The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a group of four young mutant turtles that have been trained in the martial arts and use their skills to fight crime. Originally created by comic artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the Ninja Turtles first appeared under the banner of Mirage Comics in 1984 and have gone on to become a worldwide pop-culture sensation, appearing in various comic books, films, TV shows and games.
While there have been numerous different versions of the Ninja Turtles, their origins have, for the most part, remained the same between each rendition of the franchise. The four were originally ordinary baby turtles, purchased one day from a New York pet shop and accidentally dropped down a storm drain. After winding up in the New York sewers, they were found by Hamato Yoshi, a penniless exile from Japan who had taken refuge beneath the city streets.
For a time, Yoshi kept the turtles as his pets, having no other company down in the sewers save for the rats. One fateful day, however, a mysterious glowing substance oozed down the drain: a potent mutagen that triggered rapid transformations in any life-form that made physical contact with it. The turtles were doused with the substance and, having most recently been in physical contact with Yoshi, took on human characteristics, becoming bipedal and developing intelligence. Yoshi, however, had spent more time among the sewer rats and when he touched the mutagen he was turned into a human-sized rodent.
In the years following his mutation, Yoshi - now adopting the name Splinter - taught the turtles about human life. Now possessing human intelligence, the turtles learned to speak and how to fend for themselves. Splinter no longer regarded them as pets but as his students and family, referring to them as his sons. As a follower of the Foot Clan in Japan before his exile, Splinter had mastered the martial arts and trained his reptilian charges in the art of ninjutsu. Thus, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were born.
Splinter raised the turtles as his own children following their mutation, teaching them how to survive on and below the mean streets of New York and training them in the ways of the ninja. As a devotee of Renaissance art and culture, he named each of his sons after the four great Renaissance masters.
- Leonardo - The oldest and most mature of the brothers, Leonardo possesses all the qualities of a natural leader. He wears a blue mask and his signature weapons are twin katanas. As leader of the team, he spends most of his time training and honing his skills.
- Raphael - Raphael is moody, aggressive and loves to fight. He has a bad temper and has been known to sometimes lose control, particularly when his brothers are in danger. He may have an attitude, but his heart is usually in the right place. He wears a red mask and wields twin sais.
- Donatello - The brains of the group, Donatello possesses a genius-level intellect and has a natural affinity for science and technology. He wears a purple mask and wields a wooden bo staff (which sometimes has a hidden blade), but his scientific prowess far surpasses his ninja skills and he often builds new weapons and gadgets for he and his brothers to use in battle.
- Michelangelo - The youngest of the turtles and least mature. He often jokes around and has a short attention span, but in spite of his regular foolishness, Michelangelo seems to possess more natural talent than his brothers combined. He wields nunchaku in combat and his fighting style is mostly improvised rather than conforming to Splinter's teachings. He wears an orange mask.