‘TMNT 4′ Concept Art Reveals Kirby, the ‘Fifth Turtle’ Who Never Was

2 years ago by  

In 1993, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand already somewhat on the wane, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was released in theaters. Rather different than its predecessors, the movie sent the titular ninja turtles back in time for a relatively sleepy adventure in feudal Japan. With its lack of familiar villains and a noticeable drop in the quality of its special effects, TMNT III is considered by many fans to be one of the nadirs of the franchise.

Despite the failure of TMNT III to capture the public’s imagination, plans were put into motion to push ahead with a fourth installment of the series. Tentatively titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, the proposed film reached pre-production before descending into development hell and eventual cancellation. Over the years, plot and concept art leaked onto the Internet have indicated that the fourth TMNT would have been an extremely strange movie – a notion confirmed by a recent dump of character sketches by the turtles’ co-creator, Kevin Eastman.

Comic Book Movie recently took note of a host of Kevin Eastman-penned concept art up for sale at Heritage Auctions. Much of this concept art comes from work Eastman did on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: The Next Mutation. Along with strange new takes on familiar characters, the set of images reveals an interesting hook for the proposed film: a fifth mutant turtle called Kirby, named for the King of Comics, Jack Kirby.

You can look over this concept art (minus a bafflingly not-safe-for-work “Evil April O’Neil”) in the gallery below. For the sake of context, we have included several sketches by the other creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Peter Laird. These sketches show the main four Turtles and their sensei, Splinter, in what would have been their “updated” forms. Laird’s art was posted on his personal blog in 2008.

Though not much is known about the full scope and plotline of TMNT IV, sparse details have emerged along with other pieces of concept art over the last decade. Supposedly, the fourth film was going to involve the Turtles and their allies undergoing “secondary” mutations that gave them new superpowers. These would have included Leonardo gaining the Colossus-like ability to coat himself in indestructible chrome; Donatello discovering telepathic and telekinetic powers; and Master Splinter growing into a hulking, combat-ready brawler. Some promotional materials for what was at the time an upcoming film also indicated that the movie might deal with parallel universes and science fiction technologies. And, of course, the film would have introduced another ninja turtle named for a famous artist, Kirby.

If one goes off of Eastman’s concept art alone, the nods to the legacy of Jack Kirby would have gone beyond the name of the surprise new ally (or enemy) of the sewer-dwelling heroes. The designs for both new characters and old (for instance, Casey Jones’ cybernetic fists) contain more than a taste of Kirby’s angular, often-uninhibited design aesthetic. There are also shades of the mid-90s fascination with Blade Runner-style cyberpunk in several of the sketches, as well as types of composition popularized by the grim-n’-gritty comic books of the era (i.e. – stiffly posed action; jagged talons; massive combat knives held aloft).

Looking over the collection of Kevin Eastman’s production sketches and other pieces of art afloat on the Internet, it becomes obvious why TMNT IV never went farther than the drawing board. While fun and highly atmospheric, the sketched characters reflect what would have been a major departure in terms of tone from the rest of the franchise. While the producers of the series may have wanted to shift the fourth movie into a grittier and more adult-oriented mode, changing Shredder into what appears to be a General in the KISS Army was probably not the way to go. In addition, the character of Kirby looks to have been only loosely planned at the point Eastman was sketching him – indicating that the “fifth turtle” probably only had a tentative role in that draft of the script.

TMNT Next Mutation Television Show TMNT 4 Concept Art Reveals Kirby, the Fifth Turtle Who Never WasAfter TMNT IV was scrapped, the title of The Next Mutation eventually passed to a new, live-action TMNT television series in 1997. That series made good on the promise of a fifth ninja turtle, introducing a female mutant named Venus de Milo. Most TMNT fans like to pretend this never happened. Whether the much-maligned lady turtle was any better as a fifth Ninja Turtle than the theoretical Kirby may end up being one of genre fans’ grand “What if?” scenarios.

Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles is currently set to open in theaters May 16th, 2014. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series airs Saturdays on Nickelodeon.


Sources: Heritage Auctions [via Comic Book Movie]

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT: teenage mutant ninja turtles


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  1. Quick Hide this stuff before Michael Bay gets hold of it.

    • lol Indeed

    • thank god this was stopped

    • Lol man :)

  2. These artwork looks like a 10 year old did them and he trying to sell them? I would rather wipe my a$$ with them.

    • Haha…I was just thinking the same ! Wasn’t sure if this is a Screenrant April fools joke early !

