who have reincarnated.)

Of course, every single other version of the Turtles had been using these colors for 25 years at this point, so it was time for them to make their way to the comics. That's just how the general audience knows them. In fact, in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), these colors were assigned to the characters at birth, and this continues to be the case in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016), in theatres now!


We've talked about several ways to tell the Turtles apart - weapons, personality, mask colors. But Playmates added a new one in 1988: skin color!

And while this became traditional for the toys, the only true adaptation to run with this is the animated series from the Oughts:

That is, until the IDW series. As far as I can tell, this is true from the first issue (August 2011), but it can be hard to tell at times because so many scenes happen at night. And, of course, the coloring is more subtle, but it's definitely there.

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