Some TMNT stuff was always meant for grownups.
Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volume 1 issue #1, later retroactively titled The Turtles' Origin is Told, is the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story ever published, by Mirage Studios on May 5, 1984—34 years ago.
The entire comic may be read online for free at The Turtles' Origin is Told/Gallery.
Appearing in The Turtles' Origin is Told
- Donatello (Debut) (Mutates in Flashback)
- Foot Ninja (Debut)
- Hamato Splinter (Debut) (Mutates in Flashback)
- Hamato Yoshi (Debut) (Flashback only) (Death)
- Leonardo (Debut) (Mutates in Flashback)
- Michelangelo (Debut) (Mutates in Flashback)
- Raphael (Debut) (Mutates in Flashback)
- Oroku Nagi (Debut) (Flashback only) (Death)
- Oroku Saki/Shredder (Debut) (Death)
- Tang Shen (Debut) (Flashback only) (Death)
- Chester Manley (Debut) (Flashback only)
- Cristo (Debut)
- McAdam (Debut)
- Purple Dragons (Debut)
- Truck Driver (Debut) (Flashback only)
Objects and Vehicles
- Thermite Grenade
The book opens with the turtles battling some 15 gun-toting thugs and mopping up the New York City alleyway with them. Once the police show up, the Turtles head for home in the sewer. The TMNT find Master Splinter and tell him of their victory. Splinter decrees that they are now ready to be told of their mission... a mission of retribution!
The Sensei tells the turtles, for the first time, their origins. Splinter was once the pet rat of Hamato Yoshi, said to be the greatest shadow warrior of his clan, known as the Foot. While watching Yoshi practice his art of combat, Splinter would mimic his movements and eventually became as adept as his human benefactor. Splinter explains that Yoshi had a bitter rivalry with a fellow clan member, Oroku Nagi. They competed fiercely in all things, even in matters of the heart. They both fell in love with a beautiful woman named Tang Shen, but she loved only one of them in return: Splinter's Master, Yoshi.
Nagi became extremely jealous and one night in a fit of rage he went to Tang Shen's home and demanded that she love only him. She refused, and Nagi began to beat her. Just then, Yoshi came upon them, and in a fit of red rage he slew Nagi. This was a shameful act in the eyes of the Foot Clan, as one member must never kill another. Yoshi had two choices: he could take his own life in ritual suicide and hope for honor in the next life, or he could flee the Clan and attempt to start a new life. Master Yoshi decided on the latter, and fled to New York City with Tang Shen, Splinter, and a few possessions. He started his own martial arts school and all went well for years.
In Japan, Nagi's brother Saki had sworn vengeance against Yoshi, the man who had killed his sibling. His anger pushed him to become a premiere ninja in the Foot, and as a reward for his hard work and diligence, the Clan sent him to New York City to lead the Big Apple's branch of ninjas. Saki recognized this as his opportunity to reap his revenge against Hamato Yoshi and slay him.
Saki quickly built the New York branch of the Foot into a criminal powerhouse involved in many illegal activities; from drug smuggling and arms running to their specialty of assassination. But he never forgot his goal, and after a time he tracked Yoshi and Tang down, and set his vengeance into motion. While Yoshi was away at work, Saki broke into his apartment and murdered Tang Shen. Saki lay in wait until Yoshi returned home. As Hamato walked through the door he saw his dead wife and her murderer Oroku Saki, who proclaimed himself to be the Shredder. A great fight broke out, and Splinter's cage was broken, freeing him. Eventually, the youthful Shredder bettered his older combatant, and Yoshi was slain as well. Anguished over the death of his Master, Splinter fled to the alleys and lived off of garbage scraps.
