When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984, they most likely had no idea their “Heroes in a Half-shell” would eventually become a worldwide phenomenon. Over thirty years later, the Turtles have starred in six feature length movies, a long-running (and universally beloved) animated series, and are the focus of multiple board and video games. With all that success, it’s not surprising that so many companies attempted to capture the same lightning in a bottle.
Hollywood studios aren’t the only industry that attempts to capitalize on a hot trend. Comic book publishing houses are as bad, if not worse, at sticking their fingers in the popular pie by churning out low-budget, usually awful, knock-offs of comics and characters who make a surprising splash with readers – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no exception.
Publishers have done their “best” to copy every aspect of the Turtles: from the martial arts aspect, to human/animal hybrids, even using multiple words in the title – no detail was ignored. While dozens of cartoons took their influence from TMNT (Street Sharks, Samurai Pizza Cats, Battletoads, etc…), the ones we’re primarily focusing on here are the comic titles that didn’t just try to copy the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they tried to BE them.
– Our selections are ranked Worst to Best –
12. Southern California Surfer Bats
Year Published: 2012
Creator: Ryan Shepard, Ian Crowe
The majority of the entries on this list were created mostly during the martial arts hybrid animal craze of the mid-’80s, however, that doesn’t mean the idea isn’t still popular today – enter, Southern California Surfer Bats. Created by Ryan Shepard and and Ian Crowe in 2012, they tried to introduce the world to their sun-loving bats who hang ten via an (very) unsuccessful Kicktraq campaign (they raised $162 of their $6000 goal) but still managed to release seven pages of the comic – read them HERE.
The artwork is pretty terrible, the characters aren’t that much better and the story is pretty bland. Slater and Jenny – a laid back surf-loving couple – become Surfer Bats with ancient powers after an alien ship crash lands on Venice Beach. Their archenemy, a nerd named Emmette, has an unrequited love for Jenny. Based on Shepard’s now defunct Twitter page, it appears he was going to introduce Egyptian-style Surfer Bats at some point. Shepard apparently had big plans for the property as he even created a theme song for an anticipated animated series – listen to it HERE.
11. Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung Fu Gophers
Year Published: 1986
Creator: George Macas, Jim Molina, Jill Thompson, Phil Foglio
Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung Fu Gophers is what happens to a project when bad ideas are executed in terrible way – it turns into a storm of awfulness. It’s amazing that names like Jill Thompson (who did the incredible artwork for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman) and Phil Foglio (best known for his work on the comic Girl Genius) are associated with this travesty.
The best part of the comic is the cover art by Folgio and that’s about it. The story and artwork inside the cover are by no stretch of the imagination what anyone would label as “good”. The comic mercifully only lasted one issue and even though it’s rather difficult to find it at comic shows (eBay makes it slightly easier), the going price for one is a measly $4 – a rather paltry sum for a hard-to-find comic. That’s how bad it is.
10. Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils
Year Published: 1986
Creator: Tony Basilicato
Another blatant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip-off that wasn’t able to cash in on the craze was the Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils by Tony Basilicato. The comic was published by Planet-X Productions in 1986 and ran for a mere three issues before being quietly forgotten. The gerbils – Geezer, Duffer, Zeke and Codger – are a group of old, cantankerous talking rodents who are always arguing and fighting with each other. The antagonist in the series is a ridiculously large, diaper-wearing guy named Samurai Sam.
Basilicato even included an April O’Neil look-a-like named Dr. Christina Proper who wears fishnet stockings, has big hair and features even bigger breasts. The comic series is filled with plenty of unfunny jokes, poor artwork and a really dumb story – read some of it HERE. Why it took three issues to send these awful gerbils permanently to the Grubby Acres Rest Home is anyone’s guess.
