A Visual History of April O’Neil, Part 7: 2010 – 2014

agosto 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm (Anime, Comic Books, Film, TMNT, Whitewashing) (, , , , , )

TMNT (2014) set photos of Megan Fox as April O'Neil.

The year 2009 brought about a seismic shift to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: after twenty-five years as a mom-and-pop property–albeit a ridiculously successful one–the intellectual property was sold to Viacom, and more specifically Nickelodeon, an entity that would not, and did not, waste any time capitalizing upon it.  Only an entity like Nick could have been able to take a cartoon series that lasted six years and almost a hundred and fifty episodes and make it seem like a footnote in TMNT history, but that’s precisely what happened; with the turtles once again in comic book stores, tv screens and movie theaters, the last few years have been like 1991 all over again.

However, this is not, in fact, 1991, a time when Eastman and Laird were willing, if not always happy, to let almost anyone play with their toys: Nickelodeon appears to keep the turtles on a much shorter leash.  Even when characters like Karai get radically reinvented, it feels like a boundary exists; the turtles must not pass this point.  They can’t be radical, just Radical (TM).  Therefore it is not surprising to see that April is once again and three times over, a white woman.

More interesting for the purposes of this series is the fact that IDW Publishing’s license to create and publish TMNT books gave them the ability to reprint the old Mirage and Archie material, and that the company has thus been making books that were out of print for decades available once again.  More interesting still, the reprinted Mirage material, much of it originally in black and white, is being recolored, meaning that various colorists have been tasked with looking at the various looks of April O’Neil and drawing conclusions about  just what it was the original creators intended, and deciding whether or not they’ll stick to that original intent.

So yeah, lots to cover here.  One note before we begin, though: these images are organized in more or less chronological order, and while that’s easy enough to establish with the books, I’ve had to rely on some educated guesswork when it comes to the images relating to the cartoon and film.  So there’s that.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

Part 6.

TMNT (Vol. 6) #1

TMNT (Vol. 6) #1 (August 24, 2011). Pencils by Dan Duncan, colors by Ronda Pattison. The first of our three new April’s makes her first appearance, and she looks, for all intents and purposes, like the character design from the 2007 film and Back to the Sewer, adapted to Duncan’s stylistic sensibilities.  Which is fine, if not much more.

Character studies for TMNT (2012)'s version of April. Art, I believe, by Ciro Nieli. Image taken from TMNT: The Ultimate Visual History, where by far the funniest bit is the caption in the lower left corner.

Character studies for TMNT (2012)’s version of April. Art, I believe, by Ciro Nieli. The image has been taken from TMNT: The Ultimate Visual History, where by far the funniest bit is the caption in the lower left corner.  I will say, though, that commitment to whiteness aside– preordained or not–these all look fantastic.

Cover for TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 (January 10, 2012). Art by Kevin Eastman,

Cover for TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 (January 10, 2012). Art by Kevin Eastman, drawing Mirage April for the first time in more than a decade, at least in an official capacity.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it resembles the very first version of April.

More preliminary designs for the Nick Cartoon.

Preliminary designs for the Nick Cartoon.

...this depiction, however, is in no way an accurate representation of the character seen in the actual book. Cover for TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 2 (April 3, 2012). Art by Kevin Eastman.

Cover for TMNT: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 2 (April 3, 2012). Art by Kevin Eastman, whose depiction of April bears little resemblance to the character as seen in the actual book interior, who at this point has entered her post-makeover phase.

April expression sheet for Nick cartoon.

April expression sheet for Nick cartoon.

TMNT #2

TMNT #2 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #2 (June 13, 2012) and Collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1.  Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #3

TMNT (Vol. 1)#3 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #3 (July 11, 2012) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #3 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Colored Classics #3 (July 11, 2012) and Collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith's Scorpion Studios.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #3 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #3 (July 11, 2012) and Collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

Final April design for the Nick TMNT Cartoon

Final April design for the Nick TMNT Cartoon

TMNT #13 Colored Reprint

TMNT (Vol. 1) #13 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 1 (August 15, 2012). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

TMNT Microseries #6: April O'Neil

TMNT Microseries: April O’Neil (August 29, 2012) cover.  Art by David Petersen.  April headlines a book for the first time in almost twenty years, and it certainly looks great.

