If I were to say Leonardo, what would spring to mind? Would it be the Mona Lisa or his Vitruvian Man? Maybe it’d be a marvellous contraption, such as his crazy flying machines that look as aerodynamic as a bird strapped to a brick. Then again, it could be one of his lovely beardy self-portraits, his world famous Last Supper, Lady with an Ermine or St John the Baptist, or perhaps even his lesser-known but equally impressive studies of horses.

Whichever one you choose, you’re wrong. When I say Leonardo, you should think about green skin, katana swords and bizarre pizza toppings. Cowabunga, dudes!

Friday 23rd May is Turtle Day, and rather than the actual factual creature, the first thing I thought of was the far-fetched, action-packed and totally inoffensive adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (specifically the cartoon show from the eighties and the 1990 movie). In case you’ve forgotten, there were four of them, each named after a great artist: Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael (blue, purple, orange and red headbands and wristbands, respectively). Each had a very distinct character and place within the team, with Splinter as their furry, possibly disease-ridden sensei. To directly reference the opening credits:

Splinter taught them to be ninja teens (He’s a radical rat!)
Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines (That’s a fact, Jack!)
Raphael is cool but crude (Gimme a break!)
Michelangelo is a party dude (Party!) 

I always enjoyed those confirmatory statements after each line, put there in case the young viewing public was unsure as to the validity of such bold claims. Rest assured, Leo ran the TMNT operations like a boss, Donatello enjoyed tinkering with spanners, Raphael had an attitude problem and, if this hadn’t been a kids’ show, Mikey would never have been off the weed. What a bunch of bodacious and gnarly heroes in a half-shell.

And the baddies? Oh man, don’t get me started! Shredder was a total badass with his metal face mask, flowing cape and bicep guns that would make Ron Burgundy drool with envy (although I acknowledge that he was ridiculously unlucky and prone to hissy fits). Meanwhile, Krang was the most evil brain in a mechanical man suit ever to invade Earth from Dimension X; and as for Bebop and Rocksteady, they made grotesque, slapstick and totally inept minions look really cool, to the point that I pretty much adopted it as my business model in later life.

If you haven’t seen TMNT in ages, or if you’ve somehow missed out, check out this video. It’s the British version, which was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles because Thatcher thought the word ninja was inappropriate for kids (*rolls eyes*), but it’s still totally tubular!


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