9. Sultry Teenage Super Foxes
Year Published: 1987
Creator: Rich Buckler, Chuck Wojkiewicz
During the mid-’80s, son of Marvel Executive Sol Brodsky, Gary Brodsky, started his own comic book company, Solson Publications. The publisher dealt almost exclusively in black and white comics and, while Sultry Teenage Super Foxes isn’t a direct rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, its influence on the appearance and title of the comic are obvious enough to include it on this list. There are a multitude of things inherently, if not morally, wrong with Super Foxes.
First – The four girls featured in the comic – Amelia, Candy, Jasmine, and Sheena – are all in high school, yet they’re all drawn in an overly sexualized style. Second – The story is riddled with a mind-numbing amount of misogyny and sexism (the girls only want superpowers to get guys, they constantly ogle military men who ogle them back,…it goes on and on). None of this is surprising though when you look at the other titles published by Solson and books promoted on Brodsky’s website. Linkara over at Atop the 4th Wall gives a great breakdown of the comic on his YouTube page HERE.
8. Adult Thermonuclear Samurai Pachyderms
Year Published: 1989
Creator: Tom Defalco, Adam Blaustein, Jon D’agostino, Roger Stern
Marvel has been known to experiment with some odd characters throughout its rich comic book history, but none may be odder than those of the Adult Thermonuclear Samurai Pachyderms, (changed to Power Pachyderms just before publication.) This unique brainchild of Tom Defalco and Jon D’agostino contained circus elephants giving birth to anthropomorphic super elephants after their train car was irradiated by a gamma bomb – because it’s always a gamma bomb. Adding to the oddness of it all, the Three Stooges show up as four enlightened beings: Shlep, Shmoe, Spritz, Shtick.
The Power Pachyderms team is made up of four members who are modeled after X-Men characters: Mammoth/Colossus (made of organic steel), Rumbo/Wolverine (has retractable adamantium tusks), Trunklops/Cyclops (uses a quartz ruby to plug up his blaster-shooting snout) and Electralux/Electra (who later becomes Rogue Elephant, modeled after Jean Grey/The Phoenix). Together they battle Clarinetto/Magneto, who is the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Musicians and his team of New Musicians, who resemble Willie Nelson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Cindy Lauper. Thankfully, it only lasted one issue.
7. Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs
Year Published: 1990
Creator: Gordon Bressack, Jim Reardon
Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs may not have been a real life comic but it deserves mentioning on this list nonetheless. Airing during the first season of the Tiny Toon Adventures animated series, the episode titled “Mr. Popular’s Rules of Cool” features a segment with Plucky Duck and Hampton Pig sitting down to watch Plucky’s favorite comic book TV show – the Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs.
Everything about the show, from its fantastic theme song (listen to it HERE), to its main villain – The Iodizer – to even the names of its characters – Picasso, Warhol, Rockwell, and Grandma Moses – are a direct parody of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Too bad a real comic never materialized from the segment centered on the “…totally radical gnarly dudes, cowabunga homeboys with nothing to lose…” – it had great potential.
6. Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos
Year Published: 1986
Creator: Michael Kelley, William Clausen
Publisher Blackthorne Comics has a couple of entries on this list. One of the first ideas they bought was the Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos by Michael Kelley and William Clausen. It managed to run for five issues – an impressive feat for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parody. When Dr. Poindexter, their creator, is captured by terrorists, the four Chameleons – Nerves, Radion, Rivit and Sarge – must use their new super-abilities to rescue him.
Each reptile received the following enhancements: Rivit has super strength, Nerves has heightened senses, Sarge has a sharp mind for tactics, and Radion is a master of camouflage. The story was wasn’t too terrible and the artwork was actually pretty good but ultimately Blackthorne canceled the series due to overly-long production times between issues.
5. Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves
Year Published: 1987
Creator: Henry Vogel, Mark Propst
Much like Sultry Teenage Super Foxes, Aristocratic Xtraterrestrial Time-Traveling Thieves isn’t really a direct copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles per se, but it’s clear the name of the comic is heavily influenced by Laird and Eastman’s work. The series follows two intergalactic petty criminals, Fred (full name Pansafredicopacog) and Bianca as they get into and out of trouble with various law-types across the universe.
