In a modern world where all comic book franchises are viewed as being either part of Marvel’s or DC Comics’ universe, it is difficult to really find something that doesn’t belong to any of those two universes and is also very popular. But, things weren’t like that back in the 70s and 80s, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a great example of that strong individualism that – initially – made comics so special. So, we’ve established that the TMNT franchise is neither Marvel’s nor DC’s, but if you want to know more – you’ll have to keep reading!
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has been owned by several different comic book publishing houses, but it was never part of either Marvel’s or DC’s slate of comic books. It was initially published by Mirage Studios, then by Archie Comics and Dreamwave before ultimately being acquired by IDW Publishing, the company that publishes the comics today.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (often shortened to the TMNT or Ninja Turtles) are four fictional teenaged superhero anthropomorphic mutant turtles. Named after Italian Renaissance artists, they were trained by their anthropomorphic rat sensei in the Japanese martial art of ninjutsu. From their home in the sewers of New York City, they battle petty criminals, evil overlords, mutated creatures, and alien invaders while attempting to remain hidden from society. They were created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The characters originated in comic books published by Mirage Studios and expanded into cartoon series, films, video games, toys, and other merchandise. During the peak of the franchise’s popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it gained worldwide success and fame.
Now that we’ve given you a short introduction, let us discuss the topic of this article in more detail.
Ownership of the TMNT franchise – an overview
Despite being a very large franchise that includes a lot of different derivative materials, the TMNT started off as a comic book created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The comic book premiered in May 1984 and was published by Mirage Studios, who held the publishing rights until 2015, so until very recently. Mirage Studios published a total of four volumes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series, as follows:
- Volume 1 (1984–1993), containing a total of 62 issues
- Volume 2 (1993–1995), containing a total of 13 issues
- Volume 3 (1996–1999), containing a total of 23 issues
- Volume 4 (2001–2014), containing a total of 32 issues
Archie Comics obtained publishing rights in 1988 and published their series from 1995, meaning that for a while – and that is not a strange thing for this franchise – the TMNT franchise had two different publishers. The series initially followed the storylines and style of the 1987 animated series, but then made a radical change in style starting with #5. A total of 72 issues were published.
Dreamwave obtained publishing rights for a brief monthly series based on the 2003 animated series, which ran from June to December 2003. It followed the style of the animated series, but it did not last long, ending after just 7 issues.
A big change happened in 2011, when IDW Publishing obtained the licence to publish new collections of old Mirage Studios stories, as well as their own ongoing series. The first issue of IDW’s series came out on August 24, 2011. IDW Publishing did an amazing job with the TMNT comic books, creating a great main narrative, but also expanding it to other areas of the universe. As of November 2020, the series contains 244 issues, 26 of which are considered out-of-continuity. IDW Publishing still hold rights to the franchise.
A total of 6 manga based on the franchise have been published, and there was also a daily comic strip series that ran from 1990 to 1997. The fact that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was never part of any major publishing house allowed the authors much more liberty with the stories, which also resulted in a lot of famous crossovers, where the Turtles met characters such as Usagi Yojimbo, the Ghostbusters, the characters from The X-Files and the characters from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.
TMNT/DC Comics crossovers
Among the many crossovers the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had are two in which they crossed over with the DC Comics fictional universe. One of those crossovers was a major narrative arc, while the other one was a cameo appearance in the video game Injustice 2.
The major narrative crossover we are talking about is the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover that published by DC and IDW between 2015 and 2019. The series contains three parts, the first of which was published in 2015, the second in 2017 and the final one in 2019; the success of the main narrative also inspired a 6-issue spin-off series.
In the first part of the series, the Turtles and their arch-enemy the Shredder have been transported to an alternate universe by Krang. Here, in Gotham City, they meet Batman and clash with a series of his famous “rogues gallery” while attempting to find their way home. In the second storyline, the Turtles had to join forces with Batman to defeat Bane, one of Batman’s most formidable foes. Finally, the last storyline had Batman and the Turtles fight the alien supervillain Krang, who was initially responsible for the Turtles coming to Gotham City.
This crossover was extremely popular and was a hit for both DC Comics and IDW Publishing. The crossover also inspired a feature-length animated movie, Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which debuted in 2019 to very positive reviews.
Unfortunately, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have never crossed over with any Marvel Comics character or storyline. Why that is we don’t know, especially since the franchise was in part based on some concept from Frank Miller’s run on the Daredevil comic book. For example, the ooze that created the Turtles seems to be the same ooze that blinded Daredevil, and the Foot Clan is a hommage to the Hand. But, despite all of this, the Turtles have never crossed over with the Marvel Universe in an official capacity, as they did with DC.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us! Cowabunga!