    • I’d never pay anything for this “artwork” or should I say “chicken scratch”. Give up on the TMNT…

      As much as the studio would like it, this movie is never going to be on the “Epic” scale because from the stories I’ve read, it’s not particle, or even possible.

      These are mutant turtles, not superhuman-God-Like creatures.

      They eat pizza, spill lame jokes all over the floor, and piss off their master. oH, and know “Martial Arts”.

      *i don’t want to live on this planet anymore

  3. Did anyone else enjoy the tmnt animated film?

    • I thought it was decent. Don’t remember much of it cuz it’s been a while since I saw it but the new show on Nickelodeon has been pretty excellent so far.

      • Har stadig ikke set den nye TMNT serie, men har set traileren på Nickelodeon og synes animationen var ret dårlig, og det ligner hellere ikke Splinter i serien.

    • jeg synes at TMNT var temmelig god

  4. That’s some bad artwork.
    Seriously, I could do better and I’m a terrible artist.

  5. Jeg har set Transformers 2, og det var en meningsløs film der slet ikke giver mening, og kunne nogen af jer huske filmen til sidst ?, hvor Optimus Prime “breaking the fourth wall”, men husk The Rock den var temmelig god, men hvis Bay laver mere af samme slags, så tror jeg TMNT vil være ret god.

  6. “While the producers of the series may have wanted to shift the fourth movie into a grittier and more adult-oriented mode…”

    Damn you Nolan! Leave my childhood alone!

    • dark and grittier was made way before Nolan became a success. Tim Burton Batman was consider as dark and gritty

    • The original TMNT comics were pretty gritty and adult oriented. The cartoon was a huge departure from the comics.

      • I read the original graphic novels. They were awesome.

        @mace – It was a joke, man. Nolan is no where near TMNT4 should have been a hint. “Leave my childhood alone” is a standard fanboy response – hint#2.

      • @il princerino: exactly! I want a TMNT movie that’s like the original comics (or the 2003 tv series – which was fairly “darker and grittier” than any of the previous TMNT adaptions).

  7. This KIRBY looks an aweful lot like SLASH

    • Thank you! I knew i wasnt the only one seein that.

      • I was scrolling down to see if someone mentioned Slash – for real that’s Slash – the weapon is his exactly – my brother had his figure and while it was bright purple it was the same dagger.

  8. The new series on Nickelodeon is AMAZING! I especially love their callbacks to the old series . . . . my fav: In episode 8, where Michelangelo talks about getting a face tattoo of himself, they superimposed the 80s Michelangelo face over his current face . . . . I was geeking out like crazy!

    • Yes! As a true lifetime fan of the original series myself, I have to agree that the Nickelodeon series is EXCELLENT!

  9. I sure hope the reboot is good

  10. Everyone keeps hating on Michael Bay… but the 3 Transformer movies were all ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE, the second one least of all, yes, but definitely the best of the trilogy for John Turturro fanatics!

    • And you can’t argue with the serious box office billions they have raked in

      • Actually, I CAN argue with the box office billions they’ve raked in because box office gross does not mean the movie is good (it only means many people saw it).

        Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and while I’ll admit I enjoy watching TF1 from time to time (I also liked TF3 at first, but now I stand watching 10 minutes of it), “incredible” is the last word I’d use to describe these movies.

  11. I said it before and I’ll say it again… and again… and again… and again!!! Dear Michael Bay, Sir, PLEASE GIVE US:


    • No

  12. My GOD did these guys start doing drugs RIGHT after TMNT3 bombed or something??

  13. Looks terrible.

  14. am i the only one who wants to see the April O’neil sketch?

  15. I love the turtles. The new series is incredible. As for the old films, the first one was solid, the second, meh, and after that I lost interest. Originally the comics are much darker than the show, so if they plan to go with a much grittier tone I can not hate on that. It is the storyline that has me sort of shaken in this next entry. Turtles from another dimension, which is interesting but not my MUTANT turtles. Still, I will wait for the finish product, then my decision.

  16. Great article you’ve written, is this your first website blog or have you been doing this a while?

  17. I am almost certain that the so called 5th turtle is Slash who appeared as a villain in the comics. as for the art its conceptual and Kevin Eastman never claimed to be a great artist in fact it’s part of the nostalgia of the early comic books.