The series is a bit of an odd duck, with each issue being a completely self-contained story, having its own narrative and arcs which are resolved by the end and never referenced in future installments. Vogel fills each of the thirteen issues with a series of quick hitting jokes (some land, others do not) by way of Bianca’s sarcastic tone and Fred’s immature attitude – it’s a mostly humorous outing for the pair intrepid lawbreakers. The comic book really dates itself though when it gives Fred and Bianca credit for disposing of New Coke.
4. Genetically Modified Punk Rock Pandas
Year Published: 2012
Creator: Brad Dwyer
Just like Southern California Surfer Bats, Genetically Modified Punk Rock Pandas came out almost three decades after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles copycat phase. However, unlike Surfer Bats, Punk Rock Pandas is actually good. The reason it turned out so well could be due to the fact that artist Brad Dwyer, by his own admission, simply reinterpreted every panel from the first eight pages of the original TMNT comic Vol. #1.
The Pandas (who have a craving for burritos instead of pizza) are as follows: Einstein – the leader who uses a baseball bat as a weapon, Mendel – who has a spiked mohawk and fights with a chain, Darwin – who fights using two butterfly knives, and Watson – who is usually too drunk to be useful. The team comes off more like villains than heroes as they brutally beat up some police officers but retreat once more officers arrive. You can read the panels on Dwyer’s website HERE.
3. Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas
Year Published: 1986
Creator: Sean Deming, Dan Green
This comic was designed as a one-off short story that was essentially spin-off of the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters story line. In fact, the humorous little rodents make a cameo even though the two properties were published by different companies. Of all the funny animal stories on this list Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas is probably the silliest – and that’s not being disparaging.
The four Koalas are Australian rockers named Bruce (yes, all of them have the same name), who are mysteriously transported to New York City during one of their concerts. Once there, they are recruited by the U.S. Government (because, of course they are) to take down a villain known as Sheik Ratal N’Raul (get it?) who has taken control of the world’s oil supply in country of Myopia.
2. Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos
Year Published: 1986
Creator: Lee Marrs
Of all the parody comics on this list Pre-teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos has the distinction of having both the most enjoyable title to say and pseudo-blessing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle creator Peter Laird. Laird not only helped Lee Marrs with the artwork in the comic but actually allowed the Turtles to make a very brief appearance in issue number one when Donatello shows up to give the Kangaroos some instructions.
The team – Meep, Kayo, Matsu Mike, Mr. K, and Snurfette – must stop a diabolical plan which involves edible electronic microchips made out of chocolate. The anthropomorphic Australian mammals blasted and hopped their way through three black and white issues for Blackthorne Comics but, like almost every other comic series on here, they were eventually abandoned.
1. Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters
Year Published: 1986
Creator: Don Chin, Patrick Parsons
Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters is the comic that started the entire “spoof the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fad, making it a sort of the Godfather to them all. Chin’s spoof-of-a-spoof (TMNT was originally a spoof of other comics) parodied everything it could about the original Turtles comics. The origins of the Hamsters (named after popular action movie stars) – Chuck (Norris), Bruce (Lee), Clint (Eastwood), Jackie (Chan) – differs from the Turtles – they were sent into space by NASA, came in contact with a radioactive, gelatinous, alien cube, crashed landed near a Tibetan monastery and were then trained by monks.
Initially, Chin had planned the comic to be a one-shot but fan response was so great that they eventually made nine total issues, including: 3-D versions of the first four comic books, a spin-off featuring Cliff and another one-off titled, Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters Massacre the Japanese Invasion. A revival of sorts came from Parody Press in 1992 and Dynamite Entertainment, having purchased the rights to the property a year earlier, published 4-part miniseries in 2008.
While often contrived, anthropomorphic knock-offs, spoofs and parodies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seem to have gone quiet in the last few years but that doesn’t mean some publisher somewhere is brewing up some sort of half-thought up idea at this very moment.
Are there any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parodies we missed? Which are your favorite and which ones look absolutely terrible? Let us know in the comment section.