Until the day when a TCRI truck drove by, and a strange canister flew out of its hold. The container struck a young man in the head, bounced off of the pavement and smashed into a boy's aquarium filled with turtles. The shattered glass, canister and turtles all fell into an open manhole cover, dropping into the murky sewer below. The metal container held some strange chemical, and when it hit the floor of the sewer it broke, bathing the turtles in its glowing ooze. Splinter, curious, went to see what had become of the turtles. He collected them into a coffee can and cleaned the goo off of them as best he could. The next day the wise rat found that he and the turtles were mutating... becoming more human-like with each passing day! Eventually the turtles spoke, and Splinter began to set his own plan for vengeance into motion. He began training the turtles in the art of ninjutsu that he had learned from Hamato Yoshi. He named each turtle after a famous Renaissance artist, whose names he had found in an old book forsaken in the sewer.
After hearing the tale of their origins, the turtles knew what they must do: they had to avenge the death of Splinter's Master Yoshi... they had to defeat the Shredder in mortal combat! Raphael goes on a guerrilla mission to deliver a message to Saki... which he does in typical Raphael fashion. The message demands that Saki meet the Turtles on the rooftops to duel to the death in the name of honor. The Shredder brings many Foot with him, and a great battle between the Turtles and the ninjas erupts. The turtles win hands down, forcing Shredder into combat. The fight is close, but the Turtles use teamwork to best Saki. Once the turtles have defeated Shredder, they demand that he commit seppuku to regain the honor he had lost when he murdered Yoshi. Saki refuses and displays a thermite grenade that he had concealed in his costume. The Shredder vows that if he is to die he will take the Turtles with him. Donatello saves the day by throwing his bo staff into Saki's jaw, knocking him and the grenade from the rooftop. As the Shredder falls, the Turtles rush to the edge of the building, seeing the handheld bomb go off in a blinding flash. The turtles have performed the task that Master Splinter had trained them for...
...or have they?
- Originally intended as a stand-alone story, this comic was a catchy parody of the Daredevil comics, of which Eastman and Laird were big fans. The success of this comic, however, meant that from here a whole franchise originated.
- The cover design of the first edition (see above) is a tribute to the first issue of Frank Miller's comic mini-series Ronin, which is considered one of the main inspirations for the story.
- 2nd printing, with a final dedication to Jack Kirby and Frank Miller (June 1984)
- 3rd printing (February 1985)
- 4th printing (September 1985)
- 5th printing, with added back-up story Not One Word! (November 1988)
- 6th printing (1992)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Book I, in color.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Collected Book 1
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 - Special Deluxe Edition
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 - PBBZ Edition
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 - GameStop exclusive pre-order reprint (2007)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 - Free Comic Book Day edition (2009)
- TMNT Collected Book Vol. 1 (2009)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 - Full Color edition (2009)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection Volume 1 (January 2012)
- IDW Color Classics #1 (May 2012)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Works Volume 1 (May 2013)
- TMNT Original # 1 Reprint 2014 Con Edition (Color Version)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles # 1 Artisan Edition (HC) (July 2017)
In other media
- The 1990 film directly adapts parts of this issue.
- This story forms the basis for the following spinoffs:
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Fox Box Comic)
- Lego TMNT from IDW Publishing.
- The episode Turtle Tracks of the 1987 TV series.
- Five Episodes of the 2003 TV series: Things Change, Attack of the Mousers, the two parts of The Shredder Strikes and A Tale of Master Yoshi.
- The rooftop battle in the 2012 series episode The Gauntlet
- In Turtles Forever, this was Turtle Prime, the source of the TMNT multiverse.
- Portions of the text and the scenes shown in this story, as well as the banner image on the second page, were used directly for the crossover movie Turtles Forever, where the Mirage Turtles meet their 2003- and 1987-animated counterparts .
- A direct parody of this comic episode was released by Brad Dyver under the name Genetically Modified Punk Rock Pandas.
- At the end of the 2012 series theme song, the Turtles did the same pose as the cover of the issue.
- Leonardo's final sentence is the title of a short film from the 2017 TMNT summer shorts miniseries.
- The final dedication of the second edition of the comic is in the final episode of the 2012 animated series "Carmageddon!", as an ending memorial with a dedication to Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird .