Daredevil and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Origin
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are unquestionably the most successful creator-owned comic book in history. Inspired by a funny drawing one of them made of a turtle wearing ninja gear, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird launched an empire from their garage studio. All this you probably already know, but what you might not know, is that Marvel’s Daredevil was also a big influence on the creation of the book as well.
At the time they were writing and drawing the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic, Frank Miller was in the middle of a highly popular run as writer and artist on the Daredevil series, which would redefine the character permanently. Miller immersed Daredevil in a noir-ish world of crime and corruption, with a healthy dose of ninjas in the form of The Hand, a criminal organization of assassins. If you’re a fan of the Ninja Turtles, that might sound pretty similar to The Foot Clan. Additionally, in flashbacks, Miller created a ninja master for young Daredevil by the name of Stick. If you’ve ever broken a stick in half, you’ll notice how it splinters. The Turtles’ wise old ninja master is named Splinter. I know, I’m clever.
The homage doesn’t end with those subtle nods to Miller’s Daredevil. In Stan Lee and Bill Everett’s Daredevil #1, young Matt Murdock rushes to push a blind man out of the path of a speeding truck. A radioactive canister falls from the truck and splashes Matt in the eyes, blinding him, but heightening all his remaining senses.
In Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, the canister didn’t stop there. It continued to bounce toward the crowd, smashing a nearby boy’s bowl full of turtles, and dropping them into the sewer below.
From there, the turtles, and their rat master Splinter, mutated into humanoid form. They were raised in the art of ninjitsu, and became the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
There’s no way Eastman and Laird could possibly have imagined their tongue-in-cheek nod to Daredevil would spawn a multi-media phenomenon that would continue for over 30 years. Not bad for a couple of guys with a funny drawing of a turtle and a stack of Frank Miller comics.