The year 1992 marked the end of the Mirage TMNT‘s guest creator era: after three years of mostly non-canonical stories by a bevy of creators, Mirage staffers once again took reins of the book, with a new focus on featuring a more stable tone and in moving their characters forward. This latest phase in the book culminated with “City at War”, a thirteen-part mega arc which featured the return of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to active creative duties and ended on the book’s last issue. It also gave April some much-needed focus, as the writers had her decide to move to California in order to recenter herself.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this era of greater focus on April also saw the beginning of the end of depictions of her based on her issue #4 redesign, as the physical features she had sported since then–by no means limited to skin color–began disappearing. What one may draw from this is unclear, and the fact that there’s only one artist drawing the character for the duration of the era doesn’t help.
The years from 1993 to 1996 saw waning interest in the Ninja Turtles. The third film received a tepid reception. Mirage’s second volume of TMNT, which debuted shortly after the end of the first one,would prove short-lived, its final issue hitting stores on October 1995. The Archie series, TMNT Adventures, ended that same year. After seven seasons of sausage-making, Fred Wolf retooled the original cartoon for its eighth season in order to deal with a shifting children’s television landscape; old characters were written out, new characters were written in, and the series’ aesthetic got a face lift, but none of these changes were enough to stop the series from ending, after ten seasons and 193 episodes, in 1996. By January 1997, the flow new material featuring the TMNT had slowed down to a trickle, and existed mostly in the form of a comic series published by Image, continuing the adventures of the Mirage versions of the characters…but that’s something for another entry.
Note the first: While I’ve tried to be comprehensive as possible here, any help obtaining any relevant images I might have missed is much appreciated.
Note the second: Despite not having much in the way of comments, I still plan on moderating any discussion with a heavy hand, should it become necessary.
TMNT (Vol.1) #32 Second Printing Cover (April, 1992) Art by Mark Bodé
TMNT (Vol. 1) #33, Colored Reprint (April, 1992). Art by Mark Bodé, Colors by Bill Fitts. This issue is the main reason why I don’t understand people who insist that April was never a woman of color. While the depiction here is very much an outlier, it did not occur in a vacuum.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #48 (June 1992) Cover, as reproduced on TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4. Art by A.C. Farley.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #49 (July 1992), as Reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4. Art by Jim Lawson. This is not actually April, but Robyn, her sister, who debuts in this issue, and who ends up playing a major role in April’s part of “City at War”.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #49 (July 1992), as reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 4. Art by Jim Lawson, whose ever-evolving April now has lost her trademark hair.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #50 (1992). Art by Kevin Eastman.
TMNT #50 (August 1992). Art by various, although April specifically is almost certainly by Michael Dooney.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #52 (October 1992). Art by Jim Lawson. The woman here is Gabrielle, who eventually marries Casey. Like her daughter Shadow, she is canonically white.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #53 (November 1992). Pencils by Jim Lawson. This issue more than any other comic book has convinced me of just how important an inker can be. Lawson’s art for this issue, inked by Matt Banning, looks super different from the rest of his work on the arc.
TMNT #54 (December 1992). Pencils by Jim Lawson. April on the left, Robyn on the right. April’s hair is once again curly, which raises a whole bunch of questions.
April O’Neil #1 Cover (Jan. 1993). Art by Chris Allan. Archie April finally gets her own series, and the two issues I’ve read are rather good.
April O’Neil #1 (Jan. 1993). Art by Chris Allan, who by this point had solidified his take on April, which is very reminiscent of Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. That, combined with her outfit, makes me suspect that if April’s animated incarnation had also been a woman of color, we might have eventually ended up with an April that was a dead ringer for Elisa Maza.
…I mean, just look at her. (Taken from Gargoyles episode 1.13: “Reawakening”.)
TMNT III (Released on March 1993). April portrayed by Paige Turco.
April O’Neil: The May East Saga #1 (April 1993). Pencils by Bob Fingerman. Image obtained from TMNT Entity. Archie quickly released a second April mini-series, one with little to no involvement from the Archie books’ regular team. It is apparently horrible.
April O’Neil: The May East Saga #3 Cover (June 1993). Image obtained from TMNT Entity. Art by Bob Fingerman. Only the last of the three issues actually featured April on the cover, despite the fact that she was its protagonists. She’s the one on the left.
TMNT (Vol. 1) #62 (August 1992) cover, as reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5. Art by A.C. Farley.
TMNT #62 (August 1993), as reproduced in TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 5. Pencils by Jim Lawson. The final issue of the original TMNT comic. It wasn’t until I was working on this that I realized just how this page was meant to parallel the one from issue #52 seen above.
TMNT Tournament Fighters (Genesis / Mega Drive Version) (1993). Developed by Konami Co., Ltd. Set ripped by Belial, and obtained from the Sprite Database. Although the various Konami TMNT games published in the mid-eighties and early nineties used material from a variety of sources, their depictions of April uniformly came from the first cartoon. This is the only exception, which takes the character and turns her into a generic female fighting game character.
TMNT (Vol. 2) #1 (October, 1993). Pencils by Jim Lawson, colors by Mary Woodring. Not long after Volume 1 ended, Volume 2 began, featuring a regular creative team and color. This issue features the opposite number of issue #32’s uncommonly dark-skinned April: a version that frankly, looks like a ghost.
TMNT (Vol. 2) #6 Cover (August 1994). Art by Jim Lawson.
TMNT (Vol. 2) #6 (August 1994). Pencils by Jim Lawson. Colors by Eric Vincent.
TMNT (1987) Intro (Seasons 8 – 10). Among the various aesthetic changes the cartoon made for its “red sky” seasons was giving April a new look.
TMNT (1987) 8.01 – Get Shredder (Sept. 17, 1994). …and here it is, in all its generic glory.
TMNT Adventures #61 (October 1994). Pencils by Jim Lawson; colors by Barry Grossman. Lawson was a regular fill-in artist for the Archie series, which this month meant seeing his art on both books.
TMNT (Vol. 2) #7 (October 1994). Pencils by Jim Lawson; colors by Eric Vincent. One important thing to note about this version of April compared to the previous pic’s: once we set aside the coloring–and it’s worth noting that April’s darker skin here is shared by all the characters in the scene–there is no real aesthetic difference between the two versions of April. This was not the case two years ago.
TMNT Adventures #66 (March 1995). Art by Gray Morrow. I’ve always loved this last panel, where April decides to greet the year 2000, alone, over a drink. Note: The “roomie” in the note above is Oyuki Mashimi, who first moved in with April in April O’Neil #1, as seen above. Secret lesbians? You decide!
TMNT Adventures: Year of the Turtle #3 (March 1996). Pencils by Hugh Haynes. Image obtained from TMNT Entity. After TMNT Adventures was cancelled due to flagging sales and dissatisfaction about the content–this is the series where the turtles caused Hitler to commit suicide, after all–Archie released this miniseries, as a trial run for a retooled series that never came to pass. Given how stable the depictions of April had become, this version looks quite odd, to say the least.