April by Marley Zarcone (01)

TMNT Microseries: April O’Neil (August 29, 2012). Art by Marley Zarcone.

April by Marley Zarcone (03)

TMNT Microseries: April O’Neil (August 29, 2012) bonus artwork. Art by Marley Zarcone.

TMNT Microseries: April O'Neil (August 29, 2012) bonus artwork. Art by Marley Zarcone.

TMNT Microseries: April O’Neil (August 29, 2012) bonus artwork. Art by Marley Zarcone.

TMNT #3 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Colored Classics #3 (July 11, 2012) and Collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith's Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #4 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #4 (September 5, 2012) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

Image from

Image from “Rise of the Turtles”, Part Two (September 29, 2012)

TMNT #6

TMNT #6 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #6 (November 7, 2012) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

Tales of the TMNT #1 Colored Reprint

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 1) #1 recolored reprint, as seen in Tales of the TMNT Collection Vol. 1 (December 5, 2012).

Tales of the TMNT #3 (01)

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 1) #3 recolored reprint, as seen in Tales of the TMNT Collection Vol. 1 (December 5, 2012).  Pencils by Jim Lawson.

The Same

This is another picture from the same issue, which I’m including not because of April, but because of another example of whitewashing with other characters.  While we don’t learn enough about Hadji in his two appearances to learn his specific ethnicity–like many elements in the story, he is generically West / South Asian–choosing to depict him with the same hair and skin color as the white-coded King of Thieves is not a neutral decision.

TMNT #28 Colored Reprint (01)

TMNT (Vol. 1) #28 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 3 (December 19, 2012). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

Same as above.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #28 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 3 (December 19, 2012). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

TMNT #29 Colored Reprint

TMNT (Vol. 1) #29 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 3 (December 19, 2012). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

Michelangelo #1 Reprint (March 2013)

Donatello #1 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics – Microseries: Donatello (March 13, 2013) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 2. Pencils by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, colors by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #32

TMNT (Vol. 1) #32 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 4 (April 3, 2013). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

Leonardo #1 Color Reprint (April 10, 2013)

Leonardo #1 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics – Microseries: Leonardo (April 10, 2013) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 2. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

Tales of the TMNT #5 Colored Reprint

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 1) #5 recolored reprint, as seen in Tales of the TMNT Collection Vol. 2 (April 10, 2013).  Pencils by Jim Lawson.  The woman in the bicycle is Radical, who is Native American; the fact that she’s colored with the same skin tone as April makes me think that whomever the uncredited colorist(s) for these collections are, they’re pretty much coloring at random, which means they suck at their job.

Tales of the TMNT #7 Colored Reprint (01)

Tales of the TMNT (Vol. 1) #7 recolored reprint, as seen in Tales of the TMNT Collection Vol. 2 (April 10, 2013).

Image from

Image from “Karai’s Vendetta” (April 27, 2013), which I include because look how goshdarned cute they are together.

TMNT #6 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Colored Classics #6 (November 7, 2012) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 1. Colored by Tom Smith's Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #10 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #10 (May 1, 2013) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 2. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #11 Cover, as reproduced in TMNT Color Classics #11

TMNT (Vol. 1) #11 cover, as reproduced in TMNT Color Classics (Vol. 1) #11 (June 5, 2013).  While the coloring is quite similar to the original’s, the cover has been recolored and not simply retouched.  This is most noticeable in the text for the diary pages which were in red in the original cover and in gray here.

