We all know the story. One night back in the early 1980s, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were brainstorming new ideas for a potential comic book. Eventually, Eastman drew a sketch of a short, squat turtle character wearing a mask and nunchaku strapped to his arms. The concept was a humorous one, as it played upon the contradiction of a slow, cold-blooded reptile with the speed and agility of a Japanese martial artist.
The rest, as they say, is history. Using money from a tax refund and a loan from Eastman’s uncle, the young artists formed Mirage Studios and unleashed the very first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles upon the world in May of 1984.
The book proved to be a smash hit, and Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo soon found themselves at the forefront of one of the biggest intellectual properties that the world had ever seen!
Even now, some four decades later, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise dominates a significant piece of the pop culture Parthenon. This is thanks in no small part to countless cartoons, comics, toys, and merchandise.
And, while they continue to remain true to their original form, there have been some changes over the last few years. Most notably, the color of their masks…
In The Beginning
When the Heroes In A Half Shell made their initial debut in that original one-shot, the interior of the book was printed in black and white. Thus, the only real way to tell the four turtles apart was to take notice of the weapons they brandished in combat – Leo with his twin katanas, Raph with his sai, Donnie with a bo staff, and Mikey with a pair of nunchaku.
Eventually, color was added to the books. However, at first, all four characters wore the same red domino mask across their eyes.
Not long after, the authors realized that having all four turtles wearing uniform masks really didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Thus, when Archie Comics began publishing Ninja Turtles books in the late 80s, color was added to the masks as a means to further differentiate each of the four characters from one another.
Carried over to the animated series, the change stuck and has since become a staple of the turtle’s design for close to forty years now. So,
What Colors Are The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Beginning in the late 80s, color was added to the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle masks as a means to tell them apart. This color scheme, which has since been carried over to everything from cartoons to toys and even the numerous TMNT movies, was as follows…
- Leonardo – The dedicated and disciplined leader of the team, Leo was given a blue mask.
- Donatello – The team’s tech wizard, Donnie received a purple mask.
- Raphael – Known for being a bit of a hothead, Raph was given a red mask.
- Michelangelo – Everyone’s favorite party dude, Mikey was fitted with an orange mask.
Now, while I really haven’t been able to find anything official on this, the color palette chosen for each character do seem to correspond with their individual personality traits.
Blue often denotes calm, something Leonardo is known to exhibit even in the thick of battle. Red, of course, represents rage – which fits perfectly with Raph’s legendary temper. Purple is often used to mirror creativity, the perfect color for the constantly tinkering Donatello. And orange is oftentimes used to represent high levels of energy – something we all know Michelangelo has plenty of.
Again, I have not been able to find anything official on this, so whether it was done purposely to represent each individual turtle’s personality still remains to be seen. And, whether it was or not, you’ve got to admit that the chosen scheme for each character really works!
So, there you have it, dudes! The four colors of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
A pretty radical design choice, wouldn’t you say?