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Teenage Mutant Ninja TERMINATION

When you have a multi-million dollar juggernaut, a spinoff is, in most cases, an eventuality. He-Man had She-Ra. SilverHawks and TigerSharks were based on the success of ThunderCats. Marvel Comics spun out from DC Comics (I keed, I keed). The Teenage Mutanst Ninja Turtles were no exception. In the late 80s and early 90s, the TMNT had 4 different continuities existing simultaneously: the original Mirage comics, the TMNT classic cartoon, the live action movie, and another comic book series by Archie Comics. The Archie Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures started off as a direct tie-in to the cartoon, but would later develop their own plots, introducing new mutants, as well as having the main cast evolve differently from the cartoon as well. Soon, fan favorites Ray Fillet (called Man Ray), Mondo Gecko, Wingnut, Screwloose, and Leatherhead (a reformed mutant) teamed up with Archie originals Jagwar, a mutant jaguar, and Dreadmon, a mutant wolf with super speed. Together, they formed the MIGHTY MUTANIMALS!!!

Wanting to get a piece of TMNT pizza pie, in 1992, an animated series was shopped around after Fred Wolf (the producers of the TMNT cartoon) surprisingly turned it down. Ruby-Spears showed interest and a series bible and designs for the characters were developed. Most of the Archie universe, previously unseen in TMNT animation, was imported into this series. Ninjara, a popular female fox mutant (and Raphael’s love interest), was added to the team, and the lineup was good to go. The TMNT would guest star in the first 4 episodes and Donatello would design their base. There, the Mutanimals protect the Earth from Maligna, the evil insect queen of the Malignoids, who teams up with Krang to plot an invasion of Earth. Pretty straightforward, right?

So why didn’t it happen? Turns out, the ones who weren’t on board were Playmates Toys themselves. They didn’t like the idea that Jagwar, Dreadmon, and Ninjara were the only new characters. The rest of the team were already released in the TMNT line, so Playmates didn’t want to simply release them again. New members were to filter in eventually. At one point, a mutant flying squirrel, beaver, raccoon, falcon, and additional fish mutants were possible candidates, alongside new villains. Playmates wanted all the characters to be brand new from the beginning. Since there would be no toys to support the new series, Ruby-Spears wouldn’t proceed. At the same time, the Mighty Mutanimals miniseries was cancelled due to poor sales, and their adventures became back up stories in the TMNT comics. Not wanting the Mutanimals to play second fiddle to the green teens, Archie creators wanted to make sure their characters would have a lasting impact.

And what better way to be remembered then to have ALL 7 members gunned down by the Gang of Four, also known as Megadeath. The storyline was very controversial for two reasons. The Mirage comics were for the more hardcore TMNT fan, while the Archie series was primarily marketed to kids. Seeing them graphically killed in a “kid’s book” was jarring. The other surprise was that the murders occurred in the middle of a time traveling storyline, so writers had an opportunity to have the turtles save them and alter the timeline, but they didn’t. Later, Slash, a Mutanimals ally, would also make the ultimate sacrifice soon after.

To make things worse for the two new mutants, Jagwar and Dreadmon were always intended to be killed off, in order to set the tone for the series. Slash and Metalhead were slated to join as replacement members. I wish I could say this story had a happy ending, but sometimes you learn that death is a part of life. And for the kid in me, being grateful that the Archie comics had a different timeline that the cartoon. So, to my child’s mind, Mondo Geccko, Ray Fillet, Wingnut & Screwloose, Leatherhead, Slash were alive and well in the cartoon world. I’m still bummed we never got the cartoon. But by 1993, Power Rangers debuted and the TMNT were on their way to a hiatus. Still we’ll always have the comics and animation bible and can dream of what could have been. Maybe they’ll live on in TMNT Classics… maybe.

2 thoughts on “Teenage Mutant Ninja TERMINATION

  1. Thanks for the great article! As a kid, I used to love the Archie series of TMNT and had the Mutanimals mini series too. At this point I was starting to get into Marvel and DC more, so I never knew what happened to these characters.

  2. I miss those Archie TMNT digests. How I wish I was able to keep some of em when I was a kid. Luckily though, I was able to keep a few of those Playmates TMNT toyline. I’m also excited to watch nick toon’s version and see how it hold’s up against the Fred Wolf TMNT

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