TMNT #11

TMNT #11 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics #11 (June 5, 2013) and collected in TMNT: The Works Volume 2. Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #38 Colored Reprint

TMNT (Vol. 1) #38 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 5 (June 5, 2013). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.  Coloring aside, there is one major difference between this image and the original.  See if you can spot it.

TMNT (2014) set photos of Megan Fox as April O'Neil.

TMNT (2014) set photos of Megan Fox as April O’Neil.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #38 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 5 (June 5, 2013). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

TMNT (Vol. 1) #42 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 6 (October 30, 2013). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

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TMNT (Vol. 1)#12 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics (Vol. 2) #1 (November 13, 2013). Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT #14 Color Reprint (December 2013)

TMNT (Vol. 1)#14 colored reprint, as seen in TMNT Color Classics (Vol. 2) #2 (December 11, 2013). Colored by Tom Smith’s Scorpion Studios.

TMNT (Vol. 6) #31

TMNT (Vol. 6) #31 (February 26, 2014).  Pencils by Sophie Campbell; Colors by Ronda Pattison.  April gets a cute new ‘do in this issue, which I appreciate.

TMNT (Vol. 2) #1 Recolored Reprint

TMNT (Vol. 2) #1 recolored reprint, as seen in TMNT Classics Vol. 8 (May 14, 2014). Colored by Digikore Design Limited.

TMNT 30th Anniversary Special Heroes Haven Variant Cover (May 21, 2014). Art by Ozzy Fernández and Tony Kordos, with special input by Nickelodeon.

TMNT 30th Anniversary Special Heroes Haven Variant Cover (May 21, 2014). Art by Ozzy Fernández and Tony Kordos, with special input by Nickelodeon.

And with that slightly sarcastic note, we end our look at the many looks of April. In the end, I’m not sure if it accomplished anything beyond serving as an annotated historical archive, but I had fun.    If any of y’all have any question, comments, addenda, complaints, evidence, objections, or that rarest of all things, accolades and a job offer, I’d be happy to hear them.  Thank you for your time and patience.

7 comentarios

  1. Scott Reed said,

    you know, if you need proof that people should just ignore the colouring in the IDW Colour Classics – just look how Renet is coloured up there!

  2. Ian said,

    Hello Scott. Thank you for your comments.

    Personally, I don’t feel the situations are comparable, even if they occured because of the same reason (i.e.: Digikore didn’t give a damn). A badly colored Renet doesn’t feed into narratives which seek to erase black people and their contributions to the world. The result matters more than the reason, to me.

  3. Scott Reed said,

    My point wasn’t that they two are comparable as social issues, simply that the Color Classics may not be to much of a factor into intentionally ‘seeking to erase black people and their contributions to the world’ because Digikore clearly didn’t bother to do any research (as evidenced by Renet and the Idol from Tales) and simply coloured April however they thought she should be coloured (probably influenced by the cartoons, the current comics or a cursory glance at old Mirage covers). Also i think the reason should matter – you wouldn’t want to paint people as malicious when they’re not – the ‘possibility’ of April being black (she totally is) in Mirage volume 1 isn’t that well know, looking through your timeline (and just following the franchise closely) it seems that the choice of April’s design (from skin to hair to dress) when not directly under the influence of Peter Laird (who says he’s always seen her as being of Celtic blood) is influenced by the Murakami-Wolf-Swenson version because that’s the version most people know. Should the people involved with the franchise do the research and find out about such things? Sure, but they clearly don’t because because the people they’ve got handling their high profile reprint system can’t be bothered to do a basic Google image search to find out the right colours of a supporting character’s outfit let alone search around for things like the debate over April’s ethnicity in one of the 7-odd ongoing comics the characters have had.My point there being that there is a whole different set of reactions and implications about a person/people to be had when you simply call them out for being lazy or useless than implying they are intentionally whitewashing a black character, and as far as we know they aren’t (even though the end result is the whitewashing of a character who’s clearly’s black in some artwork).

  4. Ian said,

    I disagree about intent’s relevance. Racism does not need to be intentional or malicious in order to exist and cause harm.

