As the TMNT franchise approached its fifteenth year, it seemed as if there wasn’t all that much to celebrate. The first cartoon was over. Attempts at a fourth film had long since been abandoned. Mirage wasn’t producing any new material, and Image series, lasted only twenty-three issues. The turtles had returned to television in 1997, in the live-action Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, but that only lasted one season and appears to have little to recommend it. It also didn’t feature April, which is why it doesn’t factor here.
If this fall into semi-obscurity had one benefit, is that it allowed Peter Laird, now older, more media-savvy, and completely in charge of the turtles, to have a greater say in what his characters should look and act like. In 2001, the turtles returned in a very low-profile way, as Mirage Studios released the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ fourth volume, with Laird as writer and Jim Lawson as artist. Ignoring the stories told in the Image run, he moved the action forward more than a decade, showing the turtles as adults. It would be the only regular turtles fans would get until 2002, when a company called 4Kids entered the scene.
Note: If you can help fill in the gaps in the data–the artist for the Palladium April image (which I think may have been by the Paulo Parentes Studio) and the year for the CGI pilot, for example–it’d be much appreciated.
TMNT Vol. 3 #6 (January 1997). Pencils by Frank Fosco. While the third volume of the TMNT ostensibly continued the story of the Mirage turtles, if features a drastically different feel from its predecessors. Thank of any mid-nineties Image comic, and you have an idea of what this book is like.
TMNT Vol. 3 #6 (January 1997). Pencils by Frank Fosco, who drew all twenty-tree issues of the series.
Art for the unreleased TMNT & Other Strangeness (1997). Palladium first designed a TMNT role-playing game in 1985, back when the franchise was barely a franchise. Several expansions were released over the years, with diminishing returns.
TMNT (Vol. 3) #12 (December 1997). Pencils by Frank Fosco.
TMNT (Vol. 3) #17 (Sept. 1997). Pencils by Frank Fosco.
TMNT (Vol. 3) #23 (October 1999). Pencils by Frank Fosco.
TMNT Pilot Reel. Animation by Rainbow Studios. After The Next Mutation, several attempts were made to return the turtles to television. This was part of a five-minute demo produced to try and garner interest in a return. As we know, it did not succeed. ETA: The reel can be seen here.
In 2001, Warner Brothers Animation began pre-production work on a TMNT series that never came to light, one which included designs very inspired by the original comics, along with some rather drastic departures.
Kids WB April, 3rd Rough (2001).
TMNT (Vol. 4) #1 (December 2001) Pencils by Jim Lawson.
TMNT (Vol. 4) #3 (April 2002). Pencils by Jim Lawson.
TMNT (Vol. 4) #3 (April 2002). Pencils by Jim Lawson. This is actually Shadow, who in this is series is now both a teenager and a main character.
TMNT (Vol. 4) #7 (December 2002). Pencils by Jim Lawson.