Everyone knows the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ distinctive weapons, but Raphael & Michelangelo originally used different equipment.
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Everyone knows the distinctive weaponry of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but how many fans know their original ninja weapons? An issue of the original black-and-white series depicts an early mission before the Turtles were fully seasoned, and a few hadn’t settled on their trademark weaponry.
Ask any kid on the street, and they’ll be able to tell you each Turtles’ distinctive weapon without missing a beat: Leonardo uses the katana swords, Donatello a bo staff, Michelangelo the nunchaku and Raphael has a pair of sai. Considering the original designs for the Turtles had them all wearing identical red masks, giving them each their own weaponry so readers would be able to tell them apart from each other was a masterstroke.
Yet, this wasn’t always the case. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #9 by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Michael Dooney tells a story of the pre-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, still in training and not quite fully-formed ninja warriors. Master Splinter is asked by the aging Gosei Hatsumi to rescue his son and grandson from an upcoming assassination attempt, and sends the Turtles on a mission to stop the assassins. Since they are still in training, not every Turtle has decided what their weapon of expertise will be. Leonardo and Donatello have settled on the sword and bo, but their brothers haven’t locked-in their weapons of choice. Instead of nunchaku, Michelangelo wields the manriki-gusari, a weighted chain often carried by ancient ninja. And instead of his trademark sai, Raphael uses a pair of baton-like tonfa.
The TMNT Originally Had Different Weapons
In spite of being different weapons than fans are used to seeing, Michelangelo and Raphael make good use of them throughout the issue. The two weapons used look great in action, with Michelangelo’s manriki-gusari being particularly versatile in the way it can be used at both close- and long-range. The tonfa’s offensive and defensive capabilities make it a dynamic weapon to watch in action, with Raphael able to block his enemies’ moves and counter them with devastating blows in quick succession. In an ironic turn of events, Michelangelo would actually wind up using the tonfa as his primary weapon in the much-maligned Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation TV series, due to the nunchaku being outlawed in various countries.
The TMNT’s Raphael Strikes With The Tonfa
Of course, Michelangelo and Raphael would eventually settle on the familiar weapons known to casual observers and hardcore fans alike. In author notes to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimate Collection Vol. 2, co-creator Kevin Eastman states, “We had Don with the staff, and Leo using the swords – but we hadn’t had Mike and Raph zero in on their trademark choice yet… but they were close.” They may be well-defined now, but canonically the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had to try a few options before settling on their trademark weapons.