    Yes, the whitewashing is most likely a result of just being crap colorists who colored arbitrarily. However, note how the coloring isn’t completely random. Actual random coloring would actually result in a book that looks far more diverse, skin-color-wise than what we actually get in most works, and would result in canonically white characters occasionally being coded as POC. This is not the case. Digikore not be setting out with the specific intent of whitewashing, but they do seem to consider lighter skin tones to be generally preferable to darker ones. Hence, the (unintentional) racism.

    And yes, you could claim that they’re simply going from the more popular April design in her case, and if whitewashing were only present in her case, I might believe that’s the case. However, she’s not the only character being whitewashed. Lucindra, a character whose entire identity is steeped in her African identity, was also whitewashed, as was Hadji, a character who very few people would actually think of as white, based on just the name.

  5. ztk said,

    This retrospective was great but I couldn’t help but feel like you kept trying to make this into a race agenda and bringing points that made no sense. I think from all the stuff you posted the answer is very simple and clear. Laird always thought of her as a white Irish woman and Eastman for a while saw her as black or more likely latina IMO. Eastman/Laird never really talked about it and eventually Eastman drew her more caucassian. Since the books were black and white it was open to interpretation but when they started getting colored in it depended on what the person coloring the book thought but that doesn’t cement April as clearly one race just the artist’s interpretation. April being white was cemented once the original show/movie came out and it’s been that way since and that’s where it ended.

    • Ian said,

      Factual quibble first: “Black” and “Latin@” refer to different categories altogether–the first is about race, the second is about national origins–and are by no means mutually exclusive. That said, despite how light-skinned Eastman’s April may be, her hair and lips rather squarely code her as Black.

      In any case, yes, one can very much interpret the status quo as the result of an unrelated series of individual innocuous events. However, those events don’t occur in a vacuum: they occur in a world in which whiteness is consistently and intentionally upheld as the standard, and in which black women are often made invisible, and / or forced to compromise their blackness in order to be considered socially acceptable, as happens with hair. Even if we were to agree that April as depicted during most of the initial Mirage run was race-variable instead of Black (we don’t) the fact that such a character was then been cemented as a white woman isn’t innocuous. It’s a conscious choice, and one that once again, reinforces the idea that “woman” means “white woman”, and one that has been upheld for decades, and that very much deserves pointing out.

      If race was as unimportant to the original version of April as to be variable, why do all subsequent depictions uniformly depict her as white? Why do fans continue to argue that somehow, her whiteness is somehow inherent to her character?

  6. AdventureTeamHQ.com said,

    White women have big lips too.

    Eastman has went on record saying that he modeled her a bit after a black ex of his, but he’s went back and forth on if she was black herself. He may have been pulling traits from a girl he knew, but quite likely, several girls he knew. Simply going on and on about how she had big lips and “kinky” hair, as though that would be the end all be-all of deciding race is in and of itself, pretty darn racist.

    I’ve known plenty of white girls with big lips and naturally kinky hair. April was never drawn with a big, wide nose, which is often a depiction of a black woman. Does this mean she was white?

    The fact remains that at the bare minimum on a few occasions she was drawn to be black, or mixed or possibly from a “darker than white” heritage, but it was NEVER spelled out. She could have just as easily been white on many of those pages and eventually she showed up white a lot more than black. Is that because she was whitewashed? No.

    It’s because slip ups stopped happening and a more cohesive look was determined.

    I’ve long believed that April was drawn as a black woman or mixed race (again she often looks more Latina than anything) in a few comics or panels, but I’ve also always known that this was merely artist interpretation and from very early on Laird and Eastman had her as a white woman. Laird as a pale irish girl, while Eastman had her with a bit more of an olive European look, but still very much white.

    And lastly, whiteness has NEVER been key to her character… But neither has blackness… or any race. She’s just a reasonably strong female character with flaws and insecurities, like any human. She was never given any specific character traits that related to race in any way.

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